Eyeread Unveiled to Public Tomorrow

Eyeread, an online product that helps to teach children to read, will make its first public appearance Saturday at the new Halifax Central Library.

Leah Skerry and Julia Rivard Dexter, the principals the Halifax web-design consultancy Norex, and a team of educators will let children test the product that they have been developing in conjunction with Dalhousie University and University of Moncton.

Eyeread uses the camera facing the reader on a laptop or other device to track the eye as the child reads. By tracking the eye, the software can detect where the child is having trouble in reading a passage. Educators can then use the information to customize a personalized learning routine for the child. At first, that will have to be done manually, but the founders hope the later versions of Eyeread will automatically come up with customized curriculum for each young reader.

“The goal of the technology at this stage is to understand what is valuable to parents, teachers, and children,” said Skerry, the CEO of Eyeread. “In the long-term we will be able to provide a product that diagnoses reading challenges and measures progress over time.”

Eyeread so far has been developed within Norex, and the company is now raising money – a target of about $300,000 – to spin it out into its own company. Though Norex is a service business, it has developed a culture of innovation and has launched Pursu.it, a crowdfunding platform for elite athletes, and Hashpipe, a product that presents hashtags from various social media on a single canvas. Their focus now is on building Eyeread into a successful stand-alone company.

They are working on a pioneering scientific study on how tracking children's eye patterns can pinpoint specific challenges while reading on computers and tablets. They’re therefore looking for testers to help guide the product development. On Saturday, March 28, the team has partnered with the Halifax Central Library, seeking user feedback on their beta product and collecting sample data from young readers.

“Gathering feedback from children is vital to the success of the product. We are excited about collaborating with young readers to make a product that really helps them,” said Rivard Dexter.

The Eyeread team that will be at the library includes reading recovery teachers and researchers available to share and review test results with parents throughout the day.

On the heels of these tests, the Eyeread team has been selected to present at the ASU Global Silicon Valley Summit on April 7, which will showcase some of the world’s leading education technology startups. The Summit is attended by such luminaries as: Vinod Khosla, Managing Partner, Khosla Ventures; Sir Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group; and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

This event will position Eyeread in front of some of the top EdTech investors in the world as it seeks to raise capital.

Skerry also noted that some of the world’s leading influencers understand that self-learning will be a key part of improving education in the coming decades. That is why the Xprize [funders of SpaceShipOne] is sponsoring innovation in education through a $15 million prize for software that will enable more than 250 million children in developing countries to teach themselves basic literacy.

“It offers the opportunity to make a significant dent [in illiteracy among children] and we want to be part of that,” said Skerry. 

Yves Boudreau Is Back In the Sun

Yves Boudreau is so thrilled to be participating in prestigious San Francisco-based accelerator 500 Startups that his voice seems to glow with Californian sunshine. 

Being one of just two Canadian companies to get into the internationally respected accelerator is especially meaningful to the entrepreneur because his first business ended in bankruptcy.

“I’m learning so much I’ll be a wise Buddha when I’m done here in another 12 weeks,” said Boudreau, over the phone.

“Raising money in the Valley is very different. I’m working on a bigger vision for us. They dream of $1 billion companies here,” said the entrepreneur, who is currently CEO and co-founder of Moncton-based online recruitment company Qimple.

Getting into 500 Startups is just the latest success for Qimple, which tracks and rates job seekers to make the hiring process easier for both recruiters and applicants.

For Boudreau, it feels good to be forging ahead after his first venture ended unhappily.

The entrepreneur, now aged 36, began his first business at the age of 19 when he started Halation Studios, a digital creative agency, out of his home town of Bathurst.

Halation quickly became successful and work came in from major record labels and large financial corporations. Boudreau was named a 2003 CBDC Young Entrepreneur of the Year and was nominated as a 2004 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

But problems arose. 

“My first venture had an amazingly talented team,” he recalled. “We were all misfits from New Brunswick Community College in Miramichi. Revenues went up and 2001-2004 were good years. We were racking up accolades and I was buying into our hype.

“Then the reality of me not knowing how to grow the business kicked in. I was naïve about managing my team, our clients, and cash flow. In 2004-2005, we were running up debts.”

Boudreau had to scale down and cut expenses. He began to have trouble sleeping then developed anxiety.

“I knew nothing about anxiety, so one day when I suddenly couldn’t breathe I thought I was having a heart attack at 25. The doctor said I needed to change my lifestyle.

“l didn’t, but my passion did waver and I began to lose my grip. I was breaking down in my banker’s office, pleading for help to make payroll. I feared losing everything.”

Finally, an unfortunate fire damaged his company’s equipment and meant the end of the business. “That was the last straw for me. I knew it was time to move on,” he said.

Boudreau was $250,000 in debt.

“I tried to negotiate deals with creditors and might have avoided bankruptcy but couldn’t make it work in the end.”

He said that after the bankruptcy, he felt directionless and began to hide away at home.

“When you work so hard for something and it doesn’t pan out, it feels like you can’t be successful at anything else,” he said.  

“I couldn’t talk about this for a long time. It felt like a loss. I had to work hard at overcoming the emptiness I felt. The lift began when I went to a Cybersocial event and met old friends whom I hadn’t seen in months.”

Eventually, Boudreau found a job with Enterprise Greater Moncton, as an entrepreneurship development officer.

“I felt I could use my experience to help other entrepreneurs. Over time, the job became rewarding and I regained confidence,” he said.

He attended an event at regional accelerator, Launch36, and, sitting there listening to the entrepreneurs pitching their ideas, he realized he needed to found another startup.

“I saw them on stage and I knew that I was meant to be part of it. I’d spent five years re-building financially. I had a good-paying job, but I knew I was ready to put it all on the line again,” he said.   

Now, as Boudreau builds his second company, he places a greater emphasis on balance and physical and mental health. 

“I’m as driven as I was when I started my first venture,” he said. “But I’m more leveled-headed this time around and handle the highs and the lows better.

“It means so much to be at 500 Startups in San Francisco after the rollercoaster I’ve been through. It feels like I’ve come full circle. I hope my story will inspire others.”   

This article first appeared in the latest 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.     


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.     



Verafin Uses Funding to Add to Growth

Jamie King:'Third consecutive year of double-digit revenue growth.'

Jamie King:'Third consecutive year of double-digit revenue growth.'

If there was a Deal of the Year for in the Atlantic Canadian startup community in 2014, it would undoubtedly have gone to Verafin’s $60 million financing by American private equity fund Spectrum Equity.

Rumours of a whopper of an investment began to circulate in Verafin’s home base of St. John’s in the spring, and it lived up to expectations when CEO Jamie King announced it last May. Now Verafin, which makes software that detects money laundering and fraud, says it has continued to grow with the new capital on board.

“With our third consecutive year of double-digit revenue growth, strong new customer growth, and many new enhancements to our product, we had an outstanding year in every part of our business,” said King in a statement in February.

The details of the Spectrum investment were never released, but the Boston- and Silicon Valley-based fund took a substantial minority stake, and some of the $60 million tranche went to buying out existing investors.

In its history, Spectrum has raised $4.7 billion for investment in IT and media companies, and now has more than 50 portfolio companies including AMC Entertainment, SurveyMonkey and Ancestry.com.

No deal announced last year in the Atlantic Canadian startup community had more impact. The exits in 2014 were modest. The Spectrum deal was the largest investment in a high-growth company in Atlantic Canada since Entrevestor began almost four years ago, possibly ever. It was a pure private sector deal, and brought in foreign capital. It allowed Killick Capital to exit its investment in Verafin, and Killick has already begun to redeploy the capital, adding to its funding of Celtx in late 2014.

Most important, it has allowed the continued growth of one of the most successful startups in the region.

Verafin’s revenues continue to storm ahead, with organic revenues rising 45 percent in 2014. At the time of the investment, the company forecast its sales would rise by about half in 2014 to about $30 million. Overall, Verafin said its compound annual growth rate for revenues in the past three years has been 51 percent.

The company has clients in 44 states in the U.S. and its number of customer bookings in the fourth quarter of 2014 was 68 percent higher than the same period a year earlier. The company, which reached its 1,000th customer in May, 2013, added 200 customers in 2014.

“This growth demonstrates the strength of the unique Verafin cloud Putting New Funding to Good Use

Having raised $60 million in private equity in 2014, Verafin recorded organic revenue growth of 45 percent and added 200 clients.

“This growth demonstrates the strength of the unique Verafin cloud solution,” said Vice-President of Sales Jason Quann.

“It’s been an amazing year for growth, and we are very excited to continue this momentum into 2015.”

Founded in 2003 at the Genesis Centre at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Verafin makes enterprise fraud-detection and anti-money laundering solutions for financial institutions across

North America. Its software uses advanced behavior-based analytics that allow banks and credit unions to stay a step ahead of cutting-edge fraud trends.

The company has been growing strongly for several years. Its citation in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 (the 50 fastest-growing tech companies in Canada) in 2012 revealed its revenues had grown 358 percent in the five years to 2011. In March 2013, the company added the 1,000th financial institution to its list of clients.

Verafin’s other milestones in 2014 included:

• Upgrading its user interface for increased speed and enhanced usability;

• Improving analytics so false alerts were reduced by 50 percent;

• Implementing new data interfaces to bring the total to more than 125;

• Launching a new user community with 6,000 users to enhance the customer experience;

• Surpassing 120 million transactions processed daily;

• and maintaining a leading retention rate of 98 percent.

The company is continuing its growth in 2015. In listing its achievements in the past year, Verafin noted it was listed in the Globe and Mail’s Canada’s Top 100 Employers list for 2015, which should help in its bid to attract new talent.

As it looks forward to 2015, Verafin plans to continue its track record of growth and further penetrate the North American market with its innovative software solution. The company now has weekly product releases to increase its ability to help customers fight fraud and money-laundering.

“We are constantly working to ensure we provide our valued customers with the highest level of service and the best solution for their needs,” said King. “We are proud to have over 1,200 customers benefit from our software and are well on our way to see that reach 3,000 in the next few years.”

This article originally appeared in the latest 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.     



Booth Eyes Online Meal Delivery

Fresh from a global conference on the new economy, Wesley Booth of Wolfville is putting together plans to launch Feddishes, an online service that arranges the delivery of prepared meals.

For the last year or so, Booth has been working as the communications and events co-ordinator at the Acadia Institute for Data Analytics in Wolfville. And he’s been working on a few ideas that would marry two of his great loves: cooking and tech startups.

He got a chance to research his business plans when he was in California last month to attend the Global Innovation Summit.

Here’s the story: Booth and his co-founder, Sean Williams, are experimenting with services that deliver prepared meals to online clients. The idea is that people in a specific city can use an app to order a nutritious meal, and it will be delivered to their home within a certain time period.

The models are existing services in San Francisco. SpoonRocket is a service that delivers an affordable meal to the door within 15 minutes. Munchery allows people to order a restaurant-standard meal early in the day and have it delivered that evening.

Booth and Williams were researching these sites from afar when, one night, Booth, 23, noticed an ad for the summit, a meeting of business and government leaders from 50 countries discussing the new economy. Organizers were looking for young people to attend.

On a lark, Booth applied and was accepted. He was given a free pass to the event, but he had to cover the travel costs. He crowdfunded the money he’d need and was one of three people under 25 at the summit.

“It was a different experience where these were people in positions of power but they didn’t know how to (implement the tech economy).”

Booth said there was a spirit of openness at the event and he had no difficulty meshing with the older participants and making contacts from around the world.

“The whole concept of being globally connected is amazing, but we can do better. I might be better at connecting with companies in Russia than in my own backyard. There’s a need to help each other out.”

After the event, he returned to San Francisco and stayed at a startup hostel, a combination of living accommodation and work space. He investigated Munchery and SpoonRocket and considered ways to start a similar service in Nova Scotia.

He and Williams are in the planning stage of the project and looking for a chef interested in working with them. Though they haven’t decided where to base the company, they’re hoping for a soft launch this summer and starting the company in earnest when students return to university in the autumn.

They believe these delivery services will eventually replace fast-food outlets, and they want to be part of it.

“The whole purpose of Feddishes is to allow everyone to eat better and to get what they want when they want it,” Booth said.



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.      

Kolybaba: Seems We Chose Never

Note: Brandon Kolybaba, founder and CEO of Cloud Brewery, posted this blog on his Koly-Blah-Blah’s Raw Blog last weekend. While I don’t agree with all of it, it’s forceful and thought provoking so we’re republishing it here. – Peter Moreira

It's starting to look to me like we chose "Never"

Over a year ago now the Ivany Report came out. In summary, Ray Ivany said "It's now or never". At the time that's all anyone I knew was talking about, but what's actually changed since then? We set up a coalition in Nova Scotia who I'm sure are all fine people with good intentions, but as far as I can tell they have not put a dent in the problem yet (http://onens.ca/about/timeline/). The problem is clearly identified: a lot of talk with little to no action = failure.

Now I know I'm likely going to get some flack for this post. Some people will paint me as a negative jerk while they promote what I would suggest is an overly simplistic view of the world where we all just need to be positive all the time. Well to them I say: just because something isn't good doesn't make it a negative thing, and sometimes you just need to face the reality of a situation to effectively make it better rather than pretending that the problem isn't real. And this problem is very real.

 I think some people get critical perspective too easily confused with negativity. All the people I know who have a critical opinion similar to the main message of the Ivany Report and the news stories on the subject are not anti-Maritimers. Just the opposite, the reason I, and I suspect others, put our thoughts out there is to help people realize that the problem will not go away without significant, dramatic, and painful change. And every day we delay that change it gets worse. Proverbially, the house is on fire! It's precisely because I want to see the region do better that I want people to better understand the problem and as a result TRULY consider the sacrifice required for REAL change. If it's not uncomfortable then we are doing it wrong!

It can actually get worse, you know? It has over the past 8 years since I moved my family here to start and grow tech business in Halifax. "Today I was inspired to write this after reading this article in the Globe & Mail: "How the Maritimes became Canada’s incredible shrinking region".

By the way, no one is coming to our rescue. There is no economic swat team that can magically make it all go away. It will only get better when YOU decide to do your part and en masse the collective whole working together can make REAL change happen.

So what does that mean in tactical terms? Painful sacrifice and having the guts to do what it takes to make things better for the greater community. Here's how:

•BUY LOCAL: Every Dollar you spend counts! Every dollar spent on consumer items, business services, travel, etc. outside of the region means it has to take a long treacherous journey to find it's way back (and all too often, sadly it doesn't make the migration home). When you choose to buy local, you add a drop in the collective bucket of mutual benefit. But be smart about it. The most value for buying local comes from when you stop a dollar from leaving. Remember, if it's an imported good, part of that dollar is gone; if it's a business service, understand how it's being delivered. Are the people doing the work actually here? Is the company that profits from it here? You can reframe your thinking by asking yourself: Who has a job as a result of this purchase I'm making today?

•STOP THE WASTE: If you work in Government (or are in a pseudo government role) and you see someone spending money in a way that isn't beneficial to the greater good of the community, make them stop. Ask them to stop, or blow the whistle! This could be your boss or your drinking buddy. It will be be a very hard thing to do. If at the next Olympics Nova Scotia has a "Pavilion" that they somehow justify flights and accommodations (at astronomical rates) for a dozen or so people we've failed.

•DON'T ACCEPT THE LIES: We do it every day. Someone fudges some stat and no one ever checks the facts to promote a perception that they are doing something good when, in reality, we all know it's bullshit. Call them out. Again, this is likely your friend, someone you trust and who trusts you. Change the culture so it's unacceptable to lie like that.

•DO THE RIGHT THING FOR THE GREATER WHOLE: Every day you are faced with decisions, some big some small, but even the tiny ones matter when we all make them. You can reset your frame of reference to ask yourself: If I do X will it be of net benefit to the region? Do your best to ignore how it will benefit or disadvantage yourself as much as you can afford to do so.

•FORGET THE BULLSHIT: It's disgusting to me how many people don't like X or Y because of somebody who did something at some point in the past. forget it! It's the same with French vs. English, or New Brunswick vs. Nova Scotia. It's a waste of time. We are all people who want to be happy and make life better for our children. If we can't figure out how to work together better, that is never going to happen. Those things will help, but they are not enough on their own.

When I said DRAMATIC, I meant it. Now these ideas will sound absurd to some, even totally ludicrous to others, but desperate times call for desperate measures:

•THE COST OF GOVERNMENT IS OUT OF CONTROL: If you are in government and you needed to choose between getting laid off or taking a 15% pay cut what would you do? That's a serious question that if you were in business you wouldn't think was so crazy. It happens every day. We need a plan to cut government spending (and staff) by at least 10% every year for the next 3+ years..

•LOBBY YOUR UNION: If you think that as a result of collective bargaining you are better off than you were, consider the possibility that it just might be too good to be true. Why not collectively bargain your salary to be twice what it was last year? And then double it again the following year? They would not seriously consider that idea because it's not reasonable or sustainable. The fact is, many situations are unsustainable today and you can look to many recent examples to see what happens as an inevitable conclusion. If that isn't rectified, when the organization (or government) fails the collective labour group loses out big time! You need to think big picture. If the government is going to cut costs, you need to do your part or it just won't happen..

•SHARE THE WEALTH: If you are fortunate enough to have some degree of wealth, consider what will happen if things get worse for a minute. History is full of examples of what happens when the middle class evaporates, it's never a good thing for the wealthy. Consider investing in the future of the region where you and your family plan to live (as some have, but not enough). Yes, tax breaks are good and that is a great incentive for sure, but it should be understood that it's secondary to helping the region improve as a whole for the shared benefit of the greater community. Even if you are not in the 1% club but have moderate wealth, consider how you can fund the creation jobs here. In the best case those jobs are doing something valuable that bring in revenue from outside the region. And in the very best case, you might even get your money back with a return some day.

•FIRE THE GOVERNMENT AGENCIES THAT HAVE FAILED TO GROW THE ECONOMY: This shouldn't be a tough one to figure out. In Nova Scotia alone there are 8+ different agencies all with the same basic objective that is: economic development. Well, if it's not blatantly obvious to everyone I'll say it, they all basically suck at what they try to do, and in the business world they would all be fired. How many of those pseudo government agencies occupy the most expensive real estate at the top of a building in downtown Halifax? (Spoiler Alert: all of them) How many people in total are being paid today to accomplish that goal? Isn't the measure of GDP an indisputable yard stick for how well they have done that job ultimately?  What is the annual budget for all of that? If, instead we were to use that money to provide simple tax breaks for any business (new or old, big or small, without prejudice or favouritism) to create any number of new jobs they can (and maybe give an additional incentive to those locally owned companies that create jobs that generate net revenue from outside the region) would that not be a better plan? Business will drive change, not government, and I can tell you almost every business owner I know thinks these government agencies are in large part a waste of tax payer dollars but they rarely say much about it publicly because it's made very clear that if you are critical of them in any way, you won't receive any benefit from them.


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.      

Atlantic Motor Nabs $250K in Funding

Halifax-based Atlantic Motor Labs has received a $250,000 equity investment from Innovacorp to help develop its more durable motor for the oil and gas industry.

Founded by Braden Murphy, Atlantic Motor has developed a motor that combines features of piston and turbine motors to improve the efficiency in the drilling head. It offers a simpler, more robust and longer-lasting drill motor than those used in more than 70 per cent of the world's drilling rigs.

Innovacorp said in a statement the innovation should reduce motor-related down-time while drilling by 30 per cent and save the oil and gas industry close to $1 billion per year.  Atlantic Motor will use the money to demonstrate and commercialize the down-hole motor technology.

"Today's standard drill motors frequently break down due to degradation of the rubber seals, and there is growing concern as exploration and production pushes towards more challenging geological formations with deeper, more complex wells," said Murphy in the statement. "Our motor is designed without rubber seals and will extend the period between motor failures and servicing."

Murphy started Atlantic Motor Labs in 2013 as a spin-out of his award-winning undergrad and thesis work at Dalhousie University. He had previously founded a company called Scotia Motors, which aimed to use pneumatic motors in lawnmowers to reduce noise pollution.

Murphy also worked closely with Dalhousie's Industry Liaison and Innovation office to secure funding for patents and prototype development.

Atlantic Motor was the runner-up in the Halifax region of the 1-3 Competition. The company previously raised close to $350,000 from private and public investors to support prototype development, patents and marketing to the drilling industry.

"The innovative hybrid piston-turbine motor design from Atlantic Motor Labs has potential in several different markets, with the global market for drill motors alone estimated at $1.5 billion," said Michael Dennis, investment manager at Innovacorp. "The impact of Atlantic Motor Labs' technology on reducing costs and non-productive rig time could change the entire drilling industry's outlook on using down-hole components. We're looking forward to being a part of their future success."



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.      

BDC Recognizes Pond’s Leadership

Gerry Pond: 'We need more people, especially young people, to embrace this mindset.'

Gerry Pond: 'We need more people, especially young people, to embrace this mindset.'

Gerry Pond, the driving force behind the East Coast startup community, has received the first-ever BDC Entrepreneurship Champion from the Business Development Bank of Canada.

He received the award during a reception in Toronto last night. Tonight, by coincidence, he will be the first speaker at the Startup Grind Halifax meeting at the McInnes Cooper officee.

The BDC Entrepreneurship Champion is a national award that recognizes the achievement of a Canadian entrepreneur and community leader. It is given to someone who has created and grown one or many successful small or medium-sized businesses while significantly contributing to the prosperity of the Canadian entrepreneurship ecosystem.

“Gerry exemplifies the qualities of the consummate entrepreneur –innovator, visionary and community leader,” said BDC President and CEO Jean-Rene Halde in a statement. “He has demonstrated these qualities throughout the course of his career and has imparted his wealth of knowledge and experience, inspiring other Canadian entrepreneurs to achieve national and international success.”

The former president of New Brunswick Telecom, Pond is chairman and co-founder of Mariner Partners Inc., one of the largest tech companies in the region. He holds the same titles with East Valley Ventures, whose members have invested millions of dollars in dozens of tech startups.

Pond was an early investor in several successful start-ups, including Q1 Labs and Radian6. They exited for a combined value of more than $1 billion in 2011, and some of the proceeds have been reinvested in the Atlantic Canadian economy.

As an advocate for advancing entrepreneurship in Atlantic Canada, Pond co-created Propel ICT, a start-up accelerator. He is also a cofounder of the Pond Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick, which encourages emerging entrepreneurs and innovators in the region to accelerate the creation of sustainable, scalable enterprises.  

“At its core, entrepreneurship is about hard work and determination to make something better,” he said in the statement. “It’s about focusing on the greater good, and collectively making positive change. We need more people, especially young people, to embrace this mindset, tackle difficult issues, and continue the proud tradition of Canadian entrepreneurship.”

Pond recently offered $500,000 to any institution or institutions that can set up a school for international sales. He believes the lack of skill in selling in foreign markets is a key factor holding back the region’s tech companies.

A national selection committee representing the Canadian business community selected the winner.

The BDC Entrepreneurship Awards are presented throughout the year to recognize outstanding contributions in four pillar areas: serial entrepreneurship, mentorship, innovation, and entrepreneurial resiliency. 

Lunch To Focus on International Sales

When Doug Robertson leads a discussion on international sales on April 15, he’ll be dealing with a subject close to his heart.

Robertson, the CEO of Venn Innovation in Moncton, has been preparing companies lately for entering overseas markets. So he’s looking forward to hearing other people’s views on how to improve Atlantic Canadian startups’ ability to sell in foreign locales.

Robertson will moderate a discussion on international sales at the Entrevestor Luncheon, sponsored by BDO, to be held at the Future Inns Moncton, starting at 11 am on April 15. The second discussion, to be led by Planet Hatch CEO Sally Ng, will examine how to get more women into the startup game.

Entrevestor Luncheons are not events that feature a keynote speaker. They are forums for discussion at which everyone present is encouraged to join in. We ask two community leaders to each lead a discussion, and after they introduce their topic, we throw it open to the house for a lively debate.

Moncton-based Venn Innovation works with young companies in New Brunswick and prepares them for accelerators, investment and the marketplace. And one thing that keeps coming up in Robertson’s work is that companies need to prepare better to meet customers in the U.S. and other foreign markets.

“A lot of the challenges -- and we hear this time and time again from the trade commissioners and others -- is that our companies need to be better prepped to do business in those markets,” said Robertson on Monday. “So we’re working with companies, especially in ITC, to prepare for international markets.”

Robertson said that most ITC companies sell to clients outside the country. And given the wave of ITC companies forming around the region, it is becoming all the more necessary to improve their marketing and salesmanship in foreign markets.

The discussion at the Entrevestor Luncheon will look at such issues as identifying jurisdictions that could be good markets, and understanding the culture of these jurisdictions. Robertson wants to discuss positioning products for new markets and making the right connection in those markets.

“The policy rationale for all this is that growing exports is a priority among  both federal and provincial governments,” said Robertson. “With ITC growing at a pace that is double the rest of the economy, we have to ensure these companies are able to grow in export markets.”

Robertson, Entrevestor and BDO all hope that the audience will include some young companies that can benefit from this discussion. But we also hope some experienced companies that have hard-earned lessons from the marketplace will also come and share their experiences.

BDO, the accountancy and tax advisory consultancy, has agreed to sponsor four Entrevestor Luncheons this year. The luncheons are an opportunity for members of the startup community can come together to discuss ways to improve the regional ecosystem. Tickets for the luncheon are available here

Castaway Grew Throughout Breakthru

To understand why Castaway Golf Technologies won the $287,250 first prize in the 2015 Breakthru competition, it’s best to consider why it changed its name in the middle of the six-month competition.

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation announced Thursday that the Fredericton company founded by Matt Vance and Josh Ogden had captured top place in the biennial event.

When asked after the announcement what the prize meant, CEO Ogden mentioned coachability and making the changes needed to move forward.

“We’ve pivoted on a few things since we spoke before,” Ogden said Thursday, highlighting how much the company had changed since I had met him and Vance two months earlier.

Castaway started out as a company called Matt’s Got Balls, an irreverent name that suited the jocularity of Matt Vance, who got the whole thing going. Vance, as a boy in Truro, loved finding lost golf balls, and he and his father developed a mechanism for retrieving them from water hazards.

Matt’s Got Balls quickly made links with Maritime golf courses, and they made money retrieving balls and finding markets for them. The team also struck a deal with the Giant Tiger retail chain.

Then they entered the Breakthru competition, began to work with mentors and repositioned the business.

Hence the name change. Ogden and Vance are tapping a huge market, especially in the southern United States, and their customers are largely golf clubs that cherish dignity. The name Castaway Golf Technologies is a better fit for that market, so they adopted it in the middle of the competition.

But that wasn’t all they changed. In January, Ogden and Vance were considering setting up a franchise network and allowing independent operators to use their technology and sales platform. But they want to ensure anyone on a golf course with Castaway products conducts themselves properly. They’re planning to eventually have Castaway employees servicing these courses in distant markets.

Ogden gave an overview of the company’s plans. It is initiating three research and development projects and working on manufacturing deals for its equipment.

Ogden is the lone full-time employee, but the hope is to have three others in the autumn.

In short, he outlined the type of corporate growth that made Castaway Golf a winner. In many respects, it was a surprise.

New Brunswick is known for its digital success stories, yet the judges awarded first prize in its biggest entrepreneurship competition to a company with an automated product for golf courses.

Silver medallist Simptek, which is working on a digital home automation system that saves energy, is a more typically New Brunswick company. Even third place NB Biomatrix, which has developed a solution to remove heavy metals from waste water, rose out of university research, as many of the province’s best startups have.

Castaway is a bit of an outlier but probably won because its founders are aggressive sales people who have demonstrated they can position themselves to grow into something meaningful. They’re innovative, but they also give you the sense they understand the corporate side and will do what’s needed to bring money into New Brunswick.

“The entire community in New Brunswick is why we’re here, and we’d like to thank everybody who’s helped us,” Ogden said.

“We look forward to employing New Brunswickers here in New Brunswick.”



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.     


Finding Gems in Rural Communities

Andrew Button:

Andrew Button: "Amplified, accelerated, sustainable growth'.

Andrew Button has attended too many meetings about Atlantic Canada’s economic troubles. He has worked in economic development with a specialization in rural communities and found that the region’s economic woes became a hot topic in every discussion.

Yet these constant meetings never found concrete solutions to grow economic development in Atlantic Canada.

“Who was actually going to do this work in these communities to inspire more entrepreneurial activity—that was always left as a question mark for me,” said Button, who spent two years at the Lunenburg Queens Regional Development Agency . “So finally I got fed up and said, hell, I can do something.”

And so, Button created Mashup Lab, holding the first meeting in Mahone Bay in May 2014.

Mashup Lab aims to bring rural and small-town entrepreneurs together in their own communities, rather than forcing them to migrate to urban centres, such as Halifax, Toronto or Montreal.

The organization hosts an event every six weeks so potential entrepreneurs in places like Mahone Bay, Yarmouth or Cape Breton can surround themselves with like-minded people. Past events have been nights devoted to business pitches or lectures by current startup entrepreneurs.

On Sept. 30, Button said he decided to do the most audacious thing he’s ever done in his life: create Mashup Weekend, an event in which people can share ideas and turn them into startups over one weekend. It was audacious because the startup weekend model is usually practised in urban centres, and in one place. Button wanted it happening in several places.

In November, just two months later, Mashup Weekend occurred simultaneously in Yarmouth, Bridgewater and Kentville.

Button said 10 to 20 people showed up. The small number of people at the three locations allowed mentors to work intimately with one team rather than having to manage four teams, as often happens at similar events.

Matt Hall was a mentor at the event, where he helped a team create a feasible plan for a startup by the end of the weekend.

“People come wanting to have a good time and with relatively low expectations of tangible outcomes,” said Hall, who is a cofounder of Agile Geoscience, a geoscience consulting company. He is alsoa co-founder of The Hub South Shore, a co-working space.

“…What blows everybody away is that actually you can get an amazing amount of real work and real insight done over a weekend—especially working with total strangers.”

Hall moved to Mahone Bay after working for a Calgary oil company for 10 years. He said he expected to find a bunch of retirees in Mahone Bay, and was surprised to find people with an entrepreneurial spirit, like Button, living in the community.

“Finding these amazing people living in places like Port Mouton and Blue Rock and Clare -- they had networks like you wouldn’t believe, had done some amazing things,” Button said. “And for whatever reason, [they] found themselves in these small communities in Nova Scotia. It was like this completely untapped resource that was sitting here.” That was what happened to Suman Kalyan, co-founder of customer data analytics company Adroit Vista.

Kalyan moved from Toronto to Mahone Bay because of his wife’s new job.

In Toronto, he had worked as a data analyst for companies like Rogers and Telus.

“I was very comfortable in a big company,” Kalyan said. “Running sales, marketing, that was all taken care of.”

But when starting Adroit Vista, Kalyan realized he had little experience in areas like sales and marketing—he had only analyzed data. And though Kalyan had networks in Toronto and Europe, he didn’t have one on the South Shore of Nova Scotia.

Button and Kalyan met at The Hub South Shore. Button advised Kalyan on creating a feasible business model, and gave him tips on how to manage sales and marketing effectively. Kalyan then attended Mashup Lab events and met other entrepreneurs whom he also asked about running a business.

“Andrew’s been a champion for us,” Kalyan said.

