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.

Yours,

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:

AGRIFOOD STARTUP WEEKEND IN TRURO A BIG SUCCESS

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

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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:

SAGECROWD BRINGS ITS LEARNING SCIENCES TO BOSTON’S LEARNLAUNCH EDTECH ENTREPRENEURSHIP CAMPUS

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.

Planet Hatch’s Startup Crash Course


Planet Hatch, the Fredericton-based startup hub, is hosting a three-day “pre-accelerator” to give novice entrepreneurs an introduction to the field.

The Startup Crash Course will take place on Jan. 31, Feb. 14 and Feb. 15 at Planet Hatch in Knowledge Park in Fredericton. Applications, which must be submitted by Jan. 20, are available here.

“The Startup Crash Course is an intense 3 day program that will give a select group of committed founders a unique opportunity to take their startup the next level,” said a notice from the organizers. “It is designed to give teams valuable training, tools, and mentorship to get them one step closer to building their startup and potentially gaining access to the Planet Hatch core accelerator program.”

Launching Our Latest Survey


Entrevestor today is launching its second annual campaign to collect data from startups across Atlantic Canada, with the goal of again publishing metrics that are vital to the development of the startup community.

Last year, Entrevestor surveyed about 300 startups, promising confidentiality to all the respondents. We published the aggregated data free for everyone in our Entrevestor Intelligence reports and produced a premium analysis for paying customers.

We’re hoping startup founders will again take a few minutes – literally – to complete and submit the forms and in doing so help the development of the Atlantic Canadian startup community. Your submission helps in two ways:

Our survey provides metrics for the community

Entrevestor’s data is the most tangible evidence of what’s happening in the Atlantic Canadian startup community, and it is being studied by policymakers across the region. Last year, our survey showed that employment in Atlantic Canadian startups increased 43 percent and revenues 30 percent in 2013. We re-enforced those findings with a brilliant infographic prepared by Bonfire Stories of Saint John. As a result, the findings were reported in the National Post as well as regional media outlets. Founders should invest three minutes in completing the survey because it showcases the community and helps in developing better programs.

This survey helps to perpetuate Entrevestor

We provide free daily news to and about Atlantic Canadian startups – which is a huge benefit for the entire community. One way we finance our business is through the sale of our premium reports. At a time of declining news organizations, your simple contribution to our databank helps to ensure our startup community has a daily publication. If you value Entrevestor, the best way to show it is by completing our survey.

This year, we have refined the survey to make it more convenient and beneficial. The survey this year is a single-page form, which most people will complete in less than three minutes. We have a greater emphasis on revenue and employment than last year, so we can better assess these important metrics. But it’s only 25 quick questions and we guarantee that we will treat your data with complete confidentiality.

We have three criteria to be included in our data bank: each company must be based in Atlantic Canada; it must be commercializing proprietary technology (its own or licenced from someone else); and it must be developing a product for the global market.

Today, we’ll send out the questionnaire to about 300 startups in the region. (If you want to beat us to the punch, the Wufoo form is available here. You can complete it and submit it now.) There will also be an option to complete it by email if that`s easier for you. 

Please just take a few minutes to complete it. Be as accurate as possible, even it is shows a decline in your business. We want the best information possible. By contributing, you’ll be doing a huge favour for Entrevestor and benefiting the startup community. 

BDC, NBIF in $750K Smartpods Deal


Smartpods has raised $750,000 in equity financing to help it battle one of society’s great health problems: sitting.

The Dieppe, N.B., company makes tables that have work areas that automatically rise, fall and move from side to side to get users off their butts.

Its technology controls the movement of the working space, and it is finding customers among corporations and government.

Having graduated in November from the Launch36 tech accelerator, the company late last month closed $250,000 in funding from BDC Venture Capital, part of the Business Development Bank of Canada, and $500,000 from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

BDC Venture Capital customarily gives $150,000 convertible notes to the best graduates of Canadian accelerators.

But it is now giving larger amounts to hardware companies, and Smartpods is the first to qualify.

“Hardware companies need more money (than software companies),” said Nicole LeBlanc, associate director of strategic investments and partnerships at BDC Venture Capital.

She added that a prerequisite of receiving the $250,000 allotment is to “have another funding partner who can help them along.”

Smartpods is the brainchild of Leon DesRoches, the company’s CEO and founder.

Having worked for more than a decade as a physiotherapist, DesRoches understands that one of the greatest health issues in the world is that too many of us sit at our desks at 9 a.m. each day and remain there until 5 p.m.

“We truly lose people from nine to five,” said DesRoches in an interview.

“It’s not just health that’s being affected. It’s affecting productivity. That’s why businesses today are paying attention to health and wellness. It’s affecting people’s productivity.”

About four years ago, DesRoches decided he had to come up with a solution.

People ignore devices that ping them every 20 minutes or so, reminding them to move. Other techniques tended to fail as well.

So he devised a table with a work area that automatically moved to encourage mobility among desk-bound staff.

The company partnered with another from the Moncton area, MotionFab, to design the desks and develop a prototype.

Their desks, which are manufactured in Moncton, are attractive, can be customized to users and hide unsightly wires.

Two years ago, they developed their first prototype. They tested the product on 22 Blue Cross employees and analyzed their biomechanics and work output.

They learned employees were more productive, happier and suffered less pain than those sitting at traditional desks.

They got similar results when they tested the product at Moncton’s 911 call centre.

“When they work on Smartpods, they don’t hit that three o’clock wall that is very common with desk users,” said DesRoches.

His timing has been good because large organizations are realizing the problems created by a sedentary workforce.

For example, the federal government has launched its Office 2.0 program, which demands all workers should have a desk with standing and sitting positions.

At $2,500 each, the Smartpod desks are designed to meet the needs of high-end employees and professionals who are desk-bound much of the day.

The target market would be architects and accountants.

DesRoches has previously raised about $1.5 million, including financing from government programs.

 

 

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.

Fundmetric Lands BDC Investment


Continuing to gain momentum, Fundmetric of Halifax last week received a $150,000 convertible note from BDC Venture Capital.

The startup actually became the 100th startup in Canada to receive convertible notes from the VC arm of the Business Development Bank of Canada after graduating from a Canadian accelerator. Fundmetric, which helps charities to organize and carry out their fundraising campaigns, qualified for the program because it successfully graduated from the Launch36 tech accelerator.

“Fundmetric was a great fit for our program,” said Dominique Bélanger, BDC Vice President of Venture Capital Strategic Investments and Partnerships. “They already had a product and during Launch36 added customers, early revenue and hired sales expertise to grow into a venture grade company.”

Founded by Mark Hobbs and Chris Kolmatycki, Fundmetric has developed a software-as-a-service tool that lets charity workers communicate with their donors and plot fundraising campaigns. It presents lists of donors and their contact details, highlighting how they like to be contacted. It can stream the donors into groups. And, through a drag-and-drop mechanism, lay out the timeline of a fundraising campaign, plotting when and how to contact donors.

The VC funding is the most recent nugget of good news from a company that is galloping ahead.

As well as graduating from Launch36, Fundmetric also completed its one-year tenancy at Volta Labs in Halifax now has its own office.

The company was recently accepted into the prestigious Google for Entrepreneurs program, so Hobbs and Kolmatycki have been spending time at the Google Canada headquarters in Waterloo, ON.

The six-month program includes pitching to Google management, mentorship from key Google individuals and acceptance to the Communitech Startup Services Group’s Fundamentals Program.

Hobbs said the BDC funding will help the company build up its team, including more developers and a sales rep to help tap the U.S. market.

The company said in November that it was hoping to raise $550,000 in its current funding round, and Hobbs said that since that time it has added another angel investor.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Here’s What We’re Looking for in 2015


To understand what to watch in the Atlantic Canadian startup community in 2015, take a look at Avigilon Corp.

It’s not an Atlantic Canadian company. It’s a maker of high-resolution surveillance systems based in Vancouver. But Avigilon is the type of company that the startup cognoscenti are trying to develop on the East Coast, which makes it an interesting starting point for our outlook for 2015.

Basically, the regional startup community will grow in 2015 as it has in recent years – with startup weekends, competitions, conferences, new student entrepreneurs and seed funding. There will be more funding rounds in the $1 million to $5 million range than we’ve seen before, but essentially there will be a continued evolution. 

What will really differentiate 2015, I believe, is that a select few companies will start looking, thinking and acting more like Avigilon. Gerry Pond, the guiding force behind the Launch36 tech accelerator, has publicly stated his group is committed to developing billion-dollar tech companies (note the plural) in Atlantic Canada. He expects the first to reach that mark in 2019.

To understand what it means to develop a billion-dollar Canadian tech company, I set out to find one, look under the hood and see how it runs. The closest I could find was Avigilon. Listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (AVO:TSX), the company has a market capitalization (the total value of its shares) of about $800 million. The shares sagged in 2014, so Avigilon recently was in the billion-dollar camp.

Founded in 2004, Avigilon launched its first commercial project in 2007. Since then, it has on average more than doubled revenue each year and now has clients in 113 countries. It posted revenue of $191.9 million in the first nine months of 2014, which easily topped the full-year revenue of $178.3 million in 2013. Its most dramatic growth was in 2005 to 2009 when revenues increased a total of 33,664 percent. It now employs about 550 people, and last year earned a profit of $34.5 million.

The company has had problems in 2014, mainly in management and its relations with investors, but its history of growth shows how billion-dollar companies perform. If the Atlantic Canadian startup grouping is going to really change the economic plight of the region, it will have to produce a few companies like Avigilon. And they’ll need to start acting like Avigilon soon.

Naturally, they will have to set and meet astronomical sales targets, but some will also have to begin planning to list on a stock exchange.

Why? Because if we’re serious about growing a group of billion-dollar tech companies in the region, we’ll need the capital that can only be provided by public markets. Avigilon, for example, raised $100 million in an issue of stock in March.

So this year I’ll be looking for signs of companies that want to join the likes of such publicly listed companies as St. John’s-based Bluedrop Performance Learning and Halifax-based Immunovaccine Inc. They should be preparing for quarterly financial statements and strengthening their governance. They’ll have to start looking beyond venture capital investors to court investors and analysts in public tech and small-capitalization stocks. This should be the most notable trend of the regional tech community in 2015.

 

 

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.

Happy New Year to #Startupeast


Happy 2015 to the Atlantic Canadian startup community. 

We hope all of you have had a relaxing and happy holiday season and are ready to do and witness incredible things in 2015. 

We're pumped about what lies ahead of us in 2015. Entrevestor will continue to chronicle the development of the East Coast startup community, starting with our outlook for 2015 today. While it focuses on a single Atlantic Canadian issue, the big change for Entrevestor in the next few months will be a broadening of our focus. We're going to start covering a few deals from across the country. We'll still be an Atlantic Canadian news service, but with a bit of an eye for what's going on elsewhere. Stay tuned for the details. 

The next few weeks will be busy as we know there will be some news from the end of last year that will finally emerge. We're looking forward to writing and analyzing it for you. And as ever, we're thrilled to be getting out across the region and meeting with as many of you as possible. 

Happy New Year, everyone, and all the best for 2015. 

 

 

Happy Holidays to our Readers


Our greatest hope today is that your holidays are happy and that your undertakings in 2015 will be fruitful and fun.

For many of us in the Atlantic Canadian startup family, 2014 was great year. The biggest achievement was probably PropelICT crushing its target for Launch36, but it was not alone. There was the $60 million funding by Verafin, and exits by UserEvents, Compilr, Newpace and G2 Research. There was CAIP funding for PropelICT and the PEI BioAlliance. There was the inaugural Startup Empire.

There were setbacks, a few companies that hit the wall, and the ongoing angst over the SR&ED program.

But more than anything, there were thousands of founders and employees booting up their computers each and every morning and fighting endlessly to push their projects uphill. They do so diligently, creatively and above all joyfully. It’s remarkable to be part of such a happy and productive community of people.

The image above embodies our own feelings at this time of the year. It shows our Entrevestor Christmas tree ornament that our daughter Cat made for us last year. She was then just beginning her career in entrepreneurship with her 3D Design and Printing company, Adalay 3D. That ornament makes up 100 percent of the swag we’ve produced for Entrevestor, and we’re really fond of it.

Entrevestor itself has had a tremendous year in 2014, and we’re getting ready for a thoroughly splendid 2015. We’ll have some announcements about new initiatives that we hope you’ll be excited about.

This is our last post of 2014, so we’d like to close by thanking all of you for following us this year and wishing you and your family a happy holidays.

See you in the new year. 

Enactus Memorial Takes on the World


At the Enactus world championships in Beijing in October, Jonathan King and his team came tantalizingly close to once again bringing home the trophy as the world’s top social entrepreneurship program for university students.

King is the head of Enactus Memorial, the student-run organization at Memorial University of Newfoundland that runs projects to improve the standard of living and quality of life of ordinary people. It is one of 60 Enactus teams in Canada and one of 1,800 worldwide. And it has a really, really full trophy case.

