Growth is what Atlantic Canada’s startup community aims for, and the pursuit of growth motivates Anita Punamiya in her new role as CEO of regional accelerator Propel ICT.
Propel is Atlantic Canada’s accelerator for ICT startups. Begun in 2004 in Saint John, it has evolved from a tech promotion group to a thriving growth promoter. It offers two accelerators: Launch and Build. Launch is for pre-revenue companies while Build focuses on early revenue startups. Programs are delivered with the help of regional partners.
Punamiya said Propel is now looking at developing a program for mature companies with the name Growth. It’s also considering ways to help companies that don’t fit into existing programs.
“There were 162 applications for our spring cohort. We selected 36, which means there’s a whole group of entrepreneurs we didn’t select,” said Punamiya, who has been in her new role since February.
“How do we engage with them? They need to be back in the loop.”
She said that in 2012, Propel aimed to launch 36 companies in 36 months.
“They won’t all be successful but the skills they learn in the program may help them start another business or be an employee,” she said.
“Entrepreneurship is a problem-solving mindset. It allows you to be one step ahead. It’s about finding opportunities in your circumstances.”
In many ways, leading Propel is a natural progression for Punamiya, who was raised in India, came to Canada in 2004 and has been involved with Propel in various capacities for the last 10 years.
“I want to contribute and I understand entrepreneurship,” she said. “I’m an entrepreneur myself. I find the journey exciting. It’s risky, but the gains are greater… Entrepreneurship is never a linear journey.
“The Propel vision guides my actions,” added the Saint John-based CEO.
“I provide support without spoon feeding.”
Propel is her focus, but Punamiya also works part-time at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, where she teaches cross-cultural communications and negotiations and social entrepreneurship.
And she is CEO of CompreCultures, an intercultural services provider, which is a partner of U.K.-based Richard Lewis Communications.
As a management consultant, she specializes in cross-cultural communications and international business. Her clients include Qualcomm, of the U.S. and India, Bell-Aliant, Innovatia, City of Saint John, and Enterprise Saint John.
She is also a Co-Founder of Shaping Purpose, an organization that helps individuals create meaning as they move through the various stages of life.
Punamiya worked in the United Arab Emirates between 1994 and 2004, which boosted her knowledge of different nationalities and cultures.
She’s also worked for government on projects related to immigration, settlement and integration in New Brunswick.
“As an immigrant, I understand the journey,” she said. “It’s not easy to leave all you know and your entire world behind.
“I find people here welcoming to a degree. The rest is dependent on you. You have to be part of the community and let people get a chance to know you and see you contribute.”
Immigrants offer, not only their own skills, but also the wider world.
“Employers here need to be more open,” she said. “Immigrants still have connections back home that can lead to new markets.”
She feels her own life is enriched by her new role.
“For years when I was on the board of Propel, I felt guilty for getting more out of it than I gave back. Now I can give back to other entrepreneurs and the community, to increase the global mindset, and different ways of thinking.
“Some people see my journey as a success story. When I came to Canada, I didn’t know anyone in the region, but I’ve managed to build a strong reputation that includes leadership roles.”
Disclaimer: Propel ICT advertises with Entrevestor.
Norex Builds Front End for Lexumo
When Lexumo, a Boston-area cybersecurity company that protects automated machinery, needed an accessible user interface to complement its sophisticated systems, it contracted the work out to Norex of Halifax.
Norex, a website-development firm that developed into an incubation lab, has built the so-called front-end of Lexumo – that is, the parts of the product that the user sees and operates.
Lexumo is a Cambridge, Mass., startup that grew out of Draper, the incubation facility at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Funded in part by the Pentagon’s research arm Darpa, Lexumo can scan vast quantities of code quickly and identify vulnerabilities in complicated open-source software. The American company raised a $4.9 million funding round in February and in now beta-testing the product.
Lexumo’s cloud-based security service indexes all open source code, and is especially beneficial in embedded systems in ultra-complicated systems, like automated cars or Internet of Things applications. Lexumo checks line after line of code to make sure there is no security problem. If there is, Lexumo can identify precisely where it is in the reams of code, and automatically prescribe a patch to fix it. A team of MIT scientists developed the technology and contracted Norex to make sure customers can use it with ease.
Norex CEO Jenelle Sobey said Lexumo will help prevent cyber-attacks that could threaten the performance of highly automated machines, such as intelligent vehicles. Hackers have already proven they can use the internet to remotely turn on windshield wipers or unlock doors of intelligent cars. The results could be calamitous if hackers attack other functions like the brakes or steering, or attacked intelligent weapons.
The Lexumo project highlights an evolution for Norex from websites to more complex projects. Over the last four years, Norex’s products have ranged from the Pursu.it crowdfunding site for elite amateur athletes, to Hashpipe, which lets events showcase all the social media commentary related to that event. Its latest spin-off is educational technology company Eyeread, which has just been accepted into the Google for Entrepreneurs program in Kitchener, Ont.
Norex’s background in web development helped it build out the front-facing portions of the product. The challenge was to take a sophisticated technology and build a dashboard for it that would be simple for the user. Norex developed features like colour-coding functions that would signal the severity of the vulnerability.
“It’s been one of our most enjoyable projects,” said Sobey. “These are the types of companies that we want to work with. The reason Norex likes working with these projects is that we’re a technology-first company and our developers like working with their developers and understanding what they’re doing.”
Health QR Gets $250K from Innvoacorp
Halifax-based Health QR, whose mobile app helps people to manage their prescriptions, has received a $250,000 seed investment from Innovacorp, which will help to bring its product to market.
The Health QR app reminds people when to take their drugs, when they should refill, and tells them why the drugs are important. The free app, which can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play, connects securely to participating pharmacies.
The reminder to take medicine is important because non-adherence to prescriptions is a big problem in the pharma and healthcare industries. Half of all patients are said to not complete their prescriptions. Health QR said poor adherence causes a significant number of medication-related hospitalizations and accounts for $100 billion in annual healthcare costs.
"The investment from Innovacorp will take us to the next level," said President and CEO Patricia Ryan in a statement. "We have completed pilot product testing with Compass Pharmacies [of] Halifax, and are actively selling our product to Atlantic Canadian pharmacies. This investment will enable us to follow through with our commercialization plan."
When Health QR held its official launch in November, Ryan said she was taking it through the Canadian Technology Accelerator in Philadelphia, which specializes in health-related IT companies. And she is spending more time in Ontario with the healthcare community surrounding McMaster University in Hamilton.
Health QR is developing new features that will allow prescription customers to track their medication adherence on a dashboard. It is also working on workflow efficiencies to support pharmacies adopting new services.
The company’s system now interfaces with Kroll Computer Systems’ pharmacy software platform,
which supports about half of Canadian pharmacies and houses all of the sensitive customer prescription
information. Health QR is developing a solution to integrate with other pharmacy software
programs, including McKesson’s PharmaClik Rx. With access to prescription data, Health QR’s technology can relay accurate instructions to prescription customers without requiring them to manually input critical medical directions.
“Health QR is developing marketable medication adherence solutions by collaborating with industry stakeholders and patient groups,” said Gregory Phipps, managing director of investment at Innovacorp. “Health QR is well positioned to help solve what’s arguably the single biggest issue facing the pharmaceutical industry and Innovacorp is excited to support them in their future success."
Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.
Singolar To Compete in World Cup Tech
Nova Scotia marketing technology company Singolar has been selected as one of four international competitors in the AI/Robotics group in the World Cup Tech Challenge next month in Silicon Valley.
The Wolfville, NS, company is spreading its wings in Silicon Valley as it recently participated in the Canadian Technology Accelerator in Northern California. In March, Singolar was accepted into the SAP startup program, which means it will work with the German software giant for the next year with the goal of rolling out the Singolar product to SAP customers.
Singolar has developed algorithms that can help companies to better understand how to interact with customers. It therefore helps these companies to deepen customer relationships and attract new customers. Singolar can track customer interaction at a range of points, including contacts with the call centre, on social media, through the website or other avenues.
The company is one of four competitors in the AI/Robotics group at the Tech Challenge, and one of 24 competitors overall. The only other Canadian company in the competition is LivSpek Medical Technologies of Vancouver, which is in the Biotech category.
World Cup Tech 2016 will be held June 1 at the Microsoft Campus in Silicon Valley and welcome startups from around the world to compete for the title. Entrants go through a rigorous process of judging to be accepted as competitors, and all participants are in the pre-global stage.
“We are so excited and humbled to compete among the leading global tech startups,” said Singolar Founder and CEO Suman Kalyan in a statement. “We’re hoping that our friends and supporters in Wolfville, Nova Scotia and all of Canada will vote for us through the competition and help us bring home the victory.”
People can vote for Singolar in the AI/Robotics Group here. Winners will be determined by a combination of the judge’s scores, and online votes.
A native of India, Kalyan spent 18 years in a number of technology roles around the world, for blue chip companies and startups, and working as a consultant. In 2013, he and his family moved to Nova Scotia and he eventually became a tenant in Acadia University’s Rural Innovation Centre.
Even before it joined the CTA, Singolar had two clients: one in Malaysia, and Halifax-based Azorus, which helps post-secondary institutions communicate with incoming students and their families. Azorus and Singolar are piloting an enhanced customer relationship management recruitment tool with three universities: Warwick and Leicester in the U.K., and Ryerson in Toronto.
Tam Heads MaRS IT Heathcare Group
Ying Tam, the Halifax entrepreneur and mentor, has been named the head of the Digital Health Cluster at the MaRS Discovery District, the Toronto innovation hub.
Tam is the CEO of Mindful Scientific, which is developing the Halifax Consciousness Scanner, a portable device that can be slipped on to a person’s head to check for brain trauma. The HCS then analyzes the individual’s brain waves to see if he or she has a concussion.
Mindful Scientific is now collecting data on human subjects and will be conducting tests in Halifax and in Toronto from hear on. The work in Toronto is critical because the larger population will allow it to collect more data, said Tam, adding the company will maintain operations in Halifax.
MaRS is a not-for-profit that was founded in 2000 primarily as a life sciences research organization to work with the medical research establishment that flourishes around the intersection of College Street and University Avenue. The group has expanded its mandate so it has special strengths in IT, education technology and ethical businesses. Tam, who will work in the MaRS Health Venture Services, said the group wants to return to its roots and concentrate on expanding its biotech component.
“They have more than 300 life sciences companies so there is really an opportunity to make a big impact, and half of them are digital health companies so that’s 150 companies,” said Tam. “They are looking for thought leadership.”
As an entrepreneur, Tam has worked at the intersection of IT and healthcare. He has overseen three successful IT companies in his career, and brought his experience in digital technologies to the medical device space with Mindful Scientific.
Tam is now looking forward to working with a range of digital healthcare companies with the ultimate goal of improving medical services for people.
“I always think we’re so slow in healthcare in adopting technology and we just can’t keep going the way we’re going,” he said. “It’s easier to deliver [a digital solution] than going to a hospital. We have to get things out there.”
FoodTender Spins Out Food Profit
Sticking with the restaurant business he knows so well, Andre LeBlanc has formed a subsidiary of FoodTender that helps eateries assess the true cost of the meals they prepare and ensure they are profitable.
The Food Profit Group, which is based in Moncton, has produced an online food management tool that can help a chef assess the true cost of each ingredient in every dish.
That allows chefs to better understand how much it costs to serve each dish.
LeBlanc was one of the co-founders of FoodTender, a Propel ICT accelerator graduate that helps restaurants order food more efficiently from suppliers.
As he and his co-founder Andre Pellerin (who has since moved on to another business) worked with restaurants, they learned that a big problem that plagues restaurateurs is calculating how much each serving costs.
They set up the Food Profit Group as a subsidiary of FoodTender, and it is now testing the new product with about 60 restaurants in Atlantic Canada, Ontario and Maine.
“Food Profit is a sales and marketing tool which is totally focused on providing the true theoretical food cost to a restaurant,” said LeBlanc, who began his career as a chef. “We solved a big problem by taking the manual labour away in figuring out the food costs.”
It’s well known that food costs have risen in recent years, placing an acute financial burden on the owners and chefs of restaurants. What makes things difficult for chefs is that they have trouble assessing the cost of, say, a teaspoon of lemon rinds, or two cloves of garlic.Bacon is sold by the kilogram, so what does it cost by the slice?
The Food Profit software helps to gain insight into the true costs of food, and it uses artificial intelligence so calculations gain in accuracy as the system receives more data.
With the ability to scan in invoices, it also helps the restaurant with such chores as invoice processing, and planning a profitable recipe.
The goal is to reduce the time given to menial jobs in the kitchen and improve the operation’s profits.
“The true magic of the system is that once the recipe is in there, the restaurant should know what they make off it,” said David Jonah, a consultant working closely with LeBlanc on the launch of the new unit.
“We give them the true cost of manufacturing the recipe.”
The early tests of the product have shown that the profits improve three to eight per cent because of the system, said LeBlanc.
FoodTender, which acts as an online marketplace between restaurants and food wholesalers, is still in operation, and LeBlanc said it is doing well. In the past, the company has received funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and BDC Capital.
But the main focus of the business now is the Food Profit Group.
“What we’re doing is teaching restaurants to buy, price and grow right,” he said. “It’s a complete back-of-the- house kind of solution.”
Canadian VC Has Record 1st Quarter
Canadian venture capital investments hit a record in the first quarter of 2016, with Atlantic Canada holding its own in early investments but missing out on the late-stage deals that drove the market.
The story in Atlantic Canada was a lot of small deals, especially in New Brunswick. The CVCA said there were 17 deals in the region worth $15 million. The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation – which the CVCA lists as the second-most-active government or quasi-government fund, exceeding only by BDC Capital – accounted for nine deals worth $9 million. Innovacorp – No. 3 in the government category – did five deals worth $5 million.
“The substantial increase in amount of VC investment in Canada offers a great reflection of the investment opportunities there are here right now,” CVCA Chief Executive Mike Woollatt said in a statement. “VCs are seeing the value of Canadian entrepreneurial talent and making some big bets on the future.”
The Atlantic Canadian totals are less than 2 percent of the national total, but it should be remembered that it was a record quarter across the country. And Atlantic Canada’s young startup community has not yet received the 10- and 11-figure deals that drove growth in Central and Western Canada.
The largest deals in the quarter were: Real Matters Inc., Ontario, $100 million; Zymeworks Inc., B.C., $87 million; Farmers Edge, Manitoba, $58 million; BuildScale, Inc., Ontario, $49 million; and Indochino Apparel Inc., B.C., $42 million.
The CVCA said late-stage investment accounted for more than 60 percent of the dollar value of deals in the first quarter, up from 30 percent in the same quarter two years earlier.
Other than the Farmers Edge investment, all the major deals occurred in Ontario, B.C. and Quebec. There were five deals worth $7 million in Alberta and one worth $1 million in Saskatchewan.
Earlier this year, the CVCA – which will hold its annual conference in Toronto next week – reported that there were 536 VC deals in Canada last year, worth a total of $2.3 billion.
In Atlantic Canada, the 2015 tally was:
No. of Deals
Newfoundland and Labrador
Prince Edward Island
Rev Accelerator Names Cohort 4
Shiva Bhardwaj, left, and Yashin Shah of PitStop
Communitech has unveiled the fourth cohort of its Rev accelerator, with five companies being welcomed into the sales-focused program.
The six-month accelerator takes in companies with some traction and teaches them to ramp up their sales with weekly sales targets. There is an intake every three months so there is some overlap among the cohorts, which operate out of the second floor of the Communitech Hub.
Communitech said the newest Rev companies have already graduated from programs such as Y Combinator, Tech Stars Mobility, Ryerson DMZ, the Accelerator Centre program and the University of Waterloo’s Velocity program.
Alert Labs is an Internet of Things hardware/software solution that protects properties by gathering, analyzing and reacting to real-time data through sensors installed in the building. The device checks such factors as heat, electricity, or the dryness of the floor at several properties at once, so it is ideal for landlords or cottage owners.
Chalk provides workflow-organization software for teachers, and has strong uptake in Ontario schools. It’s gained a vast customer base by offering its product free to front-line teachers, and charging school boards for the administrative service and data. [Our previous report on Chalk.com is here.]
LiveGauge lets brands or agencies track the success of marketing campaigns and assess the return they make on “experiential” campaigns. The product measures such factors as the reach, demographics and emotional response of the audience.
PitStop uses big data and machine learning to predict vehicle failure in time to prevent it. The company, which has gone through the Techstars accelerator in Detroit, has developed hardware that goes in a car to predict when a problem is about to happen so the owner and service station can address it immediately. [Our previous report on PitStop is here.]
Rebee has developed an app that lets the user get shopping flyers on their smart phones, and browse, search or filter the content. The app also let the user compile a shopping list while going through them.
Goalline Bought by Blue Star Sports
Goalline, the Halifax company that provides websites to youth sports leagues, has been bought Blue Star Sports for an undisclosed price, and together they plan to develop an integrated technology platform for minor sports.
Though no terms were revealed, this may be the largest tech deal in the region in a few years given Goalline’s vast reach and the massive capital backing the merged company.
Founded in 2002, Goalline is a leading provider of web software and mobile applications for youth sport organizations. It has more than 10 million users and is best known for its easy-to-use web pages for sports leagues. Its website lists 30 employees.
Based in Frisco, Texas, Blue Star Sports is an integrated software and payments provider to youth sports organizations. Backed by Bain Capital, Worldpay, Providence Equity Partners and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, the company has been on a buying spree lately. Last month, it bought Toronto’s Pointstreak Sports Technologies.
“We set out to find the best and brightest technology companies in youth sports so that we could create and offer our customers the most advanced customer-centric solution in the market,” said Blue Star Founder and CEO Rob Wechsler in a statement. “Adding Goalline to the Blue Star Sports portfolio accomplishes that.”
The companies indicated that Blue Star will continue to grow the operation and help introduce the Goalline product to new customers – which can happen given that Blue Star has millions of users.
The most important aspect of the deal has to be the capital backing the merged group. While Jones is the best known investor as the owner of the high-profile Cowboys, the backing by Bain and Providence brings even greater firepower. Bain Capital has US$75 billion under management, while Providence has US$45 billion under management. And these are private equity funds, not VC firms, so they tend to take a longer view of developing their portfolio companies.
Worldpay is a portfolio company of Bain Capital that provides single card and non-card electronic payment processing services to businesses.
“From the beginning, the vision for Blue Star Sports has been to professionalize the experience of youth sports organizations and to simultaneously make it easier for anyone involved to manage the sport,” said Wechsler. “With GoalLine’s leading customer service and performance capabilities, we can now provide a seamless customer experience and a more unified offering.”
A former Dalhousie University hockey player and computer science student, Dickie started Goalline when he was a student posting college hockey results online. He grew the business through revenue. The company never took on venture capital investors. The company has strength in the minor hockey market and its clients include Volleyball Canada, Football Canada, the Halifax Ball Hockey League and Ringette Alberta.
“The Blue Star Sports team will add valuable expertise in registration, payments, scheduling and social platforms, and joining forces with some of the leaders in the industry will result in unparalleled products and services for our current and new customers,” said Dickie in the statement. “The entire team at Goalline is very proud and excited about being part of one of the biggest sports technology companies in the world.”
Founder and CEO Robert Niven said in an interview that Pangaea made the investment by exercising an option it took when it led CarbonCure’s last $3 million round of investment. The Vancouver VC fund, which specializes in advanced materials, invested $1.75 million in that round, which closed a year ago.
The funding is further validation for Dartmouth-based CarbonCure, whose process injects waste carbon into the concrete mix, thereby eliminating the CO2 emissions created in the manufacture of concrete products. Concrete, the world’s most common construction material, is responsible for more than 5 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions because traditional processes cure concrete blocks by heating them.
“The investment marks an increased valuation and confidence in the continued commercial and technology growth of the company,” said Niven. “CarbonCure will use the funds as growth capital for its ready mix and masonry concrete technology and to launch a new technology later this year.”
CarbonCure has been introducing new products since its 2015 funding round closed. In December, it announced a new ready-mix product, created in partnership with Vulcan Materials Company, the largest U.S. producer of construction aggregates and a major producer of construction materials.
Ready-mixed concrete is produced in a truck and immediately poured fresh on site, as opposed to concrete blocks made in a factory. Once Vulcan, located near Washington, D.C., partnered with CarbonCure for its ready-mixed concrete, America’s capital city became the first metropolitan market to have access to the company’s sustainable concrete.
CarbonCure has recently been securing more major customers for its technology. Earlier this month, Thomas Concrete of Atlanta announced the implementation of the ready-mixed technology, which followed a similar announcement last month by Johnson Concrete Company of North Carolina.
CarbonCure was also named to the prestigious 2015 Global Cleantech 100, produced by Cleantech Group, whose mission is to connect corporates to sustainable innovation through its i3 Connect platform and global events.
The 2015 round was the third round of funding for the company and included investments from BDC Capital (which committed $500,000), Power Generations Inc. of Florida, and a range of individuals.
In December 2013, CarbonCure raised $3.5 million in a round led by Montreal-based BDC. Other investors included Eagle Cliff Partners, based in the San Francisco Area, Innovacorp and 350 Capital of Toronto.
Early in 2012, it closed a $1.6 million round led by Innovacorp that featured a number of angel investments.
Impact Movement Will Miss O’Leary
Kristy O’Leary is leaving Nova Scotia, and her departure means more than the loss of another talented Bluenoser.
A few years ago, O’Leary co-founded Scout & Burrow, a Halifax consulting firm dedicated to helping businesses improve their social and environmental standards. She found it a tough slog. Scout & Burrow has folded, and O’Leary is moving to Vancouver to become a senior consult with Junxion Strategy, an international consultancy that promotes social and environmental sustainability.
She’s frustrated because she’s found it so hard to gain traction in Halifax in helping businesses create benefits to society and the environment while making money.
“I’m embracing a life where I can thrive in Canada's mecca of sustainability, where my tribe of change-makers are united and listened to, where I am surrounded by people that ask ‘how’ rather than offer ‘no’ as the first and last response,” she wrote in a Facebook post announcing her departure. “Or even worse: ‘next quarter’ or ‘next year.’”
O’Leary is part of a growing international movement for ethical businesses, or impact businesses, which assess success through the “triple bottom line,” that is, a focus on profits, people and the planet. The movement is embodied by B Corporations, which certify ethical businesses. O’Leary is an ambassador for B Corps and helped 10 East Coast companies gain B Corp certification. She had been working on broadening that mandate, especially in Halifax, but found little enthusiasm for the work.
“We simply aren’t moving fast enough,” said O’Leary. “The Ivany Commission said we have 10 years to turn it around. Climate scientists are saying we have 10 years to turn it around. We need speed now – every day matters.”
There are two schools of thought on ethical businesses within the East Coast startup community. Some believe launching a business is so difficult that founders, while acting ethically, have to focus exclusively on making money.
A second group—concentrated in New Brunswick— considers ethical businesses a key component in the new economy. It’s a point-of-view championed superbly by Karina LeBlanc of the Pond-Deshpande Centre for Entrepreneurship and David Alston, Chief Innovation Officer at Fredericton startup Introhive.
They believe the region can best attract and retain young people by establishing not just a digital economy based on entrepreneurship, but also an economy whose businesses espouse the values of young people. O’Leary also believes the day will come (sooner than we think) when consumers and corporations will boycott products made using carbon-based energy. Our region should be getting ahead of the game by reducing our carbon footprint.
The Ivany Commission called for a change in attitudes but too many of us—yep, I include myself—have been too slow to join the ethical business movement.
The new federal government has identified ethical businesses as one of its economic priorities, so it’s a fair bet it will soon unveil programs that back these enterprises. Again, Atlantic Canada should develop the ecosystem to support these businesses in anticipation of these programs. O’Leary hopes to continue working with Atlantic Canadian businesses in her new position.
Whether you buy into the B Corp model, it’s easy to agree any entrepreneurial community needs a range of talents, products and points of view. Social entrepreneurship has to be part of the fabric of the East Coast community. And we’re a lot poorer without Kristy O’Leary on the ground here to help move it forward.
Valley Startups Open KW Offices
As the summer begins, many companies have begun to train interns and co-op students. Companies often need to teach these young people technical skills and how to act appropriately in the workplace because they never learned these skills in school.
Not for Ben Coulter.
Coulter is the CEO of TalkIQ, a San Francisco-based company that uses conversation science to better understand sales teams. During the company’s first summer of existence in 2014, Coulter hired an intern from the University of Waterloo to help with machine language processing.
“[He] became a respected voice and a peer among a team of veteran engineers and data scientists,” Coulter said. “That really speaks to his talent, but also the quality of education he got and continued to get at [the University of] Waterloo.”
Coulter was so impressed with the intern and the University of Waterloo, he explored Kitchener-Waterloo more and now TalkIQ has opened an office up there.
More and more Silicon Valley companies have begun to pay attention to Kitchener-Waterloo. A small but mighty community of University of Waterloo graduates, co-op students and interns in the Valley have boosted Kitchener-Waterloo’s reputation in the startup world. Now a few Silicon Valley companies – TalkIQ among them – are opening offices in Waterloo region to take advantage of the tremendous talent in the region.
Everalbum, also headquartered in San Francisco, saw the talent available in Kitchener-Waterloo, and has since opened up an office in the old Shopify space. Everalbum automatically backs up photos and videos so users can access them at anytime, anywhere. It also allows users to free up space by backing up photos on Everalbum and then deleting them from a device.
As the No. 1 grossing productivity app in the U.S. and 85 other countries, Everalbum needs talent – fast. It saw the massive amount of talent coming out of the University of Waterloo, so it decided to build a presence there to bring in more talent.
“The market has become so competitive in San Francisco because there are so many startups and so many companies fighting for really talented people that it created an unhealthy environment for creating a company,” said Andrew Dudum, Co-Founder of Everalbum.
“We were far more impressed with the talent we were seeing up in Waterloo than the talent that was available on the market in San Francisco.”
Both Coulter and Dudum credit the University of Waterloo’s co-op program for Kitchener-Waterloo’s exceptional reputation in Silicon Valley. Students go on several co-ops throughout their undergrad years, so they come into the workplace – for another co-op or for a full-time job – without needing technical or behavioural instruction.
“I think [Waterloo’s co-op program] is a model that engineering programs should aspire to,” Coulter said.
Students at the University of Waterloo tend to complete their co-ops at different companies doing different things. This is beneficial for startups, especially ones in their early stages, like TalkIQ and Everalbum, in which most employees are expected to wear several different hats.
“The foundation of the company – the first 20 or 30 employees – and how talented they are, whether that be in engineering or design or business, is single-handedly the largest influencer in the outcome of the company’s success,” Dudum said.
Putting offices in Kitchener-Waterloo made sense for both TalkIQ and Everalbum, as they want to continue to bring in talent from the area, as well as participate in the strong startup ecosystem there.
“From a cultural and talent standpoint, the pool of people at Waterloo has proven to be the Stanford of Canada,” Dudum said.
Job of the Week: HeyOrca!
Our Job of the Week feature today is highlighting a business-oriented position in St. John’s with the developer of a social media marketing solution, HeyOrca!
HeyOrca! helps marketing agencies working with multiple brands develop social media campaigns for their clients. HeyOrca! also works directly with larger corporate brands to develop content for their social media campaigns. In the words of Co-founder Jason Teo, “We are doing to social media content what Google Docs did to the Word Doc.”
