Spark Zone Hits Its Stride

One snowy evening last month, the Spark Zone finally got a chance to show what it had been up to in the past year or two.

The entrepreneurship group hosted its New Product Competition finals at Saint Mary’s University, showcasing three student-led companies it has been working with for the past few months. What was notable was the quality of the presenting companies. It wasn’t just that the pitches were good; it was that all the products were based on novel ideas and showed clear and credible plans to get to market.

“We are starting to hit our stride and we’re getting a better feel for what we can do for people,” Jason Turner, the manager of the Spark Zone, said in an interview. “We’ve been at it now for three years and . . . it’s taken us a few years to learn what it all looks like. Do we want the things here at SMU that they want at the Atlantic School of Theology? Does NSCC want the same thing as NSCAD?”

The Spark Zone is one of Nova Scotia’s “sandboxes,” which are groups funded by the provincial government in which various post-secondary institutions can work together to nurture entrepreneurs. The Spark Zone is a collaboration between SMU, Mount Saint Vincent University, Nova Scotia Community College, NSCAD University and the Atlantic School of Theology. (The AST has been using its membership to learn how the institution and its students can use technology more effectively.)

Kognitiv Spark Gains Traction

The sandbox recently teamed up with the David Sobey Centre for Innovation in Retailing and Services at SMU to host the New Product Competition — a contest for teams producing a product to help retailers.

The winner of the $10,000 first prize was Blue Shell, which has designed a sort of anti-theft device that also tells consumers about the product they’re thinking of buying. The product is a plastic object that clips onto a garment in a shop and sounds an alarm if someone tries to remove the clothing from the shop. What’s new about this product is that the shopper can also zap it with a smartphone to find out information or learn of a special sale. It helps retailers move more product, and it could provide data that would help sales.

The runner-up was a company called Dou It Fresh, which we reported on a few weeks ago. The third-place company was Smart Cart, which has big ambitions but suffered in the judging because it hasn’t built a prototype yet. The team has designed shopping cart handles that can take biometric readings from the hands of the person pushing the cart. That means that they can chart the emotions of a shopper as he or she pushes the cart through the supermarket, and that produces data on what the public likes or dislikes in the shop.

The Spark Zone is helping these companies to grow and is involved in a range of other related activities as well. It works closely with Sobey School Business Development Centre and with Saint Mary’s Enactus organization, part of an international group that encourages social entrepreneurship.

Turner said the Spark Zone has a lot of fuzzy borders, its work blending with a number of institutions and groups whose work overlaps with its own.

“That is the meat on the bone for us,” said Turner. “We don’t have a big number of startups but we’re doing a lot. We are less focused on startups than we are on idea generation.”

PocketPass Wins Collide Event

PocketPass, which plans to use blockchain technology to stop scalpers from jacking up ticket prices, won the $3000 first prize at Dalhousie University’s Collide pitching competition Thursday night.

Founded by Conor Daly and Kyle Gardiner, PocketPass is using blockchain, the technology that underpins the cryptocurrency bitcoin, to make sure scalpers don’t raise the price of tickets above a certain level. Using blockchain, they can apply smart contracts to the issue of tickets, which can provide a permanent record of who bought the tickets and how much they paid.

The company was one of five teams competing on Thursday night for a total prize pot of $6000. The six teams have just completed the Collide program, which teaches lean methodology to entrepreneurs getting a company off the ground.

The second prize was awarded to Tranquility Online, which is setting up an online platform to help coaches treat people throughCognitive Behavioral Therapy. Founder Joel Muise aims to provide timely, affordable treatment for people plagued by anxiety attacks.

The third prize went to Velox, founded by 13-year-old Connor Kirby. He is proposing to replace the mouse on a personal computer with a device that tracks the users hands and eyes to move the cursor. Velox plans to do sell the device to people suffering from or worried about carpal tunnel syndrome.

Kognitiv Spark Gains Traction

Kognitiv Spark has plunged into the heady market for augmented realty training products, and is now using its traction to raise capital.

The Fredericton company offers an augmented reality solution to help the military and industries with training or instructing remote workers using complex equipment.

Yan Simard – a serial entrepreneur who founded another Fredericton startup, Zaptap – said the company now has clients and is working on about 10 contracts.

“What we’re focusing on is we’re providing holographic and remote training for industry and military operations,” said Simard. “If you’re an operator of heavy equipment who encounters an issue, you can put on a headset and talk it through with an expert.”

Founded by Ryan Groom and Duncan McSporran, Kognitiv Spark lets the trainee or remote worker use an augmented reality headset as a training aid or instructional guide.

For example, if a soldier or worker in a remote location encounters a problem with heavy equipment and has to fix it himself, he can contact an expert back at home base. Donning the headset, he can still see the real equipment, but he can also see a holographic image of the piece of gear floating beside it. The expert at home, who is also wearing a headset, can use the holographic image to show the remote staff member how to fix the equipment. He can draw arrows on the image to show the worker precisely what part he is talking about.

The company offers similar services for training, using holographic images to show people what to do with the real equipment.  

Canada's First AngelList Syndicate Funds Forestry.io

Kognitiv Spark started last summer when Groom, who has a strong technical background, began to work on the augmented reality product with McSporran, who has long experience in the military. They formed a partnership with Microsoft, which provides the HoloLens headsets that use software developed by Kognitiv Spark.

Early in the process, they brought in Simard, who has been working with them as an adviser. They’ve also been working with Orange Sprocket, a Fredericton digital design company that does a lot of work with tech clients.

They were soon getting traction with industrial and military heavy equipment operators. And that led to funding. The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation has invested in the company, and Simard said the founders are raising more capital. Simard said the company is drawing strong interest from investors, largely because the company is working in a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

He added the company has a lot of competition because the market offers so much potential, and he knows that the buzz in the marketplace will attract more competitors.

So Kognitiv Spark is now working on constantly improving the product. “The complex parts have all been figured out,” he said. “We’re looking at what are the features client like based on the feedback we’re receiving from them, and we’re work on them.” 

Canada’s First AngelList Syndicate

Jordan Patterson and Scott Gallant of Forestry.io

Jordan Patterson and Scott Gallant of Forestry.io

Charlottetown-based Forestry.io has become the first startup in Canada to close a round of funding that includes an AngelList syndicate — a development that opens a new avenue of financing for Canadian startups.

Forestry.io, which has developed a platform for posting content on static websites, closed its US$560,000 (C$747,000) seed round in February. The investors included an AngelList syndicate led by noted Silicon Valley investor Gil Penchina, who previously invested in LinkedIn, Cruise Automation and Dollar Shave Club.

AngelList syndicates are groups of investors who follow the lead of a well-known funder, betting that this individual’s background and knowledge offer a seal of approval in a high-potential investment. They have become a force for attracting capital to promising startups in the U.S. in the past couple of years, but regulators have only allowed them in Canada this year.

“We’re delighted to have this funding in place, and to be backed by Gil and other investors from this syndicate,” Forestry.io CEO Scott Gallant said in a statement.

“We hope we are the first of many AngelList Syndicates investing in Canada, and that they help develop great companies across the country.”

To dispel one misconception, Forestry.io has nothing to do with the harvesting of trees. It’s a five-employee tech company that has developed a content management system that simplifies the posting and updating of material on static websites.

MTI Lands $8.3M in Funding, Led by Radar

Founded by Gallant and Jordan Patterson, Forestry.io capitalized on the trend of developers using static site generators to build websites because they are cloud-based, simpler to use and more secure than dynamic systems like WordPress. But static sites have no content management system to let non-tech personnel post and manage content on these sites. Forestry.io fills that gap.

The company was accepted in the prestigious Techstars NYC last year, and Gallant tapped the accelerator’s network to speak to Penchina, who has more followers than any other investor on AngelList. He agreed to lead a funding syndicate, and the timing was perfect because until this year such syndicates have been prohibited in Canada. But the Ontario Securities Commission recently allowed AngelList syndicates, and the move was followed by securities regulators in other provinces.

The other investors in Foresty.io include East Valley Ventures, the Saint John-based investment group led by Gerry Pond.

Since it graduated from Techstars, the company has completed and launched its product, and is now looking at bringing in sales.

“We have thousands of users around the world using the platform,” said Gallant in an interview. “We’re going to start charging the users this month so we’re soon going to have revenue.”

He added the company is working on an enterprise deal — that is, a contract with a large corporation — which it also hopes to close this month. With capital in the bank and revenue in the offing, the company is now hiring about four people, both in sales and marketing and in development. And Gallant said, if anything, he feels more pressure than when Forestry.io was simply two friends with a vision.

“The money is in the place and we have people in place but now the pressure is on because we have to make this work,” he said. “So now I feel like the pressure is on but we’re in a really good position.”

Briefs: Deacon, Dal, Appili, CarbonCure

Colin Deacon

Colin Deacon

Startup Zone Names Deacon as Entrepreneur-in-Residence

Startup Zone, the startup hub in downtown Charlottetown, has announced that Colin Deacon will be joining the Startup Zone team as Entrepreneur-in-Residence. Deacon brings years of experience and know-how from investment, venture capital, and business building, said the organization in a statement. Deacon is the Founder of BlueLight Analytics Inc., a dental technology company based in Halifax. It sells scientific equipment and data services to universities and dental manufacturers in more than 20 countries, as well as large international contracts that increase the success of dental sales teams. Previously, he helped build Canada’s largest health research venture capital fund, Canadian Medical Discoveries Fund Inc. He was part of the team that grew SpellRead Inc. from a single founder-run Charlottetown location to a fast-growing company with a scalable program delivering consistent results across 200 individual sites in North America.

Appili Lands Irap Funds

Appili Therapeutics Inc., an anti-infective drug development company, announced that it will receive an additional $400,000 from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), bringing IRAP support for this project to a total of up to $759,000. This funding supports the development of ATI-1503, an antibiotic targeting drug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria, including Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobactor baumannii, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. These superbugs cause potentially deadly infections, including pneumonia and blood infections. “Doctors are fast running out of treatment options and IRAP funding is an important part of our financial strategy for helping Appili develop a new antibiotic that can treat these deadly diseases,” said Kimberly Stephens, CFO of Appili Therapeutics. ATI-1503 is a synthetic version of the naturally occurring Negamycin antibiotic. Using IRAP funding, Appili’s expert drug development team will employ advanced X-ray crystallography to visualize the exact structure of ATI-1503 binding to the bacterial target.

Dalhousie Holds Pitching Event Tomorrow

Launch Dal, the entrepreneurial hub at Dalhousie University, is moving from its winter programming into the summer offering. On Thursday, the group will host the Collide Pitch Competition at 6pm in the Collider, on the second floor of the Killam Library. Since January, participants in the Collide program have been working on their pitches through workshops, pitch nights and networking events. The five teams will present their final pitches to a panel of judges for their chance to win prize money for their ventures. Launch Dal also announced that it has extended the deadline to its 100K Competition to Friday, April 28 at 5pm. Ten teams will have the opportunity to spend the summer in Launch Dal’s summer accelerator and receive $10,000 each in development funding. Applications are available here.  

CarbonCure Partner Wins Award

Ozinga and CarbonCure Technologies have announced that Ozinga is the winner of the 12th Annual Illinois Emerald Award for Green Building Innovation for its work with Halifax-based CarbonCure. The U.S. Green Building Council-Illinois (USGBC-Illinois) announced the winners of the Emerald Awards, which showcase the best and brightest contributors to a more sustainably built environment by recognizing outstanding individuals, organizations, projects and technologies. Ozinga is a fourth-generation family-owned American business providing ready mix concrete products to Chicago and the surrounding area since 1928. Ozinga installed CarbonCure's technology, which uses waste carbon dioxide to cure concrete, at its Chicago Chinatown plant in September 2016. Following extensive testing, Ozinga has been using the technology to optimize its carbon footprint.

A New BoomersPlus Enters Ontario

Rick Emberley: 'Demand is not going to be the problem.'

Rick Emberley: 'Demand is not going to be the problem.'

BoomersWork, the Halifax company that helps retired executives find part-time work, is rebranding itself as BoomersPlus and launching operations in Ontario.

The new branding is part of an expanded service that will offer its clients — largely people over the age of 50 —various lifestyle services, such as travel bookings and financial services.

Since it began in 2012, the goal of BoomersWork has been to provide contract work for retired executives who want to keep active with project-based or part-time jobs. It matches these individuals with companies or organizations that need some help from experienced personnel, especially for special projects.

Co-founder Rick Emberley said in an interview that this will continue to be a cornerstone of the company, but it will expand its offering as it enters the new central Canadian market.

“It’s always been part of our business model . . . to create what essentially is a lifestyle hub for the boomer generation,” said Emberley. “We started it on the employment area because there were a lot of boomers out there looking for the part-time work and there were . . . a lot of talent gaps existing on the employer side.”

Emberley said he and the other four or five co-founders of the company wanted to carry out the rebrand before they moved into the Ontario market, so they have been working on it for the past few months.

They spent some time raising money in Ontario, seeking funding from individuals who could help the enterprise with more than just capital. They wanted people who could help build networks in the province and provide leadership to the growing venture. Emberley said the group was successful, raising more than $500,000 from several individuals.

David Howe Plots the Growth of Cribcut

As BoomersPlus, Emberley said, the company plans to expand its services beyond its employment offering by providing baby boomers with an online lifestyle destination forum. The company is already in talks with potential partners about providing services on the website. Emberley expects to conclude one deal with a travel company in the coming weeks, and is in talks with a finance company.

“Reaction to our business concept has been great, and our growth is allowing us to expand into larger markets and also offer a wider range of services to those that register on our database,” he said. “Registration is free and our users remain anonymous in the site.”

The company has seven employees — including its development team — in Atlantic Canada and now has its first employee on the ground in Ontario. It plans to grow the team in Ontario in the future to include sales and marketing people. It has begun to encourage baby boomers across Ontario to register on the site, and says it is also receiving “very promising” indications that employers will find the product useful.

Emberley said that after five years, the team understands that there are lots of places on the internet with content for baby boomers. But what’s difficult to find is all the lifestyle content and offers in one place.

“Demand is not going to be the problem,” he said. “If we have a problem, it’s going to be building the product properly so it gets the greatest amount of appeal.”

Jobs: Manifold, Dash Hudson

Our Jobs of the Week column today features a few recent postings in Halifax by IT companies Manifold and Dash Hudson.

Manifold is a young company dedicated to helping developers discover and use tools that can simplify and accelerate their work. The company offers two products – Torus, which lets developers store and share secrets across environments; and the Manifold Platform, which lets you offer cloud services to developers without having to work about things like billing, identity or credentials.

Dash Hudson, which has been hiring strongly in recent months, helps clients analyze their Instagram and SnapChat data. It collects data on how major brands are connecting with customers on Instagram. The photo-sharing app is one of the most popular social media tools available but before Dash Hudson they were unable to analyze what effect Instagram posts were having with customers. It is now moving into providing the same service for SnapChat users. The company is seeking an account executive and a sales development intern. The company already has 23 employees and offices in Halifax, New York and Miami.

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

Halifax

Manifold

Senior Front-End Engineer

Manifold is hiring a senior front-end engineer to help to create intuitive and powerful interfaces that allow developers to buy, integrate, and manage cloud services. All of this will enable providers to sell services and operate their business on Manifold. Manifold has peer-to-peer based workflow in which all work is discussed in the open and reviewed often, and the team is always seeking improvement. The front-end engineer will be responsible for building user interface components that are intuitive, beautiful and reusable across Manifold’s entire platform using React, Redux, Styled Components, and Webpack. This person will have a voice in all the company’s design and implementation discussions across the entirety of its stack from the front-end to the back-end.

Dash Hudson

Customer Success Representative

The customer success representative will help customers with their visual marketing strategies, maximize the value they get from the Dash Hudson platform, and increase the customers’ lifetime value. The responsibilities include trials and onboarding, or working closely with the sales team to support, train, and engaging with potential customers during trial periods. This person must also work with the Customer Success Manager to ensure that proper strategy is being delivered at all times. Dash Hudson is looking for someone adept at problem-solving, communicating, organization, sales and with a knack for details.

Software Developer

Dash Hudson is searching for a developer who will work with its development team to build product used by some of the best companies in the world. The company is looking for talented and motivated engineers across all levels of experience who can thrive in an independent and high pressure environment. This person will influence the initial specs for new products and features, build/modify backend APIs, write front-end javascript code that consumes APIs, and be responsible for ongoing improvements once deployed. Dash Hudson’s current stack includes Python, Flask, Celery, Docker, Redis, MySQL, AWS (Aurora, ELB, ECS and lots more).

Howe Plots Cribcut’s Expansion

David Howe

David Howe

David Howe wants to do for haircuts what Uber did for transportation.

The CEO of Halifax-based Cribcut gets that it’s a bit of a cliché to say your startup can do what Uber did, but it conveys his message: he hopes that Cribcut can change the way that people crop their mops.

The year-old company offers an online platform where you can order a barber or hairstylist to come to your home or office and cut your hair their. It’s a convenient way for busy people to get a haircut, doing away with the inconvenience of traveling to a salon or barber shop, or waiting in line for a barber.

“We are the Uber of barbers,” said Howe at a recent pitching event in Halifax. “We’re a marketplace that connects barbers or stylists with customers for an in-house or in-office haircut.”

Howe is no stranger to online businesses. He formerly ran ToothbrushSubscriptions.com, which automatically mailed customers new toothbrushes every three months so people could change them as dentists recommend.

After selling that company, he spent some time in Silicon Valley, returning to Halifax last year. He teamed up with stylist Courtney Whynott to open Cribcut, and a huge market in which there are already several competitors.

North American pay a lot to have nice hair – like US$20 billion in the U.S. alone each year for haircuts or hairdos, and an additional US$13.4 billion in hair products. Some 400,000 barbers and stylists cut hair at 86,000 establishments.

MTI Raises $8.3M, Led by Radar Capital. 

There is a movement to get these people to make house calls, or office calls. Companies like Shortcut, which operates in New York and San Francisco, and Shairdoo in Los Angeles, are developing networks of stylists who will go to their clients.

So Whynott and Howe are experimenting to figure out the best way to build the business and make money at it.

“We’re definitely in learning mode,” said Howe in an interview. “We’re still figuring out who that first core client is and we’re also looking at the business model.”

The pair experimented with different plans last year and really began to focus on the market full-time in January. At the beginning, they thought that their core market would be the busy executive who didn’t have time to go to retail outlets, but lately they’ve noticed another interesting market – seniors.

“We had a bunch of seniors trickling in without even reaching out to them and that’s when we started paying attention to this market,” said Howe. “We started to interview them at their homes and places where they meet. It’s a market we’re looking at.”

The company is also examining various pricing models. It’s now bringing in about $1,000 a month, mainly by Whynott providing hairstyles for customers. The revenue numbers are doubling each month, said Howe.

The long-term goal is to take Cribcut across North America, but for now they are looking for ways to increase their penetration in the Halifax area.

“The next step would be going to a bigger city like a Toronto,” said Howe. “If we kick a lot of the kinks out in Halifax then the business would make more sense in an even bigger city like Toronto.”

Finalists Named for Kira Awards

The organizers of the 18th annual Kira Awards have announced the finalists for the awards, which recognize success in New Brunswick’s knowledge industry.

The awards committee said in a statement the winners will be named at a gala in Fredericton on May 4. Tickets are available here.

