ViTRAK Raises Up To $2 Million

ViTRAK Systems Inc., a Charlottetown startup commercializing a pressure-sensitive floor tile system, has raised as much as $2 million in funding from P.E.I. investors.

The company said in a press release yesterday the investors included the Regis Duffy Bioscience Fund and associated companies, but gave few other specifics of the funding round.

Founded by CEO Crystal Lavallée, the company has developed Stepscan, a patented electronic floor tile system that can be used to analyze people’s gait when they walk across it. The system can analyze the mobility and balance in patients or research subjects by measuring such factors as under-foot pressure distribution, stride, sway, and speed. The target market is researchers, clinicians, even physiotherapists.

Last year, the company signed its first client, and the press release announcing the latest funding said it will use the money to enhance its product and support sales and marketing in Canada and the U.S.

ViTRAK also said it has opened its new facility on Walker Drive in Charlottetown, where the floor tiles will be manufactured.

 “Our patented software can offer clinicians and patients the opportunity for early diagnosis and treatment by providing new clinical insights, thus permitting new developments in rehabilitative engineering for the future,” said Lavallée in the statement. “This will ultimately benefit the patient population suffering from mobility impairing diseases.”

Ron Keefe, President of the Regis Duffy BioScience Fund, Regis Duffy and Earl Duffy will join the board of ViTRAK.

ViTRAK had previously raised $850,000 from P.E.I. angels, and in 2011 won a two-year, $1.4-million loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund.

The ViTRAK funding is typical of the leading startups in P.E.I. There has never been a pure venture capital investment on the island that has been publicly announced. But the Island has a loyal band of angel investors and its startup founders have been successful in putting together seven-figure funding rounds.

The Regis Duffy BioScience Fund, established by the founder of Charlottetown drug manufacturer BioVectra, last year joined a $1.5 million funding round for Neurodyn Inc., the Charlottetown biotech developing early treatments for neurological diseases.


Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.

Scouring the Sea for Global Products

Cracking the global marketplace is tough. Jean-Paul Deveau, president of Nova Scotia-based Acadian Seaplants has done it. He advises investing in research and development to create value-added products that clients will want to buy.

Founded in 1981, Acadian Seaplants is based in Dartmouth and exports value-added seaweed-based products to over 80 countries.

The company operates five manufacturing facilities and an R&D centre in Atlantic Canada. It has 320 employees in eight countries, including 25 research scientists.

 “If you wish to compete globally, you have to create products and services the world recognizes as having unique value,” Deveau said in an interview.

 “Bear in mind that the world wants to see companies working in a sustainable manner. We ensure that we harvest less than the annual growth of seaweed in the territories we license from the governments of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.”

It’s also vital to understand each potential market’s business culture. Deveau said the Trade Commissioner Services and other export development programs offered by federal and provincial governments provide useful guidance.

 “You can also consult or hire graduates of those countries who are studying in Canada,” he said. “And, as you grow, you can hire full-time staff in those markets.”

Deveau is well-qualified to give advice, having helped his father, Louis, grow Acadian Seaplants from a small Maritime venture into a global corporation.

Louis first became interested in seaweed as a child. Growing up on the shore of Nova Scotia’s Baie Ste. Marie, he noticed his father spreading goemon de roche (the Acadian term for seaweed found along rocky shorelines) on the crops in the family vegetable garden.

Later, Louis was recruited by Marine Colloids, a multinational based in Rockland, Maine. From 1967 on, he held various international positions with the company, including president of Marine Colloids Canada, where he was responsible for the worldwide procurement of seaweeds for processing into carrageenan, a food gum.

Louis oversaw the Nova Scotia operations that consisted of harvesting, drying and baling seaweed and shipping it to the parent company for extraction into carrageenan.

He observed the American company investing in R&D and developing new products and realized that he could do the same himself. He decided to purchase the parent company’s Canadian assets and, in 1981, Acadian Seaplants was founded.

His son joined him in 1985. By then, Jean-Paul had obtained his bachelor of science and bachelor of engineering from Dalhousie University in Halifax, as well as his MBA from McGill University in Montreal.

He had also worked for Imperial Oil in sales and marketing positions in Eastern Canada. He was keen to work with his father, recognizing they had complementary skills.

 “When I joined my father, he was still operating out of my old bedroom,” Deveau recalled.

 “The company was small and new, but cash flow-positive.

 “It was exciting. I could see the potential even though there wasn’t enough money to pay me at first. I said, ‘Let’s give it a try,’ and we’ve never looked back.”

The company recently acquired Arramara Teoranta, Ireland’s largest seaweed company. Work has also been completed on the Deveau Centre, an enhanced production facility in Cornwallis.

The company has many divisions. The biggest is its plant science division, which produces globally exported crop biostimulants.

Specialty-food products are a growing part of the business. “Seaweed is full of micronutrients,” Deveau said. “I eat it myself most days. Every day, 125 million people eat seaweed in Japan.

 “These days, you can buy sushi from Sobeys and Superstore. Twenty years ago, no one would have thought of it.”

He re-emphasized the need for Atlantic Canadian innovation.

“We need to look at what we can do to create value out of the great natural resources and opportunities we have here and then export globally. That’s what will drive our economy.”




Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Making Water Treatment Affordable

Island Water Technologies is tackling environmental and financial problems that are troubling homeowners today and looming large for small Canadian towns in 2020.

Based in Montague, P.E.I., the company uses patented technology to treat water in septic systems serving people’s homes or small communities. While the focus in water treatment usually is on big plants in urban areas, there is an acute need for affordable solutions in rural areas and small towns.

 “The thinking up to now has been, ‘We need a big, shiny waste-water treatment plant,’” said Patrick Kiely, the company’s Irish-born CEO. “And, in reality, that’s not what most places need. You can offer decent solutions that cost a fraction of those big plants.”

IWT now has two products on the market. They’re so impressive that the company is one of three Canadian companies recently named to the GEW 50, a group of 50 promising startups from around the world selected by Washington, D.C.-based Global Entrepreneurship Week.

The first product is ClearPod, a small device that is dropped into the septic tank of an individual home or small business to clean out contaminants. Island Water Technologies recently installed nine ClearPod units at a golf course outside Toronto, and has been talking to a national chain of hardware stores about carrying the product.

Nova Scotia could be a huge market for ClearPod because 30 per cent of the households rely on septic tanks, and they tend to fail after 20 years. The company is now in discussions with provincial regulators to move into the market.

The second product is Regen, a renewable energy-powered sewage treatment system designed for communities of about 250 people. It features a modular system (a shipping container with equipment inside) powered by solar panels. The product is parked beside a town’s sewage system and operates at minimal cost, with no need for electricity from the grid.

Island Water Technologies now has a test model in operation near Truro, and is working with several governments in Atlantic and Northern Canada on possible installations.

The federal government has mandated that by 2020 all towns and villages must have a certain standard of water treatment facilities. But rural towns across the country are beset by falling populations, shrinking economies and falling revenues. Regen offers a low-cost solution to the regulations.

The science behind the two products is a fixed-film treatment that is placed into the water tank and captures all the impurities. Kiely and his team spent about 18 months researching several polymers to find the perfect combination that pollutants would attach to.

Kiely has more than 15 years’ experience in molecular microbiology and related fields and is a veteran of a Boston-area startup. He hooked up a few years ago with Jason Aspin, a marine engineer who is company co-founder, and they decided to build the business together on Prince Edward Island.

Kiely funded ClearPod on his own and the team won a grant from the New England Clean Energy Council to do tests. Aspin invested $120,000 into Regen, which received additional funding from various government programs.

Island Water Technologies is now raising a funding round worth a total of $2.5 million, including $500,000 to $2 million in equity funding.

NS Panel Wants Tax Credit Doubled

A Nova Scotian panel reviewing tax policy has recommended the province double the ceiling for investments eligible for the equity tax credit to $100,000, and pays faint homage to the idea of a regional investment tax credit.

The Tax and Regulatory Review, conducted by former Ontario cabinet minister Laurel Broten, is garnering headlines for its recommendations that the province shift the burden of taxation toward consumption and carbon use and away from income. It would introduce a carbon tax, broaden the Harmonized Sales Tax while lowering the income tax rate for corporations and top income earners.

But the panel also recommends changes to the equity tax credit – which grants individuals who pay taxes in Nova Scotia a credit worth 35 percent of an investment in an approved Nova Scotian business. The maximum investment eligibility now is $50,000, and the Broten panel recommends it be doubled to $100,000. By comparison, the maximum annual investment for comparable credits in New Brunswick is $250,000, and Newfoundland and Labrador has proposed a lifetime cap of $250,000.

“Consideration should be given to targeting the ETC to strategically designated high-growth sectors, such as information technology and clean technology, to be designated by regulation,” said the report. “As well, eligibility requirements must be re-examined to ensure that Nova Scotians are receiving best value from these tax credits.”

The report makes no mention of extending investment tax credits to individuals living outside the province – a practice that has been adopted successfully in such states as Arkansas and Minnesota. And though it makes no specific recommendation on regional credits, it speaks in favour of such a proposal.

“The Nova Scotia government should pursue a conversation with other provinces in the region about expansion of the ETC to a regional tax credit, such as the Atlantic Gateway Capital Credit, which has been championed by 4Front Atlantic, as part of a larger regional harmonization strategy,” said the report.

FAN, Wilmington Investors Link Up

First Angel Network, the Halifax-based organization for angel investors, has formally announced a partnership with the Wilmington Investor Network of North Carolina, under which the members of each group will be invited to invest in the other’s portfolio companies. 

FAN said in a statement today that most major cities have organized networks of angel investors, but this alliance creates Canada’s first formalized partnership with a U.S. network of angel investors. 

“This partnership is exciting because it opens the door for shared deal flow between our accredited investors from Atlantic Canada and North Carolina,” FAN Co-Founder and Director Ross Finlay said in a statement.

The press release said the arrangements will allow each groups’ members private access to each other’s investment meetings and that they would share insight into angel investment best practices.

“Atlantic Canada has a lot of very interesting companies so formalizing this partnership increases our ability to see well-vetted deals and share our networks,” said Michael Cain, managing member of the Wilmington Investor Network.  “Plus, if we have a deal we can bring up to Canada, that’s great too.”

Cain came to Halifax for the Invest Atlantic conference in September, joining Finlay as joint keynote speakers.

Earlier in the year, FAN arranged for its portfolio company ABK Biomedical of Halifax to pitch to the Wilmington Investor Network. Chief science officer Daniel Boyd made the pitch as part of a raise with a target of $1 million.

Finlay said the current arrangement will allow FAN to take extraordinary companies outside of Atlantic Canada when searching for investment. Select entrepreneurs will be pitching beyond the borders of their own region, which helps ensure they are ready to compete internationally, he added. 

Timbre Cases’ Kickstarter Campaign

Timbre Cases, the Fredericton startup making upmarket guitar cases, is launching its product with a Kickstarter campaign aimed at raising $30,000.

Though the minimum pledge in the crowdfunding drive is one dollar, the goal of the campaign is to get early purchases of its Dreadnaught guitar cases, which will ship in May.

Founded by music aficionado Peter McMath, Timbre Cases is a startup dedicated to making the best guitar cases available.

“The Big Idea with Timbre Cases is to provide guitarists with the ultimate solution to eliminate all those challenges associated with moving, storing and getting to and from gigs with their much-loved guitars,” said the company on the campaign web page.

As well as a sleek design, Timbre Cases set out last year to produce a case that will protect the instrument. The team has worked with Felipe Chibante, a chemical engineer at the University of New Brunswick, to find the best materials to ensure a protective case that houses a cushioned interior.

Timbre Cases are made of aerospace-grade Kydex, a material that is tough, waterproof and lightweight. The company says it is the ultimate option for creating guitar cases designed to deliver the ultimate protection.

Guitars are too often damaged when they are transported in flimsy cases. Sometimes the necks break when the cases’ lids close suddenly, so Timbre Cases have “constant torque hinges” so they only close if someone purposefully pushes them shut.

A lifelong music fanatic, McMath wants to emulate the success of local companies Sabian Cymbals and Los Cabos Drumsticks, which have excelled in the global market for music equipment. McMath, who took his company through the ACcelr8 accelerator at Planet Hatch, announced the campaign at the Launch36 Demo Day in Fredericton last week.

As of this morning, the Timber Kickstarter campaign has raised $6,753 with 31 pledges. Three people have made the top pledge of $849 or more, which entitles them to a premium limited edition Dreadnaught DNone case with a personalized name plate.

The campaign ends on Dec. 17.

Press Release: Mashup Weekend

Southwest Nova Scotia -- November 19, 2014 – It’s Global Entrepreneurship Week, a worldwide series of events celebrating innovators, job creators, and business startups. What better way to participate than by registering for Mashup Weekend, Southwest Nova’s biggest ever business creation weekend?

Mashup Weekend is for anyone interested in doing something to bring new ideas to life, regardless of age, background, and experience. It’s really quite simple: Teams of enthusiastic and committed people spend two days together identifying real-world problems and coming up with inspired solutions. These solutions become business ideas, and some of these ideas may even become life-changing opportunities.

“Come by yourself, bring a friend, or bring everyone on your street,” says Andrew Button, CEO and founder of Mashup Lab, the organization behind Mashup Weekend. “This is 54 hours of skills building, community building, and economy building. It’s also a really good time!”

No business, technical or entrepreneurship experience is necessary. “Some people are nervous about coming because they think they need a fully formed idea, all the skills, and a game plan,” explains Lorelei Phillips, owner of L7 Opportunities Consulting and one of the event’s organizers. “All you need is openness and curiosity. We give you the time, space, and skilled people to get you up and running. Bring it to Mashup Weekend and we’ll help you.”

The Mashup Weekend business building experience will take place this weekend from November 21st to 23rd at NSCC campuses in Bridgewater, Kentville, and Yarmouth. Each location will have an expert facilitator and specialized coaching to help your team grow an idea from a spark to a raging inferno.

Thanks to generous sponsorship, registration is only $60 and includes all meals and snacks. Register for Mashup Weekend today at mashuplab.ca.

Mashup Lab is a series of events and mentorship programs that activate and amplify startup communities in rural Atlantic Canada. We identify entrepreneurial talent and help bring business ideas to life.

PACTA: Idea to Beta in 6 Months

Having resettled in Nova Scotia in May, Charlotte and Isak Rydlund wasted no time in starting their company, PACTA, and placing it among the hottest new startups in Atlantic Canada.

The partners in life and business got the idea in July for an online product that helped manufacturers manage their contracts. They joined the entry-level phase of the Launch36 accelerator in September and last week were chosen as one of the seven companies (selected from a pool of 18) to pitch at the accelerator’s Demo Day in Fredericton.

They’re not slowing down, as they soon hope to beta-test the technology.

 “The MVP (minimum viable product) will be developed in the next month and a half, and we have two customers lined up for closed beta in the new year,” said Charlotte Rydlund in an interview.

 “We plan to launch in a year.”

PACTA helps medium-sized manufacturers manage contracts with customers, suppliers and others. The Rydlunds have experience in the sector — Charlotte, an Austrian-Canadian, has an MBA, and her Swedish husband is a lawyer — and understand the cost and time of managing contracts.

These manufacturers will have hundreds of contracts, and they have to ensure that all these documents comply with laws and regulations from various levels of government, as well as their customers’ requirements. Companies now manage them manually, often assembling teams to react to factors that could affect each contract. PACTA would proactively manage contracts automatically, saving time and money.

The system is designed to store and monitor the contracts. If there is a change in regulation, it will use a semantic search to go through the portfolio of contacts and highlight anything that needs attention. It automatically searches for events outside the company, such as recalls, and flags the user about what contracts, customers and suppliers are affected so the situation can be acted on faster and better. It also highlights when the company is obliged under contract to take certain actions, and when each contract must be renewed.

The Rydlunds are in talks with Dalhousie University on working together to produce natural language processing that can scan content and pull out key information automatically.

Developing this company has been a whirlwind experience for the pair, who met while studying at Dalhousie. About a year ago, they decided to return to Canada. They spent months travelling across the country with their dog, Fenwick (named for the Dal residence), working on their own non-profit, Canadive, encouraging scuba divers to clean up the beds of lakes and harbours.

After first settling in British Columbia, they decided the best place for them was the city where they met. They returned, came up with the idea for the business and were soon working out of the Volta Labs startup hub.

They’ve found the community a great place to start a business. So far, they have funded the project themselves, but Charlotte Rydlund said in her pitch last week they are looking for $250,000 in equity funding.

 “In terms of the startup community, what we found was so much support, and Volta was there, and there is all this stuff that is now happening in Halifax,” said Charlotte, adding that the combination of Volta and Launch36 provided great mentorship.

 “We’ve just found that this is the right place.”



Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Ara Lab Pair Secures Startup Visas

Two co-founders of Fredericton-based Ara Labs Security Solutions are the first successful Atlantic Canadian applicants to the Startup Visa Program, the federal government announced last week.

They were also the first successful applicants in the country under the program using the sponsorship of a venture capital fund, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander visited Fredericton last week to announce the award for Ehsan Mokhtari and Hadi Shiravi Khozani. The two natives of Iran helped to found the company when they were doing their PhDs in computer science at University of New Brunswick.

The Startup Visa Program grants residency status immigrant entrepreneurs as long as they are sponsored by a Canadian venture capital fund, angel investor organization or business incubator. It is designed to encourage the migration of talented entrepreneurs into the country.

NBIF, which invested $250,000 in Ara Labs earlier this year, sponsored the pair in their application. Though the New Brunswick application is the first from the region to succeed, there are other groups in the region, including Innovacorp, working with applicants in the program.

"As a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship, NBIF is interested in working with entrepreneurs and start-up companies who wish to set up, launch, and operate their innovative businesses in New Brunswick,” said NBIF President and CEO Calvin Milbury in a statement.

Ara Labs has developed a platform for the real-time monitoring of fraudulent behaviour affecting the advertising campaigns of its customers.

The company has raised $500,000 in seed financing, with equal contributions from NBIF and Moncton-based Technology Venture Corp.

Ara’s software-as-a-service product detects, reports and mediates malware and botnet activity across the Internet in real-time. Malware affects more than 95% of the world’s Global 5000 enterprises each year, costing the global economy about $1 trillion. Most viruses, malware and botnets are designed for criminal activities, such as the theft of private information, money and intellectual property.


Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.



Propel Reaches and Sets Lofty Goals

The Launch36 Demo Day on Thursday night celebrated more than just pitches by seven of the 20 companies that passed through the Atlantic Canadian accelerator this autumn.

It celebrated the fact that PropelICT, which operates the accelerator, vastly out-performed the lofty goal it set for itself three years ago. And it laid out ambitious plans for the coming few years.

In the fall of 2011, the technology development organization that had developed in New Brunswick set out to launch 36 new companies across Atlantic Canada in 36 months. At the celebration at the Delta Fredericton last night, the Propel execs joyfully proclaimed they had actually launched 49 companies from all four provinces in just 33 months.

“We did not hit our target – we fucking crushed it,” the proud but pottie-mouthed Executive Director Trevor MacAusland told the enthusiastic crowd.

The highlight of the evening was the pitches by seven graduating companies, who together are seeking $4.3 million in equity financing. But they were almost overshadowed by the sense that the organization has over-achieved and will keep on growing.

The big announcement was that Propel has hired a new CEO, St. John’s based entrepreneur Gary Dinn. MacAusland will become the Vice-President of Business Development and focus on what he enjoys most – coaching young companies.

Dinn outlined the growth plans for the organization, which hopes to be offering programs across Atlantic Canada by 2018. By 2019, it hopes to have 20 companies going through the elite Launch36 Build program (there were five in the current cohort). Propel plans to hire two professional entrepreneurs-in-residence and a Vice-President of Program Development.

“Propel can best be described as a knowledge-based, or virtual organization – we’re always going to be decentralized,” said Dinn, who will continue to work from St. John’s. “To set the goals we have set, we need support from all the organizations in our ecosystem across Atlantic Canada.”

Propel Co-Founder Gerry Pond said the organization’s goal is to build a few companies valued at $1 billion or more, and predicted the first one would reach the goal in 2019.

MacAusland noted that the pitching session featured the first Launch36 company from Newfoundland and Labrador, Sentinel Alert, and its first international company, Bungalo, which is based in Halifax and Iceland.

The seven companies pitching were:

Bungalo – Launched in Iceland, the company is now a tenant at Volta. It offers an online reservation system for cottages, and has been expanding rapidly in Nova Scotia. It has leased $2.3 million in cottages and never raised capital. It is now looking for $1 million.

Fundmetric, Halifax – Another Volta tenant, Fundmetric offers a software-as-a-service, or SaaS, product that helps charities organize fund-raising campaigns. The company has just signed its first contract with a client and is in talks with three others. It’s seeking $550,000.

Pacta, Halifax – This five-month-old company is developing a SaaS product helps manufacturers manage their contracts, saving them time and money. Pacta has two early adopters lined up for its product and is looking for $250,000 financing.

Sentinel Alert – The company is developing wearable technology that can tell companies or organizations if a remote worker has had an accident.  It is now in talks with four major Canadian oil and gas companies and is looking for $450,000 in funding.

Simptek, Fredericton – Simptek is developing algorithms to work with any home-automation system help homeowners improve the energy efficiency of their homes. It is looking for $500,000 in funding.

Smartpods, Dieppe – Smartpods is developing workstations whose working surface moves up, down, left and right to help workers avoid being too sedentary during their work day. Its latest funding round has an $800,000 target and is 70 percent committed.

Swapskis, Halifax – Swapskis lets women to barter their skills with one another, so they can build up resumés and networks and eventually charge real cash for their services. Having launched 14 days ago in Halifax, the service has attracted 1,100 users who have so far swapped $12,000 in services. The company is setting its site on launches in Toronto and New York in the new year and a $750,000 funding round.


Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.

Mark Hobbs’ Mission to Aid Charities

Getting a business off the ground can be stressful, a fact that hit Mark Hobbs when he was invited to interview for the prestigious Google for Entrepreneurs tenancy program.

Unfortunately, the Halifax-based entrepreneur had less than 48 hours’ notice about the interview and no choice but to put the costs of the trip to the Google Canada headquarters in Waterloo, Ontario on his personal credit card.

But Hobbs, founder of FundMetric, a Halifax startup that helps charities monitor donor activity, managed to get his credit card limit raised and eventually won a spot with Google at their location at Communitech, Waterloo.

“It’s tough bootstrapping a business,” said Hobbs. “I had no money to get to Google and I then gave a pretty bad interview.

“I wasn’t happy about that. I failed to articulate the value of predictive analysis (predicting future behavior from existing data).

“But I contacted the interviewer through an online fundraising campaign he was running and wrote him three paragraphs on how our product could help with a campaign to reduce hunger.”

Hobbs and FundMetric were accepted onto the Google program. They also won a spot with New Brunswick-based accelerator Launch36 and were one of seven teams presenting last night at the Demo Day of Launch36’s fifth cohort.

Now, Hobbs and his co-founder Chris Kolmatycki travel between Waterloo and Moncton to tap into the expertise that is helping them develop their product, which they plan to launch at the end of this month.    

“The key is not to give up,” said Hobbs with a laugh. 

The FundMetric product is a software-as-a-service tool that lets charity workers communicate with their donors and plot fundraising campaigns.

It presents lists of donors and their contact details, highlighting how they like to be contacted. It can stream the donors into groups. And, through a drag-and-drop mechanism, lay out the timeline of a fundraising campaign, plotting when and how to contact donors.

“The product makes donations more transparent,” Hobbs said. “Charities can follow their money using infographics, and make the money go further. It tracks how engaged the donor is. For example, do they open the charity’s email?”

He said that tests show that these campaigns are 41 per cent more effective than traditional blanket campaigns.

Hobbs and Kolmatycki, both former advertising execs, began FundMetric in May 2013 after a stint working with a hospital clarified their thoughts on marketing.

They knew they were onto something with FundMetric when clients said they would sign up for the product before it was even completed.

FundMetric now has two paying customers and is in talks with several others. They are also talking with U.S. venture capitalists about funding growth and are backed by multiple angel investors.

When the product launches it will enter a huge market. The company is first targeting health and education charities, and there are more than 200,000 such organizations in the U.S. alone. These groups raised $63 billion last year and spent $12.6 billion doing so.

Hobbs said his company owes a lot to Halifax innovation hub, Volta Labs.  The partners worked out of Volta’s Spring Garden Road space for their first year and attained the momentum that has allowed them to move into their own space and hire more staff.

“We got a lot of support through Volta,” said Hobbs. “The biggest resource is the other entrepreneurs. When I was applying for a program or accelerator I could walk down the hall and talk to someone who’s been there.”

Hobbs, now aged 28, has had a lifelong interest in volunteerism. He was born in Regina and gained a political science degree from Dalhousie University. He said FundMetric has a few competitors but his company’s advantage lies in its real-time monitoring of donor activities.

“In five years, I’d like FundMetric to be the gold standard in charity accountability,” he said. “It will lead to less wasted money and more transparency.”



Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      








Xiplinx Lands $700K in Grants, Loans

Xiplinx Technologies Ltd., the Saint John company that helps manufacturing plant managers monitor data from around their factories, has landed about $700,000 in debt and grants from provincial and federal governments.

The company announced this week that it would receive a $500,000 loan from the provincial government and a combination of grants and loans from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency totalling $214,250. The money will help the company to expand its team – now at five full-time employees and two contract workers – in such areas as sales and account management.

Xiplinx’s product, Siteflo, allows workers around a plant to input data using mobile devices. Siteflo aggregates the data and presents it on an easy-to-read dashboard that plan managers can view in real-time.

When it went through the first Launch36 cohort in 2012, Xiplinx had its greatest traction with beverage makers, but CEO Brent MacDonald said Thursday the company is now having success in the consumer packaged food market.

"These investments make it possible to meet the demand for the SiteFlo product in a variety of markets, with a New Brunswick-based team," MacDonald said in a statement.

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation recently said that in its fiscal year to March 31 it invested $250,000 in Xiplinx. According  to the Foundation’s website, it now has a total investment of $350,000 in the company. 

The New Brunswick government has identified innovation as one of the key planks of its economic strategy. The government recently gave a $90,000 grant to HotSpot Parking of Fredericton. 


Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.


Press Release: Pursu.it in the US

Pursu.it, the Halifax-based crowdfunding site for elite athletes, has issued the following press release:

Former Olympian Launches Crowdfunding Platform Pursu.it USA to Support US Athletes

November 10, 2014 – Washington, DC: On Thursday, November 13, Pursu.it USA, a nonprofit crowdfunding platform, will launch to support aspiring US athletes to raise the money necessary to fulfil their athletic dreams. Modelled after the successful Canadian version, Pursu.it USA gives fans and supporters the opportunity to directly support American athletes on their journey to success. Athletes make their appeal for each project through a personalized video in which they articulate their inspiring story and the impact the funding will have on their ability to achieve their goals as they work towards competing at the highest level in their sport.

“We are very excited to offer our crowdfunding services to aspiring American athletes and support them in their pursuit of their dreams” says founder Julia Rivard, who in 2000 walked away from her own dreams of standing on the podium in order to enter the workforce and contribute financially to her family.

“When I finished my competition at the 2000 Olympic Games I had two choices: continue with my passion and try to be the best in the world or hang up the paddle and get a job to pay for life,” Rivard says. “I chose the latter and since that time, I’ve often wondered what might have happened if I was able to train and support my life through sport. It made me wonder what I could do to help athletes who are struggling to support their own dreams.”

Like Rivard, many aspiring athletes forfeit their pursuit of the podium because they simply don’t have the funds to continue. In 2012 Rivard, a former Olympic kayaker, launched Pursu.it in Canada together with former gymnast Leah Skerry. Since its launch 45 Canadian athletes have raised more than $380,000 through the platform to support their dreams.

Pursu.it USA will initially launch with campaigns featuring Dagmara Wozniak (USA Fencing), Allison Jones (Paralympic Cycling), JD Bergman (USA Wrestling), Amber English (USA Shotgun), and Adeline Gray (USA Wrestling). Each athlete will have 60 days to engage their fans to raise the money they need. Once Pursu.it USA is launched, the platform will be open for any aspiring athlete in need of financial support.


Dagmara Wozniak – Fencing

Born July 1, 1988 in Poland, Dagmara’s family moved to the United States when she was one year old. She began fencing by the age of ten and trained for about six years at the Polish American Fencing School in Linden, NJ coached by Janusz Mlynek, before moving to New York to train under National and Olympic Men’s saber coach Yury Gelman. Dagmara has been a member of the US national team since 2006 and competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Currently ranked 5th in the world individually and number 1 in the world for team rankings. She is a 2016 Olympic hopeful.

More at http://www.usfencing.org/page/show/700896-dagmara-wozniak

Allison Jones – Paralympic Cycling

Allison Jones is an 8 time Paralympic Medalist in the sports of Alpine Skiing and Cycling. She has competed in 7 consecutive Paralympic Games, starting in the 2002 Winter Games. Her goal is to compete in the 2016 Summer Paralympic in Rio de Janeiro for cycling. She is the defending Gold medalist in the Individual Time Trial and defending World Champion in the Road Race. The next two years of competition and qualification will pave her way to her eighth Paralympic Games. Allison retired from skiing after the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia so that she could focus all efforts on the bike and Rio de Janeiro.

More at http://www.jonezyrocks.com/biography/

Adeline Gray – Wrestling

Adeline was born January 15, 1991 in Colorado and is currently ranked No. 1 at 75kg for team USA Wrestling. She has been wrestling for 17 years and won gold at the 2012 and more recently at the 2014 World Wrestling Championships. In 2012 she also went to the Olympics as an alternate for the U.S. women’s wrestling team. Adeline’s favorite move is the arm drag to a chicken win and her next big goal is to be the first female U.S. wrestler to win an Olympic gold.

More at http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Wrestling/Athlete-Bios/GR/Adeline-Gray

Amber English – Shooting

Amber English is the 2013 U.S. National Women's Skeet champion, winning this year's national championships with a score of 216/225 - the second highest score of the entire tournament, including men's results. Amber commenced competitive shooting in 2006 at age 17 when she began competing in women's skeet matches. After progressing up the ranks of International skeet shooting, she moved to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO to become a full-time U.S. Shooting National Team athlete in March, 2013. Competing in various domestic, international, and World Cup matches, Amber has continued to hone her skills as a shotgun shooter, and has her sights set on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Never considered to be one-dimensional, Amber, continues to work toward attending P.A. school, regularly volunteers with various local youth organizations, and works with national conservation organizations. A lover of the outdoors, Amber enjoys hiking, fishing, and, of course, hunting in the Colorado wilderness in and around the Rocky Mountains.

More at http://www.usashooting.org/12-the-team/usashootingteam/nationalteam/nationalshotgunteam/amber-english

JD Bergman - Wrestling

Born September 7, 1984 in Ohio, JD was a 2010 and 2013 USA Wrestling World Team member at 97kg. He is currently a member of the USA National team and has his sights sets on being an Olympic Champion in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. He was a two time Ohio High School State Champion from Oak Harbor High School and was also a first team All-Ohio running back in football. While at Ohio State University, he was a three-time All-American and was the 2008 NCAA Runner-up. JD actually appears in the upcoming Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo wrestling movie “Foxcatcher” depicting the tragic events leading to the death of Olympian David Schultz.

Rho, Build Lead Resson’s $3M Round

To understand why Resson Aerospace landed $3 million in its first funding round, it’s important not to focus too closely on the word “Aerospace” in its name.

