SimplyCast Launches EmergHub

Saeed El-Darahali: 'That allows you to do anything in any industry.'

Saeed El-Darahali: 'That allows you to do anything in any industry.'

SimplyCast on Thursday launched its new EmergHub platform, fulfilling a promise that the company’s founder Saeed El-Darahali made to himself on the night of the SwissAir Flight 111 air tragedy.

EmergHub is a military-grade platform that allows optimal communications between key personnel during an emergency. It adds nine new communications channels to the original SimplyCast suite of multi-channel communications applications to ensure emergency communication processes are safer and more efficient.

El-Darahali said in an interview that he was a soldier called out on the night that Flight 111 went down off Peggy’s Cove in 1998, and he saw how emergency response was hampered by inadequate communication processes. He swore that night that he would develop a product that would fix the problem.

“If we can show that we can enter the emergency industry, then we are truly the No. 1 communications platform,” said El-Darahali. “It allows us to be the first military-grade product. … That allows you to do anything in any industry.”

With clients in 175 countries, Dartmouth-based SimplyCast is a leading provider of interactive and multi-channel communication software for organizations around the world. The eight-year-old company has been growing steadily, with revenue growth of more than 30 percent in each of the last two years.

Now with EmergHub, it is entering the emergency response industry, which El-Darahali said is worth $2.5 billion and growing at 40 to 50 percent per year.

EmergHub has been developed in collaboration with Public Service and Procurement Canada and the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness, and the company has struck a partnership with Saudi Arabia to use EmergHub across the Mid-Eastern country.

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What Emerghub does is provide a fully integrated communications system to be used by a range of responders at any emergency, whether it’s a shooting, plane crash, fire, or natural disaster. The callout in such a situation can take three or four hours, but El-Darahali said SimplyCast has shortened the time span to about 15 minutes.

Once the system is activated, everyone who is needed is contacted simultaneously. If someone is missing that day, the system notifies their replacements. It allows the responders and their command post to initiate an instant teleconference. And it provides a command hub with an interactive map of the area. If drones are deployed to the scene, it can livestream video from the scene.

EmergHub does not require any apps and can be used with any mobile phone, he said.

“We have built an innovative communication platform that will help improve emergency communication worldwide and it was built 100 percent here in Canada,” said El-Darahali.

SimplyCast, whose last major product launch was Agency365 in February 2015,  has been working on EmergHub for about three years. The company has been able to build the system because it is a Platform-as-a-Service technology, rather than the more common Software-as-a-Service offering.

SimplyCast has raised $1.5 million since its founding, all from Nova Scotian angels. El-Darahali said the company, which is profitable, will probably try to raise more capital this year. The company now has 50 employees and is hoping to add about 15 more in the short team.

El-Darahali made the announcement Thursday at an event in Halifax that was attended by almost 700 people. 

Mighty Pebble Unveils Miner Meltdown

Charlottetown indie video game development studio Mighty Pebble Games has launched its first game, Miner Meltdown.

The company, which last year went through Propel ICT’s Launch program, said in a statement on Thursday the game was launched to the Early Access channel on the gaming platform Steam.

Miner Meltdown is a two-dimensional team-based competitive multiplayer game. Players must scour the map for minerals, upgrade their gear, and attempt to blow up the opposing team all the while avoiding monsters, traps, and environmental pitfalls along the way.

Maps are randomly generated and 100 percent destructible, so every match is a fully unique, fast-paced, and chaotic affair.

"Miner Meltdown was something that I had been envisioning for several years,” said Mighty Pebble CEO James O'Halloran, who has worked full-time on the project for the last year and a half.

“With Charlottetown's close-knit business community's help, support and extra motivation is always available. Making an online multiplayer game as a solo developer is hard, but it would have been near impossible without the help of friends, family, and the local business community."

Miner Meltdown is available on the Steam platform for PC and MAC for US$6.99 per copy.

Pfera Eyes Pilot at PEI Farms

Lisa Pfister

Lisa Pfister

Having taken home $5,500 at a pitching competition already this year, Lisa Pfister is now hoping her company Pfera can capture 67 times that amount in New Brunswick’s premier startup competition.

Pfera is a Fredericton-based biotech company that helps horse owners predict precisely when their mares will give birth. It sounds simple, but it alleviates a big problem in a wealthy industry.

The company already won first place in the Apex Business Plan Competition in January, and now is one of the 10 semi-finalists in Breakthru, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s biennial startup competition. Four winners at Breakthru, which will be awarded next month, will divide $1 million, and the first prize is worth $371,000.

What Pfera does is check the chemistry of fluid drawn from a pregnant horse, and predict fairly accurately when she is due to give birth. The system is now accurate to within 24-48 hours, and Pfister hopes to refine it further, to a 12-hour span. An accurate prediction of when a horse will give birth can save an owner tens of thousands of dollars. Even more important to a horse-lover like Pfister, it can make the birthing process more comfortable and safer for the mare and her offspring.

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“Because my horses have used some of the competitors, I know what’s out there and I hope this will be the most non-invasive and the most comfortable product (on the market),” said Pfister, who has been breeding horses for five years. “I want to keep the safety and comfort to the highest standard possible.”

A horse’s gestation period is 320-370 days, and Pfister said conventional techniques in judging when a mare is due vary by much as 73 days. That’s a problem because someone has to monitor a mare around the clock when she is due, and that gets expensive. What’s more, a problem could be fatal to the mare or the foal.

“If things go wrong in the foaling process, then they happen pretty quickly,” she said.

The company is working in a big and lucrative market, given that there are about one million horses in Canada, and 10 million in the U.S. The equine industry as a whole is worth almost $20 billion in Canada alone.

Pfister has brought in a computer science grad with a background in artificial neurology to help work on the IT component of the product. The vision is to study the data collected by the product so that it can become more accurate over time. Horse owners and equestrian staff will also be able to access data and receive alerts on their smartphones.

In the spring, Pfister will test the system with several farms and a veterinary group in Prince Edward Island. She plans to finish the testing and then work on signing more farms in the region to work with. The trials in the spring will be special for Pfister because one of the horses is her own.

“My own mare is due sometime between May and June so I will be using the system,” she said. “That kind of helps in the development part of this project.”

QuintilesIMS Is the Buyer of STI

American multinational QuintilesIMS, the world’s largest provider of biopharmaceutical development and commercial outsourcing services, has identified itself as the buyer of Halifax-based startup STI Technologies Inc.

The U.S. company put out a statement Wednesday confirming that it closed the purchase of STI on Feb. 10, though it declined to reveal the details of the transaction. reported last week that the price was about $200 million.

“The combination of our capabilities will enable our customers to deliver a better patient experience,” said QuintilesIMS in a statement. “By providing the support patients need, a measurable improvement to health outcomes is possible, driving efficiency and savings in the healthcare system at the same time.”

The buyer said it does not foresee any changes of the local leadership, personnel or operations in Halifax, which means that CEO Tim Gillis looks set to retain top spot at the local organization. QuintilesIMS, which has dual headquarters in Connecticut and North Carolina, declined to grant interviews right now.

STI Technologies started out in 2002 to solve a problem for the pharmaceutical industry by simplifying the way pharma companies distribute samples of new products. Rather than shipping out small samples to doctors and have them hand them out to patients, the STI platform allows drug companies to send physicians smart cards they can hand out to patients, who take them to a pharmacy along with a prescription to receive the drug.

As well as cutting costs and improving safety, the STI platform allows for an orderly record of how the sample was distributed. The pharma companies that use the product include such global giants as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.  

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It is now part of QuintilesIMS , a company that has a market capitalization of US$19 billion (C$25 billion), and 50,000 employees in 100 countries. The company was formed last year when Quintiles Transnational and IMS Health merged in an all-stock deal forming the leading company in their sector.  For the past three years, the company has been named in Fortune magazine’s list of the most admired companies in the world. QuintilesIMS’s literature stresses that it uses data and information to improve the development and delivery of healthcare products while protecting the privacy of patients.

Though the companies are saying virtually nothing about the STI deal, what is known is that one of the world’s leading providers of healthcare data suddenly has a 100-person operation in Halifax. STI now has access to capital to grow more strongly in Atlantic Canada, as has been the case with most exits by tech companies in the region.

STI previously received a $17 million capital injection from Imperial Capital Group of Toronto in 2013, though most of that money was used to buy out minority shareholders. The company has continued to grow since then, adding staff and increasing revenues.

The transaction will likely also prove to be a win for the bio-research community in Halifax, especially that of Dalhousie University. It can’t hurt this group that one of the world’s leading providers of medical data has a presence in the city, bringing with it world-leading technologies and information.

Startup Zone Admits 9 New Members

Ryan Abdallah

Ryan Abdallah

Startup Zone, the startup house in downtown Charlottetown, said Wednesday it has accepted nine companies into its residency program.

Ranging from arts and culture to information technology to food, the new companies bring fresh ideas, energy, and diversity to the program, said the organization in a statement. The new companies are: Becka Viau Inc.; codeAtlantic; Island2Island Products; KangarooHub; Kim Roach Designs; Onset Communication; R & L Inc.; Salty; and 24STRONG.

Onset Communication, whose technology helps film crew members communicate with one another more effectively, previously went through the Propel ICT Build program

The CBC did a feature on 24Strong last November, noting the founder of the organization to empower young women, Lacey Koughan, was only 17 years old. 

The value in the space is that it can bring together entrepreneurs and startups from a variety of sectors to build upon each other,” said Startup Zone CEO Christina MacLeod in a statement. “Surrounding founders with other startups from across Prince Edward Island has already shown to be successful and we are very excited to see what this next group will accomplish with support.“

The Startup Zone residency program now hosts 21 startup companies. As Startup Zone residents, these companies have access to office hour support for legal and accounting services, information sessions, mentorship, and workspace.

Meanwhile, the Startup Zone also said Wednesday that Startup Zone resident Ryan Abdallah has won the Food Xcel Accelerator program. The prize was $15,000 in cash and $15,000 in-kind support from Canada’s Smartest Kitchen.Abdallah’s product, Maroun’s Garlic Paste, is a condiment from the menu of his Charlottetown restaurant, Cedar’s Eatery

MTI, Airbus Move Ahead with MetaAIR

George Palikaras: 'Another milestone in our strategic partnership with Airbus.'

George Palikaras: 'Another milestone in our strategic partnership with Airbus.'

Halifax-based Metamaterial Technologies Inc. and its partner Airbus are moving into commercial production of metaAIR, and plan to manufacture the laser-filtering screens in the Halifax area.

MTI and the European aircraft maker held a news conference on Tuesday to announce that they would work together to “validate, certify, and commercialize” the product.  In 2014, the two parties agreed to test metaAIR, which is a screen constructed from man-made compounds that screens out laser beams even though natural light can pass through it.

The first commercial application for the product is to stick in on aircraft cockpit windows to protect pilots and co-pilots from laser attacks, which are becoming more common each year. The Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S. says the number of reported laser incidents in 2015 nearly doubled to 7,703 in commercial aviation. There were 1,439 laser incidents reported to the Civil Aviation Authority in the U.K. and almost 600 reported by Transport Canada.

"Today marks another milestone in our strategic partnership with Airbus,” said MTI Founder and CEO George Palikaras in a statement. “We are given the opportunity to propel our platform technology and learn from some of the top aerospace engineers while understanding the rigours of developing a product for the aerospace industry.”

MTI will work with Airbus through the aviation giant’s Start-up 2 Partner program, which works with startups developing disruptive technology in the aerospace industry.

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In an interview, Palikaras said the company will develop a manufacturing facility in Halifax that can produce commercial volumes of the screens large enough to fit over a cockpit window.

“When we started, we wanted this to be available by the end of this year, but there are always things that come up,” he said. “We keep pushing for speed. In the meantime, there is great development happening. We’re getting excellent technical feedback.”

He said the Halifax operation will produce the screens and Airbus will be responsible for taking them through the certification process, which is required for any safety feature on an aircraft.

"We know from facts and conversation with clients that cockpit illuminations are real, immediate and increasing in frequency, [so] metaAIR will benefit our customers," said Pascal Andrei, Airbus’ Vice-President and Chief Product Security Officer. "We also see an increasing number of possible applications for metaAIR, beyond the commercial aircraft division."

Last April, MTI paid an undisclosed amount to buy a Silicon Valley company called Rolith to accelerate the development of its manufacturing facility. Palikaras said that purchase, which gave MTI a Silicon Valley office and lab, has helped it gain expertise in the manufacture of the screens. In 2015, the company announced a round of funding valued at at least $3.1 million, led by Innovacorp and the First Angel Network

On Tuesday, MTI also announced a partnership with German materials-maker Covestro – a significant move given that Covestro has a market capitalization of 14.1 billion euros (C$19.5 billion).  The German company supplies materials used to make MetaAIR. Now MTI and Covestro plan to work together to produce eyeware for the ballistics market – a product that calls for much simpler certification than aerospace product. 

Said Palikaras: "MetaAIR will provide vision protection to pilots in the aviation industry and can offer solutions in other industries including the military, transportation and glass manufacturers."

BDO To Host Connecting with VCs

BDO Canada will host its annual Connecting with Venture Capitalists event in Halifax on March 29, offering startups a chance to pitch to four leading VC funds.

BDO, an accounting practice that targets the mid-market, initiated the events last year as a means of connecting entrepreneurs with funders. The Halifax event, to be held at the Four Points by Sheraton Halifax on Hollis Street, will include a session led by Brightspark that will instruct wealthy individuals in the basics of angel investing.

The organizers will accept five to seven Atlantic Canadian startups to pitch to the investment panel. They are accepting applications here until March 8.

“BDO is an accounting, tax and advisory firm focused on the mid-market space, and we know the early-stage startup space,” said BDO Partner Dan Jennings, who is organizing the event. “With our BDO StartSmart suite of services, our goal is to build a relationship with startups so that they can access the basic accounting and tax compliance advice they need as startups so that we’re there to help them succeed in all stages of their business.”

BDO said the tech industry is a major economic driver in Canada and will continue to grow in importance. The sector contributes 17 percent to Canada’s GDP and employs more than 854,000 Canadians, constituting 5.6 percent of the nation’s total employment.

The Atlantic BDO start-up team, led by Jennings and Craig Mulcahy, wanted to support the local community by connecting start-ups and angel investors with a greater number of venture capitalists, said the firm.

The Halifax event begins at 1 pm on March 29, with the pitching presentations, which will last until 3:30. The panel of VCs hearing the pitches comprises Sophie Forest of Brightspark, Brian Kobus of OMERS Ventures, Sam Haffar of Real Ventures and Rob Barbra of Build Ventures.

Brightspark, a Toronto-based VC firm that allows accredited investors to invest in its portfolio companies, will present a 90-minute seminar on “tips and traps” of angel investing. Details are available here. The event will close out with an evening networking session.

The Halifax event is part of a broader effort by BDO to link funders and founders. The group will hold a similar event in Toronto on March 7.


Full disclosure: BDO is a client of Entrevestor.

Dal To Host CBMC March 10-11

More than 80 teams from 20 universities across Canada have applied to compete in Canada’s Business Model Competition 2017, to be held next month in Halifax.

The contest was launched by Dalhousie University’s Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship in 2013. It allows finalists to compete for part of a total prize package of $50,000 and in-kind prizes.

A pool of 30 teams will be selected to compete in this year’s event.

The Newman Centre established the contest as part of its Launch Dal programming, which sees university-based venture teams use the business model canvas to validate their business idea, obtain customers and gain market traction.

The contest will begin March 10 at Dalhousie. The final part of the competition will be held on Saturday March 11 at 2 pm in room 1020 of the Rowe School of Business and will be open to the public.

Contest winners will go on to compete in the International Business Model Competition, which will be held May 11 to 12 in Silicon Valley at the Computer History Museum. 

With Big Clients, Celtx Eyes Series B

Mark Kennedy: 'We were coming into the orbit of these much larger players.'

Mark Kennedy: 'We were coming into the orbit of these much larger players.'

A year of signing up large enterprise clients has Mark Kennedy being in a position later this year to entertain a Series B funding round.

Kennedy is the CEO of St. John’s-based Celtx, which has been a pioneer in producing a range of software for the film industry.

Founded in 2000, the company has attracted millions of users who are film writers, designers, producers and others involved in “scripted media” like film, video, games, theatre and the like. The company’s breakthrough came when it launched its software-as-a-service product in 2012 and began to focus more on gaining revenues.

Kennedy said the company added more than 1.1 million registered users to its Software-as-a-Service and mobile products in 2016, but the big news was that it began to gain more customers for its enterprise offering, which is designed for large studios.

“About a year ago, we decided to tweak the product so it catered more to that type of company,” said Kennedy in a phone interview from St. John’s. “The first quarter is usually our strongest quarter for sales, and in the first quarter last year we saw increasing inbound interest in those specific customers — we were coming into the orbit of these much larger players.”

The enterprise clients listed on the company’s websites include: Univision, a Spanish-language television network in the U.S. whose 2015 revenues were US$2.9 billion; Rovio Entertainment, the Finnish maker of Angry Bird; Buzzfeed, the New York Internet media company, and the U.S. cable TV giant HBO.

In particular, Kennedy said the company has been making inroads in the Latin American market — so much so that one of its recent hires has been a customer services representative whose first language is Spanish.

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One reason Celtx is succeeding at the enterprise level is that the company made the choice about two years ago to give its clients the ability to work on episodic series. Celtx caught the wave of multi-episode series that is all the rage with viewers now, and Kennedy said Latin American companies are especially prolific in these productions.

Celtx has also made steady inroads into the educational community, and is helping not only post-secondary institutions but also high schools teaching film to students.

The client base now includes the Philadelphia School District, which is comprised of 25,000 schools.

And there is crossover between the film and educational clients. For example, the Toronto-based French-language TV network TFO is using Celtx software in its educational programming.

Pinning down the exact number of customers is difficult, because clients tend to use the software when they’re working on a project and can then set it aside for months. But Kennedy said 800,000 people downloaded Celtx’s mobile app in 2016. It is now seeing about 250,000 unique visits each month in the SaaS product. Overall, its revenues have increased by at least 55 per cent in each of the last three years.

To increase sales, especially among enterprise clients, Celtx this year hired Wade McCallum, formerly of Radian6 and Salesforce, to be vice-president of sales.

He is now building up a sales team in Halifax.

Celtx last raised money two years ago when it brought in $3.3 million from Build Ventures of Halifax and its original backer, Killick Capital of St. John’s. Kennedy has spoken of building up to doing a Series B funding round, considerably larger than the last round, once the company gets its sales to the right level.

“We’re not far from those metrics now — we should be in solid Series B metrics by the end of the year,” he said.

“And we’re getting inbound VC interest once or twice a week, all out of the States, both East Coast and West Coast.”

Ubique Partners with Caribou Contests

Vijai Karthigesu

Vijai Karthigesu

Ubique Networks Inc., a Sydney- and Toronto-based startup that reduces lag time in online gaming, has partnered with Thorold, Ont.-based Caribou Contests Inc. to promote problem-solving skills among students through global Minecraft and math competitions.

Ubique — pronounced U-bi-quay, it’s the Latin word for “everywhere” — has developed technology that significantly reduces the lag time in online communications, especially in multi-player online games. It will now use this technology to improve the performance of Caribou’s global math competitions, which are held six times a year.

“Using Minecraft games based on Caribou’s own math puzzles is an exciting way for many students to look at creatively solving problems,” said Ubique CEO Vijai Karthigesu in a statement. “This is part of Ubique’s strategy to promote the game-based education through Minecraft and other games.”

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Ubique, which received $1 million in equity funding last year, aims to solve a huge problem with multi-player online games. When players in different parts of the world are playing one another, the system is much faster for the player closest to the server, giving that player an unfair advantage.

Ubique’s solution is to develop a network of remote servers, so the players are always playing on a server based roughly equal distances from each of them. As of last spring, it had servers in Toronto, Seattle and Chicago and was growing the network.

It is now working with Caribou Contests, which holds worldwide online math contests for students in Grades 3 to 12. Tens of thousands of students from more than two dozen countries participate in the contests to test their problem-solving skills by resolving math puzzles. The Caribou Cup is awarded once per year to the top performing student within these competitions.

Ubique will reconstruct selected Caribou puzzles within the world of Minecraft. These puzzles include Floodfill, Nim, Sudoku and Chomp. Ubique will also introduce the Caribou Contests to new territories and hold global Minecraft-based tournaments.

“Caribou has shown a cost-effective way for students in many countries to improve their problem solving skills through math puzzles,” said Thomas Wolf, founder and CEO of Caribou. “Our partnership with Ubique will promote math skills around the world even further.”

Karthigesu is based in Toronto, and Ubique has a major development team in Sydney and some sales staff in Nova Scotia.

The gaming industry is now worth $15 billion, and more than 700 million people around the world play multiplayer online games or are engaged in e-sports. Ubique said the numbers are growing.

Appili Lands $2.8M in AIF Funding

Kevin Sullivan

Kevin Sullivan

Halifax-based Appili Therapeutics Inc., which is developing anti-infective drugs, said last week it will receive a $2.8 million loan from the Atlantic Innovation Fund, a research fund operated by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

The company said the funding will allow it to take its first drug, ATI-1501, through clinical trials to be ready for market approval. Last year, Appili received a key U.S. regulatory designation for this drug candidate, which treats Clostridium difficile infection, or CDI, in children.

"Having ACOA recognize the potential of our antibiotic reformulation to become a new weapon against anaerobic infections is outstanding,” said Appili CEO Kevin Sullivan in a statement. “This AIF funding supports our strategy to advance ATI-1501 into human clinical trials as soon as possible.”

Appili plans to take the antibiotic into clinical trials this year and is now manufacturing the clinical batch of ATI-1501 to good manufacturing practices, the standard required by the Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA has granted orphan drug designation to ATI-1501, which removes the bitter taste from Metronidazole, a drug that has been used to treat the condition since the 1970s. Metronidazole is effective, but it tastes awful, so children often won’t take it, thereby limiting its effectiveness. By removing the bitter taste, ATI-1501 improves the results of the drug.

The FDA granted the application because CDI is one of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s most urgent antibiotic-resistant bacterial threats. It affects more than 500,000 Canadians and Americans each year and causes 29,000 deaths annually.

Just two years old, Appili has been actively raising money. The company in December closed a $2.15 million equity funding round. In 2015, it raised $2.3 million in equity financing, which allowed it to tap $1.2 million in additional funding from such organizations as ACOA.

STI Reportedly Near $200M Exit

Tim Gillis

Tim Gillis

STI Technologies, the Halifax company that helps drug companies distribute samples, is reportedly close to announcing a $200 million exit.

Citing a report in, the Chronicle-Herald said late Friday that the company has reached a deal with an unnamed purchaser to sell out for about $200 million. Representatives of the company did not respond to an email over the weekend.

Assuming the report is correct, the STI sale would likely be the largest exit of an Atlantic Canadian startup since Ocean Nutrition Canada of Dartmouth sold out to the Dutch conglomerate Royal DSM for $540 million in 2012.

STI Technologies started out in 2002 to solve a problem for the pharmaceutical industry by simplifying the way pharma companies distribute samples of new products. Rather than shipping out small samples to doctors and have them hand them out to patients, the STI platform allows drug companies to send physicians smart cards they can hand out to patients, who take them to a pharmacy along with a prescription to receive the drug.

As well as cutting costs and improving safety, the STI platform allows for an orderly record of how the sample was distributed. The pharma companies that use the product include such global giants as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.

The company established itself among the top tier of startups in the region in 2013 when then-CEO Steve Nicolle landed $17 million in private equity investment from Imperial Capital of Toronto. Part of that investment bought out early investors, including GrowthWorks Atlantic, which bagged $6 million in the deal.

A few months before the Imperial funding, STI launched a new initiative called InnoviCares, which has been the fastest-growing part of the business. At the outset, it allowed patients to stay with a brand name drug at a lower price when the drug’s patent expires, and receive savings on other health care products.

Nicolle soon retired from the company and was replaced as CEO by Tim Gillis. During his tenure, the company made the Deloitte 2015 Tech Fast 50, the list of the top-growing technology companies in the country. STI took 41st place with revenue growth of 204 percent over four years. Deloitte also named STI to its North American Fast 50 list in 2015, assigning it the 319th spot.

The company now has about 100 employees, up from 57 at the end of 2014.

Mariner XVu Sales Growth Tops 30%

Saint John tech companyMariner has reported strong revenue growth at its flagship xVu division, whose video-system-monitoring software is now assessing 3 billion events a week.

Mariner xVu (pronounced “X-View”) is the main product division of the company. It is an analytics system that allows online video content providers to identify and correct problems with Internet video delivery systems. It’s an attractive business because video is by far the fastest-growing segment of the internet and that growth is nowhere near reaching a plateau.

Mariner said in a statement last week that the division saw significant growth in Tier 1 operators who are looking for economies when managing new, inter-related services like TV entertainment, over the top streaming, broadband and Wi-Fi. It now has 40 million devices under management, and it is monitoring 150 billion events annually. (An event is basically something going wrong when a user tries to play a video.)

Over the past four years, the division’s revenues have been growing annually at about a 30 percent rate and exceeded that level in 2016, said the statement. It did not provide totals for the revenues.

“The technology landscape is changing and operators are investing in customer satisfaction initiatives while looking to capture economies for serving entertainment, Internet, Wi-Fi and mobile offers,” said Shaun MacDonald, Senior Vice-President of Business Development and Marketing at Mariner xVu. “As operators add new entertainment offers, they must address the fragmentation of video capable consumer devices and at the same time deploy software systems that support multiple services concurrently.”

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The Mariner group is unique among the tech companies in the region for several reasons. First, it’s chaired by Gerry Pond, the best-known tech investor and evangelist in Atlantic Canada. Second, it’s big. The company has said publicly that the group’s 2014 and 2015 revenues were around $25 million each year. And third, it is the only tech company with its own broad-ranging investment portfolio. Its East Valley Ventures division comprises a portfolio of more than 20 startups, all but two based in Atlantic Canada.

As well as xVu and East Valley, the group includes: Mariner Innovations, a consultancy business that specializes in application modernization and IT professional services; and Shift Energy, an Industrial Internet of Things company specializing in energy efficiency in large buildings and complexes.

The company’s flagship is Mariner xVu, which can figure out what went wrong with video systems even when the issue is hidden deep in the largest systems. It’s a difficult task because online video delivery – which has grown even more complicated with the advent of mobile video – involves different components based in different places. Mariner CEO Curtis Howe calls it “finding a needle in a continental haystack.”

Mariner said last week the xVu platform continues to take market share from its competitors, and has witnessed significant recent growth as operators expand their streaming offerings.

Said MacDonald: “Mariner brings experience and expertise to support the operations teams so they can efficiently fix problems based on real time visibility, which has its highest ROI during service launches and updates.”

Job of the Week: Repable

Heather Anne Carson and Sean Power

Heather Anne Carson and Sean Power

Our Job of the Week column today features an opening for a full-stack developer with a fast-growing company providing eSports analytics -- Repable.

Repable, which is based in Moncton and Toronto, collects and analyzes data on eSports, or competitive gaming, a fast-growing international phenomenon. It’s estimated some 200 million people watched competitive gaming in 2016.

