NB, NS Seek Crowdfunding Feedback

The prospects are excellent that equity-based crowdfunding will soon be allowed in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, but first securities regulators are looking for feedback on new rules for the online fundraising.

The Nova Scotia Securities Commission and New Brunswick’s Financial and Consumer Services Commission have joined with their counterparts in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec to produce a set of proposals that would let companies raise money through crowdfunding. The Ontario Securities Commission is working on a similar paper.

Crowdfunding, or raising money by seeking small contributions online from a huge pool of people, is now legal as long as it’s being used to raise money for a charity or for an advanced sale of a product.

However, Canadian securities regulators so far have not allowed companies to raise equity funding through crowdfunding because of worries about investors getting scammed.

 “Our main focus is investor protection,” said Tanya Wiltshire, a spokeswoman for the Nova Scotia Securities Commission. “We’re trying to make sure that people are protected and find a way that this can go forward without undue risks.”

Now the five provinces have come up with proposals that would allow equity-based crowdfunding on approved web portals in certain circumstances.

Each of the five provincial regulators is seeking consultation with the public until June 18, after which they will examine how to proceed individually depending on the feedback they receive. Both the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia commissions are looking for written submissions.

Under the proposals being studied by regulators, established companies could raise as much as $1.5 million in a single campaign and draw no more than $2,500 from each individual investor. The proposal calls for special rules for startups, which would be allowed to raise as much as $150,000 per campaign through individual investments of as much as $1,500.

The proposals lay out rules for portals, issuers and investors, all with the goal that investors will have enough information to make informed decisions.

“Whether through crowdfunding or more traditional methods of raising capital, being an informed investor remains important,” said Jeff Harriman, the capital markets specialist at New Brunswick’s Financial and Consumer Services Commission.

“Companies intending to use crowdfunding will still be required to provide information so that the investor can make an informed decision.”

People familiar with the matter believe this process will result in equity-based crowdfunding being allowed in these provinces in 2015 or 2016. The startup segment of the proposal is based on rules already in effect in Saskatchewan, meaning they have been proven to work effectively.

In theory, Canadian startups would gain a competitive advantage. Regulators in the U.S., for example, still haven’t allowed crowdfunding two-and-a-half years after they were authorized to do so by Congress and the president.

However, the practical question is how many companies will benefit from a program that will produce $150,000 in funding and leave them with hundreds of shareholders. Many expect the proposals in their current form will help but not revolutionize fundraising.

The Nova Scotia commission is now working on a series of consultation sessions in Kentville, Pictou County, Halifax and Dartmouth in the first week of June. The details will be posted in May on the commission’s website, nssc.gov.ns.ca.

Clarification on the Startup Directory

As the entries are coming in for the Atlantic Canada Startup Directory, it’s becoming clear we at Entrevestor have to differentiate between this directory as opposed to the databank we assembled earlier in the year.

What we are now seeking is the name, address, phone number etc. from all the members of the Atlantic Canada startup community. We’re going to publish this in a directory, a printed booklet, and have it permanently on our website. We’ll distribute the printed version at gatherings like the Atlantic Venture Forum. The details will be public.

Earlier this year, we were looking for data for our own databank. From this, we will publish aggregated data – that is, totals rather than details on individual companies. We’ve been so stringent about confidentiality with this project that we won’t even reveal who replied and who didn’t.

We’ll begin to reveal the analysis of our databank a week from today, when we publish our first Entrevestor Intelligence report of the year. It will show some really interesting metrics, especially in employment.

In the meantime, please keep those submissions coming in for the directory. We’re getting a lot of startups, but we would also like supporting agencies and companies. So if you’re a service provider for the startup community, please let us know your details. That could be a private company that provides services to startups, or a government agency that helps out the sector.

Please send in your name, contact person, address, email address, phone number, website and twitter handle.  You can email use at peter@entrevestor.com, or fill in this form.

We will publish this information, but you can leave any fields blank that you don’t want to complete.

Many thanks to all of you who have filled in the form, and for the kind comments about this new tool for the startup community.


Innovacorp, Angels Back The Rounds

The Rounds, a social network for medical professionals, has raised a $1 million seed round, including a $250,000 investment from the Nova Scotia investment agency, Innvoacorp.

The Halifax-based company, which works out of the Volta startup incubator, said in a press release it closed the funding round on Tuesday, and that the money would likely last it for a year. Other than the Innovacorp investment, the rest of the money came from angels from the region, across Canada and in San Francisco. Five of the angels are doctors.

In February, The Rounds -- formerly known as Boondoc -- launched its online product, which connects doctors from across the country, allowing them to converse, create local “groups” and discuss medical issues. Only doctors can to subscribe to the basic service, which is double encrypted so there are no concerns about patient confidentiality.

Almost 1500 physicians from across Canada are now using The Rounds. They come from every province and are interacting with each other more than 20,000 times each month, said the company in a press release.

“As demonstrated by their recent growth and physician adoption, The Rounds clearly understands the market and is delivering a product that benefits all Canadians,” Dawn Umlah, Investment Manager of Innovacorp, said in the statement. “This investment will help The Rounds connect with more Canadian physicians and accelerate their growth as it relates to product innovation and user acquisition.”

The idea behind The Rounds is to provide doctors with a private, secure network in which they can consult with one another and find advice on how to solve vexing medical problems. CEO Blair Ryan has found that The Round is especially valuable to rural doctors, who don’t have the benefit of consulting with nearby colleagues.  

The Rounds allows pharmaceutical companies, medical associations or other groups to pay to engage on the site in a non-intrusive manner. The first such paying customer is now using the site. This means there are no pop-up ads, but the network does have sponsored pages in which doctors can seek out more information.

In an interview with Entrevestor last month, Founder and Ryan said projected the company will earn $500,000 in revenue by the end of the year.

The Rounds has a staff of 10, including CTO Daniel Enman and COO Bill Power. Ryan also runs the Empathy Factory, a not-for-profit organization that teaches children empathy and encourages them to help with social change.


Wesley: A Call for A Design Culture

Almost everything we experience in life has some kind of design. Determining if it is good or not is complicated. Where one object or process may function well under one set of conditions, it may fail under another. From a business standpoint, three factors separate the winners from the losers: the design’s utility, its appeal to a particular demographic, and its staying power.

When developing or improving a product, service or technology, the most successful companies employ professional designers from the very start. Most do it too late, and some not at all. Instead they apply outmoded designs. The result? A mismatch between what buyers want/need and the design elements that appeal to those wants/needs, such as aesthetics, ergonomics and aroma. The two must come together.

Leaving design to the end, or as an afterthought, can expose you to a huge financial risk. After spending large amounts of time and money on R&D, the last thing you want to hear from a potential customer is, “We love it. But, we can’t buy it. It’s the wrong shape. It’s too heavy. The handle needs to be on the other side. It won’t fit in standard air-cargo container,” and so on. This is the point where many innovators go wrong. They get attached to what they think the product should be; then they have to pull it apart thread by tread to make it in a way that could have been achieved much earlier. This often means “back to the drawing board,” which means “back to the bank.”

You could have the most amazing product or service ever known, but if the design is amateurish, everything can be lost – and very quickly. Economic value can be found by employing professional designers from the get-go. By their nature and artistic skills, they can apply fresh, contemporary designs to even the most mundane, market-saturated products, making them more competitive.

Consider the forestry industry. For generations, this sector in Atlantic Canada depended on commodity-based products like lumber and wood pulp for export. The sale of these raw materials was a major driver of the early 20th century economy, so there was no demand for design to add value. Then came globalization and lower production costs in developing countries. Add in the move from paper to plastic and pixels, and you can see how one of our most valuable industries went into decline.

The forest is still there. If we bring professional designers into the mix, one of the region’s most prosaic natural resources can shed its economic inertia and enter the dynamic market for finished goods.

Open any decorating magazine and you’ll find a wellspring of stories and ads showcasing the most exquisitely designed wood products. They range from entire buildings to kitchen cabinets and the simplest of chairs. The most innovative and fashionable designs get the center spread, portrayed like masterpieces of art. But they are not art. Each piece of art is unique, but professional designers ensure products are engineered and styled in such a way that they can be reproduced, over and over.

To emphasize the point, what is the difference between a $500 chair and an $80 chair made of the same quantity of wood? Design. The $500 design looks “cool”, and people want a piece of that “cool”. The same rule applies for cabinetry, dining tables, and side tables, even prefab homes. It is good design that wins, no matter how low or high is the price.

A designer might produce plans that, in the eyes of the local market, are the coldest, ugliest things ever seen. But, will local workers say no when a 200-unit condominium development in Montréal orders the minimalist, modern, urban-chic kitchen cabinets for the entire building? Just because it might not appeal to our “regional” taste, if such a thing exists, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t apply our mastery of skills to it.

Multiple papers have been written about design as an economic driver, and some jurisdictions are really cashing in. For example, in Helsinki, Finland, with a population of 650,000, you’ll find over 500 design studios. How about Atlantic Canada? Try Googling “industrial design” or “product design” studios in your province. You will find very few, if any. Then try Helsinki. We may be missing the boat here. Why? Because we just don’t have an advanced design culture in our region. It’s not that we did anything wrong. It’s just that our 20th century focus on traditional, commodity-based products produced no demand for such a thing.

Innovation cannot occur without design. It’s time that our region starts to infuse a culture of design into its productivity base. To do that, a design infrastructure needs to be built and stocked with the creative human talent needed to transform the goods that the region already makes into the great ones the world awaits.

Chet Wesley is the Director of Marketing at the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.


Equals6 Survey on Students’ Plans

A student recruitment survey from Equals6 has revealed interesting views from the Millennial Generation, including that 91 per cent of respondents would relocate for a new job, that 42 per cent seek professional mentorship and that just 13 per cent wish to run their own business. 

Halifax-based Equals6 is an online community of 75,000 students who use the site to make connections with each other and employers. The company surveyed nearly 6,000 high school, college and university students across the country and across a variety of disciplines about their career choices. The report focuses on job search, work preferences and compensation, training, and mobile technology and social media in the workplace.

“This is our first survey of this type. The information will be useful to both students and employers,” said Andy Osburn, Equals6 President and CEO, adding that the report will in future be undertaken annually.

The survey revealed that about 32 per cent of respondents wish to work for a private company, around 55 per cent want to work in the public sector and government and just 13 per cent plan to run their own venture.

Future surveys may well show a rise in the number of Millennials wishing to become self-employed, Osburn said. “We will look into that. It would be interesting to know what that figure would have been even five years ago. We’d expect that number to start to go up as universities etc. are doing such a great job of advocating entrepreneurship.”  

Successive surveys will also seek to break down the numbers interested in working in the public sector – at 55 per cent this high figure may simply reflect the breadth of a sector that includes teachers, nurses and many other groups.

Osburn said the fact that 91 per cent of students are prepared to relocate for a new job and 40 per cent are prepared to move countries for work shows how important it is for employers to get their message before graduates, particularly in Atlantic Canada.    

Salary and benefits were cited as respondents’ most important consideration when choosing an employer, with environmental and social consciousness being named their lowest priority; although students also named other factors, such as a welcoming atmosphere, as important.

The majority of respondents would accept $10-$15 per hour for student co-ops and internships and 74 per cent of respondents would accept an entry-level salary of $50,000 or less.

More than 98 per cent of students said they felt they had been at least somewhat prepared for work by their education. And, no surprises here, 25 per cent expected to access Facebook from work.

Osburn said the company will welcome input from employers on the sort of questions to ask in future surveys.

SwiftRadius’s New Innovation Division

SwiftRadius, the Fredericton-based IT consulting firm, is launching a new initiative to help large North American companies develop innovation.

The company has struck a partnership with Forth Innovation, a Dutch business consultancy, to roll out the European firm’s innovation program in the North American market. They will launch the initiative in late May when Forth Innovation founder Gijs van Wulfen, one of linkedIn’s top 100 influencers, comes to the region to host a series of workshops in Fredericton, and possibly in Moncton and Halifax.

This initiative addresses a common problem at large corporations, which SwiftRadius defines as those with more than $50 million in annual revenue. They have difficulty innovating. They are often focused on their traditional markets, and in serving that market in traditional ways. So even though they might want to develop a new product or service based on their expertise, the organizations don’t really understand how to go about doing it.

“You can’t bring a sort of here’s-what-Steve-Jobs-did attitude to it and expect an executive to act on it,” said SwiftRadius CEO Scott MacIntosh in an interview on Monday. “It’s just too big a step.”

MacIntosh has been a champion of innovation for several years. He encourages his staff to work on innovative projects, and has even incubated and launched a startup within SwiftRadius. Charlottetown-based Adeptio, which has developed cloud-based coaching technology, was spun off from the Fredericton company two years ago.

Now MacIntosh is heading a new division called SwiftRadius Innovation which will be responsible for working with major corporate clients that want to develop innovative products. It will employ Forth Innovation’s program, which works with executives that have an idea for a product or service, but no experience in rolling it out.

The 20-week course comprises three distinct phases:

1.       Preparation — SwiftRadius and the client identify various ideas and assess the factors that will help and hinder developing the project. This phase includes preparing the managers above the innovation project leader so they understand what will be involved.

2.       The “front end” of innovation — In this phase, the team progresses from the fuzzy notion of a new product to more structured plans. They have to assess the demand and feasibility of each idea, and set out a set of goals with each project. At the end, the executive should have four or five proposed projects to present to his or her managers.

3.       Execution — The client enters this phase with a project outline and approval, and now has to implement it. Most executives in large corporations have never launched a product, especially one that may involve technology or markets that are new to them. SwiftRadius helps them to navigate the tricky waters of bringing a new product or service to market.

MacIntosh, who also serves as the chairman of PropelICT, which operates the Launch36 accelerator, said the final phase is similar to using a “lean canvas,” the modern online tool used when launching a startup.

MacIntosh said he is still developing the SwiftRadius Innovation division. He is spending about three or four days a week on the new initiative, working with SwiftRadius execs Peter Price and Robyn Plourde. He plans to have more of his team accredited by Forth Innovation later in the year so the division can grow.

Press Release: Cloud-A’s ‘Bricks’

Cloud-A, a Halifax provider of cloud delivery solutions, released the following press release:

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada – April 16th, 2014, Cloud-A, a Canadian leader in cloud delivery solutions for high performance software applications, announced today that it has developed a new automation technology for cloud providers called “Bricks”.    

This advancement solves the problem that developers and system administrators have where they are spending far too much time setting up, patching and updating server side services that add little value to their end customer. The new service launched today is an OpenStack orchestration and automation module that was developed by the Cloud-A team to deploy custom-configured instances, and keep them up to date with the latest security patches and offer OS level support for those instances for their lifetime. "Our clients didn’t have to lift a finger when the Heartbleed bug hit, we automatically patched the vulnerability for them while they were sleeping" Says: Brandon Kolybaba, one of the 3 co-founders of Cloud-A.

The new offering closely resembles a Platform as a Service (PaaS) solution as it seamlessly automates the delivery of custom-configured server environments for developers who deploy solutions with Ruby / Rails, Python / Django, and more traditional PHP / Apache server configurations. In fact, the solution is technically an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solution bundled with an advanced automation tool set that doesn’t exist within other platforms in the marketplace today. In addition, the company also offers automation solutions for the delivery and maintenance of MariaDB (MySQL), PostgreSQL, & Redis databases. The company has indicated that they also plan to introduce options for Node.js, Wordpress, & Drupal development environments in the coming weeks.

Earlier this year Cloud-A launched a Canadian based high performance public cloud infrastructure (IaaS) offering powered by OpenStack that has grown swiftly over the past several months. There is strong demand for open public cloud compute in Canada as most of the players to market are not offering on demand, billable by the hour products that include automated capabilities (API) at price points that are competitive with the major US based providers.

About Cloud-A

Cloud-A is a leading provider of Cloud technology powered by OpenStack, based in Canada. Our products make IT Infrastructure simpler to understand and manage so that your team is more productive. We do that by increasing visibility, insight, and manageability of  IT infrastructure and compute platforms. For more information visit http://www.CloudA.ca


Cloud-A (CloudA.ca)



Entrevestor Dinner Set for Fredericton

The first Entrevestor Dinner will be held in the Fredericton area May 12, and we hope it will offer members of the startup community a chance to plan lasting improvements to the regional startup ecosystem.

Held with the assistance of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, the discussion-and-dinner event will feature working sessions in which participants will discuss ways to enhance the startup ecosystem. We didn’t think the community needed another dinner with a speaker, but there are serious issues facing the startup industry in the region. The Entrevestor Dinners seek to identify and address such issues.

The event will begin at 4 pm at the Kingswood Golf course with two discussions on topics that could greatly improve the development of regional companies.

First, Calvin Milbury, the CEO of NBIF, will lead a discussion on how to develop mentorship networks. PropelICT and the New Brunswick Business Council have already done great work on this brief. We want to look at what can be done to deepen the talent pool and to increase the spread of the mentorship base across the region.

At 5 pm, East Valley Ventures Chairman Gerry Pond will chair a session examining what can be done to encourage more early adopters.  What is the best way to encourage governments and large companies to adopt new technologies being developed in the region? Would an education program help?, or a registry of early adopters? Maybe a certificate recognizing and thanking early adopters?

The discussions will be followed by dinner at Sam Snead’s, the elegant dining room at Kingswood.

We are hoping the event will attract a roomful of people passionate about the startup ecosystem so that lively discussions will result in concrete proposals. We hope a few people will step forward to work on the proposals in the coming months. And Entrevestor will communicate the results to the broader community and look for feedback from across the region.

Tickets for the dinner at $75 each can be purchased here until May 8. Space is limited so we suggest you book early.

The Entrevestor Dinners are being held as part of the Entrevestor Intelligence series. This year, the series will include the publication of four Intelligence reports, each to be followed by a dinner. The first report has been written and is due out at the end of this month. We plan to hold an Entrevestor Dinner in each of the four Atlantic Provinces this year.

We’d like to thank our partners in the Entrevestor Intelligence series:  Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency; Bonfire; East Valley Ventures; Innovacorp; New Brunswick Innovation Foundation; Nova Scotia Business Inc.; the Sobey School of BusinessSpringboard Atlantic; and St. Mary’s University’s Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program.



Profile: Marc Mansour Ascending

After 14 years in startup wilderness, Halifax biotech company Immunovaccine (IMV) and its Chief Operating Officer Dr. Marc Mansour are exactly where they need to be. With data from clinical trials demonstrating the effectiveness of the IMV patented vaccine-delivery system, the company may soon see its technology lessening everyday scourges like flu and cancer as well as uncommon diseases, such as anthrax.

The company’s DepoVax vaccine delivery formula provokes a spike in the body’s immune response by mixing vaccines with immune activators and formulating the mixture in oil. This prevents the vaccine from being promptly cleared by the body’s immune system, allowing the vaccine to remain at the site of injection for longer and thus be more effective. There is currently a lot of excitement around immunotherapy, or using the body’s immune system to fight or prevent disease, so Immunovaccine’s recent strong clinical data in the field of cancer treatment mean the company is well-placed to benefit from an emerging field of medicine.

“During 2013, scientists provided compelling evidence that the human immune system could be trained to destroy cancer cells,” said Mansour, adding that there are other competing cancer vaccines, but IMV’s data on immune activation is the best he has seen. 

Last year also saw several large pharmaceutical companies announce that vaccines will play an important role in the development of their cancer therapy programs.

“It’s an exciting time,” said Mansour. “Positive data from our Phase I study were presented at multiple venues last year. As a result, the National Cancer Institute of Canada agreed to sponsor and conduct a randomized Phase II study of our system in patients with advanced ovarian cancer.”

As an expert in vaccinology and cancer immunotherapy, as well as the holder of a Master of Business Administration, Mansour leads both the scientific and financial development of the company and spends a lot of time on the road.

The company is developing high-profile collaborations, including with the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the U.S., which is interested in developing a rapid-response, one-shot, anti-anthrax vaccine in case of terrorist attack. Currently, soldiers are given at least three anti-anthrax vaccines, which take months to become effective. “To date, no one-shot vaccine has worked, but with our technology they think it may be possible.”

Mansour said that being a biotech company in Canada has been challenging. “Biotech takes a lot of time because of all the health regulations etc., but the investment environment in Canada has also been very difficult for biotech because many investors have been more interested in quick-return resources such as gold.

“The biotech sector has done extremely well in the US. Last year, biotech was the best performing sector in the U.S. – up 40 per cent on average. Recently, there’s been a change in Canada as investors see how well biotech is performing and look for investments. Our good clinical data allowed us to go on a cross-Canada roadshow last November and raise $4.2 million.

“Everything is coming together, although it’s still going to be a ton of work – we need more clinical data and, as a biotech company, we are always fundraising.”

Halifax is not a biotech hub, but Mansour said the community provided IMV with vital early support. “Our technology originally came out of Dalhousie and we have a close association with Dal, the hospitals and the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology. Centre Director Scott Halperin and Dr. Joanne Langley, the well-known respiratory specialist, will soon be running a Phase I clinical trial with one of our vaccines with funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. 

“Local investors and Government programs helped us survive the difficult years,” he continued. “I’m not sure we’d have survived if we hadn’t been based in Nova Scotia.” 

Press Release: Social Enterprise Event

The Pond-Deshpande Centre has issued a press release announcing its Social Enterprise Development Dialogue this week: 

Second Social Enterprise Development Dialogue attracts talent from Toronto to Boston

April 15, 2014

Fredericton, NB - The Pond-Deshpande Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Saint John Community Loan Fund are proud to present ecosystem2enterprise; ideas for a new economy, the 2nd Annual Social Enterprise Development Dialogue, April 24 and 25, 2014, Saint John, New Brunswick.

The Dialogue is for community-minded citizens from all sectors, the general public, business, technology, science, education, government, NGOs, co-ops, social enterprises, and for everyone who is passionate about making a difference. It is for those with an innovative and collaborative spirit to discover and develop new ways to address social, economic, environmental challenges through high-impact enterprises that "do well and do good."

The Keynote lineup includes Desh Deshpande, a UNB graduate, co-founder of the Pond-Deshpande Centre, Chairman of several international companies, including A123Systems, Sycamore Networks, Tejas Networks, HiveFire, and Sandstone Capital. He is also the founder of four entrepreneurship centres: MIT Deshpande Centre, Boston, MA; Merrimack Valley Sandbox, Lowell MA; Deshpande Foundation, Hubli, India: and the Pond-Deshpande Centre in Fredericton, which was co-founded with Gerry Pond. We are also pleased to welcome Keynote Speakers Ilse Treurnicht, the Executive Director of the MaRS Discovery District, based in Toronto, and a leading Canadian serial social entrepreneur Andreas Souvaliotis, Founder of Green Rewards, the world’s first eco-points program.

“The Social Enterprise Development Dialogue is the premiere platform in Atlantic Canada for driving cutting-edge social innovation to build a truly enterprising culture that can change the world” says Karina LeBlanc.

“We’re excited to have local change leaders mix it up with innovators from the rest of the region as well as the Boston and Toronto areas. Whether you’re an ecosystem builder or social entrepreneur, we want people to come away inspired, with a bigger network, with new partners, new investors, and plans to make an even greater impact,” says Seth Asimakos, GM at the Saint John Community Loan Fund.

The program for SEDD 2014:

Thursday, April 24, Begins with 20 Mentor Minutes, a pre-conference event where 16 early-stage social entrepreneurs will pitch their ideas and receive valuable feedback from mentors in a series of 20-minute intervals. The mentors will then choose 8 of these mentees to share their innovative ideas in an exciting Pitch Competition with $5000 in prizes to be awarded during the Social Enterprise Development Dialogue Day One Kickoff. (4:30-9:30 pm).

Friday, April 25, 8:15AM – 4:30PM: the program for this day features keynote plenaries together with a series of workshops in two optional streams, one focusing on building social enterprises, and a second stream focused on building the social enterprise ecosystem. There will also be special announcement about New Brunswick’s first BCorp.

The Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick acts as a catalyst to grow and support a stronger culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the province of New Brunswick. It was founded through the support of Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, President and Chairman of Sparta Group LLC, Jaishree Deshpande, Treasurer of Sparta Group LLC, and a founder of the Deshpande Foundation, and Gerry Pond, Chairman of Mariner Partners and CEO of East Valley Ventures. For more information, visit http://www.ponddeshpande.ca

Contact for all media inquiries:

Karina Leblanc, Executive Director, Pond-Deshpande Centre 506.451.6923, karina.leblanc@unb.ca

Seth Asimakos, Executive Director, Saint John Community Loan Fund, 506.652.5600 loanfund@nbnet.nb.ca

Atlantic Canadian Startup Directory

Entrevestor, Volta and PropelICT are pleased to announce we will soon produce the first directory for the Atlantic Canadian startup community.

Modeled on the directory put out by Communitech in Kitchener-Waterloo, the Atlantic Canadian Startup Directory will provide the names and contact details of all the participating startups in the region. It will also provide similar information on tech service companies and support organizations.

Our goal is to have a single resource where we can find the names and details of all members of the community, broken down by both province and sector. It will help all of us to improve our accessibility to one another.

The directory will be published in the second Entrevestor Intelligence Report of this year, which is due out on June 15. With the support of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, we will publish this report in time for the Atlantic Venture Forum. We intend to ensure that all delegates at the forum receive the publication, including the directory.

So we are inviting all Atlantic Canadian startups, tech companies, service providers and support organizations to send us your details. We want to include anyone who is a member of the startup community. By service providers, we mean groups whose service is of special interest to startups – law firms, accounting firms, training specialists, web design firms, etc. We reserve the right to determine what types of companies are included in this list.

If you want to be included in the directory, please contact us at directory@entrevestor.com and include the following information:

-  Company Name

-  CEO or Contact Person

-  Address

-  Principal Phone Number

-  Principal Email Address

-  Website

-  Twitter Handle

You can include all these details or omit any ones you wish. For example, if you prefer people to contact you by email rather than phone, you may choose to omit your phone number. It’s up to you.

Please submit your details by April 30, 2014.

We’re looking forward to providing another service to the Atlantic Canadian startup community and encouraging its development.


Capital Health launches M@CH

Three young tech companies – two of them from Halifax – are working with the Capital District Health Authority to commercialize their products while accelerating the treatment of patients with mobility issues.

On Wednesday, the Halifax area’s district health authority launched Mobility at Capital Health, a $2.6 million project that will use existing and developing technology to assess whether people need orthopaedic surgery and help them to heal regardless of the treatment. (Mobility at Capital Health is abbreviated as “M@ch”, pronounced “Mach”, as in a measurement of speed.)

The program, which has received a $1.7 million loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund, will use the technology of Kinduct Technologies and OrthoMX Inc, both of Halifax, as well as Laval, Que.-based Emovi.

Michael Dunbar, the orthopaedic surgeon overseeing the project, said Nova Scotia has the longest waiting times in Canada and M@ch is designed to convert the waiting times into an advantage. These patients constitute a body of people willing to test new technology, which will provide clinical validation for the products.

“We have the best living laboratory in the country,” Dunbar told a gathering launching the project. “Why don’t we use it to our advantage?”

Dunbar and his colleagues foresee a range of applications being developed over the years at M@ch, but they will begin with addressing knee, hip and spinal issues.

The basic technological software-as-a-service platform for the project is being provided by Kinduct, founded by Travis McDonough. Kinduct owns the world’s largest library of medical animation and uses it to help doctors, specialists and patients understand the various phases of treatment. Doctors can use it to explain the various processes in a hip replacement, for example, while a patient can use the technology to understand the exercises and diet needed during recovery.