Many companies involved in data-based agricultural analytics are focused on using drones to gather data from fields. But Fredericton-based Resson is developing an integrated system, complete with machine learning, that helps farmers and agriculturalists improve production and reduce fertilizer use.

The company’s co-founders Peter Goggin and Rishin Behl announced Thursday that the company has secured $3.025 million in an A Round of funding led by Rho Ventures Canada of Montreal and Boston and Build Ventures of Halifax. The other investors in the round are BDC Venture Capital of Montreal, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation of Fredericton and a handful of individual investors.

InDepth Coverage of Resson’s Funding:

Details of Resson’s Deal

Resson’s Support Network

Resson’s Sector: Precision Agriculture

What’s impressive about the deal is that Resson is only 18 months old. Since it incorporated in May 2013, Goggin and Behl have devised the Resson Agricultural Management and Analytics System, or RAMAS, to analyse a broad array of data, and secured McCain Foods of New Brunswick as an anchor customer.

“Resson provides real value to an important industry,” said Rob Barbara, a Partner at Build Ventures. “Resson's customers not only enjoy significant increases in profit by using RAMAS but the world also benefits from bigger and cleaner crops.”

RAMAS collects data from several sources on a farm – from tractors, from sensors buried in the field, from aerial drones flying over the field. It brings all the information together and presents the farmer with a report on what is happening in his field and what actions need to be taken. It might identify a disease that’s broken out in one section and has to be destroyed. It might show another section needs more water or fertilizer.

Using RAMAS, Resson’s goal is to improve agricultural yield by 10 percent and reduce the need for agricultural chemicals like fertilizer and pesticides by 12 percent.

Behl, the company’s Chief Technology Officer, said the system also learns over the long-term from the data so that it keeps on improving its analysis of the growing conditions. “The more data the system processes, the more intelligent it becomes,” he said. The Resson team developed the business with the aid of three accelerators or incubators – the Pond-Deshpande Centre at University of New Brunswick; the ACcelr8 program at Planet Hatch; and Propel ICT’s Launch36 accelerator.

After it graduated from Propel this past summer, the company received $250,000 in convertible debentures from BDC Venture, which went into the current round. It also met Rho Partner Jeff Grammer, who had already invested in three Atlantic Canadian startups. Behl said the meeting with Grammer was almost anti-climactic – an extremely systematic examination of the potential market and sales projections.  But at the end, Resson produced one of the best scores ever in Rho’s evaluation system.

“Their technology is very unique and highly technical,” said Grammer in an interview. “They’re in a field that’s getting a lot of attention.”

On the business side, Resson announced in July that it would be working with McCain, one of the country’s largest food companies. The initial work with McCain this autumn allowed the team to calibrate its system so it will be able to gather and interpret data through a full growing season next year.

Resson now employs seven people and expects to raise that number to 12 by the end of March, mainly through the hiring of programmers. Goggin, the company’s CEO, said the company is also in talks with other major agricultural companies and hopes to be able to announce new customers within four to six months.

“We are seeing big companies -- like the major agricultural companies of the world -- are looking at us,” he said. “So it all looks good right now.”


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


8 Startups Present at Demo Camp

DemoCamp Halifax took place at Dalhousie University last night, revealing a more polished and professional look than in any of the three preceding years.

MC-ed by Katelyn Bourgoin of Swapskis and organized by Rachael Craig of Brilliant Labs, the event allowed seven startups to demonstrate their products. They weren’t allowed power points, only a demo of what their product does.

The startups that pitched were:

Salubrian Health – This Halifax-based health informatics company is focused on improving the quality of global healthcare. Salubrian Health implements web-based technologies that enhance the quality of communication between patients, practitioners, and health clinics. In particular, it provides a channel that allows patients to book appointments with a doctor a learn whether the physician is running late. 

Bitness – The company’s beacon tracks who enters an outlet like a coffee shop with their cellphone set to receive Wi-Fi signals. It can track who lingers at the cash register (signalling a sale), who stays in and who leaves. It can track the number of returning customers.

PlayPeanut -- Founded by Callum Mayer and Costa Zafiris, Peanut is a social gaming app for sports fans. It lets them bet against one another during a sporting event for “peanuts”, a sort of virtual poker chip. Friends bet against one another for bragging rights, and players can buy additional peanuts for real money if they run out. Venues like sports bars can use the app for in-house promotions.

GlitchWizard -- Allan Lavel and Connor Bell of the indie studio ThinkRad created this app to give users the ability to “glitch” photos, videos and GIFS and share them to social networks. The images are automatically distorted or embellished. Glitch Wizard runs images through audio filters, manipulates image hex, and performs a host of other experimental techniques that create unpredictable, beautiful results.

BlockShip Wars -- BlockShip Wars is a physics-based, multiplayer, real-time strategy game in which you command a fleet of space ships you design and build yourself out of blocks. You will gather resources to build ships and outfit them with thrusters, weapons, shields, etc. As well you can build your ship to the shape you desire. The object of the game is to take your opponents’ planets and destroy their ships.

Athletigen -- The startup launched a software-as-a-service product to help coaches, athletes and fitness enthusiasts improve performance through sports-related genomic analysis. The company owns the world’s largest sports genetic databank, and has been plotting a course to launch the product in conjunction with a genetic ancestry service offered by the world-leading, direct-to-consumer genetics provider, 23andMe.

Health QR -- Having started two years ago, Health QR’s main product is a software-as-a-service product that links pharmacies and their customers. The first version will allow them to do four things: view the customer’s prescription history; order prescription refills; find out when prescriptions expire; and let the customer receive information from the pharmacy.

R17 – Based in Quispamsis, N.B., the Launch36 grad has just released a new product that tells online advertisers whether their ads are actually seen by viewers. Founder and CEO Steve Mallett said about 35 percent or more of online ads are never actually seen by humans. R17 can track ads and tell whether they are visible to people and for how long.

The keynote speaker of the night was John Paul Morgan, the Founder and CEO of Morgan Solar of Toronto. He recounted his time installing systems for Doctors Without Frontiers in Africa and how he could have continued such work, all the while being told he was doing good. But as a physicist, he decided he should and try to create an affordable solar power system that would benefit all poor communities.

“I knew blatantly that I was likely going to fail,” he said. “But I also knew that it didn’t matter at all. I knew that if I didn’t even try, that that would have been the greatest failure of all.”


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Press Release: SimplyCast & ACOA

SimplyCast, the Dartmouth-based multi-channel marketing startup, has issued the following press release:

SimplyCast Secures $500,000 from the Government of Canada for Global Expansion Strategy

SimplyCast is expanding its customer base around the world with a $500,000 investment from Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, November 10, 2014 - SimplyCast.com, a global leader in multi-channel marketing Platform-as-a-Service solutions, is excited to announce the next stage of its global expansion thanks to a $500,000 investment from the Government of Canada, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

ACOA is dedicated to supporting local businesses in the Atlantic Canada region to help develop and diversify the local economy. ACOA enables many Atlantic Canadian start-ups to grow and expand, in order to bring ongoing innovation and sustainable revenue into the region.

“The digital world has changed the whole marketing equation. SimplyCast Interactive Marketing has simplified the growing number of communication channels into a single easy-to-use marketing platform for customers. Our Government is pleased to support SimplyCast and a growing number of other Nova Scotia firms that comprise the province’s burgeoning IT sector,” said the Honourable Peter MacKay, Regional Minister for Nova Scotia, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, on behalf of the Honourable Rob Moore, Minister of State (ACOA).

SimplyCast plans to use this investment to increase its global presence and widen its customer base, while remaining in Nova Scotia. The company is committed to enriching the local business community and hiring local talent, including many coop students and recent graduates now entering the workforce.

“With the growing number of communication channels, SimplyCast has built the most innovative and comprehensive multi-channel marketing platform available. Businesses in 175 countries use our platform to communicate with customers and grow their businesses,” said Saeed El-Darahali, President and CEO of SimplyCast. “In order to maintain and grow our customer base from here in Nova Scotia, it is essential to stay ahead of the competition. That’s why this project to support a global expansion strategy will be invaluable.”

With the recent addition of the advanced lead tracking tool, Sonar, and the robust Contact Manager, which enables businesses to create complex automated sales pipelines and manage vast amounts of customer data, SimplyCast offers the most complete marketing automation platform available.

SimplyCast 360 is an automation marketing solution designed to reduce manual tasks while allowing organizations to communicate with their customers and clients in a highly targeted way that was previously unavailable on the market. SimplyCast 360 is used by the e-commerce and automotive industries, sports teams, nonprofit organizations, marketing agencies and government. It is also ideal for communication in emergency situations such as forest fires, bomb threats or blizzard warnings.

About SimplyCast

SimplyCast.com is a leading provider of interactive and multi-channel communication software for organizations worldwide. The company’s 360 Customer Flow Communication Platform is a feature-rich solution combining marketing automation, inbound marketing and interactive communication. With customers in over 175 countries, including many of the most recognized brand names around the globe in retail, non-profit and hospitality industries, SimplyCast provides organizations the ability to effectively reach customers on their preferred mode of communication.

Resson’s $3M Funding: Deal Details

The following chart shows the details of Resson Aerospace's $3.025 million venture capital funding announced today:


Funded Company Resson Aerospace Corp.
Founders Peter Goggin, CEO, Rishin Behl, CTO
Business Resson's software analyzes data collected from farm fields to maximimize production.
Deal Details  
Investment C$3.025 million (The parties declined to detail each party's investment)
Lead Investors Rho Ventures Canada, Boston and Montreal
  Jeff Grammer
  Build Ventures, Halifax
  Rob Barbara, Patrick Keefe 
Co-Investors BDC Venture Capital, Montreal
  Nicole LeBlanc
  New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, Fredericton
  Calvin Milbury
  Anonymous Angels
Company's Legal Counsel Tripp Business Law, Moncton
  Michael Tripp
Investors's Counsel Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, Toronto
  Chad Bayne, Brian Gray
Company Details  
Website http://www.ressontech.com
Contact Info@ressontech.com
Headquarters Fredericton
Year Founded 2013
Board of Directors Rishin Behl, Peter Goggin, Jeff Grammer, Rob Barbara
Support Programs Pond Deshpande Centre, PropelICT, Planet Hatch, NRC-IRAP
Previous Funding

Resson received a $250,000 convertible debenture from BDC on graduating from the Propel accelerator. That has become part of this funding round.

Major Client McCain Foods
Previous Articles
Resson Unveils Deal with McCain | June 24, 2014
Solving Farmers’ Pain From Above | May 9, 2013


Resson Aerospace’s Support Network

Resson Aerospace took the term “accelerator” seriously.

In less than a year, it raced through three different accelerators (or incubators) that moulded the company that landed a $3 million funding today.

With a focus on bioinformatics and data analytics, the precision agriculture company was first nurtured through the Pond-Deshpande Centre, the University of New Brunswick facility that encourages entrepreneurship and social enterprise. The PDC offered the young company its first funding (a $15,000 grant) as well as office space and mentoring. “Karina LeBlanc (the PDC Executive Director) was one of our biggest supporters and continues to be so,” said CEO Peter Goggin in an interview, adding that she introduced the team to several angel investors.

In the winter of 2012-2013, the company went through the ACcelr8 accelerator at Planet Hatch, which provided a bit more financing and also introduced Goggin and his co-founder Rishin Behl to another key mentor, Susan Holt.

Holt’s day job is the Executive Director of the New Brunswick Business Council. At each board meeting of the council, select startups are invited to make brief presentations to the group, which includes several captains of New Brunswick business. Holt helped Resson prep for such a pitch, but she held the pair back, making sure they didn’t pitch until they were ready.

When they did pitch, they got results. One of the introductions was to Allison McCain, chair of McCain Foods, and the pitch led to McCain using the Resson technology.

From ACcelr8, the team progressed into the Launch36 accelerator, which Goggin said brought the company’s professional development up a notch. Its main mentor in Launch36 was Kevin Berry of the Moncton startup SelectBidder.

Resson Aerospace has also worked with the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program.


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Resson’s Sector: Precision Agriculture

Resson Aerospace is a shining example of a precision agriculture startup, which means it’s devoted to using advanced systems and data analytics to increase crop yields while lowering expenses and pollution.

Precision agriculture is basically a textbook Big Data undertaking applied to farms of all sizes and sectors. By collecting a range of data from different points on a farm, precision agriculture identifies in real time what is happening in the field or the barn, and helps the farmer to respond immediately. Diseased crops can be killed early, without disturbing others. Fertilizers or pesticides are applied in proper doses only where needed.

Precision agriculture relies heavily – though not exclusively – on two pieces of modern technology. The first is GPS-enhanced guidance and mapping capabilities, which can help the user pinpoint areas that need attention over the vast acreage of their fields. And the second is drone technology, as unmanned aircraft can scan fields in a fraction of the time that ground vehicles can.

It’s not a coincidence then that some of the highest profile precision agriculture companies are using drone-based technologies. One Halifax drone company, SkySquirrel Technologies, recently announced a partnership with VineView-SAI, Inc., a Napa Valley remote sensing company, in which they will apply precision analytics to vineyards.

PrecisionHawk, a Raleigh, N.C. drone company with offices in Toronto and Halifax, recently received funding from Intel Venture.

Of course, the applications of precision agriculture extend far beyond using drones to collect information.

For example, Agronomic Technology Corp., an American company whose software helps farmers preserve nitrogen content in their soil, has partnered with the likes of Walmart and the U.S. Nature Conservancy, and recently landed $2.2 million in VC funding. Strider Agriculture of Brazil is devoted to reducing the amount of pesticides farmers use, while Summer Technologies of Palo Alto, Calf., offers precision grazing management for cattle ranchers.

Discoverygarden Thrives as SaaS

John Eden is often amazed at the digital artifacts that end up in Islandora, the digital repository for institutions that’s overseen by the company he leads, Charlottetown-based discoverygarden.

While working on a contract for the University of Connecticut, he saw the digitized version of a manifesto written by Adolf Hitler. While carrying out a project for the University of Southern California, he’s worked with black and white film from the 1920s – a priceless memento of the early days of Hollywood that would have deteriorated beyond repair if it hadn’t been digitized.

Eden’s background is business and game development, but as the CEO of discoverygarden he is heading a company that is helping more than 100 institutions around the world preserve and manage priceless artifacts. What’s more, he’s growing this unique business, with revenues up 30 percent in the last six months.

With a highly original business model, discoverygarden is inextricably linked to the open source Islandora system. Mark Leggott, the librarian at University of Prince Edward Island, developed Islandora with help from the community and $2.5 million in financing from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund. Working with religious studies professor Joe Velaidum, they launched discoverygarden to commercialize the product. In 2012, Eden came aboard as a consultant and eventually became CEO, though Leggott remains the majority owner.

The organization has evolved over the years so Islandora is now an open-source product that any institution can implement. It combines open-source software from Fedora Commons and Drupal to create a repository that protects and stores digital assets permanently. It includes such features as a powerful search function and flexible installation.

“We still are true to the original offering, the original vision, of helping organizations to create their digital repository using a framework of open-source software and open standards,” said Eden.

What discoverygarden does is build products for institutions so that Islandora can meet their needs. And a lot of institutions return these efforts to the Islandora community so others can use them as well.

“We still go over and above what we’re asked for on a lot of paid work so that we can return it to the community,” he said. Discoverygarden also provides various support services and resources for Islandora, and helps out with Islandora Camps, which have taken place in such centres as Colorado, Toronto and London.

Discoverygarden was growing in popularity when Eden took the helm, but it was becoming a service company. With the demand, the company grew to a staff of 26 people in its Charlottetown headquarters. Eden decided to transition into more of a development and software-as-a-service model, which he launched in February. Staffing has since fallen to 18 people while revenues have grown. He added the company may grow its staff again as its workload increases.

With three-quarters of its revenue coming from outside Canada, the company has grown with relatively little equity investment. It brought in angel investments totalling $290,000 in 2012 and closed a $150,000 round in early 2014. Eden hopes the enterprise won’t have to raise money again and can thrive on rising revenues.

“We’re kind of an old fashioned IT company in that we’re built on revenue,” he said. “There was demand for this right out of the box.”



Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


Press Release: SkySquirrel & VineView

SkySquirrel Technologies, the Halifax startup dedicated to drone-based technologies, issued the following press release:

VineView and SkySquirrel Debut Drone at Rootstock

Joint venture to display specialized drone

St. Helena, Napa Valley and Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, November 2014 ---- VineView-SAI, Inc., a St. Helena-based remote sensing company established in 1999,  is partnering with SkySquirrel Technologies Inc. (SST), a commercial Unmanned Aerial System (drone) company based in Nova Scotia, Canada.  VineView and SkySquirrel will be displaying their Aqweo agricultural drone at The Concept Bar at Rootstock, the Napa Valley Grape Growers’ trade exhibition taking place on November 13, 2014 from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at the Napa Exposition Fairgrounds (575 Third Street, Napa 94558). More information at http://www.skysquirrel.ca/vineview.com.

VineView is contributing its 15 years of experience in remote sensing of vineyards and other high value crops to the development of a fully integrated drone system for high resolution imaging of vineyards, citrus and nut crops.  “Partnering with SST allows us to bring the technologies we’ve developed to new markets as well as provide additional options for our current customers,” said Matt Staid, Ph.D., President of VineView.  “Canada has been a leader in supporting the commercial use and testing of unmanned aircraft, allowing us to start using this new platform sooner than would otherwise be possible.”

SST has been developing and testing its robust, portable, commercial drone system for the past 2 1/2 years.   “What we see missing in the current drone marketplace is a commercial-grade UAS delivering a turn-key aerial imaging solution for growers,” said SST CEO and co-founder, Tim Stekkinger.  Other manufacturers are focusing on the drone itself, whereas the Aqweo delivers a complete GPS-guided system, including customized onboard imaging equipment which allows for crop-specific imaging.  “This breakthrough product will allow the user to collect accurate, consistent measurements of crop conditions and upload them to a cloud environment for automatic data processing. The resulting maps will go far beyond basic vigor mapping and can be viewed in the field from a tablet device,” explains Stekkinger. “The partnership with VineView allows us to offer calibrated aerial imaging data, which is of much higher quality than anything on the market today.”

The system will become available in Europe, Canada and South America early next year; availability in the U.S. depends on FAA restrictions currently under review. 

Based in St. Helena, VineView has been providing remote sensing services to the wine-grape industry in California, Oregon and Washington since 2002.  VineView uses state of the art equipment and image processing techniques to deliver high-quality imaging products from multispectral and hyperspectral systems. In addition to calibrated vigor maps and infrared images, VineView also offers RedleafMap™ (leafroll and redblotch mapping) and has developed H2OstressMap (water stress mapping).  Aerial images are a valuable tool for many aspects of vineyard management and can help growers improve grape quality, identify disease, save time and resources and reduce the environmental impacts of farming.  More information at http://www.vineview.com/.

Based in Nova Scotia, SkySquirrel Technologies Inc. develops drone-based technology for monitoring crop health, with a primary focus on improving crop yields and reducing costs at commercial vineyards. It offers an effective way to optimize agricultural inspection and field monitoring operations. The company was founded in May 2012. Based in Canada, it also has a presence in Switzerland and California. More at http://www.skysquirrel.ca/



The White Cross by H.P. MacKeen

It isn’t a medal or order,

It carries no ribbon or braid;

But a token still

As on Calvary’s Hill

Of the greater sacrifice made.


It stands as a lonely sentinel,

O’er the place where a hero sleeps;

‘Neath a lowly mount

In the shell-swept ground

Near the battered walls of Ypres.


It bears a simple legend

Yet a tale of lasting glory:

“Her lies a British Soldier

Pro patria mori.”



Harry MacKeen, Peter Moreira's grandfather, (pictured at the left above), wrote this poem on the Ypres battlefield in September 1917.

QRA Nearing $4M Funding Raise

Jordan Kyriakidis’s eyes light up and his voice rises when he talks about what the Internet of Things could mean to his company, QRA Corp.

During a recent interview, Kyriakidis outlined the possibilities of QRA’s technology, which helps machine manufacturers detect problems with their designs early in the development process. As machines grow more complex, with more digital and autonomous features, the attractiveness of the QRA technology is bound to increase.

 “We started off in aerospace, but we work with other machines like autos and trains,” he said.  “And when the Internet of Things gets going, our system will be perfect for it.”

The development of the QRA software began five years ago when Lockheed-Martin, the world’s largest defence contractor, came to Dalhousie University with a problem. It wanted Dal researchers to look into ways to detect design flaws in big machines before the company had sold them.

Kyriakidis has a PhD in theoretical condensed matter physics from the University of Basel in Switzerland and is an associate professor of physics and atmospheric science at Dal. He headed the project, which eventually led to the creation of QRA, which stands for Quantum Research Analytics, to commercialize the team’s work.

 “They’re finding the design errors at a very late stage, and at that point it costs a lot of money to fix them.”

Kyriakidis said the problem is that components of machines are often designed in isolation so the manufacturer has no way of knowing how all the parts will work with one another in the real world.

QRA’s tools can analyze and validate how system components are put together and work together, all in the design stage. It can detect any faults before the machine is actually built. These tools are based on rigorous mathematical approaches and can detect errors that conventional testing cannot, said Kyriakidis.

 “This ultimately leads to lower development costs and timelines, and higher systems confidence.”

QRA believes a more rigorous systems engineering approach is needed to help create the next generation of robust, safe, software-driven industrial infrastructure.

The next big advance in industrial machines is likely to be the Internet of Things, in which machines communicate with each other and react in real time, carrying out tasks more quickly and accurately than a group of humans could. There are estimates that the segment will be worth $19 trillion by the end of the decade and that 50 billion devices will be connected to each other.

As the Internet of Things becomes a reality, its complexity will increase very rapidly, said Kyriakidis. That will make it more difficult to ensure errors do not infiltrate the machinery and cause possibly catastrophic accidents. QRA’s tools are being developed precisely to help address such problems.

The development of the QRA system has so far cost about $2.5 million, mostly coming from sales to customers.

The three founders — Kyriakidis, Dean Tsaltas and Micah McCurdy — are raising about $4 million in equity and other forms of capital, enough capital to finance the company for about two years. About one-third of the funding will be equity investments, while the remainder will come from customers and a range of programs.

The company now employs 10 people.



Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


Press Release: Unique Solutions’ CEO

Unique Solutions of Dartmouth, whose technology scans the human body, has issued the following press release:

Former SVP of Global Search at Yahoo Joins Body Data Experts at Unique Solutions Design Ltd. as CEO

Leading Body Data Corp.  Announces New CEO, Board of Directors and a Senior Advisor to Lead Growth in Body Data Information Technology

SILICON VALLEY, Calif., Nov. 5, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Unique Solutions Design, Ltd, developer of innovative body fit solutions and technologies, is pleased to announce the appointment of Tuoc Luong as CEO and a new board of directors and a senior advisor as part of a strategic plan to position itself as the Go-To Experts on Body Data, and launch an aggressive online apparel sizing-matching campaign planned for Winter 2014. Unique Solutions Ltd. Founder Tanya Shaw has moved into the role of executive chairwoman of the board.

In his new role as company CEO, Mr. Luong will run the company from Silicon Valley—commuting to Halifax frequently. The plan is to build-out the company's Silicon Valley presence, he said.

The two new additions to Unique Solutions' board of directors and advisory committee are Arlene Dickinson and Stephen I. Sadove, respectively. As a director, Ms. Dickinson brings a wealth of one-to-one marketing experience and data analytics. Mr. Sadove will serve as Senior Advisor to Executive Chairwoman Tanya Shaw, with a focus on penetrating the apparel sector.

Founder and Executive Chairwoman Tanya Shaw said: "The appointment of Tuoc, Stephen and Arleen are part of Unique Solution's long-term goal of becoming the premiere body data experts globally. We are most fortunate to have this highly distinguished group serve in their new roles."

Unique Solutions Design Ltd. CEO Tuoc Luong said: "What attracted me to Unique Solutions is its potential to own and dominate a large category of data that no other company has access to. Where Google, Facebook and Amazon may have user interest, behavior and transaction data, they do not have access to a user's physical body. Through its patented body scan technology deployed over a couple of years, Unique has amassed physical body dimension of well over 1 million users and growing. This positions the company well as it looks to businesses from fashion apparel fitting to the health and wellness industry."

TUOC LUONG most recently served as the Chief Executive Officer of Shanda Online. Previously, Luong served as the Global Senior Vice President of Yahoo from 2007 to 2010, where he led the Search Division and was responsible for Yahoo Search products worldwide. Prior to joining Yahoo, Luong served as the Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of Engineering at Zazzle Inc. and Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Engineering and Technology of IAC Search & Media, Inc. (formerly Ask Jeeves Inc.) Prior to joining Ask Jeeves, Luong worked at Microsoft Corporation as its general manager for BackOffice and Hosted Service from January 1999 to March 2000. Prior to Microsoft, he served as Vice President of research for Baan Company, an enterprise resource planning company. He has also worked with Oracle Corporation, and Informix Software. Mr. Luong holds a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.S. degree in Engineering Management from Santa Clara University.

ARLENE DICKINSON is a Canadian author, entrepreneur, television personality and venture capitalist. She has served as a partner at Venture Communications since 1988. In 1998 she became sole owner and has grown the company into a strategic and creative powerhouse for a blue-chip client list, which includes Toyota (Prairie Region), Cenovus Energy, Travel Alberta, Mayo Clinic, Brookfield Residential, and Husky Energy. Under Dickenson's direction, Venture has been recognized as one of the 50 Best Managed Companies in Canada for three consecutive years. In 2007, Dickenson joined the cast of the CBC business reality show Dragon's Den during its second season. She was selected to perform on the series after she won numerous awards, including Calgary Business Owner of the Year, PROFIT magazine's Top 100 Business Owners, the Pinnacle Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence and Canada's Most Powerful Women Top 100. Dickenson continues to make guest appearances on top-rated television shows as Canada's top entrepreneur.

STEPHEN I SADOVE is retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Saks Incorporated. Between January 2002 and November 2013, Stephen I. Sadove held positions of increasing responsibility with Saks Incorporated.  In January 2002, Sadove joined the management team of Saks as Vice Chairman.  In March 2004, he assumed the additional post of Chief Operating Officer of the Company and in January 2006 he assumed the position of Chief Executive Officer.  He held the post of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Saks between May 2007 and November 2013. Prior to joining Saks, Sadove built a distinguished marketing and consumer products career spanning more than 25 years.  Between 1975 and 1991, Sadove held various positions of increasing responsibility with General Foods USA, including Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Desserts Division.  Sadove joined Bristol-Myers Squibb Company in 1991 as President of Clairol.  In 1994, he was appointed President, Worldwide Clairol, having direct responsibility for the Clairol business in the United States as well as all of the consumer businesses in Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America.  In 1996, he was appointed to the post of President, Bristol-Myers Squibb Worldwide Beauty Care, with responsibility for Clairol Worldwide and Matrix Essentials.  In 1997, he was appointed President, Bristol-Myers Squibb Worldwide Beauty Care and Nutritionals, adding Mead Johnson Nutritionals to his duties. Sadove is a graduate of Hamilton College and holds an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School.  He currently serves as Chairman of the Board for National Retail Federation as well as a member of public company boards of Colgate-Palmolive, JCPenney, Aramark and Ruby Tuesday.


With offices in Nova Scotia, Philadelphia and Silicon Valley, Unique Solutions Design Ltd has provided innovative body fit solutions since 1994, and owns the only body scanning technology to measure an individual while fully clothed. Unique Solutions develops and commercializes advanced body measurement technologies, and maintain the largest database of body measurements that accurately reflects the real size and shape of consumers. Its highly acclaimed apparel size-matching service, Me-Ality—Measured Reality—premiered in 2010—and has been a dream come true for consumers by taking the guesswork out of finding their best fitting apparel styles. In 2014, the company launched an online "Predictive Model" for apparel shoppers that allows them to input a few key measurements and shop with high accuracy online. Unique Solution's proprietary technology yields aggregate data and body measurement information that readily translates into better fitting products and services. This unique data provides added value to multi-billion dollar industries including health and fitness, sports and fashion. For more information about Unique Solutions Design, Ltd., please visit http://www.me-ality.com


Press Release: B4Checkin & Agilysys

B4Checkin, a Halifax startup that makes software for hotels, release the following press release:

Agilysys and B4Checkin Partner to Offer Web Booking Engine To Visual One™ PMS Customers

Solution Increases Conversion Rates, Drives Incremental Revenue, Boosts Loyalty

ALPHARETTA, GA. and HALIFAX, NS — Nov. 10, 2014 — Agilysys, Inc. (Nasdaq: AGYS), a leading provider of innovative information technology and hospitality software and services, and B4Checkin, Inc., a developer and provider of cloud-based hospitality software solutions, today announced a partnership agreement whereby Agilysys will offer the B4Checkin booking engine to its Visual One™ PMS customers.

The B4Checkin booking engine is a highly interactive online booking solution that drives conversions and provides superior property merchandising. The solution has certified two-way interfaces with the Visual One PMS, which means crucial information — such as room rates, inventory availability and guest profile data — is automatically exchanged in real time between the two solutions, speeding confirmation times and ensuring that guests have an accurate view of booking options. Designed specifically for independent hotels, the solution is fully customizable to match the look and feel of a property's website, so that a consistent brand image is presented to potential guests. Easy-to-navigate screens and availability calendars enable users to view room types and rates, and guests have the option of purchasing pre-built packages or selecting specific components to create dynamic packages.

The B4Checkin booking engine also upsells users to better room types and displays value-added items that enhance the guest experience, such as wine, flowers and local attractions. Personalized email communications with guests, both pre- and post-stay, encourage loyalty and repeat visits. Add-on modules allow for group deposits, thereby reducing operator expense. And, unlike most booking engine vendors, which typically require hotels to pay on a per-reservation commission basis, B4Checkin features an affordable flat monthly subscription model.

"Our partnership with B4Checkin enables us to provide our customers with a market-leading booking engine that boosts revenue and enhances guest satisfaction," said Jim Dennedy, president and chief executive officer of Agilysys. "The power of the Visual One PMS combined with the B4Checkin booking engine will allow customers to improve conversion rates, increase revenue per stay and drive incremental revenue from the sale of value-added products. This innovative technology will also help hotel operators create more lasting connections with guests that build loyalty and ensure repeat visits."

"In the highly competitive lodging industry, a professional and reliable web booking engine is a vital component for success," said Saar Fabrikant, president and chief executive officer of B4Checkin. "Our B4Checkin booking engine fully integrates with the Visual One PMS, increasing efficiency for customers and maximizing convenience for guests, be it on a computer or a mobile-friendly basis. We are excited about our partnership with Agilysys and our role in helping independent hotels realize their full potential."

