Moltex Eyes Power from Nuke Waste

The Point Lepreau nuclear power facility.

The Point Lepreau nuclear power facility.

A British company is developing a 300-megawatt power plant in New Brunswick to source electricity from spent nuclear fuel, and says it could make Saint John a hub for similar zero-carbon plants around the world.

Moltex Energy signed an agreement last July with NB Power, the utility owned by the New Brunswick government, under which both parties would put up $5 million toward the project. (Another company, ARC Nuclear Canada, signed a similar contract to work on a small modular reactor facility.)

Moltex has since set up a 10-person office in Saint John, and is now raising close to £6 million(C$10.3 million) in private money to put toward the project. Over the next year, it will attempt to raise a further £40 million to help finance its first plant near the Point Lepreau nuclear facility, which would eventually cost $1 billion to $1.5 billion. This plant could be ready in eight to 10 years, if everything goes smoothly.

Moltex believes its technology has the capacity to solve the climate change crisis on its own. In time, says Moltex, it could deliver affordable electricity with no carbon emissions while reducing the world’s stock of nuclear waste.

“The opportunity here is so big,” said Moltex CEO North America Rory O’Sullivan in an interview. “The GDP increase for the host nation would be C$1.5 trillion and it would create hundreds of thousands of jobs. That opportunity is too big just for Canada.”

Learn More About Moltex's Technology on this Video.

Moltex is one of a handful of companies around the world that is working on technology that would convert the waste from nuclear plants into electricity. (Another is Bellevue, Wash.-based TerraPower, founded by Bill Gates.) Some environmentalists believe nuclear power is a key to battling climate change because it produces energy on demand (whereas renewables like solar or wind are sporadic), and this new technology would mitigate the downside of nuclear power by consuming nuclear waste. 

Founded in Stratford-upon-Avon, Moltex has devised a plan for a molten salt reactor, which the company says is safer and less expensive than conventional nuclear reactors. It does not require the high pressures of current reactors, and does not produce radioactive gases. What’s more, the nuclear reaction slows as the temperature rises, so it is self-cooling.

O’Sullivan, who’s now based in Saint John, said Canada and the U.K. have the two best regulatory regimes for developing a molten salt reactor. Though there are utilities and investors around the world that accept the science behind the project, it has proven difficult to find a place to build the first plant, he said.

The New Brunswick government, meanwhile, had proposed a nuclear research cluster in the province, and Moltex found that NB Power would be a suitable partner in developing a plant.

“The numbers show that this business should be profitable as long as we can get anywhere near delivering what we believe we can,” said O’Sullivan. “We have loads of interest from utilities around the world that want to build these things, but no one wants to build the first one.”

The Canadian company has applied to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for a design review, which could take three years. After that, there would be a more rigorous safety review.

Meanwhile, the parent company, Moltex Energy, is working on raising capital. It received a £2.5 million investment from the Spanish engineering firm IDOM, and £800,000 from existing investors. It set out to raise a further £700,000 in an equity crowdfunding round through the site Shadow Foundr, and O’Sullivan said that in one week it exceeded its target, so it has raised the total target for the current raise from as much as £5 million to £6 million.

The current round will set the stage for a larger round with a target of £40 million. O’Sullivan said the main difficulty in courting investors is that the company will not produce revenues for at least eight to 10 years, and most investors demand a return in less time. But he adds that the company has the potential to be highly profitable and to make a meaningful impact on the climate change battle.

“From the climate change perspective, anyone who has taken the time to understand what we’re doing can understand that this is a technology that can solve climate change,” said O’Sullivan.  “I don’t  know of any other technology that’s scalable and that can make that claim.”

Energia Seeking Cohort Members

A 2018 Energia Cohort

A 2018 Energia Cohort

Fredericton-based accelerator Energia Ventures is inviting applications from companies in the smart-grid, energy, cleantech, and cybersecurity sectors.

A Global Accelerator Network (GAN) member, Energia’s program is headquartered in Fredericton and was built in partnership with the University of New Brunswick and leading technology companies.

Founded in 2016, the program offers a 12-week intensive accelerator where companies receive mentorship, industry connections, roadmapping, access to labs and researchers, equipment for prototyping and other resources through the University of New Brunswick.

The program provides a minimum of $20,000 in financing and a platform to pitch VC and angel investors, along with introductions to agencies that can provide non-dilutive funds. Participants gain access to the GAN perks program, which includes discounts on many services integral to moving a business forward.

Program organizers say they can connect participants to influential organizations and companies around the world as well as put them in touch with 85,000+ UNB alumni.

“We encourage collaboration amongst our cohort and foster an environment of peer-to-peer support,” organizers said in a statement.

Applications and information on applying can be found at energiaventures.com

CDL Angels Invest $7M in 2 Years

Gillian McCrae chatting with McInnes Cooper Partner Rob Cowan at Volta last week.

Gillian McCrae chatting with McInnes Cooper Partner Rob Cowan at Volta last week.

In less than two years, the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic has established itself as the main angel funding group in Atlantic Canada, with its members investing about $7 million into 23 companies – so far.

The CDL is primarily a mentorship group that assembles wealthy businesspeople  (which it calls fellows or associate fellows) to advise and invest in young innovation companies. It requires the companies to reach a series of benchmarks through the nine-month program, and those that don’t meet the benchmarks are asked to leave. Twelve companies graduated in 2018, and 11 graduates from the most recent cohort will head to the final “super session” in Toronto next month.

“What’s remarkable is that at this stage, being a month out from the super session in Toronto, these companies (the 2019 graduates) have collectively closed $3 million in equity investment and the majority has been 25 cheques written by our angels and fellows,” said CDL Venture Manager Gillian McCrae in an interview Wednesday.

She added that most of these companies are continuing to raise money and expect to close a further $8 million to $10 million in funding this summer, hopefully aided by meetings with other investors at the super session.

She said that the 12 companies in the first cohort raised a total of $10 million in 2018, and $4 million of that total came from CDL fellows and other angel investors affiliated with the group. The Year 1 companies closing large rounds included: Fredericton-based natural preservative maker Chinova Bioworks, which raised US$2 million (C$2.6 million); St. John’s-based Mysa Smart Thermostats, which raised more than $2 million; and Halifax-based construction software maker Harbr, which raised $1.75 million.

CDL Atlantic is hitting its stride at a time when startup support experts have been expressing their concern about the lack of angel funding in the region, especially after the pioneering First Angel Network closed its doors this year after 14 years of operation.  But the results reported by CDL show it is backing more companies and providing more funding than other angel groups have. What’s more, it has introduced some of the region’s leading business people, like IMP founder Ken Rowe and former Emera CEO Chris Huskilson, to angel investing.

“Some fellows are becoming angels for the first time,” said McCrae. “Some are supporting a handful of companies and others have made a lot of investments. We’ve got seasoned investors and we’ve got new investors and it’s creating a lot of energy in supporting these companies.”

Still, CDL’s raison d’etre is mentorship and McCrae said the fellows have helped several of the companies in the development of their products or in finding new markets. For example, Halifax-based Motryx Co-Founder Franziska Broell credits CDL fellows with helping her company (formerly Maritime bioLoggers) transform from tagging and tracking marine life to a company serving the more lucrative healthcare industry.

CDL-Atlantic was criticized early on for having only male fellows, the organization has since added female advisors, said McCrae. Sally Daub, CEO of ViXS Systems, is now a fellow, and the organization has eight female associates. She added that four of the 11 CDL-Atlantic graduates this year are companies headed by women.

The organization is now accepting applications for the 2019-20 cohort for its programs in Halifax and other Canadian centres, as well as New York and Oxford, England. You can find the application forms and details about the process here

ACOA Lends Eadie Tech $300K

Brennan Eadie

Brennan Eadie

Halifax-based medtech company Eadie Technologies has received a $153,000 loan from the federal government to help finance the design and development of its device for testing glaucoma patients.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency issued a statement Thursday saying it had lent the company money via the Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program – a nationwide program that backs innovative companies and the ecosystem.

Headed by glaucoma specialist Dr. Brennan Eadie and his father Frank, Eadie Technologies is developing a wearable headset that will simplify the standard testing glaucoma patients undergo to manage their disease. The company built a proof-of-concept device last year and is now working on a functional prototype that could be used in clinical trials. The company hopes to have a product in the marketplace by the end of 2020.

“It means a great deal to the company in terms of being able to leverage up the investment capital we have in order to do the things that are necessary to bring this product to market,” Frank Eadie said in an interview. “The onus is on us to make sure this is a dependable product, which is what we intend to do.”

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness around the world, and people suffering from it should undergo visual field tests once every four to six months, depending on the severity of their illness. These tests are currently conducted on a large, clunky desktop device in a doctor’s office, with each test taking about a half hour, Eadie said

Halifax Medtech Company Adaptiiv Partners with Italy's EZB

Eadie Technologies, which employs five people including the co-founders, aims to replace the clunky machine with a headset, which would speed up the process and allow for remote testing.

“By reducing the margin of error in current vision tests, Dr. Eadie’s game-changing technology has the potential to impact how glaucoma and other eye diseases are diagnosed and treated around the world,” said Halifax MP Andy Fillmore in a statement. “Not only will this device help with the accurate detection of eye disease, it will also improve the lives of thousands of Canadians suffering from existing conditions for which frequent tests are vital to properly manage their disorders.”

Frank Eadie said the company is still assessing how it will proceed with applying for regulatory approval. The company so far has raised $300,000 in equity investment, mainly from ophthalmologists, and will likely try to raise a further $300,000 this year.

The company is working closely with Dalhousie University’s Glaucoma Research Group, and has contracted out work in developing the product to the engineering company Enginuity and the software development company T4G.

 

Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor. 

Kyriakidis Joins Feds’ AI Council

Jordan Kyriakidis

Jordan Kyriakidis

Jordan Kyriakidis, CEO of Halifax-based QRA Corp, has been appointed to the Federal Government’s new Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence. He will be advising on how to build on Canada’s strength in AI in a way that reflects democratic values.

QRA builds solutions for manufacturers and engineers that analyze complex systems and requirements during their development.  Kyriakidis has been shortlisted to this year’s Ernest C. Manning Innovation Award, which presents cash prizes of up to $100,000 to winners.

Kyriakidis told Entrevestor it’s vital that Canada play a leadership role in the development, consequences, and opportunities of AI.

“This council is a strong step in that direction. We are at the cusp of a brand-new market. And nobody knows how it will play out,” he said.

“But certain features always accompany strategic inflection points. For example, deploying new products into the market before safety and quality controls have a chance to catch up make it incredibly dangerous and expensive to fix errors after the fact. If we don’t get a handle on the safety aspect, public trust will erode. And that will be a shame because I believe that autonomy and AI can make us all safer, healthier, and freer.”

In a statement, the federal government said the new council will advise on how best to build on Canada’s AI strengths.  It will look at identifying opportunities to create economic growth that benefits all Canadians, and ensure that AI advancements reflect values grounded in human rights, transparency and openness.

The statement said that Canada is home to more than 800 AI companies, and the number of Canadian AI start-ups is growing by approximately 28 percent a year. Job opportunities in the field grew by nearly 500 percent between June 2015 and June 2017. In 2018, $548 million in venture capital was invested in Canadian AI companies, an increase of about 50 percent from 2017. 

The government has recently named five themed industrial superclusters, all of which will support projects that will promote the development or use of AI. The AI-Powered Supply Chains Supercluster (SCALE.AI) will be the supercluster with the biggest focus on AI, undertaking activities to develop next-generation AI-powered supply chain platforms which will create over 16,000 jobs.

On November 22, 2018, at the Digital 9 Summit in Israel, Canada and the other D9 member nations agreed on a shared approach to the responsible implementation and use of AI by governments.

The advisory council will be co-chaired by Foteini Agrafioti, Chief Science Officer for the Royal Bank of Canada, and Yoshua Bengio, Scientific Director of the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms.

Other members of the council include:

Pierre Boivin, President and CEO, Claridge
Natalie Cartwright, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, Finn AI
Marc-Antoine Dilhac, Canada Research Chair in Public Ethics and Political Theory, Université de Montréal
Eli Fathi, Co-Founder and CEO, MindBridge Analytics Inc.
Geoffrey Hinton, Chief Scientific Advisor, Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence
Ian Kerr, Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law and Technology, University of Ottawa
AJung Moon, Director, Open Roboethics Institute
Mona Nemer, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor
Teresa Scassa, Canada Research Chair in Information Law and Policy, University of Ottawa
Elissa Strome, Executive Director of the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
Richard Sutton, Chief Science Advisor, Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute
Geneviève Tanguay, Vice President of Emerging Technologies, National Research Council Canada

Smartpods Gains with The Pulse

After a modest change to its business model of making automatically adjusting desks, Smartpods is reporting higher sales with particular success in selling to the federal government and the new market of call centres.