Co-Founders Heather Anne Carson and Sean Power teamed up in 2015 to create a product that would give analytics on viewership in eSports. The pasttime is growing so quickly that major consumer product brands want to use it as a marketing vehicle, but they don’t know how. It’s an opportunity to reach a young audience that doesn’t usually watch television, let alone read newspapers. But these brands don’t have firm metrics on who or what to sponsor or how to approach this new craze. So Repable’s analytics give them the information they need to work in this booming market.

The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.



Full-Stack Developer

Repable is looking for someone who can lead the development of an SaaS app used by the largest eSports teams in the world. This person will have a complete static mockup along with front-end assets, including a UI/UX team to help make changes on the fly. Repable has an experienced DevOps team to help with deployment, and a product manager, who can help translate mockup into functioning code.

The full-stack developer must build a tool that interfaces with some of the world's largest social networks. He or she will be consuming many social APIs (including Repable’s own), and use the resulting content to make the lives of eSports teams better.

Repable is looking for someone experienced in frameworks, APIs, eSports, MySQL, and JavaScript.

The winning applicant will work with people who have done this before, including world-class venture capital firms, and receive a competitive startup salary and stock options. 

The Gender Divide and Mental Health

Michael DeVenney: 'Women are more likely to talk to people about how they're faring.'

Michael DeVenney: 'Women are more likely to talk to people about how they're faring.'

A Canadian study on how entrepreneurship affects mental health has revealed that women entrepeneurs do not grow their companies or export at the same rate as their male counterparts, despite starting as many businesses.

Halifax-based Michael DeVenney, who conducted The Mindset Project last year, believes the survey may be the largest on the subject in the world. He received 485 replies to his extensive questionnaire, 80 per cent of them from Atlantic Canada.

“Women have a tendency to start businesses that are sole proprietor ventures or have fewer than 20 employees. Men are more likely to start companies that grow larger,” said DeVenney, who is the president of consulting agency, Bluteau DeVenney.

He suggests this may be because female entrepreneurs are receiving insufficient support. Men and women also respond differently to risk and to the perception of risk.

“With the perception of high risk or high stress, men become less risk-averse, while women become more risk-averse,” said DeVenney, whose interest in mental health stems from his own struggles with depression.

“Women have a more realistic perspective on what entrepreneurship will take and its impact on life and relationships. Men think, I can make it all work…Women seem deterred by those perceptions.”

DeVenney said women are not wrong to be cautious as entrepreneurship is a horrendous lifestyle. Entrepreneurs work very long hours, and identify to an unhealthy degree with their businesses.

He said that although men feel they can handle stress, they do struggle.

“Men feel they can cope then have to deal with the aftermath. Men are not coping as well as they think.”

Probing the Mental Health of Founders

He said women tend to have better coping skills.

“Women are more likely to talk to people about how they’re faring than men — a key indicator of coping. Men are more likely to isolate, which compounds the issue.”

Despite women’s risk-aversion and greater coping skills, women reported a greater perception of overall health decline since starting in entrepreneurship — 53 per cent compared with 41 per cent of men.

Among women, 25 per cent said their mental health was poor or very poor, while 14 per cent of men said the same.

“Men feel they have to show they’re tough and can handle things, women maybe feel even more pressure to do the same,” DeVenney said. “Women seem to have to do more than men to prove themselves — For all the talk about gender parity, it’s still not happening.”

The survey also found women entrepreneurs are less likely to export than male. Only 12 per cent of female respondents had revenues from exports, compared with 21 per cent of men.

These figures are close to the national average. DeVenney said about 17 per cent of entrepreneurs nationally export, despite the recent nationwide focus on growing export markets.

His survey revealed a particularly high level of mental health problems among those who do export — 48 per cent of entrepreneurs who export said their overall health had worsened since becoming an entrepreneur.

“We may not have done a good job in supporting people who are exporting,” DeVenney said. “It requires more complex decision-making when the entrepreneur is already under stress.”

DeVenney said he would like to dig deeper on his findings and is in talks with other groups on follow-up surveys.

“We’d like to know more. We need to better shape how entrepreneurs work so women, and men, are more comfortable growing their companies,” he said.

“It bothers me that women aren’t growing their businesses. It’s not due to the type of business women are running or their capabilities. There are just as many female respondents running businesses that can be scaled.”

Bulletproof Opens Cybersecurity Centre

Bulletproof, an IT services company based in Fredericton, has opened a Security Operation Center, or SOC, which has already resulted in the creation of 15 new jobs.

An SOC is a facility in which enterprise information systems like web sites, applications, servers and networks are monitored, assessed, and defended. 

The Fredericton company said in a statement it is working in collaboration with CyberNB, the provincial initiative to make New Brunswick a hub for cybersecurity in Canada. The government has recently been promoting the province for its expertise in cybersecurity, and the potential of the segment.

“This center is a natural progression to our deeply entrenched security roots which we have provided customers across Atlantic Canada for the past 16 years,” Bulletproof CEO Steven Burns said  in an email. “The next phase of Bulletproof will see it become a global player in specific verticals like gaming and lottery, and this center is the catalyst.” 

Cybersecurity Institute Opens at UNB

Bulletproof, which last summer was bought by GLI Group of Lakewood, N.J., supports customers in 22 countries  and those exports will continue to grow with the opening of the $1.5 million SOC.  “The best part is that the jobs and the economic benefit will stay here in Atlantic Canada,” said Burns.   

He added that cybersecurity and a lack of security professionals is a cause of concern for many companies. There were 2260 confirmed data breaches in 2016, and there will be 1 million to 2 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs worldwide by 2019. Many companies don't have access to resources or funds for their own SOC, which makes this new service offering so exciting for small and medium sized businesses. 

Burns said his company’s SOC will provide around-the-clock monitoring, security event detection, and security incident response. The SOC uses intrusion-detection systems, end-point protection solutions, firewalls, servers, and other key systems.

For example, the SOC team can identify and investigate suspicious network traffic by relying on real-time security data analytics. They can also supplement a company's internal security team by offering around-the-clock network security monitoring.

Hypergive Recognized at Dubai Summit

Hypergive, a Halifax startup that uses blockchain to help the homeless, has been presented a special Year of Giving Award at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

The Halifax group were flown to Dubai last week as one of the finalists in the Blockchain Virtual GovHack, which aims to use blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin, to improve the way governments serve their citizens. Hypergive had a shot at winning part of $140,000 in prize money through to competition.

Though it were not one of the three big winners in the hackathon, Hypergive was presented the honorary 2017 Year of Giving Award at the Government Summit by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, at the awards ceremony.

“We're incredibly honoured and humbled by the recognition of Hypergive at the 2017 World Government Summit,” said Hypergive Founder and CEO Scott Burke in a statement. “As technology continues to rapidly transform society, it’s now our task to create and embrace future solutions without fear in order to tackle global challenges. It’s immensely meaningful to be a part of moving a vision forward which can help enrich the lives of those around us, and in turn, enrich our own.”

Burke founded a Halifax-based group called BlockCrushr, which is dedicated to developing new products using blockchain, which is a series of digital ledgers that can be used to transfer value and information between people, and leave a permanent record of who did what in each ledger.

From Dalhousie to a Tech Accelerator in Cairo

The BlockCrushr group includes Brian Jeffcock, who works with the Halifax startup Sidestory, and Andrew Redden, who works with Kinduct Technologies, also of Halifax.

Together, they have been working on Burke’s idea of a system to help the homeless. Hypergive lets people make donations so the homeless can buy food, clothing, toiletries — the essentials for living.

The donations are recorded and tax receipts issued. The money collected is stored on a card that charitable organizations can distribute to homeless people. These cards will include a QR code and possibly photo identification so they can only be used by the person who received the card. He or she can use the card to purchase goods at retail outlets, whose logos are also printed on the card, and there are daily spending limits on each card.

The purchases can only be made by the person identified by the card, and the card can be replaced if it is lost or stolen.

The Hypergive card should ensure tax-efficient and easy donations, and guarantee that the money is used only to buy needed goods by the intended recipient.

BlockCrushr is now looking to pilot Hypergive in cities around the world. Even in the concept stage, Hypergive drew the enthusiasm of others in the tech community, various media outlets, and key Rotary chapters, which want to help in rolling the project out.

The US$100,000 winner of the GovHack was Project Oaken, an American team that aims to be the leading Internet of Things hardware and distributed software platform used in smart cities. For the GovHack, it devised a system that uses blockchain to make automatic payments at tollbooths, cutting costs and increasing security. 

Helping the Aged with Home Sensors

John Robertson is one of the people to see an opportunity in the fact that the population of the western world — and Nova Scotia in particular — is aging.

Robertson is a Halifax-based business consultant whose company, inspiredEggs, helps firms bring their products to market. Now he’s focused on a new venture that he hopes will improve the lives of seniors who live alone.

The new company, homeEXCEPT, places thermal imaging sensors in seniors’ homes to ensure they are safe and healthy. The system, which will launch this summer, is non-intrusive, cost-competitive and provides peace of mind for the families of elderly people who live alone.

“We’re (reacting to) the fears of the GenXers and baby boomers and the fact that they are worried about the safety of their loved ones,” Robertson said in a recent interview. “But from a business perspective, we’re creating our own data set by having our own sensors in the marketplace and that gives us a data set that can be replicated by no one.”

Robertson came up with the idea a year ago when he delivered a presentation in Atlanta and heard U.S. officials speak about the coming “senior tsunami.” There are now 50 million Americans over the age of 65 and that is projected to be 75 million by 2030.

Robertson has been mentoring the founders of Halifax-based startup Bitness, which places sensors in retail establishments to gather data on customer behaviour. He wondered if a similar system could be used to let the elderly safely stay in their own homes.

Athletigen Added to Kinduct Platform

The solution is a series of sensors that are placed in each room in the house, and accompanying software that analyzes the senior’s movements and understands if something is amiss. It can tell if the individual is late getting out of bed, wandering at night, absent for a prolonged period, or has had a fall. It can distinguish between pets and humans, and it can tell if a stove is left on or a window’s left open. The longer the system runs, the more it understands the person it is monitoring and the more effective it is.

The system uses Facebook Messenger to contact family members if there is cause for alarm. It allows the family members to know immediately (using a free service they likely already use) if they need to check in on their elderly relative.

Robertson is now raising a round of angel financing with a goal of $250,000, and he already has $100,000 in commitments.

To bring the project to fruition, Robertson has struck a number of key partnerships. He’s working with Matt d’Entrement, director of the iDLab at Dalhousie University, and the tech consultancy T4G on developing the technology.

And he has teamed up with Northwood Care, which will help to bring the product to members of its network.

Finally, Robertson is working with a team of advisers that includes doctors Gail Estes and Aaron Newman, two of Dalhousie’s leading researchers in brain-related issues.

The goal over time is to build up a set of data that will help these researchers better understand the elderly brain and constantly improve the product.

“What we’re building is a data company more than anything else,” said Robertson. “There’s going to be a very, very rich amount of research that will result from this.”

Athletigen Added to Kinduct Platform

Travis McDonough and Jeremy Koenig

Travis McDonough and Jeremy Koenig

Two Halifax startups – both of which work in the intersection of IT and life sciences – have announced a collaboration to help athletes and coaches make better decisions.

Kinduct Technologies, a data and analytics software provider, and Athletigen Technologies Inc., which analyzes athletes’ DNA, have announced that Kinduct’s software platform will soon incorporate Athletigen’s genetic insights.

Athletigen’s platform analyzes an athlete’s DNA so coaches and athletes can better understand peak performance in training and competition. The Kinduct platform allows organizations to analyze athlete data collected from different sources and then use those insights to make better decisions and improve performance.

Kinduct, whose platform is used by some of the world’s best known sports teams, draws data from a range of sources, and will soon add Athletigen to the platform.

“The partnership with Kinduct is an exciting opportunity, with both companies focused on pushing the limits of human performance,” said Athletigen CEO Jeremy Koenig in a statement. “Clients will now have access to genetic markers combined with performance data, biometric scores and subjective inputs to provide a comprehensive view of the athlete to help understand and improve their in-game performance.”

Affinio To Launch LinkedIn Product

Kinduct’s platform, used by teams in the NHL, MLB, NFL, NBA, MLS, and NCAA, allows for a two-way information exchange between coaches and athletes. its Athlete Management System gives teams the ability to collect, analyze, and act on a wide range of player performance data and content such as training results, sleep schedules, maximum acceleration, deceleration, and heart rate. All of the information captured or calculated within the Kinduct platform supports informed decisions on personalized training and injury recovery programs for every athlete. This new partnership with Athletigen adds genetics as an important new layer of data.

“Athletigen analyzes genetic markers that help athletes understand where their performance strengths and weaknesses truly lie,” said Kinduct CEO Travis McDonough. “The partnership with Athletigen and the integration of their genetic insights into Kinduct’s platform will create a powerful tool for assessing an athlete’s condition and defining the optimal training and recovery programs.”

He added: “We see this combination of performance data and genetics as an important step in maximising player performance while reducing injury risk. Our clients can gain access to each athlete’s genetic foundation to better explain the data we capture.”

SImplyCast Plans Recruitment Fair

SimplyCast, the Dartmouth-based startup specializing in marketing automation, is planning to hold a recruitment fair at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel from 11 am to 1 pm on Feb. 23.

The event will take place just before the company’s scheduled event, at which it will unveil news about the company’s future. That event will take place at the Marriott Harbourfront at 4 pm.

With clients in 175 countries, SimplyCast is a leading provider of interactive and multi-channel communication software for organizations around the world.

To keep up with the anticipated rapid growth of the company, SimplyCast is holding the recruitment fair to fill positions in six roles:

-          Account Management;

-          Digital Copywriter;

-          Customer Service Specialist;

-          Programmer/Developer;

-          Sales Associate;

-          And Hands-Free Specialist.

“We are always looking for new SimplyCasters to join our team,” said SimplyCast President and CEO Saeed El-Darahali. “We expect 2017 to be one of the busiest and most profitable years in company history so we need to begin making some hires so we are able to maintain our ability to meet and exceed clients’ needs.”

The SimplyCast recruitment fair will take place outside the Nova Scotia Ballroom.

Love, Marriage and a FinTech App

Amira AlKasem and Mohamad Tawakol

Amira AlKasem and Mohamad Tawakol

In honour of Valentine’s Day, we have a story today of love, marriage, an accelerator in Cairo and an intriguing FinTech app.

This is the story of Syrian-born Amira AlKasem and Mohamad Tawakol, originally from Egypt, two young people who met at Dalhousie University, where they were studying business and computer science respectively. I met them last year when they were going through Starting Lean, the university’s entrepreneurship program.

As you may have guessed, they’re now engaged and plan to marry later this year in Cairo, where Tawakol hails from.

Cairo features prominently in this story because Tawakol was recently accepted as one of 20 startups in the current cohort of the tech accelerator at the American University of Cairo, the largest private university in Egypt.

He and his co-founder Mohamed Zohair are taking their company Spare through the program’s FinTech cohort. Tawakol actually has found he is helping many of his colleagues in the program, because the course involves the lean methodology he’d already learned at Dal.

Spare is a payment system that aims to cure a massive problem for consumers in Egypt, and it could have applications in other developing economies.

Because of the costs, fewer than 10 percent of Egyptians have bank accounts, and about 4 to 6 percent have credit cards. That means 95 percent of all transactions are cash-based – even online. Merchants often don’t have the cash to give people the proper change.

“People always pay in cash, and merchants are always saying things like, `Do you want a pick of gum instead of your change?’” said Tawakol. “It’s known as the change crisis.”

WellTrack Named to 500 Startups

Spare aims to solve this problem with an app that allows consumers to store points on their phones, which can then be used to pay for goods at approved store outlets. Each point is equal to one Egyptian pound.

Consumers can download points from tablet that Spare provides for the merchants. Because the system is points-based rather than using the country’s currency, it avoids regulatory problems that could entangle a payment system. Commercial International Bank, the biggest bank in Egypt, sponsors the accelerator, and officials from the bank have helped Tawakol and Zohair on the legal matters.

“It’s like cashback in reverse,” said Tawakol. “You give the store cash and they load up your phone.”

Tawakol and Zohair plan to launch the service with  the merchants at the university. By six months after that, they hope to have the tablets in at least 100 stores, and then move into national chains.

They believe there is an international market for the product.

“Right now, it’s just Egypt because that’s the market we know,” he said. “There’s a really big need for electronic payments and no one has found a mobile app solution.”

Meanwhile, Tawakol and AlKasem are also busy planning their nuptial celebrations. He has returned to Halifax for two weeks, where AlKasem is working for a bank. They’re planning an engagement party in Beiruit this summer, as her family members in Syria can travel to Lebanon but not Egypt.  They are planning a wedding in December, and will be a married couple by the next Valentine’s Day. 

A Reminder to Complete our Survey

Here’s one final reminder to please fill out our survey to help us get a better understanding of the makeup and opinions of the Atlantic Canadian startup community.

The survey is completely anonymous. And you’re asked to reveal NO sensitive information about your company.

What the survey does provide is a chance for you to make your opinions known on matters like funding, government programs and talent. It’s well worth taking five minutes to complete it.  

You can find the survey here.

Entrevestor is partnering with the Atlantic Canadian team at the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program, or REAP, to generate data on the startup community in Atlantic Canada.

As probably know, Entrevestor has surveyed founders across Atlantic Canada for the past three years to gain keen insights into the growth of innovation companies and the health of our ecosystem. This year, our survey was happening concurrently with one carried out by the REAP team. To ensure that founders aren’t belaboured with too many surveys, we’re combining these surveys. We're going to use the REAP survey, which some of you may have seen on the Halifax or New Brunswick Startup Community Facebook pages.

REAP is a program offered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that helps regions to foster economic growth and social progress.  The program matches MIT experts with regional representatives to develop strategies in addressing specific economic challenges. This year it accepted a group from Nova Scotia comprising business people, academics and officials from federal and provincial governments. The goal is to bring leaders from the region to one of the world’s greatest academic institutes and develop plans to improve the economic environment in Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada.

This survey will give the REAP team the baseline data it needs to understand the regional startup community. And Entrevestor will use the data to produce its annual study of the community, which it sells to customers to help finance our free news service.

Job of the Week: Dash Hudson

The focus of the Job of the Week column this week is an opening for a sales development representative at Halifax-based Dash Hudson.

Dash Hudson helps clients analyze their Instagram and SnapChat data. It collects data on how major brands are connecting with customers on Instagram. The photo-sharing app is one of the most popular social media tools available but before Dash Hudson they were unable to analyze what effect Instagram posts were having with customers. It is now moving into providing the same service for SnapChat users.

The Job of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.


Dash Hudson

Sales Development Representative

The successful candidate will be a critical piece to the growth and development of Dash Hudson's sales process. He or she will manage a creative and customized outreach strategy to potential customers in verticals such as fashion, beauty, luxury, travel, food, publishing and consumer electronics. Through developing and maintaining the early stages of the sales pipeline, this person will contribute to the overall success of the sales team!

The position carries three main responsibilities: first, managing lead generation; second, overseeing custom outreach process, and third, being responsible for performance and tracking.

The company is looking for someone with a desire to learn and improve processes, with strong written and verbal communication skills, and who is self-motivating.

We’re Teaming With REAP for Survey

We’re pleased to announce that we’re partnering with the Atlantic Canadian team at the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program, or REAP, to generate data on the startup community in Atlantic Canada.

As many of you know, Entrevestor has surveyed founders across Atlantic Canada for the past three years to gain keen insights into the growth of innovation companies and the health of our ecosystem. This year, our survey was happening concurrently with one carried out by the Reap team. To ensure that founders aren’t belaboured with too many surveys, we’re combining these surveys. We're going to use the REAP survey, which some of you may have seen on the Halifax or New Brunswick Startup Community Facebook pages. 

Many of you have already completed this survey. If you haven’t, could you please take a few minutes to do so. It will help immeasurably in producing the data we need in the efforts to build a better ecosystem in the region.

You can find the survey here.

REAP is a program offered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that helps regions to foster economic growth and social progress.  The program matches MIT experts with regional representatives to develop strategies in addressing specific economic challenges. This year it accepted a group from Nova Scotia comprising business people, academics and officials from federal and provincial governments. The goal is to bring leaders from the region to one of the world’s greatest academic institutes and develop plans to improve the economic environment in Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada.

The program drew some controversy in Nova Scotia last year when it was reported that Dalhousie University was funding the initiative. However, we’ve been assured that external fundraising has covered the cost of the Atlantic Canadian team to go through the program, and the core team members are volunteering their time and covering their own costs.

The REAP team has been surveying founders in the region. Entrevestor will now help out by contacting our list of Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs and ask them to complete the survey. We want to emphasize that we need data from across Atlantic Canada. The more responses we get from across the region, the better our understanding will be of how the startup community is evolving.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions.


Peter Moreira

The Market for Sustainable Swag

Jane Mitchell: 'Business will be central to the delivery of the change we need.'

Jane Mitchell: 'Business will be central to the delivery of the change we need.'

Pens made from recycled pop bottles and lanyards formed from factory scraps don’t sound particularly appealing. But Jane Mitchell, owner of Oyster Promo Inc., is building a business around companies’ desire to promote their environmental consciousness.

Oyster Promo provides sustainable promotional products. Mitchell established the Halifax-based company just over a year ago. She said business has grown five-fold as companies realize that consumers want to shop sustainably.

“Our products include reusable water bottles, USB drives made from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)-certified maple, polo shirts and other apparel made from recycled polyester or bamboo and organic cotton,” said Mitchell.

“We’ve also got tote bags made by a women’s co-operative in India. We help clients build their brand in line with their values, and to purchase branded merchandise that shows their customers that they care about the environment and social good.”

Mitchell said that promotional products are a small piece of a company’s marketing budget but they’re effectively tangible.

“These days, we’re increasingly online and dealing with intangibles. Products can help a company build a brand,” said the Halifax-raised entrepreneur who has an MBA from Ivey Business School in Ontario.

While Mitchell is based in Halifax, she also operates out of Vancouver. At present, 60 per cent of her business is done in Atlantic Canada but she sells across the country and is focusing on expanding in Toronto.

She first thought about establishing Oyster when a B.C.-based friend started a sustainable products business. The desire to do the same was intensified when Mitchell, who worked for an ethical funds company at the time, attended a function organized by a company that wished to promote its efforts on sustainability.

“Their sticky notes were not made from recycled paper,” she said. “It seemed they’d missed an opportunity to get their message across and show they were walking the talk.”

Plato Aims to Hire 1000 Native People

She said the price difference between sustainable and non-sustainable products is lessening.

“For a paper notebook the cost is identical. Most of the paper we buy now is at least 30 per cent recycled.”

Customization is a popular trend.

“You can buy water bottles with your logo and a different individual’s name on each bottle,” she said.

“Tech products are always popular, as are some utilitarian items— customized socks, for instance. You can have your logo woven into the sock. Socks are useful and often have the advantage of being made in Canada.”

Mitchell said clients seeking sustainable products may find there is not one available at the same price as non-sustainable, but the option of sustainability is always there.

“The product might be made from recycled material or sourced from a fair trade organization,” she said. “Sometimes it just needs to be made in Canada.”

Mitchell said her company has competitors in the promotional products business, but few that focus on sustainability.

“I think I formed my company at the right time. Al Gore said business will be central to the delivery of the change we need around climate change.

“A study by Unilever stated there is a market opportunity of $1 trillion for brands that can effectively market the sustainability of their wares.”

Mitchell said all consumers are becoming more aware of environmental and social justice issues, but millennials are particularly concerned.

“People care,” she said. “Millennials like to shop and buy brands, but they want their brands to be in line with their values.”

Affinio To Launch LinkedIn Product

Tim Burke and Stephen Hankinson

Tim Burke and Stephen Hankinson

Affinio announced this week that it is launching a new product that assesses business sentiment by studying data produced by LinkedIn.

The three-year-old Halifax company has developed an advanced database technology that allows low-cost, real-time processing of social network data to determine how every person on the web is connected. It mines publicly available social media posts and other business data to find people who are connected by common interests, experiences or networks.

So far, the company has focused on analyzing the sentiments of individuals, and that strategy has gained Affinio a host of blue chip clients, largely in the entertainment industry. These include BBC Worldwide, Spotify, 20th Century Fox and Sony Music.

Now the company wants to provide insights for customers who play in business-to-business markets.

Affinio said in a statement this week it will expand its range of networks this year and provide analysis of LinkedIn data in collaboration DataSift’s PYLON for LinkedIn Engagement Insights.

Read Our Last Indepth Report on Affinio

“Adding LinkedIn to our social mix is an exciting way to both reveal direct business-to-business audience insights as well as let brands better understand the influencers who resonate with their consumers," said Leanne Cochrane, VP of Product Management at Affinio.

Based in San Francisco, DataSift over the past seven years has produced a range of products for analyzing products from social media. The company, which has raised a total of $64 million in venture capital, last month announced its partnership with LinkedIn.

With DataSift’s LinkedIn Engagement Insights, Affinio said it can change how B2B marketers understand their audiences and relate to their customers on LinkedIn. It will add another data source for Affinio’s clients so they can validate and compare audiences across networks, in a way that respects people’s privacy.

Founded by serial entrepreneurs Tim Burke and Stephen Hankinson, Affinio last raised capital in November 2015, when it closed a $4 million round led by Whitecap Venture Partners of Toronto. The other backers were its first funding partner Build Ventures of Halifax as well as new investors  New York-based Social Starts, New York-based BRaVeVentures and several angels. 

WellTrack Named to 500 Startups

Natasha O'Brien

Natasha O'Brien

WellTrack, the Fredericton company that provides online help with mental health issues, has been accepted into the prestigious 500 Startups accelerator in Silicon Valley – only the second Atlantic Canadian company to do so.

The accelerator group announced Wednesday through a post on TechCrunch that it had named 44 companies to its 20th cohort, one-third of them from outside the U.S. WellTrack – which has graduated from Atlantic Canadian IT accelerator Propel ICT not once but twice – was among the new group.

The only other company from the region to be accepted into 500 Startups was Moncton-based recruitment software company Alongside, which was known as Qimple when it attended the program in 2015.

Psychology professor Darren Piercey started WellTrack in 2010 to create an online tool to help treat mental health issues like anxiety and depression. After the company, whose official name is CyberPsyc Software Solutions, received funding in 2012, he hired Natasha O’Brien, who is now the company’s COO. Together, they altered the product and its target market so they are now making sales.

WellTrack is a product that helps organizations improve the mental health of its members, especially those suffering from stress, anxiety and depression. The company has had some sales to corporations, but it found a more responsive clientele in universities.

The reason is that depression and anxiety afflict about 45 per cent of university students in North America — more than double the percentage of the general population.

According to the company’s website, its clients now include University of Windsor, Ball State University, Providence College, Ryerson University, and University of California – Santa Cruz, among others.

WellTrack has an interesting history with accelerators. Piercey took the company through its first cohort of Propel’s first accelerator, Launch36. Then he and O’Brien enrolled in Propel’s Build program last year to help position the company to scale.

Early on in its existence, the company brought on funding from East Valley Ventures, and it has tapped New Brunswick Innovation Foundation a couple of times for money – most recently a $50,000 investment in the 2015-16 fiscal year. As a member of the 500 Startups accelerator, the company will receive some funding.  O’Brien and Piercey last summer were looking to close a $1 million funding round. 