HeyOrca! secured $650,000 in seed funding earlier this year, and is looking to use their new capital to expand its team by taking on a new Business Development position.
Jobs of the Week features positions currently available on the Entrevestor Job Board. Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Job Board which helps match positions and candidates in the tech and start-up communities.
The Business Development role requires a strong engagement in sales and marketing, while having a thorough understanding of CRM systems and the HeyOrca! platform. Lead generation, pitching, conducting demonstrations, and interacting or following up with clients are regular duties. Forming lasting relationships with clients by cultivating trust and respect while matching customers with HeyOrca! products and services is an essential component of this role. Business Development is also responsible for communicating and issues, and suggesting improvements, related to the sales and marketing process. The only qualifications are possession of communication, organizational and negotiation skills, and to be persuasive and innovative when approaching complex problems.
Tracking Entrepreneurs’ Mental Illness
With mental health problems among entrepreneurs even greater than among the general population, a new study is asking founders to fill in a survey with the aim of creating solutions.
The Mindset Project is the work of Halifax-based Michael DeVenney, a chartered financial analyst, entrepreneur and consultant, and a long-time sufferer of mental illness.
DeVenney intends to analyze the survey data and create solutions such as increased training for better decision-making through resilience and stress management.
“When you’re trying to build a business, there’s so much pressure to do so many things,” said DeVenney, who is the president of consulting agency, Bluteau DeVenney.
“Working 80-90 hours a week is crazy, but it’s a badge of honour.”
He said only about four per cent of companies started each year become sustainable, growth businesses. Studies show around eight per cent of the general population experiences depression, while 33 per cent of entrepreneurs suffer depression, he said.
“This is just the cases that have been diagnosed. The evidence among entrepreneurs is largely anecdotal. My guess is the situation is actually much worse. I’m saddened by how afraid we are to talk about it and try to do something about it.”
DeVenney said some stress is caused by financial ignorance.
“I don’t think most entrepreneurs understand cash flow. . . .Most companies die from not being able to manage cash flow.”
He said there are only five academic studies on entrepreneurs’ mental health but many hundreds on entrepreneurs’ personality traits.
The Mindset Project, which is pan-Canadian, is measuring rates of mental illness. It’s also looking at key stressors and how mental suffering impacts founders and their companies’ success.
DeVenney said the survey is anonymous, but general results will be made publicly available.
He aims to obtain 1,000 responses. That level of response would produce the largest collection of data in Canada focused specifically on entrepreneurial mental health, he said.
The team has already received 280 replies, although the project only launched at the end of last month. The survey is being disseminated and supported by seven entrepreneurs’ associations across the country.
“I’m blown away (by the response.) The survey is not short, it takes 12 minutes to fill, and respondents are also commenting in detail,” he said.
“Most of the stress revolves around people—the hiring and firing and building of teams.”
Entrepreneurs’ personalities may also cause problems.
“Entrepreneurs are typically very individualistic. They have a lot of drive and energy and that has to be balanced with working with others and reasonable expectations.”
DeVenney is especially concerned about young entrepreneurs who, along with others in their age group, experience high levels of anxiety. But, he said, young people are in touch with their feelings, which may help them cope with startup life.
DeVenney has himself suffered from depression since childhood, although he didn’t realize it for many years.
Raised in the Annapolis Valley, he studied Business Administration at Acadia University before co-founding the Bluteau DeVenney Group investment company with partner David Bluteau in 1988.
His struggles with depression later caused him to change careers, and he became a business consultant.
“I thought if I changed my business I’d be different, but I am what I am.”
He is currently taking a month off work to address a particularly severe bout of depression.
DeVenney is interested in leadership as well as finance. His many qualifications in both areas include a professional coach designation from Colorado.
He copes with his illness by seeing a therapist, exercising — he particularly advocates cycletherapy — and keeping up with friends.
“If I keep a positive mindset I do better,” he said.
He intends to form an advisory board to look at solutions when the survey is complete.
I want solutions by the end of the year,” he said. “I don’t want to do a study that sits on a shelf.”
Corner Brook Hosts Startup Weekend
The cup awarded to Nick Mercer
Something interesting happened in the startup world in April that deserves more attention than it received: a Startup Weekend was held April 1 to 3 in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.
It was the first Startup Weekend in the western Newfoundland community of about 20,000 people and it represents a big step forward in the efforts by several groups to expand the city’s entrepreneurial community.
“The institutions graduate good students and they do well all over Canada,” said Sean St. George, one of the Navigate organizers. “Want to create more activity in our area and more entrepreneurial opportunity. That’s why we’re here.”
To give a bit of impetus to their work, they decided to hold a Startup Weekend April 1-3. Springing from a Seattle-based organization, Startup Weekends are 54-hour events in which strangers come together on a Friday evening, pitch business ideas, and break into teams. On Sunday afternoon, each team pitches to see whose business has progressed the farthest.
Startup Weekend Corner Brook was the fourth such event held in Newfoundland and Labrador. Some of the province’s more notable startups have emerged from the weekend events in St. John’s—Sentinel Alert, which recently raised $525,000 in funding, came out of the first, and DuJour, which is now going through the Propel ICT accelerator, won a Startup Weekend last spring.
St. George and Navigate collaborator Ken Carter said they were nervous about staging a Startup Weekend—there was some cost involved and they didn’t want it to fall flat. In the end, more than 35 people attended and it was an invigorating experience.
The participants pitched 13 ideas, which resulted in seven teams being formed. The winning team was led by Nick Mercer, a graduate student in environmental studies who is planning a small-scale windmill to provide energy to remote locations like cabins. He plans to proceed with the business.
Roger Power of Startup NL came from St. John’s for the weekend. And the event had an international flavour as the two experts from Ireland – Startup Weekend facilitator Will Martin and pitching specialist Ed Fidgeon-Kavanagh—flew in to assist.
St. George and Carter said event began to generate fresh ideas on how the two institutions and broader community can support entrepreneurship.
“We’ve been mostly working with students, faculty and staff,” said Carter.
“But we’re moving out into the community now to play more of a role within the region and are hoping to leverage more of the research capacity at the university and college.”
Having worked on all four Startup Weekends in the province, Power said he was excited by the Corner Brook event, especially the quality of Mercer’s pitch.
“Startups can come out of anywhere and I’m glad we did it in a region with a lot of good energy,” said Power.
“The whole intent is for the community itself to keep doing events—to make it at least an annual event.”
Ending Dog Days of Contract Searches
Fifty-six seconds after I sent a contract to email@example.com, I got an email back telling me it contained 27 liability clauses, 259 responsibility clauses and eight termination clauses.
Rufus, by the way, is the artificially intelligent dog at Beagle Inc., a Kitchener-based company that uses artificial intelligence (hence, Rufus) to extract important information from contracts. Rufus interprets the information so users can see what’s important, whether that be using specific search terms or highlighted liability clauses.
“We are the easiest-to-use software-as-a-service out there,” said Cian O’Sullivan, Top Dog and Founder at Beagle. “We’re easier to use than Dropbox.”
“A lot has been going on, but where it matters the most is getting paying customers,” O’Sullivan said.
O’Sullivan began Beagle two years ago because, as a trained lawyer, he saw the amount of time lawyers and non-lawyers wasted on contracts when they could be doing more meaningful and enjoyable work.
Some 93 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses use in-house workers rather than lawyers to sift through contracts. It takes these workers hours. Some put minimal effort into it or they simply ignore it and hope for the best.
O’Sullivan soon realized that Beagle would help all these workers—no matter how much or little effort they put into the task. Beagle could do the work in one to 20 minutes, depending on the level of scrutiny desired by the user.
Beagle automatically identifies key things in a contract like liabilities, responsibilities, and how you get out of it. It also lets users search for a word or phrase and it will bring up all the sentences in one place to show you where these words or phrases appear in context.
“A lot of the effort [the workers] put in the contracts is not their expertise,” O’Sullivan said. “We free them up from the bullshit to let them do what they want.”
To ensure this great idea succeeded, O’Sullivan spent four months researching the market to ensure he was making a worthwhile product. He asked people if they would value a system like Beagle and how much they would pay for it.
He also recruited a stellar team of data scientists with expertise in artificial intelligence (natural language processing and machine learning). He even convinced them that Beagle was better than working at their own firm, and they joined him as part of the founding team.
He now has a team of seven, which also includes sales and marketing people. According to Crunchbase, the company has raised $300,000 in seed funding. The team will soon start servicing Beagle’s pilots, including one of the largest auto manufacturers’ insurance company in Germany and a white label solution company in Canada.
Soon, Beagle will offer a Chrome extension that allows users to send any privacy agreements, like terms in conditions that come up on every website, through Rufus.
“People deal with terms and conditions a lot more than they thought they did—and we make it easier to process,” O’Sullivan said.
Reno, which has developed new and disruptive technologies for the semiconductor and advanced microelectronic industries, originated in Bedford, though it is now headquartered in the U.S.
The company said in a statement Tuesday that as well as a US$9.3 million investment from MKS, the participants in the latest funding round include previous investor Intel Capital and an undisclosed strategic investor.
“We are pleased that MKS has chosen to invest and collaborate with Reno,” said Reno CEO Bob MacKnight in a statement. “These funds will accelerate Reno’s time to market with technologies that are critical to advancing Moore’s Law and key semiconductor manufacturing processes. Our enhancements of the two most critical ingredients in a plasma process tool, radio frequency power and gas flow, enable new processes not previously attainable while at the same time increasing both yield and throughput.”
In November 2014, the company reportedly raised $8.5 million in a round led by Intel Capital. Innovacorp contributed $1.76 million to the round.
Reno says it has generated strong customer demand based on on-tool performance data, which has allowed the company to transition from technology and product development to high volume adoption within two years.
Listed on Nasdaq, MKS Instruments provides instruments, sub-systems and process control solutions.Its primary markets include semiconductor capital equipment, industrial manufacturing, environmental, medical, life sciences and scientific research.
IBM Names UNB to Security Project
IBM has selected the University of New Brunswick as one of eight universities in North America to help adapt its iconic Watson cognitive technology for use in cybersecurity.
The blue-chip tech company and university announced the partnership on Tuesday. Under the agreement, computer science students at UNB and the other universities will help Watson process and analyze massive amounts of cybersecurity data, including 20 years of security research, details on 8 million spam and phishing attacks and more than 100,000 documented vulnerabilities.
The New Brunswick government and tech community has identified cybersecurity as one of the segments in which the province can excel. The announcement is the latest example of this strategy taking shape.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for the University of New Brunswick that fits well with our proud and productive partnership with IBM,” said UNB President Eddy Campbell in a statement. “The fact that we are one of three universities in Canada to be chosen for this work speaks to our leadership role in cybersecurity research. We’re a best-kept secret no more.”
The other universities in the program are the University of Ottawa, the University of Waterloo, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Pennsylvania State University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; New York University; and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
“We’re pleased to take part on this project with IBM,” said Ali Ghorbani, dean of computer science at UNB. “We’ve been working hard with IBM for years on solutions to the growing threat of cybersecurity. This project with Watson has tremendous potential to be a game-changer.”
The project is part of a pioneering cognitive security project to address the looming cybersecurity skills gap. It will help to train Watson on the nuances of security research findings and discover behavior patterns and evidence of hidden cyber-attacks and threats that could otherwise be missed. IBM efforts are designed to improve security analysts’ capabilities using cognitive systems that automate the connections between data, emerging threats and remediation strategies.
IBM said it chose UNB because of its long collaboration with the university on cybersecurity research, stretching back more than 15 years. And in 2011, the firm purchased Q1 Labs, a Fredericton security software firm that was born at UNB. IBM also has a long record of hiring UNB graduates.
“Even if the industry was able to fill the estimated 1.5 million open cybersecurity jobs by 2020, we’d still have a skills crisis in security,” said Marc van Zadelhoff, General Manager, IBM Security. “The volume and velocity of data in security is one of our greatest challenges in dealing with cybercrime. By leveraging Watson’s ability to bring context to staggering amounts of unstructured data, impossible for people alone to process, we will bring new insights, recommendations, and knowledge to security professionals."
“A six-month incubator with senior Google team members in Waterloo will allow us to get expert feedback on the Eyeread technology over the summer and fall,” said Co-Founder Julia Rivard Dexter in a post Tuesday.
A spinout from the Halifax web development company Norex, Eyeread uses the camera facing the reader on a laptop or other device to track the eye as the child reads. By tracking the eye, the software can detect where the child is having trouble in reading a passage. Educators can then use the information to customize a personalized learning routine for the child.
Rivard Dexter said the team has been busy playing the Eyeread games with thousands of students in the Tri-County area of Nova Scotia through a partnership with the Nova Scotia Department of Education. The goal is to collect data from game play and match it to the teacher evaluations to measure efficacy.
Over the summer, Eyeread will have seven teachers on staff to help to develop the best teacher dashboards possible and offer final feedback on the company’s games.
Atlantic Lottery Partners with Volta Labs
Atlantic Lottery is partnering with Halifax-based Volta Labs to create an innovation outpost to help create innovative solutions for Atlantic Lottery. The outpost is designed to be lean and focused on enhancing Atlantic Lottery’s current portfolio of products, prototyping new products and creating marketing solutions to engage a shifting player base.
“Ensuring responsible, sustainable revenues in today’s marketplace requires new and strategic thinking,” Jennifer LaPlante, Director Research and Insight at Atlantic Lottery, said in a statement. “We are operating in a mature industry. It demands we continually modernize our products and ensure we offer them in ways players are demanding.”
The innovation outpost will include dedicated space inside Volta and will work alongside the tech startups that call Volta home. Atlantic Lottery will have 24/7 access to the entire facility, and will be surrounded by the creative genius of the high-potential startup founders and employees, engaging them for peer mentorship.
“We’re excited to welcome Atlantic Lottery to Volta,” said Melody Pardoe, COO of Volta. “This is a regional win. This collaboration will make it easy for Atlantic Lottery to be efficient, move quickly and engage with the community.”
“One of the key aspects holding back companies in Atlantic Canada back is access to capital and [the need for] angel investors to be better informed,” said a statement from the organizers.
Brightspark Ventures is a national funding group that draws funding from wealthy individuals and manages investments like a VC. NACO is the umbrella group for angel networks across Canada.
The one-hour sessions, which will feature a range of speakers, will be held as follows: May 17, Halifax 5:30-6:30 p.m.; May 18, Charlottetown 7:30-8:30 a.m.; May 18, Moncton 6-7 p.m.; May 19, Fredericton 5:30-6:30 p.m.
The bootcamp, which will be held 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre in Halifax, will feature:
The Investor Game, with Raymond Luk of Hockeystick.co, in which entrepreneurs walk a mile in an investor's shoes;
Obtaining Outside Capital, with Jane Kearns of MaRS and Marcus Daniels of HIGHLINE, who will discuss how Atlantic Entrepreneurs get attention from national and international venture Investors;
Reporting Like a Boss, a panel session on transparency led by Colin Deacon of Deacon & Company Strategy;
And, Building Connections Between Atlantic Canada's Tech Innovators and the Rest of the World, with BDC Capital's Nicole Leblanc.
The event is free to 50 registrants and available on a first come, first serve basis. You can register here.
Seek Various Forms of Funding
Entrepreneurs should seek financing for their businesses from unexpected sources, rather than just relying on equity investment and revenue, a conference in Halifax heard on Tuesday.
The TSX Ignite conference in Nova Scotia featured a series of panel discussions on entrepreneurship, including one titled “Funding Options that You’re Probably Ignoring.” Its panelists reviewed options like crowdfunding, advanced payment tools and less-known government programs to get money into businesses.
“If you run a business, think about that business holistically and look at everything you’ve got in that business to get you the funding you need,” said Steven Uster, Co-Founder and CEO of Toronto-based fintech startup FundThrough.
FundThrough allows small and medium-sized businesses to accelerate payment from their invoices. If the business is invoicing creditworthy customers, FundThrough will pay the invoice within 24 hours of it being sent, claiming a small portion of the payment. Uster advised using this sort of service to place companies in a stronger cash flow position, thereby using existing cash more effectively.
Lawyer Jeff Hoyt, a Partner at McInnes Cooper, said a lot of his clients are looking at equity crowdfunding, especially since two different regulatory regimes have been introduced in the past year in most Canadian provinces. He advises caution when looking at crowdfunding, asking his clients if they really want the burden of dealing with hundreds of shareholders. He urges his clients to “raise the maximum amount possible from the fewest number of people possible.”
TSX is also encouraging successful startups to consider a listing as a means of raising capital and being able to access capital as the company grows.
Rob Peterman, Director, Global Business Development, TSX, TSXV & TSX Private Markets, said in an interview that listed companies can raise capital on listing, have swift access to additional capital later on, and use their share capital for acquisitions.
He added that 80 technology companies have listed in Toronto in the last three years and that technology has been the fastest growing segment of the market, in terms of new listings and rising market capitalization.
Dash Hudson Prospers After Pivot
Nine months after settling on a business model that analyzes market response to Instagram posts, Dash Hudson is working with some huge multi-national customers and growing revenues strongly.
The Halifax startup launched two-and-a-half years ago as an e-commerce site for menswear, and then morphed into a platform that helped clothing brands make sales through Instagram. Last summer, it developed a tool for analyzing the market response to Instagram posts, and discovered that was the tool clients really wanted. It now bills itself as a smarter way to grow on Instagram.
“It was clear that it was uneconomical to grow the consumer app business,” Co-Founder and CEO Thomas Rankin said in an interview last week. “We tried everything so we started kind of exploring the different opportunities. We understood there was this huge black hole in terms of understanding what was going on in Instagram and the brands were telling us this.”
What Dash Hudson does is collect 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, and clothing brands and retailers have been eager to use it as an advertising platform. But as of last summer they were unable to analyze what effect Instagram posts were having with customers.
Meanwhile, Rankin and his co-founder Tomek Niewiarowski had developed an app that allowed brands to post photos on Instagram of models wearing their clothes with relevant descriptions. They wanted to know how their own Instagram posts were performing, but there was no tool to do so. So Niewiarowski built one.
Through the app, Rankin had built up relationships with several leading brands and suddenly they were asking for the analytics tool. So Dash Hudson’s main business is helping these brands to understand who they’re reaching on Instagram and how they can be more effective in marketing through Instagram.
Dash Hudson has just launched a beta-test for a similar service for Snapchat, a popular image-based messaging service.
“In November we started to generate revenue on the SaaS (software-as- a-service) platform and it’s been growing really fast,” said Rankin.
He said the tool allows customers to measure their numbers on Instagram and to take action on what they learn.
Rankin declined to detail the company’s revenues. But he did say Dash Hudson charges US$1,000 to US$5,000 a month for the service, and it has some contracts worth US$125,000 a year. Clients include the Condé Nast media group, Revolve clothing and Hyatt Hotels Corp..
Dash Hudson raised $1 million in capital last spring, including investments from Innovacorp and Halifax tech entrepreneurs Jevon MacDonald and Gavin Uhma. Rankin said revenues are now growing quickly enough that it won’t need a fresh injection of capital any time soon.
“We’re just really heads down and growing,” Rankin said. “I think our Snapchat launch when it happens will be significant.”
He said with Snapchat, Dash Hudson will “be on the front end of the curve and that will allow us to expand a lot faster.”
Chinova Enters IndieBio in Ireland
Chinova founders Emanuel Dinis, left, Natasha Dhayagude and David Brown.
Chinova Bioworks, a spin-off from Fredericton’s Mycodev Group, has been accepted into the IndieBio accelerator in Ireland, and received a US$100,000 (C$130,000) investment on entering the program.
Chinova is a new startup that is developing applications for chitosan – Mycodev’s main product – and using the compound as an anti-microbial agent. Chinova is now working with a major beverage company to test the product in preserving the shelf-life of premium juices.
The company put out a press release Monday saying it began at the IndieBio accelerator on May 3. All participants in the three-month program receive a US$100,000 investment from the Princeton, NJ,-based venture capital firm SOSV, which hosts the life sciences accelerator.
“IndieBio is an incredible opportunity to develop our technology rapidly and effectively,” said Chinova CEO Natasha Dhayagude in a statement. “We hope by the end of this program to get our first product into the hands of beverage companies who see the value of our technology to extend the natural shelf-life of premium juices.”
A fellow with Ventures for Canada, Dhayagude previously worked as the Entrepreneurial Services Coordinator at Planet Hatch in Fredericton.
During the program, Chinova will have access to leading business mentors and scientists who specialize in biotechnology and end with a demo-day pitch to potential investors and corporations. The program takes place in the European biotechnology hub of Cork, Ireland at the University College Cork.
Mycodev started three years ago to develop a radical new method of producing high-quality chitosan – a material that has numerous commercial applications, especially in life sciences. The higher quality chitosan – which can cost thousands of dollars per kilogram -- is usually associated with medical applications, and this is the segment that Mycodev has targeted.
Though the biopolymer is usually extracted from the discarded shells of shellfish, Sisk and his co-founders CTO David Brown and Chief Engineer Peter Dean set out to extract chitosan from a species of fungus. It avoids the use of harsh chemicals need in the crustacean-based processes and produces chitosan of a high purity with its own special composition.
Mycodev received $500,000 in funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation last May, and said at the other time it was working with other startups to open up new markets for chitosan. The company last week won a Kira Award for developing New Brunswick’s most innovative product last year.
Chinova is majority owned by Mycodev and headed by Dhayagude, CTO Emanuel Dinis, and COO David Brown.
Saint John Unveils Data Initiatives
Saint John has announced a series of events and initiatives that will use data analytics to improve life in the New Brunswick city.
The True Growth Network, the regional economic development partnership, announced last week that Saint John will use sensors, beacons, smart devices, and applications to collect and analyze data so the city can improve decision making. This will be complemented by a few events this year that will increase understanding of Big Data in the city and the region.
“Our vision is simple: Saint John will be a national leader in the use of big data analytics,” Smart and Connected Community volunteer board chair Andy MacGillivray said in a statement. “With data driving insight into the nervous system of the community, new layers of information will emerge that will lead to novel solutions to existing problems and to the identification of new economic opportunity.”
• Pattern of Life – This partnership between the four project leaders will collect and analyze data on vehicle and pedestrian traffic flow patterns in the Uptown. Using this data, they hope to improve services in the area and make the best decisions on capital projects. The data will provide an understanding of the relative performance of neighborhood infrastructure.
“For HotSpot the announcement is a step towards better serving the business community,” said HotSpot CEO Phillip Curley. “Currently we help businesses with their in-store experience, and through this project we’ll be able to expand that scope to the overall customer journey with assistance from Uptown SJ and Enterprise SJ.“
• Big Data training courses – T4G will begin these in September to address an acute data science skills shortage. Other programs launched at the same time include training in digital accessibility. The programs are timely because governments around the world are demanding minimum standards of digital accessibility that today are not being met.
• Big Data Congress 2016 – Focusing on the industrial internet, the Congress is set for Oct. 3-5 at the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre. The inaugural event, held in January 2013 was the largest technology event ever held in Atlantic Canada. BDC2016 will once again features a two-day business congress followed by an event for New Brunswick high school students.
“Big data is changing the way we learn, the way we govern and the way we do business,” said T4G president Geoff Flood. “Saint John has a natural advantage to be a leader in the next massive movement to connect the physical and digital worlds – to connect the trades to ICT. … We have the talent and the determination to make this happen and in the process we will become a leader for other communities to follow.”
Job of the Week: HotSpot Parking
Our Job of the Week column today highlights an opportunity to work for a fast-growing Fredericton startup, HotSpot Merchant Solutions, which is looking for a technical lead.
HotSpot developed a mobile application that allows drivers to pay for parking with their mobile phone. Addressing this problem provides users with a pain-free parking experience. It also helps merchants advertise directly to shoppers, and view the data that can help them grow their businesses.
HotSpot is deploying a huge network of beacons in major cities across the continent. These beacons send signals to customers’ cell phones so retail outlets can sense when customers are nearby and communicate with them.
The Jobs of the Week column features postings on the Entrevestor Job Board. Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Job Board which helps match positions and candidates in the tech and start-up communities.
HotSpot is looking for someone who understands software and leadership to take on this challenging position. The technical lead will work hand-in-hand with a project manager to define goals and technical roadmaps for the company. The ideal candidate would have a strong sense of teamwork, the ability to lead engineers, and produce high quality code. The candidate would also have a heavy say with his or her team on what technical changes are to be made and what technologies to adopt. The responsibilities include developing, integrating and maintaining software, as well as management and research. The successful candidate will report to the HotSpot CEO, CTO and COO and have to delegate tasks to other engineers. HotSpot is looking for someone with one to three years’ experience in a similar role.
Chalk to Attend Metabridge in June
Chalk, the Kitchener startup that provides workflow management tools to teachers, has been named one of 15 companies to attend the Metabridge mentorship camp in Kelowna, B.C., next month.
Metabridge, to be held June 9-10, brings together 15 of the leading startups in the country for mentorship from some of the world’s leading tech experts, entrepreneurs and financiers.
"We had an overwhelming response to Metabridge this year,” said Executive Director Sehra Bremner in a statement. She added that “109 companies applied, which is more than ever before. We are really pleased with the strength of all the companies that took the time to apply.”
Chalk provides workflow-organization software for teachers. In its brief history, it’s gained a vast customer base by offering its product free to front-line teachers, and charging school boards for the administrative service and data. Last month, the company announced it had formed a partnership with Charter Schools USA, bringing advanced curriculum management technologies to one of the largest and most innovative charter school networks.
The startups attending Metabridge this year include 14 from across Canada and Lynk Jobs Ltd. from Kenya – the first international startup to attend the event.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s third annual Innovation Week will take place in St. John’s starting on Monday. The 17 different events will focus on bringing innovative ideas to market and growing key sectors in the province.
Throughout the week, 16 partner organizations will offer varied events with the aim of firing up creative thinking and collaboration in sectors such as information technology, ocean technology, clean technology and manufacturing.
New to this year’s Innovation Week, and now sold out, TEDxYouth@StJohns is the first youth-focused TEDx event in the province.
Designed for youngsters aged 12 to 18, the event aims to ignite new ideas and empower young leaders.
The global economy will be the focus of the talk given by Export Development Canada’s Vice-President and Chief Economist, Peter Hall. The “Let’s Talk Exports” conference will be hosted by the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association. CBC science guy Bob McDonald, host of Quirks & Quarks, along with Dr. Ian Potter, Vice-President of Engineering with the National Research Council, will speak at the “Demystifying Technology and Innovation” conference.
Leaders in the technology sector, including futurist Jim Bottomley, and former Dragons’ Den adviser Sean Wise will speak at the Knowledge Summit hosted by the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries, or NATI. Innovation Week is being supported by $38,279 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
“These events are meant to connect and empower a collaborative community partnership in the innovation ecosystem,” said NATI CEO Ron Taylor.
Newfoundland and Labrador currently gains $1.6 billion in annual revenue from its technology sector. The sector consists of 170 companies employing over 3,990 people. Each employee represents an economic gain of $400,000 for the province.
A new innovation Week app is available free on iOS and Android in the App Store as IWNL. The app was built by the College of the North Atlantic.
Visiting Omaha to Witness the Oracle
Tuan Anh Bui
After helping to lead an $8 million student investment fund at University of New Brunswick, Tuan Anh Bui relished the reward of hearing Warren Buffet speak on the subject of investing.