“Our technology is the underlying platform on which the information is put in the patients’ hands,” said McDonough.

Another company in the trio is OrthoMX, which is developing an app that will allow people to use their smartphones to assess whether they need orthopaedic procedures, such as a hip or knee replacement. Smartphones have extremely sensitive functions for measuring movement. So OrthoMX is developing a product called Gait App, which can detect whether a person has an “asymmetrical gait”, which would indicate they need such treatment as a hip replacement. Once they get the replacement, it can help physicians analyze the recovery without visiting a hospital or clinic.

“The app still has to be clinically validated,” said CEO Barbara Campbell, who said the new company will validate it with about 100 patients at Capital Health, which will take about a year. She said that would be sufficient clinical validation for a commercial product and added they would likely exit before the Gait App would be sold worldwide.

Dunbar added there are other applications for the technology being developed, in such fields as inner ear balance or obesity in children. “When it comes right down to it, how you get around is a very great determinant of your health,” he said.

The third startup working at M@CH is Emovi of Quebec, whose produce KneeKG provides an objective measurement of the movement of the knee to see if the patient suffers from gait impairment.

NSBI, GrowthWorks Invest in Oris4

Oris4, the Halifax software company that has developed a cloud-based document-organization system, has raised $1.3 million in funding from Nova Scotia Business Inc. and GrowthWorks Atlantic.

NSBI announced Wednesday it would make its first investment of $1 million in the company, whose corporate name is 2nd Act Innovations. GrowthWorks invested in the company previously and has added to its stake with a $300,000 investment.

The funding comes as the company is increasing its reach in the U.S. with the opening of its first New York office. The firm already has a presence in Silicon Valley, where its CEO, Reza Kazemipour, is based.

 “There’s so much opportunity right now in terms of Oris4,” said president and co-founder Peter Hickey in an interview. “There are so many people that have seen Oris4, tried it and like it. They’re pulling for Oris4 and are putting money into it.”

Hickey and co-founder Andrew Doyle established the company three years ago to commercialize document-sorting software they had developed. They later moved the product to the cloud and focused on creating an international leadership team.

Doyle, whose background is in marketing and advertising, recently left Oris4 to become the senior vice-president at M5 Marketing Communications in Halifax. He retains his stake in Oris4.

In 2012-13, Oris4 last year secured its first round of funding, including equity investments of $250,000 from Innovacorp, Nova Scotia’s innovation agency, and $600,000 from GrowthWorks Atlantic. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency lent the company $150,000 and a group of angel investors rounded out the funding. Precipice Capital, a Dartmouth investment boutique led by Chris Dobbin, advised Oris4 on that financing.

The company has developed the Oris4 Enterprise Content Manager, which allows organizations to organize, store and find their documents. The company moved its product onto the cloud a little over a year ago, and sales are beginning to pick up.

 “This investment will help the company deliver on the deals they have closed, as well as move ahead with opportunities in their pipeline,” said Peter MacAskill, vice-president, NSBI.

The company has worked hard at attracting executives with experience at large corporations in the Silicon Valley.

Last year, it hired two Silicon Valley veterans to fill senior management roles: Kazemipour as chief executive officer and Guillaume Oget as chief technology officer. Oget later left the company but Kazemipour is still CEO.

Then it hired Salesforce.com veteran Wade McCallum to lead the company’s sales team. McCallum had been Salesforce’s vice-president of enterprise sales and had held a senior sales position with Fredericton-based Radian6, which San Francisco-based Salesforce bought for $326 million in 2011.

 “We’re focused on growing our customer base in the United States, but we're also gaining traction in places like New Zealand and India,” said Hickey.

 “Productivity is a worldwide issue. This is an exciting time for the company.”

Helping Employers Use Job Boards

A young New Brunswick company is making it easier for employers to extend their reach when looking for new employees.

Moncton-based Qimple has developed an automated process that helps employers to carefully assess where they are posting their job openings. It automatically posts jobs in the best places possible and screens the responses – all with the goal of increasing the likelihood of finding top-flight candidates.

Employers looking for employees these days usually post their vacant positions on job boards, hoping that the perfect candidate will pop up. But the problem is there are more than 1,000 job boards in North America. There are about 160 in Canada alone. Some concentrate on a geographic location, while others specialize in certain occupations.

Qimple aims to help employers figure out which job boards are best for the job being posted and then help employers navigate the application process. It automatically posts the job on all the selected job boards and handles all the payment processing.

“The big thing that makes us different is we distribute the jobs,” said CEO and Co-Founder Yves Boudreau in an interview. “We give you a selection of job boards and help you find the right ones.”

The company is still in its early stages, but it already has paying customers and is in talks with others. It’s got a core team to develop the business, and it’s been accepted in the Launch36 accelerator.

Boudreau got the idea for the company a few years ago when he worked for Enterprise Greater Moncton and was helping the New Brunswick Government to attract workers to the region. He was astonished not only by the vast options for job boards but also by the flood of résumés employers receive.

So he teamed up with Lead Developer and Co-Founder Benoit Bourque and Product Manager Aaron Lewis to launch a product that addresses these problems. They’ve developed and are now beta-testing a fully automated system that posts jobs on the best job boards  and then filter the responses so only the employer only sees the best candidates.

“We’ve been scraping data for months now and we have a ton of information on job boards,” said Boudreau, adding that it is continuing to develop this databank. The Qimple system analyses that data to help employers find the best platforms for their needs.

It allows employers to customize their requirements in job posts and even helps them to determine what skills are most necessary for their vacant position.

“Our target market is growing companies,” said Lewis, a serial entrepreneur who previously worked on Maritime Rideshare. “There are 1000 or so job boards in North America. You have to know which ones are gaining traction. We provide recommendations on the best platforms for finding quality talent.”

Qimple is planning to raise capital through this year .The company is now working with a few clients on beta-testing the product, and will do a soft launch in June – around the time it completes the Launch36 program. The team is planning a full launch in September. 

Press Release: Smart Skin Tech

Smart Skin Technologies, the Fredericton company that has commercialized a pressure-sensitive surface material, issued the following press release last week:

Smart Skin Expands Global Reach with New Executive Vice President for Europe

Brewing Expert Dr. Ing. Andreas Weideneder joins the Smart Skin Team

Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada -- Smart Skin Technologies Inc., the global leader in pressure management solutions for the bottling and packaging industries, announced today that Dr. Ing. Andreas Weideneder, of Gammelsdorf, Germany, has joined the company as Executive Vice President for Smart Skin Technologies Europe.

Smart Skin's patented solution measures pressure through an artificial touch-sensitive film, or "skin," providing large-scale operators with precise, real-time measurement on the production line for the first time. Smart Skin's European expansion follows a major round of venture capital funding announced in December of 2013.

"Smart Skin's patented technology is exactly what the beverage and packaging industries need – a practical solution to real time monitoring and management that increases production efficiency and saves material and manpower losses with a very attractive payback time as well as including other effects on sustainability and resource consumption," said Dr. Weideneder. "This is a problem that brewers and other bottlers have faced for many years. Smart Skin has brought the most technologically advanced solution to the market. I'm looking forward to bringing this solution to more companies in Europe"

Dr. Weideneder is a recognized international expert in the brewing and beverage industry. An executive with first-hand experience in managing breweries, he also operated a consultancy for several years serving regional and global brands. He is a member of the famous Bavarian Weideneder family, whose brewing history dates back to 1438. Dr. Weideneder has also been a faculty member at the world famous brewing university, Technical University Munich- Weihenstephan as well as a sworn expert at court for the international beverage industry.

As part of the rapidly evolving "Industrial Internet," Smart Skin's hardware and software capability has already been embraced by most of the top 10 beer brands in world, with other major food producers and packaging and container companies deploying it as well.

"Europe is a large market for the Smart Skin solution," said Smart Skin Technologies founder and CEO Kumaran Thillainadarajah. "Dr. Weideneder is a veteran of the brewing industry with unequalled experience in the European market. He will be a very strong leader to expand our European presence. We are thrilled that he has joined the Smart Skin team."

About Smart Skin Technologies

Based in Fredericton, Canada, Smart Skin Technologies' hardware and software solution provides bottling and packaging companies with precise, real-time measurement of pressure on production lines. This innovative technology has application across a wide range of industries. Companies in Europe and North America have deployed Smart Skin products in their operations. The Canadian Innovation Exchange (CIX) named the company to its 2013 CIX Top 20. For more information visit http://www.smartskintech.com or www.smartskintech.de or follow @SmartSkinTech on Twitter.

KIRA Awards Finalists Named

The organizing committee for the KIRA Awards– which recognize excellence in the knowledge industry in New Brunswick – has named its 2014 finalists, which include several members of the startup community.

The winners will be named May 15 at a dinner at the Fredericton Convention Centre. Following is the announcement from the organizing committee:

Fredericton—April 14, 2014 –The KIRA Organizing Committee is pumped to announce the 2014 KIRA Finalists (With a Little Help From Our Friends)

“This year marks the 16th Annual KIRA Awards and again we are impressed with the number of nominations and the calibre of those nominated,” said Co-chair Colleen Benson “With the knowledge industry playing such an important role in our daily lives and the economic health of our province, it is important to step back and recognize the amazing talent we have in New Brunswick”.

“The KIRA Awards have become a part of the fabric of our industry and the province as a whole because of our growing need for technology solutions” commented Co-chair Alan Gray “Each year we get to showcase just how innovative and smart our community is!”

Below are the 2014 KIRA finalists for each category in no particular order.

Export – Products & Services

•LuminUltra Technologies

•Ironflow Technologies

•SmartSkin Technolgies

Most Promising Start-Up

• Foodtender.com

• Ara Labs

• Xiplinx

Technological Advancement / Innovation (Private)

• SHIFT Energy

• SmartSkin Technologies

• Ara Labs

Technological Advancement / Innovation (Public)

• Elementary Literacy Inc.

• GNB – Clean Water Act Data Collection and Reporting cWave

• Atlantic Cancer Research Institute

Community Engagement & Industry Commitment

• Biorefinery Technology Scale Up Center

• Place Aux Competences

• New Brunswick Information Technology Council

Special Recognition

• David Alston

• Nicole LeBlanc

• Kevin Shiell

Good luck to all finalists and thank you to everyone that submitted a nomination.  Be sure to check our Twitter Feed @KIRAAwards for some video from last year’s winners – a little help from our friends!

The 2014 KIRA Awards will be held at the Fredericton Convention Centre on Thursday May 15th. For ticket information contact Wendy Gallant of Enterprise Fredericton at 444-4686.

For more information on the 2014 KIRAs, visit http://www.kiraawards.ca


Learning Tech in Halifax Schools

While countries such as China, Estonia and Britain prioritize teaching computer programming to the very young, most Canadian students do not learn how to code until the final years of high school. But a new lunch time tech club at Le Marchant St. Thomas Elementary School in Halifax is teaching programming to children aged nine and ten, and its organizers want to share their program across the province.
The tech club for students in grades four to six started at the school last September after dads Craig Brown and Derek MacDonald came up with the idea. MacDonald, a teacher with tech experience, put the course together. Now, the two of them run the club with the help of Grant Kennedy, also a teacher and father of elementary school age children.
A group of around 20 students turn up with their lunchboxes every Monday at noon and get on with working on their projects. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere. Students learn how to design their own computer games using simple, visual software such as Logo, Scratch or Tynker with assistance from their teachers, or even better, other students. 
“It’s about kids having fun. The freedom to make their own choices is a huge motivator,” said MacDonald. 
The software packages use colourful, drag and drop tools that are easy to operate and allow the children to experience success. For example, a child can choose to turn a car in a game left or right by picking a certain option. Their teachers say the students are learning logic, but they don’t have to worry about the colons and semi-colons of the syntax involved in writing regular code. The keenest students also access the sites from home.
“I have a non-tech teaching background, so I appreciate the fact that the software is easy to use, and therefore easy to pass onto others,” said Kennedy as he hovered over the youngsters, waiting to be called on for assistance. 
The children certainly seem engaged as they work singly or in small groups, creating little hubs of activity around the classroom. Asked for their views on their innovative lunchtime activity, Brown’s son Callum, aged nine, described programming as “challenging and fun”.
“You can do whatever you want, and we have really great teachers,” said Zach MacDonald, aged nine and three quarters.
The club does face challenges; scarce resources mean the kids have to use old equipment and there are internet-blank spots in the room where they meet. But the teachers have managed to keep the club accessible by charging a fee of just $30, and the number of girls in the group is growing -- there are now about five girls, or 25 per cent of the total. 
The three dads are keen to share what they have learned. 
“We want to get the word out,” said Brown, who is the CEO of Halifax tech startup Interview Rocket. “We’d like to hold webinars with interested parents and teachers around the province to let them know what’s worked for us and what hasn’t. We’d like to see this kind of program in every elementary school in the province. A bit of corporate sponsorship wouldn’t go amiss. We could get it around the province with little or no investment from school boards.”
Schools, teachers and parents around Nova Scotia interested in learning more about starting their own Tech Club for kids should contact the group at nstechkids@gmail.com.

Profile: Ozge Yeloglu’s Journey

Even in the 21st century, female computer scientists are few in number and women founders of tech startups are even scarcer, but Ozge Yeloglu doesn’t find her position lonely. The co-founder and CEO of Halifax-based data analytics venture topLog is focused on building her company, mentoring young women in computer science and teaching men in the field how to be less sexist toward their female counterparts.

Male computer scientists don’t always react well to female colleagues, according to Yeloglu, although this can be the result of poor communication as much as outright sexism. Being asked if she was a sales rep when she took her venture to Silicon Valley recently was a bit of a blow, but Yeloglu said she laughed it off.

“I’d gone to the Valley to build relationships with potential investors and partners and to focus on the environment and the competition,” she said. “We have raised some seed money, but will have to raise money again in the next year and it takes a long time to build relationships so I’m starting now, but an organizer thought I was a sales rep. I said, ‘I am kind of a sales person; the CEO makes sales.’ He just laughed and said, ‘That’s great.’”

TopLog was co-founded in 2013 by Yeloglu and two others: Canadian Patrick LaRoche, anothercomputer science student studying for his PhD at Dal;and recent PhD graduateTokunboMakanju, a Nigerian whose thesis formed the basis of the company.

Yeloglu said that topLogmakes life easier for IT operations teams by analyzing the events that take place over IT systems and identifying anything unusual. This knowledge can prevent systems from going down and alert administrators when something unexpected happens.

Originally from Corlu, near Istanbul, Turkey, Yeloglu came to Halifax in 2005 to take her masters in computer science at Dalhousie.

“At university, I found men assumed they were more tech-savvy than me,” she said. “They said I only got awards and scholarships because I am female. You get used to it, but now I realize if we don’t change their perspective they’ll never know they’re doing something wrong. And sometimes men and women communicate differently. If you point things out, they realize.”  

Getting more young women involved in computer science is a passion of hers and she has been actively involved in the Dalhousie Women in Technology Society, and CanWIT National Advisory Council, although during the last year, she has been too busy with topLog for much volunteer work and she has yet to finish her PhD.

“All kids need to know that with a computer science degree the possibilities are endless. For instance, my younger brother Utku is 19. He’s studying mechanical engineering at Dal and wants to get into robotics. He loves to code. Computer Science is not just building apps anymore.”       

Professionally, the last year has been incredibly stressful, Yeloglu said, but worth it.

“First-time entrepreneurs don’t know anything. I’ve had to learn about human resources, communications, how not to take things personally. We were so lucky to get into Volta (the Halifax incubator for startups). It’s not just about a cheap rent, as some may think; it’s about networking, connections, mentorship. Also we did Launch 36, the startup accelerator in New Brunswick; that was very useful too.” 

Yeloglu said topLog’s three founders all love Halifax and want to stay. “But can we? When we get investment from Silicon Valley we may have to move to the Valley. Time will tell. We’re hitting our milestones. We’ve raised our seed round. It’s been a thrill, although that’s probably not a healthy addiction. I couldn’t take a compliment before, but I’ve learned how to. Too many people interpret humility as lack of confidence. In my head, I have to push myself to be arrogant, so I can look confident to those people.”   

Charities Knocking on Fundmetric’s Door

Mark Hobbs and Chris Kolmatycki knew they were on to something with FundMetric when clients said they would sign up for the product that helps charities improve their fundraising before it was even completed.

The two former advertising execs realized a few years ago that charities they were working with needed an online tool that would help them communicate with donors at the best time possible, and help them to organize their fundraising campaigns.

They gravitated toward the startup world with the encouragement of several people, including Milan Vrekic, the Executive Director of the Volta startup house in Halifax. And now they are on the cusp of launching FundMetric, which uses predictive analytics to help charities to target donors under the best circumstances possible.

“What we’ve learned recently is that fundraisers are sending other fundraisers to our door, and they’re asking about it even though they know it’s not ready yet,” said Hobbs in an interview in the company’s office in Volta.

The product is a software-as-a-service tool that lets charity workers communicate with their best donors and plot fundraising campaigns. It presents lists of donors and their contact details, highlighting how they like to be contacted. It can stream the list of donors into groups, so the charity can congratulate grads of a university that won a sports championship. Or it can send out Christmas cards to Christian donors and Hanukkah greetings to Jewish donors.  And through a simple drag-and-drop mechanism, Fundmetric lays out the timeline of a fundraising campaign, plotting when and how to contact donors.

The data analytics in the tool can help charities find the best time and method to approach clients – especially the clients the vast number of middle-income clients that don’t get the attention that wealthy donors do.

“The number of charities in need of more metrics is huge,” said Kolmatycki. “Ninety percent of their time is spent on 10 percent of the donors. … If we can personalize the lower end, we can help them bring in more money.”

The analytics can even help with the operations of the charity. For example, FundMetric is working with a charity that provides breakfasts to low-income high school students. By examining weather data, it can tell the charity when storms are coming. Fewer students arrive at school early on storm days, meaning the charity can prepare fewer breakfasts on such days and make its money go farther.

FundMetric now has one paying customer and is in close talks with two or three others. Its Lead Developer Scott Brown is working on a mobile product that will allow charity organizers to work on campaigns regardless of where they are. It will soon do a full launch, and when it does it will enter a huge market. It is first targeting health and education charities, and there are 5,000 such organizations in the U.S. alone. They raised $63 billion last year and spent $12.6 billion doing so – without the aid of a product like FundMetric.

“I think we’re going to change the way fundraising is done, especially in Canada,” said Kolmatycki.

StudentFresh Builds on CBMC Finals

When Canada’s Business Model Competition was held at Dalhousie University in March, the leading Atlantic Canadian entry was a team from Memorial University that had only been working together for two months.

StudentFresh is a platform designed to link up businesses needing contract work with students that have the skills to provide the work. And it is working toward a product that will tell businesses instantly how other employers have rated the student’s work.

“From talking to businesses, we found that they wanted to hire based on talent that’s validated by previous work,” Co-Founder SahandSeifi told the judges at the competition. “What’s great about StudentFresh is the talent in our database is validated with real work experience.”

StudentFresh began in the last few months when Co-Founder Joseph Teo returned to MUN from a work term and wanted to do more contract work in his area of expertise. Looking around the university, he noticed most of his friends were working part-time at fast-food joints, despite the talent they were gaining in technology and other disciplines.

He teamed up with fellow students Seifi and Anthony Sartor and they used lean startup methodology to try to find a profitable solution to the problem.

Once they talked to business people – especially in the tech sector in St. John’s – they realized that companies were having problems finding people who could complete contract work. So they began to work on a platform that would link the two parties.

They learned that a key component in the product would be for the ability for students and employers to rate one another once the job is finished. As students build up a body of work, it would allow potential employers to view their references and find the best people.

The development started off as a project, but the team decided to enter the Business Model Competition, and placed fourth amid teams from across Canada.

After returning to St. John’s, the team continued to work on the project and they are considering adjusting the model so students end up proposal projects.  The idea is that an employer could post a problem and students would propose a solution. If both sides agree, the student would be hired to complete the project.

The trio has launched the beta-test on their existing product and will see how students and employers like it over the next few months.

“We want to know what features are good for them,” said Teo. “We know they [employers] want quality and credibility. We want to achieve the quality and credibility part of it.”

They are graduating this spring and intend to continue to work on the project through the summer so they could have a full launch in September, when the new school year begins. They have been accepted into Launchpad, an incubator for student businesses at MUN, and are looking for some seed funding.  It’s doubtful they’ll need a lot of capital as they’ve proven their frugality.

“So far on this journey,” Seifi told the judges at the competition, “we have taken 60 days to get this far and we have spent 25 bucks.”

Uhma Gives Back with Tech Ed Project

Two years after the company he co-founded was bought out by Salesforce.com, Gavin Uhma is giving back to the community with a new educational initiative that will help teach aspiring tech entrepreneurs how to build companies.

Uhma is still the chief technical officer of GoInstant, a Halifax company that has developed tools that allow people on different computers to work together on the same screen. But in his spare time, he’s working with others to develop an online course to help teach technology and entrepreneurship.

“We’re looking to people within the business community, proven startup founders, and asking them what you’d need to know to launch a company,” said Uhma in an interview last week.

Uhma declined to discuss who he is working with on this project, but said they hope to develop a complete course that will assemble all the online content needed to help develop startups. The content could be massive open online courses, or MOOCs, in which professors post university courses online for anyone to take. Or it could be a blog put out by startup specialists anywhere in the world.

“The idea is that it’s very goal driven,” said Uhma. “So say you have a goal to build an app or develop a pitch deck. All the resources you need would be in one place.”

He is now hoping to contact other tech entrepreneurs to help him find the best content available on the web, and to pass judgment on the material he and his partners have already assembled. “It’s really a curriculum of all the best content that’s out there as vetted by the best entrepreneurs around.”

He said the online program could be used as the course at an accelerator, or could even become an accredited course in a university. The idea is to bring enthusiastic entrepreneurs to the point at which they could join an accelerator or incubator to develop their idea into a bona fide business.

Still only 29, Uhma is renowned in tech circles as the guy who came up with the idea of a co-browsing system. At an Innovacorp social event in Sydney a few years ago, he shared the idea with Innovacorp’s entrepreneur-in-residence Jevon MacDonald, and together they developed GoInstant. In very short order, they received $1.7 million in funding and sold the company (reportedly for more than $70 million) to Salesforce.

While the business has been growing, the team has become evangelists for developing tech entrepreneurship in the region. MacDonald is the driving force behind Volta, the startup house in Halifax, and has been active in the movement to teach coding to school children.

Uhma said they have a broad vision to develop entrepreneurial talent: teach young people about technology in schools, use Uhma’s online system to develop entrepreneurial talent, and then encourage them to enter Volta.

Their projects are perfectly in keeping with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff’s so-called one-one-one philosophy, in which one per cent of the company’s profits, staff time and products are given to charity.

Uhma added he is putting some “seed funding into the project,” which he hopes will be launched in earnest in September.

Hankinson’s Compilr Exits

Compilr, a Halifax startup that teaches people how to code, has been acquired by lynda.com, a Carpinteria, Calif.-based online education company, for an undisclosed sum.

Founder Patrick Hankinson said last September he was willing to sell all or part of Compilr, and that he would be willing to continue with the company as a standalone company if he didn’t receive the price he wanted. Obviously, Lynda.com stepped forward with the right price.

Founded in 1995, lynda.com provides individual and enterprise customers with access to the lynda.com video library, which provides training in software, technology, creative, and business skills.

Compilr will allow it to teach its clients coding, which it views as a key competency given that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts software developer employment will grow 22 percent from 2012 to 2022.

“We recognize the growing market demand for programming language instruction and are committed to providing a broad range of high-quality computer programming courses,” Eric Robison, president and CEO of lynda.com said in a statement. “This aligns with our learning philosophy and allows us to maintain and grow our market leadership.”

Hankinson said this morning that he and Co-Founder Tim Speed will continue to operate Compilr from Halifax and grow the operations.

“We are very excited for this acquisition,” said Hankinson. “From a technology perspective, it is gratifying knowing technology built in Nova Scotia becomes part of the lynda.com family.  Although we cannot talk about the specifics of the acquisition, I can attest that everyone is extremely happy with the outcome of the deal. “

Hankinson launched Compilr in the summer of 2011 as a tool that would let people write code on their browser. It was exciting new technology that earned Hankinson awards at the 2011 SeedCamp New York and a trip to the SeedCamp finals in London. (Our blog on his trip to SeedCamp was the seventh article ever to appear on Entrevestor.) 

But he had no clear revenue model so he, Speed and a team of programmers spent a few years developing an online academy to teach people to write code. It attracted hundreds of thousands of users and allowed the company to start charging.

In October 2012, Compilr began an emailing campaign to its clients advertising its premium products, and it upped the subscription price from $4.95 to $10. There was an immediate jump in revenue, and last summer the company decided it would no longer offer the free service to new clients (other than a 14-day trial period). As of last summer, revenue was increasing 20 percent per month.

This exit is already increasing the stature of Hankinson. At 26, he has developed and exited Compilr, and was one of the founders of the wildly successful Tether, which won the 2010 I-3 Competition. He’s also been involved in several smaller side projects.

In public appearances, he has joked that he pitched Compilr to 35 venture capital funds with no result. But that now means that the benefits of the exit are claimed almost entirely by the founding team.

The other winners:  the Volta startup house was home to Compilr for a few months, and can now claim a successful exit among its charges; and mentorship expert Permjot Valia, who took Hankinson to SeedCamp in the summer of 2011.


Third Starting Lean Course Wraps Up

The third Starting Lean course at Dalhousie University wrapped up on Thursday evening with the announcement that one team, Hindsight Health Inc. would attend the International Business Model Competition in Provo, Utah, next month.

For the last year and a half, business professors Mary Kilfoil and Ed Leach have been ushering teams of young entrepreneurs through the program that has virtually no lectures or exams. Its only requirement is that participants use lean methodology to begin a business. It has helped to launch such developing startups as Analyze Re, Spring Loaded Technologies and Sage Mixology.

The latest course was notable for the vast range of sectors the teams were operating in. The businesses included a tire storage operation, an institute to develop mental resiliency for companies’ employees, and a business producing biofuel feedstock. There were two teams developing apps related to bars, and one has produced a device to be worn over gloves to let people use their cell phones on cold days.

Several of these teams, including Hindsight Health, have indicated they plan to develop their projects into businesses.

Hindsight Health, founded by Justin Javorek and Cam Seiffert , was celebrated at the end of the evening for doing well in a few competitions.  The company competed in Canada’s Business Model Competition at Dal last night, but didn’t quite make it to the finals. It has been able to proceed to the 40-team international competition on a bye.

The company’s product is an app that tells doctors’ patients on the day of an appointment whether the doctor is on schedule.

“We believe that by harnessing modern communication technologies, we can make the healthcare system more efficient, more informed, and more effective,” said Javorek.

The company also placed third in the BoyneClark Innovative Ideas Competition in Halifax last month.

Profile: Shukla’s Lean Engineering

You might expect a course in entrepreneurship to be based in a business school, but the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton melds talents and disciplines by teaching entrepreneurship in the engineering faculty. This summer, the school will further expand the reach of its entrepreneurship diploma program by establishing a summer institute for arts, technology and business students.

 “We have created a destination spot where business and engineering students work together,” said Dhirendra Shukla, the chairman of the Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management & Entrepreneurship, or TME, since 2009.