RtTech Grows 28-Country Footprint

Keith Flynn is starting 2017 with more optimism than 2016.

The president and founder of RtTech Software, the Moncton-based company specializing in the Industrial Internet of Things, is bursting with good news. The company spent the last year forming partnerships with several international players, and those relationships are turning into sales.

The company’s products are now being used in 28 countries — 11 of them added since the end of 2015. Its client list now ranges from local champions like Irving and McCain Foods to such global powerhouses as Procter & Gamble, even NASA.

About a year ago, things were harder. RtTech and Pablo Asiron, RtTech’s original CEO, had parted ways, and Flynn suddenly found himself running the company. He makes no secret of the fact that it was a difficult adjustment.

“You’ve got an office full of people, people who needed some sort of direction,” he said in an interview last week. “I’ve been working as an entrepreneur since 2002, always on the technical side, and that’s all about execution. To be flipped to the other side, it’s hard.”

It was a change for the company that had become one of the high-flyers of the regional startup community, having just landed $3 million in venture capital funding from McRock Capital and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

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RtTech’s IIoT applications help large industrial companies monitor and make decisions on energy consumption and operations using data captured by sensors installed in the plant’s machinery. Its main products are RtEMIS, which can pinpoint when and where part of a system is using excess energy, and RtDUET, which allows companies to examine specific processes to find the cause of downtime and poor utilization issues.

The company had released a cloud-based product in 2015, but then learned it was difficult to scale the product profitably. So a big part of the work in 2016 was reworking the product so it would meet demand.

The solution was to develop a platform called Cipher, a new piece of infrastructure 100 per cent owned by RtTech on which clients can add IIot applications.

“We actually built this in less than 12 months,” said Flynn. “We have customers coming to us and asking for us to build apps that can run off it. . . . This is the part that will go viral.”

Working with its new partners, including global players like Microsoft and Cisco Systems, the company is getting the product in the hands of end-users around the world. Flynn expects to add clients in more countries soon, including China, Austria, Ghana, and Poland.

The company now has 25 employees and its sales effort is focused on using its partnerships to reach large industrial companies. The goal is to help these companies connect their “assets” — that is, bring the power of digital technologies to machinery or other objects to improve their efficiency.

“What’s the highlight of 2017? RtTech is going to help customers connect more assets than ever before," said Flynn. “2017 will be all about connecting more assets.”

IMV, Merck in Phase 2 Clinical Trial

Halifax-based Immunovaccine Inc., a clinical-stage immuno-oncology company, has announced that its main drug candidate for battling cancer will go through a Phase 2 clinical trial.

The publicly listed company said this week that its DPX-Survivac cancer vaccine candidate and a product of the New Jersey-based pharma giant Merck will be the subject of a Phase 2 trial at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto. Researchers aim to test the safety and efficacy of the drug combination on 42 ovarian cancer patients. Immunovaccine, or IMV, said in a statement that Merck will pay for the trial, which will begin once they receive regulatory clearance from Health Canada.

Immunovaccine has developed a platform for delivering drugs called DepoVax, which allows a constant flow over a long period of time of drugs that work with the immune system to battle diseases. The product being tested in this trial, DPX-Survivac, operates in the DepoVax platform.  The drug being provided by Merck is a checkpoint inhibitor called Pembrolizumab.

"Ovarian cancer is a main focus for Immunovaccine as we continue to develop DPX-Survivac," said Immunovaccine CEO Frederic Ors in a statement.  "Combination therapies … are emerging as increasingly promising approaches for hard-to-treat cancers.” He added that he hoped the trial, if successful, would “position our immuno-oncology candidate as an optimal co-therapy in this disease area."

BlueLight, 3M Form US Partnership

Phase 2 trials are a big deal, and it's extremely rare for an Atlantic Canadian drug discovery company to reach this phase of clinical trials. Phase 2 trials test for efficacy, meaning they prove a drug does what the company says it can do, and the costs usually amount to tens of millions of dollars.

The trial at the Prince Margaret will test the anti-tumor activity of the IMV and Merck products along with low-dose cyclophosphamide, a medication used in chemotherapy.

The study's primary objective is to assess the overall response rate, which means it will examine whether the combination of drugs actually shrinks cancer tumors. The secondary objectives include the study of the progression-free survival rate, overall survival rate, and potential side effects, over a five-year period.

"Ovarian cancer is among the most challenging cancers to treat, as it is associated with poor response rates to currently available medical interventions," said Amit M. Oza, the Senior Staff Physician at Princess Margaret who will be lead investigator in the trial. "To support the tens of thousands of women battling this disease, we need to develop new and novel approaches. With this trial, we have the opportunity to explore a novel combination of promising immunotherapies."

The company has conducted previous clinical trials on DPX-Survivac combined with a low dose of cyclophosphamide. These showed the combination was “highly immunogenic” in most participants with high-risk ovarian cancer.

IMV also announced it is conducting a Phase 1b trial with Incyte Corp. to evaluate the triple combination of DPX-Survivac with one of Incyte's drugs called Epacadostat, and low-dose oral cyclophosphamide in patients with platinum sensitive or resistant ovarian cancer. Immunovaccine expects to announce top-line interim results for this trial by the end of March.

Immunovaccine, which is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and has a market capitalization of $118 million, raised $8 million in December through a private placement of shares.


Disclaimer: the author owns Immunovaccine shares. 

QRA Launches QVscribe Product

Halifax-based QRA Corp., which helps manufacturers eliminate design flaws early in the development process, has launched a new tool to ensure everyone working on a project can understand the written requirements.

After a successful beta program, QVscribe is now available to defense, aerospace, and automotive industries customers looking to improve their requirements documents. If left untouched, sloppy language in requirements could result in significant re-work in both the design and build phases. 

Growing out of a research project at Dalhousie University, QRA has developed technology that helps large manufacturers identify flaws in complicated machinery early in the design stage. The idea is to work out the kinks before the manufacturer spends millions of dollars prototyping a machine that has ill-matched components.

“Because of the subjectivity of language, often what’s clear to one person is misunderstood by another,” said QRA Chief Executive and President Jordan Kyriakidis in a statement. “As easy as Spell Check, QVscribe flags potential errors right in Microsoft Word, allowing users to immediately fix ambiguities long before they cause problems. It’s a fast, seamless and easy-to-use solution that enables more people to contribute to the requirements process in far more productive ways.”

Powered by Natural Language Processing, QVscribe corrects problems with syntax using a visual grading system. This enables virtually anyone to use the QVscribe analysis directly within familiar Microsoft Office and Visure files to contribute to the consistency and quality that is paramount in an effective requirements program. 

According to recent studies, more than half of all engineering errors originate in the requirements stage, and the cost of fixing those errors in systems and software increases exponentially over the project life cycle.

“Erroneous requirements contribute to 70 percent of the errors found during a system development project in the aerospace industry today,” said Yogananda Jeppu, Principal Systems Engineer at Honeywell Technology Solutions. “Correct requirements are the need of the hour. QVscribe is an automated way of analyzing requirements for correctness. The quality metrics based on a user-defined library of words brings an early detection of errors which can improve quality upfront. QVscribe has an easy to use interface and automation that makes it a very handy tool for the engineer.”

Last October, QRA was named to the first cohort of the Lazaridis Institute Canadian Scale-Up Program, which will help promising Canadian startups to go through their growth stage. Named for BlackBerry Co-Founder Mike Lazaridis, the institute at Wilfrid Laurier University set up the program to help 10 companies from across the country to extend their sales to the global market. QRA is the only company from outside Ontario or Quebec selected for the program.

Plato Aims to Hire 1000 Native People

Denis Carignan: 'What we're seeing is the opening of a doorway.'

Denis Carignan: 'What we're seeing is the opening of a doorway.'

When Denis Carignan met Keith McIntosh 18 months ago, they didn’t realize their encounter would lead to a new business that has the potential to employ 1,000 indigenous people across Canada.

The business is Plato Testing, a Fredericton company that is building a network of aboriginal software testers. It is set to have 50 employees by June, based mainly in New Brunswick and Vancouver, and its executives are on track to have a staff of 250 by the end of 2018. It hopes eventually to have a staff of 1,000.

The company is 50-per-cent-owned by its staff, so the goal is to bring native people into the tech community and to create wealth in First Nations communities across the country.

“What we’re seeing is the opening of a doorway, and it’s part of the indigenous experience in Canada,” said Carignan in an interview from his home in Saskatchewan.

“We’re helping people to see themselves as being able to enter a career in information technology where right now there are not that many (aboriginal) people who are working in the field.”

The story of Plato Testing began in the summer of 2015 when Carignan, whose career was dedicated to working with First Nations communities, attended the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference. One of the delegates he met was McIntosh, the founder and CEO of Fredericton-based PQA Testing, which has offered software testing services for 20 years.

Lottery Innovation Outpost Primed for First Product

Software testing is a huge business worldwide, worth $6 billion to $7 billion annually, that provides quality assurance to the makers of software. Any software must be tested over and over again, in all conditions and on a range of platforms, to make sure there are no glitches. This is especially true of enterprise software produced by large companies like banks, retailers and large software companies.

The software testing industry is divided into two groups — automated, which can be carried out anywhere with computers, and manual, which is usually carried out in low-wage economies like India or China.

A native of Saskatchewan, Carignan found himself talking to McIntosh about the software market. Together, they reasoned manual software testing could be carried out in First Nations communities across the country.

They were soon working with the Community College of New Brunswick and the Fredericton-based Joint Economic Development Initiative (which promotes economic development for aboriginal communities). Carignan became the company’s president and chie operating officer. They developed a certification program for software testers at CCNB and began to train their staff.

Plato Testing is a subsidiary of PQA, and the parent company handles much of the sales as well as administrative tasks like human resources and finance. PQA has 200 customers worldwide, and now rather than ship manual testing offshore it is able to hand the jobs to Plato. The young company has however, landed its first client on its own.

Plato, which has just been accepted into the Propel ICT Growth program,  has also developed its own training staff, which is allowing it to add staff rapidly. Carignan said the company is helping to develop links between corporate Canada and the First Nations.

“That linkage between corporate Canada and our population often isn’t there,” he said. “I think that Plato can help. People may be working for Plato, but they’re working on a project for Royal Bank or Canadian Tire or one of those companies. And we really believe it is a sustainable business.”

Lottery Outpost Primed for 1st Product

Scott Burke: Disrupting ourselves before we get disrupted by someone else.

Scott Burke: Disrupting ourselves before we get disrupted by someone else.

The Atlantic Lottery Corp. will soon pilot a new product that came into being because it placed a bunch of geeks at the heart of Halifax’s innovation Hub.

The lottery organization, which is owned by the four Atlantic Provinces, will begin a 1,500-person pilot project this month for its new product Winvelope. It is the first product to come out of the Crown corporation’s innovation outpost at Volta, the Halifax startup house.

Last summer, Atlantic Lotto opened an innovation outpost in Volta with the goal of bringing out new products to help the business. Led by tech entrepreneur Scott Burke, the outpost group decided to play on the current craze of subscription boxes and devise a lottery product people receive regularly in the mail.

“People like to get a physical product, and when everything is online, getting a physical product is a novelty,” said Burke in an interview. “They like the unboxing experience. This is something that tests well with younger people, the 19 to 34 year olds.”

With Winevelope, people will be able to subscribe to the program, and receive lottery tickets or other products mailed to them on a regular basis, probably once a month. Other entrepreneurs have had great success with these so-called subscription boxes, receiving recurring revenue in exchange for regularly mailing out toothbrushes, razors or special gifts.

Burke admits that it’s surprising that a group of tech enthusiasts would choose a mail-based subscription model for their first product, but it made sense to produce a something that could come to market quickly.

The Money Finder Lands $1.75M from Build, Innovacorp

The idea of an innovation outpost is for traditional corporations to place a few tech-savvy employees in an innovation hub to bring about new products. Young entrepreneurs in these hubs benefit from exposure to traditional businesses, and the corporations gain new insights into current trends of development.

“We asked ourselves, if a lottery corporation was a startup, what kind of products would we build and bring to market?” said Burke. “The whole idea is to essentially disrupt ourselves …  before we get disrupted by someone else. We were tasked with making exciting products that will delight Atlantic Canadians.”

Volta hopes the Lottery Corp. is just the first to establish an innovation outpost in Halifax.

“We have seen serious interest from other large corporations who are interested in taking advantage of the unique start up environment at Volta,” said Volta CEO Jesse Rogers in an email. “Our goal is to have a cluster of innovation outpost labs here at Volta as we grow and continue to be a leader in bringing together corporations and innovators.”

Burke said his team has gained from interacting with entrepreneurs, and from hosting a hackathon to share ideas with the community.

“We’re here at Volta for the hallway conversations and to get out of head office and start with a clean blackboard and see what we can come up with.” 

Job of the Week: LeadSift

The focus of the Job of the Week column this week is an opening for a software engineer at Halifax-based LeadSift.

LeadSift is building a sales intelligence platform that searches social media to help corporations understand people’s buying intentions and find the best candidates for a sale. It assesses a prospect's interests, mindset and willingness to buy. The LeadSift system identifies these prospects while they’re considering a purchase and connects them with the companies best positioned to meet their needs.

The Job of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.



Software Engineer

The software engineer will work in a team of developers on diverse projects. The company is looking for someone who will demonstrate a knowledge of critical thinking and problem-solving. Proficiency with Python, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript is required, and LeadSift wants someone who understands Django Web Framework, and Javascript MVC frameworks.

The software engineer must contribute to planning sessions, where tasks will be estimated and prioritized, and must collaborate with other programmers to design and implement features. This person must have excellent debugging skills and an understanding of cross-browser development.

The successful candidate will be part of a strong, hard-working engineering team in a startup environment, and learn hands-on about Leadsift’s industry and customers. 

Money Finder Closes $1.75M Round

Stephanie Holmes-Winton: 'We've bootstrapped this company from nothing.

Stephanie Holmes-Winton: 'We've bootstrapped this company from nothing."

The Money Finder has found money.

The Money Finder, the Halifax startup that helps financial advisers plan cash flow for their clients, has landed $1.75 million in venture capital financing from Build Ventures and Innovacorp.

Innovacorp invested $250,000 in the firm in September. And on Tuesday night, the startup closed a $1.5-million equity financing round with Build Ventures, the Atlantic Canadian regional venture capital round. Build Ventures Partner Rob Barbara will join the company’s board.

“This means everything because we’ve bootstrapped this company from nothing,” founder and CEO Stephanie Holmes-Winton said in an interview. “The cost of bootstrapping when you’re not a technical CEO is enormous. . . . This investment will allow us to hire senior technical people in the region, and to foster the junior people.”

Bootstrapping is startup jargon for bringing technology to market before you’ve raised money from external investors, and Holmes-Winton has proven herself really good at it.

A career financial planner, she devised her own financial planning system, and found a group that would build the software in return for equity. Rather than sell the product directly to big financial corporations, she sold it to financial planners, because that was the fastest way to bring in money. Until last June, all the staff worked from home. Holmes-Winton herself oversaw sales, and The Money Finder is now used by 300 financial planners across the country.

“We generated a million dollars in annual recurring revenue before we raised a dime of capital,” chief financial officer Kathy Doucette said.

The company has developed an educational program and related software that help financial advisers to devise plans for their clients that ensure they have a proper cash flow in their retirement. Most financial planning strategies aim to help individuals to build up a pot of money, which can be used for income in old age. But The Money Finder assesses spending, debt and human behavior, and produces a plan that ensures a predictable cash flow for the retiree.

The Money Finder, which now has a full-time staff of 16 people, plans to use the money to build up its development team so it can develop an enterprise solution. That is a product powerful enough that it can be sold to a corporation, which can distribute it to its own financial analysts. Two smaller finance companies are already in line to pilot the product.

The development team so far has comprised five more junior developers. It now is recruiting a vice-president of software engineering, to take the lead on the enterprise project.

Holmes-Winton has been distracted from selling while she’s been raising capital, but will now oversee strategic growth, which will focus on enterprise sales.

And she has already begun to court investors for an A Round — a venture capital round generally considered to be worth $4 million or more. More capital will be needed to roll out the enterprise product to major corporations.

Said Doucette: “We’re hoping to be in Series A in a year’s time.”


(Disclaimer: Innovacorp and Build Ventures are both clients of Entrevestor.)

Sentinel Alert to Close Down

Sarah Murphy at the Bootcamp at Communitech

Sarah Murphy at the Bootcamp at Communitech

Sentinel Alert, a groundbreaking startup based in St. John’s, is closing down.

Founder and CEO Sarah Murphy posted on Facebook on Wednesday that the company will be ceasing operations.  

“The last two-plus years have been the wildest journey of my life,” said Murphy. “This was undoubtedly one of the hardest decisions I've ever made, and over the coming weeks I will reflect and share more about what led to this outcome.”

Sentinel was working on software that could detect when a worker has had an accident or may soon have one. From the outset in 2014, the idea had been that a smartphone or mobile device can detect when someone has fallen and hit the ground, and the phone should be able to alert the company that an accident has taken place.

The company described its solution as being like “a FitBit for worker safer” that uses advanced mathematics to detect and prevent worker accidents in manufacturing, forestry and construction environments.

The company came out of the first Startup Weekend in St. John's, and was the first company from Newfoundland and Labrador to enroll in a Propel ICT accelerator. Murphy moved to Fredericton for four months to attend the program as it was not yet being offered in St. John’s.

The high point of Sentinel Alert came in 2015, when was accepted in the Women’s Entrepreneur Bootcamp (now called the Fierce Founders Bootcamp) at Communitech in Kitchener. Murphy won the pitching competition, taking home the $35,000 first prize.

In late 2015 and early 2016, Sentinel Alert raised $525,000 in equity investment from the Killick Group, Venture NL (managed by Pelorus Venture Capital) and a private angel investor.

Murphy was unavailable for comment Wednesday , but her Facebook post effusively thanked her teammates, backers and mentors.

“Although I'm not sure what's next just yet, one thing is for certain,” she said. “I will remain an active part of the startup community whether that be joining a new team or launching my next venture. More updates to come soon.”

Website Weekend Set for Saint John

Kelly Lawson

Kelly Lawson

Website Weekend, a new initiative that allows participants to build a website in two days, will be launched in Saint John in March.

The initiative was founded by Kelly Lawson, the CEO of ELLA, and photographer Sean McGrath. It is designed to be an intensive gathering of web developers, designers, professional photographers, bloggers and business owners to create and launch new, professional websites in two days flat.

The first Website Weekend will take place in Saint John on March 18-19. The cost is $1900 plus HST per company and registration is now open.

“Anyone who has been through the web design process knows that it can take a long time from start to launch because of missing content, loose deadlines, busy schedules, late revision feedback, photography appointments, lots of back-and-forthing and life in general getting in the way,” said Lawson in a statement. “During our two-day workshop, participants will have a professional team at their disposal and their sites will be live in 48 hours or less. Working one-on-one, in person with web experts is much more efficient than the usual back and forth emails of traditional web design process.”

She added that the team will educate workshop attendees on how to modify and update their own websites so that they are in complete control of their web presence and not reliant on third parties to manage their content.

“Our vision is to extend this to service any Canadian business owner who believes this will suit their needs, timeline and budget,” said Lawson. “We would love to see people joining us from away, and we would love to take Website Weekend on the road.”

Sean Ellis to Headline Amplify

Sean Ellis

Sean Ellis

Sean Ellis, founder and CEO of, will headline the speakers at Amplify, a one-day mentoring event designed to teach East Coast entrepreneurs best practices in growth marketing.

Amplify is a single-day event that will help to teach methods of growth marketing, and inspire people in the practice.  Participants will gain insight on how to attract and activate more leads, how to build a growth team and how to retain and nurture more customers.

Growth marketing, or growth hacking, is a marketing strategy that requires minimal budget for maximum appeal. Designed for companies that don’t have established brand names, it usually calls for a unique gimmick or idea that gets potential clients excited about a product and encourages them to spread the message.  

Amplify, to be held at Pier 21 in Halifax on March 28, is hosted by the Atlantic Canadian regional accelerator Propel ICT, recruitment software company Alongside, and Tickets are available here, and early-bird rates are available until Feb. 17.

“I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to come to Atlantic Canada for the first time,” said Ellis.  “In my experience, the Atlantic Canadian companies I’ve encountered have all had one thing in common – they’re hungry.  They’re ready to grow and they’re willing to do whatever it takes.  I have no doubt this event will deliver amazing results to all who attend.”

Ellis is known for coining the term “growth hacking” and popularizing the term “product/market fit”. Previously, he was the CEO at Qualaroo, and held key growth and marketing positions at such companies as Dropbox, Eventbrite, Lookout, LogMeIn, and Uproar.  He now helps companies build agile growth teams with his new tool, the GrowthHackers PROJECTS.

Propel ICT Names Companies to First Growth Cohort

The other speakers at Amplify will include:

- Zack Onisko, Vice-President  of Growth at;
- Dominic Coryell, founder of Gimme Growth;
- Ethan Smith, Vice-President of Growth at Yummly;
- Netta Kivilis, CXO of Blue Seedling and formerly a senior marketer at Amazon;
- And Todd Saunders, co-founder and CEO of Adhawk, and a former member of the accelerated growth team at Google.

“This is a prime opportunity for startups and businesses to get the expert advice and insight they need to properly scale their businesses for rapid growth,” said Propel ICT Entrepreneur-in-Residence Trevor MacAusland said in a statement.  “The conference is built to help marketers and founders connect with the best mentors and address their challenges so they can get out there and get real traction to happen the very next day.”

Lead generation is the number one barrier to exponential growth faced by startups and it’s also the one thing that all startups need to survive. 

“Atlantic Canada has a plethora of smart, innovative and growing companies,” said Alongside CEO Yves Boudreau. “This conference will help to put a spotlight on Atlantic Canada and expose the amazing startups we have here."


Disclaimer: Propel ICT is a client of Entrevestor, and Alongside is our partner in the Entrevestor Job Board.

2 East Coast Firms in Fashion Awards

Kyle MacNevin and Kayley Reed of Wear your Label

Kyle MacNevin and Kayley Reed of Wear your Label

When the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards are handed out in April, two Atlantic Canadian companies will be among the finalists.

Halifax-based Dash Hudson has been nominated for the Joe Fresh Fashion Innovation Award, which will be presented to a company that is innovating how we experience, consume or interact with fashion through technology. Founded by Thomas Rankin and Tomek Niewiarowski, Dash Hudson provides data analytics for corporate clients using Instagram.

And Wear Your Label of Fredericton is competing with three others for the Fashion Impact Award. It will be presented to a Canadian designer or brand that has made a significant social or philanthropic impact in the Canadian and/or international community.

Wear Your Label, led by Kyle MacNevin and Kayley Reed, designs and sells apparel with sayings and designs that can create conversation around mental health. The wording is subtle and designed to create discussion rather than scream a message.

The fourth annual Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards Gala will take place on Friday, April 7, at the Fairmont Royal York in downtown Toronto.

SimplyCast Names Brien as Chair

Saeed El-Darahali

Saeed El-Darahali

SimplyCast, a Dartmouth-based leader in marketing automation, has named Michael Brien as its new Board Chair, replacing J. William Ritchie, who will remain as a board member.

With clients in 175 countries, SimplyCast is a leading provider of interactive and multi-channel communication software for organizations around the world.

“Michael has been a member of SimplyCast’s board since 2015 and we are all very excited for him to transition to chairman,” said SimplyCast President and CEO Saeed El-Darahali in a statement. “Mike has been heavily involved in helping companies become strong and profitable and I am pleased to have his expertise leading our board.”

Brien is the CEO of Rockland Capital Ltd., an investment holding company. Previously, he was CEO and owner of Macdonald Chisholm Track Insurance, a leading insurance brokerage in Atlantic Canada, which he recently sold to a publicly traded company.

Outside his work, Brien has been President of Nova Scotia Insurance Brokers Association, CEO and Board member of Halifax Professional Basketball Club Inc. (Halifax Hurricanes), and Chair of the Atlantic Chapter of the Young Presidents Organization. Currently, he is Vice Chair of Nova Scotia Community College, and a board member Halifax Professional Basketball Club Inc.

“I have been an investor in SimplyCast since early on in its development and have watched with enthusiasm how Saeed and his team have developed a unique platform for growth and profitability,” said Brien in a statement. “I look forward to my new role and continuing to work with the SimplyCast team to help drive our strategy to scale our business model.”

El-Darahali also extended his thanks to Ritchie for his service as chairman. 

Demone, StFX Back Eosense

The Eosense Team.

The Eosense Team.

Cleantech startup Eosense has found new backing from former High Liner Foods CEO Henry Demone and from St. Francis Xavier University, the institution where Eosense was born.

The Dartmouth-based company has spent seven years developing and marketing instruments that detect carbon dioxide seeping from soil. With clients like University of California at Berkeley and the Max Planck Institute in Germany, Eosense is expecting the fiscal year ending in May to be its best yet in terms of sales.

The company has now raised just over $500,000 in equity financing, including an investment by Demone, who has become the company’s chairman.  Meanwhile, StFX has transformed licences on the intellectual property used by Eosense into common equity.

What this means is that Eosense now has the capital to move forward in the foreseeable future, and it has removed some hurdles in seeking later rounds of funding.

“The last little while has been a culmination of lot of hard work, but it’s really exciting because the money, the partnerships and the expertise we’ve brought on give us the freedom to focus on our strategic priorities,” said Co-Founder and CEO Gordon McArthur in an interview.

ACOA Contributed $9.2M to Springboard

Eosense's technology was developed at a StFX lab run by David Risk. The company has developed three gas-detection products out of this technology. It has sold them mainly to academic institutions, but also companies in key industries like mining, oil and gas, and environmental services.

McArthur said the company is now experiencing annual sales growth of 30 to 50 percent, and it will use the new capital to expand its sales team.

Beyond the additional cash on hand, the company has a cleaner capital structure. It now owns its intellectual property and the recent funding has allowed Houston-based investment firm Surge Ventures to clarify its equity position in the company. These factors mean that when Eosense courts venture capital firms for its next round of funding, there will be no extraneous issues that could complicate matters.

The recent agreements cement key relationships for Eosense. Demone, who has been a mentor to McArthur for the past four years, now has a formal role with the company.

“He was the guy who was always willing to pick up the phone,” said McArthur. “Following his retirement [as CEO of High Liner], he was willing to help with a global challenge – that is managing our environment better – with a company that isn’t brand new, that has some experience, that has made a few mistakes but has had some successes too.”

StFX now holds common shares in a startup it helped to launch. “This academic-corporate relationship ensures that Eosense can benefit from the highly specific soil-gas expertise of Dr. Risk and students of StFX’s Earth Science Department,” said StFX Manager of Industry Liaison Andrew Kendall in a statement.

And Eosense has more money to help increase sales and finance additional research.

“We’re turning our attention to longer-term matters,” said McArthur. “Being able to push these matters over the hump is really important. It’s liberating. And the more sales we do the more we can invest in new products.” 