In fact, in 2014 it was judged to be better than all but seven of its international peers. It won the Canadian national competition in Calgary in April and proceeded to the global championships in the Chinese capital. 

“We came in the top eight in the world, which was good,” said King in an interview after he returned to St. John’s. “In the quarter-finals, we ended up against the Morocco team and they won and ended up coming second overall after China.”

Memorial’s program began as Launchpad in 2002 and became Enactus Memorial in 2012 – the year the name Enactus was taken by the international organization formerly known as Students in Free Enterprise, or SIFE. In that time, it has won seven national championships and one world title, which it captured in 2008 in Singapore.

The silver-medal Moroccan team in Beijing had interesting technology: it made clay pots that clean water to people can drink it. But the MUN team – which was after its second world title in seven years – had three projects that were pretty cool as well.

-  Project Bottlepreneur is a program that helps people who push carts around streets collecting cans and bottles for recycling. The project volunteers go door-to-door through neighbourhoods asking residents to make their recyclables available to these people, and then they organize routes for the collectors. It helps the individuals develop bona fide businesses. It is now working with 14 such individuals across Canada.

-  Project Stitch helps Haitians who have been injured, especially those who have lost limbs, develop a livelihood by sewing articles of clothing. The project is starting with neckties. At the outset, Enactus volunteers are acting as marketing agents to get the ties into the U.S. market, but that role will be taken over by Haitians as the project develops.

-  Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur helps members of the Canadian Armed Forces integrate into society after their military service by becoming entrepreneurs. The program, which has been recognized by Prince Charles, is offered in both official languages and has helped more than 200 soldiers transition out of the forces.

“One real goal is to create real value,” said Diana Flemming, Vice-President of Enactus Memorial. “We try to improve the quality of life of the people we work with.”

The results are seen across Newfoundland and Labrador and beyond, and have helped countless community groups. They range from international projects like Project Stitch to community endeavors like Hustle NL, which arranges specialty sports programs in rural communities that otherwise wouldn’t have such programs.

At any given time, Enactus Memorial has 10 projects on the go. After a couple of years, the more mature projects spin off to form their own businesses or not-for-profit organizations. The organizers aim to bring three projects forward each year to present at the national (and hopefully international) events.

King, a fifth year commerce student who will graduate this year, said the group is preparing to bring on a new executive and that it already has an eye on the next world championship, which will be held in Johannesburg next autumn.

“We always have three main projects going on that are strong and we’re getting ready,” he said. “And of course we always have new ideas as well.”

 

This article first appeared in our most recent Entrevestor Intelligence report, which appears here.

 

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.

Brownie Points Pivots at FounderFuel


Matthew Stenback and Adam Puddicombe returned to St. John’s this month from three months of intense mentorship at the FounderFuel accelerator with a new target market for their company Brownie Points.

The two former business students from Memorial University in Newfoundland were among the first Atlantic Canadians to attend the Montreal-based accelerator. During the intense course, they learned the best market for their customer-loyalty platform would be neighbourhood business associations. They’re now preparing to launch a new product for these groups in January and already have signed up two customers.

“All the VC guys we spoke to [in Montreal] saw a good market for us in these retail associations,” said Stenback in an interview last week. “The fact that we already had traction in places like Halifax and St. John’s was good, but they wanted us to double down on the retail associations.”

The two founders established a company last year that created loyalty programs for small retailers. They started out with coffee shops and spread to other outlets, finding customers in a few East Coast cities and even Alberta.

In the summer, they were one of eight companies from Canada, New York and San Francisco accepted into FounderFuel, one of the country’s leading accelerators. They completed the course earlier this month when Stenback delivered their pitch before a packed house at the Rialto Theatre in Montreal.

“I didn’t know what to expect going into it,” said Stenback of the accelerator. “Day to day, you feel the pressure. We now know how to go faster than we ever have gone before.”

He and Puddicombe had to adapt to doing their day-to-day work and fitting in the programing arranged by FounderFuel, but they got used to it. Stenback said they got excellent advice from a range of advisers, and gained credibility because they can say they now work with advisers who are recognized as international experts in retailing.

Though the company has changed direction slightly, the Brownie Points platform is largely unchanged. It’s a digital loyalty program that rewards customers, helps retailers track client traffic, and incentivizes customers to return to an establishment if they’ve been away for a while.

What they learned in Montreal is the product is a powerful tool for neighbourhood business associations, such as the Spring Garden Area Business Association in Halifax. It can reward shoppers not only at individual stores or cafes, but also those who shop at a number of shops in a single district. Stenback said there are about 2000 associations in North America dedicated to improving local areas, and about 5,000 to 10,000 local retail associations.

The duo plans to launch the neighbourhood product in February, and already has two customers lined up – Downtown Charlottetown Inc., and Brunswick Square in Saint John. Brownie Points is in discussions with about eight other possible clients for the product.

The company received an investment of $55,000 on entering FounderFuel and is now raising an equity round of about $600,000, which it hopes to close by the end of March.  It has spoken with a few potential investors, including GrowthWorks Atlantic, which is administering Venture Newfoundland and Labrador, a new private-public fund that will provide seed financing for young startups in the province.

 

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.

Deloitte To Buy SwiftRadius


Deloitte, one of the Big Four global accounting firms, has agreed to buy Fredericton-based tech consultancy SwiftRadius, marking the second time this year an accounting practice has bought an Atlantic Canadian tech company.

The companies did not reveal the value of the deal, only saying it will close in January. In May, Saint John-based Ambir Solutions, one of Atlantic Canada’s leading technology consultancies, said it would join EY Canada (formerly Ernest & Young) as part of its business consultancy division.

In a statement last week, Deloitte said the transaction will enhance its Atlantic presence. It will open a new Deloitte office in Fredericton and add IT professionals in Saint John, Moncton and Charlottetown. The consulting practice will benefit from SwiftRadius’s expertise in the health care, energy and public sector segments.

“SwiftRadius is one of the most innovative and well-recognized IT and business consulting firms in this part of the country,” Mathew Harris, Deloitte’s Managing Partner for the Atlantic region, said in the statement. “The team’s client service approach and technical expertise are second to none, and we’re proud to be bringing them on board. With this acquisition, we’re making a strategic investment in supporting the continued growth of businesses in Atlantic Canada.”

The union of Deloitte and SwiftRadius brings together two outfits with special positions in the Atlantic Canadian startup community.

Deloitte has been a sponsor of several startup events and facilities in the region, and its annual Canadian TMT Predictions are accompanied by a thought-provoking roadshow led by Duncan Stewart, director of research at Deloitte Canada. (TMT stands for technology, media and telecommunications.)

In bringing aboard SwiftRadius, Deloitte is acquiring a consultancy that has a special interest in the startup world. In 2012, it spun off Adeptio, a Charlottetown startup that went through the Launch36 accelerator and received funding from the BDC Venture Capital.

In April, SwiftRadius launched a new partnership with Forth Innovation, a Dutch business consultancy, to roll out the European firm’s innovation program in the North American market.

“We created SwiftRadius to help companies and government organizations transform their business processes through innovative uses of technology, and this transaction amplifies our ability to do that,” said company founder and CEO Scott MacIntosh. “With the combined strengths of our two teams and the assets of Deloitte behind us, we’ll be able to offer clients a remarkable level of service. It’s a case of one plus one equals three.”

 

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

 

Mark Brand Headlines Starting Point


Mark Brand, one of the leading social entrepreneurs in Vancouver, will be the keynote speaker at the Starting Point conference to be held at St. Mary’s University from Feb. 18 to 20.

The Starting Point conference is designed to bring together student entrepreneurs and educate them in fundraising, developing ideas, social entrepreneurship, and other facets of starting their own businesses. The organizers expect about 150 student entrepreneurs from across Canada.

The highlight of the three-day event will be a keynote address by Mark Brand to an audience of as many as 600 people.

“Successfully operating eight businesses in the downtown area, he has become a prominent example of a new generation of leadership,” said promotional material from SMU, which is a client of Entrevestor. “A fighter for Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, this enigmatic social entrepreneur is determined to breathe new life into the struggling and disjointed community.”

The other sessions at the Starting Point conference include master classes on various facets of entrepreneurship, an ideation tournament and a funder speed dating session.

Tickets for the conference are available here

Kay Thrilled by Memogain’s Prospects


Denis Kay has been a scientist for a long time, but he’s most thrilled by his current role working on a promising drug for Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s is an escalating problem in aging societies. It’s estimated that the worldwide annual market for Alzheimer’s drugs is already $3.8 billion, although the cost to society is far greater.

“Sometimes I can’t sleep at night because of my excitement over the drug and working for a small biotech venture,” said Kay, who is a founder and chief scientific officer of Charlottetown’s Neurodyn Life Sciences.

Kay is energized because Neurodyn’s Alzheimer’s drug, Memogain, has obtained test results that show it boosts cognition.

In recent clinical trials, Neurodyn tested Memogain on both young and elderly healthy volunteers.

Both groups showed improved working memory.

Memogain is an improved version of a drug called Galantamine. Galamantine is also a substance derived from snowdrop plants and daffodils, and has historically been used as a memory aid in northern Europe.

Memogain’s original developer, Dr. Alfred Maelicke, working in Germany, was a leader in the clinical development of Galantamine as a prescription medicine for the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Neurodyn bought Memogain from Maelicke’s company, Galantos Pharma, last year after the 2008 financial crash left his group unable to raise the funds needed to continue developing the drug.

Maelicke had recognized that an improved version of Galantamine could be developed by adding a simple acid to the original drug. This is what Neurodyn has in clinical development.

The addition of the acid increases the drug’s ability to pass through the blood-brain barrier and decreases its gastrointestinal side effects.

The blood-brain barrier protects the brain from dangerous substances in the blood. It’s so effective that it presents an enormous problem when drugs need to be delivered directly to the brain.

Kay said pre-clinical development suggests the new drug is at least 10 to 15 times better at penetrating the blood-brain barrier than the parent drug.

He said most Alzheimer’s drugs ameliorate the disease for just one year, but he thinks the improved Memogain may work longer.

“(It) allows dosing to much higher levels. We will be able to dose with at least 10 times as much drug, possibly as much as 50 times more.

“Also, our tests on rats, whose brains function very similarly to humans, suggest that at sufficiently high concentrations, the drug increases the creation of new brain cells, leading to increased cognition and memory.”

He said that other, independent pre-clinical tests have shown that Memogain decreases the amount of damaging amyloid plaques found within diseased brains.

Now, plans are underway to test the drug in a patient population.

The company will soon be talking to the European Medicines Agency, the Food and Drug Administration in the United States and Health Canada about the time frame through which the drug may be brought to market.

“The most optimistic estimate is three years for market approval,” Kay said. “Europe will probably be the first to approve it.”

He added that it may be possible to obtain up to 10 per cent of the Galantamine required to make Memogain for the worldwide market from daffodils grown in Atlantic Canada.

Kay published his first peer-reviewed work in 1976 as an undergraduate science student at Dalhousie University. Working on Memogain is the highlight of a career that has seen him tackling other diseases that affect the brain and nervous system, such as AIDS and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

“Around 96 to 98 per cent of the burden of Alzheimer’s lies in patient care,” he said. “We believe we’re going to improve the lives of patients and their families in an affordable way.”

 

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

Caetum Planning 2015 Launch


Caetum, a Halifax company that emerged from St. Mary’s University’s graduate program for startups, is preparing to launch an online product next year aimed at solving a huge pain for clinical researchers.

The company is producing a digital platform that helps clinical research sites budget for their projects, something that can be a surprisingly large challenge.

Though there is software on the market that helps with such tasks, it is expensive and includes lots of features that researchers don’t need, said co-founder Mandy Woodland in an interview.

The three founders of Ceatum — the others declined to be named — attended the first cohort of the Master’s of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at the Halifax university.

The founders, all of whom have experience in a range of fields, entered the program in the autumn of 2013 and worked on a few ideas until they learned of the problems plaguing clinical researchers.

When they began to interview researchers, they were astonished by what they heard.

“I was shocked, shocked, shocked,” said Woodland, a lawyer from St. John’s, N.L.

“Every single person we talked to said they used pencil and paper, or they made up their own Microsoft Excel spreadsheets (to do their budgeting).”

A former biological researcher, Woodland explained that the budget process for medical research is complicated.

For example, some medicines may need to be tested on a certain number of people to complete the clinical trial, but some patients may drop out during the course of the test.

There are also varying costs for procedures like MRIs and CT scans or nurse visits, so it’s difficult to estimate at the outset what the final costs will be.

Caetum is developing software that will be flexible and easy enough to use that it will save researchers time doing budgeting.

The flexibility will allow them to alter the tabulations to reflect changes as tests progress.

The software package will also aim to provide data on the costs in specific research sites or geographic locations.

This would help to address the problem research institutions have negotiating with the sponsors of their research.

Researchers may budget a certain amount for a clinical procedure, but the sponsors frequently argue that the estimates are too high.

By providing data on the costs in different locations, Caetum will give research institutes more negotiating power.

For the last six months, Woodland and her co-founders interviewed representatives of 65 research sites and have signed up five to undergo tests with the new product starting in April.

