Rodgers To Head CDL-Atlantic

Jesse Rodgers, the head of Volta Labs, has been named the regional leader of the Creative Destruction Lab Atlantic, the new Halifax-based accelerator that was officially announced Thursday.

CDL, which began at University of Toronto in 2012, is possibly Canada’s most demanding tech accelerator. It opened a Vancouver pod last year, and on Thursday it announced three other locations for its 2017-18 cohort – Calgary, Montreal and Halifax. The Halifax cohort will be offered in collaboration with Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business.

Rodgers, who was the founding director of the CDL program in Toronto, came to Halifax last year to oversee Volta Labs. Now he will also head a group of CDL mentors that will include Clearwater Fine Foods Founder John Risley and serial entrepreneur Jevon MacDonald, as well as mentors in Toronto, Boston and New York.

"We are thrilled to join such a strong network of universities and business schools,” Sylvain Charlebois, dean of Dal’s Faculty of Management, said in a statement that appeared in Dal News. “Knowledge-sharing is so critical to an innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. Our economy will reap significant benefits from this partnership.”

The nine-month CDL program is not for the faint of heart as many participating companies are asked to leave before completing it. The CDL starts each cohort with a few dozen teams, who attend a one- or two-day mentoring session to receive a set of milestones from mentors. They’re then sent away to work on these tasks. When the cohort convenes again about two months later, teams who missed their milestones are asked to leave. CDL repeats the process several times, so each cohort ends up with a handful of graduates.

“We were able to get a group of mentors who could see patterns before we could and put us on the trajectory to make us more successful,”  said Mark Hobbs, the CEO of Halifax-based Fundmetric, which is now finishing up the program in Toronto. “We were able to find answer to certain questions, which has allowed us to put together some projections, and that has allowed us to approach venture capital firms and get some offers on the table.”

Retrievium Upbeat as it Completes CDL Program

The Dal announcement on Thursday gives a few more details on what CDL-Atlantic will look like. The program will feature a general stream, which will comprise startups from a range of sectors. It’s assumed most of these will be from Atlantic Canada. It will also have a specialty program for oceantech, cleantech and agri-food companies. It’s believed this stream will draw participants from across the country.

“By collaborating with Dal and other partners in the region such as the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship, CDL-Atlantic will help leverage the unique strengths in the region and spur the commercialization of more ocean, clean technology and agriculture research,” said the statement.

CDL has proven effective in helping to strengthen and expand young companies through exposure to expert guidance and pivotal investment opportunities. CDL-Atlantic will also include provisions for Dal MBA students to participate in its programs. Rodgers said Dal is a natural partner for the program.

“It’s the top research school in Atlantic Canada, and throw in the massive investments into oceans research happening there and it makes so much sense,” he said. “It’s seems like the timing is right and the location is right.”

MacDonald has helped catalyze the startup ecosystem in the Atlantic region over the years, co-founding Volta Labs, investing in and mentoring local entrepreneurs and supporting key initiatives in schools.

“I’m passionate about building our startup community in Atlantic Canada, which is greatly out-performing on a per capita basis,” said MacDonald, whose latest company is Manifold. “This new partnership is an exciting step towards showing the world what we have to offer, namely, the talent and ambition to build global scale technology companies.”

DGI Executes Two-Pronged Strategy

Chère Chapman: 'Digging deeper into the data is worthwhile.'

Chère Chapman: 'Digging deeper into the data is worthwhile.'

Halifax-based DGI Clinical takes a two-pronged approach to boosting healthcare: the group gives patients a voice and allows pharmaceutical companies to better understand their clinical trial data. 

DGI Clinical has developed systems that allow patients to state and communicate their healthcare priorities. 

Established in 2001 by Dalhousie University-based Alzheimer’s expert Kenneth Rockwood, DGI has created patient-focused SymptomGuides. The Alzheimer’s and dementia SymptomGuide is available online. It allows sufferers to name the symptoms that most concern them. This information can be shared with family and health professionals. Both patients and caregivers can enter data and track symptoms.

It’s important that patients state the symptoms that trouble them, said Chère Chapman, the company’s CEO. 

“Gone are the days when patients say, ‘Tell me what to do and I’ll do it,’” Chapman said.

“The SymptomGuide allows patients to set goals for their treatment. … One patient with dementia, for example, may wish to increase their social activity. Another may wish to decrease repetition of asking the same questions.”

Chapman said between 4,000 and 5,000 people and their caregivers are using the Alzheimer’s and dementia SymptomGuide.  

Other Symptom Guides have been created for clinical trials and clinic settings, including a recently developed hemophilia Symptom Guide.

The company has also built bespoke Alzheimer’s and dementia tools for clinical trials and clinic use.

“A company may want to develop a compound to reduce agitation. SymptomGuide will reveal how many of our users are concerned about agitation,” Chapman said.

Seagrave Hails the Benefits of Bioscience

SymptomGuide can reveal details such as the disease stage or stages in which agitation bothers patients, whether respondents are already diagnosed, and what therapies they may be on.

DGI Clinical is now looking at working in the areas of HIV, cardiovascular disease and renal failure. 

“Our tools are applicable to chronic diseases, and our scientific team has already done a lot of research in these areas,” said Chapman. 

She said DGI Clinical’s tools allow pharmaceutical clients to fully understand their data.

“The typical phase two drug trial looks at primary and secondary outcomes, including quality of life measures, but these are typically analyzed as if they are unrelated,” she said.

“We allow pharmaceutical companies to see how the outcomes interact with each other to produce treatment effects.” 

She said that drug companies usually try to exclude frail people from drug trials, but people of different levels of frailty do get onto the trials.

DGI offers a Frailty Index, which was developed at Dalhousie by Rockwood and Arnold Mitnitski, both DGI scientists. It has been adapted for clinical trial data and provides pharmaceutical companies with greater information about the frailty of their clinical trial subjects.

“The Frailty Index reveals the impact of the drug on frail people, resulting in more clinically meaningful information,” Chapman said. 

She said that deep analysis of data is especially useful when drug trial results are unclear.

“It could be a $100 million decision to take a drug to the next level, so digging deeper into the data is worthwhile.”

Chapman, a New Brunswick native with a background in health research and business management, had worked around the world before joining DGI a year ago, becoming CEO in December.

She said the company is growing steadily, funding its own growth, and focusing on R&D and hiring staff.

Halifax is an excellent base as the city’s universities produce great scientists. She said she is not aware of any direct competitors.

“Our biggest issue is the education of potential clients,” she said. “We have to get people to change the ways they do things.”

So far, the company has no Canadian clients. All clients are US or European pharmaceutical companies or other groups with a health intervention to test.

“We are not in a huge rush to grow,” Chapman said. “Science is complicated. It takes time for staff to understand all the science behind what we do, however bright they are.”

EduCode’s Pilot in Coding Education

The French school system in New Brunswick is launching a pilot project that will teach computer coding to junior high school students, even when their teachers have no experience in computer science.

The initiative will use a new product from Moncton-based EduCode Canada Inc., which has developed a computer science educational platform that helps teachers with no background in coding. The pilot project is being offered to Grade 7 students in four French-language schools in Kedgwick, Bathurst, Tracadie and Fredericton, but EduCode also has curriculum in English.

The company is the brainchild of Founder and CEO Guyverson Vernous, a native of Haiti who several years ago launched Moncton-based iCubemedia, which developed digital products for small business. He said iCubemedia has been doing well and is financing the development of his new company.

“EduCode Canada Inc. was created to build a bridge for all students, to help them go from a consumer of technology to understanding and becoming the creator of that technology,” he said in a statement released by the New Brunswick government. “We are pleased to partner with these schools to offer students the opportunity to learn about coding.”

EduCode chief marketing officer Kerry Knee said in an interview the company provides an “ingenious” solution to a pressing global problem. There’s a dire need to teach young people how to code because the jobs of tomorrow will be in information technology. Even now in New Brunswick alone, there are 2,200 openings for programs. Too few students are going into computer science after high school because too few of them have been introduced to coding in grade school.

Governments can try to improve curriculum in elementary school or junior high school, but there are too few teachers able to teach coding. What EduCode does is teach coding in grades 6 to 8 and all the teacher needs to do is monitor the class.

Lunney Edges Toward Pilot with Doorable

The company’s split-screen platform has videos that teach the students basics of coding. Junior high students learn JavaScript, though there is also curriculum for more advanced languages, like Python and C++. The students can progress at their own pace, and if they run into problems they can jump on a chat function with a remote computer science teacher. That teacher, based in the EduCode office in Moncton, can see the student’s code and immediately help with any problems.

The brilliant aspect of the program is it actually introduces coding to teachers who have never been exposed to it before. The program encourages classroom teachers to take each one-hour lesson a day or two before the students. That means they can help the students in the classroom, and throughout the course they come to understand the rudiments of coding.

Knee _ who met Vernous when she was searching for a place for her seven-year-old son to learn coding _ said the company has been offering an after-school program in Moncton this year. Some 300 students went through the program, in which they built their own websites and then their own video games. They will come together for a computer science fair next month to showcase their work.

Vernous and Knee eventually hope EduCode will be used by schools across Canada and in the U.S., but for now they’re focusing on the pilot project in New Brunswick.

“We have a four-week pilot and then we’ll see what is working and what needs tweaking,” said Knee. “Then we would like to see it in schools for a full year.”

Lunney Nears Pilot in Fredericton

Melissa Lunney with fellow Jedi entrepreneur Melvin Nash

Melissa Lunney with fellow Jedi entrepreneur Melvin Nash

There’s nothing like finding a possible early adopter to stoke the entrepreneurial fires, and right now Melissa Lunney seems stoked.

Lunney is the Founder and CEO of AppDigenous Development Inc., a young company whose technology opens doors automatically for people with disabilities. The one-year-old company has been working with the Aboriginal Business Accelerator Program offered by the Joint Economic Development Initiative, or JEDI, the Fredericton group that fosters economic growth for First Nations communities.

She was new to entrepreneurship when she joined the program in 2016, but now she is talking to the City of Fredericton about trying out Doorable (the name of AppDigenous’ product) in one or more of its buildings. It’s given fresh confidence to the entrepreneur, which was on display during an interview at the JEDI offices.

“At the beginning I had no idea what to expect and I relied on the guidance of others a lot,” said Lunney. “Working on this project, I’m learning more and more, and I feel like I’m absorbing lessons from people. I know more about the project than before and I know it’s what I want to do.”

As the name suggests, AppDigenous is developing an app, but the project is complicated by the fact that there’s hardware involved as well. Specifically, Lunney is working on a cell phone app that would help disabled people to open doors. Many entries in public spaces have doors that open when someone pushes a button on a wall; but the location of the button often forces someone in a wheelchair or with crutches to reverse or maneuver in an awkward way to get through the doors. Doorable is a smartphone app that automatically opens the door when the user approaches. As long as the phone is on and the app activated, the door will open whenever they get near it.

New Brunswick Unveils Innovation Funding

Lunney now has all the working parts to the device and needs to do a pilot project with it installed in a building. She has been working with engineers at RPC, a New Brunswick-based research and technology organization, who have produced the hardware that can receive signals and open the doors. And an aboriginal software engineer has built the app for Android. They still need to do an iOS version. “It’s been great because I get to work with another Indigenous entrepreneur,” she said.

As well as learning about tech entrepreneurship, Lunney said she has learned a lot about the challenges that disabled people face every day.

“I’m learning more about people living with disabilities,” she said. “Like when they go to a university, they don’t necessarily look for the best one in terms of academics – they look for the one with the most accessible buildings.”

She’s learned that disabled people always have their route to class or work predetermined because they need to know the path with the fewest obstacles. One of the features of the Doorable app will be a route-planner to help disabled people find accessible paths to their destinations.

Lunney is now focusing on getting the first installation and building her network. One thing that increases her confidence is there are no competitors working on a similar project to help people with disabilities.

“At first I had a hard time coming up with a business plan because I had no example to go off of,” she said. “Now it’s, Hey, no one else is doing this so all there is is me.”

Seaformatics’ Surprising Retail Play

The Waterlily micro-turbine.

The Waterlily micro-turbine.

A funny thing happened when Seaformatics prepared to launch a power product for oceans research: it came up with a retail product that has already been pre-ordered by more than 300 outdoors enthusiasts.

The St. John’s company is now preparing to launch Waterlily, a micro-turbine that can use wind or water power to recharge any device with a USB port. The idea is that outdoor folks, backwoods camp owners, or remote workers can use Waterlily to recharge their phone or devices.

“The pre-orders have been going really well,” cofounder and CEO Andrew Cook said in a phone interview last Thursday. “In the first 30 days — well, it was really the last two weeks of April — we had 200 preorders and as of today we had 318 and we’re still going strong.”

Cook and his team are surprised by the response they’re getting from the marketplace, but what’s really interesting is the story of how Waterlily came to be.

Seaformatics was developed by scientists at Memorial University, who set out several years ago to produce a renewable power source for ocean-monitoring equipment.

Its Sealily product harvests power from ocean currents to provide constant electricity for the equipment. Researchers would no longer need to endure the time, cost and risk of going to sea to replace batteries in their monitoring gear.

The company is a tenant of the Genesis Centre, the startup organization on the MUN campus, which in March gave the company a bit of money to make a small prototype of the Sealily. It was going to be a demonstration model, a mini version of the product that they could display at trade shows.