Kalyan’s come so far with Adroit Vista that in March he will be a speaker at a Mashup Lab Lightening Talk, in which Nova Scotian startup founders discuss their experiences in setting up and running businesses.

Though Button has created many successful events, he admits that his business model isn’t ideal. Right now, Mashup Lab depends on corporate sponsorship. The sponsorship money covers event expenses, but Button doesn’t make a profit, despite Mashup Lab being a for-profit company.

However, Button said his goal right now is just to cover the cost of expenses. He makes a living through consulting companies about their economic development.

With Mashup Lab, Button said he not only wants to create many businesses in rural Nova Scotia, but to create ones that are sustainable. He admits that Mashup Lab’s business model of corporate sponsorship isn’t sustainable and is trying to discover a structure that would last.

“I felt like there was a real opportunity for us to understand how we build sustainable business models around this type of activity,” Button said, “because I feel like that’s the only way we’re going to get amplified, accelerated, sustainable growth.”

Button said he wants to expose more Nova Scotians to the feasibility of creating their own startups. Mashup Lab is in talks to collaborate with other Nova Scotian entrepreneurial organizations.

“The more activity we have in this entrepreneurial startup space in rural areas, the better,” Button said. “I can only do so much. … We need to be doing ten times more than what I can do.”

This article first appeared in the latest 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.     


Snow Days: Tech Solutions Exist

My column last week suggesting a hackathon to find a home-grown solution to snow days drew a lot of response, which I’d like to share with our readers.

To recap, I suggested that the education departments or school boards hold hackathons to work on a tech solution for the amount of time students miss due to snow storms. Even as I write this, the Halifax Regional School Board, which had a week to sort things out, has canceled classes while it assesses buildings.

I said we need an online platform with which teachers could communicate with students when schools were closed, either individually or in groups. It could increase one-on-one time between teachers and their charges. And of course, some accommodation would have to be made for students who don’t have the necessary hardware.

There were largely two responses to this: a) it’s a good idea (“brilliant”, according to two respondents); and b) the technology already exists.

“I think we could steal or modify a page from the Ontario playbook on this one,” said Andrew Button, the Founder of Mashup Lab. “See Virtual High School, offering fully accredited online high school classes that meet all the Ontario curriculum outcomes.”

Working out of a restored hotel in Bayfield, ON., VHS has online curriculum that students can work on when and how it suits them. There is also a support staff available to help the students.

Button said that rather than just use online platforms to address snow days, why not consider such solutions for students who can’t or choose not to go to a school building to learn.

Other people suggested other pieces of technology, such as Khan Academy or SAS as great tools for distance education.

“A bigger issue is lack of reliable internet in many parts of the province,” said Alexander MacDougall. “That is a significant factor because teachers need to ensure equity of access and when it's beyond their control it makes it very difficult for them to … ensure that those opportunities are available to all.”

Overall, the respondents supported the broad plan to use technology to enhance teaching during school days, and opposed to the idea of making up the days on Saturdays or holidays.

“The "MAKE UP" days idea is sort of silly - what would the children possibly learn having to go to school one day,” said Lisa Stewart. “Give them something to get excited about.”

And the readers overall liked the idea of using the collective brilliance of the tech community (and others in the region) to work out problems together. Again there is a model for this: Brilliant Labs. It started as an experiment in New Brunswick to help educators teach programing, and now it has moved into Nova Scotia as well. It’s an example of public and private sectors working together to improve things across provincial boundaries.

Now it’s time to carry it further with new platforms for learning a fewer missed days due to storms.

“I hope Halifax Regional School Board reads this and sees the opportunity to #makeAmark on education,” said Deb Merry.

Press Release: SubC’s NBIA Win

The Genesis Centre, an incubator affiliated with Memorial University of Newfoundland, has issued the following press release:

Ocean Technology Company SubC Imaging Wins International Business Award

Memorial University’s Genesis Centre is congratulating its graduate company SubC Imaging on winning the Outstanding Incubator Graduate Award from the U.S.-based National Business Incubation Association (NBIA).

Out of six possible award categories, SubC Imaging is the only Canadian company to receive an award. The NBIA Incubation Awards honour the top business incubators, client companies and graduates that exemplify the best in the industry. SubC was recognized for revenue strength and product innovation.

SubC Imaging was started in 2010 by Chad Collett and Adam Rowe when they identified the need for better underwater camera equipment and video management systems. The company was accepted into the Genesis Centre, Memorial University’s business incubator for technology ventures, and graduated in December 2014. SubC Imaging now operates a 5,000-square-foot facility in Clarenville, N.L., designing and manufacturing equipment for marine research, deep-sea mining and the oil and gas industry. 

“We are very excited to have a Newfoundland and Labrador company and one of our graduates recognized on the international stage,” said Keelin O’Leary, vice-president, entrepreneurial support, Genesis Group. “It’s a testament to Mr. Collett, Mr. Rowe and their team, that they can compete anywhere.”

“SubC is honoured to have been selected for this prestigious award among a group of such deserving nominees,” said Ron Collier, vice-president, business development, SubC. “We are delighted to be recognized for the innovative nature of our products and our rapid growth in international markets.”

SubC Imaging will be presented with the award at the NBIA’s International Conference on Business Incubation in Denver, Colo., in April. For more information about SubC Imaging, please visit http://www.subcimaging.com


About the Genesis Centre

The Genesis Centre is Memorial University’s business incubator for technology-based ventures with high-growth potential. It is one of the top ranked incubators in Canada and was named Canadian Incubator of the Year in 2011. Since the Genesis Centre was founded in 2000, it has helped almost 60 startups raise more than $85 million in private equity. Genesis alumni are among the leading start-ups in Atlantic Canada and include Verafin, Rutter Technologies, Avalon Microelectronics (acquired by Altera), Solace Power, SubC Imaging, EMSAT, ClearRisk, Genoa Design and Virtual Marine Technology.

The Genesis Centre is a division of the Genesis Group Inc., a separately incorporated entity of Memorial University. For more information, please visit http://www.genesiscentre.ca


About the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA)

NBIA is the world’s leading organization dedicated to advancing business incubation and entrepreneurship, with 2,100 members in more than 60 countries. It provides thousands of professionals with information, education, advocacy and networking resources to bring excellence to the process of assisting early-stage companies. Approximately 25 per cent of the NBIA membership is from outside the United States. For more information, please visit http://www.nbia.og.  

Castaway Golf Wins Breakthru

Castaway Golf Technologies, a company that grew out of a young boy’s love of retrieving lost golf balls, has won the $287,250 first prize in the 2015 Breakthru competition.

The Fredericton company that is developing an automated system for retrieving, sorting and selling balls lost in water hazards received the news at the Breakthru dinner last night, attended by 540 people.

The first runner-up was Simptek, which is working on home automation systems that save energy. Third place was captured by NB Biomatrix of Saint John, founded by Jeff Jennings and Keith Brunt, who have discovered a nanoparticle solution to remove heavy metals from wastewater. They both received $222,250 in cash and services.

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, which organized the event, also announced at the dinner that Cathy Simpson, Vice-President Public Sector at T4G, would become the foundation’s new chair. She replaces Bob Hatheway, who had held the position for four years.

Held every second year, Breakthru brings out a new crop of entrepreneurs and introduces them to the fundamentals of growing a business. Calvin Milbury, the CEO of NBIF, noted during the dinner that this year’s event featured an exceptionally strong intake, with 47 companies reaching the stage at which they submitted full business plans.

“We’re very fortunate because we’re going to be looking at a lot of these business plans for consideration for our Startup Investment Fund,” he said. “So this has improved the funnel for NBIF.”

The grand prize winner is a team of contrasting characters that are quickly devising and implementing revenue streams that are growing a solid business. Castaway Golf has devised a mechanized way to retrieve the millions of golf balls that end up in water hazards and then resell them.

It was the brainchild of Matt Vance, a Truro native who invented the first iteration of the device. He teamed up with Josh Ogden, now the company’s CEO, to develop ways to sell the balls and grow the business. They will sell some through the retail chain Giant Tiger beginning this year.

After the win, Ogden was full of praise for the ecosystem that helped the company to win.

“You’ve got a community in New Brunswick that will help anyone,” said Ogden, sitting amid the tables at the emptying Fredericton Convention Centre. “You have to prove you’re coachable. The moment we admitted we didn’t know everything, our business started to move forward.”

The winners will receive a total of $245,000 in cash investments, and the services will bring the total value to $287,250.

Fredericton-based Simptek, which was founded by Keelen Gagnon, Asif Hasan, and Lionel Fernandes, also won the Viewers’ Choice award, voted on by people who viewed CBC news spots on the five finalists. The team will now be flown to Toronto to pitch the product on Dragons’ Den.

There was also a prize for the best video pitch submitted to NBIF as part of the application process. It was captured by Ryan MacDonald, whose team Tempo is developing a music streaming product.

The other two finalists were Fredericton companies that had come together only in the past few months: AutoPulse, founded by Sam Jesso and Kristin Killam, is designing technology that helps auto dealerships monitor their customers’ cars; and Smart Castle Labs, led by Elaheh Biglar and four co-founders, uses sentiment analysis and other functionality to battle cyber-bullying, internet luring and other online evils.


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.     

Entrevestor Luncheon Set for Moncton

With the support of BDO, Entrevestor will once again this year host a series of Entrevestor Luncheons, beginning with an event in Moncton on April 15.

BDO, the accountancy and tax advisory consultancy, has agreed to sponsor four Entrevestor Luncheons this year. The luncheons are an opportunity for members of the startup community can come together to discuss ways to improve the regional ecosystem.

Last year, partnering with Entrepreneurs’ Forum, we held luncheons or dinners in each provincial capital in the region. The topics we discussed ranged from finding early adopters to mentorship to attracting capital to young companies.

Entrevestor Luncheons are not events that feature a keynote speaker. They are forums for discussion at which everyone present is encouraged to join in. We ask two community leaders to each lead a discussion, and after they introduce their topic, we throw it open to the house for a lively debate.

“Like many others, we’re impressed by the tremendous growth of startups in Atlantic Canada,” said Dan Jennings, a partner at BDO’s Bedford office. “At BDO, we want to help improve the ecosystem for these companies, so we’ve decided to work with Entrevestor in hosting these conversations about possible enhancements.”

The luncheon in Moncton features two veterans of startup mentorship as moderators:

--  How do we get more women launching startups? Led by Sally Ng. There has been a lot of discussion and analysis – and action, come to think of it – on how to attract women to careers in technology. The ICT segment is a predominantly male enclave and more must be done to encourage women to learn coding and work in this space. But the same could be said about women in startups. Too few women are launching and developing companies. Sally Ng, the Executive Director of Planet Hatch in Fredericton, will discuss the problem, suggest some solutions and ask for the views of the participants.

--  How can we increase international sales? Led by Doug Robertson. East Valley Ventures Co-Founder Gerry Pond has identified problems with international sales as a factor that is preventing startups from scaling. Doug Robertson, the CEO of Venn Innovation in Moncton, will examine what can be done to address the situation. While Pond has called for a sales institute in the region, other solutions might be international mentor networks or local mentorship groups made up of people who have experience in other countries. We hope other suggestions will come out during the discussion.

The Entrevestor Luncheon will be held from 11 am to 2 pm at the Future Inns Moncton. We’ll get started with a brief presentation on the latest data produced by the Entrevestor survey, followed by the two one-hour discussions and lunch. Tickets for the event are available here.

Last year, we found that the Entrevestor events were public opportunities to discuss the matters that usually get attention in private conversations in coffee shops or board rooms.

We hope as many people as possible will join us for the luncheon on April 15.


Building Excellence in Mentorship

Janna Hare: 'We want to build a centre of excellence and mentorship.'

Janna Hare: 'We want to build a centre of excellence and mentorship.'

As Executive Director of The Mentra, Atlantic Canada’s new mentoring organization, Janna Hare expected to be matching mentors and mentees like a dating service. But she’s found that people want to choose who they work with.

So now, The Mentra is establishing MentraConnect, a cloud-based platform that suggests mentors based on an entrepreneur’s profile, but also allows mentees to search for mentors using keywords.  

“I’ve learned there is a lot of chemistry in mentoring relationships,” said Hare who is a certified executive coach with a background in HR (Human Resources) and leadership development.

“If conversation doesn’t flow easily between mentors and mentees that can be a problem,” she said, during an interview from her base at Moncton’s Venn Centre.

The Atlantic region has many great mentors and Hare is looking for more to become part of The Mentra’s new talent pipeline, which, she hopes, will eventually become global.

Those who volunteer will be able to attend a variety of development opportunities to deepen their skills. Hare hopes the strategic partnerships she’s developing with other groups will allow The Mentra to offer in-depth training around the region. 

“We want to build a center of excellence around mentorship,” she said. “I’m working to developing strategic partnerships with similar organizations so that we avoid duplication.”

The beauty of the platform, said Hare, is that it can also link mentors and mentees in different locations. If face-to-face meetings are not important, the network could allow founders to work with mentors elsewhere.

Hare stresses the difference between coaching and mentoring.

“As a coach, I could coach a lawyer but not mentor one,” she said. “Coaching works with more general principles. As a coach I ask questions that help people uncover their answers. A mentor can offer advice because s/he has experience of the same sector.”  

Hare said that some early stage entrepreneurs with unclear goals benefit from working with coaches rather than mentors. When their goals are clarified, they move on to working with mentors.

“Often, mentees expect mentors to be the guide that has all the answers,” she said. “They often forget they need to be clear about their own goals.” 

For the last eight months, Hare has been working alone at the mentoring site. She has just made her first hire—of program co-ordinator, Shelagh Cooney. 

“I’m working on the five-year plan,” Hare said. “It seems really aspirational, but we have our vision. Now we have to work hard to live into it.”

The Mentra began when the New Brunswick Government put out a request for proposals for an organization to mentor entrepreneurs. Seven organizations came together with a single proposal, which won.

The founding members were: The Wallace McCain InstituteBioNB; the New Brunswick Business CouncilPlanet Hatch; the Pond-Deshpande Centre; the Venn Centre; and the New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network.

The founding groups will provide the first mentees who will likely be working in tech as tech is central to many businesses.

Hare is passionate about mentorship because she knows from experience what it can do for people.

She began her own career by working for the Co-op College, which offered training for co-ops. It was there that she encountered her own first mentor, Sheelagh Greek.

“Sheelagh ignited my passion and influenced me toward being socially minded. She taught me that learning and development is a process of continuous growth.

“Now, being part of an organization that’s furthering mentorship jazzes me every day.”    

Hare’s work is fuelled partly by concern for her two grown children and eight-month-old grandson, Owen.

“I want my family to have opportunities here so they can stay if they want. I hope building this network will become one way to keep emerging talent in this region and provide a full global perspective.”    



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.



Can Geeks Solve Snow Days?

The tech community can ensure snow days are more productive than this.

The tech community can ensure snow days are more productive than this.

As education departments around Atlantic Canada try to find a solution for the snow day problem, they should consider asking geeks for help.

The pain is obvious. Our students are missing too much time due to the weather, and officials are considering making up the time on Saturdays or holidays.

They might ask tech communities to come up with an online solution that would allow teachers to work with students even when all of them are snowbound at home. It won’t solve things now, but it could be in place by next winter.

Coming up with such a solution is a golden opportunity to act on all the rhetoric we’ve heard about being bold in addressing our myriad problems.

What I’d do if I ran things is host a hackathon with the goal of developing technology that will allow teaching to continue through snow days.

The term is unfortunate because it suggests the participants are hacking into someone else’s website or system. A hackathon is simply a get-together of tech developers at which teams come up with new technology over a few days. Halifax held one in late 2013 at which developers created apps using the city’s open data.

I’d invite programmers and computer science students to such an event. It would be great to also invite a team from the government’s IT staff and some front-line teachers to help develop a product that meets the market need.

The participants would break into teams that would try to come up with the best product to let teaching continue through snow days.

The geeks who show up at these events would have brighter ideas than mine. But what I’d envision is a simple online platform that would allow teachers to work with students while they’re all at their own homes. It could involve Skype or Google Hangout. It could include a scheduling function that would simply line up which students to work with through the day. A simple and pleasing user interface would be essential.

It will also have to account for the greatest hurdle in such a solution, which is the problem of some students not having Internet access or the needed hardware at home. Some students would need to be contacted by phone in this system. Such an endeavour could lead to community drives to buy the necessary hardware for students who can’t afford it.

The upside of such a hackathon is huge. If the solution is implemented, students would get more individual time with their teachers. Students would increase their comfort with online learning. No classes would have to be rescheduled to Saturdays or holidays. Snow days could actually improve the quality of education.

What’s more, if the application has a market in Atlantic Canada, there are likely markets elsewhere. There could be a new company, creating a few jobs in the region.

The best thing about such a plan is it would be a showpiece for the cultural change that the Ivany commission called for. It would require public and private sectors working together for everyone’s benefit. It would draw on the natural inventiveness of the population to solve a problem.

It would teach students that snow days aren’t holidays; they’re just days when you do your work at home.

Nancy Mathis to Chair Invest Atlantic

Nancy Mathis

Nancy Mathis

Invest Atlantic has announced that Nancy Mathis will chair the conference this autumn, and that it will expand its pitching series to include new classes of entrepreneurs.

Now in its sixth year, Invest Atlantic is a pan-regional conference for entrepreneurs and investors in Atlantic Canada. It will be held this year at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax on Sept. 29 and 30.

And experienced entrepreneur and organizer, Nancy Mathis is the founding Executive Director of the Wallace McCain Institute at the University of New Brunswick.

“Nancy is a passionate entrepreneur and has been recognized on a national scale with awards in innovation, entrepreneurship and engineering -- as well as for supporting others in those fields,” said a statement from Invest Atlantic Founder Bob Williamson.

Beginning with her time on the New Brunswick Business Council, Mathis has been a leading advocate on collaborative initiatives for entrepreneurs in the Atlantic Area.

This will be the second time the chair of Invest Atlantic is from New Brunswick. Mariner Chairman Gerry Pond chaired the event in 2011.

Invest Atlantic this year will focus on startups and angel investors with a variety of concurrent sessions for early-to-mid stage and even late stage entrepreneurs.

“I am excited to see the scope of the conference expand,” says Mathis in the statement.

For the past few years, Invest Atlantic has kicked off with a Pitch 101 competition, in which novice entrepreneurs get one minute to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges. The idea is to give feedback to people starting out.

This year, the organizers will add Pitch201 for growth stage entrepreneurs. There will also be a Pitch301 event for “seniorpreneurs” – that is, business owners who are ready to retire and sell their business to a new operator.

“There are thousands of business owners facing growth and succession challenges in the next five years, and this is a perfect format to help these entrepreneurs make the right connections,” said Mathis.

Five Teams Vie for Breakthru Bonanza

Three New Brunswick companies tomorrow will receive funding of more than $200,000 each as the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation will announce the winners of the 2015 Breakthru competition.

The Breakthru Awards Dinner will be held Thursday night at the Fredericton Convention Centre, and the highlight of the evening promises to be the announcement of the winner of the biennial competition. That team will go home almost $300,000 richer, but the second- and third-place teams won’t be complaining either.

Breakthru has become part of the landscape in the New Brunswick startup scene, and many of the province’s leading high-growth companies have emerged through the competition. And the gala dinner rates up there with the annual Kira awards as one of the highlights on the startup calendar.

The five companies vying for the top prize this year have all been profiled on Entrevestor, and they are:

--  AutoPulse, Sam Jesso and Kristin Killam, Fredericton. The company is designing technology that helps auto dealerships monitor their customers’ cars. (Previous article: AutoPulse Plans Launch in 2016.)

--  NB BioMatrix, Keith Brunt and Jeff Jennings, Saint John. The winner of the BioInnovation Challenge last year is using nano-technology to develop a biodegradable, anti-bacterial liquid that can remove heavy metals and other pollutants from waste water. (Previous article: NB BioMatrix Prepares for Q4 Launch.)

--  Castaway Golf, Josh Ogden and Matt Vance, Fredericton. Formerly Matt’s Got Balls, the company has developed a retrieval mechanism to fetch golf balls from water hazards and an e-commerce platform on which they can be sold. (Previous article: Matt’s Got Balls – And Great Margins.)

--  SimpTek Technologies, Keelen Gagnon, Asif Hasan, and Lionel Fernandes, Fredericton. This Launch36 alumni team is developing an automated system that helps people control the use of their household appliances with the goal of saving them money. (Previous article: SimpTek Progresses After Pivot.)

--  Smart Castle Labs, Elaheh Biglar and four co-founders, Fredericton. The team of computer science graduate students is developing a device to use sentiment analysis and other functionality to battle cyber-bullying, internet luring and other online evils. (Previous article: Smart Castle: Cyber-Security for Kids.)

The winners will receive cash and in-kind services. The first prize will receive a total of $245,000 in cash investments, and the services will bring the total value to $287,250. The second- and third-place teams will each receive $195,000 in cash, and services that bring their totals to $222,250.

In addition to the official prize, the CBC has been conducting a Viewers' Choice award. Its viewers have been voiting on which of the finalists is its favourite and the winner will be flown to Toronto to appear on Dragon's Den.

Once again, one organization that will feel a special pride regardless of the outcome is the University of New Brunswick.  The university has had a hand in the development of all five finalists.

Two years ago, three of the five Breakthru finalists (CeteX, TotalPave and Black Magic) had founders that have gone through the Technology Management and Entrepreneurship program at UNB, and a fourth, RTV Group, was founded by a graduate student at UNB Saint John.


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.     


Startup Job Growth Slowed in 2014

When we published our first Entrevestor Intelligence report of 2014, the numbers that leapt from the page were the job creation figures.  But things have changed in the past year.

The Atlantic Canadian startups we surveyed a year ago told us that they increased their staffing by 43 percent in 2013. They intended to increase employment by 50 percent in 2014, and the IT companies planned to double their staff overall.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

Despite the blazing optimism in early 2014, the 139 companies that gave us 2014 data on their staffing overall employ 1,051 full-time staff and 137 part-time staff in the Atlantic Provinces,. Overall, that is 1,119.5 full-time equivalent positions and an increase of 9.4 percent over the previous year.

So what happened? Why did the job growth fall so dramatically short of expectations?

There are a few explanations, but first let’s take a look at the big picture.

Startups in Atlantic Canada had a massive hiring spree in 2013 and it would have been reasonable to expect some sort of contraction afterward.


#Startupeast Employment in 2014
Companies providing jobs data 139
Total staff in Atlantic Canada* 1,119.5
Total staff a year earlier 1023
Employment growth 9.4%
Staff outside Atlantic Canada* 127.5
Total payroll (83 responses) $44.1M
Startups with 10 or more staff 26
Startups with no paid staff 26
Expected hiring in 2015* 476.5
Projected 2015 job growth 43%
*Part-time employees recorded as 0.5.  

Whenever I delivered presentations of the Entrevestor data analysis last year, I said that startups were unlikely to meet their hiring expectations, largely because there weren’t enough qualified people to fill the vacancies.

And it should be remembered that the staffing in this economic segment did not contract. It followed a 43 percent increase with a 9.4 percent increase,  for  a  total  two-year  hike  of  about  56  percent.  It’s also advisable to keep in mind that the Atlantic Canadian economy overall saw employment rise 1 percent in 2014, according to Statistics Canada.

Even in a slow year, the startup job-creation vehicle outpaced the broader economy by a multiple of almost 10.

Having said that, startups in the region failed to hire as many people as they had hoped. Talking to founders, it seems that there are positions that have not yet been filled because they can’t find the right people.

And it also seems that CEOs were more cautious in their hiring – and their spending in general -- than they initially wanted to be. 

Several of the companies that reported a decline in staffing have also told Entrevestor that they did not receive the Scientific Research & Experimental Development, or SR&ED, tax credits that they had been expecting. That shortfall, often amounting to six figures, sometimes affected staffing levels.

Because of all these factors, several companies actually reduced staff even though they had hoped to hire more people.

There were 77 startups that provided us with employment data for both 2013 and 2014. Some 74 of them had expected to hire people in 2014. However, only six met their hiring predictions – three meeting them exactly and another three exceeding them. Thirty-four of these companies actually shrank staff during the year.

So were these companies with declining staff going through a period of distress? Some were, and one actually closed down. But the interesting statistic is that one-third of the companies that shrank staff actually increased revenues last year. Now, a few of these companies had such a low revenue base that it couldn’t support their staffing. But there were others with six-figure revenues that felt compelled to reduce staff.

There were a few other things we looked at this year so we could get a better idea of the quality of jobs being created.  We asked companies to tell us the number of part-time positions (given a weighting of 0.5 of a position in the totals). Almost 90 percent of the positions created in the startup community are full-time positions. In addition to the jobs created in Atlantic Canada, the region’s startups have 106 full-time and 43 part-time positions in other parts of the world.

There  were  83  companies  with  paid  employees  that  gave  us  payroll information, and they reported a total payroll of $44.1 million. All told, these companies had 752 full-time equivalent employees, meaning that on average they paid their staff $58,600 each. As we saw in last year’s surveys, and confirmed by other research, startups create well-paying jobs.

One final observation about the employment survey is that founders have not been dissuaded by the challenges they faced last year in finding and paying talent. The 139 companies that gave us job data told us they expect to hire 476.5 employees in 2015. If they’re successful, their total staff will increase 43 percent. Forgive us, but it’s a forecast we’re taking with a grain of salt.


This article was originally published in the March edition of the Entrevestor Intelligence report.



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.      

LeadSift Seeks DailyShow Favourite

Known for its verve and creativity, LeadSift has set out to find out which celebrity the world wants to see succeed Jon Stewart as host of The Daily Show.

Since Stewart announced last month that he is stepping down, there has been plenty of speculation on who the new host can be. Halifax-based LeadSift, which scans social media to help businesses find sales leads, used its technology to sift through more than 600,000 tweets to find out who people around the world favour.

The Leadsift founders -- Tukan Das, Sreejata Chatterjee, Daniel Allen and Hatem Nassrat – have written a great blog on their findings, which we’ve reproduced below. They also have a tremendous infographic, which you can see here.

Das, the company’s CEO, has always shown an impressive moxie. When I emailed him yesterday and said I was glad he’d lost none of his creativity, he emailed back, saying:  “Creativity and passion are all we've got, Peter smile

Can Twitter Predict Who Will Be Tapped To Replace Jon Stewart?

Twitter has been abuzz with speculation, protestation and debate since the February 10th announcement that Jon Stewart would be retiring from The Daily Show.

And the main question on everyone’s mind: “Who could possibly replace Jon?”

Quinnipiac University conducted a national telephone poll that pointed to Tina Fey and Dennis Miller as top contenders in America’s mind. But we at LeadSift wanted to know what Twitter thought.

As a real-time network with 288 million users around the world, Twitter is an extremely powerful tool for conducting large-scale polls and surveys. The pulse of an audience – whether a small segment of Twitter or the entire Twitterverse – can be measured as events unfold.

Using our data partner Gnip, we explored tweets between February 10th, the day the Stewart announced his retirement, and March 9th, the day the University’s poll was released. There were 654,299 tweets about Stewart’s departure during that period, and 63,347 speculating about his replacement.

Interestingly, we found that Twitter’s speculations differed from the University’s findings in a number of ways.

First and most obvious, the top contenders according to Twitter are Jessica Williams and John Oliver. Nearly a quarter of the tweets we analyzed (23 percent) suggested tapping Williams, while 18 percent wanted to see Oliver give up his new gig and come back as The Daily Show host.

Tina Fey was the sixth most-popular choice for Stewart’s replacement, while Dennis Miller didn’t even make the top 10.

And since our data was global, the top locations with opinions on the future of The Daily Show included not only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, but also Toronto and London.

Free2Charge Eyes 10 Units a Month

Free2Charge: 'a modern payphone'

Free2Charge: 'a modern payphone'

Pascal deVillers regards the Free2Charge phone-charging stations as a “modern payphone.”

The payphone should have gone the way of the buggy whip, given that most of us carry cellphones. But the batteries tend to go dead in the middle of the day, and finding a place to charge them can be inconvenient, to say the least.

The Halifax company was created to address that problem. Founded by deVillers, Ben Lynds and Ken Leccese, it designs, manufactures and distributes recharging stations that you can use for a buck in public places. Some even refund your loonie.

“Everyone’s phones can die when they’re in public places,” said deVillers in an interview. “A lot of places are getting people asking, ‘Is there anywhere where I can recharge my phone?’ We address that pain.”

DeVillers was standing by his installation in the Student Union Building pub at St. Mary’s University, where he’s a part-time student. The Free2Charge station looks like a series of lockers, except each cubbyhole has three leads, one of which can plug into almost any smartphone. Users can pay a dollar, plug in their phones, lock the doors and know the phones are secure until they return.

The three entrepreneurs realized almost two years ago that smartphone batteries run out of juice quickly because they operate on 4G networks, run a few apps and face a lot of demands. A public place like a pub or hospital can cater to today’s market by offering a place where people can charge their phones without worrying about them being taken.

The founders originally designed and manufactured large standup facilities and installed their first one at Casino Nova Scotia in Halifax last May. They then designed small units that bolt onto a wall, and they’re proving popular with pubs.

So far, Free2Charge has installed three large units and seven small ones. The company either sells the machines to an establishment or installs them and collects revenue from the locker rentals.

Though battery technology is improving, deVillers expects that to help rather than hinder the Free2Charge business. New batteries lose energy just as quickly as old models, they just recharge more quickly. That means phones will recharge more quickly at the stations.

The founders have raised a bit of money from friends and family but largely financed their growth through debt and non-dilutive funding from such organizations as CBDC, Futurpreneur and the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development.

They have plans to keep that growth going. In the long term, they want to research new products and designs, such as bus seats fitted with cellphone rechargers. In the meantime, they want more sales and are beginning to assemble a network for distributors across the country. They soon hope to be putting out as many units each month as they’ve produced in total so far.

“Our goals moving forward are to produce five to 10 a month, at least for the first year,” said deVillers.



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.     


Startup Grind Launches in Halifax

Startup Grind, an event series designed to help entrepreneurs, has launched a Halifax chapter and will hold its first gathering tomorrow with a livestream by famed tech evangelist and author Guy Kawasaki.

The Halifax group is being led by Oleg Yefymov, a former Israeli venture capital fund manager who moved to Halifax last year. He is now working on his own startup Yomes, a feedback service for tenants and landlords.

Backed by Google for Entrepreneurs, Startup Grind is a global network active in almost 200 cities that aims to link and educate entrepreneurs. It generally features a meeting with a speaker about once a month, some in person and some by video link.

“A month ago I flew to San Francisco to attend Startup Grind's global event and I realized even more what power this community has and how it can benefit Atlantic Canada,” said Yefymov on Monday. “They are very well connected to the legends of the venture capital world, which means that all Startup Grind members in the Halifax chapter will have access to this vast worldwide network in almost 200 cities.”

He added that Google has just extended its contract with Startup Grind for three more years, and that could mean a lot to Halifax, where Google does not have a strong presence.

Yefymov first learned about the power of Startup Grind at Tel Aviv chapter, and he found there was a tremendous spirit of people helping each other.

The first event for Startup Grind Halifax, to be held at 2 pm Wednesday at Volta, will feature a livestream by Guy Kawasaki, who is now marketing his book The Art of the Start 2.0. He is also the author or co-author of such books as The Art of Social Media and APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur.