They’ve also hired two people.

The trio has not raised any external financing and intends to grow the company through revenue rather than investment.

 

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.   

Grammer on Investing in #Startupeast


A few years ago, my partners and I at Rho Canada Ventures began to notice the opportunities occurring in Atlantic Canada, and I started spending more time here.

Today, we feel really lucky I did.

We’ve found a rich vein of tech companies on the East Coast, and we were able to invest in them before many of our competitors had heard of them.

We set up Rho Canada in Montreal in 2006 with the vision of establishing a truly national fund. Though half our investor base was in Montreal, we wanted our coverage to extend from Vancouver to Halifax. So I began to make scouting missions to the East Coast and was pleased with what I found. By 2013 we invested in our first Atlantic Canadian company and there are now four in our portfolio.

When I first arrived in Atlantic Canada, I spent a lot of time understanding what was happening on the ground. I visited the universities and talked a lot with Gerry Pond, the chair of East Valley Ventures. I looked at the different accelerators, at investors like New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and Innovacorp.

What we saw was a lot of interest in pure technology, especially what was coming out of the universities. And it was supported by a strong ecosystem that features superb mentorship.

We wanted a presence, but we had learned that it was always easiest in venture capital if you have more than one investment in a geographic location. It means your visits to the area (and I now visit Atlantic Canada twice a month) are more productive because you’re meeting with more than one portfolio company. 

Our first investment in the region came in September 2013 when we were lead investor in the A Round for Halifax-based Karma Gaming, which develops video games for regulated lotteries. Our co-investors were Innovacorp and Vanedge Capital of Vancouver.

What I like about Karma is it was dealing in an international market place and its founders, Paul LeBlanc and Jay Aird, are experienced executives.

After we closed the Karma deal, I spent more time in New Brunswick. After about seven months, we joined Build Ventures, GrowthWorks Atlantic Venture Fund and NBIF in a $3.9 million funding round for Smart Skin Technologies of Fredericton. I was impressed with the technology, which can detect pressure on a surface and chart it in real time on a computer or device. The management team’s been able to sell it into multiple verticals. The fact that Gerry Pond had been instrumental in developing the company didn’t hurt either.

Next, we invested in another Halifax company, Analyze Re, which was developing administrative and risk analysis software for the reinsurance industry. Innovacorp and BDC Venture Capital also invested in the company, which had just graduated from the Launch36  accelerator.

And, just in November, we invested in Resson Aerospace of Fredericton, a precision agriculture outfit that had also graduated from the Propel accelerator.

It’s worth noting that two of our investments came out of the Propel accelerator program, where they received great mentorship. It’s also notable that we were in the seed round or A round on each of these companies.

The fact that not a lot of venture capitalists operate in Atlantic Canada meant that we were able to find gems other VCs weren’t aware of. But it’s more significant than that. It also means that Atlantic Canadian startups are used to launching with little more than technology and determination. They’re used to solving a problem and getting going without a lot of backing.

So what we’re doing here is good old-fashioned venture capital.  I’m meeting regularly with these companies and helping them through the growth stage of their business. It’s what VCs should do, and I hope more venture capitalists discover what is happening here.

What the Atlantic Canada startup community needs now is longevity. You don’t wake up one day to discover you’ve got a thriving startup community. There will be highs and lows and we have to work through all of them.

We need to support the angel groups, accelerators and mentors that are supporting this community. We need to work with the universities to encourage more technology to get out in the entrepreneurship community. It’s an exciting time. I’m glad to be part of it.

 

Jeff Grammer is a Partner with Rho Ventures Canada, the Canadian arm of Rho Capital Partners, which has offices in Palo Alto, Calif., New York and Montreal. This column first appeared in the most recent 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.     

 

Disruption Hosts QRA, Innovacorp


QRA, a Halifax startup that helps manufacturers detect design problems, has become the first Canadian company accepted into the headquarters of Disruption Corp., a support facility based in Washington, D.C.

Disruption, founded eight months ago by globetrotting startup backer Paul Singh, announced Monday night it has struck an agreement with Innovacorp to “set up shop” in the Disruption headquarters and help recruit Canadian tenants. QRA, which will still be based in Halifax, will be the first of these tenants.

“Disruption is not investing in us, but their deal with Innovacorp will have us treated essentially as one of their portfolio companies while we are down here,” said CEO Jordan Kyriakidis in an email Monday night.

QRA (which stands for Quantum Research Analytics) grew out of a research project at Dalhousie University commissioned by Lockheed-Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, which is based in the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Md.  Kyriakidis headed the project, which aimed to identify design flaws in complicated machines in the early stages of development – before the company had spent a lot of money building out the product.

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

The announcement is obviously great news for QRA because it will position the company in one of the fastest-growing startup and investment communities in the U.S. What’s more, the District of Columbia is home to a massive aerospace industry, including companies like Lockheed-Martin, which would be perfect customers for QRA.

But the announcement also signals a leadership role that Innovacorp is assuming in corralling Canadian companies into the Disruption facility. The agency is acting as a conduit for startups from across Canada, not just Nova Scotia, that hope to access the Disruption facility. It will help in Innovacorp’s mission to increase its international network, with the end goal of heightening the exposure of Nova Scotian startups to international investors and customers. (Innovacorp sponsors and advertises in Entrevestor.) 

Singh developed an international reputation as an authority on tech development when he was a partner in the early stage venture capital firm 500 Startups. He traveled around the world looking for early stage investments, and visited Atlantic Canada several times, including stops at MentorCamp and the Atlantic Venture Forum.

Earlier this year, he formed Disruption Corp., which manages Crystal Tech Fund, to provide education, access and insight to maturing startups. On Monday, the group announced it would double the square footage of its headquarters and expand its partnerships. As well as Innovacorp, the Disruption headquarters will welcome the Iron Yard, a coding academy that already has outposts in Charleston, Atlanta, Austin, and other locations in the Southeast. 

“The original vision was to build a magnet for the best tech companies and the resources and investors who can help them grow,” said Singh in a statement.  “What we have is a place and people that are curated, aspirational and inspirational.”

QRA has been working on closing a $4 million funding round, and Kyriakidis said Monday that the deal hasn’t quite closed 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.     

 

Eight Winners in Spark Cape Breton


A diverse group of entrepreneurs — from a 15-year-old to a group of nursing students to a pair of St. Francis Xavier University professors —have been named winners of the second annual Spark Cape Breton entrepreneurship competition.

Innovacorp, the provincial innovation agency, has announced eight winners will divide the total prize money of $200,000, up from six winners in the first competition last year.

Innovacorp, the Atlantic Provinces Opportunities Agency and the Nova Scotia Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Department — all clients of Entrevestor — organize the competition to encourage entrepreneurship in Cape Breton and the Mulgrave area.

Bob Pelley, the Innovacorp director in Sydney, said he saw a huge difference in the pitches this year, with 28 entrants competing at a higher level than before.

 “The level of preparedness just seemed to skyrocket,” Pelley said in an interview.  “The pitches were fantastic and the willingness of the participants to accept mentoring and (change their business plan) on the spot was evident.”

The winners, and the amounts won, are:

Lokol.me, $50,000

Richard Lorway and Mathew Georghiou formed this company to develop a platform for local news and information websites for communities around the world.

• Sona Nanotech, $50,000

A regional finalist in last year’s I-3 competition, Sona was formed by St. F.X. profs Gerrard Marangoni and Kulbir Singh to commercialize their research in nanotechnology, which include health-care applications such as cancer treatment.

• Chatsubo Heavy Industries, $45,000

Founded by Kaleb DeLeskie, 15, the company is developing the Chatsubo Packet Monster, an Internet security device that will allow real-time collection and storage of Internet traffic.

• TACKK Mobile Health Solutions, $25,000

TACKK grew out of a project in a community nursing course at Cape Breton University. Christopher Walker, Athanasius Sylliboy and a team of classmates developed an app called FootChek, a real-time foot-monitoring device intended to reduce diabetic foot ulcers.

• Social Response Marketing, $10,000

The company founded by Joe Ward is developing an automated web tool that helps small businesses create, schedule and publish updates for Facebook and Twitter.

• Prevail Innovations, $10,000

The company established by Robert MacKenzie is developing an app for mobile devices that enhances the efficiency and accuracy of dictation.

• Rent Buddy, $5,000

Founded by Matthew McKay of Sydney Forks, Rent Buddy’s website helps property managers create profiles of their properties to speed up the listing process. It also makes it easier for prospective tenants to search for properties.

UpTime.Management, $5,000

D. Darren MacDonald’s UpTime.Management helps organizations enhance the health of their employees though real-time knowledge of work-absence trends, analytics, coaching and performance management.

The winners have to use the money to complete prototypes or prepare for taking their product to the market. The organizers will also continue to work with them by having veteran entrepreneurs mentor winners.

Pelley said mentorship played a larger role in this competition than in the first year.

“It actually felt like Spark was more of an accelerator than just a competition. That is what we will be moving toward next time around.”

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: 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.

Searching the Globe for Talent


When he was working as a chemist in Iran, Mostafa Aghaei developed a solution from natural polymers that successfully combatted the erosion and movement of sand dunes – a huge problem in the desert nation.

When he came to Canada three years ago, he became an entrepreneur and began looking for local applications for his unique nanocoil product; a natural solution that becomes a fixative when it hardens.

And now he’s on the right track. Aghaei’s company, Biopolynet of Fredericton, has recently struck a partnership with Iron Ore Company (IOC) of Canada, to use the nanocoils to prepare iron pellets(the form in which iron is shipped.)

Aghaei has discovered a way to create natural polymers (strings of molecules) that form into coils, so they lock together when they harden. That means that his solution can stabilize sand dunes in the Iranian desert or help to shape iron into pellets. In fact, as Aghaei explained during a pitch at the BioInnovation Challenge competition at BioPort Atlantic, tests with IOC have shown that it can reduce the production costs of forming iron into pellets by 70 percent.

The fact that Biopolynet is working with one of the world’s largest iron producers shows what immigration can mean to the Atlantic Canadian startup community and economy. Mostafa Aghaei came to Atlantic Canada as an academic and now his company is developing products that could find markets around the world. The fact is Atlantic Canada needs more people like him.

And the startup community in particular can benefit from more immigration. Some of the finest entrepreneurs in the region were born in other countries, and the federal government has introduced a program to encourage more immigrants to come to the region.

“We shouldn’t feel bad that we need talent,” said Rob Barbara, a partner at Build Ventures in Halifax. “Everyone needs talent. More than half the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies weren’t born in the United States.”

The plain fact is Atlantic Canada needs immigration to replace the baby-boomers who are leaving the workforce and the younger people who are leaving the region. Another truth – a somewhat inconvenient one -- is the region thus far has had difficulty attracting immigrants.

For example, in 2012, the four Atlantic Provinces welcomed a total of 6,434 immigrants; a number that didn’t even equal Nova Scotia’s self-proclaimed target of 7,200 immigrants a year. Nova Scotia’s total rose 11 percent to 2,370 in 2012. If that pace of growth continues, Nova Scotia won’t reach the 7,200 annual intake goal until 2023.

One program that could help attract immigrants to the region is Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s new Startup Visa program, which has been rolled out this year. Under the program, Canada will issue as many as 2,700 visas annually to entrepreneurs, and efforts are already being made to ensure some come to Atlantic Canada.

The first successful Atlantic Canadian applicants are, like Aghaei, Iranians. Ehsan Mokhtari and Hadi Shiravi Khozani are co-founders of Ara Labs Security Solutions of Fredericton. They were sponsored by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

The Startup Visa program allows entrepreneurial immigrants to get permanent residency status within six months. They must make their application with the collaboration of an investment or angel group or incubator.

So far, the federal government has approved five organizations to work with the program, including Halifax-based Innovacorp.  As of mid-November, Innovacorp had received 305 expressions of interest and 89 submissions from entrepreneurs in at least 30 countries. It has written four letters of support.

“The Startup Visa Program is exciting because it’s an opportunity to attract the world’s best and brightest entrepreneurs and their technologies to Nova Scotia,” said Stephen Duff, President and CEO of Innovacorp. “These entrepreneurs will create jobs and wealth, propel innovation, and entice more much-needed immigrants to our province.”

The hope is that more Atlantic Canadian organizations will also qualify to participate in the program. The goal is to expand and enrich the pool of entrepreneurs in the region. But Barbara of Build Ventures said Atlantic Canadians overall must still do more to welcome people to the region.

“We’re the friendliest people in the world,” he said. “But we’re a little skeptical of people from away and that’s not good for our economy.”

 

This article originally appeared in the December 2014 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.  

Dinn Brings Propel New Perspective


After a career spent proving his adaptability, Gary Dinn is now focused on preparing Atlantic Canadian companies for the global market through his role at a regional mentoring group.

Dinn has recently taken over as CEO of Propel-ICT, the group that runs Launch36, the biggest business accelerator east of Montreal.

Under the banner Propel 2.0, Dinn and his team are aiming to launch 420 startups over the next five years. Some of these will come from outside Atlantic Canada.