About Agilysys

Agilysys is a leading developer and marketer of proprietary enterprise software, services and solutions to the hospitality industry. The company specializes in market-leading point-of-sale, property management, inventory and procurement, workforce management, analytics, document management, and mobile and wireless solutions that are designed to streamline operations, improve efficiency and enhance the guest experience. Agilysys serves four major market sectors: Gaming, both corporate and tribal; Hotels, Resorts and Cruise; Foodservice Management; and Restaurants, Universities, Stadia and Healthcare. Agilysys operates extensively throughout North America, Europe and Asia, with corporate services located in Alpharetta, GA, and offices in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia. For more information, visit http://www.agilysys.com


About B4Checkin

B4checkin™ is a developer and provider of an innovative suite of cloud-based software solutions for the hospitality industry. Designed to help hotels better manage online reservations and measure guest satisfaction, core products include B4Checkin, an on-demand, customizable booking engine, and B4Feedback, a state-of-the-art guest satisfaction tracking and management tool. Properties throughout the world use B4Checkin solutions to create and manage highly customized branded website reservation systems, improve guest communications and maximize revenue. B4Checkin is headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, with installations serving customers in North America, the Caribbean, Asia and Europe. For more information, visit http://www.b4checkin.com


Lamda Cited for ‘Unrivaled’ Product

Halifax-based Lamda Guard Inc. has been awarded the 2014 Global Frost & Sullivan Award for Product Leadership for its “unrivaled” solution to the problem of laser attacks on aircraft.

Lamda Guard, a subsidiary of Metamaterials Technology Inc., is developing metaAir, a transparent, flexible film that can go over the aircraft windshields to block out laser beams. The shield is necessary because aircraft pilots are increasingly subject to people – from terrorists to pranksters – shining lasers at cockpit windows to blind the crew.

At Entrevestor, we generally don’t report on Atlantic Canadian startups winning awards (because there are simply too many of them), but this award drew our attention because it comes with a super detailed report. Frost & Sullivan, a San Antonio, Texas-based business consultancy for innovative businesses, does a great job of explaining why metaAir has such great potential.

“As a unique participant with an unrivaled solution to improve safety with such simplicity, metaAir could become a standard in the industry and it may become mandatory in the advent of stricter safety regulations,” said the report.

The document establishes the demand for the product, saying that the Federal Bureau of Investigation says that laser attacks on aircraft in the U.S. increased from about 300 incidents in 2003 to nearly 4000 incidents in 2013. It added that the aviation industry – including commercial and military aircraft, private planes, helicopters – doubles every 15 years. And plane makers are always looking for improved safety.

The report says metaAir effectively blocks out laser beams without impairing the visibility of the crew. What’s more, metaAir is easy to install – it is just stuck on to the inside of the cockpit windshield. That means there’s no downtime for the aircraft, and it can be installed in both existing and new planes.  

Current anti-laser solutions tend to be standalone products such as eyewear, which can hamper cockpit instrumentation and pilot performance, said Frost & Sullivan.

"Unlike competitors' existing products, which only provide limited and/or temporary protection, the metaAir can be integrated during either aircraft forward-fit or retrofit operations," said the report, written by consultants Thomas Saquer and Alix Leboulanger. "It requires minimal integration costs, as it eliminates complex cockpit conversion, training and additional certification."

The report also praises the human capital of the company led by CEO George Palikaras, a PhD who has developed a metamaterial that uses nanotechnology to filter out, absorb or enhance certain forms of light. It also noted that AirBus, Europe's largest aircraft maker, is working on a multi-year development project with Lamba Guard.

Frost & Sullivan said its Best Practices awards recognize companies in a variety of markets for demonstrating outstanding achievement and superior performance in areas such as leadership, innovation, customer service and strategic development.


Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.



Watzan Expanding in Halifax

Watzan, a New York startup devoted to enhancing searches in ecommerce and media websites, is expanding its presence in Halifax now that it is bringing in new clients.

Founder and CEO Charles Benaiah said in an interview the company is now building a development team in Nova Scotia and hopes that the city will host its full-time development division.

“People still ask me, ‘Why here?’”, said Benaiah, a native Torontonian who has an MBA from Dalhousie University. “I answer, ‘Why not here?’ The people are great. The talent is here. The community is supportive. What else could a company want?”

Now headquartered in New York, watzan is a “big data” visualization tool that makes it easier for companies to show clients the products they may be most interested in. It’s the natural successor to Benaiah’s previous startup, Sequence, which personalized content for magazine readers in print and online. He sold Sequence to the printing giant R.R. Donnelley & Sons in 2011 for an undisclosed amount.

Watzan recently announced that fashion company Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent will use watzan to merchandise its customer experience. Benaiah said Cynthia Vincent’s intricate designs and Bohemian fashions became an instant hit among socialites and celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow, Rachel Bilson and Scarlett Johansson.

Watzan had already gained traction from pharma companies like GlaxoSmithKline, and Benaiah also wants to work with media companies to make it easier for readers to select content that might interest them.

Benaiah said he’s aware of a few New York companies that have noticed the talent and supportive community in Halifax and are considering developing teams in the city.  


Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.






Brilliant Labs Expands in NS

Rachael Craig learned to love technology in childhood. Now she’s spearheading Brilliant Labs in Nova Scotia, as the Atlantic initiative that promotes technology to school kids gains traction within the province.

Craig, 31, has only been in her role as the Nova Scotia director of Brilliant Labs for the last month, but she is beginning to forge the kind of private and public partnerships that have made the group successful in neighbouring New Brunswick.

“I’m exploring opportunities for collaborating with other groups that are already working to promote computer programming to kids in Nova Scotia,” said Craig from her base at Volta Labs on Halifax’s Spring Garden Road.

“This work needs community involvement. The kind of change we want to see in Nova Scotia requires partnerships.”

Brilliant Labs aims to boost innovation by increasing education in science, technology, engineering, entrepreneurship, arts and mathematics.

The organization began in New Brunswick in March, but through its relationships with the New Brunswick government and organizations such as Science East, it has already accomplished a lot.

In the last few months, Brilliant Labs has identified seven sites for Makerspaces in New Brunswick schools, one in each school district.

Makerspaces are spaces where people gather to create, invent and learn. They often have equipment such as 3D printers, software, electronics and tools.

The Brilliant Labs Makerspaces will be complete before Christmas. The group has also helped fund 14 Brilliant Projects in New Brunswick schools, most at a cost of less than $2,000.

Jeff Willson, executive director of Brilliant Labs, said projects include an underwater robot that will be used to study the Miramichi River, as well as wearable electronics, a 3D printer and mini Makerspaces.

“In the spring, we partnered with other groups to run a high school challenge,” Willson said.

“Entries included a tracking bracelet that can be used to locate fishermen lost at sea. The young inventor is already exploring the patenting process.”

Willson said the group plans to grow regionally and maybe nationally with the help of its growing network of partners.

The Brilliant Labs story began when Fredericton’s David Alston, chief innovation officer of Introhive, began to work with then-New Brunswick Premier David Alward on promoting coding in schools.

Brilliant Labs’ high-profile supporters include Jevon MacDonald and Gavin Uhma. The founders of the successful tech company GoInstant have helped found Volta Labs and the program for startups now piloting at the University of Cape Breton.

“Jevon MacDonald is championing Brilliant Labs in Nova Scotia,” Craig said.

“The project was also well received by the oneNS Coalition (which is building on the work of the Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy) when presented in September.”

For Craig, her new role dovetails with her existing role as president of AtlanticSpark, a non-profit that supports the startup community through targeted events, specialized training and related services.

The Nova Scotia-born neuroscience grad has also been involved in developing educational games.

Craig traces her love of technology back to her father, a mechanic and entrepreneur, who ensured that his daughter always had access to a computer and encouraged her to play, experiment and build.

She is keen to build on the success Brilliant Labs has achieved in New Brunswick.

“It’s cool to see 40 kids engaged in a Makerspace at lunchtime, to see them developing the skills they need with their peers,” she said.

“We want the youth of Nova Scotia to benefit in the same way.”




Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Salubrian Targets Clinic Wait Times

Salubrian Health, an online platform that lets patients check whether their physician appointments are running on schedule, hopes to launch its product this month.

With the Halifax company’s product, a clinic’s administrative staff click a button every time the physician starts and ends an appointment. This information is available on the Salubrian Health website so patients know how long their wait will be and can plan to arrive accordingly.

According to a 2011 New York Times article, an American spends an average of 23 minutes in a doctor’s waiting room.

There isn’t a similar statistic for Canada, but a 2014 Canadian Institute for Health Information survey ranked Canada as the worst developed country for emergency room wait times. Canada is the only country in which more than 20 per cent of patients wait more than four hours in the ER.

“We’ve created a very unique technology to keep track of what’s going on in the clinic in real time,” said Salubrian Health founder Justin Javorek.

Patients can also book their appointments on the platform. Javorek said it’s a hassle for patients to have to call a physician’s office to book an appointment, and even more of a hassle if a need for rescheduling arises.

“It’s really a differentiator for the patient experience,” said Javorek. “It’s easier for patients to book appointments online in a few seconds.”

Salubrian Health has generated interest among health clinics in the United States and Canada. At the International Business Model Competition at Brigham Young University in the spring, the company represented Canada alongside students from the likes of Harvard and Stanford.

Javorek created Salburian Health in Dalhousie University’s Starting Lean initiative, a class that allows students to create startups. He progressed into a summer business accelerator program, and now Salubrian Health is one of five startups going through the more advanced phase of the Propel ICT accelerator.

Javorek interviewed over 400 patients and 50 health-care providers for Salubrian Health.

“We designed the program around the pain points they’re facing.”

He originally wanted to charge patients $2 a day for checking schedules, but his mentors told him he should abstain from this for now. There is a monthly charge for clinics to keep their schedules on Salubrian Health, but the price point is being determined. Javorek said it will likely range from $39 to $69 per physician.

“We can provide them with an interface where they can communicate with their patients more effectively and automate a lot of communications.

“So that’s extremely helpful for them to save time from the (administrative) stuff and also maximize the patients coming through the door.”

Javorek has not raised any funding yet, though he is looking for initial capital. Salubrian Health has been in the making for over a year, and Javorek credits Starting Lean professors Mary Kilfoil and Ed Leach for his continued work on it.

“They really made us stick and go with it.”


Editor’s note: This is the first article for Entrevestor written by Sabina Wex, who will serve as our student intern for the next few months. Sabina is a student at University of King’s College, and is the Assistant News Editor at Dalhousie Gazette.



Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.

7 Startups Headline Propel Demo Day

Seven startups from around the region will present at the Propel ICT Demo Day next Thursday, including three that have leap-frogged from the entry-level group to the main stage.  

Propel ICT, the regional startup development group that began in New Brunswick 11 years ago, will display the most promising companies from its restructured acceleration program, formerly known as Launch36.

Launch 36 previously comprised a single cohort of five to 10 companies who met weekly in Moncton. Propel 2.0 has amplified the program, with five growth-stage companies enrolled in the “Build” phase in Moncton, and  15 seed-stage companies going through the “Start” phase at Planet Hatch in Fredericton or Volta Labs in Halifax.

The seven companies are:

Bungalo, Halifax and Reykjavik – Launched in Iceland, the company is now a tenant at Volta. It offers an online reservation system for cottages, and has been expanding rapidly in Nova Scotia. 

Fundmetric, Halifax – Another Volta tenant, Fundmetric offers a software-as-a-service, or SaaS, product that helps charities organize fund-raising campaigns.

Pacta, Halifax -- Pacta has an SaaS products that helps companies ensure they are compliant with regulations in various jurisdictions, allowing companies to focus on their business not local rules.

Sentinel Alert, St. John’s – The first Newfoundland company in Propel has been working out of Planet Hatch in Fredericton. It is developing wearable technology that can tell companies or organizations if a remote worker has had an accident.  

Simptek, Fredericton – Founded by three graduates of the University of New Brunswick’s Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship program, the Planet Hatch tenant is developing algorithms to help homeowners improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

Smartpods, Dieppe – Smartpods is developing workstations whose working surface moves up, down, left and right to help workers avoid being too sedentary during their work day.

Swapskis, Halifax – Another Volta company, Swapskis lets women to barter their skills with one another, so they can build up resumés and networks and eventually charge real cash for their services.

One thing to note about the Demo Day is that Pacta, Sentinel Alert and Simptek are presenting even though they were in the “Start” program. It’s an indication that they progressed quickly through the accelerator and impressed the organizers.

The Demo Day will also highlight the geographic expansion of Propel. It will have the first Demo Day presentation by a Newfoundland and Labrador company, and the first company that has come to the accelerator from another country. 

Demo Day takes place at the Delta Fredericton on Thursday, starting with a reception at 4:30 pm. 


Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.

SNM Global Takes Aim at Smoking

Nearly four years ago, Trevor Poole told his partner he was certain he could quit smoking after 25 years if there were only a product that would just wean him off cigarettes gradually.

His partner, Hazel Harrison, set out to develop such a device and thus SNM Global Technologies Inc. was born.

SNM Global is a St. John’s-based company developing a little device that ensures smokers have a set number of cigarettes each day – and it gradually reduces the number.

“This quit-smoking device lets you smoke real cigarettes while you are quitting,” said Hazel Harrison in a recent interview. “It gradually reduces the amount you smoke and it’s so gradual that you don’t notice it.”

SNM – which stands for Smoke No More – is obviously tackling a huge problem. The World Health Organization estimates there are more than 1 billion smokers in the world, and about 70 percent of them are trying to quit. The U.S. alone spends about $300 billion on the treatment of smoking related diseases, and it’s estimated the North American market for quit-smoking products in 2016 will be worth about $5 billion.  What’s more, 87 percent of smokers take up the habit again within three months of trying to quit.

“As our device is reusable, it solves the problem of relapsing,” said Harrison.

Harrison, the company’s CEO, said her patent-pending device is about the size of a pack of cigarettes, and the smoker can dispense a number of smokes throughout each day according to the proprietary algorithm. Throughout the day, it will dispense the cigarettes. Each time it does so, a photo of a loved one will pop up on the user’s smart phone as a reminder of why he or she is trying to quit smoking.

A former smoker and Carleton University psychology graduate, Harrison said that the idea is to help the smoker withdraw from nicotine without even realizing it’s happening. She added that only about 9 percent of smokers who try to quit cold turkey succeed in their goal.

“The device locks your supply of cigarettes, controls the amount you smoke, and gradually weans you off cigarettes,” she said.

The company has researched the market by interviewing more than 300 smokers. Overall, smokers like the plan for the device, though a few asked what would prevent them from carrying around a second pack and cheating.

“You can carry around another pack of cigarettes no matter which other quit-smoking product you are using to help you quit,” said Harrison. “You need to be mentally and emotionally ready to become a non-smoker, in order for any quit smoking product to work effectively.”

Now, nearly four years old, the company has developed a single prototype, and is now working on a second. It is in talks with a major American retailer interested in carrying the product.

SNM Global is now looking for about $200,000 in equity funding, which it hopes to leverage into a total funding round of about $800,000.

With the funding, said Harrison, the company could have a product within a year. It would then be carrying out its mission to help people stop smoking, to reduce healthcare budgets and to save lives.



Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      


Newfoundland Unveils VC Plans

The Newfoundland and Labrador government today unveiled a two-track policy to increase the equity funding of companies in Canada’s most easterly province.

Premier Paul Davis announced the program in a statement, confirming the previous announcement that the government of Newfoundland and Labrador would commit $10 million to Build Ventures, the Atlantic Provinces’ venture capital fund created last year.

The Premier also said the government would invest $10 million in the new Venture Newfoundland and Labrador, a private-public fund that will provide seed financing for young startups in the province.  BDC Capital will contribute $2 million to the fund, and it will seek investment from private individuals through the Newfoundland and Labrador Angel Network. A person familiar with the project said the goal is for individuals to eventually invest a total of $2.5 million in the fund.

“For emerging growth sectors, such as ocean technology and other knowledge-based industries, these new venture capital funds will help improve the global competitiveness of companies, strengthen high-end employment opportunities and drive economic diversification throughout Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Davis in the statement.

The government has been aware that startups in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have an easier time

finding seed funding than those in Newfoundland because of bodies like Innovacorp and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. These public agencies generally make seed investments of $200,000 to $500,000 in companies’ initial funding rounds.

Venture Newfoundland and Labrador is meant to provide a similar service in that province, with some differences.

First, it will have a private fund manager in GrowthWorks Atlantic. GrowthWorks already has several investments in Newfoundland, such as Virtual Marine Technologies, adfinitum Networks and ClearRisk.

“We believe the time is right for public and private investors to create this new pool of capital for budding entrepreneurs and we are very pleased to be involved in this exciting opportunity,” said Tom Hayes, President and CEO of GrowthWorks Atlantic in the statement.

People in the community say NLAN has previously had trouble finding lead investors to identify target companies, draw up terms sheets and lead the funding. In the future, such tasks would be taken over by the fund manager.

Second, local angels will also be able to invest in the fund, and will receive a non-refundable investment tax credit to do so. The Venture Capital Tax Credit will be worth 30 percent of the investment with a lifetime cap on the credit of $75,000 per person.

This new credit will worth 30 percent of the investment regardless of where the target company is located. Previously the Newfoundland and Labrador investment credit offered a higher tax credit for investment made outside the St. John’s region.

Build Ventures so far has received funding commitments from the four Atlantic Provinces, the Business Development Bank and private investors, who together have committed a total of $65 million.

Build so far has invested in tranches of $1.5 million targeting growth-stage, so the Venture Newfoundland and Labrador fund will obviously focus on early stage investments.


Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.





After 2 Exits, Steele Launches Eyeball

Having already sold two companies to Research in Motion, Jay Steele and Shaun Johansen are launching a third startup product that they hope will find millions of users.

Bedford’s Eyeball Inc. is launching today its flagship product, a social network for mobile devices that lets those in the amateur sports community tell each other about their games. It is built in the knowledge that there are hundreds of millions of people involved in amateur sports and virtually all of them want to share their scores and highlights.

 “The NHL app is for a small number of teams, each with thousands of fans,” Steele said in an interview.

 “An amateur team maybe has 50 fans. So we’re trying to build a platform for thousands of teams with a few fans each.”

In launching Eyeball, Steele and Johansen are returning to familiar turf. Two years ago, they were employed by BlackBerry Inc. (formerly Research in Motion) as sort of “in-house entrepreneurs.” That means they spent their days trying to develop new products within BlackBerry. Then BlackBerry’s fortunes changed, they were laid off and they began to consider another venture.

They have done it before. During the original dot-com boom in the mid- to late-1990s, they teamed up to launch Plazmic, an early mobile venture that they ended up selling to RIM. A few years later, they started another mobile startup called Viigo. And again they sold it to RIM.

When they were conceiving their third startup, they knew they wanted to do something in the mobile market, which they consider the future of personal computing. They began to realize the opportunity presented by the countless millions of people who play, organize, coach and/or watch amateur sports.

What they came up with is a social network for mobile devices whose hallmark is its simplicity. The dominant feature at the launch allows the user to post the score of a game simply by swiping the screen. Each time you swipe the score box, you add a point to one team or the other. You can also post comments, such as saying what team member scored.

 “It’s really simple in terms of using it,” said Steele. “The idea is to communicate the critical information.”

Going forward, the team plans to introduce a set of features that make it more useful to a wider market.

The overall goal is to gain wide market acceptance, and Steele and Johansen plan to use viral marketing and aggressive search engine optimization to spread the word.

They believe the earliest adopters will probably be people in the “elite youth” sports community. The entrepreneurs understand they will probably need more than a million users in order to generate meaningful revenues.

The most obvious source of revenues is advertising, though Steele said the company will need a few hundred thousand users to make money even with focused advertisers. A second source of income would be selling digital content to users over the app.

The company so far has been funded through investment from the founders and several Ontario-based angels. Steele and Johansen plan to soon approach venture capital investors with the goal of raising a round of funding next year.


Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.

TopLog, Swapskis Launch Products

Two noted Halifax startups – topLog and Swapskis -- launched their products last week, moving into the phase of their development in which gaining customers becomes ever more important.

Both IT companies have female CEOs and are tenants of Volta Labs, the Halifax startup incubation centre. And both have an association with the Propel accelerator – topLog as a successful graduate and Swapskis as a current participant.

And there the similarities end.

TopLog helps companies or other organizations to prevent network failures – a problem that can cost (and has) cost large businesses tens of millions of dollars. TopLog uses pattern-detection algorithms to help companies predict system and applications failures, and more quickly resolve the problems when they do occur. Its dashboard enables IT operation teams to notice problems in real time.

“Most system or application failures take hours to resolve, with 80 percent of that time spent on discovering the source of the problem,” said CEO Ozge Yeloglu in a statement.  “We’ve developed a powerful tool that does the heavy lifting for IT operation teams, monitoring logs in real time to find problems before they lead to service interruptions.”

The company is now offering special pricing for the topLog solution and plans to release new product features early in 2015.

Swapskis bills itself as the world's first skills marketplace for women. It allows women to barter their skills with one another, so they can build up resumés and network and eventually charge real cash for their services. It’s aimed largely at women entering the work force who need to get experience in their field and also need services they may not have the cash for.

The company founded by CEO Katelyn Bourgoin launched its public beta test on Wednesday and within two days attracted more than 275 members, who posted more than $12,000 of services. By the weekend, four service swaps had been confirmed.

"After so much work, it feels amazing to finally launch our minimum viable product,” said Bourgoin in an email. “This is just the beginning of course. And we've got big plans for taking it to the next level."


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


Bruce Balcom on Academic Publishing

When Bruce Balcom gives advice on the strategies to follow when publishing academic papers, history suggests it’s worth listening.

Balcom is the Canada Research Chair and the Director of the University of New Brunswick’s Magnetic Resonance Imaging Centre, and he’s been the author or co-author of more than 150 peer-reviewed publications.

And he is a strong advocate of employing strategy when publishing academic papers.

“As a university laboratory, academic credibility is the most important thing you have, so it stands to reason that a healthy and prolific publication stream from the lab is also important,” said Balcom in an interview. He admitted seeking patents and grants to fund a lab are also important, but they all flow from the credibility that comes with peer-reviewed publications.

“It means the lab is internationally known and that means we get funding from others and it means that we can attract key talent,” said Balcom. “And if publishing is the most important thing, then you should figure out how to do it right.”

The evidence suggests that Balcom figured out how to publish properly shortly after he began his academic research in the 1990s, because his lab has produced a series of successes.

The UNB MRI Centre has invented a family of new methods that use MRI – a branch of science usually used for medical purposes – for the visualization of a range of materials, including concrete, polymers, composites, food materials and microporous solids. At any given time, the lab employs 20 to 25 people, and is now working on a four-year project, financed by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund, to develop new and more sensitive tools for imaging rock core and petroleum samples.

In 2006, entrepreneurs Derrick and Jill Green commercialized some of the lab’s published research and the result was Fredericton-based Green Imaging Technologies, one of the region’s leading startups.

Green Imaging used the technology to make it easier, faster and more economical for petroleum companies to study rock core samples extracted during the exploration process. The company continues to work with Balcom’s lab on new techniques and products.

As he did with the initial Green Imaging technology, Balcom often publishes research knowing it will be the basis of a patent, and could be commercialized. “It gives you a good text to use as the basis of a patent,” he said. “And the solid description helps with the patent process.”

But he is also wary of what he puts in the paper, making sure not to publish too early or to reveal too much to competing labs or companies.

“We would write a paper and we would describe what we were doing and we don’t explicitly say how we would think of using it,” he said. “We don’t describe any possible business applications. We wouldn’t even describe the scientific implications – we’re not telling other research labs what we’re going to use it for.”

Balcom emphasizes that he is not a shareholder in Green Imaging, and the company and lab operate independently of each other. But by publishing a steady stream of material and delivering papers regularly, he is able to inform key industry partners about the work the company is doing.

That helps both the lab and the company. And given that UNB is a shareholder in the company, the university benefits when the company does well – and when it pays a dividend.

In fact, Green Imaging did pay its first dividend last winter. So, in a nice piece of mutual benefit, the company was able to reward the university whose lab gave the startup its start.


This article first appeared in the Autumn 2014 edition of Entrevestor Intelligence.


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Trevor Bernard: A CTO With 3 Exits

Trevor Bernard has a habit of joining companies that make successful exits, and his most recent venture may be his greatest success so far.

Bernard was the chief technology officer of Fredericton-based UserEvents, which sold out to LiveOps of Redwood City, Calif., earlier this year for an undisclosed sum. Though he’d been with two other companies that exited, it was the first time Bernard headed the development team of a successful company.

It’s not a bad track record for a guy who never intended to go into computer science.

“I’ve been pretty fortunate,” Bernard said. “If not for the computer science department at the University of New Brunswick, I wouldn’t be as successful as I am.”

Bernard grew up on Gesga-pegiag First Nation in Quebec and fell into computer science by accident after coming to Fredericton in 2001 to play baseball at Fredericton High School.

But Bernard, then aged 17, had already graduated high school in Quebec, so he was unable to pursue high school sports. He applied to study engineering at UNB, but the program was full so he enrolled in computer science, intending to change to engineering in Year 2.

Ironically perhaps, he never graduated computer science as he began working for Chalk Media while studying. He is still a semester short of obtaining his undergraduate degree.

Chalk Media was eventually acquired by Research in Motion (now BlackBerry). Then he joined Radian6, which was sold to Salesforce for $326 million in 2011.

Serendipity also played a role in his involvement with UserEvents, which began after he was introduced to co-founder and serial entrepreneur, Jeff Thompson.

“UserEvents was Jeff’s idea. Jeff was probably irked by me at first; I’m quiet when I’m listening and processing,” said Bernard. “Still, he sold me on the idea fast. And we had complementary skills.”

The UserEvents product analyzes a corporation’s data to detect when a customer is having problems with a website or other communications channel. It then notifies the company’s call centre so the problem can be sorted out.

“Being a CTO was no different to being a developer,” Bernard said. “I had a leadership role but my colleagues were top-notch. We collaborated. It was super fun.”

Creating the product was technically challenging.

“Robin Bate Boerop and I created the product, with my focus being writing code. We worked out of Robin’s living room for our first six months,” Bernard said.

Although studying computer science and meeting Thompson was good luck, the team deliberately developed their product so that it would be easy to acquire.

“It was a lot of work, but we’d planned for that from the start. We made the company business friendly; we used safe open-source licences. We made the tech as clean as possible so that it would be easy for someone to acquire.”

Now, Bernard would like to replicate the experience of working with a good team and developing a product from scratch.

“I need autonomy, a sense of purpose, people I respect. If I have those, I’m in,” he said.

“If you’re on the ground in a startup, you actually matter.”

The sale has allowed Bernard to take a break from the stress of startup life and consider his options.

“The last three years have been manic,” he said, as he relaxed in a Fredericton coffee shop. “Starting a company is stressful, although I need to be stressed to function. Without some stress, I get restless and put things off.”

Bernard said he is doing some independent consulting, mentoring new grads and getting a lot of offers, which is not surprising, given his track record. As well as the three companies that have been sold, he also co-founded Maritime Poker, a company run by his dad, who develops software for First Nations communities.

Fullsail To Focus on Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship -- with a special emphasis on funding – will be the focus of the 2014 Fullsail Conference, which takes place Tuesday afternoon at the Delta Beausejour Hotel, Moncton.

Titled "Capital Connections, the half-day conference is being organized by the New Brunswick Financial and Consumer Services Commission (which now has the duties of the New Brunswick Securities Commission) and Venn (formerly Tech Southeast), the organization that promotes technology in southeastern New Brunswick.

The get-together begins with a discussion of new programs, followed by two panel discussions, one on entrepreneurs and the other on funding. The goal is to help educate entrepreneurs and connect them with the people who can help them succeed, and there will no doubt be some overlap in the discussions.

The Entrepreneurs panel, which I will moderate, features an interesting range of New Brunswick founders:  Russ Mullard, Managing Partner, Mallard & Associates; Melani Flanagan, Co-Founder and CEO, Kinderguardian; Paul Gunn, President and CEO, Soricimed Biopharma Inc.; and Pablo Asiron, CEO, RtTech Software.

Planet Hatch Executive Director Sally Ng is the moderator of the Funding panel. The panelists will be: Calvin Milbury, CEO, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation; Rob Barbara, Partner, Build Ventures; Todd Marshall, Royal Bank of Canada; Louis Jaillet, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency; and Mathieu Brideau, Department of Economic Development.


NBIF Logs Record Annual Funding

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation announced this week that it made $2.8 million in venture capital investments in its fiscal year to March 31, 2014, following through on its promise to accelerate its funding of innovation in the province.

The Fredericton-based innovation agency – which is a sponsor of and advertiser in Entrevestor – said in its annual report that it recorded a total of 17 transactions in the 2014 fiscal year. Two companies – AraLabs Security Solutions and Populus Global Solutions, both of Fredericton – received funding in two transactions, so in all there were 15 companies that received funding from the agency.  Nine companies received NBIF funding for the first time.

NBIF said that 14 of the 17 investments were made in conjunction with a range of co-investors.

It was NBIF’s most active year ever as an investor, exceeding the record set the previous year.  The total investment increased 40 percent from the $1.95 million level of the previous year.

“Fiscal year 2013-14 was marked by an expansion of the innovation funds and programs delivered through NBIF,” said CEO Calvin Milbury in an email. “This expansion enabled NBIF to extend its reach and to accelerate innovation in New Brunswick.”

NBIF has been growing in recent years largely because of two major factors. First, in 2011 it cashed in for $9.25 million, or a gain of 28 times, when its portfolio company Radian6 was bought by Salesforce.com. And more recently, the government of New Brunswick has identified innovation as a key focus of its economic strategy and asked NBIF to handle much of the work.

The combination of these ingredients and the success of the New Brunswick startup community have produced a record year and further gains for NBIF. In January, its portfolio company UserEvents sold out to Redwood City, Calif.-based LiveOps Inc. The annual report noted the sale but did not provide any details of the price.

NBIF’s mission extends beyond investments in startups to supporting research and innovation at the province’s institutions. The report said the agency invested a record $4.2 million in 33 research projects under its Research Innovation Fund. In all its programs, NBIF invested $8.5 million in the last fiscal year.

The annual report said that since its founding in 2003, each dollar it has invested has brought in a further seven dollars from other sources for a total impact of $365 million.

The following is a list of all the NBIF equity funding transactions from the 2013-14 fiscal year:

New Funding

Agora Mobile                                     $500,000

AraLabs                                                $50,000

Eigen Innovations                            $100,000

Food Tender                                      $100,000

Foursum                                              $250,000

Geode Technology                          $200,000

HotSpot Parking                               $100,000

R17 Solutions                                   $200,000

Selectbidder                                     $200,000

Follow-on Funding

AraLabs                                              $200,000

Breviro Caviar                                    $50,000

Cyberpsyc Software                         $100,000

Populus Global                                  $35,520

Populus Global                                  $100,000 

Smart Skin Technologies                 $250,000

Xiplinx                                                  $250,000

Zaptap                                                $100,000





Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


Building Closer Ties to Toronto-KW

There is a singular reminder of the Atlantic Canadian startup community in the reception area of the Communitech hub in Kitchener, Ont. In the dim, atmospheric space lit mainly by mechanics lamps hanging from the ceiling, there are digital art installations and notices of peer-to-peer learning meetings, and there is a huge video monitor broadcasting goings-on at Communitech.

The video display runs off software provided by Charlottetown-based ScreenScape Networks, whose technology is powering such devices across the continent.

Sitting in the reception room of the famed accelerator on Monday, it was somehow reassuring to know that Atlantic Canadian technology had made it into such a hallowed spot in the tech universe. But it was also a reminder that East Coast startups don’t do enough to capitalize on the resources, talent and customer base offered by the massive Toronto-Kitchener-Waterloo tech corridor.

“The reality is that most, if not all, their customers are based in the Toronto area,” Damien Steel, a director with OMERS Ventures, said in a later interview in Toronto. “So companies in the Atlantic region should naturally be spending a good deal of their time here. You need to be close to your customers because that helps you understand them better.”

