The Task of Finding a Co-Founder

Randy Campbell: 'It's all about resiliency.'

Randy Campbell: 'It's all about resiliency.'

Finding the right co-founders to grow a startup is often a challenge. Just ask entrepreneur Randy Campbell, who has launched ShopLaw, an online platform that helps people find a lawyer to meet their needs and budget.

The serial entrepreneur has spent two years researching the market for his Fredericton-based business and trying to bring consumers and lawyers onto ShopLaw’s platform.

Now he is using that validation to attract co-founders. It’s different from hiring employees. Campbell is looking for people to become part of the business and have a greater exposure to its risks and rewards.

“It’s very challenging,” he says of the process. “When I started ShopLaw I was advised to validate my idea. The more evidence you have that this can work, the better. Talented people have opportunities thrown at them all time. They don’t want to work on something that isn’t of benefit.”

He set out to find five co-founders with different technical skills and positive but realistic expectations.

“It’s all about resiliency, which means being able to adapt and respond quickly and effectively to changing circumstances,” he said.

“You’ll likely find that many of your assumptions may not be true. You may find the economics of the business demand you excel in tasks you are not prepared to excel in. It’s critical to have someone that can focus on overcoming that barrier.”

To spread the word, he relied on his network and launched a co-founder recruitment webpage at randycampbell.ca.

He posted on relevant websites such as AngelList, Founder2be and reddit.com.

PEI Launches Early-Stage Fund

He’s currently working on trial projects with three potential co-founders and is looking for a chief technology officer and a senior salesperson.

Campbell has learned from his earlier experience as a co-founder of YouMeal.ca, founded in his native Charlottetown.

That startup set out to deliver healthy meals to busy families.

“We started with a designer, a programmer, a business strategist, and partnered with a chef,” Campbell said.

“After a few months we had 400 families on our waiting list . . . Soon we realized that the core competency of the business was delivery

“We learned the business required technical skills in optimizing delivery routes and reducing delivery cost.

“ The website technology wasn’t complicated. We didn’t need to have over half our equity stuck in those technical skills . . .”

Before studying business and law — he has an MBA from University of New Brunswick and is currently an articled clerk at Cox & Palmer in Charlottetown — Campbell taught outdoor leadership and led wilderness therapy expeditions.

Those experiences taught him about teams and the common problems that arise. These include leaders not appreciating the work of team members and not communicating expectations clearly.

Like good co-founders, a good team boosts resiliency and creates accountability, he said.

“They’re there to tell you if you aren’t doing what needs to be done in the short term.

:In the long term, it’s only the client’s voice that matters, but their voice is hard to hear sometimes.”

Campbell believes the Canadian market is ripe for a business such as ShopLaw, which aims to improve access to justice, which he says is hindered by a lack of transparency around legal costs and services.

Ventures like ShopLaw are few in Canada, he said, although the market for online legal services is competitive in the U.S. and elsewhere.

“There are many people who are not accessing the legal services they need or desire because the shopping experience is too onerous,” he said.

“Typically, people shop for legal services at a stressful time. Any barrier can be the end of the road. People may live without making a divorce official or without a will, resulting in family turmoil, or without a proper business agreement, leading to conflict.”

So far, Campbell has bootstrapped his venture with his own funds and loans from sources such as the Business Development Bank of Canada, Futurpreneur and the Community Business Development Corporation organization. He is currently seeking investment.

Growing as Social Ventures Increase

As the social entrepreneurship movement gains momentum, Common Good Solutions of Halifax is keeping pace and growing its business locally and internationally.

The company is dedicated to working with a range of stakeholders to nurture businesses that are committed to a triple bottom line, or what’s known as the three Ps — people, planet and profit. The idea is spreading that modern capitalism needs to do more for society than simply reward shareholders, and Common Good Solutions is profiting from the movement.

The company now employs 21 people and in May it launched the Social Enterprise Institute, an online tool that provides training in how to create and grow ethical businesses. Common Good Solutions provides a range of services, from consulting work to advocacy, and its wingspan is lengthening each year.

“We’re in the early days of (the movement) — at the dawn of it, really,” said David Upton, the CEO of the company. “This is going to be one of the themes of the century. Everyone talks about the risks and rewards of business, but we need a third category — the ethical return of a business.”

Upton was speaking in an interview in the boardroom of the company’s headquarters in downtown Halifax — a space it has now outgrown and will soon forsake for larger premises.

Common Good Solutions has come a long way since Upton and co-founder Andy Horsnell launched it in 2012 — the year that Nova Scotia passed legislation enabling “community interest companies,” which are for-profit companies established to support social goals.

CarbonCure's Tech Used in California High-Speed Rail Project

It’s difficult to pinpoint what Common Good Solutions does because it does so many things. It’s an incubator that nurtures triple-bottom-line businesses, and it does some policy work, advising government and others on the development of the ethical business ecosystem. Specializing in social financing, it works across the spectrum of purpose driven organizations — from not-for-profits, to social enterprises, to corporations that embrace corporate social responsibility.

“We exist to build the capital of organizations that exist to deliver social value through entrepreneurship,” said Upton.

As the first Atlantic Canadian company to win a B Corp certification, Common Good Solutions reflects its social mission in its own operations. Its 21 employees include 11 women. About a fifth are from visible minorities and four-fifths are under 30. Everyone is paid at least a “living wage,” which amounts to $37,000 a year in Halifax.

The group made one of its biggest moves ever this year when it launched the Social Enterprise Institute, a sister company with a library of social enterprise training seminars that can be purchased over the internet. The topics range from profit-focused lessons like successful Instagram marketing, to enhancing social or environmental impact through hiring people with disabilities. It now has clients in six countries and in four months has exceeded its first-year sales projections.

The institute is one way that Common Good Solution can take its mission beyond Atlantic Canada.

“We’re using the tools in Nova Scotia, but this is not our market,” said chief financial officer Mike Kennedy, who is also an Acadia University business professor. Referring to the company’s export potential, he added: “We’re on track to becoming the ideal Ivany Report business, and we didn’t even intend to do it.”

PEI Launches Early-Stage Fund

Steve Nicolle: One of four investment directors at Island Capital

Steve Nicolle: One of four investment directors at Island Capital

Island Capital Partners, a new $4-million-plus investment fund, has launched to fund startups and add some investment power to the deepening startup ecosystem on Prince Edward Island,.

The new early-stage investment fund will be managed by a committee of four business people, most with international business experience. They have received commitments of $2 million from the P.E.I. government and roughly the same amount from about 20 angel investors based on the island. The enthusiasm of the private investors may allow the team to increase the size of the fund to as much as $5 million. The founders said in an interview Monday that many of the private investors may also invest individually in some of the companies selected by the fund.

Island Capital is coming about as the startup community on P.E.I. is adding depth and diversity. The Startup Zone has opened in downtown Charlottetown as a working and mentoring space for startups, and the life sciences sector (always a strength on the island) has been strengthened by the development of such support groups as EmerGence and Natural Products Canada.

“There has been a perceptible buzz around Charlottetown in the last little while,” said Island Capital managing investment director Alex MacBeath, a former CEO of Grant Thornton Canada. “The Startup Zone was created about 16 months ago and now we have Island Capital. So there is a lot coming along at this time.”

PEI's Startup Zone Admits Four New Teams

The investment managers for the fund are: Ron Keefe, the former CEO of Charlottetown drug manufacturer BioVectra; Steve Nicolle, former CEO of Halifax-based STI Technologies; and Paul Lypaczewski, who has run several IT companies over the past 30 years.

These four businessmen, who are not receiving a management fee, aim to invest about $200,000 to $400,000 in each company, meaning that the fund has the ability to back about 10-20 high-growth companies.

The investment directors say they will invest only in companies that have high growth potential, and they will mentor the companies to position them to attract further rounds of investment. They would like to participate in follow-on rounds but admit they have limited funds so the later investment rounds will be led by other funds.

Island Capital has already invested in Forestry.io, an IT company that went through TechStars New York last year. The Charlottetown fund is in discussions with five other companies and is tracking a total of 17 startups.

Nicolle stressed that the fund is independent of government. “I would not be involved in this if the government was in any way running the fund and they’re not,” he said. “They’ve giving us complete autonomy.”

The launch of the Island Capital Partners means that all four Atlantic Provinces now have funds supported by provincial governments to provide early-stage financing to startups. The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and Nova Scotia’s Innvoacorp have been in operation for more than a decade. The Invest Newfoundland and Labrador fund, managed by Pelorus Venture Capital, was launched two years ago. The P.E.I. government has been studying how to provide funding to its startups, and has now backed Island Capital.

The funding environment in the region should be further developed soon, as the Nova Scotia government is due to name who will set up a new venture capital fund based in Halifax. About half a dozen firms have applied to manage the fund, which will receive $25 million from the provincial government and is expected to attract capital from other sources. The Halifax-based fund will invest in and beyond Atlantic Canada.

V4C Partners with McInnes Cooper

Venture for Canada, a not-for-profit organization that recruits, trains and supports recent graduates to work at leading Canadian startups, has announced a partnership with McInnes Cooper.

Through this new partnership, McInnes Cooper will provide legal training to Venture for Canada fellows on employment issues and matters related to launching their own businesses. In addition, McInnes Cooper will host and sponsor a series of events and provide pro-bono legal services.

“We are proud to partner with McInnes Cooper as Venture for Canada’s Atlantic Canadian Legal Partner,” Venture for Canada Executive Director Scott Stirrett said in a statement. “This partnership enables us to help more Atlantic Canada based startups gain the talent they need to grow, while strengthening the retention of entrepreneurial recent graduates in Atlantic Canada.”

Venture for Canada’s work aligns with the federal and provincial governments’ Atlantic Growth Strategy, which emphasizes the need to “enhance the region’s capacity to develop, deploy and retain a skilled workforce” as well as to “foster greater business innovation by supporting the scaling up of small firms.”

“McInnes Cooper is delighted to support Venture for Canada,” said Sandra Goodwin, McInnes Cooper’s Managing Director of Client Development. “We’re seeing more and more great startups in Atlantic Canada. Our lawyers are passionate about helping this sector grow, and Venture for Canada is an ideal partner to help boost the talented young people who will make it happen.”

With rich ties to Atlantic Canada’s history, McInnes Cooper serves clients across North America and abroad from six offices in Halifax, St. John’s, Fredericton, Moncton, Saint John, and Charlottetown. The firm has more than 500 employees, including 200 lawyers.

Venture for Canada Fellows spend two years working at a Canadian startup, in addition to a four-week Training Camp, and ongoing mentorship and professional coaching. Through the program, recent graduates gain the experience, network, and training to successfully launch their own firms. For the most recent cohort, more than 2200 Canadian youth applied for only 60 fellowships.

CarbonCure in California Rail Project

Halifax-based CarbonCure Technologies has been selected to help produce environmentally friendly construction materials for the California High-Speed Rail project.

The startup issued a press release Sunday saying that it has partnered with Outback Materials of Fresno, Calif., which will install CarbonCure’s technology at its Fresno plant. That means the plant will consume rather than emit waste carbon during the production of concrete for several projects, including the high-speed rail project.

CarbonCure, which has raised almost $10 million in equity investment, has developed technology that injects carbon into concrete to strengthen it and reduce costs. Traditional concrete production produces huge amounts of carbon dioxide, but the CarbonCure method actually reduces CO2. The company began with a process for concrete blocks and last year launched a process to inject carbon into ready-mix concrete.

“I think it’s important for this industry to align with California’s environmental commitments by adopting greener technologies,” Outback CEO Curtis Lovett said in the statement. “Partnering with CarbonCure is an essential piece in doing our part to improve air quality and preserve the environment.”

Known as one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects under development in the U.S., the California High-Speed Rail project will be a 1300-kilometre rail link connecting the metropolitan areas of San Francisco and Los Angeles by 2029. That first phase of the project is expected to cost US$64 billion. In Phase II, the railway will be extended to Sacramento and San Diego.

TruLeaf Launches Across the Maritimes

Outback will supply nearly half a million cubic yards of concrete for the first sections of the project, part of a 29-mile segment connecting Madera and Fresno counties, in which there are 25 concrete structures. It will install CarbonCure’s technology in its Fresno plant to chemically sequester waste CO2 in the concrete during the manufacturing process.

Outback said it has been dedicated to providing high-quality concrete from six local locations to California’s Central Valley for 50 years. This new equipment will improve not only the environmental impact of the concrete they produce, but the overall integrity of the material, as well. “This partnership solidifies Outback's commitment to help contribute to California’s environmental targets,” said the California company.

"It is truly an honour for CarbonCure have the opportunity to partner with a great producer like Outback Materials and to partake in an infrastructure project with the magnitude of the California High-Speed Rail," said CarbonCure CEO Robert Niven. "If CarbonCure's technology were used to produce the concrete for the rest of the first construction package, spanning from Madera to Fresno, the carbon reductions would be equivalent to the amount of CO2 consumed by 3200 acres of American forest over a year."

CarbonCure’s technology is now being used in a growing number of concrete plants across North America, including several of the world’s largest vertically integrated cement and concrete companies. The company is one of 27 semi-finalists in the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE challenge, which has been called the Nobel Prize for climate technologies. 

Jobs of the week: Dash Hudson

Halifax-based Dash Hudson just keeps on hiring.

Today, our Jobs of the Week column is featuring three Dash Hudson openings – for a front-end web developer, sales development representative and an account executive.

Dash Hudson has created a “visual intelligence platform” that helps its corporate clients to create and distribute photos and video, then analyze their impact. The system is an integrated solution to predict, measure, and enhance engagement across all visual marketing channels.

The company, which already has dozens of employees and offices in Halifax, New York and Miami, has been expanding rapidly.

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.

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Sales Development Representative

Dash Hudson is looking for a sales development representative, who 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, the successful candidate 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 a super-organized individual with a desire to learn and improve processes, with strong written and verbal communication skills, and who is self-motivating.

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.

Front-End Web Developer

Dash Hudson is looking for talented and motivated engineers across all levels of experience who can thrive in an independent and high pressure environment. The front-end web developer will influence the initial specs for new products and features, build and/or modify backend APIs, write front-end javascript code that consumes APIs. He or she will be responsible for ongoing improvements once the product is deployed. The ideal candidate will display an ability to learn and adapt, possess a problem-solving mentality and take a product-first approach to building software. The company is looking for someone with a bachelor's degree or a year or more of experience doing hands-on software development. Check out the job posting for the technical requirements. 

Muise Turns Anxiety Battle into Startup

Joel Muise

Joel Muise

Entrepreneur Joel Muise’s struggles with mental illness motivated him to found his startup, Tranquility Online. Now Muise is seeking participants to test his online service for treating anxiety.

Muise is looking for 48 people who suffer from anxiety to help him test whether cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) delivered online by a team of coaches is effective.

Muise wants to use coaches rather than therapists because he believes coaches can be trained to help clients. Using coaches rather than therapists, as some similar sites do, will make the service more affordable.

“Our program is based on CBT, which follows a simple, repetitive way of tackling anxiety and depression,” he said.

“The challenge is getting people from the starting line to the finish line. There are lots of CBT books and apps but most people don’t finish. Our coaches will be trained in motivational interviewing and active listening to get clients to the finish line.”

Muise established his online CBT business after a blog post, written in February 2015 about his struggle with generalized anxiety disorder and depression attracted attention. He realized there were many sufferers in need of help.

“I’d always been a supporter of ending the stigma around mental health,” he said. “I’d always been open about my struggles but I’d never shared the entire story.

“I thought, if I lay it out there people may judge me but at least I’ll be free from that burden . . . of wearing a mask. Analytics for the site told me that almost 4,000 people visited the post within 48 hours. The post got shared 63 times on Facebook.”

Following the post he took a health coaching course and the idea for Tranquility began to form.

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Muise has recently taken his venture through Propel ICT’s regional program for new startups. He also met his co-founder Rebecca Tucker, who is completing her doctorate in clinical psychology at Dalhousie University.

Tucker has experience delivering CBT programs. Her interest in finding alternative ways to deliver mental health treatment arises from growing up in a rural area where she and others had difficulty accessing mental health care. Tucker’s mentor, Dr. Alissa Pencer, is Tranquility’s scientific advisor.

By using coaches (most likely undergraduate psychology students) instead of therapists, Muise aims to keep charges to $99 for a month of one-on-one coaching, and $65 for group sessions.

He said the pilot, which is free to participants, will be run with 16 people in three groups. One group will receive one-on-one coaching, another will receive group coaching, and the third, the control group, will use self-help materials with email guidance.

Participants must be older than 18, have a computer with internet access and be able to commit to 10 weeks.

Muise, now 30, suffered particularly severe anxiety and depression in Grade 12 while at high school near Yarmouth. He went on to train as a chartered financial analyst and worked for six years as a stock analyst for a Halifax investment company. But he didn’t thrive in that role and quit, suffering from burnout and depression.

He wants his venture to provide timely and affordable help for anxiety sufferers. He said it can take six months to a year to get a referral to a psychologist in the public health system. Private patients pay around $175 for an hour of counselling and most insurance policies only provide for $500 of coverage annually, he said.

So far, Muise has bootstrapped his venture, using his own money and prizes won from pitching contests. But he is interested in talking to potential investors.

If all goes well, the service may launch by the end of the year. Muise plans to go on to tackle depression and other problems that CBT has been shown to lessen.

Muise’s Tranquility blog and vlog can be accessed here: www.tranquilityonline.co/blog and https://youtu.be/yZcfsFSTG0w.

FAN Focuses on Biotech, Follow-Ons

Spring Loaded is one of the companies in which FAN members have made repeat investments.

Spring Loaded is one of the companies in which FAN members have made repeat investments.

As it continues to fund young companies, the First Angel Network has developed an investment niche for the biomedical space and is showing an eagerness for repeat investments.

FAN, as it is known, has been investing in Atlantic Canadian startups for 12 years, making it the dean of active investment groups. Its portfolio has included a couple of exits and a few failures. The group has sometimes been controversial, and a group of FAN investors is now suing the developer of King’s Wharf in Dartmouth.

Through it all, the co-founding team of Ross Finlay and Brian Lowe has been arranging quarterly investments for their network of angels, as they have been for the past 48 quarters. The landscape has changed since FAN started, and the group concentrates more these days on life sciences companies or IT companies that have medical applications. Recent investments like Chinova Bioworks, Covina Biomedical and Spring Loaded bear this out.

“It seems like our members gravitate toward those types of deals,” said Lowe in an interview last week. “Our members like to invest in biotechnology and medical devices. They seem to understand the sector well.”

Springboard, IA Aim to Attract More Investors

A look at the companies FAN has invested in shows the concentration in life sciences:

Spring Loaded Technology, Dartmouth — Spring Loaded has recently launched the Levitation knee brace, which not only stabilizes the joint but also adds power to it.

Chinova Bioworks, Fredericton — Chinova is using the multi-purpose compound chitosan in an anti-microbial agent, which it uses in a natural preservative in such foods as juices.

Iron Apple International, Halifax — Iron Apple International provides food safety solutions to transportation companies throughout North America.

Covina Biomedical, Halifax — Covina is commercializing a non-toxic bone cement that can be injected into the vertebrae of osteoporosis patients who have suffered a fracture. The company has said it raised $350,000 from FAN as part of a round with a target of $1 million.

WellTrack, Fredericton — WellTrack is a product that helps organizations — especially universities — improve the mental health of their members, especially those suffering from stress, anxiety and depression.

NB Biomatrix, Saint John — NB Biomatrix has developed Naqua-Pure, a liquid that uses nanotechnology to remove heavy metals and other pollutants from waste water.

Spring Loaded Launches Levitation, Unveils Funding

What’s interesting about the Spring Loaded funding is that it is the second time the knee-brace-maker has tapped FAN for funding. The company received funding from FAN and Innovacorp two years ago, then from Build Ventures last year and returned to FAN earlier this year.

“FAN has been a long-term supporter of Spring Loaded,” said CEO Chris Cowper Smith in an email. “They are well organized and offer an efficient process for raising capital through their network. We had excellent uptake from FAN on our current offering and we look forward to working with them going forward.”

Lowe and Finlay said the organization is interested in providing follow-on funding from its more successful portfolio companies. It has done return investment for Spring Loaded and Halifax-based Metamaterial Technologies Inc., which recently announced an $8.3-million funding round that included contributions from FAN. Some of these companies are also raising money through the Wilmington Investor Network, a North Carolina group with whom FAN sometimes co-invests.

Finlay noted that research by the Angel Research Institute of the United States shows that follow-on funding accounts for more than half the angel investment in the U.S.

“We’ve been wondering if we should try to focus more on not chasing the shiny new object but on supporting the companies that are already in our portfolio,” he said. “We think that’s a good use of our capital.”

Easing the Stress of Credit Cards

Credit cards are scary.

Not just when you have a large balance on them, but even the process of choosing one can bring overwhelming confusion to the point where stuffing all your money under a mattress doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all. With so many options and with financial institutions pushing their own products, it’s easy to just take what you’re offered and deal with.

But a new tool created by two Moncton entrepreneurs is hoping to change that.

Credit Card Genius is a free website that allows anyone to easily compare Canadian credit cards based on fees, perks, interest rate and various rewards.

Credit Card Genius is the brainchild of Stephen Weyman and his wife and co-founder Maria. Weyman has been running his other website, HowToSaveMoney.ca, since 2010 and has had a strong interest in credit cards, credit card rewards and credit card comparisons. . . .

Read the full story on Huddle.

Pilot Project Aims to Attract Investors

Springboard Atlantic and Invest Atlantic have teamed up to launch a pilot project aimed at bringing more investment to Atlantic Canadian startups.

The two organizations issued a statement on Tuesday saying they hope the pilot project called the Investment Opportunities Program will attract $500,000 in angel investment to four startups, with an average of $125,000 each.  The goal will then be to grow the project to attract more funding.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency has provided $104,000 in funding for the pilot project, which has been allocated through ACOA’s Business Development Program, which supports small and medium-sized enterprises.

The long-term goal of the program is to increase early-stage funding for startups in Atlantic Canada. The number of new startups has been growing in recent years, and some observers worry that the pool of local angel capital is not keeping pace. The Investment Opportunities Program aims to correct this problem by working with high-potential companies to court investment from outside the region.

Launchpad Alum UpFront Among Those Mulling ICO

“This is an ongoing need in the region where we see so many startups created and needing early-stage support to validate their opportunity, then solid investment to get the opportunity built and scaled,” said Springboard Atlantic President and CEO Chris Mathis in the statement.

“Part of our mandate is to support the building of the regional ecosystem and to help industry be competitive. This work should help increase investment in the Atlantic region and increase national awareness for our growing number of regional start-ups.”

The pilot program will primarily focus on selecting 12 investment-ready startups, which will be trained and mentored on pitching to the investor group from outside the region.

Springboard and Invest Atlantic said they will work hand-in-hand with collaborative regional investors to assemble an ex-pat investment group – that is, a group of investors with links to Atlantic Canada who now live outside the region.  They will create a secure online portal to promote investment opportunities in Atlantic Canada, with an initial target of $500,000.

The pilot program will include recruiting and training target companies, organizing a pitching mission to the Greater Toronto Area, and a follow-up evaluation for the 12 participating startups.

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“This whole initiative was born out of conversations led by [East Valley Ventures Founder] Gerry Pond and other prominent Atlantic investors at past Invest Atlantic events,” said Bob Williamson, President and CEO of Jameson Group and founder of Invest Atlantic. “Gerry and I have helped hold regional and ex-pat conversations on this need, and are happy to be working with Springboard Atlantic to pilot the idea.”

Now 13 years old, Springboard Atlantic is a not-for-profit organization that promotes and coordinates the commercialization of research at Atlantic Canadian universities and colleges. The group has identified more than 30 startups coming from the Springboard network of public post-secondary institutions each year, with a record 82 in 2016.

Invest Atlantic is a conference for Atlantic Canadian startups and investors, which has taken place each year since 2009. The 2017 Invest Atlantic conference will take place in St. John’s on Sept. 19 and 20. You can register for the conference here.

 

Disclaimer: Springboard Atlantic and Invest Atlantic are both clients of Entrevestor. 

UpFront and Others Mulling ICOs

Conor Daly and Kyle Gardiner produced a “Say What?” moment when they presented their company UpFront at the LaunchPad Dal Demo Day last month and said they were planning an ICO.

The Dalhousie business students said they weren’t seeking equity investment for the company, which uses blockchain to stop scalpers from jacking up ticket prices. They plan to finance it through an Initial Coin Offering in the autumn.

ICOs have been in the news recently but it was the first time I’d heard of an Atlantic Canadian company proposing one. To understand what it means, we’ll have to explain the whole craze of blockchain, cryptocurrencies and the evolving regulatory environment surrounding ICOs.

Blockchain is the technology that allows the issue of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies — digital currencies that are “mined” over time as specialists unlock the encryption on this electronic money. Blockchain is a series of ledgers in which cryptocurrency transactions can be recorded.

Because these ledgers are permanent and open, startups are finding a range of new uses for blockchain, such as state-of-the-art identity systems.

UpFront, for example, plans to use blockchain in a ticket management system for concerts. Daly and Gardiner want to use blockchain to create an identity for each concertgoer, and the ticket would be added to a digital wallet attached to that identity.

“Since the ticket can only exist on our platform, the promoter could place a price ceiling on the ticket,” said Daly. Adios price-gouging by scalpers. Over time, UpFront would provide promoters invaluable data about their audience.

To finance the development of the system, the two Dal students are considering an ICO — a financing technique that blockchain-based companies around the world have used to raise more than $1 billion already in 2017. An ICO, or token sale, is a crowdfunding campaign in which people subscribe to cryptocurrency that a company will produce using its blockchain over time. Subscribers pay now for the right to own the cryptocurrency when it is mined. Some companies will mine their own currency, or tokens, which would include features that enhance the interaction between the company and its clients.

Braveno Plans a Blockchain-based Financial Exchange

Given the millions of dollars being raised by each ICO, there are a couple of blockchain-based startups in the region considering such a move. There’s UpFront and also Hypergive, a Halifax company whose blockchain-based system will improve the way people make donations to the homeless.

“With the raising environment so hot right now in this space, if you have a venture for which it makes sense to raise via a token sale, the question becomes, why wouldn’t you?” said Hypergive co-founder Scott Burke. “The key things to navigate here are the structure of your sale and evolving guidance from securities regulators, and any emerging determinations on what is classified as a security.”

That’s the rub right now. Regulators everywhere are wondering what to make of ICOs, and whether these companies are selling something they produce (a currency, which does not require regulation) or a company security or derivative, which would require regulation.

Last month, the Securities and Securities Commission in the U.S. ruled that several digital tokens should fall under securities rules, and the Ontario Securities Commission in March warned blockchain businesses that their offerings may have to be regulated.

The Nova Scotia Securities Commission says each ICO has to be assessed individually to see if the thing being offered could be considered a security or a derivative.

“There are no rules or regulations specifically addressing ICOs, however anyone developing an ICO must abide by the Nova Scotia Securities Act if their ICO is deemed to involve a security or derivative,” said NSSC spokesman David Harrison in an email.

“Not all ICOs necessarily involve securities or derivatives and those that do not would not fall under the NSSC’s jurisdiction. Each ICO must be assessed based on its own merits to determine if it falls under the NS Securities Act.”

He added there could also be complications if regulators decide that the trading of the tokens is something that falls under their jurisdiction.

Jobs: HeyOrca, Audiobooks.com

The ever-growing HeyOrca team earlier this year.

The ever-growing HeyOrca team earlier this year.

We have a couple of openings for developers – one in St. John’s, and one in Ontario – to headline the Jobs of the Week column today.

St. John’s-based HeyOrca, which makes collaboration software for marketers, is looking for a Software QA Developer, and Burlington, Ont.-based Audiobooks.com, is seeking a Front-End Developer.

HeyOrca, which announced a $2 million raise in May, has been gaining a lot of buzz lately because its monthly recurring revenue has been increasing rapidly. As of May, its customer base had increased 800 percent in the past year, adding 160 new businesses. The customers listed on its website include Saatchi & Saatchi, Microsoft Studios, Hilton Head Island and TheSocialDiner.

Almost 15 years old, Audiobooks.com has been streaming audiobooks since 2011. The service offers tens of thousands of titles to its users, at a lower price than some competitors. It also has a history rolling out innovations in the audiobook 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.

Here are excerpts from the job postings:

St. John’s

HeyOrca

Software QA Developer

As a developer, you have probably worked on some contracts and projects at some point in your life: setting up a website, developing software, consulting. The success of the project relies on active communication between you, your team and the stakeholders of the project by defining goals, deliverables, collaborating on work and communicating the results. Marketing agencies work similarly: they help tens and hundreds of clients with their marketing strategy and content; all with different expectations, deadlines, and deliverables. HeyOrca is a web based tool to make sense of this chaos: bringing the marketing team and their clients together in one place to communicate, create and deliver. Think of it like GitHub for marketing agencies. . . .

See the full job posting here.

Burlington, Ont.

Audiobooks.com

Front-End Developer

If you're a skilled front-end developer looking for a company where you can have real impact and work with a small and passionate team, look no further.

