NS Searches for Private VC Partner

The Nova Scotia government on Wednesday resurrected its plan to establish another venture capital fund in the province, and is seeking a private partner to lead the fund and most likely invest in it.

The government of Stephen McNeil first mooted the possibility of a new fund about two years ago. The VC community in and outside the region had expected a request for proposals, or RFP, in the winter of 2014-15, but none came through two winters.

Then the government earmarked $25 million for a new VC fund in the 2016-17 budget, and on Wednesday announced that it would spend about a year finding a private sector partner and establishing the new fund.

“When businesses have better access to capital, it means more jobs for Nova Scotians,” said Business Minister Mark Furey in a statement. “The creation of this fund will mean stronger communities and more opportunities for young people to live and work here in Nova Scotia.”

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The statement said Innovacorp, the government owned early-stage VC fund, would lead the search for the partner. It will be backed up by a selection committee comprising:

–- Rob Barbara, general partner with Build Ventures;

–- Charles Baxter, vice-president of investment with Innovacorp;

–- Dominique Belanger, managing director of BDC Capital;

–- Gilles Duruflé, the consultant whose 2014 report recommended changes in the funding ecosystem in Nova Scotia;

–- And Bernie Miller, senior executive adviser for the province.

The government would like the fund to be established in 2017.

The strong growth of startups in Atlantic Canada has ramped up demand for investment capital, and the success of companies in the region has piqued the interest of venture capital funds from outside the region. I was surprised at the Breakthru dinner in Fredericton 15 months ago when two VC fund managers from outside the region were talking about the Nova Scotia RFP and when it might come.

From the outset, people familiar with the project have said the province does not simply want someone who can manage a fund in Halifax. It wants a party that will bring its own capital to the fund, and possibly attract money from other parties, known as limited partners. That means the $25 million commitment from the province could turn into a $50 million or $75 million venture capital fund. With the private money, it would also have a mandate to invest outside of Nova Scotia, which would help the fund to build partnerships with other investors.

The announcement comes as the current VC bodies based in Halifax could reach the point in a year or two where they will be constrained in making new investments. Innovacorp has been investing about $5 million a year and is approaching the point at which it will need new funds, a few exits, or a new mandate. Build Ventures, the three-year-old privately managed fund, has invested in about a dozen companies. Again it could make a few more new investments, and then will have restrict itself to follow-on investments until it raises a new fund. GrowthWorks Atlantic has not raised money in years and has signaled that it is managing its existing fund rather than making new investments.

 

Disclaimer: Build Ventures and Innovacorp advertise on Entrevestor. 

Airbly To Launch 100 Units This Summer

When Chris VanHorne bought his own small plane with seven other pilots, he wished there were some system that automatically compiled the flight logs.

There is now.

VanHorne set up a company to make one.

An engineer by training, VanHorne teamed up with developer Peter Osif to form Argyle Shore, P.E.I.-based Airbly, which has created hardware and software that can be installed in private aircraft to automatically produce the flight log.

The company, which has four installations, eases the burden on owners of private aircraft, who often have to write out these logs by hand. If they’re lost or destroyed, the plane’s value can plunge.

Presenting at the recent Atlantic Venture Forum in Halifax, VanHorne explained that preparing flight logs by hand are a hassle for aircraft owners, but aircraft lose their value drastically if the owner can’t produce a detailed history of flights and maintenance.

“An aircraft’s value is very tightly linked to the history of the plane,” said VanHorne. “But 90 per cent of plane owners still write their logs on paper . . . to get aircraft owners out of the stone age, we have created a block box for small aircraft.”

Airbly’s product is the Canairy Cockpit Monitor, a small piece of hardware that is installed on top of an aircraft's instrument panel. The device monitors the aircraft's position, usage and cabin environment and regularly sends the data over a cloud-based relay to Airbly’s data centre.

The company’s software then automatically generates flight logs. It also tracks the aircraft’s maintenance and alerts the owners when something falls outside a normal range.

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The business model is similar to a cell phone plan — the customer pays for the hardware then pays a regular bill for the tracking. VanHorne said the initial market is flight schools — an $8-million market.

These schools often have a fleet of five or more airplanes and Airbly can spare them the bother of doing flight logs and make sure they have a regular rotation of planes in maintenance.

In an interview, he said the Canairy monitor simplifies things for groups of people who join together to own a plane, such as VanHorne himself and his friends. The costs each person pays depend on the amount of use, and Airbly sorts out each person’s usage.

Airbly, which recently went through the Propel ICT Launch accelerator,  now has two installations in the U.S. and two in Canada, and the company is now manufacturing its first 100 units.

VanHorne will present the product this summer at the AirVenture air show in Wisconsin, which bills itself as “the world’s greatest aviation celebration.”

VanHorne said the company plans to market the Canairy to other segments of the aviation market, such as the sight-seeing and plane-for-hire markets, and is also interested in products in other industries.

It is thinking about developing fast and affordable in-flight internet for small planes. And the team is interested in products for the drone and marine markets.

Airbly is now working on raising $220,000 to $250,000 in investment, which it hopes will cover the costs of hiring sales and development support.

Affinio Adds Staff as Sales Rise

Tim Burke, left, and Stephen Hankinson

Tim Burke, left, and Stephen Hankinson

Tim Burke wandered through the empty half of Affinio’s office to the meeting room where the interview would take place.

In the early morning sunshine, this half of the open-plan office was an expanse of empty tables, and a ping pong table, but no sign of anyone working – so far.

“Oh, it will fill up,” Burke said with an easy smile when he was seated.

When Affinio, the company Burke heads, moved into the space in the spring of 2016, the co-founders wanted a lot of room for growth. The three-and-a-half-year-old social media analytics company is staffing up – fast. It had nine employees when it raised $4 million in venture capital last November. Six months later, there were about 37 employees, all but three of them in the Halifax headquarters. By the end of 2016, Burke expects to have a staff of 60, and he foresees the company’s galloping growth to continue through 2017.

“It’s pretty aggressive,” Burke said of his hiring spree, adding that most of the hires are in sales, marketing and customer support. “It’s primarily because it’s an enterprise SaaS [software-as-a-service] sales structure. It’s very similar to Radian6, and we see very aggressive growth. We’re going after accounts we think we can and should win.”

There’s no shortage of buzz in Halifax about Affinio, given its rapid expansion plans. The company does not release revenue details, but its strong funding and growing staff have turned heads.

“They are definitely one of the rising stars,” said Dawn Umlah, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Innovacorp. “Even in terms of talent acquisition, they’re working very well … I hate to say ‘killing it’, but that’s what they’re doing.”

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The buzz is nothing new for Burke and Stephen Hankinson, his technical co-founder and long-time collaborator. In the first decade of the century, they formed Quark Engineering, a small team of product whizzes that built products for themselves and others. It was a team with diverse talents, and at the core were Burke, an engineer with an entrepreneurial flare, and Hankinson, a programmer who other coders speak of in reverential tones. They struck gold in 2009 when they produced TetherBerry (later called Tether), an app that let people gain an online connection for their laptop through their cell phone plan. That consumer product brought in more than $100,000 in revenue in the first three days, and won the team Innovacorp’s 2010 I-3 Technology Startup Competition.

Tether was a cash cow for Quark and provided revenues while Burke and Hankinson built out the team, including Ardi Iranmanesh, an expert in SaaS metrics, and Phil Renaud, who is now Affinio’s VP Engineering. As well as working on their own projects, the team did contract work for several companies, including startups. Hankinson is known throughout the region for the speed and precision of his coding, and clients came to Quark to get the team to build out their technology.

Then in 2013 the Quark team began to work on a new project, which they called Affinio. It is an advanced database technology that allows low-cost, real-time processing of social network data to determine how every person on the web is connected. It mines publicly available social media posts and other business data to find people who are connected by common interests, experiences or networks.

Burke admits there are other similar products on the market but what sets Affinio apart is its ease of use, its interpretive functions and its vivid graphics. From the outset, it drew attention.

“Even at that stage, the response to the demo was overwhelming,” said Burke. “The most common response we got was, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this before.’”

The company launched in 2013 with $1.5 million in investment from Halifax venture capital fund Build Ventures. Build Principal Rob Barbara says his firm likes to invest in technology that “a few really smart guys can’t duplicate in a couple of months.” Affinio fit the bill as it immediately drew international attention. In the past three years, Affinio has been showcased at the O’Reilly Strata Conference in New York, and has participated in the Canadian Technology Accelerator in New York, the BBC Worldwide Labs incubator in London and Microsoft’s Seattle Accelerator.

And, the company is having success in sales, with 80 percent of the revenue coming from the U.S., led by the New York-based Vice-President of Customer Success John Gleeson.

“It was a really smart move for us to have a guy in New York,” said Burke. “John has a daily presence there and it’s been significant in developing and retaining clients. … We’ve got a lot more traction in the media and entertainment industries that are using our platform to guide their brand strategy.”

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Along with the sales came more funding. Whitecap Venture Partners of Toronto led a $4 million round last November, joined by Build, New York-based Social Starts, New York-based BRaVeVentures and several angels. And that money is funding the hire of a significant staff. From nine to 37 in six months and then an expected 23 more in the next seven months.

“We’re hiring a lot of great young talent,” said Burke. “It’s a really young group, most of them straight out of university.”

About one-quarter of the staff is in product development, with 35 percent in sales and marketing and the rest in executive positions and customer support. As he focuses on building his staff and the company, Burke is leaning heavily on some key mentors. First there are Marcel LeBrun, Chris Ramsey and the team that built Fredericton-based Radian6, one of the most success tech companies in the region. Burke talks with them regularly to discuss scaling of a company. And he’s found that the Microsoft accelerator has a tremendous alumni program, which has been instrumental in introducing Affinio to clients.

As the summer deepens, Burke is turning his attention more and more to a Series B round of financing, which he hopes to close in early 2017. He didn’t reveal many details but he said some clients in the media industries have investment arms that have noticed Affinio. The company is also working with clients to adapt new products, some of which analyze data owned by the clients themselves.

“With a lot of the new products, growth will continue on a really fast pace, even more fast than what we’re doing now,” said Burke. “Our revenue per customer is growing and the size of deals is continuing to rise as well.”

Grads Love Region, Worry About Jobs

An overwhelming majority of students studying at Atlantic Canadian universities and colleges want to stay in the region but have grave concerns about opportunities here, a new poll shows.

The poll by Corporate Research Associates also found that a mere two per cent of university and college grads want to start their own business.

The survey of 4,643 graduates of 21 post-secondary institutions in the region found that 82 percent of the grads would like to remain in the province where they studied. Among international students, 75 percent would like to stay. However, most grads also believe job opportunities and compensation levels in Atlantic Canada are inferior to other jurisdictions. Graduates also told CRA they believe the most important considerations in planning where to live are quality of life, job opportunities, cost of living and compensation levels.

Corporate Research president Margaret Brigley released the findings Friday at the Atlantic Leadership Summit, the annual half-day conference of the Atlantic Association of Universities.

“We found that students hold this region in such high regard,” said Brigley. “But they clearly have some concerns about what opportunities would be presented to them if they stay.”

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Atlantic Canada has the oldest population in Canada, and Statistics Canada said the region suffered a net out-migration of 6,700 people in 2014-15. The largest outflow was in New Brunswick, which lost 2,800 more people than it attracted.

Thus, there is an urgent movement to increase immigration and retain young people in the region, and educational institutions have a key role to play in both missions.

The poll findings showed that 75 percent of international students would like to remain in the province where they studied.

Don Mills, the chairman and CEO of CRA, said the fact that so many students would like to remain in the region is good news given that so much of the Atlantic Canadian workforce is nearing retirement. He said the current problem of too few jobs will soon turn into a greater problem of too few workers, and students who want to stay here will be needed to meet demand.

The CRA poll reveals that 87 percent of graduating students are highly satisfied with the overall quality of post-secondary education they have received in the region.

“The high degree of satisfaction expressed by graduates about their educational and living experience while studying in the region speaks volumes about the high quality of our institutions and the communities in which they are located,” said University of New Brunswick President and AAU Chair Eddy Campbell in a statement.

But he and others expressed disappointment that only one in 50 grads want to start their own business, despite the resources that institutions have devoted to entrepreneurship.

Brigley emphasized that the survey assessed the immediate plans of graduates, and it does not mean more grads don’t want to start a business at some point in the future. (The survey found that 33 percent of graduates will look for a job, 29 percent return to school, 23 percent have a job and 15 percent will travel or do something else.)

Some three percent of international students want to start their own businesses and half of these grads want to locate their business in the province where they studied.

Startup Zone Opens in Charlottetown

Government and geeks came together in downtown Charlottetown on Friday to officially open the Startup Zone, the new incubator for young businesses on P.E.I.

The 3,600-square-foot facility at Water and Queen streets has enough space for about 16 companies, and will be a work zone for tech and innovation startups as well as other entrepreneurial pursuits. It will also be the P.E.I. base for Propel ICT, the regional tech accelerator.

The opening of startup zone means there are now co-working spaces throughout Atlantic Canada allowing Propel and other regional groups a network of local bases for staging events and hosting mentoring programs.  The other community incubators and co-workign spaces are Common Ground in St. John’s, Volta Labs in Halifax, the Venn Centre in Moncton, the Navigate startup house in Sydney and Planet Hatch in Fredericton.

“The Startup Zone provides a space for our entrepreneurial community to gather and continue to grow,” said Startup Zone Executive Director Christina MacLeod in a statement. “Entrepreneurs of all ages and sectors can contribute to developing our diverse economy and create partnerships globally through our incubator space.”

MacLeod, the founder of Fusion Charlottetown and a member of the first Prince Edward Island cohort for the 21 Inc Emerging Leaders program, was named to the post recently. 

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The Startup Zone is a non-profit entity whose mission is to provide entrepreneurs with support and mentorship, enabling them to become successful. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is contributing $500,000 to the project, while the government of P.E.I. is putting up $514,395 over the next three years.

The opening was attended by P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLaughlin and Charlottetown MP Sean Casey,  who represented Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

P.E.I. has recently witnessed a strong growth in its tech sector, and this year hosted its first cohort of the Propel ICT accelerator. Life sciences startups have deeper roots in the province and are supported by groups like the PEI BioAlliance, the Emergence incubator program and the newly created headquarters of Natural Products Canada. The growth in the tech segment gives the island a more diverse entrepreneurial community.

Jobs of the Week: Resson is Hiring

Rishin Behl and Peter Goggin

Rishin Behl and Peter Goggin

Resson’s new motto could be: Have Money. Will Hire.

The Fredericton agriculture technology company last week announced it had raised US$11 million (C$14 million) from Monsanto Growth Ventures and other investors to expand its team and open a Silicon Valley office.  Now the company has fours openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board and is the highlight today of our Jobs of the Week column.

We’ll also look at Carleton Manor, a Woodstock, N.B., nursing home that is looking for a chief executive officer.

Founded three years ago by Peter Goggin and Rishin Behl, Resson has created software to assess data from a range of sources on a farm. They developed a system called RAMAS, which collects data from such sources as tractors, sensors buried in the field, and aerial drones flying over the field. It brings all the information together and presents the farmer with a report on what is happening in his field and what actions need to be taken.

The company is looking for software developers, an agronomist and an optical engineer.

Carleton Manor is now an 80-bed nursing home under renovations to expand to a 110-bed facility that specializes in providing nursing care and services to adult clients.

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 Qimple.

Fredericton

Resson

Agronomist

The successful candidate will help to apply Resson's machine-learning engine to multiple levels of agricultural data under observation. He or she will assess the data collected by the analytics team and work with others to use the data to improve farm yields.  This work will be done in collaboration with machine vision and robotic systems engineers, corporate agronomists and agricultural operators. The candidate will help to design and monitor field experiments. Resson is looking for someone with a bachelor degree in agronomy and crop science or an agricultural field.

Optical Engineer

This person will immediately be involved in a rapidly expanding project to bring computer vision to agriculture. The goal is to integrate and optimize hardware systems, linking optical technologies to farm-management equipment to meet defined requirements. The work will be carried out in both lab and field environments, moving quickly through calibration, testing and deployment phases. Resson is looking for a candidate familiar with computer vision hardware, experienced in troubleshooting and failure analysis and someone who thrives in a fast-paced, collaborative environment. The company would like someone with a master’s degree in optics, computer vision, electrical engineering or computer science.

Computer Vision Software Developer

Resson has actually posted two openings for software developers, including a computer vision developer. The computer vision software developer will contribute to the development of an image classification system for agriculture. The ideal candidate will be driven by his or her own creativity and ingenuity and a passion to pioneer the capabilities of state-of-the-art machine-learning and image-processing solutions. The role requires a robust understanding of the theory and practice of computer-vision techniques and the related fields of algorithm development. Resson is looking for someone with two to five years’ experience in a similar role and a bachelor or master’s degree in computer science.

Software Developer

The successful candidate will be responsible for all aspects of development, from rapid prototyping through to implementation, testing, and integration. In addition to being familiar with front-end and back-end development technologies (including Java and cross-platform mobile technologies), the applicant would benefit from experience with image processing, machine learning, and/or high-performance computing. Resson is looking for someone with a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field and two to five years’ experience in a similar role.

Woodstock, N.B.

Carleton Manor

Chief Executive Officer

Carleton Manor is looking for someone to provide leadership and organize the nursing home to effectively and efficiently provide services to residents. The successful candidate must manage human resources and maintain an excellent rapport with the residents, their families, the community, related agencies and government departments. The nursing home is looking for someone with proven leadership and management skills and excellent decision making skills regarding financial and budget issues. The candidate must have strong financial, communications and team-building skills, and preference will be given to people who have worked in long-term care. Carleton Manor is looking for a candidate with at least five years’ senior management experience.

WoodsCamp, 4Deep Win AVF Honours

Stephen Jones

Stephen Jones

The 2016 Atlantic Venture Forum wrapped up Thursday with the announcement that 4Deep Inwater Imaging was chosen the leading growth-stage company to pitch at the event, while WoodsCamp was the top seed-stage company.

The delegates at the conference – which serves as a meeting place for Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs and investors from outside the region – chose the winners, both of whom demonstrated strong potential in a global market.

Halifax-based 4Deep is a maker of advanced microscopes that can examine micro-organisms in the water in real time. They can check the size, shape, and movement of anything from embryonic invasive species to beads of oil in an oil spill – all without having to waste time to take samples and send them to a laboratory.

CEO Stephen Jones enticed the audience to imagine a product that could detect algae outbreaks in water before they become a menace, that could monitor ballast water in ships for microscopic invasive species, that can check oil rigs under water to detect leaks in real time.

“In the not too distant future, all those potential situations will be a reality and 4Deep will be right in the middle of it,” said Jones.

WoodsCamp is an online marketplace that helps private woodlot owners understand the value of the trees on their land to improve their profit from responsible forestry. It’s been a big week for the company as it pitched at the Propel ICT Demo Day on Tuesday and gained many new customers from a range of media coverage.

WoodsCamp Aims to Disrupt the Timber Industry.

WoodsCamp pitched with the seed stage companies on Wednesday while 4Deep and the other growth-stage startups presented their companies on Thursday morning. These more advanced companies showed how they had recently increased their sales, often with very impressive clients.

Halifax-based Athletigen, which analyses genetic codes to help with athletic performance, said it has now built up a databank of genetic samples from more than 20,000 people, with gives it more than 5 billion data points. That’s the largest such data set in the world, and it is working with nutritional and sports partners to gain more revenue.

Saint John-based NB Biomatrix, which uses nanotechnology to remove heavy metals from contaminated water sites, explained how it had gained clientele from governments and emergency agencies.

St. John’s startup HeyOrca’s Joe Teo said his company, which helps marketers collaborate on projects, is now gaining traction with such clients as Microsoft, Saatchi & Saatchi and Amazon. Its main market is marketing agencies, and its monthly recurring revenue is now increasing 31 percent per month.

Halifax’s Fundmetric, which provide customer-relationship software to charities, has sold its product to 26 charities across Canada and just landed its first U.S. client, St. John’s college. Its MRR is growing at 30 percent per month.

Gemba Software Solutions, another Saint John company, has found a range of customers for its product ProcedureFlow, which helps companies bring all employees up to speed on their processes. The company, which has a range of clients, is forecasting revenue growth of 300 percent next year and more than 200 percent in 2018.

Pacta, a Halifax company whose software monitor portfolios of contracts for large corporations, is gaining traction in its $15.9 billion market. It has signed a range of partnership and is raising $1 million, 60 percent of which is already committed. 

Itavio Enters Matter in Silicon Valley

Itavio, the Moncton startup that helps parents control how much money their children spend on online games, has been accepted into the prestigious Matter accelerator in Silicon Valley.

Itavio is the first Canadian company ever accepted into the accelerator, which teaches curriculum developed at Stanford University and works with such partners as the Google News Lab, the New York Times and the Associated Press.

Melani Flanagan and Matt Pichette, the co-founders of Itavio, arrived in the San Francisco area about a week ago to attend the one-week bootcamp for the accelerator. Matter on Thursday morning announced the 13 companies that will go through the program, which lasts until October.  

“This accelerator is an amazing connector,” said Flanagan in an interview from San Francisco on Thursday. “The people who we already met in our first week are pretty awe-inspiring.”

 Itavio allows parents to set limits for their children’s spending, almost like giving them a digital allowance. Parents can use the app not only to restrict spending but also to monitor how long a child is using the game.

Flanagan says the system helps game makers, who actually pay for the product. First, they don’t hear from infuriated parents whose kids have racked up a huge bill. And second, gaming companies using Itavio know how much money each customer has available to spend so they can market products to the child appropriate to their budget.

Itavio can also reduce a gaming company’s cost of hosting a young client and thereby improve the profitability of each game.

Flanagan said that Itavio applied to Matter because the company  is designed for technology media companies. She said the curriculum emphasizes the Stanford design principals, with a strong emphasis on the fast development, testing and failure of new features for each product.

Itavio in the past year has been beta-testing its product with a couple of early adopters, including Gogii Games of Moncton. Flanagan said it is now at the point at which it needs  to connect with more gaming companies to serve as early adopters for its product, and working in the Bay area should help meet this need.

“We could think of no one better to help with our out-reach and to build our message,” she said. “Being so much closer to our customers just makes so much sense. It’s that’s building of relationships that is so important when you’re starting out. That’s how you build technology.”

The two-year-old company, which is a graduate of the Propel ICT accelerator, raised about $275,000 in its first year, including an investment from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. Itavio recently raised additional funding from NBIF, and received some investment on joining Matter. It is now hoping to raise another $250,000. 

The Farmers’ Truck Rolls into Moncton

Fred Laforge.

Fred Laforge.

After starting Moncton’s first farmers’ truck to sell local produce last year, Fred Laforge and his co-founder Mathieu Reyjal, are working out of Moncton’s Vennture Garage with the aim of franchising their idea.

The duo set up The Farmers’ Truck to sell a range of produce farmed within 160 kilometres of Moncton after realizing the difficulties farmers face in getting their products to market.

Farmers’ markets often have waiting lists of would-be vendors and big stores and chains require a large quantity of produce. 

A farmers’ truck could address those issues, decided Laforge who grew up on a New Brunswick farm, and Reyial, who turned to farming after becoming an engineer and gaining an MBA.  

“Most consumers choose local when it’s easy to do,” Laforge said. “It needs to be easy for both the consumer and the farmer.”

The Farmers’ Truck stops at seven locations around Moncton between June to October, and the number will soon rise to 13.

The partners have 25 suppliers and the number is growing. They have designed a new truck, to be unveiled in July, which holds more produce and allows clients to browse shelves as in a store. Refrigeration has been installed to hold meat and dairy.

The partners minimize waste by donating unsold good produce to the local food bank. 

“Such trucks are popular in Europe,” Laforge said. “Mathieu saw trucks like this in France, but they’re not as nice. We wanted to stay away from the greasy food truck image and have a higher- end feel so people would buy in confidence.”

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The co-founders met at a startup event. At the time, Laforge owned an advertising agency and Reyial was thinking of opening a farm store in his barn.

“We discussed branding,” Laforge said. “I asked if a store is a good idea. Will people travel 40 minutes to go to a store? He needed to reach urban populations.”

Laforge said mobile food markets like theirs are usually in areas of poor food availability.

“Some non-profit groups bring in fresh vegetables and fruit to improve community health. We’re trying to encourage the local economy,” he said. “We could produce a white-label truck for non-profit use eventually.”

The partners are complementing the truck with an online store which is launching in central Moncton.

“The online store has the same variety as the truck and some more. It will continue throughout winter,” Laforge said.

The partners are currently working out of the Vennture Garage incubator space.

 “The Venn Garage has been critical,” Laforge said. “We’ve been getting advice from peers and mentors.”

 While he develops The Farmers’ Truck, Laforge is also working for a company called Dovico, which makes a time-tracking app. And he visits schools to spread awareness of drug addiction, which caused him to drop out of high school before seeking treatment.

“I was a drug addict, mostly pot, but I did everything I could get my hands on,” he said. “In schools, drugs are an epidemic. Parents need to know it can happen in any setting…Some parents can’t relate, but they need to try to understand.”

When he finished high school Laforge studied graphic design at College Communautaire du Nouveau Brunswick and started his own marketing company called Smithy Creative Group.

“We grew nicely and had big clients like Bell Aliant, Johnson Insurance, Irving Oil…I started working with startups and really fell in love with the community.” 

He ran his company for six years but had trouble scaling (growing) and decided to close.  

“The first thing I thought about with this new business was -- how do we scale?”

So far, the partners have funded The Farmers’ Truck themselves, but they will be looking to fundraise in the fall.

They want the idea to go Canada-wide, and believe franchisees will be tempted by the company’s custom-built trucks, knowledge and support.  

“We want to move fast,” Laforge said. "Being first to market is important." 

AVF Pitchers Highlight Initial Markets

If there is a theme developing in the pitches we’ve seen this week in Halifax, it is that East Coast startups are finding their paths to an initial market.

In the Propel Demo Day on Tuesday and the first day of the Atlantic Venture Forum on Wednesday, we’re seeing pitches that highlight sales or lay out (for the most part) credible plans on getting to market.

At its heart, the AVF is a meeting place for Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs and investors from outside the region. And the underlying message in many of the meetings is that the founders have identified their first markets and know how to get to them.

“We’re looking at getting these products to market – one this year – and we want to move our research forward,” said Mary Lynch, the President of Halifax’s Panag Parma, which is developing cures for chronic pain.

Panag is developing three products, including some using compounds from marijuana, to cure pain. It received Health Canada approval for its first product the week and hope to launch it this year. Panag is in talk with a partner to handle distribution to retailers.

Several of the pitches by early stage companies on Wednesday stressed the work the companies have done to make inroads in their initial markets. Martin Greenwood, CEO of PhotoDynamic of Halifax, said his company will first tap the Canadian orthodontic community for its product, which kills plaque. This is a $60 million market for the company.

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Alastair Jarvis, the CEO of WoodsCamp of Mahone Bay, N.S., said the first market for his company’s online market place for timber is private woodlot owners in Nova Scotia. Essentially the company has to create an identifiable market so it is building up a network of woodlot owners. He added the company has been inundated with contacts this week due to recent media coverage of the company.

Milan Vrekic of Halifax-based Zora said landlords are already subscribing to his software that helps in screening tenants, and the company already has $16,000 in monthly recurring revenue.

Some of the investors providing feedback on the pitches criticized the founders for dwelling too much on the initial market and not giving a broad enough picture of the total addressable market that can be tackled.

Most of the entrepreneurs responded by describing large markets, but emphasized that they are now focused on attacking that first beachhead.

The material that the presenting companies have submitted to the AVF organizers shows how the founders expect these early sales campaigns to go. All but one of the early-stage companies had no income last year. However, five of the seven are expecting traction this year totaling $1.3 million in revenue.

The seven growth-stage companies that will present today demonstrate how startup revenues can grow once sales begin. Only one of these companies had six figures of sales in 2014, but in 2015 all but one had sales, and for the group they totaled $830,000. Collectively, they expect revenues to increase almost fourfold in 2016 to $3.1 million. 

Resson’s $14M Round Led by Monsanto

Rishin Behl, left,  and Peter Goggin

Rishin Behl, left, and Peter Goggin

In a landmark venture capital funding, Fredericton agriculture technology company Resson has raised US$11 million (C$14 million) from Monsanto Growth Ventures and other investors to expand its team and open a Silicon Valley office.

Resson said in a statement today that the investment was led by the VC arm of Monsanto, the St. Louis-based agrichemical and agritech giant that is best known for its genetically modified foods. Monsanto is a new investor in the company, as is McCain Foods Ltd., which has been a customer of Resson for the past two years.

The other investors in the Series B round are returning investors that participated in the $3 million Series A round in 2014. They include Build Ventures, Rho Canada Ventures, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, BDC Capital and East Valley Ventures.

Resson also said that Jeff Grammer, a partner at Rho Canada Ventures, will become the executive chairman of the company. Peter Goggin, who had been the CEO, will move to VP of Operations.

Resson’s funding marks one of the largest venture capital investments ever in Atlantic Canada, and lends credence to claims that American institutions are beginning to take an interest in some of the region’s startups. The investment by the McCain group is also significant because it marks a strong investment by a local blue chip company that served as the startup’s early adopter.

“This is an example of what can happen when things come together properly,” East Valley Ventures Chair Gerry Pond, one of the investors, said in an interview. “You’ve got smart young people not long out of university and they hooked up with a great early adopter. And the space they’re working in is hot.”

Mariner Grows with Shift Energy Buy

Goggin and his co-founder Rishin Behl established the company three years ago to create software that would assess data from a range of sources on a farm. They developed a system called RAMAS, which collects data from such sources as tractors, sensors buried in the field, and aerial drones flying over the field. It brings all the information together and presents the farmer with a report on what is happening in his field and what actions need to be taken.

Their breakthrough came when they signed up McCain as their first customer and were able to improve the yield of the company’s potato crop. The company booked revenues of almost US$1 million in 2015 and Goggin hopes it will triple that number this year.

“We have worked with Resson from the earliest days of the company and have seen the tremendous potential to improve our operations by using their predictive analytics technology,” said Dirk Van de Put, President and CEO of McCain Foods. “We continue to work with Resson towards the implementation of their breakthrough technology and are excited by the prospects it brings to the community of potato professionals.”

There are many companies using data to improve agriculture by assessing a crop’s variation from what’s known as the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index. But Resson has moved beyond that to diagnose problems that can be corrected immediately.

 “We envision this impressive data-driven technology helping to improve yields, while reducing costs across a number of crops and cropping systems,” said Ryan Rakestraw, Venture Principal at Monsanto Growth Ventures. “We’re looking forward to working closely with Resson as its team continues to develop a predictive solution that could benefit the entire global agriculture industry.”

Goggin said in an interview the company plans to double its staff to about 45 people by early next year. Resson will continue to be headquartered in Fredericton, and will open an office in San Jose, Calif.

“Monsanto is one of the world’s top agriculture companies and its support will help us continue to develop a product that helps large and small farms improve crop production,” said Grammer in a statement.

Propel To Create New Grow Program

Six companies from the Propel ICT Build Program displayed last night the budding revenue streams that place them in the top tier of the Atlantic Canadian regional accelerator – at least, for now.

Up until now, Propel has been divided into two programs – Build for more advanced companies and Launch for seed stage startups. And six Build companies last night made their case for investment by laying out their path to market and telling of the revenue they had already captured.

But Propel also announced that soon there will be a third layer in its programing. Propel Chair Dave Grebenc said the accelerator by year-end will launch its new Grow program for its alumni and other late-stage companies. It is designed to help the burgeoning number of mature companies develop from startups into corporations that are attracting global clients.