The soon-to-be graduate of UNB’s Business School recently won a trip to Omaha, Nebraska, to hear Buffett address the AGM of Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company the master investor controls.
For Tuan, witnessing the Oracle of Ohama was a big moment.
“We joined 20,000 Berkshire Hathaway shareholders in listening to Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger (Buffett’s deputy),” he said.
“My key takeaway … is that their view on finance and investment is unique and sometimes challenges the theories I learned in university.
“It taught me that investing is more of an art than a science….I need to continuously cultivate my knowledge and experience in order to grasp market dynamics.”
Now, Tuan is taking his $20,000 Frank H. Sobey Award for Excellence in Business Studies and heading to Ontario to look for opportunities. He plans to give back to the Atlantic region when he has gained more experience.
Established in 1998, the UNB Student Investment Fund program allows top Business Administration and MBA students to study for their CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) level one exam and obtain investment experience by investing $8 million of real money in the capital markets.
Tuan believes it’s an important educational option, particularly in a region which struggles to attract investment.
It’s one of the school’s most successful experiential learning programs. Students have grown the initial pot of around $3.5 million to its current $8 million.
The fund has had two clients. For the first client, the young investors grew an initial $1 million to $3.3 million. The second client’s investment has grown from $2.5 million to $4.7 million.
Tuan worked as an equity research analyst looking into investments in the financial sector, including banks and real estate.
“Being in the program allowed us to travel to Toronto, where we met with firms on Bay Street,” he said.
“Being in New Brunswick is a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to learning about investment. It’s not a financial hub, but the program allowed me to get closer to experts and meet students from elsewhere.”
Tuan will graduate from the UNB program, which is sponsored by New Brunswick Investment Management Corporation and the Peter Cundill Foundation, in October.
The program’s 200 graduates have won 15 podium finishes in university competitions, including being the first Canadian university to win the CFA North American Investment Research Competition.
They have taken jobs at Canadian, U.S. and international banks in diverse financial centres. Others have joined corporations and asset management firms such as RBC Global Asset Management. About half have stayed in the Atlantic region.
Tuan enrolled at UNB after emigrating from Vietnam to New Brunswick six years ago with his family.
Tuan said that when he has gained more knowledge and experience, he would like to contribute to the growth of New Brunswick.
“I go away to be able to give back,” he said. “I’ve met amazing people in New Brunswick. New Brunswickers have a lot of ideas but we are lacking investments.
“Maybe I can help fund future projects. Maybe the network I bring back can help dreams come true.”
Communitech Seeks Female Founders
Sarah Murphy of Sentinel Alert at last year's bootcamp.
For the next 10 days, female entrepreneurs from across Canada and beyond can apply to attend Fierce Founders, the bootcamp for women help at Communitech in Kitchener.
Previously called the Women Entrepreneur’s Bootcamp, Fierce Founders is a two-stage, six-day bootcamp for women focused on customer validation, business fundamentals and pitches.
As well as mentorship and the chance to make valuable connections, Fierce Founders ends with a pitching competition at which $100,000 in prizes will be awarded. Last year, Sarah Murphy, the Co-Founder and CEO of St. John’s-based Sentinel Alert, won the $35,000 first prize at the event.
Communitech, the multifaceted entrepreneurship hub in Kitchener, is looking for female startup founders from across Canada and beyond. You can apply here until May 16.
The organizers will select 25 entrepreneurs with a tech or tech-based idea at an MVP or pre-MVP stage. They will receive hands-on mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs and experts as they build out their business models and work toward refining their product offerings.
The first phase of the program takes place July 19-21 and focuses on developing a business model, building customer personas, and developing presentation skills. The second stage, Aug. 23-25, will stress business fundamentals, funding, sales and marketing and pitching.
Keith McIntosh, the Co-CEO and President of Fredericton-based PQA Testing, was named Industry Champion and captured the People’s Choice Award at the annual Kira Awards banquet last night.
The Kiras – or Knowledge Industry Recognition Awards -- are presented annually to members of New Brunswick’s knowledge industry in recognition of excellence in developing a knowledge-based economy in the province.
McIntosh established PQA Testing in 1997 to provide independent and unbiased quality assurance software testing. The award-winning company now employs more than 100 professionals and has built long standing relationships in such sectors as healthcare, finance, gaming, telecommunications, government, and eLearning.
The other Kira winners are:
Most Promising Startup – Eigen Innovations, Fredericton, which uses an internet of things application to help manufacturers improve production efficiency and reduce waste.
Most Innovative Product – Mycodev Group, Fredericton, which has developed a new method of producing high-quality chitosan, which has numerous commercial applications in such fields as pharmaceuticals, medical devices and other life sciences.
Premier’s Innovation Award, Private Sector – Malley Industries Inc., Dieppe, which manufactures ambulances, wheelchair accessible vehicles, specialized commercial fleets and plastic products for a wide range of industrial clients.
Premier’s Innovation Award, Public Sector – The Horizon Health Network, whose Telestroke helps emergency rooms without specialists to connect with neurologists off-site, saving precious time and improving treatment results.
Economic Impact -- Groupe Savoie, St-Quentin, which is a vertically integrated producer of hardwood products, including pallets and pallet components, cabinet and furniture components, hardwood lumber, tone wood components, ecological fuels and wood chips.
QRA Launches QVScribe Beta-Test
QRA Corp., a Halifax startup that helps manufacturers detect design flaws in the development of complex machines, has launched a public beta-test for its latest product, QVScribe.
The product, which can be downloaded free during the beta-test, helps engineers understand the requirements listed in the documents they write when they are first proposing a piece of machinery.
QRA, which started as an industry-funded research project at Dalhousie University, has already developed QVTrace, which identifies design flaws in machinery while it is still in the design stage.
“The launch of QVScribe is important because it helps to diversify our product offering,” CEO and president Jordan Kyriakidis said in an interview Tuesday. “Our previous tool was deployed deep into the engineering process. This new tool is a bit more light-weight.”
QRA said in December that it had begun to provide Lockheed Martin engineers with the QVTrace to help with the development of increasingly complex cyber-physical designs. The product grew out of research that Kyriakidis and his team performed at Dalhousie University under a contract for Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defence contractor.
Whereas the QVTrace product is an enterprise product sold to large corporations, QVScribe is a software-as- a-service product that any engineer can download and use to analyze requirements documents.
Kyriakidis said these documents comprise the first step of a major mechanical project, and if there is a mistake in them it could pose huge problems that crop up down the line. He added about half the problems that cost engineers time and money occur in this phase of the process. QVScribe uses Natural Language Processing to automatically detect problems in the written proposal, and helps the engineer to identify them.
“Since our early schooling, we are asked to be creative in our writing; engineering on the other hand requires us to be precise, concise and unambiguous,” defence engineering consultant Claude Lemelin said in a statement from QRA. “QVscribe shows a requirements document’s weaknesses, so they can be quickly corrected. It’s a simple tool for a complex problem that I think has the potential to be very helpful throughout the requirement engineering process.”
Kyriakidis said in the interview that his 15-person company took the new product through a closed alpha tests with about 15 to 20 organizations in late 2015. As a result, QRA has already received requests for additional features on QVScribe.
He said the length of the beta test would depend on the feedback the company receives. The product will be for sale after an official launch sometime in the near future.
QRA has raised funds investors, though the precise amount has never been made public. The company has received at least $1 million in equity investment from the provincial innovation agency, Innovacorp.
QRA says its mission is “to accelerate the design process and reduce costs across industries building the most complex, mission- and safety-critical systems – by building solutions that analyze system designs and requirements at all critical stages of development.”
Knowledgehook Wins Google Award
Knowledgehook co-founders Arthur Lui, left, Travis Ratnam and James Francis.
For the second time in five months, a Waterloo Region company has won a major pitching event at the Google headquarters in Silicon Valley.
Edtech startup Knowledgehook on Wednesday received Google’s Game Changer Award at the tech giant’s annual Demo Day. When Google held its Demo Day for female-led startups in December, the winner was another Canadian outfit, Bridgit of Kitchener.
Knowledgehook was one of two Canadian entries – the other was Halifax-based PACTA – among the 11 startups pitching at the annual event in Mountain View, Calif.
Waterloo-based Knowledgehook has developed software that analyzes the academic performance of math students in real-time games to recommend to educators alternative teaching practices. Knowledgehook, which has been working with the Accelerator Centre and Communitech’s Rev accelerator, was founded in 2014 by Ratnam, Francis, Lambo Jayapalan, and Arthur Lui.
“We’re thrilled and grateful to have shared the stage with so many talented and passionate entrepreneurs,” Ratnam said in a statement. “The support we’ve received today will be pivotal to our mission of helping students all over the world build their math skills.”
A popular exam prep tool among the 5,000 teachers in Canada and the U.S. who use it, Knowledgehook software unpacks students’ misunderstanding and suggests how teachers can address it.
Since September 2015, 12 Ontario school boards have been reviewing predictive insights the software generates for each student to help teachers adapt their lessons for optimal learning.
“We’re optimistic that the accuracy and timeliness of Knowledgehook’s insights will advance school boards in their efforts to improve students’ academic performance,” said Ratnam.
A graduate of the Propel ICT and FounderFuel accelerators, PACTA has developed software that helps organizations, especially large corporations, manage their vast portfolios of contracts. It tells the organization when an action is needed in each contract, and how external events may impact the company’s contracts.
PACTA was named one of Canada’s Top 25 Up and Coming ICT companies by Branham Group.
To be selected to participate in Google’s annual Demo Day, startups must be legally incorporated headquartered in the U.S., Canada or Mexico and be actively raising a Series A round of between $1 million and $4 million.
Briefs: Lux, B4checkin, Awards
Lux Wind Approved for Cedif
Lux Wind Turbines, the developer of a vertical wind turbine that won a NASA design award in 2013, has won approval to raise equity through Nova Scotia’s Community Economic Development Investment Fund, or Cedif, program.
Lux Wind CEDC wants to raise between $500,000 and $800,000 to help bring its vertical wind turbine to market.
The Lux Wind Turbine has the potential to address a major challenge in the wind energy sector – economic viability. Now, individual Nova Scotians have an opportunity to own common shares in the company and gain equity tax credits toward provincial income taxes payable.
The company is already the first in Canada to raise capital through the equity crowdfunding exemption recently approved by the Ontario Securities Commission and security commissions in other provinces, including Nova Scotia.
“Our vertical technology has the potential to significantly benefit the wind energy sector,” said CEO Terry Norman in a statement. “Now Nova Scotians have a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor as shareholders.”
Invest Atlantic To Be Held in Moncton Oct 5 ad 6
Invest Atlantic, the East Coast conference for the entrepreneurs and investors, has announced that the 2016 event will be held at the Delta Beauséjour in Moncton on Oct. 5 and 6.
It will be the first time in its seven-year history that Invest Atlantic has been held outside Halifax.
Since it began in 2010, Invest Atlantic has chosen a theme each year, such as partnering with corporations, global investing, or angel investment.
B4checkin Appoints Peter J. Rogers, Jr. as Chairman
Halifax-based b4checkin Inc., which makes cloud-based hospitality software solutions, has named Peter J. Rogers, Jr. as its new Chairman of the Board.
Rogers has extensive experience working with hospitality software and will help b4checkin with future product releases and new partnerships.
Rogers was Executive Vice President of Business Development and Investor Relations at MICROS Systems, Inc., of Columbia, MD. He helped the company to become a global leader in providing information systems to the hotel, restaurant and retail industries.
“We are thrilled to have Peter join b4checkin as Chairman of the Board,” said b4checkin Founder and CEO Saar Fabrikant in a statement. “Just as Peter helped grow MICROS from a startup to a global enterprise, we are confident he will do the same for b4checkin. His far-reaching knowledge of tech solutions and hospitality software will help guide us through the next critical phase for our company.”
You can find the nomination forms here, and the nominations are open until May 31.
The Discovery Awards bring together academia, business and the community to honour people whose exemplary work has helped to improve science, technology and innovation in Nova Scotia. This could be a new invention, an innovative study, a life-long dedication to science or a commitment to the promotion of science and technology.
There are four Award categories: Science Champion; Professional of Distinction; Innovation; and Emerging Professional.
The Discovery Awards for Science and Technology will be held Nov. 17 at The Halifax Marriott Harbourfront in Halifax.
The province’s innovation agency hosted a seminar at the Venn Centre in Moncton on Tuesday at which it unveiled the new thinking on funding. The foundation’s mandate for making venture capital investments is largely staying the same – it will continue to make about 10 early-stage investments each year. But it wants to take a more proactive role in working with companies that are seeking multi-million-dollar financing rounds.
NBIF Investment Analyst Raymond Fitzpatrick said the group up to now has had a “soft ceiling” of $1 million in investing in any one company. It would also participate in follow-on rounds as long as the company found an independent investor to lead the round.
Though it still wants other funds to be the main investor in a large round, the foundation is now more interested in initiating such rounds, possibly writing the term sheet to draw interest from other investors. In certain cases, when a startup has hit or exceeded all its milestones, NBIF may exceed its $1 million ceiling as long as there are other funds making large investments.
“We’re not happy with companies just getting going – we really want those companies to scale up,” said Fitzpatrick. “We’re going to take our best-performing companies and we’re going to step up first. One million [dollars in total investment] is good. Three million is better. Five million – now you’re talking.”
He said NBIF intends to invest $4.8 million in each of the next two fiscal years. The fund invested $4.2 million in 2014-15, the most recent data available.
As well as a more assertive investment policy, NBIF is also going to work with its 40 to 50 portfolio companies and other New Brunswick startups to encourage them to focus on all aspects of scaling.
Naturally, that includes financing. A panel of entrepreneurs speaking at Venn event said founders looking for follow-on funding have to present a clear vision of how they will create value and show they can execute on their growth plans.
“We had people coming to us because there was a sense that we had a vision and there was a sense that we were creating value,” said David Baxter, President of Fiddlehead Technology, which recently raised $1.8 million.
The other areas that NBIF wants to focus on are sales and human resources (including establishing a board of directors).
Fitzpatrick said the NBIF will probably focus more on sales development at the bootcamp for its Breakthru startup competition, which will begin later this year.
“A lot of companies think you can build a company without a sales team,” said Yves Boudreau, the CEO of Qimple. “The reality is you have to build a sales team so … be prepared to hire some people.”
Fitzpatrick said NBIF has been getting some pushback from startups when it encourages them to set up boards of directors. But Daniella DeGrace, CEO of Gemba Software Solutions urged entrepreneurs to think of a board as source of expertise and connections.
“Think about it as a great situation that you cannot do without,” she said.
Disclaimer: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.
15 Companies to Present at AVF
The Atlantic Venture Forum has unveiled the 15 companies that will present at the 2016 edition of the conference, which will be held in Halifax June 22 and 23.
The list features eight early-stage and seven growth-stage companies, including representatives from all four Atlantic Provinces, and each of the major sectors, IT, biotech and cleantech.
As a member of the selection committee, I can say the process was rigorous and the competition tough. The 40-odd entries featured some really great companies, not all of whom made the cut. Even the seed-stage companies include some companies that are developing into dynamic enterprises.
Here is a complete list of the presenting companies:
Airbly, Charlottetown – Airbly has developed the Canairy Cockpit Monitor, which is installed on top of an aircraft's instrument panel to monitor the craft’s position, usage and cabin environment. Airbly is the only member of the current Propel ICT Launch Program to present at the AVF.
DMF Medical Inc., Halifax -- DMF Medical develops biomedical devices that make the process of delivering anesthesia safer.
Ella Online Marketplace Inc., Saint John – This member of the current Propel Build Program and Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone has developed an online market place through which women can sell clothes they no longer want.
Panag Pharma Inc., Halifax -- Panag is developing novel cannabinoid-based formulations for treatment of pain and inflammation. Panag’s pipeline of products includes formulations for topical application to the skin, the eye and other mucous membranes.
Photodynamic Inc., Mount Uniacke, NS – The company once known as Fenol Farm, which won $100,000 at the 2014 I-3 competition, has developed hardware that uses a combination of light and natural compounds extracted from invasive plants to cure oral health problems.
Site 2020, Halifax – Working out of the Volta startup house, Site 2020 has developed technology that reduces costs and improves safety for signage crews on highway construction sites.
Woods Camp, Mahone Bay, NS -- Another member of the Propel Build group, Woods Camp offers an online platform that helps woodland owners understand the value of their land and manage their forest.
Zora, Las Vegas and Halifax – This graduate of The Mill accelerator in Las Vegas has developed a property management platform for landlords.
4-Deep Inwater Imaging, Halifax – Recently funded by Chinese optics manufacturer Guangzhou Bosma, 4-Deep makes powerful electronic microscopes, and focuses on those that operate under underwater.
Athletigen, Halifax – Athletigen uses an online interface to present genetics analysis in a format that athletes and coaches, looking to improve performance, can easily understand and incorporate into their training plan. The company recently raised US$1.55 million in venture capital.
FundMetric, Halifax – Fundmetric’s platform uses data analytics to help charities raise more money. The company has recently been growing its client base in New York after pitching at an event organized by the Canadian Digital Media Network.
HeyOrca!, St. John’s – The recent recipient of $650,000 in funding, HeyOrca! helps marketing agencies that manage multiple client brands to visually plan and seamlessly approve social media content. The graduate of the Propel Build Program operates out of the Genesis Centre in St. John’s.
NB BioMatrix, Saint John – The company, which won $220,000 in the 2015 Breakthru competition, is using nano-technology to develop a biodegradable, anti-bacterial liquid that can remove heavy metals and other pollutants from waste water.
Half a decade after first conceiving of an online wardrobe management tool, Debbie Fraser and John Leahy are preparing to beta-test their mobile app that helps people choose clothes.
Leahy owns Bedford-based web development company ImmediaC and has been working with Fraser for the past five years. Together, they came up with the idea as an enterprise-based application for clothing retailers. They launched a separate division of ImmediaC called Imagine That Technologies to develop the product. But they found it hard to land a contract with large companies for various reasons. So they started over to build a consumer app that could tap several revenue streams from individuals and corporate customers.
The product is now a two-dimensional augmented reality-based tool that lets people super-impose pictures of clothes on their own image on their phone. They can swap clothes and accessories around to find the best combination, and they can swap colours to find the one that’s right for them.
“We have an app that is about 95 per cent finished,” said Leahy in his office overlooking the Sackville River. “It’s a shopping app that lets you try on clothes and share them on social media. So it’s a virtual fitting room on your phone.”
Fraser, who joined the conversation via video-link from Phoenix, where she is on a business trip, added that users can view the clothes from their own clothes as well as something they’re thinking about purchasing to see what matches and suits the wearer. For example, a woman thinking of buying a scarf can see what it looks like on herself with clothes she already owns. She could also share the results on social media.
Over the past 18 years, ImmediaC has built clients more than 2,500 websites — more, Leahy believes, than any other web design company in Canada. But like many service-based companies, they devote resources to the development of products. There are two other products in development that Leahy declined to detail. He simply said that ImmediaC is a bit of an incubator.
They said ImmediaC built the latest version of Imagine That from the ground up, and have been testing it in-house. Now they will test it was about 100 young fashion-conscious individuals in preparation for a full launch this summer. The initial product operates off Apple’s iOS platform, and the intention is for it to be available free in the App store.
“There’s a lot of competition but none of them has all of what we’re doing,” said Leahy. The competitors, he said, don’t allow customers to try on clothes over their own photos and are more limited in the mix-and-match functions.
Clothing brands make photos of their products available developers of such apps, so there is no difficulty in finding merchandise for the app.
There are three ways the app could make money — bringing in retailers to customize their own product; taking a cut if someone buys clothes through the app; and selling premium features on the app to consumers.
Leahy and Fraser hope Imagine That will eventually become a standalone company with its own team. But they added that for the next year or so it will continue to be a division of ImmediaC.
NBIF Innovation Vouchers Hit $1.3M
The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation said Monday it provided $1.3 million in funding for small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, through its Innovation Voucher Fund in 2015-16.
Through the fund, NBIF provides as much as $80,000 to SMEs to help them work with universities, colleges or research institutes in conducting applied research.
“In today’s economy, finding new and better ways to do business is how the most successful companies keep their competitive edge,” NBIF President and CEO Calvin Milbury said in a statement. “Our innovation vouchers have opened up a whole new world of opportunities for SMEs in New Brunswick, and in the three years since we started the fund, 41 companies from every corner of the province have collaborated with applied researchers to turn their ideas into enterprise.”
The startups that tapped the program last year included Moncton-based Smartpods, which makes desks that adjust automatically for standing and sitting positions, and Fredericton-based BioPolynet, which has used nanotechnology to develop a fastening agent. They worked respectively with University of New Brunswick and the Fredericton research organization RPC.
To be eligible for the voucher, applicants must cover at least 20 percent of the project’s cost. Intellectual property developed during the project remains with the company.
Since the fund’s inception in 2014, NBIF has paid out $2.8 million in the program and companies have spent more than $700,000.
You can find a complete list of the companies that participated in the program in the year to March 31, 2016, here.
Jobs of the Week: 3 New Postings
This week we are featuring three new postings on the Entrevestor Job Board – one each from Dash Hudson of Halifax, Remsoft Inc. of Fredericton and Clockwork Fox Studios of St. John’s.
Dash Hudson, a developer of Instagram retail solutions, is accepting applications for a junior brand strategist at its Halifax offices. The company provides data analytics on Instragram posts for major brands.
Remsoft Inc. specializes in providing businesses insight into how to best use woodlands to maximize profitability and sustainability. Started 24 years ago, Remsoft has seen accelerated growth over the last five years due to its early development of software that produces key strategic information. Remsoft is looking for a QA analyst to join its Fredericton office.
Educational game developer Clockwork Fox Studios started the year by closing a million-dollar round of funding. Clockwork Fox is using this funding to publish its grade-level specific Zorbit series of math games, the Grade 2 version of which is due for release later this year. Clockwork Fox Studios is looking for a social/digital marketing specialist.
The Jobs of the Week column features postings on the Entrevestor Job Board. Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Job Board which helps match positions and candidates in the tech and start-up communities.
This person will work closely with the brand strategy team and assist the business development process by participating in lead generation, sales outreach, and progress tracking. The junior brand strategist will be actively engaged with both new and existing leads to move them through the sales funnel. Responsibilities for the role include reaching monthly quotas for lead generation and contacts, management of CRM and sales pipeline, and assisting in the creation of custom marketing and sales materials. No formal education is necessary, though analytical, business development, strategic, sales, and marketing skills are required.
The QA Analyst will be responsible for helping to ensure customer satisfaction. This will be accomplished by developing, simplifying and refining user-acceptance tests. This person will remain up-to-date on how enhancements to Remsoft products will impact customers and share insight other team members insights on what customers want. Qualifications for the position include a Bachelor degree in Forest Management, Engineering, Operations Research/Analytics, or Computer Science/software testing. Remsoft is looking for someone with one to three years’ experience in a similar role. A Master’s degree in forestry or another natural resource science will be considered an asset.
This person will be responsible for building and maintaining Clockwork Fox’s social media presence through an array of campaigns, as well as sending emails and deploying digital marketing strategies to drive click rates. He or she will also brainstorm strategies to create and nurture new sales leads, and evaluate all strategies against set goals. Qualifications include a Bachelor degree in marketing or a related field and proven work experience in digital marketing. Resumé and cover letter can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Social/Digital Marketing Specialist”.
Dal Team To Join Startup Bus in Tampa
Yoon Park, left, Isaac Greenberg and Tobias Oedegaard are raising money for their Tampa-to-Boulder trek
Aspiring entrepreneurs often go to great lengths to boost their creativity and connections. Now, a trio of students hope to raise enough money to become the first Atlantic Canadians to travel on a Startup Bus.
Similar in concept to the Startup Weekend, the Startup Bus hosts entrepreneurs for 72 hours, with the aim of allowing new networks and ideas to flourish. The difference, in this case, is that the venue travels.
The Halifax trio, who are all students at Dalhousie University, aim to join a food and beverage themed bus that departs Tampa, Fla. on May 15 and travels to Boulder, Colo. over the following three days. They are now raising money for the trip through this crowdfunding campaign.
Yoon Park, a fourth-year management student, said the bus experience allows participants to meet would-be entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Participants have the common goal of launching a startup by the end of the journey.
“I believe we need a student-initiated idea that is fun to get Atlantic Canadian students interested in entrepreneurship,” said Park, a Korean-Canadian.
“People have started paying attention to entrepreneurship, but it still sounds too monumental to most students. A lot of students in Atlantic Canada have a conservative approach to their career, and this is where we want to inspire a change.
“They intend to study hard and get a job at a big company and the company will take care of them forever, but that’s not the case.”
Park and the other Dal students — Norwegian Tobias Oedegaard, a second-year management student, and American-Canadian Isaac Greenberg, who is in his second year studying economics and sustainability — intend to document their journey on social media.
Their accounts will include video of life on the bus, which will stop overnight en route to Boulder. Once at their destination, teams will pitch their ideas to stakeholders and be mentored by industry leaders.
Each team’s progress will be documented online. The event also has a virtual stock market for trading shares in each startup as it develops.
The trio hope that Atlantic Canada will be represented with a bus of its own in next year’s competition.
“To make that happen we need a success story,” Park said.
Oedegaard and Greenberg are already establishing a tempeh business in Halifax and intend to explore the intersection of the food and tech industries as they travel to Boulder.
Tempeh is an Indonesian soy protein similar to tofu. The duo are poised to begin distribution of their product to local vendors in the coming weeks.
They hope the Startup Bus will introduce them to people who can advise on supply routes, and connect them to suppliers and other contacts in the U.S.
The three are joining the bus together but don’t have to form a team, as participants will split into groups after pitching ideas during the first hours of the trip.
“As soon as the journey starts, we all introduce ourselves. People pitch their ideas and skills and teams are formed on the bus,” Park said.
The Startup Bus was founded in Australia in 2010.
Since then, the group has held 14 events on four continents, driving across 26 countries.
The Dal trio originally wanted to begin their own journey on a bus from Halifax, but realized it was too expensive.
So, they intend to fly to Tampa to join the food and beverage bus.
They need $5,100 to fund the trip. So far, they have secured $1,200 from stakeholders at Dalhousie. They intend to try crowd-funding next, while also reaching out to local businesses for sponsorship.
Park said he is hopeful they will raise the rest of the money. You can contribute to their campaign here.
Briefs: Propel, Startup Grind, IBMC
A recent Propel Demo Day.
Propel Demo Day Set for June 21
Atlantic Canadian accelerator Propel ICT has announced that its next Demo Day will be held June 21 at Neptune Theatre in Halifax.
The event featuring company presentations will begin at 5:30 pm, and is being held on the eve of the Atlantic Venture Forum, which will take place at the Nova Scotian Westin on June 22 and 23.
Demo Day will include pitches from the nine teams that are going through the Build Program, which is for growth-stage companies. In the last Demo Day in September, some promising companies in the seed-stage Launch Program also pitched, but there has been no announcement whether that will be the case in June.
In the current cohort, the Build Program is being run out of the Venn Centre in Moncton, while the Launch Program is being offered in startup hubs in Charlottetown, St. John’s, Halifax and Fredericton.
Johnson Concrete To Use CarbonCure Technology
Halifax-based CarbonCure Technologies has announced that Johnson Concrete Co., a family owned business with locations across North Carolina, added the CarbonCure Masonry Technology in its Lexington plant. The CarbonCure technology recycles waste carbon dioxide into concrete products, effectively making Johnson concrete masonry units more environmentally friendly.