The Dieppe, NB-based company began several years with the goal of manufacturing desks that adjusted height and position automatically so workers would alternate between sitting and standing. In the past couple of years, it has introduced The Pulse, a device that attaches to any electric standing-sitting desk to automatically adjust it for the user.

The Pulse now accounts for about 70 percent of Smartpods’ sales. CEO Léon DesRoches said the company has been effective in selling The Pulse because it helps employers to get better value out of standard adjustable desks they have already invested in.

“We’re seeing the executives being frustrated because…they’ve bought electric sit-stand desks,” said DesRoches in an interview. “The issue is that after a few months, the novelty wears off and no one uses them. … This technology can be integrated with any electric sit-stand desk. Now they get a return on investment in the electric sit-stand desk.”

The result, said DesRoches, has been better health and productivity experienced by the workforce of Smartpods’ customers.

DesRoches buys into the notion that sitting is the new smoking, and in 2011 he set out to help battle this problem. He launched Smartpods with the goal of manufacturing desks that would move to different positions so the user wouldn’t sit five hours straight. Now with The Pulse, the company is helping clients who have already invested in adjustable office furniture to receive better results from that investment.

New Brunswick Opens Precision Medical Centre in Moncton

What’s more, Smartpods’ devices – which are 100 percent manufactured in New Brunswick – include sensors and collect data. They can show employers how the environment of their offices impacts workers’ performance, or how health and productivity improve as workers move more.

“We’ve come a long way,” said DesRoches. “We used to make a desk that moves up and down, which we still do. But we also capture a lot of things and analyze them.”

DesRoches declined to reveal sales figures but said they have been strong. The company has sold thousands of units to the federal government, and is finding a growing market in call centres. Smartpods is also one of the companies accepted into the Scale-Up Hub: Cambridge, in which half a dozen Atlantic Canadian companies spend a year in the Boston area to increase sales in New England.

The company now has 14 employees, and DesRoches expects staffing to rise to 18 to 20 employees this year. Smartpods has accomplished its recent growth without raising equity capital over the past few years, but DesRoches said it would consider raising money next year if it needs capital to fund expansion.

Meanwhile, the thing that gives DesRoches special satisfaction is the knowledge that people are enjoying better health because of his company’s product.

“We did a complete install in New Brunswick in a complete floor a while back and initially we saw a little bit of resistance from people because they said, ‘This is technology,’” DesRoches said. “When you walk back in there a few months later, people have started to buy into the transition of using this. People feel better and they don’t know why, and it’s because they’ve moving while they work.”

NB Hosts Virtual Job Fair

Like a lot of tech companies in New Brunswick, Introhive has been facing the challenges of finding New Brunswick-based talent to join their team.

“The reality is we have some really great talent here in New Brunswick from an IT perspective,” says Kristen Vautour, a talent acquisition specialist at Introhive. “But on the flip side, we also have some really great organizations here in New Brunswick in that industry and we’ve only got so many people to go around … that leaves us with a very small pool to draw from.

“Despite us being active in hiring New Brunswick residents, there are just not enough people.”

Vautour has started pursuing other avenues to recruit people from outside the province. Recently, she took part in a virtual job fair, hosted by the Province of New Brunswick. . . 

Read the full story on Huddle.

NB’s Precision Medicine Centre

The New Brunswick Center for Precision Medicine in Moncton will open this year. It was built as a collaboration between the Atlantic Cancer Research Institute and the Université  de Moncton.

It’s the first purpose-built precision medicine centre in Canada.

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation said in a news release it has contributed $374,000 to the centre – $250,00 to support staffing; and $124,000 for the purchase of equipment.

The NBCPM research centre is also a “bio-incubator” designed to support the growth of bio-medical startups in New Brunswick. The centre will allow biomedical startups to access valuable technology, network with other startups, and undertake experimental projects in precision medicine.

Precision medicine is a recent trend in healthcare where the unique biological factors of the patient, and the specific details of how the disease is impacting the patient, are taken into consideration to build more effective treatment plans than traditionally possible. However, this customized approach requires more specialized diagnostic and treatment tools. This has created an ecosystem with a high demand for technological innovation.

Biomedical startups in the field have relatively easy access to dry-labs, which don’t use live samples but computer models using previously gathered data. While dry-lab testing is an important part of the process, a bottleneck exists for access to wet-labs, which are designed to safely deal with microbes, chemicals, drugs, and other biological samples. In these labs, experiments can be conducted to collect new, real-world data and to put theoretical solutions to the test.

The NBCPM will increase access to wet-labs for New Brunswick bio-medical startups. The release says startup teams will be able to rent space and equipment that is only available in a wet-lab.

The release said: “By acting as a hub for the bioscience industry, a generator of important partnerships and intellectual property, and an incubator for fledgling startups, the Center for Precision Medicine can be many things to many people in New Brunswick.”

PEI’s Kay MacPhee Mourned

Kay MacPhee

Kay MacPhee

The loss of Kathleen "Kay" MacPhee is being widely felt in the startup community, following the recent passing of the educator and force behind two literacy-focused ventures.

A former teacher who used her expertise and passion to help found Charlottetown-based Ooka Island, a developer of literacy software that teaches young children to read, MacPhee died aged 79 in Charlottetown on May 10.

The Ooka Island game blends phonics and language-based literacy with an adaptive technology, meaning that the system analyzes individual student’s results and formulates individual learning paths. In April 2017, Ooka Island was acquired by Scholastic.

Nova Scotia Senator Colin Deacon worked with MacPhee on her first venture, SpellRead. Paying tribute on Tuesday, he said she never questioned a child’s ability to become an efficient reader. 

“When faced with students who were not making the expected progress, she always questioned her skills, her knowledge, her abilities — never the students’," he said. “Her focus and determination created programs that delivered consistent student results and that were celebrated by some of the most respected experts in North America.”

In a January 2014 interview with Entrevestor, MacPhee’s granddaughter Joelle MacPhee, then Ooka Island’s director of reading partnerships, highlighted the role her grandmother played in founding and building Ooka Island.  

She said Ooka was conceptualized by Kay, a teacher and researcher who became interested in reading acquisition when her son, Lowell, was born profoundly deaf in 1960.

Kay MacPhee went on to develop her own program, SpellRead, which she sold for over $20 million in 2006. Two years later, she joined with Jim Barber to develop Ooka Island, believing that an online game would be accessible and thus help more children learn to read.

 “Kay started researching language for her son, but then found that parents of other children with learning difficulties also wanted her help,” Joelle told Entrevestor. “She always said, ‘This shouldn’t happen; reading should be as easy as talking. Reading is a basic skill.’”

According to Statistics Canada, nearly half of adult Canadians fall below the minimum level of literacy required to function well at work and in life. “Research shows that reading well by the end of third grade is a strong predictor of how successful a child will be,” Joelle said.

Joelle took inspiration from her grandmother. In a 2017 Facebook post announcing the sale of Ooka Island, she wrote: “Building a business is a hard, weird, seemingly-impossible, loooong game.

“In the later years, I finally learned to recognize when I needed to take a break. To step back, recharge, and put things in perspective. To find my anchor. I realize now that my anchor has always been my grandmother. When I felt like giving up, I would think of her legacy and why she started Ooka Island in the first place. I knew if she wasn't giving up, then neither was I, no way. Thankfully, she never did.”

CDL-Atlantic Graduates 11 Teams

Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic has revealed the 11 companies that have graduated from its 2018-19 cohort.

Operating out of Dalhousie University, the CDL-Atlantic just finished its second cohort, which began last autumn with just over two dozen companies being mentored by some of the region’s top business leaders. The organization never reveals its participants until they graduate as the numbers dwindle as the cohort progresses.

The CDL began a few years ago at University of Toronto and now offers programing in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, New York and Oxford, England.

Here is a complete list of the most recent CDL-Atlantic graduates (and links to Entrevestor articles on those we’ve covered recently):

Byos, Matias Katz, Halifax – Byos’ SaaS platform allows IT/Security managers to control their remote employees' activities and filter out any potential attack or infection from spreading into the main corporate network.

CapIntel, James Rockwood, Toronto – CapIntel is digitizing communications between asset managers and financial advisors. The company hopes to become the infrastructure for professional investment decisions globally.

CoLab Software, Adam Keating and Jeremy Andrews, St. John’s – CoLab has developed a digital platform that helps mechanical engineering teams automate their design review process and resolve issues faster.

CoLab Software Accepted into Y Combinator

Coloursmith, Gabrielle Masone, Halifax – Coloursmith is developing the world’s first contact lenses that mitigate the most prevalent forms of color blindness.

Cribcut, David Howe, Halifax – The Cribcut platform provides business software and new client introductions to hairstylists for a $325 monthly fee.

Cribcut Raises $1M+ To Aid Growth

Motryx, Franziska Broell, Halifax – Motryx (formerly Maritime bioLoggers) has developed a compact device that helps to track blood sample vials as they move through large hospitals.

Maritime BioLoggers Pivots and Raises $125K

Rayleigh Solar Tech, Sam March and Dane George, Halifax – Rayleigh is developing a low-cost solar cell using large-scale perovskite solar cell production methods to license to large manufacturers.

Rimot, Andrew Boswell, Halifax – Rimot provides remote monitoring-as-a-service of wireless transmitter sites to the oil and gas, public safety, and transportation and logistics industries.

SucSeed, Emily Blunt, St. John’s – SucSeed produces at-home hydroponics growing kits. It provides consumers with the ability to grow fresh, affordable produce year-round, without soil or sun for less than 30 cents per day.

SucSeed Eyes Further Growth in 2019

CDL-Atlantic graduated 12 teams in its first cohort, so there have now been 23 startups that have passed through the program.

Applications for the next cohort will be open through Aug. 12. You can find the details here

McCrae, Barbara Headline Volta Talk

Rob Barbara and Gillian McCrae

Rob Barbara and Gillian McCrae

Startup community vets Rob Barbara and Gillian McCrae highlighted concerns about two parts of the funding regime in Atlantic Canada during a talk at Volta last week – a discussion that’s available online.

McCrae, Venture Manager at Creative Destruction Lab Atlantic, and Build Ventures Partner Barbara were panelists at a Your Ecosystem fireside chat. You can view the whole discussion on Volta’s Facebook Page.

In the course of the discussion, they touched on two areas of funding that are of interest in Atlantic Canada: the eight-figure rounds that go to super-promising companies; and the state of angel funding in Atlantic Canada.

On the B or C rounds, the panelists agreed that there are only a few companies in the region with the fire power to convince investors from outside the region that they would use tens of millions of dollars wisely.

“These companies should be at a state where they can show they can take a dollar and turn it into a multiple of dollars, and that’s really hard to do,” said McCrae. “We’re still at an early stage there.”

They also addressed worries over angel funding, now that the First Angel Network has closed down. Barbara admitted that angel investing is “an area of concern” in Atlantic Canada, adding that the community needs companies to get the $100,000-$200,000 funding rounds to get off the ground. It’s a necessary building block to getting the companies to a stage at which funds like Build can consider investing in them.

This is just a glimpse of the discussion and it’s worth taking a listen to the full chat.

Volta is aiming to host Your Ecosystem chats once a quarter, to bring forward experts in high growth companies and generate discussion on hot topics in the community.

Naveco Power Wins Rising Star Award

(left to right)  Mariah Belyea, Energy Analyst  Amit Virmani, CEO & Founder  Sarah Arsenault, Marketing & Communications

(left to right) Mariah Belyea, Energy Analyst Amit Virmani, CEO & Founder Sarah Arsenault, Marketing & Communications

Fredericton-based Naveco Power, a clean energy developer, has received the Rising Star Award at New Brunswick Power’s Energy Efficiency Excellence Awards.

The Rising Star Award recognizes an individual (or group) less than 30 years of age who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to energy efficiency and conservation through advocacy, volunteerism, research, education or projects.

Naveco Power comprises millennials who have been working together since 2015 to provide clean energy projects to New Brunswick. They aim to create clean energy investment projects that inspire societal, environmental, and economic change, the company said in a statement.

“The potential for renewable energy in our province is endless,” said Amit Virmani, company Founder and CEO and, at 30, the oldest member of the team.              

“When you invest in renewables within the province, you’re controlling your own destiny. You are able to invest in a place you care about.”

Naveco Power has been involved with many project opportunities across the province, the statement said, including wind farm developments, solar feasibility studies, and energy efficient building retrofits.

Naveco’s focus is on job creation, reducing fossil fuel dependence, community investments, and New Brunswick itself.

Last year, the Rising Star Award went to Jordan Kennie of Stash Energy.  The company has since closed a $500,000 investment round, and is going from strength to strength.

Volta Holds Awards for Ecosystem

Volta has opened nominations for its first Ecosystem Impact Awards.

The Awards recognize the local leaders and supporters who are helping to grow the startup ecosystem in Atlantic Canada.

“We all have a role to play in creating a more innovative and prosperous future for Atlantic Canada,” said Jesse Rodgers, CEO of Volta. “The Ecosystem Impact Awards are our way of celebrating the individuals and organizations that are contributing to this goal in a meaningful way, and serve as a source of inspiration for those who want to drive growth in the region.”