But on Tuesday night, the focus was on the Build Program and the six companies that had just completed it.

Read our recent coverage of these Build Program grads:

WoodsCamp Aims To Disrupt Timber Industry

Onset Communication To Improve Film Set Efficiency

Repable Eyes Analytics for ESports

Fredericton-based TotalPave exemplified the messages by showing traction and an acceptance by investors.  TotalPave, which won New Brunswick’s Breakthru competition in 2013, has developed a smartphone app that helps municipalities and their contractors test road surfaces at a fraction of the current cost. The goal is to identify small cracks, which are cheap to mend, before they become more expensive potholes.

“What we’ve got is technology that allows municipal engineers to collect this vital data at 15 times less money than the industry standard,” said CEO Coady Cameron, who founded the company with his brother Drew.

TotalPave is now being used by four Atlantic Canadian municipalities. The company now has $16,000 in annual recurring revenue, or ARR, and is on track to raise it to $250,000 by the end of the year. TotalPave is now raising $500,000 and has already lined up $150,000 from a lead investor.  

Another Fredericton company, WellTrack, is raising $1 million. The company, which went through a previous Propel accelerator in 2012, has developed software that helps organizations improve the mental health of its members, especially those suffering from stress, anxiety and depression.

COO Natasha O’Brien explained that the company has recently gained customers by tracking universities, where 45 percent of students experience depression at some point. Because of depression, about 20 percent of first year students drop out, costing Canadian universities about $14 million a year. WellTrack now has $260,000 in AAR and is on track to reach $1 million by year-end.

Garago of Moncton has developed software that simplifies the grant application process, both for the applicant and the organization issuing the grant. The company, which is looking for $500,000 in funding, can help the applicant find the right grants, complete the application and track it. CEO Francis Thériault said the company has two price levels, including a more advanced product for the enterprise market.  The product has already been used by 300 schools and by Canadian Tire, and it helped the New Brunswick government save $90,000.

In his speech, Grebenc said Propel will continue to evolve by offering virtual mentorship sessions to reduce the travel of its far-flung members. These livestreamed sessions would complement in-person meetings to retain the program’s community spirit.

By offering remote programing, Propel will be able to offer cohorts for companies in similar fields but based in different cities, thereby enhancing the benefits to the mentees.

Propel is now accepting applications to its next cohort. The applications are open until July 22.

8 Launch Startups Pitch at Demo Day

Craig Sheppard and Iaian Archibald of Swell Advantage

Craig Sheppard and Iaian Archibald of Swell Advantage

Eight companies from the Propel ICT Launch program pitched at Demo Day today Tuesday night, seeking in total investment of more than $3 million.

The companies – two from each Atlantic Province -- entered the program at an early stage less four months ago, and displayed in their pitches their paths to their markets.

The companies are:

Airbly

Argyle Shore, P.E.I.

Led by Chris VanHorn, Airbly has created hardware and software that can be installed in private aircraft to automatically produce the plane’s flight log. The company, which already has four installations, eases the burden on owners of private aircraft, who often have to write out logs by hand. Airbly, which is presenting at the AirVenture air show in Wisconsin this summer, is looking for $250,000 in investment.

Empowered Homes

St. John’s

Empowered Homes is dedicated to lowering energy consumption in the 15 million homes in North America that have multi-zone heating systems. These systems place thermostats throughout the home, and are too complicated to allow smart thermostat to run off the homeowner’s cell phone. Empowered Homes is developing Mysa, which places a hub adjacent to the family’s electrical panel. The hub communicates with thermostats throughout the house and the homeowner’s smart phone. The company is planning to a Kickstarter campaign next February.

Mighty Pebble Games

Charlottetown

Mighty Pebble is a video game studio whose first game is called Miner Meltdown.  The 2D game takes place inside a mine, in which teams have to find gold so they can buy better weapons to use on the other team. The game, to be played on PCs or Macs, is scheduled to be released on the prestigious Steam market in February, 2017. Mighty Pebble is hoping to raise $350,000 to $500,000.

ReadyPass

Fredericton

ReadyPass calls itself the smart bus upgrade every transit agency deserves—including accurate GPS tracking, clear routing, and simple e-ticketing. The company is creating smart and simple transit systems by tracking buses, ridership and client satisfaction, and presenting the data analytics to the transit agency. The company is now undertaking a pilot project in Fredericton and will soon do a project in Cape Breton. The company is trying to raise $400,000.

SEAformatics

St. John’s

Seaformatics Systems is an ocean technology company that is set to revolutionize the ocean monitoring industry. It makes products that harvest power from ocean currents and communicates them wirelessly, thus providing reduced costs and risk for monitoring of oceans and waterways. Traditionally, boats must be used to change batteries on and download data from ocean sensors at great cost. SEAformatics’ patented technology uses a subsurface turbine that harvests power from ultra-low-speed ocean currents. The systems also enables real-time data communications so that data is immediately available. SEAformatics is seeking $750,000.

Shed

Halifax and Moncton

Shed is an on-demand household services platform, which means people can use the website to contact a range of service-providers to, for example, shovel snow, mow lawns or do home repairs. The company began last winter in Moncton with a snow removal function. It is now targeting three cities with 20 service providers. The site is designed with ease-of-use in mind, so homeowners can find a service provider within three minutes, seeing the price and customer reviews. Shed is hoping to raise $650,000.

Swell Advantage Ltd.

Halifax

Swell bills itself as AirBnB for moorings, docks and wharves. The company is developing an app that allows people with docks or mooring sites to connect with boaters looking to tie up their boat for a short period. CEO Iaian Archibald said the company will run a trial with the product with Waterfront Development Corporation in Halifax this weeks. It will also be used at six moorings and boat clubs within two weeks. In the winter, he plans to work with the product in the southern U.S. Whereas some competitors target major yacht clubs, Swell plans to work with small- and medium-sized locations.  The company is seeking $200,000 in investment.

Yimbie

Saint John

Yimbie helps local merchants communicate with their ideal customers when they are only steps away and most receptive. For the end-user, information is live and intelligent as Yimbie matches user preferences with merchant products/services within communities. The company is now raising $500,000.

WoodsCamp To Disrupt Timber Market

The thing to consider about WoodsCamp isn’t its pedigree, its potential social impact or its business case.

They’re impressive, but the highlight of this young Mahone Bay startup is its ambition.

Founded by Will Martin and Alastair Jarvis, WoodsCamp aims to revolutionize the way timber is harvested in private woodlots. Within 10 years, it hopes to be the world’s leading manager of timber.

That title now belongs to Weyerhaeuser Co. of Washington State, which now records about US$7 billion in annual revenue.

Martin and Jarvis are planning something big.

“If we get the momentum, and we create value for landowners, loggers and mill owners, we can scale it to regions all over the world and it’s conceivable we can be the largest manager of timber in the world,” said Jarvis, whose last startup was the gaming company Orpheus Interactive.

He teamed up with Martin, who recently stepped down as president of the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association, to develop an online tool that could correct what’s wrong with the province’s woodlots. If successful, the platform should work in other jurisdictions.

Read our Coverage of Another Propel Pitcher, Onset Communication.

The timber industry is extremely complicated. Sixty per cent of Nova Scotia’s woodland is privately owned — often by families whose older members have managed them through decades-old relationships. But the lands are passing down to younger, more urbanized generations who lack the knowledge or relationships to manage the lands. They worry that harvesting their forests will simply lead to clear-cutting, so many decide to do nothing.

The industry also features an interdependent web of woodlot owners, loggers, forestry technicians, truckers and two types of mills (pulp and saw). The goal of WoodCamp is to give all these players data to improve efficiency throughout the supply chain.

The main WoodsCamp product for landowners uses open data available from the provincial government to quickly tell owners what is growing on their property. This open data, gained by remote sensors, represent a digital catalogue of what trees grow across the province. WoodsCamp 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.

If they sell timber through WoodsCamp, the company gets a cut.

The website also offers a product calls Load Tracker, which helps to track shipments to the mill.

WoodsCamp, which will pitch in Halifax this week at both the Propel ICT Demo Day and the Atlantic Venture Forum, launched the product a month ago and the owners of about one per cent of private Nova Scotia woodlots have already used it.

Jarvis and Martin, who are in the process of raising a round of funding with a $550,000, now aim to build up a meaningful base of owners, then move on to loggers and mill owners.

This is an ethical business because it is a rural company that aims to help families retain their woodlots and manage and harvest them responsibly.

“We’re doing this because we want the industry to be successful in the long term,” said Martin. “Up to now, the option that people feel they have had is to clear-cut or do nothing. There is now another option out there and that is to increase the value of that resource over time.”

Your Guide to Pitchers at Propel, AVF

In the next three days, 26 Atlantic Canadian startups will pitch publicly in Halifax, and we’d like to help people learn more about them.

The Propel ICT Demo Day at Neptune Theatre tonight, and the Atlantic Venture Forum at the Nova Scotian Westin Wednesday and Thursday both feature pitches by 14 companies from around the region. Two companies, Airbly of Argyle Shore, P.E.I., and WoodsCamp of Mahone Bay, N.S., are pitching at both events.

We have covered most of the companies previously. So here are links to previous Entrevestor articles on the presenting companies. We hope this will help anyone viewing the presentations learn more about the companies they’re interested in.

Here is a complete list of the presenting companies, their links and our previous articles on them:

Propel ICT

Build Cohort:

Onset Communication, Charlottetown:

Onset To Improve Film Crew Efficiency, June 2016

PEI Hosts First Propel Demo Day, June 2016

Garago Software, Moncton: No previous coverage.

Repable: Moncton and Toronto:

Repable Eyes Analytics for ESports, April 2016

TotalPave, Fredericton:

TotalPave Advances After Breakthru Win, July 2014

TotalPave Wins NBIF's Breakthru Prize, March 2013

TotalPave To Improve Road Testing, January, 2013

WellTrack, Fredericton (Formerly called CyberPsyc):

CyberPsyc Breaks Into US Market, May 2015

CyberPsyc Moving Ahead After Pivot, July 2014

CyberPsyc Funding Aids 2 Products, March 2012

WoodsCamp, Mahone Bay, N.S.:

WoodsCamp To Disrupt Timber Market, June 2016

Propel ICT Demo Day

Launch Cohort

Airbly, Argyle Shore, P.E.I.:

PEI Hosts First Propel Demo Day, June 2016

Empowered Homes, St. John’s: No previous coverage.

Mighty Pebble Games, Charlottetown:

PEI Hosts First Propel Demo Day, June 2016

ReadyPass, Fredericton: No previous coverage.

SEAformatics, St. John’s: No previous coverage. 

SHED, Halifax and Moncton:

Propel's Local Demo Day in Halifax, June 2016

Swell Advantage, Halifax: 

Propel's Local Demo Day in Halifax, June 2016

Swell Advantage Set To Launch, May 2015 (The company has since pivoted)

Yimbie, Saint John: No previous coverage.

Atlantic Venture Forum

Early Stage

Airbly, Charlottetown: See above

DMF Medical Inc., Halifax:

Boyd's OccluRad Wins BioPort Event, September 2011

Panag Pharma Inc., Halifax : No previous coverage.

Photodynamic Inc., Mount Uniacke, NS (Previously called Fenol Farm):

Aiding Dentists with NS Plant Extracts,February 2014

Site 2020, Halifax: No previous coverage

Woods Camp, Mahone Bay, NS: See above

Zora, Las Vegas and Halifax:

Innovacorp Award $850K in I-3 Prizes, January 2016

Vrekic Launches Platform for Landlords, July 2015

Growth Stage

4-Deep Inwater Imaging, Halifax (Previously called Resolution Optics):

4-Deep Raises $500K from Bosma, November 2015

Resolution Adds Products, Targets Asia, January 2014

Resolution to Ink China Deal, January 2013

Athletigen, Halifax:

Athletigen Raises US$1.55M in VC, January 2016

Athletigen's Gene Analysis for Athletes, October 2014

Fundmetric, Halifax:

Fundmetric Lands Clients in NYC, March 2016

Fundmetric Lands BDC Investment, January 2015

Mark Hobbs' Mission to Aid Charities, November 2014

Charities Knocking on Mundmetric's Door, April 2014

Gemba Software Solutions, Saint John:

NBIF, Innovatia Put $1.5M into Gemba, September 2015

HeyOrca!, St. John’s:

HeyOrca! Adds Staff After Funding, February 2016

Build Pitchers Highlight Sales, September 2015

HeyOrca! Travels To Gain Mentorship, June 2015

NB BioMatrix, Saint John:

NB BioMatric Wins BioPort's BIC, October 2014

PACTA, Halifax:

PACTA Pitches at Google Demo Day, April 2016

PACTA Wins Fundica Roadsow, March 2016

HotSpot, PACTA Win AVF Honours, June 2015

PACTA: Idea to Beta in Six Months, November 2014

25 Named to Fierce Founders Bootcamp

(Photo: Communitech/Matthew Smith)

(Photo: Communitech/Matthew Smith)

Communitech has announced the 25 teams that will participate in this summer’s Fierce Founders Bootcamp, an entrepreneurship program for female-led startups.

The founders will complete the first phase of programming at the Communitech Hub July 19-21, then return to the Hub on August 23-25 to wrap up the program.

During the first three days of the bootcamp, founders will participate in classes on personal branding, customer validation and personas, and venture capital panel with Janet Bannister from Real Ventures.

When they return in August, they’ll take part in pitch practice, one-on-one meetings with venture capitalists, and user experience and graphic design workshops.

The teams will pitch their startups to a panel of industry experts on Aug. 25. The three top winners will divide $100,000 in prizes.

The 25 startups in Fierce Founders this year are:

Think Dirty

Eye Check

Hacktivision

The Dialogue Exchange

Acorn Cryotech

BridesMade

Navi

Pression Inc.

Acerta

Myeffect

Braze Mobility

Oneiric

The Mod Market

Snappy App

Tranqool

Brizi Cam

Neurescence

Comfable

UCIC

Borealis Wind

Henosis

Brownie Points

Ambience Data

Emmetros

SafeSump Inc.

VidCruiter Aims to Triple Sales in 2016

Sean Fahey is keeping some impressive company today.

The Founder and CEO of Moncton-based HR software maker VidCruiter is in Washington, D.C., where he is attending the Select USA conference. He’s been meeting with the American ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman, and later in the day will hear a keynote address by President Barack Obama.

It’s interesting that Fahey is visiting the American capital because he’s a student of business processes and strategy who has learned a lot from observing how they do things in the States. It’s one reason VidCruiter is now doubling annual revenue and hoping to triple it.

“I’m sort of panicking because our revenues are only doubling every year,” he said in an interview last week, adding that “panicking” may be overstating the case. “The standard in Silicon Valley is tripling and that is what we’re working toward.”

I last interviewed Fahey in early 2013, when he was about to attend the Canadian Technology Accelerator in Silicon Valley. I contacted him Friday to discuss his trip to Washington, which came about after he met Heyman at a New Brunswick Export Awards ceremony. Before long he steered our conversation to Entrevestor’s recent report on gazelles, which we defined as companies with at least $100,000 in revenue, gaining 20 percent annually over four years.

Twenty percent, said Fahey, simply wouldn’t cut it in today’s climate.

Fahey said that Silicon Valley investors are only interested in companies that are tripling revenues. VidCruiter has never taken on VC investment, though it has raised more than $1 million in its history. Yet the company aims for that Silicon Valley standard. It’s a philosophy that has brought it a strong client base, including ten Fortune 500 customers.

Qimple Raises $1.1M Funding Round

VidCruiter started in 2009 by producing a tool that recruiters could use to conduct interviews online to streamline the hiring process. Fahey describes it as a part-time project in the early days, then in 2012 he and his team rebuilt the platform, which they launched a year later. “We set out to build a n automated hiring system but video is a core component of that,” said Fahey.

VidCruiter still has the video interview system, but it now combines it with an applicant-tracking system and other features that help to simplify workflow for recruiters. It’s a crowded field as there are about 1,000 competitors in applicant tracking, and about 80 in video-interviewing. He added that VidCruiter is probably in the top three or four providers of the video-interviewing application.

The product is gaining acceptance and the VidCruiter website lists such clients as General Motors, Groupon and Tufts Medical Centre.

“We’re getting more and more people contacting us,” said Fahey. “We’re breaking records with new clients. … and revenues are increasing all the time.”

Right now, Fahey is hoping revenues in 2016 will triple those of 2015. But he admits that is difficult in Atlantic Canada of the challenges in raising the multi-million-dollar funding rounds needed to fund big sales teams.  So East Coast Canadian companies have to be creative in growing sales.

“You can’t do it the same way that they’re doing it [in Silicon Valley] so you have to be thinking outside the box on how to do it,” said Fahey. “It’s all about distribution. You have to form distribution channels with the right partners.”

Jobs of the Week: Celtx, KDP, Dynagen

Two sales and/or marketing positions and an opening for a full stack IoT developer headline our Jobs of the Week column today.

Our offerings this week are located across the region. In St. John’s, Celtx, which makes software for the film industry, has an opening for an independent and energetic person as Vice-President of sales. Dynagen, which makes controllers to automatically start, monitor, and protect industrial engines and generators, is looking for a full stack Internet of Things developer in Dartmouth.  And in Montague, P.E.I., KDP Online is looking for a head of sales and marketing for its business, which focuses on improving food safety audits.

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 Qimple.

St. John’s

Celtx

VP Sales

Celtx is looking for a head of sales to ramp up its B2B sales. The focus is to develop and implement a sales process for the company’s enterprise and SMB markets. Celtx wants someone who will “build a sales machine”. He or she will create a repeatable sales process to address the large number of organic inbound enterprise and SMB leads the company already enjoys. This person must conduct discovery meetings with potential clients to understand their workflow, roles, software tools used and technology gaps. Celtx is looking for someone with a successful track record in B2B sales and an understanding of common marketing technology.

Dartmouth

Dynagen

Full Stack IoT Developer

The company is seeking a passionate builder of new applications using next generation technologies in the Internet of Things. This is a unique challenge as the successful candidate will be the main driver in developing an exciting new web application to remotely manage industrial machinery over the web. He or she will have the opportunity to work closely with Dynagen’s controls engineering experts to deeply understand customer requirements and constraints to design a customizable system with friendly user interfaces. Dynagen is looking for someone with capabilities in Websocket, HTTP, TCP/IP protocols, CSS, HTML, JavaScript, Wireless, and IOT. A knowledge of embedded systems, microcontrollers, and wireless would be considered an asset.

Montague, P.E.I.

KDP Online

Marketing and Sales Coordinator

The successful applicant will coordinate day-to-day marketing, sales and communication responsibilities and support the KDP management team.  Besides working with a collection of talented colleagues, the sales and marketing coordinator will be involved in developing an international company scaling to a SaaS platform that will test his or her skills and abilities as a professional. The key responsibilities include overseeing sales and marketing projects, messaging and creating social media campaigns.  KDP Online is looking for a graduate in the past five years from a recognized institution in Journalism, English, Marketing, Communications, Business, or a related field. The applicant should have a basic understanding of sales and marketing tools and techniques. Some experience in in sales, marketing, or marketing administration is strongly preferred.

Alex Gillis and the Wisdom of Youth

Alex Gillis with the King of the Selfies.

Alex Gillis with the King of the Selfies.

Young entrepreneur Alex Gillis was keen to share his views on education with the Prime Minister when they met earlier this month.

Gillis was one of eight young Canadians, (Halifax-based Sage Franch was another) to be invited to meet the PM to discuss how education has fueled their success.  

“I told the PM there isn’t enough creativity in our school curricula,” said Gillis, who two years ago co-founded Bitness, a retail-focused location analytics product that allows stores to monitor customer traffic. Bitness uses devices called Bitness Beacons to track where, when and how long customers are in a store. 

“Students try to fit the mould, and simply receive good marks to impress universities,” Gillis said. “I told Trudeau that a lot of people are missing out on developing their interests. There needs to be more opportunities for expressing yourself.” 

Trudeau agreed. He told Gillis, who has recently graduated from the Sacred Heart School in Halifax, a story about when he was training to be a teacher. 

Apparently, one of Trudeau’s professors said that if you ask a primary class which of them are artists, the little ones all raise their hands. But by Grade 10, maybe one girl at the back of the class will admit to being an artist. Unless they are professionals, kids learn to be shy of their creativity.

Gillis has learned how to fill the gaps in conventional schooling. In Grade 12, he worked with Sacred Heart to add an experiential learning program to their curriculum, which meant students could receive academic credits for work such as starting a business. 

He and his technical co-founder on Bitness, Aristides Milios, a fellow student, worked with the school to develop the program.

Gillis got going as an entrepreneur after he won a hackathon at Halifax startup house, Volta Labs, in January 2014. Wanting to see more youth enter the business and technology space, he partnered with Volta’s Melody Pardoe to create Hoist Halifax, which offers free monthly workshops to teens. 

He was named Startup Canada’s Atlantic and national Young Entrepreneur of the Year for 2015. 

Gillis, who was born in Toronto but has grown up in Halifax, has recently been awarded a $100,000 Loran Scholarship, and will soon begin studying business at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where he may set up another Hoist program. 

Milios will remain in Halifax to study computer science at Dalhousie University. 

Gillis said he and Milios intend to keep developing their business.   

“We have an aggressive plan for sales and development for the coming months,” he said. 

“We will have a co-founder on each coast. We also have team members on the west coast, in Halifax and in the Toronto-Waterloo area. Being on the west coast will be good strategically…There’s a lot of money on the west coast. 

 “I’m hoping my move will offer me real experience and increased networking opportunities. I’ve been taking the ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ approach until now.”

Gillis said he always enjoyed math, coding and robotics. His interest in entrepreneurship was sparked by a video game in which the player runs an arcade and has to manage supply and demand. 

He credits the mentoring he has received in Atlantic Canada with helping him on his way. His mentors include well-known lights in the local startup community, such as Patrick Hankinson, previously of Compilr, Gillian McCrae of Propel ICT, Melody Pardoe of Volta Labs and Ying Tam, currently head of the Digital Health Cluster at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto. 

Gillis doesn’t think boosting creativity in schools is an easy fix. But he said mentors are accepting of younger faces in the local business community, and innovations like the experiential learning program at Sacred Heart help.   

“There isn’t one solution to this problem, but I hope people see Trudeau as an innovative leader,” he said. “I hope people will take that image and wonder how they can be innovative and drive change themselves.”

Nature’s Way Applauded by BioNova

BioNova, the Nova Scotian life sciences industry association, has chosen Nature’s Way’s acquisition of Ascenta Health as its good news story of the past year.

The association last night held its annual Good News and Blues festivity – a chance to celebrate a good news story in the biotech sphere, and listen to blues played by members of the life sciences community. And it announced the best news of the past 12 months.

Dartmouth-based Ascenta Health, whose NutraSea brand of nutritional products are made naturally from omega-3 fatty acids, said last May it had been bought by Nature’s Way, an affiliate of Dr. Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals of Germany. Nature’s Way, a global natural health leader, decided to make Halifax its Canadian headquarters after the acquisition.

Ascenta Founder and CEO Marc St-Onge retained the ownership of Ascenta Skin, the company’s newly developed high-end skincare brand. Though the financial details of the sale to Nature’s Way were not disclosed, St-Onge said there was no earn-out, and he was free to develop Ascenta Skin as a new business. It is now known as Bend Beauty

“We are thrilled to be recognized as such a positive story in the region,” said Steve Chiasson, Vice President and General Manager at Nature’s Way Canada.  “We have spent a great deal of time over the past year building a team, strengthening our brands, and expanding our infrastructure to facilitate long-term growth for our business in Canada,”

BioNova said in a statement the availability of a talented workforce, universities and a strong research support system were deciding factors for Nature’s Way. The transition was made easier with the support of Ascenta’s existing team.

“This acquisition validates what we believe – we have the ability to compete on a global scale and be home to high-value companies that are making a global impact. Attracting companies like Nature’s Way is something to be celebrated and embraced,” said BioNova’s Managing Director Scott Moffitt.

Qimple Raises $1.1M, Led by NBIF

Yves Boudreau: Approaching $1 million in revenue.

Yves Boudreau: Approaching $1 million in revenue.

Moncton-based Qimple, whose software helps companies recruit talent, has raised a $1.1 million round of seed capital from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and Toronto-based Green Century Investment.

The funding means the two-year-old company, which last year attended the 500 Startups accelerator in Silicon Valley, has raised a total of $1.6 million. Having launched its product last year, Qimple has brought in almost $1 million in revenue since its inception and has doubled its team to 12 people in the past three months.

The Qimple funding comes at a time when more and more growth-stage startups in Atlantic Canada are raising seven-figure funding rounds, often backed from investors outside the region. Qimple is the 10th company from the region this year to announce a raise of $1 million or more, and the fifth to attract investment from outside investors.

Stating its mission is to humanize online hiring, Qimple said it will use the funds to grow its team and further break-down the barriers associated with online hiring practices.

“Qimple understands the issues with online hiring and knows exactly what needs to happen to make it a better experience,” said Co-Founder and CEO Yves Boudreau in a statement. “The team respects that job searching can be a very emotional experience with feelings of stress, frustration and sadness.”

Eigen Raises $1.4M, Names New CEO 

The Qimple statement noted that 54 percent of unemployed people in the U.S., according to Gallop, feel they are struggling with the stress of having an uncertain future. Qimple aims to ease that anxiety by developing software that helps through the job search.

“Our platform boosts job-seeker self-esteem and we’re proud to say that we receive daily positive feedback from job seekers on how rewarding and empowering the application experience is for them,” said Boudreau. “Job seekers who are upbeat and optimistic perform better in interviews [and] are more likely to …  enter jobs ready to help their teams succeed.”

The product launched in 2015 is a quick and simple hiring solution. Today, the company has been strategically evolving away from traditional online hiring practices into a more comprehensive approach with a personal touch.

Qimple also operates several job boards, including the Entrevestor Job Board.

Qimple said it will soon launch the world’s first Resume Snapshot tool in an applicant tracking system to further help hiring managers find the best candidates.

Build, NBIF Invest $1.8M in Fiddlehead

“We first invested $100,000 in Qimple two years ago as a startup—before they launched and started raising capital,” said NBIF President and CEO Calvin Milbury in the statement. “Now that they’ve launched their product and are showing good market adoption, we’re helping them to go from a start-up company to a scale-up company and accelerate their growth.”

Qimple’s newest investor is Green Century Investment, a Canadian private equity and venture capital investment company that looks to add value when investing in technology and innovation, real estate and alternative energy.

“Qimple’s mission stems from their deep-rooted company culture of constant learning, open-mindedness and collaboration,” said Green Century Principal Larry Yiu in the statement. “Yves is building a great team that will be a core part of Green Century’s portfolio of companies.”

Halifax Startup Group on Facebook

Mike Cyr

Mike Cyr

There’s a new social media platform to connect entrepreneurial Haligonians, and it uses that most ubiquitous of all networking sites, Facebook.

St. Mary’s University student Mike Cyr created a group on Facebook called the Halifax Startup Community on Friday and as of Wednesday it already had 160 members. You can find it here. In true Facebook fashion, it is a place where members can post articles, videos and other content and have a discussion about what’s going on in entrepreneurship in Halifax.

On a local level, it resembles the Startup North group on Facebook. Founded by Halifax’s Jevon MacDonald and David Crow, one of the partners in the Atlantic region mentorship group TheNextPhase, Startup North is an online meeting place for Canadian startups, and the discussions among entrepreneurs from across the country take place in its Facebook group.

The Halifax Startup Community is already becoming an online chat room for the city’s entrepreneurial community.

“After the first day, we had just shy of 100 members join the group and engage with like-minded individuals,” said Cyr, who is entering fourth year of university with a major in marketing and entrepreneurship. “That number has continued to grow since.”

Affinio, Kinduct Kill It With Pitches

Cyr wants the community to be a broad group so the membership is not restricted to the founders of tech startups. Anyone interested in entrepreneurship is welcome to join and participate in conversations. It could be people who have started businesses or those who are interested in working for or with a young venture.

On Tuesday, for example, Stephanie MacDonald, who owns Halifax Paper Hearts, posted to tell people about her note card business. She also told the community about an organization she co-founded, 100 Entrepreneurs: Planting Seed$, a micro-funding platform for youth ventures. Sixty-nine people saw the item.

An hour later, the Volta startup house posted a notice that it is hosting a pitching competition on Wednesday, June 22.

“I refer to it now as almost a matchmaker for professionals,” said Cyr. “We’ve seen some great connections take place and people aligning strategic hires for their startups.”

Cyr said there are a lot of people who are of the entrepreneurial mindset but don’t have their own business. The Halifax Startup Community is a place where they can join discussions, get to know what’s going on and get to know people with similar interests. By placing it in Facebook, he’s chosen a site with a high level of user acceptance — hence, the quick take-up of the group.

Cyr himself is entrepreneurial by nature. He runs Scotian Sails, which imports sails and sells them to Atlantic Canadian boat owners. And he previously was a member of a team of SMU students that developed an event discovery platform. He’s focusing now on graduating in 2017 and then possibly another venture. And he plans to use the Halifax Startup Community group on Facebook to help get it off the ground.

“This will be a great resource to meet different people and get involved with their groups,” said Cyr. “You’d be surprised how much you can actually present yourself to people through this group.”

Briefs: Sequence, VidSnippets, Volta

Tyler Wish named a Canadian Innovation Leader

Tyler Wish, the co-founder and CEO of St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, has been named one of 10 Innovation Leaders by Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

Bains announced the 10-member panel on Wednesday while outlining his department’s innovation policies. These policies aim to foster science, entrepreneurship, creativity with a special emphasis on digital and clean technologies.

Bains said in a statement he will spend the summer holding public consultations on innovation that will result in a national action plan.

Founded in 2013, Sequence works with partners to analyze vast sets of data from gene pools to get a deeper understanding of which people are at the greatest risk of contracting a disease. It recently signed an agreement with Memorial University to use the university’s genetic databank to study colon cancer.

Before Sequence, Wish was founder and president of Research Avenue, a niche contract research company that provided outsourced development services to health care and life-sciences companies.

VidSnippets releases its first product

Halifax-based VidSnippets has released its first product, VidSnippets Web.

VidSnippets Web is a B2B solution that helps content publishers, marketers and others to select segments of a video to attract interest with a short clip. By flagging the choice portions, marketers and content providers can draw more traffic to their videos, which are the fastest-growing medium on the internet.

VidSnippets has designed the product for ease of use, so organizations can avoid extensive training. You can see the demo here.

“Our product can help you provide a more interactive viewing experience, while still allowing your visitors greater control over what content they watch and when they will watch it,” said Co-Founder and CEO Paul Farmer in a statement.

VidSnippets is now offering potential customers 14 days of free trails with VidSnippets Web with no obligation to take the product after the trial. 

Volta to host pitching competition

Volta, the Halifax startup house, will hold a pitching competition for Nova Scotia tech companies on Wednesday, June 22, starting at noon.

The competition, which will be held at the Volta offices at 1505 Barrington Street, will feature five-minute pitches that will be judged on their quality and content.

 “This is an opportunity to practice your pitch and get feedback from peers and industry professionals,” said Volta in a statement. “The goal of these competitions is to give you more experience pitching to investors and potential early adopters.  Each competition will have a panel consisting of entrepreneurs, potential investors and community leaders.”

The winners will receive a gift card, trophy and have their photo on the "Pitch Wall of Fame" board in Volta’s Event Space. You can sign up here

Mariner Grows With Shift Energy Buy

Curtis Howe: 'One of the world's best talent pools in internet video.'