“We completed extensive due diligence into the viability of the technology, and its potential to create value for Johnson Concrete, and we are now pleased to offer our customers concrete products with a reduced carbon footprint,” said Johnson Executive Vice President Charles Newsome in a statement.
The CarbonCure technology injects carbon dioxide gas captured from nearby smokestacks into concrete products during the mixing phase. Once introduced into the concrete mix, the carbon dioxide chemically converts into a solid calcium carbonate mineral.
Since the gas has been converted into a mineral, it will never escape into the atmosphere. This means that Johnson Concrete will continue to provide high quality concrete products, and effectively get rid of local air pollution at the same time.
The two Saint Mary’s University teams will pitch in Redmond are: ProTell, which is creating wearable technology for people with Sickle Cell Anemia; and SeeMePly, which is lessening the administrative burden of African students applying to private schools.
As the organizers of the competition, Dalhousie University was also able to nominate a team to compete in the international competition. As such, 3 Meals, from Dalhousie’s Agricultural Campus, will attend the IBMC. The company is generating a protein from meal worms that can be used as a protein supplement.
Lucey To Speak at Startup Grind Halifax
Ian Lucey, the founder of the Lucey Fund, will deliver a talk to the Halifax chapter of Startup Grind on May 31 starting at 6 pm at the Innovacorp Innovation Centre in Halifax. Tickets are available here.
The Lucey Fund is a venture capital fund that backs early-stage IT startups. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based fund has offices in six countries including the U.S., Ireland, U.K. and Spain. It has invested in more than 70 startups over the past three-and-a-half years. In 2015 alone the Lucey Fund invested in 30 new projects and it plans to invest in more than 50 in 2016.
Lucey recently opened an office in Los Angeles and is actively seeking further investment opportunities across the United States and Canada.
Venor Buys Assets of Equals6
Executive search firm Venor has bought the assets of Equals6, a career-focused social network for students, for an undisclosed price.
Halifax-based Equals6 was designed to be a place where students could discuss career prospects, as opposed to other social media sites, which tend to be more about lifestyles. Students can communicate with one-another, or with companies that pay to join the site.
Started by Co-Founders Craig Coady and Ian Sullivan, Venor now plans to use Equals6’s Students2Mentors product to develop a resource for young people getting started on their career path. Overseeing the new division will be Chantal Brine, who has been the Venor executive in charge of youth career advancement for the past year.
“Venor has an established reputation for placing qualified candidates in challenging and rewarding positions,” Brine said in a statement. “We are taking that same standard of excellence to helping new talent in our province’s students prepare for and find meaningful employment.”
Equals6 was developed by entrepreneurs Andy Osburn and Mark Boyle, who oversaw its steady growth over the past five years. Meanwhile, the pair was also working on SecureReset, which has developed two products for simplifying user passwords and authentication. Last November, Osburn and Boyle sold SecureReset to Atlanta-based Courion and signaled that they were also in talks to sell Equals6.
In buying the assets of Equals6, Venor plans to use Students2Mentors to link students with mentors in their field of interest. A cloud-based, automated and customizable platform, the tool enables students, mentors and university administrators to create mentorship programs and track their success.
The statement said Brine would bring her experience in organizational change, human resources, community relations, entrepreneurship and technology to help students and graduates to transition to the workforce. She is already collaborating with academic institutions to further develop Students2Mentors.
Venor said Equals6 has already impacted more than 13,000 students and 125 employers from across North America.
“We see firsthand the challenge of employers who want to attract the right talent and grow businesses here,” said Sullivan. “We want to do our part to support the call of the One NS Coalition and the Ivany Report to act. Rather than standby idly on the sidelines, we have created a focus solely on building a stronger and more inspired youth talent pool in Nova Scotia.”
Innovacorp, the innovation agency owned by the Nova Scotia government, invested $250,000 in Equals6 in 2012 through a convertible debenture. Since the company never raised follow-on funds the debenture would never have been converted to equity.
“Innovacorp anticipates repayment of our debenture and, while we can’t share the commercial terms of Venor’s license of the E6 platform, one can infer that Equals6 derives revenue from that partnership,” said Innovacorp Managing Director Greg Phipps in an email.
Equals6 is the second Innovacorp portfolio company to announce a major deal recently. Livelenz, which received $1.4 million in investment from the agency, recently sold out to Chandler, Arizona-based Mobivity Holding Corp. for less than $1 million in stock in a bid to grow with the larger company.
Innovation Week Starts in NB
Innovation Week is taking place in New Brunswick over the next week with a range of events across the province.
The annual celebration began last night with the Open Data Awards in Saint John, which leads into the Canadian Open Data Summit in the port city today.
The highlight of the week will be the KIRA Awards Gala, which will recognize people who have made great contributions to the knowledge industry. The Gala will take place 5:30 next Thursday at the Fredericton Convention Centre.
You can find a complete schedule of the events here.
InTheChat Partners with Facebook
InTheChat announced at Facebook’s recent F8 Conference that it can now offer Facebook Messenger as a platform for enterprises worldwide, allowing companies greater reach and flexibility when dealing with customers.
The Waterloo-based company offers a full-scale digital customer service platform that enables companies to serve customers through social media chat, email, text, and now Facebook Messenger.
InTheChat is one of the first platforms to engage with Messenger. The Ontario company reached out to Facebook late last year and both parties saw the integration of Messenger into InTheChat as strategic: Facebook wants to grow the “chat” side of Messenger among big businesses, the exact market that InTheChat specializes in.
InTheChat makes customer service on messaging channels 58 per cent more efficient than a regular phone call, and thus offers significant savings on a company’s customer service costs. The company, which operates out of the Accelerator Centre, uses text analytics to route messages from customers to the best-skilled customer service agent. Customer service representatives can then chat with three to five customers at one time through various digital channels, rather than with one customer through the traditional method of the telephone call.
“People are so used to communicating with their friends and family through these channels that they’re waiting for companies to open them up and engage in that way,” InTheChat CEO John Huehn said in an interview.
Huehn worked at Rogers Communications for 12 years: he started as call centre representative and worked his way up to Vice President, Client Management, accountable for call centre strategy.
He started InTheChat six years ago as a more efficient way for companies to interact with their customers through social media rather than telephone. However, he noticed that many customers would prefer to privately message the company rather than send a public tweet with a query or problem and introduced private messaging capabilities via text, chat and Messenger.
He said the company’s aim is “that a customer can get service whenever and however they want, and we make that [happen] so you get a great customer satisfaction.”
Last year, InTheChat launched TD Bank Group as one of the first big businesses available for chatting on Facebook Messenger. They also put Newegg, a California-based computer/electronics e-retailer, on Messenger. Though Messenger is an unsecured channel, webforms and other applications enable customers to provide information through secure channels rather than giving out private information over the chatting platform.
Huehn himself has gone through a review of his data usage and changed his data plan with his telecom company—all through Messenger and text chatting.
“You’re able to continue your conversation without disclosing private information to get your problem solved just as easily as you can on the phone,” he said.
InTheChat targets mainly large enterprises, as the most complex part of their system is routing the right message to the right person via text analytics.
Each company pays a personalized fee, which includes a platform fee. Companies then add users on to the platforms that they can access.
InTheChat is a growth-oriented company and its 22 employees are always looking to expand channels.
“How do we innovate emerging channels that emerging generations choose to communicate on to make those available for customer service?” Huehn said.
NPC: ‘Like Emergence on Steroids’
When the federal government announced funding in February for Charlottetown-based Natural Products Canada, it was the culmination of several years of effort by the PEI life sciences community.
The PEI BioAlliance first applied to create a natural products commercialization centre after the federal government launched its Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research, or CECR, program in 2007. But it was rejected at the time because the original proposal was too local. So it began to work with partners from across the country and came up with a proposal that won the backing of Ottawa. It’s the first time a Maritime proposal received CECR funding.
“What we’re really good at is bringing our local networks around the best idea and developing a strong structure in terms of design,” said BioAlliance Executive Director Rory Francis in an interview. “We have a very credible name across the country and we were able to bring in partners from Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan to make it happen.”
In February, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Navdeep Bains announced that the federal government would contribute $14 million to Natural Products Canada, which would be headquartered in Charlottetown. While the BioAlliance would serve as the Atlantic Canadian hub for the centre, the partnership includes AgWest Bio in Saskatchewan, the Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization and the Institute for Nutrition and Functional Foods in Quebec. The federal contribution will be matched by over $10 million from industry and other sources, for total funding of more than $24 million over the next five years.
The Natural Products Centre will be headed by CEO Shelley King, who previously worked with Synapse (the tech transfer office at the University of P.E.I.) and Genome Atlantic. She and her eight staff members will work with companies that have products based on natural substances and need to bring them to market.
It’s a project that has Francis and others in the Atlantic Canadian life sciences community excited, and here’s why.
First, the sector it works in is hot. There’s a push from consumers and government for businesses to offer more products made from sustainable materials, including those drawn from nature. That offers a huge opportunity to study how to extract useful chemicals and materials from natural sources, and to apply them to products ranging from food to cosmetics to agricultural inputs to drugs to animal health products. The list is endless.
Second, by working with partners from across the country, the companies in the NPC program will have access to a tremendous network. All four of the founding institutions bring with them vast groups of contacts in business, government and academia. That means a company in Atlantic Canada entering the program will have access to researchers, labs, investors, mentors and potential customers from across the country and beyond.
And third, the centre has the ability to finance companies, but the competition is tough. That means the companies interested in gaining the funding will have to up their game, which should benefit the entire sector.
“I get excited because the bar to get to CECR funding for that program is really, really high,” said Francis. It is the second time in three years that Charlottetown has won a federal competition to offer programing for life sciences companies.
“NPC can do a bunch of things that Emergence can’t – it’s sort of Emergence on steroids,” said Francis. “The nature of these CECRs is they have to be sustainable over a period of time. … so [the member companies] have to have a stream of income.”
And Francis believes the NPC will be adept at helping companies develop those streams of income because so much of the expertise is drawn from private business. It will have academic partners like University of New Brunswick Saint John, UPEI and universities in other regions, but it’s led by private business people.
“Most of these CECRs tend to be academically led,” said Francis. “They’re known for great science and academic research. In this case, we’ve kind of turned this around – you haven’t heard too much about the academic component because this was really very much a private sector-led initiative.”
Repable Eyes Analytics for ESports
Heather Anne Carson and Sean Power
Heather Anne Carson fully understood she was on to something big with her new startup Repable when she attended the KeSPA eSport championship in South Korea last autumn.
Operating out of Moncton and Toronto, Repable collects and analyzes data on eSports, or competitive gaming, a fast-growing international phenomenon. It’s estimated some 200 million people will watch competitive gaming this year.
KeSPA was held in a packed arena in Seoul. Thousands of fans — many dressed like characters in the games — were screaming madly as two five-member teams faced off against each other. It was the mania that convinced her and technical co-founder Sean Power they are in a fantastic market.
“When I started looking at the ecosystem of gaming, I learned it’s amazing,” she said in a recent interview. “When I started looking at the numbers I couldn’t ignore the potential in this space. It’s the fastest growing segment of the entertainment industry.”
An expert in public relations and marketing, Carson is a veteran of the East Coast startup community. (She actually emceed the first PropelICT Demo Day four years ago.) In 2012, she and Renee Warren launched Onboardly, a PR and marketing agency that targeted startups and quickly secured clients across North America. Last year she left the agency to co-found a product-based startup.
“I always knew that eventually I would build a product company,” she said. “Most of it was being exposed to so many really, really, really smart startups in my job. You get the bug. But ideas don’t always just come and it takes just the right catalyst.”
She teamed up with Power last year, and they found that his background in data analytics complemented her marketing savvy. They knew they wanted to do a Big Data venture, and they eventually settled on eSports.
This pastime is growing so quickly that major consumer product brands want to use it as a marketing vehicle, but they don’t know how. Major TV networks want to broadcast it. 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.
Repable can charge the brands to provide the data. Power is close to completing a dashboard that will analyze the data collected from the audience of 60 million people around the world. It can tell brands what teams are hot, how to engage players and spectators, and what is gaining in popularity.
The seven-month-old company is now preparing to enter the market. It is now going through the PropelICT accelerator in Moncton and working out of the Digital Media Zone of Ryerson University in Toronto. The company expects to launch a product for enterprise clients in the late summer. Eventually it would like a consumer product that will help people playing the games what is hot and how they can move up in the industry.
“We help teams and agencies understand the attention of the fans,” said Carson. “It’s a huge, huge, huge market and the excitement for us is helping people to make informed decisions.”
The Fredericton-based Industrial Internet of Things company has been gaining international attention lately, and now it has named former CTO Scott Everett as its new CEO. He replaces Richard Jones, who will remain on the board of directors.
“Scott has grown from co-founder and visionary to an executive leader doing a great job shaping the strategic direction of the company, and now is a good time for me to step away and let Eigen continue on its upward trajectory,” said Jones in a statement.
A graduate of the PropelICT tech accelerator, Eigen’s product, Intellexon, helps manufacturers improve production efficiency and reduce waste. The system uses algorithms developed under the guidance of researcher and co-founder Rickey Dubay at the University of New Brunswick. Everett worked with Dubay and has been the technical expert developing the product for the past few years.
Intellexon selects data from sensors and other sources in a customer’s plant and sends the relevant data to the cloud, where it is analyzed. Finally, it sends information back to the plant, where action is taken. All of this happens in real time, so the actions are precise. With offices in Fredericton and Toronto, Eigen is working with partners, including Oregon’s FLIR Systems Inc., the world’s largest thermal camera and sensor maker, to develop Intellexon to suit these customers’ needs.
Having previously raised a bit of seed funding, the company has now received $250,000 from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. NBIF has now invested a total of $500,000 in the company. The other investors are BDC Capital, which invested $100,000, and a range of angels. The company is listed as one of the portfolio companies of East Valley Ventures, a division of Mariner Partners that channels private money into startups.
Last week, Texas computer maker Dell unveiled its Dell IoT Solutions Partner Program to help build an ecosystem to help customers navigate the fragmented IoT landscape and identify the right technologies to develop solutions. Eigen is one of the partners in the program.
In December, Eigen won a US$25,000 cash prize by placing third at the second annual Cisco Innovation Grand Challenge in Dubai. Because of the bronze showing, Eigen was given a long-term relationship with Cisco, the global maker of networking equipment and a huge proponent of the Internet of Things. The top three finalists have VIP access to industry, investment and business experts.
Also in December, when CB Insights listed the 100 companies worldwide influencing the IoT market, Eigen made the list in the industrial category.
Developing a Healthier Fish Stock
Amber Garber at the R3 Gala in Fredericton
Fish farming often gets a bad rap. New Brunswick scientist Dr. Amber Garber is working to make farmed salmon and farming processes healthier, more sustainable and more profitable.
She’s doing it by breeding for traits like fast growth rates and improved natural resistance to sea lice and bacterial kidney disease.
“Selective breeding programs use the fishes’ natural genetic variability to make them better,” said the scientist who has been working on this broodstock program since 2010. Broodstock are a group of mature individuals used in aquaculture for breeding purposes.
“The broodstock program is responsibly improving fish. It’s maintaining genetic diversity, helping industry, and using fewer resources. It’s more sustainable.”
The scientist at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre, who was recently recognized at the R3 awards for scientific research, has been living in St. Andrews for 10 years. She previously worked on the Atlantic cod genomics and broodstock development project.
She said that breeding fish for desirable natural qualities helps the industry expand and become more efficient.
“It allows the use of fewer chemicals and antibiotics and increases the quality of the fish,” said the scientist who grew up on a farm in Ohio and learned to love animals while helping her father, a vet.
By producing a fish that is more resistant to sea lice, for example, the program decreases the number of treatments required, reducing many costs and the stress on fish.
Garber said the combined Nova Scotia and New Brunswick farmed salmon industries are currently worth $356 million annually.
“This equates to over 300 million meals of farmed Atlantic salmon every year and over 3,000 jobs.”
She said the latest generation of salmon in the broodstock program are growing 26 per cent faster than their parents did.
In Norway, where broodstock programs are more developed, farmed Atlantic salmon typically reach the harvest size of four kilograms in less than two years, compared with four years in the 1970s. The fast growth rate means the salmon industrysaves around 120,000 tons of feed annually.
Broodstock programs are not new or unusual, although it’s estimated less than 10 per cent of aquaculture production is based on these stocks.
“Breeding programs add a level of complexity and cost which often makes themseem unattainable, but set up and executed properly the benefits can outweigh these costs.”
Broodstock programs may not be new but winning the R3 Award has brought recognition and validation.
“The win helped boost awareness of the importance of aquaculture,” said Garber.
As a youngster, Garber knew she wanted a career that would make a difference.
She considered cancer research, but later gained a masters in population genetics in stock enhancement.
“I hadn’t done genetics to that point and I liked it, liked working with numbers and statistics,” she said.
“Aquaculture was growing, so I pursued my PhD in that at North Carolina State University.”
She said broodstock programs can also help wild species.
“Depletion of wild fish is a problem. Many commercially harvested species of fish are depleted to some extent…We’re protecting wild fish by shifting pressure from fishing to farming and consumption from wild to farmed. We’re trying to help the industry grow and reduce the environmental footprint…”
She said the Huntsman has recently been contracted by companies in Atlantic Canada and Ontario to design, assess, or complete statistical analysis associated with breeding programs.
“I want to help other industries become more sustainable,” she said. “Other species can all have broodstock programs.”
Machine Learning for Chemists
Jason Pearson: Developed algorithms that identify patterns in the formation of compounds.
Jason Pearson hopes that chemists around the world will soon be using a machine-learning system to accelerate the discovery and development of new compounds.
In fact, he’s preparing to release such a platform to a restricted group in July.
A professor at University of Prince Edward Island, Pearson is a computational chemist — that is, a chemist who uses computers in the development and analysis of compounds. He’s also the head of Retrievium Inc., the Charlotte-town-based startup that is developing the platform.
They’ve produced algorithms that recognize molecular patterns and properties and automatically lead researchers to new compounds that might have similar properties.
Discoverygarden, which oversees a digital repository for archives and museums around the world, worked with the team on developing the dashboard.
“If we compile a big enough data bank for chemists, then the computers we have get will smarter and smarter and smarter and eventually they’ll do a lot of things that humans can’t do,” said Pearson in an interview on Monday.
He explained that elements can be combined in an infinite number of groupings, and chemists in industry and research institutes spend their lives in search of better compounds than previously existed.
Retrievium will allow chemists in a variety of fields to input their data on compounds, the elements used and the properties of the molecules.
As the databank grows, the algorithms can make intelligent decisions on how to group together different elements to produce better drugs or industrial materials.
It would analyze the composition of chemicals and how different chemicals interact with one another.
“We’re putting together a business model,” said Pearson. “We’ve got some anticipated revenue streams that we’re going to have to test. We’re looking at industrial clients that have a lot of data and need a way of managing that data. It includes Big Pharma, of course, but it also includes industrial companies.”
He added Retrievium is also considering marketing the platform to data centres and academic researchers, who could benefit from its artificial intelligence.
The company will release a working prototype to about a dozen close collaborators in July, and then seek feedback from them.
Depending on the response from these working chemists, Pearson is hoping for a general release late this year or early in 2017.
Pearson and Poirier have fund-ed the project so far from various sources, largely from Springboard Atlantic, the organization that helps to commercialize Atlantic Canadian university research, and NSERC, which helps companies work with academic researchers. Pearson said their universities, especially the UPEI tech transfer office Synapse, helped as well.
In the future, they plan to seek private funding for the company and would be especially interested in teaming up with a corporation that would use the platform.
“If there’s an industrial client who sees a lot of potential, there’s a chance they will underwrite the development,” he said. “As researchers who developed the tool, we really want to see this tool grow.”
Vancouver-based HitchPlanet and Maritime Rideshare are both ridesharing services – that is, they allow drivers with empty seats in their car to link up with people who need a lift, cutting travel costs and reducing fuel consumption. The companies did not reveal the terms of the deal.
By buying out Maritime Rideshare, which started in Prince Edward Island in 2012, HitchPlanet now has communities on both coasts and plans to expand to become a true coast-to-coast service.
“We have come a long way since our genesis offering rideshares between Vancouver and Whistler,” said HitchPlanet CEO and Co-founder Flo Devellennes in a statement. “We saw a very strong market opportunity because of limited options for non-drivers or those without vehicles in Atlantic Canada. The popularity of Maritime Rideshare also gave us confidence in the Atlantic market.”
Maritime Rideshare was developed by a company called Seeets, which went through the second cohort of the Launch36 (now PropelICT) accelerator.
The statement said HitchPlanet is among the new breed of for-profit companies driven to create impact and change the way business is done. Through technological innovations and new business models there has been a surge in collaborative consumption and peer-to-peer platforms in the global market.
“Ultimately, HitchPlanet is a community,” said Devellennes. “We feel strongly that technology is our tool, not our objective.”
The company, which received $150,000 in angel investment last year, has set the goal of attaining 50,000 members who have shared 500,000 kilometers of journeys by the end of 2016. Members so far this year have logged 184,000 kilometres.
It also hopes to create 10 jobs across Canada including two in the Maritimes, this year.
Bridgit Raises US$1.7M VC Round
Mallorie Brodie, left, and Lauren Lake plan to use the money to expand in the U.S.
Bridgit, a Kitchener startup that has developed a mobile communications platform for the construction industry, has secured US$1.7 million (C$2.2 million) in venture capital financing, which it hopes will help to fund its U.S. expansion.
Lake and Brodie have developed a cloud-based app called Closeout, which replaces the pen-and-paper task of documenting unfinished, damaged or incorrect work. People in the industry refer to this list as a “punch list.”
With Closeout, users take pictures of the work areas and upload them along with notes for immediate viewing by the team, significantly streamlining the task. The app has been adopted by more than 100 companies since its launch in March 2014, including powerhouses Minto and CentreCorp.
“The construction industry has been slow to adopt to new technology, but as we talk to residential and commercial builders, it’s clear they are hungry for technology that lowers cost, simplifies processes and make it easier to get their jobs done,” said CEO Brodie in the statement. “We’re excited to partner with Hyde Park and Vanedge so we can put Bridgit’s solutions into the hands of more people who need them.”
The statement said the new funds will help to hire new engineers and sales people as well as fund the U.S. expansion.
“We created Google for Entrepreneurs Demo Days in order to highlight amazing entrepreneurs like Bridgit,” said Mary Grove, director of Google for Entrepreneurs. “Many founders have told us that they’re able to hire more quickly, get the attention of large corporate partners and open doors with investors as a result. We were very impressed by the Bridgit team and their traction at the event, and are thrilled to see them continue that great momentum.”
Previously, Bridgit raised angel financing from such investors as prominent New York City angel investor Joanne Wilson and Rypple co-founder Daniel Debow of Toronto.
“We believe that this type of innovation is sorely needed in the construction industry and that Bridgit has the ideal team to deliver it,” said Greg Barnes, principal of Hyde Park Venture Partners. “We can’t wait to see Mallorie, Lauren and their growing corps of experts build upon their solid foundation in the U.S. market.”
Checking Out Nashville’s Project Music
Kam Lal of Montreal-based Notetracks
I was really lucky in February to drop by the coolest accelerator I’ve ever heard of – Project Music in Nashville.
At an old brick transit garage in the heart of Nashville, two cohorts of music-related startups have been held, mentored by business leaders in one of the hottest music markets in the world. The focus is not, as you’d expect, on country music. It’s on any startup that could disrupt the music industry.
As a writer, something that fascinated me is that the latest cohort is being held in tandem with a complementary program called 1440, which is for startups looking to disrupt the publishing industry. Nashville also has a vibrant publishing industry.
These accelerators draw applicants from around the world, and one of founders I met while reporting on Project Music was Kam Lal of Montreal, who’s startup Notetracks was going through the music Program. Lal and his girlfriend had been watching the TV series Nashville and thought the city looked cool. When he learned there was a music-based accelerator in the city he applied and was accepted.
“It’s the music environment,” said Lal. “If I had known it had been here a long time ago, I would have been here a lot sooner.”
Two-year-old Notetracks has developed a platform that lets musicians record music, analyze it and make notes for one another. The company released the $9.99 app last year, and it is being used by more than 1,000 musicians and producers.
Lal is a member of the second cohort. The first cohort took place in winter 2015, and its eight teams each received $30,000 in funding in exchange for 7% of their company.
Cohort 2 features a core of seven teams, including representatives from Ukraine and Canada, with each receiving $47,000 for a 7% stake. A local non-profit also joint the program but did not receive funding.
One thing that is really cool about Project Music is the role of the local business community in launching and sustaining the program. The Country Music Association and local businesses were and are major sponsors. And all the investment came from private investors in the Nashville business and music community.
There are two lessons for Atlantic Canada in Project Music. First, this is how to get traditional businesses to back startups. And second, Project Music is a living example of how to use the indiginous culture of an area to spark new technology. It's something we should look at more.
Why You Should Complete our Survey
The whole community benefits when you fill out our survey.
We want to heartily thank the dozens of founders who have completed our survey, and remind those of you who haven’t done so to please fill it out.
We’re thrilled with the response we’ve had to the survey. A vast range of founders have taken a few minutes to fill out our 23 questions, and we’re starting to get a picture of what happened in the community last year.
You can find the survey here, and it only takes two to four minutes to fill it out.
We’ve already done preliminary calculations on what we’ve received, and made our first presentation to a government department. We can’t reveal the findings yet but here is what we can say: policy makers’ interest in startups has never been stronger.
From the new prime minister on down, the federal government is embracing innovation as a pillar of economic development. Same goes for the provincial governments. They want reliable information on the startup community so they can design better policies.
The Entrevestor data analysis is most authoritative source of information on the East Coast startup community, but we need your help to complete it. We need you to provide us with information on the surveys. We promise it will be 100 percent confidential.
The result will be a better information group of policy makers as they design programs to help your business.
Mobivity Buys Livelenz, Signals Growth
Livelenz, a Bedford-based company that analyzes data for fast food restaurants, has been sold to Mobivity Holding Corp. for less than $1 million in stock in a bid to grow with the larger company.
Chandler, Arizona-based Mobivity, whose shares trade over-the-counter in the U.S., said in a regulatory filing that in January it paid 1.015 million of its shares for all the stock of Livelenz. Mobivity shares at the time were trading for about 70 US cents, each, which values the deal at the time at about C$950,000.
Livelenz had previously received two equity investments from Innovacorp totaling $1.4 million, and the provincial innovation agency is now a shareholder in Mobivity as a result of the acquisition. Those shares are subject to an 18-month lockup.
Livelenz and Mobivity initially met because they are both partners with Epson, the Japanese manufacturer that dominates the market for receipt printers for fast-food and casual dining restaurants.
Founded in the Annapolis Valley in 2010, Livelenz understood that receipt printers revealed a wealth of data about a restaurant’s business that could be used to reduce waste and increase sales. The company partnered with Epson to exploit the Japanese company’s dominance in the point-of-sales market in the sector.
Two years ago, Mobivity bought SmartReceipt, Inc., a similar company that offers coupons and special offers through receipts for such companies as Subway, Baskin-Robbins and Dairy Queen. Now Mobivity is offering both this technology and that of Livelenz.