Audiobooks.com is looking for a front-end developer to bring our website up to speed with our awesome apps and mobile products. We're looking for someone who can make and keep our website looking good and functioning beautifully, while internally supporting other departments with new features and functions that will make our users cheer.

We're an audiobook company on the outside but a tech company at our core, so expect a fast-paced and constantly shifting role. We're obsessed with experimenting and love trying new things. Got a great idea? Don't hold back. New projects and opportunities appear on a weekly basis-here, your job description is a launch pad, not a jail cell. Autonomy is a major part of our office culture, so we're looking for someone who works well in a team but doesn't need someone looking over their shoulder. . .  

See the full job posting here.

NBIF Reviews Options on 500 Startups

Expressing disappointment at the closure of 500 Startups Canada, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation is now working with the fund manager to see what can be done about its investment in the fund.

Earlier this year, NBIF said it would be a limited partner in the new fund, which was to be a Canadian offshoot of the Silicon Valley-based seed funding organization 500 Startups. However, the U.S. organization was engulfed in controversy this summer when several women said 500 Startups Founder Dave McClure had made inappropriate sexual advances on them. In the fallout, as first reported by Betakit, 500 Startups Canada announced that it would shut down and no longer raise funds. The fund will continue to manage its 38 investments.

“We’ve advanced a portion of our committed capital to the Canada Fund, and we are now working with the Fund Manager to investigate the options available to NBIF,” said NBIF President and Chief Executive Calvin Milbury in an email.

Though the innovation agency did not disclose how much it had committed to invest in 500 Startups Canada, Milbury said in a previous interview it was “nothing over the top.”

Innovacorp Invested $5.6M in 2016-17

NBIF had hoped to use its relationship with 500 Startups not only to increase funding in the region but also to broaden its network across North America.

“We were very disappointed to learn that the Canada fund was unable to reach an agreement to sever ties with the parent organization,” said Milbury on Thursday. “This is unfortunate as the Canada fund was playing an important role in seeding emerging, high growth companies across Canada. Seed equity is so critical for our startup ecosystem. It’s also frustrating as [500 Startups Canada Venture Partner] Sanjay Singhal has built a strong investment team who has already made many impressive investments.”

Atlantic Canadian links with 500 Startups are stronger than those with other Silicon Valley accelerators.

Fredericton-based WellTrack, which has developed online therapy for students with mental health issues, recently graduated from the 20th cohort of 500 Startups in Silicon Valley. And Halifax’s Swept, which makes software for janitorial customers, is now in the 21st cohort. In 2015, Moncton-based recruiting software maker Alongside went through the accelerator in 2015 and received funding from the parent organization.

All these companies received US$150,000 for a six per cent stake in their business.

Milbury added that NBIF is still open to backing VC funds when it makes strategic sense for NBIF and New Brunswick startups, though it is not considering any deals at the moment.

He said: “We do believe in the model and consider it our role to connect with VC funds outside the region and expose them to our startup community here in N.B. and across the region.” 

Ritchie Gears Up for Incubator Launch

Dale Ritchie: 'We want to be a catalyst.'

Dale Ritchie: 'We want to be a catalyst.'

With more people, especially millennials, seeking work that is both meaningful and useful to society, Dale Ritchie is launching a Moncton-based accelerator and fund that will boost opportunities for social entrepreneurs.

Ritchie, President of the city’s McKenzie College, is behind the Community Accelerator and Hub Fund, due to launch in September. The accelerator will be based at McKenzie College, which focuses on Art, Design, IT, and English for Business and Academic purposes.

“The accelerator for social entrepreneurs will be a post-graduate program, so instead of doing a master’s degree some students may choose to study entrepreneurship and education,” said Ritchie.

“Students may go on to develop their own ideas, or they may meet someone on the program and combine talents and ideas, or they may become an intrapreneur and work with a large company on a project.”

The Moncton initiative is the latest boost to social entrepreneurship in Atlantic Canada. It joins the B4Change program at the Pond-Deshpande Centre in Fredericton, the Impact Incubator at Common Good Solutions in Halifax, and various Enactus university-based programs. 

Ritchie said organizers are in talks with local corporations about their potential involvement in contributing to the Hub Fund and the mentorship of entrepreneurs.

“We want to be a catalyst,” Ritchie said. “It’s a community project.”

He said the idea was inspired by his own daughter, Jill, whose partner of ten years, Lucas, passed away after a battle with mental health and addiction issues.

Jill and Lucas had started Lead With Your Heart, a project that provides creative therapies for people suffering from mental illness and addiction. Jill has continued the cause in memory of Lucas, who died aged just 29.

SomaDetect Courts Vermont Farmers 

It’s hoped the Hub Fund will eventually raise $1 million. Local investors will be able to obtain a 50 per cent tax credit under the New Brunswick Equity Tax Credit program. The fund will be professionally managed by an independent third party.

Ritchie said there are many potential participants in the accelerator. They include students of the school’s English program.

“One of our students has a PhD in philosophy from Russia, his wife is a computer programmer. They want to map the local ICT community. That project would help the economy develop and help immigrants when they get here.”

People who want to form charities can apply to attend the accelerator, but are not eligible for funding as the fund can only invest in for-profit corporations.

Ritchie said material for course programming is being sourced from places such as England’s School for Social Entrepreneurs, and U.S. schools, like Boston’s Hult International Business School.

“The U.S. is further ahead than us on the education side of social entrepreneurship, but I think we Canadians are a bit further ahead on the thinking side,” he said.

Ritchie’s own career has been inspired by his father, Oral, who owned Ritchie’s Clothing in Moncton. Ritchie and his twin brother, Neil, helped their dad with chores like sweeping floors.

When his health declined, Oral sold the store and opened Rocklyn Trailer Park outside Moncton. Oral got the twins to work out things like the profit margin on a box of chocolate bars and how that would diminish if they ate the bars.

“It was very practical experience. One day, Dad told me, ‘I’m going to show you how money grows on trees,’” Ritchie recalled. He didn’t know what his dad meant until they sold Christmas trees felled from their land, and Ritchie obtained $500 toward his university tuition.

Ritchie went on to obtain a business degree from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, where he also studied Computer Science and Finance.
“Millennials don’t have a lot of practical skills,” he said, “but they have a real desire to start a business and it’s easier today in many ways, with the internet and the support.”

The organizers are still recruiting mentors, advisors and investors. Contact info@mckenzie.edu.  

ADM Sold to Vinci Energies

ADM Systems Engineering, a Saint John electronics engineering company, has been purchased for an undisclosed price French industrial giant Vinci Energies.

The French company, which has 65,000 employees in 51 counties, issued a statement Thursday saying it was purchasing ADM to strengthen its industrial services business. Vinci booked 10 billion euros in revenues last year. ADM will become part of Vinci’s Actemium brand, an industrial services business that has 300 units.

“With this acquisition, Actemium will start offering solutions and services in industry in Canada, including its multinational customers,” said the statement.

ADM began in 2002 and has grown into an operation with 40 people. Vinci said that last year the Moncton company reported revenue of 4 million euros, or about C$6 million. ADM has strengths in automation, data management, mechanical design and industrial energy management.

One of ADM’s big achievements was giving birth to the Industrial Internet of Things company RtTech, which specialize in automated systems that help industrial complexes reduce energy consumption. RtTech in 2015 raised $3 million in venture capital funding from McRock Capital and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

ADM partners Arnold Nicholson, Jim Gillis, Brent Donovan, Keith Flynn and James Boone said in a statement: "While we will continue to offer our services as Atlantic Canada’s largest systems integrator, this transition represents a significant step towards our vision of international growth by means of proven solutions that improve clients’ operational performance.”

Squiggle Park Downloads Jump 5600%

Halifax-based edtech company Squiggle Park is starting August off the right way, pondering how to build on its app’s 5000-percent-plus jump in downloads in iTunes last month.

The company, whose online games help children to learn to read, received the news last week that Apple had selected it late in July to appear in the section titled “New Apps We Love” for iTunes Canada - which is the top section displayed in the store. As a result for the month of July, there were 965 downloads of the Squiggle Park app – up 5,576 percent from the previous month. Impressions were even stronger, jumping 2.7 million percent to 3.2 million. Almost all the increase came in the last five days of the month, after it appeared in the highlighted section.

Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer Julia Rivard Dexter said in an interview today that she was taken aback Wednesday when she received the latest analytics.

“When I got those metrics, it took a moment to figure out whether these are real,” she said. “I studied them and realized they were real. Then I spent the rest of the day asking what this means. How do we recreate this success?”

Squiggle Park, which recently went through the Fierce Founder Accelerator at Communitech in Kitchener, Ont., has been on a bit of a roll lately. The company’s online games are now used in 3,000 schools, concentrated in North America but including such markets as Oman and China. And it recently received approval from the Build in Canada Innovation Program, which will provide $500,000 to an educational body that adopts the technology.

Norex Rebrands as Code + Mortar

In May, Squiggle Park struck a partnership with the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, which places the company’s edtech product in some of the most disadvantaged schools in Canada. Following that, Indigo/Chapters CEO Heather Reisman invested in Squiggle Park, joining such backers as members of East Valley Ventures. “Having the largest powerhouse on the scene in Canada, in terms of literacy, is really something and we’re very proud of that,” said Rivard Dexter.

Rivard said being highlighted in iTunes has created a new opportunity for the company, and now she and her teammates are trying to figure out how to build on it.

The entry into the “New Apps We Love” section only covered iTunes Canada, so there is always the possibility of getting similar play in the U.S., which could create even more of a bang. What’s more, the downloads come from parents. Most of the company’s traction to date has been with educators. Nnow the company has more inroads in the parent market – a far larger group of potential customers, but one that requires broader marketing than reaching out to schools and teachers.

The Squiggle Park app is now free, and the company plans to introduce a paid app in the autumn. The recent wave of downloads gives the company a base to which it can market the paid app.

Said Rivard Dexter: “The goal now would be to really understand how this happened so we can re-create this type of success in the future and sustain it.”

Air Realty Helps With Mere Listings

A new Nova Scotia real estate brokerage has launched an online service that allows homeowners to list their homes themselves on the Multi Listing Service.

Air Realty is the brainchild of Joshua Svec, an entrepreneur in Cow Bay.  In founding Air Realty, he is hoping to change the way Nova Scotians list their property on the MLS, the standard site for listing properties for sale.

Svec said that homeowners can access the MLS themselves through a little-known process called “mere listing” and Air Realty lets them take advantage of the mere listing rules. He said that by listing the properties themselves, homeowners can save on their listing fees. They pay a flat fee for the listing commission, though they would still have to pay a commission (usually about 2.5 percent) to the agent selling the house.

“Many homeowners do not know that mere listings are an option to them when selling their house,” said Svec. “Air Realty is looking to solve that problem by offering the homeowner all the tools and resources they need to list their property online, themselves, using any device. There is currently no other brokerage offering this type of service in Nova Scotia.”

TruLeaf Launches Across the Maritimes

This will allow the homeowner to potentially save thousands because they will pay no commission for the listing fee, they will just need to pay a small flat fee for listing and pay the buyer’s agent (typically 2.5% of purchase price).

He said the homeowner can list his or her home within 24 hours through a three-stage process: First, the homeowner fills out the interactive forms online. Second, they submit the listing forms to the brokerage for review. Third, they electronically sign the listing documents.

The brokerage now includes just Svec and his partner Steve Ritchie but he hopes to add agents across the province.

Svec said in an interview that he is now in talks with a brokerage in Ontario to work with in launching the service in that province and then to add provinces across the country. 

TruLeaf Launches Across Maritimes

TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture, the agtech company planning a chain of indoor farms across the country, announced Monday its locally grown microgreen products are now available in select Atlantic Superstores across the Maritimes.

Appearing under the company’s GoodLeaf Farms brand, these products grown in the company’s farm in Bible Hill are now available in a dozen Superstores spanning the three Maritime provinces. According to the TruLeaf website, the products include broccoli shoots,  kale shoots, daikon radish shoots, pea shoots, baby arugula and baby kale.

TruLeaf is seeking to become a leader in sustainable agriculture through the use of vertical farming – which combines proven hydroponic technology with advancements in LED lighting and reclaimed rainwater to allow year-round production of plants indoors. Vertical farming is nearly 10 times more efficient than traditional agriculture, uses as much as 90 percent less water, and takes up less land.

TruLeaf, which closed an $8.5 million financing round last December, has been working with Loblaw Companies, the parent company of Atlantic Superstores, on the development of its farms.

“We know our customers are looking for exceptional produce, grown locally wherever possible, which is why we are such huge supporters of local and regional suppliers,” said Loblaw Director of Corporate Affairs Mark Boudreau said in a statement. “Having fresh local vegetables year round in the Maritimes would have been impossible a decade ago. We’re excited about today’s launch, and proud of our role working with TruLeaf over the past few years to bring this innovative farming technology to our Atlantic Superstore customers.”

SomaDetect Courts Vermont Farmers

The announcement comes as TruLeaf begins construction on its 50,000-square-foot facility in Guelph, Ont., which will produce vegetables for the Toronto market.  The company said last year that its $8.5 million funding round would be used to build a plant and access the massive Toronto market. The round was led by Mike Durland, the former CEO of Scotiabank’s global banking and markets division, and included funding from Neil Murdoch, former CEO of Connor, Clark & Lunn Capital Markets.

TruLeaf said GoodLeaf Farms has been embraced by local wholesalers and restaurants and now the brand is available across the Maritimes in select stores.

“We are thrilled to be bringing a new era of freshness to Atlantic Canadian consumers,” said TruLeaf CEO Gregg Curwin. “We grow our produce in tightly controlled environments to the very highest standards in the industry. It’s a difference you can truly taste – our products are bursting with flavour and nutrition. And by dramatically reducing the time and energy needed to grow produce, it really is a new way to eat responsibly.”

We Should Follow Trump’s Lead

Donald Trump: Setting a target of 3 percent growth.

Donald Trump: Setting a target of 3 percent growth.

Now that I have your attention, let me explain what we mean by the headline.

The Trump Administration (or what’s left of it) has set a target of three per cent annual economic growth each year of his presidency. I doubt he has an ice cube’s hope in hell of making it but I like the fact that his administration has announced the target as part of its budget. Atlantic Canadian governments should follow this lead and announce GDP growth targets.

(For the record, I’m not a fan of the president. Nowhere near it. Naming a growth target is one move that impressed me. If asked for a second I wouldn’t be able to do it.)

Atlantic Canada’s economic growth has been dreadful and setting a target in itself might be the first step to addressing the issue.

Here’s the story on our GDP: RBC estimates Canada’s GDP will increase 2.6 per cent in 2017. In May, it was growing at an annualized rate of 3.5 per cent. But Atlantic Canada is expected once again to underperform. RBC expects growth rates of 1.5 per cent in New Brunswick, 1.1 per cent in P.E.I. and 0.8 per cent in Nova Scotia. Newfoundland and Labrador’s GDP is expected to shrink 2.2 percent. It’s part of a tradition of lagging — mainly in the Maritimes — that has plagued our region for at least a generation.

What Atlantic Canada needs is for provinces to identify a target for GDP growth. Two per cent would seem reasonable. Maybe the target should be to exceed the national figure — though that would be difficult if Alberta and Saskatchewan rebound this year.

Innovacorp Invested $5.6M in 2016-17

It’s a difficult argument to make in these parts as too many complain that strong GDP growth can reward the rich and leave everyone else poorer. Well, it can. So add on an accompanying target for growth in median after-tax income. Problem solved. There’s also the argument that GDP growth can represent industrial growth that causes problems that cost money to fix later, like over-fishing or petroleum industries. There are industrial, environmental and resource regulations that can balance the economic, social and environmental needs.

Setting a target for GDP growth establishes what’s acceptable and unacceptable in economic performance. And it will highlight the need for more and larger high-growth companies in the region, which have the potential to drive economic growth.

Atlantic Canada is making progress on this front but we have a long way to go. When the Ottawa consultancy Branham recently published its list of the 250 top tech companies in Canada, there’s wasn’t a single Atlantic Canada company in the top 100. The highest-ranking East Coast company was Saint John-based Mariner at No. 128. We’re not at a point yet where the tech companies and other high-growth companies have a great enough impact to increase GDP meaningfully.

There’s a foundation of these companies but they are still growing. Entrevestor estimates that there are more than 70 companies that have 10 or more employees and have been growing revenues at 20 per cent annually. Some of these companies will be bought, some will sink and a few will continue growing to eventually produce meaningful growth.

First let’s decide what acceptable growth is. I’d say it’s two per cent per annum.

Innovacorp Invested $5.6M in 2016-17

Innovacorp, the venture capital and innovation agency owned by the Nova Scotia government, sank $5.6 million into startups in its 2016-17 fiscal year, continuing at the same pace as the previous three years.

The agency released the numbers last week in its annual accountability report, which outlines its finances and investments in the 12 months that ended March 31.

Last year at this time, Innovacorp was warning that it might have to fund its investments in the future from exits as its Nova Scotia First Fund was running out of money. But the province in October freed up $40 million to refinance the fund, ensuring several more years of investment. And the Crown corporation said Nova Scotia still has a way to go to reach the national average in terms of investment in innovation.

“Although per capita venture capital in Nova Scotia has surged from $19 to $54 to $67 over the past three years (adjusted for population growth), the Canadian average has demonstrated parallel growth from $53 to $64 to $88,” said the report. “This leaves a gap of $21 per capita, or 24 percent, between the Nova Scotian and Canadian averages.”

Last year, Innovacorp said it had averaged $5.6 million per year in venture capital investment over the previous three years. It maintained the level in 2016-17, as it made 13 investments in 12 companies. Some $4.7 million of this money, or 84 percent, was follow-on investment in companies already in its portfolio.  Two of the companies receiving money were new to the portfolio.

Neck Tronics Plans Launch This Year

The two largest investments were to materials company Metamaterial Technologies with $1.5 million, and life sciences company ABK Biomedical, which received $1.1 million.  

“Innovacorp said the 13 investments also attracted an additional $18.3 million in venture capital and private equity investment, most of it from outside Nova Scotia,” said the report. “Innovacorp’s other portfolio companies raised a further $18.6 million through deals in which Innovacorp did not participate.”

Innovacorp said that $175,000 in advances in the last fiscal year include second tranches paid to Island Water and Vendeve in previously approved deals.

The biggest surprise from the document is that it revealed the price of the Analyze Re exit. The company received US$9.5 million ($13 million) when it sold out to Jersey City, N.J.-based data analytics company Verisk Analytics in October.  In total, the Nova Scotia First Fund received about $2.54 million from exits, secondary share sales, dividends and interest.

The following are the Innovacorp investments for 2016-17:

Information Technology  
The Money Finder $250,000
Dash Hudson  $280,000
Ubique $200,000
Vendeve  $25,000
Life Sciences  
ABK Biomedical    $1.1 million
Densitas $500,000
Appili Therapeutics $500,000
CleanTech  
Metamaterial Technologies $1.5 million
SkySquirrel Technologies $750,000
WoodsCamp                       $250,000
Swell Advantage  $50,000
Island Water  $150,000

Innovacorp said tha as of March 31, 2017, the NS First Fund had a carrying value of $31.4 million, including its investments in venture capital funds Build Ventures and Cycle Capital Funds I & III. The fund had $10.5 million in commitments, and $66 million available for new and follow-on investments in promising Nova Scotia start-ups (including $25 million for a new technology seed capital investment fund). Innvoacorp is overseeing the backing of a new fund to be located in Halifax, which would invest mainly in Atlantic Canadian companies. The selection committee has been reviewing a handful of companies, and is expected to make an announcement within a few months. 

Innovacorp is now conducting a search for a new CEO as the current holder of that position, Stephen Duff, has told the board he will not seek a second five-year term. 

Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

Job of the Week: Code + Mortar

Weeks after its relaunch, Code + Mortar of Halifax is building up its development team and looking for a senior developer.

Code + Mortar headlines the Job of the Week column this week, having been in the news in June when it changed its name from Norex.

Code + Mortar aims to work with clients on innovation, helping them conceive new products, build them, and take them to market. One interesting quirk about the company is that it is actively targeting startups as clients, not just large-enterprise clients.

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.

Halifax

Code + Mortar

Senior Developer

Here’s an excerpt from company’s job posting:

These are the guys with the serious technical chops. They’re true builders, creating powerful infrastructure from lines of code. They bring strength, efficiency and performance to each project.

Lead the project workflow and understand all team members roles on each project

The ability to lead client projects. You are keenly aware of your team's’ priorities and lead the management of tasks

Consistently meet or exceed your development milestones

Code consistently works as designed with few bugs. You thoroughly test your code and believe it to be right before handing it off. You write unit tests for all new code (on specified projects).

Lead client technical strategy, client meetings and annual reviews.

Accurately scope a project independently.

See the full job posting here.

SomaDetect Courts Vermont Farmers

As it begins its pilot project in New Brunswick, SomaDetect has been validating the international demand for its product. The Fredericton AgTech company recently signed letters of intent with three-quarters of the 80 farmers it met with during a recent jaunt to Vermont.

Working with the Saint John sales-focused consultancy Momentum, SomaDetect CEO Bethany Deshpande made a four-day road trip to Vermont to assess the market for her product, which can quickly detect diseases in cows. Vermont is an interesting market for SomaDetect because it has 900 dairy farms, which is more than all of Atlantic Canada. What’s more, some of those farms are far bigger than what we have in Canada’s East Coast.

“A farm with 400 to 600 cows is a big farm in Atlantic Canada,” said Deshpande in a Thursday phone interview, which she conducted while monitoring a milking machine in New Brunswick. “But in Vermont, we met people with 5,000 cows and that’s a different market than what we have here.”

The trip validated Deshpande’s belief that SomaDetect can find a market beyond Atlantic Canada. In four days she met with 80 farmers and 60 of them signed letters of intent to buy the product once it’s on the market. That’s 6 percent of the state’s dairy industry, bagged in a four-day trip.

Momentum focused on building a sales funnel of dairy farmers from Maine, Vermont and New York state, and secured support from economic development agencies in each state. Its team built the contact lists and executed a mission to these states securing signed letters of interest in SomaDetect’s technology.

10 Teams Emerge from UNB TME

The trip came as SomaDetect – which won the $180,000 second-place prize in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition this year – began its pilot project. The installation of a device in a New Brunswick farm came two months ahead of schedule.

“Feedback gained from the pilot project will be used to further develop and commercialize our technology,” said Deshpande in a press release. “Once the sensor is commercially ready, Vermont will be a key state to springboard SomaDetect into the U.S. market.”

SomaDetect helps dairy farmers check the health of their herd quickly, accurately and precisely while testing the quality of their milk.

Deshpande’s patented technology sends a laser beam through the milk as each cow is milked, instantly recording the fat content and somatic cell count, both of which indicate the presence of the disease mastitis and the quality of the milk. The farmer has the data instantly for each cow twice a day.

By catching the disease early enough, SomaDetect can prevent mastitis disease from moving through the herd, save the lives of some cows, and reduce the amount of antibiotics used by dairy farmers. The product also captures each farm’s data in the cloud, which can produce reports in real time for the farmer.

Deshpande is looking to Vermont and Maine – which she can drive to in a few hours – to be beachhead states for the company’s advance into the U.S. market. And the validation in Vermont is timely as it comes as the company is working on a fundraising round with a target of $2 million.

“SomaDetect is aiming to be New Brunswick’s next big agro-tech success story,” Deshpande said. “We are excited about what the future brings, and about the interest we have from dairy farmers here.”

Nova Box Globalizes Local Products

Allyson England: bringing local Nova Scotian products to the world

Allyson England: bringing local Nova Scotian products to the world

Each of the ship captains currently in Halifax for the Tall Ships Regatta will take home a box full of Nova Scotia-themed treasures along with their memories. The Nova Boxes are being provided by Nova Box creator Allyson England, who established her e-commerce gift-giving business in less than a year.

The seven items in each box include: a driftwood frame by Saltwreck; Maud Lewis coasters from the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia; and Sea Salt Soap from Nova Scotia Fisherman. The Tall Ships order was placed by the Waterfront Development Corporation.

England, a native of P.E.I., is delighted with this latest step in the swift growth of her business.

“I’ve worked with 23 different companies from Yarmouth to Cape Breton. Boxes have been shipped across Canada and the U.S. as well as to Sweden and Australia,” she said.

England launched Nova Box for Christmas in early November 2016 in order to test the market for a gift box packed with Nova Scotia-based products.

You can order a Nova Box here. 

The box was immediately popular with people who wanted to buy for homesick relatives. Encouraged, England expanded the idea, introducing seasonal boxes and corporate options. Now her clients are split fairly evenly between online customers and corporate clients.

Developing an e-commerce business has been a learning experience. An online store does not offer opportunities for face-to-face contact with customers so England uses social media to build her brand.

“An online store is more like a vending machine,” she said. “So, you have to find ways to engage with clients. Social media is important in building trust and awareness and telling our story.”

England blogs about every company in her boxes and releases the blogs over the course of a season.

Having started her career in recruiting, and having worked with gift card company Halifax Paper Hearts, she already had almost 8,000 connections on the professional site LinkedIn. She finds LinkedIn a good place to blog and links her blogs to her site and those of the companies she works with.

She finds Twitter good for promotional tweets — such as the suggestion that a Nova Box makes a great engagement gift. On Facebook she posts more personal information about herself and participating companies. Instagram is for pretty pictures of Nova Scotia, such as a sunny beach shot.

Moncton's New Social Venture Project

England makes her site simple to navigate and communicates shipping fees up front.

“Customers will take their business elsewhere if they have a poor experience on a site,” she said.

Research by Baymard.com shows that online shoppers abandon their shopping carts 68 per cent of the time. Being presented with unexpected costs at checkout is the biggest reason for online shoppers not purchasing.

England finds Google Analytics useful for finding out how long people spend on her site, and when and where they leave it.

She has learned the importance of having inventory and packs the Nova Boxes herself in her home office.

“I feel have mini-store in my house,” she said.

She now splits her working time between Nova Box and her company, Cedardog Distribution. Through Cedardog, she helps find new retail outlets to carry Halifax Paper Hearts products.

She said Nova Box’s growth means that companies are now reaching out to her in the hopes of participating. As the venture expands, England may create boxes for the other Maritime provinces, or perhaps a Maritime-themed box.

This year’s Christmas box will be an important growth indicator. She’s expecting to sell at least a few hundred boxes. It could be many more.

“Gift-giving takes time and the Nova Box saves time. It takes time to be thoughtful, to go to stores and pick out nice products,” she said.

Dane Creek Adds to Pet Food Venture

Dane Creek Capital Corp. this week agreed to buy pet-related assets of Dartmouth-based Nature’s Way Canada in its latest step in building up a Nova Scotia-based portfolio of sustainable pet food products.

Dane Creek is a Mississauga, Ont.-based merchant bank specializing in pet-related businesses, and in the last nine months it has done three deals in Nova Scotia.

As a result, it has established a Nova Scotia-based holding company called Dockside Investco to house its investments in the province.

The company issued a statement Tuesday saying it would buy the non-manufacturing pet assets of Nature’s Way Canada, which makes supplements for dogs and cats under the CanineOmega3 and FelineOmega3 brands. They plan to close the deal by Sept. 30.

“We are excited to be making this announcement,” said Dane Creek president and CFO Glen Tennison in the statement.

“Nature’s Way is well known for manufacturing high-quality supplements for both people and pets.

“We look forward to working with them to create a wide range of supplements to meet the needs of health-conscious pet owners shopping online, in pet specialty retail stores and in mass retail and grocery stores.”

Neck Tronics Plans Launch This Year

The parties did not disclose the terms of the deal, under which Dane Creek will acquire all current and future brand formulations. Nature’s Way will continue to produce supplements for Dane Creek over the next six years.

Nature’s Way, an affiliate of Dr. Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals of Germany, came to the Halifax area in 2015 when it bought Dartmouth-based Ascenta Health, whose NutraSea brand of nutritional products are made naturally from omega-3 fatty acids.

Nature’s Way, a global natural health leader, decided to make Dartmouth its Canadian headquarters and has continued to grow the business since the acquisition. It will continue to produce and market products for humans in Dartmouth.

“Our partnership with DCCC will allow Nature’s Way to focus more closely on the development and manufacturing aspect of our business,” said Steve Chiasson, vice-president and general manager of Nature’s Way Canada.

“Our track record in human supplements speaks to our expertise in those areas and we look forward to bringing that to the expanding market for pet supplements.”

The buyers also entered the Nova Scotia business community through an investment. Last year, Dane Creek said it paid an undisclosed sum for a 48-per-cent stake in Midgard Insect Farm Inc. of Windsor.

The insect farm, which won $45,000 in Innovacorp’s Spark West competition last year, produces protein from crickets and converts it into its Dockside brand of pet treats.

In November, Dane Creek announced the creation of Dockside Pet Products Inc., the first pet treats and meal mixer manufacturer to exclusively use “rescued fresh food” and sustainable ingredients.

As well as using crickets, Dockside pet foods include such ingredients as cauliflower, wild blueberries and lobster shell.

Tennison said in the statement the deal with Nature’s Way will continue the growth story.

“In addition to the opportunities this opens up, this partnership is also about creating jobs in Nova Scotia and our commitment to the development of a pet industry hub in the province,” said Tennison.