 “And this summer, we’re going deeper into the pool and bringing artistically creative people into the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The students may be developers of wood or clay products, 3D producers or game makers. We want people who haven’t been traditionally involved to create a richer community.”

With an MBA and a PhD in entrepreneurial finance, as well as qualifications in both chemical engineering and computing and performance engineering, Shukla straddles both worlds. Born in Rajasthan, India, raised in Zambia and educated in the U.K., Shukla has worked with telecom company Nortel Networks (Canada), and chemical company Croda International (U.K.).

He explained that business faculty professors at the university identify key entrepreneurial students, who are then paired with engineering students. Together, they work on novel ideas or with startups or companies that are struggling. Alternatively, they may work with professors to commercialize an idea.

The blending has proven very successful, with around 10 start-ups formed last year. Success stories from last year include a team that won New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition. Another team of chemical engineering students recently appeared on CBC’s Dragons’ Den. The team asked the investors for $200,000 for 15 per cent of their industrial hand-cleaning business. They received various offers and chose to accept Jim Treliving’s offer of $200,000 for 22 per cent.

The TME program started 25 years ago and has burgeoned. Last year, there were more than 300 students enrolled and there are more than 420 this year. The school has just appointed a second entrepreneur-in-residence, Jordan Smith, the founder of OneLobby, to work alongside Rivers Corbett, co-founder of Relish Gourmet Burgers. There may soon also be a couple of designers-in-residence and a scholar-in-residence.

 “We are adding more skill sets and points of view to the mix,” said Shukla. “We consider ourselves to be management educators, but we also teach more hands-on skills, such as performance excellence and project management. We integrate design, strategy, marketing and finance courses to make entrepreneurship part and parcel of our DNA.”

Part of the diploma’s success stems from its use of the Lean methodology philosophy developed by Steve Blank and the Lean Startup Movement theory popularized by Blank’s former student, Eric Ries.

The Lean approach aims to shorten development cycles, measure progress and gain customer feedback.

 “Previously, entrepreneurship was taught from books, but things have changed,” Shukla said. “Now experiential learning is very important. There is a huge emphasis on taking the tools of entrepreneurship and getting students to do it.

 “Before, people wrote pages and pages of business plans,” he continued. “But no one really understood them because businesses shift. In our diploma, students put their entire business plan on a one-page canvas. It’s a visual thing. People can see why you move things around as the business changes. That’s very powerful.”

Like many entrepreneurs, Shukla sees boosting entrepreneurship among the young as part of the answer for this region’s lacklustre economy. For himself, he has studied and worked around the world, but is happy to be here.

 “My one-year trial period has turned into five years. At first, I thought there’d be no way myself or my family would want to stay in Fredericton. But it’s a beautiful city, the people are amazing, the campus is so nice and I love my work.”

Code Kids Brings Tech Education to TV

CBC viewers across Canada will soon learn how educational programs in Estonia and Finland are serving as the model for an experiment in computer education for Maritime schoolchildren.

The national broadcaster will soon present Code Kids, the collaborative work of Fredericton-based tech evangelist David Alston and Greg Hemmings, the founder of Hemmings House film studio in Saint John.

Not only will the documentary demonstrate the power of tech-nical education, but it also will be part of a movement to improve computer education at New Brunswick schools.

Alston, the chief innovation officer at Introhive, the Fredericton- and Washington-based relationship analytics company, began to work with Premier David Alward last year on a scheme to teach coding to children in New Brunswick grade schools. When he linked up with his old friend Hemmings, they developed a concept for a documentary on best practices for teaching the subject.

Hemmings House  had recently completed a documentary called Sistema Revolution about the legendary music education program for children of all income levels in Venezuela.

He and Alston decided to apply the same approach to the tech project. They would find the best computer education programs in the world, which happened to be in Estonia and Finland, and use a documentary to display how they could be replicated domestically.

They learned that the two little European countries were leaps and bounds ahead of most of the world in teaching programming to schoolchildren.

Estonia in particular is famous for having made technology the centre of its economic progress since it was freed from the Soviet Union a quarter century ago.

Alston, Hemmings and a few others flew to the two countries last year to see what was happening.

“It just blew our minds,” said Alston in a recent interview. “It was amazing. We had so many, so many amazing interviews that we just had to share it all.”

The result is a documentary that reveals what is happening in Finland and Estonia, but more importantly what is starting to happen in Atlantic Canada.

Alward recently announced that Alston would work on a new educational initiative called Brilliant Labs, which encourages teachers throughout New Brunswick to adopt new strategies for teaching programming.

The goal is to produce a generation of computer-literate citizens who can compete in the modern economy.

The program seeks to find teachers and students who embrace top-level computer education and finance their projects in the hopes that their success attracts other teachers, schools and students.

“We need to nurture and fund a few of the most innovative teachers across our province,” said Alward at the recent R3 Gala in Fredericton.

“Just as we need to seed our best young startups, we need to see next generation of minds.”

Code Kids — excerpts of which can be found at codekids.ca — aims to display how a strong grounding in computer education can change a child’s life because of the abundant opportunities in the field.

“One of the major thrusts in this documentary is that we’ve identified that the opportunities are limited for our kids in Atlantic Canada,” said Hemmings.

“So we’re losing our kids. If you have the tool sets to do this, you can actually build something that will build a career for yourself right here in Atlantic Canada.”

Press Release: SimplyCast Co-op

SimplyCast, the Dartmouth maker of multichannel marketing platforms, issued the following press release:

Dalhousie Co-op Student Creates Bus Time Program Using SimplyCast 360 Customer Flow Communication Platform

The innovative Ride On program allows users to text a number to receive detailed information about bus departure times on their mobile phone.

SimplyCast challenges each co-op student with a unique project to help build leadership skills and grow the company.

The SimplyCast 360 Customer Flow Communication platform is ideal for solving communication challenges in a variety of diverse industries.

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, April 2, 2014 - SimplyCast.com, a global leader in multi-channel marketing

Platform-as-a-Service solutions, today announced the launch of Ride On, a bus time program developed by a Dalhousie co-op student.

Madeleine Martin began her SimplyCast co-op term in January and started working on the Ride On program soon after. The SimplyCast team believes in putting each co-op student in charge of an important project, which allows students to develop management skills and gain experience leading a project. Co-op students are talented and motivated, and SimplyCast wants to create an interactive learning experience where students have the opportunity to contribute to the company's future.

The Ride On program allows users to text their bus stop and route number to (778) 383-7446 and receive an immediate text message with up-to-date information about when the next bus will be arriving. This information is gathered and organized by the SimplyCast 360 Customer Flow Communication platform. To learn more about the Ride On program and Madeleine Martin, please visit



SimplyCast has many career opportunities for talented students and new graduates looking for a fun and challenging work environment. Students form an integral part of the SimplyCast team, and

SimplyCast is always looking for passionate individuals to add their contributions to the team.

“We believe that creating the next generation of leaders begins with giving students and new employees the opportunity to lead their own project and develop the management skills they need for success and growth,” said Saeed El-Darahali, President and CEO of SimplyCast. “Halifax is lucky to have so much young talent, and Madeleine Martin's unique use of our marketing automation platform is just one example of the innovative ideas coming from local students.”

The SimplyCast 360 platform can be used by almost any industry to automate communication processes. Doctors can use it to effectively reach their patients based on their medical history, automotive dealerships can use it to send timely reminders and personalized promotions to customers based on their vehicle data, emergency messages can be sent quickly and efficiently to thousands of people through multiple communication methods and much more. The platform is powerful and highly customizable.

To learn more about doing a co-op with SimplyCast, visit http://www.simplycast.com/aboutus/students-new-grads/. To view all SimplyCast career opportunities, check out



SimplyCast 360 is an automation marketing solution designed to reduce manual tasks while allowing organizations to communicate with their customers and clients in a highly targeted way that was previously unavailable on the market. SimplyCast 360 is used by the e-commerce and automotive industries, sports teams, nonprofit organizations, marketing agencies and government. It is also ideal for communication in emergency situations such as forest fires, bomb threats or blizzard warnings.

About SimplyCast

SimplyCast.com is a leading provider of interactive and multi-channel communication software for organizations worldwide. The company’s 360 Customer Flow Communication Platform is a featurerich solution combining marketing automation, inbound marketing and interactive communication.

With customers in over 175 countries, including many of the most recognized brand names around the globe in retail, non-profit and hospitality industries, SimplyCast provides organizations the ability to effectively reach customers on their preferred mode of communication.

For More Information Contact:

Veronica Taylor


ClinicServer Closes Sale to Biosign

ClinicServer, a Saint John-based company that helps health clinics digitize their operations and records, has closed its deal to be taken over by Biosign Technologies Inc., a publicly traded Toronto company with complementary businesses.

The buyer said on New Year’s Eve it would pay $1.96 million – all in stock except for $75,000 in cash -- for the Saint John company. The deal, which closed Monday, allows ClinicServer to retain its brand and New Brunswick headquarters and operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Biosign.

Biosign, whose stock trades on the Toronto Venture Exchange, provides cloud-based administrative solutions for the home care industry. Last May, it announced a partnership with ClinicServer so they could roll out the Toronto company’s Pulsewave product to ClinicServer’s 250-plus physiotherapy clinic customers across Canada.

ClinicServer CEO Chris Boudreau said in an interview that the two company’s products proved to complement one another completely so the best way forward was to combine the companies. What’s more, Biosign operates in a market growing far more strongly than the broader healthcare market, so there are advantages in combing the companies.

“This was a complete no-brainer,” said Boudreau. “The target markets are all complementary and we offer products that can build on each other.”

He added that the deal is leading to growth at the Saint John office and that ClinicServer is now in the process of doubling its seven-person staff.

“There is going to be a huge investment in terms of resources into what we have here,” said Boudreau. “So it is definitely good news for New Brunswick.”

ClinicServer helps health clinics use cloud-based software for scheduling, billing, maintaining patient records and other common tasks.  The company says its basic service can produce a 5 percent increase in each professional’s revenues by allowing him or her to see more patients, and the premium service produces an 18 percent revenue increase.

The origins of the company date back to 1999 when Paul Kasdan, now the Chief Strategic Officer, began to develop software that would streamline the processes in his orthotics clinic. Boudreau joined 11 years later, and they began to spin out their product to the so-called allied healthcare field – that is, clinics that meet patients’ needs outside mainstream health providers.  They secured $1 million in angel funding from across the country in 2010.

BioSign recently released a strategy statement outlining how it will use the acquired company to accelerate its own sales growth.  For example, it said it will create a unique service that automates the processing and delivery of allied health benefit claims from insurance companies.



Modest Tree Lands Military Contract

Four arms of the Canadian military have licensed 3-D training software from a Halifax startup to help personnel learn how to work with machines and equipment.

Modest Tree Media Inc. announced this month that the Canadian military is the first customer of its Modest 3D software, which is designed to help users write and update 3D interactive training programs. Having met with representatives of the military at the I/ITSEC defence and aerospace conference in Orlando, Fla., in December, the company met several times with personnel and ended up licensing the product to the army, navy, air force and the Canadian Defence Academy.

“Once we get the Canadian military behind us, it makes it easier to get through to the U.S. military, which is one of our goals,” said CEO Saman Sannandeji in an interview in the Volta startup house, where the company has its headquarters. “Not only that but the Canadian military has very close ties to the U.K. military.”

Formed last year by Sannandeji, chief operating officer Emily Sannandeji, and chief technology officer Steven Vermeulen, Modest Tree has designed a software-as-a-service product that reduces the cost and time involved in making three-dimensional training programs by as much as 85 per cent. The programs are intended for users working with equipment — repairing or building engines, for example — and can be used by training or technical experts without needing expertise in animation or programming.

Modest 3D lets instruction designers or subject matter experts create 3D interactive training programs and publish them on any device. The software enables users to take a 3D model, apply built-in animation, and create a step-by-step lesson to train people on the maintenance, assembly and/or operation of an object or machine.

“Modest3D appears to not only provide DND with state-of-the-art learning content but if done properly it will result in cost savings, increased production rates and provide a substantial impact towards training modernization,” Bill Railer, senior staff officer of learning technologies for the Canadian Defence Academy, said in a statement.

After graduating from the Launch36 accelerator in October, the Modest Tree founders ramped up their sales efforts and identified the defence and aerospace segment as one of its key markets.

After it first made contact with the military in Orlando, the company held several follow-up meetings that culminated with a meeting in Toronto at which 20 people from various segments of the military all tested the software. “We had never had so many people with hands-on experience with the software, so it was great for feedback,” said Emily Sannandeji.

That session led to a paid contract with the military, even though Modest Tree will not fully release Modest 3D until the DEFSEC defence and aerospace trade show in Halifax in September. The company is continuing to work with the military on adding features to Modest 3D, which will be included in the full release of the product.

The founders said the company has a strong pipeline for additional customers, both in the defence segment and among original equipment manufacturers.

Press Release: Hashpi.pe in Florida

Norex, a Halifax website producer that has incubated several new products, put out the following press release yesterday for its Hashpi.pe product: 

Hashpi.pe takes on the law

From April 1-4 Hashpi.pe will be helping connect lawyers and legal marketers from around the world. It will be allowing them to come out of their shells, share their thoughts and ramp up the party. Although you might think the law profession would be the last to  to come together around the pipe, in this case you would be wrong.

Hashpi.pe, an innovation project from Halifax based web application firm Norex.ca, was built in 2013 to offers users, like the Legal Marketing Association, a tool to share all hashtagged content related to their topic online. It is a visual canvas, called a pipe, that is fuelled by content with hashtags from Twitter, Instagram, Vine and Facebook offering a visual summary of images, tweets and videos to enhance the users brand or event.

The original idea came from developers at Norex who are expected to spend 20% of their work day on innovation projects. The idea of Hashpi.pe was to offer more than just a twitter feed; to not limit the content to one specific social platforms but instead to invite everyone to the party. “I am an Instagram girl” says Leah Skerry, Partner at Norex, “For me Hashpi.pe allows me to contribute to the conversation by posting pictures rather than tweeting”.

Since its launch Hashpi.pe has been used by several National and International clietns, the most recent being the LMA, to enhance their event or simply be a place online to capture a conversation. “Our goal,” says Partner Julia Rivard, “is to have every student in North America chosing this Hashpi.pe for thier party”.

In addition to Hashpi.pe, Norex will be featuring another innovation project at the LMA Conference this week called Jamsesh. This online game is an open website which randomly assignes users a keypad on which they can play music with anyone else in the world who is using Jamsesh online. When Jamsesh was originally launched in the fall of 2013, it saw an outstanding 500,000 hits in the course of four hours.

To make it extra special for the Legal Marketing Association Conference, Norex has enhanced the keypads so users will randomly be assigned keys with the heads of famous lawyers. So log on From April 1-4 and you could be playing music with Judge Judy, Matlock or even Hillary Clinton!

About Norex.ca

Norex.ca is a web application and invention company based in Halifax, Nova Scotia who focuses on building technology for clients around the world in lawm healthcare, education, sports and entertainment.

Written by: By: Julia Rivard Dexter, Partner, Norex.ca

NBIF, East Valley Back Agora Mobile

Agora Mobile, a Moncton startup that is developing a social network for app development, has raised $1 million in equity funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, East Valley Ventures and several angel investors.

NBIF said in a statement it invested $500,000 in the company, and the remainder came from members of East Valley Ventures and other angels.

Founded by CEO Simon Gauvin, Agora has set out to let anyone create apps that work on all mobile devices and that never have to be downloaded or updated. The company let users join a social network on which they can develop their own apps. They can share these apps with other people, sell them and use other people’s apps.

Agora’s patented system gives app builders – whether they are beginners or experts --  a visual development tool for the creation and testing of apps, so people don’t have to be able to write code to make apps.

The social network, which is called Vizwik, provides a platform for the delivery and sale of apps to its members - replacing the app store.

Agora has recruited hundreds of students of all ages across Atlantic Canada to build and test apps as the company fine-tunes its current version, now in private beta.

“This is a perfect example of what’s called disruptive innovation, and what we like to see,” said NBIF chair Robert Hatheway in the statement. “Companies that can take something that is currently very expensive and time consuming, and make it less expensive and more accessible to people that need it, but can’t afford to do the way it’s done right now.”

Gauvin told Entrevestor earlier this year he is looking for more people for an open beta-test in the autumn. Agora has a signup page at http://www.agoramobile.com He be.lieves the full launch and the introduction of an enterprise product will take place early next year.  

The company has been financed so far through investment from individuals, though Gauvin declined to say how much money he’s received. He said the project has a “long runway”.

While taking his PhD in computer science at Dalhousie University, Gauvin developed his own programming language, which is more visual than standard languages. That means it’s more accessible because people tend to respond more positively to visual presentations than to letters, numbers and symbols.

The Agora Mobile team – which now numbers 11 members – has developed Vizwik as a patented platform-as-a-service, which serves as the foundation of the social network. It works across all smartphone platforms. People can sign up free, add friends like on Facebook or have followers like on Twitter. 

Big Data Can Help Feed the World

With this cruel winter still making its presence felt, scientists and farmers met Saturday at Wolfville’s Acadia University to learn how big data can help the agricultural sector cope with extreme temperatures and other problems.

Although big data is an emerging field, attendees heard how its analysis can protect crops from cold, increase plant resilience to disease and improve plant breeding and productivity.

Big data is already lessening the impacts of extreme and fluctuating winter temperatures on grapes in Ontario’s vineyards, said keynote speaker Jim Willwerth of the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI).

Willwerth said temperatures have decimated fruits such as apples in Ontario this winter, but the climactic impacts on grapes have been lessened by the work of the CCOVI, based at Brock University.

With financial support from vine-growers and federal and provincial governments, the CCOVI has developed a vine alert risk management program that provides free and specific information to growers. For instance, a grower at Four Mile Creek may receive regional cold alerts or a report on the cold-hardiness of Chardonnay grape buds at Four Mile Creek during 2011-2012.  The data can even reveal hardiness variations between different vintages of the same grape.

“Winter injury is a great threat to success … Cold hardiness is a complex trait depending on genetic, environmental and seasonal factors,” Willwerth told those gathered for the inaugural event of the Acadia Institute for Data Analytics, a seminar called Data Analytics for the Wine and Fruit Growing Industries.

Since 2010, the CCOVI has tested over 40 varieties of grape at 31 locations at various times, to measure the interplay between site, grape type and climate. The data reveal the cold-tolerance of different vines and how cold-tolerance varies with the season and weather.

Research revealed that during March-April of 2012, extreme temperature swings meant that grape buds lost an alarming 15 degrees of cold hardiness over two weeks. CCOVI scientists alerted growers who were able to use warming techniques, including wind machines which circulate air to warm vines, to lessen the impact. Scientists then followed up to see how effective these methods were in reducing bud damage. 

Speaker Colin Bell, a former scientist and current farmer, also revealed his survey of Nova Scotia grape growers, which has revealed the impact of Grape Crown Gall, a plant cancer, across different vineyards and different grape varieties. Bell’s survey showed that aged vines can remain free of disease if they are well-managed. He said this kind of study can also be applied to other common problems, like mildew. 

Other speakers included Sean Myles who discussed data-driven apple breeding in the Annapolis Valley; Angus Ells, whose topic was developing a pest-monitoring system for wild blueberries and David Colville who spoke on, ‘What will grow where?’

In a final, wide-ranging discussion on the potential applications of academic research, panelists and audience members stressed the importance of communication between farmers and scientists to ensure that research translates into benefits on the farm.

“The two worlds are far apart and they have to be brought together,” said Bell. “The farmers I’ve met say, ‘Okay, prove you can do something that will benefit me on my farm.’”

Willwerth said that it’s important to build trust between the industry and the university or institution. “As a researcher I want to get ahead, to get published, but I have to step back and say, ‘I want to work with industry and help them as well.’”

Innovacorp, Angels Back Up My Game

Halifax-based Up My Game has landed funding from Innovacorp and a handful of angel investors, and has added a seasoned hand to its board of directors.

The company, which aims to develop the world’s best video tool for coaches, announced Friday that it raised a $250,000 seed investment from Innovacorp. CEO and Founder David Keefe added in an email that the company had also drawn a bit of investment from some angels.

He said in a statement from Innovacorp that he will use the money to roll out the product and for corporate development.

"We're pleased to have the seed round of financing concluded and be able to get our offering in the hands of more people,” said Keefe in the statement.

Up My Game’s product is an easy-to-use, affordable app that lets coaches take video of athletes with their phones or devices and then work with the film to improve the athlete’s performance. They can share it, make notes or diagrams on it and send it anywhere in the world.

Up My Game also announced Friday that Darren Burke has become a director of the company. He is a former elite athlete, university professor, and was the founder of RIVALUS Inc., a Halifax-based sports nutrition company that was acquired by an Illinois-based manufacturing company in 2013.

“We know that having somebody of Darren Burke's caliber on our board is going to be invaluable as we head into our next growth phase,” said Keefe.

Keefe, who has more than 15 years of experience building and operating companies, has signed licensing deals with several sports organizations in the United States, the United Kingdom and locally.

"In an increasingly competitive world, Up My Game's platform provides coaches and athletes with a performance-enhancing edge," said Dawn Umlah, investment manager at Innovacorp. 

NL Backs Build, Launches New Fund

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador on Thursday embraced the startup economy by announcing a $10 million investment in Build Ventures and the creation of a new VC operation, the Venture Newfoundland and Labrador Fund.

In delivering the 2014 budget, Finance Minister Charlene Johnson said the government aims to support innovative businesses with high growth potential.

“Access to venture capital in emerging growth sectors, such as ocean and Arctic technology and other knowledge-based industries, will improve the global competitiveness of companies operating in those sectors, strengthen employment opportunities and drive economic diversification in Newfoundland and Labrador,” she said in the speech.

Managed by Rob Barbara and Patrick Keefe, Build Ventures launched in 2013 with investments from the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I., as well as the Business Development Bank, Moncton-based Technology Venture Corp. and the founders. The total funding of $48.5 million was sufficient to get the fund off the ground, but Barbara and Keefe never made a secret of the fact that they wanted more funding from both public and private sources.

In particular, they wanted funding from Newfoundland and Labrador so that Build would be a pan-regional effort. Meanwhile, in St. John’s, several influential business people were encouraging the government to make the investment in Build to encourage a greater flow of VC money into Newfoundland startups. (Disclosure: Both Build Ventures and the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development sponsor Entrevestor.)

The fund has had an active presence in Newfoundland in the past year, sponsoring the activities of Startup NL and other groups related to the startup community.

Keefe said this morning that Build has now raised $65 million and is no longer raising money for its first fund. As well as the Newfoundland and Labardor government, the it has received additional funds from one institution and two individuals.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is going one step further and setting up a provincially based venture fund, the Venture Newfoundland and Labrador Fund. Johnson said the details will be revealed later, but it can be assumed the goal will be to make seed investments in local startups with the hope of attracting co-investors, especially in later rounds.

The Venture Newfoundland and Labrador Fund will be the fourth VC fund overseen by a provincial government in the region. The others are the Innovacorp, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and Nova Scotia Business Inc.

"We are delighted to have participation from Newfoundland and Labrador," said Keefe. "Given our region's size, a coordinated approach to early stage investment makes sense. We are also excited by the announcement of the Venture Newfoundland and Labrador Fund. We look forward to working closely with that fund once its launched."

Build Ventures has so far invested in three companies – Fredericton- and Washington-based Introhive, Halifax-based Affinio and Fredericton-based Smart Skin Technologies. 

Profile: Jeff White’s Teamwork

Whether he’s coaching young basketball players or mentoring fledgling entrepreneurs, Jeff White, co-founder and chief operating officer of New Brunswick’s East Valley Ventures, lives his belief that success depends on building strong teams.

 “A team approach is the central cog of families, organizations or companies,” said the six-foot-six former varsity player, who played for St. Francis Xavier University during the 1980s.

 “Individuals may be skilled and capable, but I believe that people need help. You can’t be a solo artist in the global business arena. Global businesses need people who will contribute toward and focus on the greater good even while the headlines may go to someone else.”

White, originally from St. John’s, N.L., graduated from St. F.X. with a business degree, later becoming a chartered accountant. Each summer, he returns to the university as one of the senior coaches at the school’s popular annual summer basketball camp. He now lives and works in Saint John, N.B.

After two decades spent leading ICT companies through Canadian and U.S. venture capital financings, cross-border IPOs (initial public offerings) and international M&A activities (mergers and acquisitions), White has been part of many successful teams and helped write some headlines.

As the chief financial officer for social media monitoring company, Radian6, White executed its sale to San Francisco tech giant Salesforce.com for $326 million in 2012. It was a sale that garnered a lot of attention.

He has also held the role of chief financial officer with companies such as Deloitte, IMagicTV, Q1 Labs and Genesys Laboratories Canada.

Radian6 was one of his career highlights.

 “It was a fast-growing and dynamic company and most clients didn’t even know it was Atlantic Canadian,” he said. “Its location was irrelevant.”

Working at Genesys, between 1996 and 1999, was the most formative experience of his professional life.

 “It was the first time I was exposed to a global software company. I met people and clients from around the world. I was a finance professional, but I realized I could be exposed to global things without having to leave Atlantic Canada.”

It was while at Genesys that White met legendary New Brunswick businessman Gerry Pond, with whom he co-founded East Valley Ventures and who also acts as chairman.

 “Gerry is one of the most humble and committed individuals I’ve ever met,” White said. “He encourages skills that you didn’t know you had. He keeps broadening the way you think.”

At East Valley Ventures, the focus is on helping entrepreneurs, especially those in the IT sector, develop their companies.

 “We help others build their teams and their careers, so that, hopefully, they can become successful global IT companies. The first few years of building a business is a lonely venture.

 “We do a lot of connecting for these people and that’s very satisfying. We help create cohesive, extraordinary teams, assist with idea iteration and with capitalizing their companies.”

Since becoming the father of three sons, White said he realizes how much he owes to his mother, Gloria, a nurse, and his father, Ron, a sales rep.

 “They were the first generation within their own families to leave Newfoundland’s fishing communities and build a life in St. John’s. They stressed dogged pursuit of education. They drilled humility, being confident, not cocky. Those values are the cornerstone of the work I do every day.”

White credits his own wife, Cathy, with sharing these same values with their children. And he’s still passionate about basketball, which he coaches, along with other minor sports.

 “For me, basketball was the springboard that prepared me for work. Team sports allow kids to realize their capabilities, gain confidence and begin to understand the collective power and importance of being part of a team.

 “If you want to be successful, you need a team of people with differing backgrounds and differing strengths to motivate toward a common goal.”

I-3 Winner Heimdall Targets Japan

After owning the podium at the Innovacorp entrepreneurship competitions this year, Jim DeLeskie is now turning his attention to business development of his cyber-security company, with a special focus on Japan.

DeLeskie is the CEO of Heimdall Networks, the Sydney-based winner of the 2014 I-3 Technology Startup Competition, Innovacorp’s event that aims to find the best new startups in Nova Scotia.

The company, whose software battles distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attacks, captured $225,000 at I-3, as the overall winner, the winner for the Cape Breton region and as the top IT company in the event.

Then this week, Innovacorp revealed that Shout!, a social media platform developed by DeLeskie and business partner Daniel Faria, won $50,000 in the Spark Cape Breton competition. It was one of six companies that shared $200,000 in the Spark contest.

But DeLeskie’s attention now is focused on growing the business of Heimdall and using the I-3 victory as a stepping-stone to a broader customer base.