“It was a good deal for both parties in that we’re both in the same space,” said Livelenz’s former CEO Jon McGinley in an interview Monday. “They are an Epson partner and we are an Epson partner and the technology alignment made sense.”
Since Mobivity trades publicly, there are limits to what it can say about its future plans (Chief Financial Officer Christopher J. Meinerz declined to discuss them Monday). But it’s obvious the company is planning to grow its new Halifax operations.
McGinley, who has a background in marketing, has joined Mobivity as Vice-President of Marketing. He is one of about five employees at the Bedford office.
Last week, as reported in the Chronicle-Herald, Nova Scotia Business Inc. announced payroll rebates for Mobivity, under which it will create as many as 40 new jobs, in which case it would pay out $5.8 million in salaries over the five-year period.
The Arizona company offers Livelenz a far larger reach than it would have had independently. Its clients include Subway, Sonic, Jamba Juice, Chick-fil-A, and Baskin-Robbins.
Mobivity recently reported that in 2015 it lost US$3.9 million (a mild improvement from the 2014 loss of US$4.1 million). Its sales meanwhile rose 15 percent to US$4.6 million.
The company’s shares were quoted on Bloomberg Monday at 63 US cents, down 40 percent in the past year.
“We are well-positioned for expansion in 2016, and we are now beginning to realize the revenue growth from all of the groundwork laid in 2015,” Mobivity CEO Dennis Becker said in its results statement. “we are engaged in discussions with a number of new brands, and we see 2016 as a year that will continue to bring great opportunities."
Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.
Jobs of the Week: Spring Loaded
Spring Loaded Technology, the Dartmouth company that is making the bionic knee a reality, is staffing up its marketing department and looking for two individuals for key positions.
The company, which announced a $1.9 million venture capital investment in March, has posted openings for a Vice-President of Sales and Marketing and a Marketing Coordinator on the Entrevestor Job Board.
The four-year-old company has developed the Levitation knee brace, which gains energy when the knee bends and then releases it when the knee strengthens, increasing the power in the joint. It has applications for athletes, soldiers and people with mobility problems.
Spring Loaded has had a busy year. It raised US$208,652 in an Indigogo campaign and signed a contract worth $1 million with the Canadian Department of National Defence.
Our Jobs of the Week column features positions that are currently available on the Entrevestor Job Board. Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Entrevestor Job Board which helps match job openings and candidates within the tech and start-up communities.
This person will work closely with the CEO to develop the Spring Loaded sales and marketing teams, and to grow pipeline. He or she will have to design and implement the framework and processes to scale the sales and marketing functions effectively. As the team grows, this person will focus more on marketing than sales. Spring Loaded is looking for someone with a proven track record of marketing or sales experience in a senior management role. It wants someone who has consistently exceeded quotas and met strategic objectives using various methods including traditional, digital, automation, inbound, content, etc. A bachelor degree is required, as well as a willingness to travel.
The Marketing Coordinator is responsible for coordinating various digital and event-based marketing initiatives, copywriting, assisting with public relations strategy, organizing tradeshows, and interacting with customers. This person must work closely with senior management, including the CEO and VP Marketing, to set and execute on the marketing and sales strategy. The successful applicant should be a self-starter with effective project management skills and attention to detail. He or she must have experience writing and creating content, and in using Hubspot and Wordpress.
Moyer Wants to Extend Pelorus Model
Chris Moyer: 'The problem is how to get angels invested.'
After a successful first year in which he invested in four new companies, Chris Moyer believes that Venture Newfoundland and Labrador provides an investment model that other Atlantic provinces should emulate.
Moyer is the Director of Pelorus Venture Capital, the young firm that manages Venture Newfoundland and Labrador. Moyer and his partners worked together for years at GrowthWorks Atlantic.
The fund, which invests in ICT, ocean tech and medtech, comprises $10 million from Newfoundland and Labrador, $2 million from BDC Capital, as well as funds from angel investors. What’s unique about the model is it draws money from government and private investors and assigns a professional manager to the fund.
“We’re using a model that can be highly effective for Atlantic Canada, which has a very early-stage startup ecosystem with a lot of seed-level companies,” said Moyer, a Saint John native.
“The gaps that exist in Newfoundland and Labrador exist elsewhere in Atlantic Canada. There’s the problem of how to get angels invested.”
Moyer said the companies that receive funding know Venture Newfoundland and Labrador will invest more if they hit their milestones.
“A percentage of our fund is dedicated to follow-on investment,” he said. “Private funds allow everyone to work together to push the companies forward…. In all our investments, angels that invested in our fund invested their own money in the companies as well.”
“With our first four companies, private investment alone ranged from $525,000 to over a million. . . .It puts Newfoundland and Labradorian companies on a level playing field with companies elsewhere. I’d love that opportunity to be available for all Atlantic Canadian companies.”
Moyer said that many pieces of a nurturing ecosystem are already in place in the region, including effective programming offered by regional accelerator Propel ICT, incubators, contests, and knowledgeable mentorship.
“When we started talking about this fund about three years ago, people wondered if there would be enough good companies to invest in. We said, ‘They’ll be there,’ and they are. Now, we’re looking at more investments.”
Moyer relishes helping early-stage companies, believing it’s at the early stage that he can add the most value. For years, he’s been known as the guy who gets his hands dirty at the GrowthWorks Atlantic fund in Halifax.
He’s known for being skeptical about most ideas, but once he’s on board he’s a champion for his companies.
He’s a Launch36 mentor and he serves on the board of eight portfolio companies, five in Newfoundland.
“Early stage companies need help at the strategic level,” he said. “Interesting decisions are made at this stage, such as who will the company’s clients be? How should the product be priced?
“Small seed companies have one or two founders and maybe one or two employees who may not be able to help with these decisions. It’s important CEOs can talk to someone who’s seen and experienced a lot more than the team.”
Moyer joined Growthworks Atlantic 11 years ago as a controller. He had gained a CMA designation and was finishing an MBA at Saint Mary’s University. He did his Bachelor of Commerce at Dalhousie.
He instantly felt at home in the startup world, where he was able to use his talent for out-of-the-box thinking.
Now, he said he and the team at the new fund are committed to “growing companies to the point where we have a vibrant economy.”
It’s a theme that’s also big at his home: Moyer recently became engaged to Gillian McCrae, currently vice-president of Propel ICT.
“We met at a Propel selection camp. We got in a fight during our first meeting,” he said with a grin. “It’s all startups all the time in our house.”
Halifax-based Build Venture accounted for $1.5 million of the round.
Moncton-based Fiddlehead said it will use the money to increase its development and data analytics team, and to expand the sales efforts led by its co-founders David Baxter and Shawn Carver.
“Forecasting has often been more art than science,” said Baxter, the company president, in a statement. “But with our prescriptive analytics, we can go beyond simply measuring forecast accuracy to offer data-driven recommendations to improve performance. That leads directly to more accurate demand forecasts, allowing companies to lower inventory, improve service levels and boost margins.“
Carver and Baxter are two veterans of the New Brunswick tech community who teamed up in 2012 to launch a data analytics company. They eventually settled on the food and beverage industry, and partnered with McCain Foods Ltd. to help with the development of Fiddlehead’s flagship product, Forecast Guardian. Forecasting demand is essential to food producers to make sure they don’t waste product that doesn’t sell, and to ensure they’re not penalized by retailers for having insufficient stock.
Forecast Guardian works with a food producer’s existing budgeting and operations software, layering over it to analyze factors that the company may have previously overlooked. It analyzes data on such factors as weather patterns, economic conditions and holidays to more accurately predict the demand for specific types of food.
In an interview, Baxter said Fiddlehead and McCain are now “coming out of the co-creation initiative” that has validated that the product. Now they plan to work with other food producers to install the system and ensure they can use it to predict demand in their specific markets.
He added that he and Carver will personally be leading the sales effort initially because they understand the product and are the best people to work with new clients on optimizing performance.
“As co-founders, we need to understand and be close to our customers and we need to help them understand what they should focus on to create value,” he said. “Once we understand exactly what that sales process is, then we can look at expanding the sales staff.”
Fiddlehead is the tenth investment for Build Ventures, and Partner Rob Barbara said the firm was attracted to the company because of the strength of the founding team and the size of the market.
“It’s a massive market,” he said in an interview. “There are 4,600 food and beverage manufacturers in North America alone that would benefit significantly from Fiddlehead’s platform. “
He added: “But the No. 1 reason is the team. Shawn and David are not just really experienced and smart but followed a wonderful business approach and are a pleasure to work with.”
Briefs: V4C, Masitek, Volta, TSX
The 2016 Venture for Canada Cohort
Venture for Canada unveils cohort
After receiving a record 1670 applications, Venture for Canada has announced its 2016 cohort of fellows, awarded to students representing 22 universities from across the country.
The group received twice the number of applications from a year earlier. This year’s applicants were vetted through a four-step process involving a written application, video interview, phone interview, and in-person Fellow Selection Day, where applicants went through an intense 10-hour series of interviews.
The new group of fellows includes a diverse mix of Canada’s best and brightest talent, coming from a variety of educational backgrounds and institutions. They include a Vancouver native who is graduating as valedictorian of an Ivy League university, an alumnus of The Next 36, and the 2016 HSBC Woman Leader of Tomorrow for Central Canada.
“We continue to be impressed by the high calibre of applicants and the many diverse ways they have been preparing for this opportunity,” said Scott Stirrett, Venture for Canada’s Executive Director. “They are inspired and committed to learning everything they can about startups.”
MMAAZZ launches advanced sensor tech
MMAAZZ Technology, a division of Moncton-based Masitek Instruments, has released its new advanced sensor technology, designed to transform how the packaging industry detects and prevents damage in the production process.
The result of two years of client consultation, the technology release is a complete overhaul of the sensor technology that drives the company’s products. ShockQC, PressureQC and VerticalQC are acrylic replicas of packaging containers that are placed in client’s production lines to generate real-time sensor data. The sensors measure variables in the production process such as shock or pressure which cause product damage and costly downtime.
In addition to a vastly enhanced sampling rate and Bluetooth beacons, the new sensors are enabled with a direct calculation of IPS (Inches per second) velocity measurement as well as Scuff Index, a revolutionary new indicator for the packaging industry.
“One of the most significant accomplishments of this release is the new Scuff Index,” MMAAZZ EVP of Global Business Development Pablo Asiron said in a statement. “Scuffing was identified as a significant problem as it reduced the recycled-life for returnable bottles and significant aesthetic damage to non-returnable containers. With this release, we offer the first and only sensor with a Scuff Index calculation that quantifies the scuffing that a container is experiencing when processed through the line.”
Volta hackathon set for April 29-May 1
Volta, the Halifax startup house, will hold an open hackathon April 29-May 1. Following on the success of the Global Game Jam in January, Volta is now hosting a hackathon at which participants can make anything – hardware, software, games, whatever.
The winner of the 48-hour event will take home $1,000, and tickets ($5 for individuals and $10 for teams) are available here.
Rather than have judges, the participants at the event will vote on the winner.
TSX Ignite set from Halifax
The Toronto Stock Exchange will hold TSX Ignite at the Marriot Harbourfront in Halifax on May 10. It is a free half-day conference that will focus on how to build and fund great businesses.
The speakers will include: Gregory Phipps, Managing Director, Investment, Innovacorp; Patrick Keefe, Partner, Build Ventures; Gillian McCrae, Vice-President and EIR, Propel ICT; Steve Nicolle, Board Member and Former CEO, STI Technologies Ltd.; Steven Uster, Co-Founder and CEO, Fundthrough; Som Seif, President and CEO, Purpose Investment; Brad Langille, President and CEO, GoGold Resources Inc.; and Frederic Ors, Acting CEO, Immunovaccine Inc.
The panel discussions will deal with such issues as transitioning from startup to a successful company, preparing to raise money and funding options that entrepreneurs are probably ignoring.
There is no charge for the event but seating is limited. Tickets are available here.
Hacking Health Launches in Halifax tonight
Hacking Health, a movement that encourages innovation in healthcare, will hold its first Halifax cafe and chapter launch this evening at 5 pm at the IWK Goldbloom Pavillion.
Luc Sirois, founder of Hacking Health, will attend the meeting as guest speaker.
This is the first in a series of cafes and workshops leading up to a healthcare-focused hackathon in November.
The organizers said 120 people have already signed up to attend the event, which aims to connect health professionals with developers, designers and innovators. The signup form can be found here.
Google Invites PACTA, Knowledgehook
The PACTA team.
Google has invited two up-and-coming Canadian startups – Waterloo-based EdTech company Knowledgehook and Halifax-based contract management startup PACTA – to pitch at its annual Demo Day next month in Silicon Valley.
They are the only Canadian companies to pitch to investors and respected judges at the event at the Google Headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., on May 4. In total, 11 companies from the U.S., Canada and Mexico will pitch at the Google Demo Day.When Google held its Demo Day for female-led startups in December, the winner was another Canadian outfit, Bridgit of Kitchener.
“Being invited to pitch by Google shows that our technology is not only cutting edge, it is also solving a real problem for businesses across the globe,” said PACTA Co-Founder and CEO Charlotte Rydlund in a statement. “Companies can dramatically increase their productivity and minimize risk by turning their contracts into smart contracts.”
Knowledgehook has developed new gaming software that analyzes the academic performance of math students. Currently trying to raise more investment, co-founders Travis Ratnam and James Francis will deliver the pitch.
“We’re thrilled to share our software with potential investors,” Ratnam said. “We believe our products will be pivotal in connecting teachers and school boards all over the world with data that identifies what concepts students are struggling with and also provides them with immediate teaching solutions.”
Knowledgehook software analyzes the academic performance of math students in real-time play to recommend to educators alternative teaching practices.
Since March 2015, Knowledgehook software has been used by more than 65,000 students and teachers in math classes throughout Canada and the U.S. The company is currently going through the Rev accelerator at Communitech in Kitchener.
A graduate of the Propel ICT and FounderFuel Accelerators, PACTA has developed software that helps organizations, especially large corporations, manage their vast portfolios of contracts. It tells the organization when an action is needed in each contract, and how external events may impact the company’s contracts.
PACTA was named one of Canada’s Top 25 Up and Coming ICT companies by Branham Group.
“PACTA enables better business relationships and better results and is the future of contract management for businesses everywhere,” said Isak Rydlund, PACTA co-founder and Chief Operating Officer. “We look forward to representing eastern Canada in general, and Montreal and Halifax in particular at Google Demo Day.”
FDA Grants Appili Orphan Drug Status
Kevin Sullivan at the recent ECCMID Conference in Vienna
After growing quietly for several months, Appili Therapeutics Inc. of Halifax announced Tuesday it has received a key U.S. regulatory designation for a drug that treats Clostridium difficile infection, or CDI, in children.
The company said in a statement the Food and Drug Administration has granted orphan drug designation to its drug candidate ATI-1501. This medicine removes the bitter taste from a long-standing drug so that children are more willing to take it, thereby improving its effectiveness.
It is the latest step for a young company that has created excitement in the region’s biotech community. Appili was formed last year when CEO Kevin Sullivan, one of the most experienced biotech execs in the region, partnered with Bloom Burton & Co., a Toronto investment bank specializing in healthcare. Together, they formed a company to identify promising drug candidates and take them to development, including ATI-1501.
“In just three months, we received orphan drug designation from the FDA,” said Sullivan in a statement. “Having this quick turnaround is an indication of the high quality of the regulatory team we have built, and an important step on our path to becoming the first company to offer an approved treatment for C. difficile designed specifically for children affected by this serious infection.”
Sullivan came to Halifax in 2013 as CEO of the drug discovery company DeNovaMed after spending 10 years (including four as COO) with London, Ont.-based Viron Therapeutics Inc., which was developing a cardiovascular drug. The company raised more than $35 million in equity and non-dilutive capital and took its lead product through Phase 2 trials.
Last year, Sullivan left DeNovaMed and linked up with Brian Bloom and Jolyon Burton, who he’d known for years. They agreed to launch a company targeting treatments for infectious diseases and Appili was born. The company is in the process of closing a round of seed financing and is developing two drug candidates: ATI-1501 for CDI, and ATI-1503, an antibiotic that could fight deadly infections such as Klebsiella pneumonia. Appili has hired six PhDs and plans to hire another three in the coming month. Seven of them will be based in Halifax.
Appili applied for and quickly received orphan drug status for the first drug. The designation grants the company reduced FDA application and administration fees, tax credits for clinical research in the U.S. and seven years of marketing exclusivity. The company hopes to take its CDI drug into clinical trials next year.
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.
A drug called Metronidazole has been used to treat the condition since the 1970s, but kids don’t want to take it because of its dreadful taste. Like something out of Mary Poppins, API-1501 masks the bitter taste making children more likely to take their medicine.
“We teamed up with formulation experts to reformulate and taste-mask the bitterness of Metronidazole,” Sullivan said in an email from Amsterdam, where he is attending a conference. “This orphan application is one of the first steps in our regulatory strategy, which will take the product into human clinical testing and subsequently to approval.”
Dal Launches $100K Competition
Entrepreneurs with new ideas are invited to apply for Dalhousie University’s third annual $100K Competition, part of the university’s LaunchPad Accelerator.
The $100K Competition is one of several Launch Dal initiatives organized by the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship. The contest is modelled after the $100k competition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It’s the entry point for Launch Dal’s on-campus LaunchPad Accelerator which runs at The Collider from mid-May to mid-July. Anyone interested in the program can apply here until April 29.
The 10 top finalists receive $10,000 each in non-dilutive funds through the competition and are accepted into the LaunchPad.
“We started Dal's on-campus LaunchPad Accelerator in 2014, largely driven by the early successes of teams like Spring Loaded Technology, Analyze Re, and Sage Mixology, participants in the initial Starting Lean course in 2012,” said Professor Mary Kilfoil in an email.
“We see our role as feeding the entrepreneurial pipeline in the ecosystem, and helping to fill a need in the market where university-based early-stage startups are still developing their go-to-market strategy.”
The LaunchPad Accelerator is an accredited eight-week Canadian university accelerator program for early-stage startups that have validated their business model and achieved some market traction.
The accelerator brings together mentors, venture capitalists, and serial entrepreneurs. It provides prototyping capacity and other discounted services to help the early-stage ventures better enter the market.
The programming is modelled on that offered through the REV program at Communitech in Kitchener, Ont.
Kira Awards Finalists Announced
The organizers of the Kira Awards have announced the finalists for the awards, which are presented annually to members of New Brunswick’s knowledge industry.
In a statement, the organizers said the awards, which will be presented at a gala in Fredericton on May 5, are focusing this year on innovation and entrepreneurship.
“In business we know that ‘knowledge’ is a fundamental component of how we operate,” Heather MacLean, 2016 KIRA Awards Co-Chair, said in the statement. “As the KIRA Awards mature, it only makes sense for us to recognize that we need to celebrate innovation and all that it brings to our province, region and country as a whole. We are fortunate to have tremendous world class talent right here at home.”
•Cities of Saint John, Fredericton, and Moncton, Service NB, Department of Public Safety, and Ambulance NB
•Horizon Health Network - NB Telestroke
•New Brunswick Cancer Network Dr. Kumar
Swift Labs Partners with Miovision
Swift Labs, an end-to-end wireless product design and development company, has struck a partnership with Miovision to design, develop and test products to improve traffic flows in modern cities.
The two Waterloo Region companies issued a statement today saying they would collaborate on hardware products put forth by Miovision for Smart Cities across North America.
Having recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, Miovision has grown into a leading traffic platform provider, with 650 customers in 50 countries.
It recently issued a request for proposals for a patented design, and in responding Swift Labs produced a fully functional prototype in seven weeks that Miovision CEO Kurtis McBride described as stretching “the laws of physics, beyond what we thought was possible.” It led to the two companies forming the partnership.
“We believe in promoting and working with local entrepreneurs where possible,” said McBride in the statement. “Swift Labs is an expert in design, having the skills to bring concepts with strict parameters into a truly innovative and technically sound product—all of which will comply with international regulations.”
After a successful product design and several testing engagements, Miovision invited Swift Labs to partner on future products, said the statement.
Under the partnership, the two companies will design, test and certify products at an accelerated rate. They said it means cities worldwide will have access to leading technology to upgrade their systems to help manage traffic flow, decrease traffic congestion and manage technical upgrades in a timely and efficient manner.
“I believe in Kurtis McBride’s vision for smart cities,” said Swift Labs CEO Anthony Middleton. “With that mindset, I didn’t hesitate to work closely with Miovision during the RFP process to better understand the use case, the process and the road map. Our partnership naturally evolved as Swift Labs product designs hit the mark at a strategic level as well as fit into today’s requirements.”
CARIS To Be Acquired by Teledyne
CARIS, a Fredericton company that has developed over 37 years into a leading producer of marine mapping software, has agreed to be acquired by Teledyne Technologies Inc. for an undisclosed price.
The companies said in a statement that the deal is expected to close by the end of June. In joining Teledyne’s digital imaging segment, CARIS will remain in Fredericton and expand its advanced software solutions and support for a wide range of products.
Based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Teledyne Technologies makes a range of technology, including sophisticated instrumentation, digital imaging products and software, aerospace and defense electronics, and engineered systems. The company has a market capitalization of US$3 billion, and its sales last year were US$2.3 billion.
In buying CARIS, it is buying one of the world’s leading providers of software for underwater mapping.
“By providing powerful data processing, mapping and geospatial imaging software, CARIS ideally complements both our marine instrumentation and digital imaging businesses,” said Teledyne Chairman, President and Chief Executive Robert Mehrabian in the statement. “CARIS immediately extends our marine capabilities, advancing the delivery of imaging and information from Teledyne’s broad portfolio of marine sensors and systems. Furthermore, we believe that CARIS will help Teledyne further improve our software and real-time processing tools across our sonar and bathymetric and topographic LIDAR businesses.”
CARIS began in 1979 when University of New Brunswick Professor Salem Masry was approached to advise a client on digital mapping software. The company until now has remained a family-owned business based in Fredericton, with offices in the Netherlands, U.S., U.K. and Australia. Some 140 people work at its 50,000-square-foot Fredericton headquarters.
“The combination of CARIS with Teledyne is a positive development for the company’s owners, employees, and customers,” said Masry. “I am pleased to see CARIS continue its name and operations, including its presence in Fredericton, the Netherlands, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, while offering employees additional opportunities for collaboration and advancement across Teledyne.”
Taylor Wins Sea++ Competition
Lawrence Taylor, centre, poses with Louisbourg Seafoods owners Lori and Jim Kennedy.
Dartmouth marine biologist Lawrence Taylor won first place in the Sea++ Competition on Sunday for an automated visual inspection system that can improve efficiency and data analytics for seafood producers.
Sea++ was organized by Louisbourg Seafoods as means to bring in tech experts to help a traditional industry improve its productivity. The idea was that startups or researchers have ideas and understand technologies that can help established businesses compete better. It launched the competition in February with the goal of finding innovators who can solve seafood industry problems, and the winners were announced on Sunday in Sydney.
The Cape Breton seafood company offered a first prize of $5,000, which Taylor claimed for his work in using imaging technology in seafood plants to help generate and analyze data on various species of seafood. The system can help retailers and restaurants authenticate the origin of the fish, and tell producers important information about the fish they are harvesting. That information is especially important given the sparse funding available for research.
“A big element of it is just having your hands on the data,” said Taylor in an interview. “That’s a huge challenge because when they do have the money to do the research the sample size (of the fish being monitored) is always small.”
Taylor’s company NovaSpectrum places imaging equipment in the seafood processing plants, and scans fish as they move along the conveyor belt. It can classify the size of the product. And using different frequencies of light, such as infrared, it can tell such qualities as fat content, which can reveal a lot about the fish’s feeding habits. NovaSpectrum will retain the intellectual property for the system.
Taylor said the technology can be used to efficiently gather data in experimental fisheries such as whelk or sea cucumber. Such data can be critical in gaining approval from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in harvesting new species.
In the coming months, Taylor will assess the market for his technology and work on a minimum viable product. And he will continue to work with Louisbourg Seafoods. Manager Glen Fewer said in an interview the company has an optical sorter at its shrimp plant in North Sydney, and it could be used to test Taylor’s software.
Fewer said the company is looking forward to talking further with several of the entrants. These include Wendy Muise and Allyson White of Scotchtown Labs, who won the $2,000 second prize for a marketing strategy for the company. It also includes Susan Beaton, whose crate coolers to assist in shipping live lobster won the $1,000 third prize.
Fewer, a marine biologist and a judge in one of the early knockout rounds of Sea++, said the competition grew more intense in the final phase. He added that it allowed the company to connect with a range of innovative people whom it otherwise would have never met.
“It was something that we didn’t have a guide or a model for and we kind of made it up as we went along,” said Fewer. “But I can honestly say that the quality of the applicants was at such a high level that it exceeded expectations.”
Lux Tests New Crowdfunding Rules
Terry Norman: 'It's a technology that has a lot of potential to really change the industry.'
Halifax-based Lux Wind Turbines wants to revolutionize the wind energy industry. But its first big impact may be in the way equity crowdfunding is carried out in Canada.
The company has launched a campaign to raise between $500,000 and $800,000, which would fund the test project for its new form of wind turbine. The campaign is worth examining because it involves several different regulatory frameworks and could be a model for future campaigns.
What’s more, Lux Wind is the first company ever to raise money using a crowdfunding framework recently approved by the Ontario Securities Commission and other provincial regulators.
If the crowdfunding and trials are successful, Lux Wind believes its turbine can solve one of the problems bedeviling the wind energy industry – economic feasibility. These turbines can be constructed and installed at least 40 percent cheaper than conventional wind turbines, and that means that they could be used profitably without government subsidies.
“It’s a technology that has a lot of potential to really change the industry,” said CEO Terry Norman in an interview. “It’s a Canadian design, has Canadian entrepreneurs behind it and it’s a chance for us to show the world what we can do.”
Norman is a veteran of the Nova Scotian wind industry and says the reason traditional wind turbines are so expensive is so much of the machinery is high in the air, difficult to install and maintain. And the structure has to turn to face the wind.
Designed by Saskatoon-based engineer Glen Lux, the Lux two-megawatt turbine looks like an eggbeater with six blades that catch the wind and whir around a vertical axis, regardless of which way the wind is blowing.
Norman said the design – which won an award from a division of NASA two years ago – cuts the manufacturing and installation costs by at least 40 percent, and that means these turbines could generate electricity profitably in any jurisdiction.
Norman has decided to crowdfund the test product on the FrontFundr platform, and in doing so is entering uncharted waters in crowdfunding in the country. Equity crowdfunding – or the sale of investments to a broad range of people over the internet – is regulated in Canada by provincial security commissions, so there is a patchwork of regulation.
Ontario and a few other provinces (including Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) recently approved what’s known as “the crowdfunding exemption” to existing security rules. It allows any investor to invest as much as $2,500 in a campaign. Lux is the first Canadian company to launch a crowdfunding campaign using the crowdfunding exemption.
However, this exemption has only been approved by five provinces. Retail investors in British Columbia and Saskatchewan can invest in the campaign through the more restrictive “startup exemption.” They can invest up to $1,500.
Accredited investors – which is what regulators call rich people – from any province can invest as much as they like.
And within Nova Scotia, Lux Wind is raising money through a Community Economic Development Investment Fund, or Cedif. Nova Scotia retail investors qualify for an equity tax credit under the scheme.
Prior to the crowdfunding campaign, Lux Wind already raised about $90,000 from family and friends.