They will be assisted by the federal government, which recently committed to contributing up to $2.9 million to Propel over five years.

Previously, Dinn worked on developing subsea acoustics and other marine technologies. He co-founded the St. John’s, N.L., defence and nautical equipment maker Rutter Technologies, which is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

His work around the world makes him confident that Atlantic Canada’s entrepreneurs can compete globally.

 “This region’s companies can produce the quality and quantity to meet the world market,” said Dinn, now back at his home base in St. John’s.

 “But we need a greater concentration of the ideas that create businesses. Venture capitalists don’t think there is enough going on here. We need to create critical mass.”

Propel ICT began in Saint John, N.B., 10 years ago. The group works with partner groups such as Planet Hatch in Fredericton and Volta Labs in Halifax to deliver programs that help startups access venture capital.

 “Propel programs make people talk about their businesses in a way venture capitalists want to hear,” Dinn said.

 “They are much more likely to land investment.”

His own career has taught him the importance of flexibility in business.

He began studying engineering at Memorial University in St. John’s. His electrical engineering professor started a company called Ice Engineering, where Dinn worked between 1982 and 1985, learning about managing the problems ice causes for the oil and gas industries.

In 1985, he was a co-founder of Consolidated Technologies. At the time, the Soviets were deploying nuclear submarines in the Arctic. It was decided to place sonar buoys in the Arctic to monitor them, but the ice cover was a problem. Consolidated Technologies partnered with Spartan Electronics of London, Ont., to find a solution, gaining the Office of Naval Research in the United States as an early client.

 “We came up with our solution in 1990 and produced the first 50 units, but the Gulf War broke out and took all the funding and the project was cancelled,” Dinn said.

He and his colleagues then tackled the problem of aircraft de-icing fluid at airports that was seeping into ground water. The company figured out a way to recycle the fluid by reconcentrating it.

In 1994, the Estonia ferry sank in the Baltic Sea, with the loss of 852 lives.

Dinn and his partners had already been working on introducing electronic charting systems to ships. So when the International Maritime Organization decided to create a nautical black box, they were well placed to assist. Dinn was one of those who helped write the specifications for the box.

 “The International Electrotechnical Commission wrote the technical details and we in St. John’s contributed the standard,” Dinn said.

 “We decided to create the product ourselves and were working on it while helping to write the specifications for the IEC.”

By the time the standard was issued, they were almost ready to go to market, founding Rutter Technologies in 1997. At one point, they had 20 per cent of the world market.

Dinn has also been a director of the World Ocean Council, the international business alliance for corporate ocean responsibility. He is a past chairman of OceansAdvance, Newfoundland’s OceanTech cluster.

He will be travelling around Atlantic Canada to help better integrate the startup ecosystem.

 “We need to work together, to be pan-Atlantic, in order to get enough venture capital to make entrepreneurship a driver of the economy.”

 

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

Breakthru Prizes Reach $750,000


The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s current Breakthru competition will be dramatically bigger than the 2013 edition, both in terms of number of participants and total prizes.

The New Brunswick innovation agency announced this morning that it received applications for the biennial startup competition from 62 teams representing 108 entrepreneurs from all over New Brunswick. In the 2013 event, there were 47 entries.

The total prizes will almost double to $750,000 in cash and in-kind services. That’s up from $406,000 last time out.  

“This is the highest number of Breakthru entries we've received to date, telling us that innovation-based entrepreneurship is something New Brunswickers want to use to create a better future for themselves and their communities,” said NBIF Chair Robert Hatheway in a statement. “The success of Breakthru and its growth year-over-year tells me that, as a means for economic growth in the province, innovation and entrepreneurship is building itself on solid ground.”

NBIF – which sponsors and advertises in Entrevestor – holds its Breakthru competition every second year with the goals of drawing out latent entrepreneurs with good ideas and helping to launch the best candidates.  

While the grand prize for first place has risen from $192,000 in 2013 to $287,250 in the current competition, the biggest increase has been in the second- and third-place prizes. They are now both worth $222,250, up respectively from $137,000 and $77,000 last time. What that means is the competition should give sufficient resources to three companies to launch.

Milbury said the aim is to come up with a “company in a box” to present to the winners. That means that in addition to an investment by NBIF, they will have legal and accounting services, as well as banking, insurance, web design and the like.

Cox & Palmer and Deloitte, NBIF’s corporate partners in the event, contributed a total of $323,000 in support. Of that support, $234,000 was contributed in the form of prizes with the remainder reserved for the administration, production and promotion of the competition.

The prizes include: IT services from Blue Spurs; executive coaching services from Vision Coaching; branding and digital design services from Orange Sprocket; web and video production from Outreach Productions; branding and design services from Ginger Design; and company launch event at a Cineplex.

The Department of Economic Development will provide NB Growth Cash incentives of up to $45,000 per Breakthru winner, subject to NB Growth program eligibility requirements.

NBIF said there may be more prizes announced.

The teams will gather for the Breakthru Bootcamp on January 17 and the winners will be announced at a gala dinner in Fredericton on March 19.

 

 

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.

 

 

Expanding Bungalo Moves Into PEI


Bungalo may be the only company working out of the Volta startup hub in Halifax that can legitimately claim expansion into Prince Edward Island is part of an international growth strategy.

The online cottage rental platform did just that this week, and the “international” part is convincing because the company began life in Iceland.

The tech startup, which is in the process of raising $1 million, has dual headquarters in Reykjavik and Halifax and believes the Canadian market is perfect for its product, which connects cottage owners and vacationers.

Having signed up 500 cottage owners in Iceland, the company established a beachhead in Nova Scotia in the summer and is following through on founder and CEO Haukur Gudjonsson’s plan to spread across Canada. On Monday, it announced its expansion into P.E.I.

 “Right now, we have 12 listings from P.E.I. live on our site and 10 pending listings,” said spokeswoman Nina Nedic.  “We also have three properties in New Brunswick, four properties in Newfoundland and five properties in Ontario. Our next area of focus will be New Brunswick, followed by Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Nedic said the company hopes to focus extensively on New Brunswick by mid-February and Newfoundland and Labrador later.

Gudjonsson has said that the Canadian cottage market is about 100 times that of Iceland’s, and he is especially excited about the massive market in Ontario.

Bungalo was born in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to help Icelanders in financial straits earn income by renting their cottages to tourists from around the world. The enterprise was so successful it expanded into Sweden and then Canada.

After visiting Halifax last year, Gudjonsson set up shop in Volta and hired a sales staff comprising Nedic and Autumn Fiske.

Their office is dominated by a map of the Maritimes marking every cottage in their portfolio. The number of markers has increased rapidly in the last few months.

Fiske said the expansion into P.E.I. works well because the island has a vibrant tourism industry.

There is also a good stock of cottages, and consumers benefit from strong competition.

 “With fierce competition on the Island, cottage owners can gain a competitive edge by using Bungalo, a service with international partnerships and users,” she said.

It has placed one North Rustico property — a round, ocean-side cottage that rotates once every 45 minutes — among its featured listings.

To date, Bungalo boasts over 18,000 users and more than 600 cabins, cottages and summer homes that the company says are close to oceans, lakes, volcanoes, mountains and breathtaking skylines.

In September, Bungalo was accepted into the Launch36 accelerator. At the graduation presentation, Gudjonsson said the company has done $2.3 million in cottage rentals and has a growing revenue stream.

It is raising $1 million and is one of four recent Launch36 graduates eligible to receive a $150,000 convertible note from BDC Capital, part of the Business Development Bank of Canada. BDC has not yet announced which companies are receiving the funding.

 

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.

 

Our New Report on the Global Market


Though it was a holiday, Pablo Asiron felt distinctly un-festive.

It was -40 Celsius outside.  He was in a land where he didn’t understand the language, or even the lettering on the street signs. And his dinner that night consisted of a Snickers bar he found in his suitcase.

For the sake of a sale, the CEO of Riverview, N.B.-based RtTech Software had come to a small mining town in Kazakhstan in December 2012 to view the facility. After spending more than a day just catching the train to the site, he arrived to learn all restaurants were closed and the only thing he could eat the first night was the chocolate bar he’d brought with him.

But there was a silver lining: he made the sale.

“Yes, I made the sale,” he said, laughing about the experience a few months later. “And it was the largest sale we had ever had to date.”

See Our Tapping the Global Market Report

As much as any company in the region, RtTech embodies the international nature of the Atlantic Canadian startup community. Today, we are releasing our fourth Entrevestor Intelligence supplement of 2014 -- an issue dedicated to the global ambitions of the region’s startup community. This report showcases and discusses how Atlantic Canadian startups are tapping the global market for three facets they can’t live without: talent, customers, and capital. It looks at a group of Memorial University students competing in Beijing, our links to Boston, and immigration. And we learn from one venture capitalist, Jeff Grammer of Rho Canada Ventures, what he likes about Atlantic Canada. We'd like to thank to our tremendous designer Roxanna Boers for the great work on the supplements' layout all year long.

For example, RtTech, which was spun out of ADM Systems Engineering, helps industrial companies reduce energy in major plants. Its main products are: RtEMIS, which can pinpoint when and where part of a system is using excess energy; and RtDUET, which allows companies to examine specific processes to find the cause of downtime and poor utilization issues.

The international sweep of RtTech begins with its CEO, for Asiron is a native of Pamplona, Spain, where his family runs a hotel next to the bull ring immortalized by Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises.

The company has worked closely with its major international partners: San Leandro, Calif.-based OSIsoft and Austin, Texas-based Emerson Process Management.

Its clients are global, and Asiron’s sales calls in the past year have included not only Kazakhstan but also such places as Australia, the Philippines, the Middle East and various parts of Europe. The company has clients on five continents.

By their nature, startups are global beasts. By definition, they have to develop a product for the global market. They compete with other enterprises for global finance. And given the aging or declining population in much of Atlantic Canada, they often have to attract talent from around the world.

Though RtTech exemplifies the global outlook of startups, it is by no means alone in its worldview. Consider these other companies excelling in these three categories:

Talent

TopLog of Halifax is the product of immigrants gathering at one of the region’s great universities. Tokunbo Makanju, a native of Nigeria, wrote a doctoral thesis for his PhD in Computer Science at Dalhousie University on a method of helping network administrators to detect and correct system downtime. He teamed up with two other PhD candidates – Turkish immigrant Ozge Yeloglu and Canadian Patrick LaRoche— to develop the idea into a company, topLog. It has just released its first product.

Customers

Discoverygarden of Charlottetown oversees Islandora, one of the world’s leading digital repositories for libraries, museums and archives around the world. Developed at the University of Prince Edward Island, Islandora is an open-source databank that protects and stores digital assets permanently. It includes such features as a powerful search function and flexible installation. The Islandora website now lists 86 installations on four continents and the number is growing.

Capital

The Atlantic Canadian funding story of 2014 will be dominated by a single deal: Spectrum Equity’s $60 million private equity financing of St. John’s-based Verafin. Previously backed by Killick Capital of St, John’s and RBC Venture Partners, Verafin is a global leader in software that helps financial institutions prevent money laundering and fraud. With more than 1,000 corporate customers, the company looked for refinancing in the past year or two and eventually selected one backer: Spectrum, a private equity investor based in Boston and Silicon Valley. Spectrum has raised $4.7 billion for investment in IT and media companies.

This is a narrow selection of the Atlantic Canadian startups whose tentacles are stretching around the world. The plain truth is that no startup in the region or elsewhere is taken seriously unless they’re playing in the global sandbox. To be frank, it you’re not developing a company that is targeting the global market place it’s difficult – no, impossible -- to compete for serious attention given what other companies in the region are doing.

“Every entrepreneur should have a vision to conquer the globe from the start because in doing that you figure out what you need to do to be a successful company,” said Calvin Milbury, the CEO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. “In practice, of course, you have to start with bite-sized pieces, but you need that global vision.”

And companies are finding global customers. Leah Skerry, the CEO of Halifax-based EyeRead, traveled to the AdTech conference in Japan this year to present her technology, which follows young readers’ eyes as they read to discover where they are having difficulty. “By having customers around the world, we have been able to learn quickly and it’s opened our products up for new opportunities,” she said.

Atlantic Canada’s universities are also aiding this trend. First, they set an example because all the universities are looking overseas for customers given the demographic situation in their home market. And second, they bring in people from around the world who often become entrepreneurs. At the Dalhousie University Starting Lean course this semester, there are participants from at least seven countries. And of course the universities produce research and development that leads to products with an international appeal. It’s not a coincidence that topLog (Dalhousie), discoverygarden (UPEI) and Verafin (Memorial University of Newfoundland) all grew out of regional post-secondary institutions.

The excellence of Atlantic Canadian startups is leading to a surprising number of global awards. Just in the past month or two, Island Water Technologies of Montague, P.E.I., was named to the GEW 50, a list of 50 promising startups from around the world compiled by Global Entrepreneurship Week of Washington D.C. And Lamda Guard of Halifax was awarded the 2014 Product Leadership Award in the aerospace industry by Frost & Sullivan of San Antonio, Texas.