“The biggest thing about the I-3 win is we’ve had more outward attention,” said DeLeskie in an interview. “We’ve actually leveraged it (the win) in our Japanese discussions because it validates what we’ve been saying.”

Heimdall began two years ago and has grown with the assistance of more than $1 million in angel financing. The company’s software provides a cure for a huge pain point as DDoS attacks have plagued more governments, companies and organizations in the past few years.

These attacks swamp an organization’s website and/or network with unwanted traffic, disabling all its online functions. They have become more frequent and powerful because of the development and distribution of relatively simple tools needed to make the attacks.

Having grown to 13 employees, Heimdall has developed its product to protect companies and organizations from DDOS attacks and is now developing its sales team to gain traction.

DeLeskie figures that half the company’s revenues will come from North America, primarily in the U.S. And he wants Japan to be one of the prime markets. It is a huge, tech-savvy economy and it is a unified market with most corporations headquartered in Tokyo. The centralized location there makes it a more attractive market than Europe, which is fragmented among so many countries and cities.

“If we can get some real traction in Japan, it would allow us to capture a big market share in one major economy,” he said.

The company has already initiated its sales campaign in Japan and elsewhere, DeLeskie said. It is “talking with two of the largest telecom companies in the world” in Japan.

Heimdall is also in the final stages of beta-tests with two potential customers, one in the U.S. and the other in Canada.

The focus for the company in 2014 is to bolster the sales efforts and begin to attract paying customers.

“This year we’re expecting to see our first revenue,” said DeLeskie. “So we’re getting about six or so people on board to develop our sales force.”

A Startup Baby Boom

If you believe in the law of averages, there is now a startup somewhere in Atlantic Canada that didn’t exist this time last week. And by next Wednesday, there will have been another launch.  Or maybe two.

One thing that has struck to me as I’ve gone through the results of our recent survey is the speed with which Atlantic Canada is now producing startups. The region launched more than one company a week last year, and the pace hasn’t slowed down in 2014.

We’re now reaching the end of the first quarter, so we should have seen 13 new companies if we’re to reach our new-startup-each-week metric that I’ve outlined here.

Well, check this out: The Spark Cape Breton Competition on Monday awarded a total of $200,000 to six companies, none of which had previously appeared on my radar. At least three new Atlantic Canadian companies entered Canada’s Business Model Competition held at Dalhousie University earlier this month. BioMer Innovations from St. Mary’s University issued a press release this week. I’ve heard from two other tech companies through Volta, an experienced developer starting a new company in Bedford and another biotech company.

That’s 14 new companies this quarter.

Then you might consider that Planet Hatch is putting together the next cohort of its Accelr8 program, which will no doubt include some companies that have been silent until now.

Of course not all of these newbies will develop into full-fledged companies. Some will disband before the end of the year. But there are now six companies in the burgeoning tech community in Sydney that have seed funding – two of them with $50,000 each. There will be support for the Accelr8 companies.

And no doubt some of them will begin generating revenues before too long.  Almost one-fifth of the companies that launched in 2013 reported some level of revenue last year, and another fifth of these companies expect to book revenue in 2014.

This baby boom among startups has various ramifications, both for the community as a whole and for Entrevestor. The more companies that are launched, the more people gain startup experience and the greater the odds that a few of the companies will become something big. That’s the upside. The downside is that there is a growing number companies scrapping for limited resources in terms of incubator space, government programs, mentorship, and local capital.

For Entrevestor, it means we’ve had to change our criteria slightly. We used to say no company was at too early a stage for us to cover. That’s no longer the case. We can’t cover a new company each week. So we now require that rookie companies have some form of validation – revenues, acceptance in an accelerator, winning a contest -- before we write about them. It’s a good sign that the bar is creeping higher on many fronts.  


SHIFT Energy Ending 2 Pilot Projects

Almost a year after altering its business model, SHIFT Energy of Saint John is on track to complete two pilot projects that should validate its automated energy optimization software, or EOS.

SHIFT Energy is one of several industrial Internet companies in New Brunswick, meaning the province is developing a group of startups developing machine-to-machine learning software in which equipment reacts to disparate sensor readings to improve efficiency or save money.

The company was spun out of Saint John-based Mariner, a global provider of IP video monitoring technologies and other information and communication software. It was incorporated in 2009 to develop data-based products on energy consumption of large facilities. The idea was to help companies understand where and how they consume energy in their facilities so they could take action to reduce consumption.

In May 2013, the company changed direction. Instead of providing just energy monitoring software, it started building EOS — a solution that would react automatically to the data it collected. With the software installed, a large building or group of buildings can automatically reduce energy use in key areas based on data analytics. To achieve this goal, EOS uses a technique called Intelligent Live Recommissioning, which applies sophisticated algorithms to the data to determine the optimal settings instantly through the existing building control systems.

 “We used to do analytics and data collection and place it in the hands of the building’s operators,” said CEO Brock Sansom in an interview last week. “Utilizing existing building control systems already installed in a building, EOS can automatically manage the behaviour of the building on the operator’s behalf.”

Sansom said that during the company’s first few years, it gathered about 25 to 30 clients that were interested in data collection. Of these, two have opted to undertake pilot projects with the automated service of EOS. One is the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League, who are testing the software at the Rogers Arena. The other is a large health network in Toronto, which is now piloting the software in one of its health facilities.

Both of these clients meet the two criteria the company has set for its client base: that they be large energy users, and that they have complex energy ecosystems. The idea is that there are so many complexities in managing the energy expenditure at large facilities that an automated system reacting to signals is more efficient even than a crew of humans monitoring the building around the clock.

A typical facility generates more than 5,000 unique variables each minute that can affect energy consumption, according to material provided by the company. Proactively analyzing and reacting to this volume of data is not manually possible, so the automated system opens up a new area of savings potential.

Sansom said the pilot projects are proceeding well and should be completed in the spring. The company is hoping to move into more live-event venues in the near future, and Sansom said its pipeline of prospective clients is growing.

The other members of the Industrial Internet Group in New Brunswick include RtTech of Moncton and Eigen Innovations, Xiplinx and SmartSkin Technologies, all of Fredericton.

Press Release: BioMer Advances

BioMer Innovations of Halifax released the following press release:

New start-up BioMer Innovations is picking up steam with another successful result; achieving a first place finish at the Boyne Clark Innovative Ideas Competition on March 20th, 2014. 

The Nova Scotia Association of Community Business Development Corporations (CBDC), in cooperation with Common Good Solutions, organized the competition. Students from post-secondary institutions across Nova Scotia, including Dalhousie, Acadia, Saint Mary’s, Mount Saint Vincent, St F.X., CBU, and NSCC were challenged to develop an innovative product, invention, service, business venture or community service that has both a social impact and business viability.

As one of the 17 teams that were present from across the province, BioMer Innovations was able to present its innovative approach in solving chitosan market pains, through the utilization of an invasive, waste species of crab that are abundant in the Atlantic region. With a ten minute presentation, and time for questions and answers - the team from BioMer Innovations successfully pitched to the judges the value, scalability, and potential of their company.  

The Co-founding team was conceived from the Entrepreneurship program offered at Saint Mary’s University, Sobey School of Business. This team is comprised of Danny Williams, Kirsten Osmond, and Jessica Herron. BioMer Innovations has begun its business development and is transitioning into its next phase of business and product development.

For any questions or further information please contact: biomerinnovations@gmail.com or (902)-880-0272.

Photo credit: Paul Darrow

Catching Up with Fredericton Startups

I get to Fredericton every few weeks or months, so my image of company development in the New Brunswick Capital is a bit like time-lapse photography. I get a shot every four to eight weeks, and it looks like everything is unfolding quickly and effortlessly.

So in a flying visit to the city last week for the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation's R3 Gala, I was able to catch up with several founders and organizers and was struck by their steady progress.

Barely half a year old, Planet Hatch is now wrapping up the selection process for the second cohort of its Accelr8 program. Executive Director Sally Ng was demur when I asked her about who might be on the list, and Planet Hatch does not plan to reveal the five or six names once the cohort is formed.

The first cohort graduated several strong companies, three of whom have now been accepted into the Launch36 accelerator. They are HotSpot Parking, Resson Aerospace and Hyton Industries.

These and other Accelr8 companies told me of tangible progress they’ve made in the past few months. For example, Eigen Innovations, the Industrial Internet venture that went through both Launch36 and Accelr8 last year, has attracted new customers. (Yes, that’s customers, plural.)

Following the Launch36 DemoDay late last year, Eigen held its own presentation event in Fredericton together with its development partner, Portland, Ore.-based Flir Systems, the largest global provider of thermal cameras. The presentation drew the interest from a few potential customers, which then attended the Big Data Congress in Saint John. There they learned more about the power of the Industrial Internet and two ended up signing on with Eigen.

"The Big Data Congress confirmed everyone’s interest in the Industrial Internet as a significant opportunity that companies need to explore aggressively," said Eigen CTO Scott Everett.

One thing that Ng emphasized when we spoke is that the Accelr8 program is only part of what Planet Hatch has done for the startup community. It has hosted dozens of events that have drawn hundreds of startup enthusiasts, and is providing office space to both young and established companies. 

Press Release: Spark Cape Breton

Innovacorp, Nova Scotia's innovation agency, this morning announced the winners of the Spark Cape Breton competition in the following press release: 

Spark Cape Breton Winners Named

Six new technology companies in Cape Breton have been named winners in the inaugural Spark Cape Breton competition.

A total of $200,000 in cash will be awarded to the following ‎companies:

Artisync Technologies Co-Op Ltd. – Rob Parsons – Sydney

 Amount:  $50,000

 Artisync is developing a cloud-based hub for the comic book and graphic novel industry that will allow artists to network, communicate and collaborate with each other as well as connect with potential publishers, distributors and customers.

BAMS Systems Inc. – Donald Hanson & Paul Jamieson – Sydney

 Amount:  $40,000

 BAMS is developing a software as a service (SaaS) management system designed for First Nations governments and other aboriginal organizations.

Festival Gate Design – Darcy Campbell – Sydney

 Amount:  $40,000

 Festival Gate Design specializes in the production of advanced websites and plugins for festivals and conferences.

InstantDiner – Matt Stewart & Rob Myers – Glace Bay

 Amount:  $10,000

 InstantDiner gives independent restaurants the ability to build and launch a website and begin taking online orders in fewer than 20 minutes.

Map Master Technologies – Darren Andrews – Sydney

 Amount:  $10,000

 Map Master Technologies will provide an affordable, user-friendly software as a service (SaaS) mapping product for tourism operators and music festivals.

Shout! – Daniel Faria & Jim DeLeskie – Sydney

 Amount:  $50,000

 Shout! is developing a dynamic, geo-targeted social media platform.

Funds awarded are to be used to support the completion of prototypes or preparation for taking the product or service to market.‎ In addition to the funding, winners will receive mentoring from seasoned business people.

Spark Cape Breton is a competition to find and support high potential, early-stage knowledge-based companies, and encourage entrepreneurial activity in the region.‎ It is presented by Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation, the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, and Innovacorp.

Entrants must be a start-up venture based in Cape Breton or the Mulgrave area. They must have a new knowledge-based product or service with zero sales revenue since inception.

Launched in January 2014, the competition attracted 25 submissions by February's deadline. Ten companies were invited to pitch their ventures to judges in mid-March.

An eight-person judging committee selected the winners after evaluating the quality of the idea, the strength of the management team, and the clarity and persuasiveness of the written and oral presentation. Ultimately, entries were judged on which had the highest probability of entering the market in a competitively sustainable fashion and on commercial potential.

For more information about Spark Cape Breton, visit http://www.innovacorp.ca/spark


US Embassy Hosts Startup Weekend

Aspiring young Canadian entrepreneurs are invited to apply for an upcoming Startup Weekend hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa from June 13–15, 2014.

The Embassy will fund travel, accommodation and meals for participation in the Startup Weekend for about 50 selected nominees, Marcia R. Seitz-Ehler of the  U.S. Consulate General in Halifax said in a release.  

The nominees will be Canadians aged 18 to 30 with a strong interest in entrepreneurship and a clearly defined idea for a new business. However, they may be lacking in concrete business development skills, or have limited access to the expertise, tools, and technologies. Their ideas should be in “seed” stage.

Startup Weekend is a global movement of entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. It offered over 800 events in 2013 in more than 100 countries around the world.

This event will occur at Ben Franklin Place in Ottawa and will provide participants with the standard Startup weekend experience. They will be invited to pitch their ideas and receive feedback from their peers. Teams will form round the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) and then there will be a 54-hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation. The weekend will culminate with presentations before entrepreneurial leaders, offering another opportunity for critical feedback. Funding for the startups will not be provided.

Anyone interested can register here by April 6. 

Saul Singer Hails NB’s Startup Success

A leading authority on the Israeli startup behemoth told New Brunswickers last night to recognize the strides they’d made in developing their own startup community and to look for collaboration opportunities around the world.

Saul Singer, the Co-Author of Startup Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, said in the keynote speech at the R3 Gala that Atlantic Canada’s startup community had progressed further than many other locations, and we should recognize and celebrate that fact.

“You’ve had your first successes,” said Singer, noting that the most difficult of developing a startup community is getting it off the ground. With exits such as Q1 Labs, Radian6 and UserEvents, the general population at home as well as startup communities elsewhere begin to notice that something is happening in Atlantic Canada, he said.

He also called for more collaboration between startups in different locations and invited Atlantic Canadian startups to come to Israel to work together on mutually beneficial projects.

R3 is the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s biennial awards that recognize achievement by academic researchers in the province. It takes place on the years in which NBIF does not hold its Breakthru startup competition.

The R3 winners for 2014 are:

--  Rodney Ouellette, the CEO and founder of the Atlantic Cancer Research Institute in Moncton. Overseeing more than 30 staff and researchers, Ouellette has developed and commercialized a new test for detecting cancer. Using a small amount of saliva, blood or urine, the test can detect active cancer cells within a 30-minute visit to a doctor's office.

--  Felipe Chibante, a University of New Brunswick professor who innovates with fullerene, otherwise known as a "bucky ball" or Carbon 60. A fullerene is a carbon molecule that has revolutionized many industries from pharmaceuticals to power generation. Chibante last year invented a new method for producing fullerenes at about one-third the cost of previous methods. He is working on various applications of the material, from solar paneling to clothing.

--  And Kevin Englehart, the director of the Institute for Biomedical Engineering at the University of New Brunswick. His work has led to the development of hardware and software that allows people with artificial limbs to operate them with advanced utility and dexterity.

Singer’s book outlines how Israel, a country of 7 million people surrounded by hostile neighbours, has grown into the world’s largest startup community outside Silicon Valley. In congratulating the R3 recipients, he said their work was truly world class and said it is evidence of how far the innovation community in New Brunswick has progressed.

In previous year, the R3 has included the R3 Challenge, in which growth-stage companies were awarded a $50,000 grant to finance research at a New Brunswick institution. Last year, NBIF began its Innovation Voucher program, which grants similar awards of $80,000 regularly to help companies conduct research needed to move their business forward. Give that the foundation now makes such awards throughout the year, it did away with the need for the special award.




Profile: Paul Smith’s Perfect Timing

After retiring as a high school computer science teacher, Paul Smith wasn’t expecting to become an entrepreneurial software developer and Olympic timer, but that is the post-retirement life of the founder of CurlTime, who initially developed his timekeeping software as a favour for his local curling club.

“The Sochi Olympics were fantastic. The Russians did a wonderful job. I keep pinching myself,” said Smith from his home in Labrador City, to which he had just returned after two weeks as one of two official timers of the curling competition.

Canadian curlers did spectacularly well at this year’s Olympics, with both men and women winning gold. Smith said he officiated as deputy chief timer during the women’s gold medal game, a role that involves supervising the timekeepers, communicating with the umpires, and making corrections to the clocks in the event the timekeeper makes an error.

Staying detached and focused on his duties wasn’t easy as play was close and the result came down to the last shot.

“I believe it was the first time in Canadian history that the women’s team was undefeated at the Olympics. The final game against the Swedes was very exciting, but I had to contain myself. I wasn’t allowed to cheer and jump up and down,” he said with a smile.

Smith has developed a new role as a timer at world events after developing his CurlTime software 10 years ago after friends at his local curling club, the Carol Curling Club in Labrador City, asked him to devise a timing system for use at an upcoming regional contest.

“That weekend, I devised something rather like a chess clock. I got feedback that it was easy to use. I developed it and it was eventually adopted by the World Curling Federation as their standard timing software for all major World Curling Federation events,” he explained.

Smith’s system was not actually used at the Sochi Olympics, as timing for all Olympic events is currently provided by Omega Timing of Switzerland, and Smith’s system is only suitable for curling.

But he has heard the timing system that Omega is currently using for curling will not be used in the future, which means Omega will undoubtedly begin development of a newer version for the next Olympics.

Smith would love it if his software could replace the Omega timing system used for curling, although he admits this may be “dreaming out loud.”

“Omega may say, ‘Why reinvent the wheel?’ but one never knows …” he mused. “I just brought on a programmer partner, based in Dusseldorf in Germany, and together we’re going to rewrite CurlTime because it’s written in a language that’s no longer supported by Microsoft. We also need a version for Macintosh. We will take the concepts and the experience of the last decade and completely rework it.”

The new CurlTime will be finished by the fall. Meantime, the current version is being used in more than 40 countries. Part of its appeal is the expense of arena clocks that can cost a curling club $10,000-$12,000. The World Curling Federation pays CurlTime an annual licensing fee so grassroots clubs can download the software for free.

Smith has now officiated at five world events and later this month, he’s off to Beijing for the Men’s World Curling event. He is also on the lookout for a corporate sponsor.

He confesses to being “very surprised” by all that has happened. “Not that I don’t think I have a good product, but when they started asking me to officiate at world events it became a double bonus. I’m getting to see the world because of this software, and who knows what the future will bring.”


Press Release: ModestTree’s Contract

ModestTree, a Halifax startup whose software allows users to develop their own 3D training programs, issued the following press release on Thursday:


(Halifax, ON) March 20, 2014– Modest Tree’s 3D interactive training product, Modest3D,  will be used by the Canadian military to enhance their training. The Canadian Defence Academy has purchased licenses of Modest3D and together with the Canadian Army, Navy and Air Force, they will be using the software to create 3D content and evaluating the potential for DND wide application on their Defence Learning Network.

The Canadian military expects great success with Modest3D as it is a 3D content development suite that enables users to create interactive lessons using 3D models, without needing programming or animation expertise. Modest3D empowers subject matter experts and instructional designers to create interactive 3D lessons.

Modest Tree demonstrated the capabilities of Modest3D at the National Defence Advanced Learning Technologies working group at the end of February. After the demonstration the attendees were free to experience the power of the suite on their own and in no time members of the group, most with no programming or animation expertise, were building interactive 3D content.  Mr. Bill Railer, Senior Staff Officer of Learning Technologies for the Canadian Defence Academy, was so impressed by the power of Modest3D technology that he stated “Modest3D appears to not only provide DND with state of the art Learning content but if done properly it will result in cost savings, increased production rates and provide a substantial impact towards training modernization.”

“We are excited to be working closely with the Canadian military” said CEO Saman Sannandeji. “Our team has worked extremely hard to build a first rate product and their efforts are validated when we see this kind of overwhelming response to our product.”

About Modest Tree

Modest Tree is a company based in Halifax, Nova Scotia delivering a 3D content development suite that enables users to create interactive lessons using 3D models. The company was founded by Saman and Emily Sannandeji and Steven Vermeulen to meet the need in the industry for effective and less costly 3D courseware production.

For Further Information:

Emily Sannandeji, CMA

Chief Operating Officer

 Modest Tree Media Inc.


T: (902) 233-2309


N.S. Launches 4 Sandbox Projects

The Nova Scotia government announced Wednesday that it would fund four “sandboxes” – places where students and others can get together, swap business ideas and collaborate on forming startups – at groups of post-secondary institutions.

All four winners are groups of institutions so they can pool their resources and enhance the opportunities for collaboration. The goal is to establish physical spaces supported by entrepreneurial programs where members of the university and college communities can work together to generate new businesses.

The teams are:

•Island Sandbox, comprising Cape Breton University and the Nova Scotia Community College Marconi campus;

•Community Sandbox, made up of Saint Mary’s University, NSCAD University and Mount Saint Vincent University;

•Nova Scotia Agriculture Sandbox, which includes Dalhousie University’s agriculture campus, Acadia University and the Perennia Innovation Centre;

•And the Information and Communications Technology Sandbox, comprising Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s, NSCAD and Volta Labs.

“The announcement today is a recognition that things have to change,” said Premier Stephen McNeil in announcing the new program at Pier 21 in Halifax. “But it’s also a recognition that there are assets in the province that we can collaborate around to build a better future. “

The government will give each group $150,000 per year for as many as three years, after which, they are expected to pay their own way.

The idea for Sandboxes came about last year at the government’s Innovation Summit, at which Eric Grimson, who was then the Chancellor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, described the sandboxes at his institution. The province asked for proposals from post-secondary institutions late last year, and the four winners ended up being collaborative efforts between institutions.  (Disclosure: I did a bit of consulting work with the government on the criteria for the proposals.)

The Island and Community teams consolidate resources in the province’s two urban areas, and will hopefully draw in more students and profs to work together on projects.

The agricultural sandbox will build on work already under way at the three institutions involved to encourage farm-based entrepreneurship and innovation. Acadia, for example, has recently hosted a Startup Weekend-style of event to bring in agricultural entrepreneurs.

The ICT group has the potential to draw on key skills from the parties involved – the entrepreneurial mentorship of Volta, Dal’s computer science faculty, St. Mary’s international business proficiency and the design capabilities of NSCAD.  Jevon MacDonald, one of the founders of Volta, noted that the startup incubator is already benefitting from the university community.

“Most of the startups coming into Volta are started by or employ graduates from post-secondary institutes,” he said. “What we want to be part of is going into the schools and …  bringing them the resources they need.”

Dalhousie already has a sandbox up and running in that the Starting Lean program has an open office where students can gather to work on businesses. 

Atlantic Venture Forum Set for June

The second annual Atlantic Venture Forum, taking place in Halifax on June 17 and 18, will emphasize the development of relationships between Atlantic Canada and the northeastern United States.

Critical Path Group, the Calgary operation that organizes the event, announced this week that the keynote address at the forum will be delivered by Dan Park, a vice-president at Azure Capital Partners in Silicon Valley. The Canadian native is responsible for evaluating investment opportunities across Canada and has spent time in New York City and on the West Coast.

The inaugural Atlantic Venture Forum last year focused on developing ties between Atlantic Canadian startups and investors from outside the region. It included pitches from 20 startups, of which Oris4 and The Rounds, both of Halifax, were recognized for their superb presentations.

It also featured the launch of Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England, a resource group for Canadian startups in the Boston area. The launch served to highlight the traditional relationship between Atlantic Canada and New England — a feature the organizers hope to emphasize even more this year.

“One of the key goals is to build strong ties between Atlantic Canada and the U.S. eastern seaboard, particularly Boston and New York,” Marc Elrick, principal and founder of Critical Path Group, said in an interview. “We’re going to bring up more investors from those geographies.”

Elrick said there will be an increased presence of venture capital investors at this year’s event, which will be held at the Westin Nova Scotian. Several U.S. venture capital firms have been making investments in the major centres of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, he said. They are growing comfortable with the Canadian environment for investment and are interested in learning more about opportunities in smaller provinces.

Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England will once again play a role in the forum, and Elrick said there will be announcements soon outlining the specifics.

The two other goals of the forum will be entrepreneurship education and developing links with blue-chip corporations, he said.

The educational segments will feature discussions led by venture capitalists and experienced entrepreneurs. A strong theme will be to help develop early- and growth-stage companies so they can attract their first round of venture capital funding.

“It’s a pretty young entrepreneur community that we’re seeing in Atlantic Canada, so the key thing is how to get that A round,” he said.

Helping connect startups with blue-chip corporations can be a key to the companies’ development. Large corporations can serve as early adopters of technology and can help young companies make key relationships that can help their growth.

What’s more, Elrick said he hopes to draw business development executives who decide whether the established corporations “build or buy” new technology. That can help develop a relationship that could lead to a buyout.

Innovation Week Coming to St. John’s

The first Innovation Week in Newfoundland and Labrador will kick off on May 5 in St. John’s and will highlight the rapid advancement of the startup community in the province.

Startup NL, which has recently been incorporated as a not-for-profit organization, didn’t exist two years ago and now has 200 members. Though its largest affiliated body is Startup St. John’s, it is now working at getting Startup Corner Brook off the ground. And the co-working space Common Ground has opened its doors at 30 Harvey Rd. in St. John's, providing a workplace for several entrepreneurs and a meeting place for the community.

Innovation Week will serve to celebrate the achievements the group has made in the past two year and promote the growth of innovative companies in the province.

“The last six months have been very exciting and we can't wait to share what's in store for the next six months,” said Startup NL Co-Founder Jason Janes in an interview.

Innovation Week will begin with a Fireside Chat at Common Ground on Monday, May 5, to be followed that evening with a DemoCamp. Janes said the demos will include presentations by some of the more established startups in St. John’s to show the potential of knowledge-based companies in their growth phase.  Organizers are looking for more companies to make presentations.

On May 6, there will be a youth and innovation event, at which about 500 high school students will learn about technology.

The next day, the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries, or NATI, will host its annual Knowledge Summit, which brings together leaders of the local advanced technology sector. The theme of this year’s summit is Igniting Innovation. TEDxStJohns will be held in the evening.

Thursday, May 8 will be Innovation Day at the Genesis Centre at Memorial University, after which a closing event will be held Thursday evening.

Like the Startup Weekend event held at Memorial University in November, Innovation Week is a reminder how much Janes and Co-Founders  Chris Gardner and Roger Power have achieved in just a couple of years.

“We never had something like this before,” said Ron Taylor, the Chief Executive of NATI. “From the very beginning, when you’ve had that idea in your head and you had that burning ambition, there really hasn’t been a place to go to. Now, with Startup St. John’s and Common Ground, there is that sort of place.”

Press Release: Dash Hudson’s Launch

Dash Hudson, the Halifax-based startup that helps men to shop for clothes online, has released the following press release:


New Men’s Styling App Helps Guys Evolve Their Look with Free Recommendations

MARCH, 19, 2014 (New York, New York) – Dash Hudson is a new mobile store that changes the way men shop and approach their personal style. Launching today, the app offers a fleet of personal stylists who assess each customers’ preferences and lifestyle and build them a modern, flexible wardrobe with selections from a roster of top retailers, all in one place.

With Dash Hudson, customers provide details about their lifestyle and then connect with their preferred ‘Style Editor’, who they select from a database of experienced stylists who come from top fashion publications, retail, fashion colleges and university campuses. The Style Editors recommend products based on client needs, budget and lifestyle, and create looks around products they like. Customers easily purchase any of these items directly through the mobile application, anytime, anywhere.

Dash Hudson was conceived by Thomas Rankin and Tomek Niewiarowski after realizing that the best products and recommendations for guys were scattered across the internet. They were frustrated by the time spent scouring blogs and retailers for style advice, and with the cluttered nature of existing ecommerce shopping experiences.

It’s no secret that guys are long suffering when it comes to options for online shopping. Many online retailers simply replicate the experience of shopping at the mall or department store, something most men despise. Male shoppers are looking for personalized advice and they want efficiency in the purchase process. 85% of men prefer to shop online and nearly 50% of men 18-24 purchase fashion on their smartphone. There is a fundamental market shift underway. Purchases of apparel via smartphone are increasing by 100% year over year in this demographic.