This year, there are five Ecosystem Impact Awards:

  • The Catalyst Award, for an organization that has helped cohesion and growth in the Atlantic Canadian startup ecosystem. Either by directly supporting growth, facilitating relationship building, or reducing barriers for startups.
  • The Positive Impact Award, for an entrepreneur or company who has developed and implemented a solution for an important social issue, benefiting the community-at-large.
  • The Community Leader Award, for a company that has directly impacted the growth and development of the entrepreneurial landscape in Atlantic Canada by its dedication to the startup community, donation of time, mentorship, and other acts of community leadership.
  • The Corporate Supporter, for a corporate partner supporting the tech startup community in Atlantic Canada by donating time and resources, as well as training and mentorship.
  • The Disruptor Award, for an up-and-coming business in Atlantic Canada that has successfully disrupted current market patterns or innovated disruptive technological answers.

“The innovation industry is critical to the future economic strength of our region,” said Chris Ronald, RBC Regional President, Atlantic Provinces. “RBC is excited be part of the inaugural Ecosystem Impact Awards and we look forward to celebrating the people and businesses who are creating an impact locally and globally.”

The Ecosystem Impact Awards will be held on June 6, beginning at 5:30pm, in the Volta Event Space.

Nominations are open until Wednesday, May 15, at 11:59 pm. You can find the forms here

Third Intersect Event Set for Sydney

Innovacorp's Intersect Challenge III launches Monday in Sydney.

The competition challenges entrepreneurs and startups to solve a problem for an established Cape Breton business. This round’s established business partner is the Destination Cape Breton Association, the tourism marketing organization for Cape Breton Island.

The exact details of DCBA’s pain point will be revealed at the launch Monday, but DCBA is looking for a data solution to track tourism, highs and lows, in real time.

Startups and entrepreneurs will pitch a solution to DCBA’s problem and detail the accompanying business model. The winning team will receive a $5000 grant from Innnovacorp, business support from DCBA, and access to a model for attracting niche customers.

The previous two Intersect Challenges called on entrepreneurs to work with Protocase, a company developing custom electronic enclosures, and Snow White Laundry, a professional dry cleaning service.

The Intersect Challenge III launch is May 13 at 6 pm in the Holiday Inn in Sydney.

Jobs of the Week: 2 at Protocase

Protocase of Sydney is looking for a CNC Profile Operator and a CNC Machining Specialist, two openings that are our Jobs of the Week this week.

Established in 2001, Protocase makes custom electronic enclosures. It focuses on combining advances in software with advanced manufacturing techniques to offer unique custom manufacturing to the engineering, design, and research industries.  The company has more than 175 employees and 12,000 clients.

CNC, which stands for “computer numerical control”, is a manufacturing process that uses pre-programmed computer settings to operate tools and machinery.

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

Here are excerpts from the headline postings this week:

Sydney

Protocase

CNC Profile Operator

Protocase is currently seeking reliable and detailed CNC Profile Mill Operators to join our Production team in the fast-paced CNC Machining department in Sydney (Cape Breton), Nova Scotia. Our customers – engineers, designers and scientists – depend on Protocase to quickly and accurately CNC machine custom enclosures, panels and parts.

As a member of the busy CNC team, you will operate and set up machines to perform repetitive machining operations, along with a variety of other duties to help keep the CNC department running smoothly.

Responsibilities

Read and interpret engineering drawings, blueprints, charts and tables

Verify dimensions of parts machined using precise measuring instruments, including micrometers and calipers

Report deviations from specifications and tolerances

Perform routine maintenance on equipment and machinery

Clean and maintain work space

Maintain inspection records and complete inspection reports . . .  .

Read the full job posting here.

CNC Machining Specialist

Protocase is currently seeking a dedicated and experienced CNC Machining Technologist/Specialist to join our CNC Machining Division in Sydney (Cape Breton), Nova Scotia.

Our customers – engineers, designers and scientists – depend on Protocase to quickly and accurately CNC machine custom enclosures, panels and parts. Our CNC Machining equipment includes 3- and 5-axis milling machines, CNC Router, and CNC turning.

Responsibilities

As a leader of the busy CNC team, you will be responsible for a variety of duties:

Help operators and programmers to optimize jobs

Solve problems

Improve processes

Perform CNC programming tasks

Help troubleshoot equipment problems and repairing equipment as needed with in-house and/or manufacturer support . . . .

Read the full job posting here.

SimplyCast Partners With CSCNS

SimplyCast has partnered with the Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia to provide data collection tools and communications support to Nova Scotian non-profit organizations.

The partnership, called the Sector Digitization project, will focus on data collection for the non-profit sector, and CSCNS member organizations will have access to SimplyCast’s digital community engagement tools to connect with volunteers, members, and donors.

“A lot of the management systems that we were looking at were really directed more to the private sector in the way the private sector operates,” said Arlene MacDonald, Executive Director of CSCNS. “And so, it gives us a system that is specific to how the not-for-profit sector operates.”

MacDonald said SimplyCast’s platform cost less than a third of some of the available options for private companies while being fully customized. By working with a Canadian company, the data CSCNS is collecting can be stored in Canada and will be subject to Canadian privacy laws. Dartmouth-based SimplyCast is a communication automation company known for its customer-flow application SimplyCast360.

As well, she said investing in Nova Scotia, and Nova Scotian companies like SimplyCast, is a key priority for CSCNS. She said SimplyCast’s active engagement in Nova Scotian communities made the partnership fit. MacDonald said the company has very strong value alignment with CSCNS’s mission to build the economic and social landscape of Nova Scotia.

One of the key issues facing non-profit organizations in Nova Scotia is lack of information. Important data, such as workforce numbers and executive salary information, isn’t currently being collected. Registered charities must report that information to the CRA but registered not-for-profits aren’t required to.

“We’re missing a lot of data on what the workforce in Nova Scotia really looks like without having access to that kind of information,” said MacDonald. “So, this system will allow us to start collecting information on our sector.”

MacDonald said it is clear to her that the non-profit sector has a positive impact on Nova Scotia, but while individual organizations can report on their successes, the sector as a whole lacks the tools to do so. She said there are reporting systems currently in use, but there is no standardized process for reporting in the sector, and that’s what this partnership with SimplyCast solves.

Investing for impact as a strategy has been increasing in all sectors, government included,, MacDonald said. For the non-profit sector to attract investment, it must better articulate its successes and make the return on investment clear to stakeholders.

In addition to data collection and management, the SimplyCast platform allows for process automation, reducing the workload on non-profit employees. MacDonald said Tuesday’s announcement was simplified to a single click, compared to what would have been posts to multiple mailing lists and social media platforms. She said this automation will free up human resources and allow the sector to focus on growth.

“CSCNS is always looking for new ways to innovate and benefit the non-profit community in Nova Scotia as donor, volunteer, and stakeholder demographics change and as our sector becomes more entrepreneurial,” said MacDonald in the statement. “Digital engagement is a critical component of that.”

NSBI Accepts 6 into Scale-Up Hub

Nova Scotia Business Inc. has selected six companies to join the latest cohort of its Scaleup Hub: Cambridge program.

NSBI launched the program last year as a vehicle to help scaling companies establish a base in Cambridge, MA., and generate sales. In December, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency provided $280,500 to allow the Nova Scotia economic development agency to expand the program, offering it to scaling companies from around the region.

The program offers the winners the following resources for a full year: working space in Cambridge; assistance with selling in the New England marketplace; and the services of an in-market business development team to help with sales strategy and market development.

NSBI on Thursday posted on social media the names of the companies participating in the cohort:

Beauceron Securities, Fredericton – Beauceron has developed a cloud-based risk-management platform that monitors the human elements in cyber-risk.  In other words, it helps companies and organizations make sure their staff are doing the right things to ensure they are protected against cyber-attacks. The company last year was accepted into the CyLon cybersecurity accelerator in London and raised a $1.5 million funding round.

Read our most recent article about Beauceron

Northern Business Intelligence, Dartmouth – Part of the Kerr Group of Companies, Northern Business Intelligence offers corporate customers cutting-edge software and hardware to improve efficiency. It then goes a step further by working with clients to make sure they understand how to use the solutions to get the most out of them. 

ScreenScape Networks, Charlottetown – ScreenScape helps businesses and organizations advertise on TV monitors in public spaces. The company is now launching its ScreenScape5 initiative, which will offer greater flexibility to users.

Read our most recent article about ScreenScape

Smartpods, Dieppe, NB -- The company makes tables that have work areas that automatically rise, fall and move from side to side so users work in a variety of positions. Its technology controls the movement of the working space, and it is finding customers among corporations and government.

EcoPilot Canada, Halifax -- EcoPilot is an artificial intelligence system that integrates with existing building management systems and automatically changes temperature to save energy and money. Its logarithms assess indoor data, weather forecasts and other factors to produce optimium temperatures.  

LeeWay Marine, Dartmouth -- Leeway owns and operates ships that help clients gather data, and specializes in assisting with hydrographic and geophysical surveys. The company is now updating its latest ship, The Leeway Striker, whose high speeds make it an invaluable asset. 

Read our most recent article about Leeway Marine

NSBI piloted the program in 2018, and three Halifax-area companies -- 4Deep Inwater ImagingMindsea, and Aerotec Engines – spent about a week each month in Cambridge. In total, they have generated more than $2 million in new sales in New England.

Disclosure: ACOA and NSBI are clients of Entrevestor.

ScreenScape Launching Redesign

Charlottetown-based digital signage company ScreenScape Networks has soft-launched its ScreenScape5 initiative, which will offer greater flexibility to users.

A pioneer in digital signage in public spaces, ScreenScape helps businesses and organizations to advertise on location-based TV monitors. It aims to offer an easy-to-use, cost-effective product to present high-quality messaging on flat-screen monitors.

ScreenScape5 won’t increase the cost of the company’s subscription or hardware, said Founder and CEO Mark Hemphill in an interview. It is a better, more-flexible offering for existing and new clients, which allows ScreenScape to better compete against the digital-signage-as-service model.

“It’s one thing to make the system more powerful, but it’s another to make it more elegant,” said Hemphill.

Hemphill told Entrevestor the purpose of upgrade is twofold. The new software removes Adobe flash, a program he says is being phased out of the industry. Hemphill said the redesign was required to remove the soon-to-be-obsolete program, so it was the perfect time to improve the user experience and to make the program easier to use, while keeping all the tools clients need.

The key to the redesign was to make a program that would provide professional and customizable digital signage, requiring little to no design expertise on the part of the client.

“The exercise afforded us the chance to take everything we learned about the industry, and take the enormous amount of feedback we gathered from customers over the years, and also take the best of new and modern software techniques,” said Hemphill. “To do things we couldn’t do 10 years ago.”

ScreenScape5 adds easy design elements, from professionally designed templates to a database of stock photos and videos, which are included in ScreenScape’s subscription free. Clients can still choose to build their digital signage from the ground up, if they have the assets and expertise to do so, or to mix ScreenScape-provided media and templates with their own content.

 “You can now do it all without leaving ScreenScape5,” said Hemphill. “The result is more striking, more engaging digital signage content, even by non-technical, non-designers.”

In addition, he said ScreenScape5 will provide customers with an optional mobile set-up.

He said one of the key pain points ScreenScape5 will address for business owners will be the cost of hiring outside agencies to create content for their digital signage. ScreenScape’s low-cost subscription model drastically reduces prices compared to existing service-based solutions in the digital signage industry.

ScreenScape currently has 25 employees, up two from the beginning of the year, and has plans to hire one or two additional employees by the end of the year.

The company didn’t do any additional fundraising to create ScreenScape5 – the development was paid for entirely with cash-flow, said Hemphill.

ScreenScape’s clients include Hyundai, Costco, and Amazon. Hemphill said Amazon uses ScreenScape in more than 100 locations for employee-facing messaging. Most of the design work is handled by local managers and IT without any need for designers.

“We now feel like we have, bar none, the best solution, especially for the price, in the marketplace,” said Hemphill. “The [makeover] was a defensive move but, boy, are we glad we did it right.”

Concrete Leads SalesRight’s Round

Halifax-based SalesRight has raised $250,000 in a pre-seed round led by Concrete Ventures, the first investment made by the new Atlantic Canadian venture capital fund.

Concrete Ventures, which has more than $17 million to invest, offers investments from $100,000 to $750,000 to pre-seed companies in Atlantic Canada. The fund is helmed by Patrick Hankinson and received a commitment of $15 million from the Nova Scotian government last year.

Hankinson co-founded Tether, a leading Halifax tech company early in the decade, and was a founder of Compilr, a code learning platform which was acquired by Lynda, before Lynda was acquired by LinkedIn.

Hankinson has personally invested in 14 companies as an angel investor, but SalesRight is Concrete Ventures’ first investment.

SalesRight is developing software to streamline complex pricing models for business-to-business sales in the Software-as-a-Service market.