“Combining our distribution capabilities with Nature’s Way’s manufacturing excellence is a formula which will lead to a bigger business supporting more jobs.”

Big Data Congress Eyes Oceans, Ag

The fifth annual Big Data Congress, to be held in Halifax in November, will feature something that none of the previous four have – a focus on specific sectors.

Alternating between Saint John and Halifax, the Congress is an annual celebration of data analytics, and its goal is to help traditional businesses, government and organizations understand how Big Data can assist them. The theme this year is “Ocean & Earth” as the sessions will focus on data applications in ocean technology and agriculture.

The Big Data Alliance of Nova Scotia, which is organizing the event, have opened registration for the Congress, which will take place Nov. 6 to 8. You can purchase tickets here.

Congress Chair Michael Shepherd, who recently retired as the Dean of Computer Science at Dalhousie University, said in an interview he is especially excited about the focus on primary industries at this year’s event.

“They are very important sectors here in the Maritimes,” said Shepherd, who oversaw the creation of Dalhousie’s Institute of Big Data Analytics during his tenure as dean. “Here at Dalhousie, data analytics is very important in the ocean sciences, and we have oceans ventures in the region.

“And the part that I found particularly interesting is that we decided to add agriculture. It turns out there is a lot going on in this space in the region, with vertical farming, precision farming, and drone technologies.”

He added that a central theme will be food security, which is important in both sectors.

Armed with Data, Island Water Plans to Scale

Shepherd is not slowing down in retirement. He still has an office at Dal and is involved with the Big Data Alliance. And he’s been spending a lot of time in India, where he is working with the MYRA School of Business in Karnataka, where he has helped to set up a centre of excellence in data analytics. He’s also helping to organize the school’s InfoVision 2018 conference, which will focus on next-generation analytics.

For now, his focus is on the upcoming BDC, which he said will likely attract about 400 to 500 delegates. Since T4G President Geoff Flood launched the Congress in Saint John in 2012 it has always sought to bring together the tech community and potential end-users of data analytics technology. This year, it’s hoping for end users from the oceans and agriculture sectors.

“We’re very specifically looking at and designing the program around how people in these two sectors can use data to improve their bottom lines,” said Shepherd.

One of the keynote speakers fits squarely into this theme. Tim o’Shea is the founder and CEO of San Francisco-based CleanFish, which works at creating market solutions to the crises of our seas. The other keynote is American sociobiologist Rebecca Costa, the author of bestselling book The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse.

Shepherd is hoping for a strong turnout from the traditional business community, members of which are starting to understand they produce data that has an economic value.

“Businesses have started to realize that they are sitting on a very valuable asset in the data they have,” said Shepherd. “They’re now trying to figure out how to leverage that asset and improve their bottom line.”

Disclaimer: The Big Data Congress is a client of Entrevestor.

NL Replaces RDC with InnovateNL

Mark Dobbin

Mark Dobbin

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador is replacing its Research & Development Corporation with a new body called InnovateNL, whose first chair is Killick Capital President Mark Dobbin.

In a statement last week, the government said the creation of InnovateNL is the next step in its plan to foster greater innovation and accelerating business growth in the province. InnovateNL will fall under the responsibility of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation and will be a single agency window for the delivery of innovation programs.

The new body’s mandate will be to streamline access to government supports and extend innovation founding across the province. It will aim to leverage research and innovation resources and help companies bring their products to the global market.

InnovateNL, which will be in place by mid-autumn, will be overseen by a new board called the NL Innovation Council, to be headed by Dobbin. He said the InnovateNL will provide a “comprehensive, holistic approach” to supporting the innovation sector in the province.

“Companies and individuals require a wide variety of programs and services to develop and commercialize their products and services in our modern economy,” Dobbin said. “Enhanced coordination and tailoring these supports to match specific needs will make them more effective. This, along with the benefits of input from a diverse council, will significantly help provincial innovators broaden and diversify our economy.”

The provincial government began an engagement process for its new business innovation agenda last November. Participants in the process said the province needs a single agency that can provide one-stop coordinated advice, integrated service delivery and better linkages to various sources of capital.

Both the current government, headed by Premier Dwight Ball, and the previous government have been working to enhance the ecosystem for high-growth companies in the province. Two years ago, the government established the Venture NL Fund, a venture capital fund managed by Pelorus Venture Capital. The fund has made several investment,  almost always hand-in-hand with Dobbin’s Killick Capital. 

Trip Ninja Eyes Big Deal in August

Andres Collart

Andres Collart

Last Friday, Halifax’s Trip Ninja integrated its travel-planning platform with Galileo, a computer reservations system owned by the international travel service company TravelPort.

It was one more step in a three-year process in an entrepreneurial journey that began when co-founder Andres Collart tried booking a trip to several European cities and learned of the difficulties in doing so. Since then, he and his three partners have been pushing forward, producing a product and learning the intricacies of the international travel industry. And by the end of August, they hope to sign their first online travel agency as a client — a deal that could mean significant revenue for the young company.

“We’re not an online travel agency,” Collart told an audience of about 350 people at the Dalhousie LaunchPad Demo Day last week. “But with Trip Ninja it’s easy to provide any person with a personalized trip created just for them.”

Trip Ninja serves people who want to travel to several different cities in a single trip and don’t care about the order in which they visit these locations. Three years ago, Collart himself wanted to travel to five different European cities and found there were 120 possible combinations of flights. There was no online travel agent that would help someone planning a multi-city trip.

What Trip Ninja does is take someone’s travel dates plus the cities they want to visit and plot the trip to find the lowest-cost flights. The company does not have the certification to issue tickets so it is partnering with online and traditional travel agents to provide better service to multi-stop travelers.

Dalhousie's LaunchPad Graduates 11 Teams

The company has its website up and running, and consumers can now use Trip Ninja to plan their multi-city trip, then book the trip on the phone with Halifax travel agency United Travels.

But Collart and his co-founders — Brett Ziegler, Rob Dumont and Julieta Collart — want their product used in the international online market. So they are beginning to strike partnerships and licensing deals with major partners that can use the company’s application program interface, or API, to better serve their clients.

One of the biggest steps forward was getting on the TravelPort platform. Based in Langley, U.K., TravelPort offers a range of services to the international travel industry, has connections with 400 airlines and brings in more than US$2 billion in revenue each year.

Trip Ninja is now on the TravelPort marketplace and its API has been fully integrated with two TravelPort products – Apollo and (as of Friday) Galileo.

The Halifax company is now in talks with some online travel agencies. Signing even one would dramatically change its revenue picture. It has funded the company so far only through investments from the founders, and is not looking for external capital now. These deals could bring in the money it needs to grow.

“We’re already in talks with a bunch of smaller ones, and some that are pretty large,” said Andres Collart. “The minimum that we’re looking at is that they’d bring in $60,000 every year (in revenue for Trip Ninja). . . . We expect to sign first of these in late August and it’s well above the minimum.”

RtTech Receives Key Certification

Moncton-based RtTech Software announced last week that its Cipher platform has received a major certification for interoperability in the industrial automation space.

The Industrial Internet of Things company, whose products help industrial companies reduce their energy consumption, announced that the OPC Foundation has certified its Cipher Embedded OPC UA Linux Connector.

OPC is the interoperability standard for the secure and reliable exchange of data in the industrial automation space, said the company in a statement. The OPC Foundation is responsible for the development and maintenance of this standard.

"Having the OPC Foundation's Certification for Cipher's Embedded OPC UA Linux Connector provides industry-leading and recognized validation for Cipher's interoperability," said RtTech CEO Keith Flynn. "Having successfully passed the OPC Foundation's testing allows for users to have confidence in Cipher's interoperability with whatever infrastructure is already in place in their organization, regardless of age or level of sophistication."

RtTech created and released Cipher in the last year-and-a-half so clients can use a vast range of IIot applications on a single platform.

Cipher is equipped with remote monitoring, allowing for seamless asessment and data sharing from various networks in any number of locations. Cipher provides users with insight into OEE, Downtime Tracking, Asset Management, and Energy Management through a non-intrusive approach to the Industrial IoT using edge device technology at the sensor level.

"This certification is a critical step in our quality management and gives us added confidence in the quality of products and services provided by RtTech," added Flynn.

In February, Flynn said RtTech’s products were 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.

Late in 2015, the company landed $3 million in venture capital funding from McRock Capital and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

Job of the Week: Dash Hudson SDR

Dash Hudson continues to grow its staff, and its opening for a Sales Development Representative in Halifax is the focus of this edition of Job of the Week.

Halifax-based Dash Hudson has created a “visual intelligence platform” that helps its corporate clients to create and distribute photos and video, then analyze their impact. The system is an integrated solution to predict, measure, and enhance engagement across all visual marketing channels.

The company, which already has dozens of employees and offices in Halifax, New York and Miami, has been expanding rapidly.

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.

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Sales Development Representative

Dash Hudson is looking for a sales development representative, who 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, the successful candidate 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 a super-organized individual with a desire to learn and improve processes, with strong written and verbal communication skills, and who is self-motivating.

Views on Mental Health Must Change

Attitudes and expectations within Atlantic Canada’s innovation community need to change to improve entrepreneurs’ well-being, writes researcher Michael DeVenney in the sixth and final part of his report into entrepreneurship and mental health.

Halifax-based entrepreneur DeVenney began The Mindset Project survey in May 2016. He received 485 replies to his extensive questionnaire, 80 percent of them from Atlantic Canada. He believes the survey may be the largest on mental health and entrepreneurship in the world.

DeVenney, who is open about his own struggles with anxiety and depression, believes the current model of entrepreneurship extracts a high toll.

“Founders of companies face incredible expectations — from themselves, government and private investors — to achieve success, and quickly,” he writes.

Entrepreneurs begin their ventures with great optimism but DeVenney states it is actually uninformed optimism as the founder is unlikely to have a full understanding of their product, the market, the customer and the potential for creating a viable business model.

“As the founder tries to deliver against the vision, many other aspects intervene . . . Expectations are high and sometimes very little goes according to plan,” he writes.

He found that entrepreneurs’ anxiety escalates as they work to meet increasing commitments.

“Confidence levels start to falter as the ceaseless pace of trying to get the business off the ground affects sleeping, eating and exercise patterns, draining energy.

“For the founder, high anxiety levels and low confidence levels intersect as critical decisions are being made. Over time this leads many businesses to fail.”

Moncton's New Social Venture Project

DeVenney found the experience of an entrepreneur becomes a series of conflicting objectives. He states that:

- Entrepreneurs express a high overall sense of well-being in terms of life satisfaction and meaning, with very low day-to-day happiness.
The single greatest reason for entrepreneurs to start their business is to attain freedom, yet they spend all their time and energy meeting the expectations of others.
- When asked what they need more of, entrepreneurs answer money. Yet when asked what has been the best part of their life, they cite the people around them (family and friends).
- A great emphasis is placed on growth (faster and bigger), yet the more growth that is desired, the more entrepreneurs work in ways that hurt their ability to grow.
- Seen as optimistic (to the extreme at times) by those around them, entrepreneurs actually express a pessimistic perspective internally. The passionate disposition that drives entrepreneurs toward success can consume them and become their greatest weakness.
- While entrepreneurs are almost always networking and viewed as outgoing, they actually feel incredibly isolated and unable to talk to those around them.
Despite being lauded as the great disrupters in an era of disruption, entrepreneurs continue to blindly follow the traditional approach to their work without question or resistance.

Entrepreneurs rate their ability to cope with stress relatively highly at 7.2 (on a scale of 1-10), yet report significant deterioration in physical (49 percent) and mental health (42 percent) since starting their businesses.

Still, DeVenney said, there are entrepreneurs who thrive despite working long hours. These are the ones (12 percent of respondents) who prioritize self-care and develop resilience.

These respondents said they confided in friends, family and investors about their business issues. They exercised, took time for themselves, and focused on nutrition and sleep.

The revenues of their businesses were higher than average. Most importantly, they had a high sense of independent self-identity and did not equate their worth with the success of their business.

DeVenney thinks the community needs to redefine success for entrepreneurs, integrating the notion of entrepreneurial well-being.

“With fewer traditional job opportunities available, Millennials are being encouraged, to the point of pressured, to choose entrepreneurship as a career.

“As the incidence rate of poor mental health is much higher for Millennials than for preceding generations, there is a greater propensity for negative outcomes. The time for awareness and change is now.”

Dal LaunchPad Graduates 11 Teams

LaunchDal graduated its summer cohort of entrepreneurs on Wednesday night with pitches from 11 teams that were heavily weighted in hardware and oceans technology.

Almost all the teams Dalhousie University's LaunchPad program are working with or have lined up early adopters, and some have already raised capital from sources other than the university.

Led by entrepreneurship professor Mary Kilfoil, LaunchPad is the summer program offered by LaunchDal, the program at the university that helps students to start businesses. The program offered a total of $100,000 in development costs to the participants.

In introducing the companies, Kilfoil noted that since she and partner Ed Leach began their Starting Lean course five years ago, their programs have helped to launch 100 ventures that created 800 jobs and have raised $20 million.

One notable thing about the 2017 summer program is that three of the 11 teams – ROVault, G.I.T. and Vioa – are in the ocean technology space. That’s significant because the four Atlantic provinces are applying for federal funding for the oceans “super-cluster” and this cluster needs more startups familiar with salt water.

It’s also worth noting that several of the companies are producing hardware. LaunchDal has been working over the past year to enhance its programing for hardware-makers,  who face a different set of challenges than software producers.

Here are the companies that pitched Wednesday night:

Axem – A wearable technology that allows athletes to track their brain activity to enhance performance. The company has attracted several Olympic training centres and professional teams to participate in its beta tests in 2018, and has already raised $100,000 of a $300,000 round. Read our previous coverage of Axem.

FrontLineVR – Uses virtual reality to provide an inexpensive and interactive virtual reality simulator for first responders and the military.  FrontlineVR, which is raising $400,000, has arranged for pilot projects with the RCMP and the Halifax Fire Department.  

Graphite Innovation & Technologies – The company produces graphene through its unique process. Its first graphene-based product will be a rust-proofing paint for ships and boats. Dalhousie’s Water Studies Centre and Nova Scotia Power will work with the company on its pilot product. G.I.T. is raising $250,000. Read our previous coverage of G.I.T.

Trip Ninja – Trip Ninja helps travellers find the best route for their multi-city trips, searching hundreds of possible flights to find the lowest cost option. Trip Ninja is already plugged into one portal that connects it to 400 airlines and intends to sign up another portal soon. It is pursuing a licencing model and hopes to have a deal with an online travel company by the end of August.

ROVault – Uses imaging technology and artificial intelligence to find nuggets of valuable food within waste seafood shells. It is working with a range of oceantech organizations, and Louisbourg Seafoods has signed a letter of intent to pilot the technology. The founders are working on a $500,000 round.

UpFront – A ticket-sales and event-management platform that uses blockchain technology to eliminate ticket scalping, fraud and improving the overall experience. The founders have already established links with a range of potential customers, including the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto and the Cincinnati Arts Association.

ADDText – A peer-coaching platform that uses texting to help youth and adults living with ADHD and other challenges. The company has already interacted with 173 educators and learning strategists who have networks of amounting to thousands of people. The company is on track to produce $75,000 in monthly recurring revenue by year-end. Read our previous coverage of ADDText.

PLANifax – PLANifax helps companies and organizations tell their story through video and broadcast them to a growing network of followers. The founders call it engagement journalism. PLANifax hopes to open offices across North America.

Mowbot -- MowBot is developing automated lawn mowers controlled through the internet and hopes to use them on golf courses. Calling itself “the Tesla of Grass Mowing”, the company has five golf courses interested in the product, one of which has signed a letter of intent.

NovaResp – A novel technology that will help patients with sleep apnea breathe easier and more comfortably during sleep. NovaResp has already struck a partnership with The Snore Shop and has raised $100,000 in equity funding. It is now looking for $500,000 in funding.

Vioa – Vioa supports the sustainable management of sea life through the recycling of shellfish shells to manufacture protein additives for aquaculture feed. It is already in discussions with large seafood producers and has a letter of intent from one. 

MetricsFlow Eyes $10K MRR in 2017

Isaac Adejuwon pitches at a Propel Demo Day in 2016

Isaac Adejuwon pitches at a Propel Demo Day in 2016

With a couple of clients in the bag and some leads in the sales funnel, Isaac Adejuwon has a singular goal for his company Metricsflow to reach by year-end – $10,000 in monthly recurring revenue.

The company began last year and has made rapid progress in developing its tool to help companies convert their content-marketing audience into clients. The five-member team has produced its minimum viable product and signed up M5 Marketing Communications and the St. John’s fraud detection company Verafin as clients.

As it builds up the product to a full enterprise-level solution, which it hopes to have out in the first quarter of 2018, Adejuwon is talking to a few more leads and hopes to sign them and more in the next six months. 

“In the second half of the year, we’re looking at revenue – we’re targeting $10,000 in MRR by December,” said Adejuwon in a recent phone interview from Kitchener, Ont., where he was attending a strategy bootcamp at Communitech.  “We’d need 20 customers paying the base price of $500 per month. It’s fairly challenging because we have a long sales cycle but I think it’s something we’re up to.”

A native of Nigeria, Adejuwon came to St. John’s in 2010 to study at Memorial University, and two years ago began to work on a product that would improve the results of content marketing. The problem as he saw it is that companies turn out some great content online, material that readers gobble up and learn from. But it’s difficult to bring that relationship into the sales process.

Read about St. John's-based Vish Color Pitching at FounderFuel

What Metricsflow does is identify parties that are consuming your content, and assess what content they are most interested in. Using no cookies, Metricsflow mines the data on the content and lets the users take action that results in conversions.

“You don’t really know much about what content that lead was most interested in,” says a promotional video from the company. “Neither do you have information on what other anonymous sales leads are coming down the funnel, yet to be identified. But we do. If you use Metricsflow, their digital DNA would be all over your data.”

Once a company understands what content interests individual members of its content audience, it can share that information with the sales or marketing ops teams. They can then customize a sales strategy to suit that potential client, and close a deal more quickly.

Metricsflow is also in the process of developing a product to help companies reconnect with leads that had been engaged but have gone away.

The team has been gaining momentum for a few years. It went through the MUN entrepreneurship program, then the Evolution program at the Genesis Centre, then through a Propel ICT Launch cohort in St. John’s. Then it entered a strategy program at Communitech – its second mentorship at the sprawling tech hub in the past year.

The company has not raised any funds yet. Adejuwon said the company does plan to tap investors, but wants to hit a few more milestones first.

“We now have an MVP and can deploy our tracking code to any company,” said Adejuwon. “It’s not enterprise level yet but …we’re writing code every day and we’re pushing it out.”

Volta To Triple Maritime Centre Space

In a deal that will triple its capacity, Volta Labs has signed a lease to take out 60,000 square feet of space in the Maritime Centre in Halifax.

The startup house this winter will take over the ground, mezzanine and second floors of the 19-storey office tower on Barrington Street. It has signed a new lease with Slate Office REIT, which owns the building, to establish Volta as a cornerstone of the “innovation district” being planned for Halifax.

By occupying a flagship location, including highly visible street-level space, Volta’s presence in the central business district will amplify the message of the importance of tech and innovation in the business community.

"These new headquarters will allow Volta to be the growth catalyst for Halifax's technology community, establishing a home base inside the city's ‘Innovation District’ and attracting new interest from entrepreneurs," said Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers in a statement. "For many reasons, Halifax is a great place to build a technology-focused company and we are looking forward to providing more resources to these businesses. Ultimately, this growth will result in new jobs and a massive economic impact for Nova Scotia."

Swell Advantage Lands San Diego Port Funding

The statement said the larger space will allow Volta to offer more space for resident startups, corporate innovation outposts, and network members. It will also offer a large multi-purpose space, private meeting rooms, and larger co-working spaces.

The expansion is the latest chapter in the project first mooted by entrepreneur Jevon MacDonald when his company GoInstant received $1.7 million in funding in 2011. At the time, MacDonald talked about getting more office space than GoInstant needed so other entrepreneurs could share the company’s space and learn from its team.

That sparked the creation of Volta Labs in 2013 in two floors above a mattress shop on Spring Garden Road. It was not an accelerator or incubator but a “startup house”, where new companies could set up offices and the tech community could hold events.

In 2014, the organization moved to the Maritime Centre, occupying 20,000 square feet on two floors. There had been plans for it to eventually settle in the former Halifax Memorial Library building on Spring Garden Road, but those plans never materialized.

CDL-Atlantic Opens Applications for 1st Cohort

Volta now hosts a range of companies and spaces. Its website lists 14 current resident startups, most of which have been formed in the last year or two. It is also the home of Build Ventures, the regional venture capital fund.

Volta has opened its corporate innovation outpost – a place where established businesses can plant a few staff members to develop innovation. These outposts help the corporations, and also establish links between startups and traditional businesses. Atlantic Lottery Corp. set up the first outpost in Volta last year, and Rodgers is known to be interested in attracting more corporate participants.

The enlarged Volta is expected to be a cornerstone for the new “Innovation District” which will extend from the Dalhousie University campus to the new Centre for Ocean Ventures & Entrepreneurship in Dartmouth.

"Slate Office REIT has a long-term commitment to revitalizing Halifax's iconic Maritime Centre and we are proud that the building has become an integral part of Halifax's ‘Innovation District’, with Volta as a marquee tenant," said Slate CEO Scott Antoniak in the statement. "We recognize the importance of the Maritime Centre's location, design, amenities and function and its role in bringing together collaborative endeavours and ideas in the technology space." 

ViewPoint Adds Mortgage Brokerage

ViewPoint Realty Services, which produces the key website for real estate data in Nova Scotia, has announced that it will now offer a mortgage brokerage to complement its real estate services.

Founded seven years ago by tech veteran Bill McMullin, ViewPoint quickly became known or its website that featured data gleaned from the Multiple-Listing Service, or MLS, on every property in the province. The site immediately became a first stop for anyone wanting to buy or sell real estate (or find out what their neighbours’ house is worth).

To monetize the site, McMullin and his team developed the company into a real estate brokerage, and now employs 75 people in six offices across the province. To meet their clients’ needs, ViewPoint will now help clients find the best mortgages available from a range of financial institutions.

“To accomplish our goal of providing a convenient, one-stop-shopping experience, we’re now offering mortgage and insurance brokerage services,” said McMullin in an email. “ViewPoint now has the technology and people to help you find, buy, mortgage and insure your property - with ease. Our powerful yet free website is funded by these brokerage services. So by using our brokerage services, you’re supporting our ability to innovate and grow - making ViewPoint even better.”

McMullin has made no secret of his hope to expand beyond Nova Scotia, and could find out late this year whether ViewPoint can expand into the key Toronto market.

ViewPoint needs access to MLS data to open a site, but outside Nova Scotia real estate boards, which control the data, have refused to provide members (and therefore ViewPoint) with the MLS data.

The Competition Bureau of Canada initiated legal action against the Toronto Real Estate Board in 2011, and last year a competition tribunal directed TREB to open its MLS system to its members. TREB appealed the ruling to the Federal Court of Appeal, which is expected to rule on the matter this year. 

Neck Tronics Plans Launch This Year

Bill Smith believes he’s developing the best product available for strengthening neck muscles, and that it will be even better thanks to a deal he just signed with SimWave Consulting of Kanata, Ont.

Smith is a Bridgewater chiropractor who has used his professional knowledge to develop Neck Tronics, whose product helps athletes and people recovering from injury to strengthen the neck.

Last month, he announced that Neck Tronics has formed a partnership with SimWave Consulting, a specialist in augmented reality and virtual reality. The idea is that the new product — which will go through human trials in the two months — will help strengthen the neck, and the AR-VR component will help the user use the product and understand its benefits.

“We’re developing a product for strengthening the neck,” said Smith in a phone interview last week. “There are a lot of products out there to strengthen the neck but . . . we believe that we have the best product that’s out there.”

Smith said the Neck Tronics product is attacking a huge market because there are so many people suffering from whiplash or concussion. Studies have shown that athletes reduce the risk of concussion if they strengthen their neck muscles, so Neck Tronics is developing a preventive tool to help avoid one of the blackest marks against modern sports — the risk of head trauma.

Spring Loaded Launches Levitation

Whiplash and concussions cause physical pain for individuals and families, and massive pain for the economy, said Smith. Adding in lost productivity, the cost of rehabilitation and other factors, he said, whiplash costs the economy $25 billion to $40 billion a year in the U.S. and Canada, and with concussions the figure is closer to $60 billion.

The Neck Tronics device will help sports trainers, coaches and athletes assess the strength of an individual’s neck and then work to bolster the muscles between the shoulders and skull. And for people with injuries, it will help with the rehabilitation process. Smith, who came up with the idea about three-and-a-half years ago, said there is a huge benefit to having a visual component in the product, and that is why he partnered with SimWave.

“At SimWave, we have been working on the forefront of VR/AR technology since 2013 and have seen many new and interesting implementations of the technology across a multitude of industries,” said SimWave CFO Adam Caitness in a statement. “We are proud to be able to collaborate our efforts in the AR/VR field with a medical provider to create a new and exciting product that is much needed.”

Smith has received some grant money and is now raising equity to finance the growth of Neck Tronics. He’s raised about $200,000 in a round he hopes will reach $550,000 soon.

He plans to take the product to market as a strength device for athletes and has already had interest from rugby organizers, as well as those in hockey and football. Introducing Neck Tronics as a product for athletes will avoid the lengthy regulatory process associated with medical devices, so it could be on the market in November.

Meanwhile, the company is also applying to have Neck Tronics approved as a Class II medical rehabilitation product with the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. and Health Canada. If successful, Smith hopes to have the product in rehab centres by the third quarter of 2018.

EhEye Wins StartupFest Award

James Stewart

James Stewart

EhEye, the Saint John company that enhances security video, left the Startup Festival in Montreal as the Atlantic Canadian company that seems to have captured the most buzz at the annual festival.

The company was the co-winner of the Grandmothers’ Choice Award, a pitching competition in which a panel of grandmothers chooses the winners, according to a report in Betakit. The other winner was Waste Robotics, a robotic waste sorting solution from Quebec City.

The winners will receive legal services from Fasken, while FounderFuel will work with companies as part of its three-month program and provide funding, said Betakit.

EhEye Co-Founder and CEO James Stewart said on social media that the “biggest prize of all” was linking up with Isaac Souweine, entrepreneur-in-residence at Real Ventures and General Manager of FounderFuel. Souweine said he's looking forward to spending time with the company in the coming months. 

EhEye has produced technology that notifies authorities if there is something suspicious caught on the video. In other words, it can recognize someone wearing a ski mask or carrying a gun in a crowd. At a packed stadium, it can even recognize if someone is carrying a backpack and later is walking around without the backpack.

The company was a finalist in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition this year, and awarded the province’s Kira Awards for Most Promising Start-up and Innovation through Technology.

Shad Brings Out Best in Teens

You wouldn’t expect to see high school students hard at work in classes on a hot July day. But for this group of young SHAD program participants, the robotics lab on University of New Brunswick’s Fredericton campus is exactly where they want to be.

Initially founded in 1980, SHAD brings together students who are passionate about STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) for a yearly, one-month long program of lectures, workshops, projects and activities at campuses across Canada. This year’s program theme is reducing Canada’s carbon footprint.

Loren Condie is a Grade 11 student from Waterville, Nova Scotia, a rural dairy community. She says she first heard about the SHAD program from her high school chemistry teacher and pursued it because she wanted to meet more people who thought like her and had similar ideas. . . .

Read the full story on Huddle.

Jobs: Dash Hudson Account Exec

Dash Hudson is continuing to expand its staff, and today we’re highlighting an opening at the social media analytics company for an account executive.

Halifax-based Dash Hudson has created a “visual intelligence platform” that helps its corporate clients to create and distribute photos and video, then analyze their impact. The system is an integrated solution to predict, measure, and enhance engagement across all visual marketing channels.

The company, which already has dozens of employees and offices in Halifax, New York and Miami, has been expanding rapidly.

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.

Halifax

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.

Helping Carers of the Elderly

Ashley King, left, and Daphne Noonan

Ashley King, left, and Daphne Noonan

After focusing on providing dementia care training and services to staff in care homes, consulting company Person Centred Universe is turning its attention to supporting those who care for dementia sufferers in private settings like family residences.

Company founders Ashley King and Daphne Noonan hope their Fredericton-based venture will improve care and lessen the loneliness of caregivers, who often struggle to provide loved ones with the best, most informed care.

The venture’s new offering, Dementia Journey Coaching, will be a telephone or Skype service that will assist the primary caregivers of individuals living with dementia.

“Carers often feel alone, they don’t feel heard,” Noonan said. “They might talk to the family doctor, but they struggle with the practicalities of coping around a loved one wandering or leaving the stove on.”

The couple are just starting a beta test of their new idea. The beta test will involve working with 10 caregivers to help alleviate a patient’s main problems. For instance, if a patient is not sleeping at night, it may be necessary to eliminate an afternoon nap or allow the patient to become more socially engaged.

“We want to help carers develop a lifestyle plan and find information and resources that can be hard to find and navigate,” King said. “We will direct them to free programs, suggest things to try at home, and tell them how to access social resources.”