These guys want to shop fast, and they want to shop easy.

“Guys have become just as style-conscious as women but don’t want to spend the time shopping and are often looking for validation before making purchase decisions,” said Thomas Rankin, CEO of Dash Hudson. “We eliminate the uncertainty that guys face when trying to figure out what looks good on them, and make it incredibly easy to purchase what they need, at a great price.”

Dash Hudson recently moved out of beta and is now available publicly on android and iPhone. It offers customers access to over 10,000 products via its mobile store.

“There’s an amazing opportunity to make web-based inventory available on mobile, and offer guys a unique and simple purchase experience, in one place. For us, it’s all about helping our customer evolve, and making his life easier.”


Dash Hudson is menswear evolved. Customers get free recommendations, explore the best products, and find what they want, all in one place. It’s the first-mobile exclusive club for menswear and how all young men of ambition get what they need. Dash Hudson’s community of Style Editors recommend products and create style advice based on a customer’s profile and needs.  Customers can easily purchase the items they want directly through the mobile application.

Dash Hudson was founded in 2013 by Thomas Rankin and Tomek Niewiarowski.

Dash Hudson is launching with the support of high profile advisors, including Daniel Burka (Design Partner at Google Ventures), Erik Lautier (EVP and Chief Digital Officer at bebe), and David Alston (former CMO at Radian6, a Salesforce Company).


Acadia to Host Agricultural Data Event

The inaugural event of the newly formed Acadia Institute for Data Analytics will explore the use of data in the wine and fruit-growing sectors.

The seminar, titled Data Analytics for the Wine & Fruit-Growing Industries, will take place on the morning of March 29 at Clark Commons at Acadia University in Wolfville.

“Data analytics has and will continue to have a major impact on the agricultural and agri-food industries in Nova Scotia,” said Wesley Booth, the Communications and Events Coordinator for the Institute in a release. “The goal of the seminar is to demonstrate how data analytics is relevant to the wine and fruit- growing industries in Nova Scotia and to get organizations thinking about its use.”

The guest speakers include Colin Bell, who will discuss tracking/reducing plant disease with data analytics; Angus Ells of Oxford Foods and David Colville of Nova Scotia Community College. Both Ells and Colville have practical experience in applied data analytics in these agricultural sectors.  The keynote speaker will be Dr. Jim Willwerth from Brock University's Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) who will talk about the success of using data analytics to protect grape crops in southern Ontario.

There will also be a panel discussion on how investment in data analytics can benefit this sector.

Sales Soar at Advanced Glazings

Doug Milburn proudly says Advanced Glazings has recovered from the “dark period” it endured after 2007 — and he is not just referring to the global economic slowdown.

The Sydney company is best known for its advanced building product — translucent walls that allow sunlight to fill any interior, thereby reducing the need for electric light. But it is almost as well known for a still-unresolved lawsuit that erupted in 2007 between its shareholders that cast a pall over the company for several years.

In November 2007, Milburn was removed as president after a board motion introduced by directors nominated by two venture fund investors, GrowthWorks Canadian Fund Ltd. and Englefield House No. 4 Inc. That led to litigation that is still going through the courts, even though GrowthWorks Canadian is now under creditor protection. (Note that GrowthWorks Canadian is a separate entity from GrowthWorks Atlantic Venture Fund of Halifax, which is still very much in business.)

 “We were growing in 2007, and we had about $50 million of work in our pipeline,” said Milburn, who was reinstated as president. “When things went downhill, we stopped working for a few months. There is a lot of risk averseness in the (construction) industry, so a lot of our pipeline walked.”

Yet the company has not just survived. It has thrived.

Milburn said Advanced Glazings has actually been profitable since 2008 and has launched new products with its partner, Cabot Corp. of Boston, that has resulted in new sales.

 “We have a very, very healthy pipeline at this time.”

The key to the recent success is a product that combines Cabot’s insulating material aerogel with Advanced Glazing’s translucent panels.

Milburn said aerogel is a superb, transparent insulating material. But if it is sandwiched between two panes of glass, it settles over time so there is an air pocket left at the top.

Advanced Glazings panels offer a honeycombed structure, so the aerogel is trapped in the pockets and it doesn’t settle.

The result is a translucent building panel that provides nine times more insulation than a plain glass window, and three times more than a standard insulated wall.

Advanced Glazing and Cabot launched the product in 2009, which was not a boom time in the North American construction industry.

Because the panels are used as exterior walls rather than windows, the material has to be integrated into the entire design, so there is a long sales process of 18 to 24 months.

 “When we launched that product, we were still tied up with the investor stuff, so we had very, very limited resources,” said Milburn.

 “We didn’t have the scale we needed. But people bought into it and we started to sell projects.”

The aerogel-based product now makes up about half the company’s sales, and it is finding a market around the world. The company now has 25 employees and about 12 patents in several countries.

Milburn said the next step is to produce panelized glass, which means a translucent sheet that does not need a frame.

 “Right now, we’re steady as she goes in that we’re operating profitably and our growth rate is cranking up quite nicely.”

Launch36 Unveils Fourth Cohort

Launch36, the regional tech accelerator, has chosen its fourth cohort of startups, which reveals a diversification away from its core sector of information technology.

The six-member cohort includes the cleantech company Hyton Innovations of Fredericton, which is developing waste-water-treatment facilities that can be transported in a single shipping container.

“Based on our five-year plan, we are going to be diversifying our focus to serve other markets,” said Trevor MacAusland, the Executive Director of PropelICT, which operates the accelerator.  He added the only other non-IT company to enter a major PropelICT program was Enovex of Saint John, which was mentored by the organization before Launch36 was launched.

The other members of the fourth cohort are:

--  Adeptio, Charlottetown, which has developed cloud-based software and programs to be used by personal coaches;

--   HotSpot Parking, Fredericton, whose software allows for remote payment of parking metres and can act as a customer relationship management system for small businesses;

--  KinterGuardian, Moncton, which offers parents the ability to control spending by their children on video games;

--  Qimple, Moncton, whose software helps companies to manage and analyze applications when hiring people;

--  And Resson Aerospace, Fredericton, which has developed software and an aerial surveillance system that helps farmers with the early detection of crop diseases.

This is a mature group. HotSpot, Hyson and Resson have all gone through the Accelr8 program in Fredericton, and Adeptio was incubated at tech consultancy SwiftRadius. Half the cohort has already raised equity financing. That means the companies should progress quickly, hopefully producing the stellar showing witnessed in the last cohort.

The DemoDay for this cohort, when they can present the companies to the public, will be held in Halifax.

The program will last 12 weeks with six one-day “boot camp” sessions -- five in Moncton and one at the Volta startup house in Halifax.  The first boot camp will be held on March 26.

The Launch36 program has also partnered with BDC Venture Capital, which will offer a $150,000 seed investment to companies judged to be “venture-ready” on completion of the program.

Over the past two years, 26 companies have graduated from Launch36, going on to create 100 jobs and raise $12 million in equity investment.


Press Release: CarbonCure in Seattle


Halifax-based green building materials company CarbonCure yesterday released the following press release:

Basalite bringing green concrete to the Emerald City

Basalite leading concrete sustainability with its conversion to CarbonCure 

March 17, 2014 - Seattle may be nicknamed the Emerald City due to its lush forests, but thanks to Basalite Concrete Products (Basalite), Seattle is about to get even greener. Basalite announced Friday that it will be expanding its green concrete masonry offerings by installing CarbonCure’s technology in its Dupont, Washington plant.

CarbonCure enables concrete masonry producers to capture carbon dioxide in their concrete products during the manufacturing process. The technology provides a cost-effective solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without compromising the quality of the product. The latest partnership means that green concrete products will now be available along the northern Pacific coast; Basalite’s Dupont plant serves both Washington State and Oregon markets. Basalite first adopted the CarbonCure technology at its plant in Dixon, California.

“Sequestering carbon dioxide in concrete has a direct impact on the industry's carbon emissions, and it is something that we can do today,” said Phil Bonnell, Vice President and General Manager of Basalite Concrete Products. “This is the way forward for our industry, so we’re really excited to bring CarbonCure to the Pacific Northwest.”

In a bold move, Basalite’s Dupont plant will immediately apply the CarbonCure technology across its entire production line, including its structural and architectural concrete masonry products. While many other concrete masonry producers use CarbonCure’s technology to introduce carbon dioxide the product when specified by an architect, Basalite’s decision to apply the CarbonCure technology to all of its concrete products establishes the manufacturer as a clear leader in sustainability.

The demand for greener manufacturing processes stems from architectural firms looking for transparency as they become mindful of environmental impacts associated with materials used in new developments.  “As a firm that is committed to integrated sustainable design, we’re excited to be able to specify an innovative option that reduces the carbon footprint of a material we often use,” said Greg Hepp, Principal at Bassetti Architects.

To help quantify both the environmental and health impacts of materials, Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and Health Product Declarations (HPDs) will be issued for Dupont’s products made with CarbonCure. Last month, CarbonCure released a free EPD calculator for its producer partners to allow the creation of self declared EPDs.

The Basalite Dupont plant marks the seventh partnership for the rapidly growing CarbonCure. In addition to Northern California, concrete masonry made with sequestered carbon dioxide is also available in the Midwest, Northeast and Eastern Canada.

About CarbonCure Technologies Inc.

CarbonCure is concrete's gateway to the green building community. Its technology chemically repurposes waste carbon dioxide during the concrete manufacturing process. The company also provides reporting tools such as Environmental and Health Product Declarations for all products made with CarbonCure. Through collaboration with leading designers, the company and its partners are supplying a scalable solution to address the growing demand for green building materials. CarbonCure concrete is available through North America’s largest concrete manufacturers including Brampton Brick, Permacon, Basalite Concrete Products, Shaw Brick, Northfield Block, and Anchor.

For more information please contact: Jennifer Wagner at +1.902.489.4073 or jwagner@carboncure.com.

Teknically Wins Business Model Event

Teknically, a startup from Wilfrid Laurier University that helps small businesses improve their websites, captured top honours at Canada’s Business Model Competition at Dalhousie University on Saturday.

The company founded by students Andrew Paradi and Brandon Chow beat out 15 other competitors at the two-day event, and an extremely strong field of four finalists on Saturday afternoon. As well as claiming the $25,000 first prize, they will now proceed to the international finals at Brigham Young University this spring.

The Canadian competition is organized by the Dalhousie University Starting Lean program. And like the international event, it assesses the process students apply to entrepreneurship more than their business plan. What the judges are looking for is the students’ ability to test their business hypothesis by interviewing potential clients and change their business model based on what they learned.  The focus is on the business canvas, which provides a roadmap to a successful business.

“This competition has been fantastic,” said Brian Lowe, the Entrepreneur in Residence at Dalhousie. “I tell you, they’re all really well prepared and they clearly demonstrated the power of the lean canvas.”

Second place and $15,000 were captured by Sparkgig, a venture from University of Waterloo that is developing a platform to link performers with event organizers.  Santé West, a group from the University of British Columbia that is developing a partial weight-bearing leg brace to help accelerate the recovery process from a leg injury, claimed the $10,000 third prize.

Student Fresh, a team from Memorial University of Newfoundland, was the only Atlantic Canadian team to make it into the final four. The team, which had only been working on its project for 60 days, links up students needing contract work with employers, and lets employers rate their performance.

Paradi and Chow, two friends who have known each other since first grade (That's Paradi and Chow in the above photo), did a great job of demonstrating how they came up with hypotheses, testing them with clients and adjusting their business model accordingly.  They have ended up with a product called Webplio, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses in a small business’s website so business owners can discuss changes intelligently with their web developer.

“Our big win at the BMC Competition in Halifax means a lot to our company building credibility and giving us some valuable resources to speed up development towards our full launch of Webplio later this year,” said Paradi after the win.

The two entrepreneurs began with the assumption that small businesses lack a robust system of monitoring their websites. As they developed a minimum viable product to fill this gap, they interviewed a total of 118 people and developed for four working prototypes. They devised reports on their clients’ websites, and sold 10 at $99 each in a two-week period.

“These reports are not what we’re planning for the long-term,” Paradi told the judges during the finals. “Everything will be done online once it’s automated, so it will be scalable – very, very scalable.”

Canada’s Business Model Competition began at Dalhousie University in 2013 as the Canadian base for the competition that now extends to about 10 countries around the world. The winner last year was Halifax-based Spring Loaded Technology, which is developing a knee brace that strengthens as well as stabilizes the joint.



Metabridge Seeks Our Top Startups

In its search for the top 15 startups across Canada, Metabridge is inviting applications from Atlantic Canadian companies.

Taking place June 12-13 in Kelowna, B.C., Metabridge is a networking, mentorship and pitching event at which some of the leading North American investors and entrepreneurship specialists will get together with the country’s leading growth-stage companies.

Andrew Greer, program manager at Accelerate Okanogan and an organizer of Metabridge, said in a discussion last week that the targets are established tech startups enjoying a high-growth trajectory. These are companies that would benefit most from meeting investors and mentors to help them develop into bona fide corporations.

The mentors at the 2013 event included some faces familiar to Atlantic Canada: Reza Kazempour, the San Francisco-based CEO of Halifax’s Oris4; Paul Singh, Partner at 500 Startups, who attended both the Atlantic Venture Forum and MentorCamp last year; and Atlee Clark, Executive Director of C100, who visited Atlantic Canada last summer.

“There are 15 openings for top startups across Canada to get front-of-the-line access to top corporate executives, venture capitalists, and mega entrepreneurs from California’s Silicon Valley and other technology centres across North America,” said material from Metabridge.  “This is a competitive process and we are looking for the best and brightest.”

Applications are available here and the deadline is April 21.

Metabridge will give qualifying companies access to all the events, cover their food and beverage costs, and help them secure discounted hotel rooms. The startups must pay their own way to Kelowna.

Profile: Jordan Smith’s Gritty Ascent

It’s been nearly five years since Jordan Smith stood on a street corner in Halifax wearing a sign that read: “New Grad, Need Job, advert/market/sales.”

Despite the recession at the time, he got 15 job offers that day, finally choosing a business development role with the Coast newspaper in Halifax. In 2011, he started his own company, OneLobby, which aims to be the premier analytics and data company for event and trade show exhibitors.

Now, Smith is on the move again. He has recently accepted a part-time role as entrepreneur-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. And he has left Fredericton-based OneLobby to seek another position where he can use his experience to help other entrepreneurs.

It’s been a long, wild ride for Smith at OneLobby. He admits to feeling “burnt out” after four years at the startup. “I’m trying to decompress,” he said. “The OneLobby team has great leadership. They are looking to raise money and I didn’t think it would be fair to the team, investors and customers to stay when I didn’t have it in me to give 300 per cent.”

Instead, he is looking to share his expertise. “I’m looking to link up with a more established, funded startups or accelerators,” he said. “I’m looking for a position where I can apply what I’ve learned and learn from others.”

The role at UNB is part of that. “It will be great to listen to new entrepreneurs, their ideas and their challenges, and to help them get through those challenges.”

An entrepreneur-in-residence is an experienced hand who can impart knowledge and wisdom to a younger generation. Brian Lowe. co-founder of the First Angel Network, holds the position at Dalhousie University, and Jevon MacDonald held the post at Innovacorp before founding GoInstant.

Although he has only just turned 28, Smith feels he has a lot to offer. Like the best entrepreneurs, he believes he needs to keep learning.

 “From the team at the Coast, I learned how to run a free newspaper and make it profitable. I watched how they made hard decisions, did the right things.”

While studying at Memorial University in St. John’s, he worked as a waiter and bartender in a Tex-Mex restaurant. “The owner, Rebecca Quentin, was one of my first mentors. It was an eye-opening education in how to run a successful restaurant for 30 years in a sector where so many businesses fail. I asked a lot of questions and observed.”

Straight out of university, he worked as a door-to-door salesman in Australia, a job he found humbling, but most important and useful. Coming out of university, he now says, he thought he’d land a high-flying job and was above sales. But he ended up wearing a suit and bang on doors in the blazing Australian sun.

 “I was doing something I didn’t want to do, but I did it. It was an important obstacle to overcome and I got really good at it, too. I won customer service and sales awards. That job gave me a new lens and perspective to look through and an important skill set — in entrepreneurship sales is everything. Now, I can go into a room full of investors and sell them my idea. I can assemble a team and get people to buy into an idea.”

Whatever role comes up for him next, Smith hopes he can stay in this region. “I am glad to be part of the Atlantic Canadian community. That’s important to me.”

Last Call To Get the Surveys In

I want to make one final call for founders to get their surveys into us. We plan to calculate everything early next week so we’re putting a Sunday night deadline on the responses.

For those who are interested, we’ve had a fantastic response to the survey. Well over half the startups we contacted have responded. When we trim off companies that have fallen by the wayside or never really got started (this is the startup world we’re talking about), we’re comfortably over half the community.

And we’ve got some tremendous data from the people who have responded – all of which will be kept confidential. We’ll publish the initial result in our first Entrevestor Intellience report of 2014, which is due out at the end of next month.

So we’re going to end up with a really good data set, but it could be better. If you run a startup (a locally owned company working an innovative, scalable product) and haven’t sent the survey in, please do so. If you need a copy of the survey, please email me at peter@entrevestor.com. I’ll send one right away.

Many, many thanks to all those that have helped with the survey, including all the groups that helped to spread the word. 

Stromline Eyes Commercial Market

This may be the perfect winter to illustrate the value of Jon Fraser and Victoria Smith’s new product. (At least we better hope there’s not a better winter for it.)

With the thermometer plunging and heating bills soaring, there probably won’t be a better winter to test Stromline Technologies, whose product measures and monitors fuel tanks in real time.

Stromline’s first product is StromSense, which is a sort of smart cap for an oil tank, or tank holding other liquid fuel. It screws on to a common oil tank and measures the level of the fuel in the tank. It then sends out readings via the cellular network to a desktop or device so the user can tell the oil levels in the tank. It can allow an oil company to deliver oil only when it’s needed, thus improving efficiency over a system that estimates when a delivery is needed. Or it can tell the tank’s owner when to order more fuel.

The duo of entrepreneurs is now focusing on commercial or industrial customers, which typ-ically own tanks with a capacity of up to 15,000 litres. They generally are legally required to conduct daily volume inspections to ensure the volume coincides with use to make sure there have been no catastrophic leaks, mismanagement or theft.

 “Our customers would include schools, construction companies, office buildings, companies with fleet vehicles,” said Smith. “StromSense alleviates their pain by eliminating manual inspection, providing daily consumption data via an easily accessible web portal.”

The second most important market for the Halifax-based company would be oil delivery companies. The benefits for this market are obvious, as the companies could monitor their customers’ tanks and only make deliveries when the oil or other fuel is needed.

The residential delivery market is huge, as more than 1.1 million Canadian households and 7.6 million American homes depend on home heating oil, with more than 80 per cent of the market in the Northeast.

Stromline also has plans to use the data collected from these readings to help customers plan for oil delivery and the best use of their resources.

Smith (an MBA student at the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University) and Fraser came up with the idea for Stromline last summer and developed it with Dalhousie University engineering professor Peter Vanberkel. They have spent the winter beta testing the product with a handful of homeowners. They’ve received good feedback, and plan a full commercial launch next winter with their chosen market segments.

Though they’re focused now on monitoring fuel tanks, Fraser said this is only the first product that the company is planning. “The goal is to branch out to other machine-to-machine devices,” said Fraser, referring to the new tech segment in which machines communicate through the Internet.

 “What we’ve done is created a platform that can communicate with a range of sensors,” said Fraser.

Apps Maker ICubemedia’s Sales Soar

After a few years of producing dozens of smartphone apps, Moncton-based iCubemedia is focusing in on a single suite of small business products that its founder hopes will lift the company to a new level.

For the last five years, the brainchild of founder Guyverson Vernous has been putting out a range of apps for Apple phones and devices, most of which offer efficiency tools to small businesses. Though the company is relatively unknown in the region, its sales have soared, more than doubling last year so its revenue is well into six figures. Its customer base spans 20 countries around the world.

 “We have 53 products but 90 per cent of our revenue comes from five products,” said Vernous in an interview last week. “In fact, I’m focusing now on three main products right now.”

The main money-spinners for this three-person venture are Office Reader, a file management product for mobile devices; Invoice Manager, which allows small business operators to invoice customers from anywhere; and Receipt Scanner, which lets business people scan and file receipts.

 “We are now two months into 2014 and we have an increase of 20 per cent (in revenue) because we enhanced Office Reader with a PDF feature and that’s competing quite well,” said Vernous.

The story of iCubemedia began seven years ago when Vernous immigrated from his native Haiti to northern New Brunswick, then moved to Moncton a year later. He knew he had to make some money, so he began to make and market his own smartphone apps.

Shortly after starting the company and developing a translation app, he enrolled at the McKenzie Accelerator, a support organization for early-stage startups that is run by the private design school McKenzie College. That mentorship helped him to develop new products and increase his sales to grow the business.

“I knew I had one product that (would) generate money but I thought I needed more products,” he said. “I wanted to make enough money to live on, then take the money and invest it in one big product.”

iCubemedia is now focusing on wrapping a collection of office management products into a single boxed set that has the software for desktops on a disc. The company will continue to court the market for smartphone apps, and is even planning to convert some existing products to Android operating systems.

But Vernous said his customers want a branded, store-shelf product for business managers — one that will allow users to transfer data from Invoice Manager onto their desktop. He warned it will take “a lot of time” to produce such a product, then he added that he hopes to have it on the market in six months.

“We’re getting there,” he said. “I’m not there yet, but it’s really where I want to go.”

Teaching Green Building Practices

Homeowners may be a little safer and their homes better renovated now that a new series of online learning programs has been created by Nova Scotia-based energy-efficiency company Blue House Energy.

Shawna Henderson, company CEO, has written three programs for workers involved in building and renovating homes. Until now, Henderson said, there has been nothing generic that teaches workers about building science. The term describes the physics of a building. It teaches that the house is a system that is impacted by things like heat, air and moisture flows, occupant activity and external temperature.

“Everyone working on a building should understand the basics of building science because everything that’s done to a house affects the performance of the house, including the amount of energy used and the health of the occupants,” Henderson said.

“It always surprises me that hairstylists require a licence to cut hair, although if you get a bad cut, the hair grows out. If a contractor does a bad job of air-sealing work on your house, they can make you very sick or kill you, but there’s no need for anyone doing that kind of work to have a licence in either Canada or the U.S.”

Henderson said that because the different tradespeople working on a house tend to understand only their own job, energy-efficiency measures are easily damaged. “A plumber, electrician or drywaller can be doing their job and knock holes in or puncture air barriers.

“In a new build, such as with an R-2000 house, that may mean the house fails to get certification. On the other hand, if air sealing work is carried out on an older house without considering the whole house as a system, simultaneous use of something like an old oil boiler and a bathroom fan may depressurize the house and pull combustion products back into the building. There have been lawsuits related to this in the States.”

A building technologist, originally from British Columbia, Henderson has 25 years’ experience as a designer of green homes and a planner of deep energy retrofits (making existing homes energy efficient). 

The task force is composed of representatives from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico who, since 1994, have collaborated in protecting the environment through the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, which came into force at the same time as the North American Free Trade Agreement and aims to ensure that liberalization of trade and economic growth is accompanied by environmental protection.

She started Blue House Energy with Hal Richman, the company’s chief operating officer, in October 2012. Through their work with homeowners and organizations to reduce energy consumption through their sister company, Bfreehomes Design Ltd., Henderson began writing the online courses in October 2013 and plans to write more.

She and Richman are hoping their courses will be taken up by workers who recognize that obtaining certification in building science will allow them to stand out from their peers and create professional niches.

The courses are already being used to provide continuing education credits by the Building Performance Institute in the U.S. Henderson also said that a multinational company is about to pilot the courses with its sales people, distributors, installers and other staff.

“Everything we do is based on the statement: ‘It’s not OK to waste energy,’” Henderson said. “It makes me crazy that I’ve been doing this for more than two decades and it’s the same roadblocks: tradespeople are experts in their own areas, but there’s not necessarily any transfer of information between them to improve energy efficiency.”

LED Roadway Raises $9.5M in Equity

LED Roadway Lighting Ltd., a Halifax-based manufacturer of LED-based street lighting and wireless controls, announced today it has raised $9.5 million in equity funding, most of which has come from Founder and CEO Chuck Cartmill.

The company said $1 million of this investment comes from the conversion of debentures held by Nova Scotia Business Inc. into equity.

Cartmill said the investment will be used for working capital and the financing of inventory and for a reorganization of the company’s manufacturing facility in Amherst, N.S. But much of the call with reporters focused on his disappointment with Halifax Regional Municipality’s rejection of a buy-local policy and the need for Nova Scotia to back its own innovative companies.  He revealed the company’s management committee has even discussed moving.

“The commercialization of research is really key,” he said when asked a question relating to economic development.  “What we have to focus on is the need for long-term sustainable export businesses. We could have multiple Michelins with the right kind of support and I think LED Roadway Lighting could be one of them.”

LED Roadway, which now employs 155 people, has developed a fixture for LED-based highway lighting whose targeted luminance is 40% better than leading competitors. In the past few years, it has branched into smart lighting controls and is working closely with New Brunswick Power on the development of its smart grid.

The company now has sales in more than 37 countries, and its key markets are North America, the Caribbean, Latin America, the U.K., and Australia. It has experienced annual average sales growth of 48 percent for the each of the past three years and continues to show significant growth, said the company.

LED Roadway has recently landed projects in such markets as Aruba in the Caribbean and in Thunder Bay, Ont. Last month, its latest generation fixture, the NXT-S was selected as “Best in Class – Local Residential” in the Next Generation Luminaires Design Competition.

The company is continuing to work on the optical abilities of its products and maintaining its lead in targeted luminance and on smart controls. Not only can its controls help utilities reduce energy consumption, but there are ancillary applications that could cut costs and improve efficiencies in several ways. Because street light fixtures are so high, they could send signals to surrounding houses and buildings and be used for remote readings of water, electricity or gas meters or even parking meters. The result could be greater efficiency and lower costs.

“I think NB Power is global leader in smart grid,” said Cartmill. “They’ll be able to balance supply and demand and we don’t see anyone in the world who is as far along on smart grid as NB Power. “ He expressed regret that his Halifax-based company isn’t working on similar projects at home.

Cartmill said his own frustrations with the Halifax municipal government “makes me feel like packing my bag in Halifax.” Asked if he was seriously considering leaving Halifax, Cartmill said the comment was only partially spoken in jest because LED Roadway could settle in other cities or states and receive preferential treatment as a local company. The matter has been discussed at the company’s management committee, but he added he feels loyalty to the town of Amherst and to Nova Scotia.

LED Roadway Lighting previously secured $11.6 million in funding in June 2012 from Nova Scotia Business Inc., Cycle Capital of Montreal and Cartmill.

Profile: John Rowe Moves Upmarket

Back in 2011, John Rowe, president and CEO of Island Abbey Foods, received one of the largest offers ever made by the investors of CBC’s Dragons’ Den — $600,000, plus a $400,000 line of credit — to help develop his Honibe Honey Drop.

Charlottetown-based Rowe initially accepted the offer, but turned it down when it became clear that the business he had started with his wife, Susan, was going to fly with or without the help of the TV stars.