Finally, the global flavor of the startup community deepens each time an international company buys a local startup. San Francisco-based Salesforce, the world’s leader in cloud-based software, has an impressive presence in the region because of its purchases of Radian6 of Fredericton and GoInstant of Halifax.

And this year, the trend has continued. Another San Francisco company, LiveOps, has bought UserEvents of Fredericton, while Bedford-based NewPace Technology Development Inc. has been purchased by NewNet Communications Technologies of Arlington Heights, Ill.  Compilr, a Halifax startup that teaches people how to code, was acquired by lynda.com, a Carpinteria, Calif.-based online education company.

RtTech certainly ranks with the best of them. And Asiron said there are three key reasons why his company has gone global. First, the company has designed products that will meet demand in the global market place. Second, as RtTech developed a network of clients, those customers introduced the company to others so word spread about the company’s products. And third, RtTech has formed strong international partnerships, whose sales teams complement the efforts of the Moncton company’s own sales force.

 

 

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: Wagepoint Gets $2M


Wagepoint, which has developed a SaaS payroll product,  has issued the following press release. The company is a former Volta member, and still has a development team in Nova Scotia.

Wagepoint Announces $2 Million in Seed Funding to Expand US Small Business Market Presence and Product Lines

Led by Extreme Venture Partners, with Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agencies (ACOA), and Canadian and US angel investors

Waterloo ON and New York, NY, December 09, 2014 – Wagepoint, an HR tech company specializing in online payroll, today announced $2 million USD in seed funding led by venture capital firm Extreme Venture Partners, with Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agencies (ACOA) as well as Canadian and US angel investors. Wagepoint will use the funding to accelerate its penetration into the US market, and enhance its product portfolio to make the online payroll experience even better.

According to US Census Bureau, in 2011 there were 5.6 million employer firms, and 99.7 percent of those firms were operating with fewer than 500 employees. There are an additional 1.1 million small businesses operating in Canada.  Since launching in 2013, Wagepoint has been on a mission to help make payroll simple, fast and friendly for small business owners, specifically targeting companies with less than 100 employees.

“Very simply, we’re redefining payroll for small business, making it as easy for a small business owner to use as Facebook,” said Shrad Rao, CEO of Wagepoint. “Over the last eighteen months, we have built an amazing product that dramatically simplifies life for small business owners, with a customer base of nearly 700 companies that we love and who love us back.  One of our core beliefs as a company is to surround ourselves with individuals who can help us achieve our business goals and who we genuinely like to be around. This group of investors was carefully handpicked as they meet these criteria perfectly. We are excited about 2015, as we roll out further products to automate workflows surrounding payroll and compensation as a whole.”

Wagepoint’s online payroll solution helps small business owners automate and simplify processing payroll with direct deposit; payroll calculations; federal, state and local taxes; 1099s, W2s and W3s; wage detail reports; new hire reporting; additional deductions; payments to contractors; additional incomes and online paystubs. The company today operates throughout Canada and all fifty US states and territories, serving nearly 700 customers in a wide range of industries from technology startups, to retailers, to consultants and service providers.

“The Human Capital Management (HCM) tech startup market has been an exciting space over the last couple of years, as employers seek to simplify and streamline aspects of workforce management,” said Sunil Sharma, Managing Partner, Extreme Venture Partners. “Within this HCM space, Wagepoint has carved out its niche, creating a simple, intuitive payroll solution that small business owners and HR managers actually want to use. This kind of disruptive thinking, aimed at a small business market that has literally millions of potential customers, presents huge potential for success. We look forward to helping the Wagepoint team realize their vision for small business payroll simplicity.”

“As a fellow technology entrepreneur, I was immediately attracted to Wagepoint’s vision to simplify and streamline small business payroll. Plus the team is so fun and friendly,” said Jerry Kestenbaum, founder of BuildingLink and a US Wagepoint angel investor.  “The US small business market represents a huge market opportunity, and I truly believe Wagepoint and its products can transform the way small business works.” 

About Wagepoint

Wagepoint is a simple, fast and friendly online payroll software for small businesses across North America. Payroll is mission critical to small and mid-sized businesses, and Wagepoint gets the job done quickly, easily and without the drama. Trusted by hundreds of businesses across North America, Wagepoint can handle direct deposits, government reporting and all year-end reporting for either salaried or hourly employees and contractors. For more information and a free 30-day trial, visit http://www.wagepoint.com

 

About Extreme Venture Partners

Extreme Venture Partners (EVP) is one of Canada’s most successful venture capital funds over the past decade. With its focus on mobile, EVP (launched in 2007) achieved superior investment returns while helping to launch and help grow more than 20 companies which ultimately lead to over 1000 well-paying technology jobs in Canada. Now having launched its second fund, EVP has broadened its focus to include many of the exciting software and hardware companies in the vibrant Toronto-Waterloo technology corridor.   http://www.evp.vc

Orpheus Debuts Sons of Anarchy Game


Halifax mobile game producer Orpheus Interactive will soon release the game version of the wildly popular Sons of Anarchy television series, having reached a deal with Fox Digital Entertainment last year.

Orpheus and Fox issued a statement Monday announcing the new game, Sons of Anarchy: The Prospect, which will be available on phones and tablets in 2015.

The announcement is essentially the debut of Orpheus, which has raised more than $1 million in equity financing and has already assembled a team of 16 veteran game producers in Nova Scotia. It has quickly and quietly become a major addition to the gaming community in the region.

“We’re building an experience for the rabid fans of Sons of Anarchy,” Alastair Jarvis, Executive Producer of the series, said in an interview. “The entertainment landscape is shifting, so people are unplugging cable [TV] and they’re looking for entertainment . . . from the tablet in the palm of their hand. There are a lot of people who have a hunger for it and not that many people who are scratching that itch.”

Orpheus Interactive is an interesting marriage of talent and capital that came together last year. Jarvis, a veteran of HB Studios in Lunenburg, N.S., connected with the Halifax venture capitalist James Drage. They learned of Fox Digital Entertainment’s plans for the Sons of Anarchy games. So they put a team together (which included Drage’s son Christian, who’d been working as a game developer in British Columbia), pitched Fox and landed the licence. 

“The things that’s different about this model is we’re not doing this as work for hire for Fox,” said Jarvis. “We own the IP. If we do well the profit, stays in Nova Scotia.”

Just finishing its seventh and final season, Sons of Anarchy is a drama with darkly comedic undertones about an outlaw motorcycle club in the sheltered fictional town of Charming, California. Jarvis said that the series of games produced by Orpheus will allow the fans of the show to get fresh content on the brand even though the TV show is ending.

About 20 people worked on the production of the first game, 16 of them in Nova Scotia. Jarvis said the project has included collaboration with Halifax-based Silverback Games, headed by gaming veteran Willie Stevenson. The voice-overs were done by VoiceWorks Productions, a Los Angeles-area studio headed by Nova Scotian Douglas Carrigan.

Orpheus has raised more than $1 million so far and its first funding round is still open. The current investors include a range of angel investors and Atlantic Venture Capital, the VC fund operated by James Drage.

The initial Sons of Anarchy: The Prospect game will come out next year, and will be followed by a succession of follow-on games in the SoA series.

“Our slate is pretty full with episodes of Sons of Anarchy,” said Jarvis. “But the value is not just in these games but in our capacity to build other games.”

 

 

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.

 

What’s Next in Startup Education?


There have been a flood of reminders in the past week of how the region’s universities are developing entrepreneurship programs, each staking out a distinct turf.  

Dalhousie and St. Mary’s both held demo-days for student startup teams last week. The Genesis Centre at Memorial University of Newfoundland held a graduation party for SubC Imaging, a tenant company that makes imaging products for underwater remotely operated vehicles.  There was a seminar on Big Data at Acadia and a business idea competition winner was announced at University of New Brunswick.

Most of the startup-related programs are only a few years old, and they will continue to evolve in coming years. How they evolve is a matter of huge importance for the whole startup community, because universities boast the most fertile soil for growing startups in the region.  (Disclaimer: several universities advertise in and/or sponsor Entrevestor.)

So here are three thoughts on how the academic side of entrepreneurship can, may or should develop in the next few years:

1. Quality will count in the future.

The Atlantic Canadian startup community is becoming divided into two tiers. Startups in the first tier are producing innovative products that are finding market demand; those in the second are receiving well-intentioned encouragement, but not the sales or funding they’re hoping for.

The universities that gain attention in the future will be those that produce the greatest number of startups in the top tier. They will undoubtedly be the institutions that do the best job of marrying the skills of researchers (in engineering, computer science, medicine, etc.) with entrepreneurship students. The thing that is distinguishing the A-teams these days is the originality and adaptability of their technology.

2. There’s a huge opportunity in technology sales.

Virtually every startup – especially IT companies, but others as well – needs computer programmers. Luckily, universities are producing them. But the need for sales talent is almost as acute, yet there are no dedicated programs for technology sales.

There are marketing courses, but a tech sales program would be more focused. It would teach students a fundamental understanding about modern technology, and the skill set needed to sell it. These would include developing sales leads, engaging clients, understanding client pain and learning how to close a deal. Such a course would also deal with sales strategy and business development.

Any university offering a tech sales program would draw immediate interest from Atlantic Canada and beyond. 

3. There’s a market for computer science for non-geeks.

Computer science enrollment is rising -- but not enough to meet the massive demand for developers. There’s a need for an institution – and it could be a community college – that can attract people into computer science, and nurture them through the steep learning curve at the outset.

In particular, some institution -- possibly a community college -- should do a marketing assessment of what female students interested in tech would like to see in a course, and structure a program accordingly. One of the difficulties in getting started in computer science is that rookies find themselves in a class with die-hard tech aficionados who have already taught themselves first-year university material in their spare time.

It’s difficult for someone new to technology to make the initial first steps. It’s doubly difficult for female students in a male-dominated world like IT.

 

 

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

Feds To Give up to $2.9M to Propel


The federal government on Friday placed the dollar amount on its contribution to Propel ICT at as much as $2.9 million over five years.

The government previously said the New Brunswick-based operator of the Launch36 accelerator would receive funding under the National Research Council’s Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program, or CAIP. However, it had never said how much the accelerator would receive.

Under its government’s Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy, the government is aiming to strengthen Canada’s position in scientific research while promoting the commercialization of Canadian innovations.

“The financial support provided by the Government of Canada through the Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program will allow us to work toward our aggressive goal of helping launch 420 new companies over the next five years,” Trevor MacAusland, Propel’s Vice President of Business Development, said in a statement.

In June, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the federal government would devote $100 million to funding several organizations across the country, including PropelICT and the PEI BioAlliance.

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

PropelICT was formed in Saint John 11 years ago to foster growth in the technology industry. In the winter of 2012, it launched its own accelerator, Launch36, with the goal of putting 36 startups through its program within three years. It ended up launching about 50.

In recent months, senior people within Propel ICT have been talking internally about “Propel 2.0”, in which the increased funding will produce a richer program offering that extends across Atlantic Canada.  The plan involves working with various partners – including Planet Hatch in Fredericton, Volta Labs in Halifax and StartupNL in St. John’s -- to develop more and better tech companies. The ultimate goal is to establish at least one billion-dollar company in the region.

Propel ICT offers two programming options: Start and Build. “Start” helps guide entrepreneurs through the early stages of validating, developing and launching a startup. “Build” focuses on later stage startups, those who have progressed beyond the idea phase with initial market traction.

 

 

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

 

NBIF’s Breakthru Deadline Tomorrow


New Brunswickers at the earliest stages of forming a startup have a day left to get their entry into the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition.

The deadline to get your entry in for the biennial startup competition is 11:59 pm on Tuesday, Dec. 9.

The Breakthru contestants will be competing for a total pool of prizes worth more than $500,000 in cash and in-kind services. It’s a significant increase over the total prizes of $406,000 in the 2013 event.

NBIF has already secured two primary sponsors for the event, Cox & Palmer and Deloitte, and is hoping to bring in more sponsors to contribute in-kind services for the prizes.  The foundation hopes to bring in more organizations as sponsors partly because it wants more groups participating in the ecosystem for startups.

NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury has said previously the aim is to come up with a “company in a box” to present to the winners. That means that in addition to an investment by NBIF, they will have legal and accounting services, as well as banking, insurance, web design and the like.

You can find the details on entering the contest here

New Platform Boosts Leadsift


Building a new business is a multi-faceted challenge, something Tukan Das and Sreejata Chatterjee, co-founders of social media analytics company Leadsift, have learned the hard way.

During its first 18 months, Leadsift struggled to hit its milestones for gaining clients and revenue. But since repositioning itself in December 2013, the company is seeing revenue growth of about 70 per cent a year.

The Halifax-based founders have refined the software they created to scan social media posts and identify people who want to buy a certain product. The scanning allows businesses to reach those people and generate sales.

The team has recently created a new platform called Audience Intent Miner that can gather the buying intentions and insights of whole groups of consumers.