One of the interesting things about the crowdfunding campaign is that retail investors should end up with a majority stake, as the company is selling off as much as 78 percent of the equity. Norman said there will be more fundraising efforts in the future, which will undoubtedly dilute early investors, but for now he feels it best that the company have a diverse base of shareholders.
He also said there is a lot of interest in the crowdfunding community in Canada about the outcome of the Lux campaign. This sort of layered approach, in which the rules apply according to the province, may be a model other issuers in the country adopt. And the wind industry, of course, will be watching the development of the Lux turbines.
“The large turbine manufacturers won’t want to see the thing because they have a lot of money invested in the [current system],” he said. “But this is really going to change the industry.”
Jobs of the Week: Startup Zone, HealthQR
This week in Jobs of the Week, we are featuring three positions in the marketing, managerial, and software categories.
Startup Zone out of Charlottetown, is looking for an Executive Director, while Halifax-based HealthQR is seeking a Marketing Coordinator, and McKenzie College of Moncton wants a Software Tester Instructor.
Startup Zone is a new incubator launching in Prince Edward Island with the goal of connecting start-ups in the region and forming a community of support around them.
HealthQR is an early stage startup and the developer of an app that helps patients manage their prescriptions.
McKenzie College of Art and Design is a liberal arts college.
Our Jobs of the Week column features positions that are currently available on the Entrevestor Job Board. Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Entrevestor Job Board which helps match job openings and candidates within the tech and start-up communities.
Startup Zone is looking to hire an Executive Director for its Charlottetown office. The Executive Director is responsible for general management and operations of the centre, program development, community events and outreach, marketing and communications, financial management, and fundraising. Qualifications for the position are a Bachelors Degree and two to five years’ experience in a similar role. Desired skills include program development, partnership development, event management, marketing, communication, problem solving, community outreach, management, and Google applications.
HealthQR is looking for a Marketing Coordinator to maintain the reputation, credibility, and visibility of its brand among customers. Candidates should be motivated individuals who are capable of working with tight deadlines and multiple projects. Responsibilities for the position include customer service, social media presence, coordinating materials inventory, sales support, training support, website management, and attendance of conferences and trade shows. Qualifications for this position include a minimum of five years’ experience working with a target-driven marketing team, evidence of successful implementation of a marketing plan, and experience in marketing mobile technology. HealthQR is looking for candidates with a post-secondary education in business, marketing, public relations or a related field, Photoshop proficiency, and project management training.
McKenzie College is in need of an instructor to deliver courses in software testing, computer programming, test execution, and all related content. Responsibilities of this position include the quality delivery of assigned courses, maintaining a positive learning environment, ensuring academic integrity, tracking daily attendance, and grading tests, labs, assignments, and exams. Qualifications include a college degree or diploma in Information Technology or a Bachelors in Computer Science, five to 10 years’ experience in a software development role, and experience using C++ and Python.
Sustane Aims to Open Facility in 2017
Peter Vinall: The validation of winning I-3 is more important than the money.
A disruptive technology that eliminates the need for landfills will soon be operational on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, according to Peter Vinall, CEO of Chester-based Sustane Technologies Inc.
Sustane has developed technology that allows solid waste destined for landfills to be made into clean and valuable products such as fuel pellets.
The Sustane facility to be built near the Chester landfill at Kaizer Meadow will divert over 90 per cent of material away from the landfill.
Vinall said the Sustane technology is unlike other techniques that create biomass from waste because it lowers contamination by plastics to a negligible 0.1 percent.
Such a low point of contamination means the products have commercial value.
“This is the first technology that can take raw garbage destined for landfill and separate it into clean products,” said Vinall, who has worked around the world in the bio-energy and pulp and paper industries.
The Sustane core technology was developed by the company’s second co-founder and chief technology officer Javier De La Fuente of Spain.
Vinall and De La Fuente met three years ago. “I was looking for something like this and what he was doing was amazing. When we combined this with a new cleaning idea we had the complete solution….” Vinall said.
The pair founded Sustane in 2014 with chief financial officer Robert Richardson, an accountant and businessman.
Work on the $15 million Chester plant will begin this spring.
When it’s completed in the third quarter of next year, the plant will employ 20-25 people in a 24-7 operation.
Vinall said Chester should be able to close its landfill within a few years. Initially, the landfill will be needed to bury a sand-glass grit waste, equal to 5-10 per cent of current waste. In the future, a use such as road construction may be found for it.
He said the plant will produce no pollution. “It’s a benign process. Our process does not use combustion but rather steam cooking.”
The fuel pellets produced will be sold for power generation, while plastics and metals will be recycled. Some of the plastic will be converted to oil that will be used to run the plant.
The company sees an opportunity to build a total of three plants in Nova Scotia to deal with almost all landfilled garbage. That would make Nova Scotia a world leader in recycling. Sustane is also talking to other communities in Canada and the U.S.
The company has proven its technology with funding from Innovacorp and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
To get the plant built, Sustane is securing a further $15 million. “Some federal money is available, and we are securing both debt and equity investors,” Vinall said.
Vinall said he’s learned a lot about being an entrepreneur.
“It’s been month to month surviving at times,” he said. “But we’ve proven the technology and raised enough money.”
He said the technology offers environmental benefits and saves cities money on landfilling.
“Our facility in Chester will be equivalent to taking 17,000 cars off the road in terms of greenhouse gas impact and will also prevent the possibility of contaminants leaching from landfill into groundwater.”
Eliminating landfill slashes the production of the greenhouse gas methane.
“Animals and landfill are the two main sources globally of methane, each accounting for about a third of the total,” he said.
“Organic material rots and gives off methane, which is 25 times as bad as CO2 when it comes to warming.
“I remember from my days growing up on a dairy farm near Melbourne, Australia that cows belch a lot of methane.”
Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.
Ubique Lands $2M, Preps for Series A
Vijai Karthigesu: Ending lagtime in online gaming.
Serial entrepreneur Vijai Karthigesu considers himself a citizen of the world, and the latest location he’s developing a business in is Sydney.
The native of Sri Lanka last year founded his fourth business, Ubique Networks Inc., based it in the Cape Breton city and has ambitious growth plans.
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.
Karthigesu, who is based in Toronto, came up with the idea for Ubique because he has a background working with telecom service providers like Rogers and Bell. He noticed that there is 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.
“We came up with an idea that will fix the Internet or end this frustration to make the technology better,” said Karthigesu in an interview Tuesday.
“We looked at gaming industry online, which is struggling with the lag and is a very big industry — it’s a big pain for this industry.”
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.
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.
It now has servers in Toronto, Seattle and Chicago and is growing the network.
As he was developing plans for the company, he spoke with Jim Deleskie, the CEO of Sydney-based Mimir Networks (formerly Heimdall Networks), who suggested Ubique consider Cape Breton as its base. Karthigesu checked out Sydney and was impressed with the coding talent and support from the community and government programs.
So the company and its five-member development team are now based in Sydney, though the sales team is in Toronto.
Ubique was listed as a regional finalist for Innovacorp’s recent I-3 competition, but had to leave the race once it became apparent that Innvoacorp was considering in equity investment in the startup.
Ubique has so far tested the product and plans in the next three months to roll it out with consumers. The goal in the next year is to prove the product can generate revenue and use that to come up with a larger funding round to grow internationally.
“Our plan is to prove the revenue model and go to the second round of financing to help us go global,” said Karthigesu. “In 12 to 18 months, we hope to be a global company with global customers using the product.”
Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.
Mike Kirkup to Leave Velocity
Mike Kirkup is moving on.
The director of Velocity, the University of Waterloo’s technology incubator, said in an open letter on Tuesday that he is leaving to become the CTO at Kitchener-based Encircle.
“After four years of working to make it the best place in the world to build a startup, the time has come for me to go help a startup become the best in the world,” said Kirkup in the letter. "I truly love the team we have built at Velocity and will miss working with them every day."
Kirkup will head the technology team of Encircle, which will soon move out of the Velocity facility but remain in the Communitech Hub. Encircle provides real-time documentation and collaboration software for the Property/Casualty insurance industry.
Under Kirkup’s leadership, Velocity has grown into the largest free accelerator/incubator in North America.
Velocity is based in the Communitech hub, where it has recently expanded to encompass a total work space of 36,711 square feet. At the end of 2015, the incubator had the capacity for about 74 to 76 companies at any one time. With the recent expansion, the capacity has risen to 120 companies.
An alumnus of the University of Waterloo and the region’s most successful startup, Research in Motion (now BlackBerry), Kirkup has been the director of Velocity since 2011. As of late 2015, a total of 163 companies entered Velocity during Kirkup’s tenure, and more than 40 have graduated from the program.
Graduates include such companies as the chat service Kik, Thalmic Labs, whose Myo armband lets users wirelessly control technology through gestures and motion, and Vidyard, whose platform helps marketers use video to reach their audience. As well as finding clients, the companies have been darlings of venture capital investors. Kik has raised a total of US$120.5 million, Vidyard US$60.7 million and Thalmic Labs US$14.5 million.
Velocity said last year that its graduates had raised a total of $250 million (valued with the Canadian dollar at par to the US dollar). Velocity also helps to fund early stage companies by contributing seed capital totaling $400,000 each year to the best prospects.
Remembering the Radian6 Exit
Chris Ramsey: 'There has definitely been an increase in entrepreneurship.'
For Marcel LeBrun, it was like winning the Stanley Cup.
“Just like hockey players who work all their lives toward that goal of winning the Stanley Cup, entrepreneurs work very hard to build a startup into a successful business,” said LeBrun, reflecting on the landmark exit of the company he co-founded, Radian6. “We felt like we won the Stanley Cup of tech entrepreneurship. It is also a great feeling to achieve this together with a team of people you really enjoy working with every day.”
The exit of Radian6, which was announced five years ago last week, on March 30, 2011, transformed the landscape across Atlantic Canada in startups and technology. LeBrun’s company sold to Salesforce.com of San Francisco for US$276 million in cash and US$50 million in stock. Certainly there have been larger Atlantic Canadian deals -- only seven months after the Radian6 exit to Salesforce.com, Q1 Labs, originally of Fredericton, sold to IBM for an estimated US$500 million. And Ocean Nutrition Canada of Dartmouth sold out to Royal DSM for $540 million in 2012. But it was the Radian6 deal that changed the startup ecosystem for good.
The deal rewarded a group of angels, who reinvested in other companies. It allowed an early institutional investor to invest more in New Brunswick. It helped to finance the regional accelerator Propel ICT. It drew other tech entrepreneurs into the startup field and it established Salesforce.com on Canada’s east coast.
“The exit resulted in getting the fastest growing software company in the world, Salesforce.com, to set up shop here in New Brunswick,” said LeBrun. “That is huge. This is the most innovative and fastest growing company in tech and software. How do you attract a company like that?
Only through an acquisition. They are an important presence here, creating leading edge-jobs, contributing to economic growth, investing in charitable causes, and developing top tech and business talent which is very important to our future growth.”
Founded by LeBrun, Chris Newton and Chris Ramsey in 2006, Fredericton-based Radian6 quickly established itself as the pre-eminent company in the world for monitoring and analyzing social media. Its technology monitored hundreds of millions of conversations every day across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and online communities, delivering insights in real-time. The company was profitable by 2009, and it was used by half of the Fortune 500, including Dell, GE, Kodak, Molson Coors, Pepsico, and UPS. Radian6 employed 350 people in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia when the deal closed.
The sale of Radian6 became a windfall for many Atlantic Canadian investors in the company. For example, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation turned two investments in Radian6 totalling $326,973 into an investment return of $9.25 million. The money has helped support investments in numerous companies since then.
“Since the acquisition, there has definitely been an increase in entrepreneurship in the form of new incubators and many, many new startups,” said Ramsey.
“Many of those startups are doing well, some doing very well. It’s a numbers game. Many will burn out, a few will make it, and a few of those will become leaders in their industries, big enough to make it all worth it. The ones that don’t make it, they will graduate new, skilled people who will hopefully go on to create or join new startups, and the ecosystem will continue to grow.”
The next Facebook, Google or Amazon can be created and built in Atlantic Canada, Ramsey added.
Best of all, the company continued to grow in Atlantic Canada as part of Salesforce. A year later, Salesforce.com did another Atlantic Canadian deal, buying GoInstant of Halifax, reportedly for more than $70 million.
“An exit isn’t an event where we lose a local company to the U.S.,” said LeBrun. “Rather, it is an event where we gain a new company from the U.S. This brings in more outside capital and a lot of spin off benefits. Also, you often see employees from the start-up eventually spinning-out to start new ventures of their own. It has a generational effect.”
He said the Atlantic region has a huge potential but needs more talent.
“The potential is always infinite,” said LeBrun. “There is no better time in history to be innovating and solving our world’s most important problems. With the internet, cloud computing, mobile technology, the internet of things, big data, and the world of socially connected consumers, the opportunities are boundless and easier to address than ever before. I also love the growth of impact-minded entrepreneurs - those who are not just looking to maximize shareholder value but also looking to improve our communities and our environment. It is a great time to be an entrepreneur. The global market potential is incredible and it is entirely accessible from any location. All that is needed is execution.”
According to the Information and Communications Technology Council of Canada, ICT sector growth in Atlantic Canada has surged since the Radian6 deal. New Brunswick saw its sector grow more than 8 percent since the deal while the ICT industry in Nova Scotia grew 8.3 per cent in 2014 alone. Prince Edward Island is one of only four Canadian provinces to experience positive ICT GDP growth each year since 2011.
“It has grown tremendously thanks to the effort of many dedicated tech leaders, mentors and investors in our community who choose to contribute their time and energy for the betterment of our region,” said LeBrun. “Just look at the last two cohorts of companies that just came through the Propel ICT programs. The activity level is incredible. Radian6 played just a small part and the credit goes to our region’s mentors, teachers, investors and incubators.”
Propel ICT’s Launch36 accelerator became one of the first resulting activities to follow the Radian6 and Q1 Labs deals. The accelerator in 2011 set a goal to graduate 36 companies within three years. Propel ICT exceeded its goal in 2015 with 49 Atlantic Canadian startups emerging from Propel’s Launch36 accelerator in 33 months.
“The potential is to hit over 200 startups per year in the total ICT ecosystem,” said Gerry Pond, one of Radian6’s early investors. As well as being a driving force behind Propel ICT, Pond and several other investors in Radian6 have created East Valley Ventures, which has invested in more than 30 startups in the past five years, all but one in the Maritimes.
“We have to keep in mind there is a high turnover rate of 30 to 40 percent after five years in operation,” said Pond. “This is a normal condition in healthy ecosystems globally. However we should see a couple more Radian6s or Q1 Labs by 2020. I’m personally out on the far end of that, predicting a $1 billion exit by 2019 from Atlantic Canada.”
He added that Propel ICT now operates in all four Atlantic Provinces and graduated 33 companies in 2015 alone.
“Propel ICT now serves all four provinces and the next cohort’s two streams received 162 applicants by February 2016,” said Pond. “I estimate this is about a five times growth factor in the last five years.”
Propel ICT’s success is one example of how the Radian6 exit impacted the region, he added. “It put New Brunswick and the Maritimes on the map as a credible centre for ICT startups in new tech fields,” said Pond.
The former head of New Brunswick Telecom said he remembers the Radian6 exit well, and that it put millions of dollars in circulation for startups, the ecosystem and tax revenue.
“It was rewarding on two fronts,” said Pond. “I was part of a team that built $400 million of value in just five years in New Brunswick with New Brunswick founders and a New Brunswick management team. It returned on my investment 23 times, a record rate of return in the millions for me and other angel investors.”
And as for LeBrun himself, he spent almost five years with Salesforce as Senior Vice-President of Tech & Product Marketing Cloud. He left the company in September, 2015, and now describes himself as a tech and social impact entrepreneur.
“It is a rare and special accomplishment that we will always enjoy looking back on,” he said, reflecting on Radian6. “However, an exit isn’t the final goal of business. It is a step along the way. It was important for us to continue to work to see that the company was successful, now as part of Salesforce.com, and to ensure that we built a great reputation in the region for having created lasting value.”
Mark Taylor, a verteran journalist and entrepreneur, is the owner of Fredericton-based Delora Media.
Wave of New Startups in 2015
Daniella Degrace: Her company Gemba contributed to the surge of new companies.
Tanya Collier MacDonald in many ways exemplifies what was happening in the Atlantic Canadian startup community in 2015.
She entered (and did well in) a competition. She worked with an accelerator outside the region. And she gained traction with her product. But above all, she launched a tech company. That’s worth noting because strong company formation was one of the hallmarks of the East Coast startup community in 2015.
“Orenda is developing its platform and heading into the commercialization phase,” said Collier MacDonald of the company, which produces social media analysis technology that analyzes in real-time the overall reputation of an organization, usually a medium to large enterprise. “And we’ve formed one partnership with a national company.”
Orenda was part of a wave of company launches across Atlantic Canada in 2015. In our preliminary tally, Entrevestor has counted a total of 355 startups in Atlantic Canada as of Dec. 31 2015 – an increase of 24 percent over a year earlier. The big reason for the increase is that we’ve counted 93 companies that formed last year, with the heaviest concentration in the IT sector.
In compiling the Entrevestor Databank for 2015, we really strove to make sure we cast a wide net (with a fine mesh) over the region to capture as many startups as possible. We refused to compromise on our definition of a startup: each has to be a locally owned company that is developing a product for the global market from proprietary technology. It can’t be a service company. At least one founder has to be in Atlantic Canada.
We’re now in the process of surveying these companies, and next quarter we’ll give more data on such areas as revenue, funding and employment. For now, we’re presenting our initial findings on the composition of the startup community, and the big news of 2015 was company formation.
Calculating company formation is always tricky. Consider this: In the autumn of 2014, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation received 62 entries for its Breakthru competition, which targets the hottest new startups in the province. A year later, Innovacorp in Nova Scotia received 188 applications for its I-3 Technology Startup Competition. And the regional accelerator Propel ICT took 33 companies through its 2015 cohort, and then received 162 applications for its first cohort of 2016.
So how do we end up with only 93 new startups in 2015?
The answer is that there is high attrition in startup teams. Within the selection process, these organizations weed out people who are thinking about starting a business, but decide against it for various reasons. And as the accepted teams go through the programs, several drop by the wayside. Last year there was considerable attrition within the Propel Launch program.
So our 93 startups are those that were “active” as of Dec. 31 – which means the teams are working diligently on moving their companies forward. They include some – but not all -- of the regional finalists from the I-3 event. They also include all of the first 2016 Propel cohort, because those teams were all active enough to pass the Propel selection camp early in the year.
Our list of companies launched in 2015 ranges from teams working on an idea part-time to those in accelerators to those incubating at universities to a company like Saint John-based Gemba Software Solutions, which launched with a $1.5 million investment in September. Gemba was spun out of Saint John-based Innovatia. The new company’s ProcedureFlow software provides visual process maps that offer new employees and others the ability to quickly navigate their way through the company’s operations. At its launch, it received $1.5 million in funding from NBIF and Innovatia.
“The money is helping us to actually develop the market,” said Gemba's CEO Daniella Degrace. “We are using the money to help us expand the sales capability and to continue to develop our product.”
Most of the 93 rookie startups – including Orenda and Gemba – are in the IT space. A full 73 new tech startups entered the databank -- or 78 percent of the total startups founded in 2015. That’s an even larger weighting in IT than you’d expect, as IT accounts for just two-thirds of the broader Atlantic Canadian startup community.
The creation of 93 new startups marks a dramatic increase over the two previous years, when we counted about 60 companies launching each year. We also witnessed a decrease in companies that failed – there were 33 of them in 2015, about half the number a year earlier. (There was also a handful of companies that exited, left the region or became service companies, thus leaving our databank.)
There are a few interesting notes about our tally on new companies throughout the region. There is stronger company formation in both Newfoundland and Labrador (12 new companies) and Prince Edward Island (seven new companies) than we witnessed previously.
And the buzzing startup community in Cape Breton continued to launch new companies without losing many to attrition. Even though a high proportion of its companies are pre-revenue and have not received equity investments, there have been relatively few teams that left the arena. Some 10 new companies have formed, all in IT.
Meanwhile, the IT sector is undergoing slower growth in Halifax.
With 128 in total, Halifax is home to more than one-third of the total startups in the region, and it accounted for about one-third of the startups that launched in 2015. But the 18 new IT companies that sprouted up in Halifax last year amounted to just 54 percent of the new companies in the city. That confirms the impression held by several observers that there has been a deceleration in the formation of tech startups recently in Halifax.
On the other hand there were 10 new life science companies formed in Halifax. They were companies like Covina BioMedical, founded by Dalhousie University researchers Caitlin Pierlot and Brett Dickey. The company (formerly known as Biofix) won the 2015 BioInnovation Challenge, which searches for the top new life sciences company in the region.
Covina is developing a new bone cement to be used in the treatment of orthopedic patients. The new product is a non-toxic glass ionomer cement that would simplify the procedure for treating broken bones in such patients.
The formation of new companies is good news for the startup community. It brings new life to the grouping of startups in the region and shows that Atlantic Canada has the intellectual capacity to develop new marketable ideas. But it also strains capacity. One question that UNB’s Shukla asks is: how will all these new companies be funded in the future?
“Unless we see some exits, we might not see fresh money coming in,” he said. “The next few years will have to result in something more exciting in terms of exits. If not, [the result will be] pressure for companies to go looking for capital elsewhere.”
Our Latest Intelligence Report Is Out
We’re delighted today to launch our spring Entrevestor Intelligence report on Atlantic Canada, which focuses the growth of new startups, and the deal that sparked the startup craze in the region.
As we’re reporting today, this supplement shows that Atlantic Canada saw a surge in company formation in 2015. By our count, there were 93 new startups launched last year. That boosted the entire number of startups in the region to 355 – an increase of 24 percent over the year before. Check out the tremendous infographic by our artist, Roxanna Boers.
These are, of course, preliminary numbers and we will refine them as we develop the databank. (To help us, we’d ask all Atlantic Canadian startups to take two to three minutes and complete our latest survey.)
The cover story of the Entrevestor Intelligence report looks back at the deal that sparked the mania for startups in the region – the exit of Radian6. We just passed the fifth anniversary of this landmark deal, and Mark Taylor talks with the main players in the company, asking them what the deal meant.
In other articles, we look at a key crowdfunding campaign that is being watched across the country, and the new national Natural Products incubator that is headquartered in Prince Edward Island. Gerard Buckley, the Founding Partner of Jaguar Capital, weighs in with advice on structuring boards of directors or advisers to ensure maximum performance.
You can download the report here, and hard copies will be available soon in startup hubs around the region. This is the twelfth Entrevestor Intelligence we've put out in Atlantic Canada, and please also check out the report we put out on the booming tech community in Kitchener-Waterloo.
Huddle: Aho Calls for Tech Advances
Former Finnish Prime Minister Esko Aho (Photo by Huddle)
Former Finnish Prime Minister Esko Aho called on New Brunswick companies last week to capitalize on the second industrial revolution to prosper in the digital age.
Huddle reported on Esko Aho’s speech in Moncton, and you can read the full report here.
Venn Innovation invited Aho to the region because Finland has developed into one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world, and he provided essential leadership as prime minister in transforming the country’s economy. He had advice on how provinces in Eastern Canada can follow this example.
In his speech, Aho pointed to the book The Second Machine Age, by MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. “The first machine age made it possible for mankind to cross the border of physical power of human beings and animals. But the next phase is going to be based on the second machine age making it possible to go beyond the limits of our brain power. That is going to happen now.”
Velocity Fund Rewards 7 Startups
The Velocity Fund on Thursday presented a total of $125,000 in seed funding to seven companies whose products range from hardware that can diffuse landmines to an app that eradicates the need for passwords.
Held at the Student Life Centre at the University of Waterloo, the Velocity Fund Finals are held three times a year to find and reward the best young companies coming out of the university. The Velocity Fund hands out about $400,000 a year to help develop startups affiliated with the university.
“The Velocity Fund has enabled the growth of more than 75 companies in Waterloo region, by awarding over $1.5 million in funding,” said Mike Kirkup, director of Velocity, the university’s incubator. “It is a testament to the University of Waterloo’s entrepreneurial culture to see so many incredible companies today, and we look forward to having them join our community of startups at the Velocity Garage.”
The four $25,000 winners announced on Thursday in the 15th finals were:
Fiix – This company’s popular app connects consumers with car mechanics so they can arrange repairs at their home or office. The users simply go online to state what they need and they get a quote. They agree to a job at a fixed price – often 20 to 50 percent cheaper than usual – and the mechanic comes to the customer. Fiix is now live and did $15,000 in business in its 12th week. The company says the market is huge – worth $150 billion in the U.S. alone.
Landmine Boys – This team of students has built a new robot to diffuse landmines to avoid human or environmental harm. There are now 100 million landmines in the ground in 70 countries and disposal teams can only get rid of them by blowing them up. It can be lethal and harms the environment. Landmine Boys’ device can work on any landmine and reduce the time to dispose of it from six hours to 15 seconds. The compan has the support of all the major landmine organizations.
Okey – This mobile app gets rid of passwords by using smartphones to log into computers instantly. As long as the phone is near the computer, the desired site opens instantly through the app, which protects the user with military-grade encryption. It works the second the computer is turned on. Okey is starting with Apple products and the company retained 86 percent of the customers who downloaded the app in its first week.
Pegasus Aeronautics – This team of engineers is developing advanced hybrid powertrains to extend the time that drones can stay in the air. Drones are unmatched for industrial inspections but the problem is flight time. Pegasus has developed a safe hybrid power source can extend 15 mins of flying time to two hours. The product can be retrofitted on to existing drones. It is gearing up for a limited release with five companies and preparing for a full launch within three months. Pegasus was the top hardware company, meaning it took home an additional $10,000 in funding.
The Velocity Fund each semester also presents $5,000 each to three early-stage startups. The winners on Thursday were AVRO Life Science, Moocow Unicycles, and Gamelynx, which was selected by the audience for the People’s Choice award.
Job of the Week: Fiddlehead Technology
This week in Job of the Week, we are featuring a position with Fiddlehead Technology, which is seeking a principal software engineer on the Entrevestor Job Board.
Fiddlehead Technology is based in Moncton and focuses on using Big Data to better manage the food and beverage industry supply chain. Its technology helps global food and beverage manufacturers make better forecasting decisions. It wants to reduce the 2.4 billion kilograms of food that are wasted in supply chains each year in Canada alone.
Our Jobs of the Week column features positions available on the Entrevestor Job Board. Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Entrevestor Job Board, which helps job openings and candidates within the tech and start-up communities.
Fiddlehead Technology is seeking a principal software engineer to fill a vacancy at its Moncton office. The company is looking for a technically adept and experienced individual with understanding of API development, statistics, SaaS, back-end and middleware development, data-science, supply chain management, NoSQL, and Java. Applicants are expected to have three years’ experience in a similar role. The compensation includes a competitive salary, stock options, and health benefits. The company is offering the successful candidate the opportunity to have a big impact on a small team and be well rewarded for it.
Briefs: Kinduct, SimplyCast, V4C
ACOA Funds Venture for Canada Program
Top university graduates from across Nova Scotia in June will begin two-year paid fellowships at some of the province’s most promising emerging and early-stage startups. The Government of Canada on Friday announced a $45,450 contribution to enable Venture for Canada to create the infrastructure needed to place six fellows at venture-backed Nova Scotian companies. The non-repayable contribution comes through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program.