The couple have gathered a small team of caregivers to work with them over the eight-week beta test period.

Once launched, the service will cost clients $1,099. The founders hope governments will eventually bear some of the burden.

The new service is a natural progression from the pair’s existing training services for care home staff. They began offering these services in 2013, after gaining Dementia Care Mapping Certification from Bradford University in the U.K.

Read About the 10 Teams Emerging from UNB's TME Program.

Widely used in the U.K. for 30 years but new to Canada, Dementia Care Mapping looks at the dementia sufferer as an individual.

It uses a patient’s personal life story and narrative to enhance care, for example by creating an “office” space for a former businessman so that he can relive the experience of having a desk and paperwork.

“It’s creating a feeling of familiarity, a feeling he’s doing what he understands and knows,” said Noonan. “Enhancing that feeling of identity might reduce symptoms such as wandering.”

Dementia Care Mapping also requires observing patients’ engagement with their environment. For instance, it may become clear someone struggles at mealtimes.

“Staff might then adjust where a person sits or get the patient to set tables as an introduction to meals,” Noonan said.

“It reduces guesswork . . . It shows dementia needn’t be a horrible experience if those around understand you.”

Both founders have bachelor degrees in gerontology. They have a great deal of experience working with dementia sufferers, including with family members.

King first became interested in the field of aging as a university student when she was helping care for her grandmother.

“My gran could have been one of our clients,” King said. “My family was doing our best with what we had. But it involved me or my 15-year-old brother sleeping on a mattress beside her bed so Gran wouldn’t wander if she got up.”

The founders have recently completed the B4 Change accelerator for social ventures at the Pond-Deshpande Centre at University of New Brunswick. The experience helped them develop their ideas. They also gained $5,000 in catalyst funding

“The program helped us get to this point,” Noonan said. “It got us thinking about the customer and their experience.”

In the future, they plan to create peer coaching networks, which may feature a dementia coach connecting with maybe four to six caregivers on a phone or Skype call.

“We love the idea of becoming global, of potentially someone in the U.K. supporting someone in New Brunswick,” Noonan said.

East Coast Troop at StartupFest

On Thursday, 55 entrepreneurs from Atlantic Canada arrived at Montreal StartupFest on a luxury charter bus, what the Taskforce Fredericton Startup Network is calling the East Coast Caravan.

The Taskforce Fredericton Startup Network worked with regional partners such as Planet Hatch, Ignite Fredericton and Enterprise Saint John to send the 55 entrepreneurs from across the region to StartupFest.

Montreal StartupFest is a global gathering of the world’s leading mentors, entrepreneurs, founders and venture capitalists. The three-day festival features world-renowned keynotes and investment opportunities for attendees. Last year’s festival reportedly had $500,000 worth of investments and prizes.

One of the entrepreneurs on the Caravan is Amanda Betts, CEO of Fredericton-based startup eChart. She said she was looking forward to networking and learning about other cool emerging companies. As eChart is getting ready to scale-up, Betts will also be looking to learn some tips from others.

“We’re looking for ways to educate ourselves on that and just learning from other people’s experiences and learning about what we should be aware of, what other people might have experienced that wasn’t good so we can learn from that. Just so we do it right,” says Betts. . . .

Read the full story on Huddle

[Editor’s note: The three-day StartupFest began Thursday and ends Saturday. Huddle ran this article earlier in the week, and we have changed the tenses so it makes sense.]

Mariner Aims To Improve 28% Growth

Craig Storey: 'You go harder, faster.'

Craig Storey: 'You go harder, faster.'

Craig Storey has just taken over international sales at Atlantic Canada’s most influential tech company, Saint John-based Mariner, and he’s not satisfied with its 28-per-cent revenue growth in 2016.

Until recently, Storey was the CEO of Shift Energy, the Mariner subsidiary that provides automated energy controls to larger complexes. In the last six months, Shift has been integrated into the main corporate structure of Mariner, and Storey has been given the role of head of global sales for the group.

Mariner was already performing well as 2016 revenue reached $28.2 million. That earned Mariner the No. 128 place in the Branham 300 list of the top tech companies in Canada — tops among Atlantic Canadian IT companies.

But Storey said that there are opportunities within the Mariner group to cross sell among the various groups of customers and produce even more revenue.

“You go harder, faster,” he said when asked how he responds to leading a sales group that’s already performing well. “There’s a lot more value we have to offer existing clients, and new. We are now positioned for larger, more transformational deals in our chosen marketplace.”

To understand the current vision in Mariner’s executive suite, it helps to understand the company’s four pillars. The company began early in the century when veterans of iMagicTV, which provided software for video services, launched a new company to improve the delivery of videos online and alert providers of any problems with video delivery. That business, known as xVu, is the core of Mariner’s business.

Mariner, NBIF Invest $500K in Beauceron

The other three pillars are: Shift Energy; Mariner Innovations, which provides advisory and professional services and project delivery; and East Valley Ventures, the loosely held portfolio of 24 startup investments, held by Mariner itself and/or members of its network.

Storey said Mariner is now in a position to expand its reach and produce larger deals than in the past. XVu (pronounced X-View) has a strong client base in North America, from which Storey believes it can draw more sales. And he sees huge opportunities in new markets for the company, such as Asia, Europe and South America.

He also thinks that Mariner can increase sales by selling products from one of its pillars to clients of another. For example, xVu clients deal mainly in video, but many are huge corporations with large facilities that could cut costs with Shift Energy’s technology. Storey even wants to work with East Valley’s startup companies to introduce their technology to its clients and accelerate adoption of their innovation.

Mariner, whose best-known executive is its chairman, tech evangelist Gerry Pond, recently received some good news in its sales efforts as Shift Energy’s first U.S. client reported great results from its EOS product.

Amalie Arena, the 19,204-seat home of the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning, began using EOS a few months ago. The arena management was so impressed with the results that it allowed Shift to report them publicly — an energy cost reduction of 14 per cent, a consumption reduction of nearly 1,500,000 kWh, and a 1,100-ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

“The Shift EOS solution has materially reduced Amalie Arena’s energy consumption and improved operations by providing integration from our front office event booking right through to our building management,” said Darryl Benge, executive vice president and general manager for the arena. “The EOS technology did what our team simply didn’t have the time to do on a daily basis and it has performed exceptionally well for us.”

Moving to the Cloud, Remsoft Adds Staff.

Mariner execs admit the sales cycle for EOS is longer than they had expected. But the success of their first U.S. installation as well as that of Canadian customers like the Rogers Arena in Vancouver are helping with other sales. Storey said the Amalie results were released just before the annual meeting of the Green Sports Alliance, a national group that aims to improve the environmental performance of sports facilities, and he was able to showcase the Tampa Bay results to other arena operators.

“That market validation was very strong,” he said. “And in addition to the strong validation we have in Vancouver, people are starting to take notice.”

Vish, Porpoise Pitch at FounderFuel

Vish Salon Tech and Porpoise, two emerging Atlantic Canadian startups, presented at the FounderFuel Spring 2017 Demo Day in Montreal this week, which coincided with the city’s massive Startup Festival.

Pitching before a roomful of investors and tech enthusiasts, the two companies told of the traction they had gained since entering the Montreal accelerator earlier in the year. You can find video of the presentations here, though the sound quality may pose a problem – Vish CEO Timothy Howard begins his presentation at 1:31 and is followed directly by Porpoise CEO Topher Kingsley-Williams at 1:40.

St. John’s-based Vish has produced a technology that helps the owners of beauty salons reduce waste when dying clients’ hair and increase revenue. The product acts as a CRM for salon owners, and also helps measure the colour in the dye to reduce waste, collects data and makes sure clients receive the precise colour every time. Its market is vast, given that there are 1.5 million salons bringing in $48 billion a year – just in just in North America, and about one fifth of their dye inventory is wasted.

A dozen salons have already signed up with Vish across North America, divided evenly between the U.S. and Canada. Howard cited three clients that have saved $100,000 in reduced waste by using Vish, while increasing revenue and improving client relationships.  He added that Vish is also working with beauty brands like L’Oreal and Goldwell to give them insights on the demands and challenges of salons.

Monthly revenue grew from $3,000 in April to $6,000 in June, and are on track to hit $18,000 in August, he said.

“Vish is raising $750,000 a month as we reach our goal of being in 300 salons, generating $90,000 in recurring revenue each month,” said Howard.

Read our Most Recent Report on Porpoise.

A certified B-Corp, Porpoise is a social venture based in Moncton. 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.

“We hope to leverage the power of volunteering,” Kingsley-Williams said. “Historically, brands have been defined by the products they produce. But today that’s not enough. Today the people who work for these companies define the brand as well. “

He said the company has secured such clients as Salesforce.com and National Bank of Canada, and that Porpoise is now experiencing month-on-month growth of 18 percent. Since joining Founder Fuel, the company has added about $650,000 in new business, which it expects to close in the next few weeks. 

Propel ICT Prepares for Fall Cohort

Propel ICT, the regional IT accelerator, is now accepting applications for its 2017 Fall Accelerator and will hold information sessions across the region for people interested in applying.

The one-hour sessions are intended to tell prospective participants which program is best suited to accelerate their startup, and the outcomes they can expect to see throughout the accelerator.

The accelerator holds an advanced Build program in Moncton with each cohort, designed to help companies with a product to scale their businesses. It also holds its more rudimentary Launch cohorts in different cities across the region to help new companies work toward a product-market fit. So far, Launch cohorts have been held in Halifax and Fredericton with each cohort, and in other cities depending largely on the supply of companies in each place that meet its criteria.  For example, in the most recent cohort, there was a program offered in Sydney, and in previous cohorts they were offered in Charlottetown and St. John’s.

Here is a calendar of the information sessions:

Charlottetown

Monday, July 17, 12 pm at the Startup Zone

Tuesday, July 18, 12 pm at the Startup Zone

Register for a Charlottetown info session

Fredericton

Wednesday, July 19, 12 pm at Planet Hatch

Wednesday, July 19, 2 pm at Planet Hatch

August dates TBD

Register for a Fredericton info session

Halifax

Friday, July 14, 12 pm at Volta Labs

Monday, July 24, 12 pm at Volta Labs

Thursday, August 17, 12 pm at Volta Labs

Tuesday, August 22, 12 pm at Volta Labs

Register for a Halifax info session

Moncton

Tuesday July 18, 12 pm at Venn Innovation

August dates

Register for a Moncton info session

Saint John

TBD

St. John’s

Friday, July 14, 12:30 pm at Common Ground

Tuesday, July 18, 6 pm at Genesis Centre (Register here for this event)

Thursday, August 10, 5:30pm at Common Ground

Tuesday, August 22, 12 pm at Common Ground

Register for a St. John’s info session

Sydney

Wednesday, July 26, 12 pm at New Dawn Centre

Monday, August 14, 12 pm at New Dawn Centre

Register for a Sydney info session

Virtual Sessions

Propel also plans to offer an online information session in July and August. Dates will be announced soon. 

Moncton’s New Social Venture Project

Dale Ritchie: The goal is

Dale Ritchie: The goal is "to be the social enterprise capital of Atlantic Canada."

Members of the Greater Moncton business community have launched a new initiative featuring an accelerator and funding vehicle to encourage the development of more social enterprises in the area.

Social enterprises are businesses created to further a social purpose, or solve a social problem, in a financially sustainable way.

Millennials comprise the biggest generation in the Canadian workforce and are gravitating towards socially responsible careers and businesses. The Moncton initiative aims to ensure those seeking to create positive change in the community, using a financially sustainable model, receive the support they require.

The initiative consists of a two-pronged approach to further the growth of social enterprises in Greater Moncton – the Community Accelerator and the Hub Fund.

The organizers hope the Hub Fund will eventually raise $1 million to fund social ventures. An independent board will govern the fund and any social enterprise in the area will be eligible to apply to an investment committee, which will make investment decisions.

The Community Accelerator is a program developed to help social entrepreneurs that have an idea for an enterprise but need mentorship and support. Facilitated by McKenzie College, the accelerator will provide them with the resources and skills they need.

“This truly is a community project,” said McKenzie College President Dale Ritchie said in a statement. “It takes a community to create real social change and this initiative will be successful because of community involvement. Investing in social enterprises will benefit Greater Moncton both socially and economically.”

Ritchie added the goal is "to be the social enterprise capital of Atlantic Canada."

Ten Startups Emerge from UNB TME

The idea was inspired by Ritchie’s daughter, Jill, whose partner Lucas passed away after a long battle with mental health and addiction issues. Jill and Lucas had started “Lead with your Heart” and Jill has continued the cause in his memory – a legacy project to provide alternative, creative therapies for people suffering from mental illness and addiction.

“Social enterprise is one of the fastest growing business models in the country because consumers, millennials in particular, are demanding that businesses be more actively engaged in solving social and environmental issues,” said Wendy Keats, executive director of the Cooperative Enterprise Council of New Brunswick. “This new Community Accelerator and Hub Fund is a huge step forward in the development of an ecosystem in New Brunswick that will grow the social enterprise sector and we applaud them for their innovation and commitment to the community.”

Many community members have lent their support to the initiative but organizers are still recruiting mentors, advisors and investors. Those interested in getting involved can contact info@mckenzie.edu.

Disrupting the Market for Graphene

Marciel Gaier, left, and Mo AlGermozi in their lab at Dalhousie University

Marciel Gaier, left, and Mo AlGermozi in their lab at Dalhousie University

When Mo AlGermozi and Marciel Gaier manned their booth at the recent Atlantic Venture Forum, they handed all visitors a three-inch piece of black, plastic-like material and challenged them to break it.

It was graphene, a revolutionary new material that the two entrepreneurs are now producing in commercial quantities at their lab at Dalhousie University. They have discovered a new, economical way of producing graphene, and that’s the basis of their company, Graphite Innovation & Technologies Inc.

“We found a way to produce graphene 10 times cheaper than what’s out there,” said AlGermozi, a graduate of Dal who originally hails from Yemen.

The company began earlier this year when the two material engineers needed some graphene for a research project. Graphene is an unusual pattern of carbon atoms aligned in hexagonal hives to produce a light, durable material. It is 200 times stronger than steel and efficiently conducts heat and electricity. It was only identified and isolated in the past decade or so, so the commercial applications of graphene are in their infancy.

It’s also in high demand, so AlGermozi and Gaier experimented to see if they could make their own graphene for their project. They ended up discovering a way to produce high-quality graphene economically, and decided to spin this process into a new company.

Their production process is an environmentally friendly method that will allows mass production of graphene. Once they made the discovery, they set up a rudimentary production facility so that every day they produce about 50-70 grams of the substance. It’s enough to sell to a few customers and bring in some revenue, but the duo has bigger plans.

Dal Will Be Pivotal to Startup Community in Next 12-18 Months

They hope to expand production to produce larger amounts of the material — they’re now thinking of a kilogram a day, or more than 14 times their current production. They believe their process will lower the cost of graphene, which in turn could lead to new commercial applications as industry finds it economical to use graphene in everyday products. In fact, they want to develop their own graphene-based products.

“We are doing research and development on three products — a coating to prevent corrosion, a composite material and semi-conductors,” said Gaier, a native of Brazil.

Having launched their company only in the past few months, AlGermozi and Gaier are now working on the financial and structural side of the firm. The learning curve has been steep and they are working on several key variables in planning their business, like how to set up and finance a production facility, and what is the best product to get to the market quickly.

They have revenue from their daily graphene production, and they are participating in Dalhousie’s summer LaunchPad program, which provides participants with $10,000 each in development costs. They are also speaking to various funding organizations about tapping programs.

“It’s all happened so quickly,” said Gaier. “We’re in the exploration process. We’ve learned so, so much in the past two months, and we think that it two or three months we’ll have a decent idea of where we’re going to be going.”

10 Teams Emerge from UNB TME

Dhirendra Shukla: 'They all have the potential to be significant businesses.'

Dhirendra Shukla: 'They all have the potential to be significant businesses.'

The University of New Brunswick’s Master of Technology Management & Entrepreneurship program held its final pitching session Thursday night, allowing 10 teams comprising 13 students to present their companies to peers, mentors and local business leaders.

Every Thursday morning at the J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management & Entrepreneurship, students have presented their ventures to a panel of entrepreneurs and coaches.

“These are not student projects -- they all have the potential to be significant businesses,” said Dhirendra Shukla, director of the J. Herbert Smith Centre. “That’s a really indicative marker of the quality of the program and people attracted to it.”

Shukla added the TME pitching event will be July 21 with 17 new startups being launched from the Masters in Technology Management & Entrepreneurship program, the Energia accelerator and UNB’s Summer Institute.

Over the past year, students in the program have gone through the process of launching a startup, either individually or in groups of up to three people.

“Our role is to provide guidance on how to validate their idea, not to judge their idea,” said Program Manager Phil Lambert. “Mentors encourage students to get outside of the building and meet with their target market to establish if they have a viable idea.” 

The presenting companies last Thursday were:

Hinge Paintball (Joshua White, Stephenville, NL) -- White has developed a stock system that will allow players to drastically shorten the overall length of the paintball marker on the fly. The Fredericton-based venture has hopes of licensing the design to major paintball manufactures for the innovation to be included in future marker designs and even retrofit onto current units.

Blütek (Sébastien Haché, Shippagan, NB) – Blütek is focused on developing original ways to add value to wild blueberries prior to export. It specializes in wild blueberry extraction for anthocyanins.

ServeUs App (Vikram Devaguptapu, Visakhapatnam, India) –Devaguptapu is creating an app that will help caregivers for the elderly by connecting family caregivers with the information and resources they need. The mobile application is a collection of information and resources organizations in one place, accessible anywhere with the use of data.

Pfera Inc. (Lisa Pfister, London, Ont./Rusagonis, NB) –  After breeding horses for several years, Pfister developed a milk analysis system able to predict when a mare will foal as well as an electronic health record for horses. The patent-pending milk analysis system predicts birth accurately within hours whereas she says competitors’ predictions are off by days and produce false alarms.

Read about Pfera Winning $375K in the Breakthru Competition.

Sm-Heart (Thomas Bird, Fredericton) – Bird describes Sm-Heart as “A fitbit for your heart.” After losing his grandfather to heart disease at a young age, Bird grew passionate about finding a way to minimize the effects of the disease. He has designed an anklet which monitors edema in those suffering from heart disease. For the next four months, Bird will be in Geneva, Switzerland, as a finalist in the MassChallenge accelerator program.

Stash Energy (Daniel Larsen, Belfast, PEI, Erik Hatfield, Rothesay, NB, and Jordan Kennie, Fredericton) -- PEI is having trouble meeting energy demand as residents switched from oil-burning heat sources to electric heat pumps, so the island is building a $70 million diesel power plant. The three were convinced that they could use existing heat pump systems to store energy during periods of low demand and then make that energy available during peak hours.

Rabbit Town Whisky Co. (Stewart Hillhouse, Toronto, Ont.) – Hillhouse is developing a process to diminish the time whisky spends maturing in barrels. Rabbit Town is bringing traditional ingredients and modern processes together to accelerate the aging process.”

PHYS Technologies (Casey Glenen, Riverview, NB) –  PHYS has created a device which measures power output while training in the gym. PHYS Technologies is currently undergoing a three-month long pilot period. PHYS Technologies was started last year by Luke Dillman, a former TME student who is now studying at Dalhousie University. He was unable to continue with PHYS, so Glenen is helping him out.

Mbissa Energy Systems (Caleb Grove, Fredericton, NB) – A Canadian who grew up in Central Africa, Grove wanted to find a way to bring electricity to his neighbours. Grove has integrated modern equipment with local culture and ideas. His system works by having a central hub in a communal area, like a general store. The store hosts a large battery, charged by wind and solar sources, from which people can charge smaller batteries to take home for individual use.                                                           

Terra Toran (Kris Bowman, Rexton, NB, and Jonathan Kummer, Little Shemogue, NB) – Terra Toran is a video streaming service package that will allow environmental organizations and other groups to set up live feeds in remote locations. Despite the number of cameras in the modern landscape, set up, maintenance, and curation of video streams is still a major undertaking for many groups. Bowman and Kummer want to take that barrier away.

Jobs: Dash Hudson, BioNB

Our Jobs of the Week column this week features postings from Dash Hudson, which is seeking a Sales Development Intern, and BioNB, which has an opening for a Marketing and Communications Officer.

Halifax-based Dash Hudson has created a “visual intelligence platform” that helps its corporate clients to create and distribute photos and video, then analyze their impact. The system is an integrated solution to predict, measure, and enhance engagement across all visual marketing channels. The company, which has been expanding rapidly, has offices in Halifax, New York and Miami.

BioNB is a bioscience association that works with start-ups, small and medium-sized businesses and researchers to provide coaching and development services in New Brunswick’s biosciences sector.

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.

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Sales Development Intern

The successful candidate will be a critical piece in the development of Dash Hudson's sales process. He or she will support a creative and customized outreach strategy to potential customers in such verticals as fashion, travel, food and others. The responsibilities include generating sales leads, and then tracking the performance of the lead generation strategy. Dash Hudson is looking for someone who is hyper-organized, obsessive about details and able to work under tight deadlines. Strong written and verbal communication skills, as well as a desire to learn and improve processes are great assets for this position.

Fredericton

BioNB

Marketing and Communications Officer

BioNB is looking for a talented person to oversee the idea generation, development and ongoing implementation of the organization’s marketing, communications and public relations strategy.

The organization wants someone with a passion for all things social media and a strong understanding of digital marketing tools including, but not limited to: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, MailChimp and Hootsuite. This person should know how these platforms can be deployed to support the group, its clients and the New Brunswick biosciences sector. The Marketing and Communications Officer will be responsible for: stakeholder engagement; content strategy and development; communications materials; digital strategy and execution; and other related duties. BioNB is looking for someone with a post-secondary education in marketing, communications or a related field and two or more years of professional marketing and communications experience.

Armed with Data, IWT Plans to Scale

The Island Water Tech installation at Gagetown

The Island Water Tech installation at Gagetown

Island Water Technologies has completed the first installations of its Regen water-treatment facility, and those two projects are providing the company with the one thing it needs to win other contracts — data.

Based in Montague, P.E.I., IWT now has two products on the market, both of which offer efficient means of treating water away from urban locations. Regen can treat waste water for remote facilities ideally housing 75 to 250 people. And the company also offers ClearPod, an efficient septic system for individual households.

While ClearPod is gaining traction across Canada, IWT in the past year has installed Regen facilities with the Canadian military at Gagetown, N.B., and at a remote oil services camp in Hassi Messaoud, Algeria.

CEO Patrick Kiely said in an interview this week that these two Regen installations are giving the company data on such facets as the amount of water treated and the overall energy consumption. And that means it can prove to potential clients that the system works. Kiely hopes he can record a couple more installations by year’s end.

“Our big barriers to sales are the lead times it takes to do a deal, but we should be able to minimize that because we have the data,” he said. “So now we’re ready to ramp up our business development.”

Regen is a self-contained product that provides state-of-the-art water treatment in remote locations. It all fits in a shipping container, so it can be delivered virtually anywhere in the world. Solar panels bolt on to the exterior to power the operation.

Remsoft Adding Staff in Move to the Cloud

Kiely explained that the technology is effective because it requires so little energy — it relies on a unique plastic material that can treat water using a fraction of the energy required by competing systems. Regen uses so little electricity that it can draw all the energy it needs from solar panels, meaning it does not need an external source of electricity. And because of its plastic system, Regen needs no chemicals to be added during the treatment process.

The Algerian project, which was installed in a couple of days once the people and materials arrived at the camp, is successfully producing water that is pure enough to be used to irrigate farms. At

Gagetown, IWT is working with emergency disaster relief teams so that Regen could be deployed in the event of a humanitarian disaster.

ClearPod, meanwhile, continues to gain clients in Canada and abroad. Island Water is selling the product through a distributer in B.C., and it just received approval from the Ministry of the Environment in Ontario. IWT’s distributor in Ontario is also active in China and has sold demo products to potential partners in the country. IWT has also began to reach out to clients in such countries as Honduras and Kenya.

Having received $250,000 in funding from Innovacorp, Island Water now employs 10 people and is in the process of raising capital to scale up its business development team. The target is an equity investment of $2.5 million, which would transform the business.

“Every industry is different and the waste water space requires a lot of patience,” said Kiely. “For the last four years, we’ve ... purposefully been keeping costs very low. Now it’s a matt of scaling and making sure we have the outreach with the clients.”

PEI’s Startup Zone Adds 3 Teams

Startup Zone, the hub for new businesses in downtown Charlottetown, has announced that three new companies have joined its business incubation residency program.

The latest companies to be accepted into the program are Shoplaw, Local Legends Apparel, and Cradle Technology Design Inc.

Shoplaw, founded by Randy Campbell, adds transparency and choice to the process of selecting a lawyer with an online platform. Local Legends Apparel, co-founded by Aidan Northcott and Ashley Paynter, is a clothing company that creates clothing inspired by Prince Edward Island.

Read Our Recent Coverage of Shoplaw

 Cradle Technology Design Inc. is developing a consumer product that will allow users to be able to collect and track valuable data from urine. The Cradle Technology team is made of four graduates of the University of Prince Edward Island’s School of Sustainable Design Engineering - Andrew Simmons, Javon Mayhew, Brady Gallant, and Alex Gamble.

“The value of the program is in our deep focus on customer needs and creating a network of entrepreneurs for support and collaboration,” stated Doug Keefe, Interim CEO. “Our network only gets stronger the more it grows. We are incredibly excited to welcome these new founders.”

With these three additions, the Startup Zone network has grown to include 18 resident companies and 12 alumni. 

Securicy Ramping Up Paid Beta Tests

Darren Gallop: Giving small companies the functionality of a CISO.

Darren Gallop: Giving small companies the functionality of a CISO.

When veteran tech entrepreneur Darren Gallop learned how hard it was to meet his partners’ demands for cybersecurity, it led to the creation of a new company that helps with such tasks.

Gallop is best known as the founder and CEO of Sydney-based Marcato Digital Solutions, which provides online administration systems for music festivals. As his company grew, Gallop learned Marcato had to meet the cybersecurity standards laid down by his major clients, companies as large as Walt Disney Co. Working with his tech team, he set out to automate the process of understanding and meeting cybersecurity standards. When others in the market learned about what the Marcato crew had done, they contacted Gallop asking to use the new tool.

Thus the new company called Securicy was born.

“Large companies have CISOs (chief information security officers) to make sure they’re keeping up-to-date with the cybersecurity landscape,” Gallop said in an interview at the Atlantic Venture Forum in Halifax last week. “What we do is we give that functionality to small and medium-sized businesses who can’t afford their own CISO.”

Securicy is a software-as-a-service product that helps enterprises navigate the complex routes to make sure they are compliant with their clients’ and partners’ cybersecurity standards. This field is so complex that even tech entrepreneurs are often asked for material they’ve never heard of.

The New Look of Sydney's Tech Hub

“When they get started with cybersecurity, people know they need to do something but they don’t really know what it is,” said Laird Wilton, the former Marcato chief revenue officer who is now working full-time on Securicy. “This system is really good at helping them get started.”

Securicy offers its clients a dashboard that automates the procedure so these small businesses can quickly adhere to common standards.

Though cybersecurity protections are constantly evolving to keep ahead of the most current threats, the standards are more constant and Securicy users can remain up to date with these standards. When standards or best practices change, the platform is updated and these changes spread to the clients.

As Marcato continued to grow into a company with 16 employees, Gallop and Wilton last autumn began to develop the new cybersecurity business. Gallop is still at the helm of Marcato, while Wilton is working full-time at Securicy.

In April, they began paid beta tests with five clients, adding five more in short order. Early this month, they plan to introduce a further 10 clients, bringing the total to 20.

Securicy now has 10 employees, and the cofounders expect the staff to double in the next six to 12 months. So far, they have raised more than $500,000 to finance the company.

Wilton said the feedback from users so far has been positive. Simply being asked questions about their cybersecurity infrastructure can teach small business owners in a range of fields what they need to do to become compliant.

Gallop said that starting Securicy has been different than Marcato because he had to be a jack of all trades in starting his first company but can now delegate to specialists.

Evoqua Buys Fredericton’s ADI

Pittsburgh-based Evoqua Water Technologies has bought ADI Systems, Lange Containment and Geomembrane Technologies from ADI Group Inc. of Fredericton for an undisclosed price.

In a statement released Wednesday, Evoqua said the three businesses are world leaders in wastewater solutions for industrial and manufacturing applications, primarily based in Fredericton.

Founded in 1989, ADI has about 100 employees. It will become a part of Evoqua’s Integrated Equipment Technologies segment within its Industrial Division.

The ADI businesses offer a wide range of technologies tailored to their customer base around the world in anaerobic digestion, aerobic treatment, and biogas treatment. They also provide green energy recovery and water reuse technologies as well as industrial wastewater cover liners and containment systems. Combined, ADI Systems and Lange Containment based in Fredericton, and Geomembrane Technologies based in Denver, Colorado have more than 260 customers in 35 countries.

“The combination of ADI with Evoqua, including our recently acquired Environmental Treatment Systems business, gives us the widest-ranging industrial wastewater offerings to help our customers succeed,” said Evoqua CEO Ron Keating in the statement.