Yefymov said events such as the Kawasaki livestream will be free. There will also be more formal events with food and networking, and there will be a small charge. The first of these events will be a talk by East Valley Ventures Co-Founder Gerry Pond on March 25 at 6 pm.

“The goal is to interview 10 incredible and inspiring people a year,” said Yefymov. “We are now trying to get one of the top entrepreneurs from Israel.”

He is also working with the Toronto chapter to co-organize an event in Halifax in the summer and bring some Toronto VCs to the city.

Yefymov started his career in Israel, where funded and founded several companies. He owns a digital agency serving clients like the Israeli government, advertising agencies and startups. He also took an active part in founding Tel Aviv University's Entrepreneurship Center.


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: ACOA Funds TME

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the University of New Brunswick have issued the following press release:

Government of Canada Supports Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship at UNB

March 16, 2015 - Fredericton, NB – Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA)

Page Content

The University of New Brunswick’s Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre will take on two new projects at its Technology Management and Entrepreneurship Centre (TME), thanks to investments by the Government of Canada.

Mike Allen, Member of Parliament for Tobique-Mactaquac, on behalf of the Honourable Rob Moore, Regional Minister for New Brunswick and Minister of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), joined University of New Brunswick and Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre officials to make the announcement today.

Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre’s first project will help the Technology Management and Entrepreneurship Centre establish a technology commercialization program (TCP) .This initiative will provide TME students, trained with product development skills, with the opportunity to become entrepreneurs and launch new start-up companies by commercializing and taking new technologies to domestic and international markets.  A second project will assist the TME to develop a needs assessment to establish a Centre of Expertise for rapid prototyping in New Brunswick.  

The Government of Canada, through ACOA’s Business Development Program, is providing contributions totaling $385,800 toward these two initiatives. The Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre is contributing a total of $72,600 toward the two initiatives.

Quick Facts:

• The Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship (TME) is located within the Faculty of Engineering at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) Fredericton campus.

• Established in 1988, the Centre was named after Dr. J. Herbert Smith, a graduate of the University of New Brunswick's Faculty of Engineering, whose successful career with General Electric Canada included 15 years as its President and Chief Executive Officer.

• The Centre offers an undergraduate program designed to ensure that students and working professionals with technological background have the necessary business and entrepreneurial skills to succeed.

• Several graduates of the TME program have gone on to launch their own highly successful businesses while others have gone on to rewarding careers at some of the most highly respected companies in the world, including Shell, NB Power, Proctor & Gamble, Bell Canada and Phillips.

• The overall objectives of the TCP are: 1) Create at least four high tech start-ups per year in New Brunswick; 2) Retain highly qualified people in New Brunswick (particularly TME graduates); 3) Develop and build entrepreneurship skills in the province; 4) Promote innovation and commercialize new and existing technologies; and 5) Improve the competitiveness of New Brunswick by developing innovative solutions to industry specific needs.


“Our Government is committed to creating jobs and economic growth, while returning to fiscal balance.  Our support for the Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre will help the Technology Management and Entrepreneurship Centre establish a technology commercialization program and a centre of expertise for rapid prototyping, thus creating new opportunities for New Brunswick and economic growth through innovation.”

Mike Allen, Member of Parliament for Tobique-Mactaquac, on behalf of the Honourable Rob Moore, Regional Minister for New Brunswick and Minister of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency)

“Entrepreneurship is deeply rooted in the lives of New Brunswickers and our institutions. Continually receiving such great support from our community is truly a humbling experience, generating a stronger and more sustainable province. The spirit of collaboration, and entrepreneurship amongst educators, industry, and government is nurturing an innovation culture and resulting in an evolving story on why the Maritimes is the place to be.”

- Dr. Dhirendra Shukla - Chair of the Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre, Technology Management & Entrepreneurship Program at UNB


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.     



HeadsUp Wins Business Model Contest

HeadsUp, a startup dedicated to improving tradespeople’s communications with customers, captured the $25,000 first prize at Canada’s Business Model Competition on Saturday, edging out a strong field of finalists.

The university entrepreneurship competition’s winning team, comprising Mike Reid, Jeremy Tupper, and Dimitry Galamiyev, was a bit of a hybrid as its members came from three schools -- University of Waterloo, Dalhousie University, and Ontario College of Art and Design University respectively.

The two other winners were: Ourotech, made up of Duleek Ranatunga and Zain Roohi of the University of Waterloo, which captured the $15,000 second place; and Intelligent Site Innovations, comprising Cole Campbell and Mitchell Hollohan of Dalhousie University, which won the $10,000 third place.

HeadsUp will now proceed to the International Business Model Competition at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, in May. Other teams may also apply to attend the global finals.

Hosted by Dalhousie University’s Starting Lean initiative for the past three years, the Canadian Business Model Competition assesses how well a team of student entrepreneurs applies lean methodology to a business idea.  The important thing isn’t so much the business potential as the rigour with which the students test their theories through interviews with experts and potential clients.

HeadsUp, for example, began with the theory that an app would help plumbers, electricians, retailers and others let customers know precisely when they will be at their home rather than just giving a four-hour window. 

But 85 percent of the homeowners they interviewed said they wouldn’t download an app. Then they had the difficulty in finding something that companies would pay for. They are now focused on an SMS text messaging solution. It would not only notify the homeowner when the tradesperson will arrive, but also deliver a customer satisfaction form that can help a company identify evangelists.

In total, the HeadsUp team has conducted more than 150 interviews, and have lined up five early adopters with a total of more than 400 field reps to test the product. They will continue to hone the project as they go through The Next36 accelerator program this summer.

The runner-up Ourotech uses 3D printers to produce replica body parts for the medical industry. It means med students could practice on printed samples for training purposes.

“We haven’t decided whether to concentrate on heart surgery or brain surgery,” said presenter Duleek Ranatunga, holding up a 3D-printed brain and heart. “We don’t know whether to follow our hearts or listen to our minds.”

Intelligent Site Innovations is developing a solution to improve traffic signals at construction sites. Rather than have a three-person team manning the signs, ISI is working on a system of cameras and stop lights that one person could operate. Campbell and Hollohan are now working on pilot projects with two early adopters in Nova Scotia.

The other three finalists were: Go Grow from St. Mary’s University in Halifax, which is designing a low-cost covering for flowers that uses solar heat to extend the growing season; Local Line from Wilfrid Laurier University in Kitchener, ON, which is developing an online marketplace to link farmers and local chefs; and Scout from MacEwan University in Edmonton, which is developing loyalty cards for small and medium-sized businesses. 

Atlantic Venture Forum Seeks Pitchers

Atlantic Venture Forum, an investor conference that showcases regional startups, is looking for founders to present at this year’s event June 10 and 11 at the Westin Nova Scotian in Halifax.

Critical Path Group, the company that organizes AVF, has released a call for presenting companies and is accepting applications until March 31.

The company said the two-day event will “bring together the best, boldest, most innovative emerging and established IT, Cleantech, and Life Sciences companies in Atlantic Canada.”

Now in its third year, AVF has so far divided the East Coast startup community into early stage and growth categories so investors understand the stage of each company’s development. Last year, DeCell Technologies of Halifax won the 13-member early stage category. And the winner among the 13 growth stage companies was Neurodyn of Charlottetown.

The program includes pitches by about two dozen companies and four keynote speakers.

Critical Pathway is also accepting registration for the event. 

Palotta To Kick Off Startup Week

When Dan Palotta speaks in Fredericton next week, he will make a passionate plea for more liberal operating rules for non-profits, arguing they can do more good with greater flexibility.

Palotta is one of the keynote speakers at the Social Impact Dialogue that will take place Monday and Tuesday to kick off the East Coast Startup Week – the winter entrepreneurship festival in the New Brunswick capital.

The influence of the Pond-Deshpande Centre – whose dual mission is for traditional and social entrepreneurship – is strong in the Startup Week, so there is a heavy emphasis on impact ventures at the week-long festival.  The highlight of the week will be the Breakthru Gala on Thursday evening, and complete agenda is available here.

A native of the Boston area, Palotta is a veteran of the not-for-profit movement and invented the multi-day charitable event industry with the AIDS Rides and Breast Cancer 3-Days. According to his website, these events attracted 182,000 participants in nine years and raised a total of US$582 million.

His most recent crusade, and the subject of his talk in Fredericton, is a liberalization of the rules overseeing not-for profits.

“I’d like to see these organizations and their members running to the wild dreams that brought them into this work in the first place,” he said in a phone interview Thursday.

Palotta contends that non-profits are shackled by rules saying that “overhead”, or the administrative and marketing costs associated with the charity, can only be a certain percentage of the organization’s expenditures. He doesn’t like caps on executive pay in non-profits. He opposes rules preventing non-profits from taking risks or trying innovations.

Non-profits now operate in an “oppressive” web of restrictive regulations, he said. And they need to be freed to pursue new projects that would bring benefits to society and the planet.

Would more liberal regulations lead to a misuse of funds? No, said Palotta. The misuse of funds and fraud are criminal problems, and anyone abusing money given to charity could still face criminal prosecution.

What he wants to see is people and institutions giving money to charities based on their performance, not on their administration costs.

He wants to see innovation in this space. Some could lead to profitable ventures, he said, such as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation monetizing patents it holds on drugs. But there is also a need for innovation in practices and technology that can benefit society without generating a profit.

The good news is that there is progress in the discussion on non-profit oversight. Palotta noted that both Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau in the U.S. have said overhead is a poor measure of a non-profit’s value and performance is what matters.

“The conversation is in its early stages,” he said. “It was like gay marriage about 30 years ago – no one was talking about it but the good news is the conversation has started.”


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.     


Leary Journeys from Bigfoot to B Corp

Leary: 'One of the fastest-growing B Corp regions in the world'

Leary: 'One of the fastest-growing B Corp regions in the world'

There’s nothing predictable about inspiration. Frances Leary’s journey toward becoming a socially responsible entrepreneur began with a study of Bigfoot in the swamps of Louisiana.

Halifax-based Leary established Wired Flare, her online communications company, in 2011.

It has become the 13th company in the Maritimes to gain the status of Benefit Corporation, a designation that communicates a company’s social responsibility to the world.

A growing American initiative, B Corp certification requires businesses to prove that they meet high standards in terms of social and environmental practices, accountability and transparency.

As of June 2014, there were around 1,000 B Corps in 60 industries and 34 countries.

“We’re the first company in Canada that specializes in social media to get B Corp designation,” said Leary, the company’s president.

“Twelve of the Maritime certifications happened in the last 12 months. That makes this region one of the fastest-growing B Corp regions, per capita, in the world.”

Social responsibility has always been important to Wired Flare, Leary said. The company’s main office is powered by green energy supplier Bullfrog Power.

Wired Flare is also a certified Women’s Business Enterprise organization, and it values supplier diversity. The company devotes more than 10 per cent of its resources to support non-profit initiatives.

Leary said that B Corp status also improves her company’s competitiveness in an economy that increasingly values sustainability, social accountability and transparency.

“And B Corp allows us to connect with other companies with the same values. It means real accountability, which will encourage us to keep improving in all areas.”

Leary said that studying the marketing of Bigfoot taught her a lot about marketing in general.

The Texan was a graduate student at Memorial University in Newfoundland in 2001 when she visited the Louisiana swamps to research her thesis.

She became fascinated by the myriad ways local people used the legend to make money, from selling Swamp Man T-shirts and giving swamp tours to making plaster casts of a footprint.

“I spent a month in Louisiana getting to know the stories of the Honey Island Swamp Monster and learning how local people commercialized the creature.”

At the time, she did not foresee a career in marketing. She had been a Grade 8 teacher for 10 years and imagined she would remain in teaching.

But when she began doing some online marketing work, she saw the connection between the selling of Bigfoot and selling everything else.

 “I realized that folklore and marketing are much the same thing. Folklore is the process of how cultures communicate their belief systems. Marketing is the way companies communicate their core values and missions.

“Big Foot has influenced my approach to online marketing. For me, it’s become much more about story. I aim to capture the personalities and stories of the people I’m working with.”

Halifax has proven fertile ground for her brand of storytelling.

 “The Halifax business community has supported and opened doors for us. We’ve experienced nothing but opportunities 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: CBMC Opens Today

Dalhousie University has issued the following press release:

Canada’s Business Model Competition to host student entrepreneurs from universities across Canada

Halifax - Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business is excited to be hosting Canada’s Business Model Competition on March 13 and 14. Thirty teams of student entrepreneurs from more than twenty universities across Canada will compete for $50,000 in prizes presented by Deloitte.  The final competition will take place on Saturday March 14 at 2 pm in the Kenneth C. Rowe Building and is to the public.

Canada’s Business Model Competition is the national qualifier for the International Business Model Competition and is organized by the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship at Dalhousie University. At the two-day competition teams will showcase their start-ups and their use of Steve Blank’s business model canvas. According to Dr. Ed Leach, director of the Norman Newman Centre, “The business model canvas is a powerful learning tool for companies to test their start-ups in the real world against actual customers. This tool is being used by entrepreneurs from coast to coast including the CBMC qualifying teams and we are excited to be bringing them here to Dalhousie University.” The team best able to use this tool will win $25,000 in cash and in-kind services and will advance to the International Business Model Competition being held at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, in early May.

Brian Black, a senior manager at Deloitte, asserted “It is imperative that the private sector support student entrepreneurship and innovation in order to allow the Canadian economy to grow and compete on the world stage.” In keeping with this philosophy, Deloitte presents the $50,000 Deloitte Smart Launch Award to the business model competition each year. Last year, first place was awarded to Teknically from Wilfrid Laurier University, second place to Sparkgig from the University of Waterloo and third place went to Santé West from the University of British Columbia.

•             Teknically from University of Wilfrid Laurier: Teknically builds software as a service solution that solves problems for small businesses.

•             Sparkgig from the University of Waterloo: Sparkgig is an online marketplace that connects performers to event opportunities or gigs. 

•             Santé West from the University of British Columbia: Santé West has developed a knee brace that uses partial load bearing technology to reduce injury recovery time.

With the help of partners like Deloitte, McInnes Copper and ACOA, the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship and Dalhousie University are hosting more student startups, providing more learning and having a bigger impact on the Canadian university start-up ecosystem than ever before.

Our Survey Reveals Focus on Sales

Entrevestor Intelligence: An in-depth portrait of #Startupeast in 2014.

Entrevestor Intelligence: An in-depth portrait of #Startupeast in 2014.

Startups in Atlantic Canada focused more on selling than hiring in 2014, and business specialists believe the region’s high-growth companies are better off as a result.

Today, we’re releasing our first Entrevestor Intelligence report of 2015, including the results of our latest survey of the region’s startups.

The companies that shared data with us revealed that their total revenues increased 36.5 per cent over last year. That comes after revenues increased by 30 per cent in 2013.

Meanwhile, employment at startups in the region continues to grow but at a slower pace. Our most recent survey found that employment at the responding startups increased by 9.4 per cent — not bad, but falling far short of the dizzying 43 per cent growth of 2013.

“The startup sector not adding jobs as quickly as it has in the past likely indicates productivity improvements,” said Gary Dinn, who became CEO of the regional accelerator Propel ICT late last year.

“We will therefore not add jobs in lockstep with revenue growth, as with older resource-based industries.”

Several business leaders echoed the sentiments of Saeed El-Darahali, CEO of SimplyCast, who said in an interview that companies are “focusing on a slow burn so you can get to break-even all the quicker.” That, he said, is a healthier process than simply focusing on job growth.

In the first two months of this year, Entrevestor identified 287 startups in the region and surveyed as many as we could. We received 147 responses by the deadline for this report, though some respondents declined to give sensitive information, such as sales or funding details.

Combining this data with our reporting from around the region, our first Entrevestor Intelligence report this year gives a detailed picture of what’s going on in this exciting segment early in 2015. We’ve had help.

Lise Hansen of Bonfire Communications in Saint John produced the magnificent infographic in the middle pages, and David Alston, Chief Innovation Officer at Introhive, weighs in with his vision of a digital society in New Brunswick. And our tremendous intern Sabina Wex has looked into what Mashup Lab is doing in rural Nova Scotia.

It’s difficult to pick out trends from revenue data. But there were more companies moving into the middle band of healthy-if-not-spectacular revenue and out of the pre-revenue band.

In the latest survey, 21 per cent of the respondents were in the $100,000-$1 million revenue band, compared with 18 per cent in 2013. At the lower end of the spectrum, 48 per cent of the companies had revenue below $10,000 this year, down from 53 per cent a year earlier.

Here’s some other good news about revenues: almost four-fifths of the sales come from outside Atlantic Canada. Only 22 per cent of the startup revenue comes from Atlantic Canadian customers. Almost three times that amount (64 per cent) comes from clientele outside Canada. The recent growth of startups in the region would be a hollow victory if the growth were not based on exports.

In funding, the biggest venture capital deal last year was Spectrum Equity’s $60-million investment into Verafin of St. John’s, N.L. (We group private equity deals, such as the Spectrum funding, in with venture capital.)

But it was only part of the story. Overall, 2014 was a record year with $84.4 million of institutional investment into Atlantic Canadian startups, up 170 per cent from a year earlier.

If you strip out the Spectrum funding, the 2014 total falls to $24.4 million. But if we take out that deal, we should also exclude Imperial Capital’s $17 million funding of STI Technologies in 2013, in which case the 2013 total would be $13.8 million. That still means VC funding increased by 77 percent in 2014.

In the ecosystem for startups, the big advance last year was the broadening of the Propel ICT regional accelerator. It went from a cohort of six teams in the spring to a multi-location cohort of more than 20 in the autumn.

There was also a strengthening of the pre-accelerator groups that feed into Propel. The Mashup Lab movement in Nova Scotia, Vennture Garage in Moncton, Ignition in Prince Edward Island and several initiatives in the Sydney area are getting teams ready for accelerators and the market.

Also in this issue, we take a look at the challenges of the startup life. Our whole community is learning, (as if they didn’t know it before) that this startup stuff is hard. If it weren’t, we’d all be listed on Nasdaq by now, or maybe the NYSE. Atlantic Canadian founders are becoming more sober in their judgments, which is probably why they hired fewer people than they’d expected last year.

There were about 43 startups that shut down in the region last year, and we wanted to look at the issue of failure. So we talked with Nathan Armstrong, who closed down Hyton Innovation last summer. And we profiled Yves Boudreau, whose first company went bankrupt. Boudreau is now in 500 Startups in San Francisco with his second.


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.

Singh: Founders Are Economic Leaders

Paul Singh: 'Tech Companies have to be on top.'

Paul Singh: 'Tech Companies have to be on top.'

A group of high-growth entrepreneurs heard last night that the economic development of their city, region and country depends on their own success because tech is the engine for modern growth.

Paul Singh, the founder and CEO of Washington, D.C.-based Disruption Corp., told a Tech Cocktail Halifax event that modern economic growth depends on high growth companies, and their success or failure will determine how Halifax will grow in the future.

“You choose to live here and what happens to your company will affect your life, your children’s life, your community’s life,” said Singh. “Like it or not, you are economic developers.”

Singh is renowned internationally in the startup world as an investor, mentor and speaker, largely because he travels endlessly around the world to deliver talks and find the best investment opportunities. At 34, he and the funds he has worked for have invested in about 1000 companies in 40 countries, and he has deployed about US$130 million in investments.

His ties to Nova Scotia were strengthened recently when Innovacorp became the Canadian conduit for the country’s companies entering the Disruption Corp. space in the D.C. area. So far QRA Corp. of Halifax is working at the space, and Innovacorp investment officer Dawn Umlah said last night they are in the process of selecting more.

Singh has now made several trips to Halifax, and his message Wednesday night is that the city’s future will be shaped by people developing high-growth companies. It’s a message that can apply to any city because of the low costs in developing tech companies.

One term he does not apply to such companies is “startups”, because he says everyone knows that most startups fail. These ventures must be thought of as “high-growth companies” because then decision makers will start to take them seriously.

Tech companies generally do not become high-employment businesses, he said, because the whole idea of technology is to do as much as possible with few people. But the growth of a tech hub in an area underpins economic growth, leading to a range of employment across the economy.

Singh cited the example the Crystal City district near Washington. He initiated a campaign in which banners with photos of founders and funders are placed around the community. It delivered the message that these people were shaping the city.

The average wage in D.C. is about $90,000 but tech employees on average make about $125,000, said Singh. So the growing tech community in Crystal City has led a revival of the city. “Tech companies have to be at the top,” he said. 

Smart Castle: Cyber-Security for Kids

When a group of graduate computer science students in Fredericton sat around discussing cyber-security last year, two voices that carried the most weight were those belonging to the parents of young children.

The group understood the dangers the internet poses for kids, and Smart Castle Labs was born.

This young startup is developing a device that will help protect children when they use the internet and do more than simply filter out inappropriate websites. It will use sentiment analysis and other functionality to battle cyber-bullying, internet luring and other online evils.

“Our team members all have network security backgrounds and we have these brainstorming sessions with each other,” said Smart Castle Labs CEO Elaheh Biglar in an interview. “Two team members have children and they shared their concerns with us.”

She later added that the type of security tool they are developing is “now used only in network-based technology but we want to bring it to the home.”

Six months into its development, the Fredericton startup is one of five finalists for the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition. The results of the contest – which will award a total prize pot of $750,000 to the top three finalists – will be announced at the Breakthru Gala dinner in Fredericton on March 19.

Formed by five University of New Brunswick students, Smart Castle is in the early stages of developing a hardware device called DrawBridge. Parents can plug it in at home so all the family’s internet-based devices work off it. The team is taking a layered approach to developing the product, so it will rely on a powerful filtering system, natural learning techniques, sentiment analysis and image analysis to protect children.

The goal is to understand how kids are is interacting with the world online so parents can feel sure their children are protected from the array of dangers that lurk in cyberspace.

Biglar said the team decided on a hardware solution because a pure software product would have to be installed on a range of devices – phones, tablets, desktops, game consoles – with a variety of operating systems. By having a single device for the household, the parents plug it in and know that all devices are covered.

The Smart Castle team, which includes three PhDs, has completed its research into the product, which was an extensive process. Team members have also been speaking at schools about cybersecurity, which has helped to gain an understanding of what devices children use.

Biglar said the team is now working on the software for the device, and all five members are committed to proceeding with the company. She estimates it will need about $1 million in funding to finance the company for about two years. By that time, they hope to put out a basic product that would protect the child from harmful websites. One or two years after that, they hope for a more advanced product that would target threats like cyberbullying.

The team is also continuing to research the field of online threats to children, said Biglar. “It’s a process that will go on forever because of the nature of the problem.”


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.



Spot Interactive’s Sales Explosion

Less than a year after Spot Interactive took on the Discovery Centre in Halifax as its first client, the video-based e-commerce company has quickly amassed a customer base of 600.

The young Charlottetown and Montreal company’s growth is seen in the fact that it recently doubled its staff to 12 and took on investment from private backers. But the strongest evidence is that Spot Interactive had impressive revenue in 2014, considering it was its first year of sales. But in the first 10 weeks of 2015, its sales have been 25 times those of all 2014.

The reason for such astonishing growth is a combination of technology that is both cool and easy to use and a truly imaginative and effective sales strategy.

What Spot Interactive does is allow people to execute an interactive function while they’re watching an online video, with virtually no interruption in the film. So far the focus has been to make an online purchase, but the user could be tweeting, sharing, submitting applications or downloading files, all while a video is playing.

As the viewer watches, a small circle appears on screen. When viewers click on it, a small box appears with descriptive content and forms that allow a sale or other action. It means viewers could watch a video of a beach in Brazil, decide they like it and book a flight without any interruption in the video.

 “At the moment the audience is engaged and ready to buy, the point of sale is right in front of them,” CEO Andrew Murray said in an interview last week. “When we developed the capacity to do this last spring, it was very powerful and we got some great feedback.”

Murray first developed the product for some Halifax art galleries he was working with. They had video of their space and he developed a program that let people click on paintings to purchase them. After developing the product further, Spot Interactive made its first sale last spring when the Discovery Centre hired the company to make an online video campaign for it. The resulting video is due to be released this month.

After the Discovery Centre sale, the company developed the product into a software-as-a-service offering that clients could use themselves to add a sales function to any video. It has sold the product to major corporations in Canada, the United States and Japan, and about 600 startups are using Spot Interactive to augment their marketing.

Murray, whose background is in neither technology nor sales but neuroscience, landed these blue-chip customers by being “really creative with our sales procedure.” All these companies have free videos on YouTube as part of their marketing effort. Murray and his collaborators took these videos and embedded point-of-sale devices in them.

If they got a meeting with anyone in a marketing department, they’d use the company’s own video to show the power of the Spot Interactive functionality. As often as not, it led to quick sales.

The growth has been so successful that Murray was able to grow the company mainly through revenue. In December, it attracted funding from Real Ventures in Montreal and members of the East Valley Ventures investment group in Saint John.




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.

Glitch Wizard Eyes Greater Usage

Glitch Wizard: Distort your photos.

Glitch Wizard: Distort your photos.

After wowing the audience at DemoCamp last autumn, Halifax-based Glitch Wizard is now hoping users upload more images on to social media using the app.  

Founded by developers Connor Bell and Allan Lavell, Glitch Wizard is an app that uses filters to distort images, GIFs and videos to give them a computer-crash aesthetic. Glitch Wizard allows the user to have fun with their images rather than post exactly what the camera captures.

The Halifax-based duo broke even the first day they launched Glitch Wizard on the Canadian and American Apple app stores last September. For every sale, they take 70 percent of the $2.29 that the app sells for on the Canadian app store; then, Bell and Lavell each receive half of that money. They said their daily earnings from the app is enough to buy both of them a fancy lunch.

In the time they aren’t working on Glitch Wizard, Lavell works as a freelance developer, and Bell is completing his bachelor of science in computer science and mathematics from Dalhousie University. They also work at Halifax programming company Twisted Oak.

Bell and Lavell drew huge applause from the crowd at Halifax’s Democamp last autumn, where they pitched Glitch Wizard in under five minutes.

Lavell said that he’s more interested in buyers’ engagement with Glitch Wizard at this stage than with the numbers of downloads. When they made the app free for two days, they saw 8,500 downloads. He added he wants to see users uploading more pictures on the app on a frequent basis, then uploading those pictures to Twitter with #glitchwizard.

In the 2.0 version the duo released in October, they added a “submit to feature” button to the app. This means that once users upload their photos to the app, they can press the “submit to feature” button, which sends the photo to Lavell and Bell. The duo pick the best glitched photos and feature them on the homepage of the app. They said that this has been a huge success.

“It’s a complex enough tool that there’s a lot of diverse ways to approach using it,” Lavell said, “and there’s guaranteed that there’s someone’s going to come up with something that we haven’t thought of.”

Glitch Wizard finds its biggest successes in the social media realm. Lavell said he’ll often glitch artwork and tweet it to the artist, who often will retweet the Glitch. Bell said that he hopes to create more filters for the app, including a double exposure one, in which two images are blended together and then glitched.

“This is a sweet art-making tool,” Lavell said. “If you’re cool, go get it.”


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.


Conlon Brings Nautel Touch to LED

Peter Conlon: 'Now I'm glad I'm vanilla.'

Peter Conlon: 'Now I'm glad I'm vanilla.'

Peter Conlon, CEO of LED Roadway Lighting, had just received the greatest compliment of his career.

“Yesterday, I bumped into a former colleague from the days when I was CEO of Nautel,” he said.

“She told me that everything is fine at Nautel. She said, ‘You made us so confident in ourselves we know we can do it.’

“That felt great. Now I can sit back and say, ‘I didn’t mess that up.’”

Conlon was president and CEO of Nautel for nine years, before leaving to become LED CEO last August.

Nautel is based in sleepy Hacketts Cove, near Peggys Cove, but has become a global leader in the manufacture of radio broadcast transmitters.

The company has projects in 177 countries, and NASA features on its client list.

Conlon led the organization to its global position after being headhunted for the role.

“Nautel was a beautiful company but it needed a spark. I thought it was a diamond in the rough,” he said, remembering the early days.

When he took over at Nautel, there was never any reason to fear that Conlon, who had experience managing businesses of all sizes around the world, would mess up.

But Conlon had been falling prey to mid-life self-doubt. He was unhappy that he’d dropped out of university without completing his math degree, although he later managed to persuade George Mason University in Virginia to allow him to gain an MBA.

Over the years, he’d become a generalist in business. He had tried many different roles, including sales, finance, marketing and manufacturing, without excelling at any of them.

“I’d become a generalist because I am easily bored and because I see life as series of puzzles. I love Sudoku. Puzzles keep the brain active and allow the subconscious to work on other problems.

“But I woke one day feeling terribly stressed. I asked myself, ‘What am I?’ I realized that because of a career path that wended like a drunken butterfly, I wasn’t anyone. They wouldn’t know what to put on my epitaph.

“I realized that I’d better become a very good generalist. Now I’m glad I’m vanilla. At Nautel, I realized that not being anything in particular could be valuable.”

Conlon said generalists are valuable because they see how things fit together.

“We understand the impact of decisions on other parts of an organization. I have actual experience of the day jobs of everyone who works for me and understand their roles.

“Everyone’s work improves when they learn to assess their decisions in a company-wide context.”

Conlon said he learned about leadership from working for Terry Matthews, founder of Ottawa startup Mitel Networks, a company with strong similarities to Nautel.

“Terry allowed me to see what inspirational leadership can do. People would follow Terry into what appeared to be an abyss because he made them believe the bridge was there.”

Conlon’s dislike of boredom means he has moved 17 times since leaving his parents’ Ottawa home.

He has been in Nova Scotia since 2006, after his P.E.I.-born wife expressed a desire to return to the Atlantic coast.

These days, boredom is less of a problem.

“Each of my recent jobs has been complex, and it takes longer to get to that point.”

Now, he aims to repeat his Nautel success story at LED. The Bayers Lake-headquartered company specializes in the design and manufacturing of LED-based street lighting and control systems.

Increasing global sales is a key objective.

“At the heart of a business is a team. You have to get them all to believe and to move in the same direction.

“Confidence means working to create a global market for Nova Scotia technology. Doing business in your own community is wonderful, but the same money is being circulated. It’s exports that bring new wealth to the region.”


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.      

Dragons Vet Sage, Hold Auditions

The CBC’s Dragons' Den is looking for Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs just as it airs a pitch from a team that  cut their teeth in the region.

Auditions for The Dragon’s Den are being held around the region this week, and Sage Mixology, a company that grew out of Dalhousie University’s Starting Lean Program, will appear on the show next Wednesday.

Sage, which markets premixed drinks through a bottle-within-a-bottle system, will appear on the show Wednesday, March 11. CEO Cam McDonald said the team is on the first seven minutes of the show.

Dragon’s Den contestants follow the laws of Omerta, so McDonald declined to say whether the team got funding.

SageMixology developed in the first Dal Starting Lean cohort more than two years, with the idea that premixed drinks would be better if the alcohol and the mix were separated until they were poured into a glass. The company’s Elderberry and Pink Lemon products are now being sold by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, the world’s largest liquor retailer.

Meanwhile, the show’s annual auditions in Atlantic Canada began yesterday in Saint John. (Apologies to New Brunswickers that we didn’t see the announcement until after it had been held.)

The auditions will continue in Charlottetown tomorrow (Friday) at 10 am to 5 am at the CBC office on University Ave.

There will be concurrent auditions Saturday.

