J.P. Furey: 'It’s definitely a huge milestone for the company.'
BlueLight Analytics Inc., a Halifax company that helps ensure the proper curing of dental fillings, has partnered with industrial giant 3M Corp. to greatly expand the startup’s sales power in the U.S.
The two companies announced the partnership on Wednesday. Under the terms of the deal, 3M salespeople will offer BlueLight’s flagship product checkMARC, which helps to ensure dentists use their curing light for just the right length of time when curing resin-based fillings.
“This partnership gives us a national presence in the U.S., which is the biggest market for us,” BlueLight chief executive J.P. Furey said in a phone interview from Dallas, where he’s been training 3M sales teams.
“It’s definitely a huge milestone for the company and we think it’s the first of many as we expand globally.”
Growing out of research at Dalhousie University, BlueLight began about seven years ago to solve a problem few dentists spoke about. The lights they use to cure resin vary greatly, and each model has to be used for just the right amount of time to cure the resin properly. Too long a time could adversely affect the tooth and too little would leave the resin only partially cured.
BlueLight developed the checkMARC system, which can test and identify the efficacy of a dental office’s curing lights. Based on the results, 3M will review the light-curing protocols currently in practice. The Minnesota-based company said it can then work with the dental clinic to identify evidence-based opportunities to improve clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction.
BlueLight said that before its technology was commercialized, there was a “quality gap” in the market for dental fillings — a multi-billion-dollar market that is the cornerstone of every dental clinic.
Almost two years ago, BlueLight announced a partnership with the Canadian division of 3M to jointly market checkMARC across Canada, and that led to a broader relationship.
“The last announcement was Canadian-centric,” said Furey, an accountant who became the company’s CEO in the autumn of 2015. “Since then a lot has happened and it has led to pilots in the U.S. and now this deal, which covers the whole U.S. It’s five to 10 times bigger than the Canadian market.”
He added that he and three other BlueLight representatives are in the U.S. this week, training 3M sales representatives in checkMARC. The salespeople are expected to begin offering the service to clients as early as this week.
The relationship with 3M is already expanding beyond North America. The Halifax company has been working with 3M in Australia, New Zealand and Germany.
“As the market leader for restorative dentistry, 3M is dedicated to providing dental professionals the latest technologies and innovations in dentistry to improve practice productivity,” the Minnesota company said in a statement.
BlueLight has partnerships with a few large companies. Also in 2015, it announced a partnership with Henry Schein, the Melville, New York-based medical product distributor whose 2014 sales exceeded US$10 billion.
Fundica Roadshow in Halifax April 6
The Fundica Roadshow, now in its fifth year, has launched its $1 million pitching competition, and will have a session in Halifax on April 6.
The Halifax pitching event will be held at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre. You can apply to pitch here.
Presented by Intuit and its partner First Stone Venture Partners, the Fundica Roadshow is a national competition that offers an investment award of $1,000,000 to Canada’s most promising startup.
With 10 stops from Halifax to Victoria, a select group of early-stage innovators will get a chance to pitch their business to a panel of angels, VCs, banks and government organizations. All 10 city-stop winners will be invited to the Grand Finale where the top Canadian startup will receive a $1,000,000 investment from First Stone Venture Partners. If there is a split decision, two startups will receive a total amount of $1,000,000 between them in funding.
“First Stone is delighted to now be officially working with Fundica in the cross-Canada search for investment-worthy Canadian startups. Consistently we see highly credible prospects presenting at the Fundica Roadshow,” said Margo Langford, an FSVP partner and company recruiter.
Don’t Get Nagged! Fill in our Survey
There’s something I hate about this time of the year – even more than shoveling.
I have to pester people about filling in our survey. So this post is a not-so-subtle request to fill our survey in before I start contacting people and asking them directly. I hate doing it, and really appreciate everyone who completes the survey unnagged.
A key component of our business, the Entrevestor survey is completely confidential and super easy to complete. It takes about 3 minutes. We aggregate and analyze the data and sell the resulting report to clients, which allows us to continue to provide the community with news.
We are looking for submissions from companies that meet three criteria:
- They must be locally owned (no subsidiaries or divisions of companies based elsewhere);
- They must be commercializing proprietary technology (no web developers or service companies);
- And they must be producing at least one product for the global market.
Age is insignificant. We have a couple of companies that date back to the 1990s. We're interested in new companies, but we want active teams that are actually developing their product and business. It's got to be beyond the idea stage.
I’m soon going to begin emailing people directly. Please save us both the inconvenience and complete the survey today.
East Coast SME Optimism Rebounds
The Business Development Bank of Canada is seeing growing optimism among Canada’s small- and medium-sized businesses, with particular strength in the national technology sector and across Atlantic Canada.
The BDC, the business-focused financial institution owned by the federal government, on Monday released its annual survey of 4,000 of those businesses and their intentions for the coming year.
The headline figure shows that these small businesses plan to boost total investment to $96.6 billion in 2017, up 1.6 per cent from 2016. What’s really interesting about the survey is that BDC found particular strength in the tech community nationally and in Atlantic Canada.
“What we’re seeing in the survey is that entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada are more confident about the economy than a year ago,” said Pierre Cléroux, BDC’s vice-president of research and chief economist. “For example, 75 per cent of the entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada believe that their revenues are going to increase this year. So this is a very positive result. And it’s actually higher than the national average.”
On a national level, 69 per cent of small business owners are expecting improved revenue in 2017 — an improvement from 45 per cent in the 2016 survey. Cléroux said the main reason for the increase is the strong optimism among high-growth small businesses, who are expecting a 19 per cent jump in revenues.
The survey found that retail businesses lag other sectors, with a drop of 31 per cent in the amount they intend to invest over the next year.
Overall, the survey showed that a lack of confidence in the economy is no longer a primary obstacle to investment. Rather, the biggest problems are the lack of cash flow and of qualified personnel.
Cléroux added that the information technology sector is showing particular strength right across the country, driven by both strong investment and high demand for technology products.
“The tech sector has been growing very strongly in the last five years,” said Cléroux. “In fact, it’s the only sector that has been outperforming the economy in terms of growth. That’s why I’m not surprised to see that their investment intentions are so good compared to the other sectors. Their investment intentions are 38-per-cent higher this year than the year before, which is the highest level in our survey.”
While they are expecting higher revenues, technology entrepreneurs in Canada are expecting to dramatically increase their investments in 2017.
BDC found that 54 per cent of the entrepreneurs in the tech sector plan to increase investment in 2017 — far higher than 34 per cent for small- and medium-sized businesses in the broader economy.
Cléroux said that the survey results also point to the underlying strength in demand for tech products because so many companies overall list technology at the top of the capital investment plans in the coming year.
“When we ask all the entrepreneurs in our survey, what is going to be your number-one investment project for 2017, 61 per cent said it’s going to be an investment in technology,” said Cléroux. “So they want to invest in computer hardware, in software and ecommerce. That’s the reason why we’re confident about the tech industry — it’s because the demand will remain very strong.”
Cybersecurity Institute Opens at UNB
Ali Ghorbani: 'The Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity is poised to alter the cyberwarfare landscape.'
The institute, which has signed on IBM as its first R&D partner, will train skilled cybersecurity professionals and provide leading-edge research into one of the most pressing issues facing society today. It has been launched as New Brunswick aims to become a centre of excellence for cybersecurity.
“The Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity is a culmination of more than 15 years of successful innovation and research in cybersecurity at the University of New Brunswick,” UNB President Eddy Campbell said in a statement. “The creation of the institute allows us to forge an even more crucial role in developing security measures necessary to protect modern critical infrastructure in Canada and beyond.”
The development of cybersecurity in New Brunswick originally grew out of the success of Q1 Labs, which began in Fredericton and was purchased in 2012 by IBM for a reported price of more than $600 million. The acquisition served as a catalyst for IBM’s security division, which is now a $2 billion business employing more than 8,000 researchers, developers and security experts across 133 countries.
Q1 and IBM provide the nucleus of a cybersecurity community in New Brunswick with great expertise in preventing cyberattacks. Since the acquisition, other startups have formed in the space like Sentrant Security and Beauceron Security.
The worldwide cybersecurity market is large and growing, with market estimates ranging from US$75 billion in 2015 to US$170 billion by 2020. The size of the market is a response to the rising global cost of cyberattacks, which is expected to grow to US$2.1 trillion by 2020. As a result, there is intense interest in the development of new-generation cybersecurity solutions.
“The need for more cybersecurity support and services around the world is a huge opportunity to create jobs here in our province,” said Premier Brian Gallant, whose government has identified cybersecurity as a pillar of its innovation program. “New Brunswick is already a world leader in cybersecurity. Enhancing training and research opportunities through this institute is another step in seizing this significant economic opportunity.”
The institute was made possible with $2.27 million in funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Innovative Communities Fund and through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. The provincial government provided a contribution of nearly $2 million, while UNB is adding $330,000 in funding.
Ali Ghorbani, Canada Research Chair in Cybersecurity at UNB and the university’s dean of computer science, serves as director of the institute.
“The Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity is poised to alter the cyberwarfare landscape by propelling research, training and collaboration with governments and industry to new levels,” said Ghorbani.
IBM is the institute’s first research and development partner, helping to fund highly skilled resources in the field of cybersecurity and other in-kind contributions such as technical and management resources to provide project oversight and mentorship for students.
This partnership builds on IBM’s long-standing history of investments and partnerships across the province. IBM maintains a research and development and customer support centre in Fredericton, which provides support for more than 5,000 customers around the globe.
The institute, housed at existing facilities on UNB’s Fredericton campus, is a comprehensive multidisciplinary training, research and development and entrepreneurial unit. It will collaborate with researchers in the social sciences, business, computer science, engineering, law, and science, as well as other national and international research centres.
John Hamblin, the head of Startup Canada Halifax, said the event will be an opportunity to learn, network and build contacts.
The program includes:
-- A presentation by Propel ICT highlighting the value of the Propel programs across Atlantic Canada.
-- A talk by featured speaker, Stephanie Holmes-Winton, the author of two financial planning books and the Founder and CEO of The MoneyFinder. This is a Halifax-based FinTech startup that helps financial planners plot cash flow analyses and perform other tasks.
-- Presentations and discussions on what startups need to understand to set up and manage their businesses. These talks will include presentations by accountants, and discussions on the financial problems faced by startups.
Job of the Week: Sentinel Alert’s CTO
In our Job of the Week column today, we’re highlighting an opening for Chief Technology Officer at Sentinel Alert of St. John’s. The successful candidate could choose to work in St. John’s or Halifax.
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 or mobile device 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.
The company now describes its solution as being like “a FitBit for worker safer” that uses advanced mathematics to detect and prevent worker accidents in manufacturing, forestry and construction environments.
Sentinel Alert last year raised $525,000 in equity investment from the Killick Group, Venture NL and a private angel investor. In 2015, the company won the $35,000 first prize at the Women Entrepreneurs’ Bootcamp (now called the Fierce Founders Bootcamp) at Communitech in Kitchener, Ont.
The Job of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside (formerly Qimple).
Sentinel Alert is looking for a hands-on tech leader, with a unique combination of startup-like resourcefulness and strong technical expertise. He or she should have strategic experience coupled with SaaS, mobile or data background. The successful candidate will be required to lead strategic planning. That means identifying and prioritizing development initiatives and setting timetables for all web-based and mobile services. He or she will have to build, manage, and validate the Tech Roadmap. The CTO will also have to build and coach the development team to build up their skillsets. The skillset required for the position are listed on the job posting.
PEI Eyes BioCommons Expansion
The BioCommons Research Park
With its life sciences segment pretty well doubling in size every four years, Prince Edward Island is on a mission to develop new infrastructure that can sustain that growth.
The PEI BioAlliance, a partnership between the various players in the Island’s life sciences industry, recently revealed a proposal to develop a $30 million to $35 million BioAccelerator complex. The group hopes to build the 77,000-square-foot facility at the BioCommons Research Park in the Charlottetown area. It envisions a multi-faceted space that would include offices, co-working space, wet labs and manufacturing facilities.
Such a facility is needed, say its proponents, to accommodate the galloping growth of the biotech sector on the island.
“We now have 46 companies and seven research institutions in the province’s bioscience sector, employing over 1400 people in high-paying, full-time jobs,” BioAlliance Chair Russ Kerr recently told the legislature’s standing committee on energy and infrastructure. “There are another dozen companies in the development pipeline, and we need the appropriate facilities if we are to compete successfully for the jobs, investment, and brainpower that these opportunities represent.”
His presentation was part of the BioAlliance’s efforts to find funding from all levels of government for the project.
The BioAlliance is a private sector-led organization that brings together businesses, academia, government and non-governmental organizations to grow life sciences companies in P.E.I., whether they’re in biotech, agritech or other areas. The group now includes 46 private companies, 15 of which have joined the group since 2010.
The BioAlliance companies generated about $218 million of revenue in 2015, up from $95 million in 2010. The public- and private-sector members of the BioAlliance employed 1400 people as of the end of 2015, up from about 900 in 2010.
Aiding this growth, the federal government has twice in the past two years awarded P.E.I. funding for new initiatives: $3.6 million for the Emergence bioscience incubator; and $14 million to head the nationwide group, Natural Products Canada.
Now the BioAlliance has set targets to maintain that growth over the next few years. The organization’s recent strategy statement has set targets for 2020 of $400 million in private sector revenue by 2020, and total employment of 2000 people. And the new BioAccelerator will help achieve those targets, said BioAlliance Executive Director Rory Francis.
“We’re just trying to keep up with what the companies are doing,” he said in an interview in his Charlottetown office. “We think that by 2025 we’ll be over $600 million in sales, but we can’t do that unless we get some space to grow.”
He added the benefits of improving the bioscience infrastructure in P.E.I. extend to the other Atlantic Canadian provinces and the rest of the country.
The BioAccelerator Steering Committee includes industry, academic, federal and provincial government representatives. Chair Ron Keefe said the committee has taken a broad look at infrastructure across the province and across the region. The goal is to build a new facility that will complement existing infrastructure at such institutions as the University of Prince Edward Island, the Atlantic Veterinary College, Holland College, the National Research Council, Agriculture Canada Research, and BioFoodTech.
“We’re working with local entrepreneurs and new businesses developing products from functional food ingredients to pharmaceuticals, animal and fish health products, and diagnostics,” said Keefe. “These products are highly regulated to assure safety and quality, and our facilities have to meet rigorous national and international standards.”
The organization hopes to break ground on the new BioAccelerator in early 2017, and have a two-year development schedule so people would be working in the complex in 2019.
Said Keefe: “Besides the obvious benefits for our economy, these are the kind of jobs that retain and repatriate our youth, create a highly educated and trained workforce, and enhance industry-research relationships that benefit students and researchers at UPEI and Holland College.”
Genesis Centre Marks 20 Years
The Genesis Centre in Newfoundland and Labrador turns 20 this year, a milestone that’s being celebrated with events that include MaRS on the Rock, a new partnership between the Genesis Centre and Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District.
MOTR, which starts on Jan. 27, will see entrepreneurs-in-residence from MaRS visit the province to deliver a 14-week program designed to boost innovation and creativity among corporations and government as well as entrepreneurs and students.
“Our program is modeled on MaRS’ Everest program. We want corporations and governments to create intrapreneurs (managers in large organizations who behave like entrepreneurs),” said Michelle Simms, Genesis Centre CEO.
“Over time, we hope to expand the program in partnership with MaRS.”
The Genesis Centre will also host the Invest Atlantic conference this fall.
The Genesis Centre was founded in 1997 to incubate technology startups. Within the next 18 months, the centre will move from its long-time home at the Memorial University campus in St. John’s to a new location in the city’s former Battery Hotel.
The university is currently remodelling the building to allow it to showcase the university to the public.
Simms said the new location will be inspiring.
“We’ll be at the base of Signal Hill where the first transatlantic wireless transmission was received by Marconi in 1901,” she said. “We’ll be closer to the business community in the downtown core.
“We won’t be at the centre of the university, but we’ll maintain a strong presence on campus.”
Simms is looking forward to the new building’s open-plan offices, designed to encourage collaboration between the companies participating in the centre’s Enterprise incubator. There are currently 15 of those companies. Simms hopes the number will rise to 20 by the end of this year.
The growth in the Enterprise incubator is a sign of the growth in the province’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The ecosystem has recently been enriched by the provincial Launch program, run by regional accelerator Propel ICT. There is also a new centre for entrepreneurship at Memorial.
“We’re starting to figure out how best to work together to serve clients,” Simms said. “We’re seeing a significant increase in the companies we’re working with and the number of new companies being created.”
Memorial’s own Evolution program has graduated 87 companies since it started in June 2014. Many of those 87 have been accepted into Propel’s Launch.
Simms is proud of Evolution’s role in the ecosystem.
“Before 2014, there was no program that took people who just had an idea they wanted to flesh out,” she said. “Evolution has helped people figure out if they want to be entrepreneurs. They learn what entrepreneurship takes and then validate their idea by talking to customers.”
This is an exciting time for Simms personally, who joined the Genesis Centre in 2002 as a business analyst. It was only her second job after gaining a bachelor's degree in business administration from Memorial.
A native of the province —she grew up in the northern community of St. Anthony near L’Anse aux Meadows where the Vikings settled — Simms is known for her outgoing personality. She enjoys getting the centre’s participating founders together to boost energy and idea creation.
“We have lots of food events. We have popcorn every Friday, and fresh fruit to encourage breaks.”
Staff recently bought an award-winning hydroponic system, created by Memorial’s Enactus team, so tomatoes and peppers can be grown in the Genesis Centre without soil.
“The clients are coming out of their offices to see if the plants have sprouted,” Simms said. “There are buds on the peppers, but we’re waiting for the tomatoes to bud.”
Overall, she is pleased to see the province’s entrepreneurs finding product-market fit more quickly.
“And corporations are including design thinking. There’s a new innovative culture.”
Build, Innovacorp Back Dash Hudson
Bolstered by signing major new clients, Halifax-based Dash Hudson has quietly closed a new funding round of more than $2 million to further accelerate its growth.
Dash Hudson, which provides data analytics for corporate clients using Instagram, raised money from the regional venture capital fund Build Ventures, which is backing the company for the first time. Innovacorp, the provincial venture capital and innovation agency, also joined this round.
The people involved in the deal declined to speak on the size of the funding round, though it is understood to be worth more than $2 million. The company closed the deal a few months back and was one of at least 14 Atlantic Canadian startups to raise more than $1 million in financing rounds last year.
Innovacorp had also participated in the company’s previous funding round, a $1-million financing that included investments from such angel investors as Jevon MacDonald and Gavin Uhma, the co-founders of GoInstant. The website AngelList also lists Halifax tech entrepreneur Patrick Hankinson and former GroupOn chief technology officer Paul Gauthier as investors.
(Full disclosure: Innovacorp and Build are clients of Entrevestor.)
In an interview last summer, Dash Hudson CEO Thomas Rankin said the company had had great success in signing large brands that wanted to track their following on the social media network Instagram. At the time, the company had such blue chip clients as Condé Nast media group, Revolve clothing and Hyatt Hotels Corp. That list has grown.
In an email this week, Rankin said 2016 “was all about growth. In addition to hitting some major economic milestones, we brought on some amazing new customers (including) Clique Media Group, Kylie Cosmetics, Vogue, and Heineken, to name a few.”
He added that the company reached the break-even mark last summer because of the surge in sales.
The Halifax startup launched three years ago and tried a few business models before settling on a tool for analyzing the market response to Instagram posts. Rankin and his co-founder Tomek Niewiarowski discovered that was the tool clients really wanted. It now bills itself as a smarter way to grow on Instagram.
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, retailers and others have been eager to use it as an advertising platform. But as of the summer of 2015 they were unable to analyze what effect Instagram posts were having with customers.
Dash Hudson has been on a hiring binge in the past year, especially in its sales force and customer support staff. Given that Dash Hudson is a software-as-a-service product, it’s able to gain recurring revenue, meaning the revenue streams tend to repeat themselves once it signs a customer.
“Because of market demand and our creation of a repeatable sales process, it was time to bring on new funding to help us accelerate,” said Rankin. “This was in spite of reaching break-even last summer. Exciting times ahead in 2017.”
Please Help Us with our Annual Survey
Once again, we are launching our annual survey of Atlantic Canadian startups.
We can’t overstate the importance of this survey to our business. This survey helps to demonstrate to decision-makers the importance of the startup community in the economy. And it helps Entrevestor to continue providing news on the East Coast startup community.
We're asking each Atlantic Canadian startup that was active in December 2016 to complete this confidential survey. If you believe, as we do, that Entrevestor helps in the development of the Atlantic Canadian startup community, this is your chance to support us. Think of it as our equivalent of a PBS funding drive.
We have kept the survey short and believe it can be completed in about three minutes. Your investment of three minutes will help us analyze what is going on in the community.
The result is a 40- to 50-page report that we sell to interested parties. These include government departments, accelerators, venture capital funds and regulators. Last year, for the first time, we found major corporations were interested in our data. This report gives decision-makers an understanding of the community, which leads to better programs, investment and partnerships.
The second reason to participate is our databank allows us to continue reporting on what you do. Monetizing news is difficult. When you complete our survey, you're helping us to stick around. It's like a crowdfunding campaign -- only it costs you no money and helps us to improve our product.
We are looking for submissions from companies that meet three criteria:
- They must be locally owned (no subsidiaries or divisions of companies based elsewhere);
- They must be commercializing proprietary technology (no web developers or service companies);
- And they must be producing at least one product for the global market.
Age is insignificant. We have a couple of companies that date back to the 1990s. We're interested in new companies, but we want active teams that are actually developing their product and business. It's got to be beyond the idea stage.
We'll be contacting companies by email in the coming weeks. It would be great if you could complete the survey now and save us the trouble of bothering you. Remember, everything you tell us will be absolutely confidential. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Peter at 902 401 2048 or email@example.com.
Dalhousie’s Collide Winter 2017 program is a series of entrepreneurial workshops, pitching and networking events to help individuals launch their ventures. The winter program will have a stronger focus on customer validation and prototyping than previous iterations.
Collide is open to students, researchers and community members and is free of charge. All are welcome to attend the events regardless of involvement in the program but only full participants will be eligible for the certificate or prize money.
In order to receive the certificate of completion, participants must attend: four pitching sessions (presenting ideas and receiving feedback); three workshops (learning to further develop ideas); and two fireside chats (Q&As with successful entrepreneurs).
After completing the requirements of the program, participants will have the chance to present their pitches to a panel of judges in the pitch competition for the chance to win prize money to put towards their ventures.
Applications for Collide Winter, which can be found here, are open until Jan. 16.
Overseen by UNB’s J Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management & Entrepreneurship, or TME, the Summer Institute offers a three-month intensive program for passionate people who want to turn their innovative ideas into successful businesses. Each cohort spends the summer working with a group of professional designers and established entrepreneurs to build businesses that excite them. Costs for participants are covered through a stipend that includes living costs and product development costs.
“The Summer Institute is an opportunity for people who want to make a big leap into entrepreneurship to create value and meaning for society,” said Dhirendra Shukla, TME Chair and Director of the Summer Institute. “There are so many good people and ideas in our region. Our goal is to offer them the safe space, support and knowledge they will need to turn their idea into a sustainable venture.”
Now in its fourth year, the Summer Institute is scheduled to run from May 1 until July 21.
The Summer Institute has launched 17 companies, including Fredericton’s Wear Your Label, and was the first accelerator in Eastern Canada to be invited into the Techstars-affiliated Global Accelerator Network.
“This year, we’re looking for entrepreneurs of all passions. Everything from cybersecurity, to forestry, and even fine art & craft” said Program Manager Melissa O’Rourke. “If you know an entrepreneur with an innovative product or service, or someone with a great idea who likes to make a difference, point them towards the Summer Institute.”
Applications for UNB’s Summer Institute, which can be found here, are open until March 12.
Build Ventures Preps for Fund II
Build Ventures, the regional venture capital fund, is beginning to prepare for its second fund now that it has just over a year to complete the portfolio of its first fund.
The Halifax-based firm launched in 2013 with a $65-million fund, raised from the four Atlantic Provinces, BDC Capital and private investors. Partners Rob Barbara and Patrick Keefe planned to spend five years investing money from their first fund, and then hoped to raise a second fund.
However, Keefe said in an interview that they have started the process to raise the second fund.
“Raising capital is very difficult and a very long road so we need to begin the process well in advance of that date.”
[Full disclosure: Build Ventures is a client of Entrevestor.]
The firm’s website lists a portfolio of 10 companies in its first fund. It has closed funding deals with the 11th and 12th portfolio companies though they have not been announced, and is now in negotiations with its 13th.
By the end of March 2018, it will not bring any new companies into the first fund’s portfolio, though it will have cash on hand to join follow-on rounds for its portfolio companies.
Barbara said the company is hiring new senior executives, and has been building up its client base among large-scale agricultural concerns.
The two Build principals said that their portfolio is a meritocracy, and they have capital reserved to re-invest in the companies that perform the best.
Even after they stop investing Fund 1 capital in new companies next year, there will be capital to reward good companies.
Said Keefe: “We’re very pleased with the status of the portfolio given where we are in the life cycle of the fund, the caveat being that it’s still very early and we have a long way to go.”
Goggin Talks at Moncton Cybersocial
Rishin Behl, left, and Peter Goggin
Peter Goggin, the Co-Founder and Vice-President of Operations at Resson, will speak Wednesday at the Cybersocial in Moncton.
The free event will take place at the Venn Centre on Main Street, starting at 5 pm.
Goggin and his co-founder Rishin Behl established Fredericton-based Resson four 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.
The company sprang to prominence last summer when it announced a $14 million round of funding, led by the VC arm of Monsanto, the St. Louis-based agrichemical and agritech giant.
The Cybersocial organizers say Resson is doing all sorts of big projects in New Zealand, India, U.S.A. and Argentina and plan to double staff in the next few months.
Bootstrapping Talk at Startup Grind
Startup Grind Halifax has announced that its next event will focus on bootstrapping and will feature Eric Bahn, who spent just $32,000 on a site that he sold for millions.
Led by entrepreneur Oleg Yefymov, Startup Grind brings in speakers for the startup community in the city. Its recent speakers have included the likes of OurCrowd Founder Jonathan Medved (whose talk can be seen here) and Washington, D.C.-based venture capitalist Paul Singh.
Bahn, who now works with 500 Startups, will speak at 6 pm on Jan. 26 at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre on Summer Street. Early-bird rates end today and tickets are available here.
Bahn is a Co-founder of Hustle Con Media, which promotes events and content to help non-technical entrepreneurs launch startups. Previously, he was the founder and CEO of Beat The GMAT, the largest MBA applicant social network on the internet, serving 3 million people each year. He grew annual revenue to more than $1 million and eventually sold the company to Hobsons, Inc.
This bootstrapping talk will be relevant to anyone who is trying to avoid raising money or to those who just struggling with it.
Fitzgerald Replaces Garrish as CTO
Spring Loaded Technology has named Stephen Fitzgerald as its new Chief Technology Officer, replacing co-founder Bob Garrish, who has stepped down for health reasons.
Armed with more than 25 years of experience in turning technology into products, Fitzgerald will lead the company’s R&D activities and product development. He will continue to bring the company’s innovative concept products to life, said the Dartmouth-based company in a statement.
“Stephen has an extensive track record and strong reputation as an innovative mechanical engineer and is a welcome addition to our team,” said Spring Loaded CEO Chris Cowper-Smith. “His experience inventing, developing, launching, and improving products in fields that range from aerospace to sporting goods will prove invaluable as we continue to strengthen and expand our product line.”
Garrish, Cowper-Smith and Shea Kerwin (who’s now heading up the Ontario sports hardware startup, UHWK) came together in the first cohort of Dalhousie University’s Starting Lean program to form Spring Loaded in 2012. The aim was to develop a knee brace that not only stabilized the joint but also added power to it. The result was the Levitation knee brace, launched last year, which the company refers to as the world’s first “bionic knee brace”.
Garrish oversaw the development of the Levitation and the continuing research into new products, and helped to build Spring Loaded to an enterprise with almost 30 employees.
“I’ve had to resign so I can focus on my health going forward, and I’ve chosen Steve as my successor,” said Garrish, who will remain as a director of the company. In an interview, he added that eventually he will start another company.
“One of the things I gained from being part of that first Starting Lean group is we learned something about taking your skills and turning them into something marketable,” he said.