Empowered Homes Lands $600K in Funding

Almost on a whim, they decided to video the small model and put it up on Facebook to see what people thought.

“We started it as a test, just to see if there was a market for this device,” said Cook. “The video got 22,000 views in the first two days we so decided to do preorders for it.”

The Seaformatics teams decided to generate preorders through its website and social media rather than on a standard crowdfunding site. Launching on a site like Kickstarter would have required a more structured campaign. And Seaformatics is not asking its customers to pay up front.

Even with the more casual plan, the company has received more than $45,000 in preorders in about a month.

“Our goal was to have 100 preorders by the beginning of May, and we basically doubled that without doing any marketing,” said Cook. The product was even featured in a one-minute profile on the Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet, which is probably one reason the preorders have poured in from 14 countries.

The company is now planning to produce 2,500 Waterlily units this year.

They hope to deliver one shipment in August and another in October. They plan to do more direct sales, to hopefully offer the product on Amazon later this year and through retailers in 2018 and 2019.

Sealily is still in Seaformatics’ long-term plans, but client feedback is forcing the team to look at new versions of Waterlily. The current eight-inch product generates five volts of power, but some clients (especially boaters and RV owners) have asked for a 12-volt iteration.

Right now Cook is working on raising about $750,000 in financing to cover the production costs, and finding a manufacturer. The flood of interest in Waterlily has begun to calm down and he’s no longer overwhelmed by preorder inquiries.

“It’s been pretty crazy,” he said. “Today’s the first day in a month I’ve had fewer than 10 unread emails in my inbox.”

Hailing the Benefits of Bioscience

Meaghan Seagrave: Food security, better health and a cleaner environment.

Meaghan Seagrave: Food security, better health and a cleaner environment.

What if we told you that New Brunswick could revitalize its economy, retain young workers and help the environment to boot?

It might sound too good to be true, but it’s not. The bioeconomy can do all of those things and more. Some of those efforts are already happening right here, but there’s so much more that could be done if we had a focused effort around policy and programing.

Bioscience, or biotechnology as it’s sometimes known, uses living things to develop useful products and processes. Add in the business component and you have the bioeconomy, which is a rapidly growing sector across the world. Entrepreneurs are creating opportunities to ensure our food security, improve our health and create a cleaner environment.

What does this look like in real life? Think turning waste into biodiesel and using drones to maximize crop yield and reduce pesticide use. With 75 percent of New Brunswick’s land covered in forest and farmland, our province is ripe for this cutting-edge work to take place.

Some local companies have already started to dabble in the bioeconomy. Resson received $14 million in funding last year to pursue agricultural technology research, and LuminUltra Technologies is exporting microbiological measurement tools and test kits to more than 60 countries — just to name a few examples.

All of this funding creates demand for jobs and highly skilled workers to fill them. Companies in the bioeconomy are able to provide compensation packages that can entice new college graduates away from the bright lights and fast pace of a large city to the rural regions of New Brunswick.

These young workers benefit from a lower cost of living and can bring vital commerce to our region. This is exactly the model that cities and towns across the world have used to transform from withering communities to vibrant places that you see in magazine rankings of the best places to live.

Fredericton's Rise Focuses on Two Initiatives

While the bioeconomy is creating new jobs in New Brunswick, it’s not abandoning our roots in the process. Bioscience is the perfect marriage of our traditional industries like forestry, farming, and fishing with the cutting-edge technology platforms that are helping to transform and innovate them.

Neither IT nor science can live in a vacuum, and investors are starting to see that the best bottom line comes when the two are married together.

Some of this funding could come from the government through programs like the Clean Growth Economy or our Atlantic Growth Strategy. Some could come from the U.S., where investments in clean tech and life science have outperformed those in IT several times over.

Either way, funding the bioeconomy doesn’t provide the adrenaline-like returns that IT start-ups do, but has proven to be much more stable in the long run. Communicating these differences is a challenge in moving the bioeconomy forward.

The key players in the bioscience community are gathering at the Atlantic Biorefinery Conference in Fredericton, June 7-9, to discuss the technologies and policies that will drive bioeconomic growth in the region.

With a focus on national and international perspectives, this conference is designed to illustrate the real opportunity in our back yard. Of particular interest is the keynote talk from Jussi Manninen of the VTT Technical Research Centre in Finland. Finland and New Brunswick share many similarities when it comes to our resource-based economies. Finland is transitioning into a modern bioeconomy, and Manninen will discuss how their solution could serve as a model for New Brunswick.

New Brunswick has all of the building blocks necessary to grow the bioeconomy even more and attract world-class businesses to the area. We have the physical space and type of land needed for bioscience development, along with the research expertise to make it happen.

This area is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by investors and job seekers alike. The outlook is bright, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.

 

Meaghan Seagrave is the Executive Director of BioNB, the bioscience association in New Brunswick.

Steve Blank Coming to NS May 30

Steve Blank, centre, at Communitech in Kitchener in 2015.

Steve Blank, centre, at Communitech in Kitchener in 2015.

Steve Blank is coming to Halifax.

The father of the lean startup movement will be giving a fireside chat at Dalhousie University on May 30. He will be hosted by Launch Dal, whose founders Mary Kilfoil and Ed Leach adopted Blank’s methodology when they began their pioneering Starting Lean course four years ago.

Blank will be speaking at 4 pm in the Potter Auditorium, or Room 1028 of the Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building. Tickets are free and available here.

Blank teaches entrepreneurship at the University of California Berkeley, Columbia University, New York University and Stanford University.

He pioneered the experimental, evidence-based lean startup movement with his 2003 book The Four Steps to the Epiphany, which outlined what he had learned in than two decades as an early employee or founder of eight different high-tech startups.

The book, which began as notes for an entrepreneurship course and went on to become a global bestseller, said that startups are not just smaller versions of big companies — they need their own tools and processes to move from idea to execution to product.

The Harvard Business Review named Blank one of 12 Masters of Innovation and CNBC recognized him as one of the "11 Notable Entrepreneurs Teaching the Next Generation."

In 2011, Blank created the Lean LaunchPad, an entrepreneurship class that puts customer development and lean business model design principles together in a fast-paced, real-life environment. The model has been adopted at more than 75 universities around the world. It has become the standard for the commercialization of science in the U.S. and is driving defense innovation in the U.S. The methodology is embedded in Dalhousie’s Starting Lean course and Launch Dal’s entrepreneurial programming.

“A number of enterprises have sprung from this multidisciplinary initiative on campus — including biomedical, big data and innovative product design companies — and many of the program’s students have stayed in Nova Scotia and become part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem helping drive the province’s economy,” said Kilfoil in an email. 

Blank will have a full agenda when he's in Halifax. I had the pleasure -- and I mean that literally -- of seeing Blank judge a pitching competition in Ontario two years ago. What's striking is how he can burrow into the guts of a startup just by asking a few questions. He's definitely someone to listen to if you can make the event on the 30th. 

Lenarduzzi Joins AVF Speakers

Sunny Lenarduzzi: Monetize Your Message

Sunny Lenarduzzi: Monetize Your Message

The Atlantic Venture Forum, which will take place June 27 and 28 in Halifax, has added digital content expert Sunny Lenarduzzi to its list of keynote speakers.

Lenarduzzi is an award-winning social media strategist and consultant. Working with such clients as Hootsuite and Applebees, her mission is to turn your purpose into profit. Her tagline is, “Monetize Your Message”.

As a broadcaster and online entrepreneur with a background in journalism, Lenarduzzi knows that the key to connecting with your audience is authentic communication. Lenarduzzi has a deep understanding of video strategy, and a track record of successful online business strategy working with authors, entrepreneurs, and brands. Her educational background is in broadcasting from the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

So far, the AVF has also listed two other keynote speakers: Patrick Lor, the managing partner of 500 Startups Canada, who has previously worked as an entrepreneur, Investor and tech evangelist; and J. Kelly Hoey, the author of Build Your Own Dream Network, as well as an entrepreneur and connector.

As well as providing a range of speakers, the AVF works to link investors inside and outside the region with some of Atlantic Canada’s leading startups or high-growth companies. Each year there are presentations by both seed- and growth-stage companies. Last year, there were more than 20 funding groups from across Canada and in the U.S. that attended the Atlantic Venture Forum.

The Atlantic Venture Forum will take place at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel. Tickets are available here.

 

[Disclosure: The Atlantic Venture Forum is a client of Entrevestor.]

Sustane Eyes New Contracts in ‘17

Peter Vinall

Peter Vinall

Sustane Technologies, the Nova Scotia company that turns garbage into eco-fuel, has broken ground on its Chester plant and expects to have it operational in a year. The plant is expected to cost $16 million-$17 million.

The company came to prominence last year when it won Innovacorp’s I-3 Startup Competition, capturing $225,000 in prizes. Then in August it signed an agreement with the Municipality of Chester to build a plant where the local government could bring household refuse to be converted to fuels rather than tossed into a landfill.

What’s more, CFO and co-founder Robert Richardson said the company is now in talks to develop plants in other locations and hopes to have one or two signed this year.

“The most important thing is we’re in the ground in Chester and we’re building our plant,” said Richardson in an interview this week. “We’re going to have the footing for the building that will house the plant go in in about a week or so. We think we will deliver the plant by December of this year.”

Richardson, who is also the CFO and owner of Compass Commercial Realty Ltd., said the team led by CEO Peter Vinall expects to have the plant operational in the first quarter of 2018.

Fundy Monitoring Projects Funded

What that plant will do is to take 90 per cent of the stuff that goes into the landfill and cook it with steam. The landfill will still have to take special items like old mattresses, but the system should reduce the volume of refuse going into the landfill by nine-tenths. Through this process a few marketable byproducts are produced, most notably biomass pellets and synthetic diesel.

The plant will employ about 25 people and will be large enough to handle refuse from other municipalities as well as Chester, said Richardson. He added the facility will not look like a place where you bring garbage — it will be clean, with stainless steel equipment, and the main residue from the manufacturing process will be steam released cleanly into the atmosphere.

The Nova Scotian-owned company has raised the money to finance the plant. Although Richardson declined to provide details on the funding, he did say it pretty well divided evenly between equity and debt, and that most of the investors are Canadian.

The company grew out of technology pioneered in Spain by co-founder and chief technology officer Javier De La Fuente. Richardson said the Chester plant will actually improve on the technology used in Spain because it will, for example, remove plastics from the biomass pellets, allowing them to be burned safely and increasing their value.

Aside from a functioning plant, the Chester site will become a demonstration facility for the company, so it can fly in prospective clients and show them how the technology works. Sustane may even sign a deal or two before the new plant is commissioned.

“We’ve got paper going back and forth on a number of proposals,” said Richardson.

Sustane is talking to other jurisdictions in Nova Scotia and “looking at New Brunswick in a big way,” he said. It is also talking to municipalities on the eastern seaboard of the U.S., where “tipping fees” for landfill are high because land is so expensive.

“I think we should have excellent uptake for anyone who comes to see (the new plant),” said Richardson. “But maybe we will have someone signed before we have the plant finished. Maybe in the next 3-6 months we should have one or two signed.”

Rise Focuses on Two Initiatives

Matt Daigle: 'We're more focused on revenue generation.'

Matt Daigle: 'We're more focused on revenue generation.'

Rise, a Fredericton-based company dedicated to encouraging the use of sustainable materials in home renovations, is planning to launch two new services to help generate cash flow.

The company was founded two years ago, and has grown its user base and raised some equity financing. Founder and CEO Matt Daigle said the company’s focus now is to launch a green certification for builders, and a platform that can help homeowners find rebates and incentives to make their homes more environmentally friendly.

“The business is doing really well, but the big question folks have always had for us is, ‘How do you guys make money?’” said Daigle in an interview last week. “We were always focusing more, when we started, on user acquisition. Now things have changed and we’re more focused on revenue generation.”

Rise has developed an online dashboard that helps homeowners, contractors and retailers work together to find materials and products that can benefit the environment and reduce costs. The company envisages a product that can inform users about the best products available and have a social component connecting the various parties.

EhEye, Bulletproof Shine at Kiras

Daigle said he hopes that next month the company will launch a new feature that will allow builders or other professionals to go through a sustainability assessment and receive badges showing they have passed. The program awards different “tiers” to the builders.

The company will probably launch the badge program within a month in Vancouver, which has announced its ambitions to become the world’s greenest city.

To generate interest in the new badge program, Rise has teamed up with 3D design software company Sketchup to hold a North America-wide competition for designing tiny homes (homes smaller than 400 square feet). The winning design will be built and donated to a homeless person or family.

Meanwhile, Rise has also collected the names of Canadian rebates offered by utilities and other organizations to encourage energy conservation. Daigle’s team has learned a lot about which programs work and which ones don’t, and they’ve learned that the most successful programs are those offered directly to consumers, at the checkout of a retail establishment.

Rise is now working with a major utility — Daigle declined to name which one — on a pilot project that would offer the utility’s rebate through the Rise site. The utility would ship the product to the buyer’s door at a huge discount, he said.

Daigle said Rise gets most of it online traffic through the list of rebates, which includes all the programs on offer in Canada. The company is now in the process of assembling a similar list of rebates on offer in the U.S.

Rise last year raised about $110,000 in equity financing from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and a few private investors. It then leveraged that to bring in more money in grants and loans, for a total of about $400,000. The company, which employs four full-time and three part-time staff, is now looking to raise about $150,000 in further equity investment before aiming for a larger round later.