In Halifax, they will take place at the Centre For Entrepreneurship Education and Development, or CEED, or the Halifax Shopping Centre from 11 am to 6 pm.

“We are excited to host the Halifax auditions on the CBC Dragons’ Den national audition tour for the fifth time,” said Laurie Cameron, President and CEO, CEED. “Dragons’ Den is a natural fit for CEED given our extensive experience working with business start-ups. Once again this year, we are proud to offer a unique component to the Halifax auditions, providing entrepreneurs with the opportunity to practice and perfect their pitch with CEED.”

In St. John’s, the auditions will take place 10 am to 5 pm Saturday at the Sheraton Hotel. 

Briefs: Densitas, RtTech, Smart Skin

Vienna, Austria , March 4 – A new research technology was profiled today during scientific sessions at the European Congress of Radiology (ECR) in Vienna, Austria. Densitas Research Edition assesses mammographic breast density using ‘for presentation’ digital mammography images.

In a presentation focused specifically on the technology itself, study results using 1,823 images showed excellent agreement between Densitas Research Edition density measures and radiologists’ visual assessment. This concept is also known as ‘face validity’. The research also confirmed the internal reliability of Densitas Research Edition, or its ability to consistently generate the same, valid results repeatedly.

“Densitas Research Edition provides consistent, reliable and reproducible results,” said Mohamed Abdolell, CEO of Densitas and a biostatistician. “This gives us the ability to address a key challenge for radiologists who visually assess mammographic density: inter and intra-operator variability.”

Currently, the standard way to assess mammographic density is a radiologist’s visual assessment. Such subjective evaluation is prone to poor reproducibility between two radiologists reading the same image. As well, even the same radiologist could assess an image at different times and report a different result. Densitas Research Edition standardizes the assessment of mammographic density.

* * *

Moncton, March 3 -- RtTech is proud to announce the release of a new, cloud-based version of its award-winning real-time KPI Calculator software, RtDuet. Offered on a monthly subscription basis, RtDuet Cloud is primarily directed towards small to medium manufacturers.

RtDuet Cloud allows smaller manufacturing companies to compete on the same level as larger corporations by implementing the robust software solution as an operating expense, rather than waiting to incorporate into future capital expenditures.

"We wanted to help all companies improve their plant efficiencies, not just the large and wealthy ones," says RtTech Software CEO Pablo Asiron. We took a proven solution and adapted it into a subscription-based service to allow smaller companies to reap the rewards. This is the way all software is moving. We needed to adapt in order to compete, and we're happy to have been first out of the gate."

RtDuet Cloud offers manufacturers the same features and benefits as its namesake, RtDuet. The significant differences are reduced installation time and subscription-based pricing.

* * *

Moncton, March 3 -- Smart Skin Technologies is excited to announce the appointment of Mr. Andreas Liebl as a partner for key account customers. Mr. Liebl has more than 25 years experience in the industry and has held several senior positions in the brewing, malting, flavour and machinery industries in Europe and Africa. He studied in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, holding a Brewmaster degree from the Technical University Munich in Weihenstephan and an MBA degree from the University of Missouri Kansas City.

"I am excited to show our customers how the benefits of the Smart Skin technology will contribute to their success in filling beverages more efficiently." says Mr. Liebl. "Joining a company early in its life is a new path for me and an incredible growth opportunity. I am looking forward to helping the company grow and succeed."

Smart Skin Technologies CEO Kumaran Thillainadarajah adds “Smart Skin Technologies is very excited to welcome Mr. Liebl. We are on a mission to improve the bottom lines of our customers. Mr Liebl shares this vision and will help Smart Skin Technologies in reaching our goal of helping every plant in the world.”

Mr. Liebl is formerly Vice President of Sales for Krones AG, where he was responsible for all sales activities in Sub-Saharan Africa.


This column of briefs is verbatim text taken from press releases issued by the subject companies. 

After Pivot, Dash Hudson Raises $1M

Dash Hudson: Linking e-commerce and Instagram ads.

Dash Hudson: Linking e-commerce and Instagram ads.

Dash Hudson, a Halifax company that helps shoppers purchase clothes they see on Instagram ads, has raised $1 million, including funding from two of the province’s leading tech entrepreneurs, Jevon MacDonald and Gavin Uhma.

While the money is significant to help the company grow, the Dash Hudson statement Tuesday reveals how the company has secured a network of leading advisers and investors in both the technology and fashion worlds.

Innovacorp contributed $350,000 to the round raised by CEO Thomas Rankin, who worked for the provincial innovation agency from 2011 to 2013. The other new investors include MacDonald and Uhma, who co-founded GoInstant in 2011 and sold out to Salesforce for a reported price of more than $70 million a year later.

Dash Hudson may add to the round if other investors come in.

“Obviously, I had knowledge of Thomas by working with him previously here,” said Charles Baxter, Innovacorp vice-president of investment, in an interview.

“One thing I liked about Thomas is he’s a guy who sought out top-notch advice.”

Rankin and chief technical officer Tomek Niewiarowski launched Dash Hudson in late 2013 as an e-commerce fashion site for men. Last summer, they changed their model so they work more closely with fashion houses or retailers advertising products on the photo-based social network.

Dash Hudson allows brands’ creative talent to place photos on Instagram of models wearing their clothes with relevant descriptions. With an elegant model and a visually pleasing photo, the seller can make sure the clothes are presented in the best light. And using Instagram, the ads can be sent out to a vast range of potential shoppers.

People who have registered with Dash Hudson can then “like” the image and are taken instantly to the Dash Hudson site, where they can buy the product online. Dash Hudson handles order processing with the product provider and bundles items, when possible.

Dash Hudson is available on the iPhone, and the company plans to have an Android version later this year. The goal is that the entire social media and shopping experience will be carried out on the user’s phone or mobile device.

 “For our audience, Instagram is their stage, their glossy mag and their shopping mall,” said Rankin in a statement. “With brands spending over $1 billion per year on Instagram marketing, with no (return on investment), there’s a big opportunity for us to help turn that spend into meaningful results.”

Since the new service was launched in December, the ads linked to Dash Hudson have reached about 3 million people. Baxter said the company now has in “the low tens of thousands” of users.

What’s impressive about the company is the people Rankin has surrounded himself with. As well as MacDonald and Uhma, local investors include Patrick Hankinson, who sold Compilr last year. Investors in Dash Hudson’s previous $400,000 funding round included former Groupon chief technology officer Paul Gauthier and DHX Media co-founder and Academy Award-winning producer Charles Bishop.

Baxter said Innovacorp was comfortable investing in the former employee’s company because of its rising user base and because of the quality of investor it attracted and continues to work with.

The company’s advisers include Daniel Burka, design partner at Google Ventures; Erik Lautier, executive vice-president and chief digital officer at the fashion boutique bebe; David Alston, chief innovation officer at Introhive; and John Jannuzzi, senior digital editor at GQ.


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: Teen Event in Sydney

The UIT program at Cape Breton University issued the following press release:

High School Hackathon hosted by UIT Startup Immersion

UIT Startup Immersion at Cape Breton University is hosting a free, day-long hackathon for high school students. The event takes place at the New Dawn Center for Social Innovation on Saturday, March 7 from 8am to 9pm.

The event -- which is free for high school-aged students -- aims to boost interest in technology, computer programming, and entrepreneurship.  Beginning with a brainstorming session, participants will be paired with UIT students and mentors from the local tech community. Teams will spend the next 12 hours bringing their ideas to life. Participants' parents are invited to attend from 7-9pm to witness the results.

Breakfast, lunch, snacks and supper are provided.

“We are really looking forward to seeing what these high school students and UIT students come up with together. Not just in the way of new tech or business apps, but also to use technology to help the community,” said Danielle Patterson, spokesperson for UIT Startup Immersion.

“Business and information technology are inseparable nowadays,” said Patterson. “With an understanding of both, students would be ready to step right into some of the best career paths out there, whether as entrepreneurs or as employees at leading organizations in just about every industry."

Participants needn’t have prior software experience, but they do need to register in advance. For more information visit: uithackathon.eventbrite.ca

UIT is an 11-month immersion program that teaches the methods behind the world’s most successful startups. Students learn technology and business skills leading up to the launch of their own product. UIT is founded by Gavin Uhma, in a partnership with Cape Breton University’s Shannon School of Business.

Applications are being accepted for September 2015. Applicants can register at UITstartup.org

AutoPulse Plans Launch in 2016

A few months after musing with his father about new technologies for the automotive industry, Sam Jesso is one step away from capturing more than $200,000 in seed funding and services to develop such a product.

Jesso heads AutoPulse, a Fredericton startup designing technology that helps auto dealerships monitor their customers’ cars.

Last week, the University of New Brunswick software engineering student found out AutoPulse was a finalist for the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition. The top three finalists, who will be named March 19, will divide a prize pot worth about $750,000.

“When we were working on our first business plan, we started before we’d even heard of the Breakthru competition,” Jesso said in an interview Sunday, together with his co-founder Kristin Killam.

“We plan on going forward regardless of the outcome, but winning would help because it would reduce the need for money.”

The story of AutoPulse began when Jesso did a few work terms in his co-op program with Blue Spurs Consulting in Fredericton, and he became intrigued with the startup world. Then in October, he and his father, Reg, a portfolio manager with an auto dealership, began to discuss the opportunities for new technology in the auto trade.

They teamed up with Killam, a business administration student at UNB, and soon devised a data-based product.

AutoPulse works off existing hardware that is simple to install and operates with the onboard computer in most cars on the road. The system automatically monitors the workings of the car and can detect early signs that problems may arise. AutoPulse transmits the information to a mobile or desktop dashboard at the dealership.

The idea is to provide the dealership with data so it can initiate a service call, rather than wait for a car owner to get around to it. That means the dealership can contact car owners before they even know there is something wrong, thus improving service. It also means a dealership can order parts before a car even arrives at the shop.

That reduces “unsold service capacity,” or having parts sitting around the dealership in case they’re needed. And it facilitates scheduling an appointment by putting the two parties in touch.

“From a competitive standpoint, there are multiple (customer relationship management devices) for dealerships, and what a lot of them focus on is lead conversion for sales,” said Jesso.

“But these are, for the most part, manual entry databases or, at best, they’re estimations. We think there is some value in that information being real-time.”

Though they’re still a few years away from graduation, Jesso and Killam plan to launch the first version of their product in early 2016. They already have four dealerships signed up to test it.

And they believe the cost of developing the software will only be about $25,000, meaning they can proceed regardless of how they do in the Breakthru event.


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: Local Prosperity Event

The Centre for Local Prosperity has issued the following press release:

Regional Economics Conference planned for April 2015

(Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia) March 2, 2015.    It is widely known that small rural communities in Atlantic Canada are struggling.  A regional conference has been organized to address these issues with fresh ideas.  The conference is entitled “Local Prosperity: New Economics for Rural Canada” (localprosperity.ca), and is taking place April 9-12, 2015, in Annapolis County.

One of the organizers, Gregory Heming, an Annapolis County municipal councilor and President of the Centre for Local Prosperity, says, “Finding solutions to the increasing economic, social and ecological disintegration of small rural communities may seem difficult, but practical and achievable solutions are possible. There are many examples from which we can draw inspiration.”

Heming is part of a group of individuals from several Nova Scotia communities that have banded together to create the non-profit organization Centre for Local Prosperity, located in Annapolis County. The mission of the Centre is to assist rural Atlantic Canadian communities in initiating self-empowering projects and activities that result in the creation of more prosperous and enlightened communities.

Conference organizers have been keeping abreast of many new projects and ideas initiated in small communities in the region and elsewhere in Canada, the U.S. and internationally. Robert Cervelli, a resident of St. Margarets Bay and one of the conference organizers, says many innovative communities have been successful in meeting the rural challenge. Cervelli says, “The conference will focus on how individuals, businesses and communities can design and then implement a future that is cooperative, compassionate and long-term.  We intend to provide an innovative and full tool-box of ideas.”

The conference brings together more than 35 local, national, and international speakers with expertise in new models for community economic development. 

Conference working sessions highlight innovative approaches, such as local investment in new community enterprises, shared community resources, community enterprise hubs, complementary currencies, innovative ways to rejuvenate a town’s “main street,” small farms as economic drivers, development of local food infrastructure, adding value to fisheries, rebuilding value from our forests, the importance of arts and culture economy, and new models of municipal governance.

The conference is being held in an innovative mix of venues in Annapolis County and the town of Annapolis Royal, including the Annapolis Royal Regional Academy, recently vacated and seeking a new purpose, and the successfully converted Pearson Peacekeeping Centre in Cornwallis now serving as the Annapolis Basin Conference Centre.

 “The conference is intended for anyone inspired to revitalize their community,” says Heming, who goes on to list farmers, fishermen, foresters, community leaders, elected representatives, business and industry leaders, small business owners, students, start-up entrepreneurs, agency and association representatives, and local residents.

Organizers of the conference on rural economic development are encouraging early registration. For more information about the conference visit links below.

For more information, contact:




Gregory Heming                               902-955-1267                     gregoryaheming@gmail.com

Robert Cervelli                  902-222-4391                     robert.cervelli@gmail.com

Press Release: Next Propel Cohort

Propel ICT, Atlantic Canada’s startup accelerator, has issued the following press release:

Propel ICT Opens Up Applications For Next Round of Startup Programs

Programs Offered for New Startups or Established Early-Stage Companies.

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – Propel ICT, Atlantic Canada’s startup accelerator, today opened up applications for companies to take part in its next round of accelerator programs. Propel ICT’s Launch program is for new companies just getting started, while its ¬Build program is for more established early-stage companies. Applications will be available until 5 p.m. on May 1st, 2015.

“We are seeing steady growth and maturation of the startup ecosystem in Atlantic Canada. More companies are forming and finding success in attracting investment and customers,” said Gary Dinn, Propel ICT CEO. “With Propel ICT’s Launch and Build programs, we want to continue that trend and provide meaningful guidance to the entrepreneurs that will transform our economy.”

Propel ICT is a private-sector led initiative that helps companies take ideas to market and build successful businesses. Working with partner organizations, Propel ICT and its volunteer coaches and mentors support entrepreneurs as they build innovative solutions, create jobs and drive new opportunities throughout Atlantic Canada. Propel ICT helped launch 75 companies since it was founded a decade ago.

Propel ICT’s Launch program, formerly known as Start, helps entrepreneurs get started with a new or pre-revenue business, creating strong teams that take good ideas and turn them into market ready products or services. Launch programming is delivered by Propel ICT at the offices of Community Partners throughout Atlantic Canada, including Planet Hatch in Fredericton, Volta in Halifax and Common Ground and StartupNL in St. John’s.

Propel ICT’s intensive Build program helps early-stage, revenue-generating companies gain traction, find needed funding and grow. Build participants then work directly with mentors, coaches and peers to learn how best to build their business, refining product offerings, opening up new markets and generating more revenue. Startups in this program are eligible for BDC’s $150,000 convertible note program.  

“Propel ICT was an extraordinary experience. We learned from top tier mentors that built successful companies, and also from our peers that are facing similar challenges. Taking part in Propel ICT’s program allowed us to move faster in building our company and it gave us a huge leap forward,” said Sarah Murphy of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Sentinel Alert, a company that provides innovative workplace safety solutions.

Participation in the Launch or Build programs is available to all entrepreneurs based in Atlantic Canada. Space in each program is limited. To learn more or to apply, visit http://www.propelict.com



Venture for Canada Deadline Sunday

The final Fellow application deadline for this year's Venture4Canada cohort is March 1st, 2015.  

Venture for Canada is a career accelerator for recent grads, who want to learn how to build a business, while making an impact. 

Fellows join a cohort that includes a former Apple engineer, alumni of The Next 36, and a Top 20 Under 20 recipient.  Fellows have the opportunity of working at one of Venture for Canada's 90 Partner Startups, and receive five weeks of training at Queen's University.

The applications are available here.

Zed’s Entrepreneurship Education

Robert Zed: 'Entrepreneurs are born, but the skills can be taught and fine-tuned.'

Robert Zed: 'Entrepreneurs are born, but the skills can be taught and fine-tuned.'

After five years of volunteering as a high school entrepreneurship teacher, Robert Zed is working on a new venture of his own, one that will bring entrepreneurship education to many.

Zed, chairman of Triangle Strategies of Halifax, helps a teacher at Citadel High School teach an entrepreneurship program to Grade 12 students.

“It started when one of my sons took me into school for a show and tell session,” said Zed.

“The school program is very practical. We examine launching, growing and sustaining a business. We have a module called Food for Thought, where we look at one kind of food, such as Oreo cookies, and examine how they are marketed, distributed or packaged, etc.

“We also have icebreaker thought-starters. Each student in the class makes a brief presentation or answers a question or reports on a current news flash. Presentation skills are vital in entrepreneurship.”

The students create their own businesses, and the year concludes with the Phoenix Nest Competition sponsored by Scotiabank and local companies, while local entrepreneurs act as judges.

Zed said that some former students and interns that he has mentored have gone on to start businesses, notably Alex MacLean, founder of East Coast Lifestyle Clothing.

The classroom experience has inspired Zed to create Prime 101, which will launch across Canada by September 2016 and offer a curriculum in entrepreneurship.

“We are working on the curriculum now,” said Zed.

“It will have an online component. We will roll it out to school boards, First Nations and others that want to learn about entrepreneurship.”

Zed hopes Prime 101 will play an important role in increasing knowledge about entrepreneurship, something he thinks particularly important in this region.

“We need people trained and ready to start, grow and sustain businesses. I believe entrepreneurs are born, but the skills can be taught and fine-tuned.”

Prime 101 will be just the latest in a varied group of businesses for Zed who, early in his career, established Crothall Services Canada, which provides out-sourced management solutions for hospitals and schools. He sold Crothall after leading the company to nearly $30 million in annual revenue.

Today, he heads Triangle Strategies, which is the umbrella organization for a group of companies that cover health-care strategy and navigation, hospitality and event production.

Zed said there is no secret to success, believing it stems from hard work, focus and accountability.

He has had many mentors since his own entrepreneurial career began when he was young.

“My first business was a Kool-Aid stand when I was four. Then I had candy and hot dog ventures and a clothing venture with my brother.”

He gained degrees in health administration, public administration and hospital management, later becoming an administrator at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.

“Then I felt the return of that childhood entrepreneurial spirit and bought a company. I’d missed the fun.”

Zed has recently launched an event called FANfit Challenge with Dartmouth’s Olympic paddler Andrew Russell. It will benefit Canada’s Olympians, and the two have just partnered with the Canadian Olympic Foundation.

Zed said he finds the time to mentor and run varied ventures because he is able to rely on his teams.

“I think great teams are the basis of entrepreneurship. I believe in giving someone responsibility and opportunity and letting them make mistakes.”

He said mentors should ask questions and give support and advice. The questions help entrepreneurs clarify their vision.

“In today’s competitive world, where young entrepreneurs are starting up around the globe, good mentors can mean the difference between success and failure.”





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.

A Look at Failures in 2014

Entrevestor recently completed its second survey of Atlantic Canadian startups, and one of the striking figures was the number of companies that vanished in 2014.

Here are the basics. Of the 290 companies we surveyed last year, eight were acquired or merged with other startups. Nine moved outside the region. There were 43 that either went out of business or never really moved beyond a group of dreamers with an idea.

So the headline number is that about 15 per cent of the startups we were tracking at the end of 2013 went under or never got going. But the deeper truth is more complicated, nuanced by the makeup of the startup community and by its attitude toward failure.

In many respects, the startup community is a pyramid, with a clutch of strong companies at the top and a broad range of the weak and experimental at the bottom. The bottom tier includes teams that intend to develop into companies but in actual fact are just a few people coming together to work on an idea. We include them in our dataset because some do morph into robust companies, and it’s impossible at the early stage to tell who will survive.

The strength of any startup community is that you have this mishmash of talent and ambition at the bottom. They come together and try something. If it doesn’t work, they break apart and try something else.

One of the catchphrases heard frequently is “fail fast, fail often.” The community operates off lean methodology, under which you come up with an idea and ask several potential clients what they think. If you find problems, you adjust your business model to fix them. If you find lots of problems, you abandon your idea promptly before you spend too much time and money on a fruitless venture. Then you try something else.

It’s a model that works, as some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the community went through failures. And the startup types frequently talk about “celebrating failure” because persevering is a badge of honour.

Again, the truth is more complex than getting giddy about failure. Startups are hard work, and people can give up too soon if failure is too viable an option.

What’s more, these ventures often accept government money. The departments that write these cheques understand that some businesses will fail, but taxpayers rightfully want to be assured that the number will be kept to a minimum.

And people suffer when bona fide companies go bankrupt. The 43 that failed last year had employed 58 people on a full- or part-time basis at the end of 2013.

That actually understates the pain, as one had laid off more than 20 people a few months before it collapsed.

In total, about four of these startups were bona fide companies that six or more people depended on for their livelihoods. Obviously, dozens of people suffered from the closures.

Meanwhile, 26 of the failed companies had no paid employees.

Startup failure is indeed a complicated subject. But one more metric produced from the survey is that about 63 startups launched in Atlantic Canada in 2014.

Startups open. Startups close. And some linger to become big.


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.

WaitShare Aims at Clinic Wait Times

Fredericton-based VeroSource Solutions, a tech startup that incorporated last year, has launched its first product WaitShare, a free app that aims to inform the public about wait times at walk-in clinics and emergency rooms.

Though several startups have tried to tackle the problem of people spending too long to wait to see a doctor, WaitShare relies on crowdsourcing to build up information on wait times. The idea is to give a patients an idea which facilities near them would offer the fastest service so they can choose the most efficient option.

“As a mother, I’ve been in the situation of having a sick child and not know which ER would give us the quickest attention, and sometimes had trouble finding out when the local after hours clinic opened,” said Christina Taylor, VeroSource’s spokesperson. “That’s why we developed this app, to help parents and other patients get access to that information, so that they could get the quickest health care available to them.”

A nine-member team with a background in healthcare has been working on WaitShare since 2012, either as investors, workers or a combination of the two. Taylor said that a core of six people did most of the work.

The team launched WaitShare in late January and received coverage in the Fredericton Gleaner and CBC, which gave an instant boost to the product. The team had been hoping to get 500 users by the end of February, but by last week the number had already reached 800. They hope to reach 2500 users by the end of March. Most of the users are now concentrated in New Brunswick, but the team hopes to roll it out across Canada and then beyond the country’s borders.

WaitShare works by asking members to report on the app the wait times in the facilities they’re using. That means that other people can consult the app to see which facility in their vicinity offers the fastest service. Users can sort the information by the service they need, and the app tells them the fastest combination of driving time and wait time.

It also tells users where the nearest health facilities to them and gives information like operating hours and services offered.

Taylor said in an interview the target market is largely mothers of children, and VeroSource believes mothers’ customary willingness to help one another should ensure the app is populated with useful information.  

The app is free and available on the App Store and Google Play. Taylor declined to reveal the team’s plan to monetize the product. WaitShare can operate independently of the health authorities, but the team would like to work with clinics and hospitals to get their information on the app.

“WaitShare is about the local community taking control of the information that you and your neighbors need about your local health facilities,” said Mark McAllister, VeroSource’s CTO. “Information that your local health facilities can’t provide on an ongoing real time basis.  Along the way, friends, strangers and visitors to your area using WaitShare are all helped by the community’s acts of caring.”



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: CBMC Deadline

The Rowe School of Business at Dalhousie University has issued the following press release:

Call for Student Startups: Canada’s Business Model Competition

Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business is hosting Canada’s Business Model Competition (CBMC) on March 13th and 14th. The event gives student entrepreneurs from across Canada an opportunity to showcase their startups, expand their networks, and compete for prizes. This is the last week for students to submit an application before the deadline on February 28th at midnight AST.

The organizers are expecting 25-30 applications from top ranked universities from across Canada to compete for a share of the $50,000 Deloitte Smart Launch Award. Last year Teknically from Wilfrid Laurier University received the first prize of $25,000 in cash and in-kind services from Deloitte. Sparkgig from the University of Waterloo captured the $15,000 second prize package, and Santé West from the University of British Columbia won the $10,000 third-place prize package

Canada’s Business Model Competition is sanctioned as the national qualifier competition for the International Business Model Competition (IBMC). The first place team will win $25,000 in cash and in-kind services and will advance to the IBMC at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, in early May.

The event is organized by the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship at the Rowe School of Business.

The Centre’s Director, Dr. Ed Leach says, “Canada’s Business Model Competition is a truly national event; we have teams applying from coast to coast. It’s a great opportunity for student entrepreneurs and innovators. And the event showcases the capacity of our region to be the go-to venue for a national event like this. ”

The Newman Centre and Dalhousie University – along with their partners, Deloitte and McInnes Cooper -- are looking to host more student startups, provide more learning and have a bigger impact on the Canadian university start-up ecosystem than last year.

For more information, visit our website: http://www.bmccanada.ca/ Appli.cations are open until February 28th, 2015 and you can apply here: http://www.bmccanada.ca/apply-now/ And i.f you have any questions, please contact one of our event organizers using the contact information listed below!

Information Contact:

Akram Al-Otumi

Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship

Dalhousie University Akram-Alotumi@Dal.ca


Kathleen Heymans

Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship

Dalhousie University



McRock, NBIF in $3M RtTech Deal

RtTech Software, whose state-of-the-art automation helps industrial companies improve manufacturing processes, will announce Tuesday that it has closed a $3-million venture capital round led by the world’s leading industrial Internet of things fund.

McRock Capital's new McRock iNFund LP will invest as much as $2.5 million in the Moncton company, while the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation will contribute $500,000.

The fund is backed by major institutions, such as Cisco Investments, Teralys Capital Innovation LP and BDC Capital, and will be worth about $65 million when funding closes this year. Co-founder Scott MacDonald said it is the world’s only fund investing exclusively in the industrial Internet of things, which uses software and sensors to automate industrial processes more quickly and precisely than a group of humans could.

“It’s an honour and a privilege that they’ve invested in us,” said RtTech CEO Pablo Asiron in an interview. “They’ve been looking at a lot of companies, and they had a lot of other options where they could have put their money. For me, it’s a sign that they believe in the things we’re doing.”

MacDonald echoed the comments in a separate interview, saying he and his partner, Whitney Rockley, have been examining companies from across North America and were most impressed by RtTech’s plan to release a software-as-a-service product in the coming months.

RtTech was spun out of ADM Systems Engineering of Moncton four years ago. Its main products are RtEMIS, which can pinpoint when and where part of a system is using excess energy, and RtDUET, which allows companies to examine specific processes to find the cause of downtime and poor utilization issues.

MacDonald said RtTech makes what he calls “industrial software apps,” meaning it takes data an industrial company already has and uses it in automated systems that improve performance.

Now the company is preparing to release its cloud-based product, which will allow easier distribution and reduce the customer’s implementation cost.

“It opens a bigger market than the one we are currently serving because it requires less capital investment,” said Asiron.

MacDonald said it is one of the first cloud-based products in the industrial Internet of things segment, and it will make these processes more affordable. Older forms of software would have required the manufacturer to have its own servers and information technology staff dedicated to the project, but cloud-based products remove such expenses.

“There are a lot of medium-sized manufacturing companies that don’t have the budget for this,” said MacDonald.

“But when you go into the cloud, you can get the same functionality as a massive company like Michelin without buying monolithic software.”

With the new product and funding, RtTech will build up its sales and marketing staff. It has 11 employees, mostly in product development, and plans to hire about 10 sales and marketing specialists in the coming year.

Up to now, Asiron has handled the lion’s share of sales, with considerable success. RtTech has clients in 14 countries and its sales increased about 20 per cent last year. Asiron and his new backer both expect stronger results with the new product.

“RtTech is one of the unique companies pushing into it, and Pablo has sales with the cloud-based product,” said MacDonald. “He’s not just dreaming about it. He’s already doing it.”

Press Release: Breakthru Finalists

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


After months of work for our five finalist teams, the idea of becoming entrepreneurs remains a dream. But three of them will become exactly that, receiving over $750,000 in investments and professional services from our partners to start their own company—and a new life.

Breakthru tickets are already selling fast. Get yours now before we sell out! Breakthru LIVE - March 19th at the Fredericton Convention Centre - is one of the most anticipated events of the season. In addition to a cocktail reception and dinner, the audience will get to see each finalist pitch onstage, enjoy a live band, and special musical performances by the Calithumpians Theatre Troupe.

The five finalists are:


Team leader: Samuel Jesso

Autopulse’s technology communicates vehicle problems and warnings to the dealership or service center of your choice, in real time. Service center staff will receive an alert about your vehicle’s issue along with all of the data from the onboard computer. Equipped with this information, the service center can reach out to the customer, give a general explanation of the problem, the time, effort and estimated cost of the repair, and book an appointment—increasing customer retention while reducing unsold service capacity.


Team leader: Keith Brunt

BioMatrix’s product, Naqua-Pure, is a magnetic compound that provides cost effective removal of heavy metals in waste water, and is simple to use. It is non-toxic, non-corrosive and safe to handle. An adsorbent, Naqua-Pure increases the density and facilitates the drying of post-treatment wastewater sludge to the extent that it can be used in bio, or plasma reactors for energy generation. Finally, the leftover heavy metals, now ultra dense (vitrified) can be forever removed from the environment.

Castaway Golf Technologies

Team leader: Josh Ogden

Castaway Golf has developed a new machine that will dredge and clean almost all the balls at the bottom of the bog. Additional technology sorts the balls into the 200 different models so they can be repackaged and resold by brand and kind. Castaway’s system will increase major ball makers’ revenues on resold balls while saving millions dollars per year in manual sorting costs. Finding lost golf balls, repackaging and selling them is a big business, a $400 million business.

SimpTek Technologies

Team leader: Keelen Gagnon

SimpTek Technologies provides customers with the ability to control and understand how energy is being consumed in their homes using innovative artificial intelligence technology. As many jurisdictions move towards “Smart Grids” and “Smart Homes”, SimpTek’s solution has the ability to understand consumers’ energy usage behaviours, while making predictions and providing actionable recommendations. At the same time, the system will allow utilities reduce their peak loads and base loads with in a more precise and predictable way.

Smart Castle Labs

Team leader: Elaheh Biglar

Today’s children are exposed to the Internet at a very early age. They play with tablets, smartphones and all sorts of digital devices, but the safety measures of most are far from adequate.  Smart Castle Lab’s product, DrawBridge, is a hardware device that once plugged into a home network, will help protect children by filtering content they receive through their browser or apps, including inappropriate content, cyber bullying and child luring—including an alert to their caregivers. 

NB BioMatrix Prepares for Q4 Launch

NB BioMatrix, the New Brunswick cleantech company that won the BioInnovation Challenge last autumn, is developing into a bona fide business by adding staff and planning to launch late this year.

The Saint John company is using nano-technology to develop a biodegradable, anti-bacterial liquid that can remove heavy metals and other pollutants from waste water. 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.

Founded by CEO Jeff Jennings and Chief Science Officer Keith Brunt, the company is now expanding by hiring a researcher, Kim Clarke, to help with the development of the product. The hiring is being carried out in collaboration with the Health and Environments Research Centre Laboratory at Dalhousie University, and Mitacs, a program that encourages research partnerships between academia and industry. The University of New Brunswick has also been a partner with the company.