Evoqua helps municipalities and industrial customers protect and improve the world's most fundamental natural resource: water. Its cost-effective and reliable treatment systems and services ensure uninterrupted quantity and quality of water, enable regulatory and environmental compliance, increase efficiency through water reuse, and prepare customers for next-generation demands.

The company was created in 2014 when New York private equity fund AEA Investors bought Siemens Water Technologies LLC.

Evoqua says its portfolio of brands, advanced technologies, mobile and emergency water supply solutions and service helps cities across the world provide and discharge clean water, and enable leisure and commercial industry to maximize productivity and profitability. 

Moving to Cloud, Remsoft Adds Staff

Andrea Feunekes: 'We have to get this done in two to two-and-a-half years.'

Andrea Feunekes: 'We have to get this done in two to two-and-a-half years.'

Remsoft, the Fredericton company that produces predictive analytics software for the forest industry, is moving to the cloud, leading to one of the strongest staffing increases in its 25-year history.

The company, which now employs 33 people, plans to add about eight to 10 personnel in the next year as it develops an end-to-end cloud-based solution for its clients based around the world.

“We’re really excited about what we’re doing now,” said Co-Founder and CEO Andrea Feunekes in an interview last week. “But we’re having trouble finding the right people. This is a constant problem.”

Remsoft began in the early 1990s when the husband-and-wife team of Ugo and Andrea Feunekes began to offer software solutions to forestry companies to help them manage their lands. Over the last seven years, Remsoft’s growth has accelerated thanks to its early development of a software platform that allows computational analysis of a company’s information.

The software analyzes a client’s forests. The age, size, growth rate and other aspects of trees are examined in order to predict the best times to do simple things like get logs to market or predict which of thousands of trees may fall and damage a power line. But the software has always been on the clients’ desktop computers, and now the company is transforming to the cloud. It’s a huge undertaking.

Richard Jones Highlights IIoT as Huge Opportunity

Remsoft has already introduced its first cloud-based solution for clients in the southeast U.S., but the company now wants to completely revamp its platform so everything is based on the cloud.

“It became clear to us that there was a lot to do,” said Feunekes. “This wasn’t just going to be a lift-and-shift job – we had to start from scratch.”

She added that the work is complex. In fact, since the beginning of the year Remsoft has been working with leading American consultants on the project, and they reported back that the undertaking is in the top 5 percent in the world in terms of complexity.

She said the complexity comes from the multi-faceted nature of the forestry industry – there are logistical consideration, developments in technology, a changing market for wood products. And on top of it all is the fact that it relies on biology and production can change with yearly rainfall or natural disasters. In their presentations, Feunekes and her partners note that it can take 80 years to grow a forest, so executives using the technology are often planning something that will reach fruition after they’re gone.

One thing that Feunekes noted is that there is a global shortage of data analytics professionals, and these people can be exceptionally difficult to find. The growth of Big Data in Atlantic Canada has only made that shortage more acute.

Remsoft hopes to add five people in the near future, and bring the total new hires to eight to 10 people over the next year.

“This is one of the biggest growth spurts in our history,” said Feunekes, adding it is the largest jump in such a short time. “We can’t take five years to get there. We have to get this done in two to two-and-a-half years.”  

New Look in Sydney Startup Hub

The startup ecosystem in Cape Breton is changing, with the creation of a new program called the Momentum Initiative and the end of the ground-breaking UIT program at Cape Breton University.

The changes are taking place at a seminal moment in the growth of the Cape Breton tech community. Last week, three of the 11 companies presenting at the Propel ICT Demo Day in Halifax hailed from the Sydney area, and the regional tech accelerator just completed its first cohort in the city. There are new IT companies like Click2Order and Securicy that are gaining traction and some funding.

Last month, the federal and provincial governments announced almost $2 million in funding for the Momentum Initiative, which is a new hub for entrepreneurs, innovators and the many organizations supporting them.

The move comes as the news has spread that UIT — which stood for the Uhma Institute of Technology — will not be re-offered by CBU in the coming academic year.

“It’s too bad about UIT,” said Bob Pelley, Innovacorp’s investment manager in Sydney, who will head up Momentum. “But like with any startup, when these things happen you get over it and you move on.”

The Momentum program will receive $1.4 million from the federal government and $500,000 from the province, and will be based in the New Dawn Enterprises Centre. That will put the innovation hub in the downtown core and ensure accessibility to other Sydney businesses and organizations.

It will feature shared office space for a range of young ventures, said a press release. And for those working in hardware or physical products, it will feature a computer station for computer-aided design, a high-end 3D printer, an electronics lab, welding equipment and other tools for inventing and prototyping.

Side Door Creating a Market for Home Concerts

Momentum will partner with such organizations as New Dawn, Cape Breton University and the Nova Scotia Community College, and will have an entrepreneur-in residence to help mentor founders.

“I’m delighted to see these organizations come together in a more collaborative and co-ordinated way,” said Kimberly Desveaux, co-program director for Brilliant Labs. “I know first-hand how important it is for entrepreneurs to access the supports they need, when they need them.”

The sad news for the community is that UIT is no more. It was created three years ago by Gavin Uhma, the Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer of GoInstant, which sold out to Salesforce.com in 2012 reportedly for more than $70 million.

Uhma wanted to create a program that would encourage other Cape Bretoners to develop technological talents and convert them into companies. UIT did not grant degrees, but it worked with scores of young people who are now working in the Sydney tech community. One laudable aspect of a program was that it strove to have a student body that was 50 percent female each year.

The Momentum Initiative funding will be rolled out over the next three years.

“This initiative will help Cape Breton’s startup community grow faster and stronger,” said Stephen Duff, president and CEO of Innovacorp. “We’re excited to get going.”

Jobs: Propel Seeks a New CEO

Propel ICT, the regional tech accelerator, is searching for a new CEO, which is the highlight of this edition of our Job of the Week column.

Propel is a unique phenomenon – the only tech accelerator in the country that holds cohorts in four different provinces. The organization has three levels of programming – the Launch cohort for companies proving their concept; Build for those gaining traction; and Growth for those scaling into corporations.

Former CEO Anita Punamiya announced last month that she would be stepping down, and former executive director Trevor MacAusland, who heads the Build program, is now stepping into the role on an interim basis.

Propel has hired the recruiting form Venor in an attempt to find just the right person to replace Punamiya. Board Chair Steven Burns told Entrevestor that the Board also has a list of names it would like to talk to and will take the proper amount of time in hiring someone.

“We want to make sure we get the right person,” said Burns. “They’ll have to have a really strong connection to the startup community in Atlantic Canada. They have to have a dynamic personality and have to be a relationship-builder. We have a lot of organizations now. What need to do is to make sure that we are all working together.”

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.

Atlantic Canada

Propel ICT

Chief Executive Officer

The CEO’s responsibilities include working with the Board of Directors to further develop the vision and strategy to drive growth and guide Propel ICT over the short and long-term. This person must act independently to execute on that vision and achieve results, involving the Board as needed. He or she must actively find ways to engage our communities, represent Propel at appropriate community events, and share the organization’s story

Propel is looking for someone with experience in a similar role, ideally in the technology sector, in successfully managing large-scale, multi-partner initiatives or projects.

The successful candidate must be excellent at building and fostering relationships with diverse groups of stakeholders. The ideal candidate will be someone who has experienced first-hand the opportunities and challenges of being a founder and entrepreneur. He or she must demonstrate excellent financial acumen and ability to create sustainable revenue or funding strategies.

Jones Highlights IIoT as Opportunity

Richard Jones

Richard Jones

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is still a relatively new field, one ripe for development in a region such as Atlantic Canada, where there are educational and business systems primed to boost entrepreneurship.

This is the belief of Richard Jones, an entrepreneur-in-residence at Propel ICT, Atlantic Canada’s startup accelerator.

Jones has decades of experience in the business world, including as CEO of both Eigen Innovations and Shift Energy, two of the highest-profile IIoT outfits in the region.

IIoT refers to machines communicating with, and taking instructions from, each other without human interference. These machine interactions allow industrial processes to be optimized. For example, Eigen’s Intellexon product selects data from sensors and other sources in a customer’s plant, analyzes it and adjusts machinery — all in real time — to reduce waste and improve efficiency.

“IIoT is the sector where engineering technology and information technology overlap,” Jones said.

“IIoT is an opportunity for a region like Atlantic Canada, where there are many good engineering and computer science schools producing graduates with the relevant skill sets, as well as creative business minds and programs and accelerators that allow them to come together.”

Jones cited the example of Fredericton-based Blue Spurs, a recent winner in the 2017 AWS City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge for its Blue Kit Internet of Things starter kit.

Amazon Web Services recognized 19 organizations from around the world during the contest. Blue Spurs won for Blue Kit, which it developed in collaboration with CyberNB and the New Brunswick government. Blue Kit is an IoT starter kit that allows middle and high school students to understand IoT fundamentals.

“When we get those kits in the hands of high school students, we’ll see more IIoT ideas coming out of universities,” Jones said. “It’s a huge opportunity…The industrial economy amounts to about a quarter of global GDP.”

Jones contrasted the current development of the Internet of Things with the early days of the internet.

Those days, he said, were dominated by Silicon Valley, but that needn’t be the case now.

Side Door Targets Home Concert Market

“In 1995, the internet was just getting developed. It was focused on solving consumer-based problems or the flow of information, like on Facebook.

“Silicon Valley owned the first generation of the internet. They financed it, drove it and the rest of the world picked up the crumbs . . . The Valley got in a dominant position because of the money and talent that flowed in there.

“But with the IIoT, users need to customize good foundational technology to gather data about their own processes. Analysis of the data allows them to become more efficient.

“There are massive opportunities for people to help with analysis and feed analytics back into industrial processes.”

Becoming a Propel entrepreneur-in-residence is a kind of homecoming for Jones, who was a member of Propel’s board of directors from 2006-11. The Fredericton native, whose many qualifications include an MBA from Dalhousie University, would love to see lots of companies in the IIoT space in all the region’s accelerators.

Certainly, entrepreneurship is becoming more popular.

“When I first got involved with Propel in Saint John in the mid 2000s, entrepreneurship was almost like a dirty word,” he said. “Entrepreneurs were viewed as not mainstream, not conformist enough to get a job in a big company . . . Now it’s the thing to be an entrepreneur. That’s partly because we’ve had some successful exits (company sales) and success breeds success.

“I’m in my mid-50s. One of the reasons I’m hanging around in the startup community is I feel a sense of mission to help develop the next generation of leaders who’ll transform our world.”

Side Door Targets Home Concerts

Kicking off an interview about her new music-technology business, Laura Simpson excused herself to text a friend in Los Angeles about an upcoming Janet Jackson concert in someone’s L.A. home.

This is the world that Simpson lives in now — organizing and promoting concerts in people’s homes. Her new startup, Side Door Access, is developing a platform on which performers can link up with homeowners interested in hosting a concert, and an audience who would want to attend. (Side Door didn’t organize the Jackson show, but Simpson heard about it and had to tell her friend.)

The technology isn’t in place yet but Side Door has already been arranging concerts in people’s homes across the country, and Simpson says the demand from hosts, musicians and audiences is big and enthusiastic.

“Parlour music, if you want to call it that, has been around longer than recorded music,” said Simpson at her booth at the Atlantic Venture Forum this week. “The monetization of music is changing, but what is constant is that love of the musical experience . . . or the intimate feeling that is lost when it’s more than a 100-person space.”

A former journalist with 10 years of experience in the music industry, Simpson is CEO of the team that includes Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter Dan Mangan, and Laura “LuLu” Healy, who has headed bookings for the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium and the Halifax Jazz Festival.

Swell Lands Port of San Diego Funding

They perceived a huge pain the music industry. Though the live music industry was worth $28 billion last year, concerts are too expensive for some fans, and musicians often have spare nights between bookings at traditional venues. They thought musicians could play in people’s homes and that a broad range of people would pay to attend. They’re not talking about mega-stars like Janet Jackson but tremendous musicians who can offer intimate performances in a great setting.

“This is already happening in thousands of homes around the world,” said Simpson on Monday night, when she presented Side Door at the Propel ICT Demo Day. “But there’s no one network linking them together. Side Door will be that network.”

Using the most rudimentary technology last year, Side Door floated the idea online of staging home concerts for musicians. In short order, they had 160 homeowners volunteering their living rooms as venues, and they were able to schedule tours for six artists, grossing $45,000 from British Columbia to Atlantic Canada.

They have continued to build up their network, and they now have a minimum viable product. So far, more than 50 professional artists, 200 hosts and 2,000 fans have registered.

Side Door is now trying to raise $250,000 in funding, and has commitments of $75,000 from family and friends. The trio is talking to other investors and hopes to have the funding in place by September. If so, they plan to hire a chief technical officer, who could oversee the development of the platform, creating a virtual ticketing agency by January. The company is forecasting $200,000 in gross sales this year and $2.3 million next year because of the demand and chic allure of home concerts.

“We’re very connected to the underground scene because people really like this exclusive and unique experience,” said Simpson. “Every time you get in a conversation with an aficionado, they’re going to be in the know about something off the beaten path, and we want to get more of these events.”

GoBumpFree Raises $1M, Launches

Having raised almost $1 million in equity funding, GoBumpFree is now launching its new travel platform for airline employees and retirees.

The Halifax company said in a statement this week it is launching the latest version of its travel platform and is running several promotions (including vacation giveaway packages) to coincide with the launch.

GoBumpFree aims to make it easier for the world’s 1.7 million airline employees to take vacations by letting them book hotels with the same flexibility as their flights. It allows airline employees and their families to book last-minute hotel rooms and, if needed, cancel them at a moment’s notice.

"As a former airline employee, I know how frustrating it is to have this great travel benefit—free flights—but not be able to use it because you'd pay cancellation fees [at hotels] if you got bumped," said company Founder and President Donna Lavallee in the statement.

"GoBumpFree customers, however, can cancel even just hours before check-in, and they won't pay a cent. … Hotels and resorts benefit by listing their properties and getting access to these influential, frequent travelers."

Lavalee said in an email the company has raised almost $1 million in equity funding from private investors in Nova Scotia. With a team of 12 people, it has also tapped programs offered by Nova Scotia Business Inc. and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Lavallee has been making steady progress with the company in the last few years. She was a finalist in Innovacorp’s I-3 competition, which netted the company more than $100,000. Then she began raising private capital and was accepted into the Propel ICT accelerator.

She said the company has been bringing in revenue through paid beta tests and is now ready for the full launch. The company recently upgraded the platform, and will soon add tours and transfer services.

GoBumpFree is hoping to become the travel booking platform of choice for airline employees and retirees around the world.

"These are customers who book spontaneous vacations all the time, and are really influential in their personal networks because they're frequent travelers," said Lavallee. "So they're the ideal customer for a hotel or resort. Sometimes they get bumped and can't make it, but they return to their favorite destinations again and again."

AVF Presenters Tell Stories of Growth

Vijai Karthigesu

Vijai Karthigesu

It’s become a springtime rite in Atlantic Canada. Companies from across Atlantic Canada on Tuesday stood up at the Atlantic Venture Forum to tell investors from across the continent about their success.

Eight companies presented on Tuesday and another four will take the stage today, telling a story of growth in their businesses. The AVF has become the region’s leading meeting place for investors and founders, and overwhelmingly these companies are telling stories of staggering growth – as companies have at every Atlantic Venture Forum in recent years. And around the convention space, other founders have booths or are just networking, and are telling growth stories.

“We’re the only company in the world today that has a single-click product that does what we do for eSports,” said Vijai Karthigesu, the CEO of Ubique Networks, which has developed technology that significantly reduces the lag time in online communications, especially in multi-player online games.

The Sydney- and Toronto-based company, one of the early-stage presenters, is adding to its list of enterprise clients and recently signed a social media client that has 100 million users, including 30 million gamers.

Another early-stage presenter was Timothy Howard or St. John's-based Vish Salon Tech, which helps hair salons to reduce dye waste and increase the accuracy of color formulas. Having recently entered the FoundersFuel accelerator in Montreal, Vish recently relaunched its product two weeks ago and in that time has doubled the number of salons that are customers to 22.

This year, 12 companies presented at the AVF. As in past years, there were sessions for early- and growth-stage companies. This year there was a breakout session at which three life sciences companies made presentations. 

One of the great things about the AVF is the presenting companies are asked to provide a range of data, including revenue. It provides a rare opportunity to validate the growth of these private companies. Not all the presenters provided detailed revenue information, and a few are still pre-revenue. But the dozen companies include two that will report revenue for the first time this year, three that will report growth of more than 300 percent and one with revenue-growth of 75 percent.

The presenting companies, and our coverage of them where applicable, are:

Early-Stage Companies

Clockwork Fox Studios, St. John’s. Read our coverage.

Frontier Power Systems, Charlottetown.

Ubique, Sydney and Toronto. Read our coverage.

Vish Salon Tech, St. John’s.

Seaformatics, St. John’s. Read our coverage.

Growth-Stage Companies:

Solace Power, Mount Pearl, NL. Read our coverage.

Island Water Technologies, Charlottetown. Read our coverage.

QRA Corp., Halifax. Read our coverage.

SimpTek Technologies, Fredericton. Read our coverage.

Life Sciences and Health Technology Companies:

Spring Loaded Technology, Halifax. Read our coverage.

Covina Biomedical, Halifax. Read our coverage.

Densitas Inc., Halifax. Read our coverage.

ACOA Grants $772K to Venn

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency has announced $772,438 in funding for Moncton-based Venn Innovation Inc. to help the facility to continue supporting IT startups in New Brunswick and across Atlantic Canada.

The two-project funding announced Tuesday will include a two-year project that will help companies from across the region increase their competitive intelligence to help grow their businesses.  

Formerly Tech Southeast, Venn is known as the main startup house for the Moncton area, and its office on Main Street has become a hub for all things tech in the area. Its many rolls include being the meeting place for the Propel ICT Build cohorts. Venn also oversees the Vennture Garage, an incubator for young startups in the area.

“Venn Innovation delivers focused programs and services to innovative companies, virtually all of which have to compete in global markets,” said Venn President and CEO Doug Robertson in a statement. “While the first project concentrated on helping New Brunswick companies with export market development strategies, the second project will help high growth companies across Atlantic Canada develop the competitive intelligence skills essential to succeed in today’s hyper-competitive global markets.”

ACOA said it will provide Venn with a grant of $441,208 through its Business Development Program to support the development of IT companies in New Brunswick with various initiatives. These include coaching and training programs, designed to grow and increase the capacity of SME’s to enter into new international markets.

The federal agency is also providing a second grant, also from the BDP, of $331,230 for a competitive intelligence training and awareness program. It will enable Atlantic Canadian businesses to understand their industry, markets, customers, and competitors and turn that information into actionable strategies to grow their operations. The program will run over two years and include group training classes, one-on-one coaching, and a series of workshops to hone the skills of participating companies on topics such as internal improvements, export readiness and market preparedness. 

The ACOA statement said the funding aims to help startups increase their international business development capability. The funding would also help Venn provide companies from across Atlantic Canada with competitive intelligence and awareness training.

Swell Lands San Diego Port Funding

Craig Sheppard and Iaian Archibald

Craig Sheppard and Iaian Archibald

Halifax’s Swell Advantage has raised US$100,000 in equity financing from the Port of San Diego, and will help the southern California port develop the technology for a smart marina.

Swell will undertake a one-year pilot project to refine development of smart marina software and a smartphone app for the port, which is making the investment through its Blue Tech Incubator. The app would be a mapping tool to automate and optimize dock management for marinas.

Swell outlined the plans Monday night in its presentation at Propel ICT’s latest Demo Day. The Halifax company was one of 11 companies from Propel’s Build and Launch programs to present at the event.

“The funding’s huge in the sense that it’s an investment from an industry leader in the Port of San Diego,” said CEO Iaian Archibald in a phone interview. “For any business our size, to be working with a leader in the space like the Port of San Diego is huge. It’s one of the biggest, if not the biggest, landlords of marinas on the West Coast.”

Archibald added that there are other investors in the funding round, but declined to reveal details.

Swell is an IT company founded by ocean sports enthusiasts Archibald and Craig Sheppard and has evolved into a company providing online services for marinas. It helps marinas tell boat owners about available slips that suit their boats’ dimensions and arrange bookings. And it provides data analytics that help to improve a marina’s revenues and operations. It helps private marinas and government-owned waterfront facilities understand how they’re missing revenue and plan marinas that produce the most revenue.

The company even provides a service called “Maxswell, the marina butler,” which uses mobile apps to streamline communications and enhance service for marina customers.

Sverica buys PEI-Based iWave

Archibald and Sheppard began the company three years ago with the goal of creating an app that would help boaters by telling them ocean and weather conditions and aiding their navigation. But the market for apps — especially paid apps — vanished as they worked on the project, so at the end of 2015 they changed their business model, focusing instead on helping marinas automate their systems.

The company last year worked with a few clients in Nova Scotia, including Waterfront Development Corp., but sailing is a seasonal sport so Swell Advantage looked south in search of a year-round market. Archibald spent most of last autumn in California, meeting with the sailing community and making ties, especially in San Diego.

In the interview, Archibald said the Port of San Diego is an exciting opportunity because it is planning billions of dollars of redevelopment and part of these plans involve expanding its marinas.

The team will now work with the southern California port on developing the smart marina and developing a product it can offer to other clients.

“We’re still iterating, we’re still learning and moving toward product-market fit, but I think we’re really onto something,” said Archibald. “It all comes down to automation and, just like the parking of cars has been automated over the past two decades, the automation of marinas is coming.”

Propel Demo Day Features 11 Startups.

On the fifth anniversary of its first Demo Day, Propel ICT and its community gathered in Halifax last night to witness presentations by another 11 of its graduates.

The Spring 2017 cohort graduated last night, bringing the number of companies to pass through its accelerators to 190. Board member Jeff White noted in a speech that 80 percent of these companies are still in operation, speaking to the success of the program.

“Tonight is all about the entrepreneurs,” said White. “It’s about the people who have decided to build a business in Atlantic Canada, and it will improve the economy."

It was a good day for Propel as ACOA announced earlier in the day that it would renew funding for the organization, providing it with $1.1 million over the next two years.  

Six companies from the Launch program, which took place this spring in Fredericton, Halifax and Sydney, pitched at Demo Day, as well as all five companies that went through the more advanced Build program.

Following the pitches, Stephen Palmer, former Co-CEO of Remsoft, will led a fireside chat with two companies from Propel’s first Growth Cohort – Eosense and Alongside.

The pitching companies were:

Launch Program

ADDText, Halifax – ADDtext helps youth with ADHD or facing other challenges with a text-based learning strategies in which the clients seek help from peer coaches. Read our recent report on ADDText.

BidSquid, Sydney – BidSquid is an online marketplace for rural agricultural products in which buyers and sellers post bids and offers organized by price.

Click2Order, Sydney – Click2Order saves restaurants money by providing them with their own branded online ordering system. Read our recent report on Click2Order.

GradsFinder, Moncton – Gradsfinder connects students and recent grads with employers.

Hit the Road App, Fredericton – Hit the Road App enables companies, governments, and municipalities to manage their infrastructures.

Side Door, Halifax -- Side Door connects artists, hosts and audiences to allow people to hold concerts in their own living rooms.

Build Program

Conceptualiz, Halifax – Conceptualiz provides doctors with easy-to-use, rapid, and accurate automated medical 3D printing software at a fraction of the cost.

Enkidu, Moncton - Enkidu allows organizations to continuously manage their Emotional and Diversity Intelligence. The output is a healthy, engaged and innovative culture that positively impacts their bottom line.

Mimir Networks, Sydney – Mimir delivers highly complex network security solutions with a single click simple interface. The company was recently named one of the Branham Top 25 Canadian Up and Coming ICT Companies.

SnapAP, Moncton – SnapAP’s accounts payable automation software allows your organization to become electronic and paperless in your purchase order and accounts payable processes.

Swell Advantage, Halifax – Swell Advantage provides deep analytics and automated operations tools for marinas that increase revenue, decrease operation costs and provide better customer service.

Mariner, NBIF Put $500K in Beauceron

Beauceron Security Inc., a Fredericton company that assesses clients’ cybersecurity risks, has raised more than $500,000 in equity funding after signing up 11 clients.

The company announced Monday that it has raised money from Mariner Partners and its East Valley Ventures investment affiliate, and received a $150,000 investment from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

Launched two years ago by staff at the University of New Brunswick, Beauceron Security Inc. has developed a platform for measuring, managing and monitoring cyber risk based on people, process, culture and technology. The company’s traction and funding are the latest evidence of the robust cybersecurity community that has grown up in New Brunswick and around UNB.

“We are thrilled to launch New Brunswick’s newest fully funded cybersecurity firm and extraordinarily grateful for the tremendous support we’ve received from the university, our investors and our early adopter clients,” said CEO David Shipley in a statement.

Fredericton has grown into a cybersecurity hub, thanks largely to the success of another company that grew out of UNB, Q1 Labs. IBM bought Q1 Labs in 2011, reportedly for more than $600 million, and has since then headquartered its cybersecurity R&D team in the New Brunswick capital.  More recently, UNB has created the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity, which opened earlier this year with more than $4.5 million in funding, and the New Brunswick has named cybersecurity as a key component in its economic development plans.

Read About the Impact of the Q1 Exit on Fredericton

Beauceron has attracted 11 clients in higher education, information technology, manufacturing and government in Canada and the United States. Clients include the University of New Brunswick, the Schulich School of Business at York University, Bulletproof Solutions, Gaming Labs International and the City of Fredericton.

Beauceron is also partnering with Bulletproof, Mariner, and Accreon Inc., which are helping to bring the Beauceron technology to customers throughout North America.

“Being an early adopter of Beauceron gives the City of Fredericton access to innovative world-class cybersecurity technology as soon as it is available,” said Fredericton Mayor Mike O’Brien. “There’s a tremendous benefit to being a city with a strong ecosystem of technology entrepreneurship and advanced cybersecurity research, development and commercialization.”

Added NBIF President and Chief Executive Calvin Milbury: “We’re excited to invest in a startup with such huge growth potential, founded by seasoned industry experts who understand the market. What impressed us the most was the interest they’ve received from customers already.”

Beauceron began in the fall of 2015 when Shipley, along with UNB tech staffers Benjamin Steeves and Sean McDougall, started to explore a new approach to measuring, managing and monitoring cyber risk as a personal project. Together with co-founders Bob Corson and Ian MacMillan, they began building their innovative, web-based cyber risk technology.

Ed Rodriguez Plots Growth at Energia

In December 2016, Beauceron was accepted into the inaugural cohort of Energia Ventures, a UNB-based, startup accelerator in the J. Herbert Smith Technology Management and Entrepreneurship Centre.

“Energia helps startup firms in energy, clean tech, smart grid and cybersecurity,” said Dhirendra Shukla, chair of TME and professor of engineering at UNB. “We help with initial funding, mentorship, refining plans and developing product solutions to prepare startups for further investment. Beauceron is the first of Energia’s initial cohort to close a first round of investment and we’re proud of the success they’ve seen so far.”

Sverica Buys PEI-based iWave

Charlottetown-based iWave Information Systems Inc. has exited, selling to a California private equity funding after almost three decades as an independent company.

Sverica Capital Management LLC of San Francisco announced last week it had acquired the company from Jamie Hill of Charlottetown for an undisclosed sum.

Sverica is a private equity fund, meaning it takes major or total stakes in companies with strong and stable cash flow, and works with the management to further growth. The new owner will retain current CEO Gerry Lawless and appoint Ross Beattie as Executive Director and Vice Chairman to strengthen the management team.

“IWave has a great opportunity to build upon its momentum, and we are excited to partner with Sverica as we continue to grow,” Beattie, the former CEO of HGS Canada, said in a statement. “IWave is well positioned to become the leading provider of fundraising intelligence, and we look forward to leveraging Sverica’s experience in realizing that vision.”

Founded in 1991, iWave helps not-for-profit organizations understand their donors and customers. It provides data and proprietary analytics to help these organizations understand who to ask for money and how and when to do so. For the past five years, iWave has been one of the fastest growing prospect research software companies in North America and now serves more than 2,000 clients. Its clients include universities like Yale and Stanford and organizations like Doctors Without Borders and the Smithsonian Institute.

PEI's Tunedly to Pitch at Startupfest

The statement said the partnership with Sverica will further the company’s goal to become a stronger global prospect research data and software company.

“Partnering with Sverica will expand our capacity to deliver the best value for our client organizations, provide rewarding careers for our team members and create value for our stakeholders,” said Lawless. “Most importantly, this will position us to build on our long-term strategy to produce a category leading-company that fundamentally changes the way nonprofits find major gifts to support their great causes.”

The iWave deal is the second exit announced publicly this year. In February, STI Technologies of Halifax announced that it had been bought by the American multinational QuintilesIMS. The parties did not disclose the price, though press reports said the price was about $200 million.

Sverica is lower-middle-market-focused buyout fund that has raised over $700 million of investment capital across four funds.  The firm acquires and actively builds companies that are, or could become, leaders in their industries. 

Sverica is active in working with its portfolio companies, and devotes significant internal resources to help its management teams develop and execute growth strategies.  The iWave acquisition marks Sverica’s third investment made from its fourth fund.