His successor Fitzgerald brings depth and breadth of experience to Spring Loaded Technology. Since completing his MASc in Mechanical Engineering, he has flown an experiment on the space shuttle, worked on development of a stealth fighter, built cable tray systems for the English Channel tunnel, and designed and produced all manner of carbon fiber sporting goods.
Most recently, Fitzgerald served as Senior VP of Engineering at Combat Sports where he was responsible for engineering, product development and applied research, as well as international manufacturing operations.
“There are exciting things happening at Spring Loaded Technology and I’m excited to contribute to the company’s growth,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s rewarding to work with a company and product line that has such a significant positive impact on the lives of its customers and I look forward to doing my part to give customers the best experience possible.”
Our first jobs of the week column this year features an interim position leading Charlottetown’s newest incubator, and two openings at IT companies that have been on a hiring binge lately.
The Startup Zone in Charlottetown is looking for an interim CEO while its current boss is on maternity leave. Launched last June, the Startup Zone is the province’s newest business incubator. The interim CEO will continue to develop the programming and manage the financial aspects of the organization.
Meanwhile, Dash Hudson of Halifax is looking for an account executive. Dash Hudson helps clients analyze their Instagram and SnapChat data. It collects data on how major brands are connecting with customers on Instagram. The photo-sharing app is one of the most popular social media tools available but before Dash Hudson they were unable to analyze what effect Instagram posts were having with customers. It is now moving into providing the same service for SnapChat users.
And in St. John’s, HeyOrca has an opening for an experienced web developer. HeyOrca is an online platform that helps marketers collaborate on social media content.
The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside (formerly Qimple).
The interim CEO will be responsible for helping with the growth of an incubator that has already graduated its first five-team cohort. The successful candidate will have to develop a plan to meet the objectives of the strategic plan, working with the board of directors to develop the incubator. The duties will include organizing day-to-day activities, and building relationships with startups, community outreach and managing finances. The interim CEO will have to work at the Startup Zone during office hours, as well as some evenings and weekends. He or she will be required to adhere to the confidentiality and standards set out by the Startup Zone Employee Handbook.
The account executive will work with Dash Hudson’s sales team on the business development process, contributing to such tasks as lead generation, sales outreach, progress tracking and closing deals. He or she will engage with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications. The duties include meeting monthly and quarterly sales quotas, reviewing and qualifying inbound leads, and managing CRM and sales pipeline. Dash Hudson is looking for someone with one to four years of experience in a similar role, and someone with analytical, business development, strategy, and sales skills. The successful candidate must be hyper-organized with equal parts diligent and creative.
HeyOrca’s goal is to build a great team, which will lead to the development of great software. Developers should add value not just by coding, but by changing the way the team works. The company is therefore seeking members who can contribute in some way to most aspects of the software from ideation to maintenance and support. The successful candidate should be skilled in Amazon Web Services, other ORMs, other PHP Frameworks, other JS Frameworks, Redux, React.js, Doctrine, and Laravel.
3 Reasons Scaling Beats Launching
Lately I’ve been writing more and more about the larger startups in the region because they have the biggest impact in terms of job creation, revenue growth and attracting capital.
I’ve never summed up in a single column why I believe the focus on the larger companies is so important. But there are metrics that show the biggest impact comes from scaling successful companies rather than starting a lot of little companies.
Just to be clear, when I mention “larger startup” I’m talking about fairly young, locally-owned companies that are commercializing technology. But my focus is on those with more than 10 employees and $100,000 in annual revenue, not those still looking for a product that meets market demand.
There are three reasons these “larger startups” offer the biggest bang:
1. They attract the most equity capital. We’re just beginning to tally all the data from 2016, but it’s looking like it was a sweet year for capital raising by Atlantic Canadian startups — especially the bigger deals.
Our early count shows there were 14 companies that raised more than $1 million each in 2016, and in total they raised more than $55 million. About $38 million of that money came from outside the region.
In 2015, the $1 million-plus deals amounted to about $33 million.
In recent years, the larger deals have made up more and more of the total funding for startups, and it looks like funding grew strongly in 2016 because of these large deals.
2. They grow sales more quickly than other companies. Logically, you’d think the strongest growth would be in the smaller companies, which are gaining revenue for the first time.
But actually, the strongest sales growth is in bigger startups, which have found a market for their product and have sales staff to push it out to buyers.
Atlantic Canadian startups are increasing revenue at a surprising rate — up 66 per cent in 2015, according to the 120 startups that shared their revenue data with us. But companies with more than $100,000 in annual sales produced sale growth of more 76 per cent. Again the biggest impact is found in the larger companies.
3. And they hire far more employees than smaller startups. Given that they bring in the most investment capital and revenue, maybe it’s not surprising that bigger companies hire the more people. But we were surprised by how many more people are hired by the large companies.
For 2015, we received employment data from 152 startups, and their total staffing increased by about 25 per cent.
In total, they hired the equivalent of 160.5 full-time employees in Atlantic Canada.
An astonishing 120.5 of these positions were created at companies with more than 10 employees. In other words, for every job created at a small startup, there are three created at a large startup.
These stats are important because there’s been a lot of focus in economic development on increasing the number of companies launched in the region. The thinking seems to be that if there are a lot of new companies, they’ll create growth.
The far more important statistic — and one that’s harder to track — is how many of these young companies are growing into bona fide corporations with global reach.
The innovation agency holds the Breakthru competition every other year with the goal of helping young companies to get off the ground with funding and mentorship. NBIF will award $750,000 in cash and in-kind services to the top three New Brunswick companies. And for the first time it will set aside $250,000 for a company from other parts of Canada that wants to set up base in New Brunswick.
The business plans will help the judges select the semi-finalists for the competition. All semi-finalists will be required to attend the competition’s second bootcamp on Jan. 28.
NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury said the competition, now in its 10th year, has attracted a record number of entrants. Some 61 teams comprising 141 people entered the 2017 competition, and all but nine of the entries were teams rather than individuals. There were seven national entries, made up of 17 participants.
Three provincial winners and the national winner will divide $1 million in cash and services, so four young companies will be growing in the province with an average of $250,000 of development capital or expertise. The prizes include professional services like legal, accounting and marketing advice. Milbury likes to call the prize a “company in a box”.
In 2015, Breakthru was won by Castaway Golf, which developed an automated system for retrieving golf balls from water hazards, which could then be sold on to golfers.
The winners will be announced at the Breakthru LIVE 2017 gala at the Fredericton Convention Centre on March 23, 2017.
Stephen Nicolle Joins Appili Board
Stephen Nicolle: Has returned more than $100 million to investors.
A seasoned executive, Nicolle has led Canadian and American companies to deliver innovative customer value and returned over $100 million to their investors. In Halifax, he is known for leading the healthcare IT company STI in its $17 million private equity raise in 2013.
"When it comes to leading venture-backed companies, Mr. Nicolle brings unparalleled business expertise and vision that will be instrumental as we grow and develop our pipeline of anti-infective products,” said Appili CEO Kevin Sullivan in a statement.
Operating out of a lab in the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre in Halifax, Appili has a two-track strategy. It hopes to get a low-risk drug with limited potential to market quickly and use the revenues from that drug to help develop a second candidate that could battle antibiotic-resistant viruses.
Last year, Appili received a key U.S. regulatory designation for a drug, known as ATI-1501, that treats Clostridium difficile infection in children. The Food and Drug Administration granted orphan drug designation to ATI-1501, which removes the bitter taste from Metronidazole, a drug that has been used to treat the condition since the 1970s.
Meanwhile, the company is also working on ATI-1503, an antibiotic that could fight deadly infections such as Klebsiella pneumonia.
"I am attracted by Appili’s strategic approach of acquiring and developing early stage and late stage products which uniquely address the global demand for new antibiotic treatments to combat bacterial resistance,” said Nicolle.
Nicolle has 20 years of experience leading companies and growing shareholder value. He is currently president of Cape Bear Advisors, where he consults and holds numerous board positions, including vice chair of the start-up accelerator Propel ICT.
Before STI Technologies, Nicolle spent 10 years leading venture-backed technology companies, including: CEO of Tatara Systems, CEO of Sigma Systems, COO at March Networks, and President of Nortel’s Service Provider eBusiness Solutions Group.
Appili has raised $4.5 million in equity financing in the last two years, including a $2.2 million round announced in December from Innovacorp and a group of angels.
Mr. Sullivan made the Nicolle announcement as he headed to San Francisco to attend the life science industry’s largest investor conference, the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference.
A Digital Society in Saint John
Erin Flood: 'What's next is the call to action to the community.'
A recurring theme at the Big Data Congress in Saint John last October was the global movement toward a data-driven society. Most of the 600 delegates were probably unaware that one Atlantic Canadian city is already moving toward becoming such a community.
It is, in fact, Saint John itself.
The New Brunswick city has completed a pilot project called the Pattern of Life program, which is now graduating to its next phase. The goal is to collect and analyze digital data to enhance efficiency and improve people’s lives.
“What’s next is the call to action to the community,” said Erin Flood, chief operating officer of Hotspot Merchant Solutions, one company involved in the project.
“We are looking to work across the business community, citizens and the municipal government.”
The Big Data Congress began in Saint John three years ago as a forum for people and organizations interested in the economic opportunities offered by data analysis. Given the growing interest in data analytics, Hotspot and such groups as Enterprise Saint John, T4G and Cisco announced the Pattern of Life project last May.
They deployed a network of beacons throughout Uptown Saint John to detect when someone with a cell phone passes by, to build up a library of open-source data on traffic flows. By aggregating all the data on vehicular and pedestrian traffic, businesses and government can better understand what is happening in their city.
“The impact of data on my operation is huge,” said Nancy Tissington, executive director of Uptown Saint John Inc. “By collecting real-time data on pedestrian and vehicular traffic flow through Uptown, I’m able to validate so many of my business cases.”
In an interview, Flood said the data analysis can be used by businesses considering opening new locations. Armed with the concrete data, economic development teams can tell businesses what locations have the most traffic, and where they should consider locating.
In terms of government services, it can suggest traffic and transit routes, where and when parking spots are needed, and what amenities people may need as they move through the city. It can improve policing, which would make for a safer city and possibly save the municipality money. And it can also indicate optimum energy-saving infrastructure, benefiting the environment.
Flood said a modest investment in a network of sensors can benefit more than 600 businesses in the area, reduce government spending and lead to better services for 70,000 citizens. As it moves forward, she hopes the project will expand into such cities as Moncton and Fredericton.
The concentration on data analysis represents an evolution for Hotspot. The company began three years ago by developing an app with which people could feed a parking meter. It then installed beacons in local retail outlets so merchants could receive data and use it as a customer-service tool. The system could validate customer parking and improve the in-store experience.
“Parking and transportation has always been a key part of Big Data,” said Flood. “It’s just about how to take these datasets and leverage them to find value in how to apply it to a big city. It’s about letting the community know the value of data and open data, and how we can use it across the community.”
Propel To Hold Information Sessions
Propel ICT, the regional ICT accelerator, is kicking off the new year with a series of information sessions about its next cohort, which will take place this winter.
Applications for the coming cohort, which can be found here, close Jan. 31. As it has done in the past, Propel will offer its Build Program for more advanced companies across the region, usually meeting in Moncton. And it plans to offer the Launch program, which is designed for younger companies, in Halifax, Fredericton, Charlottetown, Sydney and St. John’s.
Propel hopes to offer a cohort in Sydney for the first time as long as there are enough eligible candidates for the cohort. The ideal number in a cohort is six to nine companies.
The information sessions will take place in several centres, and there are even virtual sessions for people not located in the cities where the sessions are held.
Here is a list of the information sessions:
Jan. 5 Startup Zone, Charlottetown Noon
Virtual 5 pm
TecSocial, Holiday Inn, Sydney 5:15 pm
Jan. 9 Planet Hatch, Fredericton Noon
Jan. 10 Virtual 5 pm
Jan. 11 Connexion Works, Saint John Noon
Jan. 12 Virtual Noon
Jan. 16 Volta, Halifax Noon
Jan. 17 Venn Centre, Moncton Noon
Navigate Startup House, Sydney Noon
Jan. 19 Planet Hatch, Fredericton Noon
Jan. 25 Connexion Works, Saint John Noon
Volta, Halifax Noon
Jan. 26 Venn Centre, Moncton Noon
Common Ground, St. John’s Noon
Jan. 27 Startup Zone, Charlottetown Noon
Jan. 30 Planet Hatch, Fredericton Noon
There could be changes so please check the Propel calendar, which can be found here.
I sat down with Director Devon Murrins a while back to discuss what we’re noticing in the community, and our discussion focused the dominance of the larger startups.
Launched in 2011, Startup Kitchen provides video interviews with startup founders in the region. It was founded by Fredericton tech enthusiasts Robert Foley and Suhaim Abdussamad, and since 2014 has been broadcast on the Bell Alliant community channel under the name #startupeast.
I was interviewed just after we’d completed analyzing our data on startups for 2015, and discussed the growth in the number of startups in the region. But what I really dove into – and something that I’m writing and talking about more these days – was the impact of large companies.
“What’s really interesting is at the top of the pyramid we’re seeing more companies gain more success internationally,” I said in the four-minute video. “There a now about 30 companies that have more than $2 million in revenue each year. These companies are pretty well doubling their revenue each year. They’re still on a growth trajectory.”
The growth of these companies is driving an acceleration in the overall startup revenues in the region. Our research shows that annual revenues rose by 30 percent in 2013, 37 percent in 2014 and 66 percent in 2015.
Have a look at the interview. What could be finer than starting your day with my youthful visage and honeyed voice? Many thanks to Suhaim, Rob and Devon for thinking of Entrevestor.
CB Startups: Doing a Lot with a Little
Click2Order is a clear demonstration of what’s special about the Cape Breton startup community.
Founded by Matt Stewart and Rob Myers, Sydney-based Click2Order has developed an app that lets people order from a restaurant online. It allows the restaurant to display the app on its own site, along with the menu, payment system and other features.
With restaurants able to put their own branding on the product, Click2Order has been able to snare about 30 clients in Atlantic Canada, and recently signed with an Ontario distributor that services about 1,000 outlets in the Greater Toronto Area.
The fact that it’s gaining traction is not what makes Click2Order a typical Cape Breton startup. What’s important about this company is how the community has rallied behind it, and how much Stewart and Myers have done with a little bit of capital.
They won $10,000 in Innovacorp’s Spark Cape Breton program three years ago, and borrowed from New Dawn Enterprises, a Community Economic Development Investment Fund that supports Cape Breton enterprises. Click2Go has received other grants and loans, bringing the total capital raised to about $150,000. Many startups would struggle to build a product with so little money, but Click2Order brought a product to market with that amount.
“The thing that really strikes you about the Cape Breton startup community is how united it is and how everyone is leveraging each other's resources,” said Permjot Valia, the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Island Sandbox, which develops startups at Cape Breton University and the Nova Scotia Community College. “A manifestation of that was Super August. Everyone came together to create something incredible. It's just not possible for one organization to have done all of that by itself.”
Super August was a month-long celebration of the startup community on the island, ranging from a MentorCamp to a growth-stage pitching competition to a lunch ‘n’ learn series. Above all else, it highlighted the community spirit ingrained in the local grouping.
Another company that exemplifies the Caper spirit is Docmaster, which has developed a cloud-based repository for corporate clients’ digital documents. Founded by husband-and-wife entrepreneurs Mark and Danielle Patterson, Docmaster has raised about $70,000 in equity financing, which it supplemented with grants and loans to bring in a total of about $300,000.
Still, the team felt the need for more money as it developed the product. When the Pattersons brought their Chief Technical Officer, James MacKinnon on board in the spring, they decided to make money by opening Devantec, a tech consultancy specializing in IT security. In the first three weeks, the new company made $100,000. In its first five months, Devantec took on 25 clients.
The Pattersons then had an enviable kind of problem – they had to develop their service company Devantec as they launched the Docmaster product. But like Click2Go, they were able to get the product into the market, tapping several clients who had participated in the company’s beta-test.
These companies are members of the latest generation of entrepreneurs in the Sydney startup grouping. The community boasts experienced ventures like Marcato Digital, Mimir Networks and Health Outcomes Worldwide, and now there’s a movement to get these young companies into the marketplace.
Click2Order has been working out of the Navigate Startup House, the local co-working space in downtown Sydney. While the Docmaster team has been operating out of the basement of the local law firm, Sampson McPhee. It’s a startup grouping that isn’t long on capital, but is long on neighbours helping neighbours.
“Investments in the startup ecosystem are investments in the future of our community,” said Ardelle Reynolds, the co-founder of the Navigate Startup House. “It’s about looking not just to the companies in front of us but the companies that will be formed later down the road.”
A Growing Cluster of Accelerators
Here’s one thing to highlight about Atlantic Canadian startups in 2017: they’ll be accelerating their danged faces off.
Accelerators have become a cornerstone of the startup world, and they’re thick on the ground on Canada’s East Coast. The sheer number of accelerators or incubators is surprising, as is the number of companies they are fostering. And they speak to the startup community’s commitment to helping more and more entrepreneurs find their way to the market.
Just consider for a moment these groups that will be active in 2017:
Propel ICT – The best-known accelerator in the region, it will likely offer programs this year to new, growing and advanced IT companies in all provinces. It will also hold a cohort at the Navigate Startup House in Sydney for the first time.
Emergence, Charlottetown – The bioscience accelerator has been nurturing several startups since it opened two years ago.
Evolution, St. John’s – The Genesis Centre has been offering this eight-week program to nurture young companies in Newfoundland and Labrador. The centre now lists 12 graduates on its website.
Startup Zone, Charlottetown – The incubator that opened last summer in the P.E.I. capital graduated its first cohorts of five startups in December.
Innovacorp’s OceanTech Programs, Halifax – The Nova Scotia innovation agency is offering three programs for marine-related companies -- the Demo at Sea Program, Early Adopter Program and OceanTech Development Program. Six companies were enrolled in the Early Adopter Program last year.
Energia, Fredericton – The new University of New Brunswick accelerator for energy, cleantech and cybersecurity is already working with five companies.
B4 Change, Fredericton – The accelerator at UNB’s Pond-Deshpande Centre focuses on social entrepreneurship, or companies with a social mission. The accelerator is now two years old with 30 graduates to date.
Spark and Ignite – Andrew Button of Mashup Lab heads these two virtual accelerators, which aims to mentor entrepreneurs regardless of where they are based. The goal is to give founders in rural areas the opportunities that exist in the urban centres.
Natural Products Canada -- This Charlottetown-based organization has pods across the country, and will be working with Atlantic Canadian companies that commercialize natural products.
So that’s 11 programs in the region, and there have been several omissions. Most prominent are the startup houses in most Atlantic Canadian cities that offer programing as well as office space.
Then there are the post-secondary institution programs. UNB, Dalhousie, St. Mary’s and Cape Breton all have programs during the school year, and Dal and UNB both have summer accelerators. Nova Scotia has a range of “sandboxes” (places where entrepreneurs can meet and collaborate).
Then there are larger programs in other places that Atlantic Canadian startups will continue to tap, like the Canadian Technology Accelerator program offered at Canadian consulates in the U.S. and other countries. And let’s not forget the broader entrepreneurship programs – like the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development in Halifax and Futurpreneur – that target more than just innovation-based startups.
Once you sit down and count them, you can be astonished by how many organizations are offering mentorship to startups. I could see 150 companies going through these programs this year. Most will fail, but the overall result will be a few dozen notable survivors and an expansion of entrepreneurial talent.
Norex Opens New Toronto Office
Jenelle Sobey: A disciplined and strategic approach
Norex, the Halifax-based web design and innovation firm, has opened an office in Toronto as part of an 18-month expansion plan.
Established in 2000, Norex has grown beyond web design with its Norex labs offering, which incubates innovative products and partners with clients to get products to market fast.
The company is planning to continue its expansion with a Boston office and an increased concentration in virtual reality.
As well as working with clients, the company also creates its own startups. Norex has incubated such ventures as Squiggle Park, which helps children to read by tracking their eye movement, and Pursu.it, which helps elite athletes with crowdfunding.
Norex has been shifting its focus toward highly complex software and web development projects -- areas that draw on its expertise in information architecture, user experience, design-thinking and quality code.
“The disciplined and strategic approach we've taken has dramatically changed our portfolio with startups representing almost 50 percent of our client mix in 2016,” said Managing Partner Jenelle Sobey in a statement.
Halifax will remain the think tank and development shop for Norex as it grows, with programmers, designers and creatives remaining in the Halifax office while the business development team works in the Toronto market.
“To do business in Atlantic Canada you need to be on planes, exploring opportunities outside the region and bringing business home," Sobey said. "We are firmly committed to keeping jobs at home while simultaneously growing our business in other markets. We anticipate that the Toronto office will result in a one-third growth in 2017, increasing in 2018.”
Pond Named to Order of Canada
Gerry Pond, a driving force behind the development of ICT startups in Atlantic Canada, has been appointed to the Order of Canada.
Rideau Hall, the office of the Governor General, named Pond to the Order, one of the country’s highest civilian honours, on Dec. 30.
With more than 45 years of business experience, Pond is best known in the startup community as an investor and the chairman of Mariner Partners, and its investment arm, East Valley Ventures.
“As the CEO of NBTel and the president of its successor, Aliant Telecom, Gerry was at the helm during a period of significant deregulation in the Canadian industry,” said a statement on the Mariner website announcing the appointment. “Under his leadership, NBTel embarked on a decade of innovation, and in the process transformed NBTel into an international ICT leader.”
Pond is the co-founder of Propel ICT, a start-up accelerator, and the Pond-Deshpande Centre, which encourages emerging entrepreneurs and innovators to create sustainable, scalable enterprises.
His other accolades include being named the 2011 Canadian Angel of the Year by Techvibes and KPMG and receiving the 2014 Wolf Blass Lifetime Achievement Award from Startup Canada.
Our Entrevestor Christmas tree ornament, lovingly 3D Printed by Cat Adalay
This is our final post for 2017. After today, we’re going to celebrate Christmas with our family and then take our customary break in the week leading up to New Year.
So we’d like to close the year with our warmest wishes to all our readers, clients and friends this holiday. Stay safe and enjoy yourselves. We’re looking forward to some awesome things in 2017 and look forward to sharing them with you. See you on Jan. 2.
Many thanks to all of you,
Carol and Peter.
My HOME Tackling Homelessness
Miriah Kearney: 'I opted for homelessness because it’s a fixable problem.'
With this harsh December placing strains on homeless shelters, Truro-based clothing company My HOME Apparel is mixing business and goodwill by donating five per cent of its profits to charities that assist the homeless.
Founder and CEO Miriah Kearney has made ending homelessness her company cause since starting the venture in July last year. My HOME Apparel makes T-shirts and other items that incorporate the outline of the wearer’s home province, so the choice is appropriate.
“I opted for homelessness because it’s a fixable problem,” she said. “I want to be part of something great—to give every Canadian a home.”
The concept of home also works for the company in a business sense.
“Home is a powerful word, it resonates,” said Kearney who is the company’s designer. “When you add the province, you give people a sense of home pride. And people are catching on to the social component. They want to buy from companies that are socially responsible.”
In addition to making charitable donations, My HOME Apparel is currently running its own project called GetWarmatHome, which involves filling backpacks with cozy items such as socks and mittens. The boxes will be taken to Halifax to distribute among the homeless.
“The homeless are often forgotten and they’re feared,” Kearney said. “People think homelessness is a choice. They think the homeless are drunk or addicts. It’s not a choice, there are lots of reasons why people end up where they are.”
Kearney, a former junior high teacher and small business owner, never expected her idea of incorporating pictures of provinces into clothing to be widely popular, but the company is experiencing strong growth.
“We’ve had 100 per cent growth month to month,” she said. “I started at home by myself. Now, we have staff. We have a store in Truro and a seasonal kiosk in Mic Mac Mall in Dartmouth.”
Fifty per cent of the company’s business is done in Atlantic Canada.
“We also export a lot to Alberta because of the Atlantic Canadians living there. We sell a lot in Ontario, maybe because almost 40 per cent of the Canadian population lives in Ontario.”
Kearney said she is working toward gaining greater national exposure.
“We will be attending trade shows in the New Year,” she said. “We hope to grow the brand across the country, and open stores in new locations.”
This summer, she will open a seasonal location in Ottawa in order to be part of Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations.
The company handprints 70 to 80 per cent of its clothing in-house at its studio in Truro. The remaining designs are printed in Dartmouth, and the clothes are made at Stanfield’s across the street from My HOME Apparel’s studio.
The company has plans to offer other young clothing companies the chance to print their work at its studio.
In becoming an entrepreneur, Kearney is following the example of her mother, Shelley Austin, who owns her own business and was a clothing designer and seasmstress when her daughter was growing up.
Kearney is supporting homeless people partly to set an example to her own children.
She believes entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity to make a difference.
“Entrepreneurs have a responsibility to do good,” she said. “The impact we can have is tremendous. … When you’re an entrepreneur, you sometimes have to miss family events. I want to be able to tell my kids it wasn’t just about me.”
Porpoise: Doing Well and Doing Good
Denis Daigle and Topher Kingsley-Williams
During the holiday season, it’s fitting to celebrate Porpoise – a Moncton startup that helps companies work with their employees to discover and promote how they are giving back together.
The startup has gone through a couple of pivots and permutations to arrive at its current form, but always kept the goal of helping people to do good in their communities. In its current form, Porpoise probes its clients’ employees to learn what they’re doing in their communities. It then helps to align the employees’ charitable aspirations with the company’s social strategy, and helps them amplify the benefits by promoting what the company and its staff are doing.
“To some extent, corporate social responsibility has been very much a marketing play, and I think one thing we’re doing is creating genuine content for these companies,” said CEO Topher Kingsley-Williams in an interview.
The company now has 14 clients, ranging from nationwide companies like the National Bank, to small and medium-sized enterprises like the OMISTA Credit Union in Oromocto, N.B. It is now in talks with more potential clients, including a couple of Fortune 500 companies in the U.S.
As it works with these companies, Porpoise polls employees to learn what they’re doing to give back to their community. Kingsley-Williams most corporate social strategies are set by directors and senior managers, who usually don’t know what their employees are doing to volunteer, or what strategy the staff would like the company to follow. Porpoise democratizes corporate social responsibility by helping companies to understand what their staff would like to see the company do.
Client Engagement Manager Caleb Dow said some companies are too humble about that they do to help their communities. By sharing it with employees, the staff becomes excited and proud of the company’s efforts and help to amplify the impact.
Porpoise was originally called Ongozah – the Swahili term for everyone moving in the same direction. Working at the Venn Garage in Moncton, Co-Founders Kingsley-Williams, Denis Daigle and Dan Gillis developed a company that would help community groups crowdsource things they needed – whether it was paint for a homeless shelter or basketballs for a sports organization.
After assessing the business, the group changed tack in February of this year to focus on helping corporations work with employees on their social efforts. And it also adopted a new name, choosing Porpoise because everyone likes the marine animal and it sounds similar to “purpose”. It has helped in pitching clients.
“You can’t just say to people, ‘We’re going to give you purpose,’ but you can jokingly say, ‘We’re going to give you Porpoise,’’’ said Kingsley-Williams.
The evolution of the company will likely continue into 2017. Kingsley-Williams said the company needs to decide whether its perfect product-market-fit is helping large companies work with employees to develop social corporate responsibility policies; or working with smaller companies to do good locally. He hopes the company will continue to find clients as it answers that question.
“In a year, we want to have product-market fit,” he said. “Our goal is to be with 150 to 200 clients a year from now and they would be across North America. We’ve got the pedal to the ground and we’re trying to get some big clients.”
Appili Raises $2.2M in Equity Funding
Kevin Sullivan: Raised $4.5 million in 18 months
Halifax-based Appili Therapeutics Inc., whose ultimate goal is to produce a drug that treats superbugs, has closed a $2.15-million equity funding round to help fund clinical trials for its first product.
The company said in a press release the funding came from existing and new investors, including a contribution from Innovacorp, which participated in its last funding round. The company in 2015 raised $2.3 million in equity financing, which allowed it to tap $1.2 million in additional funding from such organizations as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
Operating out of a lab in the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre in Halifax, Appili has a two-track strategy. It hopes to get a low-risk drug with limited potential to market quickly and use the revenues from that drug to sustain it as it develops a second candidate that could battle antibiotic-resistant viruses.