“Pricing is one of the biggest levers that can boost the underlying economics of a business,” said Hankinson in a statement. “Yet, executives often have little to no insights on how their pricing impacts their overall business. Nobody's tackling this problem the way SalesRight is, and that’s where I see the opportunity. With the experience Bill and his co-founders bring to the table, I’m excited to be a part of this.”

Side Door Bookings Soar After Launch

Bill Wilson, CEO of SalesRight and former CEO of the mobile app development agency MindSea, said in an interview the raise will be used to expand SalesRight’s three-member team. It will also build on the company’s recent success in acquiring customers in the U.S. and Canada, he said.

The company’s main goal is to allow clients to configure custom deals with their customers, he said, the same way customers are used to buying simple SaaS products today.

“We’re really trying to take that configure price quote element, that is usually quite laborious, and make it a lot simpler for the sales reps, and also make it more transparent for the customers who are actually buying,” said Wilson.

The software creates a pricing guide and sales document solution, either highly customized or a standard template, both of which will reflect pricing and special deals. They will allow customers to accept terms directly from the guide.

Wilson said the software is designed to support existing sales process and allow salespeople to cut down on back-and-forth while protecting the sales rep-customer relationship.

He said it puts all the information that would come slowly through email, over the course of hours or days, and up-front in a way buyers can interact with. The goal isn’t to reduce sales reps’ ability to identify pain points and problems, but to clear up communication on the pricing and options for solutions.

In addition, the software uses analytics to give the sales rep information on what the customer is interacting with.

“Their follow-ups become much more relevant and more timely, because now they can actually understand what their prospect is looking at and actually bring that up with them, and say, ‘Okay this is clearly important to you, lets talk about it,’” said Wilson. “One of three things: you either understand it and you really want it; you don’t understand it; or you’re curious about it. Either way, its something actionable.”

CoLab Accepted into Y Combinator

CoLab's Gradient product

CoLab's Gradient product

St. John’s-based CoLab Software has become the first Atlantic Canadian company to be accepted into Y Combinator, one of the world’s most prestigious tech accelerators.

CoLab, whose Gradient platform helps engineers and designers collaborate, started at the Silicon Valley accelerator last month. The company is now planning to double the size of its 14-member team by the end of the year to meet growing customer demand.

Joining Y Combinator is a big deal, both for CoLab and the region.  Being a Y Combinator alum is a mark of distinction for any high-growth company, and the program has an acceptance rate of 1.5 percent. Participating in the program will expose CoLab Co-Founders Adam Keating and Jeremy Andrews to the world’s biggest venture capital funds, and immersing themselves in Silicon Valley for a few months will help to further develop a product designed for engineers.

“Y Combinator presents significant opportunity for CoLab to connect with top global investors and mentors while accelerating the development and growth of the company,” said CoLab in a statement. “Y Combinator will also contribute to CoLab’s seed financing and help acquire new customers.”

Y Combinator customarily invests US$150,000 (C$202,000) in the companies that enter this program (which will no doubt contribute to the funding round that Keating and Andrews are now working on). Through these investments, the accelerator now has a portfolio of companies whose total value is more than US$100 billion. They include such titans as Airbnb, Reddit and Dropbox. Its Canadian grads include Thalmic, a Kitchener, Ont.-based specialist in human-computer interaction that raised US$120 million in 2016, and Kitchener-based video marketing company Vidyard, which raised US$35 million in 2016.

Genesis Takes Over Co-Working Space Common Ground

CoLab is a much younger company than these high-flyers, as Keating and Andrews only graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland a couple of years ago. At MUN, they participated in the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition, finishing second in the international competition that charged student teams with designing the fastest ultra-high-speed ground vehicle.

They learned during the competition that engineers have a really hard time collaborating on 3D designs because of the dearth of technology that allows them to work on the same 3D files simultaneously. They created CoLab to solve that problem.

CoLab has developed Gradient, a collaboration platform that helps engineers and others work together on 3D designs. It’s a cloud-based tool that helps engineering teams streamline the design review process, simplify program management, and resolve issues faster.

Last year, the company executed a successful beta program and raised a $600,000 pre-seed financing round from Killick Capital, Pelorus Venture Capital and Panache Ventures. CoLab says it is now working with some of the largest automotive and industrial companies in the world. The company – which has openings for programmers, sales, marketing and customer success professionals – said it plans to install Gradient with a number of industry leaders in the next six months.

“Our mission is to empower engineering teams to build the future faster,” Keating, the company’s CEO, said in a press release. “Y Combinator is going to accelerate our growth and pair us with some of the brightest and most successful entrepreneurs in the world. We are excited to leverage Y Combinator to provide our customers with industry leading products while expanding our team and customer base.”

AVF Names 14 Keynotes So Far

The Atlantic Venture Forum is coming back to Halifax this June and has announced 14 keynote speakers so far.

The seventh annual forum features networking opportunities, an Atlantic Canadian technology showcase, and information sessions.

The AVF speakers this year include:

  • Adam Nanjee -- Nanjee is the Canadian Managing Director for Microsoft for Startups, on the board of The Canadian Innovation Exchange, and a member of the management board of The Ismaili Centres Canada. Nanjee has worked in innovation for 15 years, including time with MaRS, MasterCard, BlackBerry, Zafin, and Microsoft.
  • April Dunford -- Dunford is an executive consultant, investor, speaker and author. She is an expert in positioning and market strategy. Dunford spent 25 years as vice-president marketing for a series of high-growth startups. In April, she was named to the Propel board
  • Paul de Gelder -- De Gelder is a Navy diver, shark attack survivor, author and motivational speaker. He co-hosted nine Discovery Channel’s Shark Week documentaries and one for National Geographic. His book, No Time for Fear, details his life and journey of recovery after a shark-attack in 2009.

The AVF focuses on technological innovation in information and communication technologies, sustainable technology, life sciences and health technologies and oceans technologies.

In the Forum’s Technology Showcase, early-stage and growth-stage companies will have an opportunity to present their technology and businesses to the attending audience as well as a panel of expert investors.

The AVF is June 26 and 27 at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia. You can find more information on the speakers here and register to attend here.

Nextleaf Raises $4M in Share Sale

Nextleaf Solutions, co-founded by Saint Mary’s University alum Paul Pedersen in 2015, will raise $4 million through the sale of new shares on the Canadian Securities Exchange this week. This brings the total funds raised by the Vancouver-based company up to $15 million.

Of the $4 million, about $800,000 is coming from employees and other insiders. The source of the remaining $3.2 million hasn’t been disclosed, but Nextleaf CFO Charles Ackerman said the money comes from family offices, investors, institutional and strategic financial investors across the country. He added that a significant amount of the raise is from Nova Scotian investors.

Nextleaf has developed – and has filed nearly 20 patents on -- technology that extracts THC and CBD from dry cannabis biomass to produce a tasteless, odorless substance, or distillate, that is standardized for potency. It can consistently be used with clearly defined dosage of THC and/or CBD.

Ackerman said the cannabis biomass doesn’t have to be high quality – what would now be considered waste or failed crops can be used – to produce high-quality distillate.

“Nextleaf currently has an issued U.S. patent on the entire end-to-end process,” said Ackerman. The process includes steps from biomass preparation through to molecular distillation. “And, to our knowledge, it is currently the only publicly traded cannabis company to have an industrial cannabis-specific extraction and purification patent granted by the U.S. Patent Agency.”

This is unique in a market where most players are still looking to fill cannabis supply. Nextleaf is looking to the yet-to-be-legalized cannabis-infused product market. Cannabis-infused products are set to become legal by October.

“We started Nextleaf with the thought: let’s never grow a plant,” said CEO Paul Pedersen. “Let’s focus on acquiring market-validated extraction technology.”

ABK Biomedical Closes US$30M VC Round

Nextleaf applied for a Standard Processor License in June 2018 and, Ackerman said, expects to see the licence granted before the end of the year.

This hasn’t stopped the company from putting their process into practice. Nextleaf created The Mobile Lab, a small-scale version of its industrial patent capable of processing 20 kilograms of cannabis per hour. The Mobile Lab operates on-site and under the licence of the client. The Mobile Lab doubles as a testing platform to refine Nextleaf’s processes.

Nextleaf’s central, 6,540-square-foot, processing facility in Greater Vancouver will be capable of processing 100 tons of cannabis per year, said Ackerman. The facility will also have a research lab for ongoing R&D.

Nextleaf can produce distillates high in THC or CBD, allowing for many applications from recreational to health. Nextleaf distillates can be used in products including skin cream, vape technology, edible oils, and water-soluble extracts.

Ackerman said the company has broadly refrained from making supplier agreements until its processing facility is up and running, but one notable exception to this rule is a partnership with BevCanna in British Columbia. Nextleaf and BevCanna have signed a letter of intent for Nextleaf to supply cannabis oils to BevCanna’s 40 million-bottle beverage facility for cannabis-infused beverages.

Nextleaf listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange as OILS.

Apply Now for Next CDL Cohort

The Creative Destruction Lab has opened applications for its 2019-20 cohort, at its Atlantic Canadian pod and other locations across Canada and in New York and Oxford, England.

The applications can be found here and are open until Aug. 12.

Started at the University of Toronto, the Creative Destruction Lab is a seed-stage program for scalable startups whose technology is based on science.

The CDL starts cohorts in each location with a few dozen teams, who attend a one- or two-day mentoring session to receive a set of milestones from mentors. They’re then sent away to work on these tasks. When the cohort convenes again about two months later, teams who missed their milestones are asked to leave. CDL repeats the process several times, so each cohort ends up with a core of graduates.

CDL-Atlantic is just wrapping up its second cohort, and accepts companies from a broad range of sectors though it has a special emphasis on ocean tech, cleantech and agritech.

It has quickly established itself as the largest source of angel funding in the region, as its “fellows” actively invest in the more successful entrants. Companies such as Bereda Training, Harbr, Mysa and Motryx (formerly Maritime bioLoggers) have raised capital from CDL fellows.  

As well as CDL-Atlantic, startups can apply to other locations that offer specialization in their particular sector. For example, the Montreal program has a special focus on artificial intelligence and data science, while Vancouver specializes in health technology.

Gillian McCrae, the Venture Manager at CDL-Atlantic, said anyone with questions can contact her at gillian@creativedestructionlab.com or her colleague Jeehan Javed at jeehan.javed@creativedestructionlab.com

LeeWay Lands $291K ACOA Loan

The LeeWay Striker

The LeeWay Striker

Dartmouth-based LeeWay Marine has borrowed $290,600 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to speed up the refit of its newest research ship, the LeeWay Striker.

ACOA issued a statement Friday saying the company, which specializes in assisting with hydrographic and geophysical surveys, borrowed the money through the  Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program. LeeWay will use the cash to add new technology to and rewire the vessel, and have it approved to operate commercially in Canadian and U.S. waters.

“Striker represents a massive leap in the operational profile of a survey and data acquisition company,” said LeeWay Marine CEO Jamie Sangster in an interview. “It fundamentally changes the way things are done, in the sense that we’re now applying speed.”

The LeeWay Striker was designed and built for a United States military tender, but the ship didn’t win the bid, so the builder was eager to find a buyer. LeeWay bought the ship and is now fitting it out to the company’s needs.

Though the ship is more expensive to operate than others, Sangster said the costs in time and crew are drastically reduced. The ship doesn’t get the work done any faster, but its high speed cuts the time taken to travel to and from research sites. And Sangster said time drives everything in his business.

“It always does, and it always will,” said Sangster. “Since we evaluate total value in a finite period of time, you need to change something in that overall equation, physically, if you want to increase your uptake.”

Cuna del Mar Buys PEI-Based CAT

The Striker has a top speed of 55 knots, and Sangster said the company’s competitive advantage lies in reducing the time required to get from the dock to the operational area and between operational areas. He said time reduction can increase the density of work the company does and allow it to make money faster.

“Bringing speed to the market, if you have the right vessel that can operate offshore, fundamentally will shift a lot of the survey programs that we enter,” said Sangster.

LeeWay Marine -- whose only equity funding came from friends and family when the company started -- is also bringing the Striker to its outpost in Cambridge, MA., with the hopes of getting into the U.S. market.

The company has been accepted into Scale-up Hub Cambridge (a program designed to help Atlantic ICT companies expand into export markets), with the help of Nova Scotia Business Inc. During the one-year program, LeeWay hopes to make inroads into the U.S. market with the unique speed of the LeeWay Striker.

He added LeeWay will bring “not just Striker, but  . . . technology that’s developed here to improve the processes that surveyors require.”

One piece of new technology it will deploy is the Katfish, produced by St. John’s-based Kraken Robotics. The towed subsurface scanning system isn’t affected by waves, so it allows vessels that are small and fast, like the Striker, to do the same work of a larger, more stable ship.

“We want to go in [and], in many ways, penetrate that market with some new technology, so these particular survey companies are afforded alternative options,” said Sangster. “They can see some realizable operational efficiencies by using us. It’s new technology. It’s driving costs lower. And it’s improving margins.”