Halifax’s PI Wins First Chinese Client

Joanne Ball-Gautschi: 'What we do is right in our name.'

Joanne Ball-Gautschi: 'What we do is right in our name.'

Halifax-based life sciences services provider Partner International has signed up one of the largest healthcare groups in China, Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group, as its first client in the Middle Kingdom.

The company known as PI announced the deal on Wednesday, adding to its global portfolio of clients in life sciences and advanced technology-based industries. The 17-year-old company provides business development services to clients in several countries.

“Our reputation in the international market helped secure the agreement,” said Partner International CEO and President Joanne Ball-Gautschi in a statement. “We have built a solid track record in the life sciences industry delivering results for our international clients – and we are delighted our Chinese partners have placed their confidence in us.”

Partner International specializes in business development for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector. This new contract includes supporting business development for two subsidiaries of Shanghai Fosun – one is developing biosimilar products and next generation antibody therapeutics, and the other is a small molecule-development company with a focus on diabetes and cancer. Partner International will assist these units with partnership and licensing outside China.

David Brown Wins Governor General's Innovation Award

“Partner International is a great Nova Scotia success story,” BioNova Managing Director Scott Moffitt said in the statement. “The company's achievements have been a well-kept secret locally, as these types of businesses are not often recognized nor touted for their significant export contributions. The fact they have clients in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific is proof of the global impact they are having, which ultimately benefits our province.”

In the 17 years Partner International has been in business, it has developed a presence in more than 26 countries, with main operations in Nova Scotia, Switzerland, the United States, and Australia.

“Our clients are leading scientists, researchers, doctors and executives from high tech companies,” said Ball-Gautschi. “We join their team and help bring their products and technologies to the people who will benefit from their work. Their passion is creating products and innovations that change lives; our passion is business development and accelerating international deals for our clients. What we do is right in our name.” 

NB Unveils Innovation Funding

With Innovation Week taking place in New Brunswick, the provincial government has announced new funding for two leading innovation agencies and new money for the Innovation Voucher Fund.

In the first of two innovation-related announcements, Premier Brian Gallant announced his government will provide $63.6 million to the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation over four years.

In the second announcement, Gallant announced funding of more than $1 million to increase research and development activities across New Brunswick through the Innovation Voucher Fund.

“The first announcement is not trivial as we were successful in renewing our funding for NBIF for another 4 years – $45.6 million,” said NBIF President and CEO Calvin Milbury in an email. “This provides us with a base from which we can grow and keep the momentum going in New Brunswick.”

The government has said it will spend $160 million in innovation over the next four years. This includes an $11.4 million annual expenditure for NBIF. The Health Research Foundation funding of $4.5 million per year is being renewed. Further enhancements to innovation funding will be considered going forward, said the statement.

Provincial governments in Atlantic Canada have made funding announcements for innovation in the last year or two with the goals of developing more startups and increasing research at institutions. Nova Scotia announced $40 million in investment funds for Innovacorp last October, and has committed $25 million for a new venture capital fund in the province. Newfoundland and Labrador initiated the Venture NL Fund two years ago, and Prince Edward Island is considering a fund.

David Alston's Vision for New Brunswick's E-Identification Intitiative

NBIF will invest the funds through its Venture Capital Fund, Startup Investment Fund, and Innovation Voucher Fund in support of business, and through its Research Innovation Fund, Graduate Scholarship Program, and Research Assistantships and Technicians Initiatives in support of publicly funded universities and colleges in the province.

The Health Research Foundation will use the funding to match and leverage federal agencies, national organizations and the private sector to support its three core programs: the health research program; health research initiatives; and strategic investment in health research innovation. 

“Investments in health research have been generating exponential returns on investment for the New Brunswick economy, attracting researchers and their families to the province, further attracting and training the next generation of young scientists, and attracting even more independent funding,” said Bruno Battistini, the foundation’s president, CEO and scientific director.

Gallant, who serves as the province’s innovation minister, and NBIF jointly announced the new funding for the Innovation Voucher Fund. Through the foundation’s Innovation Voucher Fund, 23 small and medium-sized businesses received funding and were provided access to scientific talent and research organizations to help them expand their businesses through innovation.

“The vouchers enable businesses from across the province to access specialized expertise and equipment available within our research institutions to help them turn their ideas into reality,” said Milbury.

The fund aims to accelerate innovation within small and medium-sized businesses using the talent, capacity and facilities of New Brunswick’s research organizations.

“We used the innovation voucher to identify unique and insightful visualizations for our first cloud application which we are releasing this year,” Andrea Feunekes, co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Remsoft, said in the statement. “Taking on this high-value project with the foundation helped to de-risk our investment in some new areas for Remsoft, and the speed and simplicity of accessing the voucher was a pleasure.”

The goal is to apply innovation in a way that improves the profitability and competitiveness of those businesses.

[Disclaimer: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.]

What Canada’s First E-ID Will Mean

David Alston: A key proponent of NB's move toward digital identities.

David Alston: A key proponent of NB's move toward digital identities.

Three years ago, I saw the future when I witnessed Estonia’s digital government initiatives.  For me, the genie was out of the bottle and I couldn't shake the vision.  Since that day, I only see what's possible when it comes to New Brunswick.  The race is on to become the leader in putting citizens’ needs solidly at the centre of every developed solution. There has definitely been great progress behind the scenes in ramping up to a similar vision here, as well as in other provinces and states. 

It’s currently Innovation Week in New Brunswick, so I figured I would attempt to share this vision.  The digitalization of government is not an ‘if’, but a ‘when’.  So let’s look at what Digital New Brunswick might look like in, say, five years’ time – in 2022. I suspect some pieces will happen a little sooner, others a bit later. That’s the nature of a vision after all, especially when the approach should be staying dialed in during the journey and learning about what works and what needs more adjusting along the way.  Oh, and please take notice that I chose to use the word 'will' above.  If I've learned anything over the past few years, it is to be positive.  I've also learned that if you collectively paint the future, it’s possible to will it into existence using lots of creative thinking and action.

The First Step Is a Digital ID

In 2022, every New Brunswick citizen will have a secure e-Identity, or e-ID. The government is already at work on this initiative. Part of the magic of an e-ID is that you can securely verify who you are online.  This means you can do online the things you once had to go to a government office for, to prove who you were--think that chip-enabled bank card meets your driver's license. All your government-generated data will be attached to your e-ID, including health and education records, social development programs, licenses, permits, etc. Yes, basically you are at the centre of your data and you are now the one in control of it. The data is structured so there is no duplicate information such as, for instance, your home address. Do you want to change your address or your maiden name? You will do it once online and then you’re done. No more running around from department to department, no more filling out endless forms with information you’ve entered a million times before.  You will simply sign in with your e-ID, authorize the access to the necessary information, and add the extra bits of data related to what you want. Done. Oh, and once you no longer need that service, or specialist doctor, or permit, you can instantly revoke access to your information. 

Remember, you are the one in control.

The Digital ID Is the Basis of Helping Citizens to Help Themselves

An interesting thing happens when you get the keys to your own data – you start to feel more accountable for your own future.  You can take control of your destiny instead of expecting government to parent you. With the help of some artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, you will have the ability to put your data to work for you. You can request gentle nudges and recommendations that, in the past, would have been overly costly.  You can ask the platform to tell you about services and opportunities that suit your specific needs. Just think about how Amazon suggests books that you might like based on what you’ve ordered or are looking at. These capabilities have been around forever so why not get that same help for stuff that has a much greater impact on your life? Say so long to physically navigating reams of programs to figure out which ones suit you.  Now the programs will digitally line up for you!

Non-profits also have a huge impact on our communities. Imagine having the ability to authorize your data to work for you in determining which non-profits could help you improve your situation.  This will be through a social innovation labs, where citizens, non-profits and government will collaborate to analyze social problems, review programs, suggest and test solutions and craft policy changes.  That kind of collaboration is happening currently and I have no doubt it will be in full swing and standard practice by 2022, or even earlier. 

With the capabilities of such a platform, we will help every citizen reach their full potential, whatever that full potential is. The goal would not be to hold people permanently in a steady state that can unintentionally rob them of their motivation and aspirations. Citizens will be able to work with a trusted advisor for guidance based on an integrated view of their data.  This advisor – say a social worker, family member, friend, or non-profit counsellor – will be there to help set out objectives and desired outcomes. All citizens will literally have their own customized plan to help them improve and reach their potential. While some programs will be permanent (for example, programs to help someone with a permanent disability), most programs will be a temporary measure to help a citizen progress to the next step. This functionality is essential for people in vulnerable communities. They will no longer need to go physically from department to department trying to prove their case, while trying to juggle responsibilities for child care with no or limited access to transportation.  Any citizen would have difficulty trying to manage today's maze of programs, let alone someone with these additional challenges.

Citizens Take Greater Control over their Healthcare.

In the healthcare system of 2022, citizens will see most if not all of their health data. They will make appointments online, receive test results on their mobile phones, communicate with their doctors or specialists online as easily as they would on Facebook Messenger. Gone are the days of repeating X-rays because one hospital doesn't have access to images taken at another facility, and redialing your doctor's office to get appointments or results, and results being digitally entered, then printed and faxed to your doctor. In 2022, citizens will be much more aware of their health status.  Just think of the data you now get with wearable technologies.  Your health data will gently nudge you towards improving your well-being. Imagine also receiving instant potential drug reaction warnings or having your prescriptions instantly and securely going to your pharmacy as soon as your doctor prescribes them.  With all your health data connected, you will arrive at emergency and instantly alert staff of allergies and your medical history. That means faster care and lower chances for misdiagnoses.  We have amazing healthcare professionals.  Being able to empower them with a platform like this will not only allow them to spend more time delivering care, but it will also attract other professionals from around the world to work in a forward-thinking, patient-centric environment.

Education Becomes an Individualized, Life-Long Pursuit

In 2022, babies will receive a digital education record at birth, which will follow them throughout their lives. As parents, we sometimes don't know exactly how to maximize learning in the early years to give our children the best foundation. Parents will no longer need to guess as their children grow up.  These digital education records will not only hold the achievements of each child, but they will also lay out the outcomes they need to achieve. This platform will make it possible to deliver a truly personalized education – every child with their own path based on interests, skill levels and potential. Gone are the days of kids moving along in batches according to age. By knowing their outcomes, kids will take a much more active role in their education, collaborating with their teachers, and developing creative ways to achieve their required outcomes.  In fact, what I find so encouraging today is that I haven’t met a single person in our education system who doesn’t get excited about exploring these possibilities.

It Will Be Easier to Pay Taxes or Incorporate

Imagine doing your taxes in five minutes.  Since everything will be digital, there will be no need to receive printouts in the mail just to enter it all in forms. Collaborating with the Federal Government will be simplified because everything will be digitally linked to your e-ID. Doing taxes will require you to review the records and click submit!

With more people embracing entrepreneurship, setting up a business in 2022 will be a 20-minute process, completely online. After logging in with your e-ID, you will fill in a few new pieces of information, like business name and ownership structure, then hit submit. Now you will have your new business ID, linked to your e-ID to use going forward.

Too Good to Be True?

If this sounds way too good to be true, it’s not. This is all entirely possible. Estonia has already done much of this and more. If Estonia's progress proves anything, it’s that once a digital platform is in place it creates a foundation for more innovation.  Just think about how mobile data, GPS, touch screens, and the Internet have, as foundations, blended to create remarkable new capabilities.  And it’s all accessible right from our pockets.  As Estonia has also shown, the efficiencies of this new model will also lower the costs of delivering government services, leveraging leaps forward using innovation, rather than through linear cut backs.  Citizens will have more services and conveniences, all wrapped around them in a personally relevant way. 

Perhaps now you can see why, for the past three years, this vision has become firmly embedded in how I think about our future. Maybe, you too, will have a hard time shaking it. 

As well as having led marketing teams at several startups, David Alston is the Chief Entrepreneur in Residence for the Province of New Brunswick.

New Brunswick’s Airport Problem

Business people and entrepreneurs are told to go to where their potential investors and customers are. Often, they are in cities like Boston and New York.

Though hopping on a plane and flying right to these places seems easy enough, it’s not so simple when you live in New Brunswick.

Right now, none of the province’s three major airports offer any direct flights to the United States. If you want to fly south of the border, you need to have a layover in either Halifax, Toronto or Montreal, places often in the opposite direction of where you’re going.

“There’s just a lot head scratching,” says Yves Boudreau, CEO of Moncton-based Alongside. “Even going to Boston for something, there’s a bunch of times where it took longer to fly to Boston than it would have taken to drive based on the number of layovers and flight schedule options.” . . . 

Read the complete article on Huddle

Spritely’s App To Aid Newcomers

Akram Al-Otumi: 'We endeavor to improve people's lives when they are relocating.'

Akram Al-Otumi: 'We endeavor to improve people's lives when they are relocating.'

As it prepares for the soft launch of its product in the coming weeks, Spritely Technologies Inc. has been accepted into the summer 2017 Project Incubation Bootcamp in Halifax.

Founded by serial entrepreneur and hyper-networker Akram Al-Otumi, Spritely is developing an online platform that will help newcomers to a city find people who can help them get settled. The company has already assembled a network of what it calls “city experts” in Halifax. Spritely users (who are new arrivals in the city) can hire these experts to show them the best restaurants, help them find schools and medical facilities, and introduce them to the local customs.

“Spritely is a mobile app and a web platform that connects newcomers and tourists with local knowledge,” said Al-Otumi in an interview last week. “We endeavor to improve people’s lives when they are relocating.”