“We continue to seek new programs that complement this balanced-risk approach with a mix of near-term revenue programs along with early-stage programs that have the potential to fundamentally change how we treat infectious disease,” CEO Kevin Sullivan said in a statement.
Earlier this year, Appili received a key U.S. regulatory designation for a drug, known as ATI-1501, that treats Clostridium difficile infection, or CDI, in children.
The Food and Drug Administration has granted orphan drug designation to ATI-1501, which removes the bitter taste from Metronidazole, a drug that has been used to treat the condition since the 1970s. Metronidazole is effective, but it tastes awful, so children often won’t take it, thereby limiting its effectiveness. By removing the bitter taste, ATI-1501 improves the results of the drug.
The FDA granted the application because CDI is one of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s most urgent antibiotic-resistant bacterial threats. It affects more than 500,000 Canadians and Americans each year and causes 29,000 deaths annually.
Meanwhile, the company is also working on ATI-1503, an antibiotic that could fight deadly infections such as Klebsiella pneumonia. Sullivan has said the drug could combat viruses that are resistant to antibiotics, but it’s a longer-term, riskier project than the first drug.
The latest round of funding will be used mainly to bring ATI-1501 to clinical trials. Appili also said it will advance the second drug candidate and “evaluate opportunities to add high potential anti-infective programs to its pipeline.”
“In a very short period of time, Appili has made significant progress with their strategy to identify and develop improved anti-infective therapies, and we look forward to supporting their upcoming clinical trial,” said Lidija Marušić, life sciences investment manager at Innovacorp and a director of Appili.
One of the reasons Appili has been able to raise more than $4 million in equity financing in about a year-and-a-half is that Sullivan has formed a close partnership with Toronto-based Bloom Burton & Co., a healthcare-specialized investment bank. The bank tapped its network of contacts to bring investors into the company.
“We are thrilled by the strong investor interest in this financing, which validates Appili’s strategy, science and development programs,” said Brian Bloom, president of Bloom Burton and chair of Appili’s board of directors.
Pond’s Two-Pronged Growth Strategy
Gerry Pond Advocates A Focus on ICT and Social Entrepreneurship
I have spent a lifetime pursuing business growth in the region. It is often an elusive target in all sectors of our economy.
In researching economic development plans in other parts of the world, I was stuck by the sheer number of them and perhaps more importantly the fact that cities or regions that are at the very top of the performance measures are engaging their communities to do better. This should create a sense of urgency here in Atlantic Canada. Yet the regional conversations on economic development seem to meander without too much concern for how far behind we are in the Canadian context, let alone the developed world.
If we are going to grow the region's economy, we have to imbed a sense of urgency and an understanding that there is some risk associated with a quest for growth on the east coast. Establishing some fairly difficult or stretch set of goals would likely derive a sense of urgency.
A Two-Pronged Strategy
I'm recommending that the leaders of Atlantic Canada adopt a two-pronged strategy across the entire region, which I have referred to as "Two Diamonds in the Rough."
The first strategy is to stimulate the Atlantic Canadian Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector by focusing on enhancing talent, capital and acceleration services. This initiative would be overseen by a new partnership that I am proposing between Propel ICT (the regional industry accelerator), the Council of Atlantic Premiers (representing the four provinces) and ACOA (representing the federal government).
The second strategy is to stimulate the development of "social enterprises," focused on mining the silver economy (often described as the demographic tsunami) and other critical social issues. This initiative would be overseen by the Pond-Deshpande Centre (PDC) in affiliation with the Atlantic Universities, the Council of Atlantic Premiers, and ACOA. Much of this effort will leverage ICT solutions and will strengthen the first strategy.
The timeframe for these two strategies would cover 2017 to 2027, a 10-year span to ensure efforts could take hold. A seven-year time horizon is common with venture capital-backed efforts and a cultural shift can take up to 20 years, so a 10-year planning period is an appropriate timeframe to see significant outcomes.
I am not prescribing what these two partnerships should do. There would be sufficient knowledge and expertise at each table, and other resources that they can draw upon. What is critical is that they come together as regional partners and develop an effective strategy.
And to be clear, this regional focus on ICT and social enterprise does not mean that other sector strategies should stop. Tourism, shipbuilding, electricity grids and aquaculture are a few of the well-developed regional industry strategies already approved and in place.
Why Focus on ICT?
The case for ICT is compelling:
1. Strong growth historically on a global level
2. North American leadership is dominant globally
3. Flourishing in all cities in Atlantic Canada
4. Environmentally friendly
5. Very low stress on public transportation infrastructure such as highways and ports
12. Proof of global best in class performance in region (e.g., NBTel, Star Choice TV, iMagicTV, Xplornet, Radian6, Q1 Labs)
But the final and biggest reason is that the ICT industry, as a rule, promotes development for the common good, even among competitors. This is a most unusual characteristic and applies throughout the world community. This augurs well for a sustainable, long-term growth strategy in Atlantic Canada.
Bringing mentors, incubators, angel investors, universities and accelerators together in a holistic ecosystem was started by Propel in Saint John in 2003 and this phenomenon is now alive and well throughout Atlantic Canada. Propel ICT began in New Brunswick, spread to the Maritimes and now reaches all four Atlantic provinces. Incubators have also been established in all major Atlantic Canadian cities, including Planet Hatch (Fredericton), Venn Garage (Moncton/Saint John)), ConnexionWorks (Saint John), Common Ground (St. John's), Volta (Halifax), Navigate (Sydney) and Startup Zone (Charlottetown).
ICT also embodies the broad economic initiatives that are already underway, including cybersecurity, smart grid, e-government or digital government, big data and the Internet of Things.
Simply put, the ICT sector is reaching a critical mass in Atlantic Canada for the first time in its relatively young life.
Why a Regional ICT Cluster?
We need a critical mass for talent, capital and big commercial ideas. But without aggregating our collective resources, we do not have critical mass.
A minimum 2 million population base provides such a critical mass in the North American context. This is the size needed to produce "Centres of Excellence" and then clusters with their own momentum. It is in this environment that high growth companies (gazelles and unicorns) flourish, perpetuating still more R&D in a virtuous circle.
The achievements of the last 15-20 years suggest a growth nucleus around an ICT cluster is emerging in the region.
For example, Mariner Partners and its affiliates have invested some $15 million in its core business and another $10 million in 35 start-ups throughout Atlantic Canada and $3 million in three accelerators (PDC, Propel, East Valley Ventures) over the past 13 years. Mariner has leveraged an additional $5 million in grants from federal and provincial governments for its core business. We didn't do this alone, but we were leaders. We were not always successful, but we have succeeded with Mariner and have three substantial "exits": two national award-winning exits -- Q1 Labs and Radian6 -- and one substantial exit in 2015 -- Brovada.
These are all ICT companies and they represent some $1.1 billion of value created in just 13 years, not to mention that Mariner Partners continues to scale-up.
There is a significant common thread in Atlantic Canada over the last 10 years:
• About 70% of start-ups are in the ICT sector
• The biggest exits include R6, Q1Labs, Whitehill, Spielo, Brovada, GoInstant in ICT
• The biggest ICT scale-ups include Innovatia, Mariner and T4G. These three companies all based in Saint John, New Brunswick are the three largest independent ICT companies in Atlantic Canada. Collectively, their export focused revenues exceed $100 million, growing at approximately 15% per year, and their employment level currently exceeds 900. This is definitely an early cluster in big data/analytics.
• Bluedrop Performance Learning Inc. a publicly traded company out of St. John's Newfoundland and Labrador is another high growth ICT company in the region.
• Xplornet, now a large national rural internet service provider, has strong New Brunswick roots with the founders being Barrett Diversified out of Woodstock, New Brunswick.
The availability of risk or venture capital, while still wanting, has increased dramatically in the last five years. The four provincial governments deserve praise for establishing what is now Build Ventures, a regional venture capital fund. Furthermore, provincial funds have added early stage investment funds in all four provinces and a new fund is about to be established in Nova Scotia to supplement Innovacorp, as well as a new fund in Prince Edward Island. Investment tax credits have been introduced in all four provinces with New Brunswick leading the way with the most aggressive credits. Now we need an Investment Tax Credit that is applicable among all four provinces to allow a regional approach for angel capital.
Why Social Entrepreneurship?
According to the Canadian Social Entrepreneurship Foundation, "Social enterprises are social mission driven organizations which apply market-based strategies to achieve a social purpose. The movement includes both non-profits that use business models to pursue their mission and for-profits whose primary purposes are social. Their aim is to accomplish targets that are social and/or environmental as well as financial." A social entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change (a social venture)
Stimulating social entrepreneurs of high impact enterprises is in a much earlier stage of development in Atlantic Canada and, in fact, in Canada too. The regional (and Canadian) leader in this regard is the Pond-Deshpande Centre based at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton but serving all of universities and colleges, and in time, all Atlantic Canadian universities. It is at about the same state that Propel was at 10 years ago when it started out serving only New Brunswick. Today, Propel ICT serves all of Atlantic Canada and graduates 70 companies per year, mostly in ICT.
The PDC accelerator called B4 Change is now two years old with 30 graduates to date. Its most successful graduate has been Resson. What is important to recognized about PDC is the "D". Mr. Deshpande, a Masters graduate of UNB, is an immensely successful entrepreneur (in ICT). He has made a fortune (in the billions) and he has created both economic and social enterprise acceleration at MIT and the University of Massachusetts in Boston and Hubli, India. He provides a well-connected conduit into the Boston entrepreneurial community, one of the planet's most successful hubs. This personal connectivity is why I made social entrepreneurship my second Atlantic Canadian priority. While MaRS in Toronto remains a valuable partner, our strong connections to Boston are more powerful for Atlantic Canada.
We need to jumpstart this form of entrepreneurism and further engage our millennials as we create new direction for the Atlantic Economy.
The Need for Talent
Governments, universities and colleges, and established businesses need to play a strong supporting role in creating necessary talent to execute these two key strategies. They need to step up and enhance degree programs in:
• Entrepreneurial studies
• International business to business sales
• Computer science
• Software engineering
• Programming (coding)
I have been on a personal campaign for the last 18 months attempting to encourage Atlantic university business schools to offer a degree program in "international sales". I have raised $1 million seed capital to jumpstart it. All to no avail, so far. But 68% of Canadian export companies define sales as the most difficult resource to find.
Moving forward with entrepreneurship education is simply not enough to support the rapid growth in these new sectors I've described. The region's established business community also needs to play a much stronger role in providing early adoption environments for the growth in new productivity and marketing tools, provided by the start-ups. The "Internet of Things Living Lab" being proposed by Tech Impact Group is one of the better initiatives being proposed to formalize the structures required to achieve this important link between traditional and new business in Atlantic Canada.
We need to co-ordinate and collaborate in the Greater Atlantic Area over the next 10 years to:
1. Stimulate ICT sector growth
2. Stimulate social enterprise growth
We need to establish a critical mass of ICT and social enterprise development in our quest for growth. And we need to establish a much stronger sense of urgency and be willing to accept the risks of some failures.
If you want to see a region in Canada that is fully engaged in this approach, look to British Columbia, where despite extremely high cost of living, their technology sector is now greater than the GDP from utilities, forestry and oil and gas combined. And they are not resting on their laurels. They want to create an international innovation or tech corridor with the state of Washington (a.k.a. Bill Gates) called the Cascadia Corridor.
It's time for us to get serious about these two diamonds in the rough.
Gerry Pond is Chairman and Co-Founder, Mariner Partners Inc.This article previously appeared on the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council and Propel ICT websites and in the Telegraph-Journal.
Trenn Plots Future of MasterControl
A true pioneer of the computer era has developed a product in Fredericton that simplifies media production and is now preparing to use it to help manufacturers and companies demo their products.
Dhomas Trenn is the head of OneSimpler, a Fredericton company that is marketing MasterControl — a single platform that lets the user control a range of devices on a single tablet or panel, even if the controls on those devices are markedly different. It has already been adopted by some of the world’s largest media companies, which use it in production of film, music, video and other media. Producers in these fields often have to adjust the sound, lighting, camera shot and other factors, and doing so from a single dashboard makes life easier for them.
“MasterControl is designed to allow you to master all the subsets of features on devices so you don’t have to be an expert on every device,” said Trenn in an interview. He said that using MasterControl can simplify complex tasks and increase production quality while it reduces training time.
In 2017, Trenn plans to push MasterControl into a new market. Manufacturers and tech companies have to demo their products, and resellers of these products often have to demo more than one product in a sales call. MasterControl can help them simplify the demo process, easily achieving tasks like instant replays, or switching seamlessly between demos of different products.
The story of how Trenn got to this point spans four decades, back to 1976. At 10 years old, Trenn was one of the first people in Canada to own a personal computer, and one of the country’s first developers.
For the last 40 years he has been working as a freelance technician and programmer, developing technology for clients all over the world, especially in the media business.
He understood that producers had a problem: their production shops contained all these different devices and they could not master all of them. So Trenn came up with MasterControl to fix the problem and used it in his consulting contracts.
The media companies liked the solution so much that many asked to buy MasterControl and use it in their studios. So Trenn realized that, first, there would be a market for the product, and second, that it may extend beyond the media industry.
He took OneSimpler through the latest cohort of the regional accelerator Propel ICT and is now examining how to expand from a lone wolf programmer into a growth business.
“I now have a much better appreciation of all the components in the bigger picture,” he said.
He’s looking for a partner on the business side to help him scale the enterprise. That partner might bring capital or maybe they would work together to find funding for the company’s growth, he said.
In any case, he does plan to grow the business and is now looking into hiring staff for the first time in his 40-year career. The larger team, he said, will work at getting MasterControl in the hands of manufacturers and tech companies.
“We now have two manufacturers who have both expressed that they are opening it up to their reseller chain to see how it goes,” he said.
Around the same time, the No. 3 finisher at the Cisco Innovation Grand Challenge in Dubai was Fredericton-based Eigen Innovations, which is based on industrial Internet of Things technology developed at University of New Brunswick.
A few months earlier, the 2015 BDC Young Entrepreneur of the Year award was presented to Chris Cowper-Smith, the CEO of Spring Loaded Technologies, a company which came together in the Starting Lean program at Dal.
These are just a few examples that show that some of the most celebrated startups in Atlantic Canada are born in university research or work with universities as they developed. In fact, research by Entrevestor shows that in the last two years, startups affiliated with universities grew revenue at a far greater rate than the other startups in the community.
Each year, we collect data on startups from around the region, including their revenue, employment and other such metrics. We also examine the metrics for companies affiliated with post-secondary institutions – either those that grew out of intellectual property developed at these schools, or those using the schools’ facilities and expertise as they grow.
Performance of Startups Affiliated with Universities and Colleges
Number of Startups
Employees of these Startups
2015 Funding Raised by these startups
Number of Companies Funded
Dataset: 111 startups affiliated with universities
Source Enrrevestor Databank
In our 2014 analysis of the startup community, we found that such companies’ revenues were increasing 71 percent, when the startup community overall was producing 37 percent revenue growth.
In 2015, the overall startup community saw a huge jump in sales, mainly because of the strong performance of the growth-stage companies. Overall, 120 companies provided us with revenue data, and they showed an increase of 66 percent over the previous year.
Of those respondents reporting revenue data, 57 companies had connections to universities or colleges. And those with revenue reported a total sales growth of 110 percent. That’s right. These companies more than doubled their revenue in one year, and outperformed the broader community by about two-thirds.
What’s notable about our findings is that we have found a superior performance by these university-related companies for the second year in a row.
There are likely two reasons for this strong showing: First, IP developed in universities tends to comprise deeper technology than something put together by freelance innovators and is therefore more advanced and harder to replicate. And second, companies that continue to work with post-secondary labs, to use their labs and tap their experts, show the sort of discipline and outreach that should be found in a healthy startup.
There’s a general acceptance among people in the broader community that the universities are a golden resource for Atlantic Canada, accounting for most of the research and development carried out in the region.
“They are a huge source of intellectual property and talent,” said Greg Phipps, Managing Director of Investment at Innovacorp. “Certainly, a majority of the deals that we’ve done in the life sciences sector were born in the universities.” He added that Innovacorp-backed companies in other sectors, such as advanced manufacturer Atlantic Motor Labs and digital intelligent design company QRA Corp., also got their start at universities.
What’s more, at least six Atlantic Canadian institutions are now offering some form of curriculum to teach entrepreneurship, most of which have courses that include credits for degrees.
The University of New Brunswick is worth watching because of the concentration of young companies now emerging through its MTE program.
Another development that has been gaining momentum is the work at Dalhousie University to host Canada’s Business Model Competition, which is affiliated with the International Business Model Competition.
These initiatives are increasing the entrepreneurial skillset of young people emerging from universities, which should help to drive further growth in the future.
Probing Founders’ Mental Health Issues
Michael Devenney: The issue is entrepreneurs' inability to separate their identities from their companies.
A study into how entrepreneurship affects mental health has revealed high rates of anxiety and depression, partly because of entrepreneurs’ tendency to invest too much of their own identities in the success of their companies.
The Mindset Project is the work of Halifax-based Michael DeVenney, a chartered financial analyst, entrepreneur and consultant, and a long-time sufferer of depression.
“The real issue uncovered in the survey is the inability of entrepreneurs to separate their own identities from their companies,” said DeVenney. He said their sense of worth rested almost entirely with the business.
DeVenney began the survey, which he believes may be the largest on the subject in the world, in May. He received 485 replies to his extensive questionnaire, 80 per cent of them from Atlantic Canada.
The responses reveal that investors and entrepreneurs create a demanding, unrealistic culture that leads to high stress. Sixty-eight per cent of entrepreneurs experience periods of anxiety and depression which negatively impact decision-making.
Founders use many ways to manage stress, with 38 per cent turning to alcohol.
“Only emergency care workers have higher rate of depression overall,” said DeVenney, who is the president of consulting agency, Bluteau DeVenney.
Expectations about business growth rates are particularly unrealistic.
“Generally, private investors expect an equity return of 21.4 per cent, but, on average, only four per cent of companies grow by 10 percent annually,” he said.
“Investors are putting pressure on and entrepreneurs are buying it…These days, everything must be faster and bigger. Even the words used, such as ‘scale’, ‘hustle’, ‘pivot’, are all about moving as fast as you can. Investors lean on entrepreneurs, whether they mean to or not.”
He said it’s important entrepreneurs keep their minds about them so they can make the best decisions, rather than being pressed into trying to meet unrealistic targets.
“If I hear the phrase ‘hockey stick growth’ one more time…The term ‘hockey stick’ is used to beat entrepreneurs.”
DeVenney said entrepreneurs also have “horrendous lifestyles”. Studies show that maximum productivity is achieved at 54 hours a week. About 40 per cent of entrepreneurs work longer than that, with many working more than 80 hours.
“The vision and the idea of making a meaningful difference is why people start a business. These are higher level needs, but the reality of business is meeting lower level needs, such as achieving enough cash flow to survive.”
He said this conflict can start a founder down the road of pleasing others rather than staying true to their vision, which may result in them becoming dissatisfied with their company.
Fear of talking about stress, exacerbates the problem and leads to isolation.
“Entrepreneurs don’t want to worry family, investors, and clients. They don’t want to look weak in front of their peers.” DeVenney said.
There is also stigma against failure, although failure rates are inevitably high. Statistics Canada reveals that only 57 percent of companies survive to their fifth year.
A Price Waterhouse study revealed that 96 per cent of technology companies fail by year five.
DeVenney said stress among entrepreneurs is high across all age groups. But there is a group who stay true to their vision, are well- adjusted, less stressed and financially successful.
“They exercise, they get proper sleep, they talk about their issues with family and friends,” DeVenney said. “It seems simple, but the idea of taking the weekend for yourself is not something most entrepreneurs consider.”
DeVenney is still exploring the research. The 63-question survey had multiple parts, and has resulted in 640,000 pieces of data.
He intends to use the survey to create a new venture and social change.
“I want to see this research put to practical use,” he said. “I’m interested in creating tools, such as online learning, that entrepreneurs can use to live healthier lives…Without entrepreneurs, we’ll never have the prosperity we’re looking for.”
The Focus for 2017: Big Companies
As we into toward 2017, I think there is one thing the Atlantic Canadian startup community needs to focus on in the New Year to maintain the momentum that’s been building.
It should focus on bigness.
There are now big and growing venture-capital-backed companies in the region, and there will be more of them a year from now. The expansion of large startups has far greater economic impact than the launch of a lot of small companies. So the goal must be to focus on the promotion and mentorship of these companies.
The easiest part of this is promoting the idea that there are successful high-growth companies in Atlantic Canada. And these large companies themselves should be getting more involved in getting the word out.
“Our philosophy here is to grow these companies,” Calvin Milbury, the president and CEO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, said earlier this year. “It’s those companies, the ones that are growing quickly over a period of time, that are creating wealth in the economy.”
The fact is that Atlantic Canadian companies are securing more multi-million-dollar funding rounds than ever before. Last week, Halifax’s TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture Ltd. announced an $8.5 million equity financing. That’s on top of Fredericton-based Resson raising US$11 million in a funding round led by Monsanto Growth Ventures, and Kinduct Technologies of Halifax raising US$9 million, led by Intel Capital.
It’s easy to identify at least five or six companies around the region that could announce similar funding in 2017. It means that investment vehicles from outside Atlantic Canada see the opportunity in some of the best companies here and are willing to make big bets.
But there is still a perception problem. Atlantic Canada is now seen as an intriguing base for young companies but it hasn’t quite arrived. When Deloitte recently announced its 2016 Fast 50 Technology companies, there wasn’t a single Atlantic Canadian company in the list, which is based on three years of funding.
The community overall needs to do more to show the abundance of growth-stage companies existing here — companies with more than $2 million in revenue whose sales are doubling annually or close to it. Our economy needs more of these big funding rounds. The bigger companies — who benefited from the support of the community in their earlier stages — should be helping to showcase the size of local ventures.
First, these big companies need to show up and present at the conferences in the region, like Startup Empire, Atlantic Venture Forum and Invest Atlantic. Investors that bother to attend have got used to seeing seed stage companies and need to be shown the successful companies too.
Second, these bigger companies need to be more active in applying for high profile contests like the EY Entrepreneur of the Year competition and the Deloitte Fast 50.
And finally, some thought should be given to an event in Toronto, Boston, New York or San Francisco showcasing these companies. The minimum bar should be something like $2 million in annual sales and looking for $8 million in funding. We should be showing what is happening here to growth stage venture capital investors in their cities.
Government bodies should be looking for ways to support these growth companies, and the help should concentrate on something other than financial support. One way to help is to work with these larger companies to make external funders understand the potential in the region.
Developing Halifax’s Innovation District
At Volta Labs we believe that Atlantic Canada has performed above the Canadian average when it comes to technology-driven companies finding success. However, the success of technology companies in the region has not yet inspired a broader sense that success in technology-driven business happens here. There is now an opportunity to change that perception of Atlantic Canada and lead the development of a technically minded innovation cluster in the region.
This change in perception requires three main pillars to be present:
A vibrant and growing base of technology companies that are globally minded and locally based.
Strong educational institutions that develop young people who are entrepreneurial, innovative and have a global perspective in whatever area or field they want to excel in.
An innovation ‘district’ to build density in Halifax where modern technology companies have a ‘campus’ to centre their activities and radiate throughout the Atlantic Region.
Starting a business with a local connection is a good start. However, in order to grow a business today you must have a global mindset. Customers, funding, and the people that help build your company will reside in different cities in different countries. There are numerous examples of companies based in Halifax with customers in U.S. cities, Dash Hudson being top of mind as it grows its office space in downtown Halifax with customers in New York and other cities.
Atlantic Canada is home to great educational institutions that not only develop young people from the region but also attract students from all over the world. It is important these educational institutions remain strong and nurture an entrepreneurial, innovative, and global perspective. The recent investment into Ocean Technology Research is a great start in establishing a globally competitive advantage for the region that sends a positive signal.
The establishment of an innovation district in downtown Halifax will change how technology and innovation is perceived in the region. A long-standing trend in major cities throughout the globe, innovation districts are a concentrated area of a city where education, industry, and residents are intertwined to create a vibrant living and working community.
Along Spring Garden Road, you can see the start of this district with the growth of the Dalhousie University Sexton campus, the investment in a modern library, development of condos, the presence of a growing number of early-stage technology companies, and Volta Labs being open to the community.
All levels of government, members of the community, higher education, and private industry partners are collaborating to establish density in the core of Halifax that will radiate out the next generation of innovative industry across Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada. Community is the framework for a prosperous future economy here in Halifax.
Volta Labs is that home base for a technology driven industry to take a firm root in Atlantic Canada while developing a global perspective. It will continue to evolve and develop the story that will inspire growing businesses to be successful in Atlantic Canada while competing globally.
Volta Labs CEO Jesse Rodgers is a 15-year veteran of the startup world. Before coming to Volta, Rodgers co-founded several startups and was the founding director of the Velocity incubator at the University of Waterloo and later of the Creative Destructive Lab at the University of Toronto.
SMU Launching Student VC Fund
Ellen Farrell: 'It will draw students to the Atlantic Region.'
St. Mary’s University is adding a new dimension to the student entrepreneurship craze by having a group of students oversee their own venture capital fund.
The university’s Sobey School of Business is in the process of launching Venture Grade, which will be an investment fund to invest alongside existing investment vehicles. As of last weekend, the students had raised $47,000 aimed to end up with a fund worth $250,000.
Universities and colleges around the region (and the world) now have courses that help students to launch actual businesses. But SMU says Venture Grade is the first student-led VC fund, with the students raising the money and conducting due diligence on investments.
“The overall goal for the fund is to create an unparalleled educational experience for student entrepreneurs and students of finance to learn entrepreneurship from the inside-out,” said Ellen Farrell, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital at SMU.
“This course and will be a differentiator for SMU, the Sobey School of Business and it will draw students to the Atlantic Region.”
With $47,000 now committed, Farrell said two different backers are now considering additional funding proposals worth a total of $100,000. The group made several funding proposals last week and are confident they will be able to raise the full $250,000.
The team comprises three SMU alumni employed in in sales and entrepreneurship, six MBA students and four commerce students. The oversight board comprises: Farrell; Patrick Fitzgerald, a partner with Cox and Palmer; and Andrew Ray, a fund manager at Innovacorp. Venture Grade is working with a range of partners, including East Valley Ventures, Build Ventures and Relay Ventures.
Venture Grade will work alongside existing VCs, angel groups and investment bankers to identify investment opportunities. These more experienced funding bodies will invite Venture Grade to participate in funding rounds. The sectors and the geographic locations are determined by the investments of the partnering investment groups.
The overseers expect the early investments to be in seed and early stage companies, said Farrell, but the group hopes to extend its reach across the continent and make investments is Series A, B and C rounds. The students are conducting due diligence with four investments so far in conjunction with participating VC firms and hope that at least one will prove viable for a Venture Grade investment.
“Many people … think that the fund is students investing in students,” said Farrell. “It is, rather, students investing in viable venture-grade investments. They are being invited to participate by doing due diligence on the investments and writing investment memos that are scrutinized by the formal financiers.”
She added that another element of the project that is not readily apparent is that the students are being mentored by VCs and angels, both locally and as far afield as Silicon Valley. For example, they were to meet this week with Brenda Hogan, of the Ontario Capital Growth Corp., which oversees the province’s venture capital investments. They met with an investment banker and a VC from Silicon Valley last week.
She also stressed that the program is unique.
“I have found three other somewhat similar programs, except that in those cases, the students are not raising the fund,” said Farrell. “They were given the money to invest [and are not] being guided by the investment community.”
Swan in New Venture with Charged
As if running his own lab at Dalhousie University doesn’t keep him busy enough, Lukas Swan is now working on his second business.
Swan and Chris White, a former researcher at his laboratory, are in the early stages of Charged Engineering Inc., which has developed patented technology that has improved the efficiency of lead-acid battery manufacturers.
The company has signed a contract with one manufacturer and is working on the implementation of its technology with the established company’s plant. Charged is also in Innovacorp’s CleanTech Accelerate Program, Nova Scotia’s new accelerator for cleantech companies.
“This is basically a well-established battery — the lead-acid battery,” said Swan in an interview. “It’s a competitive industry. Everybody is looking for an edge right now, and we are one of the companies that can give an edge.”
The edge that Charged brings is helping manufacturers save money and increase efficiency while making higher-quality batteries. Swan said one of the difficulties with making lead-acid batteries is the time taken in the formation stage. Formation is the process of actually charging the batteries once all the components are put in a container. It can take days. It’s expensive. And the manufacturer doesn’t know when the battery is ready, which only prolongs the process.