“I really like involving co-op students and interns in the company,” said Brunt, an assistant professor at Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick. “They are so bright and open to possibility – it’s like a booster-shot of energy when they are around. Engaging our first full time staff adds to that magic and accelerates NBBM towards commercialization."

NB BioMatrix – whose tagline is “Solutions for Contaminated Solutions” -- said in a statement that Brewer will be focused on supporting the advancement of Naqua-Pure. With a PhD in chemical engineering, she will work on the scale-up of the manufacturing process and establish quality assurance protocols for the end consumer.

“We’ve got some early product prototypes and are working on the manufacturing and the chemistry in order to ramp it up,” said Jennings in an interview last week.

He and Brunt hope to launch Naqua-Pure in the fourth quarter by bringing an initial product to market and then ramping up the manufacturing as revenues come in. Jennings said the target market for the early product will be industrial manufacturing and the pulp and paper industry in Atlantic Canada, though they hope to eventually target a number of industrial processes.  

They have been working on a model that calls for initial equity funding of $225,000, but that total could be supplemented by revenues in the early production runs.

The founders have also entered NB BioMatrix in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition. The top three companies in the contest will receive funding and in-kind services of more than $200,000 each, so a strong showing in Breakthru would help the company a lot.

At the BioInnovation Challenge, a competition for Atlantic Canadian biotech and cleantech companies, Brunt told the judges that Naqua-Pure is a cost-effective product that can remove 98 percent of heavy metals from water within 10 minutes.


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.

Pond Offers $500K for Sales School

Gerry Pond has offered $500,000 to any university or other body in Atlantic Canada that establishes an academy to teach international sales.

The Co-Founder of Mariner and East Valley Ventures was the 15th panelist to speak on educational reform at an Association of Atlantic Universities symposium on Thursday. After several speakers had called for action and urgency, Pond brought the room to life by announcing he would contribute half a million bucks to any group that sets up an institute to teach curriculum in sales. (He said the winner can add the words “and marketing” if it likes, but the goal has to be the training of sales people.)

The focus on international sales – especially tech sales – is nothing new for Pond. He was an early investor in Q1 Labs and Radian6, the two most successful tech companies in the region. Since they announced exits in 2011, he has devoted his energy to funding and mentoring a succession of startups in the region. East Valley Ventures, of which he is a key member, has invested $10 million in about 30 startups. He is also a co-founder of the Pond-Deshpande Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of New Brunswick. 

He’s long held that the innovation in the region is tremendous, but there is a dire need for people who can sell technology in the global market place. Atlantic Canadian companies simply can’t scale to significant size without greater expertise in selling to international customers. He says the need is pervasive in Canada and acute in Atlantic Canada, and he called for some institute to remedy the shortfall.

“It will take an international sales academy that will produce competencies in these skill sets,” Pond told the Atlantic Leaders Summit. “I will put $500,000 into that institute today.”

The mid-afternoon announcement roused the crowd. Christine Hamblin of the Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at St. Mary’s University rose to say her program would offer a sales course in the coming year. Before she could tell him where to mail the cheque, Pond pointed out that his plan would take more than a single course because the skill sets that must be taught are quite complicated.

They include:

-  Cross-cultural communications;

-  Basic communications skills, including listening;

-  Clarity of messaging;

-  Negotiations;

-  And problem-solving.

Pond said the final point is critical because good sales people find ways to solve their customers’ problems. That, he added, is why engineers make great salesmen.

Pond indicated that he’s willing to be flexible on the fine points of the program, but he envisions a university initiating a dean of sales position and a complete curriculum in collaboration with the private sector.

Atlantic Canadian tend to think of sales people as being slick and sleazy, he said, but developing a professional, effective sales force is essential to building good businesses.

It’s a huge absence in the ecosystem now.

“I know enough to know that’s what is inhibiting Canadian companies, Atlantic Canadian companies, from scaling,” he said. “That’s where the problems are.”

Jutla Uses Startup Boom to Lure Talent

Dawn Jutla: 'Today, the hub ecosystem in Nova Scotia keeps growing.'

Dawn Jutla: 'Today, the hub ecosystem in Nova Scotia keeps growing.'

Halifax is gaining such a reputation for entrepreneurship that the buzz is helping Dawn Jutla attract mature students to the program she runs at the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University.

Now in its second year, the master of technology, entrepreneurship and innovation program offers graduate students the chance to gain their master’s in just eight months of part-time study, followed by an eight-month work placement or work on their own startup.

The course offers eight short modules on vital subjects like marketing and finance to students who may already be tackling these issues in their lives.

“Most of our students want to start a business and many have already done so,” said Jutla, the program director and an award-winning researcher and professor in the fields of business and computer science.

“Some have developed their own technology and they’re looking to develop or commercialize it. They are studying and running their businesses simultaneously.”

Jutla said the program was created partly in response to the good things occurring locally.

“When we started creating this program in 2011, we were encouraged by things that were happening in Nova Scotia.

“These included the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and culture, and the $25-billion naval vessel building contract being awarded to Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax. Things got even better when the Atlantic provinces established Build Ventures, the regional venture capital fund.

“Today, the hub ecosystem in Nova Scotia keeps growing, with ever more groups, mentors and events for entrepreneurs. It helps us sell the program — people want to be part of that.”

Jutla said the program is receiving more applications, including from overseas students who make up a third of the intake.

Jutla was born in England but raised in Trinidad and can empathize with the experiences of many of her students. Halifax has been her home for 25 years, ever since she came to Nova Scotia to study as a 23-year-old graduate student.

She had already completed business and computer science courses as part of her natural sciences degree and was working in marketing in her home country when she made the decision that changed her life.

“My first winter here was hard,” she recalled with a laugh.

“Three years later, I was doing my PhD in computer science at the Technical University of Nova Scotia, when Saint Mary’s needed a person to teach an intro to computers in its business school.

“I had the right work experience and academic qualifications. Soon my foot was in the door.”

She joined the university full time five years later.

One of the things she most enjoys about academia is the opportunity to form teams with colleagues and students from around the world.

“This makes you feel like you are doing meaningful work that positively impacts societies.”

She has achieved a lot of success with her research into online privacy, and her PhD work on multi-view access control has been cited in patents. She also co-chairs an international technical committee of the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards.

“Without security and privacy, electronic commerce is at risk,” she said. “And without privacy, you don’t have democracy. There are huge social implications.”

Jutla said entrepreneurs in Halifax are fortunate in many ways, but she and the school’s career services are struggling to find work placements for her international students.

“We must work from many angles to create intern positions for international students. It would help if the provincial government extended their employer co-op subsidization programs to interns.

“It depresses me when we attract highly qualified people to Nova Scotia but then advise them to apply for jobs in Toronto or elsewhere.”


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.      

Summit Urges Entrepreneurial Teaching

Academic, business and political leaders came together in Halifax on Thursday to call for reform in post-secondary education, and including a greater emphasis on teaching entrepreneurship.

The speakers at the Atlantic Leaders Summit organized by the Atlantic Association of Universities voiced a near unanimous message that the region’s institutes of high education need reform, or at least improvement. They have the potential to be an economic boon, to spur innovation and to train the work force for the modern economy. But there is an urgent need for improvement in various areas, they said. Though there were several points of view, several speakers called for the university system to increase its training of entrepreneurship to better prepare student for the workplace of today and tomorrow.

“Universities should have the goal of getting everyone into that entrepreneurial experience,” said businessman and philanthropist Gururaj Deshpande, one of the keynote speakers, adding such experience teaches students to solve problems that impact society. “When you have a society of problem solvers, you live in a very healthy society.

A native of India, Deshpande is a graduate of University of New Brunswick who moved to Boston and launched four tech businesses that were listed on the Nasdaq. He is the founder of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Co-Founder of the Pond-Deshpande Centre for Entrepreneurship in Fredericton.

He and several other speakers said that by teaching student entrepreneurial skills, universities are teaching them to create enterprises that have impact on society, the planets and their communities.

Various themes recurred through the day, such as a need to retain more international students, and to develop a sense of urgency. Saying he was optimistic things will improve, SimplyCast CEO Saeed El-Darahali said these are matters that should have addressed long ago.

Throughout the day, speakers returned frequently to the need to give all students more entrepreneurial training.

Kevin Lynch, the Chair of the Board of Governors of the University of Waterloo, noted that Harvard Business School professor Bill Solomon  has noted that entrepreneurship is not an inherent trait. It can be “taught and untaught” and our university system spends too much time “unteaching” entrepreneurship.

“Why don’t we make it a hallmark [of Atlantic Canadian universities] that everyone who comes here will have some entrepreneurial experience?” asked Martha Crago, Vice President of Research at Dalhousie University

Deshpande urged the educators to give their students knowledge that has an impact on the wider world. He also urged experiential learning because it shows students that they can apply their knowledge to solve problems, and that leads to entrepreneurship.


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.

Nova Scotia’s Next VC Fund

One of the overlooked segments of Premier Stephen McNeil’s State of the Province speech last week was his revelation that Nova Scotia will soon proceed with a new public-private venture capital fund.

On Feb. 11, McNeil delivered his address to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, and the focus was on the need for change, reinforcing the theme of the Ivany report.

But he also noted that the province would soon release a request for proposals for a private-sector venture capital partner to manage a fund that would be financed in part by the province. The announcement is a followup to the statement last July by Michel Samson, the minister responsible for economic development, that the province hoped to seed a new venture capital fund based in the province.

What we’re witnessing is the evolution of a three-pronged approach to funding high-growth companies by the Nova Scotia government.

Last summer, Samson decreed that Innovacorp would be the provincial agency making venture capital investments, with a special emphasis on simplified seed-funding rounds of less than about $250,000. Nova Scotia Business Inc. would not make new venture capital investments, though its previous investments have remained housed under the NSBI umbrella.

The second pillar is Build Ventures, the privately managed $60-million fund that has drawn most of its funding from the four Atlantic provinces. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have each invested $15 million.

The fund invests in more developed companies, so far in increments of $1.5 million to $3 million.

The third pillar will be the fund that will result from the request for proposals, which should be released within weeks. What it will look like will depend on the wording of the request and the responses it draws.

Judging from the premier’s and Samson’s remarks, it appears that the wording will be broad enough that responding firms can show some creativity in submitting proposals. The considerations will probably include what sectors will be the focus of the fund, how it will expand investment expertise in the region and what international networks the private-sector partner brings.

The government has mentioned a private-public collaboration, so it seems likely that a key factor will be how much money the venture capital manager puts into the fund. This will probably be subject to some negotiation because private investors would want the fund to be able to invest beyond Nova Scotia.

Samson has said he’s interested in the recent model of the Venture Newfoundland and Labrador fund, in which the provincial government and the Newfoundland and Labrador Angels Network together put money in a fund managed by GrowthWorks Atlantic.

McNeil seemed to suggest the request for proposals will leave the door open for venture capitalists in the region to compete for the contract. It makes sense, given the heightened interest of international funds in companies in the region.

Rho Canada Ventures, based in Boston and Montreal, has invested in four Atlantic Canadian companies in the last two years. And last year, Intel Capital sank money into Reno Sub-Systems, whose global headquarters is in Nova Scotia.

The thinking is that the array of high-growth companies in the region is diverse enough for a new funding vehicle.



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.

Pond Tells Students: Dream Big

Gerry Pond: 'Think about making a difference while making a living.'

Gerry Pond: 'Think about making a difference while making a living.'

The following is the text of an address by Gerry Pond given at the recent Saint Mary’s University convocation, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate:

As you graduate from this fine university and begin the next stage in your journey, you will receive considerable amounts of advice, all well intentioned, and much of it useful. Let me add my voice to the chorus with some thoughts on how you can take what you’ve learned here at Saint Mary’s and use it to create a rewarding life.

There is a world of opportunity before you. You have talents, insights and passions that can create positive change in the world. Advances in technology have created a time of disruption unequalled in history. That disruption sets the stage for change.

Individuals can, and do, create tremendous change. You can too. Every single one of you can harness your energy and focus it on creating real change in the world.

Dream big. Think globally. Think about making a difference while making a living. Certainly, the world needs you. There are many challenges facing us – economic, social and environmental. You can help solve them.

Don’t be modest, don’t be timid, and don’t be afraid to get started.

I want to go beyond this simple exhortation. I want to offer three direct suggestions to you as you consider what you will do next.

Rise to the challenge of entrepreneurship

I want to encourage you to consider charting your own path by becoming an entrepreneur. This is not a new idea for you – entrepreneurial teaching runs deep at SMU. Entrepreneurship is a great way to use your educational investment by changing the status quo in almost any field.

Entrepreneurs are smart and nimble. They work hard to find a better way. Entrepreneurs aren’t limited to business. It’s about a mindset. Entrepreneurs are vital to helping not-for-profit or social enterprises tackle difficult issues like poverty or environmental degradation. Entrepreneurs are also needed – quite badly – in the public sector. It’s no secret that governments need to find better and more cost effective ways of delivering services.

At its core, entrepreneurship is about improving upon the status quo, about determination, about starting with nothing, about managing assets wisely, and about delivering an impact locally and globally. In fairness, it could also be about creating a better coffee, hamburger, or mousetrap.

Entrepreneurship is often surrounded in layers of mystery and intrigue. It can seem glamorous and exciting, and it often is. But remember that the “Social Network” was a movie. In most cases, entrepreneurship is about plain hard work and a powerful determination to make something better, and in turn, reap the personal and/or financial rewards.

Stay in Atlantic Canada

Most of you graduating today are from Atlantic Canada; others have come to Halifax from other parts of Canada or the world. I want all of you to recognize that this region is a great place to launch and grow a new company. The start-up or new business formation ecosystem is maturing throughout our region and is now better enable to assist with early stage growth.

This ecosystem for entrepreneurs is composed of a network of mentors attached to accelerators such as Propel ICT, and incubators like Volta in Halifax, along with university-based programs such as the Wallace McCain Institute, and capital funding sources both private, like First Angel Network and Brightspark East, and public, like lnnovacorp, NBIF, and Build Ventures. Over the last 10 years a rich, interconnected support structure has emerged for early stage entrepreneurs.

So as you consider taking the entrepreneurial step, know that you won’t be alone. There are many organizations in place that will support you and help you succeed.

What’s more, many of our existing businesses have become “early adopters” of the region’s start-ups’ products or services and many professional organizations are gearing their practices to support entrepreneurs’ needs as well. Atlantic Canada’s ecosystem is ready to support local or immigrant entrepreneurs in a meaningful way.

Do it Soon

Timing, some say, is everything.

There is a consensus building in Atlantic Canada that we need to boost our economy with new businesses. Some would say the economy is in a crisis.

We have deep roots in starting world-class businesses from this region with iconic names like Sobey, Irving, Bragg, Rowe, McCain, and Dobbin leading the way. However, the growth in our economy has slowed compared to the demand for public services in health and education, in particular. We need to renew our entrepreneurial capacity. It needs to happen now.

So how will you add your name to the list of extraordinary entrepreneurs that have come out of Atlantic Canada?

Again, technology is helping drive new opportunities. There are many options open to you to build the next “Sobey’s” of medical devices, Internet security, robotic manufacturing, green cars, aquaculture or senior care.

What’s stopping you? Remember, entrepreneurs just like you are creating the future. Atlantic Canada is a wonderful place to build a world-class company or social enterprise. There is a growing and vibrant ecosystem here to support you.

I urge you to get started and be a positive force for change. And I wish you well in all your future endeavours.


Gerry Pond is the Co-Founder and Chairman of Mariner Partners and Co-Founder of East Valley Ventures. He lives in Saint John.


Kurzweil Coming to Big Data Congress

The third annual Big Data Congress, to be held in Halifax this October, will feature as its keynote speaker Google’s Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil.

The brainchild of T4G CEO Geoff Flood, the first two Congresses were held in Saint John and both attracted more than 600 delegates even though they were held in the depth of winter. The event is designed to promote the use of data analytics to generate economic growth and improve the performance of all organizations.

This year, the event will shift to Halifax and to the autumn, and it will have a special emphasis on how Big Data is improving productivity. The event will be held in conjunction with the World Confederation of Productivity Science, which will also be meeting in Halifax.

The other themes of this year's Congress will be the internet of everything, smart cities and industrial efficiency.

"Big Data is having an incredible impact on productivity in government and industry,” said Co-Chair Peter Watkins, president of the World Network of Productivity Organizations. “We believe this may be one of the most important Big Data conferences in 2015."

The main organizers of the event are T4G, Digital Nova Scotia, Dalhousie University and the World Network of Productivity Organizations. (Full disclosure:  Some of these organizations have sponsored or advertised in Entrevestor publications and we continue to seek them as clients.)

The organizers announced Tuesday that Kurzweil will be the keynote speaker. He is primarily an inventor and futurist, having created the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, and several other inventions.

Inc. magazine described him as the “rightful heir to Thomas Edison”, while PBS selected him as one of the “sixteen revolutionaries who made America.”

The other speakers include Dave Kasik, Boeing’s Senior Technical Fellow in visualization and interactive techniques, and Hilary Mason, the Data Scientist in Residence at Accel Partners, a leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm.

"The past two years saw this event grow in importance,” said Co-Chair Michael Shepherd, the Dean of Computer Science at Dal. “Big Data is having a profound effect on our world and this year we are delighted to be partnering with the World Confederation of Productivity Science to expand the event across three days."



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: Startup Week in NB

The organizers of East Coast Startup Week in Fredericton have issued the following press release:

A Week of Innovation and Entrepreneurship with Something for Everyone! Press Release:

FREDERICTON, NB – The blossoming East Coast start-up scene will get a major boost with the second iteration of East Coast Startup Week, a series of events being held on March 16 to 22 in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Brought to you by organizing partners Planet Hatch, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and the Pond-Deshpande Centre, East Coast Startup Week is a series of events bringing entrepreneurs and local leaders together to build momentum and opportunity. This annual event exists to connect Atlantic Canada’s growing entrepreneurial community with fellow market driven and socially driven entrepreneurs and changemakers.

“East Coast Startup Week gives our region the critical mass needed to support our growing community of entrepreneurs and attract investors and mentors from both inside the region and around the world.” states Karina LeBlanc, Executive Director of the Pond-Deshpande Centre. “Startup week is a catalyst. When you bring entrepreneurs with good ideas together with mentors and investors, good things are going to happen.”

There will be eight major events put on by a variety of community leaders including:

● The Social Impact Development Dialogue by the Pond-Deshpande Centre

● Speaker Series by Planet Hatch

● Startup Sleigh Ride by Planet Hatch

● 20 Mentor Minutes by the Pond-Deshpande Centre

● Fullsail 2015 (Raising Capital and Exit Strategies) by FCNB

● New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru LIVE Awards Dinner

● Youth Entrepreneurship Summit Atlantic by the Pond-Deshpande Centre

● Startup Weekend New Brunswick

● UNB Lunch & Learns and much more

Venues will include the Fredericton Convention Centre, the University of New Brunswick campus and Planet Hatch. The first East Coast Startup Week took place two years ago and is one of many Startup Weeks happening around the world. Registration is now open online. More details will be released as the week approaches.

About Global Startup Week

Startup Week celebrates the achievements of entrepreneurial communities in cities across the globe. Our mission is to develop and support thriving communities wherever they may exist. The best way to do this is to bring entrepreneurs together in a way that they can connect, share and bond.


SimplyCast Launches ‘Game Changer’

SimplyCast, the Dartmouth multi-channel marketing company, has announced the release of its new Agency365 product, its first that allows several people in the same organization to collaborate on a messaging campaign.

CEO and founder Saeed El-Darahali started the company six years ago, with the aim of establishing a platform that allows users to communicate simultaneously through a range of channels, such as email, fax, Twitter, etc. Last year, it introduced its 360 Automation Manager, which allows incredible ease of use in these campaigns.

Now the company has increased the functionality with Agency365, which allows several people to work on and approve each piece of communication issued by a company or organization. El-Darahali said the flexibility it brings to the SimplyCast offering is something akin to Microsoft advancing from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 two decades ago.

“Agency365 is a major game changer,” El-Darahali said in an interview Friday. “Now the whole process of disseminating information has a centralized point for brand consistency, and it gives access to people who would never have had this (access) before.”

The new product allows groups of people within an organization to collaborate on each message. They can work on it together, share it with people in the department affected by the announcement and get decision-makers to authorize it quickly.

The organizations can create as many as 10 user logins for employees working on various client projects. The master account holder can control what each user can do on the platform. The organization can use the new product for its own campaigns, and agencies can sell its service to their clients.

The staff at SimplyCast, which has grown to 36 people, have been working on the new product for about four years. It has already sold Agency365 to a local recreation facility and is working on other sales.

Meanwhile, SimplyCast has continued to grow, and El-Darahali said 2014 was a record year in terms of sales. Sales of 360 Automation Manager are still doubling monthly. The company aims this year to convert all of the users of its original product over to 360 Automation Manager and retire the legacy product.

SimplyCast was recently rated in the top five or six multi-channel marketing outfits in the world in a study by Raab Associates of Swarthmore, Penn. The study rated the product fit and vendor fit of 26 players in the space, and SimplyCast was rated near the top, along with its well-known American competitors HubSpot, Infusionsoft and SharpSpring.

The Dartmouth company raised money in the past year by selling equity to two new external investors and to SimplyCast employees. All the company’s shareholders remain Nova Scotians, and the total raised in 2014 was less than $1 million.

El-Dahahali, a former investment manager at Innovacorp, has always emphasized that, so far, all his investors are from Nova Scotia. He has also said he will eventually raise money from venture capital investors, likely based outside the province.

“It will happen in a matter of months or years.”


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.

Corbett’s Passion Born in Frustration

Rivers Corbett: 'Entrepreneurs will save the world.'

Rivers Corbett: 'Entrepreneurs will save the world.'

People give many reasons for assisting others. Frustration isn’t usually among them, although that helps motivate New Brunswick entrepreneur Rivers Corbett.

Corbett, the co-founder of Relish Gourmet Burgers, spends a lot of time mentoring young entrepreneurs and speaking to high school students.

He strives to make youngsters realize that they can become entrepreneurs.

“I’m focused and passionate about mentoring because I’m frustrated,” he explained.

“I believe entrepreneurs will save the world, but the social value of innovation isn’t recognized.

“When I speak in schools, I ask the kids if doctors work for free. They say, ‘No.’ I say, ‘If not for entrepreneurs creating the tax base, doctors wouldn’t get paid.’

“Why are doctors held in high esteem but entrepreneurs are regarded as greedy? Entrepreneurs are just as important as doctors and one step below moms.”

Corbett is a member of Startup Canada’s National Advisory Council, and he helped found StartUP Fredericton. Most recently, he was the entrepreneur in residence at the University of New Brunswick.

He’s been named entrepreneur of the year and made Canada’s hottest startups list, as well as Canada’s fastest growing companies list.

Relish Gourmet Burgers began in Fredericton in 2009, when Corbett and chef Ray Henry opened their first store.

Relish now has franchises across Canada and one in the United States. The company also runs several corporate stores, with another soon to open in Halifax.

“For us, it’s all about the taste and being original,” Corbett said. “I’ve been successful when I’ve zagged when others zigged. We try to be different. We just got investment from a European group attracted by that philosophy.”

Corbett also runs the Chef Group, an agency that allows event organizers to hire Atlantic Canadian chefs.

“I’m a chef pimp,” he said with a laugh. “I hate to cook.”

Another of his ventures is The StartUP CEO, which allows him to work with emerging entrepreneurs.

He holds business degrees from several regional universities and initially worked in marketing. When he began to feel the urge to own his own venture, he bought the businesses started by his dad, Robert.

“My dad started various traditional ventures in the Fredericton area, including a construction company, a nursing home and a marina. I thought his businesses would be a way for me to do my own thing, but I soon realized that what really interests me is the ideas stage.

“I want to build businesses, not manage them. I’m not a good manager. I’m a cloud guy. The details drive me nuts.”

Corbett is the author of several books, including 13 Fears of Entrepreneurs, and is a lively and sought-after event host.

But he makes no secret of his struggle with depression, which hit him about seven years ago.

“It knocked me on my back. It’s ugly. It was brought on by a perfect storm of stressors, including work.

“I went to the doctor for something and he said, ‘How are you doing?’ I broke down. It was like a wave hit me.

“The doctor recommended medicine. Part of the journey back was exercise. Exercise remains part of staying well. And, in winter, when I feel worse, I sleep a ton.”

He said he considers his illness a blessing, as he now prioritizes health.

“Richard Branson said, ‘The biggest thing you can do for your business is look after your health.’”

Entrepreneurs are known for relishing the adrenaline rush of their high-stakes lifestyles, but Corbett said stress must be controlled.

“There’s a difference between the rush caused by the thrill and challenge of business and constant stress. But stress is part of the game and you have to learn how to handle it.”

Corbett is looking at starting a web-focused business.

“I’ll never be fully retired. I’ll always be looking to start stuff.”


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.

Thanks for Aiding our Survey Campaign

We’ve almost reached our target of getting surveys submitted by about half of the Atlantic Canadian startup community.

The response has been fantastic and I want to thank everyone who completed the survey. I especially want to thank those who were patient with my persistent nagging.

We’d still like to get more surveys in, so if you haven’t completed one, please do so today. It only takes three minutes and all the material is completely confidential.  You can find the survey form here.

I’m already starting to see a few patterns emerging. I will be writing about them first in our Entrevestor Intelligence report that will come out in mid-March. There will be some interesting stuff in there.

Again thanks to all, and please get those late surveys in. 

TopLog Strikes Deal with Bitnami

Halifax’s topLog announced Wednesday its new product for application developers will soon be available on the Bitnami platform, which should help increase its distribution.

For the last two years, topLog has been developing software that helps notify developers and system administrators if there is a problem on their system and to sort out any troubles quickly.

The company will soon launch a “freemium” version, meaning that users can download a basic product for free and pay for additional functionality.

It is partnering with San Francisco’s Bitnami, which has a platform that offers more than 100 technical tools to software developers and other information technology personnel, including the growing segment of so-called DevOps teams.

It’s difficult to define their jobs, but they tend to span development and operations.

Users can access the tools with a single click, and Bitnami deploys more than one million programs a month.

“For us, it will mean that we will be getting in front of more than one million DevOps users and software developers,” said Ozge Yeloglu, CEO of topLog, in an interview.

She first met with the Bitnami team in May, and the two companies began to discuss a partnership seriously in October.

Yeloglu said topLog’s freemium product is available, and a paid version with analysis features will be available on Bitnami in less than two months.

Growing out of the computer science program at Dalhousie University, topLog began life with the goal of providing system administrators for corporations and large organizations with a tool that would help them prevent system failure.

The team, which now comprises six full-time and two part-time employees, is producing the freemium product so it can be used by a broader range of clients.

In particular, topLog is marketing more to developers of applications, or those who Yeloglu says work on the outward-facing parts of companies, especially software-as-a-service enterprises.

he said the freemium product can serve as an alternative to an increasingly popular trio of open-source tools called Elastic Search, Logstash and Kibana.

The so-called ELK stack is being used by developers who don’t want to pay for software, but it can take a long time to configure them to a developer’s needs. The topLog product will serve the same function and can be downloaded easily, she said.

“This is a great free resource for engineers and developers who want to maintain ownership of their logs and for those who cannot ship their logs to our cloud solution,” said Yeloglu.

A lot of these processes are automated by topLog, solving major problems in this $1.5-billion global industry.

Even before systems and applications collapse, topLog analyzes events that take place over the applications and learns what are normal and anomalous events on the system.

This knowledge can prevent applications from going down and alert teams when anything out of the ordinary happens.

The company, which graduated from the Volta startup house in Halifax in October, has received funding in the past from Innovacorp and BDC Capital. Yeloglu said the company is raising more capital, though she declined to reveal details.


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.

The Next36 Seeks Post-Uni Startups

The Next36, an entrepreneurship non-profit based in Toronto, wants Atlantic Canadian startup founders to apply to join this year’s cohort of 20 founders for The Next Founders, a program to accelerate startup growth.

The Next36 has been around for five years, but for the first three years it’s been solely focused on growing undergraduates’ startups. The program allows undergraduates to take courses with business experts from across North America, as well as meet The Next36’s network of more than 300 of the top business influencers in Canada.

The participants in The Next Founders have finished their undergraduate degree, but are in the early stages of creating their own startups. They can benefit from the business training and large network from The Next36.

For example, after completing The Next Founders last year, Toronto-based cardio rhythm tracking tool company Bionym raised $15 million in its early stages of funding.

“There are hotbeds of innovation across the country, and a few of them in Atlantic Canada,” The Next36’s director of marketing and events Jon French said. “If there’s someone who can scale their company and really increase their chances as an entrepreneur with access to our program, it doesn’t matter for us where they are.”

This is the second year of The Next Founders. Last year, the companies participating were almost all in southwestern Ontario. But with a grant from the Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program, The Next36 will pay for founders to fly out and stay in Toronto to complete the program.

The Next Founders requires that participants be in Toronto four times throughout May to August for three-day crash courses in business-related topics, such as financing.

In its program for undergraduates, The Next36 provides funding for the startups and takes equity once the company gets started. For The Next Founders, no money is given or taken from the startup. It is expected that companies entering The Next Founders already have investors.

The Next36 receives its funding from its giving board, the government and its national partners, including companies like Toronto-Dominion Bank, Rogers and MasterCard.

The application for The Next Founders program is on its website and is due on March 3.

“Our organization’s mission is to increase national prosperity by identifying a small number of high potential entrepreneurs and proving them with all of these resources,” French said. “We’re looking for the real game-changers, the ones that are successful, that will disrupt industries, that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and tens of millions—if not billions—of value for the country.”







Doctor’s Orders Develops Smart Cane

Fielding a question from a judge at the BioInnovation Challenge last year, Graeme Powell hesitated for a second, then said that, no, his company is not just making a walking stick with a bathroom scale in it.

The company, Doctor’s Orders of Fredericton, is designing a “smart cane” to help speed the recovery of people who have had surgery like knee or hip replacements. The design will help individuals accelerate their recovery, and it will also provide the medical community with data that should improve recovery times overall.

“We know from professionals we’ve spoken to that offsetting the correct amount of weight reduces some of the risk of needing another hip replacement,” Powell said in an interview in Fredericton recently.

A team is developing a cane that assesses the weight the user places on it. It means that people recovering from orthopedic surgery can tell how much weight they should place on the cane and can be told when they’re doing it wrong. By applying the correct amount of pressure, patients can reduce complications, and that should result in optimal recovery time. It might also reduce the need for further surgery.

“Approximately 88 per cent of revision surgeries are needed because of some kind of infection in the joint after surgery,” said Powell. “We’re targeting the other 12 per cent.”

What’s more, the device would collect the data and transmit it to the doctor or physiotherapist. That would let them know if the patient is adhering to his or her rehabilitation schedule and adjust it, if necessary.

“Originally, the idea was pretty much making it something like a cane with a bathroom scale in it, but the value we’re finding now is in the data,” said Powell. “There isn’t a retail product out there that provides this data over the full course of rehabilitation.”

Doctor’s Orders grew out of the technology, management and entrepreneurship program at the University of New Brunswick, where the founders all studied engineering. Powell is the company CEO, while his co-founders — Alex Belyea, Kadie Wright and Ghislain Maillet — are pursuing their master’s degrees at the university’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering.

They entered their company in the BioInnovation Challenge, hosted by BioNova, last autumn, and are competing in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition.