The Spritely team understands the ups and downs of settling into a new city. Al-Otumi is a native of Yemen who came to Halifax to study at Dalhousie University, and later received a Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation at St. Mary’s University. Chief Technology Officer Suhaib Qaiser, who has worked for Blackberry and Salesforce, previously attended university in Pakistan and is now a PhD candidate at Dalhousie.

For the past few months, they have been working on a vision of using a model similar to Uber to help people settle in a new city. The problem they address is a common one for new students in a city, or people who are transferred for work. Even if they speak the language of their new home town, they need to learn about transportation networks, schools, medical facilities, social events and the local culture.

Creative Destruction Lab in Talks for Halifax Outpost

Using the Spritely app, they can now scroll through a range of city experts and find someone who matches their needs – similar age and family makeup, maybe their first language is the same. The newcomers can use Spritely to hire that newcomer to show them around and help them settle in.

Meanwhile, the local experts can make money and enjoy themselves by showing people around.

“The product has a lot of features, from a search engine to a chat engine, a lot of features that help people communicate better with the local experts,” said Al-Otumi. “It’s very user friendly.”

Spritely has been testing the platform with about 30 people from different backgrounds, and has a list of about 100 people who can be local experts. Al-Otumi has been talking to five to eight companies from around Nova Scotia about using the system to help settle people they’re bringing to the province.

The company, which is raising a small round of funding, is planning to launch in Halifax and then move on to larger cities like Toronto or New York. It’s planning a soft launch next month, and through the Project Incubation bootcamp will further test the platform through the summer.

Project Incubation is a 12-week program for as many as 40 students, offering them support with an existing project. Spritely has entered the program through Shiftkey Labs, one of the provincial government’s sandbox programs.

“We’re very excited to join the Project Incubation Bootcamp this summer,” said Al-Otumi. “It’s a great opportunity for us to develop the product further as we prepare for a full launch and going to market.”

Innovation Week Launched in NL

Newfoundland and Labrador launched its fourth annual Innovation Week on Monday with the theme of “innovative thinking”.

The week brings businesses, investors, inventors, youth and other stakeholders together to find ways to grow the province’s key sectors. It is a mix of conferences, start-up workshops, clean and ocean technology events, TEDxYouth, a “Girls Learning Code” workshop, and an R&D tour of some the province’s most innovative companies.

Throughout the week, attendees can collaborate and learn from global innovators about how to infuse innovation into their businesses and communities, said a statement from the organizers. The week features 20 events in venues across St. John’s, with a special healthcare technology session in Grand Falls-Windsor.

On Wednesday, the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technical Industries will host its Knowledge Summit, followed by an introduction to the Atlantic Canadian nominees for the Manning Innovation Awards.

“Innovation Week is an opportunity to share ideas and learn from a diverse group of stakeholders through innovation-focused activities,” said NATI Chair Ajay Pande. “The events help foster collaboration and drive awareness that innovation is a critical component of a vibrant and sector-diverse economy.”

Empowered Homes Lands $600K in Funding

Participating experts include:

· Newfoundland and Labrador-born Catherine Courage, VP of Product Design and Experience for Google Ads & Commerce with Google.

· Manifold CEO Jevon MacDonald, who was 29 when he sold his Halifax-based start-up GoInstant to California tech giant, Salesforce.com for $70 million.

· John Risley and Brendan Paddick, who will chart their entrepreneurship paths, building a Caribbean telecommunications company that sold for $1.85 billion.

· Dr. Julielynn Wong, founder and CEO of Medical Makers and 3D4MD. Her drone and 3D printing technology has been used for delivering healthcare in remote communities, including outer space.

· Shelli Baltman, founder of the Idea Suite, a Toronto-based innovation agency, who has worked on over 100 innovation projects around the world.

· Ken Singer, Managing Director of the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at the University of California, and Chair of the European Innovation Academy.

· Dr. Alice Landis-McGrath, who is with the IBM Watson Health Oncology and Genomics in San Francisco. (Grand Falls-Windsor event)

· Cambridge University’s Dr. Neil Stott and Paul Tracey, experts in creating businesses that drive social change.

· And Duncan Stewart, the Director of Research in Telecoms, Media and Technology at Deloitte Canada.

EhEye, Bulletproof Shine at Kiras

James Stewart finally took the stage at the Fredericton Convention Centre on Thursday night, winning not one but two Kira Awards.

Stewart is the Co-Founder and CEO of EhEye, a digital security company that enhances the use of video in security. EhEye this year was a finalist in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition, but didn’t make the top three in a really strong field. It was the third time Stewart had entered Breakthru. 

Thursday night, at the 18th annual Kira Awards, was Stewart’s night as EhEye won Kira Awards for Most Promising Start-up and Innovation through Technology.

Saint John-based EhEye has been getting some buzz lately as it is finding interest for its product, which notifies authorities if there is something suspicious caught on the video. In other words, it can recognize someone wearing a ski mask or carrying a gun in a crowd. At a packed stadium, it can even recognize if someone is carrying a backpack and later is walking around without the backpack. Stewart says the owners of facilities such as stadiums are interested because of growing concerns about safety and security.

“We’re in the right place at the right time with the right product,” Stewart said at a recent pitching event in Halifax.

EhEye Is Transforming Video Surveillance

Bulletproof Opens Cybersecurity Centre in Fredericton

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.

Another security company, Fredericton-based Bulletproof, won the award for Economic Impact through Innovation, and took home the people’s choice award, as voted on by the 500 attendees at the event.

Bulletproof is an IT services company that recently opened a Security Operation Center in Fredericton.

In total, five organizations and one individual walked away with the coveted KIRA Award.

“Living in an environment with an entrepreneurial and innovative culture just doesn’t happen – it is fostered,” said Kira Co-Chair Heather MacLean in a statement. “It is encouraged and it is supported by an entire community. …We have tremendous talent located right here in the province and ensuring that we create the right environment is essential.  The KIRA Awards are a part of that environment.”

The other winners are:

ˑInnovation Champion: The Institute of Biomedical Engineering;

ˑMost Innovative Product or Service: Soricimed Biopharma Inc.;

ˑPremier’s Awards for Innovation - Private Sector: Northern Hardwoods Research Institute;

ˑAnd Premier’s Awards for Innovation - Public Sector: Integrated Service Delivery for Children and Youth.

“Each year approximately 500 industry professionals gather to not only recognize the great talents that we have in this province, but also to learn more about all the developments taking place,” said KIRA Co-Chair Lori MacMullen.  “Our industry is so vibrant and dynamic that the KIRA Awards play a significant role in making connections and fostering collaboration. When you look at the talent that we have right here in New Brunswick, it is not hard to understand why we are having the successes we are in the global marketplace.”

Brown Wins Governor General’s Award

David Brown, right, with Chinova Co-Founders Natasha Dayagude and Emanuel Dinis.

David Brown, right, with Chinova Co-Founders Natasha Dayagude and Emanuel Dinis.

David Brown, the Chief Operations Officer of Fredericton biotech company Chinova Bioworks, has been named one of six recipients of the 2017 Governor General’s Innovation Awards.

Governor General David Johnston announced the recipients in Ottawa on Friday.  Two Haligonians, Patricia Lingley-Pottie and Patrick McGrath, also shared an award for creating the Strongest Families Institute.

The winners were chosen for these prestigious awards by the Governor General and a selection committee comprising people with expertise in Canada’s innovation ecosystem. They will receive the awards at a reception May 23 at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. The next day, the Public Policy Forum of Canada is hosting a panel discussion on innovation in Canada.

“David is a passionate and energetic scientist with a long list of innovations,” said a statement from Chinova. “His accomplishments include winning the iGEM championships at MIT in 2013, co-founding the biotechnology company Mycodev Group, co-founding the foodtech company Tudo, and recently co-founding the biotech company Chinova Bioworks. He has received patents for his inventions, authored scientific journal papers, and won multiple awards for innovation and startups.”

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

Chinova has been gaining attention beyond New Brunswick lately. Last month, the company was accepted into the first cohort of Terra, a Silicon Valley food and agtech accelerator, and last year it attended IndieBio, an accelerator for life sciences startups in Ireland.

The statement said Brown considered research and development of natural preservative ingredients to be important work, given the health implications of excessive synthetic preservatives in foods, beverages and cosmetics.

“David’s passion for innovation is driven by his aspirations of making an impact on society through biotechnology and entrepreneurship,” said the statement.

The Strongest Families Institute is a non-profit organization that delivers evidence-based programs to children, youth and families through a unique distance-delivery system. Using proprietary software technology, trained coaches are able to connect with users by phone or via the Internet, thus allowing families greater flexibility when accessing services. Programs address common mental health and other issues impacting health and wellbeing.

Job of the Week: Clockwork Fox

Our Job of the Week column this week highlights an opening for a front-end web developer with the Newfoundland and Labrador education technology company Clockwork Fox Studios.

St. John’s-based Clockwork Fox focuses on game-based learning. It makes video games that inspire and engage young kids to learn math. It analyzes data from these games to provide teachers and parents with information on the students’ progress. It adds up to a personalized gaming and learning experience.

These games, called Zorbit’s Math Adventure, allow children to proceed at their own pace, and teachers to track their progress and optimize lessons for a classroom of individuals.

The company last year announced a $1 million funding round led by Killick Capital and Venture Newfoundland and Labrador.

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

St. John’s

Clockwork Fox

Front-End Web Developer

Clockwork Fox is seeking a talented individual to develop the front end of an intuitive and user-friendly web application. The successful candidate will work closely with the user experience and software design teams to constantly optimize the app as well as its associated sales website. This full-time position requires the developer to collaborate with other team members and stakeholders to develop UI/UX designs, application code and new user-facing features. He or she must build reusable code and libraries for future use. Clockwork Fox is looking for someone with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, or the equivalent. A full list of the required skills is available in the job posting. 

Ng Moves Ahead with Triple Effect

Sally Ng: 'Many of the things I did at Planet Hatch, I now do for corporations.'

Sally Ng: 'Many of the things I did at Planet Hatch, I now do for corporations.'

Older people who struggle with technology are often figures of fun, at least in our house. But the frustration and sense of isolation felt by technologically-challenged seniors is genuine. It’s a problem Sally Ng plans to address with her technology programs for older people.

Ng is best known regionally as the founding executive director of Planet Hatch, Fredericton’s incubator for startups. She is currently taking her idea, which she’s calling Digilearn.ca, through Fredericton’s B4Change accelerator for social ventures at the Pond-Deshpande Centre.

It’s a busy time, as Ng is also growing her new company The Triple Effect.

“Many of the things I did at Planet Hatch I’m now doing for corporations,” she said. “Initiatives like developing startup communities, corporate innovation, helping develop technologies . . . That’s why I’ve called my new venture The Triple Effect.”

It’s been more than 18 months since the native of Malaysia left Planet Hatch. In that time, her work projects have included helping launch Charlottetown’s new entrepreneurship centre, Startup Zone, and assisting Atlantic Lottery with a Catalyst Program, which encourages employees to think like entrepreneurs.

Her inspiration for Digilearn.ca came from watching her parents, Richard and Grace Ng. Her father owns a paving company and still uses carbon paper for estimates. Two years ago, he bought cell phones in bulk because he was scared the technology would change and he wouldn’t be able to cope.

Her father was also 24 hours late learning about the birth of a recent grandchild because he doesn’t connect on social media with his geographically scattered family.

“Dad’s a little isolated from the world,” Ng said. “He lacks basic knowledge, although he wants to acquire it. I asked myself — why is there nothing like Kumon (the children’s math program) for seniors?”

Smith Fights for Neuro-Diversity

Ng said there are some government-sponsored programs that teach basic technology, but not many.

She plans to pilot Digilearn.ca with Fredericton community groups at the end of this month. She and her colleague Mark Loggie are currently testing topics for their workshops. Under consideration: online shopping; Facebook; avoiding danger online and password management.

Ng wants the teacher-to-learner ratio to be 1:5 or 1:6. Initially, teachers will volunteer and be paid an honorarium. A name for the course has not yet been decided on, although Ng says she hopes to avoid the word ‘seniors’.”

She said that, with her experience of entrepreneurship, not everything she is learning on the B4Change accelerator is new, but she is benefitting, especially from the peer support.

“I really wanted the peer support and the accountability,” she said. “I’ve been working alone for over a year and it’s pretty lonely. . . It’s great to have people to bounce ideas off.”

In mid-June, Ng will head to Berlin to take part in the summit held by the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance. Ng is accustomed to travelling in her long-standing role as a facilitator with Startup Weekend, (she also holds a commercial pilot’s license), but this time she is excited to be representing Canada.

“There’ll be 35 of us from Canada, 500 globally, all under 40. We’ll be working with deputy ministers on initiatives that we’ll translate to action back home, for example, by presenting to schools, economic development agencies.”

When she returns, she hopes to begin piloting her seniors’ technology classes in Fredericton.

It will then be piloted in Halifax.

“Halifax has so many initiatives. There is more attention focused on seniors and aging,” she said of the choice.

CDL In Talks For Halifax Outpost

The Creative Destruction Lab, one of the leading tech accelerators in the country, is in talks to set up a base in Halifax as part of its national expansion.