In a sense, the Toronto-KW corridor has the Canadian equivalent of New York and Silicon Valley blended into one location, joined by Highway 401. The scale is smaller than the U.S. centres, but it has the country’s leading tech entrepreneurs AND its corporate headquarters. It’s the perfect spot in this country for business development, even for companies based on the East Coast.

What’s more, it’s home to Canadian tech meccas like Communitech, the Toronto-based accelerator OneEleven and Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone, or DMZ. These are the type of places that get any geek’s blood racing.

The Communitech hub is the centre of the startup space in Kitchener-Waterloo, one of the world’s great tech startup clusters. It’s housed in a former tannery in the centre of Kitchener, a yellow brick behemoth than is an emblem of new digital businesses growing out of the ruins of fading industries. Within its walls are the Communitech accelerator, the University of Waterloo’s Velocity accelerator, and the Canadian Digital Media Network. It’s the centre of a tech cluster that now comprises more than 1,000 companies.

One hundred kilometres to the east, Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone is completely different but no less enthralling. The DMZ is perched in the upper storeys of a commercial building (including movie theatres, a Good Life gym and huge food court) overlooking Dundas Square on Yonge Street. It’s the home to 70 student-led startups, each given its own space and all coming together to form a massive, simmering hive of digital innovation.

In some respects it’s easier for Atlantic Canadian companies to capitalize on the proximity of Boston and New York than Toronto. There are programs like the Canadian government’s Canadian Tech Accelerator program that supports our startups in the U.S. centres. But Toronto is too often overlooked when Atlantic Canadian startups plot their path to market or are searching for talent.

“Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo are full of these little hubs like Communitech and OneEleven,” said Steele. “They all attract like-minded people, and it helps to be around them.”

Take a Walk Inside Your Project

Phil Romkey can stand in the sun-lit top floor of Halifax’s new library without leaving his workplace at St. Mary’s University.

Well, he can virtually stand in the new library in the Data Cave he oversees at the ACEnet headquarters at the Halifax university.

Positioned in the darkened Data Cave, wearing sophisticated 3-D glasses, Romkey can tour all of the new building, get a keen perception of how it interacts with surrounding buildings and assess pedestrian traffic inside and outside the compelling new edifice.

The Data Cave is a three-dimensional immersive environment designed for visualizing complex simulations. It is essentially a series of 3-D projectors that throw images on to three walls and the floor, so viewers have the impression they are standing within a structure, whether it’s a new library, a space station or a molecule. The viewer can tour through the field or structure, and the image can change depending on where the viewer is standing in the room, which holds up to four people.

“This is now used mainly for science and research,” said Romkey, the Lead Systems Administrator at ACEnet, the group that oversees the Data Cave. “It’s easier for young people to visualize a molecule when they’re standing inside it.”

ACEnet and others want the potential of the Data Cave to spread beyond the single city block that is St. Mary’s University and are collaborating with NSCAD University and other groups on using its immersive powers to aid with design, education and research.

NSCAD has installed a similar 3-D immersive platform in its Harbour Campus a mile away, so ACEnet is able to simultaneously create virtual environments on two campuses. Though the NSCAD facility is less complex than that of SMU, it is a larger space, allowing the participation of up to 20 people.

Gregor Ash, Director at the Institute of Applied Creativity at NSCAD, can even see a day when participants could do a roadshow with the facility using 3-D projectors or other technology.

The educational benefits of such collaboration are obvious, but Romkey and Ash stressed that there are opportunities for startups to work with the universities on perfecting their designs and prototypes using the Data Cave technology.

They are already in discussions with a few startups. The Data Cave allows developers of a physical product an intricate examination of the prototype because they can walk around inside it and inspect it.

“We absolutely see the commercialization potential,” said Ash. “To be able to experience your content in full life-size scale, to be able to manipulate and move through and around data and objects, it helps immeasurably.”

This sort of immersive technology can assist with the development of products, and also help key partners – whether they are potential investors, customers or collaborators – to understand the intricacies of the project.

Said Ash:  “It’s all about creating an ecosystem for experimentation and prototyping by having the tools available that we didn’t have before.”


This article first appeared in the autumn Entrevestor Intelligence report. 


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The St. Mary’s University Masters of Technology, Entrepeneurship and Innovation program is a sponsor of Entrevestor. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Using Brain Scans To Treat Addiction

When he pitches Help Method Inc., James Drage opens by contrasting the derision showered on Toronto Mayor Rob Ford over his addiction problems with the outpouring of compassion that resulted from the news he has cancer.

In fact, said Drage, addicts have as little control over their addiction as cancer patients have over their disease. And Lawrencetown, N.S.-based Help Method is working to personalize treatment of the disease.

“Addiction is a disease of the brain and only recently has technology allowed us to treat the gaps in the connectivity of the brain,” Drage said at the BioInnovation Challenge last week.

Help Method is being spun out of Ledgehill Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centre, in which Drage is a partner and director.  The startup uses brain scans to personalize addiction treatment – a process it calls targeted addiction treatment. In a healthy brain, the mental functions between the different regions of the brain are all inter-connected, and a brain scan can pick out the links. However, scans also reveal gaps in addicts’ brain connectivity.

Help Method aims to understand the mental processes of addicts so it can customize treatment for each addict.

“Understanding the connections in the brain is the key to understanding someone’s addiction,” said Drage, who is also the principal of Halifax-based Atlantic Venture Capital and has been involved in other startups. “Two different types of alcoholics need two different types of treatment.”

Situated in the Annapolis Valley, Ledgehill is a treatment centre for addicts that aims to customize treatment for each patient, taking into consideration his or her personal situation and addiction.  The facility customarily offers 45-day programs, though its treatments run from 30 to 90 days.

Seeking better ways of treating addiction, the Ledgehill team was introduced to the idea of doing brain scans of patients before and after their treatment. They could be given a printed copy to help them understand their affliction. They could hang it on the wall for inspiration. But as the team began to understand more about scans and the technology that has developed just in the last two years, they realized these scans could help with treatment in profound ways.

Ledgehill began to work with a few partners, including the Halifax medical imaging group Biotic and Halifax-based Brain Repair Centre. What they have learned so far is there are different brain patterns for different types of addiction. They believe there are at least five types of alcoholics and four types of gamblers. By understanding someone’s brain patterns, Help Method aims to design specific treatment programs to suit the individual.

This startup is tackling a huge issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 percent of the deaths of people aged 20 to 64 are related to addiction. About 2.5 million people in North America are treated for addiction each year, and addiction costs society about $500 billion a year in North America alone.

Help Method plans to conduct about 1,000 scans of addicts’ brains next year, mainly for research purposes. It then plans to work on 10,000 scans in 2016 and 100,000 in 2017.

It plans to link up with as many of the 4,000 addiction treatment centres in North America as possible. These centres will then have their patients undergo brain scans, which will be transmitted electronically to Help Method. The Nova Scotia company will respond with an analysis and a program customized for each patient.

“In three to five years,” said Drage, “we hope this will be the standard of care in addiction treatment.”


Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.





Press Release: GE Venture To Share IP

The Nova Scotia government and GE Venture have issued the following press release:

GE to Share Intellectual Property with Nova Scotia Innovative Small Businesses

Imagine having access to the intellectual property of one of the world’s largest, most innovative and most admired companies.

What would your company do with that technical know-how to improve your products and services, grow your company, or change the world?

The Government of Nova Scotia and GE Ventures Licensing want to know.

We are collaborating to connect Nova Scotia entrepreneurs to GE-developed IP as well as the support needed to commercialize the technology.

Join us on Thursday, November 6, 2014, at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre (1344 Summer Street, Halifax), to learn about this pilot program.

The day will begin with an overview of GE Ventures Licensing and the kinds of technologies that will be made available. The presentation will be followed by one-on-one 20-minute breakout sessions in the afternoon, where small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can share their ideas on how GE's IP can be applied and commercialized.

Companies interested in meeting one-on-one with representatives from GE Ventures Licensing on November 6 must pre-register by email at JOHNSOMP@gov.ns.ca by Wednesday, October 29. There will be a limited number of time slots available.

Company Criteria

For this initiative*, GE is seeking passionate partners that:

•             are Nova Scotia-based SMEs (note this can include start-ups and sole entrepreneurs);

•             are innovative, entrepreneurial and adaptive;

•             are experts in their market;

•             have strong teams;

•             are able to commercialize technology; and

•             have solid ideas on how GE’s IP can improve an existing product offering, solve a customer pain point or expand a business.

* Please note that this is not the right forum to try to sell your products to GE, request investment from GE, apply to become a GE employee, or complain about how your GE clothes dryer eats socks.

What kind of IP are we talking about?

GE's interests and its intellectual property portfolio are extremely diverse. The company is always opportunistic, but for this initiative, GE is especially interested in commercialization prospects the following broad areas: software technology (e.g., cloud storage, data analytics), healthcare technology (e.g., diagnostic imaging and pathology, surgical navigation technology, electrical spectroscopy), green technology (e.g., hybrid and electrical vehicle power electronics, emissions reduction technology), and industrial technology (e.g., radio frequency sensors, cooling technology).

ERDT:  http://novascotia.ca/econ/ge/

Innovacorp:  https://innovacorp.ca/GE-Nova-Scotia

NSBI:  http://www.novascotiabusiness.com/en/home/events/eventscalendar/eventdetails.aspx?event=784


Ying Tam: From IT to Med Devices

Concussion is a global health problem. For Ying Tam, CEO of Halifax-based Mindful Scientific, this means an opportunity to be part of a solution that positively impacts millions of lives.

Tam is rejoicing in achieving a milestone with St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, where his company’s concussion detector has been used to test athletes on several of the university’s varsity sports teams.

Mindful Scientific is developing the Halifax Consciousness Scanner, or HCS, which is a portable device that can be slipped onto an injured person’s head. The HCS then analyzes the individual’s brain waves. 

The product currently works with a laptop or tablet but future plans include using a mobile device instead. When the HCS is market ready, it will show whether the injured person has suffered brain trauma, such as a concussion.

“The HCS is still a prototype, but it’s a big milestone when you can deploy a piece of technology, train others to use it and leave it in their hands,” Tam said.

He said that concussion is a $50 billion healthcare problem in North America that impacts between 4 million and 7 million North Americans every year.

Many of the current methods for detecting concussion involve asking questions of the injured person, such as ‘How many fingers am I holding up?’ Indirect measures, such as impact sensors on helmets, are also used.   

“We’re different because we have built a portable device that can quickly and objectively assess actual brain function. It doesn’t require patient compliance, or patient self-reporting,” said Tam.

He said the company is actively looking for investment and is keen to get the HCS to market. 

The need to raise funds means that Tam is often travelling, making frequent trips to cities such as Boston and Toronto, although Halifax is an important hub for neuroscience.    

The recent collaboration with the university is just the latest good news for Mindful Scientific, which was previously named one of six North American finalists in the IBM Global Entrepreneur Program, and was winner for life sciences in Get in the Ring, a global entrepreneur competition.  

For Tam, spearheading a life sciences company is relatively new as he became CEO of Mindful Scientific less than three years ago after 20 years as a business executive and tech entrepreneur. Start-ups he co-founded include e-health company i-HRx (acquired by Healthconnex) and abridean (acquired by nCipher plc).

Tam has degrees in cognitive psychology and computer science and feels at home in the life sciences.

“I’m always on my soap box about healthcare so Mindful Scientific is meaningful to me,” said the fitness lover who has a black belt (third degree) in karate.

He’s still adapting to the differences between the tech and life sciences fields. An obvious difference is the need for clinical trials of healthcare products such as the HCS.

“Clinical trials take a lot of time and money,” he said. “They potentially make a product easier to sell as it has already been validated, but the process could be streamlined and the overhead costs reduced.”

He said that in the technical field, there is significant salary creep, while in the life sciences, it’s difficult to find people with the right skills.

“People that work in science and neurophysiology want roles in academia, not industry,” he said. “As an entrepreneur, that’s hard to understand.” 

Toronto-born Tam credits his parents, who immigrated to Canada from China, with helping him succeed.

“My parents had a big family and a small house, and we lived below the poverty line. But they transferred the typical immigrant philosophy to their five kids. They instilled in us a strong work ethic and an understanding of the value of education.”

Tam, who moved to Halifax in 1999, pays it forward by acting as mentor and advisor to local entrepreneurs, working with Entrepreneurs’ Forum and with students in the Starting Lean course, held at Dalhousie.


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.


Press Release: Mashup Weekend

Mashup Lab, an organization devoted to building startups in Atlantic Canadian rural communities, has issued the following press release:

Bring business ideas to life at Mashup WeekendSouthwest Nova Scotia

October 23, 2014 – This fall is the right time to take that business idea you’ve been chewing on and put it into action. How? By attending Mashup Weekend, Southwest Nova’s biggest ever business creation weekend. From November 21st to 23rd at three locations in Bridgewater, Kentville and Yarmouth, aspiring entrepreneurs will come together for 54 hours of breakneck business building.

Here’s how Mashup Weekend works: Share your new business idea. Choose the best ideas and build teams from the talent in the room. Work together to make your business dreams a reality. Finally, present the new business to a panel of entrepreneurs for free expert advice! You might even win a prize.

Andrew Button is the CEO and founder of Mashup Lab, the organization behind Mashup Weekend. “If it sounds intense, that’s because it is,” he says. “But it’s also a lot of fun. Where else will you find the time, resources, space and most important -amazing people – to learn about entrepreneurship and maybe even start a business?  This is life-changing stuff!”

Wondering if Mashup Weekend is for you? If you have a business idea you’d like to try out and you’re looking for a friendly and enthusiastic bunch of people to help  you get there, the answer is yes. You don’t need business experience. All you need is energy and a willingness to share your talents. Thanks to generous sponsorship, registration is only $60 and includes all meals and snacks.

Everybody’s an expert in something. Put your strengths to work for yourself, your team and your community. Register for Mashup Weekend today at mashuplab.ca.

Mashup Lab is a series of events and mentorship programs that activate and amplify startup communities in rural Atlantic Canada. We identify entrepreneurial talent and help bring business ideas to life.

Contact: Lorelei Phillips - opportunitiesliaison@gmail.com - 902.221.6364

Share your idea. Build a team. Bring a business to life. All in just one weekend.

SimpTek Progresses After Pivot

After three weeks in the Propel accelerator in Fredericton, SimpTek has quickly changed its business model and already drawn the interest of at least one potential corporate customer.

The young company – comprising tech entrepreneurs Asif Hasan, Lionel Fernandes and Keelen Gagnon – is now dedicated to developing an automated system that helps people control the use of their household appliances with the goal of saving them money.

“We are a home automation solution and we help you control every appliance in your home,” said Hasan in an interview in Fredericton last week.

Sitting in a meeting room in Planet Hatch with his colleagues, Hasan said that the team is working on a software platform that overlays on top of a home automation system to improve energy efficiency. The system will analyze data from “smart plugs” (wall sockets that measure the energy consumption of individual appliances) to determine where the homeowner could save on electricity costs.

The team hopes to design a system that understands the residents’ habits and then be able to predict their behavior, helping to realize more savings. The goal is to develop a platform that can be used with any home automation system.

They have already begun to market the product, and received some interest from New Brunswick Power, which is working on the province’s smart grid. Not only could the company eventually become a customer, but it could also provide a controlled environment to help test the product.

The three entrepreneurs have created what they call “a crude prototype” of the system, which allowed them to demo the product.

The business plan calls for the homeowner to pay SimpTek a subscription fee for the service. As the company builds up data on consumer behavior, it could sell the data to utilities. With smart grids, utilities will get a deeper understanding of all the energy demands from the generating station to the end-user. The SimpTek platform will deepen this understanding by telling the utilities what is happening inside the end-users’ homes, said Hasan.

Though all three members of the team pitch in with all the tasks, they are developing roles within the company with Hasan becoming CEO, Gagnon dealing with communications and investor relations and Fernandes specializing in the technical side.

SimpTek began in the engineering faculty of the University of New Brunswick, and had been working on a wearable technology. They took the project into the Propel accelerator and within three weeks pivoted into the home automation project.

“The wearable technology is relatively new at this point, so rather than push a new tech into society we want to make something more user friendly,” said Hasan.

As it goes forward, SimpTek will have to raise funding from various sources. They plan to enter Breakthru, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s biennial startup competition, and the will look for funding from other private and public sources.

“We expect the whole project will be done and we’ll be on the market within two years,” said Gagnon.


Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.


Dunbar Calls for Disruptive Healthcare

Michael Dunbar, the leading orthopaedic surgeon in Nova Scotia, sounded a call on Tuesday for the province to adopt new flexible methods of delivering healthcare to its citizens because the current system is not sustainable.

Speaking at the BioPort Atlantic conference, he cited the simple and effective gait monitoring technology he and his team at Capital Health in Halifax have helped to devise. The project, involving three startups, is known as Mobility at Capital Health, abbreviated as “M@ch”.

Dunbar noted that that the M@ch project lets patients waiting for hip or knee replacements use their cell phones to see if they need surgery without visiting a surgeon’s office. It saves money, cuts wait times and produces a range of data that can help in the treatment of the hip and knee disorders.

Dunbar, the professor of orthopaedic surgery at Dalhousie University, said this sort of disruptive technology is needed because Nova Scotia faces an aging population, shrinking pool of productive young people and reductions in healthcare transfers from the federal government.

“The time is now,” said Dunbar. “I’m in the trenches and I see it. The current model is unsustainable. If you think it’s bad now, wait till you see what is going to happen.”

Nova Scotia recently received an F from the Wait Time Alliance how long patients have to wait for hip replacements. Dunbar said there is a process of referrals from family doctors through to surgeons to determine whether someone needs a replacement. It takes years, and only about one-third of the patients end up being selected for immediate surgery.

The way surgeons determine whether surgery is required is having people undergo gait analysis using a treadmill and a lot of equipment, all in a centralized hospital.  But M@CH – in cooperation with Halifax startups Kinduct Technologies and OrthoMX Inc. and Laval, Que.-based Emovi – is commercializing a system that gets the same result, only with a common smartphone. Such phones have built-in gyroscopes and accelerometers, and a simple app can measure gait just as efficiently as the expensive machinery.

Dunbar said a doctor, after the first referral, could have a patient take a smartphone home and do the gait analysis on their own time. The results can be sent to an orthopaedic surgeon, who could quickly determine whether the patient needs a consultation. About two-third wouldn’t, so wait times would fall and the health system would save money.

The system could also be used for post-operation monitoring. Patients could do their exercises at home and the results could be monitored remotely by a doctor, who could then issue instructions on the next set of exercises. All the data would be collected, and the analysis would help to improve recovery programs.

Dunbar said Nova Scotia is the perfect place to initiate such programs because of its fiscal situation and the age and heft of its population.

“We have a living health lab here in Nova Scotia,” he said.  “We have the oldest, heaviest population in Canada and we should be taking advantage of it.”


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

NB-Biomatrix wins BioPort’s BIC

NB-Biomatrix, a Saint John startup that uses nano-technology to fight water pollution, has won the fourth annual BioInnovation Challenge at the BioPort Atlantic, walking away with $45,000 in cash and in-kind services.

The company headed by Jeff Jennings and Keith Brunt beat out fellow finalists Athletigen Technologies Inc. of Halifax and Fenol Farms Inc. of Mount Uniacke, N.S., to capture the first prize. It will receive $15,000 in cash and $30,000 in in-kind services.  

“As a finalist the pitch training alone was worth participating in the BioInnovation Challenge but actually winning means I can leverage the prize package to hire co-op students and advance our business,” said Brunt, the Chief Scientific Officer, in a statement.

Still in its early stages, NB-Biomatrix has developed a biodegradable, anti-bacterial liquid that can remove heavy metals and other pollutants from waste water. Chief Science Officer Keith Brunt said the product, called Naqua-Pure, binds with water-soluble particles such as heavy metals like copper cadmium and lead and non-soluble components such as oil. It then uses electromagnetic forces to remove the material from water. Brunt said the result is a cost-effective product that can remove 95 percent of heavy metals from water within 10 minutes. It’s a huge improvement over existing methods which tend to be slow and expensive, said Brunt.

The company intends to develop an initial product for the commercial development of chitosan from lobster shells.

Chitosan is a compound that has a range of industrial uses, including pharmaceutical ingredients, water treatment, fertilizer and cosmetics. The demand for the compound is growing strongly, but there are usually massive pollution problems caused by its production.

Eventually, the company hopes to move on to other markets, such as helping to clean up oil spills and tailing ponds.

NB-Matrix is looking for $225,000 in funding by June 2015.

The three finalists and the winner were chosen by a panel of judges comprising: Jeff Dawson, Corporate Finance Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers; Ross Finlay, Co-Founder of the First Angel Network; and

Patrick Keefe, Partner at Build Ventures.

“We had a great cohort this year, an excellent judging panel, and the three finalists presented extremely well today,” said Brian Lowe, chair of BioNova, which organized BioPort. “All three companies deserve the win, but there can only be one and NB-Biomatrix came out on top and I wish them every success moving forward.”



Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


Press Release HotSpot and MADD

HotSpot Parking, a Fredericton startup that helps downtown shoppers feed the parking meters and merchants communicate with customers, has issued the following press release:


Fredericton, NB -- In partnership with MADD Greater Fredericton, NB Liquor and Downtown Fredericton Inc., HotSpot Parking is excited to announce our new “Designated Driver” feature to help fight in the prevention against impaired driving.

Through research and observation, HotSpot found that people often contemplated the right choice due simply to the fact that they did not want to deal with expensive parking tickets left on their car the morning after.  Here at HotSpot we believe this is a serious issue that must be prevented immediately. The new “designated driver” feature will ensure that a HotSpot Customer’s parking is covered for 2 hours the morning after a night out resulting in safer choices made the night before.

“The MADD Greater Fredericton Area Chapter is honored to partner with HotSpot Parking to implement their new designated driver feature,” said Scott Kennie, Chapter President. “This new feature makes it that much easier for Fredericton drivers to make the right choice to not drive when under the influence, which means lives saved and injuries prevented. Working together with a socially responsible business like HotSpot Parking enables us to play an active role in making our community and roads safer. This brings us one step closer to achieving our mission to stop impaired driving.”

NB Liquor’s President & CEO, Brian Harriman, also endorsed this feature, saying it aligns with their social responsibility mandate.

“We are pleased to see a local, innovative idea that offers New Brunswickers another simple, responsible alternative to driving impaired,” said Harriman. “I look forward to strengthening our partnership with HotSpot on this initiative, while at the same time, upholding our commitment to the Province of New Brunswick to be a socially responsible retailer.”

Bars and restaurants downtown have embraced this initiative as an additional measure to ensure their valued customers make safe choices after leaving their place of business.

“The Hot Spot initiative to start the designated driver platform for downtown parking is great step in assuring we do everything possible to give people the safe choice of leaving their car downtown with out the worry of getting a ticket first thing in the morning. We at The Capital Complex would like to thank Hot Spot Parking for including us in the project.”-Wes Ward

HotSpot Parking believes in revitalizing city cores and enhancing the network and interactions that happen within. Parking plays a vital role in supporting local economy and HotSpot believes that by focusing on this concept we can revolutionize the way people experience our cities today.


BIC Finals: Athletigen, Fenol, Biomatrix

The finalists of the BioInnovation Challenge today are: Athletigen Technologies Inc., NB-Biomatrix Inc., and Fenol Farms Inc., which were selected by a panel of judges at the semi-finals Monday afternoon.

The BioInnovation Challenge, now in its fourth year, is a pitching competition that tries to find leading new life sciences and biotech companies in the Maritimes. It is organized by BioNova, the life sciences association in Nova Scotia, with the support of its sister organizations in the neighbouring provinces, BioNB and the P.E.I. BioAlliance. The winners will receive $15,000 in seed funding and $30,000 in in-kind services.

The pitching competition will be one of the highlights of BioPort Atlantic, which BioNova is hosting at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax today.

The finalists are:

Athletigen Technologies -- The Halifax startup launched a software-as-a-service product to help coaches, athletes and fitness enthusiasts improve performance through sports-related genomic analysis. The company owns the world’s largest sports genetic databank, and has been plotting a course to launch the product in conjunction with a genetic ancestry service offered by the world-leading, direct-to-consumer genetics provider, 23andMe. CEO Jeremy Koenig said the company can analyze a sample of someone’s DNA and construct charts showing their strengths and weaknesses as athletes. This helps them to select the right sport and develop optimal training regimes.

NB-Biomatrix – The Saint John startup is using nano-technology to develop a biodegradable, anti-bacterial liquid that can remove heavy metals and other pollutants from waste water. Chief Science Officer Keith Brunt said the product, called Naqua-Pure binds with water-soluble particles such as heavy metals and non-soluble components such as oil. It then uses electromagnetic forces to remove the material from water. Brunt said the result is a cost-effective product that can remove 98 percent of heavy metals from water within 10 minutes. The company, which is looking for $225,000 in funding by June 2015, intends to develop an initial product for the commercial development of chitosan from lobster shells. It’s a potentially profitable undertaking usually marred by the resulting pollutants.

Fenol Farms – The Mount Uniacke-based company is now working on raising $1.2 million to commercialize its product that kills the damaging bacteria that accumulates under dental braces. The company uses a combination of LED lighting and natural compounds extracted from plants to cure oral health problems in certain patients. It is developing both a medical device and a natural health product that work together to control plaque buildup on teeth. COO Martin Greenwood said the company plans to finish development of the product, gain regulatory approval and begin initial production, all in 2015. Fenol Farm recently won the $100,000 first prize for the Annapolis Valley area in Innovacorp’s I-3 Competition.


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.


Health QR Eyes Key Healthcare Link

More than in other countries, Canadians view universal health care as a fundamental aspect of citizenship, and Patricia Ryan believes such a national mindset will benefit her startup, Health QR.

Ryan has worked in various segments of the health-care industry, from private charities to community health groups to the provincial bureaucracy. And two years ago she co-founded her own startup to help individuals participate more broadly in their health care and assist pharmacies in communicating with their customers.

 “Starting a business like this in Canada is a huge benefit,” said Ryan, sitting in the boardroom at Halifax’s Volta Labs, where Health QR is now a tenant. “If we can create a solution in this type of environment, it could have traction around the world because of the way Canadian health care is held around the world.”

Having started two years ago, Health QR is now close to beta testing its main product, a software-as-a-service product that links pharmacies and their customers. The first version will allow them to do four things: view the customer’s prescription history; order prescription refills; find out when prescriptions expire; and let the customer receive information from the pharmacy.

Health QR has been designed to enter the health-care market at a point that offers the least resistance. By targeting pharmacists rather than physicians or hospitals, Ryan and co-founder Michael Fanning are selling to entrepreneurs — people who act when presented with opportunities to improve their bottom line. And with such a strategy, the company will not have to handle GP files, which often amount to weighty tomes. (The long-term ambition is to help patients gain access to their own health-care records.)

 “From the pharmacists’ point of view, they’re looking for something like this,” said Ryan, who is the company’s CEO. “They’re being squeezed by rising costs and competing with the big-box stores.”

The company should benefit from the changing role of pharmacies in health care. For example, pharmacies in some provinces are approved to administer flu shots. Pharmacists are also allowed to refill prescriptions.

Health QR aims to reduce the pharmacist’s administrative costs in these new areas, and allow the pharmacy to inform their customers of services and discounts.

The system, which was built under contract by Blue Spurs of Fredericton, operates off of the application program interface operated by Toronto-based Kroll Software, whose system is used by 4,000 Canadian pharmacies. The Health QR team has recently brought on Steve MacDonald, a co-founder of Halifax-based Novawise, who will likely become the CTO.

Health QR has been working with one six-outlet pharmacy chain for about a year and a half as it developed the product, and is now in a beta test that will last until late November. It hopes to have a licensed product on the market by January.

The company is hoping to raise about $750,000, divided evenly between angels, Innovacorp and the Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency’s Business Development Program.

Eventually the team hopes to build on the product and enter other segments of the health-care market.

 “We think this is just a starting point,” said Ryan. “We have every intention of reaching out to other types of health-care providers.”




Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     



Press Release: EnginuityMED and ACOA

Halifax IV Innovator Poised for Growth

New Support for EnginuityMED assists with Market Launch and Second Generation Product Development

October 20, 2014 – Halifax, NS –A new injection of support will assist Halifax’s EnginuityMED with the market launch of its Fluid IV Alert (FIVA) technology and the development of a second generation product.

FIVA is a battery-powered device that clips onto IV bags, monitors fluid levels and alerts medical professionals when the bag is empty. The product addresses a common problem in operating rooms, emergency rooms and ambulances. Approximately 30% of IV bags run out of fluid without clinicians noticing, posing risks to patients.

The idea was originally conceived by Dr. Orlando Hung, an active Anesthesiologist at Capital District Health Authority. Dr. Hung joined forces locally with two engineering and two business development experts to form EnginuityMED. Within just nine months, the team advanced FIVA from concept to first sale.

To maintain EnginuityMED’s momentum, the Government of Canada is providing a $150,000 repayable contribution to the company, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA)’s Business Development Program (BDP).

EnginuityMED has used the support to develop product moulds and demo units which it will showcase at conferences and tradeshows. They are hiring a marketing manager to develop the brand and are now able to promote and sell FIVA online through an e-commerce enabled website (http://www.enginuitymed.com). The BDP project also enables the company to engage in trademarking and regulatory activities for FIVA to be marketed outside of Canada.

Additionally, ACOA’s support is assisting with the development of a second generation product. Urology professionals have approached EnginuityMED to develop a device with a larger capacity to monitor fluid provided to patients on urology wards. The company will hire two new research and development staff to design and develop the product.


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Press Release: NBIF’s Breakthru Pot

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation has issued the following press release:


New Brunswick's Startup Competition exceeds $500,000 to startup three new companies

FREDERICTON, NB—The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF), law firm Cox & Palmer and Deloitte launched the fifth edition of Breakthru, New Brunswick’s biennial startup competition, with its highest prize pot ever. Seasoned and aspiring entrepreneurs alike will compete for over $500,000 in cash and professional services.

The prizes will help to launch three innovative businesses, with the grand prizewinner receiving up to $200,000 in cash investments from NBIF, along with professional services from the competition’s corporate partners. The other two winners will each receive up to $150,000 plus services including legal, marketing, and accounting. Breakthru is the largest competition of its kind in Canada.

“Imagine, one day you’re dreaming about being an entrepreneur and owning your own company, and the next day it’s a reality—this is what’s going to happen for three hard working Breakthru participants,” says NBIF Chair Robert Hatheway, “Starting up a new company is a risky adventure, and to take the leap into entrepreneurship, people need to know that turning their ideas into a business is a real possibility—Breakthru does exactly that.”

The purpose of Breakthru is to bring people, ideas and money together in a way that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship in New Brunswick. The professional services, support and mentoring they receive from NBIF and its prize partners will make a tremendous impact when entrepreneurs need it most – during their start-up phase. Many past Breakthru winners have gone on to raise millions of dollars for their companies.

To enter, applications must be received by NBIF on or before December 9th, 2014.

The full prize pot will be announced in November and is expected to reach beyond $600,000.

Winners will be announced at Breakthru Live 2015 at the Fredericton Convention Centre on March 19, 2015.

About NBIF:

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) is an independent, not-for-profit corporation that invests in new growth-oriented companies and applied research activities. With over $50 million invested, plus $275 million leveraged from other sources, NBIF has helped to create over 50 companies and fund 350 applied research projects since its inception in 2003. All of NBIF’s investment returns go back into the Foundation to be re-invested in other new companies and research initiatives.