The team so far has made the first iteration of the product and is working with the institute on the second. Doctor’s Orders is also working with Dalhousie medical school’s Saint John campus on clinical trials.

The team plans to seek regulatory approval first from Health Canada and then, after a small introduction in Canada, seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. Health Canada classifies the cane as a Class 2 medical device; Powell said approval for such a product could take about one year.

He added that the Doctor’s Orders team believes it needs about $250,000 in seed funding to get through the first regulatory stage.

Powell said the co-founders have plans to make the cane applicable to more than just hip and knee replacement patients.

 “We’re focusing on hip and knee replacements now because they have the most data available. But we’re looking at other applications like ankles and (anterior cruciate ligaments).”


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.




Get Those Survey Forms In!

We’re into the home stretch with the Entrevestor Survey, and we’re really heartened by the response from the startup community.

Almost half the startups in the region have completed the survey, and I can’t thank enough the people who have taken the time to submit the form.

But we still need to receive more surveys. The more founders that complete this form, the better our data is for the entrepreneurial community. We want to be able to leave this exercise with a clear picture of what is happening in the startup world, now that startups are becoming a substantial slice of the regional economy.

This data helps people in the community demonstrate what is taking place with startups. Recently in this space, we had an outpouring of support for the development of a regional investment tax credit. How can the community persuade governments that enhanced tax credits are a worthwhile initiative? By presenting them with the proper data.

When you take three minutes to complete one of our surveys, you’re helping develop the data that is the benchmark for the startup community. Governments in the region use this data when they debate policy, and it’s in our best interest to make it as thorough as possible.

So if you are a founder who hasn’t yet filled out the survey, please click here and fill it in. We guarantee complete confidentiality. 

MacAusland: Our Size Is Our Strength

Trevor MacAusland: Our region continually punches above its weight.

Trevor MacAusland: Our region continually punches above its weight.

One of the benefits of schlepping across the Cobequid Pass on a regular basis is that it gives me time to decompress from the chaotic nature of running one of Canada’s best accelerator programs. Typically that means tuning into CBC’s Vinyl Café. The show is an hour-long variety format featuring short stories. On a recent trip one of their stories got me thinking about our value proposition as a region to entrepreneurs, businesses and investors. The story was about Dave, who grew up on Cape Breton Island and runs an independent record store. His slogan for the store was, “We may not be big, but we're small”.

You might be asking yourself, why is this slogan relevant to our startup community or regional economic development? Well, I have been at Propel ICT for four years now and in that time I have seen our region continually punch above its weight and do the statistically impossible. Our successes and momentum have led many to ask me how the East Coast is accomplishing this feat. The answer is found in Dave’s slogan.

When I first arrived at Propel ICT as Executive Director, I found myself being apologetic and insecure with those from outside the region that we were not as big as Silicon Valley, NYC or Waterloo. Then I received feedback that surprised me. People told me that our size was an advantage not a disadvantage because we would be able to access the right people at the right time. That was an extremely valuable asset that not many jurisdictions can claim.

Now some of you might be skeptical so allow me to provide you an example. Not that long ago, a startup from University of New Brunswick was working on a technology that could give agriculture operators analytical insight and dynamic control over their farm area. One of their mentors was Susan Holt, the CEO of the N.B. Business Council. Susan facilitated an introduction to key decision-makers at McCain Foods. In a very short time frame, the multi-national company signed on as the startup’s first early adopter customer. That deal helped Resson Aerospace raise $3 million in funding to help them build their company from here in Atlantic Canada. What would have been a lengthy sales cycle lasting months if not years in larger urban centers was expedited because Resson didn’t have to waste precious time navigating a lengthy sales cycle to secure their first customer. Want more examples? See HotSpot Parking, Simptek, XipLinx, Eigen Innovations and Qimple, to name a few.

All of this is to say the next time you hear someone try to crap on Startupeast or relevance to the global startup scene, tell them unapologetically we might not be big, but we’re small and that is our strength.

P.S. I felt compelled to write this from attending the 3+/Fibre Center announcement in Moncton on Saturday. It's just another example of our size playing to our advantage by having everyone gang up on the opportunity rather than on each other. Kudos to Ben Champoux and his team.


Trevor MacAusland is the ‎Vice-President Business Development at Propel ICT.



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.      

Using Tech to Aid Native Schools

Jennifer Hill: 'We have been practising a lot of what B-Corp stands for.'

Jennifer Hill: 'We have been practising a lot of what B-Corp stands for.'

After refining its educational databases that track the progress of First Nations students, Dadavan Systems is demonstrating its commitment to social good by acquiring B-Corp (Benefit Corp.) certification.

A growing U.S.-based initiative, B-Corp certification requires companies to prove that they meet high standards in terms of social and environmental practices, accountability and transparency.

B-Corp status is tough to acquire. Dadavan is just the eighth company in Nova Scotia to gain the designation, but Dadavan president Jenny Hill said it was important to do so.

 “We have been practising a lot of what B-Corp stands for, but we didn’t know about the certification,” she said. “Once we did, we realized it was a good fit for us.

 “The process has provided us with an even greater degree of transparency and accountability. The process also revealed ways in which we can improve.”

Hill said acquiring B-Corp status makes good business sense.

 “The convergence of technology and social businesses is the way of the future. It’s a strategic business move.

 “The process was a lot of work but we did very well. We scored a total of 102 in our B-Corp assessment, compared to B-Corp’s median score of 80.”

The Waverley company began in 1998 and works with First Nations communities by providing databases that track students’ attendance and marks, as well as curriculum requirements and lesson plans.

Improving the high school graduation rates of First Nations students is important.

The graduation rate of First Nations youth living on-reserve was 35.5 per cent in 2011, compared with 78 per cent in the general population, according to figures in a 2013 report by the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

The Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey community of Nova Scotia has been using Dadavan for the past 10 years as part of a school success program, and now has an 87.7 per cent graduation rate, according to the company.

Hill said Dadavan helps communities customize their databases to keep track of students, whether they attend school on- or off-reserve.

 “We have different products that track the progress of students depending on where they go to school,” she said. “They’re designed to ensure no students slip through the cracks.”

Teachers can also search for certain things on the Dadavan database to see correlations between information.

For instance, a teacher can search for all students with grades below 60 per cent, and see the students’ attendance records. The teacher can then ascertain if poor attendance explains students’ poor marks.

Privacy is important and the First Nations communities own their data and are the only ones that can access their information.

Hill said that Dadavan learns about students’ success from conversations with their clients.

 “We’re here to provide support with the software and help them use it to the most benefit,” she said. “But it’s their data.”

The company works with more than 100 First Nations communities in Central and Eastern Canada and Saskatchewan, with 40 per cent of its revenue coming from Atlantic Canada.

Hill said the company now intends to devise methods of measuring their products’ social impact on First Nations communities without infringing on the privacy of the communities’ data.

 “We are presently working on developing metrics for measuring our own company’s social impact,” she said. “Demonstrating our effectiveness while ensuring the privacy of our clients’ data is a tricky balance.”



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.     


Reminder to Complete Our Survey

We’re into the final week of the Entrevestor Survey, and are thrilled with the response we’ve received from the startup community.

So far about 100 founders have taken the three minutes to complete the survey and help out both Entrevestor and the startup community.

Just how much this survey helps the community became apparent to me on Wednesday when I presented our data to the Island Advance luncheon in Charlottetown, sponsored by the Greater Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce and the PEI BioAlliance.

I was able to give a solid overview – backed by data – of the growth and economic contribution of the Atlantic Canadian startup community. With the data collected from these surveys, I can plainly demonstrate how startups are contributing to the region’s economy. I’ve been told by policy makers in at least three provinces that the data is having an impact on making policies and programs that benefit the community.

We have to complete the survey process by Feb. 14, so the next week will be a full court press to get the rest of the surveys in. This weekend, I will be focusing in particular on new companies.

If you operate a startup (Owned by Atlantic Canadians and commercializing technology for a global market), please take the time to complete the survey. We guarantee your information will be kept confidential. We only publicize aggregate data.

You can find the survey form here.

Thanks again to everyone who has helped out. We really appreciate it. 

Press Release: NBIF’s Rankings

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


FREDERICTON, NB, February 5, 2015 – After a record year of investing in startups, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) was ranked the third most active venture capital fund in its category by the Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA) in their 2014 report on investment in Canada.

"One of the major challenges of venture capital investing is having enough viable startups to invest in, or what we call 'deal flow'," says NBIF chair Robert Hatheway, "with 18 investments last year, placing third most active in the country is great for NBIF, and the province, because it sends a message to the rest of the country that New Brunswick is a hotbed for innovation and entrepreneurship."

Since inception in 2003, NBIF has invested over $15 million, leveraging another $107 million from other investors to help create over fifty companies, 35 of which remain in its active portfolio. With 75% of its portfolio's revenues coming from exports, its company exits and investments in applied research activity, NBIF's work has helped create more than a billion dollars of value for the New Brunswick economy. NBIF's largest exit to date was its sale of social media monitoring pioneer Radian6 to Salesforce.com generating a a return of $9.25 million, 28 times its original investment.

"This is great news for NBIF as we come to the end our fifth biennial Breakthru Startup Competition, the largest competition of its kind in Canada," says Hatheway, "Over $750,000 in investments and professional services from our corporate partners will be awarded to three new never-before-seen companies in New Brunswick." Receiving applications from 62 teams across the province, five finalists will be put the test at the foundation's Breakthru LIVE 2015 event on March 19, 2015 in Fredericton.

Explore more about NBIF, its companies and researchers in its 2013-2014 Annual Report (e-magazine version).

About NBIF http://www.nbif.ca

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation is an independent, not-for-profit organization that invests in new startup companies, research and development within existing businesses, and applied research at the province's colleges, universities and research institutes. The returns NBIF makes on its investments go back into the foundation to be re-invested in other new startups and research projects. With $120 million under management, NBIF has invested over $50 million to date, leveraging over $365 million more from other sources.

About CVCA http://www.cvca.ca

The CVCA is the voice of Canada’s venture capital and private equity industry, focused on improving the private capital ecosystem by broadening industry awareness and providing market research, networking, and professional development opportunities. The CVCA works alongside its members, who represent the vast majority of private capital firms in Canada, to improve the industry and drive innovation and growth.


Brightspark Targets Atlantic Canada

Brightspark Ventures, a Toronto-based organization that funds startups, is expanding its network into Atlantic Canada and will launch its collaboration in the region with an investment in Halifax-based social media martketing company InNetwork.

The Toronto investment organization said Wednesday it is working with East Valley Ventures, the Saint John-based network of startup investors and mentors, to help it expand into the region.  It’s a reunion of sorts as Brightspark and the founders of East Valley were all investors in Radian6, the Fredericton social media analysis company that sold out for $326 million in 2011.

Brightspark is positioned somewhere between a venture capital fund and an angel network. It is overseen by a professional fund management team comprising veterans Mark Skapinker, Sophie Forest, Mark Lahn and Tony Davis. Each time they identify a company they want to invest in, they create a new fund to invest just in that company. All the Brightspark members are then invited to invest in the company through the new fund, which will be managed by Brightspark.  It’s a funding model that’s already been used successfully by such groups as FundersClub in California and Ourcrowd in Israel.

“Brightspark has a very successful track record of funding early stage companies across Canada, including Radian6, and we’re excited to introduce their investment model to Atlantic Canada,” said East Valley Co-Founder Gerry Pond in a statement. “The goal is to accelerate the ecosystem here, introduce new investors to this asset class and to release new capital.”

In a recent interview, he said the Brightspark would fill the gap in the region between the seed funding (typically worth up to $500,000) that is available to companies, and the venture capital funding that usually starts at $1 million or more. 

Though the Toronto group already made its first Atlantic Canadian deal years ago in Radian6, the announcement is significant because East Valley will introduce a regular rotation of IT companies from the region to Brightspark. It is also a chance for Atlantic Canadian investors to join the Brightspark network – now 300 strong -- and get in on funding deals across Canada.

Now Brightspark wants its members to back InNetwork, which amplifies its clients’ social media messaging by connecting them with “influencers.” These are people such as bloggers, editors or experts with tremendous reach and influence within an identifiable group.

“Because they are a top tier national fund manager, they bring us credibility for this round of money,” said InNetwork CEO Chris Keevill in an interview Tuesday. “Second, because of their relationships and position, they bring us access to VCs in the U.S. for our next round.”

He added that Brightspark’s familiarity with Radian6 will help InNetwork because there is so much similarity in the two companies’ businesses.  InNetwork is now hoping to raise between $1.5 million and $2 million, about half of which it hopes will come from Brightspark.

With offices in Halifax and Toronto, InNetwork vets and approves influencers to ensure that they are bona fide opinion leaders. It beta-tested the product with about six Canadian customers last year and has been working with about a dozen paying customers.

In 2013, the company received seed funding of $250,000 from Innovacorp and $240,000 from a group of angels led by Pond, who became the InNetwork’s Board Chair.



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.

Martell Sells Clarity in 3rd Exit

Dan Martell, one of the most accomplished tech entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada, has sold his latest company Clarity to equity crowdfunding company Fundable to become one of the platforms in its new startup launch platform, startups.co.

Moncton-based Clarity, which connects entrepreneurs and others with a network of mentors around the world, did not reveal the terms of the deal.

Clarity and Columbus, Ohio-based Fundable announced the deal in a joint press release, which also unveiled the creation of startups.com as a new launch platform for startups. The other components of startups.co are Launchrock.com , Bizplan.com , and KillerStartups.com.

It is the third exit for the 36-year-old Martell and it is a reward for the investors who sank $1.6 million into the company two years ago.

“When you raise venture capital, there is a responsibility to reward your investors with a return,” said Martell in an interview Tuesday. “This opportunity with Fundable came along and they were trying to do what we were trying to do. I just felt it made sense to accept their offer.”

Martell is an obsessive networker and natural mentor, and Clarity embodied both traits. The company assembled a network of 50,000 mentors from around the world and allowed entrepreneurs to book calls with them at a certain price per hour. Martell himself took thousands of these calls. There were more than 150,000 such sessions last year alone.

Now Clarity will become part of startups.co, which is being billed at the largest platform for launching companies in the world. The platform now includes 825,00 registered startups, 13 million registered investors, backers, and followers and over $150 million in startup funding committed to the platform.

By adding Clarity, it now has a leading source of mentorship for the companies that use the platform.

 “The vision for Startups.co is to help startups get customers, press, funding and mentors to overcome critical obstacles in the launch of their company,” said Startups.co Founder and CEO Wil Schroter in a statement. “Clarity.fm provides the most well-respected platform for our startups to get critical advice they need from seasoned founders who have been there before.”

Martell will stay on as an adviser for about a year or so, and then he plans to spend time with his wife, Onboardly Co-Founder Renée Warren, and their two young sons. He said Clarity would remain in Moncton, and the staff will stay on with the company.

The investors in Clarity include: Baseline Ventures, Freestyle Capital, both of San Fransisco; Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks; Real Ventures of Montreal; Version One Ventures, a Vancouver fund headed by noted investor Boris Wertz; 500 Startups, of Mountainview, Ca.; Venture 51 of Phoenix, AZ; and several angels including Gerry Pond, the co-founder of East Valley Ventures of Saint John.

Martell sold his first venture Spheric Technologies in 2008. He then moved to California, where he co-founded Flowtown, a San Francisco online gift marketing enterprise, which raised $750,000 from angels in September 2010. Thirteen months later, Martell and his partners exited the company for an undisclosed price.


Peter Moreira is a principal of http://www.Entrevestor.com a new,s and data site for Atlantic Canadian startups. 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.


Dan Martell Sells Clarity to Fundable

Dan Martell has sold Moncton-based entrepreneurial advice platform Clarity to the business-funding site Fundable of Columbus, OH., for an undisclosed price.

Clarity, which connects entrepreneurs and others with a network of mentors around the world, will now become part of Fundable’s new startups.co launch platform for startups. The other components of startups.co are Launchrock.com , Bizplan.com , and KillerStartups.com.

We’re now getting information on the deal, but here is the press release from Clarity:

Clarity.fm Acquired By Fundable, Joins Global Launch Platform Startups.co

Clarity.fm now a part of Startups.co, the largest global launch platform for startups

Columbus, OH, February 3 -- Startups.co , the largest startup launch platform, announced today that they have acquired Clarity.fm , the premier site for entrepreneurs looking for expert advice. Clarity will join business funding site Fundable.com along with Launchrock.com , Bizplan.com , and KillerStartups.com to form the new Startups.co launch platform.

Clarity.fm connects startup founders with over 50,000 well known experts such as Mark Cuban, Brad Feld, and Eric Ries who can be contacted directly by phone on a cost-per-minute basis.

Since its inception in 2010, over 17,414 entrepreneurs have used Clarity, completing over 150,000 calls last year alone with experts helping to drive their business.

With many corporate options on the table, Startups.co was selected by Clarity.fm founder Dan Martell as the ideal acquirer because their mission aligned beautifully with his. According to Martell, “Clarity.fm has an incredible membership of passionate and dedicated experts and entrepreneurs. I believe that the best way to bring our advice to more people around the world is to tap into a larger community — and Startups.co provides just that.”

The Clarity acquisition adds another important service — finding experts and mentors — to the Startups.co launch platform. The platform now includes 825,00 registered startups, 13 million registered investors, backers, and followers and over $150 million in startup funding committed to the platform.

Startups.co Founder and CEO Wil Schroter commented, “The vision for Startups.co is to help startups get customers, press, funding and mentors to overcome critical obstacles in the launch of their company. Clarity.fm provides the most well-respected platform for our startups to get critical advice they need from seasoned founders who have been there before.”

Key Acquisition Details

● Clarity.fm is a mentorship service that provides on-demand, expert advice for entrepreneurs. Clarity has a community of over 50,000 experts, with 250,000 mentorship calls completed, 20,000 questions answered, and a backlog of 50+ video courses.

● Clarity is a venture backed company whose investors include Baseline Ventures, Mark Cuban, Venture51, Howard Lindzon, Freestyle Capital, Real Ventures, and 500 Startups.

● Startups.co is the largest launch platform for startups with over 825,000 registered startups, 13 million registered investors, backers, and followers, and $150 million in startup funding committed via the platform.

● Startups.co is now the parent brand of Fundable.com, Launchrock.com, Bizplan.com, and Clarity.fm.

About Startups.co

Startups.co is a global startup launch platform with tools to help startups and entrepreneurs at any stage of their business. Founded with a mission to help entrepreneurs thrive, Startups.co includes Fundable.com, Clarity.fm, Launchrock.com and Bizplan.com.

Celtx Raises $3.3M from Build, Killick

Mark Kennedy:

Mark Kennedy: "This is a tremendous opportunity."

Celtx Inc. of St. John’s, has raised $3.3 million in a funding round led by Build Ventures, and plans to use the capital to accelerate the already-stellar growth of its pre-production software for the film and video industries.

Led by CEO Mark Kennedy, Celtx has been a pioneer in producing a range of software for film writers, designers, producers and others involved in “scripted media,” like film, video, theatre and the like. The company’s breakthrough came when it launched its software-as-a-service product in 2012. It now estimates it has about 4 million users, and this winter, its revenues are growing by about 10 per cent per month.

“This is a tremendous opportunity,” Kennedy said in a phone interview. “We’re reinventing how an industry does its work, and it’s a global business. We make 95 per cent of our money outside Canada.”

Build Ventures of Halifax, the Atlantic Canadian regional venture capital fund, invested $3 million in the round, marking its first investment in Celtx and in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Killick Capital, which previously had invested $1.5 million in Celtx, came in with $300,000. Killick president and CEO Mark Dobbin had previously said he would be interested in investing in the company again, although not as lead investor.

Kennedy said he has known Build Ventures principal Patrick Keefe for several years, and the fund manager has always been interested in Celtx. When Kennedy decided to raise money last May, he met with Keefe and his partner, Rob Barbara, and the talks eventually led to the investment.

Founded 15 years ago, Celtx set out to digitize the tasks that filmmakers used to do on paper — from writing scripts, to designing sets, to production notes. Its first offering was a desktop product and the product evolved creative personnel in the film industry moved to the cloud and to mobile devices.

It still offers desktop products, but its big move came with the software-as-a-service product on the cloud, which has allowed stronger recurring revenues. It has also allowed the company to measure its sales, and adjust its product fit to match market demand.

The company had always had a knack for gaining clients, but the software-as-a-service offering finally allowed it to monetize the product in a meaningful way. Revenues increased in every month in 2014, and last autumn, it hit what Kennedy calls “the magic number” of monthly recurring revenue of $100,000.

The film industry is seasonal, and Kennedy says the January-to-April period is the high point, with revenues increasing 10 per cent monthly.

“Mark and the Celtx team have built a great product and grown a significant user base organically,” said Keefe. “This investment will give the team the resources to expand on their impressive customer traction milestones and growth rates.”

Now Celtx wants to accelerate that growth. The staffing has increased about 60 per cent in the past year to 22 full-time people. Kennedy believes it will reach about 40 in a year’s time.

The company recently hired Jacquelyn Holden, a former sales exec with another St. John’s tech success, financial software company Verafin. She is now vice-president of sales and marketing, heading up the effort to increase sales further.

Although it originally set out to target the indie film market, it has found that its clientele includes ad agencies and video production companies that range in size from 30 to 5,000 employees. Celtx now sees an opportunity in targeting these groups, and the growing sales staff will help.

“We’ve always been a very engineering-focused company with almost no sales and marketing,” said Kennedy. “Now our staff is about 70-30 development-to-marketing, and we want to move toward a 50-50 split.”


Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup 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.

How Important Is a $200K Prize?

Talking to a few of the teams entered in the Breakthru competition in New Brunswick, it was easy to understand the effect these contests have on the early development of companies.

There are now two big startup competitions in the region that take place on alternating years – Breakthru, organized by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, and the I-3 Technology Startup Competition, organized by Innovacorp in Nova Scotia.

Breakthru will climax March 19 with announcement of three winners that will divide $750,000 in prizes. I-3 wrapped up ab out a year ago when seven companies shared a total pot of $700,000.

Those amounts are significant because the companies entering these competition are at the level of development in which $100,000 or $200,000 can mean the difference between make and break.

Consider two teams of entrepreneurs I met at the Breakthru Bootcamp in Fredericton. They have these things in common: they both comprise University of New Brunswick students. They’re both developing a countertop appliance for the kitchen. And they could both use the $200K prize to get started.

Christian Grandmaison and Aaron Tabor, for example, are two engineering students who’ve noticed that modern people often dash to work without having a good breakfast.

“Our solution is that people like pancakes, but they’re not always an available option because it takes time and it’s too messy,” said Grandmaison. “So our product is an automatic pancake machine.”

Their company, On Your Plate, is developing a countertop device that takes a single shot of batter and makes a pancake the way a Keurig machine makes a single glass of coffee. It means any one can make a pancake in a few minutes. And people can individualize their pancakes, whether they want chocolate chip or banana or whatever. “Every kid can have what they want,” said Tabor.

It also means people can eat more healthily by making whole wheat pancakes or protein enriched pancakes.

Or consider Catarro, a new company headed by Mike Sherrar and Adam Noade. Catarro is developing a household product that instantly cools drinks – sort of the opposite of a microwave.

New technology known as thermo-electric plates is allowing for the instant cooling of products, and these two students envision using them for a consumer product that cools drink in a snap. So you can arrive home with a bottle of white wine minutes before guests arrive, and have chilled wine when they walk in the door.

So far, the team has a rough prototype and it needs to refine it into a true retail product.

I asked both these pairs a question I asked everyone I met at the bootcamp: what will it mean to your business to win more than $200,000? They all had similar answers. It would mean they’d have the capital or most of the capital they needed to get to the next step.

Two-hundred-thousand dollars is essentially a seed round. Even with some of the booty comprising in-kind services from lawyers, accountants and what have you, the top three teams will have the resources to move their companies forward. An IT company should get to market. A manufacturer should finish initial prototyping. NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury likes to call it a company in a box.

So winning Breakthru isn’t about bragging rights or financing a new car. It’s about having the resources to continue with your business for a year or two.


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.

Hamblin Leading Startup Halifax

John Hamblin

John Hamblin

It started with a brief email enquiry to Startup Canada in which John Hamblin asked about the process of creating a Startup Halifax.

Hamblin had been startled to learn that Halifax’s thriving startup community didn’t have its own chapter of the influential national organization.

Now, just a few months later, the retiree is surprised to find himself leading one from his home.

Hamblin retired as president of Clarke IT Solutions in March 2013 and runs a small consulting practice.

His Startup Halifax role will diminish the hours he can spend relaxing, but the grandfather of two tech-obsessed little girls doesn’t mind that. Hamblin has long been passionate about building entrepreneurship in this region.

“I believe entrepreneurship is the only hope for Atlantic Canada,” he said. “I’d like anyone with a viable business idea to get all possible help to make their business successful.”

Hamblin also mentors entrepreneurs and curates the Startup Digest newsletter.

“I contacted Startup Canada with a simple query, then found myself invited to a webinar on the application process. Soon, I was filling in the nine-page application. It was a lot of work, but now I have gathered together an impressive Startup Halifax team.”

It includes representatives of groups central to the local startup ecosystem. These include Springboard Atlantic, Innovacorp, academics from university entrepreneurship programs, professional groups and successful entrepreneurs like Saeed El-Darahali, president and CEO of SimplyCast, and Chris Cowper-Smith, CEO of Spring Loaded Technology.

Hamblin is pleased that Halifax will now benefit from Startup Canada’s supportive national network of entrepreneurs.

He said it has a catalyst fund for special projects and events. The national group also provides training and a free website for each startup community.

It also has a presence in Ottawa that allows it to speak on behalf of startup communities, Hamblin said.

Halifax already has some vigorous organizations that support the local startup community, and other regional centres, such as Fredericton, have already gained Startup Canada status.

Hamblin said Startup Halifax will work closely with the other groups.

“We want to be collaborative and mutually supportive. We’ll be a centralized funnel for startup information, and we’ll advocate for startup projects.

“We also hope to run regular events with presenters who can talk on topics vital to entrepreneurs like funding and sales.”

He said the region’s ever-growing web of startup-focused organizations makes this a promising time for local entrepreneurship.

“Now, we need a few really successful startups that result in both large employment and large revenue.”

The state of New York has declared startups as being crucial to the state’s future and has designated New York as startup-friendly, he said.

“They have policies in place to get startups to go to New York. We could do the same thing. In many ways, Halifax is an ideal place for startups.

“When (Research in Motion) was opening a new office, I spoke to senior RIM executives about Nova Scotia. Our list of benefits included quality of life, real estate prices, education and transportation links to Europe and major North American cities.”

Hamblin speaks with the passion of a local, although he is from Montreal and has been in Nova Scotia for the last 10 years.

Fluently bilingual, Hamblin holds a business degree from the University of Montreal and completed a post-graduate executive development program at McGill University.

He said he feels almost as fresh as the day he graduated.

“Just before I retired from Clarke, I went to a startup weekend at Dalhousie. I ended up joining a team and staying for the whole event.

“I felt younger than I had in years. It’s great to be around smart young people who are passionate about their ideas.”

Venture for Canada Seeking Grads

Venture for Canada, the non-profit that connects top Canadian university grads with Canadian startups requiring talent, has announced that it has now forged partnerships with 70 startups.

The group also calls on grads to apply before its final Fellow application deadline of March 1 this year. Selected Fellows will become members of a cohort that includes Next 36 alumni, a former Apple engineer, and a Top 20 Under 20 recipient.

Based on the highly successful Venture for America, which has been matching American grads with U.S. startups since 2011, Venture for Canada is establishing a fellowship program to place college graduates with startups in low-cost cities to generate jobs and educate young entrepreneurs.

Applicants to Venture for Canada have to get through a tough selection process. The initial training program lasts for six weeks and is followed by two years of on-the-job training that focuses on business development, with an emphasis on marketing and sales.

“The training gives the best of business schools without the debt,” Co-Founder Scott Stirrett told Entrevestor in an earlier interview. “Of Venture for America’s first two cohorts, 94 per cent have been ranked in the top 10 per cent of employees by their employers. The mean size of these companies is 19, so that’s remarkable.”

The group’s new partners include leading Canadians startups such as Shopify, Nymi, Kik, and Wattpad, as well as an array of Atlantic Canadian companies. The not-for-profit asks that readers contact them if they know of a startup that would be a good addition at info@ventureforcanada.ca.

To see the full list of Venture for Canada startup partnerships, click here.

To apply for a Fellowship, click here.

Startup Capital Lunch Set for PEI

Members of the P.E.I. startup and business community will gather on Wednesday, Feb. 4, to discuss ways to encourage more investment in the province’s startups.

The Island Advance: Capital Formation Luncheon will take place at Dunes Room of the Holman Grand Hotel starting at 11 a.m. The tickets are $20 and available here.

The luncheon, presented by the Greater Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce, follows the format of the Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum Luncheons and Dinners already held in Fredericton, Halifax and St. John’s.

Following the Entrevestor presentation on the metrics of the Atlantic Canadian startup community, there will be a discussion on channeling capital into Island startups.

The discussion will be led by Ron Keefe, the CEO of BioVectra and a pillar of the biotech community on Prince Edward Island.

The goal of the discussion is to educate both investors and entrepreneurs on what they need to do to improve the flow of capital from one to the other.

For entrepreneurs, it will be a chance to learn more about how to become “investment ready”. The discussion will touch on how to develop a business that would attract investment, and how to establish links with the individuals and institutions that could make an investment.

For investors, the discussion will look at best practices for investing in young companies – what to expect, how to meet leading entrepreneurs and what to avoid.

The discussion will be followed by a luncheon and networking session.

The luncheon is being held as part of the Island Advance initiative, which is designed to support progress and business growth on Prince Edward Island. 

Killick Closes Aerospace Unit Sale

Killick Aerospace Group, a Texas company controlled by Killick Capital of St. John’s, closed the sale Wednesday of four aviation repair businesses that could gross the company about US$229 million (C$286 million).

Killick said on New Year’s Eve that Alexandria, Va.-based transport support company VSE Corp. would buy four companies help by Carrollton, Texas-based Killick Aerospace: Prime Turbines, CT Aerospace, Kansas Aviation and Air Parts & Supply. Killick Aerospace in recent years had undergone a range of bolt-on acquisitions, and greatly increased the revenues of the acquired businesses by cross selling to its existing clients.

The aerospace deal is the second huge deal for Killick Capital in the past year. Last May, the investment firm founded by Mark Dobbin (whose father Craig Dobbin founded the helicopter company CHC Group) exited its investment in financial services software company Verafin after that company landed a $60 million private equity investment.

Dobbin said in an interview this morning that the latest deal includes the transfer of capital to the shareholders of the aerospace group, which means Killick will be looking for fresh investments, both in the aerospace segment and in its Atlantic Canadian venture capital business.

“This frees up a significant amount of capital,” said Dobbin. “We’re very pleased with the process.”

VSE agreed to pay an initial US$184 million at the close of the deal, and make deferred payments of as much as US$45 million plus working capital, depending on whether the acquired businesses meet certain milestones.

Dobbin said his group invested a total of US$33 million in investment capital in the four businesses since Killick Aerospace was formed in 2006. The Texas company buys and nurtures a range of aerospace repair and support businesses, catering to such customers as commercial airlines to equipment manufacturers. The outfit reported revenue in 2014 of about US$225 million, about half of which came from the operations that have been sold.