A new Nova Scotia Program Director will work to close a gap between startups and post-secondary institutions by matching top university graduates with cutting-edge, homegrown organizations in the ICT, oceantech, cleantech and life sciences sectors. Through a fellowship program, companies will gain access to the talent and energy they need to thrive, and graduates will gain the experience, mentorship and networking opportunities they need to become the innovative entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
After receiving nearly 1,700 applications, Venture for Canada is confident of the very high quality of graduate talent that will be made available to the startup companies.
Kinduct Joins RBC Training Ground
Kinduct Technologies, provider of innovative data collection and analysis software, is partnering with the Canadian Olympic Foundation in supporting a new talent identification program called RBC Training Ground. The program is a series of regional combine events designed to help Canadian sport officials uncover athletes with Olympic podium potential. A collaborative effort between RBC, CBC, the Canadian Olympic Foundation and the Canadian Olympic Committee, RBC Training Ground was hosted in Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and Halifax in 2016.
At RBC Training Ground, athletes perform a set of workouts that measure speed, power, strength and endurance. Using performance benchmarks provided by high-performance officials from various national sport organizations, Kinduct Technologies can collect and analyze these young athletes’ results, and ultimately determine if they exhibit Olympic-level fitness potential.
SimplyCast Launches Hands-Free
SimplyCast, a leader in marketing automation, has announced the launch of its new service: Hands-Free.
Hands-Free is a new initiative of SimplyCast where the team’s collective knowledge will be used to create and manage marketing campaigns for clients. Essentially with Hands-Free, a client can sign up and SimplyCast will create, manage, and report on any and all marketing campaigns done in the SimplyCast 360 platform for that organization.
Hands-Free will allow companies to harness the power of marketing automation and offer more to their customers without needing to learn how to operate the technology. This is ideal for businesses that may not have the staff or resources to use marketing automation themselves.
“This new service is something we’re really looking forward to,” said President and CEO Saeed El-Darahali. “It’s a great way for us to put our knowledge of automation to work for clients and help them expand their reach easily and effectively.”
The funding announcement was one of two announced by Innovacorp on Thursday. The venture capital fund also said it provided half of a $1 million funding-raising round by Halifax-based SkySquirrel Technologies, which uses drones to assess the health of crops, especially vineyards.
The statement did not reveal how much money Ubique raised but the deal is still an interesting one for two reasons. First, it’s Extreme Venture Partners’ first investment in Atlantic Canada that we’re aware of, part of a mild wave of VC money coming into the region from Toronto. Second, Ubique appears to be the first of the one- or two-year-old IT startups in Cape Breton that has attracted private VC investment.
“We see a huge potential in the dynamic optimization technology developed by Ubique,” Ray Sharma, executive managing partner of Extreme, said in a statement. “There are more than 700 million people around the world playing multiplayer online games or engaged in e-sports and the numbers are growing.”
In multiplayer online gaming, one of the key problems is the lag caused by network congestion, and by the distance between the players and the game servers. Ubique has developed a platform called Swarmio, which drastically reduces lag through “dynamic optimization of game servers”.
Swarmio also hosts an intelligent lobby system for multiplayer and e-sports games.
“The multiplayer online games and the e-sports sectors are growing rapidly but both the publishers and the gamers want drastic reduction in lag, and that is what we are providing,” said Ubique Founder and CEO Vijai Karthigesu. “This funding will enable us to build out our user base, increase our production output and meet our global customer demands.”
“This investment will let us ramp up to launch the next-generation of our product before the current year’s growing season is in full swing,” said SkySquirrel Co-Founder and CEO Richard Van der Put. “We’ll also be able to hit the gas on pursuing new customers in the U.S. and Europe."
The company’s initial focus is on the $85-billion global wine market. SkySquirrel’s flagship product is helping commercial vineyards improve crop yields and reduce costs, tackling stubborn viruses such as leafroll disease and flavescence doree, where often the only solution for an affected crop is to tear out the infected vines before the disease spreads to the entire field.
“SkySquirrel has developed an outstanding aerial imaging solution for the high-value wine industry, and the technology has tremendous potential for other agricultural markets as well,” said Andrew Ray, investment manager for IT at Innovacorp. “We’re proud to back this strong team and technology.”
Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.
Entrepreneurs3.0 Shuts Down
After a quarter-century of helping Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurs3.0 is closing down.
The non-profit organization formerly known as Entrepreneurs’ Forum announced Thursday that its board has decided to cease operations due to financial constraints.
Entrepreneurs’ Forum was probably best known for its mentorship dinners, in which a select group of mentors would have a meal with an entrepreneurial team and work through their challenges. They often led to long-standing relationships. As Entrepreneurs3.0, or E3, the organization enhanced its programing to include access-to-capital missions that helped startups travel to Toronto to meet with potential investors.
“We had an amazing run,” said CEO Kathleen Rayworth in an interview. “We helped over 2,500 entrepreneurs over the years. And this year was our best year in terms of performance. There obviously is a need for this service in the ecosystem.”
Rayworth said there is approved funding in place for part of the E3 programing, especially the access-to-capital missions. She is in talks with groups that she hopes will take it over.
The most recent access-to-capital mission was held in February in Toronto. Six companies from New Brunswick and two from P.E.I. took part, participating in more than 50 meetings. An E3 report said the missions are gaining a favorable reputation, not only among Atlantic Canadian startups but also among investors in Toronto.
The organization surveyed 40 clients that it assisted in 2015 and received 17 responses. These companies’ employment levels from their first E3 session to the survey increased 20 percent to a total of 60 people, and their revenues increased 51 percent to $793,900. The 17 respondents raised a total of $600,000 in 2015.
The report also said 96 percent of the respondents said they could not have found the assistance they received from E3 elsewhere.
“E3 has had numerous successes over the years such as building a network of over 2000 advisors, working with over 2000 entrepreneurs to grow their enterprises, advancing business, partnerships and strategic networking in a variety of ways,” the organization said in a note to supporters Thursday. “By doing so, we have helped to accelerate the regional economy for over two decades. 2015-2016's results were in fact our best, showing e3's importance across Atlantic Canada.”
One Immigrant Entrepreneur’s Story
Akram Al-otumi: The founder of multiple businesses is in two Masters programs
With his focus on entrepreneurship, new technologies and immigration, Akram Al-otumi is working hard to grow the population and economy of Nova Scotia, his adopted home.
Halifax-based Al-otumi is a Co-Founder of 3D Next, which he set up in 2012 with Montreal-based Michael Groenendyk. The partners sell and install Tinkerine DittoPro 3D printers and train buyers to use the technology.
Al-otumi’s many community contributions include founding the Azal Student Agency for international students and newcomers, and the Enactus Nova Scotia Alumni Network, which helps students use entrepreneurship for social good.
“I have a big interest in immigration,” he said. “It’s crucial to retain and attract youth to grow our economy.”
His commitment to the cause has been recognized numerous times. His accolades include Provincial Representative and HRM Volunteer Awards. He was also named a 21 Inc. Leader for the 21st century, and a Top 25 Immigrant in Canada by the Royal Bank of Canada.
As an immigrant himself, Al-otumi understands the complexities of adjusting to a new place and culture.
He came to Halifax in 2007 having grown up in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. He was attracted to Halifax because of the universities, the legendary friendliness of the people, and the fact it is a sea-side province.
“I came to Nova Scotia when I was 19,” he said. “I worked. I was very social. I did my best to integrate, to understand the culture. It wasn’t easy, but after a few years I felt at home.”
After studying English, he received a Bachelor of Commerce from Dalhousie University in 2012. At Dalhousie, he also gained an Entrepreneurial Skills Program Certificate and an Intercultural Communication Certificate.
He wants others to benefit from his experience.
He sits on diverse professional boards, including the board of Fusion Halifax, the board of 21inc and the Sub-Committee on Population, Immigration and Retention with the OneNS Coalition.
Fusion Halifax is the largest networking association for young professionals in the city with more than 2,000 members and outreach to more than 10,000 people.
At Fusion Halifax, Al-otumi is the Director of the Entrepreneurship Action Team with responsibility for entrepreneurial programming and events. He works closely with universities, innovation incubators and accelerator programs across Nova Scotia.
Previously, at Fusion, he was Director of the Immigration and Diversity Action Team where he helped organize the first annual Career, Education and Settlement Fair, an Immigrant Entrepreneur Showcase and Career Spark.
It’s not easy to fit all this activity around his work and studies, especially as he is currently working toward two Masters Degrees.
“I work 14 hours a day, but my schoolwork is almost done. That’s a relief,” he said with a grin.
Rather than look forward to relaxing, he is working on a new platform to facilitate import and export trade between Canada and the world.
“I want to simplify the process to help people import and export easily,” he said.
“The system is difficult. There are long waiting times while banks and other parties notify each other. There’s a lot of wasted time and costs. I’m developing an online platform that will allow the process to be managed in a systematic manner.”
He said that competing platforms exist, but that the others tend to focus on either supply chain management or import and export matchmaking whereas his will facilitate the entire export and import processes.
“We will make things faster and more efficient,” he said.
“Now that Nova Scotia is home I want all the best for it. My vision is to grow my Nova Scotia startups and take them to the world.”
Eyeball for Tournaments, Leagues
Eyeball Inc., the Bedford company that’s developed an online network for amateur sports, has launched a new web-based platform for league and tournament organizers.
The company said in a statement today it has formed a partnership with the 2016 SEDMHA Honda Minor Hockey Tournament, a 240-plus-team event that will use the new platform.
Founded by tech vets Jay Steele and Shaun Johansen, Eyeball has developed a social network that allows people to follow minor sports teams. The company found a strong market among sports teams in the Halifax area. That led to a $1 million investment from publicly traded Clearwater Fine Foods Inc. late last year and additional funding from a handful of angel investors.
“The SEDMHA Honda Tournament is the perfect opportunity for us to launch our web platform,” said CEO Steele in the statement. “We initially developed this app so that it could be a venue to assist with the coordination of youth sports, but it’s also a place for communicating important information, and celebrating achievements in sport. The web platform will help bring this type of engagement to the next level and allow us to reach a new set of users.”
Held in the Halifax area, the four-day SEDMHA Tournament is one of the largest in North America, comprising 18 different ice surfaces, more than 500 games and more than 5,000 players and coaches.
The new Eyeball platform will allow tournament and league organizers to upload their complete schedules, rosters, and information in a few simple steps.
The company said the clean design of the web platform lets visitors quickly find when and where their next game is. In addition, the platform still offers users the ability to network and communicate on mobile devices.
“Eyeball’s platform is ideal for streamlining communication and fostering tournament engagement,” said Wayne MacDonald, chairman of the SEDMHA Honda Tournament.
“Eyeball will assist the SEDMHA coaches, parents and players with everything from showcasing division brackets, coordinating carpooling and tracking stats, among countless other details.”
Steele and Johansen have previously launched and sold two startups. During the original dot-com boom in the mid- to late-1990s, they teamed up to launch Plazmic, an early mobile venture that they ended up selling to Research in Motion. A few years later, they started another mobile startup called Viigo. And again they sold it to RIM.
MediaSpark Crowdfunds Card Games
Interviewing MediaSpark CEO Mathew Georghiou about his new Kickstarter campaign is a surprising experience. You start talking about the crowdfunding of his new board game and end up hearing about his growing portfolio of high-growth businesses.
Here’s the news we set off discussing: Sydney-based MediaSpark has launched a crowdfunding campaign for two table-top card games under its GoVenture brand. The games are called Entrepreneur and Monster Hunter. The company hopes to raise $5,000 in a campaign for the games, which will be available in September.
Beyond that, Georghiou revealed the exciting things happening at other businesses he heads under the MediaSpark umbrella. The massive multi-player online business education game GoVenture World, which he has been working on for years, will begin its initial tests soon. MediaSpark is in discussions with universities and community colleges about awarding credits for students who play GoVenture World, which simulates the actual business world.
And Georghiou is now raising capital for Lokol.me, the hyper-local news site that is now a hit in Cape Breton. The site received 650,000 unique visits in 10 months. He is seeking about $500,000 in funding for Lokol.me.
Georghiou and a staff of 17 are now developing these products from the Sydney headquarters, and right now their focus is mainly on the crowdfunding campaign for the card games.
“We’ve been developing games for many years — all of our products are educational, though,” said Georghiou in an interview. “We wanted to try something that was more consumer-focused and not necessarily focused on education. Of course, every game is educational in some way.”
When it thought of a consumer card game, MediaSpark gravitated naturally to entrepreneurship, the subject of GoVenture World. So it came up with Entrepreneur, a game in which players have to sell a product.
But the team also wanted something that was completely different, so it came up with a companion game on a similar format, Monster Hunter, in which the players buy the weapons needed to hunt monsters.
Georghiou said it’s a common strategy for table-top games to crowdfund in pairs and then to consider marketing the two games separately in the future based on the feedback gained from the campaign.
“One curious stat is that on Kickstarter the table top games category has more funding than the video game category,” said Georghiou. “Crowdfunding has actually created a bit of resurgence in table top gaming. There are a lot of successes. Of course, there are a lot of failures as well . . . . It’s a very large market and a lot of competition.”
A few days into the campaign, Georghiou said the feedback has already led to a few possible changes in the product, such as in the design of the cards.
The 2015 Entrevestor Survey
Today we are launching our annual survey of Atlantic Canadian startups -- a key component in allowing us to provide you with news on the East Coast startup community.
We're asking each Atlantic Canadian startup that was active in December 2015 to complete this confidential survey for the good of Entrevestor and the community it reports on. If you believe, as we do, that Entrevestor helps in the development of the Atlantic Canadian startup community, this is your chance to support us. Just as PBS has its funding drives, Entrevestor has its annual data campaign. We're not asking for money. Our only ask is that you take three minutes to fill out our 23-question survey.
There are two reasons why you should take the time to do so. First, our data gives all of us a greater understanding of what is happening in the startup community. We publish aggregated data (never data from individual companies) in our quarterly Entrevestor Intelligence reports, so everyone can understand what is happening in the startup world. This is a rare benefit for a startup community of our size. We also produce a 40- to 50-page report that we sell to interested parties. These include government departments, accelerators, venture capital funds and regulators. This means decision-makers gain an understanding of the community, which leads to better programs.
The second reason to participate is our databank allows us to continue reporting on what you do. It's no secret that monetizing news is difficult. There's a market for our data. When you complete our survey, you're helping us to stick around. It's like a crowdfunding campaign -- only it costs you no money and helps us to improve our product.
We are looking for companies that meet three criteria:
- They must be locally owned;
- They must be commercializing proprietary technology;
- And they must be producing at least one product for the global market.
Age is insignificant. We have a couple of companies that date back to the 1990s. We're interested in new companies, but we want active teams that are actually developing their product and business. It's got to be beyond the idea stage.
We have collected a list of 355 companies in Atlantic Canada that meet our criteria. We'll be contacting them by email next week. It would be great if you could complete the survey now and save us the trouble of bothering you. Remember, everything you tell us will be absolutely confidential. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Peter at 902 401 2048 or email@example.com.
Many thanks in advance,
Peter and Carol Moreira
AVF Seeks Presenting Startups
Atlantic Venture Forum, an investor conference that showcases startups on the Canadian East Coast, is looking for founders to present at this year’s event June 22 and 23 at the Westin Nova Scotian in Halifax.
Applications to present at the event close tomorrow and can be found here.
Now in its fourth year, the AVF each year has allowed more than 20 companies to present before the audience, which includes a range of investors from outside the region.
The conference features two streams of presenters – early-stage and growth-stage – and chooses the best pitch from each. Last year, PACTA of Halifax won the early stage category, while the winner among the growth stage companies was HotSpot Parking of Fredericton.
Critical Path Group, the company organizing the Atlantic Venture Forum, said the investors attending the event this year for the first time include Clete Brewer, Managing Partner of NewRoad Capital Partners, Greg Smith, Chief Investment Officer of Timia Capital and Marcus Daniels, Founder of CEO of HIGHLINE, to name a few.
The keynote speakers this year will be Ted Graham, Innovation Leader at PwC Canada, Russell Tencer, Co-Founder and CEO at United Wind and Michael Katchen, Founder and CEO at Wealthsimple Financial Inc.
Disclosure: Peter Moreira is a member of the AVF Industry Advisory Board, a voluntary position.
IWT: Scaling Remote Water Treatment
Patrick Kiely: 'The world's first mobile solar-powered water treatment plants.'
There are two big things Patrick Kiely hopes his company Island Water Technologies will accomplish in 2016: one he is certain will happen, and the other he hopes will happen.
Montague, P.E.I.-based Island Water Technologies, which uses its unique technologies to treat wastewater in small communities or outlying areas, is now working with three distributors to sell its ClearPod product across Canada. Kiely, the company’s CEO, is certain sales of ClearPod — a small device that is dropped into a septic tank to restore performance of failing systems — will increase through the year.
What he hopes will happen this year is the first installation of the company’s larger and newer product.
“I hope the highlight of 2016 will be the installation of one or two of the world’s first mobile solar-powered water treatment plants — one in New Brunswick and one in North Africa,” said Kiely in an interview last week. “Now that’s an optimistic goal, but it’s what we’re working toward.”
Until this month, Island Water Technologies and ClearPod were two separate companies with Kiely being a key shareholder in both. ClearPod produced its product for septic tank owners, and Island Water Technologies was pioneering a solar-powered water treatment facility for small communities.
The company has received funding from Innovacorp (secured because it has based all of its product testing and validation in Truro), various angels and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. ClearPod and Island Water Technologies have just merged under the Island Water Technologies name and have enough funding for about the next 18 months.
The enlarged company is now selling ClearPod through distributors in British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia, and is looking at lining up sales agreements in the United States in the Carolinas, Georgia and Texas.
“We’re really eager to drive the sales in Canada, and we’re also looking at select states in the U.S.,” said Kiely. “The challenge for us is to find distributors who can sell the product. It’s very difficult to sell anything involving septic tanks to homeowners unless they are recommended by people who work with septic systems — so tank manufacturers, pumpers, installers.”
Meanwhile, the company has been working with the Cycle Capital and Dalhousie on solar-powered water treatment facilities, and is enhancing the product by making it mobile. What that means is they can be driven to remote locations, such as outlying communities or mine sites, where there is no — or limited — electricity, and treat the water.
Kiely said the first two markets for the product will be the military and the mining industry. He is interested in using the facilities for disaster relief, but agencies working in that field want to know the technology is 100 percent proven before they use it. They’ll be later adopters, he hopes.
Kiely cautions that a lot of things would have to fall into place for the mobile units to be in operation this year. He’s more confident they can be operational in 2017.
“In reality we’re looking at 12 to 18 months from now, and it’s looking pretty good,” he said.
David Wagner can also teach them the importance of luck and timing, and that sometimes they go against you.
For almost 10 years until October 2015, Wagner was President and CEO of Fredericton-based Atlantic Hydrogen Inc., a company that developed the CarbonSaver technology that removes carbon from natural gas and produces a low CO2 hydrogen.
Under his leadership, AHI raised $50 million from private and public sources including Emera, Shell, Encana, and federal and provincial governments.
But the company ran out of money and declared voluntary bankruptcy last September.
For Wagner and the other staff it’s been tough accepting that conclusion, although most have now found new work in the Fredericton area.
“It was difficult through the bankruptcy process, the liquidation of assets, seeing the company dismantled,” Wagner said. “Everything we’d built over 14 years is gone.
“I’m proud of all we did at AHI. We didn’t fail, we just ran out of money. We raised $50 million over my 10 years and we spent $50 million. Some have said we could have expected to spend $100 million when developing game-changing technology.”
Wagner said the experience has highlighted the importance of providing startups with continuing funds as they develop.
He said the company’s fund-raising efforts were hampered by the downturn in the energy sector, and New Brunswick’s recent change of government.
“We got caught in a funnel of downward motion … ” he said. “… The new government’s timing to decide and our ability to hang on didn’t equate.”
He said it took 10 years to get to the stage of commercial development, but without sustained money they couldn’t finish the job.
“People see you’re a 10-year-old startup with no revenue, and they wonder why.
“At AHI we had a lot of success. We wouldn’t have got where we did without the support of our 47 shareholders and government at all levels.
“But when a company gets to a certain point you’re old news. People wonder, do I keep putting money into that company or put investment somewhere else?”
Wagner, who was raised in Cape Breton, had an international career with Unisys Corporation, including six years as the CEO of Unisys Canada.
He said Canada should increase its investments in innovation and the commercialization of university research.
“Government has a role to play in the very early stages when the risk is high. You can’t expect private investors to take all that risk. They can get burned — either the companies don’t work or they get diluted by later rounds of financing.”
Red tape is a problem, he said.
“Currently, the bureaucracy involved in getting and maintaining funding make it hard to explain that what you said three years ago in your proposal has changed and you now need to do something differently to meet market demands.”
The San Francisco-based group announced last week that it has named a group of “well-connected ambassadors” in major Canadian cities who can identify and engage the most promising startups in their region.
Comprised largely of Canadians working in the tech community in Northern California, C100 helps Canadian startups with introductions, mentoring and regular events. Its most popular event is 48 Hours in the Valley, in which select startups spend a couple of days at programs in Silicon Valley. (C100 is now looking for applications for the next 48 Hours in the Valley in June.)
“C100 has historically done an excellent job of selecting quality startups for their annual programs,” Harley Finkelstein, C100 Board Member and COO of Shopify, said in a statement. “However, being headquartered in San Francisco, we have relied on our partners to recommend companies. We’re excited to launch the Ambassador Program as an opportunity to activate C100 members in Canada, who can effectively analyze and refer the most impressive companies within their regions.”
In Atlantic Canada, the C100 ambassador is Jevon MacDonald, who was the Co-Founder and CEO of GoInstant Inc., which was acquired by Salesforce.com in 2012. He is also a Co-Founder of Startup North.
The C100 ambassador in Waterloo Region is Stephen Lake, the Founder and CEO of Thalmic Labs. Lake and his co-founders were named EY Ontario’s Entrepreneur of the Year in the Young Entrepreneur category in 2015.
The other ambassadors are:
- Aydin Mirzaee, Ottawa, Co-Founder of Fluidware.
- Dan Debow, Toronto, entrepreneur and angel investor. Most recently, he was SVP, Emerging Technologies at Salesforce.
- Matt Switzer, Vancouver, Senior Vice President, Labs, Corporate & Business Development at Hootsuite.
- And, Dax Dasilva, Montreal, CEO of Lightspeed.
Jobs of the Week: NewAE, Sentinel
This week in Jobs of the Week, we are featuring three positions from the Entrevestor Job Board that feature development and content marketing skills.
NewAE Technology of Halifax is looking for a software development programmer. DPL is looking for a content marketing specialist in Moncton, and Sentinel Alert of St. John’s is looking for a senior full stack developer to work remotely from anywhere in Canada.
NewAE Technology develops open-source hardware and software solutions for performing security analysis of embedded computer systems.
DPL is a data-management company out based out of Moncton.
Sentinel Alert is an early stage start-up that uses advanced mathematics to avoid workplace accidents.
Our Jobs of the Week column features positions available on the Entrevestor Job Board. Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Entrevestor Job Board, which helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities.
NewAE Technology is looking for a software development programmer to fit in with its small company culture, which would occasionally mean performing tasks that are not specifically listed in the position’s job description. Responsibilities of this position include design and implementation of Python application for data capture, design, and implementation of embedded firmware in C/C++, research of security analysis techniques, supervision of students and interns, and management of related open-source projects. Desired qualifications include a PhD in VLSI, microelectronics or similar field, 10 or more years of C++ on larger structured projects, four or more years’ experience with Python for desktop/server, and a working knowledge of assembly language on microcontroller and microprocessors.
DPL is looking to fill a position with roles in management, and the writing/creation of online content for YouTube, Facebook, and blogs including training and content videos. Responsibilities include content writing, video production and editing, working with media channels, and administering marketing campaigns. Desired skills include email marketing, CMS, Hootsuite, Storyboarding, SEO, lighting, video editing, and video production. There are no educational requirements and all employees receive five weeks’ vacation.
St. John’s-based Sentinel Alert is looking for an energetic and enthusiastic engineer to work with their four-person development team on managing and fine-tuning the back-end infrastructure, database, communications protocols, front-end websites, and web apps. Responsibilities for the Senior Full-Stack Developer include participation in design, development and maintenance of database, web, and mobile solutions, as well as improving user experience through user interface, widgets and visualizations. Qualifications for the position include five-plus years’ experience working on end-to-end enterprise grade software, expert knowledge of PHP, MYSQL, architecting APIs, experience, familiar with emerging trends in web technologies and frameworks, and a bachelor’s degree or diploma in computer science, computer engineering and/or relevant work experience.
Coke’s New Model for Innovation
Corporate and statup communities should embrace a new collaborative model for innovation that will hasten the next wave of technology, Coca-Cola Co.’s head of innovation told a Fredericton audience Wednesday night.
David Butler told the R3 Gala that corporations and startups operate in dramatically different environments. So the best way for established businesses to nurture startups and benefit from their pioneering mentality is to contract them to solve problems.
Butler, the Vice-President of Innovation at the Atlanta-based beverage giant, calls the process a “co-creation system” and said Coke is now using it to solve big problems. The company simply tells startup communities about a big problem it’s having and lets the geeks come up with a solution. The result is often a new business that can solve similar problems for a range of companies, and Coke becomes the first client, brings the startup on to its Founders’ Platform and offers seed investment.
“Think about the assets you have in your company,” Butler told the business people in the audience. “Now think of what would happen to local entrepreneurs with a co-creation system. Think of how big it could be.”
Butler was the keynote speaker at the dinner, hosted by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, which honoured the work of three practical researchers in New Brunswick whose efforts were improving the province’s economy.
Butler said the ecosystems for startups and traditional corporations are as different as a coral reef and desert. And corporations can try to innovate by acquiring startups, setting up accelerators or acting like startups. But such efforts would be as disastrous as expecting fish from a coral reef to thrive in a desert.
“It’s not that it just doesn’t work -- it’s that the models are flawed,” said Butler. “So we tried to come up with a new model, one that we think will be responsible for the next wave of innovation.”
He cited examples in the U.S., Australia and Vietnam in which Coke had told tech entrepreneurs about their problems and the result was a new startups. For example, Coke wanted to know more about when to stock vending machines and what to put in them. Sydney-based Hivery, which is offering predictive analytics to a range of food companies, is now on the Founders’ Platform.
The focus of the R3 dinner was on the pioneering work of three researchers:
- Liuchen Chang is an expert in renewable energy conversion and systems. He has developed ways for energy to flow from small sources on to the grid, rather than just having the grid just deliver electricity from big plants. Chang's research has allowed a variety of different types of energy sources to be added to the grid at varying voltages.
- Alain Doucet has worked with several small and medium-sized businesses to develop a variety of innovations. For example, he and his team developed a “plug and play” type of adapter for Leading Edge Geomatics’ aircraft that allows them to exchange a range of highly sophisticated aerial surveying equipment. Before that, the company was required to have a separate aircraft for every configuration – just to meet Transport Canada certification. Now it has a permanent, certified mounting system that fits all of its equipment.
- Amber Garber of the Huntsman Marine Science Centre has developed a selective breeding program for salmon. Her salmon broodstock have a higher growth rate and are resistant to sea lice and bacterial kidney disease. Sea lice resistance reduces the need to bathe the fish in peroxide, which makes the fish stop eating for at least a week. Bacterial kidney disease resistance significantly reduces the need to use antibiotics.