Since then, demand for his pure dried honey products has grown. The honey drop and newer related products, including a line of honey-based vitamin drops, are selling in 5,000 retail outlets across Canada. The Honibe drops have even been enjoyed in space by astronauts on Commander Chris Hadfield’s mission to the International Space Station.

The Honibe Honey Drop is an individual serving (one teaspoon) of 100 per cent pure dried honey. The product has won many awards, including the prestigious Global SIAL d’Or (Gold Medal) in 2010, which recognized the Honibe Honey Drop as the best new food product in the world.

Now, the company is about to launch two similar products in drop, candy and lozenge form: solid maple called Island Maple and solid agave (the plant from which tequila is made) called PurAgave. It is also collaborating with international health and pharmaceutical companies that want to develop medicinal products using the honey-based delivery system.

 “We’re working with the top pharmaceutical companies in the world,” said Rowe. “We have the first all-natural delivery system for their product and that’s why they’re interested. We can imbed any type of therapeutic ingredient in our honey-based platform.”

Rowe said that honey is healthier than most other sugar products because it is made of complex carbohydrates that are easily absorbed by the body. Honey also has anti-bacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities, and there are health synergies from combining it with a medicine.

The Honibe story began in the early 1990s when Rowe went hiking in British Columbia with friends after completing his business studies. When the group stopped to pitch camp, Rowe found that the jar of honey he’d brought along had shattered inside his rucksack, covering his clothes with the sticky substance he’d intended to use as a healthy energy source.

After he’d quit worrying about attracting bears and other wildlife with the spilled honey, Rowe decided to find a solid honey product to take on subsequent hikes. But he couldn’t find one. The closest thing he found was honey candies, which he describes as sugary products that are merely flavoured with honey, not made from it.

Rowe comes from a family of agricultural business people who have farmed the rich red soil of Prince Edward Island for the last 200 years. He describes himself as an entrepreneur by nature and nurture, and when he discovered that he couldn’t find the product he wanted, his business instincts were aroused.

 “I sensed an opportunity and started researching it.” His research suggested the product could be made, but it still took a decade to figure out how to dry honey into discrete drops and then scale the process for commercial production.

To cope with burgeoning production requirements, the company has recently moved into a large custom-designed manufacturing plant in the P.E.I. BioCommons Centre in Charlottetown.

Rowe said it has been beneficial to be based on Prince Edward Island where innovation in the fields of agriculture and biosciences is part of the culture.

 “Early on, we were able to test our platform with local organizations, such as the National Research Council and Bio Food Tech,” he said. “And Islanders love to support one another — we’ve had 140,000 people on our marketing team. They’ve helped us build the Honibe brand. I don’t believe you’d get that outside the East Coast.”

McKenzie Accelerator Seeks Startups

The McKenzie Accelerator, based in Moncton, is seeking applicants for its third cohort, which will include five new startups.

The McKenzie Accelerator is a 14-week program which provides business training, affordable workspace, mentoring and funding. At the end of the program, a Demo Day will be scheduled in which the startups will pitch their product idea to potential investors.

The deadline for submitting applications is March 14, 2014. Potential applicants are invited to look at the group’s website for more information. The email address is accelerator@mckenzie.edu.

“If you or anyone you know is interested to apply please check out the web site,” said Director Holly McKnight in a release. “If there are any questions please contact me...We look forward to working with the new startups and appreciate your support of the McKenzie Accelerator.”

Focusing on the Later Stages

Perhaps the problem is with the word “startup.”

There’s an impressive support system developing for Atlantic Canadian startups, but the problem is that most of the support is focused on the startup phase. There’s less support for maturing tech, biotech and clean-tech companies.

At Entrevestor in the past year, we’ve written about five different accelerators and entrepreneurship courses offered by at least four universities.

There are other announcements expected soon on incubators, sandboxes and the like.

Business formation is a critical aspect of creating a broad group of knowledge-based companies. The thing is, more work needs to be done in the later stages of a company’s existence, and such work is often more difficult for people in the region because it often requires relationships with people outside the region.

So as Atlantic Canada develops the ecosystem for innovative companies, the next component should be a mechanism that focuses not on a company’s first two years, but on years 3 to 7, helping to take a company from early revenue to large global sales.

It would be great if a group of senior people from governments, universities and industries across the region could focus on three issues: first, early adopters; second, sales of technology; and third, mentors and advisers.

East Valley Ventures in Saint John is already working on these issues, and others are examining them. But the startup segment would benefit from a broader, more concerted effort.

By bringing together senior executives and bureaucrats from across the region, there would be a massive fund of relationships and influence to help these growing companies.

This group’s first job would be to help a growth-phase company find early customers. A complaint I frequently hear from startups is that they can find clients outside the region but not locally.

The group could seek local customers for startups — not just to make introductions, but to persuade bureaucracies to change their processes to adopt locally developed technology.

Job No. 2: Train a generation of tech salespeople. Maturing companies are screaming out for sales talent, and there is a huge opportunity for some educational institution (possibly with financial backing from a company or individual) to open a school for technology sales.

Finally, there needs to be a more concerted effort to find international directors and advisers for Atlantic Canadian companies. By their nature, startups aim to revolutionize their chosen market, so it’s realistic to think they can attract the attention of world leaders in that market.

A group of Atlantic Canadian business leaders would have a huge network of global contacts and could help to link growing companies with top-flight advisers.

Note that I haven’t said we should channel more public money into these companies that have gone beyond the startup stage. That wasn’t an oversight. These maturing companies must move on to the international stage and should raise their money in larger markets.

Raising money in New York, London or San Francisco helps to build networks of contacts in such cities. Handing public money to maturing companies risks using public money to prop up companies that can’t find investment elsewhere.

So to recap, all the accelerators and incubators are great, but the more important and difficult job is probably how to support mid-stage companies.


EMSAT Focuses on Revenue Growth

As it moves on from the Genesis Centre at Memorial University, environmental monitoring startup EMSAT Corp. is also moving on from the product development phase of its growth to focus on sales, marketing and business development.

Last week, the startup graduated from the Genesis Centre, Memorial’s incubation facility for high-growth, technology-based ventures, and now has its own office in downtown St. John’s. And it is in the final month of Phase 2 of its pilot project with a major Albertan client. The project is going well and the company is looking for new opportunities.

“This year is our year for business development and revenue generation,” said CEO Dan Brake in an interview the day after the graduation. “Until now we’ve been developing the product, we were more in research and development. … Our focus is changing now to commercial application.”

EMSAT has developed software to analyze in real time environmental data picked up by sensors placed near industrial sites, pipelines, and the like. By placing sensors in and around a site just about anywhere, EMSAT can collect data on such environmental factors as levels of carbon dioxide, sulphur oxides, nitrous oxides or particulates, whether in the air, soil or water.

The company can transmit the data by land line, cellular or satellite communication. EMSAT analyzes them and presents charts, graphs or raw numbers, as the customer requires. Brake often refers to the company’s product as “an ADT system for the environment.”

What’s kept the company busy is its pilot project with Alberta Innovates - Technology Futures, or AITF, which supports research and innovation in the western province. A year ago, EMSAT completed Phase 1 of the project, which involved developing an interface for an integrated carbon capture and storage monitoring system.

In Phase 2, EMSAT and AITF are working to implement the remaining components of the solution, which will result in a system for real-time measurement and monitoring of a geological CO2 storage site.

“The pilot project represents a unique application of EMSAT’s technology and will help to launch EMSAT commercially,” said the Genesis Centre in a statement last week.

During that time, the company has focused on improving the user interface of the product, and it has grown the team, pretty well doubling the staff to six.  The company has yet to raise outside equity capital, and Brake and his team have no plans to do so now.

As he looks to the near future, Brake knows the company will look at providing solutions for other industries as well as the energy sector, and is also looking at other geographic locations – especially the Arctic. “There’s also a lot more happening on the east coast than when we started,” he added.

Press Release: TEDxNovaScotia

They all require a visionary. Someone to take a leap into the unknown and take the chance that can change our lives. Dalhousie Student Union is excited to present TEDxNovaScotia "Chances Worth Taking: Innovation in a Time of Indifference!" The event will take place on Sunday, March 9th from 11am to 5pm in the McInnes Room of the Dalhousie Student Union Building.

TEDxNovaScotia prides itself on uniting community members from across Nova Scotia and bringing together bold and inspirational ideas that are taking off around our province each and every day. Encouraging curiosity, questions and discussions, TEDxNovaScotia is sure to get your mind rolling with innovative thoughts and ideas that might have once seemed impossible. The speakers this year are leaders who invest in our youth, bring environmental initiatives to the masses and promote equality.

To purchase tickets for $25 or learn more about featured speakers and musical guests, visit tedxnovascotia.ca. Tickets can also be purchased at the information desk of Dalhousie’s Student Union Building. Coffee and lunch is included, allowing plenty of time for networking and idea-exchanges.  

1100-Plus MDs Now Use The Rounds

Twenty-seven thousand times last month, doctors from across Canada collaborated on The Rounds, a social network for medical professionals, to discuss health issues.

The Halifax startup, which launched on Feb. 3, connects doctors from across the country, allowing them to ask questions, create local “groups” and discuss medical issues.

Only doctors are allowed to sign up for the basic service and all the information is double encrypted, so there are no concerns about breaking patient confidentiality.

It has already proved its worth, with more than 1,100 doctors on the application, interacting 27,000 times in the first few weeks.

And revenue is starting to pick up, though the company is not yet cash-flow positive.

 “We have the money to hire on full-time staff and the money raised gives us a 12-month runway,” founder and CEO Blair Ryan said, meaning that the company likely won’t have to raise more money for a year.

He has raised enough money to realize growth, and is projecting $500,000 in revenue by the end of the year.

Access to The Rounds — formerly known as Boondoc — is free for doctors, but the company allows pharmaceutical companies, medical associations or other groups to pay to engage on the site in a non-intrusive manner.

The first such paying customer is now using the site.

This means there are no pop-up ads, but the network does have sponsored pages in which doctors can seek out more information.

Recently, The Rounds had a sponsored quiz, where doctors checked to see if they were properly prescribing medication.

Ryan already runs the Empathy Factory, a not-for-profit organization that teaches children empathy and encourages them to help with social change.

With Ryan at The Rounds is CTO Daniel Enman, and Bill Power, who came on as COO last month. Both Enman and Power bring with them experience in the startup community, having founded Znania and Impetus Innovations respectively.

The 10-person team includes three marketing positions and the rest are part of the development crew.

Ryan said The Rounds must now connect with more Canadian doctors and is focusing on three things: to get more users, which will increase the value of the product; to increase engagement of existing users; and to get other doctors to refer it to their colleagues.

 “We need to be where our users are — at conferences, in medical journals, on Linkedin,” Ryan said in an interview.

The breakdown of the users is representative of the community of Canadian doctors. Half are family doctors, just as half of the Canadian medical community practises family medicine. Interestingly, rural doctors use it the most, probably because they don’t have the physical network a doctor in a major city hospital would have.

Ryan wants to make spending time on the website more worthwhile.

Since it’s collaborative and educational, he believes doctors should be able to get continuing medical education credits for time spent in the online community.

With Canadian doctors required to complete more than 40 credits each year, this could bring more users — and therefore more value — to the network.


Press Release: Ellen Farrell’s Study

Entrepreneurship is about to undergo a rigorous scrutiny in the Region.   A ground-breaking research project has just been launched to study the region’s entrepreneurial culture.  The study, situated at the Sobey School of Business under the direction of Dr. Ellen Farrell, maps the entrepreneurial ecosystem.  It has already begun with the first wave of surveys starting this week. 

Using complex network theory, the powerful analysis will map thousands of interactions amongst hundreds of actors to identify how knowledge and communication are fostering innovation and entrepreneurship.

“If you get a copy of the survey, it is because you have been identified as an entrepreneur or a supporter of growing or innovating firms, or start-ups” said Dr. Farrell. “Please return it to us.  Alternatively, anyone who thinks they should be a part of the survey can contact us to participate.” 

Farrell, a researcher and professor of venture capital and entrepreneurship at the Sobey School of Business, says she expects the study to ultimately touch hundreds start-ups, growing and innovating entrepreneurs, agencies, financial firms, support groups, professional advisors, venture capital funds and business angels. 

“Informed policy is the purpose of the survey” says Farrell.  “Assessing the impact of the efforts being made by governments, support agencies and entrepreneurs is valuable knowledge.  The entrepreneurial climate in the Region is an indicator of our level of innovation and that is the fuel that propels the Province.”

“The results of the survey will show how much of our activity is a result of a culture of entrepreneurs learning from one another and from other resources providers, and how willing we are to mobilize resources beyond our own geography,” commented the early-stage scholar. 


For further information:

Ellen Farrell, PhD

902 420 5693


Welcome Our Intern Rebecca Joseph

We’re happy to welcome Rebecca Joseph to Entrevestor as our student intern for 2014.

Rebecca is enrolled in a one-year journalism program at the University of King’s College, having previously completed a Bachelor of Computer Engineering at the University of Manitoba.

Rebecca has already proven herself an enthusiastic addition to Entrevestor, and she writes nice clear prose. But what we’re really happy about is to be working with someone with such tremendous technical expertise.

A native of Manitoba, Rebecca is as well travelled as she is knowledgeable. She’s lived in New Zealand and travelled through Egypt, Switzerland, Italy, England, Mexico, and the U.S.

Rebecca’s first piece for us, a feature on The Rounds, appears on Entrevestor and in the Chronicle-Herald today. We’re looking forward to more pieces from her.


Gogii Upbeat with New Partners

Having closed two recent deals with international partners, Gogii Games of Moncton is looking forward to gaining more customers and revenue and adopting a more aggressive production schedule in 2014.

The developer of casual games recently struck a partnership with Microsoft to have Windows Phone platforms feature 31 Gogii titles from its back catalogue of iOS-based games. It’s substantial because Windows Phone is the fastest growing platform in the gaming market.

But in a recent interview, Founder and CEO George Donovan spoke more about the company’s distribution with Pocket Gems, a San Francisco-based game developer and distributer.

To understand why the Pocket Gems is so exciting to Donovan, it helps to understand the complexity of the casual gaming business model. These developers let users download games for free then encourage them to pay for additional features and add-ons.  It generally costs $2 to $4 to acquire a customer, and about 100,000 installs a day are needed to make the iTunes charts. So games makers have to find cheap ways to gain lots of clients.

Though it’s only five years old, Pocket Gems has been responsible for 150 million installs of games, and last year it booked revenues of $82 million. That’s what has Donovan excited.

“They’re going to bring us a significant number of customers but also market intelligence and user acquisition in California,” said Donovan, of the deal which will launch within 60 days on Android and iOS products. “They’ll be great as a trend analyst.”

He added Pocket Gems has spent months analyzing the market and “they deemed our games to be worthy to be in their network.”  Gogii launched with Pocket Gems on iOS last month, climbing to the No. 7 spot in North America in the Feb 8 weekend.

Gogii engaged with Microsoft in November through mutual contacts at Unity Technology, a maker of gaming engines. “After a quick discussion, they were excited about the quality and the volume of the games we have,” said Donovan, whose titles include Pet Zoometery and Archie: Betty or Veronica. “They had no idea that a company in Atlantic Canada was sitting on a catalogue of 70 titles … and the fact that we had some many No. 1 titles in the casual gaming market place.”

The deals are refreshing news for a company that has had a few challenging years. As often happens in the gaming industry, revenues declined in 2013 and the company had to more than halve its staffing.  Though it’s been tough, Gogii has performed better than many video games. Donovan noted that about two video game companies close each week in the U.S., and not all of them are small operations.

Gogii now has 21 employees, and has two active products in development.  These games are the beginning of Gogii’s return to an aggressive production schedule, and Donovan envisions the production of five to six games in the next few years. The company plans to release 20 to 25 games with Microsoft in the next few months. The company’s catalogue of Archie titles, especially with the new partnerships, should provide a steady revenue stream.

“There still needs to be content for the video game space,” said Donovan. “As long as we can we can earmark ourselves with a good partners, we will be a much bigger player.”


Applications for NSBI’s LeaderConnect

Nova Scotia Business Inc. is looking for applicants for LeaderConnect 2014.

LeaderConnect offers Nova Scotian entrepreneurs a one-on-on meeting with any one of almost 50 of the top business people in the province, including John Risley, Kim Mason, Colin Dodds and Frank Sobey.

These people can offer advice on issues ranging from change management to doing business in China.

Anyone interested can apply by April 1 at  www.connectns.ca/leaderconnect . For more information, please contact Nadia Middleton at 902-424-7237 or nmiddleton@nsbi.ca.

Profile: Ed Clarke’s Databank of Ads

Keeping up with shifting trends in advertising, especially advertising in the global context, requires fast reflexes. Ed Clarke’s livelihood depends on having speedy reactions. Fortunately, the CEO of GlobalAdSource, a company that monitors advertising activity around the globe, is able to swiftly spot and react to trends.

St. John’s-based GlobalAdSource gathers and sells information on advertising so global brands and advertising agencies can plan their own campaigns and monitor what their competitors are doing in new and traditional media. The company covers 75 countries with a team of just nine people. Most team members are based in St. John’s, with others in New York, Amsterdam and London. The team is supported by a network of affiliates around the world.

 “We created this company to offer a choice in how brands and agencies buy competitor advertising intelligence,” Clarke said. “Companies spend billions of dollars in advertising. We are able to offer a custom tracking service for competitive advertising creative, which is a valuable service to global brands and agencies.”

Formed by Clarke in 2008, GlobalAdSource spent the last several years developing infrastructure and database content and only began selling access to the service early last year. The company now has nine easily recognizable global clients. The company’s very first client has just signed a multi-year renewal agreement, which Clarke says feels awesome.

 “We have the fastest-growing advertising and most comprehensive database out there,” he said, comparing his outfit to his three main competitors.

Last summer, GlobalAdSource got a useful boost when it was one of six companies invited to participate in the Canadian Technology Accelerator, or CTA, program in New York.

The CTA is a three-month program organized by the Canadian Consulate that helps Canadian tech startups learn from the digital industries clustered in the largest U.S. city. The program offers communal office space to the qualifying entrepreneurs, as well as introductions to potential mentors and investors, and support from the Trade Commissioner Service.

New York was a great experience, Clarke said. “There is no bigger place for advertising, outside London, perhaps. We’ve been back six times since and built solid connections. The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service in the New York consulate is very good. It’s a great opportunity.”

GlobalAdSource had intended to use the CTA program to increase its links to investors to assist its next round of funding. The company’s early investors included GrowthWorks Atlantic, the Newfoundland and Labrador Angel Network, and a group of Japanese clients.

But the company’s performance and outlook are so promising, Clarke said he is not sure he will be looking for another round of funding in the near term. “We may double or triple our client list in the next year,” he said. “And automating many routine tasks means our team can be kept small and our solution is scalable.”

For Clarke, the success of his second company is sweet and continues the narrative he started with inewsnetwork, a global news monitoring venture he founded in 2002. That company carried media data from over 84 countries on a single, common database. In 2006, Clarke sold the balance of inewsnetwork shares to an early-stage investor.

GlobalAdSource was born after he spotted a fresh opportunity in the advertising monitoring sector and he and a development team custom-designed software to pursue the project. Prior to that, Clarke worked for the telecommunications company that became Bell.

Clarke’s focus may be global, but his success is built on the loyalty of his St. John’s-based colleagues. He still works with many of the same people who toiled with him on his first start-up. “Our core team has been the same for years. It’s neat. We still enjoy working together. We’ve been through a lot but are still having a blast.”

Congress to Track Big Data Progress

Larry Sampson, executive director of the New Brunswick Information Technology Council, is already looking forward to the next Big Data Congress, which he believes will shine a light on the data analytics projects actively being undertaken in Atlantic Canada.

The second annual congress, which wrapped up in Saint John on Wednesday, highlighted how government, large organizations and established businesses can employ data analytics to improve efficiency and performance. It’s the natural follow to the first such event held a year ago, which basically explained what big data is.

Big data or data analytics is the use of data produced online to revolutionize business or administrative processes. The idea is that by analyzing millions or billions of points of data, organizations can be more efficient, can increase their sales and overall improve performance.

The congress this year included several sessions Monday in which established businesses and government officials were taught how they could employ the practice. And now Sampson wants to see what they do to put what they’ve learned into practice.

 “A year from now, we’ll be tracking what organizations in the region have done, or should I say are doing, with big data,” said Sampson, whose organization sponsored the congress, along with the tech company T4G.

The congress this year attracted more than 700 delegates, and featured such renowned speakers as Harvard professor Clayton Christensen; Kevin Slavin, co-founder of Area/Code in 2005 and the head of the “Playful Systems” division of MIT’s Media Lab; Rick Smolan, the creator of the Day in the Life book series and new volume The Human Face of Big Data; and Robert Scoble, co-author of Age of Context.

The congress included the Student Superpower Challenge, in which more than 900 high school students learned about data-based entrepreneurship. The participating teens will develop projects in the coming months and pitch them in May.

The theme throughout was that data-based technologies are now pretty well mainstream and are already changing the way businesses operate.

Scoble, for example, has examined the confluence between five components — social media, sensors, data, wearable technologies and location-based technology — that are coming together to revolutionize how businesses interact with their customers. Cars, he said, are becoming personalized data hubs. Wine companies can now market only to people who buy the finest vintages.

Football teams are doing personalized, real-time marketing to their best fans at the stadiums.

In Atlantic Canada, several startups are using big data to revolutionize established processes. Corrine McIsaac, the CEO of Health Outcomes Worldwide of New Waterford, explained how her company has collected three million pieces of data on wound care — a field of health care that costs $3.8 billion per year. By employing data-based processes, McIsaac said Health Outcomes can cut the cost of wound treatment and the time it takes to heal by more than 50 per cent.

 “If we used big data efficiently, we could fix this health-care system,” she told a session on data and health care Tuesday.

The second conference differed from the first offering in that there was more excitement last year about the possibilities of big data. This year the attitude is that big data is here. It’s being adopted on many fronts. And now there’s a business-like attitude that it’s time to adopt it more.

 “I think we’re going to look back at 2014 as the year when everything started to change,” said Smolan, in discussing the Human Face of Big Data. “We’re at the tipping point right now.”

Launch36 Extends Application Deadline

Launch36, the regional accelerator program, has extended the deadline to apply for its fourth cohort to March 5.

Executive Director Trevor MacAusland said Wednesday he extended the deadline from Feb. 28 after learning of several new companies that need the weekend to complete their application. (Note: an earlier version of this article, as a result of Entrevestor being given the wrong information,  incorrectly said the deadline had been extended to March 2.)

Entrepreneurs who participate in the program connect with experienced mentors and gain valuable advice as well as introductions to major players and investors in the startup scene.

Launch36 is a 12-week program with six one-day “boot camp” sessions held in Moncton, New Brunswick.  Each participating startup is selected by a panel of entrepreneurs and investors based on the quality of the team, product opportunity and growth potential. The first boot camp will be held on March 26.

Launch36’s “Demo Day” – where participants pitch their companies to a room filled with hundreds of potential partners and investors – will be held in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Launch36 program has also partnered with BDC Venture Capital, which will offer a $150,000 seed investment in venture-ready companies upon completion of the program. Anyone who's interested can apply online here





Christensen Calls for Industrial Overhaul

One of the world’s leading experts in the economics of innovation suggested Tuesday that Atlantic Canada should collaborate with new organizations to increase its access to capital and talent and improve the performance of its innovative industries.

In the keynote address at the Big Data Congress in Saint John, Harvard  University Professor Clayton Christensen explained to more than 700 delegates why developed economies are having trouble channeling capital into meaningful innovation.

His 90-minute speech strayed from the conference’s central theme of using big data to revitalize businesses and organizations. Yet he suggested ways that Atlantic Canadians could improve the adoption of innovation and the performance of innovative companies – including data companies.

For example, he said Tata Consultation Services of India has developed a six-month program that can convert even mediocre engineering students into technical employees needed by the country’s booming tech industries. The consultancy, which has international reach and is growing by 25 percent per year, has shown success as well in converting mature, unemployed blue-collar workers in such places as Detroit into employable workers in the technology field.

“If I were you, I’d call these guys and see if they could set up their systems here,” said Christensen, who’s served as a director to the consultancy for eight years. “The opportunity for Big Data would be greater if there were that sort of engine to produce this type of worker.”

Christensen is widely credited with developing the concept of disruptive technology, and witnessing him speak on the matter is a memorable experience. Standing six-foot-eight, the 63-year-old professor appears in a charcoal pinstriped suit, white cuff-linked shirt, blue tie. He’s a devout Mormon, and his diction is sprinkled with references to the church or religious history.  He spoke softly and slowly, always with a simple vocabulary, and the packed audience was silent throughout, except when reacting with laughter to his dry wit.

The speech dwelt on the mechanics of innovation and disruptive technology, and the process by which new technologies are adopted by the broad market. The reason the U.S. economy is now in desperate straits, he said, is capital is being channeled into “efficiency innovation” rather than radically new products. In other words, corporations are working on making existing products cheaper rather than creating new products, and cheaper products don’t really create bona fide economic growth.

He blames this process on the wholesale adoption of a set of financial metrics that reward short-term corporate gains, such as return on capital employed, internal rate of return or earnings per share growth. By clinging to these metrics, managers today are looking for quick or easy returns rather than developing revolutionary products.

“What it means is it [modern industry] is stuck unless someone – maybe you guys – can be a modern-day Martin Luther and nail your thesis to the church doors saying we need a new measurement for success,” he said.

In the startup sphere, he took issue with the prevailing pursuit of exits. He said many worthwhile entrepreneurial pursuits don’t result in products or technology  that can be purchased by a larger company. Yet startups in such fields can’t find financing because investors don’t perceive an exit strategy.

Christensen suggested   Atlantic Canadians consider new financial groups like Royalty Capital of Boston, which essentially licenses its capital to ventures, receiving a royalty until it makes a certain return on its money.

The Big Data Congress continues today with its Student Superpower Challenge, in which about 900 students learn about entrepreneurship and begin a startup competition. 

Planet Hatch Seeks Applicants

Sally Ng is looking for a few good startups.

The Executive Director of the Planet Hatch incubator and ACcelR8 program has sent out a notice saying the program’s first cohort has graduated and it is time to bring in the next crew. The applications are open until March 5. Ng will host information sessions on the program Thursday, Feb. 27, at 5:15 and 6:15 pm at Planet Hatch in Fredericton.

She is encouraging any startup and/or entrepreneur to apply, even if they are early in their development.

“By completing the application it helps the startups stay on our radar and also helps us have a better idea of our community needs are,” said Ng in an email.

Planet Hatch’s ACcelR8 Program is a 12-week intensive accelerator program for high-growth potential startups. Its aim is to help startups increase traction, secure partnerships and fine tune their business model through mentorship and programming. Through access to its network of mentors and advisers, the organizers want to teach startups in the program to compete globally.


NewPace Unveils New Partnerships

Bedford-based NewPace Technology Development Inc.. has formed partnerships with two global leaders in mobile phone technology, greatly expanding its sales force reach.

The company, which is exhibiting this week at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, said Monday that it has signed deals with D2 Technologies, the market leader in embedded Internet protocol communications software, and with the European telecommunications distributor Iskratel.

NewPace also said it received Global System for Mobile Communications Association, or GSMA, accreditation for its hosted joyn Blackbird Drop 1 release from the GSMA’s Rich Communication Services Interoperability Testing group, a regulatory designation that means this product is now accepted in the international market.