What Swan and White have done is produce a system that measures four variables in the battery and can tell the manufacturer when the battery is ready, and improve the battery’s performance.
Though Swan downplays the size of the market for this product, he touts the outlook for lead-acid batteries, especially in developing nations. He said small-scale, off-grid wind and solar energy installations are becoming more common in these countries, and they’ll need affordable, dependable energy storage solutions to fully benefit from this advance. Lead-acid batteries are ideal for this because they are dependable, recyclable and easy to maintain. Swan calls it “strategic technology.”
Charged Engineering is planning to bring its product to market by two streams — by retrofitting existing chargers, and by licensing the technology to manufacturers installing new chargers. Chargers are constantly being replaced so this second stream should grow as time goes on.
Swan said the company has made two patent applications, and plans to work toward a second product that would be aimed more at the consumer market. The company is conducting research and development on the product and will be patient about bringing it to market.
Swan is a professor of mechanical engineering and supervises the university’s Renewable Energy Storage Laboratory, which usually has about 10 researchers working in it. Also a wind farm entrepreneur, he’s a principal of the Colchester-Cumberland Wind Field, which has been funded by Community Economic Development Investment Funds and has been paying dividends to investors for the past two years.
So far, Swan and White have not raised equity financing, and they don’t plan to do so in the near future. They are building up their network of collaborators, and Swan raves about the support they’ve received in the local startup community.
“It’s really collaborative around here,” said Swan. “We feel very encouraged and very well supported.”
Sylvain Charlebois, the Dean of the Faculty of Management, sent an email to faculty last week saying Leach would end his tenure on June 30, 2017, and that a search committee would soon be struck to find his replacement.
Leach, 67, responded with an email to Charlebois saying that he had intended to step down as director in June, but had hoped to continue teaching for another three to five years.
Leach said the “choice to end my Limited Term Appointment was yours not mine. You had the option of renewing for up to 5 years without advertising and you chose not to do so.”
Both emails were leaked to the media late last week and reported first in Allnovascotia.com. [Full disclosure: Dalhousie is a client of Entrevestor, and the author’s daughter works part-time for the Norman Newman Centre.]
Leach and his wife Mary Kilfoil, both professors of management, have been the driving force behind entrepreneurship education at Dalhousie. In the autumn of 2012, they began their Starting Lean course, modeled on the teachings of startup guru Steve Blank, and have held a succession of cohorts in the class ever since.
The Starting Lean course evolved into the Launch Dal initiative, which was held under the umbrella of the Norman Newman Centre. It came to include the opening of the Collider, a startup space in the university’s Killam Library, the summertime Launch Pad accelerator, and the hosting of Canada’s Business Model Competition.
“Launch Dal is embraced by investors, funders and mentors across the region and recognized across the country as a leader in educating students of the fundamental tools necessary to be an entrepreneur today,” said Bob Williamson, the founder of Invest Atlantic and one of the startup community members who contacted Entrevestor in support of Leach. “Launch Dal is what it is today because of a vision that a small group of keen, forward thinking individuals had several years ago and thanks to the then dean’s formidable leadership superstars like Dr. Leach, Mary Kilfoil and their advisory team were allowed to deliver their creativity.”
Both Leach and Charlebois both agree that entrepreneurship initiative has progressed well at the university, and Dal must ensure that it continues to grow and evolve. “With LaunchDal and several other initiatives, the NNCE has done very well over the years, but it is time to scale the Centre up to a new level,” said Charlebois.
He did not refer directly to Kilfoil, though it is understood there is no change in her position at the university. She declined to comment and a spokesperson for the university could not be reached late Friday.
Leach notes in his email that the centre has raised $2.7 million from funders to scale up Launch Dal, and he said he will do his best to support these efforts in the last six months of his tenure. He added that he does not intend to retire or slow down after June 30, though he did not say what work he would undertake.
Leach also took issue with Charlebois for cancelling regular update meetings with the Newman Centre directors. He added that since becoming Dean, Charlebois has not attend any of the roughly 30 events hosted by the centre other than an event with alumni in Toronto. Leach said these absences are understandable given Charlebois’ busy schedule during the first year of his tenure.
UNB Launches Energia Accelerator
Trispectra CEO Emmanuel Albert, left, Ed Rodriguez and Dhirendra Shukla.
The University of New Brunswick has launched Energia Ventures, a new accelerator designed to help develop companies in the energy, cleantech and cyber security fields.
The J. Herbert Smith Technology Management Entrepreneurship Centre launched the program on Friday, saying that the program will tap financial contributions from several organizations. It also said five companies that have grown out of the TME program are already enlisted in the Energia program.
The combination of cleantech and cybersecurity seem surprising, but TME Chair Dhirendra Shukla also said that as smart energy systems grow in popularity, cybersecurity becomes more of an issue in the energy segment.
"At Energia Ventures, we’re on a mission to attract and support early-stage startups that are at the frontier of some incredibly exciting and promising sectors – cybersecurity, smart grid, clean technology and sustainable energy,” said Shukla in a statement. “This is a very dynamic space and we’re eager to get under way, propelling some very clever ideas and talented pioneers forward.”
The university also named Edwin Rodriguez, who has extensive experience in the public and private sectors in the U.S., as the Managing Director of its accelerator programs.
The companies that are already enrolled in the program are:
Stash Energy – Stash Energy is developing an energy storage system that works with conventional heat pumps to thermally store off-peak energy. The thermal energy is stored in environmentally friendly materials, using affordable technology.
Beauceron Security – Formed by a group of cyber security and IT professionals, Beauceron seeks to battle cyber-attacks by focusing on how human behavior allows cybercrime to thrive. The company helps clients to measure, monitor and manage their cyber risk so they can make informed decisions, maximize the impact of their security budget and minimize their risk.
Trispectra Innovation Inc. – Trispectra Innovation Inc. is developing an integrated communications platform that uses sensors, wireless transmitters, and software to detect problems in power lines. The system is designed to help utility companies speed up power restoration after an outage.
Rising Tide Technologies – Rising Tide is developing a unique method of tidal energy extraction. The goal is to produce energy without installing massive turbines that many say could jeopardize marine life.
And Mbissa Energy Systems – Mbissa Energy Systems is a not-for-profit organization working to develop and deploy sustainable energy systems in rural Africa.
A statement from the university said its Energy Innovation Program has raised almost $1 million from both the public and private sector. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency has contributed $405,567 and the University of New Brunswick is providing $60,000. Siemens Canada and Mitacs, a national, not-for-profit organization, have provided a combined of $480,000.
Siemens Canada’s support comes as part of a $2.5 million investment the global firm committed to UNB’s Faculty of Engineering announced in 2013.
TruLeaf Raises $8.5M from Angels
Gregg Curwin: Expanding breadth of offering and accessing new markets.
The Bible Hill, N.S.-based company said in a release that the funding round was led by Mike Durland, former CEO and Group Head of Scotiabank’s Global Banking and Markets division, and featured a small group of strategic investors from Toronto. The company added that Durland and Neil Murdoch, former CEO of Connor, Clark & Lunn Capital Markets, will join TruLeaf’s board.
TueLeaf’s funding round is the third funding round of more than $8 million announced by an Atlantic Canadian innovation company this year. In addition to this funding, Fredericton-based Resson raised US$11 million in a funding round led by Monsanto Growth Ventures, and Kinduct Technologies of Halifax raised US$9 million, led by Intel Capital.
“This new round of financing and the additions to our board will help us to expand the breadth of our product offerings and increase the number of markets that we serve,” said Truleaf President and CEO Gregg Curwin said in a statement. “Mike and Neil bring a high level of business acumen and strategic expertise that will help us scale our business.”
The company said the latest round of funding will allow it to continue its mission of becoming a global leader in vertical farming technology. TruLeaf develops sustainable farming systems that can be built anywhere that enable fresh, nutrient-dense, pesticide-free produce to be grown locally all year round.
TruLeaf said it is positioned to meet the growing appetite for local food in Canada that has arisen in the last 10 years, by scaling its GoodLeaf Farms consumer brand. A 2013 BMO Food Survey found that Canadians buy locally grown vegetables above all other products. Ninety-seven percent of those surveyed said they bought local because the food is fresh and tastes better.
TruLeaf is seeking to become a leader in sustainable agriculture through the use of vertical farming – which combines proven hydroponic technology with advancements in LED lighting and environmental control to allow year-round propagation and production of plants indoors, inside stackable levels. Vertical farming is nearly 10 times more efficient than traditional agriculture and is more productive, takes up less land and uses dramatically less water.
“There are a number of important macro forces which position TruLeaf for success in the coming years,” said. Durland. “Food scarcity, water challenges, the increasing demand for pesticide-free foods, and the environmental impact of large scale farming, all mean that new ways of growing and distributing foods will be key for feeding the world.”
“This is a complex business that requires a strong and experienced team,” said Truleaf Chair Jeff Watson. “TruLeaf has developed innovations in technology that put it ahead of new entrants in the industry. With our knowledgeable management team and shareholder group, highly-skilled board of directors, and strong capital position, TruLeaf is now well-positioned to solve a massive global problem.”
Using Crickets to Reduce GHGs
Joy Hillier: 'The cost of producing this kind of protein is considerably lower.'
As the financial and environmental costs of producing meat become better known, Joy Hillier is working to make her new cricket farm in Windsor a business that produces affordable, high-quality insect protein.
Hillier began cricket farming at her Midgard Insect farm in May, after hearing a TED Talk about the need for sustainable protein sources given by ecological entomologist Marcel Dicke.
Hillier is producing a cricket protein powder that will go into pet foods made by her investor Dane Creek Capital Corp., an Ontario-based firm. She plans to expand across North America.
“The cost of producing this kind of protein is considerably lower than for producing meat as crickets consume far less food than animals,” said the veterinary technician and graduate of Dalhousie University’s faculty of agriculture.
Environmental costs are also lower, as animals, especially cows, produce high quantities of climate-warming methane. In fact, the U.K.-based Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food has recently called for taxes to be imposed on meat and dairy to offset environmental costs.
Hillier established her farm in Windsor to be close to other agricultural businesses. The food the crickets eat — a modified poultry grain — comes from the area so proximity cuts transportation and emission costs.
She purchased her initial crickets online and now has more than one million. Mature adult crickets are noisy, so the heated rooms housing them sound like a summer night, Hillier said.
“It’s quite lovely. Crickets also have a distinctive earthy smell.”
Asked what cricket tastes like, she said it tastes nutty and takes on the flavour of whatever it’s cooked with. It is delicious deep-fried.
Farming crickets is an entirely new direction for Hillier.
“I saw the TED Talk, and felt that, as a veterinary technician, I had the technical capability to do this. I’ve run small businesses in the past so it didn’t seem scary. It seemed an incredible opportunity . . . I saw it as something bigger coming.”
To get started, she obtained personal loans from Futurpreneur. Seed loans were provided by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Credit Union.
Midgard has few Canadian competitors, she said. There is a cricket farm in Ontario, and another on the West Coast. In any case, she feels the market is going to be big, allowing different farms to develop markets.
She said that as well as providing investment and business guidance, her partnership with Dane Creek is also providing distribution.
The money will go toward renovations and expansions, and help pay for R&D work at the Perennia Innovation Centre in Bible Hill. She is also looking to hire additional employees.
“Investors and the provincial government have been positive and open-minded,” she said. “I expected I’d have to convince people it’s a good idea, but they’ve got on board.”
Solid State Sees Growth Continuing
In a segment that is notoriously slow to get to market, Solid State Pharma Inc. is a two-year-old biotech company that is not only profitable but also is doubling revenue and staff annually.
Founded by CEO Mahmoud Mirmehrabi, the Halifax-based life sciences company has developed expertise at converting liquid medicines into solids — the pharmaceutical industry’s preferred state to transport and dispense drugs. Mirmehrabi said about 30 per cent of medical compounds are liquids in their natural state, and it is essential to ensure they retain certain properties when converting them to solids. Expertise in doing so is why his company is growing so quickly.
“It’s the demand that is out there, and basically that the pharmaceutical companies are thirsty for high-quality research and work,” Mirmehrabi said in an interview in his office in Halifax’s Innovacorp Enterprise Centre.
He started the company when he arrived in Halifax two years ago with a PhD from London’s University of Western Ontario, and more than a decade-and-a-half of experience with such blue chip drug companies as Pfizer and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. (He has also served as an expert witness in court cases involving drug manufacturing, though he’s too busy now to perform such duties.) Now, Solid State Pharma has a staff of 10, all with graduate degrees, and is growing rapidly.
He said the compounds in a drug can exist in different polymorphs — or a different arrangement of the elements in a compound. But changing the arrangement can affect the properties of the drug, including the solubility or dissolution rate. He noted that both diamonds and graphite are pure carbon, but they’re very different products because of the arrangement of their atoms.
And making mistakes in the solidification of compounds can prove expensive for drug companies. The most notorious case was Abbott Laboratories having to pull its HIV drug, Ritonavir, which resulted in lost sales worth $250 million.
Mirmehrabi said the largest pharma companies have the in-house capability to solidify their compounds in ways that meet regulatory standards, but small and medium-sized pharmaceutical and natural products companies have to outsource the work. Solid State Pharma is one of only a handful of companies in the world with the equipment and expertise to carry out the task.
The company earns 90 per cent of its revenue abroad and the other 10 per cent from out of province; all of its sales are outside the region. The company is also conducting research into new products or processes.
The company has $700,000 worth of equipment in its labs, and is planning to buy a further $500,000 in additional gear.
The company is profitable and is doubling its revenue and sales each year. It’s a situation Mirmehrabi believes will continue for several years to come, leveling off at a staff of about 60 people. The company has already had opportunities to exit, though he wants to grow the company.
“We’ve had two cases of European companies that were interested in acquiring us,” he said, adding that their interest was strong enough that they came to Halifax to examine the companies.
“We were not interested in pursuing the conversation. The primary reason is we want this company to be here 20 years from now.”
Knowledgehook Lands $1.25M in Funding
Knowledgehook co-founders Arthur Lui, left, Travis Ratnam and James Francis.
Knowledgehook, whose software helps teachers to tailor their support of individual students, has secured $1.25 million in financing to fund the platform’s expansion into global markets.
The Waterloo-based company 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 worked with the Accelerator Centre and Communitech’s Rev accelerator, was founded in 2014 by Ratnam, Francis, Lambo Jayapalan, and Arthur Lui.
Knowledgehook, which this year was named BNN’s Top Disruptor, plans to expand into new markets, such as the United Kingdom and Australia.
The round was led by Sayan Navaratnam, the CEO of Richmond Hill, Ont.-based Connex Telecommunications and head of the investment firm Aadya Capital. The funding team also includes investors Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, and John Abele, co-founder of Boston Scientific. “Knowledgehook has a novel solution to a global problem,” Navaratnam said in a statement. “I believe this technology will be defining for the edtech space, paving the way for how a data-driven approach to teaching can help kids all over the world do better in math.”
Research suggests that throughout Canada and the U.S., student’s math skills are lagging. Knowledgehook’s software identifies what concepts they’re struggling with and why and suggests how teachers can support them. The company’s platform is popular among teachers in more than 75% of Ontario school boards and in more than 300 school districts in the U.S.
In 2016, Knowledgehook software made more than 6,000 recommendations on how teachers could close gaps in their students’ learning.
“Knowledgehook is a great example of what’s happening in Waterloo,” Case told Demo Day presenters. “The whole edtech space is focused on some real problems. Personalized, adaptive learning systems are clearly important for the next generation of learners.”
Blaze Studios Launches Zephyr
Moncton-based Blaze Studios has launched a new digital administrative product for the advertising industry, and is gearing up to release more products in 2017.
Headed by Jason Lavigne, Blaze Studios is one of Canada’s largest open-source development shops, and also serves as an incubator for online products for advertising and marketing industry. The latest is Zephyr, founded by Lavigne and Andrew MacKinnon, which uses artificial intelligence to reduce the amount of time ad agencies devote to time sheets, invoicing and the like.
“We’ve been working on zephyr for two years or so,” MacKinnon, the Chief Marketing Technologist, said in an interview last week, when it launched Zephyr. “It’s one of our internal projects. There are probably three or four more that are in different stages of development.”
MacKinnon said ad agencies spend more than US$5.5 billion each year on time-tracking software that requires workers to submit timesheets documenting how much time they spent on each client's projects each day. In fact, agency management software is one of the largest expenses these outfits have, usually costing more than rent.
On top of this, the agencies’ have to spend time filling out the forms and doing administrative tasks. There are estimates that the time spent on time sheets adds up to 65 million hours a year in North America alone. It works out to about one hour per employee per day, and this is not billable time.
Zephyr automatically carries out all these tasks, using artificial intelligence to track the employee’s time, enter it to a databank and prepare and send invoices when appropriate. Priced to disrupt existing software, Zephyr also helps the agencies to prepare more precise estimates for clients because the artificial intelligence system can assess similar projects, and work done for the client previously, and estimate how much a new project will cost. It also provides data on the efficiency of agency employees.
MacKinnon said his team has spent two years discussing Zephyr with potential clients around North America, and more than 100 of them have said they’re interested in participating in the roll out.
The 10-member team at Blaze Studios has considerable experience in launching products. In 2013, they launched Iceberg, a simple, fast platform for submitting and judging creativity. Iceberg is now North America's largest provider of software for managing advertising and creative competitions. More than 2,000 North American advertising agencies are paid customers of Iceberg.
Asked what’s in store for Blaze in 2017, MacKinnon said the big thing is ramping up sales of Zephyr. Onboarding artificial intelligence platforms is an intensive process, so the company will have to spend time working with each customer.
“What we’re doing is we’re making transitioning to new product as easy as possible,” he said.
Meanwhile, the team will continue to work on other products, and MacKinnon’s expects a couple of launches in the next 12 months.
“What Blaze is is … an incubator-slash-development house that will spin off products,” he said. “In addition to Zephyr, we expect to launch at least two products of similar size and scope [in 2017].”
Briefs: Ghorbani, Propel, WoodsCamp
Ghorbani Named Canada Research Chair
Ali Ghorbani, dean of computer science at the University of New Brunswick, has been named Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Cybersecurity. As well as his academic achievements, Ghorbani is a Co-Founder of the Fredericton-based startups Sentrant and EyesOver.
“I’m incredibly excited by the opportunity this Canada Research Chair presents, and grateful for the federal investment and recognition,” Ghorbani said in a statement. “This will allow me to expand my research program, attract more graduate students and research associates, and increase R&D collaborations with the cybersecurity industry.”
Tier 1 Canada Research Chairs are world-leading researchers, recognized by their peers for their innovative work. UNB will receive $200,000 in annual funding for each of the seven years of Ghorbani’s term.
Ghorbani’s research focuses on cybersecurity solutions in a rapidly evolving, data-intensive world. He’s developing techniques and tools to identify cyberthreats and cybercriminal activity before they’re able to cause harm.
In his 35 years in academia, Ghorbani has published more than 200 peer-reviewed articles and supervised over 160 research associates, postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students. He is co-inventor of three awarded patents in the area of network security and web intelligence and he has obtained more than $6 million to fund five large multi-project research initiatives since 2010.
McCrae, Sturgeon No Longer With Propel
Gillian McCrae and Al Sturgeon are no longer with the regional accelerator Propel ICT.
The organization last week announced that it was bringing on two new entrepreneurs in residence – Charlotte Rydlund in Halifax and Richard Jones in Fredericton.
Since then, people familiar with the matter have confirmed a report in Allnovascotia.com that McCrae and Sturgeon are no longer with Propel.
Sturgeon, who was an entrepreneur-in-residence based in Fredericton, is leaving to launch his own startup. He was part of the Radian6 crew that joined Salesforce when the tech giant bought the Fredericton company.
McCrae, who was a Vice-President based in Halifax, was the Founder of GetGifted, a P.E.I. startup that helped local merchants reward their customers.
Neither McCrae, Sturgeon or officials from Propel would comment on the matter.
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. The company is now building up its list of Nova Scotian woodlot owners who are interested in using the service.
Founders Alastair Jarvis and Will Martin have said they’ve been in talks with Innovcorp about a funding deal, and the company last year received a $50,000 grant from ACOA.
Jarvis and Martin aim to build WoodsCamp into the world’s leading manager of timber and believes that the management of woodlands is the most urgent and overlooked environmental issue of our time.
“The forests my children and grandchildren will walk in depend on our ability to build a healthy and sustainable ecosystem that increases the health and wealth of our forests and all who rely on them,” Jarvis said in a press release.
“With the government’s support, we’re integrating innovations from around the world, and, from our own comparative advantage, are building innovative new technology that will scale out to regions of the United States and Europe where the forest is also primarily in private ownership.”
Electric Bike Suru Launched in NS
The Suru bike
Three years after his first attempt at a high-performance electric motorcycle faltered, Michael Uhlarik is back and has launched his latest bike, Suru.
Costing $3,499 , the Suru is priced for the urban consumer and is designed to be a high-performance, environmentally friendly vehicle that can allow city dwellers the ease and affordability to make local trips at a reasonable cost.
Manufactured in Amherst and Sydney, the Suru frame is lightweight and strong, and is covered by a lifetime guarantee. Most important, it requires no tooling (meaning the components can be made without special molds), which cuts costs. Uhlarik said the Suru bikes have a high margin, even if production is only 100 units. Above that figure, the company will be doing well, he said.
The market for electric bikes has been booming in the U.S. and Canada lately, rising about 15 per cent annually. But Uhlarik said the market is polarized between expensive designer models from Europe and cheap products that are unreliable. Suru is targeting the middle market, with a sleek design, strong frame and affordable price.
“We’ve launched,” said Uhlarik, sitting in a coffee shop with his daughters Sophie and Robin, whose initials are combined to give the product its name. “Suru is in the market and on sale.”
Uhlarik first tried to produce an electric bike in 2013 with Amarok. It gained attention when the Amarok P1A bike reached speeds of 100 miles per hour going up a gradient of 17 degrees at the 91st Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado. It was faster than competing bikes from larger companies that had cost $30 million to develop.
Uhlarik was preparing for a commercial launch of the product, but it never happened and the company sank. Uhlarik describes it as a “gutting” experience, and he spent a long time recovering. He went back to teaching and focusing on his daughters.
But the explosion of electric bike sales kept reminding him of the potential of electric bikes, so he and cofounder Kevin O’Neil decided to try again.
“Amarok was a really big success from a technical point of view and a failure from a business point of view,” he said. “There’s just not a market for this type of high-end motorcycle in this niche. … But the frame of the Suru would not have been possible without Amarok and it’s the frame that makes it special.”
Uhlarik and O’Neil have now soft-launched Suru, and will have an official launch next month at the Interior Design Show in Toronto. Though it’s not true “interior” design, the bike is one of the new products to be featured at the show because it is an innovative product that enhances the urban lifestyle.
One point he stressed is that a lot of similar products are financed through crowdfunding campaigns, in which people are asked to provide money in advance to fund the development of a product. By contrast, Suru is developed and can be delivered to customers within 90 days.
“We’re not asking people to fund our research and development,” he said. “We’re there now.”
Axem Wins $3,000 at Dal’s Collide
The Collider at Dalhousie.
Axem, a wearable technology that allows athletes to track their brain activity to enhance performance, has captured the $3,000 first prize at the latest Demo Day of the Collide Program at Dalhousie University.
Founded by Tony Ingram and Chris Friesen, Axem has already received initial commitments for tests from professional and elite sports teams, including the New England Patriots, Winnipeg Jets, the Canadian Women’s Olympic Soccer Team, and the Anaheim Ducks.
Dalhousie University’s Collide program wrapped up its fall cohort Monday night with the Starting Lean Showcase. A total of 11 teams presented their companies at the Demo Day last week and the showcase on Monday night.
The second-place prize of $2,000 went to the Canadian Ski and Snowboard Club – a social community run by Avery Birch. Samuel Levac-Levey’s Aria, a platform aiming to gamify the professional counseling process to help professional counselors measure client progress, captured the third-place award of $1,000.
“Collide applicants were very pleased with their experience in the program, as it gave them more than the chance to win prize money: it gave them education, confidence, connections and experience,” said the program in a press release.
Organized by professors Mary Kilfoil and Ed Leach, the Collide program is the portion of the university’s curriculum that teaches lean entrepreneurship to students and members of the community. The program is open to students, researchers, and others, and is free of charge.
The organizers are now planning the winter program which is set to launch in January.
Technology Venture: Investing on the QT
Susan Hicks and Jon Manship have to be considered the unsung heroes of the East Coast startup community, and unsung is the way they like it.
Manship and Hicks are the founders of Technology Venture Corp., a Moncton investment fund that over 11 years has built itself into one of the region’s most influential investment organizations.
The people they back speak of Manship and Hicks with reverence, though you really have to look hard to find public references to them.
“Jon and Susan are very, very private people but very determined to be part of what’s going on and make a difference,” said Doug Robertson, the President and CEO of the Moncton-based tech organization Venn Innovation, of which Manship was the founding chair. “They give a lot back to the community.”
The main way they have given back is through investment. Most notably, TVC is the largest private limited partner in Build Ventures, the regional VC investor, having contributed $5 million. It also has investments in at least four startups: Fredericton-based cybersecurity provider Sentrant Security; Fredericton-based Inversa Systems, whose technology can detect structural flaws; Halifax’s Medusa Medical Technologies, which makes hardware for paramedics and first responders; and Moncton-based Masitek, which helps beverage manufacturers improve production line efficiency.
There may be other companies in their portfolio. But we couldn’t nail down anything definite.
Since Entrevestor began, we have reached out several times through common contacts to request an interview with Hicks. The closest we’ve got is the accompanying quotes, which were sent to us by email through an intermediary. The quotes speak of the duo’s commitment to the region and the importance of innovation, but we know little more about the nuts and bolts of Technology Venture Corp.
Here’s what we do know: The roots of TVC stretch back to 2004 when Manship sold his company Spielo Manufacturing, which makes video lottery terminals, to GTECH Holdings Corporation of West Greenwich, R.I., for as much as US$185 million. The sale gained notice because two former employees sued the company, but Manship won the court battle.
Robertson said the Spielo sale was the original New Brunswick tech success story, predating Radian6 and Q1 Labs, and that the GTECH unit still employs almost 500 people in Moncton.
A year after the sale, Manship started his own VC fund and placed in charge Spielo’s Chief Financial Officer, Susan Hicks.
They have made several seed-stage investments, and the people they back speak glowingly about their contributions. “Susan is an awesome investor,” said John Bowles, the President of Inversa, speaking in an interview in 2012. He added that far beyond providing capital, Hicks was an essential team player for her insights and leadership.
Masitek in particular credits Hicks with helping to found the company. It began when TVC decided to build a company out of patented intellectual property it held. Hicks brought in Tracy Clinch, who had experience with Moosehead and McCain Foods, to serve as the company’s CEO.
And of course, she did so quietly.
How Manship and Hicks View the Region
“Atlantic Canada has always been home to innovative companies and entrepreneurs that have succeeded in global markets. With a rapidly changing global economy and highly competitive market for talent, we need to double down on innovation-based growth, develop the best possible supporting ecosystem, and promote a culture that supports risk-taking, tolerates failures and celebrates success. ‘We have the talent and the resources to be one of the most innovative regions in the world, but it won’t happen unless all the key stakeholders – industry, government, investors, entrepreneurs and academia – are invested in a common vision. Meaningful collaboration is essential, especially in a small region like Atlantic Canada.’
– Jon Manship
Chairman of Technology Venture Corp.
‘Over the years, Technology Venture Corporation has been privileged to have been given the opportunity to work with talented entrepreneurs who are dedicated to growing their respective companies. We want to acknowledge the important role of our education providers at the grade school and high school levels and at the college and university levels, for the great job educators have done in developing our human resources. Without them, this would not be possible. ‘People throughout this region are very resourceful, hardworking and creative. There is no lack of great ideas to start and grow companies. We have worked with companies in all four Atlantic Provinces and can attest to the fact that there is a strong entrepreneurial spirit in Atlantic Canada. ‘Whether we are talking about software development, sensing technologies, or many other types of technologies, our companies can compete and win with the best in class on a global scale.’
The organization has held the Fierce Founder program for several years, and it is open to companies in and outside Waterloo region.
The next bootcamp, to take place in the winter for the first time, will be held in two phases, from Jan. 24 to 26 and Feb. 21 to 23. Applications can be found here and are open until Dec. 23.