“The KIRA Awards celebrate excellence in technological, social and economic innovation across all sectors and industries in New Brunswick,” said Co-Chair Heather MacLean in the statement. “The awards recognize companies, organizations, and individuals in New Brunswick for their role in the development and/or application of innovative products, processes, services, technologies, or business models.”

The KIRA finalists are:

Economic Impact through Innovation:

Bulletproof Solutions

Construction Navale Atlantique

LuminUltra Technologies Ltd.

Innovation Champion:

Budworm Tracker (Canadian Forest Service)

Institute of Biomedical Engineering, UNB

Succession Connect/Fredericton Chamber of Commerce

Innovation through Technology:

ADI Systems

EhEye Inc.

SimpTek Technologies Inc.

Most Innovative Product or Service:

Amiko Electrical/PLC Control System & Consulting Inc.

Lizotte Machine Vision

Soricimed Biopharma Inc.

Most Innovative Start-up:

Chinova Bioworks

EhEye Inc.

Kognitiv Spark Inc.

Premier’s Award for Innovation – Private Sector (Organizations Supporting/Promoting Work in Private Sector):

CyberNB/International Cyber Security Protection Alliance (ICSPA)

Northern Hardwoods Research Institute Inc.

Research & Productivity Council

Premier’s Award for Innovation – Public Sector (Public Sector Organizations Excelling in Government Service Innovation):

CyberNB

Integrated Service Delivery for Children and Youth

NBDTI Design Branch & UNB Civil Engineering Dept.

Kasis Aims To End Cyanide in Mining

A team of researchers at Mount Allison University was searching for a waste remediation product for miners last year when they struck gold.

Literally.

As a result, they have formed Kasis Environmental, a Sackville- and Moncton-based company that has devised a safe, environmentally friendly means of extracting gold from the rock miners bring out of the ground. If successful, the team could end the use of cyanide in the mining process, making mines safer for both humans and the environment.

CEO Travis Osmond said mines around the world are searching for ways to end the use of cyanide, and Kasis can offer a cost-efficient means of doing so.

“It’s not a matter of planning on if all the mines will change but when,” he said in a presentation to the Fundica Roadshow in Halifax this month.

Last year, Osmond and some fellow Mount A academics were researching whether they could use organic materials to remove toxic materials from tailing ponds. They weren’t having a lot of success, so on a whim they tested to see if their material could remove minerals from a pool of muck. It worked, and suddenly they realized that had a very marketable product.

They call it CyoCell, and it’s a biofiber that gold clings to. Osmond won’t discuss the composition, other than to say it’s made of organic material. He believes it could address a market that’s worth about $4 billion worldwide.

Chinova Accepted into Terra Accelerator

Gold miners now extract gold by crushing rocks and dissolving the powder in a slurry in an oil drum, mixing in cyanide and other materials, which separate out the gold in 24 hours. But there are safety risks when workers have to handle the cyanide, and you have to dispose of the concoction later at a huge cost.

What Kasis does is do away with the poisonous chemicals, instead lowering CyoCell into the slurry like a teabag. A day later, it removes the CyoCell from the solution and bits of gold are clinging to it. Osmond said a kilogram of CyoCell can extract 25 grams of gold.

The team, which has raised about $100,000 in equity funding, owns the intellectual property for CyoCell and is planning to roll the product out in the next few years. It is talking to two Canadian mines, and preparing to go through a pilot with one company, which operates a gold mine in Newfoundland.  Osmond said it will take about six months to prepare a site for the pilot and then run the pilot tests for about six months.

But the upside is huge because environmental laws are becoming more stringent and the costs of cleaning up mining sites are extreme.

“They like our product,” said Osmond, “because it’s not cyanide and you don’t have the environmental costs to come up with.”

Getting Beyond Government VC

Much venture capital funding in Atlantic Canada comes from government sources.  That can have its drawbacks, so the challenge is to attract more private-sector investment to bring badly needed diversity to the region, say some investors.

Brightspark Ventures believes diversity is vital to creating a more robust startup community in Atlantic Canada and throughout the country.

Run by managing partners Sophie Forrest and Mark Skapinker, the firm has been investing in the Canadian VC industry since 1999. They started out traditionally, managing funds from big firms and institutions, but they discovered there was a gap to be filled.

“We’ve always been very entrepreneurial at Brightspark … so we’ve always looked at everything and tried to optimize and make the best of out of it,” says Forest. “So about two-and-a-half years ago, we thought, ‘we will not raise our funds and we’ll capitalize on this new opportunity where wealthy individuals want to get access to venture capital deals and we have the ability to do that.’”

Brightspark now structures its investments by allowing individual accredited investors to invest with them in their deals. The model also helps their portfolio companies by giving them a network of investors they don’t necessarily have to manage.

Though allowing wealthy individuals access to VC deals was a big reason for changing their model, the other was to help bring more variety to the venture capital industry in Canada.

Forest says government does play an important role in venture capital. However, it often comes with additional needs compared to privately run VC funds. With private money, the objective is to help companies become successful and scale fast while providing the investors a good return.

“When you get government funding, that objective is still there obviously, but there can be other objectives. Other objectives could be geography focus … It could be jobs … It could timing. There can be many things that have an impact on this potential of creating returns. Sometimes it’s positive, but sometimes it can just change the objectives.”

Read the full story on Huddle. 

MTI Raises $8.3M, Led by Radar

George Palikaras: 'What we do know is that our product is different than anything else that's available on the market.'

George Palikaras: 'What we do know is that our product is different than anything else that's available on the market.'

Metamaterial Technologies Inc., the Halifax company that makes artificial materials that can alter light, has closed an $8.3 million round of funding, led by Toronto-based venture capital fund Radar Capital Inc.

MTI company said that Radar Capital, investing in Atlantic Canada for the first time, accounted for almost half the funding round. The other backers were Innovacorp and angel investors, including members of the First Angel Network.

MTI has developed metamaterials, or compounds not found in nature, that can filter, absorb or reflect light in certain ways. Its first commercial project is MetaAir, a see-through screen that filters out laser attacks on aircraft. In February, MTI and European aircraft maker Airbus announced they would proceed with the commercial production of MetaAir, manufacturing it in Halifax.

“The main point of this new capital is to support the commercialization of our first product,” said Metamaterial Technologies CEO George Palikaras in an interview. “And we also need to put the right people in place – there are still a few gaps in our staff.”

Palikaras said the company began to work on this round of funding last summer and soon drew the interest of Radar, which decided to lead the round. He added that MTI, which has raised about $15 million since its inception, believes it won’t have to raise VC investment again. If it meets its targets, MTI should be cash-flow positive in calendar 2018, he said.  

Spring Loaded's Fitzgerald Comes Full Circle 

“MTI is a world leader in metamaterials and is at a stage of development where Radar’s investment can propel MTI to commercialization,” said Radar President and CEO Mark Lerohl in a statement. “We invest in companies looking for growth equity to access international markets while building towards a liquidity event for investors.”

Added Charles Baxter, vice president of investment at Innovacorp: “MTI continues to demonstrate the world-class capabilities of its technology platform as it commercializes its laser-protection solution for the aviation industry. We are confident in MTI’s ability to address significant challenges in many other verticals."

The big challenge that MTI has faced with MetaAir is to produce the screens in commercial volumes that are large enough to fit over an airplane windshield. Palikaras said the company can now produce the MetaAir sheets that are 80 centimetres wide and 100 metres long – which means they can be easily cut to fit over the standard 60-centimetre-wide cockpit window.

The company can produce them now through a semi-automated procedure, and the task before MTI is to evolve to a completely automated process, he added.

MTI now operates out of the Innovacorp Technology Innovation Centre in Dartmouth, but its staff has doubled to 30 people since last summer so it is now looking for a new headquarters.

In the longer term, MTI is in the research and development stage of two other product lines. MetaAir is a product that filters light, but the company’s technology can also absorb light and reflect light. MTI is working on finding major industrial partners to help with the development of products using these technologies.

Meanwhile, it looks forward to bringing MetaAir to market in the near future.

“What we do know is that our product is different than anything else that’s available on the market,” said Palikaras. “And the threat of laser strikes is only increasing so we’re quite optimistic about our prospects.”

Braveno: Blockchain-Based Exchange

Trevor Bernard: 'Our dream is to have an IPO on our own platform.'

Trevor Bernard: 'Our dream is to have an IPO on our own platform.'

A blockchain-based financial exchange launched last month, powered by technology developed in New Brunswick.

The company is Braveno (pronounced Bra-VEH-no), and its initial product is an exchange for trading Bitcoin (the so-called crypto-currency that can be traded directly between people) and Ethereum (which is a tool for smart contracts). Blockchain is an emerging digital platform being hailed as a game-changer.

The exchange is available just for these blockchain-based vehicles but the founders, who are spread around the world, have bold expansion plans for this product.

“There was always going to be a series of steps that we were after,” chief technology officer Trevor Bernard said in a recent interview in Fredericton.

“The first is crypto-currency and the next is foreign exchange. The big one we’re after is securities. Our big dream is to have an IPO (for Braveno shares) on our own platform.”

The concept of this exchange — in fact, of anything to do with blockchain — can be complicated. What’s just as interesting and easier to grasp is how Braveno came together with three founders playing three roles from three different continents.

Bernard is a technology ace who has been involved in three exits. Most recently, he was the CTO of UserEvents, the Fredericton company purchased by LiveOps of Redwood City, Calif. in 2014.

A few years ago, he was spending time on a tech website called ZeroMQ, and got to know a serial entrepreneur and crypto-currency specialist called Mathias Grønnebæk, a Dane living in Portugal. They began to discuss a blockchain-based financial exchange and soon Bernard wrote a white paper on the subject. Then Grønnebæk asked him to begin to work on developing such a beast.

They brought on board Grønnebæk’s friend, Kim Hansen, a fellow Dane who was soon to move to Australia. Then they hired Moncton-based security specialist Tom Robichaud to help Bernard build the product.

Grey Lit Matters Wins Fundica Event in Halifax

Given London’s strength in financial services, they incorporated the company in the UK and the team is now spread between New Brunswick, Portugal and Australia.

They’ve released a platform that uses blockchain as a means of trading financial instruments. Best known as the foundation of bitcoin, blockchain is high-security tool that allows users to transfer digital money (or other things) directly between one another and leave an indelible record of the transaction.

There are now a range of applications being developed using blockchain, and the Braveno team is aiming for a global, low-cost exchange that would be open to everybody. It’s free to use, for now, but will eventually draw revenue from each transaction.

By using Ethereum (a blockchain-based platform that distributes smart contracts), the team envisions an equity platform that could automatically pay its member companies dividends at the end of each quarter.

So far, the team members have funded the development from their own resources, but Bernard said eventually they’re going to have to raise money, whether in euros, pounds, dollars, bitcoin or whatever. They’re thinking about doing a small raise and then growing in the short term with revenues from the bitcoin and Ethereum exchange.

A seasoned coder, Bernard said he has found it challenging and fun to work with blockchain. “It’s very difficult,” he said. “It requires a special skillset to work with because . . . it’s very difficult to get things right.”

So does he regret getting into it?

“No. I naturally gravitate toward difficult problems. I’m just a stubborn person who likes to learn.”

Chinova Accepted In Terra Accelerator

Chinova Bioworks has been accepted into the first cohort of a Silicon Valley food and agtech accelerator, during which it plans to prove it can produce its chitosan-based preservative at a large scale.

The Fredericton company, which was spun out of another Fredericton startup, Mycodev Group, has just begun the first cohort of the Terra in San Francisco. The accelerator is being organized by Rocketspace, a tech accelerator that has produced 18 companies valued at more than US$1 billion each, and RaboBank, the Dutch bank known for its financing of agriculture.

Chinova is using chitosan — Mycodev’s main product —as the foundation for an anti-microbial agent, which it employs as a natural preservative in such foods as juices. Chitosan is a compound traditionally sourced from the shells of crustaceans with a range of uses, most often associated with pharmaceutical or biotech industries.

“With Terra we will focus on piloting our natural preservative chitosan technology with the help of a major food ingredient producer, an exceptional opportunity to validate our chitosan preservative at a large scale,” CEO Natasha Dhayagude said in a statement.

Pfera Wins $375K First Prize at Breakthru

Through this accelerator, Chinova hopes to gain brand exposure and be able to validate its product in collaboration with several industry corporations. The accelerator model is structured to allow participants to progress beyond a proof of concept to a commercially viable product.

After an initiation period, Chinova will begin an eight-week tailored curriculum led by industry experts, followed by an eight-week product validation period.

The Terra accelerator aims to bring together the most disruptive food and agtech startups and progressive corporations to fuel innovation and set a new standard for food and agriculture. Last year, Chinova attended IndieBio, an accelerator for life sciences startups in Ireland.

Chinova Bioworks has been known to be raising capital, but COO David Brown declined in an email to give details of the fundraising effort. He said acceptance into Terra does not include funding, and Chinova  hopes its industry pilot through Terra could result in a formal partnership leading to sales.

Chinova is one of several Atlantic Canadian companies now going through accelerators in foreign countries. Fredericton-based WellTrack is now going through the 500 Startups accelerator in Silicon Valley, while Halifax’s SkySquirrel is in the Alltech Accelerator in Dublin and Covina Biomedical is attending the Canadian Technology Accelerator in Boston.

“While Canada is quickly becoming the Silicon Valley for natural products, we’re excited to be able to work in the original Silicon Valley for this program,” said Dhayagude.

Job of the Week: CEO of Innovacorp

Innovacorp is looking for a new President and CEO to take the helm of Nova Scotia’s innovation agency in the spring of 2018.

Current CEO Stephen Duff will complete his five-year term next March and is not seeking a second term. So the agency is looking for a new lead executive to guide the agency through a period of transformation.

Innovacorp is known primarily as an early stage venture capital outfit, and the provincial government recently recapitalized its Nova Scotia First Fund with a $40 million cash injection. That will last it for four or five years.

Meanwhile, Innovacorp has decided to phase out its biennial I-3 Startup Technology Competition, and focus more on quarterly Spark competitions in four different regions in the province.  Innovacorp will also be a limited partner in the new Halifax-based venture capital fund that should be announced in a couple of months. And it will oversee the startup component of the new Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship in Dartmouth, which is due to open in the spring of 2018.

Read our Interview with Current Innovacorp CEO Stephen Duff.

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

Halifax

Innovacorp

President and CEO

The President and Chief Executive Officer can contribute greatly to stimulating the province’s economic growth. Reporting to the board of directors, this person will work collaboratively with entrepreneurs, government, venture capitalists, academics, and industry organizations. He or she will lead Innovacorp’s long-term strategy to help Nova Scotia start-ups commercialize their technologies and succeed in the global marketplace. The CEO will pursue new opportunities and partnerships, actively engage stakeholders and reshape business strategies to anticipate an ever-changing, dynamic marketplace. The ideal candidate is an experienced entrepreneur, preferably in technology, and is comfortable in an environment of high public scrutiny and accountability. Innovacorp is looking for someone with strong communication and relationship-building skills.

Grey Lit Matters Wins Fundica Event

Cora Cole is moving on to the national Fundica Roadshow finals, where she will be pitching for a chance to win $1 million.

Cole is the Founder and CEO of Grey Lit Matters, a Halifax startup whose platform provides researchers with a targeted audience for research that has not yet been reviewed by peers. On Thursday, it beat out 10 competitors to win the top spot in the Fundica Roadshow stop in Halifax. It will now proceed to the national finals, where it will compete against nine other regional winners for the $1 million first prize.

“The traditional peer-review process is still to go to journals that [collate] all the research out there,” Cole told a panel of judges at the Fundica event. “That process hasn’t changed since the First World War. We’re going to change that.”

The problem with scientific research is that only about 10 percent of it ends up in peer-reviewed academic journals. In 2013, there was $500 billion in research conducted around the world, so $450 billion of it – what’s known as grey literature – was ignored by academic journals.

That means research that could cure diseases or lead to medical devices tends to languish, despite the evidence that research in grey literature can produce groundbreaking products. Viagra, pacemakers, penicillin and rubber all came from grey literature R&D.

Grey Lit Matters has produced a Software-as-a-Service platform on which researchers can store, share, and disseminate unpublished, non-peer-reviewed research. Each piece of research must be affiliated with an accredited institution, like a university or hospital. For the person who has completed research, it means his or her work can find a relevant audience. For the broader community, Grey Lit Matters finds them the relevant material so they’re not awash with research papers that don’t interest them.

NS Startups Doing Well and Doing Good

The platform’s software assesses each reader’s interests, discipline and favourite influencers, and uses that information to customize a journal for each individual. Users get regular, focused material that targets their area of interest.

Once the research is disseminated, a vast range of experts are able to comment on it. The peer review system has its problems, such as academics agreeing only with colleagues who share their views. By opening research up to the crowd, Grey Lit Matters hopes to broaden the feedback and discussion on scientific research.  

As it works at raising a $500,000 seed round, Grey Lit Matters is now piloting its platform with a few researchers and it hopes a full launch on two fronts in the third quarter of this year. First, it plans to open up the platform to a broader range of individual researchers. Second, it hopes to strike a deal with a research organization, such as a hospital, which accelerate the growth of the company.

Meanwhile, Cole and five teammates on Grey Lit Matters hope to work with organizations in one area of research so that international researchers in that field become early adopters of the platform. She is talking with groups involved in autism for such a purpose.

“We’re having discussions with several departments at local hospitals … and two disease organizations,” said Cole. “I’d like our first vertical to be a cause that has global impact.”

Stephen Fitzgerald Comes Full Circle

Stephen Fitzgerald

Stephen Fitzgerald

After a career that has included devising an experiment for the space station and creating the first carbon-fibre hockey stick, Stephen Fitzgerald intends to boost the bionic knee brace produced by Spring Loaded Technology.

Fitzgerald recently took over from cofounder Bob Garrish as chief technology officer at the Dartmouth-based firm.

Fitzgerald comes aboard at a time of growth. Spring Loaded is doubling production capacity every 6-12 months and is taking orders from Europe, the U.S. and Australia.

Fitzgerald said the Spring Loaded technology is unusual because, rather than working around a traditional spring, the company’s “bionic brace” uses a proprietary liquid spring which compresses molecules in a silicon gel as the brace is bent.

“We’re currently refining our technology and working on our processes for customer service and quality assurance,” he said.

Last year, the company launched its Levitation knee brace. The brace is designed to leverage its liquid spring to increase strength and enhance mobility while providing stabilization.

“People with osteoarthritis are the perfect market for the current Levitation design,” Fitzgerald said.

“For people with knee ligament injuries, minor changes to the brace will allow it to be an effective tool to help with rehabilitation post-surgery . . . Doctors can tailor the brace to the individual’s range of motion.”

The company has prototypes of a ski brace, which they hope to launch within two years.

“It will be aimed at people like me,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m 54. I ski a lot. This brace would help me ski all day.”

Three Atlantic Canadian Startups Present at Aerospace Event

The company has also developed a reinforced brace, the UpShot, for military use. Fitzgerald said the UpShot is being tested by the Canadian military.

Spring-Loaded took shape during the first cohort of Dalhousie University’s Starting Lean program in 2012. The aim was to develop a knee brace that both stabilized the joint and added power.

Last March, the company announced a $1.9 million venture capital investment from Build Ventures. Spring Loaded had previously raised more than $1.8 million in equity and non-dilutive capital, including investments from the First Angel Network and Innovacorp.