NewPace has spent the past few years developing a suite of Rich Communications Service, or RCS, mobile phone products. These products increase the flexibility that 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.

The company, whose revenue was well into six figures in 2013, is now continuing with research and development, but is placing a far greater emphasis on sales. The sales cycle is almost two years long in mobile telephony, so NewPace is hoping the increased sales activity of the past year or so will result in accelerated revenues in the next few years.

Its partnerships with these international leaders should help that process, said NewPace founder and CEO Brent Newsome.

“The context is that a small company in Nova Scotia is getting the attention of some of the world’s biggest distributors,” said Newsome in an interview before he left for Barcelona. “It exponentially increases our sales force.”

D2 Technologies, based in Santa Barbara, Calif., is a leader in VoIP and converged IP communications software for devices used in 4G and next-generation networks. The California company’s mCUE 4G IMS software will be used on NewPace’s rcsConnect platform to give mobile network operators complete RCS functionality as they move from legacy voice services to more modern networks.

“NewPace has become an industry leader based on its deep understanding of the benefits of rich communication as a platform that can enhance the end-user experience and help operators remain competitive in the marketplace,” D2 Technologies chief operating officer Doug Makishima said in a statement. “We look forward to leveraging the company’s innovative technology to help bring RCS to the next level.”

Slovenia-based Iskratel is known for its R&D and manufacturing activities, and is affiliated with businesses in 20 countries, including NewPace in Canada. Iskratel will use NewPace’s rcsConnect solution to power its SI3000 product. By combining the two products, operators can deploy RCS with or without an IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) and seamlessly transition from the basic short messaging system to the more advanced RCS.

Last June, NewPace announced it signed six-figure sales agreements with Nokia Corporation of Finland and an unnamed European company, accelerating the traction of its Rich Communications Service, or RCS, mobile phone products.


Campbell: Our Underrated Med Tech

Despite the impressive growth of startups in Atlantic Canada, I feel people don’t fully appreciate the quality of innovation now taking place in medical technology in the region. 

I’m a panel reviewer on several national commercialization programs, including  the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Proof of Principle, Business-led Centres of Excellence, and the Centres of Excellence for Commercialization. So I’m routinely exposed to promising Canadian technologies and commercialization initiatives in the medical technology sector. From this perspective, I believe our region underestimates the potential of the medical technology sector here.

There are successful and emerging medical technology companies across Canada and particular clusters of world-class expertise in certain areas. (Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, with its imaging technologies leaps to mind.)  And certainly Halifax’s med tech cluster – the most active centre for this industry in Atlantic Canada -- is still very young in its evolution.  

But the innovation here is unmistakable – a market pull model in which clinicians themselves are seeking solutions to challenges in their practices. In my opinion, the key to our med tech sector in Halifax is our innovative, engaged and entrepreneurial doctors. We have surgeons, anesthetists, and interventionalists all with an eye to innovation, a growing portfolio of patent filings and a desire to see their technologies become commercial products.

A strength sometimes overlooked in our region is the driving force of doctors searching for solutions to challenges in procedures they perform daily. Think of Dr. Manohar Bance actively seeking improved imaging for the ear, a tangible diagnostic tool for his ENT practice. Or Dr. Michael Dunbar innovating objective measures for triaging patients waiting for joint replacement surgeries.  And Dr. Bob Abraham partnering for safer and visible embolic agents.

Halifax also hosts talented engineers and material scientists who are keen to tackle these medical engineering challenges. I have the privilege of working at the intersect of innovators and engineers, watching such synergies take hold: ABK Biomedical Inc., DeCell Technologies Inc., OrthoMX Inc. and EnginuityMed Inc. to name a few.  The current Entrevestor Survey will provide a comprehensive Atlantic-wide listing of med tech assets. 

What do these med tech companies and others bring to Halifax and Atlantic Canada?  The obvious is new clinical trials, new development programs and more HQPs as the companies grow. But more tantalizing is the promise of innovation in diagnostic imaging, orthopaedic pre and post rehabilitation, embolic therapies, chronic wound healing and safer IV systems in the operating room.  Excited yet?


Barbara M. Campbell is the principal of Hammock Facilitation Inc., a Halifax consultancy that brings business development services to life sciences companies.

Press Release: Launch36 Applications


Launch36, the regional accelerator that has graduated 26 companies in the last two years, released the following media release yesterday:


Ready to Build the Next Great Startup Company?

Deadline to Apply to Launch36 Startup Accelerator Program is February 28.

Moncton, New Brunswick—The deadline to apply to Propel ICT’s Launch36 technology startup accelerator program is coming up soon. Entrepreneurs who participate in the program connect with experienced mentors and gain valuable advice as well as introductions to major players and investors in the startup scene. The deadline for applications is February 28.

Launch36 is a 12-week program with six one-day “boot camp” sessions held in Moncton, New Brunswick.  Each participating startup is selected by a panel of entrepreneurs and investors based on the quality of the team, product opportunity and growth potential. The first boot camp will be held on March 26.

Launch36’s “Demo Day” – where participants pitch their companies to a room filled with hundreds of potential partners and investors – will be held in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Launch36 program has also partnered with BDC Venture Capital, which will offer a $150,000 seed investment in venture-ready companies upon completion of the program.

 “Our program is tough and intense. It’s a powerful boost for startups that mean business. Launch36 entrepreneurs work closely with our highly engaged coaches as well as a network of over 70 advisors in finance, business planning, product design, marketing and other areas that are vital for startups to understand,” said Trevor MacAusland, Executive Director of Propel ICT. “Our alumni are building global companies from a base here on the East Coast. The next group can do the same.”

Over the past two years, 26 companies have graduated from Propel ICT’s Launch36 program, going on to create 100 jobs and raise $12 million in venture capital investment.

To take part in the Launch36 program, entrepreneurs should be an early-stage company with a technology focus and live in Eastern Canada. There is no age requirement. To find out more, or to apply to become part of Launch36 program, visit http://www.launch36.ca



For further information:

Trevor MacAusland



Profile: McCrae’s Gift to Merchants

As a former small business owner, Gillian McCrae knew the challenges local merchants face attracting customers and getting a return on their marketing dollars.

The Charlottetown native pondered the problem and came up with a unique solution — merchants could attract customers and build loyalty by offering them gifts.

McCrae launched the idea on Prince Edward Island and it immediately appealed to consumers and merchants. GetGifted was born and now, one year after its launch, the company is expanding across the region and into major North American cities.

Here’s how it works: GetGifted asks local retailers to offer gifts to local consumers. The merchant chooses the type of gift and how many they want to offer. It could be a $15 gift to a local restaurant, a month membership to a fitness centre or a round of golf. The merchants and their gifts are then featured on #TheGiftList, an email that is sent to local consumers that have signed up for free with GetGifted.

The email blast comes at a different time each Tuesday and consumers can claim one gift. They then have 14 days to redeem their gift in-store using their smartphone. Merchants pay an annual fee of $2,000 to be featured once a month on #TheGiftList. More than 80 per cent of merchants say that sales they make from GetGifted customers greatly exceed the cost of the gifts.

“Around 10,000 people subscribe to the weekly gift-giveaway on P.E.I., 85 per cent of them from Charlottetown, that’s almost one-quarter of Charlottetown’s population,” McCrae said. “About 150 merchants in P.E.I. have joined GetGifted and we typically offer around 1,500 gifts each week. All the gifts are claimed within 10 minutes, and about 60 percent of them are redeemed in the two-week period.”

Last fall, McCrae and the GetGifted team decided to launch in New Brunswick, landing in Fredericton and Saint John. In December, the team entered Halifax, Atlantic Canada’s largest metro area. They will launch in Moncton and Toronto in the coming months, and in their first American city, Boston, later in 2014.

McCrae learned how challenging it can be operating a small business while running her own restaurant in Ontario. After moving home to Charlottetown to study business and accounting, she found herself working for local businesses as a consultant.

“I realized that the merchants were having trouble advertising effectively and building their social media. It occurred to me that they could try giving away gift cards, so I offered to give them away on Twitter. I’d never used Twitter before, but I was curious and I committed 30 days to the project.

“It took off and I found myself giving out dozens of gift cards every week. I was doing it for free, paying for envelopes and stamps and I thought, ‘We need an app for this.’ A friend of mine is a web developer and he built the prototype. Three months later, we created GetGifted.”

In Halifax, the idea caught on as soon as it was launched.

“GetGifted has provided an excellent tool that works for both sides of the retail experience,” said Nancy Tissington, executive director of the Spring Garden Area Business Association.

Medium- to high-end businesses in each market are featured.

“It’s not about getting a deal or discount, it’s about merchants gifting to create an experience,” said McCrae, who acts as the company’s CEO and founder.

Professional people aged 25-45 are the target audience, and Twitter remains a key tool for reaching them. Many followers publicly thank merchants on Twitter for their gifts, thus providing merchants with extra exposure.

“The Tuesday unveiling of #TheGiftList is keenly awaited by consumers. We have turned Tuesdays into a community event,” McRae said, adding that she is currently fundraising for funds to fuel the company’s expansion into other markets.

Aiding Dentists with NS Plant Extracts

Sherri McFarland is working for a day when certain dental patients can improve their oral health with a sort of illuminated mouthguard smeared with compounds extracted from common Nova Scotia plants.

McFarland is the co-founder and CEO of Fenol Farm, a Mount Uniacke-based life sciences startup that recently won the $100,000 first prize for the Annapolis Valley area in Innovacorp’s I-3 Competition. And the aim of this young company is to use a combination of light and natural compounds extracted from plants to cure oral health problems in certain patients.

The company is developing both a medical device and a natural health product that work together to control plaque buildup on teeth. The company is beginning the process of seeking regulatory approval for the products, and hopes for a full launch in Canada in 2017.

 “We’ve got a rather aggressive business model that will not allow for a lot of sleep in the next two or three years,” McFarland joked over a coffee in Halifax on Tuesday.

McFarland and co-founder and chief technology officer Colin Cameron discovered a group of specific compounds extracted from particular plants that can be activated by light to kill certain cells. After considering a few applications for this discovery, Fenol Farm chose to develop a product that would attack biofilm that coats teeth in two groups of dental patients.

The first group is people with a high susceptibility to calculus regrowth, or HSCR. In these patients, brushing and flossing alone does not prevent plaque buildup. Such patients — estimated at 15 to 25 per cent of the population — need dental visits every three or four months to remove the tartar. The other group is people with braces, who often suffer from white spots and/or cavities because of tartar buildup around the braces.

The delivery system for the Fenol Farm product is a dental tray, like a hockey mouthguard, embedded with tiny LED lights. Three times a week, a patient smears the top and bottom of the tray with a paste made from plant extract. They turn on the lights and pop it in their mouth for about a minute. The result is a prevention of tartar buildup.

 “Hardy plants are a great place to look for a bioactive compound,” said McFarland, a chemistry professor at Acadia University. “They are able to grow in a variety of places under a wide range of conditions specifically because they contain such compounds.”

Cameron is an expert in materials chemistry and LED fabrication and will be responsible for producing the dental tray. McFarland will take care of the paste. Alex McLellan and Martin Greenwood round out the team.

They are developing the device and paste as a natural health product to be sold over-the-counter — a designation in Canada that allows faster market entry at a lower cost than with pharmaceutical drugs.

Fenol Farm is seeking regulatory approval by the end of 2015, following case and clinical studies in Canada, scheduled to begin this year. The general Canadian release is targeted for 2017, to be followed by a U.S. launch a year later.

McFarland said the team believes they will need to raise just over $3 million in equity financing to develop and launch the product in Canada and the U.S. This will likely be complemented by funding from various government programs.

Data Congress to Feature Connector

An added feature of this year’s Big Data Congress will be the Research and Development Connector, which aims to link businesses with university researchers.

The event takes place Monday from 1 to 4 pm at the Saint John Convention Centre. It is sponsored by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, known as Nserc, T4G Ltd., and Springboard Atlantic. The computer science faculties at University of New Brunswick and Dalhousie University have also helped to organize the connector.

Here’s how it works:  the room will be filled with about 20 researchers in computer science or related faculties from various universities around the room. Business people – whether from startups or larger, more established enterprises – will take turns addressing them to explain their challenges in some aspect of IT.

The aim is for the researchers to link up with the business people and try to find ways to work together. Any partnerships have the opportunity to apply for Nserc grants, which finance work between academic researchers and private businesses.  Nserc awards six-month grants worth as much as $25,000 grant to cover the costs of hiring students and pay for resources to tackle a company’s problem.

Some businesses have signed up but the organizers are hoping for more. Registration forms are here.

Nserc and Springboard – the organization that facilitates commercialization and industry partnerships at Atlantic Canada’s post-secondary institutions -- have been holding Connector events in various sectors for a few years. 

Ivany Report’s Focus on Startups

The Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy, which filed its report last week, took note of the accomplishments of the startup community, and asked me to produce a few recommendations on how to enhance the performance.

The Commission, headed by Acadia University professor Ray Ivany, was charged by the previous government with examining the Nova Scotian economy and recommending ways to improve it. (I was going to write “fix it”, but that would be distorting the actual mandate.) The report called for a huge change in culture, in which business growth is encouraged, rewarded and respected.

My five recommendations appear on page 176 of the report. Regular readers of Entrevestor will be familiar with the arguments:

1.       Develop a regional startup strategy;

2.       Enhance the equity tax credit program;

3.       Develop technology sales skills;

4.       Teach more computer science in schools;

5.       And accept that tech is largely an urban phenomenon.

The report also includes an examination of exports by Jupia Consultants President David Campbell, whose blogs and columns always make for enlightened reading. His recommendations, including a call for a greater focus on service exports, begin on page 184. 

Ivany Debate Shows We Need Change

While the Ivany commission’s 243-page report makes for interesting reading, it’s not quite as interesting as people’s responses to the tome.

After all, the commission on the Nova Scotian economy last week called for a change in Nova Scotians’ attitudes, so it’s paramount to understand what those attitudes are. After listening to people discuss the report, and reading social and conventional media, I think there are two attitudes that sing out for change: the belief that the Maritime way of life is superior to that of places like Toronto because we’re not corrupted by wealth, and the outrage of some that too much public money is given to wealthy people in the guise of economic development.

I find it hard to criticize the report itself, in part because I was contracted to write a passage on what could be done to boost startups. (My recommendations are on page 176 of the report.) And anyone who has read my writing should know I agree with the conclusion that demographic and economic realities mean the Maritime provinces must change.

Others are more sanguine. You frequently read that Nova Scotians (or other Atlantic Canadians) say they prefer our pleasant lifestyle to the pursuit of riches. I’m always dumbfounded by such an attitude, especially in light of the Ivany commission’s findings. We have an aging population, negligible GDP growth, an exodus of young people and more than $14 billion in provincial government debt.

Yes, a greater focus on private sector growth would mean more rich people, and some would be vulgar in displaying it. But a failure to grow private business would reduce tax revenue. That would mean a continuing loss of young people, worse health care, educational cuts, longer wait times for seniors homes, crumbling infrastructure, and lower environmental investment.

The fact is, our cherished way of life is threatened not by too many people trying to get rich but by too few people actually succeeding.

It’s logical, then, that the government has to foster private sector growth, but that can lead to outrage at governments handing money to plutocrats. What would surprise many critics of government largesse is how many business people agree there are problems with giving too much money to specific companies or individuals.

Federal and provincial governments have some great — I mean really great — programs that give money to young businesses to help them through their growth phase. Most people support these programs, and I hope people applaud if these companies succeed and their owners grow wealthy. History has shown successful businessmen feed their wealth back into the community.

It’s critical that people who are offended by businessmen getting rich change their attitude.

It stands to reason, then, that it is also essential that governments refrain from giving huge sums of money to individual businesses, because that excites anti-business attitudes. Successful businesses should be directed to a private bank. Struggling businesses, including struggling startups, should be allowed to fail. Certainly there will be special cases, but governments must understand that every big cheque for businesses perpetuates our attitudinal challenges.

The McNeil government has already signalled it wants a greater number of smaller initiatives in economic development, which is a move in the right direction. It will be interesting to view its success and to see if it has any effect on the glacial process of changing attitudes.

One Week Till Big Data Congress

One week from today, the second Big Data Congress will kick off in Saint John with a host of internationally renowned thinkers and, very likely, a huge turnout from the startup community.

Last year, about 600 people braved the cold to attend the inaugural Congress – an astonishing number given the time of year and the fact the event had not been held before.

The goal for that conference was simply to provide a showcase for what Big Data is and how it can help all businesses and organizations.  This year, organizers T4G and the New Brunswick Information Technology Council want to build on that and deepen the discussion on how organizations should be using data to improve performance.

The list of speakers to help explore the topic includes:

--  Clayton Christensen, the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. He is regarded as one of the world’s top experts on innovation and growth and his ideas have been widely used in industries and organizations throughout the world.

--  Kevin Slavin, Co-founder of Area/Code in 2005 and the head of the “Playful Systems” division of MIT’s Media Lab.

--  Rick Smolan, the creator of the “Day in the Life” book series. His latest project is The Human Face of Big Data, for which he and his team collected data from people around the world, including snapshots of their lives and responding to thought-provoking questions about their dreams, interests, and views.

--  Shel Israel and Robert Scoble, co-authors of Age of Context, in which they examine the convergence of six technology forces: mobile, social media, Big Data, wearable technology, location, and sensors. They are also the authors of Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers.

The Congress begins Monday at the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre with registration and technical sessions, at which participants can learn the what, why and how of Big Data. The main sessions with the guest speakers will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 25.

As an added feature, the Congress this year will include the Student Superpower Challenge on Wednesday, Feb. 26. It will be a chance for teens to learn about technology in sessions led by Hilary Mason, an acclaimed data scientist and cofounder of HackNY, and David Alston, chief marketing officer of Introhive and the volunteer founder of New Brunswick’s Kids Coding Project. The participating teens will develop projects in the coming months and pitch them in May. 

Survey Update: Thanks and Reminder

We want to thanks the well over 100 entrepreneurs that that have responded to our survey of the Atlantic Canadian startup community, and remind others to please get the surveys in.  

We’re delighted with the response we’ve got so far. We just need to work this week with the startups who’ve told us they’ve been meaning to respond. There are a lot of people who have said they just have to get around to it. Now is the time to get them in.

So far, only four people have declined to participate. Their reasons are mainly because they have left the region, have only one free app or feel they’re too old and established to be a startup.

Just to be clear, the startup community has many vast grey areas when we define what a startup is. With this survey, we want to cast a broad net. We’re looking for locally owned companies that are commercializing their own scalable technology. Some are more than a decade old. We don’t think every startup has to be the legendary two guys in a garage.

Meanwhile, we’ve heard from scores of people that this is a great idea that will greatly help the community. Many thanks to everyone for all the enthusiasm.


 Peter and Carol Moreira

Profile: Paul LeBlanc’s Many Roles

Paul LeBlanc says he suffers from “a serious case of corporate ADD,” so it’s no surprise the entrepreneur juggles several ventures and is always on the lookout for more. Any idea offering a unique product can catch LeBlanc’s attention and enthusiasm.

“Critical things to business success are a unique product, intense focus and an extraordinary dose of hustle. Those things are lightning in a bottle,” LeBlanc said from the Halifax office of Karma Gaming, a company he co-founded with Jay Aird in January 2010 to develop digital lottery games globally.

LeBlanc is CEO of Karma as well as founder and CEO of marketing company Extreme Group and co-founder of Dystillr.com, an analytics engine for the casual gaming industry. He’s also a partner in VistaCare Communications and Sage Mixology.

He has founded and sold several other companies. His awards include being named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2006 and Top 40 Under 40 in Canada. He also sits on several boards. “I’m having a blast,” he said of his busy life.

Karma is his main focus. The company is helping revolutionize the gaming industry, which is switching from the purchase of lottery tickets and scratch cards to gaming online and mobile gaming.

Karma was a natural progression for LeBlanc who had previously worked with lotteries as clients of his marketing business.

“Also, I have owned every major gaming console since Atari and ‘invested’ countless hours playing casual games,” he said.

“The thrill of winning money is timeless and universal, but the current lottery solutions do not meet the expectations of digital customers. Lotteries around the world are looking to revitalize their products and become relevant to a broader audience.”

It might be his natural milieu, but LeBlanc did not set out to be an entrepreneur. When he was 20 he began a criminology degree at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax with the aim of joining the RCMP.

Then, he thought he’d follow the example of his dad, Roger, who had been a top salesman, selling trucks for companies like Mack and Caterpillar.

But in 1990, father and son decided to start their own company, Coastal Communications, a cellular and telecommunications provider. They opened six local offices and sold the business to DownEast Communications in 1996.

Again, LeBlanc wondered what to do, should he finish his criminology degree, find a job or launch another startup?

“I looked at a few jobs and discovered I probably wouldn’t make a good employee any more. I’d got used to operating to the beat of my own drum,” he said.

So, he toyed with the idea of making brochures for real estate agents and taught himself design using Photoshop. The brochures didn’t catch on, but he found himself with Sparkling Spring Water as a client and so Extreme Group was born. Extreme quickly won many blue-chip clients and top awards globally.

In 2007, LeBlanc and his family moved to Toronto and opened an Extreme Group office there. By 2011, missing family and a quieter pace of life, he moved back to Halifax, and began looking around for a new venture.

“I knew I wanted a scalable business with global reach. Casual gaming was experiencing explosive growth and I saw a need to capitalize on the growth of casual gaming to create a sustainable channel for lotteries.”

The initial proof of concept work at Karma went well, and he and Aird have now raised $5 million in seed capital. They have opened a second office in Moncton and are working with lottery corporations across Canada as well as in the U.S. and U.K.

He’s busy, but more startups might be in LeBlanc’s future.

“Once you’ve demystified starting a business,” he said, “well, it could be a game changer for you.”

Heimdall Bags $225K as I-3 Winner

Heimdall Networks of Sydney on Wednesday captured $225,000 in prizes by winning the I-3 Technology Start-up Competition, Innovacorp’s event that aims to find the best new startups in Nova Scotia.

Founded by Jim DeLeskie, Heimdall Networks is developing software that protects corporations and governments against distributed denial-of-service attacks. The company won a $100,000 seed investment as the overall winner, on top of the $100,000 in cash and services it won for placing first in the Cape Breton region. It also won $25,000 in cash as the contest’s top information technology company.

The I-3 competition names winners from five regions across the province and is designed to offer mentorship to all the 228 companies that entered.

 “The quality and quantity of entries to the I-3 competition this year has far eclipsed past competitions,” said Stephen Duff, chief executive officer of Innovacorp, the province’s innovation agency.

 “We are seeing a progressive sophistication of the entrepreneurial community in Nova Scotia, and I believe this is an important trend that will make an increasing contribution to the economic prosperity of our province.”

Heimdall impressed the judges with its ability to prevent distributed denial-of-service attacks that swamp an organization’s website and/or network with unwanted traffic, disabling all its online functions. The attacks have become more frequent because of the development and distribution of relatively simple tools needed to make them.

The company’s technology is designed to identify the legitimate and the non-legitimate traffic on a network, and to filter out the bad while letting the good through.

Having previously worked on security for a major carrier, DeLeskie said he appreciates the need for a product that can be scaled up to handle the needs of multinational corporations or large governments.

The other regional winners in the competition are:

•Zone 1 (Cumberland, Colchester, Pictou, Antigonish and Guysborough counties): Extrify, New Glasgow, founded by Jim Fitt and Peter Bennett. Extrify lets companies create message, files and threads of comment and share documents across the whole company or within specific departments.

•Zone 2 (Lunenburg, Queens, Shelburne and Yarmouth counties): CelluFuel Inc. in  Brooklyn; Chris Hooper, Tor Suther, Ed McKay and Veselin Milosevic. Cellufuel is working on a demonstration biofuel facility in the former Bowater Mersey paper mill that will create fuel from wood.

•Zone 3 (Digby, Annapolis, Kings and Hants counties): Fenol Farm Inc., Mount Uniacke; Sherri McFarland. Fenol Farm is developing a plant-based product that kills oral bacteria, which leads to tooth damage.

•Zone 4 (Halifax region): Spring Loaded Technology, Halifax; Chris Cowper-Smith, Bob Garrish and Shea Kewin. The company is developing a knee brace that strengthens and stabilizes the joint.

While Heimdall won the $25,000 sector award in information technology, Spring Loaded won the award for the life sciences sector.

In the oceans technology sector, the winner was Natural Ocean Products of North Sydney. Founders Tim Cranston and Jim Kennedy are creating all-natural food, cosmetics and other products from marine plants and other materials. Atlantic Motor Labs Inc. of Halifax, won the clean-tech award. Founded by Braden Murphy, it is developing a compact flow-driven motor, called the TurboPiston, for the oil and gas industry.

A Call for Business Model Entries

Applications are now open for Canada's Business Model Competition, the Halifax event that will allow a team of university students the right to attend the International Business Model Competition at Brigham Young University.

Teams interested in competing in the competition must submit their video application by Monday, Feb. 17. The competition will be held at Dalhousie University March 14-15.

Dalhousie University professors Ed Leach and Mary Kilfoil initiated the program last year, creating a Canadian base for the competition that had already been going in the U.S. for a couple of years. The international consultancy Deloitte Canada joined as a partner, and will provide $50,000 in cash and in-kind services for the Canadian winners.

In an interview Tuesday, Leach said at least a dozen universities will enter the Canadian competition.  There will be a few entries from Dalhousie. There will also be at least two from St. Mary’s University, which will have entries from the Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program, as well as the Sobey School of Business. And both the Fredericton and Saint John campuses of University of New Brunswick are expected to be represented.

The competition is designed to recognize teams – with at least two members currently enrolled as students – that best exemplify the lean startup methodology devised by Berkeley professor Steve Blank. The kernel of his philosophy is that entrepreneurs should talk to dozens, maybe hundreds, of potential customers before they begin developing their project. The idea is to make sure they are developing something with an eager market before they spend money and time developing it.

The competition itself will assess teams that come up with a striking hypothesis, test it with a vast numbers of interviews and adjust their business model to respond to what they hear from potential customers.

Blank himself will address the competition by a video link at 4 pm on Friday, March 14.

The winning team will proceed to the international finals at Brigham Young, and other teams can apply for additional spots at the event in Utah.

In 2013, Spring Loaded Technology, which is developing a knee brace that adds power as well as stability to the knee joint, captured first place at the Canadian event.  Runner-up Purchext, whose product helps students and parents with banking services, landed on of the eight open slots and also attended the international finals.

Agora Mobile Seeking Beta Testers

No one could accuse Simon Gauvin, the founder of Agora Mobile, of lacking ambition.

With the help of 200 early adopters, the Moncton startup is conducting closed beta tests of its own social network, which serves as a platform on which users can develop their own smartphone web apps. Gauvin hopes that one day the product, named Vizwik, will be used by millions of people, improve the functionality of cellphones and play a role in educating children and teens.

Gauvin is looking for more people for an open beta test in the autumn, and Agora has a sign up page. He believes the full launch and the introduction of an enterprise product will take place early next year.

 “It’s a social network for mobile web app discovery, development and distribution,” said Gauvin in an interview last week. “It’s for people who want to get more from their phones with the creation of intelligent apps. They can find interesting apps or content (though the social network) and use it on their phone.”