Curtis Howe: 'One of the world's best talent pools in internet video.'

Last autumn, Mariner Partners concluded a sizeable transaction the way it does much of its business – quietly.

The Saint John technology conglomerate works with a host of startups, and one that captured a lot of its attention was Shift Energy, an Industrial Internet of Things concern that provides automated energy controls to large facilities. Mariner and several of its principals had great faith in Shift’s technology, so they sank both time and money into the company despite several setbacks. Then last fall, they decided to buy the company outright and make it a wholly owned subsidiary of Mariner Partners.

“This year, we began to get traction with the owners and operators of large buildings who are taking the lead in sustainability and energy efficiency” said Mariner CEO Curtis Howe. “This is a market measured in billions, so it is a really significant opportunity. We’ve learned enough about the business that we really believe we can move it forward.”

The Shift acquisition transitioned the entire Mariner group. Emerging from the deal, Mariner has four main business divisions, one of which is Shift Energy. Shift has the potential to generate significant revenues for the group, said Howe, and this can be done partly by selling to existing Mariner customers. As a developer of IIoT technology, it’s active in a hot, hot space, with companies such as Cisco, IBM, and General Electric increasingly involved in the IIoT segment. And the investment in Shift represented a substantial amount of money.

“It was a lot,” said Howe with a laugh. “More than I ever thought we’d invest in a startup.”

Read Our Entrevestor Intelligence Report, which Showcases Scaling Startups

Here’s one interesting thing about this transformative deal: it was carried out with no fanfare. There was no announcement that this startup was now a unit of one of the most powerful tech companies in Atlantic Canada. There was merely a redesign of the Mariner website to show that Shift was now one of the principal operating units.

Interesting, but not surprising.

Mariner should be far better known than it is in Atlantic Canada and across the country. It had revenues in each of the past two years of more than $25 million (growth was stunted in 2015 because it had clients in the Alberta oil patch). It offers world-leading video streaming technology, and its portfolio of startups represents untold potential. Its executives, some of them veterans of New Brunswick Tel, were the driving force behind Propel ICT, the regional accelerator.

What’s more, the company’s chairman and co-founder is probably the best known member of the Atlantic Canadian startup grouping. Gerry Pond, the former head of New Brunswick Tel, has been celebrated across the country for his contributions to startups and technology. He is the face of Mariner, and is better known than the company itself.

“It would be difficult to overstate the impact Mariner has had in the regional ecosystem,” said Doug Robertson, President and CEO of the Venn Centre in Moncton.  “Building on the transformative innovations that characterized their days at NBTel, Gerry Pond and his colleagues have played a significant leadership and catalytic role, from initiatives like Propel in its various iterations to investment in and mentorship of so many dynamic IT companies, to policy and thought leadership both provincially and regionally. The positive impact of Mariner’s contribution will be felt across the region for many years to come.”

A close examination of Mariner’s four divisions shows why it should be considered the most influential company in the East Coast tech community.

Mariner xVu

Mariner xVu (pronounced “X-View”) is an analytics system that allows online video content providers to identify and correct problems with Internet video delivery systems.

“The internet wasn’t built to deliver video”, said Howe. “And the pieces bolted on to support video are quite sophisticated. When they don’t work properly, it’s really hard to figure out what went wrong.”

Mariner xVu can figure out what went wrong even when the issue is hidden deep in the largest systems. It’s a difficult task because online video delivery – which has grown even more complicated with the advent of mobile video – involves different components based in different places. In fact, the xVu software now searches out issues in more than 135 billion video network transactions annually. Howe calls it “finding a needle in a continental haystack.”

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. We’ll see that growing strongly for the next few years,” said Howe.

Mariner Innovations

This is a consultancy business that specializes in application modernization and IT professional services. It helps corporations and other organizations solve IT problems. It has strong client relationships in Atlantic Canada, and its customers extend across Canada and into the U.S.

Mariner Innovations had been growing strongly so it became one of the four pillars of the group. However, 2015 proved to be a challenging year because several of its clients were in the Alberta oil patch and were cutting back.

Shift Energy

Mariner itself started Shift in 2009 to develop data-based products addressing energy consumption of large facilities. In May 2013, the company changed direction, building an IIoT application that would react automatically to the data it collected. With the software installed, a large building or group of buildings can automatically reduce energy use in key areas based on data analytics.

To achieve this goal, its EOS software uses a technique called Intelligent Live Recommissioning, which applies sophisticated algorithms to the data to determine the optimal settings instantly through the existing building control systems. In a typical large building, EOS collects and analyzes about 5 million data points per day, and uses that analysis to fine tune the energy performance of centralized heating and ventilation components such as boilers, chillers and air handlers – about 2,000 adjustments daily. Those small adjustments can reduce energy costs in a large office building, hospital or arena by 10 to 20 percent.

Mariner is so excited about the Shift company that it bought out other investors and now showcases the IIoT unit as one of its four pillars. A year ago, the Shift technology was being used by Rogers Centre in Vancouver and an Ontario hospital. Now it’s being installed in office towers, hospitals and arenas across Canada and the company has signed its first U.S. customer.   

The Mariner group worked hard to tweak the product so it would find a market.

“Finding the right market for this was a real puzzle,” said Howe. “If EOS were deployed into the top 10 percent of the world’s building stock, it would decrease the world’s energy consumption by 3 or 4 percent, and the world’s carbon emissions by the same amount.”

Shift is now in talks with 50 potential customers, and is finding strong interest especially in sports facilities and convention centres. Howe expects Shift Energy to be a major contributor to Mariner’s top line by 2017.   

East Valley Ventures

This is the unit that makes Mariner Partners unique in the region. No other tech company has an investment portfolio comprising dozens of tech startups.

Headed by Pond and finance specialist Jeff White, East Valley is almost a club in which Mariner and people associated with the group invest in startups. Mariner itself has invested in about half a dozen of the 25 startups listed on the East Valley website. All but two of the investments are in Atlantic Canada (Ottawa’s gShift bought a Mariner company InNetwork in an all-stock deal; and Mariner invested in Victoria, B.C.-based Tutela Technologies for strategic reasons.) Some past investments have failed. A few have exited. A few – like Fredericton-based Smart Skin Technologies and Charlottetown- and Montreal-based Spotful – are building revenue rapidly.

“They consider themselves something very different than an investment company,” said David Baxter, President of Moncton-based Fiddlehead Technology, one of the East Valley portfolio companies. “They believe they’re there to help these companies. Money is not the first thing they offer. They offer a support network right out of the gate.”

Recent Highlights of the East Valley Ventures Portfolio
EyeRead, a Halifax-based educational-technology company, was accepted into Google for Entrepreneurs program in Kitchener, Ont.
Eigen Innovations, a Fredericton-based Internet of Things company, placed third at the second annual Cisco Innovation Grand Challenge in Dubai.
Automotive technology company Selectbidder of Moncton has signed auction partners in California, Florida, Maine and Pennsylvania.
Halifax-based Swept (formerly Clean Simple) raised $575,000 in equity funding, becoming the first Atlantic Canadian portfolio company of the venture capital fund Highline.
Spinzo, the Saint John-based developer of a crowdsourcing platform, signed on the Arizona Coyotes of the National Hockey League as its first professional sports client. 

One final point about Mariner Partners is its pedigree. The origins of the company began in New Brunswick Telecom. Before it merged with its Atlantic Canadian counterparts to form Aliant, it was known as one of the most innovative phone companies anywhere. Its executives – like Pond, Howe and operations whiz Bob Justason – are still mainstays of Mariner.

Then during the dotcom boom of the 1990s, many of the NBTel alumni worked at Saint John-based iMagic TV. It blossomed into a publicly listed company by helping phone companies offer TV and Internet to customers. After Alcatel bought iMagic for about US$30 million in 2003, the people that built iMagic worked on other ventures such as Radian6 and Q1 Labs (both of which exited in 2011-12) while others wanted to work in online video.

“We realized we had one of the world’s best talent pools in internet video,” said Howe. “We are now the world’s leaders in what we do.”

He adds that these companies – Q1 Labs, Mariner, Shift -- share several technological elements. The talent pool has grown, and Mariner recently moved into new larger office on the top floor of Brunswick Square in Saint John. Howe said the company’s revenue grows at about 15 percent per year, and he does not foresee any slowdown in that growth.

A question about the future prospects is whether the company will raise capital to accelerate growth. Howe said a public listing is “not top of mind for us” but he wouldn’t rule it out either. If the company were to raise capital, a more likely vehicle would be a strategic investment from one of its blue-chip clients. One idea that Howe douses immediately is an exit.

“It would be easy to sell the company but that’s not our goal,” said Howe. “We definitely think that Atlantic Canada needs to build companies that can attract foreign investment as Q1 Labs and Radian6 … have done so successfully, but we think it’s equally important to grow headquarters operations here in the region, and we’ve positioned Mariner in that latter group.”

1 Week Until Atlantic Venture Forum

The Atlantic Venture Forum, the conference that aims to link Atlantic Canadian startups with investors, has issued a last call to register for the event that starts one week from today in Halifax.

Critical Path Group, which is organizing the event, says people hoping to attend still have time to register here.

The organizers said that at least 39 investment and tech support groups will attend this year’s AVF. The event will feature pitches from 15 East Coast companies, and others will attend to meet with investors. The investment groups from outside the region include NewRoad Capital, iNovia, Vistara Capital, MaRS Catalyst Fund, Real Ventures, Highline, and Omers Ventures.

“This year is all about building connective tissue between Atlantic Canada’s tech entrepreneur superstars and the greater community of investment heavyweights from outside the region,” said AVF Project Manager Zach Silbernagel in an email.

“By featuring a stellar list of investor speakers from as far away as Arkansas and Vancouver, the aim is to expose Atlantic Canadian companies to the perspectives and tools necessary to attract investment capital into the region, while simultaneously exposing outside investors to the tremendous entrepreneurial talent that exists on Canada’s East Coast.”

The keynote speeches at the event this year will include:

-- "How To Build Your Minimum Viable Product", by Michael Katchen, Founder & CEO of Wealthsimple Financial Inc.;
-- “Wind in the Sails: Writing a New Chapter in Alternative Energy”, by Russell Tencer, Co-Founder & CEO of United Wind;
-- And “The Five Things I Learned About Disruptive Innovation as an UberX Driver”, by Ted Graham, Innovation Leader at PwC Canada.

The Propel ICT Demo Day will take place the night before the AVF begins, which means a total of 25 Atlantic Canadian startups will pitch in a three-day span.

Our Report on Scaling Is Out

When the Halifax startup Proposify wanted to tell the world how it had grown in 2015, it put out a press release with some pretty gaudy numbers.

Founded by tech entrepreneurs Kevin Springer and Kyle Racki, Proposify had already been going for half a decade with the goal of producing a Software-as-a-Service product that would help agencies and others produce a better quality of pitches. It changed names, spun out of the web development company where it was born, took on a bit of capital. But it wasn’t until 2015 that Proposify really began to grow. The numbers tell the story:

Monthly recurring revenue, or MRR, rose 1500 percent to $66,517.

Paid customers increased 746 percent to 1,617.

The staff doubled to eight.

“It took years to get Proposify off the ground, and I can’t count the number of times most people would have given up and moved on, but we kept pushing forward,” said Racki. “As we sit on the cusp of $100,000 in MRR, I’m incredibly proud of what our team – now 12 – has accomplished.”

Proposify is an example of a recent trend in the Atlantic Canadian startup community – scaling companies. There was a baby boom in the East Coast startup world for the past few years with a lot of young companies forming, and now some of those youngsters are hitting a growth spurt. They’re gaining customers, hiring staff, and exporting products around the world. They are the focus of our latest Entrevestor Intelligence report, which we've published online today. 

This growth is great for the companies themselves, their staff and their investors. It also has a massive economic benefit. All the people who have invested so much blood, sweat, toil and tears in the startup community in the last five years did so with the vision of creating an innovative economy on the East Coast. In order for that community of innovators to really have an impact on the broader economy, some of the startups have to grow into bona fide corporations. That’s beginning to happen across the region. It’s not happening with ease, and there are still plenty of challenges. But the seeds have been planted and shoots are appearing.

Now several organizations are beginning to formulate ways to help established companies scale. For example, the regional accelerator Propel ICT is working on a program for scaling companies.

“We’ve all witnessed the growth in startup activity in Atlantic Canada,” said Calvin Milbury, President and CEO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. “We’re pleased about it and excited by it but we can’t just be content with startups. We have to be internationally competitive.”

Recent Seven-Figure Funding Deals

Company City Business Funding
Icejam Charlottetown Gaming $3M
Appili Halifax Drug Discovery $2.3M
LifeRaft Halifax Social Media Analytics $2M
Spring Loaded Dartmouth Bionic Knee Brace $1.9M
Fiddlehead Moncton Predictive Analytics $1.8M
CarbonCure Halifax Green Building Materials $1.8M
Eigen Innovations Fredericton Internet of Things $1.4M
Ubique Networks Toronto/Sydney Server Acceleration $1M
SkySquirrel Halifax Vineyard Analytics $1M

 

Milbury refers frequently to the need for more “gazelles” in the regional economy. While “unicorns” are known to be high-growth companies with a billion-dollar valuation, gazelles are a slightly less well known species though no less important. Gazelles are companies of any size that are growing revenues by at least 20 percent per year over four years. It may be hard to find many of these companies in Atlantic Canada simply because not many of our startups have four years of revenue history. But there have been more frequent sightings.

“Our philosophy here is to grow these companies,” said Milbury. “It’s those companies, the ones that are growing quickly over a period of time, that are creating wealth in the economy.”

Though it’s difficult to get public statements on revenue growth, there is evidence of these companies blossoming. Halifax-based STI Technologies, for example, which helps pharma companies distribute samples, was named to the Deloitte Fast 50 last year when it revealed revenue growth of 204 percent over four years. That placed it 41st on Deloitte’s annual tally of the fastest-growing companies in Canada.

St. John’s-based financial technology company Verafin said last year that its revenues in 2014 had grown 45 percent, and that its compound annual growth rate in 2012-2014 had been 51 percent. Last autumn, Dartmouth-based multi-channel marketing company SimplyCast said its third-quarter 2015 sales increased 105 percent from the same period a year earlier, and that it experienced a 99 percent retention rate among its customers.

These companies are by no means alone. Entrevestor estimated that at the end of 2014 there were about 80 Atlantic Canadian companies that had more than $100,000 in annual revenue and sales growth of 30 percent a year or more. By the end of 2015, the figure was probably closer to 100 companies.

The goal of Milbury and other people throughout the ecosystem is to keep these companies growing and scale them into major companies headquartered in the region. And coming up with programs to support such growth isn’t easy. It’s one thing for public agencies or government agencies to devise programs to give seed funding to companies; it’s riskier, more expensive and harder to sell to the public programs to help medium-sized companies grow into big companies. And at the end of the day, good companies will have to figure out how to scale on their own.

“The ecosystem itself is at the point where the companies are facing all these scaling issues,” said Dawn Umlah, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Innovacorp. She said the big issue a lot of companies are facing is what she refers to as “operational debt”. Essentially, that is the weaknesses in a company’s structure or organization that creep into the business as it grows. They have to be addressed before the company grows further, and the process of removing operational debt can be painful.

“Operational debt can be found in a bunch of different areas,” said Umlah. “One that is prevalent in many startups is translating an R&D organization into a scalable company. You have a great, smart team and you have a few customers and now what? How can you effectively replicate this at scale? Some of it is cultural and it requires cultural changes. The company typically needs a different type of urgency, accountability and discipline.”

As a hypothetical example of the problem, she said a company might not have an individual who understands strong sales processes. The company might hire a seasoned sales leader, but that person may end up reporting to one of the founders, who still doesn’t understand fully how sales work. The company therefore has to adjust to make sure the expertise of the new person permeates the company culture.

NBIF has raised the banner of helping companies with revenue to grow, and recently held an information session titled “From Startup to Scaleup” that outlined three ways it will help growing companies:

Governance and leadership – While NBIF wants to help startup founders progress into executives, it also wants stronger governance. Research has shown that companies with boards of directors outperform those without boards. Some founders resist establishing boards, but NBIF and others in the community say boards can extend a company’s reach and talent pool. “Think about it as a great situation that you cannot do without,” said Daniella DeGrace, CEO of Gemba Software Solutions, at the Moncton event. 

Sales – Most startups have a few customers or early adopters. But to scale, companies need to master modern sales products. For business-to-consumer SaaS products, the companies need to learn the methods to get their product to millions of clients and to measure and amplify the things people pay for. For enterprise products, companies need to learn how to develop and execute on a sales funnel. They may have to open sales offices close to their customers.

Capital – NBIF has a ceiling of investing up to $1 million in each company, and will in rare exceptions increase that ceiling. The real change in its funding strategy is that the foundation is now willing to take a lead role in A and B rounds. Whereas it previously would join follow-on rounds led by larger partners, NBIF now could write the term sheets itself so the target company could show other funders an offer on the table.

“When companies are performing-to-plan or exceeding their plans, we will not be afraid to step up,” said Milbury. “We’ll work to get to those [bigger deals]. We’re hoping to take that on, hopefully through partnerships.”

Across Atlantic Canada, throughout the spring of 2016, more and more companies have been bringing in million-dollar-plus financing deals. As of press time for this publication, this amounted to almost $13 million in equity investment, most of it coming from private sources. At Entrevestor, we hear of deals coming down the pipe, and through the summer there will be more significant deals announced by scaling companies.

This issue of Entrevestor Intelligence examines trends in scaling companies. We profile a few that are gaining revenues or hiring staff. We look at the burgeoning communities in St. John’s and Charlottetown. And we profile the granddaddy of the Atlantic tech companies, Mariner Partners of Saint John. We’re doing this now because scaling is the most important issue facing our community.

“It’s of the utmost importance,” said Innovacorp’s Umlah. “From an economic standpoint, startups on their own don’t create all the opportunity. You need multiple big companies – and a few of them that grow big and stay here. If you have everyone still at the startup stage you’re not really building up the skill base the way you need to.”

Kinduct, Affinio Kill It with Pitches

Travis McDonough

Travis McDonough

To appreciate how successfully some Atlantic Canadian startups are scaling, check out these two pitches – one by Kinduct and the other by Affinio – that wrapped up recent West Coast accelerator cohorts.

Travis McDonough, CEO of medical-data provider Kinduct, delivered his pitch in November at the Dodgers Accelerator in Los Angeles. And Tim Burke, who heads the data analytics company Affinio, pitched this month at Microsoft’s Seattle Accelerator. The pitches by these two Halifax companies demonstrate conclusively how successfully these companies are growing, or scaling.

Scaling is the subject of the latest Entrevestor Intelligence report, which is being published today. Our quarterly printed report highlights the economic importance and success of scaling startups. One company it profiles is Affinio.

We interviewed Burke for our supplement last month, at which time the company employed 37 people. By the time he delivered the pitch in Seattle, the staff had grown to 40. He expects 60 people on the Affinio payroll by year-end.

Propel ICT Names Demo Day Presenters

The company has developed algorithms that allow large companies to group their social media followers into clusters and gain a deep understanding of the interests and linkages of those clusters.

As part of its pitch, Burke said Affinio analyzed 350,000 social media followers of Microsoft and studied what they are passionate about. It then aggregated that into a dataset of more than 700 million connections.

“In just a matter of minutes, our algorithm was able to segment that audience into 12 unique clusters, based on the similarities of their interests,” said Burke. Affinio can instantly dissect the interests of those groups, from the music they like to the video games they play.

It means someone at Microsoft tasked with building the tech giant’s gaming community can understand instantly what the community likes and how they relate to one another.

He added the global consultancy Gartner named Affinio one of the “cool vendors” in data-driven marketing in 2016.

McDonough, meanwhile, told the audience at the Dodgers Accelerator that Kinduct has built “the world’s most advanced human performance software platform.” That means the company can pull together disparate data on athletics and health and present them on one platform. The company has the world’s largest library of medical animation, which is essential in telling athletes what problem they’re experiencing and how to cure it.

In November, there were more than 50 pro teams and NCAA organizations using the platform, said McDonough.

“We are also very proud of the fact that we have multiple world champions using our platform to get results and each and every organization that used our platform last year saw a statistically significant improvement in winning percentage and a drastic reduction in preventable injuries,” he added.

Two points to drive home: first, Kinduct and Affinio weren’t pitching at a local hackathon — they were presenting to blue chip audiences on the U.S. West Coast. And second, they are exemplars of the scaling companies in Atlantic Canada but they are not alone. There is a solid core of growth companies that are gaining international attention.

Time to Consider B Corp Certification

I often discuss strategy with the companies I meet, and there’s one piece of advice I am giving more and more frequently these days: consider a B Corp certification.

And I’m making this recommendation based economic more than ethical grounds. I say this because B Corp certification can help staffing immediately and – I believe -- will become more and more important in sales and funding as time goes on.

B Corp certification is the seal of approval for ethical businesses. A U.S.-based initiative, the Benefit Corporation organization requires companies to demonstrate their commitment to social good by scoring at least 80 out of 200 in four key areas: workers, governance, environment and community. It’s a rigorous process that more than a dozen Atlantic Canadian companies have now completed.

The idea is that companies that go through the process identify ways to become more ethical, and they are encouraged to improve their scores as time goes on. It also is a sign to the world that your company is ethical. It is recognized by a swath of young talent as the gold standard for the organizations they want to work for.

“Finding people with the right skills and the right cultural fit in a competitive hiring market is always a challenge,” said Jennifer Hill, CEO of Waverly, N.S.-based Dadavan. It received its B Corp designation in 2014. “Our B Corp status has attracted our last three hires to the team, and they all integrated seamlessly. The Dadavan team is now the biggest it has been since we launched in 1998.”

As well as staff, she said, the certification can help attract clients who want to buy from ethical businesses. “Our clients make decisions based on trust,” Hill said. “B Corp makes it easy to communicate our values and build honest relationships.”

Dadavan, which gathers and analyzes data on first nation education, is not alone among tech companies gaining B Corp status. Hootsuite, for example, is a B Corp. And I think more high-growth innovation companies will be joining the ranks.

For one thing, there are angels and institutions that target ethical businesses for investment. What’s more, the new federal government is interested in this segment. It has begun to let the business community know its priorities, and the list includes the environment, middle class, and native people. No surprises there. But what is eye-catching is that the list also includes ethical businesses. That creates the question: how will the government encourage ethical businesses?

My own bet is there will be funding involved, possibly something akin to Sustainable Development Technology Canada, only for ethical businesses. There are already federal institutions (like BDC) and partners (like the MaRS Discovery District) that are doing more and more work with ethical businesses. If the government does set up a program for ethical businesses, it will no doubt smile on companies that can show a long-standing adherence to the triple bottom line (profits, planet and people) by already being certified a B Corp.

I know I’m sounding cynical. The goal of the B Corp movement is not to attract funding but to benefit society and the environment. But a lot of startups have ethical missions, and it would be a good idea to formalize that mission. All businesses need solid strategies, and this is one component of strategy to consider.

“Dadavan did not become an ethical business to become B Corp certified,” said Hill. “We have always been a company that cared about people and planet. The assessment really did challenge us to be even better. Becoming B Corp certified is not easy, and it shouldn’t be. But there is learning and growth in the process.”

Last Call for Entrevestor Survey

Last call for the Entrevestor survey.

We’ve almost wrapped up our annual survey of Atlantic Canadian startups, and we want to remind those of you who haven’t responded yet to please get your responses in.

We’re thrilled with the response we’ve had to the survey. A vast range of founders have taken a few minutes to fill out our 23 questions, and we’re getting a picture of what happened in the community last year.

You can find the survey here, and it only takes two to four minutes to fill it out. All the information we gather is confidential.

You should fill it out because Entrevestor’s data is the best measurement of what the East Coast startup community is achieving. Governments at all levels now understand the economic potential of startups, and the only way they can gauge the success in Atlantic Canada is through Entrevestor’s data. Our data is also used to tell investors and financiers outside the region what is happening in our community.

The Entrevestor data analysis is the most authoritative source of information on the East Coast startup community, but we need your help to complete it. The result will be a better informed group of policy makers as they design programs to help your businesses.

Moncton’s BFL Launches OceanSlim

Jean Mamelona: 'This is a dream come true.'

Jean Mamelona: 'This is a dream come true.'

Growing up on the island nation of Madagascar, Jean Mamelona became fascinated by the ocean and marine life. Now, the biochemist is launching a seaweed-based weight-loss aid from his Moncton startup, Biomolecules for Life.

Mamelona and his partner, Denis Brion, a marine chemist with experience in market development, began their venture in January 2013 with the aim of producing health supplements made from seafood and marine biomass.

They have recently launched their first product, OceanSlim, a dietary aid that Mamelona said will assist dieters in losing up to one pound a week.

The public are naturally suspicious of weight-loss aids because there are so many that promise miraculous effects but fail to deliver. Some can even be harmful. Mamelona said the fact Health Canada has approved the OceanSlim soft gel capsules makes marketing easier.  

To win approval, the company had to prove their product does not contain anything harmful, that it has been processed cleanly and that it contains the advertised number of active ingredients.

“Most people will lose one pound a week with our product,” said Mamelona. “We need to educate people that losing weight too fast is not healthy. It’s best to lose weight slowly but surely and then make adjustments in your habits so you don’t gain weight again.”

He said OceanSlim works by helping eliminate stored fat, preventing the accumulation of new fat and helping control the appetite.

Soricimed Wins Orphan Drug Status

Mamelona arrived in Canada in 1997, after gaining a scholarship from the Canadian International Development Agency to study at Université du Québec at Rimouski, where he obtained his PhD in Marine biochemistry.

He said he finds New Brunswick a good place to build a startup.

“In New Brunswick, there’s lots of encouragement. ACOA (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency) gave us good orientation in the early stages, and New Brunswick helped us with startup funds.

“New Brunswick is a small province, it’s easy to get to see people from ACOA, or the Department of Fisheries. Compared with Quebec, there’s more direct access,” said Mamelona who previously researched developing marine natural health supplements at Institut des Sciences de la Mer de Rimouski. He was also an assistant professor in the Department of Biology of Université de Moncton. 

To date, Biomolecules for Life has been financed by provincial and federal funding and money from a private investor. The team may need to fundraise in a few months to facilitate growth.

The partners, who work with businessman Eric Brion, who is Denis’ father and the company president, have recently improved their website, with the aim of answering consumers’ questions and establishing the scientific validity of their product.

OceanSlim took about three years to develop. For the time being, the product is only available from the company’s site. Mamelona said he believes there is no similar product on the market, but there are so many weight-loss aids he can’t be sure.

He said that although Health Canada has approved Oceanslim, it should not be taken by breastfeeding mothers, and anyone taking other medications should consult with their doctor in order to avoid possibly harmful drug interactions.

The partners now intend to start work on a second product intended to boost health and immunity. Mamelona said Health Canada has already granted approval for the second product.

The company eventually aims to break into the global market, but Mamelona said there is a lot to be done first in terms of product and market development.

OceanSlim is a good start, he feels.

“This is a dream come true,” he said. “Since I was young in my country, fishing in the Mozambique Channel, I’ve been interested in the health benefits offered by the marine world, and dreamed about one day developing a drug.”

DNS Awards Priske, Sobey, UIT

Digital Nova Scotia this week named the winners of its first Digital Diversity Awards, the final phase of its 36-month Women Leaders Fueling the Digital Economy project.

The awards, which were presented Tuesday at the Centre for Women in Business’ Spring Finale, acknowledge and honour both female leadership and diversity champions in Nova Scotia’s ICT sector, while encouraging the province’s next generation of women leaders.

The winners in three categories were:

Women Leaders in the Digital Economy

Winner: Jenn Priske – Division Executive, REDspace

Power IT Up: Next Generation Leadership

Winner: Jenelle Sobey – Managing Partner, Norex

Diversity Champion of the Year

Winner: UIT Startup Immersion at Cape Breton University

“Today we celebrate the success of leaders and organizations who make the decision on a daily basis to actively provide inclusive work environments,” said DNS President and CEO Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia in a statement. “The Digital Diversity Award recipients take time to encourage and inspire young women and peers alike to excel in our sector, and they strive for parity in the workplace because they know how powerful it is.”

The launch of the awards program was initially announced at the 2015 Spring Finale, so hosting the first ceremony at this year’s Spring Finale was particularly fitting. The Awards will continue as a stand-alone legacy program in 2017 and beyond.

The ‘Call for Nominations’ for the 2nd Annual Digital Diversity Awards is now officially open with a deadline of March 8, 2017, which is International Women’s Day.

“There is a business case to increasing the number of women working and leading within the ICT sector,” said Bahr-Gedalia. “Organizations like UIT Startup Immersion, who reserve 50 percent of their seats for women, are leading by example and building what can be another competitive advantage for our region.”

Dal Names 10 Teams to Launch Pad

Megan McCarthy of PowerWhys heads one team accepted into the LaunchPad accelerator.

Megan McCarthy of PowerWhys heads one team accepted into the LaunchPad accelerator.

The Norman Newman Centre at Dalhousie University has announced its teams for the 2016 LaunchPad Cohort, the university’s summer entrepreneurship program.

Overseen by professors Mary Kilfoil and Ed Leach of Launch Dal, LaunchPad accepts 10 teams that receive $10,000 each in development costs to help get their business off the ground. The program received 20 applications this year.

A statement from Launch Dal said the teams chosen have what it takes to participate in a fast-paced and forward-thinking environment.

The 10 teams are:

Dugo: Provides intelligent remote-site battery and power management to the wireless industry. Cell towers sometimes suffer from power interruptions, in which case they are powered by batteries. But batteries degrade over time and have to be monitored. Dugo is developing a software-as-a-service platform that helps test batteries, centralizing the work and presenting the results.

SWAP: Developing a secure-payment system that identifies users through their fingerprints, and does not store the fingerprint data after the purchase. That means users can rest assured that it is much harder for hackers to access their accounts.

NeoTES: Aiming to take advantage of time-of-day electricity rates, it has designed proprietary technology that uses chemicals to release heat in a home that was produced when electricity costs were lowest.

Dal Hosts Accelerator for Military Personnel.

REP: The company is producing an app that helps amateur sport coaches communicate with athletes and their families. It is meant for the 32 million young people who participate in minor sports in North America. The app can help coaches communicate easily with families, and find and distribute content to aid in the coaching of young people.

Barkskin: The founders mission is to design watches and beauty accessories made from wood that has been sustainably sourced from Canadian forests. The goal is to encourage the proper nurturing of our forests.

Pursu.it: This is a crowd-funding platform that helps elite athletes raise money to cover the costs of their training. The company, which was spun out of the Halifax website company Norex, focuses on developing crowd-funding campaigns that are developed on the basis of quality, not quantity.

StuGig: Is developing an online platform on which students can find work doing odd jobs. It takes a percentage from each completed job, and lets students pay 99 cents for a recommendation card when they finish job. The more recommendation cards students have, the more likely they are to be hired.

Fresh-Tech Farming: The company is creating an online marketplace for local restaurants and local farms in which they can check each other’s stock to make sure there is never a shortage. It helps to solve the problems of restaurants running out of food and encourages local purchasing.

PowerWhys: Aims to encourage energy efficiency in home renovations. The company has created an application that will lets renovators select appliances and products before starting the renovation to ensure maximum energy efficiency.

Coldstream Clear: Produces high-end moonshine liqueurs and vodkas. The company has had success in the Nova Scotian market and wants to grow into national and global markets.

Onset To Improve Film Crew Efficiency

Brian Sharpe: Turning 10-minute discussions into 10-second decisions.