“This fast-paced program is open to passionate entrepreneurs with a tech or tech-based idea at a MVP or pre-MVP stage,” said a statement from Communitech. “Twenty-five participants 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 sessions end with a pitching competition, at which the top three finishers divide $100,000 in cash and prizes. The past winners include Borealis Wind of Kitchener and Sentinel Alert of St. John’s.
The Fierce Founder program has grown to also include an accelerator, which is open to founders residing in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. It's now accepting applications for the next cohort, which begins in March.
Sayles Take Aim at Workplace Safety
Stephen and Byran Sayle
Having traveled the world in their respective professions, the Sayle brothers are back in Atlantic Canada developing a company they hope will revolutionize safety in the workplace.
Bryan and Stephen Sayle are natives of Prince Edward Island and their Halifax-based company, SayleGroup Inc., has developed three products that work together to digitize and improve workplace safety. Two of these products are on the market and being used by 27 paying customers ranging from Fortune 100 companies to small businesses. SayleGroup is also a finalist for the Halifax Chamber of Commerce’s Business Awards, which will be presented Jan. 26.
“We are raising the awareness around safety culture,” Stephen Sayle said in an interview. “The general safety culture movement is years behind, say, the environmental movement . . . Or to compare it to something that grew locally, compare it with the anti-bullying movement.”
Stephen has spent his career in workplace safety, mainly in the oil and gas industry, working in the Middle East, the Far East and Latin America. Bryan is a software developer, who has spent the bulk of his career in the U.K with stints in other markets including Silicon Valley. As they flew back and forth, they would meet up in airports around the world and discuss plans to work together one day.
Now they’ve moved to Halifax to raise their families and launch a business that capitalizes on their areas of expertise. (Interesting point: Both brothers married Nova Scotians called Heidi. One Heidi is a lawyer and the other Heidi is a chartered accountant, so SayleGroup’s professional services are all handled within the family.)
The company has three product lines:
• An online course that teaches companies how to implement safety culture, the most basic step in improving safety in the workplace. Comprised of four five-minute modules, the course is priced so businesses of any size can afford it.
• A supply chain readiness product helps companies raise their safety practices so they can participate in megaprojects. Virtually all megaprojects demand that each company in the supply chain has a minimum level of safety standards, and this product helps all companies reach that level.
• SayleGroup plans in 2017 to release its third product, a mobile application that ensures work teams maintain safety standards and check the things that must be done. It lets workers all have a safety device on their cellphones. “By putting a virtual safety officer into a tool that everyone has and tying it to other (people within the organization) it puts a system of checks and balances in place,” said Bryan.
The brothers said there are now no international standards for workplace safety, but the International Standards Organization next year will release a set of regulations that jurisdictions and companies must meet to be considered safety-compliant. The SayleGroup products all meet these standards, and the pricing of their products mean that companies of any size can be sure to meet international requirements.
“We have higher-than-average injury rates here,” said Stephen Sayle. “We believe that everybody wants to go to work, do their job and get home safely.”
Jones, Rydlund Join Propel Team
Charlotte Rydlynd and her PACTA team in the spring.
Propel ICT, Atlantic Canada’s regional startup accelerator, has named veteran entrepreneurs Richard Jones and Charlotte Rydlund to its team as entrepreneurs-in-residence.
These entrepreneurs have experience in business-to-business enterprises and will strengthen the mentorship in the field at a time when the startup world appears to be focusing more to industrial applications than consumer products. Between the two of them, they have more than 40 years of experience in the business world.
The move comes days after the accelerator held its latest Demo Day in Halifax, and opened applications for its next cohort. The applications, which can be found here, will be open until Jan. 13.
“With more than 200 people in attendance and 11 companies pitching, there is strong evidence of the vibrancy of the Atlantic Canadian startup ecosystem,” Propel CEO Anita Punamiya said in a statement, referring to Demo Day.
Based in Fredericton, Jones will bring extensive experience in the Industrial Internet of Things to the Propel organization. He has served as CEO of both Eigen Innovations and Shift Energy, two of the most promising IIoT outfits in the region.
Rydlund, who lives in Halifax, is the CEO of PACTA, which automates the management of contract for big companies. In May, it was one of 11 Canadian companies invited to pitch at the Google Demo Day at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.
“We couldn't be happier to bring their experience and talent to the team,” said Punamiya.
SomaDetect Plans 2017 Pilot Project
When David Alston was asked recently what startups in his native Fredericton had caught his attention, one of the first he mentioned was a young company called SomaDetect. The New Brunswick government’s chief entrepreneur-in-residence said he’d even visited a dairy farm with SomaDetect’s founders to witness their product at work.
SomaDetect helps dairy farmers check the health of their herd quickly, accurately and precisely while testing the quality of their milk. The company has been launched by CEO Bethany Deshpande and COO Nicholas Clermont, who have been in touch with farmers across New Brunswick, a few of whom have signed up for the pilot project in 2017.
“SomaDetect is aiming to be New Brunswick’s next big agro-tech success story,” Deshpande said in an interview. “We are excited about what the future brings, and about the interest we have from dairy farmers here.”
The story of SomaDetect began when Bethany’s father Satish Deshpande, an Ontario government worker and part-time inventor, learned of a problem common in dairy farming. One of the most pervasive diseases in the industry is mastitis, which can diminish the quality of milk and even prove lethal to the cow if not detected in time.
Farmers now screen for the disease by sampling their total intake of milk, sending the sample to a lab, and waiting for about a week for the results. The tests can determine whether mastitis is present in the herd, though it cannot say which specific animal is afflicted.
Deshpande’s patented technology sends a laser beam through the milk as each cow is milked, instantly recording the fat content and somatic cell count, both of which indicate the presence of mastitis and the quality of the milk. The farmer has the data instantly for each cow twice a day.
By catching the disease early enough, SomaDetect can prevent the disease from moving through the herd, save the lives of some cows, and reduce the amount of antibiotics used by dairy farmers. The product also captures each farm’s data in the cloud, which can produce reports in real time for the farmer.
After completing her PhD in microbiology in June, Bethany Deshpande moved to Fredericton, where her husband had taken a job. She was impressed with the local entrepreneurial community and decided to build a business based on her father’s product.
She teamed up with Clermont, an engineer, designer and business strategist and launched the business.
Their goal is to have five farms in the pilot project early next year, and eventually be used by one-quarter of the dairy farms in New Brunswick. There are 55,000 dairy farms in Canada and the U.S., so their market is substantial.
Deshpande and Clermont are also taking their company through Breakthru, New Brunswick’s biennial competition for startups. They have also been working with the Pond-Deshpande Centre (whose co-founder Gururaj Deshpande is no relation) at the University of New Brunswick and accessed funding through the PDC’s B4Change program.
Now the company is rolling the product out in farms with the goal of improving agricultural production. Said Bethany Deshpande: “One of our aims for SomaDetect is to help New Brunswick produce the highest quality milk in the country.”
NBIF Invested $3.8M in VC in 2015-16
Calvin Milbury: 'We are the bridge between research and enterprise.'
The province’s innovation agency released its annual report for last fiscal year, which shows it was active throughout the year, though many of the contribution totals were slightly below the record year in 2014-2015. The organization had greatly increased its funding in the previously two years, and now is showing relatively stable funding levels.
The organization is best known for its venture capital investments, but it also finances research that can be commercialized and helps to attract researchers to the province.
“Taking on risk is what we do at NBIF,” President and CEO Calvin Milbury said in the report. “We are the bridge between research and enterprise in New Brunswick. In doing so, we help to bring innovation from lab to marketplace where it impacts our economy.”
Almost half of NBIF’s expenditures or investments went to startups and growth companies, which received $5.2 million, unchanged from the year before. NBIF also contributed $3.2 million to applied research, down 16 percent from a year earlier, and $2.8 million to talent and recruitment, down 17 percent from the previous year.
NBIF was an active VC investor in the 2016 fiscal year, completing 24 investments in 22 companies. In fact, in January to March of 2016, Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association ranked NBIF the most active provincially backed venture capital fund in the country, with deals totaling $9 million, including outside investors.
The report noted that NBIF has now invested $73 million since its inception in 2003, and has 41 active portfolio companies.
NBIF made the following investments in 2015-2016 from its Venture Capital Fund:
Populus Global -- National level Health Information Management System $500,000
The VC fund is for companies in or entering their growth stage, but NBIF in recent years has also begun a Startup Investment Fund to back newer companies. It said six of the 16 companies that have received SIF funding have already moved into the VC fund.
In 2015-2016, the following companies received $100,000 each from the SIF:
Force 3 -- Innovations Ergonomic seat for commercial vehicles
The report also stresses that NBIF is now working on helping its portfolio companies to scale by providing leadership in three key areas – governance, funding and human resources.
Early Companies Shine at Demo Day
Isaac Adejuwon, Founder and CEO of Metricsflow
Propel ICT held its second Demo Day of 2016 in Halifax last night, in a show that featured strong performances from the early stage presenters.
Seven of the 11 presenting companies at the packed event were from the Launch Program, which guides new companies from concept to developing a minimum viable product. These companies – ranging from e-health platforms to an app for mink farmers – displayed a depth of market expertise and strong technical proficiency.
The 11 presenters were chosen from the 37 startups that went through the latest cohort of the regional accelerator, and the organization’s chairman Steven Burns noted that they represent the companies that are changing the Canadian economy.
“You can build all the bridges you want and they won’t do what these companies are doing,” he said. “That’s what Propel is all about.”
Propel CEO Anita Punamiya said the organization is now looking at such initiatives as a mentorship program, that will further develop the network of entrepreneurs. Also, Propel is planning to hold its first cohort in Sydney in the spring of 2017. Applications for the next cohort are open until Jan. 13.
Here’s a look at the presenting companies from the Launch program:
GreyLitMatters, Halifax – Academic journals chronicle only 10 percent of the $500 billion of research conducted around the world each year. GreyLitMatters plans to offer a chance for the other 90 percent to be disseminated to and reviewed by peers, so the research can be put to use. The company is lining up early adopters and may have a Halifax research organization to serve as its first.
Orchard, Halifax – Orchard offers supermarkets an in-store, data-based marketing platform to help them increase sales. Using sensors throughout a store, the platform can assess what items are in a shopper’s cart and customize an ad on a video monitor to suit that consumer’s tastes. About 20 percent of shoppers’ purchases are chosen on the spot, and Orchard wants to raise the level to 32 percent. The company is now working on its proof of concept.
Ad Blocking Aware, Charlottetown – This company’s software offers all businesses – not just large corporations – the chance to recover the marketing opportunity lost because of ad blockers. When the software detects ad blockers, it engages the reader, using machine learning to ensure the messaging is tailored to the reader.
EChart Health Care, Moncton –Spun off from a family-owned seniors home, eChart is developing a platform that lets homes for the elderly communicate better with their patients’ families. Other apps for this industry deal in health records or communication within the homes, but eChart focuses on providing better service to families. The company now has an early adopter and is targeting the 1.6 million long-term care facilities in Canada and the U.S.
RayZen, Fredericton - RayZen is an online platform that help nonprofit organization raise more money through games. Charitable organizations often struggle to retain donors or increase revenues, and RayZen helps them to engage donors and bring in more money through fun games. It is already talking to 25 such organizations.
Metricsflow, St. John's – Metricsflow has developed a system to help marketers effectively measure the impact of their content marketing. The problem it addresses is that content marketers push out vast amounts of material but little of it results in client conversions. Using no cookies, Metricsflow mines the data on the content and lets the users take action that results in conversions.
Mink Manager, St. John's – Mink Manager is an advanced fur farm management system that helps farmers to improve breeding programs and overall workflow. Mink farmers often have tens of thousands of animals to track, and now do so on paper. The company is now working with three farms, and is feeling market pull from other farmers. There are about 10,000 mink farms in the world.
Four companies from the more advanced Build Program pitched at Demo Day. We featured GoBumpFree on the site yesterday and will provide more detailed articles on some of the others in the coming weeks. They are:
Ironflow, Dieppe, NB – The company’s product, PurelyHR, lets companies create a tailored solution to satisfy their HR needs.
One simpler, Fredericton – The company has created a solution to automating production equipment, studios, and more.
And Stay Golden Apparel, Charlottetown – Stay Golden is an online clothing company that helps groups display their identity through custom-sourced and crested clothing.
Briefs: Launch Dal, Volta, Fredericton
Launch Dal Pitching Event on Thursday
Launch Dal will hold the final pitch competition for the 12 teams in its Starting Lean program Thursday starting at 4:30 pm.
After more than two months of workshops, coaching and networking events, the participants will present their final pitches for the chance to win development money for their ventures. The winners will receive $3,000, while second- and third-place finishers will receive $2,000 and $1,000 respectively.
The event will take place at the Collide Room in the Killam Library at Dalhousie University. Tickets are available here.
Volta Names Three Board Members
Volta Labs has named three new board members – Janet Bannister, Leah Skerry and Ross Simmonds – bringing the total number of directors at the Startup House to eight.
The organization said in a statement three new additions add a diverse range of business acumen. Bannister, the General Partner with Real Ventures, is a venture partner and brought Kijiji to Canada. Skerry founded Pursu.it to help athletes successfully fund their dreams and founded Squiggle Park to help young children learn to read. After a digital marketing career helping startups and Fortune 500 companies succeed, Simmonds founded Crate to automate the digital marketing content curation process.
“Our new board members bring even more global connections to Atlantic Canada,” said Jevon MacDonald, chair of the board. “Ross and Leah are both active entrepreneurs, and Janet is currently a venture partner with an extensive history of entrepreneurship, so these new additions add more of both finance and operational experience to the board. They all want to help put Halifax on the map as a place for founders to start new companies and grow existing ones.”
Volta said it has grown its governing scope to include leaders from across the country. The other board members are: Jesse Rodgers, CEO of Volta; Iain Klugman, CEO of Communitech; Patrick Keefe, Partner with Build Ventures; and Thomas Rankin, co-founder and CEO of Dash Hudson and former early-stage venture capitalist.
Startup Canada Names Fredericton Startup Community of the Year
Fredericton has been named the national ‘2016 Startup Community of the Year’ by Startup Canada. The award was co-accepted by Taskforce Fredericton Startup Network and the City of Fredericton.
“Fredericton has been on a set course since the development of our 2013 economic development strategy,” said Mayor Michael O’Brien in a statement. “This is a proud moment for Fredericton.”
As the steward of Vision 2020, Ignite Fredericton initiated Taskforce Fredericton Startup Network, comprising over twenty strategically aligned entrepreneurial organizations. The task force was formed to create connectivity, collaboration and communication among the local startup ecosystem.
Aurea Wins Planting Seed$ Competition
Aurea, a new cleantech company founded by Cat Adalay, won the second annual 100 Entrepreneurs: Planting Seed$ competition in Halifax on Monday, capturing the first prize of $10,000.
The company is dedicated to producing modular, low-maintenance wind turbines that can be integrated into buildings. Aurea aims to implement clean energy solutions in an urban environment, while helping high-rise developments and their tenants avoid carbon taxes and reduce energy costs.
“This is Aurea,” said Adalay in wrapping up her eight-minute presentation. “Its mission is to not just change the world but to save it."
Full disclosure: Cat Adalay is our daughter.
Founded by Stefanie MacDonald and Allyson England, Planting Seed$ allows established entrepreneurs and businesses to support entrepreneurs aged 24 and under. There were 100 tickets for the event, and each cost $100. All the prize money went to the winner, who will use the funding to help get her project off the ground.
The event is designed to introduce youth to the concept of pitching ideas and developing networks earlier, MacDonald said.
As well as researching the market and opportunity, Adalay has so far designed two wind turbines. Her Flare Turbines are small-scale, modular turbines containing direct-drive imbedded generators. The two systems -- one vertical-axis and the other horizontal-axis -- can be integrated into structures such as high-rise buildings, towers and residential homes.
Adalay, who works with the Launch Dal initiative at Dalhousie University, has spoken with a few high-rise developers. They responded positively to the idea because there is so much consumer and regulatory pressure to implement green solutions in new projects. She said she will use the prize money as the first step in leveraging financing from government programs. She hopes to take Aurea into an accelerator soon.
The two other finalists in the event were:
- Halifax-based Sloth Coffee, which sources high-quality green coffee beans and sells its coffee through retail outlets, online and in offices. Founder Tyler Sellars said he started the company with the memory of happy times spent with his mother, who supported him in his semi-pro soccer career by taking coffee to his early-morning practices.
- And Halifax-based Under the Bridge Digital Media, a group that hires millennials to create quality digital content. Co-Founder and CEO Alfred Burgesson said the network of 12 young people has already done work for clients such as the City of Halifax and Volta Labs startup house.
The audience gathered at Halifax Central Library also heard from Site 2020, a venture that made the top three in last year’s contest. Site 2020 aims to reduce accidents on construction sites by using technology to control traffic flow.
Founders Cole Campbell and Mitchell Hollohan said they had received a lot of support from the community in the last 12 months, and they have learned that young entrepreneurs must be prepared to hustle.
“Don’t take a day off,” they advised the other young entrepreneurs in the audience.
England stressed the importance of entrepreneurship to the growth of Nova Scotia.
She said that research cited in Ray Ivany’s Now or Never Report revealed that many Nova Scotia youth want to work in traditional professions or be public servants. Only 12 per cent want to be entrepreneurs. Planting Seed$ aims to help boost that percentage.
GoBumpFree Takes Flight
An ambitious Halifax startup that aims to make it easier for the world’s 1.7 million airline employees to take vacations, will be one of the pitchers at the Propel ICT Demo Day on tonight.
Danna Lavallee, an airline industry veteran, will present GoBumpFree, which allows airline employees and their families to book last-minute hotel rooms and, if needed, cancel them at a moment’s notice. The product was developed by Airline Employee Travel Inc, the company she owns with her husband Colin Lavallee.
The company has already signed up three airlines to market the product to their employees and a range of hotels and resorts around the world, and the list is growing.
“We just rolled out to Air Canada Jazz and Southwest Airlines in the States, and a smaller airline,” she said in an interview last week. “Even if the airline doesn’t have a relationship with us, employees can still sign on and use the site.”
Lavallee loves the “amazing benefits” she enjoys as an airline employee, especially the low-cost fights around the world. (She once flew the New York for lunch, and paid more for lunch than her flight.) But the problem is that airline employees have to fly standby. If they are bumped from their flights, they still have to pay for the hotel room they booked.
During a trip to Virginia Beach, Lavallee realized there are thousands of hotel rooms lying empty in most resorts at any given time. She thought there would be a business case for offering these rooms last minute to airline employees, and let them cancel without penalty.
GoBumpFree is the result. The app looks like most hotel reservation sites, but with one major difference. The system only lets users book their first night three days in advance. It means hotels and resorts that know they will have vacancies can put the rooms into the GoBumpFree system and appeal to airline employees, who tend to book holidays last minute.
Lavallee has been making steady progress with the company in the last few years. She was a finalist in Innovacorp’s I-3 competition, which netted the company more than $100,000. Then she began raising private capital and was accepted into the Propel ICT accelerator.
The financing and guidance she has received helped her to attend two international trade shows this year, where she made contacts with key players in her two key markets – hotel owners and airlines.
The company, whose team includes people in Nova Scotia, the U.S., Mexico and India, now has a pipeline that includes 50,000 to 60,000 hotels and resorts in 60 countries, and 45 airlines. The job now is to convert more and more of these sales leads into actual users of the site.
Airline Employee Travel has so far raised $580,000 in private equity investment, and Lavallee said it will be looking to raise another round of capital soon.
“We want to focus on execution and within six months start another round,” she said. In particular, she want to convert more of the properties in her pipeline, and add a few new features to the GoBumpFree pipeline.
The Propel ICT Demo Day begins at 5:30 tonight at Pier 21 in Halifax. You can get your free tickets here. If you can’t make the event in person, Startup Kitchen will be livestreaming it here.
Briefs: Propel, Ulrike, Island Advance
Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia: DNS has grown strongly under her leadership.
Startup Kitchen to Livestream Propel Demo Day
Anyone who can’t attend the Propel ICT Demo Day in Halifax on Tuesday will be able to see it live online.
Our friends at Startup Kitchen will be livestreaming the event here.
Propel last week named the 11 companies that will present at its Demo Day, which will be held Tuesday, starting at 5:30 pm at Pier 21. It will feature the four graduates from the advanced Build Program, as well as seven companies that have gone through the Launch program, which is designed for younger companies.
Propel ICT alumnus Adrian Bentley will also deliver a short talk on the journey of his company AnalyzeRe, which was recently purchased by Verisk Analytics.
MOVES To Be Held at Collider Tonight
A new community engagement project called MOVES will take place in HaIifax tonight at 8 pm. This program connects visionary entrepreneurs and thought leaders with the youth and young professionals aspiring to be their own bosses.
This talk features successful entrepreneur Dion Walcott, who will share his experience. MOVES will be hosted by Ceasefire Halifax, in partnership with Atlantic Fashion Week and the Dalhousie Entrepreneurship Society.
The event will take place at the Killam Library Collider at Dalhousie University at 8 pm. To register, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Bahr-Gedalia Named to Most Powerful Women List
Digital Nova Scotia announced last week President and CEO Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia has been named to the Women’s Executive Network 2016 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award list. It is the second year in a row that she’s won the prestigious national award.
Launched in 2003, the Top 100 Awards celebrate the incredible accomplishments of Canada’s top female executive talent as well as their organizations and networks. Ulrike, who will receive the RBC Champions award which recognizes women who are currently making a distinct and describable difference to the advancement of women in the Canadian workplace, will be honoured during a gala celebration at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Nov. 24.
Bahr-Gedalia joined DNS as its President and CEO in 2013 and aided the sustainability and growth of the industry association for Nova Scotia’s digital technologies sector. Under her leadership, DNS has grown in funding, high-level, industry-focused programming, increased membership, and has added significant value and credibility to the organization.
Third Annual Advancing Island Connections Held in Charlottetown
More than 550 immigrants, business owners, angel investors, entrepreneurs, and professional services companies converged last week at Advancing Island Connections 2016, eager to build connections and grow P.E.I.’s economy.
“Island Advance is focused on growing PEI’s economy through immigration, entrepreneurship and access to private capital,” said Island Advance Advisory Board Chair Ron Keefe, “Advancing Island Connections 2016 connected these three goals in one space. The sense of excitement and optimism in the room was palpable.”
Advancing Island Connections, presented by Island Advance, PEI Connectors and the Greater Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce, was held Thursday. The networking event included an on-stage business showcase featuring businesses for sale and start-ups seeking investors. There was also a tradeshow area where almost 50 exhibitors promoted their professional services and businesses for sale, or met with potential buyers and investors.
Jobs: Adams Green, Sentinel Alert
Openings for sales people and customer engagement reps across the region highlight our Jobs of the Week column today.
Dash Hudson of Halifax is looking for a sales development representative and a customer success representative. Dash Hudson helps clients analyze their Instagram and SnapChat data. It collects data on how major brands are connecting with customers on Instagram. The photo-sharing app is one of the most popular social media tools available but before Dash Hudson they were unable to analyze what effect Instagram posts were having with customers. It is now moving into providing the same service for SnapChat users.
Meanwhile, Saint John accounting firm Adams Green is looking for an accounting manager. The firm differentiates itself from competitors by helping entrepreneurs (and their communities) thrive by changing the way their financial management needs are met.
In St. John’s, Sentinel Alert needs a vice-president of sales. 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.
The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside (formerly Qimple).
The customer success representative will help customers with their visual marketing strategies, maximize the value they get from the Dash Hudson platform, and increase the customers’ lifetime value. The responsibilities include trials and onboarding, or working closely with the sales team to support, train, and engaging with potential customers during trial periods. This person must also work with the Customer Success Manager to ensure that proper strategy is being delivered at all times. Dash Hudson is looking for someone adept at problem-solving, communicating, organization, sales and with a knack for details.
The sales development representative is a critical piece in the growth and development of Dash Hudson's sales process. He or she will manage a creative and customized outreach strategy to potential customers in verticals ranging from fashion to travel food to consumer electronics. The responsibilities include managing lead generation, such as finding and sourcing new leads for companies to go through the outreach process. This person must also manage the early stages of the sales pipeline by communicating with potential customers through the outreach process. Finally, the representative will have to track the performance of daily outreach. Dash Hudson is looking for someone with a desire to learn and improve processes, strong written and verbal communication skills and a self-motivating attitude.
For the first time in its history, Adams Green is adding an experienced accountant because of its growing customer base. The successful candidate will be the primary contact for a small group of clients, and help to ensure the quality of our work across all of the firm’s clients. This person must assist in expansion of service offerings and help to encourage more growth. The work load will feature a balance of recurring accounting responsibilities and ad hoc projects. Adams Green is looking for someone with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and/or commerce.
Sentinel Alert is looking for a passionate and entrepreneurial individual who has a desire to be part of an early-stage company. The VP of sales will drive targeted strategies to establish Sentinel Alert as a strong presence in North America and lead a sales team to execute and exceed company targets. The successful candidate will be in charge of generating revenue. This would include growing the sales team, running and closing B2B software deals, as well as other responsibilities. Sentinel Alert is looking for someone with B2B sales experience in industrial sectors like manufacturing, forestry or construction, and experience in developing a B2B sales process.
CarbonCure Aims To Triple Clients
Robert Niven: A meaningful impact for people around the world
So much is happening at CarbonCure Technologies these days that the best way to illustrate the Dartmouth cleantech company’s progress is to zero in on its customer and revenue growth.
But what stood out in a recent interview with vice-president of sustainability Jennifer Wagner was the company’s fundamental growth. Wagner said the company aims to have its technology in 100 plants by September 2017, up from 37. It’s achievable because so many clients are multinational and plan to extend the technology to other plants around the world.
So if the number of clients triples, I asked, would revenues also triple?
No, she said. Many clients are adopting the most recent product for ready-mix concrete, which has higher margins than the original masonry product. So if CarbonCure hits its customer growth targets, revenue growth should more than triple.
“The stars are just aligning for us right now and everything is coming together to move us in the right direction,” said Wagner.
CarbonCure, which has raised almost $10 million in equity investment, has developed technology that injects carbon into concrete to strengthen it and reduce costs. Traditional concrete production produces huge amounts of carbon dioxide, but the CarbonCure method actually reduces CO2. The company began with a process for concrete blocks and last year launched a process to inject carbon into ready-mix concrete.
“It hits a whole bunch of different value points,” said Tony Van Bommel, head of the BDC Capital Industrial, Clean and Energy Technology Venture Fund, which invested in CarbonCure. He noted concrete is the most common construction material in the world and CarbonCure makes it environmentally friendly while cutting costs.
“If you can green that business, you are doing a substantial benefit to the environment.”
CarbonCure has recently produced a steady stream of news releases on new clients, and Niven has said the company would be profitable in this fiscal year. The company is spreading its wings by assembling a group of companies to compete for the Carbon Xprize. The four-and-a-half-year competition will find the best technology that creates a new product using carbon.
CarbonCure is leading the team, which includes Sustainable Energy Solutions, Praxair, Inc., Argos, BURNCO Rock Products, and several leading engineering and architectural firms. The team members all contribute to the process, from CO2 providers to concrete manufacturers to designers. Team CarbonCure is one of 27 semi-finalists. The finalists will be named in December 2017.
Xprizes are designed to offer large awards for world-changing innovation, so that even teams that don’t win end up producing something that benefits humanity. Team CarbonCure believes it is on the right track because concrete is such a pervasive material, and the company already has its product in the market.
“If you make a good science case and a good business case, you can make a meaningful impact for people all around the world,” said Niven in a video for the prestigious Manning Award.
“Concrete being the most abundant man-made material on Earth, if you can change that, you really have a solution that can scale and help a lot of people.”
Celebrating Digital Life Sciences
Resson Co-Founders Rishin Behl and Peter Goggin
There’s an industrial segment in which Atlantic Canada excels. The companies in this space have raised more than $30 million in 2016 alone. They are establishing offices in Silicon Valley. They’re gaining worldwide clientele.
The segment is the intersection between digital technologies and life sciences. I’m not sure that even is a segment, but maybe we should make it one and start to play it up a bit.
Why am I discussing such an ill-defined sector? Several influential players in the startup community believe the region has to choose a segment or two to excel in and develop the ecosystem to make those sectors even better. (Not surprisingly, it’s usually a sector that these individuals are working in.) There’s talk of ocean technology, cybersecurity, drone technology and other areas.
But the place where Atlantic Canada is really making waves is digital technologies that work with biology.