People familiar with the situation said CDL, which originated at the University of Toronto, has been in talks with Dalhousie University and Volta Labs about a Halifax location. As the Toronto-based organization expands, it’s considering placing sector-specific centres of excellence in each of its locations. The plans include making Halifax the “Green and Blue” accelerator — meaning it would focus on green technologies and ocean technologies.

“I’m really excited for CDL to be coming to Halifax,” said one person familiar with the discussions. “It’s a new model for accelerators.”

Representatives from the CDL and Dalhousie declined to comment for this article.

The Creative Destruction Lab is known as a demanding accelerator, and many companies that enter the program are asked to leave before completing the nine-month course. The CDL starts each cohort with a few-dozen teams, who attend a one- or two-day mentoring session to receive a set of milestones from mentors. They’re then sent away to work on these tasks. When the cohort convenes again about two months later, teams who missed their milestones are asked to leave. CDL repeats the process several times, so each cohort ends up with a handful of graduates.

Empowered Homes Lands $600M in Funding

Despite the rigours of the program, Atlantic Canadian companies have done well in CDL. Fredericton-based Eigen Innvoations, which creates Internet of Things solutions for manufacturers, graduated last year. Charlottetown-based Retrievium, which has devised a predictive analytics system for chemists, and Halifax-based FundMetric, which produces software for charities, are in the program in Toronto. WoodsCamp, a Mahone Bay company whose digital platform can be used for woodlot management, is going through the CDL West program, the first cohort offered outside Toronto.

In the past year, CDL has set up a CDL West cohort in collaboration with University of British Columbia, and is now planning on bases in several cities. It has held meetings in Toronto on the expansion, which have been attended by such Atlantic Canadian representatives as Volta Labs CEO Jesse Rodgers (the founding director of CDL) and Jeff Larsen, the executive director of Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship at Dal.

The advent of CDL in Halifax could have several ramifications. First, it would provide a base for advanced Atlantic Canadian companies to connect with mentors with global reach. The entrepreneurs who have been exposed to the program rave about the quality of mentors. It could also help to raise standards for innovation entrepreneurs in the region, because CDL is a national program and Atlantic Canadian founders would likely have to compete with startups from elsewhere to get in and stay in.

Second, it could provide another component for Dalhousie’s entrepreneurship capacity, which now features its Launch Dal entrepreneurship program, the Shiftkey Labs sandbox, and will soon include the IDEA project on the Sexton Campus.

And finally, it could have huge benefits for the efforts to establish Halifax and the region as a centre for ocean technology. One of the shortcomings of that plan is the shortage of ocean-related startups in Nova Scotia. If CDL East does focus on oceans technology, it could help to attract more oceans-related companies.

BDC Unveils $280M Lending Program

The Business Development Bank of Canada today announced a $280 million financing package to support small and mid-sized businesses in the Atlantic Provinces over the next two years.

Targeted industries for the lending program include ICT, agri-food, ocean technology and tourism.

The federal government’s development bank said the amount represents a $100 million increase in the bank’s normal lending volume for these industries. In particular, the bank is looking to back companies pursuing growth opportunities, including acquisitions, change of ownership transactions as well as investment in export strategies.

“To successfully grow a business in today’s economy requires innovation, determination and resiliency,” said BDC President and Chief Executive Michael Denham in a statement. “Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs have all of these qualities and more. … As Canada’s only bank devoted exclusively to entrepreneurs, we are eager to support entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada as they find new ways to scale up their businesses.”

A BDC study published this year reveals that Canadian SMEs intend to spend more on investment projects in the coming year, especially to scale activities and increase productivity. However, the study also reveals that 31% of SMEs are having difficulty obtaining financing.

“This new financing and assistance targets areas of opportunity for Atlantic Canadian businesses,” said Gina Gale, Senior Vice-President, Atlantic. “Today’s announcement is just one of the ways we are helping Atlantic Canada spur innovation and economic growth.”

BDC also recently signed letters of intent with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Business Inc. to help improve the competitiveness of businesses in the two provinces. The documents lay the foundation for a solid partnership that will explore a range of opportunities to help businesses in Atlantic Canada continue to succeed and grow.

Empowered Homes Lands $600K

The Empowered Homes Team

The Empowered Homes Team

Empowered Homes, the St. John’s startup developing smart thermostats for high-voltage heating systems, has received $600,000 in equity financing from Venture NL and Killick Capital.

The company has been taking pre-orders for its first Mysa smart thermostats, which are due to be shipped to clients in late October. Mysa uses artificial intelligence and mobile communications to ensure optimum heat settings in homes with high-voltage heating systems, such as electric baseboard. Most automated heating products like Nest don’t work on high-voltage systems.

The Empowered Homes financing is the latest deal completed in tandem by the two St. John’s-based funding entities. Venture NL is backed largely by the Newfoundland and Labrador government and managed by Pelorus Capital, and Killick Capital manages the funds of the Dobbin family. In the last two years, they have invested in at least five companies together, such as HeyOrca, Clockwork Fox and Sequence Bio.

In the Empowered Homes deal, the company also raised funds from some other angel investors. Given that the company is producing hardware, the funding will be especially useful in financing its first shipment of product.

“There’s a unique challenge that comes with manufacturing a product,” said Co-Founder and COO Zachary Green in an interview. “The biggest one is not physical – it’s, How can a startup manufacture a lot of product with no credit history?”

The story of Empowered Homes began when Joshua Green, now the company’s CEO, was performing energy audits and realized that state-of-the-art smart thermostats don’t work on high-voltage heating systems. The company, which is operating out of the Genesis Centre, last year went through the Propel ICT Launch cohort in St. John's.

“The big thing that Mysa does is it’s a smart thermostat that works with high-voltage heating systems,” said Empowered Homes Marketing Manager Andrew Murphy. “That’s one in 10 homes in the U.S. and one in three homes in Canada, and they can’t use Nest. One in three or one in 10 homes is a very large market, and we’re confident that we can build something that is cost-effective for the market.”

Mysa uses AI and mobile communications to make sure each room is set at the ideal heat. It learns when the homeowner comes in each evening, and set the heat accordingly. It lowers the heating if the house is empty and can switch power on if the homeowner is nearing home.

The company founders decided in December to launch the product through a pre-order campaign on their website. They did this rather than using a traditional crowdfunding platform so they’d have more control over the campaign, and wouldn’t risk a setback if they failed to reach a minimum level.

Halifax's Skyline Aims for Automated Shops

With the campaign continuing, the company has received 600 thermostats pre-ordered from 148 clients across Canada and in 15 states in the U.S. With the October shipment date approaching, the Empowered Homes team is now working on key decisions on the first order.

As well as deciding where to make the devices, in Canada or China, they have to decide how many units to manufacture in the first order. They could choose a shipment of 1,000, which they could finance with the current cash on hand. Or they could go as high as 10,000, which would lower per-unit costs but require additional funding.

The team is also working on the business development side and exploring opportunities with retailers.

Said Murphy: “The big change we face is to transition from a marketing culture into going directly into sales channels. We’re now working on an inbound marketing strategy but we want to transition it into a sales team.”

Skyline Aims for Automated Shops

Hu Hai, second from left,surrounded by his team members in 2015.

Hu Hai, second from left,surrounded by his team members in 2015.

To illustrate how his company, Skyline, is helping bricks-and-mortar retailers defend their market, CEO Hu Hai likes to use simple Lego building blocks as a metaphor.

Skyline won some attention last year when Innovacorp attracted the company to Halifax from China by sponsoring it in the federal government’s Startup Visa program. The company at the time was dedicated to building enterprise software systems inexpensively, but it has turned its attention to automating the shopping process in stores.

Hu likes to compare Skyline to the flat platform that serves as the base of a Lego model, and the Lego blocks are facial recognition software, a customer-relationship management system, and the retailer’s point-of-sale system. The blocks are all fastened to the Skyline platform, which becomes the hub of the operation.

“We are a smart retail solution where Skyline becomes the Lego base platform to help bricks-and-mortar retailers better understand their customers,” Hu said in a recent interview. “When they’re using the Skyline platform, I hope they are able to connect the Lego blocks and better understand their customers and (help the retailers) sell more.”

Skyline began in 2014 when Hu and five collaborators built an engine that would help enterprise clients build their own software quickly, efficiently and inexpensively. Over the years, the company went through the Alchemist accelerator in Silicon Valley and worked with mentors in China and Nova Scotia.

Retrievium Founder Upbeat After Creative Destruction Lab

In the past year, the team focused in on the retail sector, which is suffering massive disruption from e-commerce providers, especially Amazon.

Hu’s pitch deck is packed with data on the misery heaped on retailers these days and the chains that are closing stores: 175 outlets shuttered by Gap, 68 by Macy’s, 278 by Sears and Kmart, and on and on. Skyline built a digital platform to help retailers reverse the trend. The company, which takes pride in its development abilities, actually assigned three people to build the basic product, and they did so in three days.

What Skyline proposes is a solution similar to what Amazon is doing with its automated Amazon Go store in Seattle — a store with no cashiers. Using cameras, a customer relationship management and a payment system, Skyline is working on stores in which shoppers can pick things off the shelf and leave the store without going through a cashier. The facial recognition software identifies them and a payment system charges them. The system can also help with marketing and collect the data that is an utter necessity in modern retailing.

The company last October delivered a keynote address at a conference in Fujian province in China, which led to a relationship with Tingyi, the world’s largest maker of instant noodles. Together, they have set up a test centre in Shanghai to showcase how the system would work.

So far, it is demonstrating the potential of the system, with a few wrinkles to iron out. For example, the facial recognition software is now 75 per cent successful, and the camera system so far doesn’t work with liquids or metal products.

“It might not come to life soon because there are security concerns and stability problems, but it is the future,” Hu said.

For now, Skyline is raising money — the goal is a million-dollar round of financing, with $400,000 already committed. And it’s speaking with potential early adopters in Nova Scotia.

“We can use Halifax as our testing ground,” said Hu. “Once we validate the value of our product here, we can attack bigger markets.”

Retrievium Founder Upbeat After CDL

Jason Pearson: 'We have clients ready to pay us money.'

Jason Pearson: 'We have clients ready to pay us money.'

Jason Pearson is having a busy spring.

The CEO of Charlottetown-based Retrievium is now piloting the company’s product – which produces predictive analytics for drug companies producing new compounds. As he proceeds with this work with  a drug discovery company, he’s hoping to close a seed round of funding in June.

Meanwhile, he’s preparing to graduate from the Creative Destruction Lab in Toronto, and to enter another high-profile Toronto mentoring group, Next Founders.

It’s a rather hectic time for a company that began as a collaborative effort between Pearson, a computational chemist at University of P.E.I., and Ray Poirier, a chemist at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Working with another Charlottetown startup, discoverygarden, they came up with a platform that chemists could use to help find the best ways of combining chemicals to produce new compounds.

Targeting the pharmaceutical industry, Retrievium uses computational modelling to help find new drugs or materials, and to better understand the properties of chemical systems. It can tell researchers what happens when certain elements are combined, and suggests new combinations in seeking a desired result.

“It’s a young market right now – there’s not a lot of competitors in the space,” said Pearson in an interview last week. “We differentiate ourselves in a number of ways – our background, our target market. There’s a lot of room for growth as people have a lot to learn in using predictive analytics … especially in chemical structure.”

PEI's Forestry.io in Canada's First AngelList Syndicate

Among the achievements of this young company is being accepted into the Creative Destruction Lab, one of Canada’s leading entrepreneurial programs. What’s more impressive is that Retrievium is graduating from it. The CDL starts each cohort with a few dozen teams, which attend a one- or two-day mentoring session to receive a set of milestones from mentors. When the cohort convenes again about two months later, teams that missed their milestones are asked to leave. CDL repeats the process several times until the cohort comes down to a core of strong teams – one of which, this year, is Retrievium.

“It’s hard,” said Pearson. “We’re really scientists, and we think Dragons’ Den has got nothing on this program.” He added that the program has really helped because Retrievium gained exposure to so many top flight mentors.

Pearson is coy about the current pilot program, but he said he’s had a strong response from pharma companies. “We have clients ready to pay us money,” he said.

He is also getting a good response from potential investors and hopes to close a “relatively significant seed round” in June – a round that would allow the company to operate for 12 to 18 months. And Pearson will hone his entrepreneurial know-how by going through Next Founders, a program for maturing entrepreneurs offered by the Next Canada group.

With the money and the mentorship, Pearson is optimistic about Retrievium’s prospects.

“I’m also realistic – my scientific background tells me that we have challenges,” he said. “There are some significant things we have to prove. But the people in the room at the CDL are some of the most influential and connected in the world, really. So they’re the right people to be taking your idea and transforming it into a high-growth startup.”

Job of the Week: Dash Hudson

Dash Hudson is continuing to expand its staff, and today we’re highlighting an opening at the social media analytics company for a product marketing manager.

Halifax-based Dash Hudson has created a “visual intelligence platform” that helps its corporate clients to create and distribute photos and video, then analyze their impact. The system is an integrated solution to predict, measure, and enhance engagement across all visual marketing channels.

The company is seeking an account executive and a sales development intern. The company already has well over 20 employees and offices in Halifax, New York and Miami.

The company has been expanding rapidly, and has already been featured in our Jobs of the Week column seven times this year alone.