Brian Sharpe: Turning 10-minute discussions into 10-second decisions.

Brian Sharp wants to limit the amount of time that film crews waste making and communicating creative decisions, and he’s launched a company to solve the problem.

Onset Communication Inc. is a Charlottetown-based company that is now completing its 12-week stint with the Propel ICT accelerator. As a member of the advanced Build program, Onset will be one of the startups presenting at the Propel Demo Day on June 21 in Halifax.

Onset has developed a communication system called Visual Assistant that helps film crew members communicate with one another instantly in a more visual than verbal way. Film crews often communicate now by using walkie-talkies – a verbal tool in a visual medium. Another product on the market offers a single video monitor for each camera, but lacks the portability and collaborative features of Visual Assistant. Crews are frequently bogged down as a few members need to iron out some detail, like the head of photography telling a gaffer to redirect a spotlight. It holds up the whole production and increases overtime costs, which can add $50,000 an hour to production costs.

"One of the biggest problems on set is the amount of time it takes to make and share creative decisions,” said Sharp, the company’s founder and CEO, in an interview in Charlottetown last week. “Onset turns 10-minute conversations into 10-second decisions.”

Onset rents out the Visual Assistant kit featuring tablets loaded with proprietary software and a server to film crews so people can instantly send out a visual message – that is, a still shot or video with instructions written over it. It means a crew member immediately understands the message and can act without holding up the whole crew.

Sharp, a 25-year veteran of the film industry, has teamed up with Co-Founders Peter Workman, a developer with expertise in image processing, and David LeBlanc, the acting chair of the computer science department at University of P.E.I.

Read about the Local Demo Day in Charlottetown

Sharp said his business model relies on renting out the kits rather than just providing software because a film company will need a glitch-free tool that works the first time and every time. “If it’s a mission-critical tool in the film market and it’s buggy, they won’t ever use it again,” he said.

Each kit would last about three years, and produce about $1.3 million in revenue for the company.

The market is massive, he said. There are 50,000 films made every year around the world, and the film industry is now worth $500 billion a year and growing. Sharp estimates he has a total addressable market of $4 billion in recurring revenue, and that Onset could chalk up $8 million a year in sales in Toronto alone.

What’s more, he said the company has had “100-percent product validation” in that he has yet to explain Onset to anyone in the film industry who hasn’t instantly agreed the product is needed.

Onset has already two clients to test the product – a film company in Halifax and a Toronto ad agency that films its own commercials.

Sharp is looking for $500,000 in investment. The company now has a prototype and needs the funding for certain upgrades requested by customers and to beta-test it with the clients.

Dal Hosts Accelerator for Military

Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur will hold a seven-day business bootcamp at Dalhousie University this summer to teach entrepreneurship to people moving on from the Canadian Armed Forces.

POE is a program of The Prince’s Charities Canada, the Canadian arm of the charitable organization established in the U.K. by Prince Charles. The Prince’s Trust for decades has been helping young Britons start their own businesses.

Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur, or POE, provides business education to transitioning CAF members and veterans. Its organizers describe it as a made-in-Canada program that combines two of The Prince of Wales’ lifelong interests -- encouraging entrepreneurship and support for the CAF.  The program helps military members embarking upon their second careers to start their own businesses and create economic and social impacts in their communities.

Dalhousie professors are volunteering to teach in their area of specialization, and undergraduate business students from Enactus Dalhousie are paired with participants to provide one-on-one guidance to help participants build their business plans.

“These military members will be ready to start their second careers after the week,” said Mary Kilfoil, the Dalhousie professor who is also responsible for the training coordination of the program. “At Dalhousie, we are proud to support participants’ transition and offer them the skills and confidence they need to succeed in business.”

One of the military participants, Rebecca Park, designs handmade sheep skin and wool slippers.  At bootcamp, Rebecca wants to learn how to grow her business, “I am extremely passionate about my business, and would like to learn how to better market it, driving more customers to my website and expanding to new stores across Canada,” she said in a statement.

POE is the only program of its kind in Canada. “We have seen many inspiring stories of business success,” said POE President and CEO Amanda Sherrington. “His Royal Highness is deeply committed to supporting the military community, for whom he serves as Colonel-in-Chief to seven regiments.”

Propel Names Demo Day Presenters

Propel ICT has announced the 14 companies that will present at its Demo Day in Halifax on June 21, including eight from the Launch program for younger startups.

The companies are:

Launch Program

Halifax

SHED -- Shed has created a platform to help homeowners quickly and easily hire a service provider to carry out chores around the home.

Swell Advantage – AirBnB for docks and moorings.  Swell helps the boaters find short-term docking space and the owners of wharves and moorings to make money from their waterfrontage.

Charlottetown

Airbly – Airbly has developed hardware and software that automates flight logs for small aircraft.

Mighty Pebble Games – This is the maker of Miner Meltdown, a 2D team-based competitive multiplayer game that takes place in an underground mine.

Fredericton:

ReadyPass -- ReadyPass helps create smart and simple transit for passengers, bus drivers, and cities of all sizes.

Yimbie -- Yimbie matches user preferences with merchant products and services within communities.

St. John’s

SEAformatics -- Seaformatics has developed an energy harvesting system that allows researchers to collect ocean data at a low cost, with low risk and with improved performance.

Empowered Homes – This company is developing a smart thermostat system for homes and small businesses that have multi-zoned heating.

Build Program:

TotalPave, Fredericton – TotalPave has developed software to help municipalities assess the condition of roads in a simple and inexpensive manner.

WellTrack, Fredericton – This company has developed an online platform to help companies improve the mental health of their employees.

Garago Software, Moncton – Garago has developed a system for storing and extracting information that can improve the efficiency of an organization.

Repable, Moncton and Toronto – Repable is developing an analytics tool for the competitive gaming industry.

WoodsCamp, Lunenburg, NS – WoodsCamp connects buyers and sellers of timber in the massive private woodlot segment.

Onset Communication, Charlottetown – This company has developed a system to help film crews make creative decisions and communicate more quickly, thereby reducing production costs. 

Briefs: Shad, FAN, BioNova, Grind

BioNova Launches BioInnovation Challenge

BioNova is now accepting applications for the 2016 BioInnovation Challenge, a $50,000 pitching competition for early-stage life sciences companies or researchers from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

BioNova, Nova Scotia’s life sciences industry association, created the BIC to help ease the transition from research laboratory to market. The organization said the BIC is more than just a competition: it is a support program to accelerate Atlantic Canadian researchers and life science companies and help them become bona fide businesses. 

Since its inception in 2011, 38 companies and research groups have competed in the BioInnovation Challenge, each receiving significant training.

“We are very excited about this year’s competition,” said Scott Moffitt, managing director of BioNova. “There is a lot of innovation happening in the life sciences in Atlantic Canada and we are on track to be one of the pillars of the new economy, we are definitely a sector to watch out for.”

The finalists will pitch at BioPort Atlantic, the annual life sciences industry event, on Oct. 25 and 26. Applications for the competition, which can be found here, close on Aug. 12.

Shad Launches NB Initiative

Shad, the national business and innovation program for high school students, has launched the Shad New Brunswick initiative, which aims to provide a life-long support network for the province’s top talent.

Shad participants will now be connected not only to Shad’s peer-to-peer alumni network, but also to businesses, incubators and educational programs in the local innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is providing $89,000 to help the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick to hire a coordinator to promote the Shad program, work with the business community and identify students to join Shad.

Hermoni to Speak at Startup Grind Halifax

Oded Hermoni, a partner at London-based hedge fund Rhodium Capital, will speak at the next Startup Grind Halifax event on June 29 at the McInnes Cooper offices.

Since 2012, Hermoni has invested in early stage companies in Israel and North America and acted as a bridge for Rhodium in Silicon Valley.

He has invested in and been involved with dozens of companies including Zooz, Chosen, Yotpo, Rounds, Silo, Compass, Switchap, and Comedy.com. Hermoni is also the founder and Co-Chair of J-ANGELS and the Israeli Founders and Executives in Silicon Valley.​ He has been in the tech world since 1999 as an investor, advisor, entrepreneur, and a journalist.

Tickets for the event are available here.

Webinar on Employment Contracts Set for June 14

First Angel Network and Stewart McKelvey will host a one-hour webinar called “The Start-up’s Guide to Avoiding HR Hell - Lesson 1 - Employment Contracts”. 

The webinar, which will emphasize the importance of clarity in employee contracts, will be held at noon ADT on June 14. 

A statement from FAN said the program will interest startups and fully operating businesses.

Anyone interested in the webinar can sign up here

Sentinel Alert Spends Week with d{}

Sarah Murphy of Sentinel Alert at last year's bootcamp.

Sarah Murphy of Sentinel Alert at last year's bootcamp.

Sentinel Alert, the St. John’s company developing worker safety products, spent last week delving into product development in Waterloo Region in a unique form of company retreat.

The week of working with d{} – the Deloitte outpost in the Communitech innovation hub – gave the members of the far-flung company a chance to come together to work on product and business models. With three pilots in progress, the company has amassed a trove of data. Last week, it worked with specialists at d{} (pronounced “dee space”) to find ways to use the data to improve the product.

At the end of the week-long pseudo-hackathon, the company has four prototypes to show to clients.

“It was awesome,” said CEO Sarah Murphy at the end of the week. “Over the last six months, we’ve been  [working on] making sure our product is scalable. This has been our first time [developing a more scalable product] now that we have all this data.”

Moyer Wants to Extend Pelorus Model

Co-founded by Murphy and Jason Janes, Sentinel produces software that can detect when a worker has had an accident or may soon have one. From the outset two years ago, the idea has been that a smartphone can detect when someone has fallen and hit the ground, and the phone should be able to alert the company that an accident has taken place.

Now the application is also being used to detect worker risk – that is, to identify situations in which accidents could occur and or identify processes that could lead to worker injury. Then the worker and company can take steps to fix them. The software is originally being used on devices like smartphones, but the company hopes to eventually partner with a hardware company to produce a wearable device.

Last year, Murphy participated in Communitech’s Women Entrepreneurs’ Bootcamp (now known as Fierce Founders), won the event and walked away with a $35,000 cheque. Then in January, Sentinel Alert announced it had received $535,000 in equity funding from the Venture Newfoundland and Labrador Fund, Killick Capital and several unnamed angel investors.

The company now employs seven people, who are located in St. John’s, Halifax and Ottawa, so the week at Communitech was an opportunity to work together in the same place. Murphy, plans to spend the next few months in her native Halifax and then move to Ontario to be close to clients.

Communitech Seeks Women Entrepreneurs

Sentinel Alert originally targeted the oil and gas industry, but has now decided to focus on the Industrial construction and industrial manufacturing segments. The software can now identify some risks but the company aspires to develop predictive analytics to tell companies what practices could lead to injury. It has been investigating how repetitive motion in industrial work can lead to musculoskeletal injury.  And the company hopes to sell in the near term to major national and multi-national companies.

“What’s next is growing the client base out of the Atlantic region and working on getting much bigger clients, groups with thousands of workers,” said Murphy. 

Job of the Week: Smartpods

Today in Job of the Week, we’re presenting an opening for two software programmers with Smartpods of Moncton.

Smartpods has developed an automated, adjustable desk, which helps the user avoid the adverse health effects of sitting all day. The Smartpod desk automatically moves so that throughout the day the worker may be sitting or standing.

The Jobs of the Week article features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board which are currently accepting applications. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Qimple.

Moncton

Smartpods

Software Programmer

Smartpods wants to hire two programmers with a minimum of five years of experience each. The company is looking for creative programmers who can bring constructive feedback and find innovative solutions. It is seeking individuals who want to test the boundaries of product development. They will be working closely with the company’s current automation and software programmer.

The new hires should have experience with C#.net, Windows Presentation Foundation, VB.Net and SQL.

The tasks they will be responsible for include:  Software Development, Deployment and Testing; fixing bugs; enhancing software; website interface; onsite customers reviews; and application programming. 

Propel’s Local Demo Day in Halifax

The Propel ICT finished off its local Demo Days on Thursday with presentations in Halifax and St. John’s.

Twelve of the companies in the current cohort, including seven from the advanced Build program, will present at the regional Demo Day on June 21.

We were unable to be at the event in St. John’s, but here are the companies that pitched in Halifax:

WoodsCamp

This member of the Build program has developed an online marketplace to help woodlot owners bring their timber to market at the best price possible. CEO Alastair Jarvis explained that 65 percent of the woodlots in Nova Scotia are small, privately owned sites, and they are now being inherited by a generation of people who don’t fully understand the timber market. WoodsCamp helps to connect the buyers and sellers in the timber market so the seller gets the best price possible. “Since launching, we’re already unlocking a source of sustainable timber supply that was unavailable before,” said Jarvis.

B-Line Inc.

B-Line uses GPS tracking on smartphones to gather data on commuter patterns. Currently, governments gather commuter data through phone surveys, but that just records how people think they travel rather than how they actually travel. The proper data is needed because congestion is becoming such a huge problem in big cities. B-Line – which tracks how people travel in all modes of transport, including walking -- has already conducted a project in Toronto. It hopes to be the leading consultancy on gathering data on commuter patterns.

Dugo

Dugo provides intelligent remote-site battery and power management to the wireless industry. Cell towers, which are often situated in remote locations, sometimes suffer from power interruptions, in which case they are powered by batteries. But these batteries degrade over time and have to be monitored regularly. Dugo is developing a Software-as-a-Service platform that helps the process of testing the battery, centralizing the work and presenting the results.

Efficiency Properties

Efficiency Properties helps homeowners to highlight the sustainable features of their property when listing it on a major real estate website. The problem it addresses is that realty sites, like MLS, don’t highlight a home’s performance in energy conservation or other green features. Efficiency Homes can fit over an existing site and help to gain sales in sustainable housing -- a fast-growing segment of the housing market. The company has already had a soft launch and several brokers are using the product.

REP

Formerly known as Athlyst Inc., the company is producing an app that helps amateur sport coaches communicate with athletes and their families. REP is meant for the 32 million young people who participate in minor sports in North America. The app can help coaches communicate easily with families, and find and distribute content to aid in the coaching of young people. REP plans to distribute the product by working with established sports organizations.

Shed

Shed is an on-demand household services platform, which means people can use the website to contact a range of service-providers to, for example, shovel snow, mow lawns or do home repairs. The company began last winter in Moncton with a snow removal function. It is now targeting three cities with 20 service providers. The site is designed with ease-of-use in mind, so homeowners can find a service provider within three minutes, seeing the price and customer reviews.

Swell Advantage Ltd.

Swell bills itself as AirBnB for moorings, docks and wharves. The company is developing an app that allows people with docks or mooring sites to connect with boaters looking to tie up their boat for a short period. CEO Iaian Archibald said the company will run a trial with the product with Waterfront Development Corporation in Halifax this summer, and it plans to have a province-wide service this year. In the winter, he plans to work with the product in the southern U.S. Whereas some competitors target major yacht clubs, Swell plans to work with small- and medium-sized locations. 

Button Prepares to Launch Ignite

Andrew Button explains a point at a Mashup Lab event.

Andrew Button explains a point at a Mashup Lab event.

Following the successful launch of his virtual Spark accelerator for fledgling rural entrepreneurs, Andrew Button, CEO and Founder of Mashup Lab, is preparing to launch Ignite, a virtual program for more advanced rural startups.

Button, who is based in Wileville on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, began the Spark program, part of the Mashup Lab Virtual Incubation Program, in September last year to assist entrepreneurs who don’t have easy physical access to programs and mentors.

Registrations are now being accepted for Ignite, the follow-on program, which launches in August. Ignite is for people who have validated their ideas and are in the early stages of launching and looking for their first clients. Both programs feature two three-hour online seminars per week for six weeks.

Button said the first three cohorts of the Spark program have been very diverse, both in the age and backgrounds of the entrepreneurs and the kinds of venture they want to establish.

“We’ve had about 30 participants. Most have been from Nova Scotia. We’ve also had someone who was working in Bermuda…and two from Quebec. We’ve had a 15-year-old from Kentville with a home energy product, and people in their 50s and 60s.

“The ideas range from a craft beer micro-brewery, financial tech and education tech software, Internet of Things, SaaS (software as a service), as well as consumer products, bricks and mortar and service-based companies.”

Xona Launches Game on PlayStation 4

Button believes the more diversity and variety of viewpoints the better at the early stage of idea validation.

Button co-facilitates sessions and brings in guest entrepreneurs who share their experiences. He’s also able to connect participants with outside mentors.

To deliver his programming, he has partnered with Spring, a group based in Vancouver that provides mentorship to startups via online seminars.

“The Spring programming is for everyone, from high-growth tech companies to bricks and mortar ventures, for-profit and not-for-profit. I thought that was really important,” he said.

“All our participants get plugged into the Spring online community, which includes 143 entrepreneurs and alumni in 12 countries,” he said.

The partnership also allows Mashup Lab participants to access, via live-stream, the guest speakers and mentors that Spring brings in to their cohorts in Vancouver.

Speakers include Stefan Krepaikevich, co-founder of Brightkit, which was acquired by Hootsuit, and Annalea Krebs, CEO of @ Social Nature and former CEO of @ethicalDeal.

Button, who is originally from Newfoundland and has an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Consulting from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, previously worked with businesses and economic development organizations.

He founded Mashup Lab in 2014 to help establish more entrepreneurs in rural communities. He has since launched CO3, a co-working space for freelancers and entrepreneurs located in Bridgewater.

“I’ve worked with over 1,000 entrepreneurs in rural communities across the region, and I know great ideas can come from anywhere,” he said.

He would like to work with other Atlantic Canadian groups to offer his programming in tandem with theirs, both as a pre-incubator opportunity and as a follow-on for winners of the region’s many startup contests.

He partnered with the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre to offer registration to the Spark program as part of the prize package for their Start It Up! Competition. Four participants in the latest Spark cohort were winners of that contest.

Button said his programming aims to nurture small companies that can contribute to economic growth.

“There’s a lot of talk around the idea of building the first billion-dollar company from Atlantic Canada,” he said.

“Tech is the dominant narrative. It’s easy to get excited about and think about the tech company’s home run. . . .To get there we need a pipeline of companies. They won’t all be tech companies. In that mix, we will have a variety of companies. I believe I can have an impact in building the pipeline. We need all types of entrepreneurship in Atlantic Canada.”

Medella Health Raises $1.4 Million

The Medella Health Co-Founders

The Medella Health Co-Founders

Kitchener-based Medella Health has closed a seed funding round of $1.4 million to help roll out its smart contact lenses that help to test glucose levels.

The company, which is a member of the Velocity Garage incubator, said in a press release Thursday it received funding from 1517 Fund, Fifty Years Fund, Garage Capital, BDC Capital and other investors.

Medella Health has developed smart contact lenses that continuously monitor glucose levels and transmit the information to a mobile device so patients can manage their diet, exercise and habits. It’s a preventive model of health care that helps the user take early action to avoid the adverse effects of diabetes.

“There’s never been a better time to do this – our healthcare system is ripe for disruption, where the industry leaders and key opinion leaders are advocating to shift from a reactive model of care to a preventative model of care,” said Co-founder and CEO Harry Gandhi in a statement.

 Medella Health will use the capital to focus on scaling its technology and to partner with micro-fabrication companies, contact lens manufacturers and healthcare providers.

Bridgit Raises $1.7M VC Round

The smart contact lens works by integrating a small sensor, chip, and micro-antenna into the structure of the contact lens. Unlike other lenses in development, Medella Health’s proprietary sensor lasts up to a month. This extended lifespan makes calibration simple and also significantly reduces the cost of continuous glucose monitoring.

Medella Health began in 2013 at the University of Waterloo with three co-founders -- nanotechnologist Maarij Baig, biochemist Huayi Gao and Gandhi. It has now grown to a team of 15 comprising experts in nanotechnology, health IT, micro-electronics and micro-fabrication.

“I’ve seen the Medella Health team grow since their early days in the labs,” said Lyndon Jones, Director of the Centre for Contact Lens Research. “Not only do they have the rigor and resilience to solve the hard problems facing this industry, but they weave together the balance between visionary purpose and practical implementation.”

Gandhi believes that Kitchener-Waterloo is the ideal location for developing their specific technology due to the lab spaces they are able to work from. There’s the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology, the Centre for Intelligent Antenna and Radio Systems, which is the biggest antenna lab in Canada, and the Center for Contact Lens Research, which is the largest of its kind in the world.

The team is also a part of the Velocity Foundry incubator, and Gandhi, who founded the Velocity Science acceleration program, says the Waterloo community has helped their development along tremendously.

Xona Launches Game on PlayStation

Xona Games, the Yarmouth, N.S.-based independent game studio, has released its latest title on Sony’s PlayStation 4, marking its first move on to the top tier of console games.

The studio founded seven years ago by twin brothers Matthew and Jason Doucette has released Score Rush Extended, an enhanced version of the studio’s Score Rush game. It was released in North America on Tuesday and is being released in Europe today. The studio is working on a release for Japan.

“This is the biggest thing we’ve done,” said Matthew Doucette in an interview. “It’s an achievement just to get on these platforms. We’re finally going to take our product, something that we created ourselves, and we’re going to put it out in the marketplace and we’re going to see it if it works or not. If it works, we’re not going to have to reinvent ourselves.”

For the past few years, Matthew has been the lone full-time employee at the studio as Jason has been working in Seattle, first at Amazon and now at Oracle. Matthew Doucette said the demand for developers means there’s always a strong draw to go to the U.S., but he wanted to develop the studio in Yarmouth.

Repable Eyes Analytics for ESports

Xona over the years has had its ups and downs, and the ups have included games that have claimed top spot in league tables in both the United States and Japan.

The company’s Decimation X series was the leading video game in its category in Japan, and two years ago Xona captured first place in the Rogers Big Idea Contest, which brought with it an award of $20,000.

Doucette said the reason the company has done so well in the Japanese market is that players there want games that require skill rather than mere chance — games that must be mastered.

In the past, Xona has had a game on the “Indie” section of the Xbox platform, but that section suffered from low traffic as most players want to play the best games available. By getting on to the PlayStation 4 system, Xona is now in with the top games in the world. And given that PlayStation has a rigorous vetting process, just being on the platform is a testament to the quality of the product, he said.

“We had a vision of what 2D games could become: More sprites, more particles, and more intensity,” said Matthew Doucette in a blog last week on the PlayStation website. “Score Rush Extended was born from that idea.”

Xona first launched Score Rush was an experimental game. Doucette said the game captured critical and commercial success but it never felt complete. So he developed Score Rush Extended, which offers online scoreboards, unlockable trophies, and even DualShock audio that helps players to distinguish events happening to them as opposed to their friends during a four-player game.

The Doucette brothers have always shown a determination to remain true to their vision of what a game should be. With Score Rush Extended, for example, they set out to release a Shoot ‘Em Up game that tests the player’s skill like no other.

Doucette said the key piece in doing this was to rework the scoring mechanism, so it would not award bonus points. The only way to get points is by dominating your opponent.

Briefs: Make-A-Wish, Copps, Simms

Stephen Jones: Hoping to raise at least $1,500 for Make-A-Wish

Stephen Jones: Hoping to raise at least $1,500 for Make-A-Wish

Jones Needs Support for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Stephen Jones will rappel from the roof of the Westin Nova Scotian Hotel in just over two weeks with the hopes of helping children with severe medical difficulties realize their dreams.

Jones, the CEO of 4Deep Inwater Imaging of Halifax, needs people’s help in raising at least the $1,500 minimum to allow him to proceed with the Make-A-Wish Rope for Hope 2016 on June 18.

The proceeds go to Make-A-Wish, which helps to grant the wishes of children living with life-threatening medical conditions.

“I can think of no better cause and it is the very least that I can do in my capacity,” said Jones in an email. He added that children whose wishes come true find the experience helps them to “feel stronger, more energetic, more willing and able to battle their medical condition and for many it marks a turning point in their fight against illness.”

Jones is past the halfway point in his fundraising and asking people to help support the project. You can donate money here.

Michelle Simms to Join BDC

After 14 years, Michelle Simms is moving on from the Genesis Centre at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Simms, the Vice-President of Programs and Operations at the innovation and commercialization centre, has accepted a position as Senior Partner, Consulting and Business Development, at the St. John’s office of BDC.

“We will miss her, but realize that exciting opportunities and challenges await her in her new role,” said Genesis Centre CEO Greg Hood in an email to the Genesis network. “By hiring Michelle, the BDC is making an excellent investment, not only in their organization, but in the overall future development of Newfoundland’s business community.”

Copps Wins BDC Mentorship Award

Mary Jane Copps, founder of The Phone Lady, was awarded the 2016 BDC Mentorship Award, a national competition to recognize entrepreneurs who help younger peers. Copps has been an entrepreneur for 29 years and generously donates her time to mentees.

Her efforts to support young entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada, as well as the work of the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development in Halifax, were both recognized this week at Futurpreneur Canada’s 2016 Action Entrepreneurship Summit.

CEED was also the recipient of the RBC Community Partner Award.

Copps, who has been mentoring entrepreneurs for the past six years, says it takes tremendous courage to be an entrepreneur and it's vital that both support and knowledge are easily available.

Based in Halifax, The Phone Lady is a service that helps to educate entrepreneurs, not-for-profits, corporations and government departments to improve telephone interactions.

PEI Hosts First Propel Demo Day

Propel ICT held its first local demo day in Charlottetown on Tuesday, an event significant because it symbolized the growth in IT in a market traditionally known for life sciences.

The regional tech accelerator is now wrapping up its first cohort of 2016, and this week it’s holding four local demo days -- in Charlottetown and Fredericton on Tuesday, and in Halifax and St. John’s tomorrow. These will lead up to the final pitching event in Halifax on June 21, which will feature the 12 strongest teams in the program.

In Charlottetown, there were six teams pitching – five from the local Launch program, which mentors early stage companies, and one that is going through the Build program for more advanced companies.

Charlottetown for the first time hosted its own Launch cohort, which has given the local tech community the type of mentorship long available on the Island for biotech through groups like the PEI BioAlliance.

The six pitching companies were:

Onset Communications Inc.

Headed by CEO Brian Sharp, Onset is a communication system that helps film crew members communicate with one another instantly. Film crews are frequently bogged down as a few members need to iron out some detail, holding up the whole production and adding to overtime costs. Onset licenses out a kit featuring software, tablets and a server to film crews so people can instantly send out a visual message – that is, a still shot or video with instructions written over it. Sharp says it converts “10-minute discussions into 10-second decisions.” Onset, which is in the Build program, has already two clients to test the product and is looking for $500,000 in investment.

Airbly Inc.

Led by Chris VanHorn, Airbly has created hardware and software that can be installed in private aircraft to automatically produce the plane’s flight log. The company, which already has four installations, eases the burden on owners of private aircraft, who often have to write out logs by hand. Airbly, which is presenting at the AirVenture air show in Wisconsin this summer, is looking for $220,000 in investment.

Found

Found helps staff in senior residences locate elderly people and their things instantly. The company has produced a small device that the senior carries and that sends signals to the staff’s smartphone or tablet. It allows staff to locate a person (especially in a large complex) when they have to take medication, or if the senior gets out of the building and is lost. The company will have its beta test this summer. It is looking for $300,000 in funding to help build the team and bring the product to market.

King Ding Productions Inc.

Known as KDP, the company now comprises the husband-and-wife team of Alex and Maureen Hanley and is dedicated to improving food safety. Alex Hanley is a specialist in food safety inspection and wants to improve inspection at plants, too many of which have piecemeal processes in ensuring the safety of their food. KDP has produced a training program that helps plant managers and staff to put in place lean, state-of-the-art processes. The company is starting out as a consulting business and moving into a Software-as-a-Service product that could reach more plants. Ten plants across North America are now using the system.  

Mighty Pebble Games

Mighty Pebble is a video game studio whose first game is called Miner Meltdown.  The 2D game takes place inside a mine, in which teams have to find gold so they can buy better weapons to use on the other team. The game, to be played on PCs or Macs, is scheduled to be released on the prestigious Steam market in February, 2017. Mighty Pebble is hoping to raise $350,000.

TimeShifts

Led by Brandon Banks, TimeShifts is developing a scheduling help that helps managers and staff (especially in the restaurant industry) find an easier way to schedule shifts. Restaurants managers now get too many requests from a range of staff to work specific shifts, and these requests come in by phone, notes, emails or in person. The TimeShifts app centralizes and simplifies this task. The company, which is looking for $50,000 in investment, hopes to have a minimum viable product this month and has lined up three early adopters.

Lucey Warns of Pitfalls of Taking VC

Ian Lucey’s favourite company is Drummohr Software, which makes tax software for the British tax system. The company, founded in 1996, made $2 million per year, and eventually sold out for $20 million.

Not bad for a company run by two guys, and then later with the help of one man’s wife and son. The company’s costs were $30,000 a year to cover the expense of producing and delivering CDs with the tax software on them.

“If your business isn’t simple, you’re probably not thinking about it properly,” Lucey said.

Lucey spoke at the Startup Grind event in Halifax on Tuesday. He is the CEO and founder of the Lucey Fund, a venture technology firm. The Lucey Fund helps early-stage startups build their businesses through technical and financial talent, venture capital and mentorship.

Though only four years old, the Lucey Fund has invested in 85 companies in six countries, including Ireland, where the company is based, the U.S., England and Spain. The company aims to invest in 200 to 300 startups annually.

Lucey said he has never taken more than nine seconds to choose a company he wants to invest in.

“That’s a good idea—and we can sell it,” he said.

Despite his quick intuition, Lucey told many anecdotes throughout the night about his experience with founders who said that they’d go in a profitable direction recommended by Lucey and his team, but quickly returned to the original unprofitable idea.

Lucey said he and his team spend most of their time “making sure startups don’t shoot themselves in the foot,” which is the No. 1 reason he cites for the destruction of a startup.

That’s why Lucey cautioned every founder in the room against the Silicon Valley-fueled image that a venture capitalist is the best choice for every company when it’s often not. In fact, he said that 90 per cent of companies shouldn’t apply for venture capital because they ask for money before they’ve grown on their own.  

“Success is the guy who raises the most money—even though he now owns three per cent of his company,” Lucey said. “We only hear the best, the best, the best from Silicon Valley. ... But the startup community is still very immature.”

Canadian VC has Record First Quarter

Lucey said that he primarily looks for people with excellent sales ability and passion. His founders are typically over 30 and have quit their jobs to work full-time on their startups.

Not only does Lucey want to invest in passionate salespeople, but those who are also willing to invest in their own talent. Many startups outsource their work or hire someone for cheap—and they almost always have to do a total revamp because they received poor service. 

“If you buy cheap things, you’re going to have to keep buying cheap things,” Lucey said.

Lucey’s business lessons always came along with entertaining stories. Not only does this make Lucey a compelling speaker, but it epitomized his proposition that investors, such as friends and family, don’t just want to hear the math—they are obsessed with stories.

Lucey encouraged founders to send out “non-threatening” emails to friends and family to encourage them to invest. Lucey said the best way to entice a close network is the fear of missing out: what happens if this business is successful in five years and I passed over this opportunity?

“You have to be the cool story…if not, where’s the excitement? Where’s the fear of missing out?”

GLI Buys Bulletproof of Fredericton

The GLI Group, a U.S. technology company specializing in compliance and validation in the gaming and lottery industries, has bought Bulletproof Solutions Inc. of Fredericton for an undisclosed sum.

GLI, officially called Gaming Laboratories International, Inc., announced the deal in a press release on Tuesday. It said Bulletproof’s senior management team led by Steven Burns, Jeff Shaw and Andrew Jefferies will remain with the merged group. They will continue to grow the company in Atlantic Canada.