“Gerry and the iWave team have built a great company that has experienced significant growth over the past five years while serving their clients with a powerful data-driven software solution,” said Sverica Managing Director Jordan Richards. “We are excited to partner with Ross and Gerry and reinvest back into the Company to create new avenues of growth and opportunity for the Company’s employees, customers, and partners.”

Envenio Receives $1.3M in VC Funds

Fredericton-based Envenio has secured investment $1.3 million in venture capital from Celtic House Venture Partners, Green Century Investments and New Brunswick Investment Foundation.

The computational fluid dynamics, or CFD, software developer said in a statement the funding will be used to grow and strengthen the sales and engineering teams. This growth is in keeping with its plans to increase the use of its cloud-hosted, on-demand CFD platform, EXN/Aero.

“We share Envenio’s belief that the billion dollar global CFD industry is positioned for disruption from new cloud-based and GPU-based approaches that offer unparalleled performance coupled with new service delivery models derived from consumer internet technology,” said Tomas Valis of Celtic House Venture Partners in a statement.

Having launched the SaaS version of its product in October, Envenio said in January it was looking for $500,000 in equity funding.

Solace Lands $2.8M for Lab Expansion

Growing out of intellectual property developed at the University of New Brunswick, Envenio’s software lets engineers analyze and solve problems involving the flow of liquids and gases. The company’s algorithms allow basic computers to simulate the flow of these substances. Like a virtual wind tunnel, it can chart the interactions of liquids and gases in specific conditions and with certain solid shapes.

Envenio began six years ago with three mechanical engineering grads building a business out of IP they licensed from UNB. Initially, it was a service company, helping companies and organizations like the Canadian military 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.

As of January, the company had clients in Canada, the U.S. and Europe and had just secured two military clients – one naval and one weapons-based.

The company said that each of the three investors brings decades of industry experience and credibility.            

With offices in Toronto and Ottawa, Celtic House Venture Partners has more than $4.5 billion worth of exits and is regarded as one of the most active Canadian investors in technology and innovation. Toronto-based Green Century Investments brings extensive experience from a number of sectors, and its reach extends to many countries including China.

NBIF adds this investment to its $70 million portfolio, alongside $380 million leveraged from other sources. The Fredericton innovation agency previously invested $300,000 in Envenio.

“Since the company was founded, we have funded most of the product development through engineering consulting,” said Envenio Vice-President Scott Walton.  “Now that the product is on the market, we are looking to accelerate its adoption.  . . . It is our honor to be funded by some of Canada’s leading technology investment firms who have a long history of success in Software-as-a-Service products.”

NSHA Lands $2.1M from ACOA

The federal government is providing $2.1 million in funding to the Nova Scotia Health Authority, or NSHA, to assist with the development of five novel radiotherapy technologies.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, which is providing the money through its Atlantic Innovation Fund, said in a statement the funding will help NSHA researchers to develop and improve five radiotherapy and radiosurgery technologies.

More than 50 percent of cancer patients receive radiation therapy to help manage their disease. By 2030, it is estimated that there will be a 68 percent increase in the incidence of cancer globally. The research will result in improved treatment accuracy that will spare healthy tissues and organs, resulting in better patient outcomes.

This funding will support the hiring of eight full-time individuals, including three PhD students. The money will also help with the purchasing of specialized equipment and to introduce the technology to market more quickly.

Munich, Germany-based medical technology company Brainlab will help bring the technology to market and distribute NSHA’s products internationally. Brainlab supplies products to over 100 countries and operates offices in Europe, Asia, Australia and North and South America.

Royalty revenues from this intellectual property will help NSHA to fund future research and commercialization efforts and retain medical physics talent.

“The efficacy of radiation therapy depends critically on the accuracy with which cancer is targeted,” said Janet Knox,  President and CEO of  the Nova Scotia Health Authority. “Investments by and collaboration with ACOA and Brainlab will not only allow our Medical Physics team to further the state-of-the-art in this regard, but will establish a channel ensuring that improvements may reach patients around the world.”

The federal funding was announced by Andy Fillmore, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions and Member of Parliament for Halifax.

Jobs: Beauceron, DGI Clinical

We have openings for a developer in Fredericton and a training and research assistant in Halifax in the edition of Jobs of the week.

Beauceron, a cybersecurity company in the New Brunswick capital, is looking for a senior software developer, while Halifax-based DGI Clinical is seeking a training and research assistant.

Beauceron began in 2015 when a group of cybersecurity experts tasked with protecting the University of New Brunswick decided to try a new approach to measuring, managing and monitoring cyber risk. It recently closed its first round of investment funding and is currently working with a dozen early adopter customers to refine its technology ahead of a full version launch later this summer.

DGI Clinical is focused on the provision of tools and techniques for patient-centered research and health care. DGI has a focus on individualized outcome measurement and works with clients to build SymptomGuides.

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.

Fredericton

Beauceron

Senior Software Developer

Beauceron seeks to change the current cybersecurity story of endless breaches, hundreds of billions of dollars stolen and frustrated companies and organizations seeking a better way to manage their cyber risk. Its aim is to turn clients’ greatest source of vulnerabilities – people, process and culture – into their greatest security assets, allowing them to become more resilient in the face of growing online threats.

The company is looking for a talented, passionate web front-end developer to join its team. This person will be a key member of the team, and will help Beauceron develop innovative new features and functionality as well as providing support to its growing customer base. He or she must provide leadership and guidance on web application design and user experience approaches and best practices. The job includes working closely with the rest of the team to design and implement product features, and designing and creating rich, responsive user experiences using modern web technologies. Beauceron wants someone with five years of industry experience in front-end web development and a university degree, community college or private college diploma.

Halifax

DGI Clinical

Training and Research Assistant

DGI’s training and research assistant will participate in development and launch of SymptomGuides, working in partnership with the company’s diverse portfolio of pharmaceutical clients. Specific tasks will include project management, documentation, development of training materials, facilitation and training. Immediate responsibilities will include a leadership position rolling out a newly established SymptomGuide in 15-20 clinics across the USA. Travel will be required for this position.

This person must manage training programs; train clinic personnel; review and prepare materials and communications for successful training implementation; and summarize and provide appropriate feedback when necessary. He or she will work in partnership with key pharmaceutical sponsors and other stakeholders to develop new, review, and/or revise training guides and instructional material for programs, SOP’s, training standards, quizzes, evaluation forms, proficiency standards and other training documents as needed.

The skills required for the job include planning and coordination, an understanding of health and science, and the ability to ensure confidentiality and work in an ethical manner.

Norex Rebrands as Code + Mortar

Norex, the Halifax web development company and innovation lab, is rebranding itself to become Code + Mortar, conveying a mission that goes way beyond web design.

Headquartered in a Victorian house on Gottingen Street, Code + Mortar aims to work with clients on innovation, helping them conceive new products, build them, and take them to market. One interesting quirk about the company is that it is actively targeting startups as clients, not just large-enterprise clients.

“Right now the portfolio is more than 60 per cent startups, but we do attract larger companies that are looking to innovate,” said managing partner Jenelle Sobey in an interview Thursday. “It’s companies that are looking to innovate or reach new markets by using technology.”

Norex got its start in 2010 and grew in the middle of the decade under the leadership of former Olympian Julia Rivard Dexter. One of Norex’s hallmarks was that it became an innovation lab, developing its own products as well as doing work for clients. One product grew into Squiggle Park, an educational technology company dedicated to teaching children to read. Two years ago, Rivard Dexter and her collaborator, Leah Skerry, became the full-time heads of what’s now Squiggle Park, and Sobey joined Norex as its new head.

Under her stewardship Norex has continued to grow, and the innovation side of the business has become more prevalent. Now called Code + Mortar, it has 18 people in Halifax and opened an office in Toronto, where three people work. An office in Boston is due to open in 2018. The recent growth has not been in staffing but in revenue, said Sobey. This profitable company that employs 21 people is now on track to increase revenue by more than 50 percent this year.

PEI's Tunedly To Pitch at Startupfest

Startups are a big growth area for Code + Mortar. That’s unusual because Rule No. 1 for building a consultancy is to go after organizations with money, which generally rules out startups. But Sobey said Code + Mortar can help young companies build their products less expensively than if they hired their own development team, then the consultancy can grow with the young company.

Code + Mortar’s sweet spot is social enterprises — or what Sobey calls “companies trying to solve the most complex social problems” — that need help with digital innovation. She cited two Toronto-based clients as examples.

One is Project Neutral, which assesses individuals’ energy consumption, helps them change their habits to reduce that consumption, and gathers data on a jurisdiction’s energy usage. It turned to Code + Mortar to build the online survey and interface that helps it to engage with individuals.

Another is Jaza Energy, which is providing solar energy for the world’s poorest communities. Code + Mortar is developing an online dashboard that can take the data produced by the energy generation hardware, and create a data visualization tool for Jaza clients.

Sobey said the company needed a new name and brand that suits its mission to help clients to innovate. Code + Mortar is a play on the terms brick and mortar and conveys the idea that businesses need to focus on both the digital and physical worlds to thrive.

Said Sobey: “We really believe that the future of business is going to be in digital businesses and that it’s more import to invest in digital spaces than in physical spaces.”

CarShare Atlantic Adds One-Way Trips

CarShare Atlantic announced Thursday that its clients in Halifax are getting an improved service with the addition of one-way car-sharing.

The company said in a statement that it would add the first group of 20 hybrid FLEX cars to its fleet in coming weeks. The new FLEX vehicles can be picked up and dropped off at any location within a set geographical area or in special parking locations downtown. Until now, cars have had to be returned to the spot where they were picked up.

CarShare Atlantic members will be able to locate FLEX cars on the smartphone app or on the website, block it for free for 30 minutes to give them time to reach the vehicle. Once they’ve used the car, they can leave it somewhere else, on street or in special parking depots in the operating zone.

“We are proud to offer the best of two worlds: a station-based car-sharing service, perfect for planned trips and FLEX Carsharing: ideal for spontaneous one-way trips around town,” said Pam Cooley, President of CarShare Atlantic.

The 6.3-square-kilometre “FLEX zone” takes up most of peninsular Halifax. Members will be able to travel in and out of the zone, as long the car is brought back and parked in the zone or at designated drop off parking locations downtown like at Scotia Square. The Flex zone includes the participating Waterfront Development parking lots.

Made with Local Enters Bulk Barn

All CarShare Atlantic members are automatically eligible to use this service. New members will be able to join the FLEX service without the need to pay for an annual or monthly membership (a one-time fee of $35 is payable at registration) and use FLEX cars at a price of 41 cents per minute or $12 an hour including 100 kilometres for free.

Halifax is joining the select club of cities worldwide that recognizes that the investment of station-based and one-way car-sharing contributes to them achieving their multi-modal mobility strategy and environmental goals.

CarShare Atlantic is a partner of Communauto, the network of car-sharing services in North America, which helped CarShare Atlantic to develop this project.

“We are proud to accompany CarShare Atlantic, first in the Maritimes, in the implementation of this new mobility service, said Communauto CEO Benoit Robert in a statement. “This service will make it even more compelling for residents to combine transit, active mobility, taxi and car-sharing for their mobility needs.”

PEI’s Tunedly To Pitch at Startupfest

Seven international startups will compete for the Best Onstage Pitch at Montreal’s Startup Festival next month, including an Atlantic Canadian entry that may be the most international startup you’ll ever find.

The company is Tunedly, which has developed an online music studio. And it is – deep breath – a Charlottetown-based music-tech company that was founded by a German man and French woman who were living in Ireland; they nurtured the company in the Canary Islands, took it to an accelerator in upstate New York and received financing from three jurisdictions, including Arkansas.

Founders Chris Erhardt (Germany) and Mylène Besançon (France) learned this week that Tunedly will present at the Best Onstage Pitch competition at the Startup Festival July 12 to 15 in Montreal. Erhardt said the selection is a sign the company is headed in the right direction.

“Not only does the opportunity give us tremendous visibility to potential users and business partners, but it also underlines the fact that we are building something that is desperately needed in the music industry, and people are excited about the solution we are building,” said Erhardt, who has a background in the music business.

Tunedly’s online solution lets musicians and singers record high quality music together regardless of where they are. No longer are musicians constrained by their location or the need to book expensive studio time. Using Tunedly, they can save time and money, avoid travel and still produce high-quality tracks.

Erhardt and Besançon conceived of the idea when they were living in Dublin. The Irish capital has a thriving music scene, but they found the city expensive, so they spent a lot of time in the Canary Islands as they developed the product. Then they found another problem: if they wanted to get funding for their startup, they would be best off in North America. So they hopped on a plane and flew to the western hemisphere in January, 2016.

Retrievium Founder Upbeat After CDL

Once they were in North America, they learned of Canada’s Startup Visa program, which allows foreigners with young companies to come to Canada and build their companies here. After talking to a few potential sponsors, they signed up with Launchpad PEI and settled in Charlottetown. (Last month, they were granted landed immigrant status for Canada.)

The founders gained a bit of traction with musicians, but they wanted to scale their company more quickly. So they applied to and were accepted into the StartFast Venture Accelerator in Syracuse, N.Y., which they attended last summer. It helped them make contacts with groups like the U.S. songwriters’ organization Ascap and the Songwriters Association of Canada. By the time it left the accelerator, Tunedly’s monthly revenues topped $10,000 and have never fallen below that level.

To continue scaling, the company sought to raise revenue. Tunedly received US$25,000 from StartFast on entering the program, and when it graduated the accelerator decided to top it up with an additional US$75,000 investment. The company gained investment from Island Capital Partners, the new $4 million investment fund established by private investors and the provincial government in P.E.I. And Erhardt, who used to live in northern Arkansas, also tapped an old contact Jeff Amerine from Fayetteville, who is familiar to Atlantic Canadians due to frequent visits to the region for MentorCamp and other events.

So far, the company has raised about US$200,000 and hopes to raise a further US$300,000 for its current funding round.

Erhardt said the strength of the company is its six-member team, with diversified skill sets, and that it is solving a timely problem.

“Everything in the music industry has changed in the past 20 years but the only thing that hasn’t changed is the way we record music,” he said. “We try to tackle this one problem where you can record live music from the comfort of your home. It can produce the same quality as if you were in a studio in Nashville, Tennessee.”

HomeEXCEPT Bags US Award

HomeEXCEPT, a Halifax company that uses thermal sensors to monitor frail elderly people, has won its category in an international competition for innovation for senior citizens.

Washington, D.C.-based AARP Inc. – formerly the American Association of Retired Persons – announced Wednesday that HomeEXCEPT had captured the US$10,000 first prize in Health and Safety Awareness category in its AARP Innovation Champion Awards. The American organization, which has 38 million members and represents the interests of people over 50, offered prizes in six categories.

HomeEXCEPT calls its product “Smart Sensors for EXCEPTional Peace of Mind”. It is a platform that allows family members to monitor loved ones by using thermal sensors used to track movement.

“The AARP Innovation Champion Awards was created to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary efforts of companies that are aligned with AARP’s core mission – to empower people to choose how they live as they age,” said Anne Marie Kilgallon, AARP’s Vice President of Enterprise Strategy and Innovation. “We received hundreds of submissions and the decision was not an easy one, but in the end our panel of judges agreed that HomeEXCEPT Inc. best exemplified this mission.”

Headed by businessman John Robertson, HomeEXCEPT set out help monitor seniors living in their own homes.

CogPro Develops Aids fro Dementia Sufferers

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.

Robertson said in an interview Wednesday that winning competition more than anything tells the team that experts believe HomeEXCEPT is developing a product that will meet demand in the market.   

“The big thing for us is validation,” he said. “When we entered the contest, we went into it saying, Let’s get some industry experts to look over what we’re doing and see if we’re on the right track. And they came back and said hands down we are.”

He added that by winning the competition, HomeEXCEPT reps will be flown to Washington, D.C., to tour the AARP innovation lab and meet the organization’s Chief Innovation Officer.

HomeEXCEPT recently closed its first round of financing, raising a total of $365,000 in equity funding, comprising $260,000 in direct investment and $105,000 in convertible debt.  The company is now applying to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency for a loan through the agency’s Business  Development Program and export credits from Export Development Canada.

Robertson said the company has completed tests of the first version of its product and is waiting to receive the sensors back from the manufacturers. He expects to be shipping the sensors in clients in Nova Scotia and the U.S in the next two to four weeks. 

Solace Lands $2.8M for Lab Expansion

Solace Power engineer Chris Newport makes adjustments on a UAV.

Solace Power engineer Chris Newport makes adjustments on a UAV.

Solace Power has received $2.8 million in government financing to expand its lab into one of the leading facilities of its kind in the country.

The company now has 30 employees (20 of them engineers) and will soon expand to 35, and it has outgrown its current office and lab in Mount Pearl, NL. It is now developing a larger $4.2 million lab to continue its research and development in wireless technologies.

The wireless energy company has received a $2.55 million conditional loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund, and $245,000 from the Newfoundland and Labrador government’s Research & Development Corp.

Based in Mount Pearl, NL, Solace Power specializes in wireless power – that is, delivering electrical energy to batteries or devices without any wires attached to them. It works on projects for specific customers and then licenses the technology to them. The company will be one of the companies presenting at the Atlantic Venture Forum next week.

“We are excited to accelerate the research and development of our wireless power technology, which has the potential to transform multiple industries with real-world applications,” said Solace CEO Kris McNeil in a statement. “This advanced testing facility will be one of very few of its kind in Canada and will enable us to accelerate and advance the testing of our innovative wireless technology."

Solace recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, and it’s starting its second decade with some big announcements.

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Last month, the company landed a US$2.3 million research contract from Lockheed Martin, secured through the federal government’s Industrial and Technological Benefits program. And now it has received funding for its new lab.

In an interview, McNeil said the company is developing an additional 3,000 square feet of lab space to accommodate its growth. This space has to be fitted with electro-static discharge flooring, which means special flooring that won’t interfere with the wireless charging process.

This project involves research and development to advance the company’s wireless charging capabilities of small electric unmanned aerial vehicles. The technology will be used for demonstration in a pilot project such as pipeline inspection with a commercial partner.  As a clean-tech initiative, it will reduce emissions by replacing other fuel-based monitoring technologies.

McNeil said Solace has been working with about 20 customers to develop special projects for them, and has signed four contracts with Boeing alone.

Solace is now moving into negotiations on using the Newfoundland company’s technology in specific products, which the customer will then sell to the broader market. McNeil expects to have the first of these contracts signed this summer, and that the first product using Solace’s recharging technology will be on the market in 2018.

The federal government also announced that Fugro Geosurveys, a division of Fugro Canada Corp., would receive a $2.98 million conditional loan from the AIF. Fugro Geosurveys will implement new sensor technology in autonomous underwater vehicles to advance their commercial potential in areas such as subsea mapping, ocean environment and habitat monitoring, inspection and surveillance in harsh environments. 

All Eyes on Dal in Next 12-18 Months

To learn where R&D spending is rising or falling, visit our Facebook page.

To learn where R&D spending is rising or falling, visit our Facebook page.

As we look ahead to the second half of 2017, there is one institution in the startup community to keep an eye on in the next 6-12 months, as it has the potential to change the landscape. That institution is Dalhousie University.

The region’s startup community is maturing and includes more companies than ever. At its core is a group of scaling companies that are gaining more and more international clients. Its biggest members book tens of millions in annual revenues.

The question now is how to keep it growing. That doesn’t just mean creating more companies. It means creating companies whose products can truly disrupt markets, and that often requires deep scientific research. It also means we need to create the ecosystem needed to nurture these scaling companies.

What happens at Dal in the next year or so will have more impact than anything else on developing that ecosystem. That’s so because (a) Dal is the region’s leading research institution, (b) the next stage of startup growth will need a greater emphasis on commercializing scientific research, and (c) Dal is at a crossroads with its innovation program.

Entrevestor’s research in 2014 and 2015 showed that startups affiliated with universities gain revenue at twice the pace of the overall startup population — a stat that highlights the importance of university research in developing products that disrupt markets. (Disclaimer: Dalhousie is a client of Entrevestor.)

More R&D is conducted at Dal than any other Atlantic Canadian university. According to Research Infosource, Dalhousie was the No. 16 research university in Canada in 2016, accounting for $141.9 million in R&D. (Memorial University of Newfoundland was No. 19 with $102.4 million and the University of New Brunswick No. 27 with $41 million.)

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With that wealth of scientific research, Dal is facing a few opportunities to up its game in innovation. The university is a partner in the Creative Destruction Lab’s new CDL-Atlantic node in Halifax. That program has been announced and will tie the university into a network of the country’s best mentors.

Meanwhile, there’s also an effort to make Dalhousie the first Canadian node of Innovation Corps, or I-Corps, the U.S. National Science Foundation’s program for commercializing scientific research. I-Corps specializes in teaching scientists how to commercialize their research, and in the past few years has worked with 1,500 of the leading scientists in the U.S.

So by the end of the year, our largest research institution could be affiliated with CDL and its network across Canada, as well as I-Corps and its links across the U.S. They could work with other startup groups in or around Dal, like Launch Dal, ShiftKey Labs and the IDEA Project. Through Springboard Atlantic, the group that co-ordinates the commercialization of Atlantic Canadian university research, other institutions in the region should also benefit from this advance. It could be an integrated ecosystem, bringing in new companies and helping maturing companies to grow.

There are still some hurdles to clear to make all this happen. Dalhousie needs to do a better job of spinning its research into companies — UNB, for example, has a more co-ordinated approach to developing research into companies. Dalhousie has been in the news recently because it is not renewing the contract of entrepreneurship professor Ed Leach. It has to get beyond the bad feelings created by that move.

And yet, Dalhousie has the opportunity to be the linchpin in something special — a layered ecosystem with scientific research and its core, and whose connections reach across the continent.

 

For the raw data from the chart above, including the percentage changes, please visit our Facebook page. Just click here

UNB Summer Institute Ramps Up

Now in its fourth year, the J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship’s (TME) Summer Institute program at University of New Brunswick brings together young entrepreneurs for three months of turning their vision into a livelihood.

Now midway through the Fredericton-based program, this year’s participants include eight businesses and 10 participants. Program manager Melissa Erin O’Rourke says 113 businesses from 14 different countries applied for the program this year, the most applications they’ve ever had.

“One of the reasons I think this group is so unique is that there is such a mix of folks participating,” O’Rourke says. “Each entrepreneur has a very different background, passion and direction they want to take their business. It makes for an exciting and incredibly creative environment.”

O’Rourke says 60 per cent of their participants this year are female, an increase from the program’s track record of 40 per cent female participation, a number she says this is double the industry average for accelerators. . . . 

Read the Full Story on Huddle. 

Blue Spurs Wins AWS Competition

Fredericton-based Blue Spurs announced last week it was a winner in the 2017 AWS City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge for its Blue Kit “Internet of Things starter kit”.

On Thursday at a ceremony in Washington D.C., Amazon Web Services recognized 19 organizations from around the world for its City on a Cloud competition. The event aims to recognize how local and regional governments are innovating on behalf of citizens around the globe using the AWS Cloud.

There were three categories– Best Practices, Dream Big, and Partners in Innovation – and Blue Spurs  was one of five winners in the Partners in Innovation Category.

Blue Spurs, a cloud computing consultancy that employs almost 100 people, entered Blue Kit in the competition, which it developed in collaboration with CyberNB and the New Brunswick government. Blue Kit is a low-code IoT educational starter kit that allows middle and high school students to understand the fundamentals of IoT.

Using technology that complex IoT systems are built on today, including arduino boards, sensors, AWS IoT and Noodl, students build IoT projects to learn the fundamentals in an interactive, fun environment. Each project builds on the previous one, providing increasing challenges that are aligned with school curriculum objectives.

Students can create projects to control an LED light with voice commands through Amazon Lex voice services, for example. These are the same technologies powering state of the art IoT applications in many industries today. The Blue Kit made them easily accessible in a classroom lab environment by all students.

“The Partners in Innovation award recognizes a technology partner that has deployed an innovative solution to solve a government or teaching and learning challenge,” said a post on the Blue Spurs website last week by CEO Mike LeBlanc. “Given the fact that this year's challenge saw a record number of applications from over 15 countries, we are truly honoured to be among the selected winners.”

Propel ICT Unveils Demo Day Pitchers

For the first time ever, Propel ICT’s Demo Day in Halifax next week will feature companies from its three levels of accelerator – its Launch, Build and Growth Cohorts.

The regional accelerator on Friday announced the companies that will present at Demo Day, which will take place June 26 at the Marriott Harbourfront. Tickets for the event are available here.

Six companies from the Launch program, which took place this spring in Fredericton, Halifax and Sydney, will pitch at the event, as will all five companies that went through the more advanced Build program.

Following the pitches, Stephen Palmer, former Co-CEO of Remsoft, will lead a fireside chat with two companies from Propel’s first Growth Cohort – Eosense and Alongside.

The pitching companies are:

Launch Program

ADDText, Halifax - ADDtext provides 24/7 Text-Based Learning Strategies with Peer Coaches.

BidSquid, Sydney - BidSquid is an online marketplace for rural agricultural products where buyers and sellers post bids and offers organized by price.

Click2Order, Sydney - Click2Order saves restaurants money by providing with their own branded online ordering system.

GradsFinder, Moncton - Gradsfinder connects students and recent grads with employers.

Hit the Road App, Fredericton - Hit the Road App enables companies, governments, and municipalities to manage their infrastructures.

Side.Door, Halifax, NS - Side Door connects artists, hosts and audiences to make concert venues right in your living room.

Build Program:

Conceptualiz, Halifax - Conceptualiz provides doctors with easy-to-use, rapid, and accurate automated medical 3D printing software at a fraction of the cost.

Enkidu, Moncton - Enkidu allows organizations to continuously manage their Emotional and Diversity Intelligence™. The output is a healthy, engaged and innovative culture that positively impacts your bottom line.

Mimir Networks, Sydney - Mimir delivers highly complex network security solutions with a single click simple interface.

SnapAP, Moncton - SnapAP Accounts Payable Automation Software allows your organization to become electronic and paperless in your Purchase Order and Accounts Payable processes.

Swell Advantage, Halifax - Realtime docking and mooring for boaters. Swell Advantage provides deep analytics and automated operations tools for marinas that increase revenue, decrease operation costs and provide better customer service.

Jobs: Swept Seeks Quality Engineer

Swept, a Halifax company gaining attention across the continent, headlines our Job of the Week column with an opening for a Software Quality Engineer.

Founded by CEO Michael Brown and CTO Matt Cooper, Swept has developed software that helps cleaning companies perform their duties with greater efficiency. The company realizes that janitors often work at night, and some tasks are difficult to explain. That means there are challenges getting messages between clients and the cleaners. So it provides a mobile solution that improves communication between cleaning companies, their cleaners, and their clients.

The company is now going through the 500 Startups accelerator in Silicon Valley.

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.

Halifax

Swept

Software Quality Engineer

Swept is looking for a talented Software Quality Engineer to implement and refine its quality assurance program to ensure optimum performance of the company’s mobile and web software. The company is looking for someone with a passion for learning and developing new skills, while working closely with production and client teams throughout the product life cycle. The successful client will work on defining acceptance criteria and refining the business rules that are used in the application. He or she will collaborate with development and design teams to plan and execute testing across a variety of world-class applications. The position requires an aptitude for software testing and a passion for shipping quality products, and experience-testing scalable cloud applications and/or enterprise-grade web applications. Swept is looking for someone with one to three years of experience in a similar position. 

Made with Local Enters Bulk Barn

Sheena Russell: 'The Bulk Barn contract is a big one.'

Sheena Russell: 'The Bulk Barn contract is a big one.'

After five years in business, social enterprise Made with Local is celebrating a major milestone — getting its Loaded Oats products into Bulk Barn stores across the country.

The Dartmouth-based venture prioritizes using locally grown ingredients in its Real Food bars and Loaded Oats foods. It also works with social enterprises that employ socially disadvantaged people.

The company now works with four such groups around the region, and MwL products are available at many outlets, including Sobey’s stores.

“We’re building a company that is rooted in cultivating a strong community between suppliers, production kitchens, customers, and everyone in between,” said MwL co-founder Sheena Russell.

Russell started MwL with Kathy MacDonald in 2012. They both worked for the Halifax Regional Municipality at the time and shared a love of healthy food.

“We started MwL after realizing that healthy snacking options were either not delicious, not healthy and full of all kinds of weird stuff, or both,” Russell said.

To get MwL going, Russell borrowed a small sum from her then boyfriend, now her husband, Andrew Russell.

She and MacDonald started by making their bars in the kitchen of Dartmouth’s Banook Canoe Club, a favourite spot for Andrew, who is a former Olympic paddler.

Their Real Food Bars were launched at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market in June 2012.

Early clients and supporters included Pete’s Frootique (now Pete’s Fine Foods), Coburg Coffee House and Uncommon Grounds.

ADDtext To Aid Youth With Learning Challenges

By spring of 2014, both Russell and MacDonald had become moms and business was good. They needed to keep growing, so they outsourced production to social enterprise The Flowercart Group of New Minas.

“Flowercart is a supported workplace program for folks with barriers to mainstream employment. It feels amazing to see their organization grow alongside ours,” Russell said.