LeeWay Marine’s sales have increased close to 200 percent in the last two years. The company has 11 full-time employees, and 14 additional seasonal employees for its active season.

Latham and McArthur Join Propel

Propel, the Atlantic Canadian ITC accelerator, has named veteran entrepreneurs Derek Latham and Gordon McArthur to its stable of entrepreneurs-in-residence.

The company released a press release last week saying Latham and McArthur have joined Charlotte Murray and Richard Jones as EIRs. The EIRs help develop and deliver programming for Propel’s Incite accelerator, as well as working directly with founders and startups supported by Propel in Atlantic Canada. Both McArthur and Latham are based in Halifax. 

“We are very happy to have Derek and Gordon join our team,” said Propel CEO Barry Bisson in the statement.  “While their backgrounds are different, their knowledge and experience are equally impressive.  And, perhaps more importantly, they are both extremely passionate and driven to help the founders in Incite further their companies.”

Just two years ago, Latham was a participant in a Propel accelerator: “A Propel alumni myself, I am excited to work with the talented startup founders to achieve product-market fit and grow their businesses here in Atlantic Canada.”

Latham has a background in business development and marketing. He’s worked with Nestle Canada, the Royal Canadian Mint, and Starbucks Coffee Canada.

McArthur is the former President of Dartmouth-based Eosense, an environmental gas measurement tech company, and has skills in cleantech, ICT, and hardware.

"There are a lot of places to go wrong when starting a business and what Propel is doing, getting businesses off on the right foot by focusing them intensely on the problem they are solving, is going to have huge reverberations in Atlantic Canada and beyond,” said McArthur. “I'm fortunate to be a part of that.”

Much of Lathan and McArthur’s role will be working in Propel’s Incite accelerator, a 12-month program focused on developing early stage technology companies by delivering curriculum online. The program runs in two phases. Phase 1 runs for three months and focuses on problem validation and solution fit. Phase 2 runs the remaining seven months and focuses on building a sales engine.

 

Disclosure: Propel is a client of Entrevestor. 

Seven Join UNB Summer Institute

The 2019 Summer Institute

The 2019 Summer Institute

The University of New Brunswick’s TME group has revealed the seven companies in its Summer Institute, an accelerator that emphasizes the human aspects of entrepreneurship, such as marketing and design.

Officially called the J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management & Entrepreneurship, TME oversees entrepreneurship programs at the Fredericton university. It also operates two accelerators: Energia Ventures, which nurtures companies involved in energy, cleantech and cybersecurity; and the Summer Institute, which accepts companies from a range of industries.

“The number of applicant companies has grown every year since inception, and this year, we received over 145 applications, a nearly 50 percent increase from 2018.” said Joe Allen, Managing Director of Accelerator Programs for TME. “It’s getting harder every year to select a cohort and if this trend continues we may look to run two cohorts a year.”

Now in its sixth year, the Summer Institute is a three-month accelerator for entrepreneurs with an innovative idea and the passion needed to turn that idea into a sustainable venture. Leading the program this year will be TME’s new accelerator team consisting of Allen and Operations Coordinator Tanvir Kohli.

“We’re very excited with the companies in this cohort,” said TME Chair Dhirendra Shukla in the statement. “The program has grown every year, and this is the first year where the entire cohort have products that are earning revenue.”

The program began April 29 and will conclude with a demo day on July 18. The companies accepted into the program are:

-- Scottage Cheeze (Harvey, NB)

Margaret Scott

Dairy free vegan cheeses dips and spreads.

-- JW Couture (Fredericton)

Jaclyn Wilson

Men’s and women’s bodybuilding competition suits.

-- Loran Olivia (Fredericton)

Megan Gallant

Full service custom wedding stationery and design studio.

-- Queen of Cups Lingerie (St. Stephen, NB)

Abby Pond

High quality, individually tailored bras.

-- Handmade by Alicia (Nackawic, NB)

Alicia Sharp

All-natural and environmentally friendly solutions to your everyday personal care needs.

-- Luna Baby (Fredericton)

Courtney Larkin

The company aims to produce the world’s best breastfeeding pillow.

-- Envirotech  (Delhi, India)

Parth Dave

Smartbins that simplify the waste management practices and reward users.

 

Disclosure: UNB TME is a client of Entrevestor. 

How Will the Recession Impact You?

One constant factor in the Atlantic Canadian startup story in the past decade has been a strong underlying economy in key export markets – but that could change soon.

Robust economic growth, especially in the U.S., has provided primed markets for these innovation companies. But recessions inevitably come – it’s a matter of when, not if. Here are a few thoughts on what the looming downturn will mean for East Coast startups:

1. Founders will love Keynes – A little-known component of the Harper government’s economic action plan in 2008-09 was a substantial funding increase in the National Research Council’s Industry Research Assistance Program, or IRAP. It will happen again.

IRAP is excellent Keynesian spending – money that can be productively distributed quickly, often to the benefit of young people.  Other startup programs will probably be boosted as well. In the last decade, all governments have boarded the innovation bandwagon and will see startups as an efficient way to spark spending.

2. Our best companies will feel the most pain – Atlantic Canada has produced some great scaling companies – generally those with $2 million-plus in revenue, doubling sales annually. They sell mainly to private sector businesses or consumers, and the next recession could be brutal for them.

These companies are too big to receive meaningful help from government programs. Those raising capital will find it a lot harder to entice angels or venture capital funds in a downturn. Those that have already raised large sums will feel pressure from the VCs to cut costs (read: lay people off) so their funding will last through the downturn.

3. There could be a talent glut – Founders are now coping with a tight, tight market for developers – tighter in some cities than others. That could change dramatically in a recession.

Fortune 500 companies could adopt hiring freezes really quickly, and some may lay off developers, maybe in big numbers. Developers could suddenly be easier to find.

What’s more, coders, engineers and scientists coming out of universities will face a pretty bleak job market and many will choose to start a business rather than hunt for a job. They will stoke the startup furnace.

4. Our young entrepreneurs are about to get schooled – I would bet the median age of founders in Atlantic Canada is about 30. That means that roughly half the founders would have been no more than 20 during the last recession, likely still in university.

They’re about to go through their first recession as business people, and it will be a real education – and a healthy education. One of the key lessons in personal finance and business is learning how to manage recessions.

5. No one is planning for the recession – I haven’t heard founders talking about a coming recession, but they should planning for tougher markets. How?

Raise now. Burn slow. Sell to government.

The smart companies are trying to raise capital now and planning to spend it slowly so it lasts a few years. And if possible, they should be looking for public sector customers. The federal government’s Build In Canada Innovation Program (which purchases new-fangled goods from Canadian startups) will be extremely popular in a year or two.

Applications Open for Sprint Contest

Applications for Innovacorp’s Sprint competition for Nova Scotia technology startups opened Wednesday and will remain open until May 15.

Winners will receive up to $25,000 each in non-dilutive, non-repayable funding and business guidance from experienced industry professionals. A total of $100,000 is up for grabs, and funding is based on meeting short-term milestones, laid out by Innovacorp for each winner.

Sprint includes two streams: Phase 1 for companies that have not received Sprint funding before; and Phase 2 for companies that have been awarded funding before and met milestones. Companies can win Sprint funding up to three times.

Shortlisted companies will pitch their business to Sprint judges on May 23. You can find more information and application forms here

Luther To Head Halifax Partnership

Wendy Luther will become the President and CEO of Halifax Partnership on June 3.

Wendy Luther will become the President and CEO of Halifax Partnership on June 3.

The Halifax Partnership has announced the appointment of Wendy Luther as President and CEO, effective June 3. Luther has 17 years of experience in representing Nova Scotia nationally and internationally.

The Halifax Partnership works to grow Halifax’s economy.  The group is focused on The Halifax Economic Growth Plan, which aims to grow the population to 550,000 and GDP to $30 billion by 2031.

“Halifax is quickly becoming one of the best mid-sized cities in North America in which to live, work, and do business,” said Matt Hebb, Chair of the Board of Directors. “There’s more work to do, and Wendy will be instrumental in building upon past successes.”

Luther’s accomplishments include serving as President and CEO of EduNova, which works with international students. While there, she developed the award-winning Study and Stay program, which incentivizes international students to stay and work in Nova Scotia.   

Prior to that, Luther led export development initiatives with the Atlantic Canada World Trade Centre and Nova Scotia Business Inc., where she led trade missions to over twenty countries. She has mentored and advised over 300 Nova Scotian exporters on how to be competitive in international markets.

“I'm excited to get started with the Partnership,” Luther said. “Ours is a dynamic and growing city and I believe the Partnership has been key in Halifax's recent momentum.”

The Partnership thanked interim President and CEO John Rogers, who filled in after the previous CEO Ron Hanlon passed away suddenly in May, 2018.

14 To Pitch at Volta Cohort

Volta Cohort No. 3

Volta Cohort No. 3

Fourteen Atlantic Canadian early-stage startups will vie for a total of as much as $125,000 at the spring edition of the Volta Cohort pitching event on May 22 in Halifax.

Volta, the Halifax-based startup hub, began the Volta Cohort in 2017 to provide some early development capital for Atlantic Canadian startups. Up to five companies at each pitching session receive $25,000 each in investment, mentorship, and resources.

So far, the Volta Cohort has awarded a total of $400,000 in investment in three events. The judges at the last event actually awarded funding to six companies due to the difficulties in deciding between a few of the entrants.

“Creating a more innovative future in Atlantic Canada starts by funding and supporting high calibre founders that will turn their ideas into global companies,” said Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers in a statement. “Through Volta Cohort, we are able to engage with these founders at a critical time in their development and provide the opportunities and resources they need to get to the next stage faster.”

The finalists are:

  • Arolytics is developing web applications to help manufacturers cost-effectively produce less greenhouse gases and pollutants.
  • Atomo is a continuous discovery platform for product teams.
  • BlackWatch.Tech is a safety equipment company developing such products as a man-overboard device for fishermen.
  • CareCrew is designing the future of residential care.
  • E/venTx offers management and sales tools for event organizers to promote events and manage their business.
  • FloLab is a culture and mental training platform for sports teams.
  • Gibli Innovations is developing a sensor providing cyclists and triathletes with real-time aerodynamic feedback while training or racing to optimize their riding position.
  • Jara Developments provides a tenant security portal for landlords.
  • Manage Your Home is a concierge service company that helps homeowners manage the maintenance, and improvement of their homes.
  • ReelData develops remote monitoring technology for the aquaculture industry, allowing fish farms to know the biomass, appetite and welfare of finned fish in real time, without manual intervention.
  • ShopLaw has created an online tool that provides an easy way to find the right legal solution for consumers.
  • Sparrow Acoustics' AI-based system enables cardiologists to better visualize and interpret heart sounds.
  • Tracker Inventory System makes modular, easy-to-use RFID inventory solutions for industries with a history of low technology adoption. Its first product is designed for the laundry industry.
  • VRCOM is developing a fast way for businesses to create an engaging virtual reality shopping experience.

Volta Cohort selects pitchers through an application process. The funding is provided by Volta, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, BDC Capital, and Innovacorp.

Companies receiving investment are given space at Volta and access to a board of mentors comprising CEOs and founders of Volta’s resident and alumni companies. For companies outside of Halifax, support is arranged with partner organizations in other cities.

Maritime DevCon Set for June 8

The sixth annual Maritime DevCon, a conference for software developers, is coming to Fredericton in June.

Maritime DevCon is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting a strong software development community on the east coast of Canada, and the Maritime DevCon 2019 Conference is a chance for the community to gather together.

Currently 24 speakers are slated to present 21 sessions. The sessions run from 20-minute “lightning talks” to full 45-minute sessions.

The event will be held at the Wu Conference Centre at the University of New Brunswick on June 8. The formal schedule has yet to be announced.

You can buy tickets for the event here.

Side Door Bookings Soar in March

Showing the effects of its recent marketing launch, Halifax-based home-concert organizer Side Door more than tripled the number of performances it arranged in March compared with February.

The company – whose online platform matches entertainers with people who want them to perform in their homes or other intimate locations – arranged 72 shows in March. It was a gain of 3.7 times from February. And the high volume is continuing as Side Door has 151 total shows booked through the summer of 2020.

Side Door Co-Founder Laura Simpson said the boom is due to the company’s recent marketing launch. Side Door automates the repeatable processes involved in booking a show, from matching artists and hosts based on preferences to handling things like tickets and payout. She said about half of the bookings organized through the web platform don’t require any intervention from an employee.

It’s about keeping cost low. “Finding space for shows that were low overhead and high profit margins was one of the greatest needs in the entertainment industry,” said Simpson. More than that, half of the platform’s hosts have never hosted a show before, so Side Door is creating a new market for the artist.

The company, whose five full-time employees work out of Volta in Halifax, has taken equity investment from friends, family, and a few musicians. Simpson is now raising a new funding round with a target of $2 million to $2.5 million.