Launched in 2001, Bulletproof offers technology services to the public and commercial services and has a particularly strong clientele in Atlantic Canada.

“This is the ideal scenario for Bulletproof to take it to the next level,” said Burns in the statement. “We’ve done a good job growing our company to over 80 people in Atlantic Canada. We have a strong foundation of great processes and especially excellent people. GLI Group immediately saw the awesome potential we have to become more and wants to nurture that potential into growth and success for Bulletproof.”

GLI Group, which is based in Lakewood, N.J., plans to leverage Bulletproof’s IT services capabilities throughout Canada and the U.S. In addition to its core public and commercial sector markets sectors, Bulletproof’s services will be available immediately to GLI’s main market of gaming, lotteries and voting machine-related companies.

“GLI is committed to jobs and growth in the Maritimes,” said James Maida, the principal owner of GLI. “Given [New Brunswick’s] recent announcement on the development of their cybersecurity strategy, we see great potential in being part of the implementation and growth opportunity by investing in existing infrastructure and competencies in the region. We find great synergies investing our capital there.”

The GLI Group was originally founded as the world’s first private gaming test laboratory in 1989. It has continuously delivered quality compliance testing and professional services to regulators, operators and suppliers in the gaming, lottery, and I-gaming industry.

AioTV Moves Ahead After Pivot

AioTV has pivoted—and the new business model is so successful that it’s received offers for a takeover.

Based in Halifax and Denver, aioTV set out six years ago to offer a single platform that would provide a range of TV products, from free internet-based video to traditional TV networks to streaming services.

Founded by Halifax native Michael Earle, the company received a $1 million funding from Innovacorp in 2011 and a year later sold 44 percent of the company to China’s UTStarcom Holdings Corp. for $8 million.

While Earle and some executives are based in Denver, the company has built up its development team and some marketing operations in Halifax. The CEO said he is delighted with the performance of this team, which now amounts to 20 people. He plans to increase the size of the operation through the year with the goal of doubling it in the near future.

Dash Hudson Also Prospers After Pivot

About a year ago, the company realized its strategy of offering several products on a single platform just wasn’t the path to get where it wanted to go.

“We were successful in selling to second- and third-tier telco operators, but they didn’t have the scale to give us what we wanted,” Earle said in an interview from his base in Denver. “You end up spending a lot more in customization for these small guys than you could ever recoup.”

So the company began to research what the Tier 1 telecom and television companies around the world need in the ensuing one to three years, and the answer came back that they needed an enhanced curation function.

The aioTV curation function that it has now produced is a personalized recommendation engine that chooses a broad array of material for the user from more than just a list of movies. For example, if you have just watched a movie, the curation function could tell you there is material on YouTube about the making of the movie, or where to find interviews with the stars.

So far, the response has been encouraging. The company is in talks with four blue chip companies about taking the product, and Earle believes it will have one signed within a month. These companies include the second-largest cable operator in the world, as well as top-tier players in the U.S and Canada. If all four sign on, aioTV will have “significant market penetration” in the North American market.

The next big market for growth would be Asia, he said, adding UTStarcom could help the company grow in the Far East due to its links in the Chinese market.

Earle said the company has a strong balance sheet and doesn’t need to raise capital, but it would take on a new investor if the right strategic deal presented itself. More interesting, he said aioTV is considering a few offers to buy the company.

“We have very significant and legitimate interest from businesses in acquiring our business,” he said.

“We’re examining those but it’s not the only way we can grow.”

WMI Names 16 to Leadership Program

The Wallace McCain Institute at the University of New Brunswick has named 16 Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs to the ninth cohort of its Entrepreneurial Leaders Program

The institute selected the cohort from among 352 nominations during an intense two-day process, internally called "The Choosing". WMI said the members of the cohort “truly represent the region’s highest-growth potential entrepreneurs in the greater Atlantic area.”

These 16 entrepreneurs will now meet for two days per month over the next year in an elite program with speakers and peer interaction. The alumni from the previous eight years have pledged to continue to meet quarterly for the rest of their lives.

This ninth cohort, which represents all four Atlantic Provinces, has a collective economic footprint of $95,550,000 in revenue and more than 690 employees.

The members of the cohort are:

- Lynn Albert, President, LA Trading, Caraquet, N.B.;
- Richard Boone, President, Professional Carriers Inc., Hartland, N.B.;
- Denis C. Desjardins, President, Desjardins Seed Farms Ltd., Grand Falls, N.B.;
- Stephen Dixon, President/Founder;  Grimross Brewing Corp., Fredericton, N.B.;
- Charles Gervais, President, Co-owner, Missing Link Technologies Ltd., Moncton, N.B.;
- Remi Hebert, President, Pro Construction Inc., Bathurst, N.B.;
- Todd Hiscock, CEO and Founder, Beaufort Solutions Inc., St. John’s, N.L.;
- Doug Jenkins, President, iSpire – Inspired Technologies Inc., ConnexionWorks Inc., Saint John, N.B.;
- Jennifer Krueger, Artist /Owner, Estey Creations, Fredericton, N.B.;
- Guy LeGresley, Dealer-Owner, LeGresley Home Building Centre, Miramichi, N.B.;
- Gordon McArthur, President, Eosense, Dartmouth, N.S.;
- Georgio Paulin, General Manager /Co-Owner, Sounds Fantastic, Moncton, N.B.;
- Derrick Rioux, President, D.R. Autoworks Inc., Drummond, N.B.;
- Jeff Schnurr, Founder, Community Forests International, Community Forests Canada, Jaza Energy Inc., Sackville, N.B.;
- Marc Schurman, President, Schurman Family Farm, Atlantic Grown Organics Corp., Kensington, P.E.I.;
- And Jenelle Sobey, Managing Partner, Norex, Halifax, N.S.

Jobs of the Week: Remsoft, Smartpods

This week in Jobs of the Week we are featuring three positions in software development from Remsoft Inc. of Fredericton and Smartpods Technologies and Dovico, both of Moncton.

Remsoft specializes in providing businesses insight into how to best use the woodland resources growing on their land to maximize profitability and sustainability. Started 24 years ago, Remsoft has seen accelerated growth over the last five years due to its early development of software that produces key strategic information. Remsoft is looking to hire an ASP.Net developer.

Smartpods is the developer of automated workspace solutions. Smartpods are mechanized desks capable of displaying multiple monitors. They can move the upper portion of the desk in any of six directions so users can either stand or sit as they please for the benefit of employee health and comfort. Smartpods is looking for two software programmers to join their Moncton office.

Dovico is a developer of time management software. For more than 20 years, it has helped thousands of customers around the world like National Geographic, Bayer and Microsoft, to plan and execute their projects with proven project time and cost saving tools. 

Jobs of the Week features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board which are currently accepting applications. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Qimple.

Fredericton

Remsoft Inc.

ASP.Net Developer

This is a technology oriented positon in which the employee will be responsible for the development, testing and support of custom web applications, and for troubleshooting and resolving complex technological errors. Other responsibilities include remaining up-to-date with developments in web technologies and sharing expertise with other employees so they may better serve clients. Required qualifications include a post-secondary degree in Computer Science or a related field as well as three to five years’ experience in a similar role.

Moncton

Smartpods Technologies

Software Programmer

Smartpods Technologies are looking to hire two programmers with a minimum of five years’ experience using C#.net, WPF, VB.Net, and SQL. Core responsibilities are software development, deployment and testing, as well as bug fixes, and software enhancements. The accepted applicants will work closely with Smartpods’ current automation and software programmers. No educational qualifications are required for this position.  

Dovico

Full Stack Web Application Developer

Dovico is looking for a developer to join its Ruckus team, whose goal is to disrupt targeted markets with cutting-edge applications. The team will design and build minimum viable products from the ground up using modern practices, such as agile project management, design sprints, and user centered design. The full stack web application developer will be leading the Ruckus team along with the product designer. The successful candidate should have years’ experience in a similar role and must be a self-motivated individual steeped in full stack web application development.

MTI Buys Rolith’s Business, Assets

George Palikaras

George Palikaras

Metamaterial Technologies Inc., the Halifax developer of special materials that alter light, has bought the business of Silicon Valley peer Rolith to accelerate the development of its manufacturing facility.

The purchase, the terms of which were not disclosed, will help MTI produce large-scale sheets of metamaterials needed for industrial applications. But the deal also diversifies the company’s product offering, increases its talent pool and IP portfolio and gives it a Silicon Valley office and lab.

Founded by CEO George Palikaras, MTI is devoted to making special materials known as metamaterials that manipulate light as it passes through them. One of its subsidiaries, Lamba Guard is working with Airbus on the development of metaAIR, which can protect pilots from laser attacks. MetaAIR can fit over an existing windshield, and allows light to pass through it while filtering out laser beams.

“This [deal with Rolith] is a strategic acquisition for MTI,” said Palikaras in a statement. “One of the biggest challenges in our industry has been the absence of viable manufacturing tools to produce large-scale, high-volume optical metamaterial products. Rolith’s patented RML lithographic technology is the first of its kind and will allow us to scale-up our manufacturing to meet the industry demands.”

In an interview, Palikaras said one challenge facing MTI is achieving industrial scale production of its materials. It can produce enough material to fit over, say, the eyeglass lenses, but it’s more complicated to produce large sheets that can fit over a cockpit windshield. The purchase of the Rolith assets will increase the size of the sheets it can produce and accelerate the move to printing out sheets large enough to fit over a windshield.

Machine Learning for Chemists

The MTI press release said the company bought the Silicon Valley company’s proprietary manufacturing technology, it Rolling Mask Lithography and its NanoWeb products. MTI will set up an office in Rolith’s home town of Pleasanton, Calif., and will bring on board the target company’s state-of-the-art R&D facilities and key employees. Some equipment will be transferred to Nova Scotia, where the manufacturing operations will be based.

Palikaras said MTI needed a U.S. office to carry out sales with blue chip customers, and the Rolith facility gives the company not only a lab and sales office but also a demonstration facility where customer can witness the company’s products.

Rolith was founded in 2008 by Boris Kobrin, Julian Zegelman and Mark Brongersma of Stanford University to manufacture nanostructured products and devices to revolutionize for industries like solar, lighting, consumer electronics, energy and data storage. It allows cost-effective scaling of nanostructures fabrication.

“We are all excited to be joining MTI and its talented team. MTI is now well-positioned to be a leader in the commercialization of metamaterial optical products,” said Boris Kobrin, founder and chief executive officer of Rolith. He will become MTI’s CTO.

Rolith raised US$700,00 from Asahi Glass Corp. of Japan in 2010, and two years later raised a US$5 million Series A round by Asahi Glass and Moscow-based VTB Capital Investment Management. That $5.7 million (C$7.3 million at the current exchange rate) is far greater than the $3.4 million that MTI has raised, as listed on the funding data site TechCrunch.

Palikaras said Rolith’s business model had involved licensing its technology, and the founders were realizing the difficulties to licensing technology. So they saw the business advantages of joining a product-based company.

Palikaras said MTI – which previously raised money from Innovacorp, First Angel Network and the Wilmington Investor Network -- has raised new capital to carry out the deal, and added the details of the funding round will be released later. 

IDEA Program Focuses on Healthcare

Clifton Johnston

Clifton Johnston

Healthcare and medical devices are the focus of this year’s IDEA Product Development Bootcamp. The themed approach is in contrast to last year’s bootcamp where participants worked on ideas in any field.

The Halifax-based project asks participants, who are all students of design, engineering or business, to work together in teams of three for six weeks. The aim is to share diverse talents and perspectives to enable the creation of viable products.

IDEA, which means the Innovative Design and Entrepreneurship Academy, is a collaboration between Dalhousie University’s faculty of engineering, its Rowe School of Business and Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

It’s part of the IDEA Sandbox, now in its second year, which aims to transfer academic research and experience to the business world. Sandboxes are groups of collaborators in universities and colleges.

“The integration of product design, engineering and business are central to the development and commercialization of successful products,” said Dr. Clifton Johnston, team lead and National Sciences and Engineering Research Council Chair in Design Engineering at Dalhousie.

This year’s focus on the medical area makes sense as all three bootcamp mentors have experience in the field.

“We all understand the health care area,” said Johnston. The other mentors are Glen Hougan, an associate professor of design at NSCAD, and David Roach, an assistant professor at the Rowe School of Business. Their combined experience includes research into aging and medical devices, such as stents, used to treat aneurysms.

“We have connections too, which we’re able to leverage,” Johnston said.

“We brought in six people we know and they talked to the students about what they see as the problems in their industries.”

After hearing the presentations, students attempted to create solutions. With this year’s bootcamp now nearing its end, students are working on diverse ideas. They include helping people with incontinence—one team is improving bed pan design—to designing cups for arthritis sufferers.

Two teams are looking at using light therapy—one to treat depression and the other to treat SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

Another team is considering how sufferers of diabetes can monitor their blood sugar through their cell phones. While another, comprised of non-swimmers, is designing clothing that incorporates discreet buoyancy support.

Johnston thinks it realistic to hope that one or two of the student ideas will become real products. A team from last year’s bootcamp devised an innovative compost bin under the name Tilt Organics, which they are still working on.

“The main thing is that students learn good process, so that even if this current product idea doesn’t work out, they’ll know good process which they can follow the next time they see a problem,” he said.

This is the second year of the IDEA bootcamp, which is held at the IDEA Waterfront Design Studio on the Halifax waterfront. The project is supported by the provincial government. At the moment, there is funding for one more year. Johnston said the organizers haven’t decided whether they will continue with the themed approach next year, but it makes sense given the depth of knowledge available from faculty at Dalhousie and NSCAD.

Oceanography, for instance, could be next year’s theme, he said.

“We could connect with an oceanography faculty member and make them part of the team. We could include oceanography students. (Two health care students joined the current cohort.)

“On the other hand, this year’s focus has been on home healthcare. Next year, we might focus on hospitals.”

Johnston said product development takes a long time, but the bootcamp is an effective starting point.

“In six weeks, students may get to the point of an appearance model and an initial business plan,” he said.

Students who want to continue developing an idea after the bootcamp can apply for IDEA seed money and mentorship.

“I hope that in 10 years 100 per cent of participants will go on to do something entrepreneurial,” Johnston said.

Biorefinery Conference Starts Monday

The Atlantic Biorefinery Conference will take place Monday to Wednesday in Halifax. Now in its fifth year, the three-day event aims to spark new projects that will turn natural resources into value-added products and business opportunities.

Biorefining is a set of technologies that enables the transformation of natural resources and industrial by-products into value-added products.

Over a dozen speakers are travelling from the U.S., Europe and elsewhere in Canada to speak on topics that include agricultural biogas generation, forest nutrient management, brewery waste-water treatment, the bioconversion of coal, building biogas facilities, and the development of the renewable gas industry in the Netherlands.

The speaker sessions will take place on Tuesday May 31 and Wednesday June 1.

Victor Oh, from Lux Research in Boston, MA will speak about how Atlantic Canada can position itself within the bio-economy. Dr. Laurent Bernier, Senior Vice President of BioAmber Canada, will discuss how the integrated biorefineries of Bazancourt-Pomacle in France could serve as an example for Atlantic Canada.

Natural Products Canada Launches in PEI

“Our goal is to help researchers and businesses develop technologies to grow our economy…” said Josée Landry, manager of the Biorefinery Scale-Up Centre at Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick, one of the organizing groups.

Springboard Atlantic has been involved in the Atlantic Biorefinery Conference since its beginning.

“We see it as a key opportunity for researchers and entrepreneurs to exchange ideas that spark action…” said Chris Mathis, Springboard President and CEO.

The first day of the conference, will feature tours at local industry and research facilities.

Participants will visit: Perennia Innovation Park, which helps farmers, fishermen, and food processors develop new value-added products; Maritime BioExtracts, which produces bioactive natural health products, functional foods and nutraceuticals; Hefler Quality Lumber, which operates a biomass to energy plant.

Other destinations include: the National Research Council’s Ketch Harbour Marine Research Station, which develops methods to convert algae biomass into high-value products; the Innovacorp Demonstration Center, an 88-acre commercial development and testing facility for bioresource technologies and Cellufuel, which makes synthetic diesel from woody biomass at demonstration scale.

Curbza Sets Out to Aid Fort McMurray

Scott Theriault

Scott Theriault

A Dartmouth startup has accelerated the launch of its mobile app because its founders believe the product could help distressed families rebuild their lives in fire-ravaged Fort McMurray.

Curbza has developed an app for Apple and Android devices that can help people inventory their personal possessions and quickly sell or donate things they don’t want.

It can also build a virtual warehouse, so agencies can compile a list of bulky donated items like furniture without having to assemble them under a single roof.

The founders are hoping the app can help Canadians provide household items for residents of Fort McMurray who were forced to leave the city because of forest fires and are now preparing to return.

“Our hearts go out to the people in Alberta who have lost their homes and belongings,” Curbza CEO Scott Theriault said in a statement. “We feel it’s our duty to push this free technology out today in order to help our brothers and sisters out west.”

Using Curbza, the user can photograph and inventory all the family’s household items.

If there is something they don’t want, they can click a button and sell it or give it away.

The product lets people create their own marketplace and build their own networks.

The founders — who include marketing director Samantha Bambrick and vice-president brand and user experience Andrija Brajkovic — now want to get the app out to enough Canadians to establish a network and help people donate goods to Fort McMurray families.

“Our intention is for anyone with a mobile device to be able to list the things they want to give away,” said Theriault.

He added the product lets the user organize these items electronically so “people who want to help have a way to do so without creating unnecessary burdens in the process.”

The multichannel marketing company SimplyCast has incubated Curbza and has given it a SimplyCast 360 automated marketing tool to help build the networks. SimplyCast CEO Saeed El-Darahali is the chair of the Curbza board.

Curbza has quietly beta-tested the product with about 30 people. It was preparing to do a full launch in a few months but accelerated the launch to help the Fort McMurray residents.

The app is free, and Theriault said there will be premium features that people will pay for. Though he declined to provide details on how Curbza will make money, he did say the product’s inventory feature offers users functionality that can’t be found on eBay or Kijiji.

For example, homeowners could use Curbza to file an inventory of their possessions with insurers so there’s a record of what they own if they ever have to make a claim.

It could be similarly used in estate planning to record someone’s physical possessions. And it could inventory the household goods of military personnel, who often have to get rid of possessions if they are transferring overseas.

Curbza has raised some capital from family and friends, and will consider raising more once the product is in the market. SimplyCast is not an investor.

For now, the focus is on developing the “Help-Fort McMurray” network, through which users can list free items to donate.

Appili Lands $3.3M, Starts Next Round

Kevin Sullivan

Kevin Sullivan

Halifax-based drug discovery company Appili Therapeutics Inc. has announced $3.3 million in funding and outlined a strategy based on “hitting singles and home runs”.

Standing in his recently opened lab, Founder and CEO Kevin Sullivan said the company is now working on a drug with a limited market that should be on the market in a few years, and a larger, riskier project to combat antibiotic-resistant viruses.

Appili, which has become a more visible member of the Halifax biotech grouping this year, said at a press conference the funding included $2.3 million in equity investment. Several private investors – who were brought to the company by the Toronto investment boutique Bloom Burton & Co., which helped to found Appili – contributed $1.8 million. And Innovacorp, Nova Scotia’s early-stage venture capital agency, invested $500,000.

Appili was also able to secure just over $1 million from two federal agencies. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency lent the company $500,000 through the Business Development Program and contributed $100,000 for productivity and business skills development. National Research Council Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program, or Irap, is contributing $409,000.

Health QR Gets $250K in Funding

Sullivan said he is already talking to investors about the next round of funding, which he hopes to announce in the autumn.

Appili recently received a key U.S. regulatory designation for a drug that treats Clostridium difficile infection, or CDI, in children.

The Food and Drug Administration has granted orphan drug designation to its drug candidate ATI-1501. This medicine removes the bitter taste from a long-standing drug so that children are more willing to take it, thereby improving its effectiveness. A drug called Metronidazole has been used to treat the condition since the 1970s, but kids don’t want to take it because of its dreadful taste.

The FDA granted the application because CDI is one of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s most urgent antibiotic-resistant bacterial threats. It affects more than 500,000 Canadians and Americans each year and causes 29,000 deaths annually.

“One thing we like about the [orphan drug] program is it’s a pretty rapid program,” said Sullivan.

He said ATI-1501 will be in clinical trials in 2017 and because the efficacy of the legacy drug has already been established it should be on the market in three or four years.

Meanwhile, the company is also ATI-1503, an antibiotic that could fight deadly infections such as Klebsiella pneumonia. He noted the risks posed by viruses that are resistant to antibiotics and said this drug could help combat them, but it’s a longer, riskier project than the first drug.

“We intend to build a company by hitting singles and home runs,” he said. “ATI-1503 has real home run potential.”

Dozr Wins $100K at Rev Demo Day

The Dozr team: Tim Forestell, left, Erin Stephenson and Kevin Forestell.

The Dozr team: Tim Forestell, left, Erin Stephenson and Kevin Forestell.

Dozr, which has developed an online marketplace for construction equipment rentals, won all of the $100,000 prize money at Demo Day for Communitech’s Rev accelerator on Tuesday.

The Demo Day featured companies from the second and third cohorts of Rev, the accelerator that helps companies with traction gain increase their sales. Though Dozr is a member of the third cohort and began the program only in February, it captured all the prize money available and topped companies from Cohort 2 that had completed the program.

“We are truly honoured to have won the Communitech Rev Demo Day,” Co-Founder Erin Stephenson said in an email. “We are really proud of what we have been able to accomplish at Dozr and this award is validation of that. Of course the $100,000 is a huge bonus!”

Dozr is an online peer-to-peer marketplace in which a contractor needing a certain piece of equipment can rent it from another contractor, who’s not using it at the time. The two parties agree on the price and Dozr gets a commission. As well as providing the platform, Dozr helps the parties by providing contracts that nail down the length and terms of the rental, and taking care of the payment process. There is also a rating system so customers can see evaluations of people on both sides of the transaction.

Rev Accelerator Names Cohort 4

The co-founders, Stephenson, and brothers Tim and Kevin Forestell, established their business as a result of their own pain. For several years, they have operated Forestell Designed Landscapes in Guelph, and had to finance several pieces of equipment, even when they were sitting idle. So they came up with a second company that would solve the pain for themselves and many in construction and other industries by allowing owners of equipment to rent from one another.

The company went through the Google for Entrepreneurs Program at Communitech last year and was accepted into Rev earlier this year.

“The Rev program has helped us to really hone our sales process and we've seen immediate results from that,” said Stephenson. “For example, our user base has grown by 45 percent over the last three months since joining Rev.”

There was no lack of competition at the Demo Day, which was held in Toronto in conjunction with the annual conference of Canada’s Venture Capital & Private Equity Association. The pitching included presentations by companies like Knowledgehook (which earlier this month won Google’s Game Changer Award at the tech giant’s annual Demo Day in Silicon Valley), BitHound, and FunnelCake.

It was the second Demo Day for Rev. Last September, at the first eventNicoya Lifesciences, whose OpenSPR product reduces costs for scientists developing drugs from proteins, captured the $50,000 first prize.  Two companies tied for second place worth $25,000 each: Bridgit, which has developed an app that aids communications on construction sites; and Piinpoint, a data analytics outfit that helps companies find the optimal locations for their outlets.

Propel To Showcase 12 Teams June 21

Propel ICT, the Atlantic Canadian tech accelerator, will hold a series of demo days for its current cohort in the next month, culminating with the main Demo Day June 21 at Neptune Theatre in Halifax.

Twelve companies will pitch at this event – including all the companies that are completing the Propel Build program for more advanced startups. In addition to these eight companies, Propel will select one team from each of the local demo days, which will be held May 31 and June 2. Propel will announce the 12 teams in early June. 

The main Demo Day will take place on the eve of the Atlantic Venture Forum, the annual conference that draws investors to Atlantic Canada to witness pitches from the region’s companies. There will be 15 companies pitching at the AVF June 22 and 23, so with some overlap it means that about 25 companies will pitch over the three days.

The companies pitching at Neptune Theatre will represent all four Atlantic Provinces, and for the first time ever at a Propel demo day will include a company from Cape Breton.

The local demo days will feature presentations by the companies that have gone through the Launch program, which is for early stage companies. While the Build program companies have been meeting in Moncton for the past two months, the Launch participants have been meeting in each of the provincial capitals. The local demo days will all take place on May 31 in Charlottetown and Fredericton, and on June 2 in Halifax and St. John’s.

In some cases, the local demo days will include pitches by one or two Build companies so they can practise for the main event on the 21st.  The local demo days will be invitation-only events that give the younger companies a chance to experience pitching before a group of supporters and mentors.

“Not all our mentors, stakeholders and supporters can make it to Halifax for the final event on the 21st,” said Propel CEO Anita Punamiya in an email. “Having Local Demo Days allows them to be included in the journey of the participating companies and also our program.”

The Propel Demo Day starts at with a reception at 5:30 pm. Tickets for the event are available here.

Beijing’s Skyline Sets Up Halifax Base

Hai Hu, second from right, surrounded by the Skyline team.

Hai Hu, second from right, surrounded by the Skyline team.

Beijing-based Skyline’s core founders have arrived in Nova Scotia through the Startup Visa program and are now starting to build a development team in Halifax for future versions of its enterprise software product.

Skyline CEO Hai Hu and his three co-founders have already made their first local hire, Mark Slaunwhite, a fellow at Venture for Canada. It’s the beginning of what they envision as an R&D lab for the Skyline engine, the company’s main product.

In an interview in a Halifax coffee shop last week, Hu said Halifax is the perfect place to develop a North American base for the business, given the community support and the quality of the tech talent. He hopes it will become the North American base for a company that already has paying client companies in China, including computer giant Lenovo.

Skyline has developed an engine that allows companies to develop their own enterprise software for a fraction of the price that major software companies would charge. The goal is to work with large companies and help them build software to get rid of antiquated business processes, many of them paper-based.

“The only way to own your software is to build it yourself,” said Hu, who has a PhD in software engineering from Beijing University. “It seems pretty complicated, but the main thing with software is to simplify it so it’s accessible to everybody.”

MouseStats Plans Next Moves in Nova Scotia

Skyline began in 2014 when Hu and five collaborators built an engine that would help enterprise clients to build their own software quickly, efficiently and inexpensively. They perceived that too many businesses still used paper and manual processes to do things that are best done with software.

The Skyline engine is a platform on which companies can build new software with the assistance of the Skyline team.

Their first client was a jewelry retailer which wanted to digitize its franchise sales systems, risk controls and inventory monitors. “Using the Skyline engine, we were able to deliver it within 30 days — we delivered it even faster than their website,” said Hu.

The company was able to secure three other clients, including Lenovo, which is working with Skyline to reinvent its customer service platform in China. They’re building a system that will allow the owner of each repair shop to scan a barcode on the laptop or desktop and get the whole maintenance history of the computer. The readings from these independent repair shops help the centralized office collect data on the repairs being conducted on Lenovo hardware.

The Skyline team wanted to expand in North America, and Hu, who previously studied in Texas, spent time in Silicon Valley. But they also learned of the Canadian Startup Visa program and applied with Innovacorp as the sponsor. They were accepted and ended up in Halifax, which Hu says is the perfect place to build an R&D lab — better even than Silicon Valley.

“The Valley to me, it’s like a Mecca,” he said. “I’ve been there and I’ve met the big guys but now it’s time to build the business. . . (Silicon Valley is) not the best place to build a business because it’s too expensive and too noisy. In Nova Scotia, I can find dedicated developers who just do it and build good companies.”

Briefs: Genesis, Big Data, YEC

Genesis Centre to hold Evolution Program

The Genesis Centre in St. John’s is seeking participants for its Evolution summer program. The Evolution program helps entrepreneurs at or just past the conceptual stage nail down what their product does, validate the theory and begin to move toward the market. The program brings in mentors to work with entrepreneurs and show them how to work on their product. Applications are open until June 3 and can be found here.

Big Data and Oceans Conference

A mini-conference on Big Data and oceans will be held on June 8 at the Harbourview Inn in Dartmouth. The morning event will be held in conjunction with the H20 Conference, which will take place in the afternoon and evening. Both are part of Oceans Week in Nova Scotia. The panelists at the Big Data sessions include: Jim Hanlon, CEO of Institute for Ocean Research; Stephen Dempsey, CEO of Ocean Energy Research; Cdr. L. Jones, Royal Canadian Navy;  Pat D’Entremont, Partner, Nicom Maritime; Mark Campbell, Client Services, IBM; Adam Mugridge, Louisbourg Seafoods; and Dr. Diego Ibarra, OceanViewer. Tickets are available here.

Winners in the Youth Entrepreneurs Challenge

Several young entrepreneurs in New Brunswick took home awards at the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge in Moncton last week. Finalists from around the province presented their projects to a packed audience and in front of a jury. The winners were:

Little Leaders: Midi Ukelele by Isabelle P. Desjardins;

Idea Architect: Space Chaos by Nathan Jeanpierre

Idea Catalyst: Enviroot by Kathleen Cowie

“Year after year, these young leaders continue to impress me with their innovative ideas and their willingness to help their communities,” said Sarah Short, Executive Director of the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge.  “Pitching a project in 90 seconds in front of this kind of crowd is something remarkable and I applaud the youth who accepted the challenge.”

Bringing Global Experience to Propel

Anita Punamiya: 'I find the journey exciting.'

Anita Punamiya: 'I find the journey exciting.'

Growth is what Atlantic Canada’s startup community aims for, and the pursuit of growth motivates Anita Punamiya in her new role as CEO of regional accelerator Propel ICT.

Propel is Atlantic Canada’s accelerator for ICT startups. Begun in 2004 in Saint John, it has evolved from a tech promotion group to a thriving growth promoter. It offers two accelerators: Launch and Build. Launch is for pre-revenue companies while Build focuses on early revenue startups. Programs are delivered with the help of regional partners.

Punamiya said Propel is now looking at developing a program for mature companies with the name Growth. It’s also considering ways to help companies that don’t fit into existing programs.

“There were 162 applications for our spring cohort. We selected 36, which means there’s a whole group of entrepreneurs we didn’t select,” said Punamiya, who has been in her new role since February.

“How do we engage with them? They need to be back in the loop.”

She said that in 2012, Propel aimed to launch 36 companies in 36 months.

Today, the group has 36 companies in one cohort.

See the Companies in the Current Propel Cohort

“They won’t all be successful but the skills they learn in the program may help them start another business or be an employee,” she said.

“Entrepreneurship is a problem-solving mindset. It allows you to be one step ahead. It’s about finding opportunities in your circumstances.”

In many ways, leading Propel is a natural progression for Punamiya, who was raised in India, came to Canada in 2004 and has been involved with Propel in various capacities for the last 10 years.

“I want to contribute and I understand entrepreneurship,” she said. “I’m an entrepreneur myself. I find the journey exciting. It’s risky, but the gains are greater… Entrepreneurship is never a linear journey.

“The Propel vision guides my actions,” added the Saint John-based CEO.

“I provide support without spoon feeding.”

Propel is her focus, but Punamiya also works part-time at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, where she teaches cross-cultural communications and negotiations and social entrepreneurship.

And she is CEO of CompreCultures, an intercultural services provider, which is a partner of U.K.-based Richard Lewis Communications.

As a management consultant, she specializes in cross-cultural communications and international business. Her clients include Qualcomm, of the U.S. and India, Bell-Aliant, Innovatia, City of Saint John, and Enterprise Saint John.