BioPort, Collide Take Place This Week

Two of the major events on the Halifax startup calendar -- BioPort Atlantic and Collide – are getting under way today and tomorrow.

BioPort Atlantic is the region’s main life sciences conference, and its full conference agenda unfolds tomorrow at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax.  Hosted by BioNova, the annual conference connects people to companies in all stages of development.

The keynote luncheon speaker will be Michael Dunbar, an orthopedic surgeon, professor, researcher and scientific co-founder of Halifax Biomedical.  With $2.6 million in funding from the Atlantic Innovation Fund, Dr. Dunbar and his Movement at Capital Health (M@CH) team are developing a smart phone app and other technologies to reduce wait times affecting patients.

The highlight of the conference will undoubtedly be the third annual BioInnovation Challenge, in which life sciences companies vie for a $30,000 first prize.  The semifinals will be held today, and three companies will pitch tomorrow in the finals.

BioNova said BioPort Atlantic will attract over 200 attendees representing some 20 companies, a roster of investors, universities, government, and industry supporters.  

Collide was formerly known as the HPX Digital. Its aim is to let students and aspiring professionals collide with established creative minds to see and shape the future. Up-and-comers can uncover new role models and explore the world’s best ideas from the leading edge.

Collide is an interactive event for digital creators in Halifax and features three dedicated tracks – design, development, and marketing.

The full agenda is available here



Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


Press Release: Eastlink, CEED

Eastlink and the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development have issued the following press release:

Eastlink, Ceed Form Partnership to Support Entrepreneurs

Halifax, NS – Home-grown entrepreneurial success story, Eastlink, and the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development (CEED) announced a special partnership today that will provide additional support to Nova Scotia entrepreneurs and small businesses.

With a strong sense of shared values, CEED and Eastlink aim to further arm entrepreneurs and small businesses with the tools they need for success in an ever changing and evolving economy.

In 1971, John Bragg’s entrepreneurial spirit opened the doors to a new telecommunications business in Nova Scotia and Eastlink was born. Since then, Eastlink has become one of Nova Scotia’s largest employers with almost 1000 employees headquartered in Nova Scotia and over 1,600 Canadians nationwide.

“We are very proud to partner with Eastlink, their entrepreneurial spirit and enthusiasm brings energy and encouragement to our clients. Together, we will continue to provide resources and opportunities for Nova Scotia small businesses and CEED clients, to help grow our economy.”  John Beaton, Senior Manager, Entrepreneurship Development.

Eastlink’s journey is an inspiration for many local entrepreneurs and through this partnership CEED hopes to open more doors and provide more support for emerging small businesses.  Together, the two organizations will create specialized workshops, among other initiatives.

“This partnership is a natural fit for us,” said Lee Bragg, CEO for Eastlink. “In order for our province to continue to be relevant in an emerging global economy, we must build and grow companies that answer the call of the new world we live in. That’s why giving back and sharing our entrepreneurial journey with new and aspiring entrepreneurs is so important to us.”

In celebration of this synergetic partnership, CEED will be hosting a social media scavenger hunt on October 25th, 2014, encouraging  Haligonians to embrace small business week,  explore their city and meet their local entrepreneurs.


To join the scavenger hunt, visit participating CEED businesses, snap a selfie and tweet with the hashtag #CEEDlink. All tweets using the hashtag will be entered into a draw to win a Samsung Galaxy 5 and accessories! To register for the event, see participating businesses and to find out more, visit ceed.ca.  



Acadia’s Aida Eyes Agriculture

Melons are big, heavy fruits. They are also fragile. Their growth is influenced by variable, hard-to-predict weather factors and farmers depend on retailers selling their product before it goes bad.

That’s why one Nova Scotia melon grower has turned to the Acadia Institute for Data Analytics (AIDA) at Wolfville’s Acadia University to help him optimize his yield of cantaloupes.

AIDA got started in January under Director Danny Silver, as part of the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre’s Incubation and Innovation Services unit -- a group that works hard to promote entrepreneurship in rural communities.

The melon farmer approached Silver after attending AIDA’s inaugural event in March.

Speakers at the event, titled Data Analytics for the Wine and Fruit Growing Industries, discussed how to use data to combat issues such as climate change’s impact on Ontario’s wine industry and plant cancer on Nova Scotia grapes.

“Data analytics is good business,” explained Silver as he sat in the airy, newly renovated attic of Acadia’s Patterson Hall. “It allows you to put up your periscope and look ahead.”

The fledgling institute will work with many academic and industry partners and is already partnering with Scotia Weather Services; a private meteorological company that provides micro forecasting down to 15 minute intervals and four square kilometres.

Such detailed forecasting is very valuable to the melon grower, who last year missed the market after changing weather meant he only harvested 50 per cent of his crop.

“We have to be specific to create prediction models for precision agriculture, which is the combination of data analytics with agriculture,” said Silver, who grew up in the Annapolis Valley, working in the fields as a youngster.

Other techniques that can improve crop analysis include placing cameras in fields to record activities such as spraying, and using drones to reveal where in a field a crop might be failing.

Silver said he is pleased that after less than a year of operation, AIDA already has five active projects and seven potential.

AIDA’s objectives include stimulating technology transfer, commercialization and the development of new startups, and Silver said, “It would be great” to see analytic companies working in this space.

Silver is also a professor at Acadia’s Jodrey School of Computer Science and he is working with the computer science and math departments on establishing a certificate in data analytics.

In the fall, several big events will be held to make sure the academic and agricultural communities understand AIDA and the business potential of data analytics.

“We’ll be offering a data analysis 101 primer for people on campus and then we’ll take it to the public, to those in industry who want to learn about it, such as agriculturalists, environmentalists and conservationists,” said Silver.

“The population is growing, we have less land available and we need to grow more on smaller parcels of land,” he added. “We need to do this kind of data analytics across the planet or we’re not going to feed us all.”



Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


Nicolle Brings Lessons from Boston

History has given Halifax profound ties to Boston. But Boston has a lot to teach Halifax about entrepreneurship, believes Steve Nicolle, CEO of Halifax health-care IT company STI Technologies.

Nicolle, a P.E.I. native, worked in the startup sector in Boston for 10 years before becoming STI CEO in January 2010.

 “I learned Americans don’t fear failure at all; it’s a big difference,” he said.

 “I met people who started three companies and they all failed, but they persevered and the fourth was a major success.

 “In Halifax, if a young entrepreneur wants to raise $1 million to $5 million, it’s daunting. In Boston, they think nothing of it. They want to raise $25 million. It’s the ‘go big or go home’ theory.”

Nicolle said far more of Boston’s business students aim to own their own startup or business than in Halifax. And Boston universities are also more connected with industry.

He said that in the past, he and his father typified the caution of this region.

 “In 1985, I graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a degree in computer science. I had 25 job offers, mostly from insurance companies. But I had one from a Seattle startup called Microsoft.

 “My dad was a civil engineer and the son of a P.E.I. farmer — the first in the family to go to university. I talked to him about Microsoft and he said, ‘Why go to the U.S.?’ So I didn’t even consider it. In hindsight, it would have been an interesting thing to do.”

Instead, Nicolle went on to work in Ottawa, London, England, Toronto and Boston in roles that included CEO of Tatara Systems and Sigma Systems, chief operating officer of March Networks and chairman of Searidge Technologies.

Today, he’s overseeing the expansion of STI, which began in 2002 and now has over 60 employees. The company implements programs to give Canadian patients access to supplementary drug benefit cards that help with the out-of-pocket cost of prescribed drugs.

STI’s cards are used more than 10,000 times a day by Canadians in pharmacies across the country.

The company’s competitors are based in larger places. Nicolle said STI has considered moving but decided to make a virtue of being from Nova Scotia.

 “Our clients are big pharma companies based in the big centres. So a lot of us are often on airplanes. We have to ensure we’re seen a lot more than our competitors.

 “But we started life here, and Toronto people think we’re clever in an East Coast sort of way. When we sponsor a golf tournament, we do a lobster toss and we fly the Nova Scotia flag on our hockey sweaters.”

Nicolle said he’s proud of the company’s history of employing new grads and attracting experienced people back to Nova Scotia.

Last year, Toronto private equity firm Imperial Capital agreed to invest $17 million in the company. The investment was notable both for its size and the fact the investor was from outside the region.

Nicolle said STI is doubling its revenue every year and would like to grow by acquisition. The company may need to raise more money if it goes international.

Recently, STI launched an initiative called innoviCares, which allows patients to stay with a brand-name drug at the lowest price when the drug’s patent expires.

 “I believe the success of this region will be on the back of 100 companies like STI that are 100 per cent privately funded — 100 companies of 60 employees that will create wealth in the province,” he said.

 “Those successes will be more notable than capturing another (Research in Motion) and convincing them to move here. We have the people to achieve that. When I attend entrepreneurial events here, I’m always impressed by the quality of the entrepreneurs and by their ideas.”

Press Release: Engage Conference

Engage, a new conference on innovation and collaboration, has issued the following press release:

Engage Conference To Be Held Nov. 17-18 in Halifax

New conference to demonstrate how research and development partnerships between universities and entrepreneurs will result in economic growth and improved university education

Halifax, Nova Scotia - A new Halifax event will show how partnerships between Atlantic Canadian universities and entrepreneurs can drive economic growth in the region and improve the learning experience for university students who study here.

The Engage 2014 Innovation and Commercialization Conference will take place on November 17th and 18th, 2014 In Halifax. This event will provide hands-on workshops and interactive presentations to help business students and entrepreneurs understand how the world-class research and development resources at Atlantic Canadian universities can help them create successful companies.

“Atlantic Canada has an abundance of world-class research and talented entrepreneurs,” said Mark Taylor, Founder of Engage. “We want to take the connection between our universities and entrepreneurs to the next level so that our economy will prosper for many years to come.”

Despite facing economic challenges, Atlantic Canada has experienced significant growth in business startups. The region saw 67 new businesses created in 2013 alone, according to a report done by Entrevestor.com

The growth in startups is creating jobs in the region and attracting much needed capital. For example, the same report indicated that venture capital investment in the region rose to $30.8 million in 2013 from $23 million in 2012 while payroll rose by 44% to $75.8 million. However, a C.D. Howe Institute reports that much of the $11 billion a year post-secondary institutions in Canada spend on research does not result in a product or service that comes to market. To that end, Atlantic Canada has a lot research that could result in new businesses, empowered local enterprises and improved education experiences.

Engage 2014 will help by offering an ambitious agenda and trade show. Speakers include successful businesspeople such as Clearwater Fine Foods President John Risley, academic leaders, global thinkers and investors. These individuals will take part in interactive discussions with the audience about variety of topics ranging from research and development to successful global marketing and sales. Discussions will also include information on organizations available to assist entrepreneurs and researchers looking to commercialize research.

“Entrepreneurs and researchers are looking for the best information and contacts to help them pursue their passion,” said Taylor. “Engage will show them how to bring an idea from concept to a globally success story using the wonderful research and development resources we have in our own backyard.”

More information about Engage 2014 can be found at http://www.engagehalifax.com

Engage is supported by Springboard Atlantic, the National Research Council, St. Mary’s University, Innovacorp, Dalhousie University, the University of Prince Edward Island, Acadia University and the University of New Brunswick.

Tickets for the event are available here

Endurance Buys Seaforth Assets

Endurance Wind Power of Surrey, B.C., has bought some of the assets of wind turbine maker Seaforth Energy and opened a regional office and service centre in the Nova Scotian startup’s former base of Dartmouth.

The buyer, one of the world's leading manufacturers of wind turbines for local power generation, issued a statement late Thursday announcing the opening of the office. Former Seaforth CEO Mike Morris, who joined the company in late 2012, has become Endurance's General Manager for Eastern North America.

The company is now growing its local staff and is installing products in Nova Scotia. The release said Endurance expects to complete the installation of the first three Endurance E3120 wind turbines in Pictou County under the Nova Scotia ComFiT program. ComFIT helps community groups erect wind turbines for local power generation.

"As a Canadian company building wind turbines in Canada, we are thrilled to be selling them in Canada, too,” said Endurance Wind Power CEO Glenn Johnson in the statement. “Nova Scotia is an important growth market for us. Having proven our design and commercial success internationally, opening a new office in the Maritimes feels a bit like a home-coming."

The company now has five employees in Dartmouth and expects to expand to seven by the end of the year.

It’s an improvement from the previous 12 months.

Seaforth laid almost all its staff off in the past year as it negotiated the sale and came to terms with creditors owed more than $4 million dollars. The debt includes $2 million owed to the Nova Scotia Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Department and $954,000 to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. The company also had received $2 million in equity investment from Innovacorp.

The Chronicle-Herald reported in August that court papers showed Seaforth had contacted more than 15 potential investors or buyers and found that Endurance Wind Power was the only interested buyer.

Endurance said it provided financial backing to Seaforth during this period, helping the company complete outstanding obligations to several Nova Scotia community groups.

“While Endurance cannot provide warranty cover for AOC equipment, Endurance will make available Seaforth Energy’s stock of parts and is pleased to offer service and maintenance programs to Seaforth customers,” said the statement.

Endurance has sold over 750 wind turbines worldwide and estimates it has a 75 percent share of the U.K. small wind market for 50 to 100 kW machines. Endurance operates factories in Surrey and Worcestershire, U.K., and employs 150 people worldwide.


Dal, Next 36 Form Partnership

Dalhousie University and The Next 36 have struck a partnership that will help more Dal undergrads attend one of the most demanding startup programs in the country.

Dal President Richard Florizone and Jon French, Director of Marketing and Communications at The Next 36, announced the partnership at a reception at the president’s residence on Wednesday.  

Though Dal students have already gone through the program, the partnership means Dalhousie will now become one of a handful of educational institutions that have a formal relationship with The Next 36. The university will give financial assistance to students from the university accepted into the program.

Based in Toronto, The Next 36 takes in 36 undergraduate students each summer and puts them through a rigorous program of entrepreneurship and academics. It’s known to be tough, which is an attractive quality given that many accelerators are criticized for handling their charges with kid gloves.

“What we are is a people accelerator,” said French. “We’re a training ground for the top undergraduate students in the country.”

The curriculum includes classroom sessions with some of the leading academics in the world in startup education, and interaction with a network of about 300 leading Canadian corporations.

The students that have gone through The Next 36 include Stephen Lake, the co-founder of Waterloo-based Thalmic Labs, whose smart armband allows users to control devises through their gestures. It’s now one of the most talked-about startups in the country,  given that it recently raised $15 million in venture capital.

The Atlantic Canadian alumni include: Cam McDonald and Daniel Bartek, Co-Founders of Sage Mixology, whose dual-chamber bottle that stores alcohol and juice separately but pours as a mixed drink; Zack Levy, founder of First Exit Media, a web and app development startup in Toronto; and Mitchell Lesbriel, founder of home brewer businesses FastRack and FastFerment.

The other universities that have a relationship with The Next 36 are Queen’s, Simon Fraser, Waterloo, McGill, Ryerson, UBC, University of Toronto and University of Western Ontario.

Applications for next summer’s cohort of The Next 36 are now being taken and will be open until Oct. 27. They are open mainly to third and fourth year university students.


PEI BioAlliance Launches Emergence

The Prince Edward Island BioAlliance has unveiled the new “farms to pharma” incubator that it’s launching with funding from the National Research Council’s Canadian Accelerator and Incubator Program.

Emergence is an incubator designed to help nurture the PEI cluster of biotech and food-tech companies, as well as others in the region. It will not feature intense cohorts like the modern tech accelerator but will offer long-term assistance to companies to help them develop over the long-haul.

“This is not a bootcamp model at all because it recognizes that company development t in this space is a multi-year process,” said BioAlliance CEO Rory Francis in an interview in his Charlottetown office.

The NRC earlier this year announced CAIP funding for incubators and accelerators across the country, and the winners included two Atlantic Canadian groups: The P.E.I. BioAlliance, which focuses on life sciences; and New Brunswick-based Propel, whose concentration is in IT. The New Brunswick organization has since launched Propel 2.0, expanding the intake of each cohort from between six and 10 companies to the current 24 companies.

On Wednesday, the BioAlliance outlined the structure and funding of Emergence, which will be a five-year project that could receive more than $7 million. The NRC will contribute up to $3.8 million, while Innovation P.E.I. will kick in $500,000. The companies participating in the program will put up a total of $1.3 million, and the remainder will come from the P.E.I.Agri-Alliance and farm community.

“This was a highly competitive process, and being named as one of the best incubator organizations in Canada is certainly rewarding,” Russ Kerr, CEO of Nautilus Biosciences and Chair of the BioAlliance Board, said in a statement. “But more importantly, this initiative will support local entrepreneurs and the growth of our early-stage companies while attracting businesses, technologies and talent from other parts of the world.”

Francis said the incubator will focus on growing the “P.E.I. cluster” of life sciences companies, which now stands at about 40 enterprises. Francis stressed that he hopes the cluster will include companies based in other parts of Atlantic Canada, and outside the region. He is looking for companies that fit into the prevalent markets and skills that constitute the island’s strengths.

The P.E.I. cluster has focused largely on animal health and over-the-counter products with aim of devising a healthy stable of life sciences companies that don’t have to spend years and hundreds of millions of dollars on regulatory approval.

The incubator will not have a physical headquarters but will be a program to help companies develop and sell their products. There will be a selection process, after which the organizers will identify and correct the “gaps” in each company’s business competency.   Once the Emergence organizers identify what skills and resources a company needs to succeed, they will work to make sure the enterprise gets them.

Francis said the BioAlliance will continue to gauge its success based on select metrics, such as number of companies, total employment and private sector revenue.  The goal is to double the number of companies in five years. Private sector revenue stood at $150 million in 2013 and Francis wants it to rise to $200 million or more by 2019.

The P.E.I. Biotech sector now employs more than 1,200 people in private and public sectors.


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


Genome Canada Funds 2 Programs

Genome Canada on Wednesday announced two research projects totalling $7.6 million that will undertake genomic research with the goal of improving East Coast aquaculture.

The not-for-profit organization that champions genetic research in the country announced two projects in the region that will each receive $3.8 million. They are: the Salmon and Chips Project, which is a collaboration of Cooke Aquaculture Inc. of Blacks Harbour, N.B., its Kelly Cove Salmon unit and the University of Guelph; and the Biomarker Platform for Commercial Aquaculture Feed Development project, conducted by the Norwegian fish feed company Ewos and Memorial University of Newfoundland.

 “This is great news for the region,” said Steve Armstrong, president and CEO of Genome Atlantic, the Halifax affiliate of Genome Canada. “It’s a clear example of how genomics — the powerful combination of biology, genetics and computer science — can provide innovative solutions to some of our most important industry challenges.”

The two Atlantic Canadian projects are among 12 projects announced Wednesday under the Genomic Applications Partnership Program. The program encourages research in genomics with the end goal of improving the performance of such industries as agriculture, aquaculture, life sciences and other sectors of the economy. Rather than conduct genetic modifications, the research tends to identify genes that produce the best commercial results and breed plants and animals bearing these genes.

Since 2000, Genome Atlantic has channelled $75 million into projects involving 70 organizations in the private and public sector.

The so-called Salmon and Chips Project will employ genomics tools known as SNP chips along with traditional breeding practices to identify and breed salmon that have optimal flesh quality and can resist parasites and diseases. Research scientist Keng Pee Ang of Cooke Aquaculture will team up with University of Guelph professor Elizabeth Boulding to conduct the research.

 “Our competitors around the world are employing these technologies,” Ang said in a statement. “It’s critical for our Canadian operations that we do this as well.”

The Biomarker Platform project will be co-led by Ewos research scientist Richard Taylor and Memorial University associate professor Matthew Rise. They will use genomics technology to assess the effects of various diets on fish health at the molecular level.

They will gather detailed information that will help the Ewos Innovation group fine-tune feed formulae to maximize the growth of fish and help fight disease.

 “This project will lead to better feeds that will help fish grow faster and with better health, which will improve the bottom line for producers immediately,” said Taylor.

Genome Canada supports genomic research projects so that it contributes one-third of the funding and two-thirds comes from corporations or other groups.

The Salmon and Chips project received $1.27 million in funding from Genome Canada and $2.26 million from Cooke and Kelly Cove Salmon. Kelly Cove is the North American production division of Cooke Aquaculture. The National Research Council’s industrial research assistance program kicked in $272,000. Genome Canada contributed $1.09 million to the Ewos Innovation project, while the company provided $2.71 million in funding.


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


Press Release: ABK Advisers

ABK Biomedical Inc., a Halifax based medical device company, has issued the following press release:

ABK Biomedical Attracts World Leaders to Clinical Advisory Board

HALIFAX, Canada; October 15, 2014 - ABK Biomedical Inc., a Halifax based medical device company, today announced the appointment of three leading experts in interventional radiology to its Clinical Advisory Board: Dr. Scott Goodwin, Dr. Jim Spies and Dr. Bob Lewandowski.

"We are thrilled to have these pioneers in uterine fibroid embolization and interventional oncology on our team of clinical advisors," said Dr. Bob Abraham, chief executive officer of ABK Biomedical. “The experience of these world leaders is going to be invaluable as we move OccluSystem into clinical trials and continue to expand our pipeline of novel radiopaque embolic therapies.”

Dr. Scott Goodwin, incoming Chair of ABK Biomedical’s clinical advisory board stated, “Minimally invasive, image-guided embolic therapies are becoming the patient's first choice for treatment of their uterine fibroids. ABK Biomedical’s innovations in this area make this a very exciting opportunity to guide their efforts, together with the expertise of Dr. Spies and Dr. Lewandowski.”

Dr. Goodwin is an interventional radiologist, best known for introducing uterine artery embolization for the treatment of uterine fibroids (UAE) in North America. He is Chief of Radiology at UC Irvine Medical Center and also performs chemoembolization for liver cancer.

Dr. Goodwin is the Hasso Brothers Chair of the Department of Radiological Sciences at University of California, Irvine Medical School. He has repeatedly been listed among the nation's Best Doctors in America® for Radiology, and is regarded as one of the top 10 researchers in uterine fibroids. Dr. Goodwin completed his M.D. at Harvard University, internship at Washington University, followed by his residency and fellowship at UCLA.

Dr. Jim Spies leads the Georgetown Uterine Fibroid Embolization Program, one of the largest and most experienced in the United States. Dr. Spies has been a principal investigator in five funded research trials, including the FIBROID Registry, a study of 3,000 women. He is Chair of the Radiology Department at MedStar Georgetown University hospital, Professor of Radiology at Georgetown University Medical Center and has published extensively on uterine artery embolization. He completed his M.D. at Georgetown University, residency at University of California, San Francisco, and fellowship in interventional radiology at New York University.

Dr. Bob Lewandowski is an Associate Professor of Radiology and Director of Interventional Oncology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. He has published extensively on chemoembolization and radioembolization to treat liver cancer and is a world authority in interventional radio-oncology. A leading researcher, Dr. Lewandowski is involved with both pre-clinical and clinical studies in Interventional Oncology. Dr. Lewandowski received his M.D. from Michigan State University, completed residency at William Beaumont Hospital and his fellowship at Northwestern Hospital.

ABK Biomedical Inc. is pursuing validation, production and sale of OccluSystem, ABK's lead radiopaque embolic product, as it develops additional therapies for chemoembolization and radioembolization. While still investigational, ABK’s innovative radiopaque embolic therapies have the potential to provide simpler, safer and more cost effective solutions for treating hypervascular tumors and diseases.



The #startupeast Reality TV Show

The Atlantic Canadian startup community is about to get its own reality TV show.

Startup Kitchen, the Fredericton group that produces video content on startups in the community, is upping its game with more of a documentary format. The production will appear as before on Bell Community One and now be called #startupeast.

The first production of #startupeast is a three-part series on the latest cohort of the Propel 2.0 accelerator, in which one group of more experienced entrepreneurs is meeting in Moncton while groups of more novice enterprises are meeting in Halifax and Fredericton.  The series will cover the selection camp, and then follow a few of the more interesting entrepreneurs along their journey.

“This is something that we wanted to do for a while but we weren’t ready to do it,” said Startup Kitchen Co-Founder Robert Foley in an interview last week. “Now we’re ready, and we’re covering the Propel cohort this year and we could later do more ambitious things.”

Foley and partner Suhaim Abdussamad launched Startup Kitchen about three years ago to showcase Atlantic Canadian startups through online video. The programs, which were mainly in an interview format, were soon being broadcast by Bell Community One, the community broadcasting channel for Bell FibreOp customers. 

The production improved and the big turning point came when the pair linked up with Halifax-based videographer Devon Murrins, who added more polish to the product. He allowed them to move beyond interviews and develop a more narrative structure in the broadcasts.

One final problem needed to be addressed: When Abdussamad and Foley went in to renew their contract with Bell this summer, they were told viewers were confusing Startup Kitchen with the channel’s cooking show. They needed a new name.

They figured that the community had come to be known by its Twitter handle hashtag-startupeast. So while www.startupkitchen.ca remains the duo’s website, the show is now #startupeast.

The series, which begins on Oct. 20, will start by chronicling the Propel selection camp, which took place last month. In the second segment, to air Nov. 17, the documentary will examine the development of some of the companies in the accelerator, such as Bitness and Bungalo of Halifax and Simptek of Fredericton.

 Abdussamad said the viewer will get to know some of the entrepreneurs, and even their families, to understand the pressures and rewards on the founders and those around them.

The final episode will feature the Propel Demoday, which will take place in December.  The episode will be broadcast Jan. 5.

The other projects in the hopper include a documentary on iMagic, the publicly listed video streaming project that Marcel LeBrun – later the CEO of Radian6 – launched in the 1990s.

People can view #startupeast if they subscribe to Alliant FibreOp, or at the websites of Bell or Startup Kitchen. Startup Kitchen will present the first episode at an event at Planet Hatch on Oct. 23. 


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

NB Gives $90K Grant to HotSpot

One week after taking office, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant has announced a $90,000 funding for Fredericton-based HotSpot Parking Inc., a recent graduate of the Launch36 accelerator.

Beyond the facts of the funding and its benefit for an interesting company, Gallant has sent a few strong signals about startups.

When the new Liberal premier and his cabinet were sworn in on Oct. 7, Gallant took a few cabinet portfolios for himself, including innovation. It’s noteworthy that innovation – which usually isn’t mentioned in cabinet titles – is given enough importance that the premier wants to oversee it personally.

And his first job-creation announcement was a funding deal revealed Tuesday for a startup – a $90,000 contribution that will allow the company to hire six people.

“Our investment in this small business will help create new jobs and assist in stimulating other capital investment opportunities for HotSpot Parking Inc.,” said Gallant, who is obviously signaling that startups will play a key role in his government’s economic strategy.

The HotSpot technology allows the remote payment of parking meters. Drivers can feed the meter without interrupting their shopping or meetings. Or merchants can use a cellphone to pay a customer’s parking, rather than have the customer run out of the store to feed the meter and never return.

But that’s only what the driver sees in the solution.

In the past year, CEO Phillip Curley and his team have advanced their system so it produces invaluable data for downtown businesses. Hotspot Parking allows these businesses to advertise directly to customers through their cellphones. And because of the geolocation capabilities of cellphones, the company can track how many people respond to their ads, who returns and who spends money.

“With the investment from the provincial government, our company will be able to grow rapidly, expand to global markets and help boost our local economy,” said Curley in a statement. “HotSpot sees massive potential in small businesses and we will continue to work hard to increase downtown health and through the collaborative work with our local small business entrepreneurs."

The government is making the contribution through the NB Growth Program, which authorizes grants of up to $100,000 to new and growing businesses. The CBC said Tuesday that HotSpot is currently operating in Fredericton, Saint John and Charlottetown, and the company plans to expand to Moncton and Halifax.



Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Press Release: Honibe Partnership

Island Abbey Foods Ltd. Announced Today A Partnership With Leading French  Pharmaceutical Company Gifrer

Honibe Co-Branding With Gifrer Alma miel Creating France’s First All Natural Honey Lozenges with Vitamin C, Menthol and Eucalyptus

Charlottetown, PE, Canada – October 14, 2014 – Island Abbey Foods, a PEI based natural health product producer, has announced today a new partnership between their flag ship brand Honibe and the French pharmaceutical company Gifrer. The partnership will utilize the Honibe Honey Lozenges™ in a co-branded effort with Gifrer’s Alma miel to meet the growing consumer demand for natural health alternatives in the French cough and cold market.

“We are thrilled to announce a partnership with Gifrer, an established and well respected brand that is able to boast over 100 years of innovation in the pharmaceutical industry in France,” shared John Rowe, President of Island Abbey Foods Ltd. “This successful partnership is another milestone for our company in international co-branding success. It will enable us to bring our Honibe Honey Lozenges platform to the sophisticated French consumer.”

“This collaboration alongside Island Abbey Foods will allow us to meet the growing needs of health products that help relieve cough and cold symptoms through a healthy and safe platform,” stated Paul Thiou, Director Business at Gifrer in France. “Gifrer’s Alma miel throat tablets produced in cooperation with Honibe are a perfect fit for what our consumers are demanding today.”

This new co-branded partnership will establish the world’s first lozenges made with 100% pure dried honey in the French market. Gifrer now has the ability to service the demand from its customers for an all natural and safe delivery method for current cough and cold remedies by way of the Honibe pure dried honey platform technology that Island Abbey Foods possesses.

Honibe Honey Lozenges contain 100% pure dried honey, with a small amount of naturally derived therapeutics and no artificial ingredients. Honibe will be marketing two products in the Gifrer co-branded partnership: Alma miel with Vitamin C and Alma miel with menthol and eucalyptus. Alma miel Honey Lozenges are for the maintenance of good health and the temporary relief of sore throat and nasal congestion. Alma miel Honey Lozenges are only 10 calories per piece (2.5 g) and are available in blister packages of 10 lozenges.

About Gifrer

Gifrer is a France based pharmaceutical company who specializes in the development, production and marketing of a wide range of over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, cosmetics and healthcare accessories. A team of highly educated and experienced researchers look and search for new products to launch in the Belgian and French market.

For more information please visit Gifrer on the web at http://www.gifrer.fr/EN/


About Island Abbey Foods

Island Abbey Foods is a Health Canada and FDA licensed specialty food, natural health product, and medicated health product producer based in Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada. We are a 6th generation PEI agricultural family business with our feet firmly planted in our Island's bright red soil, ideal for farming with its high iron and nutrient content.  Honibe honey is sourced from 100% Canadian Grade A honey from Prince Edward Island and Canadian beekeepers. 

For more information please visit us on the web at http://www.IslandAbbeyFoods.com and to check out our newest video release on Why Honey Lozenges are the best choice for you, please visit http://www.Honibe.com. 


LiveLenz Lands Funding, New CEO

With a new management team, product and funding round, Livelenz Inc. of Bedford is looking to expand its sales and marketing efforts and extend its reach into the fast-food and casual restaurant markets.

Jon McGinley, a veteran of such startups as Bluedrop Performance Learning and Radian6, became CEO in July. McGinley succeeded co-founder Joel Doherty, who left to lead the Epson cloud initiative for Epson America, Inc., the world’s largest maker of receipt printers for the hospitality market. McGinley is aided by Greg Poirier, another Radian6 alumnus who is now the Livelenz chief operating officer.