The company now has around 30 employees working out of its location in Burnside, Dartmouth, where the device is produced.

Fitzgerald said he is happy to have found this role in Halifax, his hometown.

“I’m stunned to realize how good the entrepreneurial ecosystem is here,” he said. “I’ve lived here all my life, but rarely worked here.”

The Dalhousie-educated mechanical engineer and computer scientist previously worked on an experiment that embedded fibre-optic sensors into composite materials. The materials were carried into space on the space shuttle, where the Canada Arm helped assess how the connections would survive being bombarded by micro debris in space.

Fitzgerald also built cable tray systems for the English Channel tunnel. He designed and produced carbon fibre sporting goods, including the first carbon fibre hockey stick, produced for Bauer in 1992.

“That was the first carbon fibre stick on the market. There are carbon fibre parts on our braces that are very similar. Many of the things I learned are similar to what I’m doing here,” he said.

“My life’s a circle. I’m home now. The company is growing so quickly we’re in temporary space with desks touching . . . We’re a young team. I’m about 20 years older than the next-oldest person in the engineering team.”

He said there may be other future uses for the technology, such as incorporating the lightweight liquid springs into vehicles, but for now the knee-related products are the focus.

He said Spring Loaded has no significant competitors.

“Eighty years of patent applications show that people have been trying to create a brace like this, but there’s no other spring-loaded brace that has anywhere near the amount of power this one has,” he said.

3 Atlantic Startups at Aerospace Event

When the organizers of Montreal’s International Aerospace Week wanted to showcase 11 global startups in the aerotech space this week, the group of presenters included three companies from Atlantic Canada.

Agile Sensor Technologies of St. John’s, Envenio of Fredericton and QRA Corp. of Halifax all presented Monday at the Aerospace Innovation Hub, attended by more than 100 international aerospace executives from around the world. The audience included reps from such blue-chip companies as Panasonic, Boeing, Rolls Royce and BAE Systems.

Starburst Accelerator, a global aerotech accelerator with offices on three continents, and Innovitech, a Montreal aerospace incubator, teamed up to present the pitching event, inviting startups from North America and Europe. It was part of International Aerospace Week, which is now being held in Montreal.

“We are delighted to have been selected for this prestigious event,” Envenio vice-president Scott Walton said in a statement. “The event is an exciting opportunity for us to present our technology EXN/Aero and future plans to renowned global brands, and to demonstrate how our software can impact their operations.”

Nautel Turns to Rocket Science

The pitchers included six Canadian companies, two each from France and the U.K., and one from the U.S. Thomas Belaid, a spokesman for Starburst in Paris, said the organizers have not yet named a winner from the event and are still tabulating the results.

It’s perhaps surprising that half the Canadian contingent came from the East Coast, as Atlantic Canada lacks that huge industrial complex that usually supports startups in aerospace and defence industries. What we do have are universities, and the three companies that presented in Montreal this week all sprang from academic institutions.

Agile Sensor, which grew out of research at Memorial University inNewfoundland, makes components for the burgeoning robotics industry, including drones and unmanned underwater vehicles. In February, the company launched its latest product, Synapse, a performance-monitoring multi-motor controller for drones. Synapse is designed to provide flight data, real-time propulsion system feedback, faster controller response time, and 10 per cent longer flight times.

Enenio began with intellectual property that was developed at the University of New Brunswick. The company has developed revolutionary computational fluid dynamics — or CFD — software, which it calls EXN/Aero.

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

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

The company, which began as a research project at Dalhousie University, launched a new product called QVscribe in February. The new tool makes sure manufacturers use precise and understandable language in their requirements documents. If left untouched, sloppy language in requirements could result in significant rework in both the design and build phases.

Smartpods Lands Big Sale with Feds

We hear about it all the time. It’s the curse of the modern office worker. We’re sitting ourselves to death.

So we see standing desks, treadmill desks and bike desks attempting to counteract the effects of sitting for hours on end. But a Dieppe, N.B.-based IT company has a different sort of solution, one that means you don’t even have to think about moving throughout the day since your desk will do it for you.

Leon DesRoches is the founder and CEO of Smartpods. Informed by his background in physiotherapy, kinesiology and architecture and inspired when he saw that his young son would follow an iPad whenever it was moved so he could keep playing games, DesRoches had the idea for Smartpods.

Smartpods are workstations designed to be innovative and dynamic, aiming to create a healthier lifestyle for office workers and reduce common illnesses and conditions related to a sedentary lifestyle. The desks move throughout the day and workers adjust to follow their work.

Read the full story on Huddle.

10 Startups To Pitch at Fundica

The Fundica Roadshow has announced the 10 companies that will pitch at its event in Halifax on Thursday at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre on Summer Street.

The event will feature startups from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec, which will all have a chance to move on to the national competition. Tickets for the event are available here

The Fundica Roadshow holds pitching events from Halifax to Victoria, allowing a select group of early-stage innovators a chance to pitch their business to a panel of angels, VCs, banks and government organizations. All winners from the first round of pitching sessions will be invited to the Grand Finale where the top Canadian startup will receive a $1 million investment from First Stone Venture Partners. If there is a split decision, two startups will divide the prize money.

“Out of the five years we’ve been organizing the Roadshow, 2017 has by far received the best feedback by investors and entrepreneurs alike,” said Xavier Freeman, Head of Partnerships and Marketing at Fundica, “We are confident that our Halifax event will be an incredible opportunity to connect with funders and to learn how to grow your business.”

The 10 selected Halifax pitching startups are:

Curbza, Dartmouth;

EhEye Inc., Saint John;

Labfundr, Halifax;

• Kasis Environmental Ltd., New Brunswick;

• Prëmo, Montreal;

Cribcut, Halifax;

QUBER, Moncton;

Dugo, Halifax;

SimpTek Technologies, Fredericton;

• And GreyLitMatters Inc.; Halifax.

The 2017 Fundica Roadshow will also hold pitching events in Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto. 

Dou It Fresh’s New Hygiene Product

I witnessed the most extraordinary pitch last week — possibly the most compelling pitch I’ve ever seen.

It was delivered by a team of students in the St. Mary’s University Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program. The team’s name is Dou It Fresh, and they have prototyped a product that will enhance something most of us don’t discuss, unless it’s in jokes.

They’re out to revolutionize douching.

“The subject we’re talking about is very sensitive for some people, but we have to talk about it,” said Anindita Gupta in leading off her team’s presentation.

Douche has two definitions. One’s an insult that can be found in the Urban Dictionary and the other, more conventional, definition is “a jet or current of liquid (as a cleansing solution) directed against or into a bodily part or cavity.”

Gupta and her teammates, Eli Chen and Michael Thompson-Hall, say more people use douching products for cleanliness and hygiene than you’d expect — one in four women and half of gay men.

They are proposing a new device that would make it easier for people to douche.

They’re applying for a patent, so they don’t want the details public. But their device would be portable, easy to use and could control the flow of water. They believe they can produce and sell the product at a price that would be affordable for consumers and still allow them to grow a profitable business.

SNM Releases Anti-SMoking App

It’s difficult to get a read on how big their total accessible market is. They say the global market for similar products is $21 billion. It seems that figure includes other so-called “adult” products. But even if their estimate is out by 90 per cent, they’re looking at a billion-dollar market. (When I went into journalism all those years ago, I never thought I’d be debating the size of the global douche market.)

Dou It Fresh presented their business plans at the New Product Competition staged last week by The Spark Zone and SMU’s David Sobey Centre for Innovation in Retailing and Services. Dou It Fresh didn’t win the $10,000 first prize — it went to a team called Blue Shell, whose product gives consumers information on their phones about products they see in a store. The competitors were tasked with devising a product that enhanced the retail sector, and the Dou It Fresh missed the mark slightly.

But the judges (I was one of them) were impressed enough with the Dou It Fresh pitch that The Spark Zone — an entrepreneurship group comprised of several Halifax post-secondary institutions — came up with a special $5,000 second prize for the group.

With that money, the team will likely continue with its product. They have a problem and an opportunity: a problem in that people don’t like discussing the market they’re targeting, an opportunity because Dou It Fresh can break ground in this market. Gupta correctly pointed out that 20 years ago, condoms were rarely discussed publicly but they’re now advertised and promoted around the world.

Aside from the novelty of their product, Gupta, Chen and Thompson-Hall have plotted a clear path to market, targeting established retailers in the U.S. and China.

Vesuvius Crowdfunds Centauri Sequel

Vesuvius Media, a Halifax-based game development company, will launch its new board game Centauri Saga: Season 1 Legacy Game on Kickstarter this Saturday.

The new game is a sequel to the original Centauri Saga game, which Vesuvius Media launched last year in a Kickstarter campaign that raised $68,761 from 825 backers.

Centauri Saga is a cooperative, sci-fi, 4X board game for 1 to 4 players, and Season 1: Legacy Game will be an expansion to the core game, not a stand-alone game that players need to buy from scratch.

“We promised our players that Centauri Saga was just the beginning,” Konstantinos Manos, Vesuvius Media's CEO and lead game designer, said in a statement. “It has been just over a year since the success of our first Kickstarter campaign. We gathered tons of feedback, really listened to our community of players, and now we're excited to be back with a Legacy Expansion.”

With each new Centauri Saga Season, players will expand the components of the core game with new miniatures, cards, and game scenarios, but they can also play a Legacy Campaign. The Legacy Campaign will include opening secret packages, working through an exciting adventure, and playing several sessions where the choices made in one session affect the following sessions.

“We're gamers ourselves and we love Legacy games,” said Manos. “The thing we don't like about Legacy games is the high price. That's why we designed a Legacy expansion for Centauri Saga instead of the standard one-time use Legacy board game.”

The company said the Legacy game will follow the same unique combination of characteristics of the core game – 4X, cooperative and playable with 1 to 4 players. The core game includes 47 highly detailed plastic miniatures with the potential to unlock more during the new Kickstarter campaign.

“We 3D printed the Ravager Boss and it is awesome,” said Manos, referring to a key feature of the Centauri Saga. “If we manage to unlock the Ravager miniature during this Kickstarter, the molds will make four pieces that create one very impressive Boss!”

The Kickstarter campaign will also offer upgrades to the core game such as thicker player mats, a more comprehensive rulebook and more.

In November, Vesuvius Media's third Kickstarter campaign for the board game Dwar7s Fall surpassed its crowdfunding goal with 1622 backers worldwide pledging US$82,479. Production of Dwar7s Fall finished and the games started reaching backers last month, one month earlier than promised. 

SNM Releases Anti-Smoking App

After several years in developing her product,  Hazel Harrison of St. John’s is launching the first part of her product to help wean smokers off cigarettes.

Harrison is the CEO of SNM Global Technologies – which stands for Smoke No More. The company has just released its iOS-based app that helps smokers to gradually cut down until they cut out the habit altogether. Later this year, the company will release a device that accompanies the app – an automated cigarette case that releases cigarettes at specific times of the day.

“The app on its own is helping people to quit smoking,” said Harrison in an interview last week. “We have eight people who are now testing it – three in Newfoundland, one in Ontario and four in China. One has quit already.”  She said another three of the testers have reduced their consumption from about 22 cigarettes a day to one.

SNM 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.

What the SNM app does is notify users on their smartphones when they can have a smoke, and it reduces the number as the days go on. It uses algorithms to determine how each smoker should cut back. It is also strategic about when it allows the smoker to light up. For example, if a guy likes a cigarette after dinner, the app won’t tell him to have one until 30 or 60 minutes after dinner. The goal is to break the habits that keep smokers imprisoned in the routine of smoking.

NS Startups Doing Well and Doing Good

The device will be 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 to re-enforce the messages on the app. Harrison estimated the device would be ready in four or five months.

“We’re currently marketing and advertising to make people aware of it,” she said. “We’re trying to meet with people from [Memorial] University who are trying to do quit or doing non-smoking projects.”

She added that she is now in talks with independent bodies, such as universities and mental health groups, to try to have the product tested independently.

One person who is now testing the product is Harrison’s own husband, who has tapered his smoking for 20 cigarettes a day down to one.  She laughed when asked how the atmosphere is in her house with a smoker trying to quit.

“It’s not grumpy,” she said. “I think frustrated is more the word but he’s still sticking with it.”

Jobs: Dash Hudson and Swept

CEO Michael Brown and CTO Matt Cooper of Swept

CEO Michael Brown and CTO Matt Cooper of Swept

Dash Hudson and Swept, two of the companies featured at the Amplify conference last week,are looking for fresh talent in Halifax.

Dash Hudson, whose CEO Thomas Rankin outlined how his company used sales development reps to generate more paying customers, is now looking for two SDRs and an account executive.

Dash Hudson, which has been hiring strongly in recent months, helps clients analyze their Instagram and SnapChat data. It collects data on how major brands are connecting with customers on Instagram. The photo-sharing app is one of the most popular social media tools available but before Dash Hudson they were unable to analyze what effect Instagram posts were having with customers. It is now moving into providing the same service for SnapChat users. The company is seeking an account executive and a sales development intern.

Swept, whose CTO Matt Cooper spoke at Amplify about  the company’s efforts to build solid lists of potential clients, is looking for a DevOps/Systems Engineer. Clean Simple licenses software to commercial cleaners that help them communicate and improve efficiency.

Read our coverage of Dash Hudson, Swept and other companies at Amplify .

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

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Sales Development Representative

Dash Hudson is looking for two sales development representatives, who will be a critical piece to the growth and development of Dash Hudson's sales process. They will manage a creative and customized outreach strategy to potential customers in verticals such as fashion, beauty, luxury, travel, food, publishing and consumer electronics. Through developing and maintaining the early stages of the sales pipeline, they will contribute to the overall success of the sales team. The position carries three main responsibilities: first, managing lead generation; second, overseeing custom outreach process, and third, being responsible for performance and tracking. The company is looking for someone with a desire to learn and improve processes, with strong written and verbal communication skills, and who is self-motivating.

Account Executive

The account executive will work with Dash Hudson’s sales team on the business development process, contributing to such tasks as lead generation, sales outreach, progress tracking and closing deals. He or she will engage with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications. The duties include meeting  monthly and quarterly sales quotas, reviewing and qualifying inbound leads, and managing CRM and sales pipeline. Dash Hudson is looking for someone with one to four years of experience in a similar role, and someone with analytical, business development, strategy, and sales skills. The successful candidate must be hyper-organized with equal parts diligent and creative.

Swept

DevOps/Systems Engineer

Swept is looking for a DevOps/Systems Engineer to help it build software for the Janitorial industry. The technology is designed specifically for commercial cleaning managers and their cleaners. The employee must work with the team that enables and monitors Swept’s production and quality environments. This is a multi-faceted position that combines engineering, development, quality assurance and business analysis in a fun and fast growing start-up.  The winning candidate must monitor and measure the existing infrastructure, collaborate to develop deployment strategies, and evaluate and implement new technologies. A list of the position’s technological requirements is available in the job posting. 

NS Startups Doing Well & Doing Good

High-growth innovation companies are great because they promise to become major exporters and employers. That economic potential is wonderful. What’s even better is that so many of these company have a great social and/or environmental impact.

Last month, the editors at the Chronicle-Herald asked me for a look at a few Nova Scotian companies that are doing well and doing good. I came up with a list of eight social ventures, and it's worth noting five were founded by women. Here are a few of just a few of the social ventures worth our attention in Nova Scotia:

Health Outcomes Worldwide — Corrine McIsaac, New Waterford

HOW has developed desktop and mobile e-health platforms that help health-care providers improve the treatment of chronic wounds. The system, called how2trak, uses data to provide real-time, point-of-care tools to clinicians for treatment in institutions and after they’re released.

Why It Matters

The company is a pioneer in applying data analytics to health care, ensuring faster recovery and fewer relapses for patients, and saving money for health-care systems.

SeeMePly — Shawn Simamba and Stephanie Winter, St. Mary’s University

SeeMePly is developing an application system for private schools in Africa. A huge proportion of secondary school students in Africa are educated privately, but finding, applying to and paying schools are huge pains for families. The SeeMePly platform promises to simplify the process and improve education.

Why It Matters

A strong education system is essential to developing the middle class in Africa, and SeeMePly has the potential to improve the efficiency of private education.

Dadavan — Jennifer Hill, Waverley

Since 1998, Dadavan has been developing educational databases that track the progress of First Nations students. The company works with First Nations communities by providing databases that track students’ attendance and marks, as well as curriculum requirements and lesson plans.

Why It Matters

The graduation rate of First Nations youth living on-reserve was 35.5 per cent in 2011, according to one study. The Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey community of Nova Scotia has been using Dadavan for the past 10 years and now has an 87.7 per cent graduation rate, says the company.

Squiggle Park — Leah Skerry and Julia Rivard, Halifax

The educational technology company, formerly known as EyeRead, has developed online reading games for pre-kindergarten to Grade 1 teachers to use in the classroom. Some 580 teachers have enlisted to pilot the technology with strong take-up in such American states as New York, Texas and California. The company’s long-term goal is to bring out an eye-tracking system that can monitor how children perform in their reading.

Why It Matters

Once a range of students uses the product, Squiggle Park hopes to build up a library of data on how children learn to read and use it to help educators. The goal is to help more children read better.

LifeRaft — John Gallinaugh, Halifax

LifeRaft uses a digital platform to identify potential threats through social media posts. Launched in 2014, LifeRaft identifies threatening keywords, such as “kill” or “gun,” on social media sources like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. It filters the findings so only the most important information is communicated to the client, whether it’s a police department or educational institution.

Why It Matters

By identifying online threats, authorities can reach out to disturbed people before they commit a violent act. They can also identify and prevent online bullying or harassment.

Woodscamp — Will Martin and Alastair Jarvis, Mahone Bay

WoodsCamp uses open data available from the provincial government to quickly tell woodlot owners what is growing on their property. The online system ascribes a score to each lot to assess the value of its contents. That means owners selling their timber have an idea of the value, even if they live thousands of miles from the woodlot.

Why It Matters

Too many remote woodlot owners don’t know how to manage their assets so they don’t bother managing them. Some end up selling their lots, which often results in clear cutting. Woodscamp’s goal is to encourage the responsible management of forests.

Green Power Labs — Alexandre Pavlovski, Dartmouth

Founded in 2003, Green Power Labs has developed products that reduce energy consumption. Its predictive analytics product, SolarSatData for Utilities, helps power suppliers determine future patterns of energy supply based on expected change of solar radiation. And it has been developing a product that can optimize energy consumption in commercial buildings by analyzing a range of data.

Why It Matters

Commercial buildings are huge consumers of electricity, and making them more efficient can reduce carbon emissions.

Midgard Insect Farm — Joy Hillier, Windsor

Midgard Insect Farm is producing a cricket protein powder that will go into pet foods made by its investor Dane Creek Capital Corp. of Ontario. The business makes economic sense because cricket protein can be produced more inexpensively than the traditional source, beef. Hillier plans to expand across North America.

Why It Matters

Beef farming is known to produce high levels of greenhouse gases, so drawing protein from crickets is good for the environment.

Keefe Interim CEO at PEI Startup Zone

Doug Keefe

Doug Keefe

Startup Zone, the innovation hub in downtown Charlottetown, announced this week that Doug Keefe would become its Interim CEO. The Interim CEO of the Startup Zone is integral to the continued development and management of Prince Edward Island’s business incubator, the groups said in a statement.