Read About Dash Hudson's Most Recent Job Postings

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

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Product Marketing Manager  

Dash Hudson is seeking a product marketing manager to work with its development, sales, and marketing teams to successfully launch and build out existing and new solutions. The successful candidate must want the challenge and opportunity to create a leading product in a rapidly growing global market. He or she will be responsible for such tasks as product positioning, competitive analysis, planning, product launches, lead generation and “influencing the influencers.” Dash Hudson is looking for someone with abilities in thought leadership, who can speak in public or produce blogs on industry issues. The skills required for the job include marketing, campaigns, sales, and management.

Gogii Games Opens Halifax Studio

Gogii's Fish Tycoon Game

Gogii's Fish Tycoon Game

Moncton-based Gogii Games announced today it is opening a new office to downtown Halifax, where it plans to hire more than 20 employees in the next 18 months.

The company, which has been developing online games since 2006, released a statement this morning headlined, Load the Wagons, We Go East!  The announcement outlined plans to set up an office in Halifax that will expand the video game design and development capabilities of the company.

“In the past 10 years, we have watched a strong game development community form in the Halifax area, and with our new expansion we knew it was the right place for us to grow,” said Gogii President George Donovan in a statement. “Looking at the talent pool already available in the region, the 38,000-plus undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in Nova Scotia’s 10 universities and 13 community college campuses, and the commitment from the local and regional governments to support video game development, Halifax was an easy choice to expand Gogii’s operations.”

Gogii Games, which now has 10 employees in Moncton, is an independent mobile and casual game developer whose 90 games have been downloaded more than 160 million times worldwide. The company has released a long line of premium and free-to-play games developed in Unity and using Gogii’s own proprietary back-end game service platform.

Gogii, a maker of casual games whose titles include Pet Zoometery and Archie: Betty or Veronica, plans to launch three new mobile free-to-play games in 2017 in partnership with San Francisco-based Last Day of Work Software, or LDW. Gogii’s teams will develop and support the titles for players to give LDW’s massive player base more of the great experiences they’ve come to expect from the brands, said Donovan.

Gogii and LDW are looking to Halifax to support the growth needed to accelerate the development of additional titles, and to build out Gogii’s capabilities to support opportunities worldwide.

Donovan said Gogii, which is receiving support from Nova Scotia Business Inc., has lined up five employees to hire immediately and needs to bring on five more as soon as possible. He said the company has “more work than we can handle and with 13 new projects in our scope in Year 1 there is a lot in front of us.”

Mighty Pebble Unveils Miner Meltdown 

Gogii’s first title to launch in the second quarter of 2017 will be “Fish Tycoon 2: Virtual Aquarium”, a new title in the storied Fish Tycoon franchise that has already seen more than 100 million lifetime downloads across the brand. The company said early performance of Fish Tycoon 2 through a soft launch is showing better-than-expected results.

Beyond the opportunities created through the LDW partnership, Gogii is working with a U.S.-based game publisher to work as its Research and Development team for new styles and types of games. The long-term engagement will see Gogii developing unique twists on hit games to disrupt the monotony players experience playing more carbon copies of games they’ve already tried before.

Gogii’s studio in Halifax will focus on hiring both junior- and senior-level developers, artists, operations and production personnel to support an ongoing growth trajectory. 

Smith Fights for Neuro-Diversity

Shawn Smith: Most clients are entrepreneurs or parents of neuro-diverse youth.

Shawn Smith: Most clients are entrepreneurs or parents of neuro-diverse youth.

Waiting 30 years to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, did not help Shawn Smith get off to a strong start in life. But the counsellor and entrepreneur is now using his experience to help others.

Fredericton-based Smith is the founder and CEO of Don’t dis-my-ability Consultation Services, a company specializing in the emerging field of neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity is an approach to learning and life that believes that neurological conditions, such as ADHD and autism, are part of normal human diversity and should be respected as such.

“I am helping people who have been marginalized…I want to move society forward,” said Smith.

The Fredericton native started his company in 2014. Most of his clients so far have been entrepreneurs and parents of neuro-diverse youth.

“Parents are often overwhelmed by their children’s behavioral issues,” Smith said.

“I was diagnosed late in life so I have insight into what it’s like to be that kid that’s not able to do anything right.” 

It took Smith 32 attempts to earn the 18 credits required to graduate high school. His problems included failing Grade 10 math four times.

He said that when he was finally diagnosed and put on medication at age 30 it made a huge difference. He felt as if his brain had been “jump started”.

“As a child, I found it impossible to focus in class,” he said. “There were too many stimuli. I got good at looking busy. If I looked as if I was paying attention, teachers were less likely to question me. I was anxious and depressed because I was one question away from being caught out.”

NS Startups Doing Well and Doing Good

In 2010, he was accepted onto the Master of Education in Counseling Psychology program at the University of New Brunswick on academic probation. He graduated in 2011 at the top of his class.

He has recently taken part in the B4Change accelerator for social ventures at the Pond-Deshpande Centre in Fredericton.

Social ventures are for-profit ventures that benefit society or the environment.

Smith said the Pond-Deshpande Centre helped him grow and feel part of the entrepreneurial community.

“I felt people there ‘got’ me and my confidence started to rise. I was able to tap into catalyst funding to create my new website. It was huge.”

Smith also gained exposure and encouragement from being nominated as the 2016 Startup Canada Atlantic Region Nominee for the Resilient Entrepreneur Award. The award goes to an entrepreneur with a visible or non-visible disability who has shown exemplary activity and leadership.

“I didn’t win, but being nominated was a huge compliment,” he said.

Smith now works out of Fredericton’s community education hub, the Ville Cooperative, where he also volunteers his time. His volunteer roles include being New Brunswick’s ambassador for the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.

He has become skilled at spreading the word about himself and his work, especially on social media.

“I wasn’t busy making money so I had to find ways to get my message out,” he said.

His videos on the subject of neurodiversity were noticed by training and consulting group Picasso Einstein. He spoke at the group’s conference about ways to create employment opportunities for neuro-diverse people.

“I was part of a panel on startups. After that, people started referencing me.”

He now has 2,600 Twitter followers. In September, he will be interviewed for a podcast on creating job opportunities for neuro-diverse people. Well-known autism advocate, innovator and author Dr. Temple Grandin, will also be interviewed.

Smith is currently writing two books: one for parents and the other for neuro-diverse entrepreneurs.

“I’m sharing my experience of failing and learning in order to help people expedite what they are doing so they don’t have to meander around as I did,” he said. “I was living in a haze for 30 years of my life.”

Dal Showcases Creator Series

Graduates of Dalhousie University’s new Creator Series, an entrepreneurship program for students interested in producing hardware, showcased their work Wednesday evening. The new program is intended to give students the basic skills they need to create their own prototypes.

Audience members were entertained by projects that included a globe-like 360-degree camera, complete with all-seeing ‘eyes’, an automated floor-sander, and a headset that uses virtual reality to train firefighters by positioning them in a room full of flames.   

The prototypes were rudimentary, but the members of the student teams are now ready to improve upon their work and proceed with their business ideas.

Program creator Cat Adalay, head of Creator Initiatives at Launch Dal, said she devised the program to help non-engineers become technically literate and creative. 

“With automation taking at least half of human jobs over the next 20 years, we need to give ordinary people a basic technical education as well as getting them to be involved in entrepreneurial pursuits,” she said.

“If job security existed once, it definitely won't soon. By creating more entrepreneurs, we create jobs… Teaching people how to create basic physical prototypes gives them an understanding of their products and what is possible.”

The students, all from Launch Dal’s Starting Lean and Innovation courses, learned skills such as 3D printing, CAD modeling, coding and circuitry design and assembly.

At the start of the program, most team members had little or no experience of these technologies. 

Adalay said the students were helped by the fact that so much open-source technology is now available free online. (‘Open-source’ refers to resources where the original material is made freely available, and can be modified by other users.) 

“Open-source materials are immense for the creation of both hardware and software,” Adalay said. “Students can find very similar projects online, which allows them to speed up the development of their own work.”

One team, for example, found an existing image-recognition project online, which assisted them in developing their own image-recognition system for use underwater. 

Adalay said students also benefitted from being able to use tiny and affordable Raspberry Pi computers and Arduino microcontrollers. 

The participants learned the curriculum in 10 workshops over 30 hours. They also had access to Dalhousie’s state-of-the-art 3D printer, the Form 2.

Mary Kilfoil, the Academic Lead for Starting Lean, said the university is working on forming partnerships that will hopefully make the program available across the country.

The participating teams included:

- AutoSand--a robot that sands wooden decks ad floors autonomously to save contractors time and money and safeguard their health.
- Camerly--a selfie-taking solution that consists of a 3D camera that can be attached to a drone, selfie-stick or tripod to take 360’ pictures.  
- ROVault--a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) that educates users on ocean life and environments. 
- V-RAD--a virtual reality system designed specifically for training first-responder professions like police and firefighters with the aim of reducing injuries and deaths.  
- QuickTap--a mobile, touchscreen solution for restaurants so clients can order and pay for meals in a simple, streamlined way. 

 

[Disclosure: Cat Adalay, the leader of the Creator Series, is the daughter of the owners of Entrevestor.]

Velo Launches Messaging Service

A team of serial entrepreneurs backed by one of the region’s wealthiest investors has launched Velo, a new messaging service targeting small and medium-sized businesses.

Velo Industries Inc. is a Bedford- and Toronto-based company that until recently was called Eyeball and had developed an online network for amateur sports. The company raised $1.1 million in late 2015, led by CFFI Ventures, whose principal investor is Clearwater Fine Foods founder John Risley.

They have now pivoted, changed the name, and brought in a new CEO to provide a messaging service for SMEs.

The new CEO is Keith Bates, a Toronto-based business development specialist who worked with Eyeball founders Jay Steele and Shaun Johansen in their previous ventures. Last summer, the trio hooked up and began brainstorming on how the business might evolve to target a better market.

“We played with different ideas and messaging came up again and again,” Bates said in an interview last week. “Eventually, over the summer, it dawned on us that there’s no difference between a sports team and — ministry of the obvious — any group of people who have to stay in touch. . . . Eventually we said, ‘Let’s make a 21st century messaging system.’”

Velo operates on the principle that people don’t like emails because they’re cumbersome and inefficient. Going through a stream to find what people said is a bother, as is constantly adding names to groups.

“We’ve seen lots of instances in the political or business sphere of email’s senility showing through,” said Bates.

Q1 Labs Exit Still Paying Dividends

What Velo has done is create a messaging service in which a small business can communicate easily with its team, clients or other stakeholders. It allows a simple addition of names and lets the users determine their groups. Lawyers, designers, contractors or mentors can all slot into their own groups, and users can create Velo groups for special projects.

The service, which is now available on iOS, Android and Google Chrome, includes several “applets” that offer the users business features like event scheduling, checklists, rich text memos and countdowns.

The team has added document upload and download functions. Bates said the countdown function is especially useful as it reminds everyone involved in a project how long they have to complete it.

Bates said the company has now released Velo with friends and family members, and is testing it with a few small businesses. So far the feedback has been positive, he said, and the company’s investors have supported the team throughout the pivot.

The team certainly is experienced. 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.

Now they are pushing the product out and hoping to raise more money — Bates said the target will likely be “a few million bucks.” He foresees fast growth.

“The nature of our business is that we can scale very rapidly,” said Bates. “It can grow organically. We’ve had tremendous interest, and we have had a good experience with investors.”

Lor, Hoey To Be Keynotes at AVF 2017

J. Kelly Hoey: One of the 100 most influential people on Twitter.

J. Kelly Hoey: One of the 100 most influential people on Twitter.

The Atlantic Venture Forum, which will take place June 27 and 28 in Halifax, has announced many of the speakers to be showcased at the event.

The keynote speakers will be: Patrick Lor, the managing partner of 500 Startups Canada, who has previously worked as an entrepreneur, Investor and tech evangelist; and J. Kelly Hoey, the author of Build Your Own Dream Network, as well as an entrepreneur and connector.

As well as providing a range of speakers, the AVF works to link investors inside and outside the region with some of Atlantic Canada’s leading startups or high-growth companies. Each year there are presentations by both seed- and growth-stage companies. Last year, there were more than 20 funding groups from across Canada and in the U.S. that attended the Atlantic Venture Forum.

“The entrepreneurial landscape has changed significantly since the first Atlantic Venture Forum in 2013,” said a statement from Critical Path Group, which organizes the event. “As the ecosystem continues to gain momentum, the AVF is being transformed to meet the needs of this dynamic region. New ventures and growth stage companies need more than just financial capital to succeed. Innovation, partnerships, ingenuity, and expertise are just a few of the ingredients for an entrepreneur’s tech success story.”

Critical Path is looking for seed- and growth-stage companies to apply to present at the AVF. You can find an application form here

The group recently announced some of speakers at the event, including Lor, who for the past year has overseen the $30 million 500 Startups Canada fund. He has served as a director at iStockphoto.com, the President North America at fotolia and the Entrepreneur-in-Residence for iNovia Capital.

Hoey, an authority on building networks, has been named one of 100 most influential people on Twitter. She has appeared in such publications as the New York Times, Financial Times, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal.

Other speakers include:

Andrea Drager; Vice President, Azure Capital;

Marc Gagne, Senior Technical Evangelist, Microsoft;

Nicole Le Blanc, Associate Director, BDC Capital;

Brian Kobus, Director, OMERS Ventures;

Rebecca Yu, Head of JLABS @ Toronto;

Peter van der Velden, Managing General Partner, Luminira Capital;

Pamela Fralick, President, Innovative Medicines Canada;

Brian Bloom, Co-Founder & CEO, Bloom Burton & Co.;

Stephen Guppy, Co-Founder and Former CEO, GNS3;

Steve Kurylo, Chief Financial Officer, Grand Banks Capital;

Sam Haffar, Principal, Principal, RealVentures;

Randy Thompson, Fund Manager and Partner, OKR Financial;

And Tim Gillis, CEO, STI Technologies.