Artist investors are the best marketing tools Side Door has, Simpson said. “Referral and word of mouth is our strongest point right now.”

The money from the seed round will be used to find a senior developer for the app version of Side Door, as a companion to the web platform, said Simpson. The company also plans to launch a rating and review system, and let clients use the platform to book service providers, anything from catering to photography.

Inside Out: Using Startups to Spur Growth

The money will also be used to increase market penetration and develop new markets in the United States.

Simpson said there are a few competitors in the U.S., but none has the artist focus Side Door does. “If we earn the trust of the artist, they will use us, and that means the quality of the shows are that much higher because we’re attracting the best artists.”

She added: “We have people who do full tours, and some get paid two grand each [per show], by just showing up with a guitar. It’s a much better situation for them where they can actually make a livelihood.”

Since Simpson and co-founder Dan Mangan launched the company in April 2017, Side Door has booked 400 shows, of which 194 have been held. The company  has signed up 437 hosts (almost 300 have signed since the end of January), and 1257 "discoverable" artists.

Almost 400 additional shows are pending on the platform, said Simpson. Pending shows are those still being negotiated by the hosts and performers.

Unlike most startups, Side Door had revenue almost from the beginning, she said, and the company actually booked shows even before the web platform started development in March 2018.

Side Door is paid a percentage of show revenue, so the key to the success is generating a high volume of shows. Side Door sold $124,000 in tickets in 2018, and Simpson said her goal is to hit $1 million in annual ticket sales by the end of 2020.

Zirka Plans Gamified Dating Site

Marc Zirka

Marc Zirka

The Halifax-based creator of a dating app hopes to challenge the likes of Tinder and Match.com.

Frogo founder Marc Zirka plans to compete in the crowded marketplace by offering a user experience that is inspired by mobile games.

A “pilot” version of the app is available for download on Android and iOS, and is free to use. When the full version launches, Zirka will monetize it by selling premium subscriptions.

“You have, all the time, the element of surprise because you cannot search for a partner,” said Zirka in an interview. “Based on how you are answering questions, and how others are answering questions, we match people together. This is why we call it a ‘gameified’ app.”

When users sign up, they are invited to answer a set of questions that help build a psychological profile of them. The profile is then used to calculate their temperamental compatibility with other users.

To make the process more fun, many of the questions are whimsical or quirky, such as, “Would you date someone with hair like Einstein?”. This particular answer would indicate the extent to which a user is concerned about a potential partner’s outward appearance.

Like mobile games that increase user engagement by encouraging the player to progress through a series of levels, would-be daters then send each other questions that they must answer similarly in order to “level up” their compatibility and earn the right to communicate.

The premium subscription will cost about $10.00 per month and will allow users to send more personal questions, but only to other premium users. To ensure propriety, the chat function will not allow images.

Read About Some of the Nova Scotian Companies Attending Collision

Premium subscribers will also be given a trial period—possibly of up to three months, but that remains to be decided—before they have to begin paying.

“We’re all in the business of making money, but what I don’t want is for it to be a scam,” said Zirka, explaining the purpose of the trial period.

For security, users cannot send each other questions unless they both opt-in by “liking” each other.

Apps that rely on a sizeable active user base for their appeal, such as dating apps, sometimes struggle to reach critical mass. When the full version of the app launches, Zirka hopes to solve this problem with regionally targeted advertising blitzes.

New users will not be prevented from signing up if they are outside the regions being targeted, but Zirka said that concentrating marketing efforts on one area at a time will help ensure that most new users can meet in person if they choose to.

Zirka, whose background is in the telecom industry, is the CEO of both the Lebanese TelcoVision Group SAL and the Nova Scotian Strategy Up, both of which are management consulting firms that specialize in improving the operational efficiency of startups and information technology companies.

Frogo—a subsidiary of Strategy Up—will also soon be spun off into a separate corporate entity to offer increased transparency to prospective investors.

Zirka plans to raise $3 to $5 million of investment in the near future. Until now, the app’s development costs have been paid for by him and two co-founders, whose shares he has since purchased.

About 15 percent of the money raised will be spent on continued development of the app itself, 15 percent on staffing costs, and the remaining 70 percent on marketing.

As part of the fundraising effort, the Frogo team will attend this May’s Collision Conference in Toronto—one of the largest tech conferences in North America.

Cooke Lands $5.6M in ACOA Funds

Cooke Aquaculture announced plans Friday to expand and upgrade its hatcheries in southern New Brunswick with about $5.6 million in funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

According to a statement, the funding and upgrades are part of Cooke Aquaculture’s five-year plan to invest $500 million in Atlantic Canada.

Cooke will use $3 million from ACOA’s Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program to expand and create up to six new skilled jobs at the company’s Johnson Lake hatchery.

Just over $2 million from the Atlantic Innovation Fund – which lends money for major research projects –  will go to expansion at the Oak Bay hatchery. The expansion will allow the company to continue to develop its salmon breeding expertise with marine genomics technology.

“As the company has expanded across the region, so has our need to grow this supply,” said CEO Glenn Cooke in the statement. “This [Oak Bay] facility has continued to play a very important part in our operations and our ability to grow healthy seafood in a safe and sustainable manner.”

Blacks Harbour, NB-based Cooke Aquaculture was founded in 1985 with one fish farm in Kelly Cove, NB, and now is vertically integrated from farm to retail, has hatchery or harvesting operations in three continents, and sales offices in four.

 

Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor.

Adaptiiv Partners With Italy’s EZB

Adaptiiv Medical Technologies Inc., the Halifax company that uses 3D printing to improve cancer treatment, has further extended its international reach by partnering with Italian peer Eckert & Ziegler BEBIG, or EZB.

EZB specializes in products used in brachytherapy, which applies radioactive sources directly to or into tumors while sparing the surrounding healthy tissue. For the patient, this means shorter treatment periods, fewer side effects and a faster recovery. 

The two companies announced Sunday they will test and align their systems to provide an integrated workflow for cancer centers to create 3D-printed brachytherapy applicators customized to each patient. They believe the collaboration will demonstrate that 3D printing can provide clinically viable solutions that improve treatment and patient care.

"This is a significant milestone for us," said Adaptiiv CTO Alex Dunphy in the press release. "Collaborating with the team at EZB has allowed us to continue to make significant strides towards improving the standard of care using a patient-specific approach in brachytherapy. The successful alignment of our systems will demonstrate that 3D printing can be used to provide a clinically viable solution in brachytherapy treatment.”

Last year, Adaptiiv became the first company in the world to receive US FDA 510(k) clearance for software that is intended to 3D print patient-specific medical devices for use in radiation oncology.

Metamaterial Technologies Developing MedTech in London

The Adaptiiv system 3D prints a bolus – a piece of plastic placed over the cancerous area. The radiation hits the bolus, builds up and then is transferred into the tumour.

There can be no air pockets between the bolus and the skin, which complicates matters given that every body is unique. Hospitals using the Adaptiiv product buy a system that includes 3D printers with special filaments, so boluses customized to each patient can be printed within seconds. They can be reused as the patient receives repeated radiation dosages. Or, if the patient’s body shape changes over the course of multiple treatments, the medical staff can print off another bolus quickly.

Adaptiiv said its solution represents a step further in enabling patient-specific care by increasing the clinical acceptance and implementation of 3D printing at the point-of-care.

The Halifax company has struck several partnerships in the past year. In February, Adaptiiv partnered with leading Canadian cancer facility Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, and last October it announced University of Hong Kong had become both a customer and research partner.

“We are excited to collaborate with Adaptiiv and its turnkey solution for 3D printing medical accessories,” said Thomas Osche, Product Manager at EZB. “Adaptiiv is the first company to offer a platform that seamlessly integrates into existing treatment workflows and their team has demonstrated the ability to rapidly validate new approaches to treatment that are being used in a clinical setting.”

Cuna del Mar Buys PEI-based CAT

Cuna del Mar, the aquaculture-focused investment group backed by Christy Walton, has purchased The Center for Aquaculture Technologies, or CAT, the P.E.I.-based research group.

The companies last week issued a statement saying that Cuna del Mar has bought all the shares of CAT for an undisclosed sum from Linnaeus Capital Partners BV, a Dutch investment group.

With operations in P.E.I. and San Diego, CAT is a specialist in researching the ways that aquaculture operations can improve their output through genetic improvement. The seven-year-old research organization also helps with the commercial development of innovative feed and health management products and services.

“Cuna del Mar is very pleased to be acquiring the CAT operations in the USA and Canada,” said Cuna del Mar Managing Director Robert Orr in the statement. “CAT has a tremendously talented team of people with unique capabilities, who are dedicated to making a difference for our customers and the industry as a whole. We are excited about the possibilities the future holds for this business.”

Cuna del Mar is an investment group dedicated to revolutionizing seafood production by focusing on open ocean aquaculture – that is, establishing fish farms offshore. Its vision statement says 80 percent of the world’s fisheries are near collapse and it wants to shift food production to sustainable operations that can produce healthy food without harming the environement.

It is backed by Christy Walton, the widow of John T. Walton, one of the sons of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. The operations are headed by Orr, best known as the former CEO of Ocean Nutrition Canada, the Dartmouth-based food additive producer sold for $540 million in 2012.

Cuna del Mar owns a portfolio of aquaculture companies, including offshore fish producer Open Blue Sea Farms, aquaculture tech company Innovasea Land Systems, Mexican fish producer Earth Ocean Farms and oyster producer Sol Azul Maricultivos, also of Mexico.

By purchasing CAT, Cuna del Mar is receiving: a research hub in San Diego; and state-of-the-art wet lab facilities in P.E.I., which include Bio-Safety Level 3 containment for aquatic animal pathogens. (This is the second-highest of four bio-safety levels.)

“The Centre for Aquaculture Technologies is a high competency CRO [contract research organization] with a customer base across the global aquaculture industry and a key asset in the PEI BioCluster’s fish health and nutrition business sector,” said PEI BioAlliance Executive Director Rory Francis in an email. “We’re very pleased to see this “smart money” investment from Cuna del Mar that will enable CAT to achieve its full potential.”

CAT Chief Executive John Buchanan added: “We look forward to working within Cuna del Mar, a fund that clearly sees the potential for growth in the aquaculture industry.”

Planet Hatch Names Sales Cohort

Planet Hatch has named the five companies that will participate in its 2019 Sales Accelerator Program, which helps companies find new markets and improve their revenue base.

The Fredericton entrepreneurship hub said in a statement the program provides participants with comprehensive sales training from industry experts, and access of up to $25,000 to support market entry and business development activities. Participants will also receive access to a fully funded post-secondary student intern to help throughout the summer.

“We’re very excited about the companies that will participate in our first cohort of the Sales Accelerator Program,” said Adam Peabody, Director of Planet Hatch and coordinator of the program. “The program is designed to help these companies develop a sales playbook and hone their skills for predictable and repeatable revenue growth.”

The participating companies, all from the Fredericton area, are:

  • A. Parrill & Associates – A women-led leadership development company, which aims to coach and develop high-performing executives and professionals;
  • SimpTek – A platform that helps electricity purchasers measure and analyze their consumption and link up with companies that could help to reduce their energy costs;
  • HomeWurk -- A startup whose online platform helps students earn money by finding home and business owners who need help with odd jobs;
  • Educated Beards – a veteran-owned startup that makes all-natural beard-grooming products and encourages healthy and educated lifestyles;
  • E.T. Mechanical – Local specialists in residential heating, air conditioning, plumbing, electrical and other home services.

Launched in March, the program was developed through a partnership model between Planet Hatch, Atlantic Growth Solutions, the University of New Brunswick, St. Thomas University, Future Ready NB, and the Impact Atlantic Loan Program.   

“We received a record number of company and student applications, which indicates the market demand and need for this type of initiative,” said Peabody.

Enriched Founder Program at AVF

The Atlantic Venture Forum is seeking companies to present at this year’s conference and benefit from an enriched program of content for founders.

Companies have until the end of the day Tuesday to apply to present. You can find applications here.

The seventh annual AVF, which will take place June 26 and 27 at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel, is a meeting place for Atlantic Canadian founders and investors from inside and outside the region. The two-day event will include pitches by both early- and growth-stage companies.

Day 1 of the AVF this year will feature a curated matchmaking event at Volta, in which founders can fill out a questionnaire and be selected for one-on-one meetings with investors and support organizations. The goal is to make meaningful connections for the companies attending the event. You can find more information on the matchmaking event here.

The presenting companies will be able to deliver a five-minute pitch to the assembly, and will be featured in the printed material distributed at the event.

Presenting companies are selected by the AVF’s industry advisory board and are drawn largely from the focus areas of ICT, sustainable technology, life sciences and health technologies, and oceans technologies.

The first day of the AVF will also include a day-long session led by startup expert Craig Elias on all the stages of the startup journey. Elias is a startup veteran and the entrepeneur-in-residence at Bow Valley College in the Calgary area. 