Consider what a few exemplars have been up to this year:
- Resson, the Fredericton company that analyzes data from farms, raised US$11 million in a funding round led by Monsanto Growth Ventures and other investors to expand its team and open a Silicon Valley office.
- Kinduct Technologies of Halifax, whose platform accesses 500 sources of data on the human body to aid sports medicine practitioners, raised US$9 million in a round led by Intel Capital. That money will help the company increase its global network and increase its staff in Halifax.
- St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, which is building a databank on the genetic data of 100,000 Newfoundlanders, received a US$3 million funding round led by the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Data Collective. The lead investor called Sequence’s work in health data “a globally significant opportunity.”
- Halifax-based sports genetics company Athletigen Technologies raised US$1.55 million in a round led by Exponential Partners, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based venture capital fund that specializes in health and human performance innovations. The money helped to fund the growth of its flagship product, the Athletigen Performance Platform.
Add ‘em up and you’ve got the equivalent of more than C$32 million in direct venture capital investment coming into Atlantic Canadian companies, companies that are growing revenue and staff at a furious rate. There probably isn’t a more dynamic segment in the regional startup community.
The problem with championing such a group is identifying it, not to mention naming it. These are all digital companies, developing software and/or hardware. But they are making advances in applying technology to biology, whether it’s human medicine or in other disciplines like agriculture or environmental sciences. It’s not easy to name such a group, but let’s go with “digital life sciences.”
What’s special about this group is that these companies have established global networks and funding sources independent of each other and independent of government strategy. Certainly, each has benefited from government programs, but there is no overarching government strategy to promote and nurture digital life sciences in the region.
Each of the four Atlantic Provinces are represented in this segment, but none dominates the space. Though there are no P.E.I. companies mentioned above, the Island does boast companies like Vitrak Systems, which is commercializing a pressure-sensitive floor tile system for medical research and rehabilitation. The company has said it is raising a significant funding round.
So this is a segment that spans all provinces and lies between the IT and life sciences segment. That means there is both an opportunity and a problem. The problem is that most of the organizations that promote innovation represent specific provinces, especially in biosciences. And there is too little overlap in organizations promoting IT and life sciences. It’s difficult to think of a single entity that could champion digital life sciences across the region.
Here’s one idea: These companies themselves should form an association. They are now big enough that they could all contribute to it financially. And they could probably attract financing and other resources from the organizations that are at the periphery of what they do – like the provincial life sciences organizations or Propel ICT. Maybe it could just be a division of an existing organization.
What would such an organization do? First it could promote that this segment in and outside Atlantic Canada.
Then it should assess the resources available across the region that could benefit these companies. The financial resources are fairly obvious. The more important resources are human and physical. There are lab facilities, specialists, researchers and mentors scattered across the region, and entrepreneurs in Province A don’t always understand what’s available in Province B. And this organization would broaden the network of mentors greatly. Each of these companies is highly specialized, requiring both IT and biological expertise, and they would benefit from a broader network of local champions.
Finally, with an association they could market themselves together in Silicon Valley. Several of these companies now have offices in the Bay Area. Resson and Kinduct are both represented there, and Halifax’s 4deep Inwater Imaging, which makes electronic, underwater microscopes, shares an R&D facility with its Chinese partner Guangzhou Bosma Corp. These companies should be working with each other in the Bay area as well as at home.
The first problem with this group is defining it. But the fact that just four companies in the space raised $32 million of venture capital, mainly from Silicon Valley, with little government contribution, should make us sit up and take notice. There’s an opportunity here and it’s worth a discussion, if nothing else.
Gardner Named Sequence’s Acting CEO
Chris Gardner has been named the acting CEO of St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, taking over from the company’s first CEO, Tyler Wish.
The company released a statement Wednesday saying that Gardner had assumed the position, and spokeswoman Karen Moores said that Wish is still an employee of the company. The two co-founders formed the company in 2013, carrying on the next step of genetic research that Wish had been working on for years.
Sequence and its partners analyze vast sets of data from gene pools to get a deeper understanding of human biology and use the information to improve the development of drugs. Newfoundland has a rare — possibly unique — genetic grouping of families that have lived on the island for generations and who have distinct genetic markers. Sequence has signed an agreement with Memorial University to use the university’s genetic databank. The company recently announced a US$3 million venture capital round led by the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Data Collective.
“Sequence Bio is emerging as a rapidly growing biotechnology company that is going to transform the Newfoundland and Labrador economy and innovate healthcare,” said Killick Capital President Mark Dobbin, an investor and director in the company. “I welcome Chris to this role and wish him every success as he provides leadership in this new stage of growth for the company. Myself, the Board of Directors, and all investors have full confidence in Chris Gardner and the Sequence Bio team and that they will fulfill their commitment to prioritizing the benefits to the people of this province.”
Though the company is referring to Gardner as “acting” CEO, Moores said it has yet to determine if there will be a seach for someone to lead the company in the future. The press release noted that Gardner has played an essential role in growing the staff from two to 18 people, and in securing the recent venture capital funding.
Wish has a PhD in genetic research and previously ran a company called Research Avenue, which was also involved in using genetic data in medical treatment. He recently spoke at the Big Data Congress in Saint John, arguing convincingly that the new best practice in drug discovery is the application of genetic data to develop the best compounds possible.
In response to emailed questions, Moores said Wish has been instrumental in bringing the company to its present position.
“This was a business decision and a change that our Board felt was necessary to position the company for success and evolve from startup to a key player in the Newfoundland and Labrador economy,” she said We continue to have full Board and Investor confidence in our team, our company and our ability to execute on our mission.”
She stressed that Sequence Bio “has always been bigger than any one person” and noted the strength of the team the company has recruited.
Said Gardner in the press release: “I am excited to lead Sequence Bio through this next stage as we strive to meet our goal of improving drug discovery and delivering benefits back to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.”
The cover story is something that I’ve been talking about lot lately in conversation: the intersection of information technology and life sciences. It’s an ill-defined segment, but it’s the hottest portion of the startup community right now.
Jesse Rodgers, the recently appointed CEO of Volta Labs, weighs in with his vision of an innovation district in Halifax.
The report also features our look at the performance of startups affiliated with post-secondary institutions, the movement to implement data-based analytics in Saint John, and the proposed BioAccelerator in Charlottetown.
We’ll be posting all these articles on line in the next few weeks, but you can read the whole report here. We’ll also have printed copies next week.
BDC Launches $135M Industrial Fund
BDC Capital today unveiled a new $135 million venture capital fund to support Canadian energy, industrial and cleantech start-ups with global potential.
The BDC Capital Industrial, Clean and Energy Technology Venture Fund II will follow on the first fund of the same name, which has invested in 18 Canadian companies, including CarbonCure Technologies of Dartmouth.
These funds are not exactly cleantech funds because they are designed to back new industrial technologies that are improving the efficiency of large enterprises. However, Tony Van Bommel, senior managing partner of ICE Funds I and II, stressed in an interview that all these new technologies reduce the resources needed by industry, and therefore benefit the environment.
“We’ve tried to position it as an industrial, clean and energy technology fund because we think cleantech is slightly limiting in describing what we’re doing,” said Van Bommel. “But every investment we make is aimed at [creating] a better way of doing something. Resource efficiency is one of the over-riding principles”
The first ICE fund was launched in 2011 with $152 million, and has had some exits. Earlier this month, its Vancouver-based portfolio company Bit Stew, which developed an advanced data integration platform for utilities, was purchased by GE for US$153 million.
BDC Capital’s first ICE fund also invested in such companies as quantum computing pioneer D-Wave Systems, data center power management provider Ranovus, and power conversion innovator GaN Systems.
Van Bommel, a Dalhousie University grad, said the new funding means his team will now have a total of $287 million under management. He added that he plans to expand the team to enhance its expertise to keep pace with new technologies that are coming into the marketplace.
The second fund will invest in 15 to 20 new high-impact Canadian startups that demonstrate efficiency and strong scalability, said BDC Capital in a statement.
“Our goal is to intensify our support for innovative Canadian entrepreneurs who are leading the way in the transition to a low-carbon economy,” says Jérôme Nycz, Executive Vice President of BDC Capital. “Our first ICE fund demonstrated strong performance against international peers in a market that is a key target industry for the government of Canada.”
Fund II will invest in late seed and Series A companies, with some Series B companies also considered. The fund envisages an initial five-year investment period followed by a five-year harvest period during which exits are anticipated.
Added Van Bommel: “We seek to bring Canadian technologies to the world and accelerate resource efficiency, while targeting significant investment returns. Our existing fund has invested in all regions of the country and includes some of Canada’s most successful venture-backed companies.”
Briefs: Eyesover, EDN, SimplyCast
Peter Moorhouse: 'Businesses need all the help they can get to help them grow.'
Eyesover Releases Issue Discovery Module
Fredericton-based Eyesover Technologies Inc. has released its new Issue Discovery module as the latest addition to its online media monitoring system.
Using Eyesover’s proprietary artificial intelligence, Issue Discovery provides customers with a predictive tool that identifies online discussions or mentions of new issues that are relevant to the end-user.
“The limitation of most social media monitoring tools is selection bias – a system will only report on what you tell it to monitor,” said Co-Founder Ali Ghorbani, who is also the Dean of Computer Science at the University of New Brunswick. “Eyesover’s new Issue Discovery module can extrapolate from existing data to see the potential development of issues a customer may not be aware of.”
The Eyesover system now provides customers with online media monitoring and analysis, real-time lead generation, and the new issue discovery functionality to enhance the depth of information customers are obtaining from online media.
“We’re looking to take social media monitoring into the next stage where we’re not just listening, we’re predicting what is going to occur,” said CEO Craig Leonard. “The Issue Discovery module is a big step in that direction that will benefits to a wide range of private, public and non-profit entities.”
Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network Holds Holiday Market
This showcase will feature an exciting and eclectic mix of local art from across Nova Scotia, including clothing, jewelry, books and ornaments. There will also be original poetry, paintings and photography, as well as a variety of specialty services.
The market takes place Nov. 30 from 8 am to 5 pm at the Halifax World Trade Convention Centre. Sales will be cash only, but there is an ATM in the building.
“You will be able to purchase tremendous items from over 30 active entrepreneurs with disabilities, all in one room!” said Brian Aird, Executive Director of the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network. “Your purchases make such a difference. It confirms for our members that entrepreneurship is a viable and meaningful career option for persons with disabilities.”
The market is being held in conjunction with the Ninth Annual Symposium on Inclusive Employment and Education. Each year, in conjunction with the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, the Nova Scotia Disabled Persons Commission and the Collaborative Partnership Network join forces to present the Symposium which includes keynote speakers, workshops and networking.
SimplyCast Launches Initiative with BBB
Dartmouth-based multi-channel marketing provider SimplyCast has announced a new initiative with Atlantic Canada’s BBB to offer its award-winning marketing automation platform.
Dubbed AccrediCast, the program will be available to all Accredited Businesses of this BBB. AccrediCast is composed of a suite of marketing automation tools including a Contact Relationship Manager, email marketing, social media scheduling, and a live web chat tool.
The initiative seeks to help Atlantic region businesses simplify and improve their digital marketing strategies through the use of a regionally developed platform.
“We’re very excited to launch AccrediCast in partnership with SimplyCast,” said Peter Moorhouse, CEO of BBB Serving the Atlantic Provinces. “In today’s environment, businesses need all the help they can get to help them grow. We are confident that the innovation of AccrediCast will help our Accredited Businesses get the boost they need and perhaps even supply a further boost to the Atlantic region in general.”
The Better Business Bureau acts as a model example of the regional business community so this partnership allows it to offer additional tools to help member businesses succeed, especially as consumer behaviors leverage digital tools.
“We’re very pleased to forge a partnership between BBB and SimplyCast,” said Ariel Hopper, VP Partnerships at SimplyCast. “I’m very glad to be working with Peter, his team, and the BBB to role this initiative out locally and work on expanding its reach.”
Propel Names 11 Startups for Demo Day
Propel ICT, the regional accelerator, has announced the 11 companies that will present at its latest Demo Day, to be held Tuesday, Nov. 29, in Halifax.
Demo Day, to start at 5:30 pm at Pier 21, will feature the four graduates from the advanced Build Program, as well as seven companies that have gone through the Launch program, which is designed for younger companies.
Propel ICT alumnus Adrian Bentley will also deliver a short talk on the journey of his company AnalyzeRe, which was recently purchased by Verisk Analytics.
Trevor MacAusland, Propel's Entrepreneur-in-Residence, said the thing he noticed about his group in this cohort was their focus on their core businesses and sales strategies.
“What people see is the shift away from raising capital to building sustainable, revenue-based companies,” said MacAusland. “Only one is raising capital and the rest are focused entirely on generating revenue.”
He added that the company raising capital is Halifax-based GoBumpFree, which helps airline employees book last minute hotel rooms without the risk of cancellation fees.
Ironflow, Dieppe, NB – The company’s product, PurelyHR, lets companies create a tailored solution to satisfy their HR needs.
One simpler, Fredericton – The company has created a solution to automating production equipment, studios, and more.
Stay Golden Apparel, Charlottetown – Stay Golden is an online clothing company that helps groups display their identity through custom-sourced and crested clothing.
Ad Blocking Aware, Charlottetown – Ad Blocking Aware helps websites regain revenue and analytics lost by the use of adblockers. The software allows websites to engage with ad block users through an appeal platform.
EChart Health Care, Moncton – eChart joins families and care facilities together in real-time regardless of location.
GreyLitMatters, Halifax – GreyLitMatters offers unlimited and instant global publication opportunities without format or content restrictions and provides “true-peer” review analytics, telling the authors who read their work and what they thought of it.
Metricsflow, St. John's – Metrics Flow makes it easy to measure content marketing effectiveness, personalize and use content to drive revenue.
Mink Manager, St. John's – Mink Manager is an advanced fur farm management system that allows farmers to increase their revenue by making better breeding programs and improving their overall workflow.
Orchard, Halifax – Orchard enables supermarkets to use dynamic content marketing to increase unplanned purchases and average basket size in their stores. Orchard’s data lets supermarkets engage and up-sell shoppers in real-time through personalized content.
RayZen, Fredericton - rayZen is an online fundraising community that connects donors to nonprofits through fun and exciting games.
Earlier in the day, all Propel ICT alumni are invited to participate in the organization’s first Speaker Series event, titled “Customer Success and Pirate Love” with Kathy-Lynne Johnson and Yves Boudreau from Alongside (formerly Qimple). At this event, participants will learn how Alongside’s customer success strategy has been critical to driving their customer acquisition growth.
David Alston: 'I've seen far more openness to this type of thinking.'
In an attempt to change thinking and practices throughout the civil service, the New Brunswick government has named veteran tech entrepreneur David Alston as its first chief entrepreneur-in-residence.
In taking on the volunteer job, the Fredericton resident will be responsible for working with all government departments to bring in entrepreneurial thinking to help the departments solve problems.
Alston, a serial entrepreneur whose latest job is an advisory position as chief innovation officer with the Washington- and Fredericton-based startup Introhive, has been moving toward this government role for several years. He has been working with the government on several projects and says he has found a surprising enthusiasm among government executives for new ways of doing things.
“I wouldn’t accept this role if I knew there wasn’t an open door to accept it at every level,” Alston said in a phone interview on Sunday. “I literally sometimes think, ‘Wow, I’m sitting down chatting with people about ideas and they’re getting it.’ I’ve seen far more openness to this type of thinking than I’ve found people being closed-minded to it.”
In a statement Sunday, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said Alston will operate within the cabinet office to provide leadership to drive innovative practices across government departments, resulting in greater efficiency and economic growth. The goal eventually will be to have entrepreneurs-in-residence in each department.
“Making government more innovative and efficient is essential to advancing New Brunswickers’ priorities of economic growth, education and health care,” said Gallant, who is also minister responsible for innovation. “By appointing David as chief entrepreneur-in-residence, we are harnessing his experience and know-how to foster innovation, inside and outside of government.”
The goal isn’t about developing businesses within government. Rather, the goal is to bring “entrepreneurial thinking” to government processes. In other words, when government has a problem, it looks at all means of solving it, from new technology to market-based solutions, and then tests it before implementing it.
Gallant said Alston will work with all departments to solve social issues, drive economic development, improve access to services and reduce the cost of delivering services.
Alston is uniquely qualified for the position. He was previously the chief marketing officer of Radian6, then joined Salesforce.com when the tech giant bought Radian6 for $326 million in 2011. In recent years, he has campaigned for a modernization of New Brunswick’s society and economy. He believes the exodus of young people could be reversed by digitizing government services and nurturing startups, especially ethical businesses.
He was the driving force behind Brilliant Labs, the program that encourages coding lessons in public schools in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
In October 2015, the government announced it would work with the IT association TechImpact to develop North America’s first digital government. Alston said it takes years to transform a government, and he believes the change in attitude is changing across the New Brunswick.
“Any time you introduce something new, you have to take some time and peel back the layers of the onion,” he said. “We’re early on . . . but we’re on the path to do it.”
Developing a Sales Culture
Emily Boucher: 'We’re trying to help fill the gaps.'
As revenue growth accelerates at Atlantic Canada’s startups, something is permeating the community that hasn’t been there before – a sales culture.
More and more frequently, the discussion in the startup community is concentrating on the need to teach young companies and young people how to sell things. There are new programs focusing on sales. There’s mounting pressure on colleges and universities to devise new curriculum. There is an ever louder debate on how sales should be taught and how to change the image of sales as a profession.
“Sales is definitely a pain-point in our sector,” Emily Boucher, Director of Marketing and Research at Digital Nova Scotia, said in a recent interview.
“We’re trying to help fill the gaps we can for the startups and SMEs (small to medium-sized businesses) among our members.”
Digital Nova Scotia recently began piloting a sales development program in Halifax for SMEs. The program aims to help participants focus on issues such as generating cash flow, attracting investment, developing strategic partners, accelerating sales, and building professional networks.
Boucher said the pilot program, titled Navigating New Channels: ICT Sales Strategy Bootcamp, teaches participants to consider five key questions associated with channel development. These are: Who are the influencers that can have the greatest impact on your business? Where will you find them? How will you leverage them to gain the biggest reach with the least effort? What trends are you uncovering that impact your plan? What can be improved this week?
“Our program is about executing,” Boucher said. “The focus is on the participants themselves using their own companies as case studies.”
Sales curricula are also entering business programs like the Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation at St. Mary’s University. In July, the University of New Brunswick at Saint John added its first sales course in its MBA program. A pilot project, the program includes a special course called Sales. If students rate it highly, it will probably be offered again. The nine-week course draws heavily on mentorship from the private sector, inviting people with sales experience to discuss the components of sales like negotiation, problem-solving, communications and emotional intelligence. It also delves into sales ethics.
“The point is not to train people to become sales people,” said Chris Weir, the EY executive who leads the course. “When people leave this course, they will be armed with knowledge and information, not sales skills. What I hope to do is give the students an appreciation for sales, the importance of it, the professional nature of it.”
Courses like this are needed to prepare students for the modern work force and help them understand the rewards of a career in sales.
“Many youth are unaware of sales, and some are intimidated by it. Negative stereotypes, such as the used car salesman, persist,” Chantal Brine, Vice President, Youth Employment at the Halifax-based personnel search firm Venor, said in a recent interview.
Sales is a high rejection business admits Brine’s colleague, Tracey Kieley, Senior Consultant in Sales and Marketing at Venor.
“It’s a mental game, every day there’s head trash. The phone can feel like it weighs 20 pounds and you have to pick it up and make the call. To be a good sales person, you need drive, passion and understanding of what sales is.”
What sales is, is solving someone’s problem.
“When sales people find the right culture and product they flourish,” Kieley said. “Belief in oneself and the product or service you are selling is key.”
Brine said the millennial generation (those born roughly between 1980 and 2000) can find sales particularly frustrating because they grew up with the instant access afforded by technology.
“Sales and business development can be hard,” said Brine, who is a millennial herself. “You’re going to get rejection…that and instant access and gratification don’t necessarily align.”
Job of the Week: BlueLight Analytics
BlueLight Analytics of Halifax is searching for an Inside Sales Representative to help the company build its customer base.
BlueLight Analytics is a growth-stage tech company whose technology measures the curing light that dentists use to harden fillings. The company’s suite of technology supports practitioners, educators and researchers with laboratory-accurate analytics that improve the quality of light-cured resins in dental restorations.
The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside (formerly Qimple).
The Inside Sales Representative will be tasked with acquiring leads and driving customer acquisition. The successful candidate will find leads to enter into the company’s sales funnel, cold call leads and continually update his or her product knowledge. The company is looking for someone who is competitive and a go-getter by nature. The position offers a competitive compensation package, flexible work environment and four weeks of vacation. The ideal candidate will be a highly motivated recent university graduate with an entrepreneurial spirit who wants to have a real influence on a growing business in a flat organizational structure.
Midgard Sells 48% Stake to Dane Creek
A day after winning $45,000 in the Spark West competition, Midgard Insect Farm Inc. has sold a large stake in its business to a merchant bank from Ontario to help fund its expansion.
Headed by veterinary researcher Joy Hillier, Windsor, NS-based Midgard Insect Farm produces protein from crickets and converts it into its Dockside brand of pet treats.
On Thursday, Dane Creek Capital Corp. of Mississauga, Ont., said it has bought 48 percent of the company’s equity for an undisclosed price. The statement said Dane Creek, which focuses on investments in the pet care industry, will help the young company with research and development. The goal is to help Midgard become a leading supplier to pet industry companies looking to incorporate insect protein into their products.
“Their support for my vision coupled with their pet industry and business management expertise will allow me to focus my time and energy on the developing science of cricket production and creating a high-quality product for the pet food industry,” said Hillier in the statement announcing the deal. “They will also be a valuable asset as we look to increase production and start hiring and training new personnel over the next year.”
Midgard is one of a growing number of companies raising insects as an alternative and sustainable source of protein for both human and animal consumption. The company plans to produce whole ground cricket meal to meet growing demand for alternative proteins for pet food. Over the next 18 months, the company expects to expand its operations and increase staff by as many as 15 people.
Hillier, a registered veterinary technician and graduate of Dalhousie University’s Agricultural College, is dedicated to food security and sustainability, which led to her to work on edible insects.
Crickets are considered an environmentally friendly source of protein because they are twice as efficient as chicken and six times more efficient than cattle at converting feed to protein. They also consume far less water than traditional protein sources.
Midgard will establish a 1,500-square-foot research facility in association with Perennia, a non-profit corporation in Bible Hill, NS, dedicated to food innovation. Hillier will work closely with Perennia’s food research scientists and nutritionists, focussing initially on consistency, an issue that has challenged the industry.
“We recognised early on it would be important for us to vertically integrate our sources of sustainable ingredients for the Dockside brand of pet products,” said Dane Creek Chairman and CEO Mark Warren in the statement. “Additionally, as sustainability becomes a leading concern among pet owners, we believe there will be opportunities to expand the business to provide cricket protein to the pet industry as a whole. We were very impressed with Joy and her unique blend of scientific curiosity and entrepreneurial savvy and are excited to be given this opportunity to help her grow her business.”
BioScript’s Journey to EY Award
The development of specialty drugs, tailored to patients’ biology, is aiding the growth of Moncton-based specialist group BioScript Pharmacy.
A specialty pharmacy focuses on providing and administering drugs to patients with complex or rare conditions, such as immunological deficiencies and auto-immune diseases.
Speciality drugs are often expensive and complex. They may require special handling and be in short supply. Patients often need help dealing with insurers to obtain coverage.
"A specialized pharmacy navigates a patient through a very segmented and complex journey,” said Steeves.
“One of our main goals as a company is to ensure that our patients pay as little as possible out of pocket…Paying out of pocket works against their taking the medications as prescribed, which affects their getting better.”
The company’s story began in 2001 when Ford, a third-generation pharmacist, was asked to help drug maker Schering-Plough (the company has since merged) complete a trial of the rheumatoid arthritis drug Remicade.
To do so, he opened an infusion clinic, where drugs are delivered via a needle or catheter, next to his pharmacy in Riverview, New Brunswick.
It was one of the first private infusion clinics in Canada and the arrangement was supposed to be temporary, “but the hospital told us we were doing a good job and to keep the patients,” Ford said.
Ford now operates 78 Coverdale Clinics across Canada, although infusion drugs currently account for less than one-third of the BioScript Pharmacy business as more medications are taken orally or via easy-to-use auto injectors.
The infusion clinics are funded by manufacturers, and patients are referred to the clinics by patient services programs, or by their physicians.
The Bioscript founders met when Steeves was studying pharmacy at Dalhousie University and did an internship with Ford.
Steeves graduated in 2006 and returned to Riverview in 2008 where he and Ford co-founded BioScript Pharmacy and A&D Wholesale, which ensures drug supply to BioScript, and other pharmacies across Canada.
Their first pharmacy opened in Halifax in 2009. They now have one pharmacy in each province, except for two in Ontario. They plan to move into other regions in Canada in the future.
“We are not a traditional type of pharmacy. We are focused on fewer products so one location can offer the expertise needed for an entire province,” Steeves said.
“Most of our consultations are done by phone. People aren't waiting for a pharmacist at the counter.”
Bioscript is now the second largest specialty pharmacy in Canada, accounting for about 25 per cent of market share. Their competitors include some multinational organizations, which originated in the United States.
“Our model is that we’re an independent, pharmacist-led company,” Steeves said.
The company trains its pharmacists internally. Full training for specialty practice adds another year of training for pharmacists, over and above their formal university schooling.
Atlantic Canada has long been a part of the country where drug coverage is less comprehensive than elsewhere. But fewer uninsured and under-insured Atlantic Canadians are being devastated by out-of-pocket drug costs, Steeves said.
“Nova Scotia was one of the first provinces to introduce catastrophic Pharmacare. New Brunswick has a new catastrophic drug program, and Prince Edward Island has updated its catastrophic drug program,” he said.
The Bioscript founders think they began their company at the right time. Many drugs under development are specialty medications, some even tailored to patients’ genetic makeup. This development augurs well for specialty pharmacies, Steeves said.
Sortable Leads KW Winners in Fast 50
Fourteen percent of the 50 fastest-growing tech companies in Canada are found in Waterloo Region, according to the global accounting firm Deloitte.
Deloitte this week released its 2016 Tech Fast 50, which ranks the fastest-growing tech companies in the country over the past five years. Seven companies based in the Kitchener-Waterloo area made the list.
Leading the Waterloo Region continent was Kitchener-based Sortable, whose software uses machine learning to improve the performance of advertising. Its revenues have grown 1,705 percent over five years – good enough to secure it ninth spot.
The other companies from the region, and their five-year revenue growth, are:
Modeled on the Spark Cape Breton competition, Spark West awards a handful of companies development capital with the goal of helping them get their project started. Innovacorp and ACOA have held four Spark Cape Breton competitions.
The winners of Spark West are:
Midgard Insect Farm Inc. – Joy Hillier – Windsor
Midgard Insect Farm breeds and processes crickets to create insect-based protein powder for use in various industries.
Integrated HACCP Solutions Inc. – Douglas Armour, Mitchell Kane, Matthew Winchester – Wolfville
Integrated HACCP Solutions’ software helps food processors meet changing regulatory requirements more efficiently and affordably.
Annapolis Orchards – Craig Nichols, Alan Fisher – Lawrencetown
Annapolis Orchards applies proprietary techniques to Honey Crisp apple nursery trees, significantly reducing the time required for the trees to mature and yield fruit.
Neck Tronics Inc. – Bill Smith, Peter Haase – Conquerall Mills
Neck Tronics is developing medical device technology that precisely measures neck range and strength, to improve assessment, diagnosis and treatment of neck injuries such as whiplash.
Tenderithm – Dave Thomson – Mahone Bay
Tenderithm’s software helps companies win new business more efficiently and affordably through its tender alert service.
Medivirtual Consultation – Ken Buchholz, Jennifer Murdoch – Annapolis Royal
Medivirtual offers a suite of tools for healthcare providers and virtual teams to build capacity and improve accessibility of healthcare services.
Innovacorp and ACOA each contributed $100,000 to the awards. This money must be used to complete prototypes or prepare to take a product or service to market. In addition to the funding, winners will receive guidance from seasoned business people.
The competition attracted 32 submissions, and 10 companies were invited to pitch to judges last week. The shortlisted companies also participated in several business acceleration workshops.