This VC Is a Bootstapping Evangelist

It’s not uncommon for a tech specialist to advocate bootstrapping. But if that specialist is a VC investor from Silicon Valley, people tend to pay attention.

A roomful of tech enthusiasts certainly paid attention Thursday night in Halifax when Eric Bahn, of 500 Startups, outlined the ways to avoid giving up equity in their ventures. In private meetings and his speech at Start Grind Halifax, Bahn advised founders to look for ways to move their companies forward on the cheap rather than raising.

“I work at a venture capital firm but I hate venture capital,” he said. “Venture capital is almost like a cocaine addiction.”

Once you’re raising, he said, there’s just a fevered struggle to get to the next round, and then the next. Bahn can speak knowledgeably about bootstrapping. He started his own company on $32,000 and ended up selling it for millions.

He describes himself as having been a mediocre student who had a singular talent – doing standardized tests. He founded a blogging site called Beat The GMAT and turned it into the largest MBA applicant social network on the internet, serving 3 million people each year. He grew annual revenue to more than $1 million and eventually sold the company to Hobsons, Inc.

Precise Messaging Taught at Breakthru Bootcamp

Bahn is also the Co-Founder of Hustle Con Media, which promotes events and content to help non-technical entrepreneurs launch startups.

He told the entrepreneurs in Halifax that they have to try to bring in revenue at the earliest possible stage. Rather than raising money to produce a minimum viable product, or MVP, they should focus more on what he calls an MVD, or minimum viable design. By that, he means a conceptual product that clients will pay for before it’s actually produced. Getting the money in early proves the demand for the product and provides the cash to build it.

“You should bootstrap as long as you can,” he said. He added that the proper growth hacking or growth marketing can bring in money to even the youngest companies. “I’ve seen what can happen if the growth-marketing is done really well.”

The meeting of Startup Grind Halifax – which brings a range of speakers from around the world into the city -- marked a watershed for the organization. Oleg Yefymov, who founded the group and tirelessly grown it, has decided to hand the rains over to Dave Culligan, the President at behuman clothing co.

Open Letter Opposes US Travel Ban

The Canadian tech community has come together to oppose the entry restrictions in the U.S. imposed on people from some majority-Muslim countries.

More than 150 people (as of late Sunday) signed an open letter to the world opposing the move by the U.S. government. The organizers are inviting more people from the community to add their names by emailing

The move comes after President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and suspending all refugee admission for 120 days.

The names on the open letter include representatives from some of the largest tech companies and organizations in the country, including DMZ, MaRS and Communitech. The Atlantic Canadians who have already signed the letter include: Jesse Rodgers, Volta; Heather-Anne Carson, Repable; Jevon MacDonald,; Topher Kingsley-Williams, Porpoise; and Yves Boudreau, Alongside.

The full list of signatories can be found here at

The following is the letter in full:

The Canadian tech community comprises many different nationalities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, mental and physical abilities, and perspectives. We believe that this diversity is a source of strength and opportunity.

On this topic, we are united.

Canadian tech companies understand the power of inclusion and diversity of thought, and that talent and skill know no borders. In choosing to hire, train, and mentor the best people in the world, we can build global companies that grow our economy. By embracing diversity, we can drive innovation to

benefit the world.

The 21st century will be driven by pluralistic economies powered by pluralistic societies.

This is a belief founded upon personal experience for many in our community. Many Canadian tech entrepreneurs are immigrants, are the children of immigrants, employ and have been employed by immigrants.

As connected economies, decisions by the United States can directly impact every business north of the border. The recently signed Executive Order to block entry of citizens from seven countries has already impacted several in our community. As a community, we are all affected. As a community, we stand together in opposition to the marginalization of people based upon their race or religion.

The Canadian tech community supports Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s message that Canada will and must remain inclusive to all nationalities.

We also stand directly opposed to any and all laws that undermine or attack inclusion, and call on Prime Minister Trudeau and our political leaders to do the same.

The Canadian tech community also calls on the Canadian federal government to institute an immediate and targeted visa providing those currently displaced by the US Executive Order with temporary residency in Canada. This visa would allow these residents to live and work in Canada with access to benefits until such time as they can complete the application process for permanent residency if they so choose.

Diversity is our strength. We as Canadians recognize our privilege as a prosperous nation. We believe providing refuge to people seeking safety should remain our compass.

In the hours following the US decision, many members of our community have privately shared personal stories of their immigrant experience. We ask them now to share those stories publicly so they may be amplified.

Pour lire cet article en français, cliquez ici.

Precise Messaging at Breakthru Event

The Breakthru Bootcamp Participants.

The Breakthru Bootcamp Participants.

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation did something on Saturday it’s never done before – it held a second bootcamp for the participants of its Breakthru competition.

The 12 semifinalists for the startup competition – which will award $1 million in prizes on March 23 – assembled in Fredericton for a focused day of mentorship on pitching, fundraising and value proposition. It followed an initial bootcamp late last year. 

Marcus Daniels, the Founding Partner of Toronto pre-seed venture capital fund Highline BETA, spent much of the day discussing early-stage fundraising and perfecting pitches and slide decks. And Kent Murphy, Vice-President of Program Operations at Atlantic Growth Solutions, delved into value propositions, and explained how to present them to sales leads.

A highlight of the NBIF calendar, Breakthru is the innovation agency’s flagship competition, held every second year. It aims to bring entrepreneurs into the startup community and usher them through the early stages of starting a business.  The competition has always featured a bootcamp for participants, but NBIF added a second event this year to increase the mentorship component.

“I’m impressed with the participants,” said Daniels in a break at the bootcamp. “It’s Saturday morning and everyone is here excited to be working on their projects.”

Calling it “a smorgasbord of ideas”, he said he was pleased with the diversity of ideas and the enthusiasm of the participants.

Daniels, who has made 37 investments and had 14 exits, delved into what investors look for in companies, especially in early-stage companies working on their earlier rounds of funding.  He stressed the importance of founders building up credibility among investors, and said the founders themselves are critical in investment decisions.

Read About Breakthru Entrant Soma Detect

“I value the team at about 50 percent at this stage of the company,” he said, in explaining the weighting of the investment decision. “The team is going to make or break the company.

Murphy, whose New Brunswick-based consultancy, demonstrated how to determine a company’s value proposition, whether it’s an ability to increase sales, save money or reduce risk. And he showed how to present a value proposition and who to target.

“A value proposition is a tangible result of what the customer gets when they use your product or service,” said Murphy. And the most important term in this is ‘tangible result’.”

A common theme in both Daniels’ and Murphy’s presentations is they both called for clarity, precision and brevity. Daniels stressed the importance of slide decks that have economical language, adding that most slides should present just one major idea.

And Murphy told the participants to use language appropriate to the target audience. “If you’re going after business development people, tech-speak just doesn’t work,” he said. “You have to describe the problem you solve in one sentence that people understand.”

Some 61 companies entered Breakthru this year, and the organizers have whittled the pool of participants down to 12. NBIF will announce a handful of finalists in late February. Prizes will be awarded live at the award dinner on March 23 at the Fredericton Convention Centre.

NBIF will award $750,000 in cash and in-kind services to the top three New Brunswick companies. And for the first time it will set aside $250,000 for a company from other parts of Canada that wants to set up base in New Brunswick.

Job of the Week: MASITEK

An opening for a product development engineer at Moncton-based MASITEK Instruments Inc. is the focus of our Job of the Week column today.

MASITEK is a six-year-old company that produces hardware to help food and beverage producers prevent damage to containers and other accidents that can jam and delay a production line. Its main product is like a fake bottle with pressure-sensitive devises. It detects pressure points and logjams on the production lines of food and beverage producers to reduce stoppages and improve productivity.

The Job of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.


MASITEK Instruments

Product Development Engineer

The product development engineer must develop and launch new and/or improved products to the company’s product line. He or she will play a major role in new product development activities such as research, design, and testing to bring products from concept to market. The engineer will also work with the company leadership and the technical team to support the research and development road map and creation of design documents. MASITEK is looking for someone with strong problem-solving abilities that can be applied to electromechanical design challenges. This person must provide technical and project leadership across multiple engineering product development stages. A full job description is available on the job posting. 

Gifford Advises Focusing on the Basics

Peter Gifford: Taking the time to figure out his next move.

Peter Gifford: Taking the time to figure out his next move.

Entrepreneurs believe they can change the world, but Peter Gifford advises the founders he mentors that their optimism needs to be grounded in reality.

Gifford is entrepreneur-in-residence with regional accelerator Propel ICT in St. John’s. Propel aims to mentor and graduate over 400 startups across Atlantic Canada by 2019. The group is ramping up in Newfoundland and Labrador, where it began work in 2015. 

Gifford has been in his role for about a year, working mainly with early-stage ventures. He tries to help founders avoid common mistakes.

“Founders are intrinsically very optimistic and that’s an awesome trait,” he said. “But we challenge people to dive deep on one critical piece of their business that will make a difference to the client and prove financial value.”

He said it’s important to find that one starting point. Founders can expand their product offering later on.

He said entrepreneurs often fail to research the needs of potential clients. They assume that once their technology is perfect they’ll acquire clients, but they don’t spend time getting to know their market.

“Entrepreneurs think, if the technology did this, this and this it would be so much better,” he said. “People can invest a ton in technical development then have to make further investments in order to achieve business success.”

Bringing Tech to Mink Farming

Gifford draws on personal experience in his mentoring work. He was founder and CEO of Extreme Ocean Innovation, a St. John’s startup that developed an access vessel to serve offshore wind farms.

He had that role for four years until 2014 when the company closed down.

“The venture didn’t work out in the end, although it was selected by Carbon Trust of the U.K. as a top company and received investment from governments in Canada and abroad,” he said.

“I was devastated when the company failed, but I learned a ton and I see my opportunity with Propel as a chance to help startups avoid some of the mistakes we made. I want to help get them to clients and revenues faster.”

He said the reasons for his company’s failure include technical and commercial issues and possibly bad timing.

He was fortunate that his next opportunity involved acting as executive director at St. John’s co-working space Common Ground during a major expansion.

In late 2015, he became Propel’s entrepreneur-in-residence in St. John’s, helping with the city’s first cohort of the Launch program for early-stage startups.

Propel is currently accepting applications for the next cohort of Launch in St. John’s. Applications close January 31 for the program that starts Match 6.

Propel ICT Names First Growth Cohort

Gifford said the Propel team have listened to feedback from entrepreneurs they’ve worked with and have differentiated their Launch and Build programs (Build is for companies with revenue) to make them more complementary.

He said that so far, Propel has graduated 25 companies in St. John’s, resulting in 15 active ventures.  

“We’re excited about the investment those companies have found,” he said. “They’ve gained $1.1 million in private follow-on investment and created about 25 new jobs.”

Gifford believes St. John’s has become more entrepreneurial since he arrived in 2003 in order to study naval architecture at Memorial University.

He completed a master’s in naval architecture, becoming involved in developing the access vessel for offshore wind farms.

He would like to be involved in another startup in the future.

“I’d absolutely like to start another company,” he said. “I’ve got to make sure it’s the right idea and the right team. It will take a bit of time to figure that out. In the meantime, I’m learning a lot and contributing.”

(Full Disclosure: Propel ICT is a client of entrevestor.)

ACOA Awards $9.2M to Springboard

The federal government announced Thursday that it will contribute $9.2 million to Springboard Atlantic, the organization that supports the commercialization of research at Atlantic Canadian universities and colleges.

Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and the minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, said ACOA will make the contribution to promote innovation and high-growth industries. Bains has spent the past year in consultations on a new innovation strategy, the pieces of which are beginning to fall into place.

Over the next three years, the Springboard funding will support 30 commercialization officers throughout the Atlantic region. These officers will connect entrepreneurs with researchers so ideas can be transformed into products and services that can be brought to market.

“Innovation can create entirely new jobs, markets and industries that never existed before,” said Bains in a statement. “To do that, we need to turn ideas into solutions, science into technologies, skills into jobs and start-up companies into global successes. Partnerships between research institutions and industry are crucial in the development and commercialization of new technologies and products that could lead to the creation of new companies that provide well-paying jobs for Canadians.”

Envenio Raises $500K After SaaS Launch

Speaking at a ceremony at St. Mary’s University, the minister said the region is proud of its history of innovation, and highlighted several startups as carrying on the tradition. For example, he named Halifax area startups BlueLight Analytics and CarbonCure Technologies as companies that are growing sales and employing young Canadians.

By backing Springboard Atlantic, the government is supporting an organization that works with 19 post-secondary organizations in the region to conduct $350 million in research each year.

“The investment in Springboard Atlantic drives the regional commercialization network that facilitates industry collaborations and new ventures between Atlantic companies and institutions,” said Springboard CEO and President Chris Mathis. “This increases competitiveness and retains our graduates here in the region.”

In a brief interview, Bains said the consultations on innovation have produced a framework for developing policy and programs, and the government has identified three themes it will focus on: first, developing talent and people; second, helping business and citizens adopt emerging technology to increase competitiveness and productivity; and third, helping small companies to scale.

Does the government now have the funding tools to put such a strategy in motion? “We do have some of the tools we need,” said Bains. “But there’s obviously new tools that we can use to achieve our most desired themes.”


[Disclosure: Springboard Atlantic is a client of Entrevestor.]

B4checkin Partners With Agilysys

Saar Fabrikant: Goal of protecting highly sensitive information

Saar Fabrikant: Goal of protecting highly sensitive information

B4checkin Inc., the company that provides cloud-based software to the hospitality industry, has announced that its payment solution, b4easypost, is now being offered by the American company Agilysys.

Halifax-based b4checkin said this week that b4easypost is now available to users of Lodging Management System, or LMS, Agilysys’ property management system. Alpharetta, Ga.-based Agilysys provides a range of digital services to the hospitality industry around the world.

The announcement is an important one for b4checkin because LMS is recognized as one of the hospitality industry’s leading property management systems. What’s more, B4checkin is now partnered with a much larger company, as Agilysys is listed on the Nasdaq and had revenue in the quarter ended Sept. 30 of US$32.7 million (CAN$42.9 million).

B4checkin is the creator of a suite of cloud-based software that allows hotels to carry out online reservations, check-ins, feedback and other functions. The company began in 2006 when CEO Saar Fabrikant and chief financial officer Martin MacKinnon teamed up to produce a reservation system for hotels overlooked by larger providers.

The company’s b4easypost is an interactive platform that enhances data security, enabling guests and meeting planners to make deposits and payments to hotels and resorts. The solution eliminates credit card authorization forms, which are labor-intensive for businesses, inconvenient for customers, and are not compliant with PCI, a leading international security standard.

Hypergive: Aiding the Homeless with Blockchain

“Our primary goal when developing b4easypost was to protect highly sensitive payment and personal information, as well as reduce the PCI risk for the property,” Fabrikant said in a statement. “This product revolutionizes the end-to-end process of facilitating deposits and payments between hotels and their customers.”

B4checkin has emerged as one of the fast-growing innovation companies in the region. In 2015, Fabrikant said in an interview that his revenues had grown 70 per cent year-on-year. Last year, b4checkin named Peter J. Rogers, Jr., the former executive vice-president of business development and investor relations at MICROS Systems of Columbia, MD, as its chairman, and was named as a finalist in the information technology category for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Atlantic 2016 awards program.

The company said that b4easypost automates every aspect of a hotel’s operations. These include not only reservations and credit card processing but also accounting and housekeeping, sales and catering, activities scheduling, food and beverage sales, online reservations, remote check-in and spa scheduling.

By facilitating e-commerce transactions online, there is also a cost reduction for hotels, said the statement.

“B4easypost’s integration with Agilysys’ LMS is an extension of the success we’ve had using this product with our Visual One PMS customers,” said Jim Walker, senior vice-president of global revenue at Agilysys. “The combination of PCI compliance and operational efficiency is an increasingly important issue for customers.”

Walker added that Agilysys decided to offer b4easypost to LMS users so “they can benefit from the combined value of our two solutions to reduce costs and improve the payment process.”

March Break Tech Camp in Halifax

Digital Nova Scotia and the Discovery Centre have opened registration for their Digital Discovery Camp,  which offers STEAM programs to nine- to 14-year-olds during March Break in Halifax.

The camp is a curiously interactive camp featuring the elements of science, technology, engineering, arts and math, celebrating each field throughout the week. These include assembling robots, crafting a simple circuit, a spin on spin art and launching rockets.

Led by local industry members, youth will connect with Nova Scotia-based technology companies and learn about the epic digital technologies industry.

The organizers say this March Break camp week is completed with interactive, educational activities and experiences that will inspire your child. The campers will be split into two age groups to give the right level of challenge, activity and enjoyment.

Registration is now open and can be found here

Envenio Eyes $500K After SaaS Launch

Having launched the SaaS version of its product in October, Fredericton’s Envenio is on the hunt for $500,000 in equity funding to help finance the development of its fluid analysis software and push into new markets.

Growing out of intellectual property developed at the University of New Brunswick, Envenio has developed revolutionary computational fluid dynamics, or CFD, software, which it calls EXN/Aero.

What that means is that engineers can use the company’s software to analyze and solve problems involving the flow of liquids and gases. The company’s algorithms allow desktop computers to simulate the flow of these substances. Like a virtual wind tunnel, it can simulate how air flows around a vehicle or aircraft to help engineers optimize the shape, structure and performance.

Envenio began six years ago with three mechanical engineers building a business out of IP they licensed from UNB. Initially, it was an engineering consulting company, helping companies and organizations like the Canadian Department of National Defense with their CFD projects. Then in October, it launched products that clients could buy to conduct their own CFD studies at a fraction of the price of competing products.

“It’s actually been good,” said CEO Ian McLeod in an interview. “In October, we asked if people wanted to sign on, and there was a pretty strong uptake right away. So far we’ve been getting really good feedback.”

12 Companies Named as Breakthru Semi-Finalists

Envenio has a Software-as-a-Service product that a lot of customers can use in the cloud as a first step. But it also offers a stand-alone version for clients who don’t want to keep their most valuable IP in the cloud.

The company now has clients in Canada, the U.S. and Europe and has just secured two military clients – one naval and one weapons-based. McLeod said EXN/Aero is a good fit for the automotive and aerospace segments, which always need to simulate the flow of air around and throughout their products.

The key advantage of the Envenio solution is that it leverages powerful computing hardware (like graphics processors) that makes it faster and far less expensive than other CFD solutions on the market. That means that engineers can use Envenio for complicated simulations using desktop-scale computers rather than needing large server clusters.

McLeod said that independent benchmarking of the software concluded that it offered 10 to 11 times better performance per dollar than its competitors.

The company last year secured a $300,000 equity investment from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. It was then able to leverage that money into an additional $600,000 in funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the National Research Council’s IRAP program. 

Envenio recently has boosted its staff, and the hires have included Vice-President of Business Development Scott Walton, previously CEO of industrial gases company Enovex. With its sales efforts ramping up, Envenio is trying to raise capital again. McLeod said the company has been talking to potential investors in Toronto, Boston and New Brunswick about a raise worth $500,000.

The company has bolstered its sales team and is continuing to develop its product. Envenio is now adding functionality so it can be used in other segments. For example, the company hopes to have combustion models on the market by next year that could be used in the development of gas turbines. 

Ladies Learning Code Event Jan. 28

Ladies Learning Code Halifax will hold its 2017 Kick-Off event on Saturday, teaching women and youth basic programming skills at its Data Processing with Python for Beginners workshop.

Ladies Learning Code is a not-for-profit organization with the mission to be the leading resource for women and youth to become passionate builders -- not just consumers -- of technology by learning technical skills in a hands-on, social, and collaborative way. 

This is a great story of the Halifax community coming together to provide women with a safe, fun and welcoming environment where they can learn to code.

The kickoff workshop will be held at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre on Jan. 28 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. You can register here

Analyze Re To Speak at Launch Dal

The Analyze Re team.

The Analyze Re team.

Launch Dal, the entrepreneurship program at Dalhousie University, will kick off its winter program with fireside chat with Analyze Re on Jan. 31 at 6:30 pm.

Analyze Re is a Halifax company whose software-as-a-service product helps reinsurers assess risk. It exited in October by selling out to Jersey City, N.J.-based data analytics company Verisk Analytics, Inc. for an undisclosed price.

Analyze Re came together in 2013 when Oliver Baltzer, Adrian Bentley and Shivam Rajdev decided to launch a company after the reinsurance support company they had been working at downsized. Their first step was to go through Starting Lean, the forerunner of Launch Dal.

Anyone interested in attending the fireside chat can register here.

Launch Dal has accepted 14 teams into the program for the winter cohort, and may add more. The program will hold an introductory session Thursday, Jan. 26,  at 5pm in the Collider on the second floor of the Killam Library.

This workshop is mandatory for Collide applicants but open to the public as well.

Aiding the Homeless with Blockchain

Scott Burke: Innovating around person-to-person street giving.

Scott Burke: Innovating around person-to-person street giving.

Scott Burke wants to use one of the world’s hottest technologies to improve the lot of homeless people.

Burke is the cofounder and CEO of Hypergive, a new Halifax company developing a stored-value card that allows homeless people to purchase essentials and makes it easier for anyone to help the homeless.

What’s special about Hypergive is that it uses blockchain, the technology that is the foundation of bitcoin, the digital currency. Blockchain is a series of digital ledgers that various parties can access and exchange digital money or perform other tasks. The chain keeps a permanent record of who entered and what they did, guaranteeing a high level of security.

“With explosion of blockchain technology, I started to think about some of the applications and where could this be used,” Burke said in a recent interview.

“Since the previous fall, I thought of innovating around person-to-person street giving and … some of the related problems, like donor cynicism and digression of funds.”

Burke, who also heads the Atlantic Lottery Corp. innovation outpost at Volta Labs, leads a group called Blockcrushr Labs, which researches blockchain opportunities. Through Blockcrushr, he wrote a white paper a year ago outlining his vision to use blockchain to help homeless people. Eventually, he teamed up with tech enthusiasts Brian Jeffcock and Andrew Redden to develop Hypergive.

My HOME Apparel Is Tackling Homlessness

Hypergive is at the proof-of-concept stage, but here’s how it is envisioned: people can make donations so the homeless can buy food, clothing, toiletries — the essentials for living.

The donations are recorded and tax receipts issued. The money collected is stored on a card that charitable organizations can distribute to homeless people. These cards will include photo identification and a QR code so they can only be used by the person who received the card. He or she can use the card to purchase goods at retail outlets, whose logos are also printed on the card.

The purchases can only be made by the person identified by the card.

The Hypergive card should ensure tax-efficient and easy donations, and guarantee that the money is used only to buy needed goods by the intended recipient.

Even in the concept stage, Hypergive drew the enthusiasm of others in the tech community, various media outlets, and key Rotary chapters, which want to help in rolling the project out. Burke and his team entered the project in the US$140,000 Blockchain Virtual GovHack, an international competition that seeks to find blockchain-based technologies that improve government and/or public services. Hypergive was one of 10 companies chosen for the semi-finals, and as of press time Burke was waiting to learn if it would be one of three finalists. If so, the company will be flown to Dubai for the finals.

The Hypergive team is still working out how to structure the company once they launch the product. Regardless of whether it is a for-profit or not-for-profit model or a hybrid of the two, Burke hopes the technology can help people in need.

“I don’t come from a social work background,” he said. “It’s just this idea I had. Hypergive seems to be an idea that’s taken on a life of its own. People really respond to it and we’ve had offers of assistance.”

After a moment’s reflection he added: “I want to see this project fly. I don’t know if it is going to work. Retailers have to get on board. People we want to feed have to use it. People have to give. My attitude is let’s try it and see if it works.”

Propel ICT Names First Growth Cohort

Propel ICT, Atlantic Canada’s IT startup accelerator, has announced the first round of companies selected to its Growth program,  which aims to help established innovation companies grow more quickly.

Veteran technology executive Stephen Palmer, who was formerly the Co-CEO at Fredericton-based Remsoft, has customized the six-month program to meet the specific needs of its participants.

The eight entrants include companies that have graduated from accelerators in in the U.S. For example, Moncton-based Alongside is a graduate of the 500 Startups accelerator in Silicon Valley, and Eosense of Dartmouth went through the Surge Ventures accelerator in Houston.  

The selected companies are:

Alongside, Moncton – a maker of digital recruitment tools.

BASE Engineering, Saint John – a developer of radio remote control technology for the petroleum industry.

Eosense, Dartmouth – a maker of instruments to detect gases escaping from the ground.

Ironflow Technologies, Dieppe, N.B. – a maker of web-based human resources software.

Lixar, Halifax and Ottawa – mobile transportation technology in air, auto, telco and emerging new technology markets.

Luminultra, Fredericton -- microbiological testing in any industry concerned with water.

PLATO Testing, Fredericton -- building a network of Aboriginal software testers.

RtTech, Moncton – a provider of IIoT apps for downtime tracking, asset management, and energy management software solutions.

The Growth program offers intensive workshops, monthly online meetings, one-on-one mentoring sessions with technology leaders, and access to Propel ICT’s speaker series and bootcamps. The participants will also be offered the opportunity to take part in showcase events in Canadian and international markets.

12 Teams in Breakthru Semi-Finals

“The Growth program is focused on helping already successful businesses reach the next level,” said Propel CEO Anita Punamiya in a statement. “Participants will learn from each other and from business leaders in Atlantic Canada and who have faced similar business challenges and found innovative ways to succeed.”

Propel ICT also offers two other programs: Launch for new technology businesses; and Build for established but early-stage companies. Applications for these programs will be open until Jan. 31 and can be found here.

CarbonCure in Global Cleantech 100

Robert Niven: Speaking on the potential $1 trillion carbon product market.

Robert Niven: Speaking on the potential $1 trillion carbon product market.

CarbonCure Technologies, the Halifax company whose method of making concrete reduces carbon emissions, has been named in the prestigious 2017 Global Cleantech 100, produced by Cleantech Group, or CTG.

The Global Cleantech 100 represents the most innovative and promising ideas impacting the future of a wide range of industries. Featuring companies that are best positioned to solve tomorrow’s clean technology challenges, the Global Cleantech 100 is a comprehensive list of private companies with the highest potential to make significant market impact within a five- to 10-year timeframe.

This year, the nominations amounted to a record 9,900 distinct companies from 77 countries.

“We are honoured to receive this award for the second year in a row,” CarbonCure Founder Robert Niven said in a statement. “We are proud to be leading the industry with our solution that is available today for concrete producers to sequester waste CO2 to make concrete both greener and stronger.”

CarbonCure's CO2-utilization technology is one of a select few commercially available solutions that could help reduce global emissions by more than 10 percent by 2030.

CarbonCure Aims to Triple Clients This Year

Niven will be in San Francisco this week for the Cleantech Forum, where the Global Cleantech 100 award winners will be revealed. He will be presenting at the event, alongside Issam Dairanieh, CEO of CO2 Sciences, and Lars-Erik Gartner, Innovation Technology Specialist of The Linde Group in a session called "Carbon-based products: An overlooked trillion-dollar market opportunity?" The session will describe how scalable innovations in the "carbon-based products industry", such as CarbonCure's, could represent a market size approaching $1 trillion by the year 2030.

This award announcement comes on the heels of several other recent awards for CarbonCure. Recently, CarbonCure received the 2016 Manning Innovation Award, and is a semi-finalist in the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE.