The Atlantic Venture Forum will take place at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel. Tickets are available here.

 

[Disclosue: The Atlantic Venture Forum is a client of Entrevestor.]

Big Data Congress Set for Nov. 6-8

The fifth annual Big Data Congress, one of North America’s premier conferences on data analytics, will be held in Halifax on November 6-8 and will focus on oceans and agriculture. The congress organizers have announced that the keynote address will be delivered by renowned American sociobiologist Rebecca Costa.

Since its inception in Saint John in 2013, the Big Data Congress has strived to help make Atlantic Canada a centre for analyzing data in all segments of the economy – from business to government to academia to healthcare. This year, the congress will meld that with Atlantic Canada’s ambitions to become a world leader ocean industries and sciences. And advances in data research are quickly reshaping the business of agriculture from blueberries to wine and potatoes.

“There is an incredible amount of oceans-related investment and work happening in the region and big data is playing a vital role,” said Michael Shepherd, the former dean of Computer Science at Dalhousie University and the chair of this year’s congress.  “For any business in the oceans and agriculture sector, this conference could be a game-changer.”

Panels, workshops and discussions on both oceans and agriculture will include energy, food and maritime security complemented with a technology track.

Costa, is an expert in adaptive management and technologies. Her book, The Watchman's Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse, was published in 26 countries and has remained in the top 1 percent of Amazon book sales for five straight years.

The 2017 congress is being organized by the Big Data Alliance of Nova Scotia, a non-profit group that promotes data analytics in industry and academia in Nova Scotia. The alliance achieves this through promotion and management of the Atlantic Big Data Congress and through education and awareness programs such as the Big Data Education day for junior and senior high-school students.

“With so much complexity around our oceans and agricultural sectors worldwide, Big Data can play the vital role of making it all work, from tracking fish to improving grape yields in vineyards,” said a statement from the alliance. “And that’s what the Big Data Congress is all about: sparking ideas to innovate using Big Data.”

Read Our Report from the 2016 Big Data Congress

Stress Can Hurt Founder Confidence

Michael Devenney

Michael Devenney

The fourth report resulting from The Mindset Project survey examines the impact of business stress on the confidence of entrepreneurs. 

Halifax-based Michael DeVenney, said the data showed that entrepreneurs’ self-confidence is often eroded by problems with issues such as meeting commitments and hitting expectations.

DeVenney began the survey on how entrepreneurship impacts mental health last May. He believes his survey may be the largest on the subject in the world. He received 485 replies to his extensive questionnaire, 80 per cent of them from Atlantic Canada. The data is now being examined and broken down for greater clarity and understanding.

You can link to the report here.

Creators Showcase Today at Dal

The Creator Series, an entrepreneurship program for students interested in producing hardware, will showcase its six teams and their products today at 4:30 pm at Dalhousie University.

The program has taught six student teams from Launch Dal’s Starting Lean and Innovation courses 3D printing technologies, CAD modeling, circuitry design and assembly as well as coding for hardware applications.

With this new knowledge, students with little or no technical expertise were able to create their own physical, functional prototypes to demonstrate how their products work.

“With Launch Dal’s new advocacy towards product-based startups, The Creator Series is paving the way for this new promotion by getting aspiring entrepreneurs to understand that hardware companies are always an option, regardless of their personal background or interests,” said a statement from Launch Dal, the university’s entrepreneurship hub.

The Creator Series’ participants learned the curriculum in 10 workshops – a total of 30 hours – and had access to a range of different tools and technologies to build their creations. These included open source programs and resources, components that are easy to acquire through online and physical retailers, as well as a state-of-the-art 3D printer, the Form 2, which Launch Dal offers to Creator Series students.

Free tickets for the showcase, which will be held in Room 2068 of the Rowe Building, can be found here

[Disclosure: Cat Adalay, the leader of the Creator Series, is the daughter of the owners of Entrevestor.]

Q1 Labs Exit Still Paying Dividends

Sandy Bird: 'You've got to reinvent yourself in security every few years.'

Sandy Bird: 'You've got to reinvent yourself in security every few years.'

If any exit can demonstrate how the economy benefits when a young company is bought by a larger company, it was IBM’s purchase of Q1 Labs of Fredericton in early 2012.

That purchase, reportedly worth more than $600 million, did more than just reward investors and staff at the cybersecurity company. It has led to hundreds of jobs in cybersecurity R&D in the New Brunswick capital, and made New Brunswick a genuine leader in research in cybersecurity, one of hottest segments of the IT world.

When the deal was announced in October 2011, Q1 Labs was officially headquartered in Waltham, Mass. But its 200 employees included a massive development team in Fredericton, where the company had started a decade earlier. What has been under-appreciated in Atlantic Canada is that IBM has invested heavily in its cybersecurity team in Fredericton, doubling its staff there, and Sandy Bird, the Q1 Labs Chief Technology Officer, is now the CTO for IBM’s global cybersecurity unit. From his base in Fredericton, he oversees 20 major R&D labs around the world.

“Cybersecurity over the last 15 years has gone through several cycles,” Bird said in an interview last week. “At the time of the acquisition, we were just entering this era of the cybersecurity world having an impact in the physical world. . . . All of a sudden, the rest of the world woke up to the impact of these of financial crimes. Big organizations were becoming the target for criminals.”

Bird said that since then there have been several waves of new threats entering the cybersphere, and cybersecurity professionals coming up with solutions. IBM’s QRadar platform — the heir of the Q1 Labs’ product — is a platform that allows the user to integrate more than 200 cybersecurity tools on a single interface. Five years after IBM closed the Q1 deal, QRadar still rates among the best in the world in Gartner’s assessment of the security field.

“You always reinvent yourself in security every few years, and one of the things we were really good at at Q1 Labs was keeping abreast of what was happening,” Bird said.

Atlantic Canadian Speakers Shine at Amplify

IBM’s growth in the Fredericton area has underpinned the provincial government’s efforts to make New Brunswick a centre of excellence in cybersecurity. Big Blue became the first research partner at the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity, which opened earlier this year at University of New Brunswick with more than $4.5 million in funding. Fredericton-based Bulletproof opened a Security Operation Centre in February, immediately leading to the creation of 15 jobs. Other New Brunswick startups specializing in cybersecurity are coming along, such as Fredericton-based Sentrant Security Inc. and Saint John-based EhEye.

Not many people in the region realize there are Q1 Labs veterans who now sit on global cybersecurity standards boards, determining the standards for crime prevention around the world, Bird said.

He said the next phase of growth in the field will be to ensure the region can continue to train people to work in cybersecurity, starting with curricula at schools, colleges and universities. There are estimates there will be a global shortfall of 1.5 million cybersecurity professionals by 2019, which presents a huge opportunity for New Brunswick. Bird said the skills should be multi-disciplinary, like bringing in psychologists who can understand the thinking of cyber-criminals.

“There’s a huge, massive shortfall in cybersecurity skills in the workforce today,” he said. “We just need to grow more cybersecurity skill. We should be driving our world-class leadership and doing research that is relevant in the rest of the world.”

Budget May Impact Some Startups

Eric Feunekes

Eric Feunekes

Startup founders should be aware of a subtle change coming to the Income Tax Act (Canada) based on wording revealed in the recent federal budget. It could impact their tax rate or ability to participate in programs like SR&ED.

The change centres around Canadian Controlled Private Corporations, or CCPCs, and it’s important because they have much lower tax rates (by as much as half) than non-CCPCs. Other benefits of CCPCs include eligibility for refundable tax credits for research and development (through the SR&ED program) and access to equity tax credits. Therefore, CCPC status is important for startups because it allows them to minimize taxes, recover investment costs, and more easily raise investment. However, the 2017 federal budget announced a measure that may put CCPC status at risk for some companies that have foreign shareholders.

As the name suggests, there are primarily two factors that qualify a company as a CCPC. First, it must be Canadian-controlled. This is a bit misleading – technically, it just cannot be controlled by non-Canadians. Second, it must be private in the sense that its shares are not publicly listed and it is not controlled by public companies. The Canada Revenue Agency determines CCPC status and as with most tax measures there are many intricacies, but this is the general overview.

The issue arising in the budget is the definition of “control.” As with many things lawyers are involved with, the definition of “control” has been hotly debated. The result is quite a few court cases that address the issue. Two definitions have arisen. First, there is legal control—when someone has sufficient shares to elect most of a company’s directors, they legally control the company. Second, there is factual control, which has been much more controversial. The most recent case on factual control decided that a shareholder factually controls a company when he or she has any “legally enforceable right” to elect most of the company’s directors.

Forestry.io Backed by Canada's First Angel Syndicate

As an example, let’s consider a fictional company called Wigs-n-Things, which is based in Nova Scotia. It gets an investment from an American investor, Victoria Cruz. Victoria takes 30 percent of the company’s shares and the right to elect two of five directors. Victoria does not legally control the company because she only has 30 percent of the vote. Further, although she has the right to elect two of the five directors on her own, Victoria has no legally enforceable right that lets her elect a third director on her own. The Canadian shareholders can still elect most of the board and therefore, Canadians factually control the company.

The “legally enforceable right” requirement in the definition of factual control is new, stemming from a 2016 case, and the CRA does not like it. Therefore, this year the government will legislate a definition of factual control that removes the requirement for a “legally enforceable right.” The proposed rule is not a new standard; in fact, the government’s proposal looks a lot like the way things were up until the 2016 case, so we have a good indication of how it will be interpreted. Most likely, factual control will exist when a shareholder has any power that may allow him or her to elect most the board.

Let’s go back to Wigs-n-Things. Although Victoria cannot legally choose most of the board, she owns a significant stake in the company. Furthermore, she may act as an adviser to the founders, who control operations and own most of the rest of the shares. If the founders tend to take Victoria’s advice on business matters, she may also be able to suggest whom they should elect to the board. In this case, Victoria has a soft power that allows her to fill the board. Under the new standard, this could be considered factual control, in which case Wigs-n-Things would lose its CCPC status.

So, why does this matter for startups?

The new definition of factual control means that companies with large or heavily involved foreign investors (for example, American VCs) may be at risk of losing their CCPC status if audited. Some factors to consider:

- How many directors can non-Canadian shareholders elect?
- How involved are non-Canadian shareholders in the company’s business?
- Does company management take advice from or rely on non-Canadian shareholders?
- Can non-Canadian shareholders affect operations (e.g. veto large transactions)?

None of these factors on their own or together is conclusive and it is by no means a closed list, but if many of them exist, you should consult with your advisers (ideally, a lawyer). For most companies, the change will have little effect, but for some, it may make a big difference and so should be considered by any company that currently has or is taking on substantial foreign investment.

 

Eric Feunekes is graduating from the University of New Brunswick this May with both law and MBA degrees. Eric has years of experience working in business with startups, which he will be bringing to McInnes Cooper, where he will be working as an articling student on his way to becoming a lawyer.

Venture for Canada Launches in NB

Venture for Canada, the program that matches leading Canadian graduates to jobs in the country’s startups, will announce its launch in New Brunswick on Tuesday.

The organization will hold a launch event, open to the public, at Planet Hatch in Fredericton at noon tomorrow. Tech evangelist David Alston and Chinova Bioworks CEO Natasha Dhayagude (a former Venture for Canada fellow) will be the special guests at the event.

Venture for Canada, or VFC, each year selects fellows from among the leading graduates at Canadian universities and matches them with startups that need talent. The application process for VFC is rigorous, consisting of essays, transcripts, resumes and interviews. The VFC website cites intelligence, character, founder potential, ability to contribute and grit as the characteristics required of VFC fellows.

Fellows attend a four-week training camp at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., where they become versed in subjects such as management practices, social entrepreneurship, family business, communications, sales strategies and conflict resolution. In the 2016-2017 Fellowship cohort, just over 60 fellows were chosen from among nearly 2,200 applicants. More than one-third of the successful candidates will be placed at Atlantic Canadian start-ups.

Sabrina Poirier, the Program Director for Atlantic Canada, posted on Facebook last week that this will be the first year that the program will be in New Brunswick, “so we want to celebrate with the many wonderful people, organizations and startups who've supported us along the way.”

The event will offer a chance to meet Founder and Executive Director Scott Stirrett, Program Coordinator in New Brunswick Kassi Clifford, and the 2017 fellows who have just been chosen for New Brunswick.

The New Brunswick event comes as VFC learned last week that it would receive $202,959 in funding from the federal government. It provided the funding through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program (BDP).

"As a proud Nova Scotian, it has been wonderful to see the Venture for Canada program expand in Atlantic Canada,” said Stirrett in a statement. “It is fantastic to see the tremendous growth of entrepreneurship in the region and we are honored to work with amazing community partners and high growth start-ups.”

Fundy Monitoring Projects Funded

Two Nova Scotian projects have been selected and received funding to develop environmental monitoring technologies for tidal energy applications.

The Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia said last week that industry and academic researchers will join forces to collaborate on the two projects, which have a combined research value of almost $500,000.