Although the executive team has changed, the mission is still to deliver real-time analytics tools to quick-service restaurants and casual dining establishments across the continent. And McGinley said in a recent interview the company is succeeding in landing new customers.

 “We’re going to have a good fourth quarter. We have a strong sales pipeline and good traction with a lot of U.S.-based restaurants from our work this summer.”

Livelenz began four years ago with the goal of helping quick-service restaurant franchisees to analyze data on their sales, employees and productivity. The company uses its proprietary software in the Epson OmniLink printer to gather data regardless of what point-of-sale system is used.

Livelenz is focusing not on developing new products, but on increasing sales with its current offerings. McGinley highlighted two factors are helping the effort.

The company recently raised $1 million in funding, including $500,000 in equity financing. The equity investors were Innovacorp (which had previously invested $1 million in 2012) and a range of individuals.

Many of the individuals were Livelenz clients who were impressed with the product and wanted to back the company. “We thought that was a nice piece of reassurance that we’re doing something right,” said McGinley.

The other factor is the company’s latest product, LiveScore, which is helping to drive sales. LiveScore analyzes data from the restaurant and presents it to the employees. The fact the employees themselves can see details of the outlet’s performance is key, because it allows the organization to set targets and better communicate with staff affecting employee behaviour and thereby increasing sales.

For example, if management notices lattes sell well in one shift but not another, they can set targets so each shift tries to sell more of a popular product. The result, in some fast-food restaurants, has been a three to eight per cent increase in sales, said McGinley.

In casual restaurants, LiveScore works a little different. It allows operators to set targets for individual servers, or maybe create friendly competition between servers to encourage sales.

With a healthy sales pipeline, the company is planning for further growth. It now employs 16 people, up from 11 at the end of last year. One technical lead has moved to Nova Scotia from the United Kingdom. And the board of directors was recently bolstered by the addition of Wallace Doolin, former president of the National Restaurant Association of America.


Entrevestor receives financial support from various government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.

Holt: Linking Startups & Corporates

There are many theories about how best to encourage entrepreneurs. Susan Holt, president and CEO of the New Brunswick Business Council, links entrepreneurs with seasoned business people and encourages the veterans to become early adopters of the startups’ new products and services.

Holt is a familiar face at startup events in New Brunswick. It might seem mere common sense to link business vets with newbies but her approach is actually unusual.

Created in 2005, the New Brunswick Business Council is a group of business leaders dedicated to building New Brunswick’s economy.

“When I started out with the business council, one of my first objectives was to link the experience and knowledge of our members with the needs of young entrepreneurs,” said Holt, who has been in her role for three years.

“I felt like our members were a locked treasure chest and I had to figure out how to unlock the chest and give others access. Members weren’t interacting with the entrepreneurial community. I saw an opportunity to link them.”

With that in mind, she created various programs, including Meals with Moguls and Passport Service, which bring entrepreneurs to business council meetings, where the youngsters’ challenges are discussed and connections and introductions made.

“Recently, one member introduced a young entrepreneur to a licensing lawyer in Australia. Members have diverse backgrounds so when there’s a consensus of advice, that’s helpful to the entrepreneur,” Holt said.

“Other times, entrepreneurs hear different views and make their own choice. We encourage them to ask specific questions. One entrepreneur wanted to know whether to expand to the U.S. or acquire a U.S. company. The recommendation was that he experiment with a pilot acquisition.”

Holt said the interaction works both ways.

“The members of the council get excited by their meetings with ambitious young entrepreneurs. They leave with increased optimism for their own business and province.

“And the entrepreneurs realize our members share their concerns. Members are also worried about payroll, bottom lines and clients. They are more established, that’s all.”

Encouraging established companies to be early adopters of entrepreneurs’ new services and products is also vital. So far, 15 out of 24 business council companies have been matched with entrepreneurs to allow early testing of a product or service.

“Getting early adopters is important,” Holt said. “We can all build something in our basement but, if you don’t get market feedback, you could be wasting money because your idea doesn’t fit a client’s needs.”

Like many influential people in this region’s business community, Holt feels a personal commitment to boosting entrepreneurship. Raised in Fredericton, she completed a bachelor of science in chemistry and a bachelor of arts in economics at Queen’s University in Ontario.

She went on to work in sales, human resources and management with high-profile firms like Xerox, Manpower, HP, Cognos (now IBM) and Research in Motion. She then spent nearly a decade working around the world, including stints in Australia and India, returning to New Brunswick in 2007.

Now, as mom to two daughters — five-month-old Paige, and Molly, aged 21/2 — Holt’s commitment to her home province is even more personal.

Her girls are cared for by her husband, Jon, who gives her “the freedom to develop my work without it feeling like complete insanity.”

She and her business council colleagues also focus on working with the provincial government on broader issues.

“Right now, our focus is immigration,” she said. “New Brunswick needs to grow its population. We want to increase the flow of immigrants to jobs that are not being filled by locals.

“I’m hopeful the province’s new Liberal government will work with us and the federal government to boost immigration. That will in turn boost the economy.”

Dodoname Aids Consumer Privacy

Michael J. Gaffney wants to protect the privacy of consumers around the world when they register on a website, and he wants to do it — at least in part — from Nova Scotia.

An Ottawa resident, Gaffney is a serial entrepreneur who has been involved in six startups, for which he’s raised about $15 million. His latest venture is Dodoname, a company that helps consumers preserve their privacy and helps e-retailers to target consumers who might be interested in their wares.

Dodoname is dual-headquartered in Ottawa and New Glasgow, the hometown of Gaffney’s wife. The couple has a house in Merigomish Harbour, and wanted to spend more time there. So when Gaffney began to develop his latest venture he decided to hire talent in northern Nova Scotia. What’s more, he found programmers to build the software in Lunenburg.

 “I scoured the world to try to find some people who would build this the way I wanted it done, and by luck I linked up with these guys in Lunenburg,” he said in a phone interview from the nation’s capital.

Dodoname is a software-as-a-service product that helps consumers by addressing one of their greatest worries about e-commerce — that by providing an email address and other details, someone will hack their account, access their bank account or sell their data to spammers.

On the other side of the e-commerce relationship, businesses don’t want customers’ names, email addresses or phone numbers because there is a cost to protecting it. But they do want to know their customers’ demographics (age, gender, city of residence, etc.) and their likes and dislikes. Such things, which Dodoname refers to as the customer’s persona, are essential in targeted marketing.

What Dodoname does is give the corporations the details they want about customers and allows them to target their marketing, but it does not surrender customers’ personal details.

When consumers sign up with Dodoname, they leave an assumed name and information on their persona. When they use Dodoname to sign up for other websites, such as e-commerce sites, the system assigns the consumer a random email address for each site they enlist on. The corporation that owns the site is the only one who can use that email address to contact the consumer, so the information cannot be sold to spammers.

 “What Dodoname does is give people an infinite number of email addresses and there is a matched pair so only that person can use that email address,” said Gaffney.

However, if a business wanted to market to all consumers that fit a certain profile (say, hockey fans, or wine enthusiasts, or people who clip coupons), the system helps them design campaigns that can reach such an audience. They can search the database for certain persona and reach out to them with discounts or coupons.

Gaffney calls it “p-commerce,” with the “p” standing for persona.

Dodoname will launch later this month, and Gaffney hopes to attract 25,000 consumers each quarter.

By the end of the year, Gaffney will have invested about $450,000 in the project. He’s hoping to raise venture capital by the end of the first quarter of 2015.


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.

Digital Bridge Scholarship Launched

Junior Achievement Nova Scotia and Torusoft have put out the following press release:

 HALIFAX, NS (Oct. 8, 2014) – A new educational initiative is launching across the province this month, as the result of a joint partnership between Junior Achievement Nova Scotia and Torusoft. The Nova Scotia Digital Bridge Scholarship will enable secondary school students to learn computer programming and related skills, through free access to online learning materials and dedicated mentorship.

The Digital Bridge Scholarship is based on the premise that learning should be free of charge, sustained and scalable. As such, it is funded entirely through donations from the private sector; seats are available for a six-month term, and require nomination by teachers or Junior Achievement; and finally, the scholarship is available to students across the province, limited only by funding.

The idea came from an open proposal penned by Torusoft in the spring, which quickly gained support among industry stakeholders, community partners and public officials. In August, the scholarship found a home with Junior Achievement Nova Scotia, where it is now offered alongside other core programming.

“The mentorship and learning tools available through the Digital Bridge Scholarship program will not only encourage our students to learn new things, but it will broaden their understanding of the digital world and the possibilities within it. We are particularly excited that students will be able to explore courses in ICT in conjunction with their experience in Company Program, along with the support and guidance of business and ICT mentors.” – Kristin Williams, President & CEO, Junior Achievement Nova Scotia

The Digital Bridge Scholarship addresses a number of issues facing our youth and our economy today. As students aren’t exposed to computer programming and related skills at a young age, few decide to pursue ICT as a potential career or area of post-secondary study upon graduating high school. The ICT sector, in turn, is crying out for new graduates as it struggles to sustain its growth. The Digital Bridge Scholarship helps “bridge” the skills gap while deeper structural changes to education are pending.

“Junior Achievement’s programming is based on financial literacy, workplace readiness and entrepreneurship. The Digital Bridge Scholarship combines these pillars with digital literacy, which is crucial in identifying, creating and capitalizing on opportunity, starting a business or joining the workforce. It’s exactly what this region needs, and will make J.A. even more relevant in Nova Scotia.” – Ari Najarian, President, Torusoft

The Nova Scotia Digital Bridge Scholarship is soliciting donations, and seeking nominations for its fall cohort online at https://bridgescholarship.ca A tax.-deductible donation of $150 will fund one student for a six month term.

Launch sponsors include Dynamic Hosting, Sheepdog, Equals6, CodeKids.ca, Kula Partners, Proposify and Interview Rocket. Community partners, who will assist with marketing and promotion, include Digital Nova Scotia, StudentsNS, and Collide Halifax. Discussions are also under way with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to explore opportunities for collaboration and partnerships.

Agile Sensor Targets Drone Upgrades

Having grown out of a research grant from a major defense contractor, Agile Sensor Technologies Inc. is now marketing products that improve the operation of unmanned vehicles that travel in the sky, the sea and on land.

Founded on intellectual property developed at Memorial University, the St. John’s company is now selling its own proprietary quadcopter  (a little unmanned helicopter with four rotors) that is stable even in high winds. It is also selling a novel mechanism that grants more movement to cameras mounted on drones and submersible vehicles.

Headed by President and CEO Brian Terry, Agile has found solutions to some of the major problems associated with the growing industry surrounding unmanned aircraft. Though they have thousands of industrial, safety and military applications, the use of drones is limited because they generally can only fly in good weather. And there are restrictions on where they can fly because of difficulties sensing and avoiding oncoming aircraft.

“Sense-and-avoid is difficult, so we’ve moved beyond that,” said Terry in an interview. He explained that Agile’s device – the Parallel Kinematic Mechanism -- allows a new way to move cameras on drones with greater freedom than now exists. 

The story of Agile Sensor Technologies began in 2007 when Memorial received a grant from a major defense contractor to study and find solutions to the sense-and-avoid problem. The funding increased to about $3.6 million when the university received Atlantic Innovation Fund money from of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and a grant from the Research and Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Researcher Nick Krouglicof, who is now Agile’s CTO and Vice-President of Research and Development, led the research. He began to focus on intelligent cameras, or those in which the image processing is done in the camera, not in base stations on the ground.

What they noticed was problems in the aiming system for these cameras, which relied on gimbal systems, or systems that relied on the camera pivoting on two axes.  Krouglicof realized that these systems weren’t fast or accurate enough and consumed too much power. He set out to cure these faults, and to minimize the weight and dimensions of the pointing device.

“So they invented a new type of pointing system to replace the gimbal – including a new type of ball joint and a new type of linear motor,” said Terry. The team is now in the process of patenting the new type of pointing device and the motor, which allows more speed, power and flexibility than the gimbal system. As well as being used in drones, it also has applications in unmanned underwater and surface craft.

The work with the new camera system led the team to experiment further in a novel quadcopter to test the intelligent camera. “It has taken on a life of its own,” said Terry. “It uses a technology that may not be used by any other quadcopter in the market, and there are a lot of them.”

This technology allows the unit to withstand wind gusts of as much as 50 kilometers an hour, said Terry.

In August, Terry, Krouglicof and sales and marketing specialist Michael Harvey teamed up to launch a company to sell these products. They are licensing the intellectual property from Memorial and are in contact with large multinationals that could prove to be customers.  It hopes to develop a manufacturing facility for the devices in St. John’s in the autumn of 2015.

Agile is now working on raising capital with a target of $1.5 million.



Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


Crosbie Wins EY Entrepreneur Award

EY, the global accountancy and business consultancy firm, issued the following press release, announcing the winners of the 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year award:

Robert Crosbie of Crosbie Group Limited named EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Atlantic 2014

EY celebrates gravity-defying entrepreneurs at annual awards gala

HALIFAX, Oct. 4, 2014 - Robert Crosbie, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Crosbie Group Limited — a privately held family business involved in the offshore oil and gas, onshore industrial, real estate and construction sectors — is this year's Entrepreneur Of The Year Atlantic winner.

Crosbie Group Limited is a fourth generation family business that dates back to the mid-1800s. Rob took on the role of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Crosbie Group Limited in 1991 — a strenuous time for the company amid a strained Newfoundland and Labrador economy. He acted quickly to stabilize the company and identify opportunities for growth in the emerging oil and gas industry.

"Gravity-defying entrepreneurs make the impossible, possible. That means fearlessly tackling challenges head-on," says Jim Lutes, Entrepreneur Of The Year Atlantic Program Director. "That's exactly what Rob did. And what's more, he saw opportunity in adversity. It's that kind of forward-thinking that paved the way for Crosbie Group Limited's success and made Rob a stand-out in our program." 

Rob continues to deepen the Crosbie family's legacy of entrepreneurial ambition, public service and philanthropy throughout the province.

"He's set a standard of excellence that's translated into a leading company culture focused on innovation," says Lutes.

Under Rob's leadership, the company has implemented a number of processes and metrics to encourage innovation. The results speak for themselves. New products and methodologies developed by Crosbie Group Limited are currently being used across industries.

EY partnered with the World Economic Forum on a recent report, The Bold Ones: high-impact entrepreneurs who transform industries, to uncover the qualities that define high-impact entrepreneurs. The report found that high-impact entrepreneurs not only disrupt industry through innovative products and services. They also make a measurable difference for society.  

"Crosbie Group Limited supports numerous charitable organizations and all employees are encouraged to give back to their communities," says Lutes. "We're proud to recognize Rob and Crosbie Group Limited for their contributions to building a better working world — and even prouder to celebrate them as our EY Entrepreneur of The Year Atlantic 2014 award winner."

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates the contribution and spirit of entrepreneurs around the world. The Canadian program is in its 21st year of honouring the country's most impressive entrepreneurs from all areas of business. Award finalists are chosen based on their vision, leadership, financial success and social responsibility.

This year's gala also honoured Atlantic Canada's Stanfield family with the EY Family Business Award of Excellence in celebration of generations of entrepreneurial achievement. 

The EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Atlantic 2014 category award recipients: 

Business-to-Business Products and Services

Paul Antle

Pluto Investments Inc. | St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador

The private holding company of Paul Antle, Pluto has grown from a small investment in an environmental company into a large diversified portfolio.

Business-to-Consumer Products and Services

Michael Whittaker

Trucorp Investments | Moncton, New Brunswick


Comprised of Bonte Foods, the region's largest processor of quality deli meats and Grinner's Food Systems, as well as the franchisor of three fast food brands: Greco Pizza, Capt Submarine and the newly launched Frozu frozen yogurt chain.

Emerging Entrepreneur

David Alston, Jody Glidden, Stewart Walchli

Introhive | Fredericton, New Brunswick


Solves the question of who knows who for businesses by using relationship analytics software to uncover the relationships a company has with customers and prospects.

Hospitality and Tourism

Ben Cowan-Dewar

Cabot Links Venture Inc. | Inverness, Nova Scotia


Owns and operates Cabot Links, Canada's first and only true links golf course.

Information Technology 

Cindy Roma, Sydney Ryan

Telelink | St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador


A leading provider of multi-channel 24/7 live safety and inbound customer support solutions to North America's energy sector.


Terry Malley

Malley Industries Inc. | Dieppe, New Brunswick


Manufactures specialty vehicles, including advanced life support ambulances, police and security vehicles, vehicles for persons with disabilities, and produces thermo-formed plastic products for automotive, aerospace and food industry industries.

Media and Entertainment 

John Wesley Chisholm

Arcadia Entertainment Inc. | Halifax, Nova Scotia


An independent TV content production company, operating with commissions for TV series and specials from National Geographic, Discovery Channels and other global broadcasters.

Real estate and Construction

Robert Crosbie

Crosbie Group Limited | St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador


Currently involved in offshore oil and gas services, onshore industrial services, real estate and construction.

What's next?

As the Atlantic region's EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2014, Rob will compete with top entrepreneurs from the Pacific, Prairies, Ontario and Quebec for the national honour of EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Canada 2014, to be presented at a gala celebration on 25 November 2014 in Toronto. In June 2015, Canada's Entrepreneur Of The Year 2014 will move to the world stage to compete with more than 50 country recipients for the title of EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year.

About EY Entrepreneur Of The Year

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year is the world's most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The unique award makes a difference through the way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential, and recognizes the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. As the first and only truly global award of its kind, Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 145 cities in more than 60 countries.

The 2014 Atlantic judging panel consists of Philip Fraser, President and CEO, Killam Properties Inc.; Scott McCain, Chairman and CEO, Saint John Sea Dogs; Iris Petten, President, Petten Holdings Inc.; Robert Youden, Partner, Savarin Consulting Limited; and Jo Mark Zurel, President, Stonebridge Capital Inc.

200 Teachers To Use Agora’s Vizwik

Moncton-based startup Agora Mobile has launched a new method of teaching coding and has already signed up about 200 teachers to use the product.

Agora Mobile is an ambitious company founded by Dalhousie University computer science alum Simon Gauvin, who hopes to revolutionize the way people learn coding.

Agora’s main product, Vizwik, lets anyone create apps that work on all mobile devices and that never have to be downloaded or updated. The company lets users join a social network on which they can develop their own apps. They can share these apps with other people. Soon, the system will let them sell the apps as well.

 “Coding has become part of nearly every career path, but teachers just don’t have the time to learn the complex programming tools to teach coding,” said Gauvin. “We created Vizwik so teachers can fill this gap in both their own and their students’ learning, allowing both to dive into coding.”

The company has just launched Vizwik and its first sales campaign is an effort to get the product into the hands of high-school teachers who want to teach coding. It is working with Brilliant Labs, an initiative that aims to encourage teachers in the Maritimes to do more to teach coding to their students. Fewer than 10 per cent of North American high schools teach coding, even though more than one million positions are expected to be left unfilled over the next five years due the lack of qualified people, said Agora in a statement.

The Agora business model calls for the company to find adopters among teachers, preferring to make the sales in individual classrooms rather than to entire school boards. Agora charges $9 for a basic account and as much as $15 for an advanced package.

The company has so far found adopters in 22 high schools in the French-language segment of the New Brunswick school system, and it is making inroads in one of the four English segments.

Gauvin said teachers are generally not intimidated by the platform, and that it uses a more “visual” coding system than many others. Students can learn to code in a secure environment. They can develop their own apps. And using the Viswik social network they will soon be able to even sell their apps and learn about entrepreneurship. Agora also provides tutorials that help them learn to code.

So far, about 900 people have registered to use the system.

As well as its consumer product, Agora is working on a corporate product that will allow businesses to use the Vizwik platform to develop their own product, branded specifically for that corporation.

Agora Mobile, which now has six employees, raised $1 million in equity funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, East Valley Ventures and several angel investors earlier this year. The foundation accounted for half the round.


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published. 

How to Follow Passions—Profitably

Entering the austere halls of the J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology, Management & Entrepreneurship at the University of New Brunswick, with its arched entrance and paneled halls, it’s easy to suppose the school’s summer institute will be a serious affair.

The Centre is the epicenter of entrepreneurship education at the University of New Brunswick, the institution that Startup Canada named the Most Entrepreneurial Post-Secondary Institution of the Year for 2014.

What’s special about UNB? Well, for one thing the Herbert Smith Centre, the entrepreneurship education facility, is embedded right in the heart of the Engineering faculty, which helps when the university spins off the technology it develops into startups.

So there was a bit of apprehension on entering the class where the Summer Institute, the university’s program for entrepreneurs, is running during the holiday. Walking into the sunlit classroom, I saw the five teams working away, with the encouragement of mentors Entrepreneur-in-Residence Jordan Smith and Philip LeBlanc, head of the Fredericton Makerspace.

The faces all shine with enthusiasm, but that’s not what you notice first.

The thing that catches your eye is the materials these entrepreneurs of tomorrow are using for their projects: Play-Doh; pipe-cleaners; scraps of old felt.

There are lean canvases and laptops in the room as well, as there are at all entrepreneurship methodology clinics. But in the Summer Institute for aspiring entrepreneurs at UNB, all the participants have to remove themselves from the fail-fast-fail-often seriousness of the startup world.

They have to embrace design, meaning and a liberal dose of fun. Above all, says the program leader, Dhirendra Shukla, the students participating in the program have to embrace their greatest passion.

“Young people are passionate about the world and we have to harness this passion,” Shukla, the Dr. J. Herbert Smith ACOA Chair of the centre, said in an interview. ”Our attitude is, ‘The most important thing about this is you and your passion,’ and now let’s turn this into a business.”

The organizers of the Summer Institute all stress that they didn’t want the program to replicate some of the great accelerators in the region, like Planet Hatch’s ACcelr8 or PropelICT’s Launch36. They wanted to incubate a class of entrepreneurs that might not be eligible for such innovation- or technology-based accelerators.

“We wanted to create a system of support for people who want to start businesses but need mentorship that has not been available before,” said Gracen Johnson, an administrator with the Summer Institute. They advertised for the program to run from May 5 to July 31for people who

want to turn their passion into a business. From the 40 applications they received, they chose five teams.

The winners were eclectic:

Wear Your Label, founded by Kayley Reed and Kyle MacNevin – the company is developing a line of “conscious clothing” aimed at 13 to 29 year olds. The clothing bears labels referencing mental health, and the wearer can choose how prominent the label is. The aim is subtlety, so people can ask the wearers what the label means and they can reveal as much as they like.

Ploome, founded by Anna Mathis – Mathis is a fibre artist whose company sells kits that teach people fibre art, ranging from spinning to weaving. She plans to study education at UNB this winter and develop a business around teaching her craft, holding workshops and selling the kits.

Waygood Mobile Therapy, founded by Kati Waygood (shown above) – this business provides a range of therapies, from massage therapy to exercise training to nutrition education, all in the client’s home. Waygood, a registered massage therapist with a BSc in kinesiology, has found the reason many people, such as new mothers and the elderly, skip their therapy sessions is they can’t get to the clinics. So she goes to them.

Oasis Farmery, founded by Andrew Mathis and Jake Wildman-Sisk – this is an aquaponics venture – that is, its system grows crops of herbs and vegetables, such as kale, cilantro, basil, tomatoes or pea shoots, out of a vessel of water containing fish. The fish and plants provide nutrients for each other. Oasis Farmery has set up its first system and is running tests on their model.

• Beyond Saigon, founded by Danny Nguyen – this company delivers Bánh mì (Vietnamese meat and spices in a baguette) to locations around Fredericton. The goal is to provide nutritious, tasty food to lunchtime crowds. Nguyen said he started the company to provide employment for his immigrant family.

Shukla said the organizers chose people who were passionate about their chosen fields with the goal of teaching them how to make money from their passions. They also wanted companies that were helping the community or environment in some way, such as drawing attention to mental health or improving the processes of growing food.

The Summer Institute does what other mentorship programs do by instructing the students to seek out market pain and apply lean methodology to assess the viability of a business. But Shukla’s teaching methods do more. Take the exercise with the Play-Doh and pipecleaners.

All the teams were given the description of a potential client (a twenty-something woman living in New York) and instructed to design and build a product for her. They could only use the craft materials available on a table in the centre of the room.

The exercise had three goals. First, it encouraged the participants to remember they are building products for people, real people with likes and dislikes and emotions and quirks. The entrepreneurs need to make products that speak to their clients’ human qualities.

The second goal is to make the entrepreneur focus on design – in all aspects of what they do. And finally, they have to consider their supply chain when building their product.

“What’s really impressive is people’s ability to be receptive to almost every type of learning process we throw at them,” said Philip LeBlanc of Fredericton Makerspace, one of the mentors at the institute. “They are actually taking advantage of the mentors that are available to them.”

The Summer Institute is a place where unconventional startups are subjected to an unconventional learning experience. And the result is that they worked hard, they collaborated and they began to act like business people.

“We pushed them to go make money, never really expecting it to happen,” said Shukla. “But now they are making money, and they’re doing it as a consequence of doing good.”

In fact, all five teams had booked revenue by early July, and were planning to carry on with their businesses after the course ended. When Beyond Saigon, for example, took its wares to North Market in Fredericton, it sold out of Bánh mì and had to turn some customers away.

The Summer Institute proved that students could develop a business by following their passion. “If we could only do all this times 150, this province would be a special place,” said Rivers Corbett, a UNB entrepreneur-in-residence. “This program allows people to build on their dreams. And yes, they do make money doing it.” 



This article first appeared in the latest Entrevestor Intelligence report, on educational institutions and startups. Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


Drawing Women to the Gaming Sector

Although women are playing online games in ever greater numbers, female game developers and computer programmers remain rare. That’s something Kirsten Tomilson is working to change as she develops her own digital media company, Fourth Monkey Media.

“I don’t understand why there aren’t more women working in the gaming industry,” said Tomilson, CEO and president of the Bridgewater-based venture.

“I go to several conventions a year and they’re primarily peopled with men, so are the studios. I’m passionate about getting more women involved.”

To that end, Tomilson mentors young women through Techsploration, a Nova Scotia non-profit that helps girls explore careers in science, trades and technology.

Getting more women working in digital media would widen the choice of games available. As it is, Tomilson said games tend to be men-centric.

“I admire Silicon Sisters out of Vancouver. It’s the first female-owned and run video game studio in Canada. Their mandate is to make games for women,” she said.

“Women play a lot of hidden object, puzzle and word games. There are many applications that women may develop, such as apps to advance health and science.”

Tomilson, who was born in Calgary, said she dreamt of running her own company since she came to Nova Scotia as a child. The four years since Fourth Monkey Media began have been tough.

“We’re bootstrapping. We have no external investment. We’re just starting to operate in the black. If you can last in this space for two years I believe it shows an ability to sustain yourself. If we can survive for another three years it will show we’re going to make a positive contribution to this province.”

Helping Tomilson sustain Fourth Monkey is a lean team, including a network of freelance artists, programmers, managers and designers, most of them in Halifax.

Many in the network have worked on high-profile titles like The Simpsons. “There’s a theme park attraction at Disneyland called Goofy’s Paint n’ Playhouse that we provided the 3D assets for,” Tomilson said.

She started out as a producer in film and television and went on to become senior production manager for a large video game producer. Most recently, she has produced and managed a number of branded online educational games.

Hiring local people with the right skills is becoming easier, she said, thanks to the close relationship between the Nova Scotia Game Developers’ Association, of which she is president, and the local educational institutions that train the talent.

The association was formed in October 2013. On its website, it quotes the Entertainment Software Association of Canada that states that there are 18 video game development studios around Nova Scotia.

Tomilson believes the provincial digital media tax credit is imperative to the industry.

Introduced in 2007, the credit has been extended until the end of this year. It allows producers to claim the lesser of 50 per cent of qualifying expenditures or 25 per cent of total expenditures.

“Tax credits like these are vital,” Tomilson said.

Fourth Monkey develops games on various platforms, including HTML 5.

Staff are also working on projects for other companies and have just completed an app for networking equipment specialist Cisco Systems.

Ideally, Tomilson would like to spend more time on Fourth Monkey projects. But it costs a lot to make a game. The minimum cost is around $15,000 and it can go up to hundreds of thousands.

But the rewards can also be high. “In terms of profit margins, Canada is ranked third in the world. Other countries are vying for our position. We have to ensure we have good programs and incentives in place.”



Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


Spring Loaded Raises $270K in VC

Having secured a fresh tranche of venture capital financing, Spring Loaded Technology Inc. is looking for a few volunteers to beta-test its revolutionary “bionic” knee brace.

The company said it has just raised $270,000 in equity financing from Innovacorp and has now raised total financing – including equity, debt and grants – of $1.8 million.

Having started at Dalhousie University’s Starting Lean class in September 2012, Spring Loaded is developing a knee brace that strengthens as well as stabilizes the joint. The product can increase the performance of athletes or grant greater mobility to people who have difficulty moving because of age, disability or obesity.

Spring Loaded is developing two separate product lines: A-Series knee braces to increase performance, reduce fatigue, and prevent injury; and M-Series knee braces for the enhanced rehabilitation and treatment of various mobility impairments. Spring Loaded plans to unveil its first market-ready product by the end of 2014.

 “When mobility becomes impaired, quality of life diminishes, said CEO Chris Cowper-Smith in a statement. “Spring Loaded is working to change that. We are now planning beta testing in a broad cross-section of individuals, including healthy athletes, manual laborers, military personnel, and individuals with a wide range of mobility impairments.”

He added the company is witnessing an accelerated demand for its products from a variety of customers around the world.

The prototypes used in beta-testing will be fitted to each participant, who will be asked to provide feedback on performance and fit throughout the trial. The test will involve a broad selection of customers and is planned to launch later in the year.

People who would like to be considered for beta testing can sign-up at http://www.springloadedtechnology.com. 



Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


ABK Names Abraham CEO

ABK Biomedical Inc., a Halifax medical device startup, said Thursday it has appointed founder Bob Abraham as its new CEO, succeeding industry vet Pat O’Connor.

The company had had bases in both Halifax and Ireland, but under Abraham’s leadership it will consolidate its operations in Halifax.  

ABK is the developer of OccluRad — tiny bio-compatible glass beads used to treat uterine fibroids, or benign tumours, in a woman’s uterus. The product improves efficiency and safety when treating women for the affliction. The company hopes to have OccluRad on the market in Europe in the second quarter of 2015, and in the U.S. and Canada shortly after that.

The company recently made news because of two notable events involving financing.  First, ABK in the spring was awarded a $2.14 million loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund. And second it raised about $1 million through the First Angel Network and a range of other angel networks from across North America.

A spokesperson for ABK said O’Connor, who had spent years working for some of the world’s largest medical device companies, took the company through its crucial product development phase during which his experience and management skills were invaluable.

“The consolidation required a CEO in Halifax and Pat was unable to make the move,” she said. “Given that ABK is entering the clinical validation phase of OccluSystem as well as launching a locally led AIF on pipeline development, the board chose Bob as the CEO to move ABK forward in this next stage of growth.”

The AIF award will enable ABK to simplify and enhance chemotherapy and radiotherapy for cancer patients with ABK’s novel radiopaque embolic beads.  The company is also proceeding with the lead product’s first-in-human trials and advancing other products, including one to help with the treatment of liver cancer.

“As a nationally recognized embolization expert, we are delighted to have Dr. Abraham as our new, full-time CEO,” said Aaron Berez, chairman of the board of ABK Biomedical. “His experience as a clinician, entrepreneur and med tech investor as well as his dedication to patients and passion for innovation make him the ideal candidate to lead ABK Biomedical.”