The remaining business comprises two units, its aircraft parts supply and engine field services operations. Dobbin will be looking for fresh acquisitions for Killick Aerospace, but the deal with VSE includes a non-compete clause. So any new acquisitions will not be in businesses that compete with the businesses VSE just bought.

Another investor that benefits from the VSE deal is Calgary’s Alaris Royalty Corp., which bought preferred units in Killick Aerospace in 2011. The sale of the four businesses removes the need for preferred capital so Killick Aerospace bought back these units from Alaris. The Calgary fund said earlier this month it would realize a 54 percent gain on its investment in Killick Aerospace.

Killick Aerospace President and CEO Russell Starr will remain with the Texas company.

Meanwhile, Dobbin said that he and Killick Capital Vice-President of Investments Tom Williams are considering one or two new VC investments in Atlantic Canada. The investment firm, which oversees capital for the Dobbin family, has been talking to a few companies, getting to know their business, and will make investment decisions in due course.

Killick Capital’s current holdings include film industry software provider Celtx and Max, a recreational facility operator in the St. John’s area.

“I think in the future we’ll be more limited by bandwidth with just Tom and me than by capital,” said Dobbin.


Daxonics Eyes Production in 2017

In about two years, a Halifax startup that grew out of Dalhousie University plans to open a production facility for cutting-edge ultrasound devices that allow sharper images of such organs as eyes and skin.

Daxsonics Ultrasound is designing and prototyping array-based, high-frequency ultrasound devices and plans to begin production in 2017.

 “We provide higher resolution and a sharper, deeper image than what’s on the market now,” said CEO and co-founder Rob Adamson during an interview in the company’s laboratory.

The company is a classic case of transforming university research into a viable business and making sales contacts through the academic world.

Daxsonics came about as a result of the research into high-frequency ultrasounds by Jeremy Brown, the other co-founder, at Dal’s biomedical engineering department.

Low-frequency ultrasounds penetrate deep into tissue and are used to view, for instance, fetuses in a womb. But they produce such blurred images it takes a trained eye to tell what sex the baby is.

 “Traditional ultrasounds work at anywhere from two to five megahertz, but we work at 30 to 50 megahertz,” said Adamson.

High-frequency ultrasounds produce far sharper images, but they are unable to penetrate deep into tissues. That means they are used to produce images of shallow tissue and for endoscopic procedures in which a catheter goes into the body to view internal organs. The Daxsonics device will make images sharper still.

Brown researched the use of several microphones and sensors at once, known as array-based ultrasound, in high-frequency ultrasounds and discovered ways of producing sharper images than single-point ultrasounds.

He and Adamson came together to form Daxsonics to commercialize the research. By presenting papers at academic conferences, they were able to meet industry representatives, leading to a contract with one major American medical device provider.

Adamson said Daxsonics has changed its business model a few times and only in the last year has found a path to the market. The founders set up a micro-fabrication facility at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre in Halifax and have nine people working toward their first product.

It looks like a single ear bud for an iPod. It holds about eight concentric assemblies of microphones and sensors, and can move to scan over a surface. Adamson said the construction is so fine that the team has had to borrow manufacturing techniques from the semiconductor industry.

So far, they have done feasibility studies for their American client — who Adamson declined to name — and have begun the design of the first product they plan to bring to market. In 2017, they plan to open a 2,500-square-foot micro-fabrication facility, in which six or seven employees will build the devices.

What’s interesting about this project is that Adamson and Brown don’t think they’ll need to raise equity capital to establish their manufacturing facility. They believe they can finance it though existing public programs, bank loans and deposits from customers.

It means Daxsonics will likely be a closely held company as it grows.


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.     


Victor Chu Sets Up New VC Fund

Chinese investor Victor Chu is heading a new $50 million venture capital fund to be established in Nova Scotia, which will invest in growth-stage companies.

Premier Stephen McNeil announced the fund in a press release on Tuesday, saying it would be backed entirely by private investors led by Chu, the head of First Eastern Investment Group.

Little is known about the new fund, such as what segments it will target and whether there will be a manager based in the province. A spokesperson in Hong Kong was unable to provide more details.

"I am delighted to launch this investment and partnership initiative to support small and medium-sized enterprises in Nova Scotia to expand their businesses into the vast Asian markets," said Chu in a statement. "We have a wonderful track record in helping European SMEs to grow into Asia, and I am sure we will achieve similar 'win-win' successes with companies from Nova Scotia."

Hong Kong-based First Eastern has traditionally invested in manufacturing, construction, infrastructure, financial and real estate industries. But according to the Crunch Base databank, its investments in the past have included participation in the $5 million venture round of London-based Tamoco, a mobile proximity technology company.

Chu was introduced to Nova Scotia and its premier by John Risley, the chairman and founder of Clearwater Seafoods and the Founder of Ocean Nutrition Canada, which exited for $540 million two-and-a-half years ago.

Last May, Chu visited Nova Scotia, visiting the Dalhousie University ocean sciences facility and meeting regional business people, including representatives of the startup community.

Roger Taylor reported in the Chronicle Herald at the time that Risley gave Chu a list of about 20 companies that could be potential investment targets, and Chu trimmed the list to seven. He was to meet with those companies at the time.

McNeil said he met with Chu in China in September and the plans for the new fund were finalized at a meeting in London last weekend.

One of the tremendous benefits of the fund will be the help Chu will offer in introducing Nova Scotian companies to the Chinese market. The market is obviously vast and it’s always best to work with local partners when making sales in the Middle Kingdom.

The creation of Chu’s fund continues the growth of funding options for East Coast startups. In the past two years, Build Ventures has been established with commitments of more than $50 million. The Newfoundland and Labrador government is working with GrowthWorks Atlantic and BDC Capital on the establishment of Venture Newfoundland and Labrador for seed-stage companies. 



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.      

My Submission to the NS Tax Review

The following is my submission to the Nova Scotia Finance Minister on the province's tax review, which I sent yesterday:

Dear Ms. Whalen,

I’m writing you during your budget consultation process to encourage you to liberalize the Equity Tax Credits, which is essential for sustaining the fastest growing segment of the Nova Scotia economy.

I join Jevon MacDonald in his call for a minimum investment ceiling of $250,000 and that the credits be extended to trusts and businesses as well as individuals. I’d like to go beyond his call for a pan-Atlantic ETC by saying the credit should be awarded to investors in Nova Scotia companies regardless of where they reside.

A liberalized ETC rewards excellence in the Nova Scotian economy. The startup boom is a global phenomenon, and Nova Scotia competes with the best in the world in the creation of cutting edge, innovative companies. According to Entrevestor data, there were about 160 startups in Nova Scotia at the end of 2013. Startups (including exited startups) employed about 1600 Nova Scotians. Their staffing grew 43 percent in 2013, and their revenues 30 percent. In Atlantic Canada, the average wage at a startup is about $53,000. International startup specialists such as Colin Mason, Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Glasgow, are studying Nova Scotia as a burgeoning startup community developing in a challenging economy.

Governments around the world recognize the growth potential of startups, which is why most developed jurisdictions have some form of investment tax credit. My own research shows seven Canadian provinces and Yukon offer such credits. (The exceptions are Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan.) In the U.S., 30 states (or 71 percent of the 42 states with personal income tax) offer investment credits. Some states, such as Arkansas and Minnesota, offer tax credits that benefit investors living inside or outside their states. (You can find more information on the Minnesota program here.)

Here’s why ETC Improvements are a good idea:

1.       The ETC channels private capital into the fastest growing segment of the economy. Nova Scotia’s economy rarely grows by more than 1 percent annually, exacerbating pressures on the provincial treasury and the out-migration of productive citizens. The best way to grow the economy is to channel money into the segment that is growing the fastest.

2.       Almost two-thirds of the capital lured by ETCs comes from private investors. That means the government makes a minority contribution. The private investor, not the government, choses the investment target, increasing the chances of success, and the government doesn’t have to answer questions if an investment flops.

3.       ETCs encourage companies with headquarters in Nova Scotia. That means the provincial economy and society benefit immensely due to the growth of large businesses headquartered here, paying taxes here, donating to charities here. It’s a far, far stronger economic strategy than offering incentives for the attraction of foreign businesses.

4.       It’s relatively inexpensive (even before the resulting tax gains are calculated). The most recent figures I’ve seen (2010-11) show ETCs cost the Treasury $5.1 million a year. That could be quadrupled and the ETCs would still be a modest economic program.

5.       What’s more, it would probably increase tax revenue. A 2010 study, commissioned by British Columbia’s Ministry of Small Business, Technology and Economic Development, concluded that for every $1 of provincial tax credits issued under the province’s venture capital program, recipient companies generated $1.98 in provincial taxes.

6.       By increasing the maximum investment to $250,000, we can free up management time at startups. This is a huge factor. If a company needs $1 million in capital, it’s a lot easier to find four investors than 40 investors.  By cutting the time involved in raising capital, we’re allowing managers to focus on operations, increasing their chance for success.

7.       Finally, Nova Scotia has the opportunity to become the first province in Canada to offer investment tax credits to people outside the province. That would draw national attention to the province’s startups and attract private capital to create great jobs here. By being first, it would be easy to get the national media to highlight the investment opportunities here.

The arguments against ETC improvements can easily be proven weak:

1.       “The Treasury will lose money.” Point No. 5 above shows that the B.C. government has concluded the government doubles its revenue from investment tax credits. If the Nova Scotia Finance Department is worried about losing too much money, it could easily cap the program each year.

2.       “The government can’t choose the companies seeking investment.” This can be a benefit, because it means the government isn’t responsible for high profile failures. What’s more, the government can narrow the focus of the program to ensure the money is channeled into high profile companies.

3.       “Investors would make these investments regardless of the tax credit.” Individual investors may back some of these companies regardless of the ETC. But by increasing the ETC, the government will increase the overall amount that the investment community in total can sink into young businesses. There is a huge demand by these young companies for capital, and the expanded ETC would help them meet that demand.

4.       “The duty of the Finance Department is to raise government revenue, not nurture economic growth.” This statement is a fallacy. In the short- and the long-term ability of the government to raise revenue depends on the strength of the private sector. A plan to nurture high-growth companies is the best way to ensure that Nova Scotian-owned companies support the government today and in the future.

I hope your consultation process results in improvements to the tax system, and that these include a liberalized Equity Tax Credit. If you or your officials wish to discuss this issue further, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


Peter Moreira

NS Founders Want Better Tax Credit

A campaign is afoot to persuade the Nova Scotia government to increase its incentives for private investment in the fastest-growing segment of the economy.

The digital and startup communities in Nova Scotia want the Finance Department to liberalize Equity Tax Credits for high-growth companies, including startups.

Any column discussing both taxation and technology is bound to lose readers pronto, but this is why you should read on.

The biggest single problem facing the Nova Scotia economy is slow growth — our gross domestic product rarely grows by more than one per cent, which limits opportunity, social programs, you name it. There’s a dire need for stronger economic growth, and the best solution is the patient nurturing of high-growth businesses headquartered in the province.

The fastest-growing companies we have are startups, locally owned businesses that develop technology into products for the global market. According to data collected by Entrevestor, Atlantic Canadian startups in 2013 increased revenue by 30 per cent and employment by a whopping 43 per cent. No other segment of the economy can boast those types of metrics.

Startups need equity investment to bring a product to market. That’s why most states and provinces offer tax credits to private investors who back startups. It means government is channelling capital into the most productive part of the economy and letting private investors decide what companies deserve the money.

Nova Scotia grants a 35 per cent tax credit to individuals investing as much as $50,000. Both the investor and target company have to be based in Nova Scotia. People in the tech community, led by GoInstant co-founder Jevon MacDonald, are pushing for more liberal rules, arguing the move for better tax credits is in keeping with the ethos of the Ivany commission. They want all members of their communitites to push for ETC liberalization during the current consultation conducted by Finance Minister Diana Whalen.

“The Ivany report has given us a powerful and daunting call to action: Nova Scotia must double the number of startups we are producing in the next five years,” MacDonald said in an email to members of the startup community.

“To deliver on that, there is one key ingredient we need, and it’s in short supply: risk capital.”

MacDonald, a member of the OneNS Coalition, also said recent reports by economist Donald Savoie, Laurel Broten (now the CEO of Nova Scotia Business Inc.), and venture capital specialist Gilles Duruflé all called for a liberalization of equity tax credits.

MacDonald wants the ceiling on eligible investments to rise at least to $250,000, the level offered by New Brunswick. He also wants the tax credit to apply to companies and trusts, as well as individuals, and to be granted for investments in startups across Atlantic Canada, not just Nova Scotia companies. The hope, obviously, is the other Atlantic provinces will follow that lead and there would be a region-wide tax credit.

He is asking members of the startup community to contact the Finance Department during its current review of the tax system and push for liberalization of the equity tax credit. Others are joining his campaign.

Last week, Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, president and CEO of Digital Nova Scotia, put out a statement:

“We believe in the momentum of a collective voice with the startup community and call upon our industry members and stakeholders to add their support to the proposed revisions outlined by Jevon MacDonald.”

You can make submissions to the Finance Department at budget@gov.ns.ca


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.     


East Coast Startup Week Set for March

East Coast Startup Week will be held once again this year in Fredericton spanning the week of the Breakthru Dinner.

Breakthru, the biennial competition organized by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, will hold its awards dinner March 19 at Fredericton Convention Centre. The highlight of the dinner – of the week, in fact –  will be the announcement of the three Breakthru winners, who will share $750,000 in development capital and in-kind services.

But the dinner is only one of eight major events, featuring more than 25 speakers, taking place in Fredericton between March 16 and 21.

Pond-Deshpande Centre Executive Director Karina LeBlanc, one of the organizers of East Coast Startup Week, said the events are now finalized though the speakers won’t be confirmed till mid-February.

The week begins Monday March 16 with a TedX Talk. A Social Impact Development Dialogue will begin on Monday and continue on to Tuesday.

On Wednesday, there will be a Speaker Series and a Startup Sleigh Ride.

In addition to the Breakthru Dinner, the events on Thursday, March 19, include Mentor Minutes and a FullSail Conference organized by the Financial and Consumer Services Commission of New Brunswick.

Two events will begin on Friday and continue through the weekend.

On Friday and Saturday, student ambassadors of the Pond-Deshpande Centre will host its second annual Youth Entrepreneurship Summit, YES Atlantic. The organizers are expecting a “few hundred millennials” at the conference, which will promote entrepreneurship among people under the age of 25.

And finally, a startup weekend will begin on Friday night and continue until Sunday evening. 

Press Release: Dal’s Rural SUW

Dalhousie University’s Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship has issued the following press release:


January 21, 2015 (Truro) - Last weekend, students and professionals from across Nova Scotia came together on Dalhousie University’s Agricultural Campus for Startup Weekend Truro. The event was co-hosted by Dalhousie University’s Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship (NNCE) and the agricultural campus’ new sandbox, Cultiv8.

Startup Weekend has been hosted in 300+ cities in 100 countries. Colin Conrad, a student entrepreneur and a participant in last weekend’s event, calls Startup Weekend: “The ultimate crash course in entrepreneurship”. In only 54 hours participants pitched ideas, formed teams, and launched startups. This year eight teams were formed, including students from Dalhousie University, St. Mary’s University, Acadia University, and the Nova Scotia Community College. Dr. Mary Kilfoil from Dalhousie University’s NNCE facilitated the experience.

This Startup Weekend had a focus on Agrifood. Dr. Ed Leach the director of the NNCE thinks the event was a huge success saying, “This year’s Agrifood Startup Weekend had 80+ participants, more than triple that of 2014. There’s a clear appetite for entrepreneurship and innovation in Nova Scotia’s more rural communities and the agriculture sector in particular, which is well known for its scientific and social innovations.”

In addition to learning how to launch a business, teams competed for a share of a $13,000 prize pool to advance their startup. First place Agri-Scene Cuisine will receive $6,500 in cash and in-kind services, second place The Golden Lobster will receive a $3,900 prize package, and third place Hop Station will receive a $2,600 prize package to advance their startup.

•             Agri-Scene Cuisine is a mobile app used to connect urbanites who don’t like to cook with home-cooked meals from urbanites who do like to cook.

•             The Golden Lobster is an export business to meet the demands for luxury seafood from foreign markets.

•             Hop Station is a hop yard that aims to supply pelletized hops to Atlantic Canadian breweries.

Last Friday also marked the kick-off of Cultiv8, an agricultural sandbox.

Truro’s Startup Weekend event was possible because of the support of the public, and private sectors, and community sponsors. Thank you to our sponsors: TD Canada, PwC Canada, McInnes Cooper, Innovacorp, CBDC Atlantic, Build Ventures, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Nova Scotia government.

Startup Weekend events are one of the ways the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship at Dalhousie University and their collaborators are supporting the creation and development of entrepreneurs and innovators to build a vibrant, resilient community.

A Champion of Our Booming IT Sector

Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia

Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia

Nova Scotia’s digital technologies industry is booming, but the workforce lacks diversity.

That’s something Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, president and CEO of Digital Nova Scotia, is working to change.

Incorporated in 1989, it is a non-profit that strives to promote Nova Scotia’s $2.5-billion digital industry; this figure includes the $1.5-billion industry itself and $1 billion in spinoff benefits.

Information and communications technology “is the fastest-growing sector in the province,” said Bahr-Gedalia.

“Nova Scotia has the highest number of … graduates per capita in Canada and a growing startup community. The province also has an ecosystem of support and advanced digital infrastructure. We want to help more Nova Scotia companies compete globally.”

Bahr-Gedalia is well-qualified to help Nova Scotians compete around the world.

Originally from Germany, she speaks six languages and has worked in diverse places, including South Africa, the Middle East and Asia. She moved with her family from Israel to Nova Scotia in 2002.

 “For the past 20 years, I’ve been working in the tech sector in organizations of all sizes, from startups to multinationals like Intel and Compaq-HP,” Bahr-Gedalia said.

 “It’s obvious to me that success comes to those who remove any concept of borders.”

Workplace diversity — including gender, ethnicity and age — is important, she said, because it has been shown to boost creativity and productivity.

The number of women employed in Canada’s tech sector stands at 24 per cent, according to the Information and Communications Technology Council. At executive levels, the number of women is just 16.5 per cent, according to figures from the Information Technology Association of Canada.

 “We broadened our recruitment efforts, and now 46 per cent of our board directors are women,” Bahr-Gedalia said.

 “In less than a year, our Women Leaders Fuelling the Digital Economy project (funded by Status of Women Canada) has provided … companies with actionable solutions on pay equity, promotional processes and communication.”

By linking with community groups, Digital Nova Scotia has boosted the number of youth from under-represented demographics interested in digital technology.

It has also partnered with the Discovery Centre in Halifax to create the Digital Discovery Camp.

 “We began working together last March on a pilot program to interest youth in digital technology,” Bahr-Gedalia said.

“Its success has made it a flagship program for both our organizations.”

Last July, it launched its Applied Leadership Training Program to provide business leaders with specific skill sets.

She said the Dartmouth organization works with research partners like the Information and Communications Technology Council to better understand trends and problems.

The sector needs many skill sets, and professionals work in diverse industries.

 “Our sector embeds nearly every other industry, and that number can only increase.”

She said the organization has been hearing a lot about the need for sales and marketing skills in tech companies, and plans to address this concern.

Hard work, optimism and a spirit of adventure have been Bahr-Gedalia’s own career guides.

 “I didn’t set out on a specific path. I followed one opportunity to the next, intending to excel, embrace change and adapt to new situations and environments quickly. I’ve also worked really hard and had a supportive peer network.”

In her 20s, she applied for a senior-level position with Compaq while working at McAfee in the United Kingdom. She eventually beat out several hundred candidates to win the job, based largely on her personality and attitude.

 “Experience was not an issue. I think that’s the point — it shouldn’t be.”

To be heard on the world stage, she said, Nova Scotians need to lose their customary reticence.

“The more visible we are as a sector and as a province, the more we’ll be able to attract global talent, investment and grow internationally competitive businesses.”


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: EOLIO’s New Partner

EOLIO, a Halifax company that helps people with their personal online branding, has issued the following press release:

Halifax Partnership and Local Start-up eOLIO Announce Partnership

HALIFAX, NS – January 22, 2015: The Halifax Partnership announced today a partnership with local start-up eOLIO, its first start-up partner and newest investor.

The Halifax Partnership works with more than 120 private and public sector leaders who are shaping the future of the economy through collaborations and connections that fuel business and economic growth. The Partnership’s Connector Program - a unique professional networking program for recent graduates, international students and immigrants - will now provide participants the opportunity to stand-out in their job search. Everyone involved in the Connector Program and all Partnership investors will receive a complimentary premium membership to the myeOLIO.com platform. This is a significant in-kind investment to the Halifax Partnership.

“We need to be retaining more talented people in Halifax in order to grow our population and our economy. This is what our Connector Program is all about” says Michele McKenzie, interim President and CEO at the Halifax Partnership. “We’re excited to support and work with an emerging start-up that is helping Halifax businesses and talent connect. This partnership is beneficial for everyone."

About Halifax Partnership

Halifax Partnership is Halifax’s economic development organization. We help keep, grow and get business, talent and investment in Halifax. We do this through leadership on economic issues, our core programs, our partnerships across all sectors, and by marketing Halifax to the world. More than 120 businesses and all three levels of government invest in the Partnership to support economic growth in Halifax. http://www.halifaxpartnership.com

About eOLIO

eOLIO is a new kind of online space. The web platform provides a suite of tools for individuals to control and enhance their online brand. The platform makes it easy for people to create professionally branded e-portfolios and for recruiters to locate, pre-screen and acquire talent. For more information, please visit http://www.myeOLIO.com



Matt’s Got Balls—And Great Margins

The greatest thing about Matt’s Got Balls is obviously the company’s name, but a close second may be its margins.

The Fredericton startupis the brainchild of Matt Vance, a University of New Brunswick engineering student with a blazing passion for golf. He has teamed up with his father, Kevin, and fellow student Josh Ogden to produce a business that retrieves golf balls from golf course water hazards and sell them online.

 “What we’re developing now is an e-commerce solution so if you’ve got golf balls, we’ll help you get the best price for them,” Ogden said during an interview in Fredericton.

Kevin Vance works with metal, and he and his son are on their fifth prototype of a machine that retrieves balls from water while the operator remains on dry land. That’s important because most retrieval outfits involve scuba divers, but the world’s water hazards can contain challenges to humans ranging from toxins to alligators.

Matt’s Got Balls has used its contraption at 18 golf courses around the Maritimes and is aiming to raise that to 45 this summer. But it is also developing a plan to sell the machine to other operators and work with them to sell balls at maximum profit on its e-commerce platform.

The eye-popping thing about the business plan is the margins they make on the sales of balls. Matt Vance said that on average they sell a golf ball at 500 per cent of the retrieval costs, and the margin can be high as 1,700 per cent.

Of course, golfers are particular about their equipment so the company only sells good balls on its site, and there is a rating system to ensure each vendor has been honest about the quality of the product. Vendors who routinely get bad ratings, or do not respect the rules of the golf courses they work with, will be denied access to the site.

Matt’s Got Balls has signed a deal with the national discount chain Giant Tiger, which will sell the lesser brands that are fished out of the ponds.

The Vances are working on the sixth iteration of the device, and the company is preparing to sell the machines to people interested in getting into the ball-retrieval business and selling on their site. It is also planning to give two per cent of its profits each year to the Canadian Cancer Society and (in keeping with the company name) to Testicular Cancer Canada.

As you can probably tell, this is a team of entrepreneurs bursting with personality. Matt Vance, pictured above, is a stocky, jockish character and born raconteur, whereas Ogden is more polished, a marketing type. They have the rare ability to entertain a listener with the story of how the business developed, from Vance’s days on the golf course as a teenager to the encouragement they received from a UNB professor.

When asked if they need funding, Ogden and Matt Vance were non-committal. They’ve thought about seeking about $250,000 in investment, but only from funders who can help them grow their business. In the meantime, they’re happy to sell golf balls at healthy margins.


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.


Mansa Capital Joins Accreon MBO

Accreon, one of the largest tech consultancies in Atlantic Canada, is restructuring its ownership and leadership through a leveraged management buyout involving the Boston-based private equity firm, Mansa Capital.

Fredericton-based Accreon, which specializes in information technology for the healthcare industry, issued a statement on Tuesday saying it is in the final stages of the buyout. It did not reveal the financial terms, nor say when the buyout will close.

The upshot of the restructuring is the company will now be led by a three-member management team, a smaller group than the current five-member team. The new triumvirate will comprise: Eric Demers, President of Accreon USA; Martin Ferguson, CEO of Corporate Shared Services and founding partner; and Michael Lavigne, Vice President of Business Development.

The current CEO of Global Services and Solutions Neil Russon will remain with the company through the transition, as part of a succession plan that has been in the works for some time, said company spokesperson Carey Smith.

“I have worked in tandem with Eric, Martin and Michael for many years now and recognize the tremendous contributions they have made in order for Accreon to be where it is today,” said Russon in a statement. “I trust them to take Accreon through the next stage of its growth.”

Started in 2008, Accreon provides IT systems and customized solutions across North America for healthcare provider organizations, government entities, medical device companies and electronic medical record vendors. The company has offices in Fredericton, Charlottetown, Toronto, and Boston.

Through the leverage buyout, the company will receive investment from a private equity firm that invests in growth companies in the healthcare services and healthcare technology sectors. Mansa typically invests in companies with enterprise value (total debt and equity) of up to $150 million.

The Accreon statement said the deal will accelerate the company’s growth in the U.S., and that in term will lead to more activity in Atlantic Canada, which is home to 113 of the company’s 123 employees.

“Accelerated growth in the U.S. market will have significant positive impacts on our business in Atlantic Canada,” said Smith. “That, combined with our current focus on Canada as a critical part of our business, will sustain and enhance the career opportunities for current and future Accreon employees.”

 The deal is the latest sign that the landscape is changing for Atlantic Canadian tech consultancies. In the past few weeks, Deloitte, one of the Big Four global accounting firms, bought Fredericton-based tech consultancy SwiftRadius. In May, Saint John-based Ambir Solutions said it would join EY Canada (formerly Ernest & Young) as part of its business consultancy division.


After Pivot, Swapskis Is Now Vendeve

To reflect the evolution of its business model, Swapskis is changing its name to Vendeve.

The Halifax startup began last year with the mission of helping women barter their skills with one another, so they could build up resumés and networks and eventually charge real cash for their services. Last summer, Founder and CEO Katelyn Bourgoin realized a better way to generate revenue for the business would be to be a cash-based market place for women’s services.

So she and her four colleagues changed the business model to allow more cash-based transactions. But the fact that the word “swap” was in the company name confused the business message to potential investors and the broader community.

Bourgoin has consulted a range of advisers, including Vicki Saunders, the Toronto-based founder of the entrepreneurial advice agency SheEO, and they recommended a rebranding and new business focus.

“They were all saying the same thing, which was that, ‘You are more than just skill swapping but the way you’re telling the story is holding you back,’ and they were right,” said Bourgoin in an interview.

The launch of Vendeve comes with a new focus for the business, as well as a geographic expansion.   

The company will still focus on women in the service industry, and there will still be a skill-swapping service available on the site. But the focus will place much more emphasis on allowing service providers to make sure that they fill every billable hour that they’re at work. It’s the best business strategy for the customer, and it allows Vendeve to generate greater revenue than the swapping model, said Bourgoin.

Up to now, Swapskis has launched only in its home market of Halifax, but this week it will launch in Sydney, N.S., Edmonton, Toronto and Calgary. Bourgoin has found a local champion in each city who will help the company to grow there.

“We've got 1,250 [users], which represents about 3 percent of the addressable market in Halifax,” said Bourgoin. “We're working with a number of ambassadors to help rapidly grow the community when the new app launches.”

The business has been growing, and Bourgoin recently brought on Calee Blanchart as COO. The company has been taking advantage of a range of mentoring opportunities, working in the Volta startup house, graduating from the Launch36 accelerator and attending Toon Nagtegaal’s NextPhase course.

Vendeve is now working on raising about $400,000 in equity financing, which it would combine with funding from government bodies for a total raise of about $750,000. Bourgoin has been in talks with Innovacorp, and will travel to Toronto on Thursday to meet with potential investors. 

Press Release: SageCrowd in Boston

SageCrowd, a Halifax startup that develops online networks for personal improvement authors, has issued the following press release:


Halifax, January 21, 2015 – Today sageCrowd announced it has agreed to join Boston’s influential edtech incubator LearnLaunch. In the agreement sageCrowd will become an advisor to companies incubated through LearnLaunch and locate its US operations within the LearnLaunch Campus.

The agreement brings sageCrowd’s learning science and its focus on competency based training to LearnLaunch.

 “We are excited to have sageCrowd and their Learning Science expertise”, said Hakan Satiroglu, Co-Founder and Partner of LearnLaunch.

LearnLaunch Boston's edtech Community, Campus and Accelerator is the center of Boston’s education technology ecosystem. Its’ objective is to drive innovation and transform learning. It offers a vibrant community, educational events, a collaborative co-working space, and a selective accelerator program to promote the growth of the education technology sector in greater Boston, a world education hub. It has the backing of the industry’s largest publishers including Cengage Learning, Pearson and McGraw-Hill.

 “LearnLaunch has become the heart of Boston’s community of over 350 edtech and learning-oriented start-ups,” said Sean Sears, CEO of sageCrowd. “We are excited to join the LearnLaunch ecosystem and believe in the importance of collaborating with peers and sharing ideas”.

SageCrowd uses modern learning science to deliver competency based skills training for large enterprises. The goal is to increase the efficiency and efficacy of training by using the brain's ‘natural’ process for creating permanent memory.

SageCrowd’s chief advantage is its focus on learning sciences, particularly the creation of the SageCrowd Way. This proprietary training methodology combines social learning capability with Insight-Scaffolding® sequencing to create a fundamentally different learning environment that can deliver a greater ROI on training and substantially improve enterprise performance.

For more information visit http://www.learnlaunch.com and www.sagecrowd.com

Contact is grace@sagecrowd.com.

2 New Products Driving Current Studios

Current Studios is enjoying its best quarter of business ever largely because of two digital games it’s developed.

One aids children’s health care, and the other ties in with new bedding on the market. If they have one common trait, it’s that they’re both a testament to the creativity of this Dartmouth company.

Current Studios began as Ad-Dispatch, a startup that specialized in augmented reality. That lets you view something through a camera on a portable device and see animated characters spring to life against a real-world backdrop.

As it grew to a 50-employee outfit, the company moved into a broad range of computer visuals and changed its name to reflect the product portfolio.

“It’s a wonderful feeling, knowing that your funnel is almost full for the year and we still have more business coming in,” said founder and CEO Nathan Kroll, sitting in the company’s new headquarters in Burnside Park.

The first gem in the current portfolio is MRI Child Evaluator, which helps children’s hospitals improve efficiency and reduce stress when using magnetic resonance imaging machinery on children. The second is Wildlandia, an augmented reality game for five- to 10-year-olds that uses bedding featuring jungle animals.

The MRI project came about when Donna Thompson, a longtime volunteer with the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, contacted Kroll to see if technology could reduce some of the hospital’s problems. They soon found a match.