In 2016, MwL began working with a second social enterprise — the Dartmouth Adult Services Centre in Dartmouth, where Loaded Oats are now made.

MwL is currently planning to co-invest with Flowercart to expand that group’s kitchens so both companies can keep growing.

“This will increase demand for our locally sourced ingredients and provide valuable training for clients of Flowercart’s vocational programs,” Russell said.

When funding is secured, the expansion will allow the kitchen to quadruple capacity. MwL has also worked on different projects with the Prescott Group and Bonny Lea Farm.

Russell said she studied environmental science at Dalhousie University and never expected to work in the food business. She relates her food passion to the fact her dad is a baker and she grew up on a farm on Prince Edward Island.

Right now, the future is looking exciting and even a little scary, Russell said.

“The Bulk Barn contract is a big one. Our Loaded Oats product is going into 230 stores nationally.”

She said that later this year, MwL intends to break into the independent natural health scene in Ontario. MwL bars are already carried at Toronto city’s Billy Bishop Airport and various other outlets.

Russell said the company’s growth has been assisted by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, which helped the company hire business coach Dorothy Spence and director of sales and operations Kristine Elliott-Grace.

“It’s great we’ve been able to make all these connections in what is always described as a ‘have-not province’” Russell said.

She said that building a business has been a valuable education.

“You learn everything . . . If you’re building your business from a place of integrity in a purposeful way, there’s a lot of opportunity.”

Dickie, Gillis To Discuss Exits at AVF

The Atlantic Venture Forum this year will feature a panel discussion on the hard-won lessons from two of the most prominent exits of the last year – the sales of Halifax-based companies Goalline and STI Technologies Ltd.

The AVF is a two-day conference that links investors inside and outside the region with some of Atlantic Canada’s leading startups or high-growth companies. It will take place June 27 and 28 at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel. Tickets are available here.

The conference kicks off with an Entrepreneur Bootcamp on June 26 – just 10 days away – and the Propel ITC Demo Day on Monday evening.  

One panel session this year will be a discussion with Tim Gillis, the CEO of STI, and Gord Dickie, the Founder and CEO of Goalline, about their exits.

“Get the inside scoop as these two entrepreneurs break down their respective journeys as they exited their companies,” said a promotion from Critical Path Group, the organizer of AVF. “Listen in and learn how to avoid some key problems, adapt during expansion, and prosper through hyper-growth as they forge their path towards a successful exit.”

Read About the 12 Atlantic Companies Presenting at AVF

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.

In February of this year, the company was taken over by QuintilesIMS, which has dual headquarters in Connecticut and North Carolina. The deal was reportedly worth more than $200 million.

Goalline, which provided websites to youth sports leagues, was bought in May 2016 by Blue Star Sports for an undisclosed price. At the time of the sale, the parties said they planned to develop an integrated technology platform for minor sports.

Founded in 2002, Goalline is a leading provider of web software and mobile applications for youth sport organizations. It has more than 10 million users and is best known for its easy-to-use web pages for sports leagues.

Discussions with entrepreneurs who have gone through exits can be fascinating stuff. The first Startup Empire conference in 2014 featured a tremendous panel with Jeff Thompson, founder of Fredericton-based UserEvents, and Daniel Debow, Senior VP at Salesforce and founder of several startups, who frankly described what it’s really like to be taken over.

 

Disclaimer: Critical Path is a client of Entrevestor. 

ADDtext Aims to Help Troubled Youth

When Chase Valiant graduated from Nova Scotia Community College on Tuesday, one of the people attending was Keith Gelhorn, who had been mentoring him for years.

Gelhorn is an entrepreneur and social worker whose company, ADDvocacy, helps young people with attention deficit disorder develop methods to cope with their affliction. He began working with Valiant several years ago and beams with pride when talking about the young man’s progress — both academic and personal.

“Keith was always my mentor,” said Valiant, 22, in an interview last week. “When I dropped out and stopped going to class, he just kept calling me and calling me, getting me to pay attention to him.”

Gelhorn and his ADDvocacy program help 16-39-year-olds like Valiant adopt the life skills they need to thrive. Now he’s adapting the program to a digital service called ADDtext that lets ADD sufferers and others text back and forth with “peer coaches” at any time to instill the same sorts of lessons.

The product is no longer just for people with ADD or ADHD but is designed to help any young person learn “executive function skills” like time management, emotional management or goal-setting.

He’s now testing ADDtext with dozens of users. Once the product is fully launched in the late summer, users will pay $15 a month and be linked up with a peer coach — someone who has lived through the same difficulties and can guide them. The user can text his or her peer coach at any time and receive the needed support.

Indigo Foundation Supports Squiggle Park

Gelhorn’s medium-term plan is to develop a higher-margin business-to-business product that could be delivered to institutions like colleges and universities.

He has designed the service to emphasize the positive in young people who have often gone off the rails because of their intellectual and emotional challenges. “The idea is to build people up and not judge them on the things they’ve done,” said Gelhorn, who knows these challenges because he coped with them for years.

“With my background, I had no support and I was all over the place,” said Gelhorn. “People would just focus on what I wasn’t doing. . . . I was a ticking time bomb.”

He went through tough years. It took him six years to complete a two-year program in social work, and he spent three years on employment insurance. In 2008, he was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and he began to turn his life around.

Lately, Gelhorn himself has been receiving no shortage of mentorship on the business front: He has taken ADDtext through both the Starting Lean program at Dalhousie University and Propel ICT’s Launch cohort in Halifax. And this summer he will go through Launch Dal’s summer program.

He presented the company at the Propel Demo Day earlier this month, and invited along Valiant, who has become a member of the ADDtext team. In fact, Gelhorn announced that from now on ADDtext will award a $500 scholarship to a different user each quarter. Valiant will receive the first scholarship to help cover his tuition costs when he attends Cape Breton University to study arts and communication in the fall. Eventually, he hopes to study law.

“I’m quite interested in law and the human rights aspect of it,” said Valiant. “I want to change things in the field of education, but first I have to learn how things work.”

CDL-Atlantic Applications Now Open

Applications are open for the Creative Destruction Lab’s 2017-18 cohort, including the new CDL-Atlantic node in Halifax.

The CDL, which was launched at the University of Toronto five years ago, recently announced that it was expanding across the country. It is now offering three simultaneous programs in Toronto, and offering two programs in Montreal and one each in Vancouver, Calgary and Halifax.

The CDL offers separate programs in the sphere of artificial intelligence and data science in Central Canada, and the Halifax program will have special strengths in oceans and clean technology.

The applications for all the CDL cohorts are available here, and the application form for the Halifax group can be found here. Applications close Sept. 30, and the programs begin in November.

There will be 25 spots available in Halifax, which will be held in collaboration with Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business. Volta Labs CEO Jesse Rodgers, who will oversee the program, said the cohort will include companies from a range of sectors.

“CDL tends to do best when you have a mash up of companies – founders across verticals are peers, at an early stage they share a lot of the same challenges,” he said in an email. “We will lean toward oceans and environment/cleantech but we won't turn away companies that don't know where they fit as long as [we] can help them.”

The nine-month CDL program is not for the faint of heart as many participating companies are asked to leave before completing it. The CDL starts each cohort with a few dozen teams, who attend a one- or two-day mentoring session to receive a set of milestones from mentors. They’re then sent away to work on these tasks. When the cohort convenes again about two months later, teams who missed their milestones are asked to leave. CDL repeats the process several times, so each cohort ends up with a core of graduates.

Rodgers, who was the founding director of the CDL program in Toronto, came to Halifax last year to oversee Volta Labs. Now he will also head a group of CDL mentors that will include Clearwater Fine Foods Founder John Risley and serial entrepreneur Jevon MacDonald, as well as mentors in Toronto, Boston and New York.

In an article on Medium, Rodgers outlined his belief that CDL’s expansion can help to enhance the entire ecosystem in the region and be more than just a shot in the arm for individual companies.

“By bringing a program with a national profile (and a proven track record of high standards) to the Halifax ecosystem, I believe it will greatly accelerate the growth in opportunities for founders based in Atlantic Canada,” he wrote.

1700 Ironflow Customers Get PurelyHR

Jason Gendron: 'At the end of the day, it's going to save them time and money.'

Jason Gendron: 'At the end of the day, it's going to save them time and money.'

Ironflow Technologies Inc., a Dieppe, NB-based human resources software company, has launched its PurelyHR platform to expand the range of products it offers small and medium-sized businesses.

In 2010, Ironflow launched Time-Off Manager, a SaaS product that helps companies simplify the task of letting employees book time off. It is now being used by more than 1,700 companies in more than 65 countries.

Those 1,700 customers have now been upgraded to the PurelyHR platform, which gives them the option of subscribing to as many as four additional services, or modules. As well as the vacation-booking system, PurelyHR lets SMEs add modules so they can: maintain records on their staff;  monitor who’s in or out of the office in real-time; schedule and track working hours of employees; and issue warnings to staff members who have broken rules. A week or two after the official launch, about 100 of the existing clients have upgraded to add new modules.

“It’s definitely going to organize things a lot more within the [client’s] company and at the end of the day it’s going to save them time and money,” said Founder and CEO Jason Gendron in an interview. “Your managers now are spending a lot of time administering the employers to track vacations and do other things. By using a system like ours, it will help you administer your employees better.”

Masitek's Sales Double in Past Year

Gendron has a background in programming and seven years ago developed Time-Off Manager as a simple way to help SMEs arrange vacation time for their staff. He never raised capital for the project, but grew through revenues so it now has 12 employees.

Over the years, clients asked Gendron to add new features to the product so they could use it for other HR-related tasks, like time management or maintaining records. So about two years ago, the team began to work on new features.

That work is going to continue. The company plans to add about three or four modules a year until PurelyHR has 14 or 15 modules, providing a full suite of human resources products from small businesses.

The Moncton-area company last year went through Propel ICT’s Build accelerator, which helps more advanced startups. This year, it joined the first cohort of Propel’s Growth program, the new service being offered to established companies that are growing in international markets.  

Gendron admitted he faces a lot of competition, as there is a vast range of SaaS products that help companies manage their staff. The key differentiator for Ironflow is that customers can pick and choose only the modules they need. That means they can save money because they don’t need to subscribe to a full portfolio of services, many of which they don’t use.

“We believe we are offering much more than HR software,” said Marketing Coordinator Rejean Martin. “We are giving our customers an opportunity to operate more efficiently so they can focus on what truly matters most, their employees. Essentially, we are the first step towards creating a beautiful and successful team.”

Over 50 Free Trips to Startupfest

Anyone out there want to take in the Startup Festival in Montreal next month – FOR FREE?

If so, you should apply for one of the spots on the East Coast Caravan, a road trip to Startupfest organized by the Taskforce Fredericton Startup Network, the Pond-Deshpande Centre and other organizations.

They are choosing more than 50 entrepreneurs from across the region to join the bus trip to Startupfest. The successful applicants will receive transportation to and from the event, a Startupfest ticket and lodging in Montreal.

All you have to do is click here, and tell the organizers why you deserve one of the spots. Applications, which are open to entrepreneurs across Atlantic Canada, close Monday.  

“The East Coast Caravan aims to be a professionally enriching opportunity that not only includes passes to the festival, but also encourages organic connections across sectors and our Atlantic provinces via a co-travelling and co-lodging experience,​" said Tahlia Ferlatte, Events Committee Chair for Taskforce Fredericton, which is part of Ignite Fredericton.

Startupfest is a global three-day gathering of the world's leading entrepreneurs, mentors, founders and venture capitalists, all in one city. Running from Jul 12 to 15, the event includes a Tent City filled with demo spaces and events, and a host of world-renowned keynote speakers.

As well as an opportunity to apply for the free spaces, the East Coast Caravan organizers are also offering several levels of sponsorship. Sponsors receive tickets to the Caravan package, which that can use themselves or give to someone else.

“The Pond-Deshpande Centre is a strong supporter of networking and shared learning experiences for aspiring and seasoned entrepreneurs and students,” said Heather Boyd-Kinnie of Pond-Deshpande Centre. “Travelling together to an event such as Startupfest, where delegates have an opportunity to share best practices, meet investors, be inspired and build new relationships with others from around the globe and with each other, enriches those who attend, as well as our province.”

CogPro’s Aids for Dementia Sufferers

Peter Zimmer: 'Smartish appliances that will work in any old dumb house'

Peter Zimmer: 'Smartish appliances that will work in any old dumb house'

In a world awash with products to help the caregivers of people with dementia, Peter Zimmer set out to actually improve the quality of life for people with severe memory problems.

As a result, the serial entrepreneur has founded CogPro Cognitive Prosthetics, a Halifax company dedicated building intelligent products that intuitively improve the lives of dementia sufferers. The company’s first product is the Jeeves Thermostat, which helps the user set a comfortable temperature in his or her home and keep it at a comfortable level. CogPro now has a demonstration prototype of the product, and plans to bring it to market once it completes its current funding round.

“I got into this because I was taking care of my mother,” said Zimmer in an interview. “She was living in our downstairs flat and I observed her with the things she’s used all her life. . . . Could she keep on listening to the music she loved? Could she keep on phoning friends? Solving those problems for people with dementia takes a real load off the caregivers.”

One thing Zimmer noticed was that his mother was constantly fiddling with the thermostat. Feeling cold, she would set it higher. Minutes later she would feel cold again and, forgetting she had just adjusted it, she’d set it higher again. This would continue until the room would soon be too hot, and then she’d turn it way down. In the winter, that could lead to health dangers because the room would be too cold.

HomeEXCEPT: Helping the Aged with Home Sensors

Zimmer, the former general manager of CarShareHFX (now CarShare Altantic), said this fiddling with thermostats is common among dementia sufferers, so he set out to fix it. Designed by Matt d’Entrement, CogPro’s chief technical officer and director of the iDLab at Dalhousie University, the Jeeves Thermostat lets the occupant set the temperature at a comfortable level. It then ignores successive adjustments until the room temperature reaches the first setting. It can be set with a simple gesture, and can alert caregivers if there is a dramatic swing in temperature, which could mean a door has been left open.

“I observed that people with Alzheimer’s know what the thermostat is supposed to do, but the cognitive impairment makes it difficult to use it,” said Zimmer. He added the system “makes the quality of everyday life better for the actual person who’s using it. And I’d say that’s the big differentiator for us. Most of the focus (from CogPro’s competitors) seems to be, ‘We’ll guard you. We’ll make the caregiver’s life better by being a watchdog, ringing an alarm.’ But for Mom, does that make her life better?”

CogPro is now working on a $500,000 funding round, and has an investment commitment from one Atlantic Canadian investor. It hopes to have a commercial beta-test of the product in the next 6-9 months. The company has recently been accepted into Volta Labs and will be mentored by The Bureau, the mentorship group at the startup house.

The team hopes the Jeeves Thermostat will only be the first of its products for people with dementia — it is also planning radios, telephones and TV remote controls.

“We’re looking to make smartish appliances that will work in any old dumb house,” said Zimmer. “I want to allow a son who lives in San Diego to look after his mother who lives in a 150-year-old house in Cheticamp and doesn’t have Wi-Fi.”

Corruven Exports Sustainable Vision

A company in Northern New Brunswick is making the world more sustainable through its value-added wood products it exports across the globe.

Edmundston-based Corruven manufactures high-performance composites, which includes its patented Corruven technology that optimizes the natural strength of wood. This technology is used in the company’s packaging, architecture, construction and furniture products.

“Corruven is all about building game-changing innovation to build a better world. That’s our vision. That’s why we get up in the morning. How we do that and how we bring that to life is we work with our customers to develop solutions. We don’t just develop components, we like to look at the global solution and develop the most effective way to achieve their objectives,” says Corruven COO Daniel Beauregard-Long.

“Whether you’re talking about how to make better packaging, whether you’re talking about how you can make a better night of sleep for consumers, we look at this from a very holistic approach and then we complete that.”

The company’s corrugated technology impregnates reject-veneer with resin to reinforce the strength of the fibre. . . .

Read the full story on Huddle. 

Startup Award Nominations Due Friday

There are just a few days left to nominate people for the Startup Canada Awards, which recognize founders and their support organizations in Atlantic Canada and across the country.

Startup Canada this year is awarding 17 awards in four categories, and nominations must be in by the end of the day Friday. You can find nomination forms here.

For the fourth year, Startup Canada will hand out awards to regional winners across the Canada, then later in the year hold a ceremony in central Canada to recognize the national winner. The Atlantic Canadian awards presentation will once again be held in Fredericton, on Sept. 7 at the Fredericton Convention Centre. The Fredericton event is being sponsored by Opportunities New Brunswick.

The national awards will be presented Oct. 19 in Ottawa.

Read our Coverage of the 2016 Atlantic Canadian Ceremony

This year, Startup Canada has added a Canada 150 Award, presented to “an iconic Canadian business that has propelled Canada’s brand on the global stage through its determination and leadership.”

The categories and awards are:

ADVANCING THE ENVIRONMENT AND CULTURE FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN CANADA

Startup Canada Entrepreneur Promotion Award

Startup Canada Entrepreneur Support Award

Startup Canada Community of the Year Award (National Only)

Startup Canada Policy Prize (National Only)

ENTREPRENEUR-LED BUSINESSES DEMONSTRATING EXCELLENCE

Startup Canada Global Entrepreneurship Award

Startup Canada Innovation Award

Startup Canada Social Enterprise Award

Startup Canada High-Growth Entrepreneurship Award

EXEMPLIFYING THE SPIRIT OF CANADIAN ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Startup Canada Young Entrepreneur Award

Startup Canada Senior Entrepreneur Award

Startup Canada Indigenous Entrepreneur Award (National Only)

Startup Canada Newcomer Entrepreneur Award (National Only)

Startup Canada Resilient Entrepreneur Award (National Only)

OUTSTANDING IMPACT IN CANADIAN ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Startup Canada Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Adam Chowaniec Lifetime Achievement Award

Resson Gearing Up for 2018 Launch

Jeff Grammer: 'We're right on schedule' in paid beta tests.

Jeff Grammer: 'We're right on schedule' in paid beta tests.

A year after closing one of the biggest venture capital rounds the region has ever seen, Fredericton-based Resson is gearing up for the full commercial launch of its agtech product in 2018.

In a phone interview from his Silicon Valley office, Executive Chairman Jeff Grammer said the company is still working with its partners on its beta products for the coming growing season. With operations in the northern and southern hemispheres, Resson can beta-test its data analytics systems through two growing seasons before a full launch in 2018.

“We’re right on schedule in commercial paid beta testing,” said Grammer. “We’re still adding the features before the launch and adding to the number of acres [covered in the beta tests].”

Grammer is a partner in Rho Canada Ventures, which invested in four Atlantic Canadian startups in 2013-14. In 2014, Rho and Build Ventures led a $3 million round in Resson, which had developed data analytics software for agriculture, drawing data from sensors in fields or on tractors, and from drones. Still in beta mode, the company is developing predictive analytics tools that can improve crop yields.

Last spring, Resson raised US$11 million (C$14 million) from Monsanto Growth Ventures and other investors, and Grammer took the top executive position at the company. The investors included McCain Foods Ltd., which has been a customer of Resson for the past three years, as well as New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, BDC Capital and members of East Valley Ventures.

Masitek's Sales Double in Past Year

Following the funding, Resson opened an office in San Jose, Calif., which has now grown to five people.  Grammer said the office, which will not add further staff, includes business development people and experts in some of the specialist and high-value crops the company is now targeting. California produces a lot of high-value crops and Resson wants to be in a position to work with farms and vinyards around the state.

The bulk of the operations is still in Fredericton, where Co-Founders Rishin Behl and Peter Goggin now have a staff of about 40 people. The Fredericton office includes the engineering department, which has special strength in computer vision and machine learning, and field crews that include everything from agronomists to drone operators. It is the Fredericton office, said Grammer, that stands to grow as the company gains traction.

He said the company is now working with “a few” clients, and other than Monsanto and McCain they generally prefer not to be named yet.

With a background as a tech entrepreneur, Grammer said he’s learning a lot about agriculture. “It’s very similar to the last company I ran 11 year ago … where it’s all a big data play that’s focused on tying it into a vertical,” said Grammer. “This time, that vertical happens to be agriculture. I’ve learned quite a bit in the last two years and continue to learn something new every day.”

The company now is gearing up for 2018, when it plans to be analyzing “multiple crops over multiple geographies.”  Asked if Resson might consider a C Round following the commercial launch, Grammer said it’s a possibility if more capital would help the company to scale but it feels no urgency to raise money.  

“We’re right on track now for where we want to be and it’s a very excite sector,” he said “Our goal is to be the world leader in the predictive analytics side of it.”

Spring Loaded Launches Levitation

Spring Loaded Technology on Friday announced the launch of its Levitation knee brace for consumer sales across North America, and is welcoming commercial partnerships with clinics, distributors, and brace retailers across Canada.

The Dartmouth company also said it received a $2.46 million loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency's Atlantic Innovation Fund. The fund is used to finance large research projects across the region.

Founded at Dalhousie University’s Starting Lean program in 2012, Spring Loaded has been developing a knee brace that not only stabilizes the joint but also adds power to it. The result was the Levitation knee brace, which the company refers to as the world’s first “bionic knee brace”.

"With the support of ACOA, combined with our research and development efforts and leading-edge product development, [the announcement is] a game changer,” said Spring Loaded COO Dawn Umlah in a statement. “We're proud to be able to put the world's first and only compact, bionic knee brace into the hands of consumers on a large scale."

The Chronicle-Herald reported that the company will spend almost $3.8 million to develop new products, boost its manufacturing capabilities and set up a human performance lab in Dartmouth to test its products.

Spring Loaded Technology CEO Chris Cowper-Smith described the announcement as "the next chapter in our journey to change and improve lives in a big way."

Levitation enhances knee strength, mobility, and endurance by storing energy as the leg bends and then returning that energy as the leg straightens. Current users range from performance athletes, to manual laborers, to people with osteoarthritis. Levitation has proven useful for most knee injuries and conditions.

The company last year raised $1.9 million in venture capital funding from Build Ventures, and has also received investment from Innovacorp and members of the First Angel Network.

Last year, the company secured US$208,000 through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign and delivered a $1 million contract for the Canadian forces. It fulfilled hundreds of consumer pre-orders, and is entering what it calls real-time production.

“With bolstered manufacturing capacity, product improvements, and increased demand, Spring Loaded Technology is positioned to deliver Levitation across North America, to help people do more of what they love,” said the company.

Jobs: iWave, Dash Hudson

Dash Hudson and iWave Information Systems have openings for customer-facing positions, and they headline our Jobs of the Week column today.

Based in Charlottetown, iWave is looking for a Client Support Specialist. The company, which has been going for almost three decades, has developed software that helps researchers, fundraisers and other development professionals learn more about their prospects and donors.

Halifax-based Dash Hudson is one of the fastest-growing companies in the region and is looking for an Account Executive. Dash Hudson has created a “visual intelligence platform” that helps its corporate clients to create and distribute photos and video, then analyze their impact. The system is an integrated solution to predict, measure, and enhance engagement across all visual marketing channels.

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.

Charlottetown

iWave Information Systems

Client Support Specialist

The company is looking for an executive who can understand its clients’ use cases and provide the best solutions. The Customer Support Specialist is responsible for the relationship with the customer and for delivering superior customer satisfaction. The responsibilities include providing technical support for iWave products via tickets, phone and chat. This person must resolve customer questions promptly and apply analytical skills and technical knowledge to solve product problems. IWave is looking for someone with two to five years of application support and customer service, with a preference for someone with SaaS experience. The successful candidate must have excellent customer service skills and organizational, written and oral communication skills.

Halifax

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.

Rodriguez Plots Growth at Energia

Ed Rodriguez: 'We need to resolve the issue of seed capital.'

Ed Rodriguez: 'We need to resolve the issue of seed capital.'

As the first cohort of Energia Ventures concludes, Managing Director Ed Rodriguez is seeking seed capital to help the program attract quality participants from around the world.

The accelerator for companies in the energy/smartgrid, cleantech and cyber security fields kicked off at University of New Brunswick late last year, supported by private and public groups, including the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

The first five participating companies all came from UNB’s Technology Management and Entrepreneurship program. But Rodriguez said follow-on cohorts will be recruited regionally, nationally and internationally

“We need to resolve the issue of seed capital,” he said.

“The leading accelerators internationally, especially in the U.S., offer US$100,000 to $150,000 in return for three to six per cent of equity…That’s a hurdle we are focused on resolving so we can recruit high-quality startups globally.”

Rodriguez said the first cohort of five lost one participant, but the other four companies will “finish strong” within the next few months.

“They are garnering significant follow-on investment, a key indicator of success,” he said.

Cohort No. 2 will begin late this year or early in 2018 and will run for six months.

A newcomer to Canada, Rodriguez was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and has extensive experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors in the U.S and worldwide.

Comparing the startup ecosystems in Atlantic Canada and the U.S., specifically Silicon Valley, he said the Atlantic Canadian ecosystem is much more founder-friendly.

“There are lots of unicorns and success stories in Silicon Valley, but also lots of roadkill,” he said.

UNB Opens Marine 3D Printing Centre

Atlantic Canada’s living lab is an advantage that has attracted Siemens Canada to join with UNB and NB Power in creating The Smart Grid Innovation Network to provide companies with a new testing platform.

“In New Brunswick, you have the full range of power generation sources and power generation modalities in a relatively compact geographic area, with a population representative of Canada as a whole,” Rodriguez said.

“It’s possible to pilot and test new technologies that can be applied to different parts of the world. That’s a competitive advantage that needs to be leveraged even more.”

Rodriguez said Atlantic Canada’s more abundant public sector supported funding programs, especially relative to the U.S., is another advantage; as is the rich legacy of Maritimer ingenuity.

“It’s just as good as Yankee ingenuity,” he said. “I’ve marvelled as I’ve researched the history of Atlantic Canada at some of the seminal inventions birthed here.

“For example: kerosene, key precursor to gasoline; the compound steam engine for shipping; the variable-pitch propeller; the stabilizer bar for cars; bionic prostheses; the combined hot and cold water faucet etc.”

Linking companies working in the areas of energy/smartgrid, cleantech and cyber security into one accelerator might seem odd, but Rodriguez said the grouping makes sense. 

“We are seeing growing clarity and focus at federal and provincial levels regarding creating traded industry clusters around energy/smart grid, clean tech and cyber security,” he said.

“Those are key reasons why we decided to focus on those verticals.”

As a new Maritimer himself, Rodriguez is on a learning curve that includes adapting to winter. His new life all came about because he married New Brunswicker Neallie Morrison.

He said the couple met on eharmony in 2012.  Back then, Morrison was working for Xplornet, but she has since started a catering venture called Nessie’s Pantry, named for her great grandmother.

“Before coming here, the farthest north I’d been was Cambridge, Massachusetts and I thought this is probably the coldest I will ever be, then I wound up here,” Rodriguez said.

“I’ve survived the worst winter in a generation, and I didn’t run away so I’m here to stay…Winter gets a little old and harrowing, but I’ve lived in many places and I truly feel this part of the world is one of the most beautiful.”

SaaS Pricing: Free, Cheap or Full?

With minimal funding, Proposify has grown its team through rapid revenue growth.

With minimal funding, Proposify has grown its team through rapid revenue growth.

[Kyle Racki, CEO of Halifax-based Proposify, published this fantastic blog on his website this week. You can see the original blog and Kyle's other blogs here.] 

If you‘re trying to grow a SaaS company, freemium and low cost plans will no doubt cross your mind at some point. Here’s my experience with it.

Discussion over freemium has been raging for a long time now. Is it a business model or a marketing channel? Will it drive long term customer growth or just encourage more freeloaders?

Heavy hitters like Hiten Shah say that they would never start another SaaS company without offering a $0 plan: “If I’m starting a new SaaS business today, I would highly consider having a free plan that you invest resources in and plan on keeping forever.”

His rationale is that a free plan drives leads — leads that don’t churn out after 14–30 days like they would in a typical free trial model. People start using your product because it’s free, as the theory goes, and if it’s great, they keep using it. In time they’ll be hooked and upgrade to a paid account.

No doubt, freemium has been the main driver of growth for many darlings in the SaaS world, like Dropbox and Slack. But is it the right decision for your startup?

It’s easy to look at big successes and assume their model is best. It’s why people study the daily habits of billionaires to try and discover trends in their daily habits. Hey, if Bill Gates wakes up at 4 a.m. to read three books before breakfast, and I do the same, naturally I’ll one day be a billionaire.

By the same rationale, people think since Dropbox used freemium to grow their business then all they need to do is copy the model and enjoy the same success. But outliers are just that — outliers. By the very definition they are rare and difficult to emulate.

With all this said, let me tell you about the time I tried freemium for Proposify.

Proposify Goes Freemium

In 2015 I got excited by the case for freemium and wanted to try it out.

My co-founder, investors and the rest of the team was doubtful it would work. They were afraid it would cannibalize our growing recurring revenue.

I pushed hard for it, reassuring them that if it looked like it was going to sink us within a month we’d take it down. By the way, I don’t regret the decision to test it because trying new things out is how you achieve greatness.

Still, they were right.