"We introduced Spark West after four rounds of a similar competition in Cape Breton. We wanted to energize innovative entrepreneurs in western Nova Scotia," said Innovacorp CEO Stephen Duff in a statement. "We were absolutely thrilled with the overall buzz in the community about the opportunity and the submissions we received."
Simptek was the only Atlantic Canadian company named by Deloitte on Thursday when it released the Fast 50, which is a list of the fastest-growing tech companies in the country. No East Coast tech company made the Fast 50 list, and only one was mentioned in the Companies to Watch.
SimpTek has developed a product that can assess the energy usage throughout a home. It gives the homeowner detailed, real-time information about what appliances or components of the house are using how much energy; and it provides a utility with detailed aggregated information about energy usage in its customer base. SimpTek’s platform helps utility companies to better engage, understand and communicate with their customers.
The Fast 50 is open to Canadian companies with at least five years of revenue history, which means there are few Atlantic Canadian tech companies that would qualify. Last year, Halifax-based STI Technologies made the Fast 50, the first Atlantic Canadian company to do so since Verafin of St. John’s made the list in 2012.
Master Mindset Moncton Set for Nov. 25
Master Mindset Moncton, a session that features local entrepreneurs who are tackling the global market, will be held Friday, Nov. 25, in Moncton.
The event, to take place in the afternoon at the Dieppe Arts and Culture Centre, is an opportunity to listen to the stories of some of the city’s most inspiring entrepreneurs. Tickets are available here.
“Master Mindset Moncton is a celebration of the incredible minds, talents, and accomplishments present in our community,” said a statement from organizer Marcel Petitpas. “We’ve gathered some of the most successful, influential and forward-thinking local entrepreneurs and influencers from right here in Greater Moncton to share their Insights, inspirations, and secrets to success.”
The speakers are: Dan Martell, founder of Clarity and other companies; Derek Martin, social innovator and creator of Tuba; Petitpas, entrepreneur, speaker, coach and motivator; Natalie Davison, director at Kitestring, marketer, connector and mother of twins; Mark Black, international speaker, author, coach, double lung and heart transplant survivor, and three time marathon runner; and Yves Doucet, president of Dovico, yogi, workplace culture guru and mentor.
Halifax Mayor Savage To Speak at Startup Grind Tonight
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage will speak tonight at Startup Grind Halifax. More than 100 people have signed up for the event, which starts at 6:30 at City Hall. Tickets are available here.
Startup Grind brings in speakers for the startup community in the city. The last speaker was OurCrowd Founder Jonathan Medved, whose talk can be seen here.
Led by entrepreneur Oleg Yefymov, Startup Grind Halifax has announced that the next speaker will be Eric Bahn of 500 Startups on Jan. 26. You can sign up for the event here.
Bahn is a Co-founder of Hustle Con Media, which promotes events and content to help non-technical entrepreneurs launch startups. Previously, he was the founder and CEO of Beat The GMAT, the largest MBA applicant social network on the internet, serving 3 million people each year.
Samsung Buys NewNet Canada
Samsung Electronics has bought Bedford-based NewNet Communication Technologies (Canada), Inc., meaning the world’s largest electronics producer by revenue will establish a base in Nova Scotia.
It is the second time in three years that the Bedford operation, which makes advanced messaging systems for cell phone, has changed hands.
The company was originally known as NewPace. In June 2014 its CEO Brent Newsome and Chief Technology Officer Gavin Murphy sold it to NewNet Communications, an Amsterdam-based company owned by Los Angeles private equity firm Skyview Capital. Now NewNet has sold the operation on to Samsung.
Samsung said in a statement it plans to retain the operation in Bedford, which now consists of about 20 people, and to leave the leadership team of Newsome and Murphy in place.
NewNet Canada has developed a suite of rich communications service, or RCS, mobile phone products. These products increase the flexibility that mobile phone companies can offer in texting services on mobile handsets. It means texts can be used for chat, group chat, file transfer, video and voice calling across networks and using any smartphone. The goal is to upgrade the current standards of voice and text messaging offered by mobile carriers.
“This acquisition is a critical milestone not just for Samsung but also for the communications industry,” said Samsung in a statement released Tuesday. “It will accelerate the deployment of RCS-enabled networks, providing consumers with a ubiquitous standards-based messaging and communications platform. The acquisition will also enable Samsung to offer interoperable server solutions for mobile operators that do not already have their own RCS infrastructure.”
NewPace had been one of the more advanced tech companies in the region when it was purchased by NewNet in June 2014. The company had said at the time its revenue was well into seven figures in 2013, and that it had its technology was being used by 80 mobile phone operators around the world.
Newsome and Murphy chose to sell to NewNet because they needed either more capital or to be part of a larger organization to continue to grow. The price of neither the 2014 purchase nor the more recent deal was disclosed.
The eight-year-old Bedford operation will now become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Canada Inc. The ultimate Samsung parent is South Korea’s largest conglomerate, and the Samsung Electronics unit was the largest electronics company in the world by revenues in 2014, according to Wikipedia.
Samsung said the acquisition reinforces its commitment to RCS as mobile networks transform to internet protocol-based networks and services. By driving significant value for operators and consumers, the mobile communications market can benefit from the broader communications ecosystem, said the South Korean company.
“Consumers will benefit from an advanced messaging experience with features such as enhanced calling, group chat, and the ability to easily share and transfer large files including multimedia and high-resolution photos,” said the Samsung statement. “Unlike other messaging apps in the market, users will be able to communicate on any network, with an RCS-enabled device as well as SMS-only devices.”
Are Startups Ready for a Recession?
A few weeks ago, J. P. Morgan & Co. put out a research note downplaying the impact that either presidential candidate would have on the investment world. For one thing, said the report, the winner of the election would probably have to cope with a global recession in his or her first term.
A recession within four years. The thought of it sparked a single question for me: What would a recession mean for the fledgling startups in Atlantic Canada?
The prospect seemed a bit jarring, as most of the economic discussion these days focuses on the challenges of a slow-growth economy. But there has been a downturn in the middle or later years of each decade since the 1970s in the U.S. (It escaped recession in the late 1990s but there were the Asian and Russian crises, and the dotcom crash.) And there are less than three years and two months left in this decade.
It’s impossible to say what a global recession would mean for the Atlantic Canadian companies that are commercializing innovation. If a recession does happen, there’s no telling how severe it would be, the duration, what sectors would be pounded the hardest. But we can make a few suppositions and one harsh observation.
The observation is that no one — certainly no one I’ve spoken to — is factoring a recession into their planning. The East Coast startup community is a hotbed of optimism and bold ambition, much of it justified given its performance in recent years. The number of startups, according to our surveys, increased 29 per cent in 2015. Revenues rose 66 per cent, led by the galloping gains among the larger companies, those with more than $2 million in revenue.
But the fact that Atlantic Canada is now home to more than 30 of these larger companies makes the sector all the more vulnerable to the impact of a recession.
First of all, many of these companies are raising capital, rounds of $5 million or more from investors in Toronto or the U.S. If the economy hits a turbulent patch, venture capital will be one of the first segments to shut down. That could mean some of the region’s most successful companies will suffer a cash crunch and have to sell out prematurely or scale back.
Even those that have already raised capital outside the region will receive strong pressure from investors to cut costs immediately to preserve their money. If companies decide to cut back on development teams rather than their sales force, we could run the risk of talented programmers being forced to leave the region.
And in many cases, the revenue growth will come crashing to a halt and sales could fall. A lot of companies would probably fail.
I promised myself last Tuesday (election night) to never make predictions again because I was dead wrong about the U.S. election. So this is not a prediction of impending doom. It’s simply a note that companies should factor an economic crisis into their planning. And I say companies rather than government agencies because many of these companies are getting too large to use existing government programs to avoid a crisis.
Palmer Pushes Growth Program Ahead
Steve Palmer: 'We need to get our arms around these companies.'
Some of Atlantic Canada’s fastest-growing companies may soon be getting an unexpected call from Steve Palmer, as he seeks to build Propel ICT’s Growth program.
The regional accelerator’s new Growth initiative is aimed at fast-growing tech companies with more than $1 million in annual revenue. The aim is to help participating companies grow into larger global corporations.
It’s a first for Propel, which offers programming for startups around the region in collaboration with other organizations.
Palmer has spent a few months researching the region’s companies in order to ascertain if there are enough high-flyers to start the Growth program.
He thinks there are. His research has uncovered about 25 high-growth ventures, 15 of them prime candidates. He didn’t know of some of them beforehand.
“There is a group of companies that are way beyond the startup stage,” he said. “I will continue to reach out to these companies, and assess their interest in participating.”
Palmer doesn’t necessarily expect all his targets to sign up.
“They’re very busy and there’s no silver bullet for growth. This is one more thing coming at them. We need to get our arms around these companies and have conversations with them.”
He said if five to 10 companies agree to participate, the Growth program will go ahead.
Palmer already knows many of the people behind the high-flying companies and is confident of getting a hearing with the others.
“Atlantic Canada is a pretty open community. You can usually get a first conversation. We’ll be saying, ‘You’re a strong company, are you interested in working together?’ If not, we won’t force them to dance.”
Like many in the innovation sector, Palmer, a New Brunswicker, is an enthusiastic proponent of the region.
He is the former co-CEO of land-use planning software company Remsoft, and COO of software company Whitehill Technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree and an MBA from Dalhousie University. He also spent 20 years with NBTel in varied roles.
He thinks Growth participants could benefit from his own learning and experience and the goodwill that is plentiful within the ecosystem.
“Regarding example areas for focus--we need a more global attitude to sales,” he said. “We often sell ourselves short. There are many reasons. We do well but we could do better.”
The father and grandfather said barriers to entrepreneurship are lower than they have ever been.
“Someone like myself can help a child start a business and be relevant anywhere. You can make your luck. I’m optimistic about today’s world. The barriers to success are lower, but the barriers to high degrees of success are not trivial.”
As well as having more than $1 million in annual revenue, the qualifying companies should meet most of the following criteria:
- They should be an Atlantic Canada-based ICT company, either in the product or service category;
- They should have average annual revenue growth of 15 percent;
- They should have an existing business plan and demonstrated ability to execute on the plan;
- They should have an addressable market of at least $250 million;
- And they should be export-focused with more than 50 percent revenue from outside Canada.
Job Openings: Jameson, Dash Hudson
Our Jobs of the Week column today is highlighting two jobs in Halifax – one with the Jameson Group and the other with Dash Hudson.
The Jameson Group, which is looking for an entrepreneurial project coordinator, organizes a range of events and projects across the region, such as Invest Atlantic, the Smart Energy conference and the Pitch 101 competitions. Recently, the company posted an opening for a Marketing Coordinator for Smart Energy.
Dash Hudson, whose product helps clients analyze their Instagram and SnapChat data, is looking for an account executive. Dash Hudson collects data on how major brands are connecting with customers on Instagram. The photo-sharing app is one of the most popular social media tools available but before Dash Hudson they were unable to analyze what effect Instagram posts were having with customers. It is now moving into providing the same service for SnapChat users.
The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside (formerly Qimple).
Jameson is looking for an entrepreneur at heart with a passion for coordinating projects. This person, who can work at home, will be responsible for most aspects of coordinating projects, whether it be an energy conference or an initiative to attract investors into the region. That means working with team members to meet sales goals through targeted social media, marketing and one-on-one meetings. The successful candidate will be required to increase revenues by reaching out to existing and new partners (sponsors) and attendees, and refresh the communication and social media plans. The applicants should have one to three years’ experience in a similar role.
Dash Hudson is looking for an account executive to work with its sales team to build business with some of the best marketers and companies in the world. It wants someone who wants the challenge of selling a leading product in a rapidly growing market. The company is looking for a diligent, creative individual with some analytical capabilities and a bit of swagger. The account executive will work with the sales team in the business development process. This includes lead generation, sales outreach, progress-tracking and closing with leading global brands. He or she must maintain active engagement with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications designed to move leads through the sales funnel. The company is looking for someone with one to four years of experience in a similar role.
The White Cross, by H.P. MacKeen
My grandfather, artillery officer H.P. MacKeen, shown on the left, wrote this poem in Ypres in September 1917, two months before the Battle of Passchendaele.
The White Cross
It isn’t a medal or order,
It carries no ribbon or braid
But a token still
As on Calvary Hill
Of the greater sacrifice made.
It stands as a lonely sentinel
O’er the place where the hero sleeps
‘Neath a lowly mound
In the shell-swept ground
Near the battered walls of Ypres.
It bears a simple legend,
Yet a tale of lasting glory:
“Here lies a British Soldier
Pro patria mori.”
SabrTech Finds Clients in Thailand
After winning two international competitions in the past 14 months, Halifax clean-tech company SabrTech is focusing on plans to deploy its main product, The RiverBox, in Thailand.
SabrTech describes The RiverBox as “the world’s first modular, scalable and rapidly deployable biofilm platform for the production of algal biomass.” What that means is the company has devised a system of growing trays that fit in a shipping container and can produce huge amounts of algae. The algae remove animal waste from water to produce animal feed, improving the ecological and economic performance of aquaculture and livestock farming.
Founder and CEO Mather Carscallen said in an interview that food production can create a lot of water pollution due to animal waste. What The RiverBox does is produce algae that consumes that waste, allowing a run-off of clean water, and converts the waste into protein that can be used as animal feed.
“We’ve gone up to a full-scale system and we got to a point where we have a customer lined up in Southeast Asia who wants to test multiple systems on site,” said Carscallen.
Carscallen and SabrTech first drew notice in Nova Scotia in 2012 when it won Innovacorp’s CleanTech Open competition with a plan to develop large-scale algae facilities. After discussions with potential clients, the company hit on the The RiverBox, a small, modular concept that could be installed on site and enhance food production.
After going through Cycle Capital’s EcoFuel Accelerator in Montreal, SabrTech began to gain international recognition. Last autumn, it won the Pre-Revenue Business category at the Fish 2.0 competition at Stanford University in California. Then, last month, it won the Food and Agriculture category at Eco SXSW, the environmental industries offshoot of the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas.
The prizes are great, but what Carscallen really valued about these events was that they led to tremendous relationships. It was at Fish 2.0 that he met Thai entrepreneurs, which led to a series of collaborations. Carscallen ended up spending more and more time this year in Thailand, where he found an ecosystem perfect for developing a clean-tech company.
“It’s arms wide open,” said Carscallen when asked about the reception he received. “Not only is there the desire for people to work together, but there’s the financing and . . . everything from the plant locations to the wet labs to on-site facilities.”
He said the Southeast Asian country has a series of science parks which can help with the development of The RiverBox and a range of customers eager to install products that reduce pollution. SabrTech is collaborating closely with DHI, an international not-for-profit dedicated to improving water conditions around the world.
In the future, Carscallen will be based in Thailand, to work on installations and grow the customer base in the region. The company will retain an operation in Halifax, largely a research and development team that is working with academic institutions including Dalhousie University.
The goal in the next few years is to scale up in the market where the company is finding market traction, and that is Southeast Asia.
And SabrTech’s growth will probably require more capital. Said Carscallen: “As we scale up, there will have to be some private investment come into play.”
Deadline Tuesday for NBIF’s Breakthru
The deadline is fast approaching to enter New Brunswick’s Breakthru competition, which offers a total prize pot of $1 million and is open to startups across the country.
The innovation agency holds the Breakthru competition every other year with the goal of helping young companies to get off the ground with funding and mentorship.
NBIF will award $750,000 in cash and in-kind services to the top three New Brunswick companies. And for the first time it will set aside $250,000 for a company from other parts of Canada that wants to set up base in New Brunswick.
The sixth edition of Breakthru, sponsored by Cox & Palmer and Deloitte, offers the largest prize package of any comparable competition in Canada. The result of the competition is that four young companies will be growing in the province with an average of $250,000 of development capital or expertise. The prizes include professional services like legal, accounting and marketing advice. NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury likes to call the prize a “company in a box”.
The national competition – which is not open to companies from Quebec, due to unique regulations for competitions in that province – is designed to attract companies to New Brunswick. The winners will receive a $200,000 venture capital investment from NBIF as well as $50,000 in in-kind services.
As well as the prizes, the Breakthru competition helps to educate novice entrepreneurs in developing a business. The process this year will include two bootcamps, one held on the weekend of Dec. 2 and 3, and the second on Jan. 28.
In 2015, Breakthru was won by Castaway Golf, which develop an automated system for retrieving golf balls from water hazards, which could then be sold on to golfers.
Applicants can find the entry details here. The winners will be announced at the Breakthru LIVE 2017 gala at the Fredericton Convention Centre on March 23, 2017.
Briefs: Gilfoy Fund, InspireNB
Gilfoy Endowment for Entrepreneurship Students
Friends of Neville Gilfoy, the late publisher of Progress Media, have established The Neville J. Gilfoy Endowment in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Dalhousie University.
A gathering was held Monday night in Halifax in memory of Gilfoy, who passed away in July, and the new endowment was announced at the reception.
Don Mills, the Chairman and Co-founder of Corporate Research Associates Inc. and one of the organizers of the fund, said the goal is to raise at least $150,000. Before the event on Monday, the team had already raised about $80,000.
Through the Faculty of Management and the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship, the fund will provide for engagement among entrepreneurs, students and the wider community. It will also fund an annual bursary for a Dalhousie business student pursuing studies in entrepreneurship and innovation.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the fund can do so here. [Click on “Search for a specific funding area”, and enter the key words “Neville Gilfoy”.]
Venn to Oversee InspireNB
The New Brunswick government is providing $345,000 to Moncton’s Venn Innovation for the province-wide implementation of InspireNB, a career exploration and planning resource for young people.
Designed to raise awareness of available employment opportunities, InspireNB is a program to help employers connect with their future workers. With more than 80 participating companies, it helps raise awareness of opportunities and employers, creating a better engaged workforce for the province.
“Talent is the number one challenge for New Brunswick companies, and not just those in the tech sector,” said Doug Robertson, president and CEO of Venn Innovation. “Too many of our young career seekers are hearing that they have to look beyond New Brunswick for opportunities, while positions in New Brunswick companies go unfilled. InspireNB provides students with a practical resource to connect with companies, understand the opportunities that exist, and understand how best to prepare for them.”
PEI BioAccelerator to Foster Growth
Rory Francis: 'We’re just trying to keep up with what the companies are doing.'
Prince Edward Island’s life sciences segment has been doubling in size about every four years, and now the industry’s association has a singular mission: keep it going.
The Prince Edward Island BioAlliance recently released its latest strategy statement, which outlines targets that would effectively continue to double revenues among its private sector members by 2020. It also wants to continue strong growth in employment, investment and research and development spending.
“We’ve doubled revenues … from less than $100 million to more than $200 million in 2015,” executive director Rory Francis said in an interview in his Charlottetown office last week. “We expect to double it again by 2020, so we’ll be up to about $400 million.
The BioAlliance, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, is a private sector-led organization that brings together businesses, academia, government and non-governmental organizations to grow life sciences companies in P.E.I., whether they’re in biotech, agritech or other areas. The group now includes 46 private companies, 15 of which have joined the group since 2010.
The BioAlliance companies generated about $218 million of revenue in 2015, up from $95 million in 2010. The public- and private-sector members of the BioAlliance employed 1,400 people as of the end of 2015, up from about 900 in 2010.
Aiding this growth, the federal government has twice in the past two years awarded P.E.I. funding for major new initiatives: $3.6 million for the Emergence bioscience incubator; and $14 million to head the nationwide group, Natural Products Canada.
Now the group is preparing to carry on this growth. As well as the targets for revenue growth, the recent strategy report sets out several other milestones for four years from now:
Bio-sector employment of about 2,000, up from the 2015 level of about 1,400.
Research and development expenditures (led by the private sector) up to $100 million a year, from just more than $70 million in 2013.
Follow-on private investment of $100 million over a five-year period for BioAlliance companies.
There was about $14 million of such investment in 2015, and Francis said the annual level is at about $20 million in 2016.
To accommodate this growth, BioAlliance is spearheading an effort to develop a new $30 million to $35 million BioAccelerator complex.
The group hopes to build the 77,000-square- foot facility at the BioCommons Research Park in the Charlottetown area. It envisions a multi-faceted space that would include offices, co-working space, wet labs and manufacturing facilities that would be open by 2019.
The BioAlliance is now lobbying all levels of government to contribute to the new facility, and Francis said the response has been favorable, largely because the proponents can show bioscience investments have produced a return for P.E.I. Such a facility is needed, he said, to accommodate the galloping growth of the biotech sector on the island.
“We’re just trying to keep up with what the companies are doing,” he said. “We think that by 2025 we’ll be over $600 million in sales, but we can’t do that unless we get some space to grow.”
3 Startup Weekends Set for Nov 18-20
Startup Weekends will be held in each of the Maritime Provinces on Nov. 18 to 20, coinciding with the Global Startup Weekend.
More than 200 of these events are taking place around the world in the next two weeks, bringing together a total of 15,000 entrepreneurs in such places as Utrecht, Santa Cruz and Bergen. Three of the locations are the Startup Zone in Charlottetown, the Venn Centre in Moncton and The Collider at Dalhousie University’s Killam Library in Halifax.
In previous years, these simultaneous Startup Weekend events have been the beginning of an international competition, with the winners moving on to the international event by submitting videos of their pitches. But the organizers have decided instead to provide resources for the winning teams, so the emphasis is on growing businesses rather than on a drawn-out competition.
“As our community around the world continues to grow and evolve, GSW will provide more value to organizers, attendees, and communities around the world and we believe this shift will do just that,” said the Global Startup Weekend website.
Overseen by a global organization, Startup Weekends bring together teams of budding entrepreneurs to propose business ideas and build companies over two-and-a-half days.
On the Friday night, participants assemble and pitch their ideas in 60 seconds. After a vote, participants form teams around the chosen ideas.
The newly created companies will then work to refine their ideas and design and build products like websites and apps from Friday to Sunday evening. Then, they will present their final pitches, mock ups and minimal viable products to a panel of judges.
One Startup Weekend will be held at the Venn Centre, 735 Main Street, Moncton. You can register here.
At the same time, another will be held at The Collider, Room 2600, Killam Library, Dalhousie University. People can sign up for the Halifax event here.
And here is the registration tab for the event at the Startup Zone at 31 Queen Street, Charlottetown.
Jobs of the Week: Spring Loaded Tech
Spring Loaded Technology, the Dartmouth company that is making a knee brace that adds power to the joint, is looking for two key people as it builds up its team.
Spring Loaded has developed the Levitation knee brace, which gains energy when the knee bends and then releases it when the knee straightens, increasing the power in the joint. It has applications for athletes, soldiers and people with mobility problems.
Spring Loaded announced a $1.9 million venture capital investment from Build Ventures in March. It has also raised US$208,652 in an Indigogo campaign and signed a contract worth $1 million with the Canadian Department of National Defence.
The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside (formerly Qimple).
Spring Loaded is seeking someone who will make logistics an efficient and well managed part of the company’s operations. The successful candidate must coordinate the import and export of goods through international and domestic air, ocean, and ground shipments. He or she will be required to prepare all shipping documentation and make sure all the right packaging is used for shipping. Spring Loaded is looking for someone with a desire to learn how the industry and broker segments function around the world, and who recognizes the importance of customer expectations and company policies. Applicants should have a bachelor’s or college degree in business administration and two to four years of experience in a similar role.
Spring Loaded is seeking a multi-faceted cost accountant or senior accountant to help it evolve from a development-stage company into an efficient and well managed manufacturing operation. This will be a key role at the heart of the operation, reporting to the COO. The successful applicant will be required to plan and maintain key cost accounting procedures and work closely with the team to determine and monitor the cost of goods sold. He or she must also carry out various inventory transactions and accurate inventory reconciliations. This includes active participation in the planning and execution of the physical inventory counts. Spring Loaded would prefer candidates who have completed or are the process of attaining their CPA qualifications. The person must have a strong attention to detail and be outstandingly accurate and thorough. He or she should also be able to live with unknowns and can be comfortable in the land of grey. The successful candidate should have a bachelor degree in accounting and three to six years of experience in a similar role.
Fostering Life Science Companies in NS
Lidija Marusic: Life Sciences "companies often started as one bench in their laboratory."
The province announced it will provide $40 million over the next eight years to the Nova Scotia First Fund, the main investment vehicle for the provincial innovation agency.
Innovacorp is one of the few investors in the province for such ventures as biotechnology, medical devices and other biology-related enterprises.
Innovacorp life sciences investment manager Dr. Lidija Marusic has been overseeing investments for almost a decade.
“Over 50 per cent of our early-stage awards that we’ve provided to commercialize university research in recent years have gone to life sciences technologies,” she said. “University researchers are able to leverage those funds to gain other funding.”
The sector is growing in importance. Recent research by Entrevestor has revealed that last year, 13 life sciences companies were formed in Atlantic Canada, compared with six in 2014.
This makes life sciences the second largest innovation sector in the region, after IT.
Developing new medical treatments and drugs is expensive and time-consuming, but life sciences companies in the region are being aided by the increasing ease of virtual working.
“People can be based elsewhere and work with you,” Marusic said.
“A lot of work after the initial discovery stage uses specialized companies that do pre-clinical and clinical studies to regulatory agencies’ specifications. That work can be outsourced . . . Twenty years ago, companies used to do almost everything in-house . . . Contracting out diminishes risk.”
Marusic feels the sector needs more experienced people to focus on commercializing technology. Finding them isn’t easy.
“The region is small. We don’t have a big number of mature biotech companies…It’s a challenge attracting people to come here and take on a business in a high-risk sector. In a larger community, people know that if a business fails they can find something else.
“But regional companies are finding people who have left, gained experience, and want to return.”
Born and raised in Croatia, Marusic holds a doctor of medicine degree from the University of Zagreb, a PhD in molecular genetics from the International School for Advanced Studies in Italy and an MBA from McMaster University in Ontario.
During her post-doctoral studies, she worked on the molecular biology of cancer in collaboration with California company Geron Corporation. The goal was to commercialize research based on the role of the enzyme telomerase, which lengthens cell life and helps cancer cells replicate.
It was the first time Marusic was exposed to the commercialization of research and she found it fascinating.
In the year 2000, she got a job with Toronto-based MDS Capital Corp. (now Lumira Capital) and its seed fund MedInnova Partners, and began working with Atlantic Canadian university researchers to commercialize their biomedical technologies.
“I would go to universities, especially Dalhousie and Memorial because they have medical schools and do a lot of medical research. For the university researchers, their companies often started as one bench in their laboratory. I felt my training and education as a scientist were essential for my role.”
In 2006 Marusic joined Innovacorp. She still finds the work exciting and challenging, especially research that relates to the brain.
“Neurological diseases are a particular challenge,” she said. “The brain is the most complex organ in our bodies and the hardest to unlock.”
Marusic said the region’s university research has strengthened in the last decade.
“Universities have improved infrastructure and employed new faculty oriented to the commercialization of research.
“Life sciences in the province is a maturing sector but we need to build more links outside the region to help with company funding and growth.”
She stresses the importance of research.
“We may not see the application of research right away, but pure research is important. If you don’t have a broad base of basic research and discovery you won’t have discoveries that are cutting edge and life-changing.”
Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.
Briefs: Propel, Startup Weekend
Propel To Host DemoDay Nov. 29 in Halifax
Propel ICT, the regional tech accelerator for the Atlantic Provinces, will host the Demo Day for its fall cohort Nov. 29 at 5 p.m. at Pier 21 in Halifax.
The organization said 10 companies will present their companies at the event. They include the companies that went through the Build program, which is for more advanced companies. There will also be a few companies that has progressed well in the Launch program, which is for early-stage companies.
Tickets for the event are available here.
Startup Weekends Set for Moncton, Halifax on Nov. 18-20.
Startup Weekends are set for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia on the weekend of Nov. 18 to 20.
Overseen by a global organization, Startup Weekends bring together teams of budding entrepreneurs to propose business ideas and build companies over two-and-a-half days.
On Friday night, participants assemble and pitch their ideas in 60 seconds. After a vote, participants form teams around the chosen ideas.
The newly created companies will then work to refine their ideas and design and build products like websites and apps from Friday to Sunday evening. Then, they will present their final pitches, mock ups and minimal viable products to a panel of judges.
One Startup Weekend will be held at the Venn Centre, 735 Main Street, Moncton.
At the same time, another will be held at The Collider, Room 2600, Killam Library, Dalhousie University. People can sign up for the Halifax event here.