Abraham has spent more than 20 years as a practicing clinician and interventionalradiologist at Capital Health in Halifax. He has successfully licensed catheter innovations and established the Uterine Fibroid Embolization program at QEII Health Sciences Centre and IWK in 2001. He was a founder of ABK along with Dalhousie University researcher Daniel Boyd.


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Athlegen’s Gene Analysis for Athletes

Athletigen Technologies Inc., the Halifax startup that owns the world’s largest sports genetic databank, has launched a product to help coaches, athletes and fitness enthusiasts improve performance through sports-related genetic analysis.

CEO Jeremy Koenig has been plotting a course to launch the product in conjunction with a genetic ancestry service offered by the world-leading, direct-to-consumer genetics provider, 23andMe. Hoping to engage 10,000 users before the end of the year, Athletigen aims to help people understand their athletic genetic strengths and weaknesses, so that they can improve their training regime.

 “Our first version will allow anyone to compare their genetic traits with others and see where they fit relative to the world’s genetic landscape in terms of athletics,” said Koenig in an interview in Volta Labs in Halifax, where the company has an office. “If you have performance goals, we can let you know what to focus on. Or if you’re new to fitness, we can help guide your choices.”

Mountain View, Calif.-based 23andMe takes genetic samples from people and tells them their genetic ancestry. It now has about one million users. Athletigen launched its first version Wednesday and now allows these one million people to use their 23andMe data to generate an Athletigen profile.

The user data will be analyzed with Athletigen’s proprietary bioinformatic algorithm, which assesses many sports-related genetic markers. These new users will gain instant access to a genetic profile, which they can share with coaches or other people. They can use the information to enhance their training and fitness goals.

Though it is still beta testing the product, Athletigen gives users an online profile that compares their genetically encoded athleticism to other people from around the world. The service now provides such genetic information as willingness to exercise, power, anaerobic capacity, endurance, recovery, metabolism and injury protection.

 “We want this to be simple to use, but it also has to have academic rigour so it will satisfy the demands of a PhD,” said Koenig, who received a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology from Dalhousie and did post-doctoral research at Cornell University.

The service will be free for the first 23andMe users and to anyone that wants to make a sample profile. Athletigen will make its money by providing administrative support and other services for coaches and sports doctors. “We’re meeting with the best coaches and health professionals in the world and helping them to understand their athletes,” said Koenig, adding that the company can build personalized administrative platforms for each coach.

In addition, Athletigen is planning to launch an intensive training course for coaches, so they can receive accredited certification in genetics-based training for athletes. There would be several levels of certification, including instructor. The instructors could offer these courses to other coaches, which would allow Athletigen to scale its business as more and more coaches are certified.

The company, which incorporated earlier this year, now has five members of its executive team. So far, it’s received some funding from various government bodies, such as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

In addition, Athletigen is one of the semifinalists in the BioInnovation Challenge, the pitching competition this month for Atlantic Canadian biotech companies.

The company aims to raise its first equity investment in the next year with a target of about $3 million.


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


NBIF Launches Breakthru Competition

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation yesterday launched its Breakthru startup competition, which will offer the largest prize ever for the biennial contest.

The Fredericton-based innovation agency sent out a press release calling for pre-revenue startups to apply for the contest before Dec. 9.  The contestants will be competing for a total pool of prizes worth more than $500,000 in cash and in-kind services. It’s a significant increase over the total prizes of $406,000 in the 2013 event.

“By getting a bigger prize pool, it gives us the ability to be of more help to the winners,” said NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury.  The larger amount of prizes will allow the winners greater “runway,” meaning they will have more money and services to spend longer developing their product.

NBIF has already secured two primary sponsors for the event, Cox & Palmer and Deloitte, and is hoping to bring in more sponsors to contribute in-kind services for the prizes.  The foundation hopes to bring in more organizations as sponsors partly because it wants more groups participating in the ecosystem for startups.

Milbury said the aim is to come up with a “company in a box” to present to the winners. That means that in addition to an investment by NBIF, they will have legal and accounting services, as well as banking, insurance, web design and the like.

In the previous competition, the first price was worth $192,000 (consisting of $160,000 in cash investment and $32,000 in professional services), second prize $137,000 and third prize $77,000.

NBIF hopes to announce the details of the prize pot for the current competition in November.

Who should enter? According to Milbury, the perfect candidate is a team with a good idea who have done some work on their project but have yet to incorporate. But the competition is open to all pre-revenue New Brunswick entrepreneurs, from those with an idea to those with an organized business.

People can enter by completing the application, paying an $85 entry fee, submitting a two-page executive summary and providing a one-minute video pitch. (Here’s an example of a pitch that impressed the organizers in the last competition.)

Once the deadline for applications passes on Dec. 9, NBIF will comb through the submissions, determine those who are eligible and invite them to the introductory bootcamp on Jan. 17. The entrants then submit their final pitches, after which five finalists are chosen.

CBC will present features on the five finalists on its TV newscast and on its website, and people are invited to vote for their favourites. As in previous years, Breakthru will present a Viewers’ Choice award as well as the prizes chosen by the judges.

The winner will be announced at a dinner, typically attended by more than 400 people, at the Fredericton Convention Centre on March 19.

Breakthru began as a student competition in 2004 and previous participants have included such high-profile startups as Smart Skin Technologies, Inversa Systems and Scene Sharp.



Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies – including the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation -- that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Pluses & Minuses of Strategic Deals

The plain facts about strategic investments bubbled to the surface at Invest Atlantic on Tuesday during a no-sugar-coating discussion on whether strategic or venture capital investments are better.

It’s difficult to write a conclusion on the panel discussion titled Corporate vs. Venture Capital Investment. Its strength was that there were so many views, often opposing views, presented clearly by people with tremendous experience in the field.

The speakers revealed that a good corporate partner/strategic investor can bring a huge wealth of experience and contacts to a startup, not to mention badly needed capital. But they also revealed that large corporations have their own agendas when they invest in small companies, and startup founders have ensure that they know what that agenda is. They also should know that corporates hope one day to make a return on their money.

“The main reason we do strategic investments is we want to get a strategic benefit,” said Kevin Woods, Senior Manager of Corporate Investments at Lockheed Martin. “But I am not a loss-leader … I have to have a return on the investment.”

Saying he sometimes wears a white hat and other time a black hat, Woods was frank in admitting that he often looks for beneficial licensing agreements when he negotiates a strategic investment. But he also said that working with the world’s largest defence contractor has huge benefits for the target company.

One panel member who agreed that there are huge benefits was George Palikaras, Founder and CEO at Metamaterial Technologies. The Halifax startup struck a partnership this year with Airbus, the world’s largest airplane manufacturer.

He said a strategic deal like that means “your team just expanded by how many thousands of employees.” He added a properly structured deal that gives the startup founder access to key decision makers at the large company and should allow the small company to steer its way through the corporate bureaucracy.

Yet startup veteran Steve Nicolle, the CEO of Halifax-based STI Technologies, highlighted the dangers of strategic deals. Working for startups in the U.S., he had done deals with networking giant Cisco and top-flight venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

“As an entrepreneur, my worry is you’re trying to buy my company without buying my company,” he told Woods. “I’m going into it [a negotiation] with my radar on.”

Nicolle added two problems that can occur when a startup has a strategic investor. First, having one multinational as an investor could scare off other multinationals as potential acquirers. And second, just because a large company’s corporate team makes an investment, it doesn’t guarantee that the product team is going to pay attention to the startup.

Woods jumped into the conversation again to say that what a lot of startups don’t realize is that venture capital firms don’t always bring the expertise and connections that they promise.

“Strategic guidance? They think about it but that’s about it,” said Woods. “I think a guy who’s sitting on 15 boards is going to give you about three hours a week. It’s impossible to give more.”

Once again, Nicolle responded that his former company got “astounding” value from Kleiner Perkins, which made great introductions. 

Nicole LeBlanc Joins BDC in Toronto

Nicole LeBlanc, until recently the CFO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, is moving to a new role in Toronto.

Speaking from Montreal, where she is training ahead of beginning her new job with the Strategic Investments & Partnership Group at the Business Development Bank of Canada, LeBlanc said she is excited by the move but will continue to support Atlantic Canadian companies.

“My husband (Philip LeBlanc of Fredericton’s Makerspace) and I have always wanted to see the country and the best way to do that is to live in different places,” she said.

“I’ve always been a Blue Jays fan and it’s a dream of mine to go to Opening Day. But there is never a good time to leave. There is a lot going on in New Brunswick. It’s important to me to stay involved with companies on the East Coast. In my new role I will continue to work with startups across the country, including ones in Atlantic Canada.”

LeBlanc will be much missed as she has been a respected and committed mentor to this region’s entrepreneurs. Her contribution to the community was noted in May when she received the Special Recognition award at New Brunswick’s Knowledge Industry Recognition and Achievement Awards,

LeBlanc said she has spent 50 per cent of her career or a total of six years at NBIF. She is excited by the new challenge, and would also like to live abroad at some point. “I don’t know how we’re going to manage that yet,” she added with a chuckle.

The native of St. George, N.B., was known for both doing the finances of NBIF, and for using her knowledge of accounting and technology to nurture a range of companies around the region. She played a similar role for Halifax’s First Angel Network, where she worked part time for 18 months while Philip LeBlanc studied at NSCAD University.

While working for the Angel Network, she also worked independently with fledgling companies as a consultant. It was the first time she’d helped entrepreneurs with their management issues and she enjoyed the entrepreneurs’ vision and optimism.


Using IT to Revolutionize Cleaning

In February, Michael Brown and Matt Cooper tried an experiment that would indicate whether their idea for an online cleaning service would work.

They wanted to know whether complete strangers would go online to book cleaners, leave their credit card details and allow cleaners into their house. The key was the customer had to be a stranger, because that would tell them whether their business would work beyond a circle of friends. Within six days, they had their first customer and Clean Simple was born.

The Halifax company is an online booking service for residential and commercial cleaners, allowing people to book over the internet. It is now up and running with about 80 clients in the Halifax area. It has six cleaners on staff and is looking to hire more. The team is preparing to move into another mid-sized city in three or four months.

“We use technology to allow us to avoid a lot of the overhead that other companies have,” said CEO Brown in an interview. “We can provide as good or better services as others, but at a lower price point.”

Brown and Cooper launched the service in May, with a small investment from an individual investor, which has gone mainly toward marketing.

What Brown and Cooper are doing strikes to the heart of the startup movement, which is now aiding economic growth in Atlantic Canada and around the world. They’ve examined a trade that’s as old as time itself – cleaning services – and used simple technology to improve efficiency and grab market share. The process is known as disruption. They’ve built in the local market and now they’re planning to roll it out to other markets, bringing revenues home to Nova Scotia.  

Brown said the aim of the company is ease of use for the client. He envisages a service in which an apartment dweller, for example, can contact Clean Simple by smart phone from the airport on their way out of town. If the keys are left with the superintendent, the cleaners can go into the flat and the customer comes home to a clean apartment.

By advertising on such sites a Kijiji, Brown has grown a solid client base and he said many customers returning to the service.

And by holding down overhead, he said the company has been able to hire and retain experienced cleaners by offering flexible hours and paying above the going wage in the industry. The cleaners must have their own cars and cell phone so the head office can check in with them when they’re on a job.

The Halifax area has proven a good city to develop the business and work out the kinks, and now Clean Simple is looking to enter another mid-sized city, this time in Ontario. The candidates are Ottawa, London and Waterloo.

Clean Simple for now plans to avoid the large cities like Toronto as there is already a competing service targeting the world major metropolises. Brown believes the cities with 200,000 to 500,000 citizens present an attractive market that is allowing the company to grow.

And growing it is.

“Last week, we had more booking in one day than we had in an entire week a month ago,” he said.  

Vish Solutions Wins PitchCamp

Vish Solutions, a St. John`s startup that helps to improve the efficiency of hair salons, captured first place at the PitchCamp competition that kicked off Invest Atlantic last night.

Vish addresses an unlikely but potentially lucrative pain point. One of the most expensive costs  of running a hair salon is hair dye, but they waste about one-third of  their pigments by not having the right colour in stock, or by mixing it improperly, or other reasons.

Vish Solutions is a cloud-based software-as-a-service product that helps salons to make sure they have the right pigmentation and can use it in the most efficient way. It also helps the salons to make sure they always mix the same color over time for each customer, so patrons’ hair colour doesn’t end up changing with each visit to the salon.

CEO Andrew Murphy was praised by the panel of judges for clearly identifying pain in a big market and devising a scalable product to help cure it.

The 14 participants at PitchCamp each had 60 seconds to deliver a pitch, focusing on the pain they are solving, how they will make money from the scheme and what they are looking for from investors or others.

Second place was captured by Halifax-based FundMetric, whose SaaS product helps charities to raise money. SkySquirrell of Halifax, which uses drones to gather data that improves output at vineyards, captured third place.

The main Invest Atlantic conference will be held today at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax.  

Are Startups Still Launching Weekly?

We’re starting to see tweets about the coming Breakthru competition in New Brunswick. Dalhousie University just hosted a Startup Weekend. And PtichCamp, the pitching competition affiliated with Invest Atlantic will take place this afternoon.

What all these things have in common is they’re encouraging and highlighting company formation in the region, and more new companies lately have been showing their faces for the first time. It’s looking as if the breakneck pace of new company formation will continue this year.

A bit of background: when we compiled our data on the Atlantic Canadian startup community earlier this year, one factor that jumped out at us was simply how young this community it.

As of the end of last year, about 67 of the 290 startups in the region were less than one year old. So we were launching more than a startup a week. That’s almost one-quarter of the total community. More than half the community at that time had yet to celebrate their fourth anniversary.

One thing that I wondered is whether company formation would continue at a pace of about 60-odd companies a year. I have yet to collect or crunch any numbers, but I think it could.

Consider a few indicators:

--  Almost all of the Propel “Start Phase” – a total of 15 companies – are startups that have launched this year. What’s more, a couple of companies in the previous cohort were new companies. So at least one-quarter of the 60 companies we’re looking for have shown up in Propel.

--  The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation will soon launch Breakthru, its biennial competition for young startups from New Brunswick. The NBIF encourages all new companies to enter regardless of how far along they are, because of the mentorship involved in the competition itself. Two years ago, there were 47 entrants and I’m certain NBIF is hoping for a higher number this year.

--  About half the companies pitching at Pitchcamp this afternoon are new companies. That’s probably another eight companies.

--  A company called UNIfy Alum – which links a university’s alumni with projects at the university – won the Startup Weekend event at Dalhousie this weekend. It’s difficult to tell whether any of the teams competing at these events will become bona fide startups, but Startup Weekends encourage company formation. Other startup weekends are planned this year in St. John’s and Truro, N.S.

So I think that we’re on track to record another 60 or so new startups in the region this year. But there are a few things to note about company formation.

First, this doesn’t mean that the size of the community will jump from 290 to 350 companies. There are companies that have fallen by the wayside, others that have become zombie companies (neither dead nor alive). Some have moved away. Some have morphed into service companies and can’t really be considered startups. It will be interesting to see how the additions and subtractions balance out.

Second, the continual company formation is a double-edges sword in terms of human resources. It means more companies fighting for limited talent. If three or four people form a company, it means they’re not available to help an established company grow. But the growth of new companies also brings more people into the startup world, expanding the total pool of talent.


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


Bonfire’s Minimum Viable Marketing

Atlantic Canada may seem an unlikely place to establish a marketing and PR agency with a focus on startups, but entrepreneurship is growing fast in this region and Allan Gates, partner at Bonfire Communications, sees an opportunity.

Saint John-based Gates said many entrepreneurs fail to grasp the importance of early-stage marketing.

 “Startups are usually launched by people with a technology background and their focus is on building their product and finding funding,” he said.

 “Marketing is generally an afterthought. That creates a branding gap that can have serious consequences for East Coast startups.”

Gates quotes Israeli venture capitalist Michael Eisenberg, who said that many Israeli technology companies fail to reach their potential because they overlook the importance of initial messaging, branding and positioning.

 “We have a similar problem here on the East Coast,” Gates said. “Too often we Maritimers settle for bland, but bland is forgettable, and forgettable is a bad thing for a startup.”

Gates said that branding for startups doesn’t require elaborate and costly marketing programs.

 “But every startup does need to be crystal clear about who they are and the problem they solve. They need a story. And they need to focus on delivering that story at every opportunity across every platform.”

 “Every platform” naturally includes social media, which offers East Coast entrepreneurs the opportunity to compete with companies in Silicon Valley, Gates said.

Bonfire’s ideas on startup marketing are available free of charge in their e-book, Minimum Viable Marketing: A Playbook for Startups.

 “Minimum Viable Marketing is a pragmatic approach to startup marketing and recognizes the limits of entrepreneurs’ time and funding,” Gates said.

 “Every startup is different, but for most there are five essential components to Minimum Viable Marketing, some strategic and some tactical. These include: positioning and messaging; branding; pitching; social media and the company website.”

Gates said he and his partner, creative director Lise Hansen, run Bonfire as a lean startup. They work with a network of regional creative partners who provide services such as market research, video production and web and app development.

Gates and Hansen themselves met in the startup world, as both worked with New Brunswick social media monitoring company Radian6, before it was bought by Salesforce of San Francisco in 2011.

The partners established Bonfire in January 2013. Growth has allowed them to hire two new staff. They have also been nominated for an emerging business award by the Saint John Chamber of Commerce.

 “Startups are already a decent chunk of our business,” Gates said. “We’d love it if the community grows robust enough to allow us to focus solely on startups.”

Gates decided to focus on marketing for startups after working with tech PR firm, Shift Communications, in Boston in the early 2000s.

Before starting Bonfire, which is named for the notion that the best stories emerge when the sun goes down and the fire is lit, he ran REDGATE Communications in Saint John. He has also worked for the Halifax agencies Colour and Extreme Group.

Originally from northern New Brunswick, Gates said he enjoys the enthusiasm of startups and their ability to get things done.

 “Startups are decisive and nimble. If we present a brand concept to a startup the decision makers are usually in the room. There are not a lot of committees involved,” he added, with a chuckle.


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Contestants at PitchCamp Named

Bob Williamson, the organizer of Invest Atlantic, has almost finalized the list of 16 contestants to compete in PitchCamp next week.

Invest Atlantic will host PitchCamp the night before the main conference as a showcase for young companies in the area, and a chance for them to get feedback on their business models and pitches. It takes place 4:30 to 6:30 pm on Monday at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax.

Williamson has named 12 contestants to the event, which allows each participant 60 seconds to deliver a pitch, after which they are critiqued by a panel of judges.

The rest of the contestants will be the winners from each Atlantic Province for the Spring4ward event, which will be held earlier on Monday.

The contestants named so far are:

Leslie Gallagher, WorkLocal        

Matt Lee, Incubated Consulting Group

Mark Hobbs, Fundmetrics

Matt Stewart, PizzaGo!

Andrew Murphy, Vish Solutions

Ryan DesRoches, Bandha Nutrition Products

Tim Stekkinger, SkySquirrel Technologies

Tyler Zemlak, Harmonized Healthcare

Katelyn Bourgoin, Swapskies

Hazel Harrison, SNM Global Technologies

Paul Farmer, Vidsnippets

Jeremy Miller, ARTDST 9

Jeremy Koenig, Athletigen Technologies

The judges at the event will be: Brian Lowe, Co-founder and Director, First Angel Network; Gerard Buckley, Chair, Maple Leaf Angels; and Jason Janes, Co-founder, Startup Newfoundland and Labrador.

The main Invest Atlantic conference, which will focus this year on angel investing, will take place the next day, Tuesday, also at the World Trade and Convention Centre. 

Local Startups Shine at Startup Empire

Highlighting the progress being made by local startups, Halifax e-commerce company Dash Hudson used the Startup Empire conference Tuesday to unveil a new feature that will make it easier for people to buy appealing clothes online.

Founder and CEO Thomas Rankin told the conference that Dash Hudson now allows subscribers to click on an Instagram photo of a model wearing clothes. The subscriber is instantly taken to an online store, where he or she can order the clothes on display.

 “It’s a simple experience that takes you from seeing a product you like to buying it and having it soon,” said Rankin, who emphasized that his company is focusing on e-commerce for mobile devices.

Dash Hudson was one of five Atlantic Canadian companies that delivered presentations on their companies to the conference, whose agenda mainly featured successful entrepreneurs from other parts of North America. The Startup Empire conference was organized by Volta Labs, the Halifax organization that nurtures startups.

The five local companies briefly showcased the strides they’re making in key markets. Rankin, for example, highlighted that Dash Hudson is working to overcome the problems associated with e-commerce. It is now too difficult for shoppers to find merchandise online on various sites, try to find sizes and colours and then order the product. Dash Hudson has simplified the ordering process and has technology that finds the best price for the customer.

Having raised $400,000 from angels this summer, Dash Hudson has been further developing its product and increasing sales. Rankin said sales increased 400 per cent in August from the previous month, and the company has been increasing its number of users five per cent per week.

Another company making strong headway is GetGifted, which began in Charlottetown two years ago and has helped merchants across the Maritimes attract new clients by giving them gifts. The company has awarded $3 million in gifts online, all of which had to be claimed at the merchant’s outlet. Merchants report that these customers spend several times the amount of the gift. In Halifax, it is now used by about 60 merchants and its number of consumers is rising weekly.

In January, GetGifted will make its biggest move and launch in Toronto, said CEO Jillian McCrae. It is targeting a base market in Canada’s largest city of 300 merchants and about 25,000 consumers.

Halifax-based Swapkis is developing the first skill-swapping site for women, and CEO Katelyn Bourgoin said she is preparing to launch the company’s platform next month.

Swapskis aims to cure the problem of unemployed or under-employed women who lack the experience, portfolios and networks needed to get ahead. By joining Swapskis — and about 620 women have done so already — job hunters can barter their skills with others, getting feedback, ratings and experience. The site even lets people advertise their services for cash payments.

Bourgoin said the company is now in the process of raising capital with a target of $250,000 in equity.

The other two presenters at Startup Empire were Emily Smits, the chief operating officer of Modest Tree Media, whose Modest 3D product aids in producing online, 3D instructional programs; and Ozge Yeloglu, CEO of topLog, which helps computer network managers avoid costly downtime in their networks.


Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.

Peter Hickey: Let’s Reform Tax Credits

Ever since Radian6 and GoInstant were sold to salesforce.com, there has been a lot of talk about the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Atlantic Canada. How can we keep churning out great, innovative companies that attract world class companies to invest in or buy our companies, creating both wealth for the founders, their employees and investors and adding high paying jobs to our region? Cloning Marcel LeBrun or Jevon MacDonald is likely not an option so we need to figure out how to support our young companies from inception through their growth stages.

There are different types of support required but in this post I am focusing on money. Companies need money and it will be a key ingredient to consistently repeat the success stories we’ve seen in the past three years. With the province getting out of the investment business, a lot of people are now asking, how do we get more local, private investment?

First we should try to understand whether or not there is enough local money to invest. There is. Research shows there is more than $600billion in RRSPs held by Canadians (Stats Can). CBC stated that as of 2012, $73.9billion had had been deposited in Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA). As Nova Scotia often cites itself as representing 3 percent of the nation, one can assume our province has roughly $18 billion in RRSPs and $2.2 billion in TFSAs.

So how do we get a small portion of this invested in local firms that will help drive our local economy? Who are the private individual investors we can tap to invest in the firms here? Of course, I am talking about angel investors. Angels typically invest early, taking on a lot of risk in the process. This presents a challenge as we Atlantic Canadians tend to be a conservative lot and the idea of investing in early stage companies seems highly risky. It is.

So how can at least some of the risk be reduced or managed in order to attract more local angel investors? A couple of changes at the provincial and federal levels could go a long way to benefit our region and likely the entire country. At the provincial level, one of the answers is the Equity Tax Credits, or ETCs. An ETC is a provincial tax credit given to investors who invest in companies within that province. In NS the process to qualify as a company that can offer its investors an ETC is fairly straight forward.

Investors receive 35 percent of their investment back in the form of a provincial tax credit. It’s a great incentive because the investor gets to manage some of their risk by getting some money back at tax time. That said, there is a catch, two actually. 1. In NS the investor must reside in NS to qualify for the ETC; and 2. The maximum investment that qualifies is $50,000 annually. Compared to NB and PEI, which allows for tax credits on investments up to $250,000 and $100,000 respectively, we are considerably behind the pack in encouraging our investors to fund local companies.

For those who feel that the government shouldn’t reduce the risk of investments in companies via provincial tax credits I give you this. ETCs have been proven to result in more tax revenue at both a provincial and federal level. A 2010 study, commissioned by British Columbia’s Ministry of Small Business, Technology and Economic Development evaluated the economic impact of the venture capital program (VCP) in BC. BC’s VCP offered a 30 percent tax credit to investors making eligible investments. Over the period of 2001--‐2008, investments made in 517 companies received a total of $191million provincial and $65 million federal tax credits. These companies generated an estimated $379 million in provincial and $368 million in federal taxes. The estimates suggest that for every $1 of provincial tax credits issued, recipient companies generated $1.98 in provincial taxes; and for every $1 of Canadian (i.e., combined provincial and federal) tax credits issued, they generated $2.92 in Canadian taxes. In short, the BC multiplier was 1.98 and the Canadian tax multiplier was 2.92.

So the ETC appears to be a win for everyone. The company gets an investment, the angel gets a tax break to go with their investment and the government gets more tax dollars. So how do we increase its use?

Here are my recommendations (and neither of them are news, unless common sense is making news these days):

1. Increase the maximum qualifying amount of investment to $250,000. It’s a safe number and already being used by New Brunswick.

2. Allow people living outside the province to receive credit for the investment.

If a $100,000 investment for a local investor gets a $35,000 tax credit which then increases the province’s tax revenue to $70,000 (rounding up) it only makes sense that we replicate that math more often by casting a wider net. Does this mean an outsider gets a cheque from our government? Yes. The government should get two times their money back in the form of sales and income tax. Plenty of people are calling for regionalization but why restrict ourselves to one small region? Invite investors throughout the world to invest in our companies.

One other idea the province may want to consider is increasing the tax credit to 40 percent putting it on par with the tax credit most people receive from their RRSP investments. RRSP’s are safe investments but the return isn’t particularly high so perhaps we’d see more investments made locally with the extra incentive. The success of this type of offering can be easily tracked with a simple requirement that the companies that leverage it submit reporting on a quarterly basis with summary details of what they have paid in salaries (thus what has been paid in federal and provincial tax) and received in sales tax.

Speaking of RRSPs, remember that $18 billion in RRSPs and $2.2 billion in TFSA discussed earlier? That falls under federal jurisdiction. What if the federal government allowed investors to put even 5 percent of our portfolio towards higher risk, early stage local investments? We’d be able to funnel as much as $900 million and $110million respectively, into local firms. That’s more than $1 billion dollars based on current numbers. Again, too risky? The roughly 40 percent credit an investor receives for an RRSP contribution and the additional 35 percent ETC recoups approximately 75 percent of their investment immediately. Name one other investment that does that?

The good news is that there are companies already doing this and proving it to be effective. B4Checkin, a Nova Scotia-based company that developed an online hotel reservation system used it to raise their funding. I am an investor in this company. It wasn’t the tax credits that made my decision to invest but I invested a larger amount as a result of them. Martin MacKinnon, co‐founder and CFO of B4Checkin, credits the late Purdy Crawford with helping the company get this set up but it’s been hugely beneficial to the company’s investors with many of us participating in more than one round of investment.

If RRSPs are supposed to be self-directed, why can’t we invest them in the companies we want to? Is there a concern that people will begin taking advantage of less sophisticated investors, promising them Radian6 success as they pour their retirement money into the latest tech company? Probably and that’s why it’s important to restrict the amount of qualifying investment to a small percentage of their total portfolio. Restrict it further to friends and family of the company directors or accredited investors.

These rules are already in place but the relaxing of what qualifies as RRSP worthy could further spur investment in our local firms. At the end of the day the recipe for a successful ecosystem has a lot of ingredients. We need to be bold and do better to build a successful economy.

The items I discussed are but a few of the things needed albeit important ones. The key takeaways from this post are:

1. Tax credits are a no brainer: For every $1 of provincial tax credits issued, recipient companies generated $1.98 in provincial taxes. For every $1 of Canadian (i.e., combined provincial and federal) tax credits issued, they generated $2.92 in Canadian taxes.

2. Compared to NB and PEI, which allows for tax credits on investments up to $250,000 and $100,000 respectively, we are considerably behind the pack in encouraging our investors to fund local companies.

3. There are examples of early stage companies successfully using RRSP and ETC incentives to find investment.


Peter Hickey, @PeterGHickey, is a Cofounder of Oris4. He would like to thank Martin MacKinnon, Co‐founder and CFO of B4Checkin, Halifax, and Emily Richardson, Co-Founder of  GoFullSteam, Halifax

Press Release: SimplyCast’s Fund

SimplyCast, the Dartmouth multi-channel martking company, has issued the following press release:

SimplyCast Announces $2.3 Million Marketing Automation Integration Fund

The fund enables organizations to integrate and automate their internal processes with the SimplyCast platform, while greatly reducing the cost of development.

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, September 23, 2014 - SimplyCast.com, a global leader in multi-channel marketing Platform-as-a-Service solutions, is proud to announce the creation of the $2.3 million Marketing Automation Integration Fund which will give organizations the opportunity to integrate with SimplyCast's platform at a significantly reduced cost.

SimplyCast created the fund to make integration accessible to all organizations. Integration is the process of connecting two software systems in order to pass data between the two. Integrating with marketing automation software helps organizations to communicate and market their products more effectively. When customers seek integration capabilities, however, it is often costly and time-consuming to get set up with specialized requirements.

SimplyCast will invest to reduce client cost and will assist the integration development process. There is no limit to the integration cost. Small businesses and nonprofit organizations are welcome to apply for integration. The fund reduces integration cost and removes the usual time constraints that organizations face by speeding up the entire process.

 “The Marketing Automation Integration Fund in a huge opportunity for any organization looking to integrate and gain increased capabilities,” said Saeed El-Darahali, President and CEO of SimplyCast. “This fund makes integration possible for any organization. Our team wanted to give back to the community and enable organizations to take advantage of the efficiencies of marketing automation.”

An example of how integration works is if an organization has a home-built CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system and they want to integrate marketing automation services in addition. The company would integrate with SimplyCast in order to take advantage of this functionality. The total cost of software ownership is greatly reduced for the organization.

SimplyCast has developed several flagship products over the past few years to assist with strong, efficient integration. An API refers to an application programming interface, which allows a third party company to connect their system to another company's system in order to synchronize and transfer data. The SimplyCast API allows developers to connect their internal API directly with the SimplyCast API for this purpose. SimplyCast 360 draws relevant data from the API to create highly personalized automated messages and campaigns for each customer based on their unique needs, interests, history, dates and activities.

If you would like to take advantage of the integration fund, you can apply by contacting your Account Manager or Isiah Wint-Rose at 1.866.323.6572, ext. 1203 or isiah.wint-rose@simplycast.com. To learn more, please visit http://www.simplycast.com/about-us/automation-integration-fund/


SimplyCast 360 is an automation marketing solution designed to reduce manual tasks while allowing organizations to communicate with their customers and clients in a highly targeted way that was previously unavailable on the market. SimplyCast 360 is used by the e-commerce and automotive industries, sports teams, nonprofit organizations, marketing agencies and government. It is also ideal for communication in emergency situations such as forest fires, bomb threats or blizzard warnings.