30 Startups Enter Incite Phase 1

Propel, the pan-Atlantic IT support organization, has accepted 30 companies into Phase 1 of its virtual accelerator Incite – an increase of about one-third from its first cohort of the program.

Launched with 21 companies last fall, Incite is a virtual program that startup founders can take for up to a year, regardless of where they are in Atlantic Canada. The program is divided into two phases.  Phase 1 focuses on validating the problem-solution fit and runs until the end of June 2019. Phase 2, which focuses on building a sales engine, will begin in September with another intake of companies.

“Phase 1 of Incite forces the founders to be customer-focused,” said Propel CEO Barry Bisson in a statement.  “At the end of the three months, their offering will be fine-tuned to best address the needs of their customers so they can move on to building a sustainable sales pipeline.”

Incite was designed to overcome two challenges facing a group offering mentorship to tech companies across the region: participants can join up regardless of where they’re based; and it guides companies for a longer period of time than an intense 12-week program.

Discover the 15 Entrants in the Latest Phase 2 of Incite

The 30 new companies from across Atlantic Canada span a wide variety of industries including education, healthcare, energy, shipping, dairy, real estate, ecommerce and law. The Phase I companies, their locations, and (co-) founders are:

Agile Design + Fabrication, Moncton, Érik Lebrun

Bitzon Technologies Inc., Dieppe, NB, Simon Henman, Guyverson Vernous

Bursity.ca, Halifax, Charles F. Milton

Cohability, Halifax, Laura Russell

Deprolabs, Halifax, Majid Nasirinejad

DIOSA designs Inc., St. John's, Kim Hickman

E/venTx, Halifax, Amie Fudge, Callaghan Boyles

FiCS Script, Halifax, Glib (Steve) Boytsun

Flip the Page Education Services, Fredericton, Alex English, Tara English

Integratr, Fredericton, Neil McWilliam, Robert Boyle

Maple Smart Control, Fredericton, Bill Chuong

Mustr Technologies/ MeetMe, Bathurst, NB, Jeremy Boucher

Milk Moovement, St. John’s, Robert Forsythe, Jonathan King

Neothermal Energy Storage Inc., Bridgewater, NS, Jill Johnson, Louis Desgrosseilliers

Oneposte, Halifax/London, UK, Harrison Smith, Jake Punton

Payperplane Aviation Ltd., St. John's, Ken Harris, Eoin Seviour

MapMyRole Inc., Fredericton, Kevin Stephens

Planète Filière, Saulnierville, NS, Aimélie Comeau, Réanne Cooper

QPROS Enterprise Solutions, Quispamsis, NB, Amos Friling

QueueU, St. John’s, Mark Armanious

Realtr360°, Fredericton, Noena de Leon, Shauntae Mitchell

Rescue Coffee, Moncton, Claire Vaughan

Atlantic Blockchain Company, Halifax, Mrugakshee Palwe, Keegan Francis

KargoROO Inc., Moncton, Mathieu Bourgeois

SavourySky, Moncton, Jean Jordan

Scantranx Technologies, Fredericton, Adetunji Adelakun

Shoplaw, Charlottetown, Randy B.F. Campbell

SpreeSpot, Moncton, Jason Bernard

SubIdea, Halifax, Spencer Pieczonka

WhatsUp NB, Bathurst, Briand Ininahazwe, Jessica Doucet, Yahya Madrani, Ange Christian Silue, Mouhcine Tkhili.

Juniper BBQ Nears 100K Units Sold

Jason Janes:

Jason Janes:

A few years after leaving behind the tech game and St. John’s, Jason Janes has a new company with a distinctly low-tech product – wooden barbeque scrapers.

But here's the surprising thing: the young venture called Juniper BBQ Scrapers is showing growth metrics that tech entrepreneurs aspire to. Less than two years old, the company is on the cusp of selling its 100,000th scraper, now offering them through 400 stores across Canada. 

Now based in Newfoundland’s West Coast, Janes said his Deer Lake-based company is profitable and growing. He will be showing the products at the Saltscapes East Coast Expo in Halifax this weekend, and no doubt recounting the unlikely story of an IT developer making his way in the barbeque utensil market.

“One thing I learned about product-market fit is it can come out of left field, just by following your passion,” said Janes in an interview this week. “I mean, I didn’t expect to sell any when we started.”

Janes, who turns 47 this week, has spent his career in IT, most of it in product management. He was one of the co-founders of Startup NL, a volunteer group that brought together techies and entrepreneurs mainly in greater St. John’s. And he was also a co-founder of Sentinel Alert, a startup that helped companies monitor the safety of remote workers.

Sentinel Alert shut down just over two years ago, and Janes left St. John’s for Newfoundland’s West Coast. There he spent time doing something he loves almost as much as technology – barbequing. He didn’t want to use a wire brush to clean his grill for safety reasons, but he couldn’t find an alternative. “I was struggling to find something to clean my barbeque with that was natural and local,” he said.

Innovation Week Set for NL Next Week

Ever the entrepreneur, he researched the matter and discovered that a type of wood known in Newfoundland and Labrador as juniper (larch or tamarack elsewhere) is burn- and rot-resistant and known to resist bacteria.

Janes made his own scraper, and asked friends what they thought. They not only liked it – they wanted one. So he started to sell them.

“Within the first couple of weeks, we sold a few 100 units,” he said. “In parallel with that, we connected with local retailers who wanted to resell it. . . . We went from six stores in our first six months to where we are now with 400 across Canada, and now we’re now starting to add stores in the U.S.”

Janes has tended to focus on specialty stores for barbequing and cottaging. The largest chain that carries the product is Sobey’s, which is selling the scrapers in every province. Juniper BBQ has customers in 70 countries around the world. The team – three full-time and two part-time staff – is remaining focused on the barbeque scrapers though it has produced a second product, bottle openers made from scrap juniper wood.

Janes said the lessons he learned working with tech startups served him well in building the new company. In a way, he considers it a tech company because so much of the marketing was carried out on social media.

‘I learned a lot of things from the startup world and one of them is that we all move much too slow,” he said. “As soon as we got a whiff that there was a need for this product, we went in 100 percent to get it into the market.”

Dal Launches 100K Competition

Dalhousie University is inviting startup founders to apply for its annual 100K Competition, in which winning teams receive $10,000 in non-dilutive funding and entry into the university’s accelerator.

Dal’s 100K Competition, now in its sixth year, brings together students and researchers with the aim of helping young companies succeed. Ten finalists receive $10,000 each and entry into Dal’s on-campus Launchpad Accelerator over the summer. The accelerator is part of the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship’s LaunchDal programming.

An intensive 10-week, full-time program, the accelerator focuses on developing founding skills, bringing together a network of mentors, venture capitalists, and serial entrepreneurs and offering prototyping capacity and other discounted services.

Previous graduates of Dal’s LaunchPad include RovaultAI, which brings visual recognition to the seafood industry, and Graphite Innovation and Technology, a materials company developing disruptive uses for graphene. Contest entrants have until May 6 to apply.

In a statement, the contest organizers said all applications must include an eight-minute video explaining how the business model canvas has been used within the startup.

Competing teams should consist of: at least two, and no more than five, degree-seeking students; recent Dalhousie graduates (graduated within the past two years) or Dalhousie researchers or junior faculty. Teams are also eligible to apply if the team is commercializing Dalhousie-related research or projects. In general, at least one member of the team who meets the eligibility criteria should be either a co-founder or an executive at the “C” level.

The organizers said:

  • The team must have a minimum of 20 percent ownership in the venture.
  • The team must control a minimum of 51 percent of the venture’s voting rights. The organizers recommend maintaining this control for at least two years beyond the date of the competition.
  • Because revenue is often the best form of validation, minimal revenues gained in the process of validation are allowable.
  • Ventures cannot be a buyout, an expansion of an existing company, a real estate syndication, a tax shelter, a franchise, or a licensing agreement for distribution in a different geographical area.
  • Ventures may compete in the $100K Competition only once.
  • The organizers state that no set of criteria can apply to every circumstance and therefore reserve the right to determine eligibility or to disqualify any team determined to be in violation of the spirit of the competition. Similarly, applicants who feel they fit the spirit of the competition, but may be in minor violation of the eligibility criteria, may submit a petition via email to: info@launchdal.com.
  •  

Disclosure: Dalhousie University is a client of Entrevestor.

Using Startups to Spur Growth

Jason Martell

Jason Martell

One reason Jason Martell has grown his business Inside Out Cleaning Services so strongly in recent years is his partnerships with Halifax-area startups, which have helped him to adopt a growth strategy and new technology.

Based in Blockhouse, on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, Inside Out expanded mainly because of the acquisition of a competitor in Halifax in 2016. But that deal went hand-in-hand with Martell working closely with Halifax startups Swept and Proposify to improve efficiency. In particular, getting to know Swept CEO Michael Brown – whose company provides software to janitorial companies – helped Martell understand the potential of his business.

“It has certainly helped us accommodate that growth and it has helped me as an owner get out of my own way,” said Martell in an interview last week. “The idea of growth was very daunting to me and Swept was one of the tools we used . . . to make growth less daunting.”

Martell’s parents started the company (then known as Martell's Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning) in 1977, and their son took over the company in 2003. Under Jason’s stewardship, the company began to move into the commercial cleaning space then targeted Halifax. Martell’s staff increased from about 35 to 40 people four years ago to 55 to 60 people today.

“He has taken the business to a new level of growth by leveraging technology,” said Brown. “I work with many cleaning companies around the world and Inside Out is second to none.”

The Lobster Trap Co. Ready To Start Manufacturing

In 2015, Jason Martell met Brown at an event in Mahone Bay and the two became friends. Brown’s company, then called CleanSimple, provided cleaning services. As Brown’s business model changed to providing software tailored to the cleaning market, Inside Out became an early customer. 

The Swept software allows better communications between cleaning companies, their cleaners and their customers. It helps with scheduling, payroll, assignment of tasks and lets cleaners report back to head office.

“Before Swept, our workers had to fill out paperwork and had to get it back to us on a biweekly basis,” said Martell. “After Swept, we have moved entirely away from paper to gather information from cleaners, so I’m certain it has made their lives easier.”

Brown was also able to introduce Inside Out to Proposify, a Halifax startup that automates and enhances the process of producing proposals used to pitch to potential clients. Martell also adopted its technology, which has helped in reaching out for new clients.

Inside Out, whose business is now about 70 percent in the commercial market, is continuing to grow. Though the company’s main focus is adding clients in Halifax, Martell said he’s looking at growth throughout Nova Scotia and he’s working now on adding clients in the Annapolis Valley, Pictou County and Cape Breton. He credits his startup connections with changing the way he does business. It’s helped him realize he had to move the digital side of the business to the cloud and changed his processes.

“Working closely with them has taught me an immense amount,” said Martell. “Startups move so fast. They make decisions in generally a short amount of time. Sometimes they’re the wrong ones but it doesn’t matter – they [startup founders] learn from them and move on. . . . Working with the startup community has helped us to execute better and make not necessarily better decisions but to make them faster.”

Job of the Week: Protocase

An opening for an R&D Designer Software Developer at Protocase  in Sydney is the lone entry in our Our Job of the Week column today.

Established in 2001, Protocase makes custom electronic enclosures. It focuses on combining advances in software with advanced manufacturing techniques to offer unique custom manufacturing to the engineering, design, and research industries.  The company has more than 175 employees and 12,000 clients.

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

Here are excerpts from the posting this week:

Sydney

Protocase

R&D Designer Software Developer

You are tenacious when it comes to goals and completing projects. You love writing software, and you love seeing what you create come to life, function, and make users’ lives better. You understand with deep clarity that if the end user isn’t actually using the software, then your work isn’t done.

Protocase is currently seeking a tenacious, organized Software Developer to join its Research & Development team in Sydney (Cape Breton), Nova Scotia. This is an exciting opportunity for an individual who’s driven by the underlying goal of making software that the end user actually wants to use.

Protocase’s Research & Development (R&D) is a busy department within the company, serving many different internal teams with software development and project engineering on a variety of systems and programs. We are a unique ultra-lean manufacturer that provides the upper echelon of scientists and engineers all over the world with rapid custom manufacturing in 2-3 days. Our team of developers is tasked with continually improving and maintaining internal and external software that are crucial to our ongoing productivity, efficiency and growth.

Protocase is proud to offer its customers Protocase Designer, free enclosure-design software that makes it as easy as possible to design, price and order custom enclosures, parts and panels.

In addition to Protocase Designer, our talented team of developers maintains several pieces of business software in Java (along with some work on application add-ons in C#) that are essential to Protocase’s day-to-day operations and ongoing growth.

Responsibilities

Your duties will include:

Developing new features and improving current features for our CAD software and internal business software

Working with internal stakeholders to solve complex problems.

Optimizing our software applications for maximum speed and scalability

In order to succeed in this role, you must be a lifelong learner who cares deeply enough about your professional excellence and pushes yourself to learn things.