12 Teams in Breakthru Semi-Finals

A Breakthru bootcamp -- the next one will be held Saturday.

A Breakthru bootcamp -- the next one will be held Saturday.

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation has announced the dozen finalists for the 2017 Breakthru competition in the build-up to revealing the winners in late March.

Breakthru is the innovation agency’s flagship competition, held every second year. It aims to bring entrepreneurs into the startup community and usher them through the early stages of starting a business.

To reach the semi-finals, the entrants had to submit a full business plan to the committee. This year, 53 companies submitted the plans and 12 of them will now move on to the next round. What’s interesting about the group of finalists is about half the teams have female founders. Also, there is a strong concentration of companies developing IT products for life sciences – one of the hottest segments in the region right now.

The semi-finalists from New Brunswick are:

EChart Healthcare, Amanda Betts --  Software to connect long-term care patients with families.

EhEye, James Stewart -- Artificial intelligence system to catch anomalies in security.

Newpy, Erin O'Halloran -- Application for digital marketing.

Pfera, Lisa Pfister -- Application to detect birth times in horses.

Quber, Jen Leger -- Fintech application allowing you to save money easily.

Shoplaw, Randy Campbell -- Online resource for public to find lawyers.

SomaDetect, Bethany Deshpande -- Cow milk quality detection software tool.

Stash Energy, Jordan Kennie -- Energy storage for use during non-peak times.

The Unity Project, Steve Skinner -- Donation at point of sale software.

Vibes Intelligent, Marcel Petitpas -- Analysis software for client satisfaction.

WEnTech, Amir Akbari -- Waste to energy software tool.

Zecken Laboratories, Kami Harris -- Lyme disease detection tool.

NBIF will award $750,000 in cash and in-kind services to the top three New Brunswick companies. And for the first time it will set aside $250,000 for a company from other parts of Canada that wants to set up base in New Brunswick.

All semi-finalists will be required to attend the competition’s second bootcamp on Saturday

NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury said the competition, now in its 10th year, has attracted a record number of entrants.  Some 61 teams comprising 141 people entered the 2017 competition, and all but nine of the entries were teams rather than individuals. There were seven national entries, made up of 17 participants.

Prizes will be awarded live at the award dinner on March 23rd at the Fredericton Convention Centre. 

Job of the Week: Resson Developer

In our Job of the Week column today, we’re showcasing an opening for software developers (Computer Vision) with one of the regions hottest startups, Resson.

Fredericton-based Resson launched four years ago to create software that would assess data from a range of sources on a farm. They developed a system called RAMAS, which collects data from such sources as tractors, sensors buried in the field, and aerial drones flying over the field. It brings all the information together and presents the farmer with a report on what is happening in his field and what actions need to be taken.

The company sprang to prominence last summer when it announced a $14 million round of funding, led by the VC arm of Monsanto, the St. Louis-based agrichemical and agritech giant.

The Job of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside (formerly Qimple).



Software Developers (Computer Vision)

The Computer Vision software developer will contribute to the development of an image classification system for agriculture. The company says the ideal candidate will be driven by his or her own creativity and ingenuity. This person should possess the passion to bring tomorrow's state-of-the-art, machine-learning and image-processing solutions into today's precision-agriculture industry. This role requires a robust understanding of the theory and practice of computer-vision techniques and the related fields of algorithm development. These include object detection, classification, and pattern recognition, and statistical data analysis. Strong communication skills are essential for this role.  Resson is looking for someone with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science and two to five years’ experience in a similar role. The technical skills required for the job can be found in the job posting. 

MPs Meeting East Coast Innovators

A four-member group of Atlantic Canadian members of Parliament has wrapped up a tour of the region to hear the concern of innovators and entrepreneurs from the oceans, tech, clean tech, and social innovation sectors.

Andy Fillmore (Halifax), Matt DeCourcey (Fredericton), Sean Casey (Charlottetown), and Nick Whalen (St. John’s East) sought feedback from stakeholders that will form policy recommendations for the Atlantic Growth Strategy. The MPs – who are all Liberals, given the party’s sweep of the region in 2015 – focused on the innovation sector.

One of the stops was at Volta Labs, where Nova Scotia innovation leaders shared challenges and opportunities and gave direct input intended to influence policy. The group also visited New Brunswick, P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador. 

“Volta was proud to host a diverse group from the innovation community to provide meaningful feedback and share tangible ideas with the federal representatives that will influence policy,” said Melody Pardoe, Chief Operating Officer of Volta Labs, and the session’s moderator. “We hope that the Atlantic Growth Strategy will further accelerate the growth of the technology innovation sector in Atlantic Canada and provide support to the many talented entrepreneurs driving its success.”

Opinion: We Need A Federal Investment Tax Credit

Discussions at the roundtable session centred on streamlining approval and project management processes for existing funding programs and creating programs to help companies scale and commercialize. Participants also identified the importance of attracting venture funding to the region and making programs less project-based and more related to the needs and speed of businesses.

“Halifax is home to many of Atlantic Canada's leading innovators, many of whom are supported by Volta, Common Good Solutions, Dalhousie and other organizations," Halifax MP Andy Fillmore said. "We are traveling across the region to hear from these innovators directly because their on-the-ground experience gives them a keen understanding of what government can be doing to better support their work. Ultimately, we believe the success of our innovators will give Atlantic Canada a leading edge, and therefore we must do everything we can to make it as easy as possible for them to succeed.”

The findings from these meetings will be formed into three to four recommendations and delivered as a report to Navdeep Singh Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. 

Bringing Tech to Mink Farming

Mathias Nielsen is like a one-man diversity project. Born in Denmark, Nielsen once developed an app in China that gauged the authenticity of expensive alcohol. Now he’s based in St. John’s where he’s launched technology that helps mink farmers better manage their operations.

The Mink Manager technology provides farmers with services such as analytics, reports, medical test tracking and custom-made breeding programs.

“I saw the need for this after visiting farms that were using paper systems,” Nielsen said. “Mink is a billion-dollar industry, although it took a hit when the price of mink fur fell in 2014,” he said. The slump in mink prices hit Nova Scotia’s mink industry hard.

“Many farms amalgamated and operations grew. Those farms need management tools. And the mink industry is growing now . . . Auction houses are selling mink for reasonable prices again.”

Nielsen’s new business stems from his peripatetic life. He spent many of his early years in Greenland after his father, who was in the fur trade, moved his family there from Denmark. The young Nielsen spent time with the Inuit people and learned their language.

He lived in China for seven years, where he worked with Nokia and Apple, learned Mandarin and developed an app called JiaJiu to check alcohol’s authenticity.

When he and his wife Jade started a family, they decided to move to avoid Beijing’s famous pollution, so they joined his parents and one of his brothers in St. John’s.

Genesis Centre Celebrating 20th Anniversary

Nielsen recently took Mink Manager through the Launch program run by regional accelerator Propel ICT. He has acquired clients and is finding St. John’s a good place to start a business.

“St. John’s is Greenland with infrastructure,” said the new resident, who is now father to a little boy named Oliver.

“Newfoundlanders are very welcoming and it’s becoming a good environment for startups . . . It’s a similar setup to Denmark, where there’s a good startup community. There’s not the same support in China.”

Still, he created his alcohol-testing app in China and later sold the business. The app he created allowed clients to test whether the alcohol they’d purchased was genuine and whether the bottle had been refilled.

“In China, it’s estimated up to 65 per cent of the alcohol on the market is fake,” he said. “The product may smell similar and the bottle looks the same. In bars and clubs, clients pay the real price believing the whiskey, champagne, vodka, or whatever they’ve ordered is real.

“We put test-me labels on real bottles so customers could see if the product was fake or not. Bars pushed it out for us. The app tested the sticker. If the bottle had been previously opened, the app alerted the client.”

Nielsen said his mink management technology could be used to manage other types of farms. It could be particularly useful for improving breeding programs, he said.

He’s building a team at Mink Manager. Including himself, there will soon be three staff. They will be working with the technical developers who built his alcohol-testing app and are based in China and India.

He hopes to be able to build a global company from St. John’s. He’s also enjoying the Atlantic Canadian environment and climate, which is suitable for farming some mink breeds.

“In St. John’s, I also enjoy the nature I loved in Greenland,” he said.

Propel ICT’s Build Program Schedule

Propel ICT, the regional accelerator, has released a tentative schedule for the Build Program in its coming cohort.

Build is the program for scaling companies, those with revenues and looking to grow their businesses. The next 12-week program will be held this winter, and applications for the Build and Launch programs are available here and open until Jan. 31. Launch is the program for new companies.

Trevor MacAusland, who leads the Build Program, has released this tentative schedule for the program, which is subject to change:

Session 1:  Startup Diagnostic

Mentors:  Toon Nagtegall and David Crow from THENEXTPHASE

Location:  Moncton

Dates:  March 6-8

This session is designed to bring clarity of vision to the founders.  The clarity of vision and direction toward goals are essential for successfully turning a good idea into a good business.

Session 2:  Amplifying Growth

Mentors:  Sean Ellis, CEO of, and Dom Coryell, Founder of and former 500 Startups Growth Guru

Date: March 28-29

Location: Pier 21, Halifax,

Propel ICT is teaming up with and Alongside to gain insight on how to attract and activate more leads, how to build a growth team and how retain and nurture more customers.

Session 3:  People, Process and Leadership

Mentor:  Adrienne O’Pray, President and CEO of the New Brunswick Business Council, and Matt Symes, CEO Symplicity Designs

Location:  Moncton

Dates:  April 12-13

Participants in this session on Day 1 will build on their plan from Session 1 and plot long-, medium-, and short-term strategy. On Day 2, they will focus on their boards of directors.

Session 4:  Sales Management and Operations

Mentors:  Details coming soon

Location:  Moncton

Dates:  April 27-28

Learn how you can build and manage your sales team towards global success. In this session you will learn sales management best practices and methodologies to help your company scale up an effective sales team.

Session 5:  Pitch, Please!

Mentor:  Andrea Barrica, founder of O.School and former venture partner at 500 Startups

Location:  Moncton

Dates:  May 11-12

Learn the most common Dos and Don’ts of Pitching from one of the world’s most experienced pitch coaches, who has worked with thousands of entrepreneurs through 500 Startups. In the process, she has helped them raise over $60 million.

Session 6:  Show, don’t tell

Mentor:  Al Sturgeon, former Entrepreneur-in-Residence , Propel ICT

Location:  Moncton

Date:  May 25

In this session, participants will learn how use a product demo to amplify the impact of their next sales meeting, conference keynote, investor pitch and technical demo.

The Build program meets every second week for two full-day sessions. Graduates of the program that successfully raise capital are asked to contribute $5,000 to Propel.

Graduates of the Build program are also eligible to receive an investment of $150,000 through a convertible note from BDC Capital. Based on their province, they could also receive an investment of $100,000 from Innovacorp or the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, or $250,000 from Venture NL and Pelorus Venture Capital.

[Disclosure: Propel ICT is a client of Entrevestor.]

Digital NS Partners With WCT

Digital Nova Scotia and Women in Communications and Technology are pleased to announce a partnership agreement.

Under the partnership, the two non-profit organizations will collaborate on a number of initiatives, including their respective awards programs and an industry roundtable session to be held in Halifax in March 2017.

Award recipients of DNS’ Digital Diversity Awards will automatically be vetted and nominated for WCT’s own national Annual Awards program. The WCT Annual Awards recognize leaders from across Canada for their contributions to Canadian innovation and diversity.

DNS launched its first-ever Digital Diversity Awards program last year as part of its Women Leaders Fueling the Digital Economy project, funded by Status of Women Canada. DNS announced this past June that the Digital Diversity Awards would continue as a legacy program beyond the scope of the project. The Call for Nominations for the 2017 Digital Diversity Awards is open until March 8. Nominations can be found here.

“This is an exciting venture for DNS as it will enable us to nationally showcase the exceptional talent that exists within our region and our sector. Our new partnership with WCT provides a unique opportunity and national platform to recognize the significant efforts and contributions of our Digital Diversity Award winners. As a previous WCT Award winner, I know first-hand the importance of national recognition and the business connections that can be fostered as part of an awards program,” said DNS President Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia in a statement.

In addition to the Awards program partnership, DNS and WCT will co-host a Halifax roundtable session as part of WCT’s national project to create a “Blueprint for Women’s Leadership in the Digital Economy” on March 28,. The initiative is funded by Status of Women Canada and aims to mobilize knowledge sharing and use input from industry stakeholders to help develop a blueprint for industry and advance the careers of women working in communications, media, and technology, set to be released in the fall of 2017.

”We are pleased to formalize a partnership with DNS to promote the advancement of women in Nova Scotia.” Says Joanne Stanley, Executive Director of WCT. “Leadership recognition, both regionally and nationally, is a critical ingredient in inspiring and empowering women to reach new heights in their careers.”

The roundtable session on March 28 will be held at McInnes Cooper’s Halifax location. 

BlueLight, 3M Form US Partnership

J.P. Furey: 'It’s definitely a huge milestone for the company.'

J.P. Furey: 'It’s definitely a huge milestone for the company.'

BlueLight Analytics Inc., a Halifax company that helps ensure the proper curing of dental fillings, has partnered with industrial giant 3M Corp. to greatly expand the startup’s sales power in the U.S.

The two companies announced the partnership on Wednesday. Under the terms of the deal, 3M salespeople will offer BlueLight’s flagship product checkMARC, which helps to ensure dentists use their curing light for just the right length of time when curing resin-based fillings.

“This partnership gives us a national presence in the U.S., which is the biggest market for us,” BlueLight chief executive J.P. Furey said in a phone interview from Dallas, where he’s been training 3M sales teams.

“It’s definitely a huge milestone for the company and we think it’s the first of many as we expand globally.”

Growing out of research at Dalhousie University, BlueLight began about seven years ago to solve a problem few dentists spoke about. The lights they use to cure resin vary greatly, and each model has to be used for just the right amount of time to cure the resin properly. Too long a time could adversely affect the tooth and too little would leave the resin only partially cured.

BlueLight developed the checkMARC system, which can test and identify the efficacy of a dental office’s curing lights. Based on the results, 3M will review the light-curing protocols currently in practice. The Minnesota-based company said it can then work with the dental clinic to identify evidence-based opportunities to improve clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction.

Check Out Our Recent Report on Digital Life Sciences

BlueLight said that before its technology was commercialized, there was a “quality gap” in the market for dental fillings — a multi-billion-dollar market that is the cornerstone of every dental clinic.

Almost two years ago, BlueLight announced a partnership with the Canadian division of 3M to jointly market checkMARC across Canada, and that led to a broader relationship.

“The last announcement was Canadian-centric,” said Furey, an accountant who became the company’s CEO in the autumn of 2015. “Since then a lot has happened and it has led to pilots in the U.S. and now this deal, which covers the whole U.S. It’s five to 10 times bigger than the Canadian market.”

He added that he and three other BlueLight representatives are in the U.S. this week, training 3M sales representatives in checkMARC. The salespeople are expected to begin offering the service to clients as early as this week.

The relationship with 3M is already expanding beyond North America. The Halifax company has been working with 3M in Australia, New Zealand and Germany.

“As the market leader for restorative dentistry, 3M is dedicated to providing dental professionals the latest technologies and innovations in dentistry to improve practice productivity,” the Minnesota company said in a statement.

BlueLight has partnerships with a few large companies. Also in 2015, it announced a partnership with Henry Schein, the Melville, New York-based medical product distributor whose 2014 sales exceeded US$10 billion.

Fundica Roadshow in Halifax April 6

The Fundica Roadshow, now in its fifth year, has launched its $1 million pitching competition, and will have a session in Halifax on April 6.

The Halifax pitching event will be held at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre. You can apply to pitch here.

Presented by Intuit and its partner First Stone Venture Partners, the Fundica Roadshow is a national competition that offers an investment award of $1,000,000 to Canada’s most promising startup.

With 10 stops from Halifax to Victoria, a select group of early-stage innovators will get a chance to pitch their business to a panel of angels, VCs, banks and government organizations. All 10 city-stop winners will be invited to the Grand Finale where the top Canadian startup will receive a $1,000,000 investment from First Stone Venture Partners. If there is a split decision, two startups will receive a total amount of $1,000,000 between them in funding.

“First Stone is delighted to now be officially working with Fundica in the cross-Canada search for investment-worthy Canadian startups. Consistently we see highly credible prospects presenting at the Fundica Roadshow,” said Margo Langford, an FSVP partner and company recruiter.

Don’t Get Nagged! Fill in our Survey

There’s something I hate about this time of the year – even more than shoveling.

I have to pester people about filling in our survey. So this post is a not-so-subtle request to fill our survey in before I start contacting people and asking them directly. I hate doing it, and really appreciate everyone who completes the survey unnagged.

You can find our survey here.

A key component of our business, the Entrevestor survey is completely confidential and super easy to complete. It takes about 3 minutes. We aggregate and analyze the data and sell the resulting report to clients, which allows us to continue to provide the community with news.

We are looking for submissions from companies that meet three criteria:

- They must be locally owned (no subsidiaries or divisions of companies based elsewhere);

- They must be commercializing proprietary technology (no web developers or service companies);

- And they must be producing at least one product for the global market.

Age is insignificant. We have a couple of companies that date back to the 1990s. We're interested in new companies, but we want active teams that are actually developing their product and business. It's got to be beyond the idea stage.

I’m soon going to begin emailing people directly. Please save us both the inconvenience and complete the survey today. 

East Coast SME Optimism Rebounds

The Business Development Bank of Canada is seeing growing optimism among Canada’s small- and medium-sized businesses, with particular strength in the national technology sector and across Atlantic Canada.

The BDC, the business-focused financial institution owned by the federal government, on Monday released its annual survey of 4,000 of those businesses and their intentions for the coming year.

The headline figure shows that these small businesses plan to boost total investment to $96.6 billion in 2017, up 1.6 per cent from 2016. What’s really interesting about the survey is that BDC found particular strength in the tech community nationally and in Atlantic Canada.

“What we’re seeing in the survey is that entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada are more confident about the economy than a year ago,” said Pierre Cléroux, BDC’s vice-president of research and chief economist. “For example, 75 per cent of the entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada believe that their revenues are going to increase this year. So this is a very positive result. And it’s actually higher than the national average.”

Scaling Tech Companies Surging on East Coast

On a national level, 69 per cent of small business owners are expecting improved revenue in 2017 — an improvement from 45 per cent in the 2016 survey. Cléroux said the main reason for the increase is the strong optimism among high-growth small businesses, who are expecting a 19 per cent jump in revenues.

The survey found that retail businesses lag other sectors, with a drop of 31 per cent in the amount they intend to invest over the next year.

Overall, the survey showed that a lack of confidence in the economy is no longer a primary obstacle to investment. Rather, the biggest problems are the lack of cash flow and of qualified personnel.

Cléroux added that the information technology sector is showing particular strength right across the country, driven by both strong investment and high demand for technology products.

“The tech sector has been growing very strongly in the last five years,” said Cléroux. “In fact, it’s the only sector that has been outperforming the economy in terms of growth. That’s why I’m not surprised to see that their investment intentions are so good compared to the other sectors. Their investment intentions are 38-per-cent higher this year than the year before, which is the highest level in our survey.”

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While they are expecting higher revenues, technology entrepreneurs in Canada are expecting to dramatically increase their investments in 2017.

BDC found that 54 per cent of the entrepreneurs in the tech sector plan to increase investment in 2017 — far higher than 34 per cent for small- and medium-sized businesses in the broader economy.

Cléroux said that the survey results also point to the underlying strength in demand for tech products because so many companies overall list technology at the top of the capital investment plans in the coming year.

“When we ask all the entrepreneurs in our survey, what is going to be your number-one investment project for 2017, 61 per cent said it’s going to be an investment in technology,” said Cléroux. “So they want to invest in computer hardware, in software and ecommerce. That’s the reason why we’re confident about the tech industry — it’s because the demand will remain very strong.”

Cybersecurity Institute Opens at UNB

Ali Ghorbani: 'The Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity is poised to alter the cyberwarfare landscape.'

Ali Ghorbani: 'The Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity is poised to alter the cyberwarfare landscape.'

The University of New Brunswick on Monday opened the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity, a hub for research, training and industry collaboration that has been backed by more than $4.5 million in funding .

The institute, which has signed on IBM as its first R&D partner, will train skilled cybersecurity professionals and provide leading-edge research into one of the most pressing issues facing society today. It has been launched as New Brunswick aims to become a centre of excellence for cybersecurity.

“The Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity is a culmination of more than 15 years of successful innovation and research in cybersecurity at the University of New Brunswick,” UNB President Eddy Campbell said in a statement. “The creation of the institute allows us to forge an even more crucial role in developing security measures necessary to protect modern critical infrastructure in Canada and beyond.”

The development of cybersecurity in New Brunswick originally grew out of the success of Q1 Labs, which began in Fredericton and was purchased in 2012 by IBM for a reported price of more than $600 million. The acquisition served as a catalyst for IBM’s security division, which is now a $2 billion business employing more than 8,000 researchers, developers and security experts across 133 countries.

UNB Launches Energia Accelerator

Q1 and IBM provide the nucleus of a cybersecurity community in New Brunswick with great expertise in preventing cyberattacks. Since the acquisition, other startups have formed in the space like Sentrant Security and Beauceron Security.

The worldwide cybersecurity market is large and growing, with market estimates ranging from US$75 billion in 2015 to US$170 billion by 2020. The size of the market is a response to the rising global cost of cyberattacks, which is expected to grow to US$2.1 trillion by 2020. As a result, there is intense interest in the development of new-generation cybersecurity solutions.

“The need for more cybersecurity support and services around the world is a huge opportunity to create jobs here in our province,” said Premier Brian Gallant, whose government has identified cybersecurity as a pillar of its innovation program. “New Brunswick is already a world leader in cybersecurity. Enhancing training and research opportunities through this institute is another step in seizing this significant economic opportunity.”

The institute was made possible with $2.27 million in funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Innovative Communities Fund and through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. The provincial government provided a contribution of nearly $2 million, while UNB is adding $330,000 in funding.

Ali Ghorbani, Canada Research Chair in Cybersecurity at UNB and the university’s dean of computer science, serves as director of the institute.

“The Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity is poised to alter the cyberwarfare landscape by propelling research, training and collaboration with governments and industry to new levels,” said Ghorbani.

IBM is the institute’s first research and development partner, helping to fund highly skilled resources in the field of cybersecurity and other in-kind contributions such as technical and management resources to provide project oversight and mentorship for students.

This partnership builds on IBM’s long-standing history of investments and partnerships across the province. IBM maintains a research and development and customer support centre in Fredericton, which provides support for more than 5,000 customers around the globe.

The institute, housed at existing facilities on UNB’s Fredericton campus, is a comprehensive multidisciplinary training, research and development and entrepreneurial unit. It will collaborate with researchers in the social sciences, business, computer science, engineering, law, and science, as well as other national and international research centres.

Startup Halifax Event on Finances

John Hamblin

John Hamblin

Startup Canada Halifax will hold a seminar titled “What Startups Need To Know about Financial Information” at 4 pm on Jan. 24 at Volta Labs in Halifax.

The event is free and you can register here.

John Hamblin, the head of Startup Canada Halifax, said the event will be an opportunity to learn, network and build contacts.

The program includes:

-- A presentation by Propel ICT highlighting the value of the Propel programs across Atlantic Canada.

-- A talk by featured speaker, Stephanie Holmes-Winton, the author of two financial planning books and the Founder and CEO of The MoneyFinder.  This is a Halifax-based FinTech startup that helps financial planners plot cash flow analyses and perform other tasks.

-- Presentations and discussions on what startups need to understand to set up and manage their businesses. These talks will include presentations by accountants, and discussions on the financial problems faced by startups. 

Job of the Week: Sentinel Alert’s CTO

In our Job of the Week column today, we’re highlighting an opening for  Chief Technology Officer at Sentinel Alert of St. John’s. The successful candidate could choose to work in St. John’s or Halifax.

Sentinel produces software that can detect when a worker has had an accident or may soon have one. From the outset two years ago, the idea has been that a smartphone or mobile device can detect when someone has fallen and hit the ground, and the phone should be able to alert the company that an accident has taken place.

The company now describes its solution as being like “a FitBit for worker safer” that uses advanced mathematics to detect and prevent worker accidents in manufacturing, forestry and construction environments.

Sentinel Alert last year raised $525,000 in equity investment from the Killick Group, Venture NL and a private angel investor. In 2015, the company won the $35,000 first prize at the Women Entrepreneurs’ Bootcamp (now called the Fierce Founders Bootcamp) at Communitech in Kitchener, Ont.

The Job of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside (formerly Qimple).

St. John’s or Halifax

Sentinel Alert


Sentinel Alert is looking for a hands-on tech leader, with a unique combination of startup-like resourcefulness and strong technical expertise. He or she should have strategic experience coupled with SaaS, mobile or data background. The successful candidate will be required to lead strategic planning. That means identifying and prioritizing development initiatives and setting timetables for all web-based and mobile services. He or she will have to build, manage, and validate the Tech Roadmap. The CTO will also have to build and coach the development team to build up their skillsets. The skillset required for the position are listed on the job posting. 

PEI Eyes BioCommons Expansion

The BioCommons Research Park

The BioCommons Research Park

With its life sciences segment pretty well doubling in size every four years, Prince Edward Island is on a mission to develop new infrastructure that can sustain that growth.

The PEI BioAlliance, a partnership between the various players in the Island’s life sciences industry, recently revealed a proposal to develop a $30 million to $35 million BioAccelerator complex. The group hopes to build the 77,000-square-foot facility at the BioCommons Research Park in the Charlottetown area. It envisions a multi-faceted space that would include offices, co-working space, wet labs and manufacturing facilities.

Such a facility is needed, say its proponents, to accommodate the galloping growth of the biotech sector on the island.

“We now have 46 companies and seven research institutions in the province’s bioscience sector, employing over 1400 people in high-paying, full-time jobs,” BioAlliance Chair Russ Kerr recently told the legislature’s standing committee on energy and infrastructure. “There are another dozen companies in the development pipeline, and we need the appropriate facilities if we are to compete successfully for the jobs, investment, and brainpower that these opportunities represent.”

His presentation was part of the BioAlliance’s efforts to find funding from all levels of government for the project.

The BioAlliance is a private sector-led organization that brings together businesses, academia, government and non-governmental organizations to grow life sciences companies in P.E.I., whether they’re in biotech, agritech or other areas. The group now includes 46 private companies, 15 of which have joined the group since 2010.

The BioAlliance companies generated about $218 million of revenue in 2015, up from $95 million in 2010. The public- and private-sector members of the BioAlliance employed 1400 people as of the end of 2015, up from about 900 in 2010.

Celebrating Digital Life Sciences

Aiding this growth, the federal government has twice in the past two years awarded P.E.I. funding for new initiatives: $3.6 million for the Emergence bioscience incubator; and $14 million to head the nationwide group, Natural Products Canada.

Now the BioAlliance has set targets to maintain that growth over the next few years. The organization’s recent strategy statement has set targets for 2020 of $400 million in private sector revenue by 2020, and total employment of 2000 people. And the new BioAccelerator will help achieve those targets, said BioAlliance Executive Director Rory Francis.