She is also a Co-Founder of Shaping Purpose, an organization that helps individuals create meaning as they move through the various stages of life.

Punamiya worked in the United Arab Emirates between 1994 and 2004, which boosted her knowledge of different nationalities and cultures.

She’s also worked for government on projects related to immigration, settlement and integration in New Brunswick.

“As an immigrant, I understand the journey,” she said. “It’s not easy to leave all you know and your entire world behind.

“I find people here welcoming to a degree. The rest is dependent on you. You have to be part of the community and let people get a chance to know you and see you contribute.”

Immigrants offer, not only their own skills, but also the wider world.

“Employers here need to be more open,” she said. “Immigrants still have connections back home that can lead to new markets.”

She feels her own life is enriched by her new role.

“For years when I was on the board of Propel, I felt guilty for getting more out of it than I gave back. Now I can give back to other entrepreneurs and the community, to increase the global mindset, and different ways of thinking.

“Some people see my journey as a success story. When I came to Canada, I didn’t know anyone in the region, but I’ve managed to build a strong reputation that includes leadership roles.”

 

Disclaimer: Propel ICT advertises with Entrevestor.

Norex Builds Front End for Lexumo

Jenelle Sobey

Jenelle Sobey

When Lexumo, a Boston-area cybersecurity company that protects automated machinery, needed an accessible user interface to complement its sophisticated systems, it contracted the work out to Norex of Halifax.

Norex, a website-development firm that developed into an incubation lab, has built the so-called front-end of Lexumo – that is, the parts of the product that the user sees and operates.

Lexumo is a Cambridge, Mass., startup that grew out of Draper, the incubation facility at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Funded in part by the Pentagon’s research arm Darpa, Lexumo can scan vast quantities of code quickly and identify vulnerabilities in complicated open-source software. The American company raised a $4.9 million funding round in February and in now beta-testing the product.

Lexumo’s cloud-based security service indexes all open source code, and is especially beneficial in embedded systems in ultra-complicated systems, like automated cars or Internet of Things applications. Lexumo checks line after line of code to make sure there is no security problem. If there is, Lexumo can identify precisely where it is in the reams of code, and automatically prescribe a patch to fix it. A team of MIT scientists developed the technology and contracted Norex to make sure customers can use it with ease.

Norex CEO Jenelle Sobey said Lexumo will help prevent cyber-attacks that could threaten the performance of highly automated machines, such as intelligent vehicles. Hackers have already proven they can use the internet to remotely turn on windshield wipers or unlock doors of intelligent cars. The results could be calamitous if hackers attack other functions like the brakes or steering, or attacked intelligent weapons.

The Lexumo project highlights an evolution for Norex from websites to more complex projects. Over the last four years, Norex’s products have ranged from the Pursu.it crowdfunding site for elite amateur athletes, to Hashpipe, which lets events showcase all the social media commentary related to that event. Its latest spin-off is educational technology company Eyeread, which has just been accepted into the Google for Entrepreneurs program in Kitchener, Ont.

Norex’s background in web development helped it build out the front-facing portions of the product. The challenge was to take a sophisticated technology and build a dashboard for it that would be simple for the user. Norex developed features like colour-coding functions that would signal the severity of the vulnerability. 

“It’s been one of our most enjoyable projects,” said Sobey. “These are the types of companies that we want to work with. The reason Norex likes working with these projects is that we’re a technology-first company and our developers like working with their developers and understanding what they’re doing.” 

Health QR Gets $250K from Innovacorp

Patricia Ryan

Patricia Ryan

Halifax-based Health QR, whose mobile app helps people to manage their prescriptions, has received a $250,000 seed investment from Innovacorp, which will help to bring its product to market.

The Health QR app reminds people when to take their drugs, when they should refill, and tells them why the drugs are important. The free app, which can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play, connects securely to participating pharmacies.

The reminder to take medicine is important because non-adherence to prescriptions is a big problem in the pharma and healthcare industries. Half of all patients are said to not complete their prescriptions. Health QR said poor adherence causes a significant number of medication-related hospitalizations and accounts for $100 billion in annual healthcare costs.

"The investment from Innovacorp will take us to the next level," said President and CEO Patricia Ryan in a statement. "We have completed pilot product testing with Compass Pharmacies [of] Halifax, and are actively selling our product to Atlantic Canadian pharmacies. This investment will enable us to follow through with our commercialization plan."

When Health QR held its official launch in November, Ryan said she was taking it through the Canadian Technology Accelerator in Philadelphia, which specializes in health-related IT companies. And she is spending more time in Ontario with the healthcare community surrounding McMaster University in Hamilton.

Health QR is developing new features that will allow prescription customers to track their medication adherence on a dashboard. It is also working on workflow efficiencies to support pharmacies adopting new services.

CarbonCure Lands $1.75M in Funding

The company’s system now interfaces with Kroll Computer Systems’ pharmacy software platform,

which supports about half of Canadian pharmacies and houses all of the sensitive customer prescription

information. Health QR is developing a solution to integrate with other pharmacy software

programs, including McKesson’s PharmaClik Rx. With access to prescription data, Health QR’s technology can relay accurate instructions to prescription customers without requiring them to manually input critical medical directions.

“Health QR is developing marketable medication adherence solutions by collaborating with industry stakeholders and patient groups,” said Gregory Phipps, managing director of investment at Innovacorp. “Health QR is well positioned to help solve what’s arguably the single biggest issue facing the pharmaceutical industry and Innovacorp is excited to support them in their future success."

Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

Singolar To Compete in World Cup Tech

Nova Scotia marketing technology company Singolar has been selected as one of four international competitors in the AI/Robotics group in the World Cup Tech Challenge next month in Silicon Valley.

The Wolfville, NS, company is spreading its wings in Silicon Valley as it recently participated in the Canadian Technology Accelerator in Northern California. In March, Singolar was accepted into the SAP startup program, which means it will work with the German software giant for the next year with the goal of rolling out the Singolar product to SAP customers.

Singolar has developed algorithms that can help companies to better understand how to interact with customers. It therefore helps these companies to deepen customer relationships and attract new customers. Singolar can track customer interaction at a range of points, including contacts with the call centre, on social media, through the website or other avenues.

The company is one of four competitors in the AI/Robotics group at the Tech Challenge, and one of 24 competitors overall. The only other Canadian company in the competition is LivSpek Medical Technologies of Vancouver, which is in the Biotech category. 

World Cup Tech 2016 will be held June 1 at the Microsoft Campus in Silicon Valley and welcome startups from around the world to compete for the title. Entrants go through a rigorous process of judging to be accepted as competitors, and all participants are in the pre-global stage.

“We are so excited and humbled to compete among the leading global tech startups,” said Singolar Founder and CEO Suman Kalyan in a statement. “We’re hoping that our friends and supporters in Wolfville, Nova Scotia and all of Canada will vote for us through the competition and help us bring home the victory.”

People can vote for Singolar in the AI/Robotics Group here. Winners will be determined by a combination of the judge’s scores, and online votes.

A native of India, Kalyan spent 18 years in a number of technology roles around the world, for blue chip companies and startups, and working as a consultant. In 2013, he and his family moved to Nova Scotia and he eventually became a tenant in Acadia University’s Rural Innovation Centre.

Even before it joined the CTA, Singolar had two clients: one in Malaysia, and Halifax-based Azorus, which helps post-secondary institutions communicate with incoming students and their families. Azorus and Singolar are piloting an enhanced customer relationship management recruitment tool with three universities: Warwick and Leicester in the U.K., and Ryerson in Toronto.

Tam Heads MaRS IT Heathcare Group

Ying Tam

Ying Tam

Ying Tam, the Halifax entrepreneur and mentor, has been named the head of the Digital Health Cluster at the MaRS Discovery District, the Toronto innovation hub.

Tam is the CEO of Mindful Scientific, which is developing the Halifax Consciousness Scanner, a portable device that can be slipped on to a person’s head to check for brain trauma. The HCS then analyzes the individual’s brain waves to see if he or she has a concussion.

Mindful Scientific is now collecting data on human subjects and will be conducting tests in Halifax and in Toronto from hear on. The work in Toronto is critical because the larger population will allow it to collect more data, said Tam, adding the company will maintain operations in Halifax.

MaRS is a not-for-profit that was founded in 2000 primarily as a life sciences research organization to work with the medical research establishment that flourishes around the intersection of College Street and University Avenue. The group has expanded its mandate so it has special strengths in IT, education technology and ethical businesses. Tam, who will work in the MaRS Health Venture Services, said the group wants to return to its roots and concentrate on expanding its biotech component.

“They have more than 300 life sciences companies so there is really an opportunity to make a big impact, and half of them are digital health companies so that’s 150 companies,” said Tam. “They are looking for thought leadership.”

As an entrepreneur, Tam has worked at the intersection of IT and healthcare. He has overseen three successful IT companies in his career, and brought his experience in digital technologies to the medical device space with Mindful Scientific.

Tam brings several years of mentorship to the new position. He has worked with the Starting Lean program at Dalhousie University, and last year was an Entrepreneur-in-Residence with Propel ICT, the regional accelerator.

Tam is now looking forward to working with a range of digital healthcare companies with the ultimate goal of improving medical services for people.

“I always think we’re so slow in healthcare in adopting technology and we just can’t keep going the way we’re going,” he said. “It’s easier to deliver [a digital solution] than going to a hospital. We have to get things out there.”

FoodTender Spins Out Food Profit

Sticking with the restaurant business he knows so well, Andre LeBlanc has formed a subsidiary of FoodTender that helps eateries assess the true cost of the meals they prepare and ensure they are profitable.

The Food Profit Group, which is based in Moncton, has produced an online food management tool that can help a chef assess the true cost of each ingredient in every dish.

That allows chefs to better understand how much it costs to serve each dish.

LeBlanc was one of the co-founders of FoodTender, a Propel ICT accelerator graduate that helps restaurants order food more efficiently from suppliers.

As he and his co-founder Andre Pellerin (who has since moved on to another business) worked with restaurants, they learned that a big problem that plagues restaurateurs is calculating how much each serving costs.

They set up the Food Profit Group as a subsidiary of FoodTender, and it is now testing the new product with about 60 restaurants in Atlantic Canada, Ontario and Maine.

“Food Profit is a sales and marketing tool which is totally focused on providing the true theoretical food cost to a restaurant,” said LeBlanc, who began his career as a chef. “We solved a big problem by taking the manual labour away in figuring out the food costs.”

It’s well known that food costs have risen in recent years, placing an acute financial burden on the owners and chefs of restaurants. What makes things difficult for chefs is that they have trouble assessing the cost of, say, a teaspoon of lemon rinds, or two cloves of garlic.Bacon is sold by the kilogram, so what does it cost by the slice?

NBIF To Focus More on Scaling

The Food Profit software helps to gain insight into the true costs of food, and it uses artificial intelligence so calculations gain in accuracy as the system receives more data.

With the ability to scan in invoices, it also helps the restaurant with such chores as invoice processing, and planning a profitable recipe.

The goal is to reduce the time given to menial jobs in the kitchen and improve the operation’s profits.

“The true magic of the system is that once the recipe is in there, the restaurant should know what they make off it,” said David Jonah, a consultant working closely with LeBlanc on the launch of the new unit.

“We give them the true cost of manufacturing the recipe.”

The early tests of the product have shown that the profits improve three to eight per cent because of the system, said LeBlanc.

FoodTender, which acts as an online marketplace between restaurants and food wholesalers, is still in operation, and LeBlanc said it is doing well. In the past, the company has received funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and BDC Capital.

But the main focus of the business now is the Food Profit Group.

“What we’re doing is teaching restaurants to buy, price and grow right,” he said. “It’s a complete back-of-the- house kind of solution.”

Canadian VC Has Record 1st Quarter

Canadian venture capital investments hit a record in the first quarter of 2016, with Atlantic Canada holding its own in early investments but missing out on the late-stage deals that drove the market.

Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association, known as CVCA, today issued its quarterly data on VC investments in Canada, saying that first-quarter VC investment hit $838 million – nearly double the amount of the same quarter of 2015. The increase was driven largely by big deals and builds on the past few years of growth.

The story in Atlantic Canada was a lot of small deals, especially in New Brunswick. The CVCA said there were 17 deals in the region worth $15 million. The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation – which the CVCA lists as the second-most-active government or quasi-government fund, exceeding only by BDC Capital – accounted for nine deals worth $9 million. Innovacorp – No. 3 in the government category – did five deals worth $5 million.

“The substantial increase in amount of VC investment in Canada offers a great reflection of the investment opportunities there are here right now,” CVCA Chief Executive Mike Woollatt said in a statement. “VCs are seeing the value of Canadian entrepreneurial talent and making some big bets on the future.”

The Atlantic Canadian totals are less than 2 percent of the national total, but it should be remembered that it was a record quarter across the country. And Atlantic Canada’s young startup community has not yet received the 10- and 11-figure deals that drove growth in Central and Western Canada.

The largest deals in the quarter were: Real Matters Inc., Ontario, $100 million; Zymeworks Inc., B.C., $87 million; Farmers Edge, Manitoba, $58 million; BuildScale, Inc., Ontario, $49 million; and Indochino Apparel Inc., B.C., $42 million.

The CVCA said late-stage investment accounted for more than 60 percent of the dollar value of deals in the first quarter, up from 30 percent in the same quarter two years earlier.

Other than the Farmers Edge investment, all the major deals occurred in Ontario, B.C. and Quebec. There were five deals worth $7 million in Alberta and one worth $1 million in Saskatchewan.

Earlier this year, the CVCA – which will hold its annual conference in Toronto next week – reported that there were 536 VC deals in Canada last year, worth a total of $2.3 billion.

In Atlantic Canada, the 2015 tally was:

Province No. of Deals Value
New Brunswick 17 $8M
Newfoundland and Labrador 6 $3M
Nova Scotia 27 $51M
Prince Edward Island 2 $4M
Total 52 $66M

Rev Accelerator Names Cohort 4

Shiva Bhardwaj, left, and Yashin Shah of PitStop

Shiva Bhardwaj, left, and Yashin Shah of PitStop

Communitech has unveiled the fourth cohort of its Rev accelerator, with five companies being welcomed into the sales-focused program.

The six-month accelerator takes in companies with some traction and teaches them to ramp up their sales with weekly sales targets. There is an intake every three months so there is some overlap among the cohorts, which operate out of the second floor of the Communitech Hub.

Communitech said the newest Rev companies have already graduated from programs such as Y Combinator, Tech Stars Mobility, Ryerson DMZ, the Accelerator Centre program and the University of Waterloo’s Velocity program.

The companies are:

Alert Labs

Alert Labs is an Internet of Things hardware/software solution that protects properties by gathering, analyzing and reacting to real-time data through sensors installed in the building. The device checks such factors as heat, electricity, or the dryness of the floor at several properties at once, so it is ideal for landlords or cottage owners.

Chalk.com

Chalk provides workflow-organization software for teachers, and has strong uptake in Ontario schools. It’s gained a vast customer base by offering its product free to front-line teachers, and charging school boards for the administrative service and data. [Our previous report on Chalk.com is here.]

Livegauge

LiveGauge lets brands or agencies track the success of marketing campaigns and assess the return they make on “experiential” campaigns. The product measures such factors as the reach, demographics and emotional response of the audience.

PitStop

PitStop uses big data and machine learning to predict vehicle failure in time to prevent it. The company, which has gone through the Techstars accelerator in Detroit, has developed hardware that goes in a car to predict when a problem is about to happen so the owner and service station can address it immediately. [Our previous report on PitStop is here.]

Reebee

Rebee has developed an app that lets the user get shopping flyers on their smart phones, and browse, search or filter the content. The app also let the user compile a shopping list while going through them.

Goalline Bought by Blue Star Sports

Goalline, the Halifax company that provides websites to youth sports leagues, has been bought Blue Star Sports for an undisclosed price, and together they plan to develop an integrated technology platform for minor sports.

Though no terms were revealed, this may be the largest tech deal in the region in a few years given Goalline’s vast reach and the massive capital backing the merged company.

Founded in 2002, Goalline is a leading provider of web software and mobile applications for youth sport organizations. It has more than 10 million users and is best known for its easy-to-use web pages for sports leagues. Its website lists 30 employees.

Based in Frisco, Texas, Blue Star Sports is an integrated software and payments provider to youth sports organizations. Backed by Bain Capital, Worldpay, Providence Equity Partners and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, the company has been on a buying spree lately. Last month, it bought Toronto’s Pointstreak Sports Technologies.

“We set out to find the best and brightest technology companies in youth sports so that we could create and offer our customers the most advanced customer-centric solution in the market,” said Blue Star Founder and CEO Rob Wechsler in a statement. “Adding Goalline to the Blue Star Sports portfolio accomplishes that.”

The companies indicated that Blue Star will continue to grow the operation and help introduce the Goalline product to new customers – which can happen given that Blue Star has millions of users.

Venor Buys Assets of Equals6

The most important aspect of the deal has to be the capital backing the merged group. While Jones is the best known investor as the owner of the high-profile Cowboys, the backing by Bain and Providence brings even greater firepower. Bain Capital has US$75 billion under management, while Providence has US$45 billion under management. And these are private equity funds, not VC firms, so they tend to take a longer view of developing their portfolio companies.

Worldpay is a portfolio company of Bain Capital that provides single card and non-card electronic payment processing services to businesses.

“From the beginning, the vision for Blue Star Sports has been to professionalize the experience of youth sports organizations and to simultaneously make it easier for anyone involved to manage the sport,” said Wechsler. “With GoalLine’s leading customer service and performance capabilities, we can now provide a seamless customer experience and a more unified offering.”

A former Dalhousie University hockey player and computer science student, Dickie started Goalline when he was a student posting college hockey results online. He grew the business through revenue. The company never took on venture capital investors. The company has strength in the minor hockey market and its clients include Volleyball Canada, Football Canada, the Halifax Ball Hockey League and Ringette Alberta.

“The Blue Star Sports team will add valuable expertise in registration, payments, scheduling and social platforms, and joining forces with some of the leaders in the industry will result in unparalleled products and services for our current and new customers,” said Dickie in the statement. “The entire team at Goalline is very proud and excited about being part of one of the biggest sports technology companies in the world.” 

CarbonCure Lands $1.75M in Funding

Robert Niven

Robert Niven

CarbonCure Technologies, which makes green construction materials, has received an additional $1.75 million investment from Vancouver-based Pangaea Ventures, increasing the company’s valuation.

Founder and CEO Robert Niven said in an interview that Pangaea made the investment by exercising an option it took when it led CarbonCure’s last $3 million round of investment. The Vancouver VC fund, which specializes in advanced materials, invested $1.75 million in that round, which closed a year ago.

The funding is further validation for Dartmouth-based CarbonCure, whose process injects waste carbon into the concrete mix, thereby eliminating the CO2 emissions created in the manufacture of concrete products. Concrete, the world’s most common construction material, is responsible for more than 5 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions because traditional processes cure concrete blocks by heating them.

“The investment marks an increased valuation and confidence in the continued commercial and technology growth of the company,” said Niven. “CarbonCure will use the funds as growth capital for its ready mix and masonry concrete technology and to launch a new technology later this year.”

Sustane Plans to Open Facility Next Year

CarbonCure has been introducing new products since its 2015 funding round closed. In December, it announced a new ready-mix product, created in partnership with Vulcan Materials Company, the largest U.S. producer of construction aggregates and a major producer of construction materials.

Ready-mixed concrete is produced in a truck and immediately poured fresh on site, as opposed to concrete blocks made in a factory. Once Vulcan, located near Washington, D.C., partnered with CarbonCure for its ready-mixed concrete, America’s capital city became the first metropolitan market to have access to the company’s sustainable concrete.

CarbonCure has recently been securing more major customers for its technology. Earlier this month, Thomas Concrete of Atlanta announced the implementation of the ready-mixed technology, which followed a similar announcement last month by Johnson Concrete Company of North Carolina.

CarbonCure was also named to the prestigious 2015 Global Cleantech 100, produced by Cleantech Group, whose mission is to connect corporates to sustainable innovation through its i3 Connect platform and global events.

The 2015 round was the third round of funding for the company and included investments from BDC Capital (which committed $500,000), Power Generations Inc. of Florida, and a range of individuals.

In December 2013, CarbonCure raised $3.5 million in a round led by Montreal-based BDC. Other investors included Eagle Cliff Partners, based in the San Francisco Area, Innovacorp and 350 Capital of Toronto.

Early in 2012, it closed a $1.6 million round led by Innovacorp that featured a number of angel investments.

Impact Movement Will Miss O’Leary

Kristy O'Leary

Kristy O'Leary

Kristy O’Leary is leaving Nova Scotia, and her departure means more than the loss of another talented Bluenoser.

A few years ago, O’Leary co-founded Scout & Burrow, a Halifax consulting firm dedicated to helping businesses improve their social and environmental standards. She found it a tough slog. Scout & Burrow has folded, and O’Leary is moving to Vancouver to become a senior consult with Junxion Strategy, an international consultancy that promotes social and environmental sustainability.

She’s frustrated because she’s found it so hard to gain traction in Halifax in helping businesses create benefits to society and the environment while making money.

“I’m embracing a life where I can thrive in Canada's mecca of sustainability, where my tribe of change-makers are united and listened to, where I am surrounded by people that ask ‘how’ rather than offer ‘no’ as the first and last response,” she wrote in a Facebook post announcing her departure. “Or even worse: ‘next quarter’ or ‘next year.’”

O’Leary is part of a growing international movement for ethical businesses, or impact businesses, which assess success through the “triple bottom line,” that is, a focus on profits, people and the planet. The movement is embodied by B Corporations, which certify ethical businesses. O’Leary is an ambassador for B Corps and helped 10 East Coast companies gain B Corp certification. She had been working on broadening that mandate, especially in Halifax, but found little enthusiasm for the work.

“We simply aren’t moving fast enough,” said O’Leary. “The Ivany Commission said we have 10 years to turn it around. Climate scientists are saying we have 10 years to turn it around. We need speed now – every day matters.”

HitchPlanet Buys Maritime Rideshare

There are two schools of thought on ethical businesses within the East Coast startup community. Some believe launching a business is so difficult that founders, while acting ethically, have to focus exclusively on making money.

A second group—concentrated in New Brunswick— considers ethical businesses a key component in the new economy. It’s a point-of-view championed superbly by Karina LeBlanc of the Pond-Deshpande Centre for Entrepreneurship and David Alston, Chief Innovation Officer at Fredericton startup Introhive.

They believe the region can best attract and retain young people by establishing not just a digital economy based on entrepreneurship, but also an economy whose businesses espouse the values of young people. O’Leary also believes the day will come (sooner than we think) when consumers and corporations will boycott products made using carbon-based energy. Our region should be getting ahead of the game by reducing our carbon footprint.

The Ivany Commission called for a change in attitudes but too many of us—yep, I include myself—have been too slow to join the ethical business movement.

The new federal government has identified ethical businesses as one of its economic priorities, so it’s a fair bet it will soon unveil programs that back these enterprises. Again, Atlantic Canada should develop the ecosystem to support these businesses in anticipation of these programs. O’Leary hopes to continue working with Atlantic Canadian businesses in her new position.

Whether you buy into the B Corp model, it’s easy to agree any entrepreneurial community needs a range of talents, products and points of view. Social entrepreneurship has to be part of the fabric of the East Coast community. And we’re a lot poorer without Kristy O’Leary on the ground here to help move it forward.

Valley Startups Open KW Offices

As the summer begins, many companies have begun to train interns and co-op students. Companies often need to teach these young people technical skills and how to act appropriately in the workplace because they never learned these skills in school.

Not for Ben Coulter.

Coulter is the CEO of TalkIQ, a San Francisco-based company that uses conversation science to better understand sales teams. During the company’s first summer of existence in 2014, Coulter hired an intern from the University of Waterloo to help with machine language processing.

“[He] became a respected voice and a peer among a team of veteran engineers and data scientists,” Coulter said. “That really speaks to his talent, but also the quality of education he got and continued to get at [the University of] Waterloo.”

Coulter was so impressed with the intern and the University of Waterloo, he explored Kitchener-Waterloo more and now TalkIQ has opened an office up there.

More and more Silicon Valley companies have begun to pay attention to Kitchener-Waterloo. A small but mighty community of University of Waterloo graduates, co-op students and interns in the Valley have boosted Kitchener-Waterloo’s reputation in the startup world. Now a few Silicon Valley companies – TalkIQ among them – are opening offices in Waterloo region to take advantage of the tremendous talent in the region.

John Tory Calls for Innovation Corridor

Everalbum, also headquartered in San Francisco, saw the talent available in Kitchener-Waterloo, and has since opened up an office in the old Shopify space. Everalbum automatically backs up photos and videos so users can access them at anytime, anywhere. It also allows users to free up space by backing up photos on Everalbum and then deleting them from a device.

As the No. 1 grossing productivity app in the U.S. and 85 other countries, Everalbum needs talent – fast. It saw the massive amount of talent coming out of the University of Waterloo, so it decided to build a presence there to bring in more talent.

“The market has become so competitive in San Francisco because there are so many startups and so many companies fighting for really talented people that it created an unhealthy environment for creating a company,” said Andrew Dudum, Co-Founder of Everalbum.

“We were far more impressed with the talent we were seeing up in Waterloo than the talent that was available on the market in San Francisco.”

Both Coulter and Dudum credit the University of Waterloo’s co-op program for Kitchener-Waterloo’s exceptional reputation in Silicon Valley. Students go on several co-ops throughout their undergrad years, so they come into the workplace – for another co-op or for a full-time job – without needing technical or behavioural instruction.

“I think [Waterloo’s co-op program] is a model that engineering programs should aspire to,” Coulter said.

Students at the University of Waterloo tend to complete their co-ops at different companies doing different things. This is beneficial for startups, especially ones in their early stages, like TalkIQ and Everalbum, in which most employees are expected to wear several different hats.

“The foundation of the company – the first 20 or 30 employees – and how talented they are, whether that be in engineering or design or business, is single-handedly the largest influencer in the outcome of the company’s success,” Dudum said.

Putting offices in Kitchener-Waterloo made sense for both TalkIQ and Everalbum, as they want to continue to bring in talent from the area, as well as participate in the strong startup ecosystem there.

“From a cultural and talent standpoint, the pool of people at Waterloo has proven to be the Stanford of Canada,” Dudum said.

Job of the Week: HeyOrca!

Our Job of the Week feature today is highlighting a business-oriented position in St. John’s with the developer of a social media marketing solution, HeyOrca!

HeyOrca! helps marketing agencies working with multiple brands develop social media campaigns for their clients. HeyOrca! also works directly with larger corporate brands to develop content for their social media campaigns. In the words of Co-founder Jason Teo, “We are doing to social media content what Google Docs did to the Word Doc.” 

HeyOrca! secured $650,000 in seed funding earlier this year, and is looking to use their new capital to expand its team by taking on a new Business Development position.

Jobs of the Week features positions currently available on the Entrevestor Job Board. Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Job Board which helps match positions and candidates in the tech and start-up communities.

St. John’s

HeyOrca!

Business Development

The Business Development role requires a strong engagement in sales and marketing, while having a thorough understanding of CRM systems and the HeyOrca! platform. Lead generation, pitching, conducting demonstrations, and interacting or following up with clients are regular duties. Forming lasting relationships with clients by cultivating trust and respect while matching customers with HeyOrca! products and services is an essential component of this role. Business Development is also responsible for communicating and issues, and suggesting improvements, related to the sales and marketing process. The only qualifications are possession of communication, organizational and negotiation skills, and to be persuasive and innovative when approaching complex problems.

Tracking Entrepreneurs’ Mental Illness

Michael DeVenney

Michael DeVenney

With mental health problems among entrepreneurs even greater than among the general population, a new study is asking founders to fill in a survey with the aim of creating solutions.

The Mindset Project is the work of Halifax-based Michael DeVenney, a chartered financial analyst, entrepreneur and consultant, and a long-time sufferer of mental illness.

DeVenney intends to analyze the survey data and create solutions such as increased training for better decision-making through resilience and stress management.

“When you’re trying to build a business, there’s so much pressure to do so many things,” said DeVenney, who is the president of consulting agency, Bluteau DeVenney.

“Working 80-90 hours a week is crazy, but it’s a badge of honour.”

He said only about four per cent of companies started each year become sustainable, growth businesses. Studies show around eight per cent of the general population experiences depression, while 33 per cent of entrepreneurs suffer depression, he said.

“This is just the cases that have been diagnosed. The evidence among entrepreneurs is largely anecdotal. My guess is the situation is actually much worse. I’m saddened by how afraid we are to talk about it and try to do something about it.”

DeVenney said some stress is caused by financial ignorance.

“I don’t think most entrepreneurs understand cash flow. . . .Most companies die from not being able to manage cash flow.”

He said there are only five academic studies on entrepreneurs’ mental health but many hundreds on entrepreneurs’ personality traits.

TranQool To Launch Mental Health App

The Mindset Project, which is pan-Canadian, is measuring rates of mental illness. It’s also looking at key stressors and how mental suffering impacts founders and their companies’ success.

DeVenney said the survey is anonymous, but general results will be made publicly available.

He aims to obtain 1,000 responses. That level of response would produce the largest collection of data in Canada focused specifically on entrepreneurial mental health, he said.

The team has already received 280 replies, although the project only launched at the end of last month. The survey is being disseminated and supported by seven entrepreneurs’ associations across the country.

“I’m blown away (by the response.) The survey is not short, it takes 12 minutes to fill, and respondents are also commenting in detail,” he said.

“Most of the stress revolves around people—the hiring and firing and building of teams.”

Entrepreneurs’ personalities may also cause problems.

“Entrepreneurs are typically very individualistic. They have a lot of drive and energy and that has to be balanced with working with others and reasonable expectations.”

DeVenney is especially concerned about young entrepreneurs who, along with others in their age group, experience high levels of anxiety. But, he said, young people are in touch with their feelings, which may help them cope with startup life.

DeVenney has himself suffered from depression since childhood, although he didn’t realize it for many years.

Raised in the Annapolis Valley, he studied Business Administration at Acadia University before co-founding the Bluteau DeVenney Group investment company with partner David Bluteau in 1988.

His struggles with depression later caused him to change careers, and he became a business consultant.

“I thought if I changed my business I’d be different, but I am what I am.”

He is currently taking a month off work to address a particularly severe bout of depression.

DeVenney is interested in leadership as well as finance. His many qualifications in both areas include a professional coach designation from Colorado.

He copes with his illness by seeing a therapist, exercising — he particularly advocates cycletherapy — and keeping up with friends.

“If I keep a positive mindset I do better,” he said.

He intends to form an advisory board to look at solutions when the survey is complete.

I want solutions by the end of the year,” he said. “I don’t want to do a study that sits on a shelf.”

Corner Brook Hosts Startup Weekend

The cup awarded to Nick Mercer

The cup awarded to Nick Mercer

Something interesting happened in the startup world in April that deserves more attention than it received: a Startup Weekend was held April 1 to 3 in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.

It was the first Startup Weekend in the western Newfoundland community of about 20,000 people and it represents a big step forward in the efforts by several groups to expand the city’s entrepreneurial community.

With the economy of Western Newfoundland struggling, 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. It has graduated more than 70 entrepreneurs and works with 25 to 40 students at any one time.

“The institutions graduate good students and they do well all over Canada,” said Sean St. George, one of the Navigate organizers. “Want to create more activity in our area and more entrepreneurial opportunity. That’s why we’re here.”