Keefe is the founder of Logikl Technology Inc, which has developed Software-as-a-Service for a number of companies that have been acquired. Recently, he has been the Senior Project Manager for Shared Services Canada, where he has overseen the management of a portfolio of projects relating to the implementation of key IT-based initiatives.

Prior to this role, he was the co-founder and CTO for the Charlottetown-based startup, GetGifted Inc. that saw the delivery of more than $2 million in free gifts to more than 20,000 users.

“The Board of the Startup Zone was very pleased to find a candidate like Doug Keefe that is able to help us continue to develop and grow the Startup Zone,” said Board Chair Alex MacBeath in the statement. “We are looking forward to implementing our strategy for our second year of operations.”

“I'm very excited to be joining the Startup Zone and build on its great success to date,” said Keefe. “As we continue to foster the startup ecosystem on PEI, I see the Startup Zone playing an important role in helping bring entrepreneurs from ideas to thriving world-class businesses. I'm honoured to join this team and to further our mission to ignite new businesses on PEI.”

Keefe will begin his term mid-April to cover for CEO Christina MacLeod, who is beginning maternity leave.

Local Speakers Shine at Amplify

The Amplify Growth Conference in Halifax Tuesday displayed something that’s becoming more common in startup events in Atlantic Canada: When the local speakers took the stage, they were generally as impressive as the experts flown in from the U.S.

Amplify focused on growth marketing — the process by which small companies efficiently reach huge numbers of people and convert as many as possible to paying customers. Global pioneers in the movement, like keynote speaker GrowthHackers CEO Sean Ellis, delivered tremendous insights on state-of-the-art online marketing to attendees at Pier 21.

In the middle of it, five experts from the region told their tales of hacking growth, and they meshed in seamlessly with the visitors from Silicon Valley — both in the quality of their presentations and the methodology they employed.

“I think there’s a big opportunity for people to be more sophisticated in the sales development space,” said Thomas Rankin, CEO of Dash Hudson, one of the local presenters.

Rankin and the other execs outlined the tactics they had used to “hack growth.” In the case of Halifax-based Dash Hudson, which provides analytics of social media reach for such industries as fashion and publishing, the company has developed a process for reaching new clients.

Interns cultivate lists of potential clients, who are emailed by sales development reps. Account execs, whose signatures are on the emails, follow up with introductory calls. And they always demo the Dash Hudson product.

“We always try to show our product to people, even if they’re kind of noncommittal, because our product is really kickass,” said Rankin.

WEnTech: SaaS for Green Energy

Ardi Iranmanesh, a co-founder of Halifax-based Affinio, said his company tested a range of processes until finally deciding to use its own product, which identifies communities of individuals with complementary interests. Using Affinio’s technology, the company was able to identify potential clients and then use a range of techniques to contact them and convert them to clients.

“We identified our tribe,” he said. “And the lesson we learned is to never stop testing. We run inbound and outbound (marketing) in partnership.”

Matt Cooper, co-founder of Halifax’s Swept, said his company was challenged in growth hacks because it produces software for janitorial services, an industry group with a small digital footprint. It therefore strove to build up lists of potential clients, and found that some data providers had lists that were wildly out of date

“The problem is it’s really hard to come back from calling someone who’s been dead for seven years,” said Cooper.

The company found that it could build up a list through Yellow Pages and Yelp, and then use various processes to determine the quality of each lead.

One final Halifax company, Proposify, uses a “lead magnet” built right into its product to gain thousands of view a month and develop a group of 4,000 paying clients, said the company’s growth marketer Patrick Edmonds.

By lead magnet, he means offering something to potential clients that they can use and will make them view the product favourably. The key: The lead magnet has to demonstrate the value of the product that’s being sold.

One common thread that ran through all the presentations is that the companies arrived at their growth hacks after a painstaking process of trial and error.

“We’ve been hearing a lot about great growth hacks that work,” said Kate Johnson of Moncton-based Alongside. “What falls under the radar is how many failures there were to get to that point.”

NB Ladies Learning Code Collaboration

The Fredericton and the Saint John chapters of Ladies Learning Code will now be working more closely together as a New Brunswick team to offer bigger, better, more variety events with the aim to normalize computer science knowledge and get more female into the technology industry.

“We are working together to make sure that our events aren’t on the same weekend unless it’s a big Canadian-wide initiative,” says Sally Ng, the Fredericton co-lead.

Ladies Learning Code is a nation-wide movement with the mission to be the leading resource for women and youth to become builders, not just consumers of technology. Ladies Learning Code has chapters across Canada hosting workshop, like Girls Learning Code and Kids Learning Code. . . .

Read the Full Story on Huddle. 

Innovacorp Seeks CEO, Ends I-3

Stephen Duff

Stephen Duff

Innovacorp is looking for a successor to CEO Stephen Duff, who plans to step down next year, and has ended its I-3 Startup Technology Competition.

Duff said in an interview Tuesday he has told the board of the the Nova Scotia innovation agency that he will not continue as CEO when his five-year term ends in the spring of 2018. The board has hired Knightsbridge Robertson Surrette to conduct the search for his replacement.

He downplayed his exit from Innovacorp, saying he always intended to complete one five-year term and he is now working with the board to ensure an orderly succession when he leaves.

“It will be the end of my term and I’m moving on to the next dimension of my life,” he said.

Duff also said Innovacorp will not stage its I-3 competition this year, believing it can help more startups by regularly staging its Spark competitions in regions around the province. For the past several years, Innovacorp has staged I-3 every second year, naming the two best new startups in five regions around the province, and awarding at least $200,000 to a grand prize winner.

“Because of the evolution of our ecosystem, a biennial event just doesn’t cut it anymore,” said Duff, who has held the position since March 2013.

“Rather than do something once every two years, we’d like to move to doing something on a quarterly basis, moving from region to region.”

The Spark competitions, which have been held several times in Cape Breton and once in western Nova Scotia, award $10,000 to $50,000 to early-stage companies. Innovacorp is considering adding Spark events in the northern mainland and Halifax Regional Municipality so that each year there could be a Spark competition in four different regions.

That would allow small, non-dilutive investments in a range of companies, after which Innovacorp could offer support to prepare them for investment. It could then use its venture capital fund to finance the best companies.

Pfera Wins Top Prize at New Brunswick's Breakthru

Meanwhile, the agency would continue to host accelerators in specific sectors. Innovacorp has already held accelerators for oceans industries and clean technology, and is planning similar programs for information technology and life sciences.

Another major initiative that Innovacorp is due to complete this year is the creation of a new venture capital fund in Halifax.

The provincial government will put up $25 million for the fund and has received proposals from seven private-sector players interested in bringing in additional money and managing the fund. An announcement is expected this spring.

Duff is a board member and shareholder at Dartmouth-based Precision BioLogic, where he worked for 26 years before Innovacorp. He indicated he plans to continue with his work on the Precision board after next March.

A major accomplishment of Duff’s tenure was securing $40 million in investment funds for Innovacorp last October, and Duff said he’s proud of the development of the venture capital portfolio. In the five years up to March 31, 2016, the company invested a total of $30 million in 43 Nova Scotian startups.

“If you look at the companies in our portfolio, and the quality of the investments we’ve made over the past few years, I’m very proud of that,” said Duff. “We have some world-class companies in the portfolio and you’re going to see some really interesting developments there.”

[Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.]

The World’s Top University Incubator

Tucked inside one of the elegant limestone facades of Bath, England, just metres from the ancient Roman ruins, is a marvel that few tourists visit: part of the world’s No. 1 university incubator.

The University of Bath Innovation Centre occupies an unremarkable building on the banks of the Avon River. It’s a crowded, bustling space that would interest neither architects nor archeologists. What’s magnificent about it is the role it plays in the startup ecosystem in Southwest England.

Bath’s Innovation Centre is a founding member of SETsquared, a group of five university incubators that have banded together to share resources, mentoring and promotion for the companies in their network. This collaboration is the main reason SETsquared was ranked the No. 1 university business incubator in the world by UBI Global.

“We all have our own incubators, so at any given time SETsquared has access to 250 startups,” said Ali Hadavizadeh, deputy head of enterprise at the Bath facility. “So we are able to showcase a much broader spectrum of businesses than just what we have in Bath.”

The Bath incubator would be an impressive outfit on its own. It accepts startups developed at the university and from the broader community, and never invests directly in these companies. About half of the 51 companies now enrolled in the incubator originated at University of Bath.

Waterloo's Landmine Boys Win Business Model Competition

Fifteen years ago, it partnered with the universities of Exeter, Surrey, Southampton, and Bristol to form SETsquared, which has since cultivated a range of innovation in the southwest corner of England. They had incubated 1,000 companies and created 9,000 jobs as of 2015.

Hadavizadeh said each university in the group has its own particular strength. Bath is strong in mechanical engineering, for example, and Bristol’s forte is medicine. That means that a company from any catchment area can find expertise and facilities in their sector at a partner university if they are not available locally.

He said the Incubator Centre hosts pitching competitions to engage with students at an early stage, and then nurtures the companies as they grow. Though the centre does not invest in the companies, entrepreneurs are eligible for academic bursaries, which can support them as they grow the business.

And SETsquared works to get their companies investment from independent investors. Each year, it takes the best companies to London for a day of pitching to investors. Only 20-25 companies pitch at a given event, which means the quality of company is good and many find meaningful funding. In 2015, the five SETsquared members raised more than £60 million (C$96 million at current exchange rates), with the University of Bath accounting for about one-third of the total.

One entrepreneur who has benefited from the Innovation Centre is Tom Minor, who three years ago launched DoodleMaths, whose gamified EdTech product uses algorithms to determine a student’s strengths and weaknesses in math and tailors curriculum accordingly.

“We started to get good traction in the App store, and the support we received here really helped,” said Minor. “In the last three years, we’ve raised £750,000.”

Hadavizadeh said these are the types of companies that the Innovation Centre is looking for — those with groundbreaking innovation that can get to the marketplace.

“We’re very, very particular about who we engage with — our selection criteria are very tough,” said Hadavizadeh. “We want those startups that have a chance to have an impact, to create jobs and wealth.”

4 Atlantic Canadians at G20 Summit

When the G20 Young Entrepreneurs' Alliance Summit meets in Berlin in June, one-eighth of the Canadian delegation will be made up of representatives from Atlantic Canada.

Canada is sending 32 young entrepreneurs to the gathering, which provides a forum for young people to network and discuss ways to enhance the global ecosystem for entrepreneurship.

The four representatives who hail from the East Coast are:

- Marc Gauvin, Fredericton, founder of Momentum Consults and Co-Founder & COO of  Tudo Worldwide;
- Connie McInnes, Halifax, Owner and Creator, Rock In Opposition Studio Inc.;
- Sally Ng, Fredericton, CEO of The Triple Effect and DigiLearn;
- And Dana Parsons, St. John’s, Co-Founder and CEO of Brownie Points Inc.

The G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance is a global network of young entrepreneurs and the organizations that support them. Futurpreneur, the Canadian organization that supports youth entrepreneurship, helped to select the 32 Canadian delegates

Last year, Emily Miller of Halifax attended the G20 event in China. She is a Venture for Canada Fellow and now works as a customer success manager at LeadSift. 

Jobs of the Week: iWave, Alongside

New postings at iWave Information Systems in Charlottetown and Alongside in Moncton are the focus of the Jobs of the Week column this week .

Based in Charlottetown, iWave has developed software that helps researchers, fundraisers and other development professionals learn more about their prospects and donors. The 26-year-old company is now looking for a sales manager and an acting marketing manager.

Formerly known as Qimple, Moncton-based Alongside has developed software that helps companies recruit talent.  Stating its mission is to humanize online hiring, the company last summer raised $1.1 million, which it is using to grow its team and further break down the barriers associated with online hiring practices.

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

Charlottetown

IWave

Systems and Data Support Specialist

The company is seeking a candidate who will provide the staff with expertise in systems administration, data support and IT support. He or she will support the data architect, developers, system administrators and staff. This diverse position is critical to helping iWave maintain and improve its operations. The responsibilities are varied, ranging from processing large volumes of data to helping to write and maintain scripts and process to building the list of business and IT applications. IWave is looking for someone with a college diploma or university degree related to information technology. A full list of the responsibilities and qualifications is available on the job posting.

Moncton

Alongside

IT Project Manager – Web

The IT Project Manager will be responsible for planning, managing, and implementing projects in support of the company’s business plans and goals. This role has a direct responsibility for complete life-cycle management and accountability of project initiatives. The duties include ensuring project delivery expectations are specified and met through stakeholder management, and creating project deliverables that meet or exceed the sponsor's specified expectations. Alongside is looking for someone with strong interpersonal and communication skills, who is good at teamwork and team leadership.

Pfera Wins $375K Prize at Breakthru

Lisa Pfister, centre, with Calvin Milbury and NBIF Chair CathySimpson

Lisa Pfister, centre, with Calvin Milbury and NBIF Chair CathySimpson

Pfera, which is developing technology that can accurately predict when a pregnant horse will give birth, has captured the $375,000 first prize in the New Brunswick Innovation Agency’s Breakthru competition.

Pfera CEO Lisa Pfister claimed the award in an exceptionally strong field in the six-month competition. While four winning companies last night shared more than $1 million in cash and in-kind services, Foundation CEO Calvin Milbury said his organization plans to back all seven finalists in the contest.

“We were blown away by the ideas they presented,” Milbury told the Breakthru Gala in Fredericton. “We loved their passion. We loved their traction. We all agreed it was the best group of contestants we have ever seen. … All seven finalists will be working with NBIF.”

The panel of judges awarded two runner-up prizes worth $176,000 each: One to WEnTech, which has produced software that helps engineers select a method of converting waste to energy; and the other to SomaDetect, whose technology helps dairy farmers detect diseases in their herds quickly and inexpensively.

For the first time this year, NBIF also had a national competition, which offered $301,000 to companies from anywhere in Canada that agreed to develop their business in New Brunswick. The winner was Newpy of Prince Edward Island, which has developed an app for posting photos of products that are hidden inside digital packaging.

Quber, whose mobile app helps people to save money, claimed the People’s Choice award, which mean its team will fly to Toronto to pitch to CBC’s Dragons’ Den.

The big winner was Pfera, which addresses a huge problem in the equine industries. Horses require constant monitoring when they are about to give birth, and estimates of when mares are due can vary by several weeks.

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

“I’m extremely humbled and shocked and now it’s time to get to work,” said Pfister after the win. “This will definitely help us build out the team.”

The next stage in the company’s development is to undergo a pilot project this year with three farms in P.E.I., who together have 11 pregnant mares, one of which is Pfister’s.

One interesting note is that Pfera emerged from the Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship program at the engineering school of University of New Brunswick. The TME program also produced the other recent Breakthru winners, including Castaway Golf in 2015 and TotalPave in 2013.

The national competition winner, Newpy, helps brands to promote their products on social media. Founded by sisters Erin and Alana O'Halloran, Newpy lets people post photos of something they’ve purchased and present it inside a digital wrapper. Working  with brands, which pay Newpy for the service, it provides users with a high-quality photo of what they bought and the ability to share the wrapped image on Newpy and Instagram. The company is now in a pilot project with three brands.

A complete list of the seven finalists in this year’s Breakthru competition is available here.

HotSpot Eyes Regional Integrated Plan

Phillip Curley: 'Atlantic Canada has different needs than some of the other locations.'

Phillip Curley: 'Atlantic Canada has different needs than some of the other locations.'

Phillip Curley envisions a single smartphone app that can assist with transport by various means in cities across Atlantic Canada.

In fact, his company HotSpot Parking is working on such a thing, and took a big step toward it this week when the Moncton city council approved a one-year pilot to let transit users in the city pay for bus tickets with the HotSpot app.

The four-year-old Fredericton company’s app already lets users pay for parking in Charlottetown, Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton. It recently expanded to the Saint John airport, its first airport. And it will apply to provide the parking service in Halifax, now that that city has asked for proposals for online mobile parking payment service.

In an interview this week, Curley spelled out his vision for a pan-Atlantic Canadian mobile product that could help people use different modes of transportation throughout the region.

“We feel that Atlantic Canada has different needs than some of the other locations and we feel we have the ability to meet these needs,” said Curley. “We’re really looking at Atlantic Canada. Halifax does have an RFP out and we will be competing because we think we can do a really good job.”

Curley said HotSpot has been contacted over the years by merchants and others in Halifax encouraging the company to spread to the Nova Scotian capital.

NB Outlines Innovation Expenditures over Four Years

HotSpot started in 2013 with technology that allows the remote payment of parking meters. Drivers can feed the meter without interrupting their shopping or meetings. Or merchants can use a cellphone to pay a customer’s parking, rather than have the customer run out of the store to feed the meter and never return.

Then Curley and his team have advanced their system so it produces invaluable data for businesses. Merchants can advertise directly to customers through their cellphones. And because of the geolocation capabilities of cellphones, the company can track how many people respond to their ads, who returns and who spends money.

HotSpot provides its service free to municipalities, and individuals pay $2 a month to use the service. Curley is now watching how the service unfolds in Moncton in the hopes that existing parking customers will have a convenient way to pay for transit and may take the bus more. It can also collect data to tell transit authorities whether, for example, the buses are going near people’s final destinations.

About two years ago, HotSpot announced a partnership with an American company to roll out the product in major cities. Curley said that partnership is no longer in place. He also said HotSpot is not raising capital because outside investment would create pressure to expand geographically.

The company is now focused a pan-Atlantic product that meet the needs of people across the region, and applying the data it collects to improve transportation in Atlantic Canadian municipalities. Curly noted in the interview that 30 percent of HotSpot’s clients use the app in cities other than their hometown.

“We’re doing this because New Brunswick deserves a solution that’s properly bilingual,” Curley said in a Facebook post this week. “Nova Scotia deserves a system that is regionally accepted, (and) PEI needs to have excellent customer support. … Newfoundland and Labrador is a place everyone should visit and mobility cannot be an issue. This is our home and when we think regionally all boats rise with the tide.”

Ellis’ Dos & Don’ts of Growth Hacking

Sean Ellis: 'The biggest mistake people make is misunderstanding what it is'

Sean Ellis: 'The biggest mistake people make is misunderstanding what it is'

A true pioneer in 21st-century business trends is coming to Halifax next week, and he’s looking forward to sharing insights into the latest methods of getting products to markets.

Sean Ellis, the founder and CEO of GrowthHackers, will be the keynote speaker at the Amplify conference March 28 at Pier 21. In fact, he coined the term “growth hacking,” which will be the basic topic of next week’s conference.

In its simplest form, growth hacking or growth marketing is a process for using online marketing to get people to actually pay for your product. There’s a common misconception that it’s just quirky online gimmicks to attract people to your website, but it’s much more complicated than that.

“The biggest mistake people make (in growth hacking) is misunderstanding what it is,” Ellis said in a phone interview Tuesday from his company’s headquarters in Newport Beach, Calif.

“They think there are one or two growth hacks that they can copy and just plug it in to their own product and it’s going to work. That’s just wrong. It is a high-tempo process.”

Growth Hacking has become popular with startups because they don’t have the gazillion-dollar marketing budgets that big companies have to push out their products. Classic growth hacking — if we can call something that’s only a few years old “classic” — does indeed have some unique features that capture the attention of a broad number of people. For example, when Airbnb was starting out, it had a feature that let members easily post their listings on Craigslist.