Ignite Fredericton’s Notices on Artrepreneur, Immigration
Ignite Fredericton, the city’s business promotion organization, has issued notices that it is looking for input on immigration policy and will soon be selecting its Artrepreneur-in-Residence.
The organization said in a statement that the Fredericton Region Immigration Settlement and Integration Strategy will be launched Nov. 14 at the Fredericton City Hall at 12:00 pm.
The strategy is initiated by the Local Immigration Partnership of Fredericton, which is a community-driven solution to address immigrant integration. It is being led by Ignite Fredericton and funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
Meanwhile, Ignite Fredericton also said it is now accepting applications for the Artrepreneur-in-Residence program for 2017, which can be found here.
The Artrepreneur-in-Residence program was created by Ignite Fredericton and Planet Hatch in 2016 as part of their Culture Connect initiative. The program offers entrepreneurial support to members in the arts sector, accepting anyone from weavers to writers. To date, two Artrepreneurs have completed the program and two more are lined up.
Shift Conference Set for Halifax Monday to Wednesday
Simplicity Designs will host The Shift conference in Halifax next week, providing a forum for people who want to improve the prospects of the region.
The conference will be held from Monday evening until Wednesday at the Westin Nova Scotian hotel.
The speakers at the event include Steven Kay of the Orb Factory, Christian Hall of Hallmark Dental Laboratory and Shawn Hiscott of Micco Warehousing.
John Hamblin is on a mission to develop entrepreneurship among Atlantic Canadians who don’t quite fit the typical profile of the young, tech-savvy startup types.
The founder of Startup Halifax is spending his time promoting entrepreneurship among the elderly and within Nova Scotia’s rural communities. He’s now scanning the province for community leaders who want to work at developing entrepreneurial communities in smaller locations, and he’s hoping to open an Atlantic Canadian chapter of Aging 2.0, the international organization for aging entrepreneurs.
Having just returned from the Aging 2.0 conference in San Francisco, Hamblin is more convinced than ever that there is a huge under-developed market among seniors. And Atlantic Canada, with its aging population, should be working with its greying citizenry to develop new businesses.
“You’ve got all these people who’ve got a life expectancy of 95-plus and they don’t want to spend 25 or 30 years cutting their flowers or going on tours,” said Hamblin, who will turn 70 in December. “Seniors who start a business are four times as likely as one started by someone younger to succeed.”
As Atlantic Canadian baby boomers move into retirement, Hamblin wants to see more and more of them start their own business. He’s a great representative for the Woodstock Generation, in part because he was actually at Woodstock. After the festival (which he mainly remembers for the car troubles he had) he spent a career in technology and retired as president of Clarke IT Solutions in 2013. He runs a consulting business and organized Startup Halifax, and in 2015 won a Startup Canada Award as Senior Entrepreneur for the Atlantic Region.
He then began to talk with New Brunswick investor Gerry Pond about the potential of the Silver Economy, and they have been pushing the concept ever since. Hamblin has also been collaborating with the Nova Scotia Department of Seniors.
He said retirees bring a world of experience to a new venture and usually have a deep understanding of their industry or profession. They also often have sources of income such as pensions, which reduce the need to draw income from a startup so the company’s cash goes further.
Hamblin joined Aging 2.0 and decided to attend the conference, which he said was astonishing in the number of senior-owned businesses, the number of businesses targeting seniors and the sophistication of their products.
There were companies offering digital health records that could be integrated across doctors, hospitals, social workers, rehabilitation centres and other support organizations and updated in real time, he said. There were new advances in home care, including teams of doctors who make house calls because it is the most cost-effective way of treating the elderly.
Hamblin attended a briefing of the Aging 2.0 chapters across North America and talked to people about starting one in Halifax. It’s a long-term project but he believes there should be a fourth Canadian chapter along with the existing groups in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
“Nova Scotia has a pretty high percentage of the population who will fall into the 65-plus age group soon, if they don’t already,” said Hamblin. “So it makes sense to get this sort of an organization here.”
ViTRAK Develops Pipeline; Eyes US
Now that ViTRAK Systems has a growing list of paying customers, Crystal Trevors has her eyes set on expanding into the rehabilitation market, especially in the U.S., and a new round of funding.
Trevors is the CEO of ViTRAK, a Charlottetown startup commercializing a pressure-sensitive floor tile systems. The company has developed Stepscan, a patented electronic floor tile system that can be used to analyze people’s gait when they walk across it. The system can analyze the mobility and balance in patients or research subjects by measuring such factors as under-foot pressure distribution, stride, sway, and speed. The target market is researchers, clinicians, even physiotherapists.
What she did say is that Stepscan is now being used by about six clients, largely researchers, including one sale to a hospital in Melbourne, Australia.
“We’re commercial now – we launched in September 2015,” said Trevors in an interview in her Charlottetown office. “And our pipeline’s great. We’ve got a value of about $10 million in our pipeline.”
The company, which employs 10 people, has been quiet since it landed the funding but it has found demand for its tile systems with researchers since the launch a year ago. The bigger market is the clinical or rehabilitation market, in which the pressurized tiles are used to assess the condition of such people as those suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
ViTRAK now has approval by Health Canada and the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. for clinical use, and Trevors plans to apply for approval in Europe soon. The Australian hospital will use the product for R&D while the company goes through the regulatory process in that country.
“That was a really great sale for us,” said Trevors, referring to the deal in Australia. “They issued an RFP [request for proposals] and when we read it it looked as if it was based on the specs for one of our competitors. But we bid on it and were approved.”
Trevors said the company’s existing clients include three Veterans Affairs facilities in Canada, which are using the systems for research and rehab. ViTRAK hopes to enter the VA market in a big way in the U.S.
Another aspect of the business that excites Trevors is the data that it is collecting and storing in the cloud. ViTRAK has established a baseline of data on the gait of healthy people with full use of their limbs, and data on 300 individuals have used the system as part of their treatment. Eventually, Stepscan could be used to assess instantly whether people are suffering from diseases like Parkinson’s, or whether their drugs are curing or slowing the advance of such conditions.
“My long-term vision is for this to be used in clinical drug trials,” said Trevors. “If you want to check the efficacy of a drug for Parkinson’s disease, for example, you can check the patient’s gait.”
She estimated that it would probably take three to five years to reach that point, adding that within five years the company could employ as many as 25 people.
Intellijoint Surgery Raises $11M Round
Intellijoint Surgical Inc., a Waterloo-based medical technology company, said Tuesday it has landed an $11 million Series A financing round, which will help it to expand in the U.S.
The company said in a statement the round was led by unnamed private investors in the Toronto-Waterloo corridor, and that it was closed over several tranches.
Founded by CEO Armen Bakirtzian, CSO Richard Fanson and CTO Andre Hladio, Intellijoint has developed a small three-dimensional optical navigation solution for surgeons. Its main product is the intellijoint HIP, which assists orthopaedic surgeons in reaching preoperative surgical targets by providing real-time measurements for cup position, leg length, offset and hip center of rotation during a Total Hip Arthroplasty.
Intellijoint HIP has been used in more than 500 procedures in Canada and U.S. and is both Health Canada-licensed and FDA-approved.
“The U.S. launch of the next generation intellijoint HIP earlier this year is being extremely well received in the marketplace and is seeing significant growth,” said Bakirtzian in a statement.
“This Series A capital will allow Intellijoint to enhance its product offering with the Direct Anterior Approach Application and allow for expansion into new U.S. markets while enabling deeper penetration of Intellijoint’s presence in New York and Illinois.”
Intellijoint Surgical has plans to use its core technology to expand into other orthopaedic procedures. The six-year-old company is the recipient of the 2015 North American Frost & Sullivan Enabling Technology Leadership Award and the Futurpreneur Shopify True Grit Award of 2016.
“Intellijoint has addressed the shortcoming of traditional navigation,” said Wayne Paprosky, Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush and member of Intellijoint’s scientific medical advisory board. “The miniature optical camera provides accurate measurements while compensating for patient movement, which is routine during a total hip replacement. It provides me with valuable information and I choose to use it in every case.”
OurCrowd’s Medved Eyes NS Startups
Jonathan Medved flew into Halifax on Sunday afternoon, and by Sunday night he was talking about the Nova Scotian companies he’d like to invest in.
Medved, the founder of the Israeli-based equity crowdfunding platform OurCrowd, was in Halifax to address Startup Grind Halifax, which brings speakers into the city. And he told the 60 attendees at his talk that he’d already met two companies — one a data analytics company, the other an agricultural technology venture — that he is interested in backing.
He went on to say that the conditions in Canada in general and Atlantic Canada in particular are such that there are likely to be more investments.
He said the technology is incredibly advanced in this country, but there is a lack of capital to get new technological products to market.
“We will do deals here,” he said in a discussion with Startup Grind Halifax Founder Oleg Yefymov. “We will probably build a Canadian fund because the quality of the companies (in Canada) is so far ahead of the capital that’s being formed here that the opportunity is really attractive.”
Medved, an American who has invested in more than 100 Israeli startups, had the goal of establishing a platform that allows investors to invest in startups on the same terms as major venture capital funds. So he launched OurCrowd, which lets accredited investors (roughly, those with more than $1 million in investable assets) to get in on these deals. The fund now has 15,000 investors who have invested in more than 100 companies (including two in Canada) and had 10 exits. The Washington Post called him “one of Israel’s leading high-tech venture capitalists.”
In 2008, the New York Times supplement Israel at 60 called Medved one of the 10 most influential Americans who have had an impact on Israel.
So it was heartening that he repeatedly said that he was so impressed with the companies he’d witnessed in his few hours in Halifax.
He said the next generation of successful startups will be dominated by deep technology — not mobile or social, but big data, robotics, artificial intelligence and the like. It will be comprised of complicated systems that have complex and far-reaching industrial applications.
“I think you guys (in Atlantic Canada) are well placed because when you think of all the big data stuff and the oceans stuff that you have here — that is the hard stuff to produce,” said Medved.
He mentioned that he had been told of as many as 10 companies that sounded interesting and he hoped to learn about more.
He said he hopes to follow up with the two companies he’d met with, after which one of OurCrowd’s fund managers would come to Halifax to investigate the company. Hopefully, he said, it would lead to an investment.
He added that he still wants something more “scalable,” such as a Canadian equity crowdfunding site that could channel wealthy people’s money into growing companies. There is a massive geographic problem in the venture capital industry, he said, because investment is concentrated in a few major cities and is lacking elsewhere.
“We’d like to figure out ways that we can do this on a more automated and scalable manner,” he said. “If we get together again in the next year or two, I’d like to be able to say we haven’t done two deals but we’ve done six or eight, because the opportunity is here.”
QRA Named to Lazaridis Program
Jordan Kyriakidis: ' The QRA team is at a critical point for growth.'
Named for BlackBerry Co-Founder Mike Lazaridis, the institute at Wilfrid Laurier University set up the program to help 10 companies from across the country to extend their sales to the global market. QRA is the only company from outside Ontario or Quebec selected for the program.
Growing out of a research project at Dalhousie University, QRA has developed technology that helps large manufacturers identify flaws in complicated machinery early in the design stage. The idea is to work out the kinks before the manufacturer spends millions of dollars prototyping a machine that has ill-matched components.
“The QRA team is at a critical point for growth; we need to scale now in order to operationally handle the many incoming clients, countries, and industries,” said QRA Co-Founder and CEO Jordan Kyriakidis in a statement. “We’re really very happy, honoured, and excited to have been chosen to pilot the Lazaridis Institute Canadian Scale-Up Program.”
The highly anticipated program will bring high-potential firms together with an elite group of experts, all of whom have experience in scaling globally competitive enterprises.
A panel of experts consisting of venture capitalists and leading Canadian and American technology executives considered more than 100 applications and video submissions to assess each firm’s potential for growth. A short list of applicants was invited to take part in video interviews with the selection panel, from which the top 10 companies were chosen.
The 10 selected firms are each at a key turning point in their growth trajectory. They hail from Montreal, Halifax, Waterloo, Toronto, Chatham and Ottawa. They have innovative, made-in-Canada technologies that solve critical problems, from managing hospital operations and optimizing complex system development, to creating better customer experiences, cybersecurity, and sourcing heavy construction equipment on an on-demand basis – to name just a few.
A recent survey from the Business Development Bank of Canada found that only one in 1,000 Canadian small businesses grew beyond the 100-employee mark in 2013, a 40-per cent drop from 2001. Last year, only four Canadian technology companies went to IPO. These numbers do not bode well for the long-term development of the tech ecosystem in Canada. The Lazaridis Institute Canadian Scale-Up Program is part of a broader effort to create conditions in Canada that will enable tech startups to thrive and grow without being bought, winding down prematurely or moving elsewhere.
NS Injects $40M into Innovacorp Fund
The Nova Scotia First Fund, Innovacorp’s fund for early stage investments in Nova Scotia, is receiving $40 million in capital to ensure it can continue funding companies for the next few years.
The Nova Scotia government announced Thursday it would contribute $29 million in fresh capital to the fund, which was known to be running out of money. It also said it would transfer $11 million from an expired cleantech fund into the Nova Scotia First Fund.
The fund will invest in all sectors, including cleantech, said the government statement, and the funding is to last eight years.
"Over the past few days we've seen Analyze Re sold to a United States company and Kinduct attract $12 million in funding from highly strategic investors," said Business Minister Mark Furey in the statement. "Clearly, Nova Scotia's startup scene has impressive momentum, and we need to ensure these businesses have access to the right resources to launch, expand and grow our economy."
Earlier this year, Innovacorp said in its annual accountability report that as of March 31 it had $5.5 million left in the fund – less money than it invests in a typical year. Over the years, provincial governments have placed $49.6 million in the fund, and Innovacorp has invested an average of $5.6 million in startups in the last four years. The agency said it hopes to earn back money as the startups it has invested in are sold to larger companies or listed on stock exchanges.
The outlook for Innovacorp had been further muddied by the government’s plan to back a new private investment fund in Halifax. The government, which has asked for proposals from private fund managers, has committed $25 million to the fund and hopes private backers will contribute more to the fund. It hopes the new fund will be up and running next year.
It now appears that Innovacorp will continue to invest in early stage companies in all sectors, while the private fund will invest in companies across Atlantic Canada, predominantly in IT. Innovacorp will mainly be investing in the first $500,000 of funding while the new fund will invest at a slightly later stage.
"Access to early stage capital is important to drive innovation and bring new companies and products to market," Analyze Re CEO Adrian Bentley said in the statement. "We benefitted first-hand from a capital investment from Innovacorp, which was instrumental in our ability to get our idea off the ground, and we also received a wealth of advice and support from the investment team as we learned to build our business."
Innovacorp had operated a separate cleantech fund, launched by the New Democratic government in about 2010. The goal had been to encourage more companies that would benefit the environment, but the agency could never find enough good investment opportunities in cleantech to use all the money. Now the remainder of that fund is being wrapped into the more broad-based Nov Scotia First Fund.
Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.
Planting Seed$ for Young Founders
Stefanie MacDonald, left, and Allyson England
A group of 100 businesspeople and entrepreneurs will soon come together in the 100 Entrepreneurs: Planting Seed$ event that aims to nurture Nova Scotia’s youth and provide one lucky young entrepreneur with $10,000 in investment.
It’s the second year for the Planting Seed$ event, which was created to give young entrepreneurs a chance to start and/or grow a viable business in Nova Scotia, said co-founder Stefanie MacDonald.
“This event serves both as a forum for micro-funding great ideas and as a way to educate and encourage young Nova Scotians to roll up their sleeves and try right here at home,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald is the owner and designer of Halifax Paper Hearts, a greeting card company that aims to “create fairy tales for everyone” through inclusive and diverse designs.
She began Planting Seed$ with her friend and colleague Allyson England after MacDonald attended a YES NS (Youth Entrepreneurship and Skills Nova Scotia) brainstorming event in the spring of 2015.
The two Atlantic Canadians met a few years ago in a professional setting. MacDonald later hired England to expand her export operations across Canada and into the U.S.
The colleagues have themselves achieved a great deal in the year since Halifax Paper Hearts began.
The company’s first card was produced to celebrate the wedding of two women close to them. After failing to find the right quirky and contemporary card in large department stores, MacDonald created a card that showed two sweet, aging female faces and the greeting, Let’s Grow Old Together.
Since then, Halifax Paper Hearts has sold more than 17,000 greeting cards and secured 50 retail partners. The partners have plans to attend trade shows in Toronto and New York next spring.
The partners want to share their experience with other young entrepreneurs. The 100 Seed$ event is also winning support from many others in the business, government and academic communities, who are prepared to show up and write cheques for $100 each. The event is designed to introduce youth to the concept of pitching ideas and developing networks earlier, MacDonald said.
Last year’s fledgling entrepreneurs pitched varied ideas and hailed from across the province. The three finalists, all aged under 24, were judged by a panel of entrepreneurs and businesspeople. Their projects were rated on viability, impact on the province and scalability.
The winner of the $10,000 was Canada Cold Press Juices, a Nova Scotia-based venture that uses undersized fruit and vegetables that would otherwise go to waste.
This year’s applicants must also be Nova Scotians under 24 years old. Their pitch must include a description of their product or service, a list of targeted or current customers, a marketing plan, a list of competitors and a clear budget that explains how they would spend the winning $10,000.
Applicants can attend 100 Seed$ free of charge. Others who can attend without committing $100 include 20 student spectators and 15 representatives of youth organizations.
Many well-known groups such as Futurpreneur, Junior Achievement, CEED, Fusion Halifax and Techsploration, attended last year’s event.
“We believe this mix encourages outreach, education, mentorship and venture capital opportunities for all attendees,” MacDonald said.
England said youth entrepreneurship is important to the growth of Nova Scotia. “But people hear 100 reasons why starting a business is too hard . . .We want to take the fear out of trying.
“Research cited in Ray Ivany’s Now or Never Report revealed that many Nova Scotia youth want to work in traditional professions or be public servants. Only 12 per cent want to be entrepreneurs. We want to raise that percentage and demonstrate that entrepreneurship is a rewarding career path.”
Planting Seed$ will be held at Halifax Central Public Library on Spring Garden Road on November 28th from 4-6 p.m. Tickets are avaiolable here.
MacKenzie Wins BioInnovation Event
MacKenzie Healthcare Technologies of Musquodoboit Harbour, N.S., won the BioInnovation Challenge on Wednesday for ParaGlide, a device that can help wheelchair users reposition themselves.
In winning the region’s main life sciences pitching competition, MHT will take home $15,000 in seed funding and an advisory services package worth more than $30,000, including legal, PR, accounting, sales and insurance services.
ParaGlide allows wheelchair users to move from a slouching to upright position by using a remote control that operates a motor-driven belt behind his or her back. This allows wheelchair users to avoid skin ulcers, and allows caregivers to avoid injury when trying to move people in wheelchair.
“Winning the BioInnovation [Challenge] has validated that we have a product that is meeting an unmet need in the market,” CEO Matthew MacKenzie said in a press release. “The prize package will be tremendous help in tying up loose ends and answering our unanswered questions in the next few months as we get ready for market in 2017.”
MHT’s remote control also stores data on how often wheelchair users reposition themselves. This way, caretakers can ensure their patients in wheelchairs are moving around enough.
The Mayo Clinic recently said wheelchair users should change their sitting position every 15 minutes. However, this is usually achieved via a large, lever-type belt attached to a ceiling that takes 10 to 15 minutes to administer, often requiring two caregivers. The ceiling belt often goes unused because of the time and effort required to use it, which means wheelchair users don’t move often enough.
MacKenzie revealed that treating ulcers costs Nova Scotia $40,000 each year and workplace injury costs the province $100 million.
“A caretaker’s first words were ‘Sweet Jesus,’” MacKenzie said about showing the ParaGlide technology to a caregiver in Dartmouth. He also told the audience about a mother who read a Chronicle-Herald article about MHT and said she was so happy that ParaGlide technology exists because she can now better help her wheelchair-confined son move around more easily.
The other finalists in the BioInnovation Challenge were NovaResp, which is developing software that allows sleep apnea patients to breathe more easily; and SomaDetect, which measures milk quality in real time and straight from the cow in order to produce the best possible milk.
Both the judging committee, called The Commercialization Council, and audience voted on their favourite of the three finalists. The evaluation criteria for The Commercialization Council included adaptability, market pull and consumer readiness.
MacKenzie has a history of building up a successful business using these three criteria, as he currently runs the manufacturing company, MacKenzie Atlantic. He plans to launch ParaGlide next year and estimates he’ll make a 54 per cent margin on each device by 2021, selling a unit for $2500 to individuals.
He wants to keep manufacturing in Nova Scotia so MacKenzie Atlantic can manufacture the device, though he does plan to sell into the U.S. and the rest of the world.
The sixth annual BioInnovation Challenge was part of BioPort Atlantic, a forum run by BioNova to bring together ideas from the life sciences community to build a network within the region, as well as bring Nova Scotian ideas to Canada, the U.S. and beyond.
Dadavan Beta-Tests Cultural Codex
Dadavan Systems, the Nova Scotian company that has developed educational software for First Nations schools, is now beta-testing its latest product, which helps communities share and preserve their heritage.
Waverley-based Davavan works with First Nations education by providing databases that track students’ attendance and marks, as well as curriculum requirements and lesson plans. Now the company has produced Cultural Codex, which “crowdsources” culture, language and heritage through a shared virtual museum platform.
The need to protect, preserve and share language and culture is a priority for Dadavan’s existing education clients, said the company.
“We listened to our clients,” said CEO Jenny Hill in a statement. “They want tools to preserve and share their culture and language, and they want those tools to be accessible and easy to use. Those conversations inspired the development of Cultural Codex. After speaking with educators, museums, municipalities, academics, and our own friends and families, we knew we needed to create a tool that people from differing cultures, industries, and communities could use.”
The statement said registered individuals, organizations and communities can use Cultural Codex’s templated system to build galleries of sound, video, images, and text that contribute to a shared, searchable repository of cultural knowledge. No design or coding skills are needed to produce beautiful, interactive galleries.
“Cultural Codex enables anyone to readily make a contribution to a pool of knowledge, but also provides tools that support stewardship of access, control and ownership,” said Hill. “It’s designed for communities, and is flexible enough to work well with different types of projects. Projects are only limited by imagination.”
Published galleries are searchable across communities, making it easy to explore galleries from multiple contributors in any given subject. The purpose for Cultural Codex is embedded in its name. Bound, handwritten codices (the plural for codex) were the first ancient books.
Cultural Codex is free while in beta mode. The full release is scheduled for early 2017 with additional features for community management and new templates.
Customers will be able to choose which membership level they choose to join, or request a customized platform.
Founded in the late 1990s, Dadavan set out with the goal of improving the high school graduation rates of First Nations students. The graduation rate of First Nations youth living on-reserve was 35.5 per cent in 2011, compared with 78 per cent in the general population, according to figures in a 2013 report by the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.
Dadavan’s student information system, Outcomes, has been informed through close collaboration with Indigenous communities across Canada.
The company has B Corp certification, which means it is classified as an ethical business by the international B Corporation organization.
A Digital Society Starts with Mindset
Taavi Kotka can describe a digital society in which 98 percent of government business is paperless, everyone is identified and connected on line, and people can contribute to the country even if they don’t live in it.
He can describe it because he lives in such a place.
Kotka is the Chief Information Officer of Estonia, a former Soviet republic that has been a pioneer in digitizing government operations and the working of society. He has developed links with New Brunswick through the work of such entrepreneurs as David Alston, CIO at IntroHive, and Greg Hemmings, the founder of Hemmings House film studio in Saint John.
Last week, Kotka spoke at the Big Data Congress in Saint John, outlining his country’s development of the digital society. And he said it begins with a mindset that is open to new ways of perceiving citizenship and the people who contribute to a society.
“Estonians are not just people who live in Estonia,” Kotka said in his speech to about 600 delegates. “It’s people who share the same values. Even if you take Estonia away, we will do whatever it takes to act as Estonians.”
The first pillar of Estonia’s digital citizenship is everyone has a digital name. This code is accepted in all government departments, and by private companies and academic institutions. It stays with someone throughout his or her life. But you don’t have to live in Estonia to have the digital name. They are retained by emigrants, and people who don’t live in the country but have businesses there also have them.
“The main idea is to focus on who is connected with your society,” Kotka said in an interview. “The old-fashioned way is to look at only who is living in your country. … If you don’t connect with the people who can contribute to your economy, you can lose them. But they can still be contributors.
“We have been developing our society with the goal that even if you are abroad you can still be part of the society.”
After the fall of the Soviet Union, he said It was clear to authorities that it was physically impossible to for the government to serve people in the country, especially in in the outlying areas. Therefore, the solution was to push people to use internet for government services.
Alston is in the vanguard of the movement to develop such a society in New Brunswick. But Kotka, trying to choose his words diplomatically, said many countries first have to change their mindset before they consider such a move. He noted that the first question from the Saint John audience was about privacy concerns. Privacy concerns are legitimate, he said, but they should be overshadowed by the opportunities of the digital revolution.
And he added that digital health records, for example, can be more secure than those printed on paper because there is a record of everyone who accesses digital documents.
“You share the same problem as other Anglo-Saxon countries,” he said, apologizing for referring to bilingual Canada as an English country. “You struggle with a legacy, and not a technological legacy but a mindset legacy.”
Kinduct’s US$9M Round Led By Intel
Travis McDonough: 'The biggest thing is scaling.'
Halifax health-technology company Kinduct Technologies has announced a US$9 million ($12 million) round of funding led by Intel Capital, the venture capital arm of the world’s leading semiconductor chip maker.
Intel was to announce the funding Monday night at the Intel Global Summit in San Diego, where Kinduct Founder and CEO Travis McDonough was to appear on stage with other members of the Intel venture capital portfolio.
The investment group also includes previous investors Clearwater Seafoods Chairman John Risley, through his investment company CFFI Ventures Inc., and Elysian Park Ventures.
"Data is re-inventing the way people approach sports, health, and wellness," Wendell Brooks, senior vice president at Intel Corp. and president of Intel Capital, said in a statement. "The versatility of the Kinduct platform, coupled with Intel compute technology, creates further growth opportunities in these areas by producing deeper data-driven insights into human performance."
Kinduct has pioneered an athlete management system that helps more than 100 professional and elite sports organizations find information on the human body and specific athletes. The software helps these organizations collect, organize, share and analyze data in one centralized platform, leading to more informed decisions. It draws from about 500 data sources and includes the world’s largest library of medical animation.
Kinduct and Intel now plan to combine Kinduct’s platform with Intel’s Saffron Technology and open-source Trusted Analytics Platform, or TAP, technology to create a new system. It will use machine learning and other technologies to make recommendations, like how athletes can avoid injury.
In an interview, McDonough said the funding will allow his company, which has had great success with professional sports teams, to move strongly into other markets like college and high school sports, military, and law enforcement. It will also bolster the company’s recently opened office in Silicon Valley, which will contribute to faster growth of Kinduct’s Halifax operations.
“There’s a lot to this round of funding, but the biggest thing is scaling,” said McDonough. “Working with Intel enhances things. We’re going to be hiring aggressively and creating a U.S.-based infrastructure.”
McDonough moved to the Bay area this summer and plans to spend the next year in the new Palo Alto office. But Kinduct will still be a Halifax company. It now employs 67 people in Halifax (up from 45 in the spring) and plans to hire 30 people in the next six to 12 months.
“It’s like my grandfather used to say, you let the money just pile up and it stinks, just like fertilizer,” McDonough said, referring to his grandfather Lloyd Shaw, the founder of Shaw Brick of Lantz, N.S. “But if you spread it around, it does great things.”
The deal means there is now a clear trend of young companies from Canada’s East Coast establishing links with and drawing investment from Silicon Valley.
Already this year, Fredericton agricultural technology company Resson has received US$12 million in funding from a group of investors led by the agricultural giant Monsanto. And St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, which collects and analyzes genetic data, raised US$3 million in a round led by Silicon Valley venture capital fund Data Collective. With the Kinduct deal, that’s a total of C$32 million coming into high-growth Canadian companies in six months, and bringing relationships along with the money.
Meanwhile, John Risley appears to have found another winner. He was the founder of Ocean Nutrition Canada, which he sold to Royal DSM of the Netherlands for $540 million in 2012. McDonough said Risley has been involved in all the major decisions with Kinduct and is on the company’s board. “He’s been an unbelievable champion and he’s been omni-present,” said McDonough. “He’s been my go-to guy.”
Said Risley in an email: “Seldom do you get a combination of a great business plan and a great person. Kinduct is one such situation.”