“Every day, we can use Twitter to identify 30,000 people in the U.S. who are talking about buying a new car,” said Das as he and Chatterjee sat in a Halifax coffee shop.

“Eleven per cent of them are mothers with young children and a job. You can assume they think safety is important. If a car company’s vehicle has won a top safety rating, the company can target that news at those working mothers.”

Das claimed Leadsift has an advantage over its competitors because it is the only company in the ecosystem of social listening that can group consumers based on where they are in the buying journey.

Leadsift can extract more than 100 attributes of each consumer, such as gender, age and occupation. Das said gathering the information is not intrusive as it is all in the public domain and does not include personal details, such as phone or email contacts.

The extra information is sought after, and Leadsift numbers eight Fortune 500 companies among its clients.

Although Twitter is and will remain the company’s main source of data, Leadsift also mines information from Instagram, a photo-sharing site popular among young adults. Next year, the company will start mining Facebook and public forums like reddit.com and edmunds.com.

Both Das and Chatterjee appear weary but relieved at the growth achieved by repositioning the company.

 “Running a startup is insanely stressful,” said Das.

 “There are emotional swings when you don’t hit your milestones. You feel the weight of expectation because investors have put their faith and their money in you.

“We’ve learned that it’s all about execution. You have to build a product clients want. You have to get the pricing right. You have to get the marketing strategy right. You have to line up all the steps and be as prepared as possible.”

Two years ago, the founders might have expected their path to success to be smoother after they received development money from investors and bodies such as the National Research Council and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Das also received $500,000 in investment from OMERS Ventures of Toronto when he used Leadsift to identify business leads for OMERS’ portfolio companies.

He said the founding team has stayed intact because they have learned to prioritize communication. The management team also includes co-founders Hatem Nassrat from Egypt and Daniel Allen from the Bahamas.

The four founders met after they all came to Nova Scotia to study computer science. They started their company in typical student style, with the server under Nassrat’s bed in his university dorm.

Das and Chatterjee, both in their early30s, first met while at kindergarten in Calcutta.

Chatterjee said working with someone she has known most of her life has benefits.

 “I know I can trust him,” she said of Das.

But having four founders can lead to lively discussions.

“We’re all alpha characters, but we’re also loyal and passionate,” she said.

“We know our roles now and work well together.”

Das said the biggest boost from turning the company around has been impressing Leadsift’s early supporters.

“Recently, a few investors have told us, ‘You’re making me proud.’ That means so much.”

Qimple Lures Dream Team of Backers


The big news about Qimple isn’t merely that it’s closing a $600,000 funding round when it’s barely a year old. It’s the dream team of investors and advisers that the online recruitment company has assembled.

Moncton’s Qimple, which graduated from the Launch36 accelerator in June, makes the hiring process easier for both recruiters and applicants due to its applicant tracking system and proprietary candidate-scoring tool. It spent the autumn beta-testing the system with more than 30 companies and 1,500 applicants, and has now launched the product to the public.

 “Ever since we gained our momentum by going through Launch36, people have been getting what we’re doing and we’re just seizing every opportunity,” co-founder and CEO Yves Boudreau said in an interview.

Boudreau formed the company about a year ago with lead developer Benoit Bourque, with the goal of helping employers find the best candidate for open positions among the roughly 1,000 job boards in the market. They brought on product manager Aaron Lewis early this year and set out to launch the product and raise equity financing.

The company has landed funding commitments of $150,000 from BDC Capital, the venture capital arm of the Business Development Bank of Canada, and $100,000 from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. And there is an impressive roster of angel investors who have placed money into the funding round.

They include Dan Martell, founder of Clarity in Moncton and an internationally recognized expert in startup methodology; Patrick Hankinson, CEO of Compilr, a Halifax startup that exited last spring; and Sanjay Singhal, the CEO of Toronto’s audiobooks.com, the world’s second-largest provider of audio books.

As if that’s not enough expertise, Ben Yoskovitz, the vice-president of product at the Toronto startup VarageSale and co-author of the book Lean Analytics, has joined Qimple’s board of advisers.

 “I’m really, really excited about the people we’ve brought in as investors because they’re really high calibre,” said Boudreau.  “They’re not just bringing money.”

Qimple now has $400,000 in committed investors and may close its $600,000 round soon. Boudreau added that the company is in discussions with a leading Canadian venture capital company.

The Canadian technology publication Techvibes recently named Qimple one of the 20 most promising startups in the country, and Boudreau just spent two weeks in San Francisco to try to gauge how his company stacks up against the best tech companies in the world.

It was a tall order because there are a lot of tech startups targeting the recruitment market, and it’s hard to get noticed.

But some of the leaders in Silicon Valley took the time to meet Boudreau.

He said he learned two things: people are impressed with the simplicity of Qimple’s user interface, and his three-member team has developed a product that can compete with much larger operations.

 “Every move has paid off for us for the most part,” said Boudreau, looking back at the last year.

 “The fact that we’re in a space that is considered crowded, it’s just (motivating us to) continue to turn cynics into believers.”

 

 

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.      

Robin Hood, Holla! Seek GSB Votes


A couple of Atlantic Canadian startups are looking for your vote in their quest for a global startup award.  

Robin Hood and Holla! are winners of recent Startup Weekend events and now they are competing in the Global Startup Battle, in which the public chooses the best SUW winner in the world. Voting closes today at 11:59 pm PST (which technically is tomorrow at about 4 am AST).

Startup Weekend is an international organization that sanctions local events around the world bringing together people to form a business in a single weekend. In the past couple of months, Startup Weekends have been held in Fredericton, Halifax and St. John’s.  Winners of local Startup Weekends have the right to go on to the Global Startup Battle, an annual event in which the general public chooses the best startup from Startup Weekends around the world.

Robin Hood is a New Brunswick company that produces web-based purchasing software that helps small businesses come together to bid as effectively as large organizations. The company, which won Startup Weekend Fredericton last month, helps them to get better deals from distributors and suppliers and compete more effectively.

“We are a small team of dedicated and passionate individuals with the right skill set to kick-start Robin Hood,” said team member Mahsa Kiani. “We're designers, developers, and business people with a "get it done" attitude.”

The Startup Weekend in St. John’s last month was won by Holla!, which is an anonymous social app that allows users to share and discover anonymous thoughts around them. “Think Twitter meets Snapchat with location and without the profiles,” said the company’s official description.

You can vote for Robin Hood here and Holla! here.

The winner at the event in Halifax in October was UNIfy, which helps university alumni connect with events are their alma maters. 

The Year of Modest Exits


Tom Gilgan laughed and shook his head. “Oh no,” said the co-founder and CEO of G2 Research of Dartmouth. “We’re not a Radian6. But what we’re happy about is we did this with a company we started from nothing.”

The “this” Gilgan referred to was his geo-location software company’s successful sale to Track Group of Salt Lake City for $4.6 million in November.

The G2 Research sale exemplified a trend that developed in 2014, which could be called the Year of the Modest Exit.

There was nothing like Radian6’s $326-million sale to Salesforce in 2011, or the $540-million sale of Ocean Nutrition Canada to Royal DSM of the Netherlands in 2012. But there was a steady stream of modest and profitable exits that are benefiting the region by companies that, for the most part, bootstrapped throughout their existence.

What it means is that these Atlantic Canadian startup teams have become divisions of larger companies, and the resources of the larger firms have allowed them to keep growing here. It means the region is linked to the global tech community through these companies and their investors.

Meanwhile, the founders of these exited companies have become resources for the community. They have various levels of visibility, but these are now entrepreneurs who have been through one or more exits and can help younger people.

Finally, it means capital is flowing quietly into the region. How much isn’t known because most of the deals didn’t reveal prices. However, the total is probably in the tens of millions of dollars and could approach $100 million. It means the people benefiting from this — including the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation — have more money to reinvest in other startups.

G2 Research’s $4.6-million cash and stock deal certainly fits into this trend, but it is not alone.

In January, UserEvents, a Fredericton startup whose technology alerts corporations when customers are having trouble with online transactions, said it would be bought by LiveOps. The buyer is a Redwood City, Calif., provider of cloud contact centre and customer service solutions.

Neither buyer or seller or the foundation, an investor in the New Brunswick company, revealed the details of the deal.

UserEvent’s CEO Jeff Thompson has since taken the role as chairman of the regional accelerator group Propel ICT.

Compilr, a Halifax startup that teaches people how to code, said two months later that it had been acquired by lynda.com, a Carpinteria, Calif., online education company. Again, no details were revealed.

CEO Patrick Hankinson and his chief technology officer Tim Speed have continued to develop the product, but they’re also involved as funders and/or developers in other startups.

Bedford’s NewPace Technology Development Inc. was bought in June by NewNet Communications Technologies of Arlington Heights, Ill., greatly expanding the sales power of the mobile technology developer.

NewPace, headed by founder and CEO Brent Newsome, became a subsidiary of the NewNet messaging division, based in Amsterdam, and changed its name to NewNet Canada. NewNet, which is a portfolio company of Los Angeles private equity firm Skyview Capital, did not reveal financial details.

Finally, ClinicServer, a Saint John company that helps health clinics digitize their operations and records, was taken over by Biosign Technologies Inc., a publicly traded Toronto company with complementary businesses.

The buyer paid $1.96 million — all in stock, except for $75,000 in cash. The deal allowed ClinicServer to retain its brand and New Brunswick headquarters and to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Biosign.

It’s interesting that virtually none of the companies had taken on outside investors. The most notable investment was $250,000 in UserEvents from the New Brunswick foundation, less than a year before it sold out.

 

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.

G2 Research Bought by Track Group


When the three founders of G2 Research began to look for funding this past summer, they had no idea it would lead to a $4.6 million sale of the company by late November.

Yet Salt Lake City-based Track Group announced today that it paid that amount last week to buy the five-year-old Dartmouth company and gain access to its geo-location software used by law enforcement agencies.

G2 will now lead development for the Track Group, and G2 CEO Tom Gilgan has been named the company’s CTO. One of his first jobs will be to find a larger office because he will have to add several more members to the 10-member team in Dartmouth.

See also: Details of the Track-G2 Deal

The acquisition will enable Track to deliver sophisticated analysis and detailed interpretation of data to improve performance to its customer base, which includes national security, law enforcement, corrections, and health research. It will also help the company to enter related markets more easily.

Track Group, a profitable company that had US$2.6 million in revenue last year, provides customizable tracking solutions to customers around the world. Its shares trade over the counter in the U.S., meaning there is a market for its stock though it is not listed on any stock exchange.

Gilgan said that he and co-founders Ron Stewart and Bruce Annand realized last summer they needed more capital to grow the company, so they decided to look for their first round of funding with a target of about $1.5 million. Working with Jim Lutes, Partner at the financial services consultancy EY, they began to get offers for the whole company and they realized a sale would be the best way to ensure growth.

“This is an opportunity for us to ensure the growth of our technology, our company and our employees, and we’re going to take it,” said Gilgan in an interview.

He was initially surprised that the search for capital produced one inquiry about a sale, and then another. While he was having dinner with one suitor in Denver, he received a call from a California company expressing interest in a purchase.

What the larger companies wanted to buy was G2 Research’s software that can help law enforcement agencies track suspects, convicts and parolees. By analyzing data from the Global Positioning System, a space-based satellite location system, G2 can tell suspects’ daily routines, notice when they stray from that routine, tell who they are meeting with and do predictive analytics on what they may be planning.

“Today, our customers are faced with substantial challenges as it relates to extracting meaningful information from the mass of data accumulated,” Track Group Chairman Guy Dubois said in a statement. “With G2 Research onboard, Track Group will address these challenges holistically by offering advanced capabilities in managing big data to improve decision-making and efficiency.”

G2 Research began by tracking vehicles and more recently added the ability to track high-risk offenders who are wearing ankle bracelets. Gilgan said potential users of the product tend to purchase from existing large companies, so the bracelet technology has not produced a lot of revenue yet.

What the new product has done is convince larger competitors that the G2 Research technology is something they have to have in the next few years, and that led to offers to buy the company.

G2 Research has never taken on outside investment, so the three founders, until this purchase, owned 100 percent of the company. Having grown the company through revenues, Gilgan now said the tight ownership structure (and the fact there were no institutions demanding a return of 10 times) helped G2 make speedy decisions through the exit process.  Gilgan emphasized repeatedly in an interview the company had received great support from J. Curry at the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Halifax office.

The company never reveals its clients, but Gilgan did say it was profitable in 2013. This year there was a late delivery to one installation, which ate into profits so far this year. He said the company is expecting a really strong fourth quarter.

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.      

Details of Track’s Purchase of G2


The following chart shows the details of Track Group's purchase of G2 Research announced today:

Target Company

G2 Research

Headquarters

Dartmouth, N.S.