But that’s only what the public sees. True growth hacking requires a constant, methodical measurement of how the market is reacting to these devices. The company has to focus on the most popular hacks, learn what the public likes about them, then modify the company’s product to give the public what it wants. Finally, the growth hacking team has to convert interested viewers into paying customers.

There’s art and science involved in it, and Ellis paused when asked which is more prevalent.

“If I had to choose between the two I’d say it’s more science,” he said. “It’s very process-oriented and data-driven. It does require creativity, but even if you’re not that creative you can probably generate an experiment that is likely to get you started.”

Ellis stressed in his interview that growth hacking requires a buy-in to the process from an entire organization — from the CEO down. That’s because the process will identify things that should be changed in the company’s products, and the whole company will have to respond to produce what the market wants.

“You can’t do it if the CEO isn’t on board,” said Ellis. “That’s one of the benefits of starting at a really early stage — you can bake it right into the DNA of the company.”

Large companies are now learning more about the process. Ellis recently met with a team from cosmetics maker L’Oreal, and he is doing ongoing work with Microsoft. Yet the focus of his talk in Halifax will be how early-stage companies can develop efficient processes that get people to buy their stuff.

A native of New Hampshire, Ellis said he’s looking forward to returning to the Northeast and meeting entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada.

“It’s really unique to have this in a city like Halifax, where it’s not really a startup hub and there’s a good aggregation of talent there.”

NB Outlines Innovation Expenditures

As Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau  delivered his innovation budget Thursday, the New Brunswick government said it would spend $160 million over the next four years on innovation and R&D.

Some of the initiatives have been announced previously, such as funding for the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity. But the announcement also showed the government is proceeding with some initiatives that have only been talked about, like the idea of exploring a single, secure digital ID for each citizen.

“By helping our businesses innovate and compete globally, we will create jobs in New Brunswick,” said Premier Brian Gallant in a statement. “That is why we are making strategic investments that will foster innovation and encourage research and development activities in New Brunswick.”

Gallant, which is the minister for innovation in New Brunswick, said the plan outlines government’s coordinated, complementary effort to improve New Brunswick’s economy.

The $160 million will be invested to foster innovation through things such as:

•Implementing new enterprise resource planning.

•Providing open data.

•Investing $200,000 to encourage smart grid technology.

•Supporting startups and entrepreneurs, including investment in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

•Enhancing education and research in the province’s education and post-secondary education systems.

•Building upon the research and development capacity in the province.

•Fostering innovation at a young age by continuing to support Brilliant Labs and its work with schools to encourage creativity, innovation, coding and an entrepreneurial spirit among New Brunswick youth.

•Maintaining support for research initiatives, such as work being done by the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation, and continuing to support research offices at post-secondary education institutions; developing and promoting innovation capacity in the school system; and supporting innovation infrastructure.

•And investing $1.9 million in the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity to research and develop cybersecurity technologies.

Breakthru Race Tight in Home Stretch

The Breakthru Crew: Attendees at one of the two Breakthru bootcamps this year.

The Breakthru Crew: Attendees at one of the two Breakthru bootcamps this year.

If you see perplexed, agonized people wandering the streets of Fredericton on Thursday, treat them with kindness and sympathy. They may be judges in the 2017 Breakthru Competition.

These poor tortured souls have an unenviable task that must be carried out by closing time tomorrow: they have to choose the winners of the competition to find the best new startups in New Brunswick.

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation stages Breakthru every second year, with the goal of finding high-potential companies, mentoring them and giving the winners six-figure prizes in cash and in-kind services.

Five companies are competing for the top three prizes in the Provincial competition, and three of them will leave with prizes worth between $324,000 and $176,000. This year, for the first time, there are also be two companies vying for the National prize, worth $301,000, awarded to companies from outside New Brunswick who agree to grow their company in the province.

The winners will be announced at the Breakthru Gala in Fredericton Thursday night. There will also be an announcement on the Viewers’ Choice award, in which CBC viewers choose which of the Provincial finalists will fly to Toronto to pitch on Dragon’s Den.

I’ve interviewed all five Provincial competition finalists and two things stand out: first, there’s a healthy diversity in the group. They’ve all produced software but they’re attacking different markets. Two are software with life science applications, and one each applied to CleanTech, FinTech and data analytics.

What stands out even more is how strong and close the competition is this year. All have traction, and all have a plan to get to market whether or not they emerge from Breakthru with prize money.

I’d take it one step farther. It’s not just that top five are neck and neck.  I don’t think there’s a noticeable gap between the top six or seven competitors in this year’s competition. One of the semi-finalists that didn’t make it to the final five, eChart, pitched at the Propel ICT Demo Day in November. From what I’ve seen of that company, it could easily be in the top five. There could be others that I just haven’t had time to meet yet.

Entrevestor hasn’t yet profiled the finalists in the National Competition, Newpy and The Unity Project, but we hope to report on the winner in the near future.

Here are our reports on the finalists in the Provincial competition:

Quber Modernizes Traditional Saving

WEnTech: SaaS for Green Energy

EhEye Transforming Video Surveilance

Pfere Eyes Pilot at PEI Farms

SomaDetect Plans 2017 Pilot

Turret Brings Its AI Tech to Germany

The Turret Psychoanalytics team: Chris Levesque, left, Jingyang Zuo, and Benjamin Arnfast. Image: Submitted

The Turret Psychoanalytics team: Chris Levesque, left, Jingyang Zuo, and Benjamin Arnfast. Image: Submitted

FREDERICTON – A New Brunswick startup is launching its technology across the Atlantic this week at a global business event.

Fredericton-based Turret Psychoanalytics, a company that uses big data and artificial intelligence (AI) to create customer market data and leads for businesses, will be at the CeBit conference and exhibition in Hannover, Germany. CeBit is an international conference for digital business with around 3,000 exhibitors and 2,000 keynote speakers and lecturers. Turret Psychoanalytics is only one of two Canadian companies slated to exhibit.

Turret’s technology works by analysing psychological profiles and mental models of customers to predict consumer behaviours and forecast buying activities. They do this by using public social media data. At CeBit, they will be launching its two product offerings. ...

Read the full article on Huddle.

 

Editor’s note: Huddle, New Brunswick's business publication, and Entrevestor are launching a new initiative to share each other’s content. In the future, we will be showcasing each other’s articles to increase the content for our readers. 

Nautel Turns to Rocket Science

Kevin Rodgers: 'We have a very robust core market.'

Kevin Rodgers: 'We have a very robust core market.'

Nautel, the Nova Scotia company that makes radio transmitters, is diversifying into a range of new ventures including rocket propulsion systems that could shorten the time it takes to travel to Mars.

Based in Hackett’s Cove near Peggy’s Cove, the company has grown into one of the world’s largest maker of AM and FM radio transmitters — an enterprise that will continue to be the cornerstone of Nautel’s business.

But the company has found opportunities in new fields and is planning to expand its design and R&D staff to work on new products. It will likely branch into industrial heating and sonar in the coming months, and is looking at working with a partner to produce plasma rocket systems, which could propel Mars-bound vessels once they escape the Earth’s gravitational pull.

“We have a very robust core market but now we have the opportunity to expand into some new things,” Nautel president and CEO Kevin Rodgers said in an interview.

Opened in 1969, Nautel changed owners in the past few years and Rodgers is now the sole proprietor. It has focused on transmitter manufacturing and has doubled its revenues in the past decade. Since Rodgers began to buy into the company in 2011, it has increased its staff to 240 from 210. Its largest recent order is a two-megawatt AM radio transmitter for a customer in Hungary, tied for the world’s largest, with the capacity to broadcast from Ireland to Malaysia. It’s 20 times larger than the biggest AM transmitter in North America.

With its current expansion plans, the company intends to increase its design team by half and grow its research and development budget by 40 per cent. Rodgers said the increases will take place this year, but declined to state the specific staffing levels or dollar amounts.

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One of the company’s main capabilities is working with radio frequencies, which among other things can be used to produce heat. (Think microwave ovens.) It is developing new applications for these heating systems.

The sexiest of the new business lines is undoubtedly the plasma rocket propulsion system, which it is working on with Ad Astra Rocket Co. of Webster, Texas. They have designed a system in which a Nautel radio frequency generator would heat hydrogen gas to convert it to a plasma, which would be burned to provide steady propulsion. Rodgers said it could cut the time of a trip to mars from four months to as few as 39 days.

Nautel recently hosted two Canadian astronauts — Chris Hadfield and David Saint-Jacques — to tour its facility and discuss the rocket project.

Nautel now has a sonar product ready for the market and could have its first contract for an industrial heating system within a month, said Rodgers. The drying product could be used to dry a range of materials, including wood and hay.

The worldwide radio market will continue to be the focus of Nautel’s design efforts as the company concentrates on innovations for AM, FM and MW transmitters of all power ranges.

“We now have more than 15,000 radio transmitters in 177 different countries,” said Mike Morris, Nautel’s chief operations officer.

“And we have gotten a clear directive from our thousands of customers to continue our focus on easy-to-use, reliable and versatile products for this industry.”

Innowave Wins Launch Ocean Event

A team called Innowave, which is proposing to use wave-generated energy  to recharge automated underwater vehicles, won the $4,000 first place at the Launch Oceans event at Dalhousie University this weekend.

But that wasn’t really the biggest news to come out of the marine entrepreneurship event. The biggest news was that the business development exercise took place at all. It shows that the wheels are turning in developing innovative businesses that can use the abundant resources for ocean industries in Halifax and the region. The event was organized by Launch Dal, the university’s entrepreneurship initiative.

Innowave is proposing a docking station at which automated underwater vehicles, or AUVs, can recharge without returning to the surface. The system would rely on energy derived from wave action, and would allow these under water drones to work for longer periods and at greater depths without having to return to the surface.

Innowave’s team members were Maria Kilfoil of University of Massachusetts, David Rowe of Nova Scotia Community College, and Katherine Lin and Canberk Bal, both from Dalhousie’s engineering program.

Launch Oceans followed the format popularized by the international group, Startup Weekend. Participants came together Friday night, breaking into teams and spending the weekend developing a business idea. The teams pitched late Sunday afternoon and a panel of judges named the winners.

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What was different about Launch Ocean was all the business ideas had to revolve around ocean technology. The ocean tech space has been getting a lot of institutional support in the Halifax area, as government and industry is committed to opening the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship, or COVE, in Dartmouth next year. And in September, government, private investors and academia came together to announce $220 million in funding for the Ocean Frontier Institute, a new research group led by Dalhousie University.

What has been slow to develop is a stable of ocean-related startups as most of the young innovation-based companies in Halifax (indeed, the region) have focused on something other than the potential of maritime industries. The goal now is to engender the culture of entrepreneurship in nautical and biomarine scientists that is so prevalent in computer science faculties.

Though the 14 Launch Ocean participants had less entrepreneurial background than many people who turn out for Startup Weekends, there was a wealth of technical expertise. The ideas focused on education, and on the AUV market, which is expected to grow to $4 billion by 2020.

The second prize, which was worth $3,000, went to a team called Aquim, which proposed gathering data on underwater marine environments using cameras mounted on AUVs. ROVault, which envisages an educational tool that uses AUVs to show children marine life, won the $2,000 third prize.

Ed Leach of Launch Dal said $1,000 in development funding would also be awarded to the other two teams: Marine VR, which wants to build a virtual reality system to help aquariums and museums provide a rich experience for visitors without holding marine life in captivity; and Deep Sounds, which proposed installing a network of underwater microphones in inlets to monitor whales and other marine species.

All five teams have been invited to participate in Oceans Week, which is being staged in Halifax in June. 

Mariner Lands TDC as XVu CLient

Mariner, the Saint John tech conglomerate specializing in online video delivery,  has announced its xVu unit has landed TDC Group, Denmark’s largest telecoms operator, as a customer.

Mariner said in a statement last week TDC will deploy Mariner’s xVu software as part of its strategic initiative to deliver best in class customer satisfaction and to enhance the organization’s Service Experience Monitoring, or SEM, project .

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

The Saint John company said TDC’s SEM team saw value in the xVu software’s ability to deliver end-to-end network and content visibility at massive scale.

“We required a market-hardened and proven solution that will materially reduce the number of faults and enable proactive service assurance for the highest level of customer experience,” Jens Peter Villadsen, TDC’s Vice President, IP Services, said in a statement released by Mariner. “We selected the xVu software for its ability to identify the root cause of issues across the service, network, systems and departments – at a time when our customers are watching more on-demand entertainment on both wired and wireless screens.”

Mariner xVu was chosen for its real-time capabilities, customer care applications and efficiencies gained through implementation of proven industry best practices. By providing deep and comprehensive analytics across various delivery platforms, the TDC team will have a customer view that includes traffic utilization, CPE devices, applications and services, all allowing them to more proactively handle and resolve both network and individual customer issues.

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

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

“Mariner xVu enables operations and customer care teams to manage the next generation of video and high speed broadband experiences,” said Marc Savoie, president of Mariner xVu. “With a view to delight their customers – not to mention the realization of significant OPEX savings – operators like TDC are investing in software technology that gives a time advantage, as the volume and speed of video entertainment grows.”

Quber Modernizes Traditional Saving

Jen Leger: 'We’ve taken the old model of the saving jars ... and we've digitized it.'

Jen Leger: 'We’ve taken the old model of the saving jars ... and we've digitized it.'

Quber is a FinTech app that brings fun to an all-too-often overlooked aspect of personal finance – saving money.

When people think of personal finance, they envisage hot stocks, tech plays, hedging or getting the best interest rate. But Moncton-based Quber has made a game out of the essential – if less glamorous – task of restraining your spending.

Founded by Jen Leger and Venky Kulkarni, Quber is a mobile app that lets people set goals for their savings, and channel the saved-money toward something important. As well as a data-based analysis of individual spending habits, the app features a picture of a savings jar, and the more money you save by cutting out little purchases, the more that jar fills up with coins. The goal is to save enough that you can move the full jar toward something bigger, like a vacation, a car, or long-term savings.

“Quber helps people be more mindful about their spending and helps them saving for things that they want,” said Leger in an interview last week. “We’ve taken the old model of the saving jars people used to put change in to save for something they want, and we’ve digitized it.”

The app can analyze a person’s or family’s spending and identify ways to cut back on things like eating out less or buying less extravagant clothes. Leger said she’s become intrigued by the psychology of saving, and believes that people are rewarded by seeing coins go into that digital jar and getting one step closer to their saving goals.

“I have my Fitbit and for some reason it motivates me to get out and run,” she said. “I don’t know why. But you set yourself a personal challenge and we’ll let you know that you’re on track. It just keeps you on track.”

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Leger and Kulkarni are already make headway with the roll out of the app. On Thursday night, they will be one of five provincial finalists competing for top spot in the $1 million Breakthru competition, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s biennial event that seeks the top new startups in the province.

As they’ve gone through the competition, the co-founders have produced a product for an iOS platform, which is now in a closed test with friends and family. They are planning a full beta test in about four to six weeks, and are hoping to have an Android-based app ready in June.

Quber has already linked up with “a regional financial institution” and are working on a full release of the product this year with about 8,000 to 10,000 users.

It’s not only regional institutions that are interested in Quber. Leger recently joined a mission to India, and she’s now talking to Indian institutions about using the product. She and Kulkarni have had talks with some of the big Canadian banks, as well as institutions in Singapore and Sweden.

Leger and Kulkarni are hoping to win one of the three Breakthru prizes, which range in value from $176,250 to $374,250. They’d use the money to bring on a full-time developer. But with the feedback they’re receiving, they plan to push on regardless of the outcome of Breakthru.  

One reason that financial institutions are eager to work with Quber is that it is a FinTech outfit that wants to work with big institutions rather than disrupt their business.  With a collaborative approach, these institutions see Quber as something fun and quirky that can help their clients save money.

“The financial institutions are starting to see the startups can come in and get things done a bit faster than they can,” said Leger. “So every financial institution that we’ve talked to knows that they need to improve on their technology and we hope to work with them.”

Job of the Week: Jameson Group

The focus of the Job of the Week column this week is an opening for a project coordinator at The Jameson Group of Halifax.

The Jameson Group organizes a range of events and projects across the region, such as Invest Atlantic, the Smart Energy event and the Pitch 101 competitions.  The 36-year-old company focuses on working with new economy companies in the region, and on developing entrepreneurs. It is working on an initiative to attract investors to the region.

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

Halifax

The Jameson Group

Project Coordinator

Jameson is looking for a self-motivated go-getter to help coordinate projects in Atlantic Canada’s startup community. Working from a home office, this person will be responsible for working with other team members on coordinating such projects as workshops, conferences or the initiative to attract investors. He or she will work with team members on marketing, event details and social media to see projects meet their goals. Weekly hours initially range from five to 20 hours, starting with an hourly/contract price and milestone bonuses. The position has full-time potential for the right individual.

Covina Focuses on $1M Round, CTA

Caitlin Pierot: 'It's been fast-paced for sure.'

Caitlin Pierot: 'It's been fast-paced for sure.'

What’s striking about interviewing Caitlin Pierlot today is just how much she has grown as an entrepreneur in 18 months.

Pierlot is the co-founder and CEO of Covina Biomedical, a Halifax company that is developing a non-toxic bone cement to help osteoporosis patients who’ve broken bones.

The company first gained attention in October 2015, when it won the $45,000 first place in the BioInnovation Challenge, the annual pitching competition for life sciences companies in the region.

The company has made considerable gains in the last year-and-a-half. It has raised about $350,000 through the First Angel Network. Pierlot and her cofounder Brett Dickey are now in the final stages of building on that funding and closing what they hope will be a $1-million equity funding round.

Meanwhile, the company has been accepted into the Canadian Technology Accelerator in Boston, a program offered by the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service to help Canadian startups access foreign markets.

Most important, Pierlot has been plotting a clear path to market for the medical device company. She’s developing in painstaking detail a seven-phase plan to move through the regulatory process and produce something the company can sell to customers.

It’s a sign that she and Dickey, who seemed so new to the entrepreneurship space when they competed in the Challenge, have taken on a lot in the past 18 months.

“After the big push and all the public attention we got around the BioInnovation Challenge, we thought it would die down and we can putter along as we had before, but things just don’t work that way,” Pierlot said in an interview. “It feels like we’re still in the rush. It’s been fast-paced for sure.”

Covina grew out of research conducted at the Dalhousie University laboratory headed by Daniel Boyd, assistant professor of biomedical engineering.

The lab received $1.7 million in funding from ACOA’s Atlantic Innovation Fund in 2011 to research “non-invasive bone augmentation”.

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That research led to the Covina product — a non-toxic bone cement that can be injected into the vertebrae of osteoporosis patients who have suffered a fracture. There are now 700,000 such fractures a year in the U.S., and Biofix is pioneering a minimally invasive procedure to cure them that would be inexpensive for hospitals and convenient for patients.

Pierlot is proud that, as the company has evolved, the basic product has not changed at all. In the next year, she and Dickey will take Covina through seven phases — things like concept development and design planning — so it will be ready to apply for regulatory approval in about a year.

Another thing that hasn’t changed for Covina is the core team, comprised of Pierlot, Dickey, Boyd and Bob Abraham. Boyd and Abraham are also the co-founders of ABK Biomedical, which aims to improve efficiency and safety when treating women for uterine fibroids, or benign tumours, in the uterus.

ABK is a more mature company than Covina, and Pierlot said her company has benefited immeasurably because Boyd and Abraham have helped Covina in navigating the complex path of bringing a medical device to market.