While taking his PhD in computer science at Dalhousie University, Gauvin developed his own programming language, which is more visual than standard languages. That means it’s more accessible because people tend to respond more positively to visual presentations than to letters, numbers and symbols.

The company has been financed so far through investment from individuals, though Gauvin declined to say how much money he’s received. He said the project has a “long runway” and he will need more angel and venture capital funding in the future.

The Agora Mobile team, which now numbers 11 members, has developed Vizwik as a patented platform-as-a-service product, which serves as the foundation of the social network. It works across all smartphone platforms. People can sign up free, add friends like on Facebook or have followers like Twitter.

Users can design and develop their own apps right on the platform, and Gauvin envisages them doing so to meet their own needs so their phones become more functional. Because they are developing the apps on a social network, other people are following them and aware of what they’re developing.

That means there should be a ready market for the apps as soon as they’re finished. The social network becomes a market for apps, with no need to go on an app store.

Agora Mobile expects to earn money through enterprise applications, which will allow small, medium and even larger companies to use the platform to develop apps that can improve their own operational performance.

Given that only one-tenth of grade school students in North America are taught programming, Gauvin hopes that Vizwik will become an educational tool that can introduce young people to technology.

 “We’ve been driving around the countryside, going school to school and giving workshops,” said Gauvin. “We would like students to use it. About 80 to 90 per cent of the students we’ve shown it to are excited about using it.”

He added that there are now 1.8 billion smartphones users in the world, so the goal of one million Vizwik users is realistic. And if only one per cent of them actually use the platform to develop their own apps, it means there will be 10,000 app developers coming up with new products on the platform.

 “Ten thousand people building apps is a big number,” he said. “But we think that’s a realistic number.”

Ara Labs Lands $500K from NBIF, TVC

Ara Labs Security Solutions, whose cloud-based software detects and battles malware in real time, has raised $500,000 in seed financing, part of which will  pay for a full-time CEO.

New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and Moncton-based Technology Venture Corp have each invested $250,000 in the Fredericton startup, which is the result of four years of research at the Computer Science faculty at the University of New Brunswick.

The company is now headed by Ali Ghorbani, the Dean of Computer Science at the Fredericton institution. But he intends to continue to focus on his academic position, so the company is looking for a full-time CEO to lead the development of the business.

Ara’s software-as-a-service product detects, reports and mediates malware and botnet activity across the Internet in real-time. Malware affects more than 95% of the world’s Global 5000 enterprises each year, costing the global economy about $1 trillion. Most viruses, malware and botnets are designed for criminal activities, such as the theft of private information, money and intellectual property.

“What’s unique about Ara Labs’ solution is we actually do all this from the cloud so we don’t interfere with the network,” said Gorbani in an interview on Monday. “We also have a very effective dashboard that customers can use. We get a lot of comments from people that it’s very sleek and instinctive.”

He added the company since last summer has developed a “custom sandboxing” function that allows users to analyze malware and profile the people who sent it.

Ara Labs has signed up the city of Fredericton and the New Brunswick government as customers. Gorbani said it is also deep n talks with several Fortune 500 companies about adopting the system.

As well as paying a CEO and other staff, Ara Labs will use the proceeds to buy servers for the cloud on which the product operates. It will also cover the costs of patenting the intellectual property for the product, which is owned entirely by the company.

NBIF typically seeds New Brunswick startups with $100,000 to $500,000 investments then works with its portfolio to attract follow-on funding. The agency recently recorded its second exit in three years when UserEvents, which received a $250,000 investment from NBIF in November 2012, sold out for an undisclosed price.

“When Ara Labs first pitched their business to us back in August 2013, we could see the desirability of their system immediately, especially considering the enormous amount of Internet fraud perpetrated every year,” said NBIF chair Robert Hatheway in a statement. “Since then, we’ve been working with the company to raise the capital it needs to get its product to market and put to use immediately.”

Technology Venture Corp. is a private Moncton investment firm, which last year committed $5 million to the regional venture capital fund Builid Ventures. It has also co-invested with NBIF on other ventures, such as Fredericton-based structural assessment company Inversa.

Gorbani developed the product with CTO Hadi Shiravi, VP Engineering Ehsan Mokhtari and Ali Shiravi. All are PhD candidates in Computer Science at UNB, specializing in network security. 

Accelerating Third World Entrepreneurs

The Community Demo Day in Fredericton on Saturday night highlighted how startups can help even the world’s poorest people.

Eight of the 10 companies that pitched at the event were typical startups that aimed to launch a business based on proprietary technology. But two of them – The Agrarian Revolution of Fredericton and Uganda Venture of Halifax – have set out to use entrepreneurial principals to reduce poverty in the developing world.

They have developed manageable, practical enterprises that can help people in other countries increase their income. Both are working with the Pond-Deshpande Centre at University of New Brunswick to develop their business model and increase their income and impact on the Third World.  

“When I first went to Uganda in 2009, I realized that I can make a difference,” said Fadi Al Qassar, the managing director of Uganda Venture. “I didn’t have to wait for the UN or another big organization to jump in.”

The company is working with partners in the west to improve entrepreneurship in the Africa country. In particular, Uganda Venture aims to assist ventures run by women, including craft enterprises, and to implement micro-finance operations. It has provided shelter for more than 100 orphans, and developed classrooms and other facilities.

A group from the company recently travelled to Africa with five representatives of Salesforce, the San Francisco tech giant that has bought into several Atlantic Canadian companies, to work with local entrepreneurs. On the same trip, four MBA students from Dalhousie University came along to assess micro-finance operations in the country. 

As its name suggests, Agrarian Revolution attacks the problem of poverty by assisting farmers in developing nations, many of who must survive on small plots of land in harsh climates. Founder Philippe Levesque researched the proposal for years by studying farm methods around the globe.

His solution is a product called “Farm in a Box”, which includes basic tools and seeds needed for farming but also training courses and expertise in the best way to improve crop yields. The boxes cost $25 each and can be shipped anywhere in the world.

Levesque said he would like to work with international aid agencies so Farms in a Box could be included in aid shipments that follow natural disasters.

Karina LeBlanc, Executive Director of the Pond-Desphande Centre, said these programs are founded on strong partnerships between the developed and developing world. “The key is to have strong players on the ground in the developing world,” she said.

 Gerry Pond, the Saint John investor who co-founded the centre, said the community is still working on the best way to accelerate social entrepreneurship ventures and for all members of the community to understand the potential of social entrepreneurship.

Six of the presenting companies came from the Plant Hatch incubator in Fredericton, which is now calling for applicants for its second cohort. The applications are open until March 5, and the sessions will begin in late March.



Profile: Sally Ng Takes Flight

As executive director of Fredericton-based Planet Hatch/Accelr8, Sally Ng’s focus is on growing startups into successful companies. But Ng is a globe-trotting dynamo who isn’t always at her desk. As a volunteer facilitator for Startup Weekend, Ng may be found gleaning tips for entrepreneurs at an event in Shanghai or clearing her mind by soaring in her glider over New Brunswick’s wide rivers.

Her work around the world allows Ng to bring international experience and ideas back to her fledgling organization. At Planet Hatch, she works with regional partners to improve resources for entrepreneurs, but as the group is only four months old there is a lot to do and inspiration from elsewhere is welcome. Ng has been a volunteer facilitator for Seattle-based Startup Weekend for the last 18 months and has already worked in nine different cities.

The 54-hour Startup events take place over one weekend and allow people from many backgrounds — from developers to designers — to grow an idea to a point that allows them to act on it. Attendees arrive on a Friday night, some then pitch a cherished idea, and the others vote on the ideas and assemble into teams to further develop them.

 “People come on Friday night who had an idea but didn’t know what to do with it. Later, they do customer validation and work on business plans and prototypes. By Sunday, they’ve had people rallying around them saying, ‘What you’re trying to solve matters.’ The experience makes the startup world contagious.”

Ng admits to sometimes “feeling jealous” of what’s going on in other places, but on the whole she is optimistic about the startup scene in Atlantic Canada and committed to helping it grow.

Ng first became involved with the local scene in 2009 when she was a member of the ChemGreen Innovation Team that won the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation BreakThru Business Plan Competition. “There was no support structure then,” she said. “Now there are new startups popping up, as well as workshops, support systems and organizations. … The scene has completely changed over the last few years. We can hold our own now.

“I’m a proud New Brunswicker and I love Atlantic Canada,” she continued. “I want to help make the region more integrated and help create opportunities for change.”

Her ambitions and heart are laudable, but Ng admits to feeling the stress.

She enjoys the challenges of her new role, but finds it a huge learning curve. “Everything is a blank slate. … There are so many things I want to do.”

Still, her previous experience working with entrepreneur Dan Martell, founder of tech company Clarity, as well as Moncton-based Tech South East, is proving invaluable.

Other experience also helps: Ng has completed the 21Inc Leaders 10-month program and was named an Emerging Leader at the 4Front Atlantic Conference 2012, as well as one of the Top 50 emerging leaders in Atlantic Canada by 21inc in 2010. She is also an alumna of Canada World Youth, Youth Leaders in Action Program.

Ng initially planned to be a commercial pilot and gained her licence from Moncton Flight College, but when she realized that entrepreneurship requires “thinking outside the box,” she decided to study for a bachelor of commerce at Mount Allison University.

These days, flying is for fun. She has flown with the Snowbirds, Canada’s military aerobatics flight demonstration team (as shown in the above photo), and, as a lieutenant with the Canadian Forces reserves, she relaxes by teaching gliding to cadets. She is also a black belt in taekwondo and plays Ultimate Frisbee with a Fredericton group. “I’m the kind of person who needs to join something,” she said with a smile.

These activities help her in her new role. “The startup mindset says you can do whatever you want and you can make it happen. Atlantic Canadians need to understand that mindset because it allows us to control our own development.”

A Showcase for Social Entrepreneurs

When 10 startups present their businesses on Saturday evening in Fredericton, it will be the first true opportunity for social entrepreneurs in the region to explain publicly how they blend a business case with the social mission.

The Community Demo Day will take place at the Planet Hatch incubator on Saturday and will showcase entrepreneurs from two Fredericton-based programs. Four will be social ventures drawn from the program run by the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick. The other six are the graduates of Planet Hatch’s Accelr8 program.

One of the Pond-Deshpande Centre’s mandates is to nurture social entrepreneurship — the creation of businesses that meet social goals as well as make money.

The four PDC companies presenting this weekend will give some idea of the challenges and benefits of supporting this type of business.

 “On the social side, this is our first opportunity to announce to the world, ‘Here are our early stage ventures,’” Karina LeBlanc, the centre’s executive director, said in an interview.

 “We have some very compelling stories and some amazing founders.”

The four companies, drawn from the pool of eight social ventures the centre is now working with, are:

•Business Board: a low-cost online notice board targeted at non-profits and community groups.

•The Agrarian Revolution: a project to teach traditional farming techniques and export the knowledge to developing countries.

•Maritime Rideshare: an online service that links people in the Maritimes who need rides with people who have room in their cars.

•Uganda Ventures: a company that aims to build micro-ventures in the African country.

LeBlanc said most of the companies are at extremely early stages and will use the Demo Day to broadcast their aspirations and show how they can generate profits and social benefits.

As Atlantic Canada develops an ecosystem for startup companies, it must remember that social ventures have to make up part of the mosaic of companies, she said.

These startups need capital, just as other companies do, and the Pond-Deshpande Centre is encouraging governments to include social ventures in their funding programs. The centre funds these companies with $10,000 to $25,000 contributions.

 “We also need to have a core group of mentors who can do traditional entrepreneurship but also have a passion for social change,” she said. “There are a good handful that we have now, but we need more.”

The centre is also encouraging social change by working with international organizations, such as the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation in Boston and Ashoka Canada, the Canadian arm of an organization supporting social ventures. (University of New Brunswick graduate Gururaj Deshpande founded the centre in Boston and teamed up with Saint John investor Gerry Pond to found the Fredericton facility.)

The six companies from the Accelr8 program come from a number of sectors. They are: guitar case maker Timbre Cases, waste water treatment company Hyton Innovations, industrial Internet specialist Eigan Innovations, mobile parking payment provider HotSpot Parking, chitosan polymer producer Mycodev and developing aerial craft technology maker Resson Technologies.

 “They’re not just your typical group of tech pitches,” said LeBlanc. “This is a diverse group of companies from several sectors, including social.”

Gates: Marketing from the Get-Go

Marketing for startup technology companies can be a tricky thing.

Startups are usually launched by people with a technology background and, not surprisingly, the dominant focus is on building the product and finding funding. Marketing is generally an afterthought in these early days. That creates a branding gap that can have serious consequences for East Coast startups.

We’re not alone in this.

Recently a smart post from Israeli Venture Capitalist Michael Eisenberg made the rounds. In the post, Eisenberg notes that Israel produces many strong technology companies but they often don’t break out and reach their full potential. He blames this on the fact that many Israeli companies are “inept at messaging, branding and positioning.”

According to Eisenberg, the most successful startups have “great messaging and branding from the start. That great messaging inserts these early companies into key conversations and helps them self-fulfill their destiny. It makes them H O T. Hot companies get talked about and get invited to the right conferences and events and it is a positive feedback loop that helps propel these companies. Solving messaging and how you deliver that message creates a critical foundation for building leading and dominant businesses.”

Eisenberg lays out the reasons why he feels Israeli companies fail at branding. Reading it, some interesting parallels emerge with the East Coast Startup community.

For one, like the Israelis, Maritimers “prefer substance to form.” Put another way, we’re not into “big feeling” people who talk themselves up endlessly. That’s more of an Upper Canada thing.

In the same way, our startups’ branding may not be sufficiently aspirational in its positioning. Founders are in love with their technology and assume everyone else will be too. Yet there are thousands of startups around the world. If a startup isn’t going to blow things up and radically change the way something is done, why will people pay attention? Incremental change isn’t sexy.

Like Israel, in the Maritimes we are limited by geography, with even the short flight to Boston or New York creating a large psychological distance in the minds of many East Coast entrepreneurs. As a result we don’t often play in the echo chamber of buzz that drives conversations in the media and VC boardrooms of the North American tech hubs.

And then there is our “niceness.” Eisenberg writes, quite rightly, that, “Marketing requires friction and pissing some people off.” That runs counter to the more gentle sensibilities of those of us here on the East Coast.  We’re friendly to the point of being conflict-averse. Too often that leads us to settle for the bland rather than the polarizing. But remember, bland is forgettable, and forgettable is a bad thing for a startup.

While most startups don’t need to invest too much time or money in marketing, they do need to do some things right from the beginning. This is mission critical.

It’s easy to spend money in marketing, and in the cash-conscious startup world, every dollar spent on marketing is often viewed as a cost, rather than an investment in the company’s future. That prudence is wise, but it can go too far.

Branding for startups doesn’t mean an elaborate marketing program requiring lots of scarce cash. Few startups require full-on ad campaigns or big ticket sponsorships.

But every startup does need to be crystal clear in who they are and the problem they solve. They need a story. And they need to be relentlessly focused on delivering that precisely calibrated story at every opportunity across every platform.

This is a core strategic business decision, not marketing fluff. It’s one that should be made in the early days and not just when it is time to launch a product or make some other announcement. That brand positioning should be a competitive advantage for the business.

Yes it can be difficult when the product roadmap isn’t fixed and the threat of the “pivot” is never far away. No one said your startup was going to be easy.  But if you don’t tell your story, and tell it well, then it will only be harder to succeed.


Allan Gates is a Partner with Bonfire, a New Brunswick-based integrated communications agency with a focus on brand storytelling. This column first appeared on his website, allangates.com.

Entrevestor Survey Goes Live

We sent out the Entrevestor survey this morning and are delighted to see responses rolling in from around the region. If you’ve received the survey, please take the time to fill it in in the next day or two.

If you’re a founder of a startup – locally owned with scalable, proprietary technology – and haven’t received the survey, please let us know and we’ll get you one.

This survey will assemble a body of information that will tell us how the startup community is growing and impacting the economy. It will also provide a baseline for future surveys so we can chart its growth over the years.

Many thanks to all of you who have agreed to participate. We appreciate it. 

Sabian Lets Billdidit Expand Market

The marriage of cymbal manufacturer Sabian Inc. and drum equipment maker Billdidit Inc. will do more than increase the Cape Breton-based target’s distribution and customer acceptance. It will also help to develop a niche manufacturer in the Sydney area.

Sabian, based in Meductic, N.B., near Fredericton, said Monday it has paid an undisclosed amount for a majority stake in Billdidit, bringing the Sydney company’s unique range of drum gear into the Sabian catalogue.

While Sabian has operated for 30 years and has customers around the world, Billdidit started about five years ago to manufacture and distribute the designs created by Bill Coady, a multifaceted inventor with a passion for drumming. Its first product was the Coady Clutch, which allows a drummer to close his hi hat (two cymbals that open and close using a foot pedal) while using both feet for the dual base-drum pedals.

The union of Sabian and the maker of the Coady Clutch will obviously help Billdidit expand in the music market. What’s less apparent and just as important is that the deal will help it to grow as a more broad-based manufacturer and prototyping operation.

“There’s a giant hole in manufacturing in North America right now as so many things have moved to China,” said Billdidit CEO Joe Menchefski in a phone interview Tuesday. “There are industries like the music industry where it’s common to sell 5,000 to 10,000 units of a product, not the 100,000 you’d expect in manufacturing a product. It’s a huge leap of faith to launch a product with $20,000 to $30,000 in tooling fees when you don’t know if the market will be that consequential.”

Menchefski is channeling the money Billdidit received from Sabian into expanding the company’s machining and prototyping capacity, allowing a greater range of services and faster turnaround time. The nine-employee operation has a 3-D printer and 3-D design capabilities and great sophistication in its machining functions.  For example, the company has electroplating capabilities. Menchefski added it will soon be the only operation in Atlantic Canada that can do anodizing, which treats the surface of aluminum to make sure it doesn’t rust and to stop it from conducting electricity.

“We’re the perfect low-rate protyping partner for just about any company,” said Menchefski.  “Other producers may not be sure how to go about it, but we’ve got capabilities that people can use.”

Naturally, Billdidit is interested in continuing its work in the music industry, and Menchefski said it is already helping the business to be affiliated with the Sabian name. But the company is also looking for manufacturing and prototyping partnerships in other sectors, including marine environment, oil and gas and aerospace and defense.

Billdidit in the next few months will release several new products that are more sophisticated than its previous releases.  They include tools and hardware for the automotive market – the things that appeal to the mechanics and engineers that make up the Billdidit staff.

“We’re looking at three to four very significant launches in next six months,” he said. “These will be the most ambitious things we’ve done in terms of scope and depths. We do a lot of very innovative gadgets but none of them have been technically complex. We have a few products coming out that are big ticket items.”

Breakthrough for Xona Games

After years of struggle, indie games developer Xona Games of Yarmouth finally feels it is in a position of strength in the global market.

Xona, the product of twins Jason and Matthew Doucette, was recently honoured with first place in the Rogers Big Idea Contest, which brings with it an award of $20,000.

More importantly, the company has been accepted into Microsoft’s elite ID@Xbox program. Inclusion in this could give the Doucette brothers greater security as they work at bringing their vision to market.

The Doucettes have learned over the years that game development is a precarious business. They have been bounced from platforms, had their game rankings hacked so their main revenue stream was cut off and suffered several other disappointments. But the ID@Xbox program gives them the strongest presence they’ve had, allowing them to present their games on the latest Xbox gaming systems.

 “Now that we’re on ID@Xbox, we have more power than most publishers because we have the right to go on to Xbox One,” Matthew said in an interview.

He said joining the program gives Xona the same development kit that major studios use, meaning it can integrate its titles into the Xbox Live and Xbox Live Arcade options. And it grants the company access to some of the leading talent and executives within Microsoft.

It’s a huge advantage for a small company.

In spite of the bumps in the road, Xona has had its share of triumphs, developing games that have claimed top spot in league tables in both the United States and Japan.

The company became known to many in the startup community four years ago when it won the southern Nova Scotia region in the I-3 competition, which noted the company’s Decimation X series was the leading video game in its category in Japan.

The brothers have a fierce independent streak and are dedicated to producing their own vision for games rather than working for big game developers.

Matthew describes the games as “retro amped-up,” meaning they’re based on older games and require considerable skill to master. He’s proud that the games reward skillful players rather than just springing surprises that can end the game of even good players.

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

In the coming year, Xona will work on getting its latest game before the public. It will join other Nova Scotia gaming companies at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco next month, where Nova Scotia Business Inc. will have a booth. This marks the fifth consecutive year Xona will attend.

And the company will work on getting out its next game.

 “If it succeeds, it could be 1,000 times more profitable than anything we’ve done before,” Matthew said.

Launch36 Looking for Fourth Cohort

Launch36, the Atlantic Canadian regional startup accelerator, is calling for applications for its fourth cohort, building on its mission of launching 36 companies in three years.

In particular, the accelerator operated by the regional technology association Propel ICT is hoping for its first participants from Newfoundland and Labrador.

[Meanwhile, Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England has announced that it is looking for participants for its 48 Hours in the Hub program.  The biennial two-day program brings Canadian startups to Boston for mentorship, strategic partner visits and networking. Interested parties can apply on the CENE website by Feb. 21.]

Three groups of tech startups from the Maritimes have already graduated from the Launch36 program. Now the group is working with Startup Newfoundland to draw the interest of companies from Newfoundland and Labrador. Interested companies in Newfoundland should contact Roger Power at Startup St. John's.

Since its creation in 2012, Launch36 has graduated 26 companies. The organization says they have created more than 100 jobs and raised more than $12 million in equity investment. Most of the companies were generating revenue by the end of the three-month program.

“Our goal is to help high-growth potential entrepreneurs turn their ideas into sustainable businesses,” said Launch36 Executive Director Trevor MacAusland in a statement. “Our mission is to help surround these entrepreneurs with mentors and advisors who can help them identify risks, validate their product within the market and make them investor-ready so they can raise capital.”

Launch36 is an intense three-month sprint in which companies focus on validating their markets and acquiring customers. This is done by combining Lean Startup methodologies with a group of more than 120 mentors from around and outside Atlantic Canada. The successful graduates will be considered for a $150,000 convertible debenture issued by BDC Venture.

Companies interested in applying for Cohort 4 should visit launch36.ca before the February 28th deadline.

Press Release: Funds for Tech Women

The Honourable Peter MacKay, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Central Nova, and Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, on behalf of the Honourable Dr. K. Kellie Leitch, Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women, recently announced Government of Canada support for a project to enhance women’s participation in Nova Scotia’s digital economy. Status of Women Canada is providing $298,622 to Digital Nova Scotia to lead this 36-month project.

“We are proud to partner with the Government of Canada to help more women leaders in Nova Scotia participate in and lead our digital economy. We believe that fostering best practices in strategic HR management and promoting successful women leaders will have a significant impact on our sector. Not only will this initiative create new career opportunities for women, it will fuel our entire workforce as we strive to be globally competitive,” said Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, President & CEO, Digital Nova Scotia.

Digital Nova Scotia’s project will focus on increasing the participation of women employed in senior-level executive positions within the technology sector in Nova Scotia. The organization and its partner companies will identify role models in senior management positions and create an inventory of successful career profiles and management best practices that are supportive of women’s leadership advancement. Gender-based business supports will also be delivered such as succession planning, workshops, and training for managers.

“Our Government is dedicated to Canada’s economic growth and focused on helping more women succeed all across Canada, including right here in Nova Scotia. The more we break down barriers and support women in pursuing a wide variety of career options, the stronger Canada will be,” stated the Honourable Peter MacKay, M.P. for Central Nova, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

The project intends to proceed in three phases including a reflection on past female leader success stories, development and delivery of business support services, and the introduction of a digital awards program for Nova Scotia businesses in the sector.


 About Digital Nova Scotia

 Digital Nova Scotia is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the ongoing growth and development of Nova Scotia’s Digital Technologies Industry. Originally incorporated in 1989, Digital Nova Scotia has been serving the Nova Scotia industry for over 20 years. Our organization began as the Software Industry Association of Nova Scotia (SIANS) and later became the Information Technology Industry Alliance of Nova Scotia (ITANS).

 About Status of Women Canada

 Status of Women Canada is a federal government organization that promotes equality for women and their full participation in the economic, social and democratic life of Canada. Status of Women Canada works to advance equality for women by focusing its efforts in three priority areas: increasing women’s economic security and prosperity; encouraging women’s leadership and democratic participation; and ending violence against women and girls.

Profile: Community-Builder Jason Janes

It’s been two years since Jason Janes and Roger Power began Startup St. John’s as an opportunity for isolated entrepreneurs to network and gain mutual support. Meeting in borrowed boardrooms and local restaurants, those first get-togethers attracted around 40.

Today, over 200 members meet to find mentors, space and funding. For Janes, who self-identifies as “a typical IT geek who likes to start things,” the success of Startup St. John’s is a joy and a personal triumph.

Having always been entrepreneurial himself, Janes, currently chief operating officer of tech venture, Geo-wise, knows the difficulties of the lifestyle.

 “Startup communities matter because all entrepreneurs experience similar problems, similar successes and similar isolation,” he said by phone from St. John’s.

 “They need people who know what it’s like when there’s no money left in your bank account. People who will say, ‘Don’t worry; I’ve been out of money 20 times.’ It gets lonely, the navigation gets difficult, but people can help guide each other.”

Since the formation of Startup St. John’s, which is supported by StartupNL Corp., the Rock’s scene has burgeoned.

 “You see people getting together to form new businesses all the time as they realize they don’t have to have a killer idea, just an idea that can gain some traction.”

Entrepreneurs across the province are benefiting from events like last November’s Startup Weekend, which allowed innovators to gather to ramp up their ideas. Similarly, a new demo-focused event will be held during the upcoming NL Innovation Week, in partnership with Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries.

 “Our goal for this year is to help facilitate in Newfoundland’s third largest city, Corner Brook, where entrepreneurs are trying to get things started,” Janes said.

Now 41, Janes has been entrepreneurial since a young age. At 17, he operated a strawberry farm where he increased production after asking nearby farmers for advice. “What I quickly found out is that if you ask for advice, people help you.”

Growing up in a small town on the west coast of Newfoundland (Deer Lake) with not a lot to do, he learned to write code and earn an independent living at an early age. He has been building mobile apps with a focus on mobile enterprise solutions since the mid-1990s.

 “Mobile applications with a geospatial twist are my passion. I don’t always get it right at first, but that doesn’t stop me improving. I’ve helped develop mobile solutions to business problems, such as field sales and service, route accounting, and direct store delivery.”

A few years ago, he and Power teamed up with Dr. Jim Wyse to commercialize geospatial patents for optimizing and retrieving location-aware data. “Our patents improve the speeds by which locations are found. In our case, increased data doesn’t increase the length of the search.” The company’s latest project is a mobile app that will allow users to quickly find the emergency response centres closest to them.

Starting out, Janes studied business and computer studies at Newfoundland’s College of the North Atlantic and later became chief technology officer at Moncton startup BelTek Systems Design. After BelTek was sold in 2008, he returned to St. John’s and worked as a project manager for various IT companies.

Power says Janes’s community-building is appreciated by other entrepreneurs. “Jason combines enthusiasm, love of technology and a solid sense of how to commercialize new ideas,” he said.

Despite his successes, Janes thinks he could have accomplished more at an earlier age if he’d had a support network.

 “I had to go from thinking that having a job was what was important. If I’d had a support organization like Startup St. John’s when I was 20, I would have pursued my passions sooner.”