Purchaser

Track Group

Headquarters

Salt Lake City      

Deal Value

$4.6 million

G2’s Financial Adviser

Jim Lutes, EY

G2’s Legal Adviser

Jim Cruickshank, Stewart McKelvey

Details of G2 Research

 

Website

http://www.g2-research.com

Contact

icu@g2-research.com

Year Founded

2009

Founders

Tom Gilgan, Ron Stewart, Ron Annand           

Business

Location-based surveillance data analysis

Previous Investment

None

Support Programs

ACOA, MentorCamp

Previous Articles

G2 Research Enters New Segments

 

Springleap, LeadSift win MentorCamp

 

Propel’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence


Propel ICT is looking for a couple of experienced entrepreneurs to serve as entrepreneurs-in-residence in two centres in Atlantic Canada.

The organization that oversees the Launch36 accelerator hopes to have two entrepreneurs-in-residence in place in the near future to help work with startup founders on developing their businesses.

Propel began 11 years ago as a Saint John-based IT group, and has progressively spread across Atlantic Canada.  Startups from all four Atlantic Provinces have gone through the Launch36 programs. And with the hiring of St. John’s-based CEO Gary Dinn last month, the group now has full-time staff in Moncton and St. John’s. The group has not said where the EiRs will be based, but it hopes they will be able to help Propel support entrepreneurs regardless of where they’re based in the region.  

“The Entrepreneur-in-Residence is responsible for coaching start-up founders to build their idea into an innovative venture that has extensive growth potential,” said Propel in a job posting. It added that he or she “will effectively identify significant growth strategies for start-ups, teach and apply lean start-up principles, help develop the case for investment, define MVPs, help companies pivot/iterate to establish product/market fit, and move clients agilely toward commercialization.”

Dinn and Chair Jeff Thompson said they are looking for experienced entrepreneurs who have started companies and brought products to market. They should be driven by lean startup methodology.

The statement added the successful applicant s will be based in one of the four Atlantic Provinces but Propel is accepting applications from people outside the region.  

Interested parties can apply here

Press Release: Volta Adds Klugman


Halifax, Nova Scotia, November 27, 2014 - Volta is pleased to announce that Iain Klugman, the President & CEO of Communitech has joined their Board of Directors. As the Halifax startup house prepares to move into the old Library, expanding the Board of Directors is a key element of the strategic plan. Iain’s experience in growing Communitech and the Waterloo Region startup community will bring valuable benefits to Volta, as will his connections with startup communities across the country and internationally.

Iain joins Jevon MacDonald, GoInstant co-Founder, and Patrick Keefe, Partner at Build Ventures, on the board of the Halifax based startup house. Iain hopes to make Volta an anchor in Atlantic Canada tech community. “I’m pleased to become a part of Volta and to help the startup community grow, not only in Nova Scotia but nationwide.” said Iain about his new role. Iain will be working to build national and international relationships and developing strategies to make Volta a world-class entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Under Iain’s leadership Communitech has become one of North America’s leading tech enabling organizations, supporting the growth of more than 1,000 small, mid-sized and large technology companies in Waterloo Region. Adding this experience to the Board of Directors will help Volta to continue growing the startup community in Halifax and turn the new home in the old Library into an important landmark in the city. Iain will begin his new role as a member of the board in the New Year.

###

At Volta our vision is to create a place where entrepreneurship is celebrated and taking over the world is expected. We develop the best founders in the world, who in turn create world class companies. Volta is located in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia and is the residence for up to 13 high-potential technology companies who benefit from the Volta community of mentors, advisors and both angel and institutional investors.

 

Gauvin’s Mission to Teach Code


Fuelled by a desire to boost the number of people who can write computer code, Simon Gauvin has created Vizwik.com, a social platform that allows anyone to learn computer coding for free and to create and sell apps that work on any mobile phone browser.

Gauvin, 50, is CEO and co-founder of Moncton startup Agora Mobile. He said his cloud-based method of teaching coding uses graphical code, making it more accessible than competing products that use textual code.

Vizwik has already launched in New Brunswick, where Gauvin has signed up about 300 high school teachers to use his system, as well as 1,000 individuals. The North America launch will occur at the Florida EdTech Conference in Orlando in January.

Vizwik is ideal for high school students but can be used by anyone, Gauvin said. One early user created an app that allows clients to contact his plowing company via GPS when their driveways need work.

“The Vizwik social platform will also allow users to sell their apps and learn about entrepreneurship,” Gauvin said.

Both coding and entrepreneurship are vital to the future of this region, in his view.

“Coding is the language of the 21st century. It has become part of nearly every career path, but teachers don’t have the time to learn the complex programming tools to teach coding. We created Vizwik so teachers can fill this gap.”

Fewer than 10 per cent of high schools in North America teach coding, even though more than one million positions are expected to be left unfilled over the next five years due to the lack of qualified people, Gauvin said.

Only about 0.1 per cent of the human population can create software, he said.

“That means that 99.9 per cent of humans are dependent on the software made by this tiny minority. It’s similar to the Dark Ages, when priests were the only ones who could read the Bible in Latin.

“It’s a dangerous situation. We all need to be literate in the language of the 21st century.”

The company is working with Brilliant Labs, an initiative that aims to encourage teachers in the Maritimes to teach coding to students.

Gauvin has been involved in software development for 30 years, although he started out studying architecture at Concordia University in Montreal in the mid-1980s.

He founded Agora Mobile in 2009 while lecturing and working toward his PhD in computer science at Dalhousie University.

He still loves the challenge of creating software.

“The structures we build in computers are some of the most complex ever created by human beings,” he said.

“For example, the Linux operating system took 20 years and over 12 million lines of code to build.”

Gauvin created the coding language used in Vizwik after starting with a grant from the Industrial Research Assistance Program.

It took him five years of PhD graduate research and two years of development to create Vizwik. He partnered with Vodafone two years ago after beginning development work alongside a six-person team.

“This has been an exercise in commercializing academic research. It took a long time to build.”

Recently, Agora was invited to the annual Canadian Ed Tech Leadership Summit in Toronto and won the pitch competition by being voted Best Ed Tech Startup by more than 200 expert delegates.

To date, the company has raised $1 million in equity funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, East Valley Ventures and several angel investors.

But raising capital has proven challenging, especially as the company progresses, and Gauvin is often on the road, seeking money in larger centres.

He is excited that his product is finally launched.

“Allowing people to express their creativity in the form of software is one of the most powerful things we can do.”

The Rounds Adds to Seed Funding


The Rounds, the Halifax startup that operates a social network for medical professionals, has added $565,000 in equity investment to its seed round, which it will use to accelerate its rapid growth.

Having launched its closed network for physicians in February, the company now says it is targeting having 26,000 doctors enrolled on the site by the end of 2014.

“This funding isn’t meant to extend our runway; it will be used to grow faster, right now,” said Co-Founder and CEO Blair Ryan in a statement. “The decision to raise a seed extension came down to our desire to capitalize on the early traction and momentum we were experiencing. Canadian healthcare needs us to grow faster.”

The Rounds – formerly known as Boondoc – said in April that its seed round had amounted to $1 million, including a $250,000 investment from Innovacorp and contributions from several angels. At that time, the network was being used by about 1,500 physicians from across the country.

The new funding comes from five investors based in Calgary and raised to total seed round to about $1.6 million. The company said it is preparing to raise a Series A funding round in the coming months.

“Contributing to The Rounds wasn’t something I could pass on,” said one of the new investors, Gordon Stewart, in a statement. “After hearing the company’s story and believing in their mission to improve healthcare globally, I was eager to come on board.”

Founded in 2012 by Ryan, Will Harris and Michael Clory, The Rounds aims to provide doctors with a private, secure network in which they can consult with one another and find advice on how to solve vexing medical problems. Ryan has found that The Round is especially valuable to rural doctors, who don’t have the benefit of consulting with nearby colleagues. 

The Rounds allows pharmaceutical companies, medical associations or other groups to pay to engage on the site in a non-intrusive manner. This means there are no pop-up ads, but the network does have sponsored pages in which doctors can seek out more information.

The Rounds now has 13 employees and intends to use the new money to double its staff, focusing on its engineering team.  And in the short term, it aims to have about 35 percent of the 75,000 doctors in Canada signed up to the site by year end.

“We have a number of partnerships coming together shortly that will help us realize this goal,” said Marketing and Communications Manager Becky Richter. “Right now, we have the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians and The Society of Rural Physicians of Canada using The Rounds to engage with their member bases.”

She added the company is bringing together other partnerships to help meet the goal.

The co-founders used to say they wanted to establish a Canadian network then look for expansion in other countries. The company is now more definitive that it wants to expand beyond Canada in the new year – not just by targeting other countries but also with disciplines other than physicians.

It is now running a medical student beta test, which will be launching from private beta early in 2015, and it is looking to other healthcare providers in Canada such as naturopaths.

 

 

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 Difficult Year in SR&ED Claims


One subject that has cropped up increasingly in recent conversations about Atlantic Canada startups is the difficulty many have had this year with the federal government’s Scientific Research and Experimental Development program.

Known as SR&ED and pronounced “sred,” 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 — sometimes amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars — in 2014, even though their applications were successful in previous years.

See also: Should You Bother with SR&ED?

“According to the Canada Revenue Agency, the law for determining scientific eligibility is the same,” said a recent report from the accountancy BDO.

“What has changed is the CRA’s interpretation of this law, along with the introduction of new policies with respect to administering the SR&ED program.”

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.

However, five Atlantic Canada startup entrepreneurs or their advisers said in interviews that their claims were rejected this year. The companies received payments in the past, and therefore included the funding in their annual budgets. When the money did not come, a few of these companies laid off employees.

One company interviewed said it had received its funding as it had in past years. All spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“This is a very serious and unnecessary burden that these startups have to deal with,” said Gerry Pond, chairman of East Valley Ventures in New Brunswick, when asked about the funding.

One startup veteran said the difficulties arise from CRA applying a stringent definition of scientific research. In its purest form, research begins with a hypothesis, proceeds with experimentation and clinical trials, and ends with a conclusion.

The problem with applying such rules to startups is that information technology developers, for example, tend to experiment loosely, coming up with ideas, trying them and pursuing things that work. It’s effective for developing businesses but doesn’t meet the precise definition of scientific research.

CRA spokeswoman Nathalie Poirier-Schofield said the rules haven’t changed, though they have been reviewed in the last two years. She said the agency has a responsibility to ensure awards are granted only when merited.

“Consequently, in order to qualify for SR&ED tax incentives, work must satisfy the eligibility criteria set out in the (Income Tax) Act,” she said.

Craig Mulcahy, a BDO specialist in the program, said he has seen a “stabilization” in funding under the initiative in recent months as entrepreneurs grow more accustomed to current filing procedures.

“In the first three to six months of the year, we were going into audits with our clients, and what we had handed CRA was prepared on the old understanding,” said Mulcahy.

“We didn’t always have crystal clear documentation. Industry in general had a few rough months, but we’re probably back now at historic acceptance levels.”

 

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.

Should You Bother with SR&ED?


Several startups this year have had trouble with the Scientific Research and Experimental Development program, walking away empty-handed from reviews with the Canada Revenue Agency.

So should startup founders even try to tap the program?

Yes, most definitely, say accountants and experts in financing startups.

But they quickly add two provisos. Founders should only apply if they’re in a business conducting bona fide research. And they have to take a few steps to make avoid the problems that have plagued many startups this year.

“Startups should investigate SR&ED because it is a good Year 2 cash flow tool for them,” said Craig Mulcahy, a Partner at BDO. “But they need to go in with their eyes open – especially in software. Just because you make an app, it doesn’t mean you have SR&ED eligibility. You really have to be able to look at the technology.”

So here is what experts advise founders do to avoid problems:

1.       Plan Ahead. The first step is not to waste time applying for SR&ED if you obviously don’t deserve it. First of all, go through the CRA assessment tool and talk to CRA to get a quick assessment of whether you should apply. Finally, ask an accountant or SR&ED specialist for a free consultation to see if it’s worth proceeding.

2.       Be Realistic. Even if you’re clearly conducting scientific research in your startup, don’t budget for hundreds of thousands of SR&ED dollars with no fall-back plan. Be modest in your expectations and have a solid Plan B. If your budget requires SR&ED funding to pay full-time staff, you may have problems.

3.       Remember Your Documentation. Learn about the documentation CRA requires and make sure you produce it throughout the year.  Find out NOW what CRA will require and keep the documents current throughout the year.

That third point may be the most important. For a software development venture especially, documenting research may seem like a tedious exercise. But Deloitte Partner Steven Carr said it could pay huge dividends beyond the SR&ED claim.

“Documentation also creates corporate knowledge,” said Carr. If a key developer leaves the company, the documentation should allow others to pick up where the former employee left off and continue with the project. It also can increase the value of the company in an exit because there is a record of developing the intellectual property. “It’s transformative knowledge once it’s written down,” said Carr. 

 

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-Deshpande Lands $500K Funding


The Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick has received $500,000 in funding from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, which will help to finance UNB’s new diploma in social entrepreneurship.

The Pond-Deshpande Centre is one of six Canadian institutions to receive “transformation” funding from the Montreal-based foundation to develop a social venture ecosystem as part of its national RECODE initiative. Eight other institutions will receive the smaller $250,000 funding packages to begin to develop social entrepreneurship courses. The only other RECODE recipient in Atlantic Canada is Memorial University of Newfoundland.