“We’re just trying to keep up with what the companies are doing,” he said in an interview in his Charlottetown office. “We think that by 2025 we’ll be over $600 million in sales, but we can’t do that unless we get some space to grow.”

He added the benefits of improving the bioscience infrastructure in P.E.I. extend to the other Atlantic Canadian provinces and the rest of the country.

The BioAccelerator Steering Committee includes industry, academic, federal and provincial government representatives. Chair Ron Keefe said the committee has taken a broad look at infrastructure across the province and across the region. The goal is to build a new facility that will complement existing infrastructure at such institutions as the University of Prince Edward Island, the Atlantic Veterinary College, Holland College, the National Research Council, Agriculture Canada Research, and BioFoodTech.

“We’re working with local entrepreneurs and new businesses developing products from functional food ingredients to pharmaceuticals, animal and fish health products, and diagnostics,” said Keefe. “These products are highly regulated to assure safety and quality, and our facilities have to meet rigorous national and international standards.”

The organization hopes to break ground on the new BioAccelerator in early 2017, and have a two-year development schedule so people would be working in the complex in 2019.

Said Keefe: “Besides the obvious benefits for our economy, these are the kind of jobs that retain and repatriate our youth, create a highly educated and trained workforce, and enhance industry-research relationships that benefit students and researchers at UPEI and Holland College.” 

Genesis Centre Marks 20 Years

Michelle Simms

Michelle Simms

The Genesis Centre in Newfoundland and Labrador turns 20 this year, a milestone that’s being celebrated with events that include MaRS on the Rock, a new partnership between the Genesis Centre and Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District.

MOTR, which starts on Jan. 27, will see entrepreneurs-in-residence from MaRS visit the province to deliver a 14-week program designed to boost innovation and creativity among corporations and government as well as entrepreneurs and students.

“Our program is modeled on MaRS’ Everest program. We want corporations and governments to create intrapreneurs (managers in large organizations who behave like entrepreneurs),” said Michelle Simms, Genesis Centre CEO.

“Over time, we hope to expand the program in partnership with MaRS.”

The Genesis Centre will also host the Invest Atlantic conference this fall.

The Genesis Centre was founded in 1997 to incubate technology startups. Within the next 18 months, the centre will move from its long-time home at the Memorial University campus in St. John’s to a new location in the city’s former Battery Hotel.

The university is currently remodelling the building to allow it to showcase the university to the public.

Simms said the new location will be inspiring.

“We’ll be at the base of Signal Hill where the first transatlantic wireless transmission was received by Marconi in 1901,” she said. “We’ll be closer to the business community in the downtown core.

“We won’t be at the centre of the university, but we’ll maintain a strong presence on campus.”

Simms is looking forward to the new building’s open-plan offices, designed to encourage collaboration between the companies participating in the centre’s Enterprise incubator. There are currently 15 of those companies. Simms hopes the number will rise to 20 by the end of this year.

The growth in the Enterprise incubator is a sign of the growth in the province’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The ecosystem has recently been enriched by the provincial Launch program, run by regional accelerator Propel ICT. There is also a new centre for entrepreneurship at Memorial.

“We’re starting to figure out how best to work together to serve clients,” Simms said. “We’re seeing a significant increase in the companies we’re working with and the number of new companies being created.”

Memorial’s own Evolution program has graduated 87 companies since it started in June 2014. Many of those 87 have been accepted into Propel’s Launch.

A Growing Cluster of Accelerators in Atlantic Canada

Simms is proud of Evolution’s role in the ecosystem.

“Before 2014, there was no program that took people who just had an idea they wanted to flesh out,” she said. “Evolution has helped people figure out if they want to be entrepreneurs. They learn what entrepreneurship takes and then validate their idea by talking to customers.”

Investment in the province’s startups is being boosted by venture capital firms Pelorus Venture Capital, the Killick Group, and Build Ventures, Simms said.

This is an exciting time for Simms personally, who joined the Genesis Centre in 2002 as a business analyst. It was only her second job after gaining a bachelor's degree in business administration from Memorial.

A native of the province —she grew up in the northern community of St. Anthony near L’Anse aux Meadows where the Vikings settled — Simms is known for her outgoing personality. She enjoys getting the centre’s participating founders together to boost energy and idea creation.

“We have lots of food events. We have popcorn every Friday, and fresh fruit to encourage breaks.”

Staff recently bought an award-winning hydroponic system, created by Memorial’s Enactus team, so tomatoes and peppers can be grown in the Genesis Centre without soil.

“The clients are coming out of their offices to see if the plants have sprouted,” Simms said. “There are buds on the peppers, but we’re waiting for the tomatoes to bud.”

Overall, she is pleased to see the province’s entrepreneurs finding product-market fit more quickly.

“And corporations are including design thinking. There’s a new innovative culture.”

Build, Innovacorp Back Dash Hudson

Bolstered by signing major new clients, Halifax-based Dash Hudson has quietly closed a new funding round of more than $2 million to further accelerate its growth.

Dash Hudson, which provides data analytics for corporate clients using Instagram, raised money from the regional venture capital fund Build Ventures, which is backing the company for the first time. Innovacorp, the provincial venture capital and innovation agency, also joined this round.

The people involved in the deal declined to speak on the size of the funding round, though it is understood to be worth more than $2 million. The company closed the deal a few months back and was one of at least 14 Atlantic Canadian startups to raise more than $1 million in financing rounds last year.

Innovacorp had also participated in the company’s previous funding round, a $1-million financing that included investments from such angel investors as Jevon MacDonald and Gavin Uhma, the co-founders of GoInstant. The website AngelList also lists Halifax tech entrepreneur Patrick Hankinson and former GroupOn chief technology officer Paul Gauthier as investors.

(Full disclosure: Innovacorp and Build are clients of Entrevestor.)

In an interview last summer, Dash Hudson CEO Thomas Rankin said the company had had great success in signing large brands that wanted to track their following on the social media network Instagram. At the time, the company had such blue chip clients as Condé Nast media group, Revolve clothing and Hyatt Hotels Corp. That list has grown.

In an email this week, Rankin said 2016 “was all about growth. In addition to hitting some major economic milestones, we brought on some amazing new customers (including) Clique Media Group, Kylie Cosmetics, Vogue, and Heineken, to name a few.”

He added that the company reached the break-even mark last summer because of the surge in sales.

Three Reasons Why a Focus on Scaling Companies Benefits the Region

The Halifax startup launched three years ago and tried a few business models before settling on a tool for analyzing the market response to Instagram posts. Rankin and his co-founder Tomek Niewiarowski discovered that was the tool clients really wanted. It now bills itself as a smarter way to grow on Instagram.

What Dash Hudson does is collect data on how major brands are connecting with customers on Instagram. The photo-sharing app is one of the most popular social media tools available, and clothing brands, retailers and others have been eager to use it as an advertising platform. But as of the summer of 2015 they were unable to analyze what effect Instagram posts were having with customers.

Dash Hudson has been on a hiring binge in the past year, especially in its sales force and customer support staff. Given that Dash Hudson is a software-as-a-service product, it’s able to gain recurring revenue, meaning the revenue streams tend to repeat themselves once it signs a customer.

“Because of market demand and our creation of a repeatable sales process, it was time to bring on new funding to help us accelerate,” said Rankin. “This was in spite of reaching break-even last summer. Exciting times ahead in 2017.”

Please Help Us with our Annual Survey

Once again, we are launching our annual survey of Atlantic Canadian startups.

We can’t overstate the importance of this survey to our business. This survey helps to demonstrate to decision-makers the importance of the startup community in the economy. And it helps Entrevestor to continue providing news on the East Coast startup community.

We're asking each Atlantic Canadian startup that was active in December 2016 to complete this confidential survey. If you believe, as we do, that Entrevestor helps in the development of the Atlantic Canadian startup community, this is your chance to support us. Think of it as our equivalent of a PBS funding drive.

You can fill out the survey here.

We have kept the survey short and believe it can be completed in about three minutes. Your investment of three minutes will help us analyze what is going on in the community.

The result is a 40- to 50-page report that we sell to interested parties. These include government departments, accelerators, venture capital funds and regulators. Last year, for the first time, we found major corporations were interested in our data. This report gives decision-makers an understanding of the community, which leads to better programs, investment and partnerships.

The second reason to participate is our databank allows us to continue reporting on what you do. Monetizing news is difficult. When you complete our survey, you're helping us to stick around. It's like a crowdfunding campaign -- only it costs you no money and helps us to improve our product.

We are looking for submissions from companies that meet three criteria:

- They must be locally owned (no subsidiaries or divisions of companies based elsewhere);

- They must be commercializing proprietary technology (no web developers or service companies);

- And they must be producing at least one product for the global market.

Age is insignificant. We have a couple of companies that date back to the 1990s. We're interested in new companies, but we want active teams that are actually developing their product and business. It's got to be beyond the idea stage.

We'll be contacting companies by email in the coming weeks. It would be great if you could complete the survey now and save us the trouble of bothering you. Remember, everything you tell us will be absolutely confidential. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Peter at 902 401 2048 or

Many thanks in advance,

Peter and Carol Moreira

Dal, UNB Seek Program Participants

Two of the leading university entrepreneurship programs in the region – the Summer Institute at University of New Brunswick and Dalhousie University’s Collide program – are looking for participants.

Dalhousie’s Collide Winter 2017 program is a series of entrepreneurial workshops, pitching and networking events to help individuals launch their ventures. The winter program will have a stronger focus on customer validation and prototyping than previous iterations.

Collide is open to students, researchers and community members and is free of charge. All are welcome to attend the events regardless of involvement in the program but only full participants will be eligible for the certificate or prize money.

In order to receive the certificate of completion, participants must attend: four pitching sessions (presenting ideas and receiving feedback); three workshops (learning to further develop ideas); and two fireside chats (Q&As with successful entrepreneurs).

After completing the requirements of the program, participants will have the chance to present their pitches to a panel of judges in the pitch competition for the chance to win prize money to put towards their ventures.

Applications for Collide Winter, which can be found here, are open until Jan. 16.

Overseen by UNB’s J Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management & Entrepreneurship, or TME, the Summer Institute offers a three-month intensive program for passionate people who want to turn their innovative ideas into successful businesses. Each cohort spends the summer working with a group of professional designers and established entrepreneurs to build businesses that excite them. Costs for participants are covered through a stipend that includes living costs and product development costs.

“The Summer Institute is an opportunity for people who want to make a big leap into entrepreneurship to create value and meaning for society,” said Dhirendra Shukla, TME Chair and Director of the Summer Institute. “There are so many good people and ideas in our region. Our goal is to offer them the safe space, support and knowledge they will need to turn their idea into a sustainable venture.”

Now in its fourth year, the Summer Institute is scheduled to run from May 1 until July 21.

The Summer Institute has launched 17 companies, including Fredericton’s Wear Your Label, and was the first accelerator in Eastern Canada to be invited into the Techstars-affiliated Global Accelerator Network.

“This year, we’re looking for entrepreneurs of all passions. Everything from cybersecurity, to forestry, and even fine art & craft” said Program Manager Melissa O’Rourke. “If you know an entrepreneur with an innovative product or service, or someone with a great idea who likes to make a difference, point them towards the Summer Institute.”

Applications for UNB’s Summer Institute, which can be found here, are open until March 12.

Build Ventures Preps for Fund II

Build Ventures, the regional venture capital fund, is beginning to prepare for its second fund now that it has just over a year to complete the portfolio of its first fund.

The Halifax-based firm launched in 2013 with a $65-million fund, raised from the four Atlantic Provinces, BDC Capital and private investors. Partners Rob Barbara and Patrick Keefe planned to spend five years investing money from their first fund, and then hoped to raise a second fund.

However, Keefe said in an interview that they have started the process to raise the second fund.

“Raising capital is very difficult and a very long road so we need to begin the process well in advance of that date.”

[Full disclosure: Build Ventures is a client of Entrevestor.]

The firm’s website lists a portfolio of 10 companies in its first fund. It has closed funding deals with the 11th and 12th portfolio companies though they have not been announced, and is now in negotiations with its 13th.

By the end of March 2018, it will not bring any new companies into the first fund’s portfolio, though it will have cash on hand to join follow-on rounds for its portfolio companies.

Three Reasons Scaling Beats Launching

What Build Ventures brings to the Atlantic Canadian startup ecosystem is the ability to invest more than $1 million at a time in growing companies.

Most of the other funding bodies in the region tend to make investments of $100,000 to $900,000.

Build, by contrasts, invests in chunks of $1.5 million to $2 million, a funding level that is needed to fuel the larger startups in the region.

“If we haven’t raised a second fund by (late March 2018), the role we play in this ecosystem will be on hold for a while,” said Barbara.

Right now, the partners are pleased with the overall performance of their portfolio, as three of the companies have received follow-on funding since Build invested in them.

Halifax-based Affinio and two Fredericton companies, Resson and Introhive, have all received funding from sources outside the region.

Affinio, which raised $4 million in a funding round led by Whitecap Venture Partners in late 2015, exemplifies the traits of the portfolio's stronger companies, said Keefe.

The company has continued to build momentum in hiring and revenue, and is now closing deals with major corporations.

In the same vein, Barbara said Resson is bringing on new high-profile clients.

Two of those are McCain Foods and agricultural giant Monsanto, both of which participated in the company’s $14 million funding round last spring.

Barbara said the company is hiring new senior executives, and has been building up its client base among large-scale agricultural concerns.

The two Build principals said that their portfolio is a meritocracy, and they have capital reserved to re-invest in the companies that perform the best.

Even after they stop investing Fund 1 capital in new companies next year, there will be capital to reward good companies.

Said Keefe: “We’re very pleased with the status of the portfolio given where we are in the life cycle of the fund, the caveat being that it’s still very early and we have a long way to go.”

Goggin Talks at Moncton Cybersocial

Rishin Behl, left, and Peter Goggin

Rishin Behl, left, and Peter Goggin

Peter Goggin, the Co-Founder and Vice-President of Operations at Resson, will speak Wednesday at the Cybersocial in Moncton.

The free event will take place at the Venn Centre on Main Street, starting at 5 pm.  

Goggin and his co-founder Rishin Behl established Fredericton-based Resson four years ago to create software that would assess data from a range of sources on a farm. They developed a system called RAMAS, which collects data from such sources as tractors, sensors buried in the field, and aerial drones flying over the field. It brings all the information together and presents the farmer with a report on what is happening in his field and what actions need to be taken.

The company sprang to prominence last summer when it announced a $14 million round of funding, led by the VC arm of Monsanto, the St. Louis-based agrichemical and agritech giant.

The Cybersocial organizers say Resson is doing all sorts of big projects in New Zealand, India, U.S.A. and Argentina and plan to double staff in the next few months.

Bootstrapping Talk at Startup Grind

Startup Grind Halifax has announced that its next event will focus on bootstrapping and will feature Eric Bahn, who spent just $32,000 on a site that he sold for millions.

Led by entrepreneur Oleg Yefymov, Startup Grind brings in speakers for the startup community in the city. Its recent speakers have included the likes of OurCrowd Founder Jonathan Medved (whose talk can be seen here) and Washington, D.C.-based venture capitalist Paul Singh.

Bahn, who now works with 500 Startups, will speak at 6 pm on Jan. 26 at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre on Summer Street. Early-bird rates end today and tickets are available here.

Bahn is a Co-founder of Hustle Con Media, which promotes events and content to help non-technical entrepreneurs launch startups. Previously, he was the founder and CEO of Beat The GMAT, the largest MBA applicant social network on the internet, serving 3 million people each year. He grew annual revenue to more than $1 million and eventually sold the company to Hobsons, Inc.

This bootstrapping talk will be relevant to anyone who is trying to avoid raising money or to those who just struggling with it. 

Fitzgerald Replaces Garrish as CTO

Spring Loaded Technology has named Stephen Fitzgerald as its new Chief Technology Officer, replacing co-founder Bob Garrish, who has stepped down for health reasons.

Armed with more than 25 years of experience in turning technology into products, Fitzgerald will lead the company’s R&D activities and product development. He will continue to bring the company’s innovative concept products to life, said the Dartmouth-based company in a statement.

“Stephen has an extensive track record and strong reputation as an innovative mechanical engineer and is a welcome addition to our team,” said Spring Loaded CEO Chris Cowper-Smith. “His experience inventing, developing, launching, and improving products in fields that range from aerospace to sporting goods will prove invaluable as we continue to strengthen and expand our product line.”

Garrish, Cowper-Smith and Shea Kerwin (who’s now heading up the Ontario sports hardware startup, UHWK) came together in the first cohort of Dalhousie University’s Starting Lean program to form Spring Loaded in 2012. The aim was to develop a knee brace that not only stabilized the joint but also added power to it. The result was the Levitation knee brace, launched last year, which the company refers to as the world’s first “bionic knee brace”.

Garrish oversaw the development of the Levitation and the continuing research into new products, and helped to build Spring Loaded to an enterprise with almost 30 employees.

“I’ve had to resign so I can focus on my health going forward, and I’ve chosen Steve as my successor,” said Garrish, who will remain as a director of the company. In an interview, he added that eventually he will start another company.

“One of the things I gained from being part of that first Starting Lean group is we learned something about taking your skills and turning them into something marketable,” he said. 

His successor Fitzgerald brings depth and breadth of experience to Spring Loaded Technology. Since completing his MASc in Mechanical Engineering, he has flown an experiment on the space shuttle, worked on development of a stealth fighter, built cable tray systems for the English Channel tunnel, and designed and produced all manner of carbon fiber sporting goods.

Most recently, Fitzgerald served as Senior VP of Engineering at Combat Sports where he was responsible for engineering, product development and applied research, as well as international manufacturing operations.

“There are exciting things happening at Spring Loaded Technology and I’m excited to contribute to the company’s growth,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s rewarding to work with a company and product line that has such a significant positive impact on the lives of its customers and I look forward to doing my part to give customers the best experience possible.”

Last March, Spring Loaded Technology announced a $1.9 million venture capital investment from Build Ventures. Spring Loaded had previously raised more than $1.8 million in equity and non-dilutive capital, including investments from the First Angel Network and Innovacorp.

Jobs: Startup Zone, Dash Hudson

Our first jobs of the week column this year features an interim position leading Charlottetown’s newest incubator, and two openings at IT companies that have been on a hiring binge lately.

The Startup Zone in Charlottetown is looking for an interim CEO while its current boss is on maternity leave. Launched last June, the Startup Zone is the province’s newest business incubator. The interim CEO will continue to develop the programming and manage the financial aspects of the organization.

Meanwhile, Dash Hudson of Halifax is looking for an account executive. Dash Hudson helps clients analyze their Instagram and SnapChat data. It collects data on how major brands are connecting with customers on Instagram. The photo-sharing app is one of the most popular social media tools available but before Dash Hudson they were unable to analyze what effect Instagram posts were having with customers. It is now moving into providing the same service for SnapChat users.

And in St. John’s, HeyOrca has an opening for an experienced web developer. HeyOrca is an online platform that helps marketers collaborate on social media content.

The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside (formerly Qimple).


The Startup Zone

Interim CEO

The interim CEO will be responsible for helping with the growth of an incubator that has already graduated its first five-team cohort. The successful candidate will have to develop a plan to meet the objectives of the strategic plan, working with the board of directors to develop the incubator. The duties will include organizing day-to-day activities, and building relationships with startups, community outreach and managing finances. The interim CEO will have to work at the Startup Zone during office hours, as well as some evenings and weekends. He or she will be required to adhere to the confidentiality and standards set out by the Startup Zone Employee Handbook.


Dash Hudson

Account Executive

The account executive will work with Dash Hudson’s sales team on the business development process, contributing to such tasks as lead generation, sales outreach, progress tracking and closing deals. He or she will engage with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications. The duties include meeting  monthly and quarterly sales quotas, reviewing and qualifying inbound leads, and managing CRM and sales pipeline. Dash Hudson is looking for someone with one to four years of experience in a similar role, and someone with analytical, business development, strategy, and sales skills. The successful candidate must be hyper-organized with equal parts diligent and creative.

St. John’s


Experienced Web Developer

HeyOrca’s goal is to build a great team, which will lead to the development of great software. Developers should add value not just by coding, but by changing the way the team works. The company is therefore seeking members who can contribute in some way to most aspects of the software from ideation to maintenance and support. The successful candidate should be skilled in Amazon Web Services, other ORMs, other PHP Frameworks, other JS Frameworks, Redux, React.js, Doctrine, and Laravel. 

3 Reasons Scaling Beats Launching

Lately I’ve been writing more and more about the larger startups in the region because they have the biggest impact in terms of job creation, revenue growth and attracting capital.

I’ve never summed up in a single column why I believe the focus on the larger companies is so important. But there are metrics that show the biggest impact comes from scaling successful companies rather than starting a lot of little companies.

Just to be clear, when I mention “larger startup” I’m talking about fairly young, locally-owned companies that are commercializing technology. But my focus is on those with more than 10 employees and $100,000 in annual revenue, not those still looking for a product that meets market demand.

There are three reasons these “larger startups” offer the biggest bang:

1. They attract the most equity capital. We’re just beginning to tally all the data from 2016, but it’s looking like it was a sweet year for capital raising by Atlantic Canadian startups — especially the bigger deals.

Our early count shows there were 14 companies that raised more than $1 million each in 2016, and in total they raised more than $55 million. About $38 million of that money came from outside the region.

In 2015, the $1 million-plus deals amounted to about $33 million.

In recent years, the larger deals have made up more and more of the total funding for startups, and it looks like funding grew strongly in 2016 because of these large deals.

Discussing the 'Top of the Pyramid' on #Startupeast

2. They grow sales more quickly than other companies. Logically, you’d think the strongest growth would be in the smaller companies, which are gaining revenue for the first time.

But actually, the strongest sales growth is in bigger startups, which have found a market for their product and have sales staff to push it out to buyers.

Atlantic Canadian startups are increasing revenue at a surprising rate — up 66 per cent in 2015, according to the 120 startups that shared their revenue data with us. But companies with more than $100,000 in annual sales produced sale growth of more 76 per cent. Again the biggest impact is found in the larger companies.

3. And they hire far more employees than smaller startups. Given that they bring in the most investment capital and revenue, maybe it’s not surprising that bigger companies hire the more people. But we were surprised by how many more people are hired by the large companies.

For 2015, we received employment data from 152 startups, and their total staffing increased by about 25 per cent.

In total, they hired the equivalent of 160.5 full-time employees in Atlantic Canada.

An astonishing 120.5 of these positions were created at companies with more than 10 employees. In other words, for every job created at a small startup, there are three created at a large startup.

These stats are important because there’s been a lot of focus in economic development on increasing the number of companies launched in the region. The thinking seems to be that if there are a lot of new companies, they’ll create growth.

The far more important statistic — and one that’s harder to track — is how many of these young companies are growing into bona fide corporations with global reach.

Jan. 10 Deadline for Breakthru Filing

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation is reminding participants in its Breakthru competition to get their full business plans in to organizers by Jan. 10.

The innovation agency holds the Breakthru competition every other year with the goal of helping young companies to get off the ground with funding and mentorship. NBIF will award $750,000 in cash and in-kind services to the top three New Brunswick companies. And for the first time it will set aside $250,000 for a company from other parts of Canada that wants to set up base in New Brunswick.

The business plans will help the judges select the semi-finalists for the competition. All semi-finalists will be required to attend the competition’s second bootcamp on Jan. 28.

NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury said the competition, now in its 10th year, has attracted a record number of entrants.  Some 61 teams comprising 141 people entered the 2017 competition, and all but nine of the entries were teams rather than individuals. There were seven national entries, made up of 17 participants.

Three provincial winners and the national winner will divide $1 million in cash and services, so four young companies will be growing in the province with an average of $250,000 of development capital or expertise. The prizes include professional services like legal, accounting and marketing advice. Milbury likes to call the prize a “company in a box”.

In 2015, Breakthru was won by Castaway Golf, which developed an automated system for retrieving golf balls from water hazards, which could then be sold on to golfers. 

The winners will be announced at the Breakthru LIVE 2017 gala at the Fredericton Convention Centre on March 23, 2017.

Stephen Nicolle Joins Appili Board

Stephen Nicolle: Has returned more than $100 million to investors.

Stephen Nicolle: Has returned more than $100 million to investors.

Appili Therapeutics Inc., a Halifax-based anti-infective drug development company, today named former STI Technologies CEO Stephen Nicolle to its board of directors.

A seasoned executive, Nicolle has led Canadian and American companies to deliver innovative customer value and returned over $100 million to their investors.  In Halifax, he is known for leading the healthcare IT company STI in its $17 million private equity raise in 2013.

"When it comes to leading venture-backed companies, Mr. Nicolle brings unparalleled business expertise and vision that will be instrumental as we grow and develop our pipeline of anti-infective products,” said Appili CEO Kevin Sullivan in a statement. 

Operating out of a lab in the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre in Halifax, Appili has a two-track strategy. It hopes to get a low-risk drug with limited potential to market quickly and use the revenues from that drug to help develop a second candidate that could battle antibiotic-resistant viruses.

Last year, Appili received a key U.S. regulatory designation for a drug, known as ATI-1501, that treats Clostridium difficile infection in children. The Food and Drug Administration granted orphan drug designation to ATI-1501, which removes the bitter taste from Metronidazole, a drug that has been used to treat the condition since the 1970s.

Meanwhile, the company is also working on ATI-1503, an antibiotic that could fight deadly infections such as Klebsiella pneumonia.

"I am attracted by Appili’s strategic approach of acquiring and developing early stage and late stage products which uniquely address the global demand for new antibiotic treatments to combat bacterial resistance,” said Nicolle. 

Nicolle has 20 years of experience leading companies and growing shareholder value.  He is currently president of Cape Bear Advisors, where he consults and holds numerous board positions, including vice chair of the start-up accelerator Propel ICT.

Before STI Technologies, Nicolle spent 10 years leading venture-backed technology companies, including: CEO of Tatara Systems, CEO of Sigma Systems, COO at March Networks, and President of Nortel’s Service Provider eBusiness Solutions Group.

Appili has raised $4.5 million in equity financing in the last two years, including a $2.2 million round announced in December from Innovacorp and a group of angels.

Mr. Sullivan made the Nicolle announcement as he headed to San Francisco to attend the life science industry’s largest investor conference, the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference.

A Digital Society in Saint John

Erin Flood: 'What's next is the call to action to the community.'

Erin Flood: 'What's next is the call to action to the community.'

A recurring theme at the Big Data Congress in Saint John last October was the global movement toward a data-driven society. Most of the 600 delegates were probably unaware that one Atlantic Canadian city is already moving toward becoming such a community.

It is, in fact, Saint John itself.

The New Brunswick city has completed a pilot project called the Pattern of Life program, which is now graduating to its next phase. The goal is to collect and analyze digital data to enhance efficiency and improve people’s lives.

“What’s next is the call to action to the community,” said Erin Flood, chief operating officer of Hotspot Merchant Solutions, one company involved in the project.

“We are looking to work across the business community, citizens and the municipal government.”

The Big Data Congress began in Saint John three years ago as a forum for people and organizations interested in the economic opportunities offered by data analysis. Given the growing interest in data analytics, Hotspot and such groups as Enterprise Saint John, T4G and Cisco announced the Pattern of Life project last May.