To give a bit of impetus to their work, they decided to hold a Startup Weekend April 1-3. Springing from a Seattle-based organization, Startup Weekends are 54-hour events in which strangers come together on a Friday evening, pitch business ideas, and break into teams. On Sunday afternoon, each team pitches to see whose business has progressed the farthest.

Startup Weekend Corner Brook was the fourth such event held in Newfoundland and Labrador. Some of the province’s more notable startups have emerged from the weekend events in St. John’s—Sentinel Alert, which recently raised $525,000 in funding, came out of the first, and DuJour, which is now going through the Propel ICT accelerator, won a Startup Weekend last spring.

St. George and Navigate collaborator Ken Carter said they were nervous about staging a Startup Weekend—there was some cost involved and they didn’t want it to fall flat. In the end, more than 35 people attended and it was an invigorating experience.

The participants pitched 13 ideas, which resulted in seven teams being formed. The winning team was led by Nick Mercer, a graduate student in environmental studies who is planning a small-scale windmill to provide energy to remote locations like cabins. He plans to proceed with the business.

Roger Power of Startup NL came from St. John’s for the weekend. And the event had an international flavour as the two experts from Ireland – Startup Weekend facilitator Will Martin and pitching specialist Ed Fidgeon-Kavanagh—flew in to assist.

Ed Fidgeon-Kavanagh's Views on Startups in Newfoundland

St. George and Carter said event began to generate fresh ideas on how the two institutions and broader community can support entrepreneurship.

“We’ve been mostly working with students, faculty and staff,” said Carter.

“But we’re moving out into the community now to play more of a role within the region and are hoping to leverage more of the research capacity at the university and college.”

Having worked on all four Startup Weekends in the province, Power said he was excited by the Corner Brook event, especially the quality of Mercer’s pitch.

“Startups can come out of anywhere and I’m glad we did it in a region with a lot of good energy,” said Power.

“The whole intent is for the community itself to keep doing events—to make it at least an annual event.”

Ending Dog Days of Contract Searches

Fifty-six seconds after I sent a contract to rufus@beagle.ai, I got an email back telling me it contained 27 liability clauses, 259 responsibility clauses and eight termination clauses.

Rufus, by the way, is the artificially intelligent dog at Beagle Inc., a Kitchener-based company that uses artificial intelligence (hence, Rufus) to extract important information from contracts. Rufus interprets the information so users can see what’s important, whether that be using specific search terms or highlighted liability clauses.

“We are the easiest-to-use software-as-a-service out there,” said Cian O’Sullivan, Top Dog and Founder at Beagle. “We’re easier to use than Dropbox.”

Beagle’s success backs up this claim: Beagle is one of the 13 participants in the prestigious Microsoft Ventures Accelerator, a finalist in the Collision Conference’s PITCH competition and a finalist in the South by Southwest Accelerator.

The legal world has also noticed Beagle and O’Sullivan. He is a fellow at CodeX, The Stanford Centre for Legal Informatics, and Beagle is a member of MaRS Discovery District’s LegalX Cluster.

“A lot has been going on, but where it matters the most is getting paying customers,” O’Sullivan said.

O’Sullivan began Beagle two years ago because, as a trained lawyer, he saw the amount of time lawyers and non-lawyers wasted on contracts when they could be doing more meaningful and enjoyable work.

Some 93 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses use in-house workers rather than lawyers to sift through contracts. It takes these workers hours. Some put minimal effort into it or they simply ignore it and hope for the best.

O’Sullivan soon realized that Beagle would help all these workers—no matter how much or little effort they put into the task. Beagle could do the work in one to 20 minutes, depending on the level of scrutiny desired by the user.

Knowledgehook Wins Google Demo Day

Beagle automatically identifies key things in a contract like liabilities, responsibilities, and how you get out of it.  It also lets users search for a word or phrase and it will bring up all the sentences in one place to show you where these words or phrases appear in context.

“A lot of the effort [the workers] put in the contracts is not their expertise,” O’Sullivan said. “We free them up from the bullshit to let them do what they want.”

To ensure this great idea succeeded, O’Sullivan spent four months researching the market to ensure he was making a worthwhile product. He asked people if they would value a system like Beagle and how much they would pay for it.

He also recruited a stellar team of data scientists with expertise in artificial intelligence (natural language processing and machine learning). He even convinced them that Beagle was better than working at their own firm, and they joined him as part of the founding team.

He now has a team of seven, which also includes sales and marketing people. According to Crunchbase, the company has raised $300,000 in seed funding. The team will soon start servicing Beagle’s pilots, including one of the largest auto manufacturers’ insurance company in Germany and a white label solution company in Canada.

Soon, Beagle will offer a Chrome extension that allows users to send any privacy agreements, like terms in conditions that come up on every website, through Rufus.

“People deal with terms and conditions a lot more than they thought they did—and we make it easier to process,” O’Sullivan said. 

Reno Sub-Systems Lands US$14M

Reno Sub-Systems Inc. has received US$14 million (C$18.1 million) in a Series B funding round led by strategic investor MKS Instruments Inc. of Andover, Mass.

Reno, which has developed new and disruptive technologies for the semiconductor and advanced microelectronic industries, originated in Bedford, though it is now headquartered in the U.S.

The company said in a statement Tuesday that as well as a US$9.3 million investment from MKS, the participants in the latest funding round include previous investor Intel Capital and an undisclosed strategic investor.

 “We are pleased that MKS has chosen to invest and collaborate with Reno,” said Reno CEO Bob MacKnight in a statement. “These funds will accelerate Reno’s time to market with technologies that are critical to advancing Moore’s Law and key semiconductor manufacturing processes. Our enhancements of the two most critical ingredients in a plasma process tool, radio frequency power and gas flow, enable new processes not previously attainable while at the same time increasing both yield and throughput.”

In November 2014, the company reportedly raised $8.5 million in a round led by Intel Capital. Innovacorp contributed $1.76 million to the round.

Reno says it has generated strong customer demand based on on-tool performance data, which has allowed the company to transition from technology and product development to high volume adoption within two years.

Listed on Nasdaq, MKS Instruments provides instruments, sub-systems and process control solutions.Its primary markets include semiconductor capital equipment, industrial manufacturing, environmental, medical, life sciences and scientific research.

IBM Names UNB to Security Project

IBM has selected the University of New Brunswick as one of eight universities in North America to help adapt its iconic Watson cognitive technology for use in cybersecurity.

The blue-chip tech company and university announced the partnership on Tuesday. Under the agreement, computer science students at UNB and the other universities will help Watson process and analyze massive amounts of cybersecurity data, including 20 years of security research, details on 8 million spam and phishing attacks and more than 100,000 documented vulnerabilities.

The New Brunswick government and tech community has identified cybersecurity as one of the segments in which the province can excel. The announcement is the latest example of this strategy taking shape.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for the University of New Brunswick that fits well with our proud and productive partnership with IBM,” said UNB President Eddy Campbell in a statement. “The fact that we are one of three universities in Canada to be chosen for this work speaks to our leadership role in cybersecurity research. We’re a best-kept secret no more.”

Gallant Focuses on Cybersecurity

The other universities in the program are the University of Ottawa, the University of Waterloo, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Pennsylvania State University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; New York University; and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

“We’re pleased to take part on this project with IBM,” said Ali Ghorbani, dean of computer science at UNB. “We’ve been working hard with IBM for years on solutions to the growing threat of cybersecurity. This project with Watson has tremendous potential to be a game-changer.”

The project is part of a pioneering cognitive security project to address the looming cybersecurity skills gap. It will help to train Watson on the nuances of security research findings and discover behavior patterns and evidence of hidden cyber-attacks and threats that could otherwise be missed. IBM efforts are designed to improve security analysts’ capabilities using cognitive systems that automate the connections between data, emerging threats and remediation strategies.

IBM said it chose UNB because of its long collaboration with the university on cybersecurity research, stretching back more than 15 years. And in 2011, the firm purchased Q1 Labs, a Fredericton security software firm that was born at UNB. IBM also has a long record of hiring UNB graduates.

“Even if the industry was able to fill the estimated 1.5 million open cybersecurity jobs by 2020, we’d still have a skills crisis in security,” said Marc van Zadelhoff, General Manager, IBM Security. “The volume and velocity of data in security is one of our greatest challenges in dealing with cybercrime. By leveraging Watson’s ability to bring context to staggering amounts of unstructured data, impossible for people alone to process, we will bring new insights, recommendations, and knowledge to security professionals."

Briefs: Eyeread, Volta, AVF, Naco

Eyeread Accepted into Google for Entrepreneurs

Halifax-based Eyeread, whose online product helps to teach children to read, has been accepted into the Google for Entrepreneurs program at Communitech in Kitchener.

“A six-month incubator with senior Google team members in Waterloo will allow us to get expert feedback on the Eyeread technology over the summer and fall,” said Co-Founder Julia Rivard Dexter in a post Tuesday.

A spinout from the Halifax web development company Norex, Eyeread uses the camera facing the reader on a laptop or other device to track the eye as the child reads. By tracking the eye, the software can detect where the child is having trouble in reading a passage. Educators can then use the information to customize a personalized learning routine for the child.

Rivard Dexter said the team has been busy playing the Eyeread games with thousands of students in the Tri-County area of Nova Scotia through a partnership with the Nova Scotia Department of Education. The goal is to collect data from game play and match it to the teacher evaluations to measure efficacy.

Over the summer, Eyeread will have seven teachers on staff to help to develop the best teacher dashboards possible and offer final feedback on the company’s games.

Atlantic Lottery Partners with Volta Labs

Atlantic Lottery is partnering with Halifax-based Volta Labs to create an innovation outpost to help create innovative solutions for Atlantic Lottery. The outpost is designed to be lean and focused on enhancing Atlantic Lottery’s current portfolio of products, prototyping new products and creating marketing solutions to engage a shifting player base.

“Ensuring responsible, sustainable revenues in today’s marketplace requires new and strategic thinking,” Jennifer LaPlante, Director Research and Insight at Atlantic Lottery, said in a statement. “We are operating in a mature industry. It demands we continually modernize our products and ensure we offer them in ways players are demanding.”

The innovation outpost will include dedicated space inside Volta and will work alongside the tech startups that call Volta home. Atlantic Lottery will have 24/7 access to the entire facility, and will be surrounded by the creative genius of the high-potential startup founders and employees, engaging them for peer mentorship.

“We’re excited to welcome Atlantic Lottery to Volta,” said Melody Pardoe, COO of Volta. “This is a regional win. This collaboration will make it easy for Atlantic Lottery to be efficient, move quickly and engage with the community.”

Brightspark, NACO To Hold Seminars

Brightspark Ventures and the National Angel Capital Organization are holding a series of seminars called "Emerging Trends in Angel Investing" across the Maritimes this month.

“One of the key aspects holding back companies in Atlantic Canada back is access to capital and [the need for] angel investors to be better informed,” said a statement from the organizers.

Brightspark Ventures is a national funding group that draws funding from wealthy individuals and manages investments like a VC. NACO is the umbrella group for angel networks across Canada.

The one-hour sessions, which will feature a range of speakers, will be held as follows: May 17, Halifax 5:30-6:30 p.m.; May 18, Charlottetown 7:30-8:30 a.m.; May 18, Moncton 6-7 p.m.; May 19, Fredericton 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Details and registration are available here.

AVF Announces Free Bootcamp for Entrepreneurs

The Atlantic Venture Forum has announced that it will hold its first AVF Entrepreneur Bootcamp on June 21, the day before the two-day AVF begins.

The bootcamp, which will be held 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre in Halifax, will feature:

The Investor Game, with Raymond Luk of Hockeystick.co, in which entrepreneurs walk a mile in an investor's shoes;
Obtaining Outside Capital, with Jane Kearns of MaRS and Marcus Daniels of HIGHLINE, who will discuss how Atlantic Entrepreneurs get attention from national and international venture Investors;
Reporting Like a Boss, a panel session on transparency led by Colin Deacon of Deacon & Company Strategy;
And, Building Connections Between Atlantic Canada's Tech Innovators and the Rest of the World, with BDC Capital's Nicole Leblanc.

The event is free to 50 registrants and available on a first come, first serve basis. You can register here

Seek Various Forms of Funding

Entrepreneurs should seek financing for their businesses from unexpected sources, rather than just relying on equity investment and revenue, a conference in Halifax heard on Tuesday.

The TSX Ignite conference in Nova Scotia featured a series of panel discussions on entrepreneurship, including one titled “Funding Options that You’re Probably Ignoring.” Its panelists reviewed options like crowdfunding, advanced payment tools and less-known government programs to get money into businesses.

“If you run a business, think about that business holistically and look at everything you’ve got in that business to get you the funding you need,” said Steven Uster, Co-Founder and CEO of Toronto-based fintech startup FundThrough.

FundThrough allows small and medium-sized businesses to accelerate payment from their invoices. If the business is invoicing creditworthy customers, FundThrough will pay the invoice within 24 hours of it being sent, claiming a small portion of the payment. Uster advised using this sort of service to place companies in a stronger cash flow position, thereby using existing cash more effectively.

Lawyer Jeff Hoyt, a Partner at McInnes Cooper, said a lot of his clients are looking at equity crowdfunding, especially since two different regulatory regimes have been introduced in the past year in most Canadian provinces. He advises caution when looking at crowdfunding, asking his clients if they really want the burden of dealing with hundreds of shareholders. He urges his clients to “raise the maximum amount possible from the fewest number of people possible.”

David Eisnor, Business Development Manager at Futurpreneur Canada, encouraged entrepreneurs to research all the programs available and tap organizations like Futurpreneur or the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development, or Ceed. It starts with a thorough Google search, he said.

TSX is also encouraging successful startups to consider a listing as a means of raising capital and being able to access capital as the company grows.

Rob Peterman, Director, Global Business Development, TSX, TSXV & TSX Private Markets, said in an interview that listed companies can raise capital on listing, have swift access to additional capital later on, and use their share capital for acquisitions.

He added that 80 technology companies have listed in Toronto in the last three years and that technology has been the fastest growing segment of the market, in terms of new listings and rising market capitalization. 

Dash Hudson Prospers After Pivot

Nine months after settling on a business model that analyzes market response to Instagram posts, Dash Hudson is working with some huge multi-national customers and growing revenues strongly.

The Halifax startup launched two-and-a-half years ago as an e-commerce site for menswear, and then morphed into a platform that helped clothing brands make sales through Instagram. Last summer, it developed a tool for analyzing the market response to Instagram posts, and discovered that was the tool clients really wanted. It now bills itself as a smarter way to grow on Instagram.

 “It was clear that it was uneconomical to grow the consumer app business,” Co-Founder and CEO Thomas Rankin said in an interview last week. “We tried everything so we started kind of exploring the different opportunities. We understood there was this huge black hole in terms of understanding what was going on in Instagram and the brands were telling us this.”

What Dash Hudson does is collect data on how major brands are connecting with customers on Instagram. The photo-sharing app is one of the most popular social media tools available, and clothing brands and retailers have been eager to use it as an advertising platform. But as of last summer they were unable to analyze what effect Instagram posts were having with customers.

Meanwhile, Rankin and his co-founder Tomek Niewiarowski had developed an app that allowed brands to post photos on Instagram of models wearing their clothes with relevant descriptions. They wanted to know how their own Instagram posts were performing, but there was no tool to do so. So Niewiarowski built one.

Through the app, Rankin had built up relationships with several leading brands and suddenly they were asking for the analytics tool. So Dash Hudson’s main business is helping these brands to understand who they’re reaching on Instagram and how they can be more effective in marketing through Instagram.

QRA Launches QVScribe Beta-Test

Dash Hudson has just launched a beta-test for a similar service for Snapchat, a popular image-based messaging service.

 “In November we started to generate revenue on the SaaS (software-as- a-service) platform and it’s been growing really fast,” said Rankin.

He said the tool allows customers to measure their numbers on Instagram and to take action on what they learn.

Rankin declined to detail the company’s revenues. But he did say Dash Hudson charges US$1,000 to US$5,000 a month for the service, and it has some contracts worth US$125,000 a year. Clients include the Condé Nast media group, Revolve clothing and Hyatt Hotels Corp..

Dash Hudson raised $1 million in capital last spring, including investments from Innovacorp and Halifax tech entrepreneurs Jevon MacDonald and Gavin Uhma. Rankin said revenues are now growing quickly enough that it won’t need a fresh injection of capital any time soon.

 “We’re just really heads down and growing,” Rankin said. “I think our Snapchat launch when it happens will be significant.”

He said with Snapchat, Dash Hudson will “be on the front end of the curve and that will allow us to expand a lot faster.”

Chinova Enters IndieBio in Ireland

Chinova founders Emanuel Dinis, left, Natasha Dhayagude and David Brown.

Chinova founders Emanuel Dinis, left, Natasha Dhayagude and David Brown.

Chinova Bioworks, a spin-off from Fredericton’s Mycodev Group, has been accepted into the IndieBio accelerator in Ireland, and received a US$100,000 (C$130,000) investment on entering the program.

Chinova is a new startup that is developing applications for chitosan – Mycodev’s main product – and using the compound as an anti-microbial agent.  Chinova is now working with a major beverage company to test the product in preserving the shelf-life of premium juices.

The company put out a press release Monday saying it began at the IndieBio accelerator on May 3. All participants in the three-month program receive a US$100,000 investment from the Princeton, NJ,-based venture capital firm SOSV, which hosts the life sciences accelerator.

“IndieBio is an incredible opportunity to develop our technology rapidly and effectively,” said Chinova CEO Natasha Dhayagude in a statement. “We hope by the end of this program to get our first product into the hands of beverage companies who see the value of our technology to extend the natural shelf-life of premium juices.”

A fellow with Ventures for Canada, Dhayagude previously worked as the Entrepreneurial Services Coordinator at Planet Hatch in Fredericton.

McIntosh is Kira Industry Champion

During the program, Chinova will have access to leading business mentors and scientists who specialize in biotechnology and end with a demo-day pitch to potential investors and corporations. The program takes place in the European biotechnology hub of Cork, Ireland at the University College Cork.

Mycodev started three years ago to develop a radical new method of producing high-quality chitosan –  a material that has numerous commercial applications, especially in life sciences. The higher quality chitosan – which can cost thousands of dollars per kilogram -- is usually associated with medical applications, and this is the segment that Mycodev has targeted.

Though the biopolymer is usually extracted from the discarded shells of shellfish, Sisk and his co-founders CTO David Brown and Chief Engineer Peter Dean set out to extract chitosan from a species of fungus. It avoids the use of harsh chemicals need in the crustacean-based processes and produces chitosan of a high purity with its own special composition.

Mycodev received $500,000 in funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation last May, and said at the other time it was working with other startups to open up new markets for chitosan.  The company last week won a Kira Award for developing New Brunswick’s most innovative product last year.

Chinova is majority owned by Mycodev and headed by Dhayagude, CTO Emanuel Dinis, and COO David Brown.

Saint John Unveils Data Initiatives

Saint John has announced a series of events and initiatives that will use data analytics to improve life in the New Brunswick city.

The True Growth Network, the regional economic development partnership, announced last week that Saint John will use sensors, beacons, smart devices, and applications to collect and analyze data so the city can improve decision making. This will be complemented by a few events this year that will increase understanding of Big Data in the city and the region.

The projects are being led by T4G, Cisco Systems, HotSpot Merchant Solutions and Enterprise Saint John.

“Our vision is simple: Saint John will be a national leader in the use of big data analytics,” Smart and Connected Community volunteer board chair Andy MacGillivray said in a statement. “With data driving insight into the nervous system of the community, new layers of information will emerge that will lead to novel solutions to existing problems and to the identification of new economic opportunity.”

NB Innovators Honoured at Krias

The city has announced three initiatives:

•             Pattern of Life – This partnership between the four project leaders will collect and analyze data on vehicle and pedestrian traffic flow patterns in the Uptown. Using this data, they hope to improve services in the area and make the best decisions on capital projects. The data will provide an understanding of the relative performance of neighborhood infrastructure.

“For HotSpot the announcement is a step towards better serving the business community,” said HotSpot CEO Phillip Curley. “Currently we help businesses with their in-store experience, and through this project we’ll be able to expand that scope to the overall customer journey with assistance from Uptown SJ and Enterprise SJ.“

•             Big Data training courses – T4G will begin these in September to address an acute data science skills shortage. Other programs launched at the same time include training in digital accessibility.  The programs are timely because governments around the world are demanding minimum standards of digital accessibility that today are not being met.

•             Big Data Congress 2016 – Focusing on the industrial internet, the Congress is set for Oct. 3-5 at the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre. The inaugural event, held in January 2013 was the largest technology event ever held in Atlantic Canada. BDC2016 will once again features a two-day business congress followed by an event for New Brunswick high school students.

“Big data is changing the way we learn, the way we govern and the way we do business,” said T4G president Geoff Flood. “Saint John has a natural advantage to be a leader in the next massive movement to connect the physical and digital worlds – to connect the trades to ICT. … We have the talent and the determination to make this happen and in the process we will become a leader for other communities to follow.”

Job of the Week: HotSpot Parking

Our Job of the Week column today highlights an opportunity to work for a fast-growing Fredericton startup, HotSpot Merchant Solutions, which is looking for a technical lead.

HotSpot developed a mobile application that allows drivers to pay for parking with their mobile phone. Addressing this problem provides users with a pain-free parking experience. It also helps merchants advertise directly to shoppers, and view the data that can help them grow their businesses.

HotSpot is deploying a huge network of beacons in major cities across the continent. These beacons send signals to customers’ cell phones so retail outlets can sense when customers are nearby and communicate with them.

The Jobs of the Week column features postings on the Entrevestor Job Board. Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Job Board which helps match positions and candidates in the tech and start-up communities.

Fredericton

HotSpot Merchant Solutions

Technical Lead

HotSpot is looking for someone who understands software and leadership to take on this challenging position. The technical lead will work hand-in-hand with a project manager to define goals and technical roadmaps for the company. The ideal candidate would have a strong sense of teamwork, the ability to lead engineers, and produce high quality code. The candidate would also have a heavy say with his or her team on what technical changes are to be made and what technologies to adopt.  The responsibilities include developing, integrating and maintaining software, as well as management and research. The successful candidate will report to the HotSpot CEO, CTO and COO and have to delegate tasks to other engineers. HotSpot is looking for someone with one to three years’ experience in a similar role. 

Chalk to Attend Metabridge in June

Chalk, the Kitchener startup that provides workflow management tools to teachers, has been named one of 15 companies to attend the Metabridge mentorship camp in Kelowna, B.C., next month.

Metabridge, to be held June 9-10, brings together 15 of the leading startups in the country for mentorship from some of the world’s leading tech experts, entrepreneurs and financiers.  

"We had an overwhelming response to Metabridge this year,” said Executive Director Sehra Bremner in a statement. She added that “109 companies applied, which is more than ever before. We are really pleased with the strength of all the companies that took the time to apply.”

Chalk provides workflow-organization software for teachers. In its brief history, it’s gained a vast customer base by offering its product free to front-line teachers, and charging school boards for the administrative service and data. Last month, the company announced it had formed a partnership with Charter Schools USA, bringing advanced curriculum management technologies to one of the largest and most innovative charter school networks.

The startups attending Metabridge this year include 14 from across Canada and Lynk Jobs Ltd. from Kenya – the first international startup to attend the event.

The other Metabridge 2016 companies are:

Brightsquid (Alberta)

Communitysift (British Columbia)

Dive (Ontario)

Drop Loyalty Inc. (Ontario)

Flytographer (British Columbia)

Nobal Technologies (Alberta) 

Open Channel (Ontario)

RentMoola (British Columbia)

RingPartner Inc. (British Columbia)

SilkStart (British Columbia)

TalentClick (British Columbia)

Tapplock (Ontario)

Turnstyle (Ontario)  

Innovation Week Set for Newfoundland

Newfoundland and Labrador’s third annual Innovation Week will take place in St. John’s starting on Monday. The 17 different events will focus on bringing innovative ideas to market and growing key sectors in the province. 

Throughout the week, 16 partner organizations will offer varied events with the aim of firing up creative thinking and collaboration in sectors such as information technology, ocean technology, clean technology and manufacturing.

New to this year’s Innovation Week, and now sold out, TEDxYouth@StJohns is the first youth-focused TEDx event in the province.

Designed for youngsters aged 12 to 18, the event aims to ignite new ideas and empower young leaders.

The global economy will be the focus of the talk given by Export Development Canada’s Vice-President and Chief Economist, Peter Hall. The “Let’s Talk Exports” conference will be hosted by the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association. CBC science guy Bob McDonald, host of Quirks & Quarks, along with Dr. Ian Potter, Vice-President of Engineering with the National Research Council, will speak at the “Demystifying Technology and Innovation” conference.  

Leaders in the technology sector, including futurist Jim Bottomley, and former Dragons’ Den adviser Sean Wise will speak at the Knowledge Summit hosted by the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries, or NATI. Innovation Week is being supported by $38,279 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

“These events are meant to connect and empower a collaborative community partnership in the innovation ecosystem,” said NATI CEO Ron Taylor.

​Newfoundland and Labrador currently gains $1.6 billion in annual revenue from its technology sector. The sector consists of 170 companies employing over 3,990 people. Each employee represents an economic gain of $400,000 for the province. 

A new innovation Week app is available free on iOS and Android in the App Store as IWNL. The app was built by the College of the North Atlantic.

Visiting Omaha to Witness the Oracle

Tuan Anh Bui

Tuan Anh Bui

After helping to lead an $8 million student investment fund at University of New Brunswick, Tuan Anh Bui relished the reward of hearing Warren Buffet speak on the subject of investing.

The soon-to-be graduate of UNB’s Business School recently won a trip to Omaha, Nebraska, to hear Buffett address the AGM of Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company the master investor controls.

For Tuan, witnessing the Oracle of Ohama was a big moment.

“We joined 20,000 Berkshire Hathaway shareholders in listening to Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger (Buffett’s deputy),” he said.

“My key takeaway … is that their view on finance and investment is unique and sometimes challenges the theories I learned in university.

“It taught me that investing is more of an art than a science….I need to continuously cultivate my knowledge and experience in order to grasp market dynamics.” 

Now, Tuan is taking his $20,000 Frank H. Sobey Award for Excellence in Business Studies and heading to Ontario to look for opportunities. He plans to give back to the Atlantic region when he has gained more experience.

Established in 1998, the UNB Student Investment Fund program allows top Business Administration and MBA students to study for their CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) level one exam and obtain investment experience by investing $8 million of real money in the capital markets.

Tuan believes it’s an important educational option, particularly in a region which struggles to attract investment.

It’s one of the school’s most successful experiential learning programs. Students have grown the initial pot of around $3.5 million to its current $8 million.

The fund has had two clients. For the first client, the young investors grew an initial $1 million to $3.3 million. The second client’s investment has grown from $2.5 million to $4.7 million.

Tuan worked as an equity research analyst looking into investments in the financial sector, including banks and real estate.  

“Being in the program allowed us to travel to Toronto, where we met with firms on Bay Street,” he said.  

“Being in New Brunswick is a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to learning about investment. It’s not a financial hub, but the program allowed me to get closer to experts and meet students from elsewhere.”

Tuan will graduate from the UNB program, which is sponsored by New Brunswick Investment Management Corporation and the Peter Cundill Foundation, in October.

The program’s 200 graduates have won 15 podium finishes in university competitions, including being the first Canadian university to win the CFA North American Investment Research Competition.

They have taken jobs at Canadian, U.S. and international banks in diverse financial centres. Others have joined corporations and asset management firms such as RBC Global Asset Management. About half have stayed in the Atlantic region.  

Tuan enrolled at UNB after emigrating from Vietnam to New Brunswick six years ago with his family.

He’s keen to work in Ontario’s Waterloo and Toronto regions because they are thriving financial and innovation hubs. The Waterloo area has many startups fostered by centres like Communitech, the Accelerator Centre and University of Waterloo.

Tuan said that when he has gained more knowledge and experience, he would like to contribute to the growth of New Brunswick. 

“I go away to be able to give back,” he said. “I’ve met amazing people in New Brunswick. New Brunswickers have a lot of ideas but we are lacking investments.

“Maybe I can help fund future projects. Maybe the network I bring back can help dreams come true.”

Communitech Seeks Female Founders

Sarah Murphy of Sentinel Alert at last year's bootcamp.

Sarah Murphy of Sentinel Alert at last year's bootcamp.

For the next 10 days, female entrepreneurs from across Canada and beyond can apply to attend Fierce Founders, the bootcamp for women help at Communitech in Kitchener.

Previously called the Women Entrepreneur’s Bootcamp, Fierce Founders is a two-stage, six-day bootcamp for women focused on customer validation, business fundamentals and pitches.

As well as mentorship and the chance to make valuable connections, Fierce Founders ends with a pitching competition at which $100,000 in prizes will be awarded.  Last year, Sarah Murphy, the Co-Founder and CEO of St. John’s-based Sentinel Alert, won the $35,000 first prize at the event.

Communitech, the multifaceted entrepreneurship hub in Kitchener, is looking for female startup founders from across Canada and beyond. You can apply here until May 16.

The organizers will select 25 entrepreneurs with a tech or tech-based idea at an MVP or pre-MVP stage. They will receive hands-on mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs and experts as they build out their business models and work toward refining their product offerings.

The first phase of the program takes place July 19-21 and focuses on developing a business model, building customer personas, and developing presentation skills. The second stage, Aug. 23-25, will stress business fundamentals, funding, sales and marketing and pitching.

Nominations or entry forms are available here

McIntosh Is Kira Industry Champion

Keith McIntosh, the Co-CEO and President of Fredericton-based PQA Testing, was named Industry Champion and captured the People’s Choice Award at the annual Kira Awards banquet last night.

The Kiras – or Knowledge Industry Recognition Awards -- are presented annually to members of New Brunswick’s knowledge industry in recognition of excellence in developing a knowledge-based economy in the province.

McIntosh established PQA Testing in 1997 to provide independent and unbiased quality assurance software testing. The award-winning company now employs more than 100 professionals and has built long standing relationships in such sectors as healthcare, finance, gaming, telecommunications, government, and eLearning.

The other Kira winners are:

Most Promising Startup – Eigen Innovations, Fredericton, which uses an internet of things application to help manufacturers improve production efficiency and reduce waste.

Most Innovative Product – Mycodev Group, Fredericton,  which has developed a new method of producing high-quality chitosan, which has numerous commercial applications in such fields as pharmaceuticals, medical devices and other life sciences.

Premier’s Innovation Award, Private Sector – Malley Industries Inc., Dieppe, which manufactures ambulances, wheelchair accessible vehicles, specialized commercial fleets and plastic products for a wide range of industrial clients.

Premier’s Innovation Award, Public Sector – The Horizon Health Network, whose Telestroke helps emergency rooms without specialists to connect with neurologists off-site, saving precious time and improving treatment results.

Economic Impact -- Groupe Savoie, St-Quentin, which is a vertically integrated producer of hardwood products, including pallets and pallet components, cabinet and furniture components, hardwood lumber, tone wood components, ecological fuels and wood chips.

QRA Launches QVScribe Beta-Test

Jordan Kyriakidis

Jordan Kyriakidis

QRA Corp., a Halifax startup that helps manufacturers detect design flaws in the development of complex machines, has launched a public beta-test for its latest product, QVScribe.

The product, which can be downloaded free during the beta-test, helps engineers understand the requirements listed in the documents they write when they are first proposing a piece of machinery.

QRA, which started as an industry-funded research project at Dalhousie University, has already developed QVTrace, which identifies design flaws in machinery while it is still in the design stage.