“For us it’s huge,” said PDC Executive Director Karina LeBlanc this morning. “It’s great to get the recognition and it will help us to get our deal flow up.”

The funding will help the university to launch the first social entrepreneurship diploma program in Atlantic Canada. LeBlanc said she hopes the program will be available in September, and failing that will launch in January 2016.

The Pond-Deshpande Centre was launched two years ago by entrepreneurs and UNB grads Gerry Pond and Gururaj Deshpande with a dual mission – to develop entrepreneurship and encourage social entrepreneurship.

The centre said in a statement the grant will also expand the PDC’s existing social innovation programming, allowing UNB’s social innovators to address issues ranging from poverty and homelessness to accessing effective community health care.

The PDC plans to expand its Student Ambassador Program and Youth Entrepreneurship Summit to engage more students across the region.

The money should also help to develop UNB’s social venture accelerator, B 4 Change, and expand the funding of UNB’s Social Innovation Fund.

“The Pond-Deshpande Centre has created several strong partnerships in the past 24 months at UNB and across the Atlantic Provinces,” said Karina Leblanc, executive director of the Pond-Deshpande Centre. “This funding through RECODE will allow us to catalyze and launch the critical components of a thriving social entrepreneurial ecosystem, to the benefit of our students and the community.”

The Pond-Deshpande Centre’s Student Ambassador Program has brought together 50 students to provide mentorship, while the Youth Entrepreneurship Summit has engaged more than 200 students across Atlantic Canada.

Its Social Innovation Fund has distributed almost $200,000 in seed capital to 18 social ventures.

UNB is one of 18 colleges and universities across Canada receiving RECODE grants.

 

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.     

 

Nova Sun Designated a BCorp


Nova Sun Power, a renewable energy company based in Pictou, N.S., has become the first Canadian solar company to secure BCorp certification and will soon complete the largest photovoltaic solar installation ever in Nova Scotia.

The company said in a statement Tuesday that the 30-kilowatt hour project is a partnership with the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’Kmaq and Millbrook First Nation. The project will provide power to the community gymnasium and the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’Kmaq offices. Funding was secured through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s Eco Action program. 

BCorp certification is a global standard for designating an ethical business. Businesses that want to join the BCorp movement must complete a rigorous process ensuring their focus is not just profitability but also care for the environment and people. BCorps range from local companies like Nova Sun to such multinationals as Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s and Etsy.

“I started Nova Sun Power 19 years ago in Pictou County because I wanted access to clean, secure renewable energy for my family,” said Sun Nova Sounder Robert MacKean in a statement. “Energy independence is more important now than ever. It’s good for the planet and good for the pocketbook too.”

Nova Sun Power specializes in grid-tied photovoltaic solar energy sales, installation and maintenance. The company helps businesses and households operate and live more sustainably while potentially selling their clean, surplus energy to Nova Scotia Power under NSP’s net metering program, said the statement. 

 

 

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.      

UST Attacks Multi-Core Chip Problem


Laurie and Layton Perrin are twin brothers originally from Parrsboro, N.S., who are developing a solution that could dramatically improve the speed and energy efficiency of most software on the market.

Their startup, Unified Software Technologies, is developing technology that, if successful, will be especially attractive to sectors requiring huge computing power, such as data analytics or cloud-based data storage. These industries are having problems because most software has difficulty operating correctly and efficiently on most modern processors.

“We’ve seen a ceiling on clock speed; the industry is maxing out at around four gigahertz,” Layton Perrin said in an interview.

“For the last 10 years, there’s been a shift to multi-core processors, but the problem is that software has to catch up.”

Since the birth of computers, the capacity of microchips has doubled roughly every two years, allowing for faster processors. A few years ago, to maintain this rate of growth, manufacturers began to develop microchips with two cores instead of one. Since then, they have moved on to chips with four and even six cores.

The problem is that most software is designed to operate on single-core chips so any gain in processor speed is lost by the inadequacy of the software.

Laurie Perrin, who lives in Wolfville, has developed and patented a “lock-free algorithm,” a technology that can help software run more quickly on multi-core processors. He says the algorithm often increases computing power by a factor of between five and 40 times, with a commensurate reduction in the electricity needed to carry out the computing. Given the amount of energy consumed by large data centres, the product is a form of green technology because it reduces electricity consumption.

Layton, who lives in Orlando, Fla., has joined in the venture as a business development specialist. Together, they’re working on rolling out their initial product, the Speed web server, to major data centres and other massive users of computing power. They hope to have sales next year.

“We’re at the point now where we have developed the product, and the patents are awarded,” said Layton Perrin.

“We’re going to market, and we’re in early discussions with some potential early adopters.”

They have worked with Damian Dechev, assistant professor of computing science at the University of Central Florida and a recognized leader in lock-free programming. The Perrins said Dechev, who has received a National Science Foundation grant to investigate lock-free algorithms, has validated UST’s core technology.

The company is seeking to establish academic and commercial partnerships as part of their preparation to enter the web server marketplace. They want to further prove UST’s performance through third-party benchmarking and demonstrate that the technology complies with industry standards while looking into opportunities to integrate the Speed web server into existing data centre infrastructure.

United Software Technologies was a regional finalist earlier this year in Innovacorp’s I-3 competition for the Annapolis Valley grouping. It is working with Innovacorp on validating the product and finding early customers.

So far, the twins have invested $100,000 in the project themselves. As they commercialize the product, they think their first capital raise will have a target of about $350,000 to $400,000.

 

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

Press Release GrowthWorks Atlantic


GrowthWorks Atlantic Venture Fund, a labour-sponsored VC fund based in Halifax, issued the following press release:

GrowthWorks Atlantic Venture Fund Provides Update on Sales and Redemptions

November 20, 2014, Halifax, Nova Scotia – GrowthWorks Atlantic Venture Fund Ltd. (“Atlantic Fund”) reported today that it has suspended until further notice sales and weekly redemptions of its Class A Shares (the “Shares”), specifically the Balanced Series and the GIC Series.

The Fund’s Board of Directors considered several factors in determining to suspend redemptions and sales of Shares, including forecasted exit opportunities, redemption demand and the need to preserve investment and operating capital, and the long term impact of the federal government’s announcement in 2013 to phase out the 15% federal labour-sponsored venture capital corporation tax credit on future capital raising. The Board of Directors determined that, at this time, it is in the best interests of its shareholders to preserve capital for key follow-on investments and operating commitments and therefore decided to suspend redemptions.

Atlantic Fund continues to work towards maximizing the value of its holdings and focusing on realizing exit opportunities in its venture portfolio to ease increased liquidity pressures.

Liquidity pressures have recently increased as exit opportunities regarding select venture investments have been delayed. With expected low levels of capital raising from the long term impact of the phase out of the federal tax credit, the Fund’s ability to ease liquidity pressures is entirely dependent on levels of divestment activity in the venture portfolio, activity that is highly sensitive to market conditions. While Atlantic Fund and its manager are encouraged by the exit opportunities with several portfolio companies, discussions and negotiations remain at an early stage at this point and there can be no certainty as to if or when such transactions will be completed.

The Board of Directors of Atlantic Fund has commenced a full review of strategic options aimed at realizing on the potential value of its venture portfolio and providing liquidity for shareholders. These options will be considered in light of a range of factors, including the Share’s cash position, actual and projected levels of divestment activity, the prospects for generating exit values in excess of carrying values, the prospects of resuming weekly redemption processing and capital raising.

The Board of Directors of Atlantic Fund believes the closure of redemptions of Shares is in the best interests of all shareholders. Tom Hayes, President and CEO of Atlantic Fund, commented “The Board of Directors of the Fund remains confident that certain companies in the venture portfolio have potential to increase value materially for shareholders and provide some meaningful liquidity through exit transactions.”

Atlantic Fund will continue to allow shareholders to request redemptions of their Shares. However, Atlantic Fund cannot process Share redemption requests at this time and redemption requests must be submitted manually, as opposed to electronically through FundSERV. You may complete and sign our redemption request form, which is available at http://www.growthworks.ca or pr,ovide written instructions containing the information that is set out in the redemption request form. Further terms and conditions may be determined by the Board of Directors of Atlantic Fund from time to time.

For questions related to processing redemptions please email client.services@growthworks.ca or call 1-800-268-8244. Atlantic Fund will not process redemption requests that are submitted until such time as the Board of Directors of Atlantic Fund determines that Atlantic Fund meets the legal requirements and financial ability for doing so.

There can be no assurance regarding the outcome of the strategic review or that Atlantic Fund will resume weekly redemptions or sales of Shares or process requested redemptions of Shares.

Forward Looking Statements: This press release contains forward looking statements about the liquidity of Atlantic Fund including future divestment activity, the value of the portfolios, resumption Share redemptions, future sales of Shares and the strategic review by Atlantic Fund’s board. These statements are based on beliefs and assumptions of management of Atlantic Fund at the time the statements are made, including beliefs and assumptions about future market conditions, levels of sales, divestment activity, redemption requests and the strategic review by Atlantic Fund’s board. These beliefs and assumptions are subject to known and unknown risks and uncertainties, including risks and uncertainties associated with volatility of market conditions and, in turn, the future climate for sales of Atlantic Fund’s shares, divestment activity, redemption requests, and factors affecting sales of portfolio companies, other factors affecting the performance of portfolio companies, valuations of portfolio companies, financing needs of portfolio companies and the availability of capital to satisfy such financing needs and other risks and uncertainties disclosed in Atlantic Fund’s most recent prospectus and other regulatory filings posted on SEDAR at http://www.sedar.com These. risks and uncertainties may cause actual results, events or developments to be materially different from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Unless required by law, neither Atlantic Fund nor its manager assumes any obligation to update any forward-looking statements or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events, whether as a result of new information, future events or results or other factors.

-30-

ViTRAK Raises Up To $2 Million


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Scouring the Sea for Global Products


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He re-emphasized the need for Atlantic Canadian innovation.

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

 

 

 

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

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

Making Water Treatment Affordable


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NS Panel Wants Tax Credit Doubled


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

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

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

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

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

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

FAN, Wilmington Investors Link Up


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timbre Cases’ Kickstarter Campaign


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The campaign ends on Dec. 17.

Press Release: Mashup Weekend


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PACTA: Idea to Beta in 6 Months


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

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

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

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

 “We plan to launch in a year.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Ara Lab Pair Secures Startup Visas


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Propel Reaches and Sets Lofty Goals


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The seven companies pitching were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Mark Hobbs’ Mission to Aid Charities


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Xiplinx Lands $700K in Grants, Loans


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Press Release: Pursu.it in the US


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dagmara Wozniak – Fencing

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

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

Allison Jones – Paralympic Cycling

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

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

Adeline Gray – Wrestling

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

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

Amber English – Shooting

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

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

JD Bergman - Wrestling

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

Rho, Build Lead Resson’s $3M Round


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

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

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

InDepth Coverage of Resson’s Funding:

Details of Resson’s Deal

Resson’s Support Network

Resson’s Sector: Precision Agriculture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

8 Startups Present at Demo Camp


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

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

The startups that pitched were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Press Release: SimplyCast & ACOA


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About SimplyCast

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

Resson’s $3M Funding: Deal Details


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

 

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

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

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

 

Resson Aerospace’s Support Network


Resson Aerospace took the term “accelerator” seriously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Resson’s Sector: Precision Agriculture


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discoverygarden Thrives as SaaS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

Press Release: SkySquirrel & VineView


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

VineView and SkySquirrel Debut Drone at Rootstock

Joint venture to display specialized drone

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

 

The White Cross by H.P. MacKeen


It isn’t a medal or order,

It carries no ribbon or braid;

But a token still

As on Calvary’s Hill

Of the greater sacrifice made.

 

It stands as a lonely sentinel,

O’er the place where a hero sleeps;

‘Neath a lowly mount

In the shell-swept ground

Near the battered walls of Ypres.

 

It bears a simple legend

Yet a tale of lasting glory:

“Her lies a British Soldier

Pro patria mori.”

 

 

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

QRA Nearing $4M Funding Raise


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The company now employs 10 people.

 

 

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

 

Press Release: Unique Solutions’ CEO


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT UNIQUE SOLUTIONS DESIGN LTD.

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

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Press Release: B4Checkin & Agilysys


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

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

Solution Increases Conversion Rates, Drives Incremental Revenue, Boosts Loyalty

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

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

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

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

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

About Agilysys

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

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About B4Checkin

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

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Lamda Cited for ‘Unrivaled’ Product


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Watzan Expanding in Halifax


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Brilliant Labs Expands in NS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Salubrian Targets Clinic Wait Times


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

7 Startups Headline Propel Demo Day


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

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

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

The seven companies are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

SNM Global Takes Aim at Smoking


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

Newfoundland Unveils VC Plans


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

After 2 Exits, Steele Launches Eyeball


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

TopLog, Swapskis Launch Products


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

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

And there the similarities end.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Bruce Balcom on Academic Publishing


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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