“We’ve really benefited in learning from them in terms of the hurdles and landmines along the way,” said Pierlot.

“We have a lot of heads up that when we head in a certain direction, this is a hurdle we might hit.”

Now Dickey is spending a lot of time in the Boston area, gaining knowledge and a network in one of the world’s biggest markets for medical innovation and commercialization. But Pierlot stresses that Covina is and will remain a Nova Scotia-based company

“We feel strongly about being a Nova Scotian company and we want to build the company here. As much as one thinks that going down to Boston is taking away from that, it’s actually doing the opposite.

“One of our major asks is to help us figure out how to build a company in Nova Scotia and get support and finance we need from the U.S . We don’t want it to be a defensive story, we want it to be a strong story.”

Local Experts To Speak at Amplify

Sean Ellis

Sean Ellis

The organizers of Amplify, a one-day mentoring event on growth marketing, have quietly added some tremendous speakers from Atlantic Canada to show local expertise in gaining clients through social media.

Held in Halifax on March 28, Amplify is a single-day event that will help to teach methods of growth marketing, and inspire people in the practice.  The speakers feature international experts on growth-hacking, led by keynote speaker Sean Ellis, founder and CEO of GrowthHackers.com.

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

As well as the other international speakers, organizers Propel ICTAlongside  and GrowthHackers have added rapid-fire speaking sessions by five Atlantic Canadian startup execs who excel at online marketing. They are: Ardi Iranmanesh, from Halifax-based Affinio; Thomas Rankin, from Halifax-based Dash Hudson; Kate Johnson, from Moncton-based Alongside; Matthew Cooper, of Halifax-based Swept; and Patrick Edmonds, from Proposify of Halifax.

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

Amplify, to be held at Pier 21, is hosted by the Atlantic Canadian regional accelerator Propel ICT, recruitment software company Alongside, and GrowthHackers.com. Tickets are available here.

The other speakers at Amplify include:

- Alyssa Atkins, Director of Marketing at Careguide;

- Dominic Coryell, founder of Gimme Growth;

- Ethan Smith, Vice-President of Growth at Yummly;

- Netta Kivilis, CXO of Blue Seedling and formerly a senior marketer at Amazon;

- And Todd Saunders, co-founder and CEO of Adhawk, and a former member of the accelerated growth team at Google.

 

 

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

Axem Logs 3 Gains in 1 Weekend

Though most early-stage tech companies are obsessed with landing equity investment, Christopher Friesen and Tony Ingram have just had the type of week that lessens the pressure to raise capital.

On Saturday, the co-founders of Halifax-based startup Axem, which is developing a wearable product that allows athletes to monitor their mental activity, won the $15,000 second prize at Canada’s Business Model Competition. On Sunday night, Propel ICT announced that they were accepted into the regional accelerator’s Launch program.

And on Monday, the company was awarded a $50,000 Early Stage Commercialization Fund grant by Innovacorp.

After all that, the pair of Dalhousie University students pursuing doctorates in neuroscience are more worried about developing the product and bringing it to market than raising money in the short term.

“Well, we got $65,000 in the last week and that will help for a while,” said Friesen, adding that the team can now use the money it has received to tap funds from other government programs. “We’re thinking that we can work for the next 12 months with no private investment. . . . We’re hoping to get as far as possible without investment.”

The story of Axem began last fall when Friesen and Ingram entered Dal’s Starting Lean program with the goal of helping athletes with their mental conditioning. They envisaged a system that would use infrared light to track the blood flow in the brain while athletes train. The system would let athletes know whether they’re training with the proper mental focus.

“What athletes get out of it is the ability to track their mental processes,” said Ingram, who is a licensed physiotherapist. “That’s what’s missing from the market right now. They can track their heart rate or whatever. But there’s nothing mental.”

The pair won the $3,000 first prize at Starting Lean’s pitching competition just before the holidays, and is continuing to build out the company. There are now four PhD candidates working on the project.

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What they’ve conceived is a product that looks like high-performance headphones, which athletes can wear and listen to music on while they train. The headphones conduct a brain scan throughout the training, and send the readings to a smartphone app. If the athletes lose focus, the volume on the music decreases, and rises again only when they concentrate properly.

Axem is already gaining the attention of professional teams and elite organizations, and has received letters of support from the Australian Winter Olympics team and the director of fitness for the Winnipeg Jets.

In the coming months, Axem will go through the Propel accelerator in Halifax and will work on building a prototype of the product. In doing so, the team has a few advantages, including the money it has in the bank. All members of the team are PhD students on scholarship — that means the company doesn’t have to pay salaries and has access to great equipment to build out the products. What’s more, Axem is building a sports product rather than medical device, so regulatory approval is not a big issue.

All of this means the company believes it has the means to produce a prototype that elite athletes can test and give feedback on.

Said Friesen: “Twelve months from now we would like to be out with our prototype, working with athletes and teams.”

Waterloo’s Landmine Boys Win CBMC

The Landmine Boys, a group of University of Waterloo students dedicated to the safe removal of landmines, have won the fifth annual Canada’s Business Model Competition.

The competition, which rewards university teams that have researched their market to develop a business, was held last weekend at Dalhousie University, which initiated the event in 2012. Launch Dal, the university’s innovation initiative, said 80 teams from 25 universities across the country applied for the event, and 35 teams participated.

Landmine Boys founders Richard Yim and Christian Lee were awarded the $25,000 first prize, and will travel to the 2017 International Business Model Competition on May 11 and 12 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

The Landmine Boys use excavation robots to remove landmines from the terrain in countries that have endured war, such as Yim’s native Cambodia. The goal is to ensure the safety of human operators and so mines can be removed or neutralized without endangering personnel.

It’s the third year in a row that the top prize was claimed by a team associated with the University of Waterloo. Two years ago, the event was won by Heads Up, a team of students from three universities including Waterloo.

The $15,000 second-place prize went to Dalhousie’s own Axem, founded by Tony Ingram and Chris Friesen. Axem is a wearable technology that allows athletes to track their brain activity to enhance performance.  Their second-place finish was the best performance of any purely Atlantic Canadian team since the first year of the competition.

A Queen’s University team called Rockmass Technologies took away the third-place prize of $10,000.

RockMass Technologies, led by CEO Matas Sriubiskis and COO Shelby Yee, collects and analyzes data on rock structures for geologists working in mining, geological exploration and civil engineering.

During the two-day competition student entrepreneurs were matched with mentors for coaching before the semi-finals Friday and finals on Saturday. Eight final teams then presented their pitches in the finals.

The panel of judges comprised Matt Campbell (Deloitte), Jon French (NEXT Canada), Charlotte Rydland (Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Propel ICT), Chris Cowper-Smith (Co-founder of Spring Loaded Technology), Cam McDonald (Co-Founder of Iconic Brewing), and Ying Tam (MaRS IT Healthcare Group).

WEnTech: SaaS for Green Energy

WEnTech Solutions’ increasing traction with customers is a sign of how far the waste-to-energy market has progressed in the past few years.

The Fredericton company has produced software that can assess a proposal to convert waste into energy and make suggestions on the best technology to achieve the task. Many of us still think of products that transform garbage into energy as a new frontier. But WEnTECH’s success with consulting engineers shows there now so many technologies that can convert trash into biofuel or electricity that experts need advanced software to sort through them.

WEnTech’s W-SAS product is a Software-as-a-Service solution that helps consulting engineers assess the needs of a waste-to-energy project and pick the right system to carry out the task. It takes into account such variables as the regulations in the jurisdiction, the environmental concerns, the materials being converted and the desired product.

Municipalities of all sizes want to reduce their mountains of garbage, and produce more green energy, and the market is growing steadily. In fact, Akbari said the total market for W-SAS is now about $2.6 billion, and there are now more than 900 consulting engineering firms specializing in waste-to-energy products in Canada alone.

WEnTech has completed one project for a paying customer in Nova Scotia, and is on track to complete another, far larger project this month. 

“We are negotiating closely with five other customers, four in Canada and one internationally, to start projects with each of them,” said WEnTech CEO Amir Akbari. “We are hoping to finalize the projects and close the deals with them as they have all provided LOIs [letters of intent] and have shown their interest to our tool.”

Akbari added that the company is in early discussion with nine other outfits, both in Canada and elsewhere, about possible contracts.

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The positive response from customers is impressive for a company that is still developing its product. It has a “beta version” of the technology and is continuing to develop it.

One of the challenges faced by Akbari and his partners Farough Motasemi, Kevin Shiell and Kenneth Kent is that new products are coming into the market all the time.

“Some of these conversion technologies are at a lab scale and they have not been proven yet,” said Akbari. “W-SAS only includes the commercially available conversion systems in the technology database. However, W-SAS is built such that new technologies can be easily added once they reach a commercial level.”

The company, which has gone through the Propel ICT accelerator in Fredericton, is now raising capital with the hopes of raising about $250,000. It is one of five finalists in New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition, the winners of which will be announced next week. Placing in the top three could bring $125,000 to $250,000 in investment as well as a range of in-kind services.

“Our plan is to improve it based on the feedback that we are getting from our early adopters,” said Akbari. “We are adding a few more modules and functionalities to launch the first commercial version of W-SAS by the end of 2017. Our plan is to initially expand our market in North America and then globally.”

Sydney Prominent in Propel Cohort

The next cohort of the Propel ICT tech accelerator will have a distinctly Celtic flavor.

The regional IT accelerator announced today the 23 companies that will participate in the first 12-week program of 2017, and almost one-third of the companies are based in Sydney, Cape Breton. Propel for the first time ever will host a cohort of its Launch program – which is for early stage companies – at the Navigate Startup House in Sydney.

The Sydney Launch program will feature six companies. A seventh Cape Breton startup, the cybersecurity venture Mimir, is enrolled in the Build program, which helps companies with sales grow revenue and attract investment.

Mimir was founded by cybersecurity veteran Jim DeLeskie, an expert in the detection and mitigation of distributed denial-of-service, or DDOS, attacks. He previously founded Heimdall Networks, which won Innovacorp’s 2014 I-3 Technology Startup Competition, taking home $225,000 in prize money. 

The Build program, which meets at the Venn Centre in Moncton, will also include these companies (with a description for the companies familiar to Entrevestor):

Swell Advantage, Halifax, which is developing a parking management platform for temporary mooring and docking at boat clubs, marinas and government wharves.

Conceptualiz, Fall River, N.S., whose OSSA 3D surgical planning and implant design platform allows orthopedic surgeons to design personalized implants.

- Enkidu, Moncton

- Food Profit Group, Moncton

- SnapAP, Dieppe, N.B.

The companies named to the Launch cohorts are:

Fredericton (meeting at Planet Hatch)

Adventure Pack, Fredericton

dGrief, Saint John

GradsFinder, Moncton

Hit the Road App, Oromocto, N.B.

Methapal, Moncton

Sydney

Click2order, Sydney

BidSquid, Sydney

Player Pack, Sydney

Perata, Sydney

EspresSos, Sydney

MySong, Sydney

Halifax (meeting at the Volta Startup House)

AddText.me, Dartmouth

Living.Room, Halifax

Axem Neurotechnology, Halifax

Vitalo, Halifax

Tranquility online, Halifax

The Love Network, Halifax

Facilities Launch Regional Passport

Several Atlantic Canadian service providers and co-working spaces have banded together to create a passport program, which allows startups to tap the resources of facilities around the region.

Growing out of the partnership between Planet Hatch in Fredericton and ConnexionWorks in Saint John, the Atlantic Canada Entrepreneurial Services Passport was launched last week. Planet Hatch said it has been formed for cross-promoting events, sharing best practices, opening their doors to members in partnering locations, and supporting the common goal of assisting entrepreneurs in the region. A membership with any one of the Passport’s organizations provides free or discounted pricing across the participating locations.

 “As co-working spaces and entrepreneurial service providers on the East Coast collaborate and align their programming and spaces, the benefits for Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs will become stronger and more valuable,” Doug Jenkins, co-founder of ConnexionWorks, said in a statement. “We are always looking for new and innovative opportunities to grow our ecosystem.”

The passport program has been adopted by 13 facilities across the region, though some of the larger incubators or co-working spaces are not in the new network – such as Volta in Halifax, the Genesis Centre in St. John's, Venn Innovation in Moncton and Navigate Startup House in Sydney.

The participants in the passport program are:

- Business Portals, St. John’s;

- CO3 Space, Bridgewater, N.S.;

- Common Ground, St. John’s;

- ConnexionWorks, Saint John;

- The HUB South Shore, Mahone Bay, N.S.]

- LaunchPad, Charlottetown;

- New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation, Sydney;

- North Queens, Caledonia, N.S.;

- Planet Hatch, Fredericton;

- Sackville Commons Co-op, Sackville, N.B.;

- Social Enterprise Hub, Saint John;

- Startup Zone, Charlottetown;

- And The Ville Cooperative, Marysville, N.B.

It’s not known yet if other facilities will join the group.

When asked why Volta wasn’t in the passport group, Volta CEO Jesse Rogers said the Halifax facility had told Planet Hatch that it already had its own network membership program, which grants founders access to its facility and events regardless of where they are based.  

“I met with a few folks from across the region, and have also shared with them our open door policy for Atlantic Canadians,” said Volta COO Melody Pardoe in an email to Planet Hatch.

The organizers of the passport program intend to produce other pan-regional programs, though they’re keeping mum on the details.

“This is ideally only the first of many initiatives that are being put in place across Atlantic Canada,” said Lisa Kinney, Entrepreneurial Services Coordinator at Planet Hatch.

Jobs: VOX, EhEye, Dash Hudson

For our jobs column this week, we’re highlighting a pair of IT jobs in New Brunswick and a pair of postings on the business side at Halifax’s Dash Hudson.

In the Moncton area, VOX Interactif is looking for a web developer, while Saint John-based EhEye is in need of a New Brunswick-based software engineer specializing in computer vision.

Dash Hudson, which has been hiring strongly in recent months, helps clients analyze their Instagram and SnapChat data. It collects data on how major brands are connecting with customers on Instagram. The photo-sharing app is one of the most popular social media tools available but before Dash Hudson they were unable to analyze what effect Instagram posts were having with customers. It is now moving into providing the same service for SnapChat users. The company is seeking an account executive and a sales development intern.

VOX Interactif is a web marketing agency located in the Moncton area with more than 15 years of experience. With clients across Canada, VOX Interactif offers such web marketing solutions as web site development, web and social strategies, online advertising, analysis and SEO.

EhEye, which is a finalist in this year’s Breakthru competition, has developed technology that improves the performance and efficiency of surveillance video. The product recognizes suspicious things on a video and can notify authorities. It can go through endless hours of video instantly, allowing for quick assessment of an area.

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

Dieppe, N.B.

VOX Interactif

Web Developer

VOX Interactif is looking for an expert in front-end development who has knowledge of back-end development. The company is seeking a passionate web developer who is capable of balancing technical talents. He or she must possess efficient communication skills to deliver a continued level of superior service to clients. This person will create user interfaces and components that are modular, performant, and maintainable using HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The technical requirements for the position are available at the job posting.

New Brunswick

EhEye

Software Engineer – Computer Vision

The person must research and implement computer vision algorithms to support public safety and security applications across industry verticals. He or she will take part in full software development lifecycle from requirements engineering to field testing. This means leveraging expertise in computer vision, image processing, and machine learning to contribute sophistication to EhEye’s artificially intelligent video analytics platform. EhEye is looking for someone with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, electrical, mechanical engineering or other related technical discipline and with three years of relevant experience. This includes at least one or two years of prior computer vision and/or machine learning development experience. Applicants selected will be subject to a government security investigation and must meet the eligibility requirements for access to classified information up to the Secret level.

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Account Executive

The account executive will work with Dash Hudson’s sales team on the business development process, contributing to such tasks as lead generation, sales outreach, progress tracking and closing deals. He or she will engage with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications. The duties include meeting  monthly and quarterly sales quotas, reviewing and qualifying inbound leads, and managing CRM and sales pipeline. Dash Hudson is looking for someone with one to four years of experience in a similar role, and someone with analytical, business development, strategy, and sales skills. The successful candidate must be hyper-organized with equal parts diligent and creative.

Sales Development Intern

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

Sales Institute Opens in Montreal

Canada finally has its first university-level sales program – something that Mariner Chairman Gerry Pond has been advocating in Atlantic Canada for several years.

HEC Montréal, a French-language business college in Montreal, announced last week the creation of the Sales Institute, the first university-level centre in Canada in this field.

The HEC Institute will bring together professors and researchers from the school along with six partners from the private and co-operative sectors. Its goal is to create advanced expertise and foster a “sales culture” in Quebec and throughout Canada.

Pond, best known as an investor in tech startups, has long argued that the lack of sales talent is holding back Atlantic Canadian companies. He has offered $500,000 to any institution that launches a bona fide sales program on the East Coast, but so far there has not been a college or university that has taken up the challenge.  On Friday, he emailed news of the Montreal centre to academics in New Brunswick, adding that something similar is needed in Atlantic Canada.

Momentum Canada: Fostering a New Sales Culture

“HEC Montréal is acting as a pioneer by creating the first university body devoted to knowledge transfer, training and research in sales,” said HEC Montréal Director Michel Patry in a statement. “Sales is a misunderstood field that is nonetheless an integral part of the manager’s role. What’s more, there is a clear need for this kind of institute. On the website of the School’s Career Management Service, close to half of job offers for our BBA students are related to sales and business development.”

The new Institute will be headed by Jean-Luc Geha, a guest professor in the marketing department) and the academic supervisor of the marketing option in the BBA program.

“By bringing together professors, researchers and practitioners, we are looking to encourage advanced research and sharing cutting-edge knowledge adapted to the business world in Quebec and across Canada,” said Geha. “This will give organizations access to graduates with training in sales and the top experts in the field.”

In that connection, the school now has a new mandatory course in business development in the BBA program, and will be offering various training opportunities for executives and organizations.

Fostering a New Sales Culture

Momentum Canada co-founders Corey Dugas and Joanna Killen

Momentum Canada co-founders Corey Dugas and Joanna Killen

At a time when Atlantic Canadian business people are being urged to prioritize sales, Momentum Canada has been founded in Saint John, N.B. to help foster the region’s sales culture.

Momentum’s programs include one that matches people who want to learn to sell with companies that can’t afford salespeople.

“We want to build a new generation of salespeople and healthier companies,” said CEO Joanna Killen, who co-founded Momentum with Corey Dugas and Nicholas Clermont.

“Gerry Pond (a veteran New Brunswick investor) has said that Atlantic Canadian companies can’t scale to significant size without greater expertise in selling to international customers.”

Killen said Momentum is currently training five novice salespeople. The trainees are paid a percentage of the value of the business they create for client companies.

“We work across sectors to help develop sales strategies,” Killen said.

The trainees’ clients include high-growth startups, established companies that need new ways to boost sales, and non-profits looking for strategies for fundraising.

Momentum was developed at a startup weekend in Moncton last November, where Killen pitched the idea after realizing there were many companies struggling with sales.

“I decided to see if anyone wanted to learn sales while earning commission,” said Killen, who previously worked with entrepreneurs at startup centres Vennture Garage and Enterprise Saint John.

Some of the students attending the startup weekend signed up with Momentum, which is located in the Saint John Enterprise Hub.

CVCA: Value of VC Rounds Triples in 2 Years

Killen said the trainee salespeople include restaurant servers and students from different disciplines.