They deployed a network of beacons throughout Uptown Saint John to detect when someone with a cell phone passes by, to build up a library of open-source data on traffic flows. By aggregating all the data on vehicular and pedestrian traffic, businesses and government can better understand what is happening in their city.

Gerry Pond's Two-Pronged Growth Strategy

“The impact of data on my operation is huge,” said Nancy Tissington, executive director of Uptown Saint John Inc. “By collecting real-time data on pedestrian and vehicular traffic flow through Uptown, I’m able to validate so many of my business cases.”

In an interview, Flood said the data analysis can be used by businesses considering opening new locations. Armed with the concrete data, economic development teams can tell businesses what locations have the most traffic, and where they should consider locating.

In terms of government services, it can suggest traffic and transit routes, where and when parking spots are needed, and what amenities people may need as they move through the city. It can improve policing, which would make for a safer city and possibly save the municipality money. And it can also indicate optimum energy-saving infrastructure, benefiting the environment.

Flood said a modest investment in a network of sensors can benefit more than 600 businesses in the area, reduce government spending and lead to better services for 70,000 citizens. As it moves forward, she hopes the project will expand into such cities as Moncton and Fredericton.

The concentration on data analysis represents an evolution for Hotspot. The company began three years ago by developing an app with which people could feed a parking meter. It then installed beacons in local retail outlets so merchants could receive data and use it as a customer-service tool. The system could validate customer parking and improve the in-store experience.

“Parking and transportation has always been a key part of Big Data,” said Flood. “It’s just about how to take these datasets and leverage them to find value in how to apply it to a big city. It’s about letting the community know the value of data and open data, and how we can use it across the community.”

Propel To Hold Information Sessions

Propel ICT, the regional ICT accelerator, is kicking off the new year with a series of information sessions about its next cohort, which will take place this winter.

Applications for the coming cohort, which can be found here, close Jan. 31. As it has done in the past, Propel will offer its Build Program for more advanced companies across the region, usually meeting in Moncton. And it plans to offer the Launch program, which is designed for younger companies, in Halifax, Fredericton, Charlottetown, Sydney and St. John’s.

Propel hopes to offer a cohort in Sydney for the first time as long as there are enough eligible candidates for the cohort.  The ideal number in a cohort is six to nine companies.

The information sessions will take place in several centres, and there are even virtual sessions for people not located in the cities where the sessions are held.

Here is a list of the information sessions:

Jan. 5     Startup Zone, Charlottetown                      Noon

              Virtual                                                     5 pm

              TecSocial, Holiday Inn, Sydney                 5:15 pm

Jan. 9     Planet Hatch, Fredericton                         Noon

Jan. 10   Virtual                                                     5 pm

Jan. 11   Connexion Works, Saint John                    Noon

Jan. 12   Virtual                                                     Noon

Jan. 16   Volta, Halifax                                           Noon

Jan. 17   Venn Centre, Moncton                              Noon

              Navigate Startup House, Sydney               Noon

Jan. 19   Planet Hatch, Fredericton                         Noon

Jan. 25   Connexion Works, Saint John                    Noon

              Volta, Halifax                                           Noon

Jan. 26   Venn Centre, Moncton                              Noon

              Common Ground, St. John’s                     Noon

Jan. 27   Startup Zone, Charlottetown                      Noon

Jan. 30   Planet Hatch, Fredericton                         Noon    

There could be changes so please check the Propel calendar, which can be found here

My Appearance on #Startupeast

I’ve been fortunate enough to appear on the latest edition of #startupeast, the broadcasts by Startup Kitchen that focus on startups in Atlantic Canada.

I sat down with Director Devon Murrins a while back to discuss what we’re noticing in the community, and our discussion focused the dominance of the larger startups.

Launched in 2011, Startup Kitchen provides video interviews with startup founders in the region. It was founded by Fredericton tech enthusiasts Robert Foley and Suhaim Abdussamad, and since 2014 has been broadcast on the Bell Alliant community channel under the name #startupeast.

I was interviewed just after we’d completed analyzing our data on startups for 2015, and discussed the growth in the number of startups in the region. But what I really dove into – and something that I’m writing and talking about more these days – was the impact of large companies.

“What’s really interesting is at the top of the pyramid we’re seeing more companies gain more success internationally,” I said in the four-minute video. “There a now about 30 companies that have more than $2 million in revenue each year. These companies are pretty well doubling their revenue each year. They’re still on a growth trajectory.”

The growth of these companies is driving an acceleration in the overall startup revenues in the region. Our research shows that annual revenues rose by 30 percent in 2013, 37 percent in 2014 and 66 percent in 2015.

Have a look at the interview. What could be finer than starting your day with my youthful visage and honeyed voice? Many thanks to Suhaim, Rob and Devon for thinking of Entrevestor. 

CB Startups: Doing a Lot with a Little

Click2Order is a clear demonstration of what’s special about the Cape Breton startup community.

Founded by Matt Stewart and Rob Myers, Sydney-based Click2Order has developed an app that lets people order from a restaurant online. It allows the restaurant to display the app on its own site, along with the menu, payment system and other features.

With restaurants able to put their own branding on the product, Click2Order has been able to snare about 30 clients in Atlantic Canada, and recently signed with an Ontario distributor that services about 1,000 outlets in the Greater Toronto Area.

The fact that it’s gaining traction is not what makes Click2Order a typical Cape Breton startup. What’s important about this company is how the community has rallied behind it, and how much Stewart and Myers have done with a little bit of capital.

They won $10,000 in Innovacorp’s Spark Cape Breton program three years ago, and borrowed from New Dawn Enterprises, a Community Economic Development Investment Fund that supports Cape Breton enterprises. Click2Go has received other grants and loans, bringing the total capital raised to about $150,000. Many startups would struggle to build a product with so little money, but Click2Order brought a product to market with that amount.

“The thing that really strikes you about the Cape Breton startup community is how united it is and how everyone is leveraging each other's resources,” said Permjot Valia, the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Island Sandbox, which develops startups at Cape Breton University and the Nova Scotia Community College. “A manifestation of that was Super August. Everyone came together to create something incredible. It's just not possible for one organization to have done all of that by itself.”

Super August was a month-long celebration of the startup community on the island, ranging from a MentorCamp to a growth-stage pitching competition to a lunch ‘n’ learn series. Above all else, it highlighted the community spirit ingrained in the local grouping.

Another company that exemplifies the Caper spirit is Docmaster, which has developed a cloud-based repository for corporate clients’ digital documents. Founded by husband-and-wife entrepreneurs Mark and Danielle Patterson, Docmaster has raised about $70,000 in equity financing, which it supplemented with grants and loans to bring in a total of about $300,000.

Still, the team felt the need for more money as it developed the product. When the Pattersons brought their Chief Technical Officer, James MacKinnon on board in the spring, they decided to make money by opening Devantec, a tech consultancy specializing in IT security. In the first three weeks, the new company made $100,000. In its first five months, Devantec took on 25 clients.

The Pattersons then had an enviable kind of problem – they had to develop their service company Devantec as they launched the Docmaster product. But like Click2Go, they were able to get the product into the market, tapping several clients who had participated in the company’s beta-test.

These companies are members of the latest generation of entrepreneurs in the Sydney startup grouping. The community boasts experienced ventures like Marcato Digital, Mimir Networks and Health Outcomes Worldwide, and now there’s a movement to get these young companies into the marketplace.

Click2Order has been working out of the Navigate Startup House, the local co-working space in downtown Sydney. While the Docmaster team has been operating out of the basement of the local law firm, Sampson McPhee. It’s a startup grouping that isn’t long on capital, but is long on neighbours helping neighbours. 

“Investments in the startup ecosystem are investments in the future of our community,” said Ardelle Reynolds, the co-founder of the Navigate Startup House. “It’s about looking not just to the companies in front of us but the companies that will be formed later down the road.”

A Growing Cluster of Accelerators

Here’s one thing to highlight about Atlantic Canadian startups in 2017: they’ll be accelerating their danged faces off.

Accelerators have become a cornerstone of the startup world, and they’re thick on the ground on Canada’s East Coast. The sheer number of accelerators or incubators is surprising, as is the number of companies they are fostering. And they speak to the startup community’s commitment to helping more and more entrepreneurs find their way to the market.

Just consider for a moment these groups that will be active in 2017:

Propel ICT – The best-known accelerator in the region, it will likely offer programs this year to new, growing and advanced IT companies in all provinces. It will also hold a cohort at the Navigate Startup House in Sydney for the first time.

Emergence, Charlottetown – The bioscience accelerator has been nurturing several startups since it opened two years ago.

CleanTech Accelerate Program, Halifax – Innovacorp’s new program for cleantech companies launched in 2016 with five companies enrolled.

Evolution, St. John’s – The Genesis Centre has been offering this eight-week program to nurture young companies in Newfoundland and Labrador. The centre now lists 12 graduates on its website.

Startup Zone, Charlottetown – The incubator that opened last summer in the P.E.I. capital graduated its first cohorts of five startups in December.

Innovacorp’s OceanTech Programs, Halifax – The Nova Scotia innovation agency is offering three programs for marine-related companies -- the Demo at Sea Program, Early Adopter Program and OceanTech Development Program. Six companies were enrolled in the Early Adopter Program last year.

Energia, Fredericton – The new University of New Brunswick accelerator for energy, cleantech and cybersecurity is already working with five companies.

JEDI Aboriginal Business Accelerator Program, Fredericton – JEDI was a pilot program last year and is now ramping up to a more permanent status. Eight teams of aboriginal entrepreneurs went through it in 2016.

B4 Change, Fredericton – The accelerator at UNB’s Pond-Deshpande Centre focuses on social entrepreneurship, or companies with a social mission. The accelerator is now two years old with 30 graduates to date.

Spark and Ignite – Andrew Button of Mashup Lab heads these two virtual accelerators, which aims to mentor entrepreneurs regardless of where they are based. The goal is to give founders in rural areas the opportunities that exist in the urban centres.

Natural Products Canada -- This Charlottetown-based organization has pods across the country, and will be working with Atlantic Canadian companies that commercialize natural products.

So that’s 11 programs in the region, and there have been several omissions. Most prominent are the startup houses in most Atlantic Canadian cities that offer programing as well as office space.

Then there are the post-secondary institution programs. UNB, Dalhousie, St. Mary’s and Cape Breton all have programs during the school year, and Dal and UNB both have summer accelerators. Nova Scotia has a range of “sandboxes” (places where entrepreneurs can meet and collaborate).

Then there are larger programs in other places that Atlantic Canadian startups will continue to tap, like the Canadian Technology Accelerator program offered at Canadian consulates in the U.S. and other countries. And let’s not forget the broader entrepreneurship programs – like the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development in Halifax and Futurpreneur – that target more than just innovation-based startups.

Once you sit down and count them, you can be astonished by how many organizations are offering mentorship to startups. I could see 150 companies going through these programs this year. Most will fail, but the overall result will be a few dozen notable survivors and an expansion of entrepreneurial talent.

Norex Opens New Toronto Office

Jenelle Sobey: A disciplined and strategic approach

Jenelle Sobey: A disciplined and strategic approach

Norex, the Halifax-based web design and innovation firm, has opened an office in Toronto as part of an 18-month expansion plan.

Established in 2000, Norex has grown beyond web design with its Norex labs offering, which incubates innovative products and partners with clients to get products to market fast.

The company is planning to continue its expansion with a Boston office and an increased concentration in virtual reality.

As well as working with clients, the company also creates its own startups. Norex has incubated such ventures as Squiggle Park, which helps children to read by tracking their eye movement, and, which helps elite athletes with crowdfunding.

Norex has been shifting its focus toward highly complex software and web development projects -- areas that draw on its expertise in information architecture, user experience, design-thinking and quality code.

“The disciplined and strategic approach we've taken has dramatically changed our portfolio with startups representing almost 50 percent of our client mix in 2016,” said Managing Partner Jenelle Sobey in a statement.

Halifax will remain the think tank and development shop for Norex as it grows, with programmers, designers and creatives remaining in the Halifax office while the business development team works in the Toronto market.

“To do business in Atlantic Canada you need to be on planes, exploring opportunities outside the region and bringing business home," Sobey said. "We are firmly committed to keeping jobs at home while simultaneously growing our business in other markets. We anticipate that the Toronto office will result in a one-third growth in 2017, increasing in 2018.”

Pond Named to Order of Canada

Gerry Pond

Gerry Pond

Gerry Pond, a driving force behind the development of ICT startups in Atlantic Canada, has been appointed to the Order of Canada.

Rideau Hall, the office of the Governor General, named Pond to the Order, one of the country’s highest civilian honours, on Dec. 30.

With more than 45 years of business experience, Pond is best known in the startup community as an investor and the chairman of Mariner Partners, and its investment arm, East Valley Ventures.

“As the CEO of NBTel and the president of its successor, Aliant Telecom, Gerry was at the helm during a period of significant deregulation in the Canadian industry,” said a statement on the Mariner website announcing  the appointment. “Under his leadership, NBTel embarked on a decade of innovation, and in the process transformed NBTel into an international ICT leader.”

Pond is the co-founder of Propel ICT, a start-up accelerator, and the Pond-Deshpande Centre, which encourages emerging entrepreneurs and innovators to create sustainable, scalable enterprises. 

His other accolades include being named the 2011 Canadian Angel of the Year by Techvibes and KPMG and receiving the 2014 Wolf Blass Lifetime Achievement Award from Startup Canada.

Pond recently penned a paper on economic development in Atlantic Canada, calling for the region to nurture more IT startups and social ventures. 

Happy Holidays to All Our Readers

Our Entrevestor Christmas tree ornament, lovingly 3D Printed by Cat Adalay

Our Entrevestor Christmas tree ornament, lovingly 3D Printed by Cat Adalay

This is our final post for 2017. After today, we’re going to celebrate Christmas with our family and then take our customary break in the week leading up to New Year.

So we’d like to close the year with our warmest wishes to all our readers, clients and friends this holiday. Stay safe and enjoy yourselves. We’re looking forward to some awesome things in 2017 and look forward to sharing them with you. See you on Jan. 2.

Many thanks to all of you,

Carol and Peter. 

My HOME Tackling Homelessness

Miriah Kearney: 'I opted for homelessness because it’s a fixable problem.'

Miriah Kearney: 'I opted for homelessness because it’s a fixable problem.'

With this harsh December placing strains on homeless shelters, Truro-based clothing company My HOME Apparel is mixing business and goodwill by donating five per cent of its profits to charities that assist the homeless.

Founder and CEO Miriah Kearney has made ending homelessness her company cause since starting the venture in July last year. My HOME Apparel makes T-shirts and other items that incorporate the outline of the wearer’s home province, so the choice is appropriate.

“I opted for homelessness because it’s a fixable problem,” she said. “I want to be part of something great—to give every Canadian a home.”

Kearney and her staff of seven donate every three months to charities such as Shelter Nova Scotia, Truro Homeless Outreach Society, and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

The concept of home also works for the company in a business sense.

“Home is a powerful word, it resonates,” said Kearney who is the company’s designer. “When you add the province, you give people a sense of home pride. And people are catching on to the social component. They want to buy from companies that are socially responsible.”

In addition to making charitable donations, My HOME Apparel is currently running its own project called GetWarmatHome, which involves filling backpacks with cozy items such as socks and mittens. The boxes will be taken to Halifax to distribute among the homeless.

“The homeless are often forgotten and they’re feared,” Kearney said. “People think homelessness is a choice. They think the homeless are drunk or addicts. It’s not a choice, there are lots of reasons why people end up where they are.”

Kearney, a former junior high teacher and small business owner, never expected her idea of incorporating pictures of provinces into clothing to be widely popular, but the company is experiencing strong growth.  

“We’ve had 100 per cent growth month to month,” she said. “I started at home by myself. Now, we have staff. We have a store in Truro and a seasonal kiosk in Mic Mac Mall in Dartmouth.”

Fifty per cent of the company’s business is done in Atlantic Canada.

“We also export a lot to Alberta because of the Atlantic Canadians living there. We sell a lot in Ontario, maybe because almost 40 per cent of the Canadian population lives in Ontario.”          

Kearney said she is working toward gaining greater national exposure.

“We will be attending trade shows in the New Year,” she said. “We hope to grow the brand across the country, and open stores in new locations.”

This summer, she will open a seasonal location in Ottawa in order to be part of Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations.

The company handprints 70 to 80 per cent of its clothing in-house at its studio in Truro. The remaining designs are printed in Dartmouth, and the clothes are made at Stanfield’s across the street from My HOME Apparel’s studio. 

The company has plans to offer other young clothing companies the chance to print their work at its studio.

In becoming an entrepreneur, Kearney is following the example of her mother, Shelley Austin, who owns her own business and was a clothing designer and seasmstress when her daughter was growing up.

Kearney is supporting homeless people partly to set an example to her own children.

She believes entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity to make a difference.

“Entrepreneurs have a responsibility to do good,” she said. “The impact we can have is tremendous. … When you’re an entrepreneur, you sometimes have to miss family events. I want to be able to tell my kids it wasn’t just about me.” 

Porpoise: Doing Well and Doing Good

Denis Daigle and Topher Kingsley-Williams

Denis Daigle and Topher Kingsley-Williams

During the holiday season, it’s fitting to celebrate Porpoise – a Moncton startup that helps companies work with their employees to discover and promote how they are giving back together.

The startup has gone through a couple of pivots and permutations to arrive at its current form, but always kept the goal of helping people to do good in their communities. In its current form, Porpoise probes its clients’ employees to learn what they’re doing in their communities. It then helps to align the employees’ charitable aspirations with the company’s social strategy, and helps them amplify the benefits by promoting what the company and its staff are doing.

“To some extent, corporate social responsibility has been very much a marketing play, and I think one thing we’re doing is creating genuine content for these companies,” said CEO Topher Kingsley-Williams in an interview.

The company now has 14 clients, ranging from nationwide companies like the National Bank, to small and medium-sized enterprises like the OMISTA Credit Union in Oromocto, N.B. It is now in talks with more potential clients, including a couple of Fortune 500 companies in the U.S.

As it works with these companies, Porpoise polls employees to learn what they’re doing to give back to their community. Kingsley-Williams most corporate social strategies are set by directors and senior managers, who usually don’t know what their employees are doing to volunteer, or what strategy the staff would like the company to follow. Porpoise democratizes corporate social responsibility by helping companies to understand what their staff would like to see the company do.

Client Engagement Manager Caleb Dow said some companies are too humble about that they do to help their communities. By sharing it with employees, the staff becomes excited and proud of the company’s efforts and help to amplify the impact.

Moncton's Trenn Plots Future of MasterControl

Porpoise was originally called Ongozah – the Swahili term for everyone moving in the same direction. Working at the Venn Garage in Moncton, Co-Founders Kingsley-Williams, Denis Daigle and Dan Gillis developed a company that would help community groups crowdsource things they needed – whether it was paint for a homeless shelter or basketballs for a sports organization.

After assessing the business, the group changed tack in February of this year to focus on helping corporations work with employees on their social efforts. And it also adopted a new name, choosing Porpoise because everyone likes the marine animal and it sounds similar to “purpose”. It has helped in pitching clients.

“You can’t just say to people, ‘We’re going to give you purpose,’ but you can jokingly say, ‘We’re going to give you Porpoise,’’’ said Kingsley-Williams.

The evolution of the company will likely continue into 2017. Kingsley-Williams said the company needs to decide whether its perfect product-market-fit is helping large companies work with employees to develop social corporate responsibility policies; or working with smaller companies to do good locally. He hopes the company will continue to find clients as it answers that question.

“In a year, we want to have product-market fit,” he said. “Our goal is to be with 150 to 200 clients a year from now and they would be across North America. We’ve got the pedal to the ground and we’re trying to get some big clients.”

Appili Raises $2.2M in Equity Funding

Kevin Sullivan: Raised $4.5 million in 18 months

Kevin Sullivan: Raised $4.5 million in 18 months

Halifax-based Appili Therapeutics Inc., whose ultimate goal is to produce a drug that treats superbugs, has closed a $2.15-million equity funding round to help fund clinical trials for its first product.

The company said in a press release the funding came from existing and new investors, including a contribution from Innovacorp, which participated in its last funding round. The company in 2015 raised $2.3 million in equity financing, which allowed it to tap $1.2 million in additional funding from such organizations as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Operating out of a lab in the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre in Halifax, Appili has a two-track strategy. It hopes to get a low-risk drug with limited potential to market quickly and use the revenues from that drug to sustain it as it develops a second candidate that could battle antibiotic-resistant viruses.

“We continue to seek new programs that complement this balanced-risk approach with a mix of near-term revenue programs along with early-stage programs that have the potential to fundamentally change how we treat infectious disease,” CEO Kevin Sullivan said in a statement.

TruLeaf Raises $8.5M in Funding

Earlier this year, Appili received a key U.S. regulatory designation for a drug, known as ATI-1501, that treats Clostridium difficile infection, or CDI, in children.

The Food and Drug Administration has granted orphan drug designation to ATI-1501, which removes the bitter taste from Metronidazole, a drug that has been used to treat the condition since the 1970s. Metronidazole is effective, but it tastes awful, so children often won’t take it, thereby limiting its effectiveness. By removing the bitter taste, ATI-1501 improves the results of the drug.

The FDA granted the application because CDI is one of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s most urgent antibiotic-resistant bacterial threats. It affects more than 500,000 Canadians and Americans each year and causes 29,000 deaths annually.

Meanwhile, the company is also working on ATI-1503, an antibiotic that could fight deadly infections such as Klebsiella pneumonia. Sullivan has said the drug could combat viruses that are resistant to antibiotics, but it’s a longer-term, riskier project than the first drug.

The latest round of funding will be used mainly to bring ATI-1501 to clinical trials. Appili also said it will advance the second drug candidate and “evaluate opportunities to add high potential anti-infective programs to its pipeline.”

“In a very short period of time, Appili has made significant progress with their strategy to identify and develop improved anti-infective therapies, and we look forward to supporting their upcoming clinical trial,” said Lidija Marušić, life sciences investment manager at Innovacorp and a director of Appili.

One of the reasons Appili has been able to raise more than $4 million in equity financing in about a year-and-a-half is that Sullivan has formed a close partnership with Toronto-based Bloom Burton & Co., a healthcare-specialized investment bank. The bank tapped its network of contacts to bring investors into the company.

“We are thrilled by the strong investor interest in this financing, which validates Appili’s strategy, science and development programs,” said Brian Bloom, president of Bloom Burton and chair of Appili’s board of directors.

Pond’s Two-Pronged Growth Strategy

Gerry Pond Advocates A Focus on ICT and Social Entrepreneurship

Gerry Pond Advocates A Focus on ICT and Social Entrepreneurship

I have spent a lifetime pursuing business growth in the region. It is often an elusive target in all sectors of our economy.

In researching economic development plans in other parts of the world, I was stuck by the sheer number of them and perhaps more importantly the fact that cities or regions that are at the very top of the performance measures are engaging their communities to do better. This should create a sense of urgency here in Atlantic Canada. Yet the regional conversations on economic development seem to meander without too much concern for how far behind we are in the Canadian context, let alone the developed world.

If we are going to grow the region's economy, we have to imbed a sense of urgency and an understanding that there is some risk associated with a quest for growth on the east coast. Establishing some fairly difficult or stretch set of goals would likely derive a sense of urgency.

A Two-Pronged Strategy

I'm recommending that the leaders of Atlantic Canada adopt a two-pronged strategy across the entire region, which I have referred to as "Two Diamonds in the Rough."

The first strategy is to stimulate the Atlantic Canadian Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector by focusing on enhancing talent, capital and acceleration services. This initiative would be overseen by a new partnership that I am proposing between Propel ICT (the regional industry accelerator), the Council of Atlantic Premiers (representing the four provinces) and ACOA (representing the federal government).

The second strategy is to stimulate the development of "social enterprises," focused on mining the silver economy (often described as the demographic tsunami) and other critical social issues. This initiative would be overseen by the Pond-Deshpande Centre (PDC) in affiliation with the Atlantic Universities, the Council of Atlantic Premiers, and ACOA. Much of this effort will leverage ICT solutions and will strengthen the first strategy.

The timeframe for these two strategies would cover 2017 to 2027, a 10-year span to ensure efforts could take hold. A seven-year time horizon is common with venture capital-backed efforts and a cultural shift can take up to 20 years, so a 10-year planning period is an appropriate timeframe to see significant outcomes.

I am not prescribing what these two partnerships should do. There would be sufficient knowledge and expertise at each table, and other resources that they can draw upon. What is critical is that they come together as regional partners and develop an effective strategy.

And to be clear, this regional focus on ICT and social enterprise does not mean that other sector strategies should stop. Tourism, shipbuilding, electricity grids and aquaculture are a few of the well-developed regional industry strategies already approved and in place.

Why Focus on ICT?

The case for ICT is compelling:

1. Strong growth historically on a global level

2. North American leadership is dominant globally

3. Flourishing in all cities in Atlantic Canada

4. Environmentally friendly

5. Very low stress on public transportation infrastructure such as highways and ports

6. Young, non-unionized and flexible workforce

7. Non-regulated (globally)

8. High compensation levels

9. Internationally integrated (standards, languages, etc.)

10. Small business friendly

11. Free trade friendly

12. Proof of global best in class performance in region (e.g., NBTel, Star Choice TV, iMagicTV, Xplornet, Radian6, Q1 Labs)

But the final and biggest reason is that the ICT industry, as a rule, promotes development for the common good, even among competitors. This is a most unusual characteristic and applies throughout the world community. This augurs well for a sustainable, long-term growth strategy in Atlantic Canada.

Bringing mentors, incubators, angel investors, universities and accelerators together in a holistic ecosystem was started by Propel in Saint John in 2003 and this phenomenon is now alive and well throughout Atlantic Canada. Propel ICT began in New Brunswick, spread to the Maritimes and now reaches all four Atlantic provinces. Incubators have also been established in all major Atlantic Canadian cities, including Planet Hatch (Fredericton), Venn Garage (Moncton/Saint John)), ConnexionWorks (Saint John), Common Ground (St. John's), Volta (Halifax), Navigate (Sydney) and Startup Zone (Charlottetown).

ICT also embodies the broad economic initiatives that are already underway, including cybersecurity, smart grid, e-government or digital government, big data and the Internet of Things.

Simply put, the ICT sector is reaching a critical mass in Atlantic Canada for the first time in its relatively young life.

Why a Regional ICT Cluster?

We need a critical mass for talent, capital and big commercial ideas. But without aggregating our collective resources, we do not have critical mass.

A minimum 2 million population base provides such a critical mass in the North American context. This is the size needed to produce "Centres of Excellence" and then clusters with their own momentum. It is in this environment that high growth companies (gazelles and unicorns) flourish, perpetuating still more R&D in a virtuous circle.

The achievements of the last 15-20 years suggest a growth nucleus around an ICT cluster is emerging in the region.