About SimplyCast

SimplyCast.com is a leading provider of interactive and multi-channel communication software for organizations worldwide. The company’s 360 Customer Flow Communication Platform is a feature-rich solution combining marketing automation, inbound marketing and interactive communication. With customers in over 175 countries, including many of the most recognized brand names around the globe in retail, non-profit and hospitality industries, SimplyCast provides organizations the ability to effectively reach customers on their preferred mode of communication.

Detailing the Harsh Realities of Exits

After a day of impressive presentations, the second-last session of the Startup Empire conference in Halifax on Tuesday made people sit up because it detailed the harsh realities of the holy grail of the startup world – the exit.

Jeff Thompson, founder of Fredericton-based UserEvents, and Daniel Debow, Senior VP at Salesforce and founder of several startups, captivated the audience with a frank discussion of what it’s really like to be taken over.  They’ve each exited a couple of companies. And their dialogue – moderated by Patrick Keefe of Build Ventures -- was rich with practical advice and anecdote of the tortures, joys, frustrations, pitfalls and finally the rewards of being taken over.

Even in a conference replete with excellent speakers, their session stood out because startup founders are so often fixated on the celebratory side of an exit without realizing what hard work it is. It was the sort of stuff that people know only if they have gone through it themselves.

Their gems of wisdom included:

-- As a CEO, you have to work at continuing to build you company while you go through the rigors of the due diligence process. The reason is either the deal will close and the acquirer will want a good business, or the deal will collapse and you’ll need the business to be performing well to attract your next potential buyer.--  Until the deal is announced, reveal the negotiations only to a handful of closest executives.

-- Don’t think you’re smarter or tougher than the people acquiring you. They do it for a living and they’ve done it before.

--  Don’t skimp on advisers. Make sure you’ve got top-flight lawyers and accountants who have done it before. If you’re being bought by a serial acquirer, try finding lawyers who have advised other companies it has taken over.

--  Beware of “takeover fatigue”, in which all the parties are so exhausted by the negotiations that nothing gets done.

--  As a CEO you may want to step back from the detailed negotiations. That way if the lawyers get bogged down in quibbling over details, you can step in as a fresh voice and push the talks through the barriers.

--  Understand that there will likely be a lock-in period, and you will be joining the new company as an employee.

--  Also understand that once you agree to a term-sheet, the buyer’s negotiator has to get it approved by higher authorities in his or her company. That means they’re not going to want to go back and make changes.

--  Also as a CEO, you have power until the day you are taken over, then you’re just another worker. So if there are demands you need to make, make them during the negotiations.

--  Try to make sure all your team benefits from the takeover. But also understand you can’t make everyone happy.

The panel with Thompson and Debow was just one of the superb presentations at Startup Empire, which was organized by Volta Labs, the Halifax startup house. Debow appeared earlier in the day to tell startups how to sell their product by telling their story.

Michael Litt, CEO of Kitchener-based VidYard, implored founders to get on the phone and call customers. “If you’re trying to build a product that will scale without interacting with your customers, you’re an idiot,” he said.

The conference also featured talks by other founders and execs from successful startups, like John Baker, CEO of Waterloo-based Desire2Learn, and Harvey Finkelstein, the chief platform officer of Shopify of Ottawa.


PropelICT Unveils 20-team Cohort

Doubling its previous capacity, PropelICT has named 20 companies from around the region to its next cohort, which will take place in Moncton, Fredericton and Halifax over the next three month.

The regional accelerator program refers its new system of mentoring young startups as Propel 2.0, signaling how it is increasing its ambitions and its ability to mentor young companies. Since it began its Launch36 accelerator three years ago, it has never had more than 10 companies in a cohort, and the classroom sessions have usually been held in Moncton.  Most of the Launch36 cohorts were capped at six teams.

In Propel 2.0, there are six companies in the “Build Phase”, which is designed for growing companies with some clients: Salubrian Health, Swapskis, Bungalo, and Fundmetric , all of Halifax, and Smartpods, of Moncton. Most of their meetings will be in Moncton.

There are 14 companies in the “Start Phase”, which is designed to help seed-stage companies. About half will be taught at Planet Hatch in Fredericton and the other half at Volta Labs in Halifax. The companies are: Maradev,  LearnTracker, Simptek, MindFarm , Findatradesperson , Nihi Notions, all of New Brunswick; Androit Vista, Vantij Software, PACTA, PlayPeanut, Bitness , Mambo, Yomes , all of Nova Scotia; Sentinel Alert, of Newfoundland and Labrador; and SkiptheWaitingRoom, of P.E.I.

Organizers say they were impressed not just with the number but also the quality of the applications, and that they believe some of the teams that weren’t accepted this time will be eligible for the winter cohort.

The inclusion of Sentinel Alert, which will take the course in Fredericton, marks the first time the accelerator has had a team from Newfoundland.

There are a few interesting notes about this cohort:

It will be the most international representation of any Propel initiative with entrepreneurs from Iceland and Israel participating.

Three teams from the Summ’r Up program at Dalhousie University – Salubrian Health, PlayPeanut and Vantij Software -- applied and all three were accepted.

And Propel has accepted its youngest participant so far. Alex Gillis of Bitness is 15, younger than the previous record-holder, Raphael Paulin-Daigle, who went through the program at 16.

Sentinel: 1st NL Startup in Launch36

Sentinel Alert, a St. John’s start-up that is developing a wearable technology devoted to worker safety, has become the first company from Newfoundland and Labrador accepted into the prestigious Launch36 technology accelerator.

The company has spent about a year prototyping and validating technology that can tell large companies and/or governments when a lone worker — such as a lineman for an electricity company — has had an accident or is in jeopardy.

Co-founders Sarah Murphy and Jason Janes attended the Launch36 selection camp in Moncton earlier this month and were accepted into the Launch36 Start program in Fredericton. Murphy will relocate to Fredericton for the next three months, commuting regularly back to St. John’s, where she is conducting graduate studies at Memorial University. Janes expects to spend quite a bit of time in Fredericton as well.

The complete roster of companies in the most recent Launch36 cohort will be announced at the Startup Empire conference today. When the accelerator began three years ago, the organizers aimed for a truly regional program. And now the latest cohort has representation from all four Atlantic Provinces. 

By working with the Launch36 mentors, they hope to devise a path to market for a product that requires industrial partners.

 “Our business is targeting a hot topic in that Newfoundland is in a huge industrial boom and worker safety is a big issue,” said CEO Murphy in a recent interview in St. John’s. “But what we’re finding is that there is a tricky sales cycle in this business.”

Sentinel Alert grew out of an idea that germinated at St. John’s’ first Startup Weekend last November. During the 54-hour entrepreneurship competition, Murphy and her team developed a basic prototype for a smartphone app that would detect a sudden jolt — the likely result of a worker, say, falling of a ladder or collapsing after a heart attack. The cellphone would then automatically contact a central monitoring station, which could call the worker to see if he or she were all right.

The company has since develope dsoftware that leverages existing wearable technologies, such as smart wristwatches. Murphy eventually hopes the technology could be built into safety vests or hard hats.

For the past several months, Sentinel Alert has been building relationships with oil and gas companies and construction companies that could be potential customers. The feedback has been positive, though it has yet to sign its first customer.

The company says there are 27 million lone workers in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. The cost of monitoring these workers is now estimated to be $3.3 billion annually, even though companies fall incredibly short of the regulations overseeing such monitoring procedures.

Despite the size of the market, securing the first customer has proven complicated because the client and startup would have to work out the bugs and processes to maximize the product’s efficiency. One avenue may be to tap into the pool of money that oil and gas companies have to spend in research and development as part of their contracts to work on the province’s offshore industry.

Once the product is on the market, Sentinel Alert plans wants to examine the data for telltale signs that an accident could happen. For example, the devise can measure elevation, and might be able to determine when workers are putting themselves in danger.


Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.

ProductCamp Atlantic Set for October

 “Product manager” is a difficult position to define let alone master. And to help people do both, ProductCamp is coming to Halifax next month.

ProductCamp is a loosely organized get-together in which product managers, marketing professionals and people interested in product management can meet up, find areas of common interest and mentor on another on best practices. ProductCamp Atlantic will be held Saturday Oct. 25 at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre, 1344 Summer Street, Halifax. Admission is free and registration is available here.

If the structure of the conference is difficult to pin down, so is the group it’s targeting because there is no clear definition for “product manager.” The job description tends to vary from industry to industry and from company to company.

“In the pharma sector, it’s mainly about brand management,” said Megann Willson, one of the organizers of the event. “In IT, it can mean something completely different.”

ProductCamp is a movement that has grown out of the U.S. to draw product managers together to discuss the challenges they face and improve the performance of their companies. In the past few years, ProductCamps have been held in several cities around the world, and in such Canadian cities as Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto. The event on Oct. 25 will be the first held in Atlantic Canada.

For the record, Wikipedia defines “product manager” as the person who “investigates, selects, and drives the development of products for an organization.” They are the ones who sit between the engineers and the marketing execs. They make sure a company is producing something the market wants and ensure that product gets to the market.

Megann Willson and her husband Steve Willson, who together operate the Panoptika business consultancy, have teamed up with John Whyte, the head of marketing at Nautel, to organize the event. Whyte has taken notice of the ProductCamp movement in the U.S. and believed that Atlantic Canada could use such an event. All three are organizing the event on a volunteer basis.

Steve Johnson, a noted product management process coach from the Washington, D.C., area, will attend and participate in the event. But the goal is to get people working together to educate one another. As an unconference, the participants come together and decide among themselves what issues they’d like to discuss. They can break into groups or remain as one big session. People with experience in a given field tend to take the lead and others come forward with questions and advice as they see fit.

“We’re hoping for a range of backgrounds, from very experienced to completely new at it,” said Whyte.

The organizers added that they chose the name ProductCamp Atlantic because they’re hoping for participation from throughout the region. They also hope it will be an annual event and can be held in other cities in coming years. 


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


Press Release: Neurodyn’s Phase 1A

Neurodyn, the Charlottetown startup working on treatments for neurological diseases,  has issued the following press release:

Positive Phase 1a outcome for Memogain

Neurodyn Life Sciences Inc. announced completion of its first-in-human clinical study, demonstrating Memogain’s potential benefits over existing Alzheimer’s drugs;

•             increased safety in the absence of significant side effects,

•             more potent cognitive enhancement.

The Phase IA clinical trial addressed safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetics of intranasally delivered Memogain in healthy young and elderly subjects, compared to the daily recommended doses of the current Alzheimer’s drugs: galantamine (16 mg) and donepezil (10 mg). Study participants were additionally tested for improved cognition.

The administration of Memogain was found to be safe and well tolerated at all dose levels. No clinical abnormalities were seen in hematology, blood chemistry, urine analysis, ECG or vital signs. Adverse events were either mild or moderate. The most prevalent being nausea, reported by a few subjects administered the standard galantamine dose of 16 mg, but only observed at the highest Memogain dose (44mg). The excellent safety and tolerability of Memogain, will dispense with the month-long gradual dosage increase that presently is common practice for other Alzheimer’s drugs, permitting the immediate administration of an efficacious dose.

“This outstanding safety and tolerability profile is achieved even though Memogain, a prodrug of galantamine, has a 10 times higher concentration in the brain, as compared to orally administered galantamine” says Dr. Maelicke, Memogain’s developer. “Additionally, Memogain has a delayed release profile which could facilitate single daily dosing.”

In cognitive testing, Memogain was able to improve vigilance and short-term memory capacity: eye-hand coordination and vigilance was measured in the adaptive tracking test, and word learning and recall in the visual verbal learning test (VVLT). Both young and elderly subjects performed better than untreated volunteers in these tests. Galantamine, failed to show improvement in either the adaptive tracking test, or the VVLT, where donepezil also failed to demonstrate improvement.

Earlier preclinical studies have demonstrated Memogain’s potential to provide neuroprotection and delay disease progression. Should future clinical studies also substantiate these findings, Memogain® may become the urgently needed turning point in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.


Skerry Takes Charge on EyeRead

Leah Skerry was shocked to learn that one of her friends struggled through high school without being able to read.

Her friend’s experience helped motivate Skerry to develop EyeRead, an affordable eye-tracking software able to assess and aid children’s reading.

The device is still being developed, and Skerry, a partner at Halifax web development and invention firm Norex, and her co-workers are seeking investment in San Francisco for their idea.

Unlike other eye-tracking devices, EyeRead will not need to be fixed to the wearer’s head. Instead, it will use an infrared camera to track kids’ eyes as they read digital material. The technology will be applicable to languages other than English and able to be used on any type of device.

The development of the product is moving fast since work began in January.

“We’ve been invited to pitch for investment in San Francisco in October, and we’ve been asked to demo the prototype in Tokyo,” Skerry said.

“I’m feeling the kind of excitement you feel on a roller-coaster.”

Clinical trials on the device will start in November at the University of Moncton.

“The technology will allow a more comprehensive gathering of data into individual children’s reading differences than has been possible before,” Skerry said.

Testing is expected to take a year, and it’s possible the device will be in use in public schools shortly after that.

EyeRead is just the latest project for Skerry, her colleague Julia Rivard, who is Norex CEO and a former Olympian, and their team, which totals 15.

Formed in 2010, Norex’s initial focus was on web design, but Skerry said employees increasingly create their own products because the company prioritizes innovation.

“At Norex, all employees spend 20 per cent of their time on innovation, which means that one day a week everyone gets to work on new product ideas.

“Our goal is to have a product development side of the company. Our team get most excited about developing new ideas that allow them to push boundaries.”

Skerry, 28, graduated in business from Saint Mary’s University, with a minor in design from NSCAD University.

EyeRead is the kind of project she most enjoys as it allows her to merge her love of technology with her passion for social entrepreneurship.

Successful products she has already worked on include Pursu.it, a non-profit crowdfunding site for amateur athletes.

Pursu.it is now a separate organization, or “standing on its own legs,” as Skerry puts it, and is being run by volunteers in many countries around the world. Pursu.it has a new partnership with the Canadian Olympic Foundation and will launch in the United States in October and in Germany in 2015. The crowdfunding engine created for Pursu.it has been spun into a separate business called Swell.

EyeRead will also be its own entity and is being incorporated as a stand-alone startup, which Skerry will run as CEO.

The company has also incubated Hashpi.pe, which allows a unified display of hashtags across a range of social media channels.

“I enjoy the combination of working with international clients on boosting their web presence and developing new products,” said Skerry, who helps promote business by serving on the board of the North End Business Association.

She is also a 21Inc Emerging Leaders of N.S. alumna and a member of the Global Shapers Community run by the World Economic Forum.

Skerry stressed that Norex’s success is partly due to the support the company has received along the way.

“Our partnership with Dalhousie has been great for us,” she said. Dalhousie students helped with the initial development of EyeRead.

She also praised Nova Scotia Business Inc., the Industrial Research Assistance Program and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

“Their investment has allowed us to develop our ideas.”



Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Sally Ng: NB Needs Innovation

[Ahead of the New Brunswick election on Monday, Planet Hatch Executive Director Sally Ng wrote the following column for the CBC. The piece was accompanied by this radio interview with Terry Seguin.]  

If you had asked me five years ago if I would still be in New Brunswick, I would have said, “Not a chance.”

Years after studying at Mount Allison University and the Moncton Flight College, here I am in the province back in my hometown of Fredericton, helping to develop the next generation of successful technology companies through my work at Planet Hatch.

Previously, I couldn’t quite see the potential.

After working with start-ups, such as Clarity, and having the opportunity to facilitate Start-up Weekend events with Up Global around the world I saw the potential of what we have in our backyard.

I can see the light at the end of tunnel to get us out of our massive piles of debt. Often times, especially in New Brunswick, we tend to see things as the glass half empty instead of half full.

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us,” Helen Keller once said.

Over the past 10 years and over history, as a province we have had several incredible developments that have revolutionized industries around the world.

From the development of the Scuba tank in the 1800s, to creating a variable pitch propeller, and now creating world class technology companies.

In 2011, we had $1 billion worth of acquisitions through Radian6 (acquired by Saleforce for $360 million) and Q1Labs (acquired by IBM for $700-million plus). The two exits produced 50 new millionaires in the New Brunswick that year.

Moving forward how do we continue to develop these innovations that compete with the world, but yet help bridge our province together. Here are some key points that we need to consider.

Love it or not, we’re in the 21st century and digital age. This will create mountains of opportunities that can connect us to other markets faster than anything else.

Ng said the province's technology industry has many reasons to be proud. For instance, she said Salesforce bought Radian6 for $360 million in 2011. She said in 2011, the acquisitions of Q1Labs and Radian6 generated $1 billion.

Yes we can still ship products across the ocean, but what if the product you ship is virtual? What if it was software? In this example, we are no longer bound by geographic areas.

What if we could speed up the process for applications faster by simply providing the options for digital forms and submissions.

Efficiency would be increased and a more streamlined process of services could be developed.

What if every kid could code? We need to prepare our kids to be ready for the future.

Coding will be just as important as math in less than 10 years. Let’s start early and help kids learn now.

Let’s face it, our province is broke. Moving forward, instead of creating the same thing in every corner of the province, let’s build on what already exists and strive to improve it.

If we continue to have two to three people working for supporting organizations, we end up duplicating and also diluting the resources by not having a central hub.

For example with our three-month accelerator program at Planet Hatch, (now powered by Propel ICT) our province does not have enough critical mass yet to have the program running in every city. We need to build clusters and build the critical mass first.

We only have so many mentors, companies and resources to go around. Let’s not dilute the resources by trying to do everything for everyone right at the start —we can’t afford it.

We need to band together and raise the tide together.

We’re not competing with each other, we’re competing with the world. Coordination of all aspects relating to the economy, departments need to and continue to work closely together.

We have programs that are beginning to work, no they aren’t perfect, but we did see one of the highest drops in unemployment in Canada in August.

It takes time for innovation to happen, it’s not just overnight.

I continue to see our companies and partners rave about such programs such as the small business investor tax credit, (which rivals British Columbia) NB Growth Funding, Innov8 Funding and several others.

Planet Hatch is exactly one year old, within our first year with our 11 start-ups, they have raised more than $1.4 million in private sector funding.

Other organizations such as our partners at Propel ICT have also seen tremendous success in their alumni with having created more than 250 jobs from 2011-13 among 30-plus new companies.

Let’s talk about these success in order to help our province learn and get inspired by what is possible and learn from what other regions and countries are doing in order to help devise our own plans.

Innovation doesn’t happen because someone tells you to “innovate” it's nurtured and developed. Policy can definitely help leverage it, but people need to want it.

Create the opportunities to show us what’s possible.

Support initiatives for early-stage start-up development and support. Support initiatives that are helping create an entrepreneurial-minded community and province.

Help us develop the skills to compete in the 21st century.

When it comes to the state of innovation in New Brunswick, it’s not our ability that’s holding us back, it’s the mindset of being able to take the bull by the horns and jump both feet into the digital future.


Sally Ng is the executive director at Fredericton-based Planet Hatch, which just celebrated its first anniversary. She has also worked as a global facilitator for Startup Weekend.


ScreenScape Simplifies Digital Signage

If you’re a Maritime startup launching a new product, it doesn’t hurt to be partnering with one of the world’s largest makers of hardware.

That’s exactly what digital signage specialist ScreenScape Networks of Charlottetown has done as it unveiled ScreenScape Connect this week in partnership with Round Rock, Texas, computer maker Dell Inc.

ScreenScape launched Tuesday the product to simplify the process and reduce costs for organizations that want to advertise on location-based TV monitors. The device looks like a standard flash drive and plugs into a high-definition TV, allowing operators to control their advertising and other content from just about anywhere.

“This is game-changing for this industry,” Mark Hemphill, ScreenScape founder and CEO, said during an online news conference Tuesday.

“Until now, most digital signage cost the retail outlet or maybe the sponsor several thousand (dollars) to get started. Effective immediately, we can offer the customer a plan with no capital costs, assuming you’re using existing TVs.”

After being in this business for about five years, Hemphill knows there are a lot of screens around in public locations, from hotel lobbies to sports bars to car dealerships and other retail outlets. ScreenScape provides the software that oversees lots of these locations — he wouldn’t say how many — across the continent. But the problem has always been the time and expense needed to install and manage the content.

Customers not only had to buy and install the TVs, they also had to have a computer nearby and spend the time to manage the content. ScreenScape Connect only requires that there is a Wi-Fi network near the television. The retailer or property manager has to plug it in and register on ScreenScape’s website, which has all the tools to create dynamic visual content for a TV screen.

The accounts overseeing each monitor can be held by the local location, as well as the head office of the chain to which they belong. ScreenScape, which employs 22 people, also helps clients create content for their displays and links them so they can share content on monitors.

ScreenScape Connect costs $40 a month per television for all the hardware, software and services. Clients can either pay $200 up front and then $40 a month for as long or short a period as they want, or pay nothing up front and sign a three-year contract.

The Charlottetown company provides the software for the product while Dell provides the hardware.

Hemphill said the partnership came together in 2013 when another ScreenScape partner, AT&T, learned Dell was looking for a leading software developer in the digital signage business. AT&T told Dell about ScreenScape and introduced the two companies.

Since then, ScreenScape has been working closely with the new Dell Wyse group out of Santa Clara, Calif., basically developing the cloud-based software from the ground up.

Hemphill said his company has not raised any new capital to finance the project, and that he has no plans to raise money in the near future.

In 2012, ScreenScape secured a $6-million investment from Hartco of Montreal and gave the publicly traded information technology company two seats on its board. A few months later, it received angel financing from Saint John’s East Valley Ventures chairman Gerry Pond.

Busiest Week on the Startup Calendar

Ready for the busiest eight days on the Halifax startup calendar?

You better be because five events that speak to the entire community will take place in the Nova Scotia capital between Sept. 22 and 30. It begins with MentorCamp on Monday, followed by the new Startup Empire conference, the Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum dinner, Startup Weekend and Invest Atlantic. DemoCamp had been scheduled for Sept. 24, but a notice on the Volta website says it has been delayed until November.

MentorCamp is a session that exposes a handful of promising startups to mentors from around the region and around the globe for an intense one-day instructional session. In its fourth year, the companies invited to the event include Vidsnippets and Athletigen, both of Halifax, Qimple of Moncton and Sky Squirrel of Inverness.

Startup Empire will be held for the first time at the Cineplex in Park Lane, and is an opportunity for startup founders to rub elbows with entrepreneurs from around the world. The speakers include: Don Harrison, Head of M&A, Google Inc.; Daniel Debow; Senior VP, Salesforce; April Dunford, COO, Tulip Retail; John Baker, President and CEO, Desire2Learn; and Michael Litt, Founder and CEO, Vidyard.

Dan Martell, the CEO of Moncton-based Clarity, will host a fireside chat and oversee a “Clarity Zone”, in which entrepreneurs will receive advice.

The Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum dinner – at the Niche Lounge starting at 4 pm on Thursday, Sept. 25 – will feature two discussions led notable leaders in the community. Rob Barbara, Partner at Build Ventures, will lead a discussion on regional equity tax credits, and Innovacorp CEO Stephen Duff will chair a talk on mentorship. The goal is for all attendees to join in the discussion. Tickets are still available here.

Startup Weekend is an international movement that gathers people together, forms them into teams and sees which can come up with the best company in a single weekend. The next Startup Weekend Halifax will begin Friday, Sept. 26, at 6:30 pm at Room 2600 of the Killam Library at Dalhousie University.

The fifth annual Invest Atlantic conference, to take place Sept. 29 and 30 at the World Trade and Convention Centre, will shine a spotlight on a problem that hounds every startup community — how to encourage more wealthy individuals to invest in local young companies?

The main Invest Atlantic conference takes place on Sept. 30 at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax. It is preceded on Sept. 29 by a PitchCamp, in which a select group of new companies compete to see who can deliver the best 60-second pitch.

The keynote speakers at the main conference are coming from North Carolina: Michael Cain Sr. is the member manager at Wilmington Investor Network and chairman of the Angel Resource Institute, and Brett Martin is the founder and CEO of Castle Branch Inc.


Can We Reform Equity Tax Credits?

Next Thursday, members of the startup community will have an opportunity to discuss a matter that has been on their minds for years – how to liberalize the patchwork of angel tax credits in the region.

Rob Barbara, Partner at Build Ventures, will lead a discussion on this subject at the Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum dinner in Halifax. The goal is to come up with new ideas, maybe even a consensus, on how to improve the system for incentivizing angels to invest in startups.

(After this discussion, Innovacorp CEO Stephen Duff will chair a talk on mentorship, which is a follow-on discussion to our dinner in Fredericton in May.)

Entrevestor-EF dinners are opportunities for members of the community – founders, funders and support organizations – to come together and discuss ways to improve the local ecosystem. There are still some tickets left for the Halifax dinner on Sept. 25, which you can order here.

In discussing the challenges of angel tax credits, we will be shining a spotlight on programs that are definitely helping startups but could be doing more.

Each province in the region has its own incentive, all with different names. For the record, the incentives officially are called Small Business Investor Tax Credit in New Brunswick, Direct Equity Tax Credit in Newfoundland and Labrador, Equity Tax Credit in Nova Scotia and Share Purchase Tax Credit in P.E.I.

They have one thing in common – they can be claimed only by residents of a province investing in companies based in that province. For years, people within the community have been arguing that startups – and the economy overall – would benefit if the programs were harmonized and improved. Above all, people crying for reform want the tax credit to be granted to people living outside the borders of each particular province.

Why would the economy overall benefit? Because these incentives help dynamic companies, and even lead to higher tax revenue. A 2010 study for the Ministry of Small Business, Technology and Economic Development in B.C. found that for every dollar granted to startups in provincial tax credits, the province receives $1.98 in taxes. By attracting more money into startups, the economy would grow and provincial revenues rise.

Our discussion wants to look at whether it would be practical to develop a regional tax credit so all the angels in the region could be incentivized to invest in companies from around Atlantic Canada. It would mean harmonizing the programs, as there are now some big differences. The maximum eligible investment is $250,000 in New Brunswick and $50,000 in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

The biggest question – meaning it’s the hardest to achieve but could have the biggest benefit – is whether these incentives could be granted to people outside the region. States such as Arkansas and Minnesota have ways for people outside their borders to claim tax credits for investments. It means capital flows into growing businesses.

We want hear your views on this important subject. Please come to the dinner next Thursday at the Niche Lounge in Halifax and join the conversation.  

Press Release: New Honibe Lozenges

Island Abbey Foods Launches Two New Honibe – Honey Lozenges Across Canada

Honey Lozenges with Cherry and Honey Lozenges with Immune Boost Now Available at Select Pharmacies and Online at http://www.Honibe.com

Charlottetown, PE, Canada – September 17th, 2014 – Island Abbey Foods, a PEI, Canada based natural health product producer, has announced today the launch of their newest innovations: Honibe Honey Lozenges™ - Cherry and Honibe Honey Lozenges™ - Immune Boost with Echinacea, Vitamin C, Zinc and a hint of Citrus.

“We are very excited to announce, based on the feedback from our loyal consumers, two new products to our Honibe family”, shared John Rowe, President of Island Abbey Foods. “Cherry is one of the top selling flavors for throat lozenges. Now, consumers can enjoy their favorite flavor in our natural honey lozenge with Menthol and Eucalyptus.  Honey Lozenges with Cherry are for the temporary relief of sore throat and nasal congestion.”

“We also heard loud and clear that consumers want a natural and effective product they can take at the first sign of a cold to help relieve symptoms before they worsen. Honibe Honey Lozenges with Immune Boost include Echinacea, Vitamin C, Zinc and Citrus, and is the perfect natural product for this. Honey Lozenges with Immune Boost helps to maintain immune function, is used in herbal medicine to help relieve cold symptoms and is an antioxidant for the maintenance of good health.”

Honibe Honey Lozenges contain 100% pure dried honey, with a small amount of naturally derived therapeutics and no artificial ingredients. Honibe Honey Lozenges are only 10 calories per piece (2.5 g) and are available in blister packages of 10 lozenges. Honey Lozenges are conveniently sized for easy transport in pockets, cars, briefcases or purses for increased consumer enjoyment and are available in drug stores and natural health food isles across Canada.

About Island Abbey Foods™

Island Abbey Foods is a Health Canada and FDA licensed specialty food, natural health product, and medicated health product producer based in Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada. We are a 6th generation PEI agricultural family business with our feet firmly planted in our Island's bright red soil, ideal for farming with its high iron and nutrient content.  Honibe honey is sourced from 100% Canadian Grade A honey from Prince Edward Island and Canadian beekeepers. 

For more information please visit us on the web at http://www.IslandAbbeyFoods.com and to check out our newest video release on Why Honey Lozenges are the best choice for you, please visit http://www.Honibe.com.  

Helping People Order Pizzas Online

Matt Stewart and Rob Myers should be poster boys for holding down business development costs.

Last year, the two residents of Sydney won $10,000 from the initial Spark Cape Breton competition, which Innovacorp held to encourage startups on the island. The pair won for a company called InstantDiner, which they hoped would become an online ordering and reservation system for independent restaurants.

After a pivot earlier this year, they are beta-testing a new business called PizzaGO, an online site that lets local pizzerias take orders quickly and easily. They have one paying client in the Sydney area, have a verbal commitment from another and are hoping to line up their first multi-location customer soon.

“Traction is obviously something we are trying to build,” Stewart said in an interview.

“We are currently still in beta mode, so we have not actively marketed our product, aside from going to specific pizzerias. The full launch of PizzaGO is set for early- to mid-October.”

Since receiving funding as one of the runners-up in the Spark competition, Stewart (who concentrates on business development) and Myers (the programmer) have been meeting with restaurant and pizzeria owners to find a market gap they could exploit.

What they found is that there are already restaurant-ordering sites like Just-Eat and GrubHub, but they don’t have the customization that pizzerias demand.

Everyone is particular about their pizza, and often pizzas ordered by a group need to be divided into sections with different toppings. Both the pizzeria operators and their customers demand simplicity in an online ordering system, and it is important that it can be used easily from mobile devices.

“Our target market for pizza is millennials, and the consumers we spoke to love the idea of just making an order, paying for it and receiving a message when it’s done,” said Stewart.

So they developed PizzaGO to meet this demand. Proprietors can set up their own site free in about an hour, which in itself is a bonus as 95 per cent of independent restaurants have no mobile online presence.

PizzaGo offers a selection of 40 to 50 toppings that pizzeria operators can easily click to produce an online menu. There are quick features that let people repeat their last order, or choose from their five most popular orders. There is a payment system, which is convenient for the customer, and helps the operator avoid prank orders that are never claimed and paid for.

A site for pizzerias may seem like a niche, but the total market is huge. People in the United States alone spend $32 billion a year on pizzas, and there are 45,000 pizzerias in that country.

PizzaGO’s research shows that a lot of customers prefer a local establishment to large pizza chains.

Stewart said he and Myers plan to court pizza peddlers in Cape Breton and the rest of the Maritimes, then roll the product out across Canada and then the U.S. Working with mentors they met through the Spark competition, they are putting together six- and 18-month business plans and hope to raise money before too long.

In the meantime, they still haven’t burned their way through the $10,000 they got from Spark. They have been frugal in their expenditures — living on pizzas, so to speak.

Stewart jokes that they’ve been intensely researching the market.


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.