“To join us, they must be action-oriented, coachable and passionate,” she said. “We feel anyone can learn sales. You need good communication and listening skills and to be a problem solver.”

The trainee sales agents work 10-15 hours a week. Those who succeed may find full-time work, Killen said.

“If you grow a company’s sales, there’s no reason why the company won’t hire you. There is more chance this can become a full-time gig for you.”

Killen’s co-founder, Corey Dugas, who is chief of sales, said freelance sales work could appeal to others in the community.

“Fifty per cent of disabled people don’t work,” Dugas said. “As salespeople, they can work from home and work for great companies.

“And it’s good for the grey economy — people over 55 who are being pushed out because people think they can’t understand technology. Their skills and knowledge are priceless.”

Momentum’s sales students are not currently asked to pay for their training, as the curriculum is still being developed.

“We’re creating curriculum as we work with the students,” Killen said.

She said it’s hard to learn sales from books. Sales professionals need the confidence and skills to make cold calls.

“People are bombarded online,” she said. “Picking up a phone or writing a letter is coming back into play as a way of reaching people.”

In the spring, Momentum will begin offering its Impact 12 Accelerator for 12 high-growth startups. The companies will move at their own pace and not be part of a cohort.

Impact 12 will also be offered free of charge. Killen said Momentum is funded by commissions and by income from a three-tier membership model for participating companies.

Killen hopes Momentum will benefit individuals, companies and society.

Momentum is currently seeking B Corp certification. (Benefit Corporations are for-profit companies that meet high standards of environmental and social responsibility.)

“If regional companies grow, the economy improves and people get jobs. It’s good for everyone’s future,” she said.

“Atlantic Canada-made products are awesome. There are people in the world who want what you have; you’ve got to find them.”

CVCA: Deal Values Triple in 2 Years

Recently published data from the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association shows just how far Atlantic Canada’s startup community has come in just two years.

And how far it has to go.

The annual statistics published by the association, known as CVCA, show that the value of capital raised from venture capital firms more than tripled and the average deal size almost tripled between 2014 and 2016. And they also show that there is proportionally more seed funding on the East Coast than in any other part of Canada.

But it also showed that Atlantic Canada is still a Junior A player in the venture funding world — and has some work to do to reach the big leagues.

The CVCA said recently that Canadian startups raised $3.2 billion in venture capital funding in 2016 through 530 funding deals. The dollar amount was up 68 per cent from 2014, while the number of deals was up 40 per cent. (I’ve chosen comparisons over two years to show the longer-term trend than the one-year comparison.)

It’s really strong growth but the national increases are nothing compared with those of the Atlantic region.

For the four eastern provinces, startups in 2016 raised a total of $103 million, an increase of 240 per cent over the figure of 2014. The number of deals rose 27 per cent to 56. The main reason for the higher number was a number of major deals, like the US$11 million raised by Fredericton-based Resson, the US$9 million funding by Halifax’s Kinduct Technologies, and the US$3 million round raised by Sequence Bio of St. John’s.

Perhaps the most interesting development is that the average size of deals has also grown strongly in just two years — to $1.84 million in 2016 from $680,000 in 2014.

Atlantic Canadian Startups Setting Up Silicon Valley Outposts

The average deal size is important because companies that can raise large rounds tend to have the greatest impact. They hire more people, spend more on R&D, export more and fail less often.

“Given the relative scarcity of growth capital in the region, increasing the average deal size should take precedent over number of deals, or even total capital deployed,” said Gregg Phipps, managing director of investment at Innovacorp.

“The ecosystem will be better served by building a few incredibly successful companies that can scale and ultimately make money for investors. The depth and breadth of funding is almost always a strong predictor of longevity and commercial success.”

The CVCA makes clear that there are proportionally more small funding deals done in our part of Canada than anywhere else — 10 per cent of the venture capital rounds announced in Canada last year were done in Atlantic Canada. But the average deal size in Canada was $6 million. That means that only two Atlantic Canadian deals — Kinduct and Resson — were larger than the national average. (A third funding deal, Halifax-based Truleaf Sustainable Agriculture’s $8.5 million round, is also larger than the national average, but it came from angels rather than venture capital funds.) It also means Atlantic Canada has to more than triple its average deal size to reach the national average.

The 10 largest deals in Canada last year were all worth more than $50 million, and none was in Atlantic Canada. It will be a while until Atlantic companies are in that bracket, though there are entrepreneurs working at it.

Said Phipps: “Continuing to align deal size with the national average will do more to serve startup entrepreneurship and the success of the local ecosystem than any other metric.”

Bourgoin Shuts Down Squads

Katelyn Bourgoin

Katelyn Bourgoin

Katelyn Bourgoin has announced that Squads is closing its door.

Previously called Vendeve and Swapskis, Squads was a three-year-old company that evolved into a community of female entrepreneurs, offering peer-to-peer mentoring. Originally, Bourgoin aimed to develop a market on which women could barter their skills. The idea was that new female entrepreneurs, who might not yet have steady cash flow, could swap skills and help each other develop a client base.

A rookie massage therapist might not have the cash to pay for accounting services, but she could offer a massage as payment to a young accountant. Squads’ online offering would be complemented by the sale of female-curated digital learning content like e-books and e-courses.

On Monday night, Bourgoin posted on Facebook that the company in shutting down.

“This was a difficult decision to make, but it was also the right decision for many reasons,” she said. “The last three years have been a rollercoaster with many ups and downs. Yet as I reflect back... I honestly don’t regret a minute of it.”

Bourgoin built up a network with the venture quickly, attracting 1,800 members in 16 countries in her first five months. And she did a great job of attracting influential mentors like Vicki Saunders, founder of the SheEO accelerator program for female entrepreneurs, Betty DeVita, president of MasterCard Canada, and Lally Rementilla, the former chief financial officer of Lavalife.

A graduate of Propel ICT’s Launch 36 accelerator, the company was also accepted into The Mill, an accelerator in Las Vegas.

Calling All Second-Career Entrepreneurs

We need to ask a favour.

We’re researching “second-career entrepreneurship”, and are asking for feedback from mature people who are considering launching a business for the first time. We’ve prepared this survey and are asking people who are considering a business to fill it out.

The core of our market is older people – maybe they’re considering a business in retirement, or have been laid off and face dim prospects in getting hired elsewhere. But the people could be as young as their 30s. They could be people leaving the military, or house-parents whose children are leaving home. We’re just looking for people who have been in a traditional occupation and now want to become entrepreneurs.

We’re asking your, our contacts in the startup community, to complete the survey if you meet these criteria. If not, you may know someone who is considering such a move. And the farther away they are, the better. We want as many different places as possible. Please send this out to them and ask them to take two to three minutes to complete this survey. It will help immeasurably.

You can find the survey here.

We’re now assessing a business that would aim to provide support, resources and a community for second-career entrepreneurs. The first step is to try to understand the makeup and needs of this community. We’ll keep our readers posted as the plans develop.If anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me at peter@entrevestor.com.

Many thanks,

Peter and Carol Moreira

Setting Up a Silicon Valley Outpost

Resson founders Rishin Behl and Peter Goggin

Resson founders Rishin Behl and Peter Goggin

Travis McDonough loves being able to leave his office, jump on his bike and pedal five minutes to Stanford University.

The founder and CEO of Halifax-based Kinduct Technologies moved to the San Francisco area last summer and is now staffing the medical-tech company’s office in Palo Alto. He emphasizes that his company is still based in Halifax, where he hopes to employ 100 people by sometime in 2017. But the advantages of having an office in Silicon Valley are huge.

“It feels great to know we’re five minutes away from some of the best thought-leaders in the world,” said McDonough.

Kinduct is not alone. As the Atlantic Canadian startup community matures, more and more of the region’s innovation companies are opening offices or forming partnerships in Silicon Valley. Such arrangements offer more than just prime office space close to customers — they often also enhance research and development and improve the companies’ best practices.

It’s ambitious to open a base about 6,000 kilometres away from head office, and where the property costs are atrocious. But there is simply no substitute for the access, the networking and the partnerships that can be found in Silicon Valley.

Kinduct and Fredericton-based Resson have opened Silicon Valley offices as they attracted funding from California investors. Resson’s US$11-million investment included a contribution from returning investor Rho Canada Ventures. Rho principal Jeff Grammer became the executive chairman of the company and now heads its new office in San Jose, Calif. Co-Founders Rishin Behl and Peter Goggin continue to operate the company headquarters in Fredericton. 

Halifax's STI Exits for a Reported $200M

Meanwhile, Metamaterial Technologies Inc., the Halifax developer of special materials that alter light, announced in May 2016 it had bought the business of Silicon Valley peer Rolith, giving it a research and development base in Silicon Valley.

MTI set up an office in Rolith’s home town of Pleasanton, Calif., and brought on board the target company’s state-of-the-art R&D facilities and key employees. Some equipment was to be transferred to Nova Scotia, where the manufacturing operations will be based. CEO George Palikaras said the acquisition helped MTI reach the point at which it and Airbus are launching their first product, MetaAIR.

“The acquisition from last year has been very successful because in any project there are always little problems that crop up,” said Palikaras. “The acquisition allowed us to upgrade the nanofabrication process. There has also been a new patent resulted from that deal.”

Another Halifax company, SkySquirrel, has a long-standing partnership with VineView, based in St. Helena, Calif., 100 kilometres north of San Francisco. SkySquirrel uses drones to collect data on vineyards, and the benefits of teaming up with a complementary company in the Napa Valley wine region are obvious.

“VineView has been a leading provider of remote sensing services to grape growers in Napa Valley for 15 years and are recognized as experts in aerial vineyard crop diagnostics,” said SkySquirrel CEO Richard van der Put. “They bring extensive knowledge of grapevine disease detection and have developed a successful regional business model in California. Together we are able to provide a platform to scale this technology globally.”

And finally, 4Deep Inwater Imaging of Halifax gained entry to an R&D facility in Silicon Valley when it struck a partnership in 2015 with China’s Guangzhou Bosma.

Jobs: HeyOrca, NOCland, CarbonCure

Our Jobs of the Week column today features a few recent postings in St. John’s and one in Halifax.

NOCLand and HeyOrca are both looking for technical staff for their growing businesses. And CarbonCure Technologies is looking for a Director of Communications.

NOCLand is seeking a data scientist and an R&D software developer. NOCLand combines state-of-the-art technologies to create next-generation network-monitoring software. The company uses cloud-scale computing, machine learning, and real-time analytics to intelligently process data from networks of varying sizes. The goal is to work with more complex network architecture, which is arising from the proliferation of internet-connected devices.

HeyOrca, which wants to hire an experienced web developer, helps marketing agencies that are working with multiple brands to develop social media campaigns for their clients. HeyOrca also works directly with larger corporate brands to develop content for their social media campaigns.

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

Next week, we’ll highlight other recent job postings. These include postings for an account executive and a sales development intern at Dash Hudson and for a software engineer at EhEye. Check them out now on our job board.

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

St. John’s

NOCLand

R&D Software Developer

NOCLand is seeking an R&D-focused software developer to work closely with a data scientist to implement a proof-of-concept machine-learning system. The system can learn how to detect and suggest responses to network events, and will likely require the deployment of a high-throughput data pipeline and a database cluster to operate. The candidate does not need to be an expert, but should be highly motivated to learn about these areas. NOCLand is looking for a passionate, independent learner well versed in big data, Amazon web services, machine learning and Python.

Data Scientist

NOCLand plans to hire someone to work closely with a software developer and networking domain expert to design a proof-of-concept machine-learning system to simplify network operations. The company wants a person who enjoys solving difficult problems to help determine the most promising machine learning approaches to addressing identified challenges. He or she must perform statistical analysis on collected structured and unstructured data, and normalize, transform and store data in a variety of data stores. The skills needed include machine learning, statistics, programming, big data, and artificial intelligence.

HeyOrca

Experienced Web Developer

HeyOrca’s goal is to build a great team, which will lead to the development of great software. Developers should add value not just by coding, but by changing the way the team works. The company is therefore seeking members who can contribute in some way to most aspects of the software, from ideation to maintenance and support. The successful candidate should be skilled in Amazon Web Services, other ORMs, other PHP Frameworks, other JS Frameworks, Redux, React.js, Doctrine, and Laravel.

Halifax

CarbonCure Technologies

Director of Communications

CarbonCure’s Director of Communications will be responsible for developing and executing custom communications plans to target key audiences. These targets include concrete producers, end users (architects, engineers, construction firms), strategic partners, investors, press, government officials, and the general public. In addition to elevating CarbonCure’s brand, the individual’s goal will be to develop a program to accelerate sales of the company’s technology to concrete producers. He or she must also help promote the company’s existing customers to ensure they are successful in their respective markets.

Planet Hatch Partners with DMZ

Planet Hatch, Fredericton’s flagship business accelerator, has formed a partnership with the DMZ at Ryerson University in Toronto.

The partnership with the DMZ -- formerly known as the Digital Media Zone – allows members from both organizations access to one another’s facilities, expertise and resources.

Planet Hatch already has a relationship with the University of New Brunswick’s International Business and Entrepreneurship Centre, or IBEC. So the latest partnership will help UNB help students to connect to more resources and educational opportunities across Canada.

“Having a partnership with the DMZ at Ryerson University will be a great aid to Fredericton’s startup community and UNB students,” Karen Murdock, Chief Program Officer at Planet Hatch, said in a statement. “Creating new and innovative opportunities for our clients is always in the forefront of our minds, and this agreement will open a lot of doors for our startups.”

Last year, Planet Hatch struck a similar agreement with Walnut Accelerator in Chengdu, China.

The statement said one Planet Hatch company, Spatial Quest Solution, is already taking advantage of the relationship with the DMZ. Its CEO Eddie Oldfield has been using the DMZ offices in downtown Toronto for client meetings.

“Our partnership with Planet Hatch will provide startups with the opportunity to leverage resources across the country, while building a successful company in their home base,” said Abdullah Snobar, executive director of the DMZ. “We expect this to be the first of a much larger initiative that will connect the DMZ network with emerging startup communities to build connections that will foster best-in-class Canadian entrepreneurs.”

DMZ helps startups by connecting them with customers, capital, experts and a community of entrepreneurs and influencers. In 2015, it was ranked the top tech incubator in North America, and third in the world by UBI Global.

Planet Hatch is a business incubator in the New Brunswick capital and helped 48 new startups across several sectors commercialize their ideas during 2016.

SkySquirrel Enters Dublin Accelerator

SkySquirrel, the Halifax-area company dedicated to producing agricultural data for the wine industry, has been accepted into the Alltech accelerator for agricultural technology companies in Dublin.

The 15-week program includes a bit of funding plus mentorship sessions at the Dogpatch Labs, a major co-working space for startups in the Irish capital. Most important, it will offer the company a chance to work with specialists in agricultural technology in Europe — one of SkySquirrel’s largest markets.

SkySquirrel uses drones to gather data from agricultural fields, focusing on the highest-margin segment of agriculture, the wine industry.

The Alltech accelerator is the brainchild of Pearce Lyons, the Irish businessman who founded Kentucky-based Alltech and grew it into one of the world’s largest animal health and nutrition companies.

“Having the opportunity to be affiliated with a global leader in agricultural innovation, do business with them, and gain access to their network is extremely valuable to us,” said SkySquirrel co-founder and CEO Richard van der Put in an email.

“Given their global reach and international presence, I’m looking to learn more about how we can increase our international sales and expand into new markets, like Italy, one of the top wine producers in the world.”

Pfera Eyes Pilot at PEI Farms

At the conclusion of the program, participants will pitch at a “demo day” in Lexington, Ky. According to the Irish tech publication Silicon Republic, 10 companies from around the world were selected from a pool of 183 applicants and SkySquirrel was the only Canadian company accepted.

SkySquirrel is one of a host of Atlantic Canadian startups that are entering accelerators around the world. Earlier this month, WellTrack, the Fredericton company that provides online help with mental health issues, was accepted into the prestigious 500 Startups accelerator in Silicon Valley. Last year, Fredericton-based Chinova Bioworks, which is developing new preservatives made from chitosan, went through another Irish accelerator, IndieBio.

At the Alltech accelerator, the startups will receive free space at Dogpatch, 15,000 British pounds (C$21,000) cash fund and tech perks worth 300,000 British pounds (C$420,000) from companies such as Google, Facebook, SoftLayer and Amazon. Van der Put also said that about 3,000 people, including investors, attend the Demo Day in Kentucky.

Though SkySquirrel is working with clients around the world, its emphasis in the near term will be working on its technology to combat Flavescence Dorée, a disease plaguing southern European vineyards. There is no cure for the disease, which prevents plants from producing grapes; once it occurs, the farmer has no choice but to destroy the vine before it spreads.

“We are seeing very promising results in multiple grape varietals and have seen success with Flavescence Dorée disease detection, with up to 85 per cent accuracy,” said van der Put. “This growing season we are focusing on improving our results across multiple grape varietals and validating the technology on a larger scale, as well as working with academic partners on the scientific validation.”

SkySquirrel last year raised significant amounts of money. It had raised $1 million, with equal contributions from Innovacorp and an unnamed Ontario investor. The company also received a $500,000 low-interest loan from the Atlantic Provinces Opportunities Agency.

West Newfoundland Community Grows

Jason Janes

Jason Janes

The entrepreneurship community in Western Newfoundland is taking on a more cohesive structure, with more than 100 members in its Facebook community and a recent pitching competition.

Humber Valley Entrepreneurs is a group of entrepreneurs and enthusiasts in the area around Corner Brook, or as they put it “from Lark Harbour to Jacksons Arm and everywhere in between.” The group now has 116 members in its Facebook group, and the number is growing.

The growth of the group is evidence that organized entrepreneurship communities are spreading across the island of Newfoundland. In recent years, the activity on The Rock has been focused on St. John’s and other parts of the Avalon Peninsula, and now the organized community is spreading west.  

“The purpose of the group is to stimulate the entrepreneurial conversation in our local area,” said organizer Jason Janes in an email. “We will generate new interest, cause excitement, and take action. The result will be more ideas shared, more problems solved, more mentors engaged, and new businesses created. As a community, working together, we can achieve greater success.”

Janes had been one of the pillars of Startup St. John’s, and moved back to his original home in Greater Corner Brook about a year ago. Now he is joining the movement to grow the community on Newfoundland’s West Coast.

With Big Clients on Board, Celtx Is Eyeing a B Round.

The early stages of growing an entrepreneurship organization have developed in the last few years. Corner Brook’s two main academic institutions – Memorial University’s Grenfell Campus and the College of the North Atlantic – have come together to form the Navigate Entrepreneurship Centre, which mentors young entrepreneurs. It works with 25 to 40 students at any one time.

A year ago, the first Startup Weekend – a 53-hour event in which teams compete to see who can develop the best business idea in a weekend – was held in Corner Brook.

Last month, Humber Valley Entrepreneurs organized two events in the same weekend. There was a Pitch101 event, which trains entrepreneurs in pitching, and a Create-a-thon, which is similar to a Startup Weekend format.

The winner of the $1675 first prize at the Create-a-thon was Team Greenhouse, a four-member team working on an idea by Nazrul Islam Rahel. It proposed addressing problems in food security in Newfoundland by establishing a 10,000-square-foot greenhouse that would receive its heat and energy from waste water from the Corner Brook Pulp & Paper mill.