The Focus for 2017: Big Companies

For example, Mariner Partners and its affiliates have invested some $15 million in its core business and another $10 million in 35 start-ups throughout Atlantic Canada and $3 million in three accelerators (PDC, Propel, East Valley Ventures) over the past 13 years. Mariner has leveraged an additional $5 million in grants from federal and provincial governments for its core business. We didn't do this alone, but we were leaders. We were not always successful, but we have succeeded with Mariner and have three substantial "exits": two national award-winning exits -- Q1 Labs and Radian6 -- and one substantial exit in 2015 -- Brovada.

These are all ICT companies and they represent some $1.1 billion of value created in just 13 years, not to mention that Mariner Partners continues to scale-up.

There is a significant common thread in Atlantic Canada over the last 10 years:

• About 70% of start-ups are in the ICT sector

• The biggest exits include R6, Q1Labs, Whitehill, Spielo, Brovada, GoInstant in ICT 

• The biggest ICT scale-ups include Innovatia, Mariner and T4G. These three companies all based in Saint John, New Brunswick are the three largest independent ICT companies in Atlantic Canada. Collectively, their export focused revenues exceed $100 million, growing at approximately 15% per year, and their employment level currently exceeds 900. This is definitely an early cluster in big data/analytics.

• Bluedrop Performance Learning Inc. a publicly traded company out of St. John's Newfoundland and Labrador is another high growth ICT company in the region.

• Xplornet, now a large national rural internet service provider, has strong New Brunswick roots with the founders being Barrett Diversified out of Woodstock, New Brunswick.

The availability of risk or venture capital, while still wanting, has increased dramatically in the last five years. The four provincial governments deserve praise for establishing what is now Build Ventures, a regional venture capital fund. Furthermore, provincial funds have added early stage investment funds in all four provinces and a new fund is about to be established in Nova Scotia to supplement Innovacorp, as well as a new fund in Prince Edward Island. Investment tax credits have been introduced in all four provinces with New Brunswick leading the way with the most aggressive credits. Now we need an Investment Tax Credit that is applicable among all four provinces to allow a regional approach for angel capital.

Why Social Entrepreneurship?

According to the Canadian Social Entrepreneurship Foundation, "Social enterprises are social mission driven organizations which apply market-based strategies to achieve a social purpose. The movement includes both non-profits that use business models to pursue their mission and for-profits whose primary purposes are social. Their aim is to accomplish targets that are social and/or environmental as well as financial." A social entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change (a social venture)

Stimulating social entrepreneurs of high impact enterprises is in a much earlier stage of development in Atlantic Canada and, in fact, in Canada too. The regional (and Canadian) leader in this regard is the Pond-Deshpande Centre based at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton but serving all of universities and colleges, and in time, all Atlantic Canadian universities. It is at about the same state that Propel was at 10 years ago when it started out serving only New Brunswick. Today, Propel ICT serves all of Atlantic Canada and graduates 70 companies per year, mostly in ICT.

The PDC accelerator called B4 Change is now two years old with 30 graduates to date. Its most successful graduate has been Resson. What is important to recognized about PDC is the "D". Mr. Deshpande, a Masters graduate of UNB, is an immensely successful entrepreneur (in ICT). He has made a fortune (in the billions) and he has created both economic and social enterprise acceleration at MIT and the University of Massachusetts in Boston and Hubli, India. He provides a well-connected conduit into the Boston entrepreneurial community, one of the planet's most successful hubs. This personal connectivity is why I made social entrepreneurship my second Atlantic Canadian priority. While MaRS in Toronto remains a valuable partner, our strong connections to Boston are more powerful for Atlantic Canada.

We need to jumpstart this form of entrepreneurism and further engage our millennials as we create new direction for the Atlantic Economy.

The Need for Talent

Governments, universities and colleges, and established businesses need to play a strong supporting role in creating necessary talent to execute these two key strategies. They need to step up and enhance degree programs in:

• Entrepreneurial studies

• International business to business sales

• Computer science

• Software engineering

• Programming (coding)

I have been on a personal campaign for the last 18 months attempting to encourage Atlantic university business schools to offer a degree program in "international sales". I have raised $1 million seed capital to jumpstart it. All to no avail, so far. But 68% of Canadian export companies define sales as the most difficult resource to find.

Moving forward with entrepreneurship education is simply not enough to support the rapid growth in these new sectors I've described. The region's established business community also needs to play a much stronger role in providing early adoption environments for the growth in new productivity and marketing tools, provided by the start-ups. The "Internet of Things Living Lab" being proposed by Tech Impact Group is one of the better initiatives being proposed to formalize the structures required to achieve this important link between traditional and new business in Atlantic Canada.


We need to co-ordinate and collaborate in the Greater Atlantic Area over the next 10 years to:

1. Stimulate ICT sector growth

2. Stimulate social enterprise growth

We need to establish a critical mass of ICT and social enterprise development in our quest for growth. And we need to establish a much stronger sense of urgency and be willing to accept the risks of some failures.

If you want to see a region in Canada that is fully engaged in this approach, look to British Columbia, where despite extremely high cost of living, their technology sector is now greater than the GDP from utilities, forestry and oil and gas combined. And they are not resting on their laurels. They want to create an international innovation or tech corridor with the state of Washington (a.k.a. Bill Gates) called the Cascadia Corridor.

It's time for us to get serious about these two diamonds in the rough.


Gerry Pond is Chairman and Co-Founder, Mariner Partners Inc.This article previously appeared on the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council and Propel ICT websites and in the Telegraph-Journal. 

Trenn Plots Future of MasterControl

A true pioneer of the computer era has developed a product in Fredericton that simplifies media production and is now preparing to use it to help manufacturers and companies demo their products.

Dhomas Trenn is the head of OneSimpler, a Fredericton company that is marketing MasterControl — a single platform that lets the user control a range of devices on a single tablet or panel, even if the controls on those devices are markedly different. It has already been adopted by some of the world’s largest media companies, which use it in production of film, music, video and other media. Producers in these fields often have to adjust the sound, lighting, camera shot and other factors, and doing so from a single dashboard makes life easier for them.

“MasterControl is designed to allow you to master all the subsets of features on devices so you don’t have to be an expert on every device,” said Trenn in an interview. He said that using MasterControl can simplify complex tasks and increase production quality while it reduces training time.

In 2017, Trenn plans to push MasterControl into a new market. Manufacturers and tech companies have to demo their products, and resellers of these products often have to demo more than one product in a sales call. MasterControl can help them simplify the demo process, easily achieving tasks like instant replays, or switching seamlessly between demos of different products.

The story of how Trenn got to this point spans four decades, back to 1976. At 10 years old, Trenn was one of the first people in Canada to own a personal computer, and one of the country’s first developers.

Early Companies Shine at Propel ICT Demo Day

For the last 40 years he has been working as a freelance technician and programmer, developing technology for clients all over the world, especially in the media business.

He understood that producers had a problem: their production shops contained all these different devices and they could not master all of them. So Trenn came up with MasterControl to fix the problem and used it in his consulting contracts.

The media companies liked the solution so much that many asked to buy MasterControl and use it in their studios. So Trenn realized that, first, there would be a market for the product, and second, that it may extend beyond the media industry.

He took OneSimpler through the latest cohort of the regional accelerator Propel ICT and is now examining how to expand from a lone wolf programmer into a growth business.

“I now have a much better appreciation of all the components in the bigger picture,” he said.

He’s looking for a partner on the business side to help him scale the enterprise. That partner might bring capital or maybe they would work together to find funding for the company’s growth, he said.

In any case, he does plan to grow the business and is now looking into hiring staff for the first time in his 40-year career. The larger team, he said, will work at getting MasterControl in the hands of manufacturers and tech companies.

“We now have two manufacturers who have both expressed that they are opening it up to their reseller chain to see how it goes,” he said.

University-Related Startups Outperform

The winning company in the Growth Stage category at the Atlantic Venture forum last summer was 4Deep Inwater Imaging, a company that grew out of research conducted at Dalhousie University.

Around the same time, the No. 3 finisher at the Cisco Innovation Grand Challenge in Dubai was Fredericton-based Eigen Innovations, which is based on industrial Internet of Things technology developed at University of New Brunswick.

A few months earlier, the 2015 BDC Young Entrepreneur of the Year award was presented to Chris Cowper-Smith, the CEO of Spring Loaded Technologies, a company which came together in the Starting Lean program at Dal.

These are just a few examples that show that some of the most celebrated startups in Atlantic Canada are born in university research or work with universities as they developed. In fact, research by Entrevestor shows that in the last two years, startups affiliated with universities grew revenue at a far greater rate than the other startups in the community.

Each year, we collect data on startups from around the region, including their revenue, employment and other such metrics. We also examine the metrics for companies affiliated with post-secondary institutions – either those that grew out of intellectual property developed at these schools, or those using the schools’ facilities and expertise as they grow.

Performance of Startups Affiliated with Universities and Colleges

Number of Startups         111
Employees of these Startups 394.5
Revenue Growth 110%
Pre-Revenue Companies 56%
2015 Funding Raised by these startups    $27.3M
Number of Companies Funded   43
Dataset: 111 startups affiliated with universities  
Source Enrrevestor Databank  

In our 2014 analysis of the startup community, we found that such companies’ revenues were increasing 71 percent, when the startup community overall was producing 37 percent revenue growth.

In 2015, the overall startup community saw a huge jump in sales, mainly because of the strong performance of the growth-stage companies. Overall, 120 companies provided us with revenue data, and they showed an increase of 66 percent over the previous year.

Of those respondents reporting revenue data, 57 companies had connections to universities or colleges. And those with revenue reported a total sales growth of 110 percent. That’s right. These companies more than doubled their revenue in one year, and outperformed the broader community by about two-thirds.

What’s notable about our findings is that we have found a superior performance by these university-related companies for the second year in a row.

There are likely two reasons for this strong showing: First, IP developed in universities tends to comprise deeper technology than something put together by freelance innovators and is therefore more advanced and harder to replicate. And second, companies that continue to work with post-secondary labs, to use their labs and tap their experts, show the sort of discipline and outreach that should be found in a healthy startup.

There’s a general acceptance among people in the broader community that the universities are a golden resource for Atlantic Canada, accounting for most of the research and development carried out in the region.

“They are a huge source of intellectual property and talent,” said Greg Phipps, Managing Director of Investment at Innovacorp. “Certainly, a majority of the deals that we’ve done in the life sciences sector were born in the universities.” He added that Innovacorp-backed companies in other sectors, such as advanced manufacturer Atlantic Motor Labs and digital intelligent design company QRA Corp., also got their start at universities.

What’s more, at least six Atlantic Canadian institutions are now offering some form of curriculum to teach entrepreneurship, most of which have courses that include credits for degrees.

The University of New Brunswick is worth watching because of the concentration of young companies now emerging through its MTE program.

Another development that has been gaining momentum is the work at Dalhousie University to host Canada’s Business Model Competition, which is affiliated with the International Business Model Competition.

These initiatives are increasing the entrepreneurial skillset of young people emerging from universities, which should help to drive further growth in the future. 

Probing Founders’ Mental Health Issues

Michael Devenney: The issue is entrepreneurs' inability to separate their identities from their companies.

Michael Devenney: The issue is entrepreneurs' inability to separate their identities from their companies.

A study into how entrepreneurship affects mental health has revealed high rates of anxiety and depression, partly because of entrepreneurs’ tendency to invest too much of their own identities in the success of their companies.

The Mindset Project is the work of Halifax-based Michael DeVenney, a chartered financial analyst, entrepreneur and consultant, and a long-time sufferer of depression.

“The real issue uncovered in the survey is the inability of entrepreneurs to separate their own identities from their companies,” said DeVenney. He said their sense of worth rested almost entirely with the business.

DeVenney began the survey, which he believes may be the largest on the subject in the world, in May. He received 485 replies to his extensive questionnaire, 80 per cent of them from Atlantic Canada.

The responses reveal that investors and entrepreneurs create a demanding, unrealistic culture that leads to high stress. Sixty-eight per cent of entrepreneurs experience periods of anxiety and depression which negatively impact decision-making.

Founders use many ways to manage stress, with 38 per cent turning to alcohol.

“Only emergency care workers have higher rate of depression overall,” said DeVenney, who is the president of consulting agency, Bluteau DeVenney.

Expectations about business growth rates are particularly unrealistic.

“Generally, private investors expect an equity return of 21.4 per cent, but, on average, only four per cent of companies grow by 10 percent annually,” he said.

“Investors are putting pressure on and entrepreneurs are buying it…These days, everything must be faster and bigger. Even the words used, such as ‘scale’, ‘hustle’, ‘pivot’, are all about moving as fast as you can. Investors lean on entrepreneurs, whether they mean to or not.”

He said it’s important entrepreneurs keep their minds about them so they can make the best decisions, rather than being pressed into trying to meet unrealistic targets.

“If I hear the phrase ‘hockey stick growth’ one more time…The term ‘hockey stick’ is used to beat entrepreneurs.”

DeVenney said entrepreneurs also have “horrendous lifestyles”. Studies show that maximum productivity is achieved at 54 hours a week. About 40 per cent of entrepreneurs work longer than that, with many working more than 80 hours.

“The vision and the idea of making a meaningful difference is why people start a business. These are higher level needs, but the reality of business is meeting lower level needs, such as achieving enough cash flow to survive.”

He said this conflict can start a founder down the road of pleasing others rather than staying true to their vision, which may result in them becoming dissatisfied with their company.

Fear of talking about stress, exacerbates the problem and leads to isolation.

“Entrepreneurs don’t want to worry family, investors, and clients. They don’t want to look weak in front of their peers.” DeVenney said.

There is also stigma against failure, although failure rates are inevitably high. Statistics Canada reveals that only 57 percent of companies survive to their fifth year.

A Price Waterhouse study revealed that 96 per cent of technology companies fail by year five.

DeVenney said stress among entrepreneurs is high across all age groups. But there is a group who stay true to their vision, are well- adjusted, less stressed and financially successful.

“They exercise, they get proper sleep, they talk about their issues with family and friends,” DeVenney said. “It seems simple, but the idea of taking the weekend for yourself is not something most entrepreneurs consider.”

DeVenney is still exploring the research. The 63-question survey had multiple parts, and has resulted in 640,000 pieces of data.

He intends to use the survey to create a new venture and social change.

“I want to see this research put to practical use,” he said. “I’m interested in creating tools, such as online learning, that entrepreneurs can use to live healthier lives…Without entrepreneurs, we’ll never have the prosperity we’re looking for.”

The Focus for 2017: Big Companies

As we into toward 2017, I think there is one thing the Atlantic Canadian startup community needs to focus on in the New Year to maintain the momentum that’s been building.

It should focus on bigness.

There are now big and growing venture-capital-backed companies in the region, and there will be more of them a year from now. The expansion of large startups has far greater economic impact than the launch of a lot of small companies. So the goal must be to focus on the promotion and mentorship of these companies.

The easiest part of this is promoting the idea that there are successful high-growth companies in Atlantic Canada. And these large companies themselves should be getting more involved in getting the word out.

“Our philosophy here is to grow these companies,” Calvin Milbury, the president and CEO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, said earlier this year. “It’s those companies, the ones that are growing quickly over a period of time, that are creating wealth in the economy.”

The fact is that Atlantic Canadian companies are securing more multi-million-dollar funding rounds than ever before. Last week, Halifax’s TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture Ltd. announced an $8.5 million equity financing. That’s on top of Fredericton-based Resson raising US$11 million in a funding round led by Monsanto Growth Ventures, and Kinduct Technologies of Halifax raising US$9 million, led by Intel Capital.

It’s easy to identify at least five or six companies around the region that could announce similar funding in 2017. It means that investment vehicles from outside Atlantic Canada see the opportunity in some of the best companies here and are willing to make big bets.

But there is still a perception problem. Atlantic Canada is now seen as an intriguing base for young companies but it hasn’t quite arrived. When Deloitte recently announced its 2016 Fast 50 Technology companies, there wasn’t a single Atlantic Canadian company in the list, which is based on three years of funding.

TruLeaf Closes $8.5M Funding Round

The community overall needs to do more to show the abundance of growth-stage companies existing here — companies with more than $2 million in revenue whose sales are doubling annually or close to it. Our economy needs more of these big funding rounds. The bigger companies — who benefited from the support of the community in their earlier stages — should be helping to showcase the size of local ventures.

First, these big companies need to show up and present at the conferences in the region, like Startup Empire, Atlantic Venture Forum and Invest Atlantic. Investors that bother to attend have got used to seeing seed stage companies and need to be shown the successful companies too.

Second, these bigger companies need to be more active in applying for high profile contests like the EY Entrepreneur of the Year competition and the Deloitte Fast 50.

And finally, some thought should be given to an event in Toronto, Boston, New York or San Francisco showcasing these companies. The minimum bar should be something like $2 million in annual sales and looking for $8 million in funding. We should be showing what is happening here to growth stage venture capital investors in their cities.

Government bodies should be looking for ways to support these growth companies, and the help should concentrate on something other than financial support. One way to help is to work with these larger companies to make external funders understand the potential in the region.

Developing Halifax’s Innovation District

At Volta Labs we believe that Atlantic Canada has performed above the Canadian average when it comes to technology-driven companies finding success. However, the success of technology companies in the region has not yet inspired a broader sense that success in technology-driven business happens here. There is now an opportunity to change that perception of Atlantic Canada and lead the development of a technically minded innovation cluster in the region.

This change in perception requires three main pillars to be present:

A vibrant and growing base of technology companies that are globally minded and locally based.
Strong educational institutions that develop young people who are entrepreneurial‎, innovative and have a global perspective in whatever area or field they want to excel in.

An innovation ‘district’ to build density in Halifax where modern technology companies have a ‘campus’ to centre their activities and radiate throughout the Atlantic Region.

Starting a business with a local connection is a good start. However, in order to grow a business today you must have a global mindset. Customers, funding, and the people that help build your company will reside in different cities in different countries. There are numerous examples of companies based in Halifax with customers in U.S. cities, Dash Hudson being top of mind as it grows its office space in downtown Halifax with customers in New York and other cities.

SMU Launching Student-Led VC Fund

Atlantic Canada is home to great educational institutions that not only develop young people from the region but also attract students from all over the world. It is important these educational institutions remain strong and nurture an entrepreneurial, innovative, and global perspective. The recent investment into Ocean Technology Research is a great start in establishing a globally competitive advantage for the region that sends a positive signal.

The establishment of an innovation district in downtown Halifax will change how technology and innovation is perceived in the region. A long-standing trend in major cities throughout the globe, innovation districts are a concentrated area of a city where education, industry, and residents are intertwined to create a vibrant living and working community.

Along Spring Garden Road, you can see the start of this district with the growth of the Dalhousie University Sexton campus, the investment in a modern library, development of condos, the presence of a growing number of early-stage technology companies, and Volta Labs being open to the community.

All levels of government, members of the community, higher education, and private industry partners are collaborating to establish density in the core of Halifax that will radiate out the next generation of innovative industry across Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada. Community is the framework for a prosperous future economy here in Halifax.

Volta Labs is that home base for a technology driven industry to take a firm root in Atlantic Canada while developing a global perspective. It will continue to evolve and develop the story that will inspire growing businesses to be successful in Atlantic Canada while competing globally.


Volta Labs CEO Jesse Rodgers is a 15-year veteran of the startup world. Before coming to Volta, Rodgers co-founded several startups and was the founding director of the Velocity incubator at the University of Waterloo and later of the Creative Destructive Lab at the University of Toronto.

SMU Launching Student VC Fund

Ellen Farrell: 'It will draw students to the Atlantic Region.'

Ellen Farrell: 'It will draw students to the Atlantic Region.'

St. Mary’s University is adding a new dimension to the student entrepreneurship craze by having a group of students oversee their own venture capital fund.

The university’s Sobey School of Business is in the process of launching Venture Grade, which will be an investment fund to invest alongside existing investment vehicles. As of last weekend, the students had raised $47,000 aimed to end up with a fund worth $250,000.

Universities and colleges around the region (and the world) now have courses that help students to launch actual businesses. But SMU says Venture Grade is the first student-led VC fund, with the students raising the money and conducting due diligence on investments.

“The overall goal for the fund is to create an unparalleled educational experience for student entrepreneurs and students of finance to learn entrepreneurship from the inside-out,” said Ellen Farrell, Professor of Entrepreneurship  and Venture Capital at SMU. 

“This course and will be a differentiator for SMU, the Sobey School of Business and it will draw students to the Atlantic Region.”

With $47,000 now committed, Farrell said two different backers are now considering additional funding proposals worth a total of $100,000. The group made several funding proposals last week and are confident they will be able to raise the full $250,000.

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The team comprises three SMU alumni employed in in sales and entrepreneurship, six MBA students and four commerce students. The oversight board comprises: Farrell; Patrick Fitzgerald, a partner with Cox and Palmer; and Andrew Ray, a fund manager at Innovacorp. Venture Grade is working with a range of partners, including East Valley Ventures, Build Ventures and Relay Ventures.

Venture Grade will work alongside existing VCs, angel groups and investment bankers to identify investment opportunities. These more experienced funding bodies will invite Venture Grade to participate in funding rounds.  The sectors and the geographic locations are determined by the investments of the partnering investment groups.

The overseers expect the early investments to be in seed and early stage companies, said Farrell, but the group hopes to extend its reach across the continent and make investments is Series A, B and C rounds.  The students are conducting due diligence with four investments so far in conjunction with participating VC firms and hope that at least one will prove viable for a Venture Grade investment.

“Many people … think that the fund is students investing in students,” said Farrell. “It is, rather, students investing in viable venture-grade investments.  They are being invited to participate by doing due diligence on the investments and writing investment memos that are scrutinized by the formal financiers.”

She added that another element of the project that is not readily apparent is that the students are being mentored by VCs and angels, both locally and as far afield as Silicon Valley.  For example, they were to meet this week with Brenda Hogan, of the Ontario Capital Growth Corp., which oversees the province’s venture capital investments.  They met with an investment banker and a VC from Silicon Valley last week.

She also stressed that the program is unique.

“I have found three other somewhat similar programs, except that in those cases, the students are not raising the fund,” said Farrell. “They were given the money to invest [and are not] being guided by the investment community.”

Swan in New Venture with Charged

Lukas Swan

Lukas Swan

As if running his own lab at Dalhousie University doesn’t keep him busy enough, Lukas Swan is now working on his second business.

Swan and Chris White, a former researcher at his laboratory, are in the early stages of Charged Engineering Inc., which has developed patented technology that has improved the efficiency of lead-acid battery manufacturers.

The company has signed a contract with one manufacturer and is working on the implementation of its technology with the established company’s plant. Charged is also in Innovacorp’s CleanTech Accelerate Program, Nova Scotia’s new accelerator for cleantech companies.

“This is basically a well-established battery — the lead-acid battery,” said Swan in an interview. “It’s a competitive industry. Everybody is looking for an edge right now, and we are one of the companies that can give an edge.”

The edge that Charged brings is helping manufacturers save money and increase efficiency while making higher-quality batteries. Swan said one of the difficulties with making lead-acid batteries is the time taken in the formation stage. Formation is the process of actually charging the batteries once all the components are put in a container. It can take days. It’s expensive. And the manufacturer doesn’t know when the battery is ready, which only prolongs the process.

What Swan and White have done is produce a system that measures four variables in the battery and can tell the manufacturer when the battery is ready, and improve the battery’s performance.

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Though Swan downplays the size of the market for this product, he touts the outlook for lead-acid batteries, especially in developing nations. He said small-scale, off-grid wind and solar energy installations are becoming more common in these countries, and they’ll need affordable, dependable energy storage solutions to fully benefit from this advance. Lead-acid batteries are ideal for this because they are dependable, recyclable and easy to maintain. Swan calls it “strategic technology.”

Charged Engineering is planning to bring its product to market by two streams — by retrofitting existing chargers, and by licensing the technology to manufacturers installing new chargers. Chargers are constantly being replaced so this second stream should grow as time goes on.

Swan said the company has made two patent applications, and plans to work toward a second product that would be aimed more at the consumer market. The company is conducting research and development on the product and will be patient about bringing it to market.

Swan is a professor of mechanical engineering and supervises the university’s Renewable Energy Storage Laboratory, which usually has about 10 researchers working in it. Also a wind farm entrepreneur, he’s a principal of the Colchester-Cumberland Wind Field, which has been funded by Community Economic Development Investment Funds and has been paying dividends to investors for the past two years.

So far, Swan and White have not raised equity financing, and they don’t plan to do so in the near future. They are building up their network of collaborators, and Swan raves about the support they’ve received in the local startup community.

“It’s really collaborative around here,” said Swan. “We feel very encouraged and very well supported.”

Dal Parts Ways With Ed Leach

Dalhousie University is not renewing the contract of Ed Leach, the director of the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship and one of the architects of the Launch Dal initiative.

Sylvain Charlebois, the Dean of the Faculty of Management, sent an email to faculty last week saying Leach would end his tenure on June 30, 2017, and that a search committee would soon be struck to find his replacement.

Leach, 67, responded with an email to Charlebois saying that he had intended to step down as director in June, but had hoped to continue teaching for another three to five years.

Leach said the “choice to end my Limited Term Appointment was yours not mine. You had the option of renewing for up to 5 years without advertising and you chose not to do so.”

Both emails were leaked to the media late last week and reported first in [Full disclosure: Dalhousie is a client of Entrevestor, and the author’s daughter works part-time for the Norman Newman Centre.]

Leach and his wife Mary Kilfoil, both professors of management, have been the driving force behind entrepreneurship education at Dalhousie. In the autumn of 2012, they began their Starting Lean course, modeled on the teachings of startup guru Steve Blank, and have held a succession of cohorts in the class ever since.

The Starting Lean course evolved into the Launch Dal initiative, which was held under the umbrella of the Norman Newman Centre. It came to include the opening of the Collider, a startup space in the university’s Killam Library, the summertime Launch Pad accelerator, and the hosting of Canada’s Business Model Competition.

“Launch Dal is embraced by investors, funders and mentors across the region and recognized across the country as a leader in educating students of the fundamental tools necessary to be an entrepreneur today,” said Bob Williamson, the founder of Invest Atlantic and one of the startup community members who contacted Entrevestor in support of Leach. “Launch Dal is what it is today because of a vision that a small group of keen, forward thinking individuals had several years ago and thanks to the then dean’s formidable leadership superstars like Dr. Leach, Mary Kilfoil and their advisory team were allowed to deliver their creativity.”

Both Leach and Charlebois both agree that entrepreneurship initiative has progressed well at the university, and Dal must ensure that it continues to grow and evolve. “With LaunchDal and several other initiatives, the NNCE has done very well over the years, but it is time to scale the Centre up to a new level,” said Charlebois.

He did not refer directly to Kilfoil, though it is understood there is no change in her position at the university.  She declined to comment and a spokesperson for the university could not be reached late Friday.

Leach notes in his email that the centre has raised $2.7 million from funders to scale up Launch Dal, and he said he will do his best to support these efforts in the last six months of his tenure. He added that he does not intend to retire or slow down after June 30, though he did not say what work he would undertake.

Leach also took issue with Charlebois for cancelling regular update meetings with the Newman Centre directors. He added that since becoming Dean, Charlebois has not attend any of the roughly 30 events hosted by the centre other than an event with alumni in Toronto. Leach said these absences are understandable given Charlebois’ busy schedule during the first year of his tenure. 

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