“The launch of QVScribe is important because it helps to diversify our product offering,” CEO and president Jordan Kyriakidis said in an interview Tuesday. “Our previous tool was deployed deep into the engineering process. This new tool is a bit more light-weight.”

QRA said in December that it had begun to provide Lockheed Martin engineers with the QVTrace to help with the development of increasingly complex cyber-physical designs. The product grew out of research that Kyriakidis and his team performed at Dalhousie University under a contract for Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defence contractor.

Innovacorp, Extreme Fund Ubique

Whereas the QVTrace product is an enterprise product sold to large corporations, QVScribe is a software-as- a-service product that any engineer can download and use to analyze requirements documents.

Kyriakidis said these documents comprise the first step of a major mechanical project, and if there is a mistake in them it could pose huge problems that crop up down the line. He added about half the problems that cost engineers time and money occur in this phase of the process. QVScribe uses Natural Language Processing to automatically detect problems in the written proposal, and helps the engineer to identify them.

“Since our early schooling, we are asked to be creative in our writing; engineering on the other hand requires us to be precise, concise and unambiguous,” defence engineering consultant Claude Lemelin said in a statement from QRA. “QVscribe shows a requirements document’s weaknesses, so they can be quickly corrected. It’s a simple tool for a complex problem that I think has the potential to be very helpful throughout the requirement engineering process.”

Kyriakidis said in the interview that his 15-person company took the new product through a closed alpha tests with about 15 to 20 organizations in late 2015. As a result, QRA has already received requests for additional features on QVScribe.

He said the length of the beta test would depend on the feedback the company receives. The product will be for sale after an official launch sometime in the near future.

QRA has raised funds investors, though the precise amount has never been made public. The company has received at least $1 million in equity investment from the provincial innovation agency, Innovacorp.

QRA says its mission is “to accelerate the design process and reduce costs across industries building the most complex, mission- and safety-critical systems – by building solutions that analyze system designs and requirements at all critical stages of development.”

Knowledgehook Wins Google Award

Knowledgehook co-founders Arthur Lui, left, Travis Ratnam and James Francis.

Knowledgehook co-founders Arthur Lui, left, Travis Ratnam and James Francis.

For the second time in five months, a Waterloo Region company has won a major pitching event at the Google headquarters in Silicon Valley.

Edtech startup Knowledgehook on Wednesday received Google’s Game Changer Award at the tech giant’s annual Demo Day. When Google held its Demo Day for female-led startups in December, the winner was another Canadian outfit, Bridgit of Kitchener.

Knowledgehook was one of two Canadian entries – the other was Halifax-based PACTA – among the 11 startups pitching at the annual event in Mountain View, Calif.

Waterloo-based Knowledgehook has developed software that analyzes the academic performance of math students in real-time games to recommend to educators alternative teaching practices. Knowledgehook, which has been working with the Accelerator Centre and Communitech’s Rev accelerator, was founded in 2014 by Ratnam, Francis, Lambo Jayapalan, and Arthur Lui.

“We’re thrilled and grateful to have shared the stage with so many talented and passionate entrepreneurs,” Ratnam said in a statement. “The support we’ve received today will be pivotal to our mission of helping students all over the world build their math skills.”

A popular exam prep tool among the 5,000 teachers in Canada and the U.S. who use it, Knowledgehook software unpacks students’ misunderstanding and suggests how teachers can address it.

Since September 2015, 12 Ontario school boards have been reviewing predictive insights the software generates for each student to help teachers adapt their lessons for optimal learning.

 “We’re optimistic that the accuracy and timeliness of Knowledgehook’s insights will advance school boards in their efforts to improve students’ academic performance,” said Ratnam.

A graduate of the Propel ICT and FounderFuel accelerators, PACTA has developed software that helps organizations, especially large corporations, manage their vast portfolios of contracts. It tells the organization when an action is needed in each contract, and how external events may impact the company’s contracts.

PACTA was named one of Canada’s Top 25 Up and Coming ICT companies by Branham Group.

To be selected to participate in Google’s annual Demo Day, startups must be legally incorporated headquartered in the U.S., Canada or Mexico and be actively raising a Series A round of between $1 million and $4 million.

Briefs: Lux, B4checkin, Awards

Lux Wind Approved for Cedif

Lux Wind Turbines, the developer of a vertical wind turbine that won a NASA design award in 2013, has won approval to raise equity through Nova Scotia’s Community Economic Development Investment Fund, or Cedif, program.

Lux Wind CEDC wants to raise between $500,000 and $800,000 to help bring its vertical wind turbine to market.

The Lux Wind Turbine has the potential to address a major challenge in the wind energy sector – economic viability. Now, individual Nova Scotians have an opportunity to own common shares in the company and gain equity tax credits toward provincial income taxes payable.

The company is already the first in Canada to raise capital through the equity crowdfunding exemption recently approved by the Ontario Securities Commission and security commissions in other provinces, including Nova Scotia.

“Our vertical technology has the potential to significantly benefit the wind energy sector,” said CEO Terry Norman in a statement. “Now Nova Scotians have a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor as shareholders.”

Invest Atlantic To Be Held in Moncton Oct 5 ad 6

Invest Atlantic, the East Coast conference for the entrepreneurs and investors, has announced that the 2016 event will be held at the Delta Beauséjour in Moncton on Oct. 5 and 6.

It will be the first time in its seven-year history that Invest Atlantic has been held outside Halifax.

Since it began in 2010, Invest Atlantic has chosen a theme each year, such as partnering with corporations, global investing, or angel investment.

B4checkin Appoints Peter J. Rogers, Jr. as Chairman

Halifax-based b4checkin Inc., which makes cloud-based hospitality software solutions, has named Peter J. Rogers, Jr. as its new Chairman of the Board.

Rogers has extensive experience working with hospitality software and will help b4checkin with future product releases and new partnerships.

Rogers was Executive Vice President of Business Development and Investor Relations at MICROS Systems, Inc., of Columbia, MD.  He helped the company to become a global leader in providing information systems to the hotel, restaurant and retail industries.

“We are thrilled to have Peter join b4checkin as Chairman of the Board,” said b4checkin Founder and CEO Saar Fabrikant in a statement. “Just as Peter helped grow MICROS from a startup to a global enterprise, we are confident he will do the same for b4checkin. His far-reaching knowledge of tech solutions and hospitality software will help guide us through the next critical phase for our company.”

Nominations Sought for Discovery Awards

Halifax’s Discovery Centre is looking for anyone involved in science, technology or innovation to nominate themselves or someone else for 14th Annual Discovery Awards.

You can find the nomination forms here, and the nominations are open until May 31.

The Discovery Awards bring together academia, business and the community to honour people whose exemplary work has helped to improve science, technology and innovation in Nova Scotia. This could be a new invention, an innovative study, a life-long dedication to science or a commitment to the promotion of science and technology.

There are four Award categories:  Science Champion; Professional of Distinction; Innovation; and Emerging Professional.

The Discovery Awards for Science and Technology will be held Nov. 17 at The Halifax Marriott Harbourfront in Halifax. 

NBIF To Focus More on Scaling

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation is changing its investment philosophy to place a greater emphasis on growth-stage companies.

The province’s innovation agency hosted a seminar at the Venn Centre in Moncton on Tuesday at which it unveiled the new thinking on funding. The foundation’s mandate for making venture capital investments is largely staying the same – it will continue to make about 10 early-stage investments each year. But it wants to take a more proactive role in working with companies that are seeking multi-million-dollar financing rounds.

NBIF Investment Analyst Raymond Fitzpatrick said the group up to now has had a “soft ceiling” of $1 million in investing in any one company. It would also participate in follow-on rounds as long as the company found an independent investor to lead the round.

Though it still wants other funds to be the main investor in a large round, the foundation is now more interested in initiating such rounds, possibly writing the term sheet to draw interest from other investors. In certain cases, when a startup has hit or exceeded all its milestones, NBIF may exceed its $1 million ceiling as long as there are other funds making large investments.

“We’re not happy with companies just getting going – we really want those companies to scale up,” said Fitzpatrick. “We’re going to take our best-performing companies and we’re going to step up first. One million [dollars in total investment] is good. Three million is better. Five million – now you’re talking.”

He said NBIF intends to invest $4.8 million in each of the next two fiscal years. The fund invested $4.2 million in 2014-15, the most recent data available.

Build, NBIF Invest $1.8M in Fiddlehead

As well as a more assertive investment policy, NBIF is also going to work with its 40 to 50 portfolio companies and other New Brunswick startups to encourage them to focus on all aspects of scaling.

Naturally, that includes financing. A panel of entrepreneurs speaking at Venn event said founders looking for follow-on funding have to present a clear vision of how they will create value and show they can execute on their growth plans.

“We had people coming to us because there was a sense that we had a vision and there was a sense that we were creating value,” said David Baxter, President of Fiddlehead Technology, which recently raised $1.8 million.

The other areas that NBIF wants to focus on are sales and human resources (including establishing a board of directors).

Fitzpatrick said the NBIF will probably focus more on sales development at the bootcamp for its Breakthru startup competition, which will begin later this year.

“A lot of companies think you can build a company without a sales team,” said Yves Boudreau, the CEO of Qimple. “The reality is you have to build a sales team so … be prepared to hire some people.”

Fitzpatrick said NBIF has been getting some pushback from startups when it encourages them to set up boards of directors. But Daniella DeGrace, CEO of Gemba Software Solutions urged entrepreneurs to think of a board as source of expertise and connections.

“Think about it as a great situation that you cannot do without,” she said.

 

Disclaimer:  NBIF is a client of Entrevestor. 

15 Companies to Present at AVF

The Atlantic Venture Forum has unveiled the 15 companies that will present at the 2016 edition of the conference, which will be held in Halifax June 22 and 23.

The list features eight early-stage and seven growth-stage companies, including representatives from all four Atlantic Provinces, and each of the major sectors, IT, biotech and cleantech.

As a member of the selection committee, I can say the process was rigorous and the competition tough. The 40-odd entries featured some really great companies, not all of whom made the cut. Even the seed-stage companies include some companies that are developing into dynamic enterprises.

You can register for the conference here.

Here is a complete list of the presenting companies:

Early Stage

Airbly, Charlottetown – Airbly has developed the Canairy Cockpit Monitor, which is installed on top of an aircraft's instrument panel to monitor the craft’s position, usage and cabin environment. Airbly is the only member of the current Propel ICT Launch Program to present at the AVF.

DMF Medical Inc., Halifax -- DMF Medical develops biomedical devices that make the process of delivering anesthesia safer.

Ella Online Marketplace Inc., Saint John – This member of the current Propel Build Program and Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone has developed an online market place through which women can sell clothes they no longer want.

Panag Pharma Inc., Halifax -- Panag is developing novel cannabinoid-based formulations for treatment of pain and inflammation. Panag’s pipeline of products includes formulations for topical application to the skin, the eye and other mucous membranes.

Photodynamic Inc., Mount Uniacke, NS – The company once known as Fenol Farm, which won $100,000 at the 2014 I-3 competition, has developed hardware that uses a combination of light and natural compounds extracted from invasive plants to cure oral health problems.

Site 2020, Halifax – Working out of the Volta startup house, Site 2020 has developed technology that reduces costs and improves safety for signage crews on highway construction sites.

Woods Camp, Mahone Bay, NS -- Another member of the Propel Build group, Woods Camp offers an online platform that helps woodland owners understand the value of their land and manage their forest.

Zora, Las Vegas and Halifax – This graduate of The Mill accelerator in Las Vegas has developed a property management platform for landlords.

Growth Stage

4-Deep Inwater Imaging, Halifax – Recently funded by Chinese optics manufacturer Guangzhou Bosma, 4-Deep makes powerful electronic microscopes, and focuses on those that operate under underwater.

Athletigen, Halifax – Athletigen uses an online interface to present genetics analysis in a format that athletes and coaches, looking to improve performance, can easily understand and incorporate into their training plan. The company recently raised US$1.55 million in venture capital.

FundMetric, Halifax – Fundmetric’s platform uses data analytics to help charities raise more money. The company has recently been growing its client base in New York after pitching at an event organized by the Canadian Digital Media Network.

Gemba Software Solutions, Saint John – A spin off from New Brunswick tech company Innovatia, Gemba helps big business employees navigate their company’s operations. It raised $1.5 million last year from Innovatia and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

HeyOrca!, St. John’s – The recent recipient of $650,000 in funding, HeyOrca! helps marketing agencies that manage multiple client brands to visually plan and seamlessly approve social media content. The graduate of the Propel Build Program operates out of the Genesis Centre in St. John’s.

NB BioMatrix, Saint John – The company, which won $220,000 in the 2015 Breakthru competition, is using nano-technology to develop a biodegradable, anti-bacterial liquid that can remove heavy metals and other pollutants from waste water.

PACTA, Halifax – The winner among the early-stage pitchers at the 2015 AVF, PACTA has developed software that helps corporations and other large organizations manage their portfolio of contracts. The company is pitching today at the Google Demo Day in Silicon Valley. 

ImmediaC To Beta-Test Imagine That

Half a decade after first conceiving of an online wardrobe management tool, Debbie Fraser and John Leahy are preparing to beta-test their mobile app that helps people choose clothes.

Leahy owns Bedford-based web development company ImmediaC and has been working with Fraser for the past five years. Together, they came up with the idea as an enterprise-based application for clothing retailers. They launched a separate division of ImmediaC called Imagine That Technologies to develop the product. But they found it hard to land a contract with large companies for various reasons. So they started over to build a consumer app that could tap several revenue streams from individuals and corporate customers.

The product is now a two-dimensional augmented reality-based tool that lets people super-impose pictures of clothes on their own image on their phone. They can swap clothes and accessories around to find the best combination, and they can swap colours to find the one that’s right for them.

“We have an app that is about 95 per cent finished,” said Leahy in his office overlooking the Sackville River. “It’s a shopping app that lets you try on clothes and share them on social media. So it’s a virtual fitting room on your phone.”

Fraser, who joined the conversation via video-link from Phoenix, where she is on a business trip, added that users can view the clothes from their own clothes as well as something they’re thinking about purchasing to see what matches and suits the wearer. For example, a woman thinking of buying a scarf can see what it looks like on herself with clothes she already owns. She could also share the results on social media.

Over the past 18 years, ImmediaC  has built clients more than 2,500 websites — more, Leahy believes, than any other web design company in Canada. But like many service-based companies, they devote resources to the development of products. There are two other products in development that Leahy declined to detail. He simply said that ImmediaC is a bit of an incubator.

They said ImmediaC built the latest version of Imagine That from the ground up, and have been testing it in-house. Now they will test it was about 100 young fashion-conscious individuals in preparation for a full launch this summer. The initial product operates off Apple’s iOS platform, and the intention is for it to be available free in the App store.

“There’s a lot of competition but none of them has all of what we’re doing,” said Leahy. The competitors, he said, don’t allow customers to try on clothes over their own photos and are more limited in the mix-and-match functions.

Clothing brands make photos of their products available developers of such apps, so there is no difficulty in finding merchandise for the app.

There are three ways the app could make money — bringing in retailers to customize their own product; taking a cut if someone buys clothes through the app; and selling premium features on the app to consumers.

Leahy and Fraser hope Imagine That will eventually become a standalone company with its own team. But they added that for the next year or so it will continue to be a division of ImmediaC.

NBIF Innovation Vouchers Hit $1.3M

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation said Monday it provided $1.3 million in funding for small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, through its Innovation Voucher Fund in 2015-16.

Through the fund, NBIF provides as much as $80,000 to SMEs to help them work with universities, colleges or research institutes in conducting applied research.

“In today’s economy, finding new and better ways to do business is how the most successful companies keep their competitive edge,” NBIF President and CEO Calvin Milbury said in a statement.  “Our innovation vouchers have opened up a whole new world of opportunities for SMEs in New Brunswick, and in the three years since we started the fund, 41 companies from every corner of the province have collaborated with applied researchers to turn their ideas into enterprise.”

The startups that tapped the program last year included Moncton-based Smartpods, which makes desks that adjust automatically for standing and sitting positions, and Fredericton-based BioPolynet, which has used nanotechnology to develop a fastening agent. They worked respectively with University of New Brunswick and the Fredericton research organization RPC.  

To be eligible for the voucher, applicants must cover at least 20 percent of the project’s cost. Intellectual property developed during the project remains with the company.

Since the fund’s inception in 2014, NBIF has paid out $2.8 million in the program and companies have spent more than $700,000.

You can find a complete list of the companies that participated in the program in the year to March 31, 2016, here. 

Jobs of the Week: 3 New Postings

This week we are featuring three new postings on the Entrevestor Job Board – one each from Dash Hudson of Halifax, Remsoft Inc. of Fredericton and Clockwork Fox Studios of St. John’s.

Dash Hudson, a developer of Instagram retail solutions, is accepting applications for a junior brand strategist at its Halifax offices. The company provides data analytics on Instragram posts for major brands.

Remsoft Inc. specializes in providing businesses insight into how to best use woodlands to maximize profitability and sustainability. Started 24 years ago, Remsoft has seen accelerated growth over the last five years due to its early development of software that produces key strategic information. Remsoft is looking for a QA analyst to join its Fredericton office.

Educational game developer Clockwork Fox Studios started the year by closing a million-dollar round of funding. Clockwork Fox is using this funding to publish its grade-level specific Zorbit series of math games, the Grade 2 version of which is due for release later this year. Clockwork Fox Studios is looking for a social/digital marketing specialist. 

The Jobs of the Week column features postings on the Entrevestor Job Board. Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Job Board which helps match positions and candidates in the tech and start-up communities.

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Junior Brand Strategist

This person will work closely with the brand strategy team and assist the business development process by participating in lead generation, sales outreach, and progress tracking. The junior brand strategist will be actively engaged with both new and existing leads to move them through the sales funnel. Responsibilities for the role include reaching monthly quotas for lead generation and contacts, management of CRM and sales pipeline, and assisting in the creation of custom marketing and sales materials. No formal education is necessary, though analytical, business development, strategic, sales, and marketing skills are required.

Fredericton

Remsoft Inc.

QA Analyst

The QA Analyst will be responsible for helping to ensure customer satisfaction. This will be accomplished by developing, simplifying and refining user-acceptance tests. This person will remain up-to-date on how enhancements to Remsoft products will impact customers and share insight other team members insights on what customers want. Qualifications for the position include a Bachelor degree in Forest Management, Engineering, Operations Research/Analytics, or Computer Science/software testing. Remsoft is looking for someone with one to three years’ experience in a similar role. A Master’s degree in forestry or another natural resource science will be considered an asset.

St. John’s

Clockwork Fox Studios

Social/Digital Marketing Specialist

This person will be responsible for building and maintaining Clockwork Fox’s social media presence through an array of campaigns, as well as sending emails and deploying digital marketing strategies to drive click rates. He or she will also brainstorm strategies to create and nurture new sales leads, and evaluate all strategies against set goals. Qualifications include a Bachelor degree in marketing or a related field and proven work experience in digital marketing. Resumé and cover letter can be submitted to jobs@clockworkfoxstudios.com with the subject line “Social/Digital Marketing Specialist”. 

Dal Team To Join Startup Bus in Tampa

Yoon Park, left, Isaac Greenberg and Tobias Oedegaard are raising money for their Tampa-to-Boulder trek

Yoon Park, left, Isaac Greenberg and Tobias Oedegaard are raising money for their Tampa-to-Boulder trek

Aspiring entrepreneurs often go to great lengths to boost their creativity and connections. Now, a trio of students hope to raise enough money to become the first Atlantic Canadians to travel on a Startup Bus.

Similar in concept to the Startup Weekend, the Startup Bus hosts entrepreneurs for 72 hours, with the aim of allowing new networks and ideas to flourish. The difference, in this case, is that the venue travels.

The Halifax trio, who are all students at Dalhousie University, aim to join a food and beverage themed bus that departs Tampa, Fla. on May 15 and travels to Boulder, Colo. over the following three days. They are now raising money for the trip through this crowdfunding campaign.

Yoon Park, a fourth-year management student, said the bus experience allows participants to meet would-be entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Participants have the common goal of launching a startup by the end of the journey.

“I believe we need a student-initiated idea that is fun to get Atlantic Canadian students interested in entrepreneurship,” said Park, a Korean-Canadian.

“People have started paying attention to entrepreneurship, but it still sounds too monumental to most students. A lot of students in Atlantic Canada have a conservative approach to their career, and this is where we want to inspire a change.

“They intend to study hard and get a job at a big company and the company will take care of them forever, but that’s not the case.”

Park and the other Dal students — Norwegian Tobias Oedegaard, a second-year management student, and American-Canadian Isaac Greenberg, who is in his second year studying economics and sustainability — intend to document their journey on social media.

Their accounts will include video of life on the bus, which will stop overnight en route to Boulder. Once at their destination, teams will pitch their ideas to stakeholders and be mentored by industry leaders.

Each team’s progress will be documented online. The event also has a virtual stock market for trading shares in each startup as it develops.

The trio hope that Atlantic Canada will be represented with a bus of its own in next year’s competition.

“To make that happen we need a success story,” Park said.

Oedegaard and Greenberg are already establishing a tempeh business in Halifax and intend to explore the intersection of the food and tech industries as they travel to Boulder.

Tempeh is an Indonesian soy protein similar to tofu. The duo are poised to begin distribution of their product to local vendors in the coming weeks.

They hope the Startup Bus will introduce them to people who can advise on supply routes, and connect them to suppliers and other contacts in the U.S.

The three are joining the bus together but don’t have to form a team, as participants will split into groups after pitching ideas during the first hours of the trip.

“As soon as the journey starts, we all introduce ourselves. People pitch their ideas and skills and teams are formed on the bus,” Park said.

The Startup Bus was founded in Australia in 2010.

Since then, the group has held 14 events on four continents, driving across 26 countries.

The Dal trio originally wanted to begin their own journey on a bus from Halifax, but realized it was too expensive.

So, they intend to fly to Tampa to join the food and beverage bus.

They need $5,100 to fund the trip. So far, they have secured $1,200 from stakeholders at Dalhousie. They intend to try crowd-funding next, while also reaching out to local businesses for sponsorship.

Park said he is hopeful they will raise the rest of the money. You can contribute to their campaign here

Briefs: Propel, Startup Grind, IBMC

A recent Propel Demo Day.

A recent Propel Demo Day.

Propel Demo Day Set for June 21

Atlantic Canadian accelerator Propel ICT has announced that its next Demo Day will be held June 21 at Neptune Theatre in Halifax.

The event featuring company presentations will begin at 5:30 pm, and is being held on the eve of the Atlantic Venture Forum, which will take place at the Nova Scotian Westin on June 22 and 23.

Demo Day will include pitches from the nine teams that are going through the Build Program, which is for growth-stage companies. In the last Demo Day in September, some promising companies in the seed-stage Launch Program also pitched, but there has been no announcement whether that will be the case in June.

In the current cohort, the Build Program is being run out of the Venn Centre in Moncton, while the Launch Program is being offered in startup hubs in Charlottetown, St. John’s, Halifax and Fredericton.

Johnson Concrete To Use CarbonCure Technology

Halifax-based CarbonCure Technologies has announced that Johnson Concrete Co., a family owned business with locations across North Carolina, added the CarbonCure Masonry Technology in its Lexington plant. The CarbonCure technology recycles waste carbon dioxide into concrete products, effectively making Johnson concrete masonry units more environmentally friendly.

“We completed extensive due diligence into the viability of the technology, and its potential to create value for Johnson Concrete, and we are now pleased to offer our customers concrete products with a reduced carbon footprint,” said Johnson Executive Vice President Charles Newsome in a statement.

The CarbonCure technology injects carbon dioxide gas captured from nearby smokestacks into concrete products during the mixing phase. Once introduced into the concrete mix, the carbon dioxide chemically converts into a solid calcium carbonate mineral.

Since the gas has been converted into a mineral, it will never escape into the atmosphere. This means that Johnson Concrete will continue to provide high quality concrete products, and effectively get rid of local air pollution at the same time.

SMU, Dal Teams Compete at IBMC

Three teams of Halifax university students will compete this weekend at the International Business Model Competition at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

Each team competed for a spot during Canada’s Business Model Competition, hosted last month by Dalhousie’s Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship. Eight teams from the Canadian event are proceeding to the international competition.

The two Saint Mary’s University teams will pitch in Redmond are: ProTell, which is creating wearable technology for people with Sickle Cell Anemia; and SeeMePly, which is lessening the administrative burden of African students applying to private schools.

 As the organizers of the competition, Dalhousie University was also able to nominate a team to compete in the international competition. As such, 3 Meals, from Dalhousie’s Agricultural Campus, will attend the IBMC. The company is generating a protein from meal worms that can be used as a protein supplement.

Lucey To Speak at Startup Grind Halifax

Ian Lucey, the founder of the Lucey Fund, will deliver a talk to the Halifax chapter of Startup Grind on May 31 starting at 6 pm at the Innovacorp Innovation Centre in Halifax. Tickets are available here.

The Lucey Fund is a venture capital fund that backs early-stage IT startups. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based fund has offices in six countries including the U.S., Ireland, U.K. and Spain. It has invested in more than 70 startups over the past three-and-a-half years. In 2015 alone the Lucey Fund invested in 30 new projects and it plans to invest in more than 50 in 2016.

Lucey recently opened an office in Los Angeles and is actively seeking further investment opportunities across the United States and Canada.

Venor Buys Assets of Equals6

Andy Osburn

Andy Osburn

Executive search firm Venor has bought the assets of Equals6, a career-focused social network for students, for an undisclosed price.

Halifax-based Equals6 was designed to be a place where students could discuss career prospects, as opposed to other social media sites, which tend to be more about lifestyles. Students can communicate with one-another, or with companies that pay to join the site.

Started by Co-Founders Craig Coady and Ian Sullivan, Venor now plans to use Equals6’s Students2Mentors product to develop a resource for young people getting started on their career path. Overseeing the new division will be Chantal Brine, who has been the Venor executive in charge of youth career advancement for the past year.

“Venor has an established reputation for placing qualified candidates in challenging and rewarding positions,” Brine said in a statement. “We are taking that same standard of excellence to helping new talent in our province’s students prepare for and find meaningful employment.”

Mobivity Buys Livelenz, Signals Growth

Equals6 was developed by entrepreneurs Andy Osburn and Mark Boyle, who oversaw its steady growth over the past five years. Meanwhile, the pair was also working on SecureReset, which has developed two products for simplifying user passwords and authentication. Last November, Osburn and Boyle sold SecureReset to Atlanta-based Courion and signaled that they were also in talks to sell Equals6.

In buying the assets of Equals6, Venor plans to use Students2Mentors to link students with mentors in their field of interest. A cloud-based, automated and customizable platform, the tool enables students, mentors and university administrators to create mentorship programs and track their success.

The statement said Brine would bring her experience in organizational change, human resources, community relations, entrepreneurship and technology to help students and graduates to transition to the workforce. She is already collaborating with academic institutions to further develop Students2Mentors.

Venor said Equals6 has already impacted more than 13,000 students and 125 employers from across North America.

“We see firsthand the challenge of employers who want to attract the right talent and grow businesses here,” said Sullivan. “We want to do our part to support the call of the One NS Coalition and the Ivany Report to act. Rather than standby idly on the sidelines, we have created a focus solely on building a stronger and more inspired youth talent pool in Nova Scotia.”

Innovacorp, the innovation agency owned by the Nova Scotia government, invested $250,000 in Equals6 in 2012 through a convertible debenture. Since the company never raised follow-on funds the debenture would never have been converted to equity.

“Innovacorp anticipates repayment of our debenture and, while we can’t share the commercial terms of Venor’s license of the E6 platform, one can infer that Equals6 derives revenue from that partnership,” said Innovacorp Managing Director Greg Phipps in an email.

Equals6 is the second Innovacorp portfolio company to announce a major deal recently. Livelenz, which received $1.4 million in investment from the agency, recently sold out to Chandler, Arizona-based Mobivity Holding Corp. for less than $1 million in stock in a bid to grow with the larger company.

Innovation Week Starts in NB

Innovation Week is taking place in New Brunswick over the next week with a range of events across the province.

The annual celebration began last night with the Open Data Awards in Saint John, which leads into the Canadian Open Data Summit in the port city today.  

This weekend, there will be a Startup Weekend New Brunswick at the Venn Centre in Moncton. Over 54 hours, teams will come together, develop a business idea and pitch it before a panel of judges.

Also in Moncton, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation will reveal its new investment strategy, which emphasizes scale-ups as opposed to startups. The discussion at the Venn Centre will feature such entrepreneurs as Yves Boudreau from Qimple, David Baxter from Fiddlehead Technology and Daniella Degrace from Gemba Software Solutions.

The Innovation Week events also feature three themed mini-conferences in Fredericton: Innovation and Youth Day on Tuesday; Innovation and Research Day on Wednesday; and Innovation and Business Day on Thursday.

The highlight of the week will be the KIRA Awards Gala, which will recognize people who have made great contributions to the knowledge industry. The Gala will take place 5:30 next Thursday at the Fredericton Convention Centre.

You can find a complete schedule of the events here.

InTheChat Partners with Facebook

John Huehn

John Huehn

InTheChat announced at Facebook’s recent F8 Conference that it can now offer Facebook Messenger as a platform for enterprises worldwide, allowing companies greater reach and flexibility when dealing with customers.

The Waterloo-based company offers a full-scale digital customer service platform that enables companies to serve customers through social media chat, email, text, and now Facebook Messenger.

InTheChat is one of the first platforms to engage with Messenger. The Ontario company reached out to Facebook late last year and both parties saw the integration of Messenger into InTheChat as strategic: Facebook wants to grow the “chat” side of Messenger among big businesses, the exact market that InTheChat specializes in.  

InTheChat makes customer service on messaging channels 58 per cent more efficient than a regular phone call, and thus offers significant savings on a company’s customer service costs. The company, which operates out of the Accelerator Centre, uses text analytics to route messages from customers to the best-skilled customer service agent. Customer service representatives can then chat with three to five customers at one time through various digital channels, rather than with one customer through the traditional method of the telephone call.

“People are so used to communicating with their friends and family through these channels that they’re waiting for companies to open them up and engage in that way,” InTheChat CEO John Huehn said in an interview.

InTheChat at the Accelerator Centre's Client Showcase

Huehn worked at Rogers Communications for 12 years: he started as call centre representative and worked his way up to Vice President, Client Management, accountable for call centre strategy.

He started InTheChat six years ago as a more efficient way for companies to interact with their customers through social media rather than telephone. However, he noticed that many customers would prefer to privately message the company rather than send a public tweet with a query or problem and introduced private messaging capabilities via text, chat and Messenger.

He said the company’s aim is “that a customer can get service whenever and however they want, and we make that [happen] so you get a great customer satisfaction.”

Last year, InTheChat launched TD Bank Group as one of the first big businesses available for chatting on Facebook Messenger. They also put Newegg, a California-based computer/electronics e-retailer, on Messenger. Though Messenger is an unsecured channel, webforms and other applications enable customers to provide information through secure channels rather than giving out private information over the chatting platform.

Huehn himself has gone through a review of his data usage and changed his data plan with his telecom company—all through Messenger and text chatting.

“You’re able to continue your conversation without disclosing private information to get your problem solved just as easily as you can on the phone,” he said.

InTheChat targets mainly large enterprises, as the most complex part of their system is routing the right message to the right person via text analytics.

Each company pays a personalized fee, which includes a platform fee. Companies then add users on to the platforms that they can access.

InTheChat is a growth-oriented company and its 22 employees are always looking to expand channels.

“How do we innovate emerging channels that emerging generations choose to communicate on to make those available for customer service?” Huehn said.

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