5 Thoughts on the New Volta CEO
On Monday, Volta Labs announced that Jesse Rodgers will be the new CEO of the Halifax incubator for tech companies. Rodgers will be moving from Waterloo Region to fill the position next month.
Here are five thoughts on the appointment of the former director of the incubator/accelerators at the Universities of Waterloo and Toronto:
1. The pool of mentorship in Atlantic Canada instantly increases. Rodgers was a founding director at both Waterloo’s Velocity and Toronto’s Creative Destruction Lab. He’s had an exit. He’s been in both product and business development. And next month he will be head the key startup facility in the region’s largest city. It’s a huge boost for the community given that he has expertise in so many of the key components of a startup ecosystem.
2. Hopefully, the universities will call Rodgers and ask for advice. Though the Atlantic Canadian universities have come a long way in teaching innovation in the past few years, there’s nothing in the region like Velocity or the Creative Destruction Lab. Rogers should have great insights on how to develop programs that convert waves of university startups into high-growth companies. It won’t hurt that the Dalhousie engineering school is right across the street from his office.
3. This hiring further strengthens links between Atlantic Canada and the Toronto-Kitchener-Waterloo corridor. This can’t be emphasized enough. East Coast startups must — they just have to — position themselves more closely to international customers. With the Canadian dollar so weak, it’s excessively expensive to travel to London, New York and San Francisco for prolonged sales calls. But international business does meet Canadian innovation in the tech corridor between Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo. There are really great programs in this area that Atlantic Canadian companies are entering and should do so in greater numbers. And there are vast networks of investors and customers to be tapped. Volta already has strong links to Kitchener-Waterloo, and Rodgers should bolster this connection.
4. Hopefully, Rodgers will bring some needed oomph back to the IT segment in Halifax. Some promising IT companies have formed in the city in the past year or so, but not enough of them. At Entrevestor, we’ve just finished tallying Atlantic Canadian startups, especially new startups, for 2015, and we found that 78 per cent of the new companies in the region are in the IT segment. In Halifax, only 54 per cent of the new companies are in tech. (There was surprising strength in biotech and cleantech in the city last year.) There’s a feeling in Halifax that the tech group needs a shot in the arm — more collaboration, better ideas, bringing back mentors who may have wandered away.
5. I hope the Kitchener-Waterloo influence leaves its mark on Halifax architecture. (Yes, you read that correctly.) In Kitchener, they have done a wonderful job of taking old industrial buildings and repurposing them for tech companies. To name just two examples, the new Google headquarters and the Tannery Hub (where Communitech operates) are marvelous edifices. Rodgers will be the point man on establishing Volta in the Memorial Library. It would be great for the city’s architectural heritage if the Volta team creates a building as dynamic as the Tannery.
It’s a big list, but Rodgers is an interesting hire.
Tory Calls for Innovation Corridor
Mayor John Tory
Toronto Mayor John Tory on Wednesday called for his city and Waterloo Region to work more closely to develop and promote the two cities as a single technology corridor.
Tory made the call during a speech to the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, at which he said the two municipalities will grow a knowledge economy better and more quickly if they work together. Earlier in the day, he and the mayors of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge hosted a roundtable discussion at Communitech on how they can collaborate to improve the ecosystem.
Early next month, these municipal leaders will go to Silicon Valley together to promote the innovation corridor, meet with major technology companies active in Ontario and greet Canadian expats living in the San Francisco area. It’s the beginning of a more coordinated effort at developing a single tech ecosystem in the region.
“The relationship between Toronto and this region is similar to that of San Francisco and Silicon Valley, London and Cambridge and Tel Aviv and Haifa,” said Tory. “Each of those hubs is comprised of two regions no further apart than Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo, one of which is a large urban metropolis and the other home to a renowned institute of higher education.”
In his speech, Tory outlined a plan to promote the Toronto-KW innovation corridor as a globally competitive hub of innovation, on par with San Francisco, London, and Tel Aviv.
This corridor is a special place in the global tech world, he said, because of its diversity, educated population, global network, and quality of life.
And he stressed that all politicians and leaders in the enlarged region have to work together to improve transportation links so that Toronto-KW can truly be considered a single destination.
“The most obvious and immediate area for joint advocacy is to accelerate the flow of people, ideas and goods along the corridor by improving our transit and transportation networks,” said Tory.
“We need to push for improved connections as an economic imperative for our region -- as a competitive imperative. And that means we should have faster and more frequent rail service, commuter flights and access to HOV lanes.”
The two regions are not competing against one another but must work together to compete against the rest of the world, he said. And the story they have to tell is especially timely as the low Canadian dollar makes Toronto-KW an affordable alternative to other hubs.
Aterlo Raises $1M, led by MaRS IAF
Waterloo-based Aterlo Networks Inc. has raised $1 million in venture capital financing to help the company expand sales of its flagship product, Nightshift.
Nightshift allows households with weak internet connections to download high-volume content like videos during off-peak hours and then lets family members watch them at their convenience.
“Aterlo Networks has the opportunity to offer millions of people with small data caps and lower bandwidth in the U.S. and Canada a solution to streaming high definition video,” said Dan Mathers from MaRS IAF in a statement. “Aterlo’s product solves a problems faced by millions of people in both urban and rural environments, which means that there is a high potential for the company to build a scalable business.”
There are about 30 million high-speed internet subscribers in the U.S. who receive less than the 5 Mbps required to stream a single video in high definition, said the company. Aterlo has been providing their solution to these people for a year and half. More than 200 satellite internet dealers are offering Nightshift to their customers.
“Internet subscribers not being able to stream high definition video is a much bigger problem than most people realize,” said Gerrit Nagelhout, CEO of Aterlo Networks. “Their bandwidth is almost high enough to stream it, but it just misses the mark. Streaming just an hour of HD video a day uses 3GB, so many households very quickly collide with their data caps. With 4K video content coming and the desire for several video active video streams, the problem will only get worse.”
Aterlo has incubated in the Google for Entrepreneurs and Communitech’s Rev programs, and is now in residency at the Accelerator Centre as it grows its team.
“NightShift doesn’t interfere with the DRM set in place by the streaming video provider. A valid subscription and active connection to the provider is still required,” said Dan Siemon, VP production management of Aterlo. “We’ve worked very hard to build a solution that is friendly to video streaming providers and doesn’t break DRM or enable copyright violation.”
Halifax’s InNetwork Acquired by gShift
InNetwork, the Halifax marketing startup that helps clients spread their messages through influencers, has been acquired by Barrie, Ont.-based gShift.
GShift announced the all-stock deal in a statement Monday, but declined to place any value on the transaction or say what proportion of the enlarged company will be held by InNetwork shareholders.
GShift was founded in 2009 by Krista LaRiviere and Chris Adams to enhance search engine optimization through big data and predictive analytics. It has now chosen to merge with InNetwork, which uses a network of influencers to help clients amplify their marketing efforts.
“The marketing tech stack is ripe for consolidation as customers are demanding single sign on platforms with integrated functionality,” said InNetwork CEO and Founder Chris Keevill in an email Monday night. “With gShift, together we begin to line up the integrated content marketing functionality of what we are calling Content Performance Cloud.”
Keevill will join the board at gShift and stay on with the enlarged company for a period of time to ensure a smooth transition.
With offices in Halifax and Toronto, InNetwork vets and approves influencers to ensure that they are bona fide opinion leaders. It then uses this network of influencers to help clients with their marketing.
It beta-tested the product with about six Canadian customers in 2014 and has since been working with many more paying customers.
In 2013, InNetwork received seed funding of $250,000 from Innovacorp and $240,000 from a group of angels led by East Valley Ventures Chair Gerry Pond, who became chair of the board. InNetwork had been trying to raise money through Brightspark Ventures of Toronto since last summer, but Keevill said the team “paused the Brightspark round as we got closer to closing this transaction.”
GShift announced the transaction at the MarTech Conference in San Francisco. It said the integration of the two companies’ platforms provides digital agencies and brands with a unique marketing technology suite for planning, optimizing, amplifying and reporting on content marketing strategies and investments.
“Acquiring InNetwork and adding influencer identification and management to gShift’s existing suite of software strengthens the entire content campaign process and helps marketers get their message to target audiences,” said CEO LaRiviere in the statement.
It is the second major transaction in a year for Keevill, who is best known as the CEO of the Halifax marketing firm Colour. Last July, Colour was acquired by the CHR Group, a New York-based network of creative communications agencies, for an undisclosed sum. The deal was designed to help the agency spread into the U.S.
Volta Hires Jesse Rodgers as CEO
Job 1 for Rodgers will be forming a tech hub in the old Memorial Library
The startup house, which offers office space and mentoring to tech statups, has been looking for a CEO since last summer. With the hiring of Rogers, Executive Director Melody Pardoe will become the organization’s Chief Operating Officer.
“We’re entering into our next growth stage at Volta,” Pardoe said. “Jesse will primarily work on executing our growth plans and fundraising.”
A 15-year veteran of the startup world, Rodgers was the founding director of the Velocity incubator at the University of Waterloo and later of the Creative Destructive Lab at the University of Toronto. Rodgers also has startup experience as the co-founder of TribeHR, an HR SaaS company acquired by NetSuite. For the 15 months, he has been the Vice-President of Business Development at Waterloo-based startup Boltmade.
“Jesse brings a unique view of both the customer and the user to the product development at TribeHR,” David Crow, a partner at TheNextPhase mentorship team, wrote of Rodgers in 2012. “He has insight in both how the service offering should be priced (i.e., the economic decision of the purchaser) and around the usage scenario for everyday users.”
Aside from bringing fresh blood and experience to the Volta executive, the hiring of Rodgers strengthens the links between Volta and the burgeoning tech community in the Waterloo Region. Iain Klugman, the CEO of Communitech, already serves on the Volta board.
Rodgers and Pardoe now have the long-term goal of creating a new innovation hub at the old Memorial Library, which has been empty since the new Central Library opened in late 2014. The city staff has recommended that Volta be allowed to occupy the building.
“This is an exciting time for Volta,” said Jevon MacDonald, the chair of the Volta Board. “We’re thankful for the support of our sponsors and local community as we continue to grow our team to serve the ICT community in Nova Scotia and across Atlantic Canada.”
Rodgers’ duties will also include assisting Volta’s resident founders, building on Volta’s community partnerships, expanding its influence in the ICT sector and forging new relationships within the Atlantic Canada business ecosystem.
Volta began three years ago in a smaller location in Halifax, and moved in 2014 to the Maritime Building, where it occupies two floors. The organization said that its resident companies can receive more than $43,000 worth of resources, such as office space, in-house experts, scholarships, Amazon Web Services, travel program discounts and more.
Since 2013, Volta’s 39 resident startups and alumni have raised more than $24.5 million in equity financing.
RevIQ To Double Staff in 2nd Quarter
A new Charlottetown firm that helps game and app developers increase income has tripled its staff in six months and plans to double it again by Canada Day.
As it is now structured, RevIQ is more a service company than a conventional product-based startup, and its nine-member team helps game and app developers use their data to develop more successful sales strategies.
The problem the company addresses is that the world is awash with free-to-play games, and it’s difficult to make money from them. There are only two revenue streams: selling the player bonus items, and advertising. But less than six per cent of players will pay money for these bonuses, even on the most popular games, and it’s hard to attract advertisers if players abandon the game after a few plays.
“You have to continue to engage the player and it’s really hard to compete for players,” said CEO John Kimmel in a phone interview last week from the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. “And some (companies) are reluctant to ask how to get money out of their customers. “
RevIQ began as part of Gogii Games, a Moncton-based producer of casual and free-to-play games, whose portfolio includes the games based on the Archie comic series. The company is a Canadian leader in the development of these games, and it developed analytics tools and processes that could assess how to increase revenue from its games.
Gogii began to advise other gaming studios on how to increase their revenue, but this created a conflict as some of these companies competed with the Moncton group. So last October, Kimmel and Gogii CEO George Donovan announced that it would spin off RevIQ, to be established in Charlottetown.
There was immediate demand for the service. This consultancy work had been cash flow positive (meaning it brought in more cash than it expended) while it was within Gogii, and it has been cash flow positive ever since. That’s a true rarity in the startup world.
The company launched with three employees, and it’s now increased the staff to nine. Kimmel expects to raise the number to 19 by the end of June.
The growth has been financed entirely by revenues. RevIQ, continued those sales efforts last week at the Game Developers Conference, one of the largest gaming conferences. (RevIQ and Gogii were part of a 12-member Atlantic Canadian contingent that included such companies as Celsius Game Studios, of St. John’s, and 4th Monkey Media, of Lunenburg.)
Kimmel said he was talking to a few companies at the conference about signing deals.
As it looks ahead, RevIQ plans to train its new staff, increase its client base and get the team working with new and existing clients. Kimmel said he hopes to “increase the density of the clients we’ve got.”
And it wants to further develop its analytics tools, and possibly to release them as a stand-alone product. The idea is to sell or license the product to clients, so RevIQ in the end would become more of a conventional startup rather than a service company.
Celebrating Youth Entrepreneurship
The Hat team: Geoff Mason, left, Wes Booth and George Kashap (Photo by Tom Dalmazzi)
Atlantic Canada last week hosted a flurry of youth and student entrepreneurship events, with hundreds of participants and cash prizes totaling thousands of dollars.
The highest profile event was YES Atlantic, or the Youth Entrepreneur Summit, in Fredericton, which attracted about 300 delegates from across the region. But there were also student pitching events in Fredericton and Wolfville, and the Starting Lean program at Dalhousie University held its regular presentation night early in the week.
“Many of these types of events focus on home-grown solutions for Atlantic Canada, but YES frames the impact young citizens have on our communities, and how we are different from the generations that came before us,” said Nicola MacLeod, one of the millennials attending YESatlantic. “It highlighted our uniqueness in a positive light, especially when it comes to our interest in environmental and social responsibility and a natural tendency towards entrepreneurial thinking.”
Most of the events featured student pitches, some for ideas cooked up over the weekend. It’s difficult to assess youth or student pitches because the ideas are presented as real businesses, and you’ve got to remind yourself that these are students. By definition, the students are there to learn and the measure of success should be how many young people are learning and how they’re progressing.
“Wow! 30 pitches, 70 students involved in #SPC2016 at @UNBTME. That's a 5X jump since inception 10 years ago. #ECSW2016.”
So the number of teams in the UNB pitching competition has gone from about six to 30 in a decade. The pitches ranged from Rainbow Data Computing, which helps students save money, to Trispectra Innovation, which senses, and reports power outages. The winner, claiming $2,000, was CanCross, which is proposing stronger, field-tested prototype bridges allowing heavier transportation loads in the forestry industry.
On Saturday, I had the pleasure of being a judge at Start It Up, a pitching competition organized by Launchbox, the Acadia University sandbox.
Seven teams of students had 29 hours to come up with a business proposal, and the winner of the $6,000 first prize was a team called The Hat, comprising Wes Booth, George Kashap, and Geoff Mason. The Hat uses social media to assess the characteristics of a company’s employees, and then uses that information to help the company recruit the best hires.
The $3,500 second prize went to Ohme Energy, which is developing smart wall sockets that tell homeowners how much energy each appliance is using. Smartbox, which proposed a form of packaging that would enhance tracking during shipment, took home the $500 third prize.
All in all, it was a week-long celebration of young people’s contribution to the entrepreneurial community in the region.
“Those messages are so needed in places where confidence in millennials can be low,” said MacLeod. “Some even believe we're too lazy to make a bowl of cereal. The conversations that occur at YES and projects like the Millennial Dream shatter all of that. We are entrepreneurial and community oriented in a way that generations have not been before.”
Job of the Week: Sequence Bio
Today in Job of the Week, we are featuring an opening for Manager of Technical Development at Sequence Bio of St. John’s.
Founded in 2013, Sequence works with partners to analyze vast sets of data from gene pools to get a deeper understanding of which people are at the greatest risk of contracting a disease. It recently signed an agreement with Memorial University to use the university’s genetic databank to study colon cancer.
The company, which received $1 million in investment last year, is seeking an executive to oversee the development of its data analysis platform.
Each Monday, our Jobs of the Week feature showcases positions that are currently available on the Entrevestor Job Board. Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Entrevestor Job Board, which helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities.
Sequence Bio is in need of a manager to lead the development of its data-and-analysis platform to enable data-driven precision medicine. The platform will use the latest in genomics, big data, analytics, and cloud computing to conduct the analysis. The successful candidate will be responsible for making significant contributions to architecture, strategy, vision, planning and design of the data framework. He or she will also evaluate third-party vendors’ cloud based technologies and platforms to ensure they mesh with the company’s requirements. Qualifications for this position include seven or more years of software development and five or more years’ experience managing software development and quality teams. A Bachelors degree in Computer Science or Computer Engineering, and a working knowledge of or experience in analytics, big data, data modeling and machine learning are also required.
Sequence posted the listing through Acquaint Personnel Services Inc. of St. John’s. To view the direct listing on Sequence’s website, go here. Interest for this position should be directed to Charles Luther, Lead Recruiter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Agile Signs Deal with China’s Gaitech
Brian Terry, left, appears with colleagues Michael Harvey and Teng Wang
Agile CEO Brian Terry said in an interview Thursday that the Chinese company has provided seed funding for his startup, which grew out of a research project at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Gaitech, which has offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei and Seoul, will distribute Agile Sensor’s products in Asia and collaborate on the development of new products.
“We’re very excited about this new partnership,” Terry said in a statement. “Gaitech’s investment enables us to accelerate growth and launch our technology into international markets. Our collaboration with Gaitech on product development will result not only in new products, but also in rapid knowledge transfer for our team.”
The story of Agile Sensor began in 2007 when a groups of MUN researchers secured funding from aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund. The group launched the company in 2014 originally to sell a proprietary quadcopter (a little unmanned helicopter with four rotors) that could fly with stability even in high winds.
Terry said Agile Sensor found that it had a range of products that could be used for different applications. So it morphed into a company that provides components to the burgeoning robotics industry, including drones and unmanned underwater vehicles.
The company’s products include a Parallel Kinematic Mechanism, which allows greater freedom of movement in the devices on unmanned vehicles, such as pointing a camera.
The company is working on an intelligent camera, which automatically locates an object and can instruct a drone or underwater craft to hold its position in relation to that object. It also has devises that increase the functionality in controlling motors on these vehicles.
Terry said he was exhibiting the products at a tradeshow in San Jose, Calif., in September when he met Gaitech CEO Jenssen Chang. They began to speak regularly, which led to the investment and partnership.
“We believe that the combination of Agile’s state-of-the-art FPGA (field-programmable gate array) technologies with our expertise in ROS (robot operating system) will result in several exciting new products for the high-growth global robotics market,” Chang said in the statement.
Terry had said previously that his company was looking for about $1.5 million in funding. He said Thursday that he may seek other funds such as grants, or raise more investment if needed in six to nine months.
“The business plan I floated in the past called for seven figures of funding,” said Terry. “But I don’t want it all at once. I want it in tranches.”
Agile Sensor is now working out of the Genesis Centre, the incubator affiliated with MUN, but will soon move as it’s outgrowing the space. The company has three employees but that will likely rise to seven by mid-April. As well as engineers, the company is adding sales and marketing staff.
“The next year is going to be all about increasing sales and doing it right in respect of the marketing side of things,” said Terry. “What we’ve got to do is get it out there, and get our products into Asia.”
Can Entrepreneurship Save Us?
So Maclean’s magazine has touched quite a nerve in New Brunswick.
The national weekly this month published an article with the apocalyptic title, “Can anything save New Brunswick?”
As expected, it catalogued a litany of problems, from the aging population to French-English friction to an economy that’s “in free fall.”
And as expected, New Brunswickers reacted to the article with indignation, expressed pointedly in traditional and social media. “New Brunswick’s economy isn’t in ‘free fall.’ It’s in transition,” countered the online business publication Huddle. It highlighted that entrepreneurship is accelerating to replace the traditional resource-based jobs.
I guess the biggest question I have is why Maclean’s narrowed its focus to New Brunswick. Most of the problems highlighted so painfully in the article apply to the entire region. Let’s just consider employment.
According to Statistics Canada, here are the data on changes in the number of jobs in the four Atlantic Provinces in the 12 months to February: Newfoundland and Labrador, down 4,200; New Brunswick, down 6,000; Nova Scotia, down 2,700; and Prince Edward Island, down 2,200.
So the Atlantic Provinces shed 15,100 in one year. In that same time span, Alberta shed 21,900. And we all know how bad things are in Alberta. But consider this. Atlantic Canada has 56 percent the population of Alberta, yet we’ve lost 70 percent as many jobs as the western province. Yes, Atlantic Canada lost jobs at a faster rate than Alberta in the past year.
So can entrepreneurship compensate for these losses in Atlantic Canada in the long-term? If the answer is yes, it will take a while.
Last year there were about 3300 people working in the startup space – the portion of the entrepreneurship community that develops innovative products. The number has been growing by about 15 percent, or 500 jobs, a year. Even if the total entrepreneurship community is far, far largest than the startup segment, it’s not going to replace the loss of 15,000 jobs in a year.
And failures are always a risk in entrepreneurship and sometimes the companies that go under can be significant employers.
I’m not a huge fan of the Maclean’s article. (What the hell is an economy “in free fall”, anyway? It might apply to Venezuela, but not New Brunswick.)
But is contains some painful truths. There are a lot of great things happening in entrepreneurship in the region. It is probably the most promising aspect of economic development right now. But it has to go hand in hand with other aspects of the economy, such as fiscal discipline by government, attraction of immigrants, improved education (especially in maths, science and technology and improved productivity.
But for all the positives on entrepreneurship, the impact of home-grown businesses is not going to offset the forces acting against for a few years at least.
Alaunus Sets Sites Beyond Ontario
With thousands of carers now using its software in Ontario, Alaunus is working on a plan to extend its reach into other Canadian provinces and the U.S.
The Waterloo-based company’s HealthPlanr software helps home-care agencies organize their rostering, invoicing and patient care. The company works out of the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo and was recently one of the four companies accepted into the third Rev cohort at Communitech.
“We help out these companies by allowing them to be able to automate their process,” said Founder and CEO Andrew Ringer in an interview. “Alaunus is an all-in-one platform to bring all of this together. …
The problem with your standard software is it is fine with scheduling but this product has to do scheduling as well as invoicing and rostering and other things.”
When Ringer was studying at Wilfrid Laurier University several years ago, he had a friend working for the Victoria Order of Nurses. He noticed that she would come home each night with a stack of papers – charts, patient records, invoices – that had to be filled in, filed and sent to headquarters.
He thought there had to be a better way for these agencies to administer their patient relationships. He interviewed dozens of homecare agencies and found there was a gap in the market. There were expensive software products that only the largest agencies could afford, but there was no one catering to the small and medium-sized agencies.
Thus Alaunus was born.
Its HealthPlanr software is a single platform on which home-care organizations and their fieldworkers can carry out all their administrative tasks and work on health records. The demands of this industry are unique because many of the workers are on contract, they travel to people’s homes, and many are specialists. The software must be compliant with several regulators in different jurisdictions. The records must be confidential. And the payment sources vary greatly, from government to insurers to private individuals.
Healthplanr allows agencies to scan their rosters and find the best carers for each individual patient, arrange the billing and later to send out invoices. At the point of care, the carer can record the time spent with the patient, and access and record the relevant health information.
Ringer said the number of carers using the platform is now “in the low thousands”. The company targets agencies with a back-office staff of two to 10 people. It’s found a broad client base in Ontario – or as Ringer says, “from North Bay to Niagara Falls and everywhere in between.”
Now as it goes through the Rev program, it wants to develop sales processes to help sell beyond Ontario. Within Canada and the U.S., there are about 50,000 organizations that fit its criteria, and they employ about 2 million people.
Alaunus raised $250,000 in 2014, and Ringer said the company, which has seven or eight full-time employees, is almost cash-flow positive. So he said the company is doing “passive fundraising” – it’s open to investment not actively courting investors.
“In the meantime,” he said, “we’re rocking along quite well.”
R3 to Honour 3 NB Researchers
Three leading New Brunswick researchers will be honoured in Fredericton next Wednesday at the R3 Gala, which celebrates the innovations of the province’s top applied researchers.
Presented by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, Cox & Palmer and Deloitte, the R3 awards are held every second year to recognize the achievements of New Brunswick researchers who are having an impact on industry and society. Tickets are available here.
The keynote speaker at the gala will be David Butler, the Vice-President Innovation at Cola-Cola. Butler will discuss the secrets of Coke’s ongoing success and how its new startup-focused venture platform is poised to change the way large organizations innovate. Tickets are available here.
The focus of the evening will be the three R3 recipients:
- Liuchen Chang is an expert in renewable energy conversion and systems. He has developed ways for energy to flow from small sources on to the grid, rather than just having the grid just deliver electricity from big plants. Chang's research has allowed a variety of different types of energy sources to be added to the grid at varying voltages.
- Alain Doucet has worked with several small and medium-sized businesses to develop a variety of innovations. For example, he and his team developed a “plug and play” type of adapter for Leading Edge Geomatics’ aircraft that allows them to exchange a range of highly sophisticated aerial surveying equipment. Before that, the company was required to have a separate aircraft for every configuration – just to meet Transport Canada certification. Now it has a permanent, certified mounting system that fits all of its equipment.
- Amber Garber has developed a selective breeding program for salmon. Her salmon broodstock have a higher growth rate and are resistant to sea lice and bacterial kidney disease. Sea lice resistance reduces the need to bathe the fish in peroxide, which makes the fish stop eating for at least a week. Bacterial kidney disease resistance significantly reduces the need to use antibiotics.
The R3 Gala this year includes an afternoon program focusing on tech trends and how to increase company sales. It will feature the Deloitte 2016 predictions in technology, media and telecoms by Duncan Stewart, Director of TMT Research.
The other speakers will be: Jeff Roach, CEO of Sociallogical, speaking on Aligning Social Media With Your Brand; Wayne Chamberlain, Principal of Atlantic Growth Solutions, speaking on the Five Components of a Sales Machine; and David Veale, Founder of Vision Coaching, speaking on Developing a Leadership Culture.
The Tech Leadership Conference – to be held at Communitech on May 12 – will examine trends in technology and the direction the markets for tech are heading. The organizers expect about 800 people to attend the event. You can buy tickets here.
The two keynote speakers are: futurist Ray Kurzweil, whose many titles include the Co-Founder and Chancellor of the Singlaurity University; and transportation entrepreneur Robin Chase, founder and former CEO of Zipcar, the largest car-sharing company in the world.
The other speakers in Key Learning Sessions will be:
- Nikolas Badminton, futurist and writer with the Huffington Post;
- Kate Darling, research specialist with Mit Media Lab;
- Helen Papagiannis, an augmented reality specialist;
- Chris Eliasmith, Co-Founder of Applied Brain Research;
- Mark Roberge, Chief Revenue Officer at Hubsport Sales Division;
- And Adam Green, Creative Agency Lead at Google Canada.
They will be joined by host Sarah Prevette, the Founder and CEO of Future Design School, and two entrepreneurs who will deliver “T-Minus Five” talks, Vidyard CEO of Co-Founder Michael Litt and Nexonia CEO and Co-Founder Neil Wainwright.