“Our proposed greenhouse would use that hot water to both heat the greenhouse and, through an inline generator, to create electricity to produce light,” said team member Dennis Wass, who pitched the project. “The primary challenge with growing greens in a northern climate is light. We don’t have enough light year round. “

The $925 second prize was claimed by Grenfell Go, and the $400 third prize went to Team Lyocell.

The community is moving forward with more events. The next is a second Startup Weekend, to be held on March 31. Humber Valley Entrepreneurs is hosting the competition in collaboration with MUN’s Grenfell Campus, College of North Atlantic, and Navigate.

CarbonCure in $10M Contest in Alberta

CarbonCure Technologies has announced that it will receive as much as $3 million from Emissions Reduction Alberta, or ERA, to accelerate the adoption of its CO2-utilization technology in Alberta.

The Halifax company also said it will be competing with three other companies in the ERA Grand Challenge for the final $10 million grant, which will be awarded in 2019. 

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

For the ERA Grand Challenge, CarbonCure will work with several concrete plants across Alberta to maximize the overall greenhouse gas benefits and improve the economics associated with the technology to attract smaller concrete plants as customers.

The project includes a range of partners from across the supply chain, including Praxair Canada Inc., and a fourth-generation family business and leading concrete supplier, BURNCO Rock Products.

CarbonCure’s technology is part of a growing new sector of technologies that convert CO2 emissions into products. According to the Global CO2 Initiative report last year, this group of new technologies is expected to be worth $1 trillion and could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 15 percent by 2030.

CarbonCure says that its technology is unique in that it reduces greenhouse gases, while also providing significant economic benefits to concrete producers. The technology is currently installed in more than 40 concrete plants across North America.

The technology will give Alberta concrete manufacturers a competitive advantage to better meet the changing needs of customers while transitioning Alberta to a low-carbon future.

NBIF Names 7 Breakthru Finalists

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation has announced the seven finalists in the 2017 Breakthru competition – seven from New Brunswick and two in the national category.

NBIF holds its Breakthru competition every second year to find the hottest new startups in the province. It will announce the winners – who will divide a cash pot of about $1 million – at the Breakthru gala in Fredericton on March 23. Tickets for the dinner are available here.

The five nominees in the Provincial category are EhEye, Pfera, Quber, SomaDetect and WEnTech. Descriptions of the companies are below.

For the first time this year, NBIF is offering prize money to companies from other provinces, who agree to base their companies in New Brunswick. The finalists for the $301,000 National prize are Newpy, which has entered from P.E.I., and the Unity Project, from Nova Scotia.

Here’s a closer look at the nominees, three of which have already been profiled on Entrevestor:

Provincial Competition

EhEye

EhEye specializes in extracting behavioral insights with artificially intelligent video analytics. Specifically, they are experts in automated object and activity detection within streaming video. EhEye has created a highly scalable and extensible platform for the development and operation of intelligent video analytics modules and alert systems, applicable to almost any industry that relies on video surveillance for safety, loss prevention, security and human behavioral insights.  Read our report on EhEye.

Pfera

Pfera  provides horse owners with a birth prediction tool to use on pregnant mares. The system they have developed estimates when the pregnant horse will give birth to the foal based on the mare’s milk chemistry. Pfera’s device can be used on any number of milk samples, and on any number of mares. Once the test is done a birth prediction is displayed on the attendant’s smartphone. The target customers for Pfera’s technology are horse breeders, foaling attendants, and veterinarians/veterinarian technician. Read our report on Pfera.

Quber

Quber enhances existing data analytics and digital capabilities for financial institutions to better understand clients’ needs and help consumers.  Quber is a state-of-the-art financial engagement platform designed to work with existing digital toolsets. Consumers are looking for better digital tools to manage money, and Quber can offer the solution with their mobile or web-based designed solution.

SomaDetect

SomaDetect is an agricultural technology company that has developed an in-line system for frequent monitoring and reporting of dairy-quality indicators to farmers and other stakeholders. The company was founded with the mission of helping dairy farmers produce the highest quality milk possible. SomaDetect’s patented technology uses light scattering to assess fat content and somatic cells (key indicators of the presence of mastitis) in milk. By measuring key dairy-quality variables from every cow at every milking, SomaDetect is helping dairy farmers to close the information gap and reduce the spread of disease while maximizing profits. Read our report on SomaDetect.

WEnTech

WEnTech Solutions Inc. is a Software-as-a-Service company specializing in the waste-to-energy sector. The company is built on the expertise of its co-founders in waste-to-energy projects and developing software products. WEnTech is computerizing the task of waste-to-energy project assessment with a software-based product called WEnTech Smart Analysis System, W-SAS. This tool is designed to automate the workflow of engineering consultants assessing waste-to-energy projects by allowing them to evaluate multiple conversion technology systems at once, based on a multitude of parameters.

National Competition

Newpy

Newpy is a social network app for posting photos of products that are hidden inside digital packaging. The digital packaging designs grab attention and spark curiosity as to what is inside. Newpy offers two types of digital packaging: variety, which are ever-changing unique designs to reflect user’s interests, and custom, which are specifically tailored to reflect a company’s brand. Custom Digital Packaging either showcases the company’s name or logo in plain sight directly on the packaging. Companies will now have a choice; they can choose to hope good photos of their products are taken, or they can guarantee with Newpy that every photo posted will grow their brand.

The Unity Project

The Unity Project allows businesses to create consumer loyalty by donating funds directly to the charities of their consumer’s choice. It allows consumers to support the causes closest to their hearts through their buying decisions without having to spend more. The Unity Project is a new way for charities to raise money, allowing organizations to get more from their networks without their donors paying more. Unity is a robust loyalty and marketing platform for businesses, layered into a social movement for charities leveraging existing social media platforms It creates a mutually beneficial relationship between businesses, charities and Unity members.

Simptek Adding More Customers

Keenan Gagnon and Asif Hasan

Keenan Gagnon and Asif Hasan

Fredericton’s SimpTek, a startup that aims to help utilities and customers understand energy usage through data collection, has been boosting sales in recent months.

The company produces software that acts as a bridge between utilities and consumers. It provides power management solutions that deliver knowledge, convenience, and control to consumers, while also offering insights about power usage to utilities.

Founded in 2014, SimpTek will soon announce a new client, said to be the largest multi- building owner in Atlantic Canada. 

“We provide a communication link between clients and utility companies,” said CEO and Co-Founder Asif Hasan.

Hasan said SimpTek’s solutions will help increase engagement between utilities and their customers as they work toward the same goal of saving energy.

“We’re suggesting it’s time for them to understand their clients, as Amazon and Netflix do, if they want to do more business with them,” Hasan said.

Mariner XVu Sales Growth Tops 30% 

SimpTek allows its client utility companies and apartment block owners to provide their own customers and tenants with home dashboards. The dashboards enable householders to understand exactly how and where energy is being used in their homes.

The utility and property companies can anonymously collect individual and aggregated data about home energy use, and find out which householders make the best candidates for new products or energy-saving offers.

“When a utility company runs a campaign, all customers get the publicity material, which people find irritating. But if homeowners know their own problems, they stop feeling annoyed and appreciate the contact,” Hasan said.

Helping save energy is part of Hasan’s motivation in building the company, which he started in 2014 with Co-Founders Keelen Gagnon and Lionel Fernandes.

He says energy efficiency is a culture we’re all adapting to.

“People want to be green but they need easy access to information to make decisions,” said the Bangladesh native, who arrived in New Brunswick five years ago, after winning a scholarship to study electrical and computer engineering at University of New Brunswick.

He said the team is celebrating the successful completion of the first phase of its pilot program with NB Power, which has resulted in the venture receiving validation through the Smart Grid Innovation Network.

The company also recently raised more than $700,000 in equity funding, and was named to Deloitte Canada’s 2016 Companies to Watch list, part of its Technology Fast 50 Awards. It was the only company in Atlantic Canada to receive this recognition.

The company now has 10 full-time staff in Fredericton and four part-time in Halifax, Saint John and Ontario.

SimpTek has many competitors for a multi-billion-dollar market. Hasan thinks Simptek’s advantage lies in its system’s ease of use.

He is planning to expand SimpTek’s reach across North America and the Middle East in 2017.

EhEye Transforming Surveillance Video

James Stewart: 'It can find things you’re interested in but didn’t know you were interested in.'

James Stewart: 'It can find things you’re interested in but didn’t know you were interested in.'

James Stewart is a former cop, a specialist in data analytics and one damned persistent entrepreneur.

Having worked on two previous tech startups, he is now back with EhEye, a company that improves the performance and efficiency of surveillance video.

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

“There are lots of applications,” said Stewart in a recent interview. “One of our biggest exercises is not so much finding the market but choosing the market. Depending on the market, the system will work a little different. … It can find things you’re interested in but didn’t know you were interested in.”

Having been an auxiliary policeman for 13 years and a crime analyst for 3.5 years, Stewart has a knack for working on technologies that help with crime prevention. His first company, RTV, used predictive analytics to identify serial drunk drivers, and he then worked on a company called Smart Castle, which aimed to protect children from cyber-bullying, internet luring and other online evils.

Now he has teamed up with data engineer Shawn Mitchell and business development head Patrick Parent to revolutionize the way security camera work.

EhEye can do more than highlight an anomaly caught by a security camera.

The system makes it easier for users to review video. For example, if users get an alert about something suspicious, they can review the video while the cameras are still on. What’s more, the system can sift through hundreds of hours of video looking for information. It can go through video collected by several different cameras and determine where an individual went to or came from in a certain location.

Pfera Eyes Pilot at PEI Farm

For example, when riots broke out in London in August 2011, the Metropolitan Police ended up with 200,000 hours of video. It would take 100 analysts a year to go through all that video, said Stewart, but EhEye can drastically reduce the time and work involved.

The trio of entrepreneurs now has two products and is working on a third. The first is a product for store owners to alert them about suspicious people. It is now being tested by a Saint John store owner who has been robbed five times in four years. Stewart said this solution so far has the greatest market draw of the three EhEye products.

The second product  is for fixed site security in larger locations, to alert owners of large stores or staff at a major centre when people are acting suspiciously.

The third product, which the team is now working on, is a mobile version. It would, for example, allow security at a G7 Summit, to film a location before the event, get a baseline of what is normal, and then highlight any anomalies through wearable cameras as the event progresses.

The company is beginning to get traction and is drawing attention. It is a semi-finalist in New Brunswick’s Breakthru competition, which will award a total of $1 million to four startups next month. And EhEye also took part in Global Affairs Canada’s Smart Cities mission to India earlier this month.

Stewart’s more than familiar with Breakthru. RTV entered in 2013 and Smart Castle was a finalist in 2015.

“That competition is fierce this year and I’ve learned to you need to come with a well-rounded team,” said Stewart. “You need a product that’s proven out and to have traction. [The competition is] so fierce I will be jumping for joy if we make top five.”

Reycraft New Head of Techsploration

Techsploration, a Halifax-based organization that encourages female high school students to pursue careers in science, trades and technology, has named Arylene Reycraft as its new Executive Director.

After spending 13 years as the Program and Fund Development Manager, Reycraft is familiar with the non-profit organization. She succeeds Techsploration’s founder, Tricia Robertson, who is leaving after 19 years to focus on her other career as an artist.  

“From recruiting thousands of our role models and bringing in significant sponsorship dollars, to developing and delivering innovative programming, it is difficult to express just how instrumental Arylene has been to the success of Techsploration,” said Tina Kelly, President of Techsploration’s Board of Directors. “Her dedication and commitment to Techsploration is infectious and will continue to propel this vital organization forward as she leads us into our twentieth anniversary next year.”

Prior to joining Techsploration, Reycraft taught customized management training at the Nova Scotia Community College. She had initially joined Techsploration as a three-month secondment from NSCC, but her passion for the organization and her ability to transfer her enthusiasm to others made her a permanent fixture and an essential component to the organization.

In 2016, Reycraft was one of six people chosen to participate in the International Visitor Leadership Program’s Women in STEM Conference, which took place in Washington, Orlando, and Cincinnati.

“I’m absolutely honoured to take the helm at Techsploration and continue to build upon the legacy Tricia has created with Techsploration,” said Reycraft. “I always aim to create an environment where others can achieve results, which is why I am so proud to be part of an organization focused on breaking the status quo. I think it’s a rare occurrence to see tangible evidence that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life, but Techsploration offers that opportunity to our role models and alumnae on a regular basis.” 

Techsploration reaches about 3,000 students at 40 schools in Nova Scotia each year. 

3 Takeaways from STI’s Exit

Tim Gillis

Tim Gillis

The news has leaked out in the last 10 days that STI Technologies of Halifax has been bought by the American multinational QuintilesIMS, and now it’s time to draw lessons from the sale.

The U.S. company, a global leader in services and data for bio-medical research, closed the deal this month. STI, which helps drug companies distribute samples efficiently, will maintain its operations in Halifax under the leadership of CEO Tim Gillis. Allnovascotia.com reported that the price was about $200 million.

Here are three takeaways from the STI story:

1. The Founder Doesn’t Have to be the CEO.

STI started in 2001 when the whole startup thing was new in Atlantic Canada, and its three founders launched the business. William Adams, Paul Tobin and Greg Patey had experience in the pharma trade and believed they could improve the way drug companies get samples of new products to patients. They devised a smartcard system that avoided sending new drugs to doctor’s offices and collected data on how the samples were used.

But as the company grew they wanted a more experienced CEO and brought in Steve Nicolle, a veteran of the life sciences sector in Boston. Nicolle raised $17 million for the company, but was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2012. In 2014, STI promoted its CFO Gillis to the top executive position and he guided the company to its exit.

One of the many things that STI has done well is to build a versatile, resilient leadership team that can withstand shocks to the company. And that may mean bringing in people at levels above the founders.

2.  You can grow a company in Atlantic Canada without public-sector equity investments.

Despite the various complaints about a lack of capital, Canada’s East Coast is actually a hotbed for seed financing. (Little known fact: Atlantic Canada, with 3 percent of Canada’s population, accounted for 10 percent of its VC transactions in 2016.) A big reason for the number of deals is the participation of government-backed organizations, like New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, Innovacorp, and the Venture NL Fund, managed by Pelorus Venture Capital.

Even though it launched in the early days of the Atlantic Canada community, STI did not tap a government-backed funding body for equity financing. It sought funding from angels and from GrowthWorks Atlantic. The government-backed bodies are great, but our companies are often too focused on them.

3.  The Digital Life Sciences segments is still the hottest segment in the region.

The greatest success the Atlantic Canadian startup community has had in recent years is at the intersection of IT and life sciences. The sale of STI Technologies only adds to the success of that segment.

In terms of fundraising, this segment dominated the news last year with big fundings by Resson, Kinduct and Sequence Bio. Now it’s accounted for the biggest exit in the region in almost five years. It’s a segment that’s getting too little attention, given the success we’re having as a region. 

Jobs: MASITEK, Leadsift, Repable

This week, we’re rerunning a few of our recent postings for our Jobs of the Week column.

We’re highlighting openings we’ve posted in the past month from MASITEK, Leadsift, Dash Hudson and Repable.

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

Moncton

MASITEK Instruments

Product Development Engineer

MASITEK is looking for a product development engineer to develop and launch new and/or improved products to the company’s product line. He or she will play a major role in new product development activities such as research, design, and testing to bring products from concept to market.

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

The engineer will also work with the company leadership and the technical team to support the research and development road map and creation of design documents. MASITEK is looking for someone with strong problem-solving abilities that can be applied to electromechanical design challenges. This person must provide technical and project leadership across multiple engineering product development stages. A full job description is available on the job posting.

Halifax

Leadsift

Software Engineer

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

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

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

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

Dash Hudson

Sales Development Representative

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

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

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

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

Toronto

Repable

Full-Stack Developer

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

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

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

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

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

SimplyCast Launches EmergHub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Halifax's STI Sells Out to QuintilesIMS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mighty Pebble Unveils Miner Meltdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pfera Eyes Pilot at PEI Farms

Lisa Pfister

Lisa Pfister

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QuintilesIMS Is the Buyer of STI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Startup Zone Admits 9 New Members

Ryan Abdallah

Ryan Abdallah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MTI, Airbus Move Ahead with MetaAIR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RtTech Grows to 28-Country Footprint

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BDO To Host Connecting with VCs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Full disclosure: BDO is a client of Entrevestor.

Dal To Host CBMC March 10-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Big Clients, Celtx Eyes Series B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariner XVu Sales Growth Tops 30%

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is now building up a sales team in Halifax.

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

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

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

Ubique Partners with Caribou Contests

Vijai Karthigesu

Vijai Karthigesu

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

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

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

STI Reportedly Near $200M Exit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appili Lands $2.8M in AIF Funding

Kevin Sullivan

Kevin Sullivan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STI Reportedly Near $200M Exit

Tim Gillis

Tim Gillis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariner XVu Sales Growth Tops 30%

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

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

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

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

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

Hypergive Recognized at Dubai Summit

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

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

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

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

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

Job of the Week: Repable

Heather Anne Carson and Sean Power

Heather Anne Carson and Sean Power

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

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

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

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

Toronto

Repable

Full-Stack Developer

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

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

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

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

The Gender Divide and Mental Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Probing the Mental Health of Founders

He said women tend to have better coping skills.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bulletproof Opens Cybersecurity Centre

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

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

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

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

Cybersecurity Institute Opens at UNB

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

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

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

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

Hypergive Recognized at Dubai Summit

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

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

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

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

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

From Dalhousie to a Tech Accelerator in Cairo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helping the Aged with Home Sensors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Athletigen Added to Kinduct Platform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Athletigen Added to Kinduct Platform

Travis McDonough and Jeremy Koenig

Travis McDonough and Jeremy Koenig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SImplyCast Plans Recruitment Fair

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

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

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

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

-          Account Management;

-          Digital Copywriter;

-          Customer Service Specialist;

-          Programmer/Developer;

-          Sales Associate;

-          And Hands-Free Specialist.

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

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

Love, Marriage and a FinTech App

Amira AlKasem and Mohamad Tawakol

Amira AlKasem and Mohamad Tawakol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WellTrack Named to 500 Startups

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

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

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

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

They believe there is an international market for the product.

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

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

A Reminder to Complete our Survey

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

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

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

You can find the survey here.

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

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

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

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

Job of the Week: Dash Hudson

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

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

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

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Sales Development Representative

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

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

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

We’re Teaming With REAP for Survey

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

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

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

You can find the survey here.

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

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

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

Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Yours,

Peter Moreira

The Market for Sustainable Swag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plato Aims to Hire 1000 Native People

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

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

Customization is a popular trend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Affinio To Launch LinkedIn Product

Tim Burke and Stephen Hankinson

Tim Burke and Stephen Hankinson

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

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

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

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

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

Read Our Last Indepth Report on Affinio

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

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

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

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

WellTrack Named to 500 Startups

Natasha O'Brien

Natasha O'Brien

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RtTech Grows 28-Country Footprint

Keith Flynn is starting 2017 with more optimism than 2016.

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

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

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

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

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

QRA Launchs QVscribe Product

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMV, Merck in Phase 2 Clinical Trial

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

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

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

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

BlueLight, 3M Form US Partnership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Disclaimer: the author owns Immunovaccine shares. 

QRA Launches QVscribe Product

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plato Aims to Hire 1000 Native People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lottery Innovation Outpost Primed for First Product

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lottery Outpost Primed for 1st Product

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Money Finder Lands $1.75M from Build, Innovacorp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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