Within a few days we noticed our signups spiking. Within a week we had generated over 3,000 new accounts. At the rate we were going we would have tens of thousands of accounts in a couple of months.

Now that’s startup growth!

But something else started to happen — customers who were paying us saw the free plan and started downgrading. Customers in trials that were considering buying paid accounts signed up for the free plan instead.

By the end of the month, our MRR growth plummeted to 5.5 percent.

Now, 5.5 percent might sound like healthy MRR growth. But considering the month before it was 15 percent and the month after we stopped offering the free plan it jumped back up to 12 percent, this was a noticeable flattening.

From a psychological standpoint it makes complete sense. When you pay nothing for something you don’t feel any sort of attachment to it.

If I buy one of my sons a toy, he’ll play with it for a couple of hours. But once he’s bored with it, the toy will somehow find its way to the bottom of the couch, only to be found during a thorough cleanup. But if he has to do chores for the toy or save his money for a month, he’ll value the same toy much more highly. After all, it cost him something.

If you tell someone your product is worth nothing, they’ll treat it as such.

Considering where we were at as a startup, with no more investment capital in the bank, relying purely on revenue from customers to pay our bills and grow, we simply couldn’t afford to offer a free plan.

Granted, who knows what may have happened if we kept it running for another six months? Perhaps we would have skyrocketed and became the next Slack. But for a small team of fewer than ten people at the time we wouldn’t have survived the six months to find out.

On top of that, our dev team wouldn’t have been able to handle the sheer volume of users pounding our servers. Infrastructure needs to be scaled with new users, and growing by tens of thousands of users in a short time frame would have presented massive technical challenges to our team, and likely a lot of downtime for our paying customers.

There’s also no guarantee that freemium would have turned those free users into paid customers over time. It’s well documented that Evernote has had a notoriously difficult time growing their revenue despite strong adoption and unicorn valuation.

“Despite reaching 150 million registered users this year, Evernote has been slow to develop the revenue side of its business and is grappling with departures and cost-cutting, according to interviews…” said Business Insider.

If your goal is to build a venture-backed “unicorn” startup with the mentality of “growth now, revenue later” then freemium is probably the only path to take.

But if your goal is to grow a real business now, freemium can be distracting, costly and ultimately kill your startup.

What about cheap $5 or $10 plans?

If people don’t value free things will they still value cheap things?

We had a lot of our users signing up to paid plans when they had a proposal to write, but as soon as they didn’t need our product they cancelled. It was a nice-to-have product, not a part of their life.

And since they were small companies, usually freelancers, they would rather cancel and later sign up for a new account six months down the road and rebuild their proposal than pay for a monthly subscription they briefly weren’t using.

So we tried offering a $10/month plan to keep them. They would only see this option to downgrade if they were already in the act of cancelling.

Surely we could convert those people to $10 plans, keeping them as customers? Isn’t it better to have them as a customer paying something rather than nothing?

Once again, I was proved wrong with data. Take a look at our churn rate broken down by monthly plan:

Customer churn is the percentage of accounts that cancel. Net MRR churn is the percentage of MRR that is lost due to downgrades or cancellations, factoring in upgrades (hence negative churn if you’re lucky).

As you can see from this chart, the more a customer paid for their plan the less they churned.

If healthy churn rate for a SaaS business is in the neighbourhood of 3 percent or less, our $10 plans had net MRR churn that was eight times higher than healthy. We were bleeding these customers at a ridiculous rate.

What was the dollar value of those customers? Since churn impacts the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer take a look at what an average customer on each plan was worth:

LTV is a rough calculation based on ARPA and churn, estimating how long a customer will stick around and what they’ll be worth in their “lifetime” as a customer.

This shocked me when I saw it and it still does.

The value of an account is disproportionate to the amount they spend.

In other words, by paying 10 times the amount for a plan ($100 vs $10) a customer brings 46 times more value in their lifetime!

This taught me a lot.

Cheap plans attract people who don’t really value your product and will leave the moment they stop using it.

People willing to pay more are serious about your product and are looking to adopt it into their overall workflow. When your product becomes a part of their daily, weekly or monthly system, how they execute their business, they are unlikely to ever leave.

You may be thinking, “Sure the cheap plans churn more, but at least they are bring in some revenue, which is better than nothing, right?”

That only makes economic sense if your sales, marketing and support costs are zero though.

You can’t spend $100 to acquire a customer if they will only ever bring you $133 in their lifetime. But a customer spending $6,228 in their lifetime means you can easily spend that $100 on Facebook ads (or wherever you’re spending the marketing dollars).

I’d rather achieve high MRR and ARPA growth than the vanity metrics of “number of users”.

So often we think of growing a business as getting more customers. But keeping customers and being able to extract more revenue from them (by providing more value in return) is a much better strategy.

That applies to many businesses too, not just SaaS ones.

Check out this chart from Price Intelligently:

Monetization will grow your company faster than acquiring more of them.

Sometimes you just have to accept that not everyone is your ideal customer. Your product will be too expensive for them, and that’s okay. They don’t see the value, and/or they aren’t the kind of customer that CAN get value from it.

Accept it, move on and focus on acquiring and retaining your best customers – the ones willing to invest their time and money into your product.

Kyle Racki is the CEO of Proposify, whose SaaS product helps users create beautiful proposals with ease. Follow his blogs at kyleracki.com.

Masitek’s Sales Double in Past Year

Pablo Asiron and Tracy Clinch.

Pablo Asiron and Tracy Clinch.

Tracy Clinch usually hesitates before revealing numbers about her company. The president and CEO of Masitek Instruments Inc. is careful about revealing too much about the Moncton-based company that helps manufacturers reduce container damage on production lines.

But what she does reveal tells the story of dramatic growth.

For more than six years, Masitek has grown from a small outfit that prevented damage in potatoes during the harvesting process into a predominantly industrial concern. Its main product now is a pressure-sensitive decoy that goes through a production line with regular containers to warn of logjams and gather data on where problems occur. These decoys test for shock and pressure that can damage containers, and the vertical pressure to ensure the process of capping bottles is working well.

The big story is that sales are rising dramatically, aided by the hiring in early 2016 of Pablo Asiron as executive vice-president of global business development.

“We have recently sold into our 33rd country and we’re seeing very significant sales growth,” said Clinch in an interview in the company’s Moncton headquarters. “What we’re seeing is our customers are re-ordering and bringing us into new factories in other countries.”

Clinch, who was recently named to Atlantic Business Magazine’s 2017 Top 50 CEOs list, revealed a string of data and milestones that demonstrated how the company is progressing.

Most impressive, Masitek has doubled revenues in the past year, and sales are up 350 per cent in the past three years. The company’s roughly 250 customers include six of the top 10 beverage companies in the world, and it is talking with two more of these multinationals. A big reason for its expansion is that these companies have tried the Masitek products in one factory, and like them enough to install them in other factories in other countries.

The 13-employee company is continuing to expand and has just added a sales representative in China, hiring an employee from its distribution partner there. And it continues to bring out new products.

Research and development comprise about 10-15 per cent of Masitek’s operations, and the company has just brought on a new head of R&D in Moncton.

In September, Clinch and Asiron will attend the world’s largest conference for the beverage industry — the Drinktec conference in Munich, which is only held once every four years. At the conference they will launch a new platform (which plant managers can use to monitor the data gathered by the company’s sensors) and a new anti-scuff product.

Clinch explained that in some European markets, scuffing of bottles is a huge problem. Companies spend excessive amounts on lubricants and special coatings so bottles look pristine when they come off the production line. Masitek’s new product will help provide plant managers with the information they need to reduce scuffing.

Masitek was launched years ago with an investment from Moncton-based investment firm Technology Venture Corporation, and has since then grown on revenues. Clinch said the company has no plans to raise more money as it can finance its growth through its rapid revenue growth. Bringing on Asiron has helped those sales grow.

“Pablo has brought an executive level knowledge to the sale team and has really improved our sales,” said Clinch. “It’s great to have someone take on the product and really ramp up the sales.”

Inversa Inks $2.5 Million Deal with NB

Bill Fraser, left, and John Bowles.

Bill Fraser, left, and John Bowles.

Inversa Systems, whose technology assesses the soundness of physical structures, has signed a five-year contract worth as much as $2.5 million to inspect culverts in New Brunswick.

The provincial government on Wednesday announced the contract with the Fredericton engineering company, which will result in the inspection of corrugated metal pipes throughout the province without digging them up.

“Culverts are an essential part of our transportation network in New Brunswick,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Bill Fraser in a statement. “This technology allows us to inspect culverts in the ground, without the expense of digging them up, not to mention the inconvenience for motorists.”

The Fredericton company began in 2005, growing out of PhD research by founder Jake Arsenault. It got its initial push by winning a New Brunswick Innovation Foundation student entrepreneurship contest – a forerunner of the Breakthru competition.

Arsenault and Current CEO John Bowles developed a diagnostic imaging system that probes a structure while in-service to detect whether there has been erosion, corrosion or any other defect. The system uses backscattered radiation, which is similar to an x-ray, except the beams reflect back from the subject rather than pass through it. That means the Inversa system can be used from the surface of massive objects.

In the case of the contract with New Brunswick, the company can assess buried structures without digging them up for a visual inspection.

NBIF Invests in 500 Startups Canada

The provincial transportation and infrastructure department has been exploring the use of the company’s technology through a pilot assessment of 15 culverts. It has now formalized the relationship with a five-year contract for the assessment of 250 culverts at a maximum cost of $500,000 per year.

“This program will position the New Brunswick Department of Transportation and Infrastructure as a leader in asset management of buried infrastructure,” said Bowles in the statement. “We look forward to replicating this model across North America, which will create jobs and more economic growth right here in New Brunswick.”

Inversa has several verticals in its business offering, and the main two are civil infrastructure and oil and gas. Most of the company’s announcements in the past few years have been in the civil infrastructure category. In 2016, for example, Inversa announced partnerships with Lakeland, Fla.-based soil stabilization and infrastructure rehabilitation Ground Works Services, and Kansas City, Mo.-based McIntire Management Group, a manufacture rep.

Inversa has received venture capital investment from Technology Venture Corp. of Moncton, and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. The most recent investments disclosed to the public were two NBIF rounds since April 2015 totaling $475,000.

Shoplaw Helps NB Find Lawyers

Shoplaw has launched its web portal that helps people find a lawyer that meets their needs and budget, saying New Brunswick consumers are now the only Canadians that have access to such a service.

The Fredericton company was formed by law school grad Randy Campbell to add transparency and choice to the process of selecting a lawyer. The site now offers up-front, fixed-fee prices for 21 lawyers in southern New Brunswick.

Shoplaw was one of the 12 semi-finalists in the recent Breakthru competition in New Brunswick. In an exceptionally strong field of competitors, it didn’t make the final five, but Campbell is now proceeding with the project and has brought its product to market.

“Price transparency is a community service,” said Campbell in a statement. “Lawyers on Shoplaw have, on average, 17-years’ experience and are community-minded. Many volunteer, run free legal advice clinics and do pro bono work too. Providing price transparency is just another way for them to serve our community.”

Shoplaw offers consumers two ways to find a lawyer. First, for such common services as home purchases, wills, incorporations and co-habitation agreements, consumers can instantly compare prices, experience and reputations. Standardized service packages describe exactly what’s included in the lawyers’ price, and there are hundreds of verifiable reviews.

For consumers who need a custom solution, Shoplaw offers a free-personal-shopping-service. Consumers fill out a form describing the situation. Then, Shoplaw submits the issue to all the relevant local lawyers. Lawyers who do not have a conflict are invited to contact the consumer directly.

In researching its market, Shoplaw surveyed more than 800 legal service consumers, and learned that 83 percent find it frustrating, annoying, or scary to shop for a lawyer. These results were mirrored by a recent government research effort exploring the legal services market in the United Kingdom. Regulators in the U.K. are now reviewing proposals for mandatory price-transparency for certain services.

NBIF Invests in 500 Startups Canada

After conducting its market analysis in late 2015, Shoplaw contacted about 600 private practice lawyers in southern New Brunswick and identified 11 access-to-justice advocates willing to provide price transparency to consumers.  It beta-tested the product in the summer of 2016. The company followed this up with further market research, calling more than 9,000 New Brunswickers to collect 827 verifiable lawyer reviews.

In the past winter, its customer discovery has continued as it contacted about 600 lawyers again and identified an additional 10 willing to provide price transparency to consumers.

 “Some people see access to justice as just an affordability issue,” said Campbell. “It’s more complicated than that. There are many barriers to accessing legal services, and the lack of transparent marketplace information is one. Consumers know they are at a disadvantage when they try to shop for legal services.”

He credits lawyers in New Brunswick for participating with Shoplaw to create a transparent marketplace.

For example, he cited Jennifer Larson, a lawyer in Saint John. She believes that “especially in family law, at a time when lives are in flux, we hope to provide some certainty by being transparent with a set-fee for certain legal services.”

AVF Showcases Health Technology

The Atlantic Venture Forum is introducing a health technology session into its program this year, featuring experts and investors in the field, and presentations by leading Atlantic Canadian health-related startups.

The AVF is a two-day conference that links investors inside and outside the region with some of Atlantic Canada’s leading startups or high-growth companies. It will take place June 27 and 28 at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel. Tickets are available here.

The half-day health technology session features a keynote address by Peter van der Velden, Managing General Partner of the leading Life Sciences Venture Capital firm, Lumira Capital. In a talk titled “Industry Outlook for Canadian Health Technologies”, van der Velden will discuss the near- and medium-term opportunity landscape. He will lend insight into the change forces likely to shape the health technology industry both domestically and internationally.

A panel titled “Market Access for Emerging Technologies" will explore the challenging dynamics of market access for Canadian health tech entrepreneurs. The speakers on the panel are: Glenn Lanteigne, Chief Executive Officer of Tectonic Advisory Services; Scott Moffitt, Managing Director of BioNova; and Amine Benmoussa, Principal of BDC Capital’s Healthcare Fund.

“Given the uncertain policy environment in the United States and parts of Europe, regulatory change, and shifting forces at play, our guests will explore market entry path-finding, alternative and emerging markets, and the opportunities that await those who do so successfully,” said a statement from AFV organizer Critical Path Group.

Three companies from the Halifax area will make nine-minute pitches at the event – part of the 12 Atlantic Canadian companies to present this year at AVF. The health-related companies are Spring Loaded Technology, Covina Biomedical, and Densitas Inc.

The health tech session also features a panel discussion on "Partnering with Industry Leaders". This panel of experts will explore the critical role played by big business, which is instrumental, if not essential, to validating and accelerating adoption of new technologies.

The participants are: Rebecca Yu, Head of Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS@Toronto;  Brian Bloom, Co-Founder & CEO of Bloom Burton & Co.;Kelly Reinsborough, Director of Telus Health; and Glenn Monteith, Vice President of Innovation and Health Sustainability at Innovative Medicines Canada.

 

[Disclaimer: Critical Path is a client of Entrevestor .] 

NBIF Invests In 500 Startups Canada

Calvin Milbury: An emphasis on scaling companies.

Calvin Milbury: An emphasis on scaling companies.

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation has invested in 500 Startups Canada’s $30 million first fund, and has become a partner with the venture capital fund.

Last year, the Silicon Valley VC fund 500 Startups announced it would set up a Canadian fund to find pre-seed investments in Canada. The parent organization started in 2010 with the goal of making small investments in companies around the world, and since then it has opened several regional funds, including the Canadian fund launched last year.

NBIF made its investment in the Canadian fund earlier this year and is helping 500 Startups find candidates for funding, not just from New Brunswick but also from across the region.

“Atlantic Canada has more great startup activity happening than anyone outside the region knows,” said Sanjay Singhal, a University of New Brunswick engineering grad who now heads 500 Startups Canada. “And nowhere is that more evident than in New Brunswick and the ecosystem developed there by NBIF and many others. With all this activity, there is no way we could do the region justice in terms of investment coverage without NBIF as partners in the strategy and execution of finding, funding, and growing the next generation of great Canadian companies.”

NBIF became a limited partner in 500 Startups Canada earlier this year. Foundation president and CEO Calvin Milbury declined in an interview to say how much the group invested in 500 Startups, but said it was modest and will hopefully make a bit of money over time.

“It’s a reasonable position we’re taking,” he said. “It’s nothing over the top.”

Swept Accepted into 500 Startups Accelerator

WellTrack Hits $400,000 in ARR

What he did say was that NBIF hopes to use its relationship with 500 Startups not only to increase funding in the region but also to broaden its network across North America.

“It’s becoming increasingly important for us to build networks across the country and into the U.S.,” said Milbury.

The NBIF team in the past couple of years has been stressing that the most important thing about the startup movement is that promising companies can “scale up” into global corporations. The real economic gains happen when these companies undergo double- or even triple-digit revenue growth for a period of years and build up their staffs.

Milbury said 500 Startups Canada shares the vision of scaling up innovation companies and has already begun working with Atlantic Canadian startups. About 40 per cent of the Canadian companies that receive funding from 500 Startups Canada are also accepted into the 500 Startups accelerator in Silicon Valley.

Fredericton-based WellTrack, which has developed online therapy for students with mental health issues, recently graduated from the 20th cohort of 500 Startups in Silicon Valley. And Halifax’s Swept, which makes software for janitorial customers, just entered the 21st cohort. In 2015, Moncton-based recruiting software maker Alongside went through the accelerator in 2015 and received funding from the parent organization.

All these companies received US$150,000 for a six per cent stake in their business.

Emily Dagneau, who heads investor and portfolio relations for 500 Startups Canada, said the Canadian fund has already made about 40 investments. Canada is figuring more prominently in the organization’s work in Silicon Valley, she said. Seven of the 31 companies that went through the 20th cohort were Canadian, and seven of the 41 companies in the current cohort hail from Canada.

 

Disclaimer: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.

3 Winners of DNS Diversity Awards

REDspace, the Bedford website development and interactive experience agency, has claimed the Diversity Champion of the Year award at Digital Nova Scotia’s second annual Digital Diversity Awards.

The organization, which announced the winners last week at the Centre for Women in Business’ Spring Finale, also presented its Next Generation Leadership award to tech entrepreneur Lianne Perry. Nur Zincir-Heywood, a professor at the Computer Science faculty at Dalhousie University, was awarded the prize for Women Leaders in the Digital Economy.

The awards were established in 2016 to acknowledge and applaud female leaders and diversity champions in Nova Scotia’s ICT sector, while encouraging the province’s next generation of women leaders.

“The Digital Diversity Awards are bringing attention to the importance of increasing the number of women employed in Nova Scotia’s ICT sector,” Daphne North, REDspace’s Marketing and Communications Manager, said in a statement. “We’re truly honoured to be recognized by champions like Digital Nova Scotia and the Centre for Women in Business as an organization who is leading the way in change.”

REDspace is an active champion for diversity, with women making up half of the company’s senior executive team and management positions. As a company that has doubled in size over the last three years, REDspace has maintained a focus on diversity and inclusion – providing all employees flexible work arrangements, making it easier for parents to accommodate sick children and school closures. The company actively challenges the gender pay gap by ensuring salaries align with industry averages for each individual and every role.

Indigo Foundation Partners with Squiggle Park

A co-founder of PinPoint Virtual Solutions and Karmabuy, Lianne Perry is a student of St Mary University’s Master’s of Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation program, a Senior Manager at the Sobey School of Business Development, a mother, and an entrepreneur. She is a faculty advisor for the Enactus Saint Mary's team (currently ranked in the Top 5 in Canada), and a member of Techsploration’s Advisory Board. “I’m thrilled to be selected as the recipient for the Power IT Up: Next Generation Leadership award,” said Perry. “I’ve made it my personal and professional mission to help advance women in the local technology sector. I believe it is important to be a positive influence on our younger generation and I will continue to mentor young women to become more purposeful and impactful in their professional goals.”

Nur Zincir-Heywood is a senior faculty member in Computer Science at Dal, and she plays an essential role in preparing our future IT workforce. She is a founding member and chair of the Culture of Respect in Computer Science committee, and the founder and advisor to the student group: Women in Technology Society.

“In accepting this award, I hope to inspire more women from diverse backgrounds to believe in themselves and just do it,” she said.

 “Our awards are about actively promoting, celebrating and acknowledging leadership and diversity within Nova Scotia’s fastest growing industry,” says

Through Digital Nova Scotia’s partnership with the Women in Communications and Technology, all award recipients will also be automatically vetted and nominated for WCT’s own national annual awards program. This year, 2016 Digital Diversity Award winner Jenelle Sobey, the CEO of Norex, was recognized nationally and awarded the WCT Emerging Leader Award.

DNS President and CEO Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia said the awards highlight the increasing visibility of women leaders in ICT.

“Whilst it still may be male-dominated, we are working diligently toward gender parity on many levels, as we know that a more diverse sector and community, makes for more a productive and prosperous nation overall,” said Bahr-Gedalia.

Mindset Project on Founders’ Control

The latest report resulting from The Mindset Project survey looks at the third of the major issues shown in the mental health data: the impact of business stress on an entrepreneur’s sense of control. 

 Survey organizer Michael DeVenney said that an entrepreneur can begin to doubt their own ability to influence results. This can make it harder to maintain a positive mindset.

Halifax-based DeVenney began his survey on how entrepreneurship impacts mental health in May 2016. He 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.

You can link to the report here

Propel Seeks CEO, Assesses Future

Anita Punamiya: 'I am leaving the organization stronger than it was.'

Anita Punamiya: 'I am leaving the organization stronger than it was.'

As it assesses its strategy for the coming years, Propel ICT is launching a search for a new chief executive following the announcement that current CEO Anita Punamiya is stepping down.

The regional tech accelerator announced on Friday that Punamiya, who took over the position last year, had only planned on a short tenure and would leave the executive position. A long-standing member  of the Propel community, she will retain a seat on the Propel board. Until her replacement is found, former Propel Executive Director Trevor MacAusland will be the Interim CEO.

“Propel ICT has a strong history and I am proud to have been a part of it both as a Board member and as the CEO,” said Punamiya in a statement. “From the perspective of a newcomer to Canada, I received tremendous value from being on the Board, and the CEO role gave me an opportunity to give back to the organization. I am happy to say that I am leaving the organization stronger than it was when I took on the role.”

The announcement comes as the Propel board and executive will meet June 8 to hold a long-term strategy session, at which they will plot out where the organization is heading in a rapidly changing landscape.

“We have a great team that’s in place now and we’re meeting on the 8th of June to have discussions on where we’re headed,” said Board Chair Steven Burns in an interview Friday. “We’re always trying to improve it. The executive will be present and we’ll look at the strategy and we’ll fine-tune it.”

What won’t change is that Propel will be dedicated to mentoring ICT startups in all four Atlantic Provinces. The accelerator is now holding an advanced Build cohort in Moncton and its more rudimentary Launch cohorts in Halifax, Fredericton and Sydney. It has also offered Launch programs in Charlottetown and St. John’s, and its Grow program for mature companies is taking place in Fredericton.

3 Charts the Kill the No Funding Myth

Several startups have gone through Propel programs more than once, and overall the participants speak highly of the mentorship offered by Propel.

“Propel has been fantastic for us,” said Jim DeLeskie, the CEO of Mimir Networks, a Sydney cybersecurity company that is in the Build cohort. “It had highlighted some things we’ve been doing well and showed us some things we should be doing better.”

While Propel has built its capacity in the past few years, nurturing scores of companies each year, the landscape has been changing. Volta Labs in Halifax has brought in veteran entrepreneur and accelerator head Jesse Rodgers as CEO, and his duties will soon include heading up the Atlantic Canadian pod of the Creative Destruction Lab. And Mary Kilfoil and Ed Leach at Dalhousie University are spearheading the effort to establish Canada’s first I-Corps node in Halifax. Both CDL-Atlantic and I-Corps are expected to launch in the autumn.

Propel itself has changed. Two board members recently left – Jeff Grammer, a principal with Rho Canada Ventures, departed to spend more time on portfolio company (and Propel alumnus) Resson; and Steve Nicolle of Prince Edward Island left because he will be spending most of his time out of the country. And Propel is now looking for its third CEO in three years.

Burns said Propel will soon contact a recruiter in an attempt to find just the right person to replace Punamiya. The Board also has a list of names it would like to talk to and will take the proper amount of time in hiring someone.

“We want to make sure we get the right person,” said Burns. “They’ll have to have a really strong connection to the startup community in Atlantic Canada. They have to have a dynamic personality and have to be a relationship-builder. We have a lot of organizations now. What need to do is to make sure that we are all working together.”

Jobs: McInnes Cooper, Alongside

Our jobs column this week showcases a couple of openings in New Brunswick – a Business Development Officer at the law firm McInnes Cooper, and a Web Developer at the recruiting software maker Alongside.

McInnes Cooper is among the 20 largest business law firms in Canada. With nearly 200 lawyers and 300 professional resources, it provides legal and business services to industry-leading clients from six offices – Halifax, St. John’s, Fredericton, Moncton, Saint John, and Charlottetown.

Alongside (formerly Qimple) is an HR tech company working to improve the way people and companies discover each other. It gets that sourcing great talent can be extremely difficult and a huge time commitment, and its online solutions strive to simplify the process. Alongside is Entrevestor’s partner in the Entrevestor Job Board.  

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.

New Brunswick

McInnes Cooper

Business Development Officer

At McInnes Cooper, the Business Development Manager’s primary objective will be to develop new business within New Brunswick by executing tactics within the firm’s revenue growth strategy. The successful candidate will do this by using industry-specific knowledge and research to develop and connect with prospective clients. He or she will respond to requests for proposals, represent the firm at industry and community events and facilitate client events. The position calls for supporting individual lawyers as they establish new clients and gain new work from existing clients.

The ideal candidate will have a minimum of seven years of proven success in B2B business development, preferably from a corporate environment. The candidate will require solid verbal and written communications, interpersonal and business research skills. The firm requires a natural relationship-builder – a person with the ability to forge strong connections with clients and lawyers. The candidate will have a degree in business with a marketing related concentration, above average technical proficiency, and comfort with travel.

Moncton

Alongside

Web Developer

Alongside is looking for an intermediate-level web developer with a thirst for professional and personal growth. Working in the company’s newly renovated office at Botsford Station, the successful candidate will work on a solution to hiring processes that are increasingly impersonal, competitive, time-consuming and expensive. The company is building the world's most intuitive end-to-end recruitment solution. Alongside optimizes and distributes job opportunities based on a business' budget, geography, and industry - maximizing the number of applicants they get. The web developer will work closely with the company’s other devs, designer, and product manager. Alongside is looking for someone with five years’ experience in a similar role. You can find the list of technical qualifications in the job posting. 

A Criterion for Founders: Story-Telling

Steve Blank wrapped up his fireside chat at Dalhousie University last Tuesday with words that really resonated with me. 

The famed entreprenurial educator was in Halifax to receive an honorary degree from Dal, and brought his abundant wit and charm to various events around the campus. His final point in a wide-ranging fireside chat was to urge his listeners to learn how to communicate better. 

"In Silicon Valley, if you don't know how to communicate, you shouldn't start a company because you will be competing against people who know how to tell a story," Blank told his audience of about 400.

Think about that for a second. SIlicon Valley is the global hotbed for technical talent and digital innovation. It's probably bigger than the next three or four communities combined in terms of development talent and ICT entrepreneurship. But Steve Blank, the father of lean methodology, believes there is a criterion that should disqualify founders, and it has nothing to do with vision or technical expertise. 

It's communication. 

It's ability to use language to explain to people what your technology does, why people will buy it, and why you are the person to bring it to market. 

Blank Pushes for I-Corps Node at Dal

This wasn't the most inspirational quote to pass Blank's lips on Tuesday -- I mean, the guy's a quote machine, as you can see from my coverage last week. I attended a few of his events and interviewed him for about 10 minutes. The point that he kept returning to was that he was "blown away" by the science he witnessed in Atlantic Canada. That's important because Blank was the driving force behind the Innovation Corps in the U.S., which President Obama and both houses of Congress set up to improve the commercialization of academic research. I pressed Blank on the point, saying he must see great science everywhere he travels. He insisted he was being sincere about the quality of work being carried out here. 

But the quote that caught my attention was the one about communication. The ability to explain what you're doing is generally considered a soft skill by founders. They generally see it as a good thing to have, but by no way essential. They may be right, as there are plenty of CEOs of great companies whose verbiage baffles every listener within earshot. It was heartening to hear Steve Blank not only say that communications are important, but that they are especially important in Silicon Valley. 

I regularly give seminars on communication, and the thing that I stress more than anything is clarity. You have to make sure your audience understands what you're doing and how you can make money doing it. This especially important in the early stages of a company's development, because you have to get the backing of friends, family, angel investors and bureacrats -- often peopel without technical expertise. They have to understand your technology and its commercial potential. If you fail to make them understand it, they won't say they don't understand it. They don't want to look stupid. They'll just find an excuse for not backing you. 

I deliver the same line early in all my seminars. "Good communications will not guarantee that your startup will succeed. But bad communications will greatly increase the chances of failure."

What I like about Blank's quote is that he rachets it up a notch. He says that in the big leagues, you're competing against great story tellers. So it's not just the ability to explain your company. It's the ability to captivate people whose support you will need.

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