The projects were selected for funding through a joint research competition sponsored by the OERA, the Nova Scotia Department of Energy and Innovacorp

Open Seas Instrumentation Inc., or OSI, of Musquodoboit Harbour was awarded $135,000 and JASCO Applied Sciences of Dartmouth is receiving $65,000 in funding, with the balance of research costs sourced from partner contributions. 

“The key to developing a sustainable and successful tidal energy industry in Nova Scotia is understanding how turbines interact with the environment in the Bay of Fundy,” OERA Executive Director Stephen Dempsey said in the statement. “These research projects will not only help us enhance how we monitor the environment near an operating turbine, but is expected to bring technology innovation to the sector, that is developed here and exported abroad.”

The statement said each project introduces an innovative approach to monitoring marine life near a tidal turbine.  The research results will lead to greater understanding of the complex relationships between tidal energy development and the biological and physical ocean environment.

The Open Seas project focuses on the redesign of a subsea platform for monitoring movement and behavior of marine life close to the turbine. The redesign integrates an adjustable structure into the Fundy Advanced Sensor Technology platform so that sensors can collect data from a wide range of viewing perspectives including the face of the turbine.  Project partners are the Nova Scotia Community College, Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy, Acadia University, DSA, and Ocean Moor Technical Services.  Testing will take place in the Minas Passage and the project is expected to be finished in June.

The JASCO project will develop a long-term monitoring program to measure how sound propagates in turbulent waters so we can better understand how these conditions impact on the ability to acoustically detect marine life.  Researchers will also estimate for different marine organisms, their ability to audibly detect turbines in turbulent waters.  The proposed work will involve the novel integration of different hydrophones and sensor technologies, with testing to be conducted in the Bay of Fundy.  Project partners are Dalhousie University and Luna Ocean Consulting Ltd.  They’re expecting to wrap up in August 2018.

Spark Zone Hits Its Stride

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

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

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

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

Kognitiv Spark Gains Traction

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

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

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

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

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

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

PocketPass Wins Collide Event

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

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

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

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

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

Kognitiv Spark Gains Traction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada's First AngelList Syndicate Funds Forestry.io

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

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

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

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

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

Canada’s First AngelList Syndicate

Jordan Patterson and Scott Gallant of Forestry.io

Jordan Patterson and Scott Gallant of Forestry.io

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

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

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

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

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

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

MTI Lands $8.3M in Funding, Led by Radar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Briefs: Deacon, Dal, Appili, CarbonCure

Colin Deacon

Colin Deacon

Startup Zone Names Deacon as Entrepreneur-in-Residence

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

Appili Lands Irap Funds

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

Dalhousie Holds Pitching Event Tomorrow

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

CarbonCure Partner Wins Award

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

A New BoomersPlus Enters Ontario

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Howe Plots the Growth of Cribcut

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

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

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

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

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

Jobs: Manifold, Dash Hudson

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

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

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

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

Halifax

Manifold

Senior Front-End Engineer

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

Dash Hudson

Customer Success Representative

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

Software Developer

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

Howe Plots Cribcut’s Expansion

David Howe

David Howe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MTI Raises $8.3M, Led by Radar Capital. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finalists Named for Kira Awards

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

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

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

The KIRA finalists are:

Economic Impact through Innovation:

Bulletproof Solutions

Construction Navale Atlantique

LuminUltra Technologies Ltd.

Innovation Champion:

Budworm Tracker (Canadian Forest Service)

Institute of Biomedical Engineering, UNB

Succession Connect/Fredericton Chamber of Commerce

Innovation through Technology:

ADI Systems

EhEye Inc.

SimpTek Technologies Inc.

Most Innovative Product or Service:

Amiko Electrical/PLC Control System & Consulting Inc.

Lizotte Machine Vision

Soricimed Biopharma Inc.

Most Innovative Start-up:

Chinova Bioworks

EhEye Inc.

Kognitiv Spark Inc.

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

CyberNB/International Cyber Security Protection Alliance (ICSPA)

Northern Hardwoods Research Institute Inc.

Research & Productivity Council

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

CyberNB

Integrated Service Delivery for Children and Youth

NBDTI Design Branch & UNB Civil Engineering Dept.

Kasis Aims To End Cyanide in Mining

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

Literally.

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

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

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

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

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

Chinova Accepted into Terra Accelerator

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Beyond Government VC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full story on Huddle. 

MTI Raises $8.3M, Led by Radar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring Loaded's Fitzgerald Comes Full Circle 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Braveno: Blockchain-Based Exchange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grey Lit Matters Wins Fundica Event in Halifax

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

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

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

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

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

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

So does he regret getting into it?

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

Chinova Accepted In Terra Accelerator

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

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

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

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

Pfera Wins $375K First Prize at Breakthru

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

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

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

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

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

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

Job of the Week: CEO of Innovacorp

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

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

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

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

Read our Interview with Current Innovacorp CEO Stephen Duff.

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

Halifax

Innovacorp

President and CEO

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

Grey Lit Matters Wins Fundica Event

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

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

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

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

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

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

NS Startups Doing Well and Doing Good

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Fitzgerald Comes Full Circle

Stephen Fitzgerald

Stephen Fitzgerald

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Atlantic Canadian Startups Present at Aerospace Event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He said Spring Loaded has no significant competitors.

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

3 Atlantic Startups at Aerospace Event

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

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

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

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

Nautel Turns to Rocket Science

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smartpods Lands Big Sale with Feds

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

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

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

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

Read the full story on Huddle.

10 Startups To Pitch at Fundica

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

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

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

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

The 10 selected Halifax pitching startups are:

Curbza, Dartmouth;

EhEye Inc., Saint John;

Labfundr, Halifax;

• Kasis Environmental Ltd., New Brunswick;

• Prëmo, Montreal;

Cribcut, Halifax;

QUBER, Moncton;

Dugo, Halifax;

SimpTek Technologies, Fredericton;

• And GreyLitMatters Inc.; Halifax.

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

Dou It Fresh’s New Hygiene Product

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

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

They’re out to revolutionize douching.

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

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

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

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

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

SNM Releases Anti-SMoking App

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

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

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

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

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

Vesuvius Crowdfunds Centauri Sequel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SNM Releases Anti-Smoking App

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

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

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

SNM is obviously tackling a huge problem. The World Health Organization estimates there are more than 1 billion smokers in the world, and about 70 percent of them are trying to quit. The U.S. alone spends about $300 billion on the treatment of smoking related diseases, and it’s estimated the North American market for quit-smoking products in 2016 will be worth about $5 billion.  What’s more, 87 percent of smokers take up the habit again within three months of trying to quit.

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

NS Startups Doing Well and Doing Good

The device will be about the size of a pack of cigarettes, and the smoker can dispense a number of smokes throughout each day according to the proprietary algorithm. Throughout the day, it will dispense the cigarettes to re-enforce the messages on the app. Harrison estimated the device would be ready in four or five months.

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

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

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

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

Jobs: Dash Hudson and Swept

CEO Michael Brown and CTO Matt Cooper of Swept

CEO Michael Brown and CTO Matt Cooper of Swept

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

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

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

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

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

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

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Sales Development Representative

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

Account Executive

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

Swept

DevOps/Systems Engineer

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

NS Startups Doing Well & Doing Good

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

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

Health Outcomes Worldwide — Corrine McIsaac, New Waterford

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

Why It Matters

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

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

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

Why It Matters

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

Dadavan — Jennifer Hill, Waverley

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

Why It Matters

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

Squiggle Park — Leah Skerry and Julia Rivard, Halifax

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

Why It Matters

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

LifeRaft — John Gallinaugh, Halifax

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

Why It Matters

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

Woodscamp — Will Martin and Alastair Jarvis, Mahone Bay

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

Why It Matters

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

Green Power Labs — Alexandre Pavlovski, Dartmouth

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

Why It Matters

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

Midgard Insect Farm — Joy Hillier, Windsor

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

Why It Matters

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

Keefe Interim CEO at PEI Startup Zone

Doug Keefe

Doug Keefe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local Speakers Shine at Amplify

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEnTech: SaaS for Green Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NB Ladies Learning Code Collaboration

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

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

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

Read the Full Story on Huddle. 

Innovacorp Seeks CEO, Ends I-3

Stephen Duff

Stephen Duff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pfera Wins Top Prize at New Brunswick's Breakthru

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.]

The World’s Top University Incubator

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

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

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

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

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

Waterloo's Landmine Boys Win Business Model Competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Atlantic Canadians at G20 Summit

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

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

The four representatives who hail from the East Coast are:

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

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

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

Jobs of the Week: iWave, Alongside

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

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

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

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

Charlottetown

IWave

Systems and Data Support Specialist

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

Moncton

Alongside

IT Project Manager – Web

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

Pfera Wins $375K Prize at Breakthru

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HotSpot Eyes Regional Integrated Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NB Outlines Innovation Expenditures over Four Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ellis’ Dos & Don’ts of Growth Hacking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NB Outlines Innovation Expenditures

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

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

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

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

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

•Implementing new enterprise resource planning.

•Providing open data.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breakthru Race Tight in Home Stretch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quber Modernizes Traditional Saving

WEnTech: SaaS for Green Energy

EhEye Transforming Video Surveilance

Pfere Eyes Pilot at PEI Farms

SomaDetect Plans 2017 Pilot

Turret Brings Its AI Tech to Germany

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full article on Huddle.

 

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

Nautel Turns to Rocket Science

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SimplyCast Launches EmergHub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Innowave Wins Launch Ocean Event

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

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

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

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

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

Covina Nears $1M in Funding

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariner Lands TDC as XVu CLient

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quber Modernizes Traditional Saving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEnTech: SaaS for Green Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Job of the Week: Jameson Group

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

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

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

Halifax

The Jameson Group

Project Coordinator

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

Covina Focuses on $1M Round, CTA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appili Lands $2.8M in AIF Funding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local Experts To Speak at Amplify

Sean Ellis

Sean Ellis

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other speakers at Amplify include:

- Alyssa Atkins, Director of Marketing at Careguide;

- Dominic Coryell, founder of Gimme Growth;

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

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

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

 

 

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

Axem Logs 3 Gains in 1 Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SkySquirrel Enters Dublin Accelerator

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

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

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

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

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

Waterloo’s Landmine Boys Win CBMC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEnTech: SaaS for Green Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NBIF Names Breakthru Finalists

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

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

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

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

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

Sydney Prominent in Propel Cohort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Enkidu, Moncton

- Food Profit Group, Moncton

- SnapAP, Dieppe, N.B.

The companies named to the Launch cohorts are:

Fredericton (meeting at Planet Hatch)

Adventure Pack, Fredericton

dGrief, Saint John

GradsFinder, Moncton

Hit the Road App, Oromocto, N.B.

Methapal, Moncton

Sydney

Click2order, Sydney

BidSquid, Sydney

Player Pack, Sydney

Perata, Sydney

EspresSos, Sydney

MySong, Sydney

Halifax (meeting at the Volta Startup House)

AddText.me, Dartmouth

Living.Room, Halifax

Axem Neurotechnology, Halifax

Vitalo, Halifax

Tranquility online, Halifax

The Love Network, Halifax

Facilities Launch Regional Passport

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

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

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

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

The participants in the passport program are:

- Business Portals, St. John’s;

- CO3 Space, Bridgewater, N.S.;

- Common Ground, St. John’s;

- ConnexionWorks, Saint John;

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

- LaunchPad, Charlottetown;

- New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation, Sydney;

- North Queens, Caledonia, N.S.;

- Planet Hatch, Fredericton;

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

- Social Enterprise Hub, Saint John;

- Startup Zone, Charlottetown;

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jobs: VOX, EhEye, Dash Hudson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dieppe, N.B.

VOX Interactif

Web Developer

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

New Brunswick

EhEye

Software Engineer – Computer Vision

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

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Account Executive

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

Sales Development Intern

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

Sales Institute Opens in Montreal

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

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

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

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

Momentum Canada: Fostering a New Sales Culture

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

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

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

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

Fostering a New Sales Culture

Momentum Canada co-founders Corey Dugas and Joanna Killen

Momentum Canada co-founders Corey Dugas and Joanna Killen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CVCA: Value of VC Rounds Triples in 2 Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Killen hopes Momentum will benefit individuals, companies and society.

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

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

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

CVCA: Deal Values Triple in 2 Years

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

And how far it has to go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atlantic Canadian Startups Setting Up Silicon Valley Outposts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bourgoin Shuts Down Squads

Katelyn Bourgoin

Katelyn Bourgoin

Katelyn Bourgoin has announced that Squads is closing its door.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calling All Second-Career Entrepreneurs

We need to ask a favour.

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

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

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

You can find the survey here.

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

Many thanks,

Peter and Carol Moreira

Setting Up a Silicon Valley Outpost

Resson founders Rishin Behl and Peter Goggin

Resson founders Rishin Behl and Peter Goggin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Halifax's STI Exits for a Reported $200M

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jobs: HeyOrca, NOCland, CarbonCure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. John’s

NOCLand

R&D Software Developer

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

Data Scientist

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

HeyOrca

Experienced Web Developer

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

Halifax

CarbonCure Technologies

Director of Communications

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

Planet Hatch Partners with DMZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SkySquirrel Enters Dublin Accelerator

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pfera Eyes Pilot at PEI Farms

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

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

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

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

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

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

West Newfoundland Community Grows

Jason Janes

Jason Janes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CarbonCure in $10M Contest in Alberta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have your say, post a comment

Entrevestor

Entrevestor is expanding!

Choose your location below for regional news:

Atlantic Canada Kitchener/Waterloo