Many children squirm when undergoing an MRI and need to reschedule the procedure with an anesthetist present to get a clear image. It’s a huge expense. Kroll proposed a digital game that tests whether a child lying on his or her back can remain still. The video game — played on an iPad held above a child — requires the child to be perfectly still, controlling the game only with his or her fingertips. If the child excels at the game, the hospital knows the child will not need anesthetics when it comes time for the MRI.

Current Studios has done its first version of the game and hopes to develop a second in which the game is built into an MRI machine. It has been holding discussions with microprocessor maker Intel, whose RealSense camera has become the industry standard in motion detection, about working together on the project. It’s also reached out to major medical technology producers, such as GE.

Wildlandia is a different beast altogether, a fun product that links a children’s video game with their sheets and bed covers. Current Studios and its partner, Northwest Bedding, have produced a line of Wildlandia bedding featuring illustrations of jungle animals. The linen, which is due any day for a chain-wide rollout at Toys R Us, is a key component for a video game produced by Current Studios.

A child can play Wildlandia anywhere, using a smartphone or tablet to manage a cartoon savannah and getting points to make sure the animals are fed and watered. To collect points, the child must point the device at the blanket or bed covering, bringing the animated animals to life on the screen.

The two projects are only two components of Current Studios’ business these days, but they’re big reasons Kroll expects 2015 will be his best year yet.



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.     


Diversity, Experience at Breakthru

Here are three adjectives to describe the 2015 cohort of the Breakthru startup competition in New Brunswick: diversified, experienced and keen.

Breakthru, the biennial competition organized by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, held its bootcamp on Saturday, which is the one time during the half-year-plus process that all the participants get together in one place.

NBIF this year received 62 entries, though six were deemed ineligible in the first vetting. The remaining 56 teams are all aiming for the top three positions, each of which will walk away with more than $200,000. To look at it another way, each team has a better than five percent chance of landing $200K in cash and in kind services by the time the snow melts. Better odds than the lottery, I’d say.

The 56 teams competing for a total of $750,000 comprise a total of 118 individuals, and every single one of them registered for the bootcamp this weekend.

They received a crash course in business fundamentals from former University of New Brunswick prof Barry Bisson, now the president of the nationwide youth entrepreneurship organization Shad. And they heard encouragement from one of New Brunswick’s most successful tech entrepreneurs.

“It’s the most exciting time ever to be an entrepreneur,” said Marcel LeBrun, the co-founder of Radian6, which was purchased four years ago by Salesforce.com. “And the opportunities extend right across every sector.”

All major sectors in the startup world are represented in the contest this year, and the entries come from across the province.  Many have already gone through one of the various mentoring organizations and some have bona fide businesses.

When Bisson asked if any of the attendants had used a business model canvas, about 90 percent of the hands rose into the air.

Talking with some of the entrants, it was obvious many been nurtured by such organizations as the Launch36 accelerator,  the Technology, Management & Entrepreneurship program at UNB or others.

Ongazah, which helps people organize, implement and publicize their projects, is a tenant at the Vennture Garage in Moncton. Two Breakthru competitors competed in the regional BioInnovation Challenge in the fall: NB-Biomatrix, a Saint John startup that uses nano-technology to fight water pollution, and Doctor’s Orders, which is developing a “smart cane” to help with the recovery from knee or hip replacements.

Given that this is New Brunswick, there are a lot of IT companies in the running. Take for example Tempo, a Fredericton outfit that is developing an app that automatically chooses music to suit the intensity of your workout. The four co-founders, all enrolled in the TME program, have developed algorithms that can assess the intensity of each song on your playlist. Using either a wearable monitor or sensors on a smart phone, the app will automatically find faster song if you’re running or slowing tunes if you’re walking.

But IT is not dominating the competition. Catarro of Fredericton is developing a household product that instantly cools drinks – sort of the opposite of a microwave. And another Fredericton startup, On Your Plate, is developing a single-serve pancake maker – doing for breakfast what Keurig has done for Coffee.

NBIF President and CEO Calvin Milbury was thrilled Saturday about the enthusiasm and the quality of the competition. He noted that the teams that finish in the top three will be guaranteed a spot in the next cohort of Launch36 (even though a few of the competitors are Launch36 Start grads). He also said the competition is strong enough that the organizers may have to select semi-finalists before announcing the five finalists in late February.



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.     


Qimple Accepted into 500 Startups

A month after revealing it’s attracted an impressive set of investors, Qimple has been accepted into one of the best-known accelerators in the world.

The Moncton online recruitment company is one of about 30 startups that will attend the coming cohort of 500 Startups in San Francisco.

Qimple CEO Yves Boudreau found out Monday that his company had been accepted, and he leaves Saturday to attend the 14-week program. He said it will be an experience that could alter the course of his company’s development.

 “I’m very level-headed in that I don’t get overly excited or down about things, but this is something I’m ecstatic about,” said Boudreau.

 “This is probably going to have the most impact for us of anything we’ve done, if we leverage it properly. It’s an amazing way to start the new year.”

Qimple, which graduated from the Launch36 accelerator in June, makes the hiring process easier for recruiters and applicants due to its applicant tracking system and proprietary candidate-scoring tool. Since making Qimple available to the private sector last year, it has seen more than 100 companies sign up and processed more than 4,000 job-seeker applications.

Last month, the company said it was on the verge of closing a $600,000 equity funding round from such investors as the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation; BDC Venture Capital; Dan Martell, founder of Clarity in Moncton; Patrick Hankinson, CEO of Halifax’s Compilr; and Sanjay Singhal, the CEO of Toronto’s audiobooks.com.

Qimple is the first Atlantic Canadian company to be accepted to 500 Startups, though there are generally five or six Canadian initiatives in each of its 30-team cohorts. Since its inception, more than 800 startups from 40 companies have passed through the accelerator.

Qimple is part of a growing movement of the region’s startups seeking mentorship in major accelerators outside the region. Brownie Points, a St. John’s, N.L., startup, just completed its training at FounderFuel of Montreal, and QRA Corp. of Halifax has just been accepted into Disruption Corp. (founded by former 500 Startups exec Paul Singh) in Washington, D.C.

Boudreau visited San Francisco in November and ended up touring the 500 Startups facility and working there for a few days. He then applied.

The company will receive a US$100,000 investment on joining the accelerator, and will be given work space in San Francisco for the 14-week duration of the course. In May, Boudreau will pitch his company at the 500 Startups DemoDay, which is attended entirely by potential funders.

On Tuesday, he sat his six colleagues down and explained to them what acceptance into the program means: in all their fundraising from here on, Qimple will be able to bill itself as a “500 Startups company,” which groups it with some firms that have raised tens of millions of dollars.

 “It’s a badge of honour to be a 500 Startup company,” said Boudreau.

 “I’ve made two investor calls since we found out we made it in, and just knowing that completely changes the tone.”


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 CRM

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

SimplyCast Introduces Free CRM Solution and Sales Pipeline Acceleration Tool

SimplyCast is launching its own powerful customer relationship management solution, SimplyCast CRM.

SimplyCast CRM enables businesses to track and manage customers and leads with detailed personal profiles that are dynamically updated based on interactions and behaviors.

SimplyCast CRM's sales pipeline tool accelerates the sales process using detailed tracking and highly targeted lead nurturing campaigns.

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, January 14, 2015 - SimplyCast.com, a global leader in multi-channel marketing Platform-as-a-Service solutions, is proud to launch SimplyCast CRM, a powerful customer

relationship management solution.

SimplyCast CRM enables businesses to accelerate their sales process using powerful sales pipeline functionality. The CRM tracks each contact starting from their first website visit, building a detailed

personal profile. This information enables businesses to move contacts through the sales pipeline much more quickly. A shortened sales cycle reduces the number of leads that will drop off and helps keep

leads engaged.

Personal customer profiles include detailed timelines. Profiles are updated both automatically, based on customer tracking, and manually, based on personal interaction with staff. SimplyCast CRM also

integrates with other leading CRM solutions to enable customers to seamlessly transfer data and maximize efficiency.

SimplyCast CRM works in combination with SimplyCast 360 to send highly targeted communications to each contact, based on personal preferences and individual needs. Leads and customers move

through automated sales pipelines based on their actions. Detailed pipelines and personally targeted content help nurture leads and increase conversions and sales. The CRM integrates seamlessly with

SimplyCast Sonar and the other communication tools in the suite so that all data is in one place. Campaign creation, therefore, is quick and easy.

“SimplyCast CRM is the ideal tool to enable businesses to create highly targeted nurturing campaigns for each of their contacts,” said Saeed El-Darahali, President and CEO of SimplyCast. “The CRM

allows for the seamless collection, storage and transfer of data and it accelerates the sales process considerably.”

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.


Equals6’s New Mentorship Platform

With its core social network for students reaching a critical mass, Equals6 launched a new product this week that helps universities co-ordinate their mentoring networks.

The Halifax startup has just introduced Students2Mentors, a cloud-based platform that streamlines the creation and management of mentorship programs.

The company has set up students2mentors.com, and universities and colleges can develop their own branded sites to use the technology.

The idea behind the product is to help universities with easier administration of their programs that link students with mentors throughout all faculties. It is also a tool that can help alumni organizations find and aid graduates who want to help active students.

 “Students2Mentors came out of work we’ve been doing with Dalhousie, and we had some ongoing discussions with their alumni,” said Equals6 CEO Andy Osburn.

 “They have a mentorship program that’s way ahead of the curve, but it’s across several different faculties throughout the university. The problem was that they couldn’t find a tool that would allow them to administer and manage all those programs in a manageable way.”

Osburn started Equals6 in 2011 with the goal of providing an online environment in which students could interact with one another and potential employers to discuss career opportunities. While Facebook was social and fun, and LinkedIn was for people with careers, Osburn wanted a site that could help students transitioning from school to the workplace.

For a few years, Equals6 has had the goal of having 100,000 students subscribing to the site, and they reached that in October.

There are now about 110,000 users, rising by about 40,000 to 50,000 per year, and the company is profitable.

The site includes scholarship programs and crowdfunding for students, and now Students2Mentors offers a new feature.

Mentorship, in which people working in a certain field help to train students preparing for that field, is growing at universities and colleges. It exposes students to people with actual experience in their chosen career, and it allows alumni and others to contribute to a younger generation.

Osburn said that most universities have tools for co-ordinating mentorship that are “pretty clunky and ineffective.” These platforms have trouble matching students and mentors, tracking how regularly they meet and measuring other components of the program. Students2Mentors aims to provide such functions.

About 18 months ago, Equals6 introduced a mentoring platform into its own site but realized it was a separate field.

So the company set up its own platform for the new product.

 “It’s easier to market and sell this way, and it reduces some of the clutter around the messaging around Equals6,” said Osburn.

 “Now we can communicate to alumni associations across North America.”

Equals6 charges $950 to a university or alumni association to set up a branded Students2Mentors site, and then charges a monthly subscription fee.

The Dalhousie site is live, and Equals6 is beginning to market it to other institutions. Osburn figures there is a total market of about 500 schools that could use the product, though there may also be applications for non-academic bodies.


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.     


Deloitte TMT Show Hits NB, NS

Deloitte, the international accountancy and business consultancy, has released its 2015 predictions on technology, media and telecommunications, and launched its Canadian roadshow to showcase them.

Ahead of the tour making two stops in Atlantic Canada next week, we’re publishing their predictions below.

Duncan Stewart, the Director of TMT Research at Deloitte Canada, will present the predictions Monday at 8:15 am at the Cineplex Cinemas in Saint John, and Tuesday at the McInnes Cooper offices in Halifax at 8:15 am. It’s free to register, and you can do so here.


Forgot your wallet? No problem. The tide will turn for in-store mobile payments

Print book sales will be at least four times higher than eBook sales, Deloitte predicts

Toronto, Ontario – January 13, 2015 –2015 will mark the tipping point for near-field communication (NFC)-enabled smartphone in-store payments, according to Deloitte’s 2015 Canadian Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) Predictions. In 2015, about five percent of the 600 million NFC-equipped smartphones worldwide will be used to make an in-store NFC payment at least once a month, more than a 1,000 percent increase from 2014, making its way to Canada at the end of 2015.

“Canadian smartphones are already being used to check balances, transfer funds and transact online, which indicates that consumers are comfortable with using their phones to handle money. But almost no one used their phones for contactless in-store payments at the register,” said Duncan Stewart, Director of TMT Research at Deloitte in Canada. “2015 will be the first year in which all of the requirements for mainstream mobile payments – satisfying financial institutions, merchants, consumers and device vendors – have been sufficiently addressed.”

Now in its 14th year, Deloitte’s TMT Predictions provide an outlook on the 10 most important trends for Canada in the technology, media and telecommunications industry over the next 12 to 18 months.

Also in 2015, the smartphone upgrade market will see sustained, but slower growth. 1.4 billion smartphones will sell worldwide in 2015, up 12 percent from 2014’s 1.2 billion units. More than a billion smartphone sales worldwide will be upgrades, countering ideas that the device has matured and cannot be improved.

“Although the smartphone refresh cycle is lengthening, existing smartphone owners are continuing to buy new phones. About 5 million smartphone upgrades in Canada will occur in 2015,” said Robert Nardi, Partner and National TMT Leader for Deloitte in Canada. “PC growth has been on a decline as consumers and enterprises started to buy new ones at longer intervals, but it would be premature to expect the same to occur for smartphones. Pride, pixel count, durability and storage needs will continue to drive growth for smartphone refreshes.”

Consumers don’t always lead the way: The pendulum swings back to enterprise adoption

Historically, new technologies, like PCs and cellular phones, were adopted by the enterprise and then by the mass consumer market years later. In the last decade, it’s been the opposite. Tablets and smartphones with large screens were adopted widely by consumers first, but the pendulum will start to swing back. In 2014, consumer uptake of wearable technology like smart glasses was modest, signaling a shift away from the consumerization of IT. Enterprise adoption of wearables, 3D printing, drones and the Internet of Things (IoT) will have a bigger impact generating more economic value in goods and addressing business needs than the consumer market for those technologies.

10 TMT Predictions most relevant in Canada (All dollar amounts are USD):

1. In-store mobile payments will (finally) gain momentum – The end of 2015 will mark the tipping point for the use of mobile phones for NFC-enabled in-store payments in Canada. It will be the first year in which the multiple prerequisites for mainstream adoption – satisfying financial institutions, merchants, consumers and device vendors – have been sufficiently addressed. In 2015, about five percent of the base of 600 million NFC equipped smartphones worldwide will be used to make an in-store NFC payment at least once a month, compared to less than half a percent of about 450 million NFC phones in mid-2014. In-store mobile payments in the Canadian market are likely to be slower than the US, depending on when various payment services are introduced, but 56 percent of Canadians are not interested in paying with a smartphonei. It remains to be seen if they will change their minds.

2. For the first time, the smartphone upgrade market will exceed one billion. 1.4 billion smartphones will sell worldwide in 2015, but over a billion of them will be upgrades – new phones for those who already have one. The refresh cycle may be lengthening, but screen size, speed, storage, software and design will drive growth for smartphone refreshes. In Canada, more than 5 million smartphone sold will likely be upgrades

3. Print is not dead, at least for print books – Sales from print books will be at least four times the sales of eBooks globally. eBooks have not substituted print books in the same way that sales of CDs, print newspapers and magazines have declined. Young people (age 18-34) are as attached to print books as their elders and read at about the same rate than older demographics, and they are willing to pay for them.

4. The ‘generation that won’t spend’ is spending on TMT – Millennials who are 18-34 years old in Canada will spend an average of $750 for content, both traditional and digital. With 9 million millennials, that’s nearly $7 billion in sales for the Canadian media industry. What are millennials spending on? Pay TV, music, computer games, books, live sports, streaming video, and even print newspapers. In an Ipsos survey, commissioned by Deloitte, more Canadians aged 18-32 increased or spent the same amount of money this year than last on books (84 percent), live music (83 percent) or live sports (92 percent) relative to GenX-ers (78 percent, 76 percent, 82 percent respectively) or Boomers (78 percent, 73 percent, 76 percent respectively).

5. Click and collect booms: a boon for the consumer, a challenge for retailers. The number of click and collect locations in Europe will reach half a million in 2015, a 20 percent increase on the previous year. Click and collect provides shoppers with the option to pick up items purchased online from locations such as a special section in a store, or a secure locker located in a transit station or a shopping mall. It is prevalent in Europe, but just starting to be trialed in Canada, even though the concept was pioneered by a Canadian company back in the Dotcom era.

6. The connectivity chasm deepens as gigabit Internet adoption rockets – Globally, the number of homes with broadband Internet will grow by about two percent to 715 million, and average broadband speeds in most countries will increase by 20 percent. But variations in broadband speed in homes will be significant. The top decile of homes in some markets will have five times the average speed of those in the bottom decile. Factors unique to each home from the thickness of walls, age of a router, time of day and browsing habits of neighbours will determine the actual speeds attained at each broadband-connected device. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians get broadband speeds of more than 50 Mbps, but even more have realized ‘broadband’ speeds of less than 5 Mbps.

7. The end of the consumerization of IT? In 2015, the pendulum of technology adoption will begin to swing back to the enterprise market, reversing a decade long trend that went the other way - when mass adoption of technologies like large screen smartphones and tablets started with consumer adoption first.

8. The Internet of things really is things, not people – In 2015, over 60 percent of the one billion global wireless IoT devices will be bought, paid for and used by enterprises - despite media focus on consumers controlling their thermostats, lights, and appliances (ranging from washing machines to tea kettles). The IoT-specific hardware will be worth $10 billion, but the services enabled by the devices will be worth about $70 billion.

9. 3D printing is a revolution: Just not the revolution you think - In 2015 nearly 220,000 3D printers will be sold worldwide, with a dollar value of $1.6 billion, but it is unlikely that there will be a “factory in every home.” Deloitte estimates about 80 percent of the value of all 3D printers will be for companies instead of consumers, meaning the real revolution will be in the enterprise market.

10. Short form video: a future, but not the future, of television - The total time spent watching online short-form video clips and programming of less than 20 minutes in length will represent less than three percent of all video seen in the year, both in Canada and globally. However, viewers of short form video may be more engaged and less passive than viewers of traditional long form video, meaning that ads for short form video may generate higher sales with a more-engaged audience.


Deloitte’s TMT Predictions are based on worldwide research supported by in-depth interviews with clients, industry analysts, global leaders and more than 8,000 Deloitte member firm TMT practitioners. Over the last five years, Deloitte was more than 79 percent accurate with its TMT predictions.

Deloitte’s TMT predictions will be showcased in a 12-stop Canadian road show with events starting on January 13. Sign up to attend an event here.

About Deloitte

Deloitte, one of Canada's leading professional services firms, provides audit, tax, consulting, and financial advisory services. Deloitte LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership, is the Canadian member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity. Please see http://www.deloitte.com/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and its member firms. 

SONA Eyes Nano Production in 2015

By this summer, a new startup based in Sydney hopes to be producing gold nano particles to be used in the diagnosis and treatment of soft tissue cancers.

SONA Nano Tech recently won $50,000 in Innovacorp’s Spark competition and is using the money to establish itself in the Sydney startup community. The company is now working at raising $300,000 to $500,000 with which it plans to begin producing nano particles for medical treatment.

“Current radiation therapy techniques are limited in their effectiveness because they damage healthy bone and tissue,” said Gerrard Marangoni, a St. Francis Xavier University professor and Co-Founder of SONA Nano. “It has been proven that you can use gold nanorods – tiny gold particles - to destroy the cancer cells from inside with no harmful side effects to the patient. In the near future, we will be able to treat soft tissue cancers far more aggressively without the pain, discomfort, and sickness that is normally associated with radiation therapy.”

Marangoni and fellow St. F.X. prof Kulbir Singh have been in the entrepreneurship racket for years. They are the principals of GMS Surface Tech of Antigonish, which develops environmentally friendly cleaning products and has just signed a distribution agreement with ACCO Brands of Lake Zurich, IL. The deal covers about four products, and Marangoni said GMS has about 20 new products that it is hoping to get into the market soon.

They have also spent years dabbling in the study and commercial application of nano particles, or sub-microscopic particles. A year or two ago they discovered healthcare applications of their research, and began to form SONA.

What they have discovered is a cost-effective method of producing gold nano particles that requires no toxins, and thereby reduces the health concerns associated with toxins. What’s more, their methodology has greater control over the size and shape of the nanoparticles than others on the market.

“Our stuff is different because we have a different process of making it,” said Marangoni. “We can do it more inexpensively and we can make sizes that our competitors can’t make.”

Marangoni said in an interview that universities in the region have the equipment needed to begin producing these nano particles. The company, which now employs five people, is developing partnerships with companies in the U.S. that are now treating soft tissue cancers with nanoparticles. These partners would be responsible for the regulatory approvals and SONA would simply produce the particles themselves.

There is already a massive and growing market for gold nanoparticles worldwide and the company expects to capitalize on existing markets immediately, said Michael McAlduff, a Co-Founder of SONA.

The equipment now on hand in the region would allow SONA to produce enough material to get started, but eventually the company hopes to establish its own production facility. With that in mind, Maragoni said that in two to four years it would aim for a funding round worth a few million dollars. For now, the regional infrastructure can produce all that the end-users need.

“If you look at what our competitors are offering, it’s really just one- to ten-litre litre vials and the concentration is small,” said Marangoni. “The beautiful thing is you don’t need a lot for the applications the end-user will need them for. We can produce that in a typical lab setting.”


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.



Acadia to Host Data Seminar for SMEs

The Acadia Institute for Data Analytics will host a symposium next Tuesday on the use of data analysis for small and medium-sized businesses.

Cathy Simpson, the Vice-President of Marketing at T4G, will be the keynote speaker at the Productivity & Competitiveness for SMEs through Data Analytics Seminar, which will be held from noon to 4:30 pm at the Clark Common at Acadia University.

Simpson was one of the founding members 12 years ago of Propel Saint John, which has grown into Propel ICT, the regional tech accelerator. She is also one of the founders and organizers of the Big Data Congress, which will hold its third major event in 2015.

AIDA aims to bring the benefits of data analytics to groups that are often overlooked in the stampede to create a digital economy – such as agriculture, rural industries and small businesses.

It held a symposium last year for data analytics and agriculture and is now holding a similar event for SMEs.

The other speakers at the event Tuesday will include Daryl Fraser, of Livelenz, Matt Cooper of Clean Simple and Wesley Booth of AIDA.

The event is free and you can register here

UIT Starts to Showcase Its Progress

The UIT program at Cape Breton University reached a milestone Monday when its dozen students were to present their best ideas to the members of the One Nova Scotia Coalition.

UIT is a new technology and entrepreneurship program championed by Gavin Uhma, the CBU graduate who went on to co-found GoInstant, one of Nova Scotia’s most successful startups. The program offers free tuition to 12 students, divided evenly between men and women.

While two or three students are focusing on developing real companies, most are being encouraged to come up with ideas in various forms of technology and investigate whether they could be developed into businesses.

“The idea of the program is that throughout the course of the year they’ll be exposed to different forms of technology,” said Uhma in an interview.

He said that once the students are exposed to a form of technology, they’re encouraged to come up with their own ideas on how it could be the basis for a startup. Uhma said that as the program wraps up in the summer, organizers hope more students will develop businesses they can pursue. But, for now, it’s interesting to see the ideas they are coming up with.

On Monday, the members of the One Nova Scotia Coalition, which was established by the provincial government to help implement the recommendations of the Ivany commission, were to meet in Sydney. To highlight the city’s burgeoning tech community, the students were to pitch some of their ideas to coalition members.

Organizers said the session would be a hallmark for the program because it was the first opportunity for students to showcase the work they’d done since September.

After GoInstant sold out to Salesforce.com in the summer of 2012, Uhma began to talk about working with his alma mater to set up an entrepreneurship program that would use online courses. People in the tech community began to talk about “the University of Gavin” being established.

Uhma has become the senior mentor in the program, and he reviews all the students’ weekly presentations. But the startup community in Sydney has gotten behind the program, providing mentorship and other resources.

The program is one of several around the region in which the goal is not just to educate students but also to produce successful businesses. Other examples includethe Starting Lean initiative at Dalhousie University, the MTEI program at Saint Mary’s and the TME program at the University of New Brunswick.

Uhma is working with Cape Breton University on plans to continue UIT next year and even enlarge the enrolment. And he said he hopes that again half the students will be female, as there is a broad movement to encourage more women to enter technological businesses and entrepreneurship.

 “For me, it’s just about looking at some of the opportunities I had growing up and making sure that some of the other people growing up in Cape Breton have those same opportunities.”

Founders Still Irked by SR&ED Issue

Since we reported on the federal government’s Scientific Research and Experimental Development program two months ago, we’ve heard a strong message from several Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs. They’re angry at that their claims under the program are either being denied or held up in an appeal process that is taking too long to settle. The word “anger” may understate the sentiment. There’s a certain fury around this issue that is unlike anything I’ve witnessed in the three-and-a-half years I’ve been covering Atlantic Canadian startups.

To recap, we reported on Nov. 27 that several Atlantic Canadian startups had their SR&ED claims rejected completely, even though they received at least part of their claim in previous years. These claims often amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The program administered by the Canadian Revenue Agency has long been used by small and large Canadian companies to finance research and development. However, several entrepreneurs said they have been denied funding in 2014, even though their applications were successful in previous years.

The program allows Canadian businesses — from startups to multinationals — to claim back money for their research and development spending when they file corporate income taxes. In other words, if a company spends a certain amount on scientific research, it can claim for that on tax returns with the hope to receive some money back from CRA. Companies can make claims even if they don’t yet have sales, and therefore don’t pay corporate taxes.

In reporting the SR&ED controversy, we aimed to be as balanced as possible, seeking the views from a range of players and getting a response from CRA. The article drew a strong reaction. By far the strongest were from people outraged that their claims had been denied or ensnared in the review process.

One New Brunswick entrepreneur said that his company had to wait 542 days for the successful completion of its appeal for SR&ED funding.

Another startup from Nova Scotia has been going through the process for 18 months and still has not yet had the matter resolved. The CEO of the company pointed out that lower SR&ED claims affect startups’ ability to tap provincial programs, so the effects are amplified by not receiving provincial funding.

A lot of entrepreneurs told us they are convinced CRA is applying far more stringent criteria to applications from Atlantic Canadian businesses than from those in other parts of the country. Some founders even said they are making SR&ED claims wherever possible through units or partners in other parts of the country to increase their chances of approval. When asked about this, a CRA spokesperson said the agency always strives for consistency in assessing claims from across the country and has actually strengthened its consistency.

Finally, it’s difficult to say whether the situation will improve in 2014. People familiar with the matter say representatives of the East Coast startup community have met with senior CRA officials. The concerns have been spelled out clearly. The result probably won’t be known until companies begin to make their claims for the 2014-15 tax year.


NY Startup’s NS Development Team

Libbe Englander’s voice mail was a sign that fresh opportunities are brewing in the tech segment in Atlantic Canada.

On Tuesday, Englander called Entrevestor and left a message asking if we have a job board. She wanted to know because her company, Pharm3r (pronounced farmer) is hiring developers in the Halifax area.

Nothing unusual in that. Most companies I speak to are looking for programmers. What caught my interest is the fact that Pharm3r is based in New York City.

The company, which conducts data analysis in the pharmaceutical industry, will remain headquartered in Manhattan. But it has one developer in Halifax, is hiring one more and may hire three people in the next year.

 “I’m extraordinarily impressed with your talent pool,” said Englander by phone when we connected.

 “I like the type of work you do, the way you think, the quality of talent, the sense of community. I think it’s a huge resource.”

Whereas Englander wanted to get across the message that she’s hiring, there is something more at play here. This is an entrepreneur with no historic ties to Halifax, yet she believes it helps her business set up a development team in the city.

She calls the story of how she stumbled on Halifax a “historical accident.”

In 2011, she set up Pharm3r as a means to help companies that provide services to the pharmaceutical segment, such as insurers or health-care providers, assess the risks associated with drugs or other medical products.

Pharm3r has developed software that draws information from a range of sources, from medical literature and social media to corporate databases, to present clients with a cogent analysis of the risks associated with a drug. So if an insurer is considering underwriting the insurance on a new drug, it could commission Pharm3r to analyze the risks involved.

Englander declined to detail the growth or customer base of her company, but she did say it’s been profitable from Day 1 and has remained profitable ever since.

About a year ago, she was talking to fellow New York entrepreneur Charles Benaiah about the difficulty in finding development talent. He asked her if she’d considered Halifax. Benaiah’s company, Watzan, which enhances searches in e-commerce and media websites, had recently built up a satellite development team in Nova Scotia, and he recommended she look into the city.

Her husband is from Montreal so the thought of a Canadian office didn’t seem out of line. She flew to Halifax and was impressed with the people she met at Dalhousie University and in the community. She’s returning next month to meet prospective hires and deliver a talk at Acadia University.

Pharm3r and Watzan are small companies, and there’s no parade on Main Street because they’re setting up offices here. But the fact that New York startups are building teams here helps get the word out about what’s happening in Atlantic Canada. It helps to develop the local talent pool, will help with mentorship and strengthens the region’s networks. It’s all part and parcel of developing a bona fide tech community on the East Coast of Canada.



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.      

Email Opened Lures Capital, New CEO

After the sale of one of his companies, Dartmouth entrepreneur Keith Gallant is focusing on the growth of his startup, Email Opened,  by bringing in more capital and a new CEO.

Gallant recently sold his website hosting service, JustHosting.ca, for more than $100,000 to VivosWeb Inc. of Hamilton, Ont. The sale will allow Gallant to focus more on Email Opened, which helps organizations analyze and improve their email campaigns.

With 1,500 customers, Email Opened is bringing on Rob Gowans as CEO, allowing Gallant to return to his first love of product development. Gowans has worked with Fortune 500 companies so Gallant believes he can help the company fund further growth by raising capital, with a target of $500,000.

 “I’ve had to wear all of the hats,” Gallant said.

 “That’s part of the reason why two years into the company we’re not where most startups are after two years. We should be bigger, we should grow faster.”

In November, Email Opened was the first Canadian company to pitch to the Maine Angels, the principal network of angel investors in the closest state to the Maritimes. If talks are successful, Email Opened will become the first Atlantic Canadian startup to raise capital from the group.

Atlantic Venture Capital is the only Email Opened investor, but the company has also received funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

The money Gallant raises will go toward hiring developers and a sales team.

Gallant started Email Opened in 2012 after creating an in-house email campaign service at Just Hosting. He said it increased the opening of his clients’ emails by seven to nine per cent.

On average, workers spend a quarter of their day on email, receiving approximately 80 messages. Email Opened, which recently moved from Volta Labs in Halifax to its own office in Dartmouth, gathers and interprets analytics about the emails its clients sends. By analyzing how many people are opening them, where they’re opening them from and at what time, businesses can change their patterns to ensure their messages are opened by the target audience.

 “We allow people to change how they send,” Gallant said.

 “Their messages are better as a result of what happened in the past. If you send better email, you can better target your customer, and you can get more return based on who you’re actually targeting.”

Signing up for Email Opened is free. If a business has fewer than 500 contacts, it continues to be free. The fee of the basic package — meaning a business has 500 contacts or more — starts at $15 per month. The premium service isn’t yet available, but when it’s ready, it will cost about $45 per month.

 “Just like we give our users ways to improve their emails, our product itself will always improve and morph and change and grow with email,” Gallant said.

 “Email needs to continue to change. It will always be used.”



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.