Qualifications

Essential Skills:

Experience in Java

CAD experience and mathematical ability, or database design would be considered a major asset

Technical degree in Software Development, or 2+ years’ experience

Strong communication skills (verbal and written)

You have a goal-oriented personality and love to make things work! . . . 

Read the complete job posting here.

Lobster Trap Co. Starts Manufacturing

Scott Dauphinee

Scott Dauphinee

The Lobster Trap Company, which aims to build a more robust trap than is now available, is making its first commercial manufacturing run of its plastic product this lobster season.

The Yarmouth-based company started taking orders three weeks ago and plans to produce at least 10,000 lobster traps for the 2019-20 lobster season along the southwestern shore of Nova Scotia. The new trap design – which meets regulations for use in Canada and the U.S. – would replace the wire-mesh components of current traps with polyethylene-based plastic.

The Lobster Trap Company CEO Scott Dauphinee said the new design should double the lifespan of the trap, with similar or better yields, compared with current wire-mesh designs.

“We haven’t worn one out yet,” said Dauphinee in an interview. “They’ve been fished for over two years now, and that means fished solid – not like here in Yarmouth where they fish them for six months and then they’re on the bank for six months. So they’ve actually been in the water for essentially four seasons now.”

In addition to longer lifespans, the traps are more environmentally sustainable. Dauphinee said the polyethylene used to build the traps doesn’t break down into microplastics like the polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, coating used in current mesh designs.

He said there are nine prototypes now being used by fishermen to test the traps in a variety of working conditions. The use of the prototypes exposes the industry to the new style of trap, said Dauphinee, and that putting the product into fishermen’s hands was key to the launch.

“They’re all kinda watching and seeing what’s going on,” said Dauphinee, adding that fishermen are always making mental notes of who is using new technology or trying different sizes or colours of traps.

GSTS Closes $2M Seed Round

The company worked for three years to develop and test the new lobster trap. Three months ago, The Lobster Trap Company moved on from the research and development phase to focusing on manufacturing to produce traps for the upcoming lobster season.

Dauphinee said he’s still negotiating for a space in Yarmouth to build the traps, but parts for the traps are already being built by The Lobster Trap Company’s partners.

The company has three employees, including Dauphinee, and is in the process of hiring workers to build the traps. Dauphinee said he plans to have 10 employees by the end of May.

Dauphinee is The Lobster Trap Company’s only shareholder, and he said he’s received non-dilutive funding from organizations like NSBI and Innovacorp, and support from Venture for Canada. The company has been working with Ignite Labs in Yarmouth, and since November it has had space at COVE in Dartmouth.

He is currently looking for strategic partners to help grow the business.

“I’m looking for another company to team up with that has interesting technology that supports the lobster trap – that’s always on the radar,” said Dauphinee about his plans to grow his company.

In terms of hiring, he said he is looking for “good people that show up for work and are passionate about building lobster traps that are going to change the industry.”

3 Reasons To Complete our Survey

We’d like to thank all the founders who have taken two minutes to complete our survey, and make another request to others to please fill it in – today, if possible.

Well over 100 founders have completed the 15-question survey, but we need more responses. So we’re asking the scores of founders who have been meaning to fill it in to please do so ASAP. Each year, we hear from CEOs who say they’ve been meaning to get around to filling in the survey. But some never do. We know everyone’s busy, but it would help hugely if you move it up the priorities list.

Just click here to link to the survey. It’s 100 percent confidential, and you can skip questions you don’t want to answer.

Not convinced yet? Here are three reasons why you should take two minutes to do it.

  1. It allows Entrevestor to provide free news –  Entrevestor makes more money from data analysis than news. So when you complete the survey, you help to sustain our operations, which means we can continue to report on Atlantic Canadian startups.  
  2. You’ll be able to read our study – This year, our complete study will be available to the public. So you and every other founder can read our entire analysis, and there will be a page of infographics on our site. The best way for founders to make sure we have the best information possible is to complete the survey.
  3. It helps in the development of programs that help startups – We’ll tell you who does read our report – decision-makers in Atlantic Canada. Some read it several times, jotting down notations in the margins. Atlantic Canada has some really good programs for entrepreneurship, and they’re always evolving. The quality of data provided by our study will have a direct bearing on the quality of programs for startups.

We’re closing in on our target for survey responses for this year, but we still need more. We really appreciate all those who have completed the survey and would appreciate it if some more founders could join them.

MTI Developing MedTech in London

In a research facility in London’s East End, a team from Halifax-based Metamaterial Technologies Inc. is toiling in a sector that’s not seen as the company’s core business.

They’re working on medical devices.

MTI is a specialist in producing metamaterials – materials comprising compounds not found in nature – that alter light, either by magnifying, repelling or filtering it. The company is best known for its metaAIR venture with Airbus, which is producing a transparent covering for airplane cockpit windows that can filter out laser attacks.

In contrast, the company’s U.K. office applies its knowledge of new materials to help with medical diagnoses. Bringing these products to market takes longer than the company’s other projects due to the need in biotech for clinical trials and regulatory approval.

“The mission of MTI is to use advanced materials in different markets, so it’s still within the spirit of MTI because we’re still using exotic materials to manipulate light,” said MTI Chief Science Officer Themos Kallos, in an interview at the Queen Mary BioEnterprise Innovation Centre in London’s Whitechapel district.

Kallos and CEO George Palikaras actually founded MTI in London in 2010, but decided to headquarter the company in Halifax due to the supports available. For years, they maintained two companies – Halifax-based MTI to develop industrial products and London-based Mediwise for the healthcare market. Last year, the two companies merged when MTI bought Mediwise, so the London office under Kallos’ stewardship could research medical products and support the company’s other offices in Halifax and Pleasanton, Calif.

Nodalblock Lands Healthcare Giant GSK as Client

The five-person team in London is now working on these three projects, all of which will be years in development:

  • A non-invasive diagnostic tool to check glucose levels in blood. Kallos says about 50 million diabetics globally have to test blood sugar levels regularly (some several times a day) through pin pricks. MTI’s product, now called GlucoWise, sends radiowaves through the skin, using metamaterials to amplify the accuracy of the readings that detect glucose. MTI has conducted pre-clinical trials on humans and animals for this product, which could end the pain of current tests for millions of people.
  • A product that improves the resolution of MRI images. The product, which has also been tested on humans, places a metamaterial block beside the subject during an MRI, and the light is altered so the images are far more precise. Kallos said the product can speed up the MRI process, which could reduce hospitals’ costs and improve patient care.
  • A new process that can assess strokes. After someone has a stroke, the first step of the diagnosis is to have a CAT scan or MRI scan to assess what part of the brain has been affected. MTI is working on a portable device that can perform this scan, so it could be carried out by a paramedic in an ambulance, saving valuable time after the patient has suffered the stroke.

The projects are similar to MTI’s other projects because they all deal with the manipulation of light or other energy waves as it passes through a substance. But Kallos added that the healthcare market is different because he is frequently contacted by diabetics, sick of their daily tests, asking when the new non-invasive test will be ready.

The goal is to find the time, money and resources to do clinical trials with at least one of these products and find a major medical device company to partner with on its development.

Nodalblock Lands GSK as Client

Nodalblock, a blockchain company based in Spain and Halifax, has secured healthcare giant GlaxoSmithKline plc as a client.

Nodalblock released a statement last week saying it had been selected to develop a blockchain-based solution for quality assurance for GSK’s factory in Aranda de Duero, Spain.

GSK Aranda, which is working with the Insomnia Innovation Hub, chose Nodalblock to minimize the time needed to review documents that accompany each batch of manufactured products or packaging. Thanks to blockchain technology, the solution will provide greater security and transparency, certifying the entire process, said the statement.

“We look forward to working with GSK to improve their quality assurance process,” said Nodalblock CEO Daniel Faria. “Our data security platform will allow GSK managers to save time and reduce administrative costs, while increasing compliance transparency using third-party verifiable documentation."

Based in the U.K., GSK researches, develops and manufactures drugs and other healthcare products. The company has a total stock market value of £77 billion (C$135 billion) and about 100,000 employees in 150 countries.

While Nodalblock was founded in Madrid and has 15 employees in the Spanish capital, it received investment last year from Halifax-based Numus Financial, which assembled an executive team in Halifax, including Faria. The company has a range of products including digital identity, document verification and ticket distribution.

Blockchain is a series of digital ledgers that various parties can access to exchange digital money or use to perform other tasks. The chain keeps a permanent record of who entered and what they did, guaranteeing a high level of security.

EY Extends EOY Deadline to April 30

EY Canada, the global accounting and consulting group, has extended the deadline for its 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year competition until April 30.

EY each year holds regional competitions across the country, and the Atlantic region in any given year produces about 25 to 35 finalists in a range of categories. One of the categories is Emerging Company, which looks for two- to five-year-old companies.  

An independent panel of judges will name winners in each category, and one of the category winners will be named overall Atlantic Canadian Entrepreneur of the Year. That winner will then compete with winners from Québec, Ontario, Prairies and Pacific regions for the Canadian EOY title. The Canadian winner will go on to compete with winners from more than 50 countries for the title of EY World Entrepreneur of the Year next year.

You can enter here. The website may say the deadline is April 22, but organizers said they will accept entries until the end of the month.

To enter, you must meet these criteria:

• Owner or manager of a private or public company who is primarily responsible for the recent performance and an active member of top management;

• You must have had this role for at least two years, dating back from the time of the application deadline.

• Non-founding entrepreneurs are eligible if the individual manages the business and assumes the associated risks.

• Co-nominees are eligible if they share leadership responsibilities at the company.

• The nominee’s company must be at least two years old for Emerging category candidates and at least three years old for all other categories.

Appili Gets $476,000 ACOA Loan

Halifax pharmaceutical company Appili Therapeutics, which is working on a stock market listing, has received a $476,000 loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program.

Appili is creating novel antibiotic and anti-infective therapies to help patients suffering from serious infections and to address the need for new treatments due to increasing resistance to currently available antibiotics.

“The support from our community – the financial resources, human talent, and federal and local backing – are an integral part of Appili’s growth and innovation,” said Kevin Sullivan, CEO of Appili Therapeutics. “The urgent medical need for stronger anti-infectives is a global problem, and we are proud to bring solutions developed here in Atlantic Canada to this fight.”

Last month, the drug discovery company said it had raised gross proceeds of about $3.6 million through a private placement and issued a preliminary prospectus for its listing on the TSX Venture Exchange.

Just three years old, Appili has been working on a two-track strategy to get to market. Two years ago, it was allowed a fast-track regulatory process for its first drug candidate, ATI-1501, because the compound is based on a drug called metronidazole that had already been approved. Meanwhile, it is also working on a second compound, ATI-1503, which will take longer to develop but aims for a larger market in addressing antibiotic-resistant viruses.

 

Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor.

Jobs of the Week: 2 at Dash Hudson

Our Jobs of the Week column today features a couple of openings at Halifax’s Dash Hudson, which is in the market for a Sales Development Representative and a Junior Customer Success Representative.

Dash Hudson is a visual marketing Software-as-a-Service company that helps its clients increase engagement on their social media. Its software, called Vision, is a one-stop spot for clients to manage, source and engage with the traffic of their photos and videos.

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

Here are excerpts from the posting this week:

Halifax

Dash Hudson

Sales Development Representative

Dash Hudson is a smarter way to market through photo and video. Our visual intelligence platform provides brands with the a one-stop solution to create, source, measure, and enhance the engagement of their photos and videos.

Dash Hudson works with the raddest, most discerning brands and publishers in the world.

Your Role:

As a Sales Development Representative, you are a critical piece to the growth and development of Dash Hudson's sales process. You will manage a creative and customized outreach strategy to potential customers in verticals such as fashion, beauty, luxury, travel food, publishing, consumer electronics, and many more. Through developing and maintaining the early stages of the sales pipeline, you will contribute to the overall success of the sales team!

About You:

Super organized. To the point of compulsion.

Attention to detail. You lose sleep over typos.

Ability to work heads down and maintain high productivity.

A love for data, testing, and learning.

A uniquely creative mind.

Responsibilities

1. Manage Lead Generation

Find and source new leads for companies to go through the outreach process.

Assign leads to specific Account Executives.

2. Custom Outreach Process

Manage the early stages of the sales pipeline by communicating with potential customers through the outreach process.

Customize messages to leads, and maintain a consistent follow up schedule.

Collaborate with Account Executives to support their communications with warm leads, providing them with sales collateral.

3. Performance and Tracking

Track the performance of daily outreach: emails sent, opened, clicked, and responded to.

Follow leads through the outreach process, and closing gaps where any lapses may occur.

Funnel unreached companies back into the outreach process. . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Junior Customer Success Representative

As a Junior Customer Success Representative, you will be one of the founding members of our Customer Success team who will work to help our customers with their visual marketing strategies, maximize the value they get from the Dash Hudson platform, and increase the lifetime value of Dash Hudson customers. As with all other roles, we marry automation and smart tools with a high touch human component to deliver great service. Providing customers with a great experience is at the root of everything that we do!

Responsibilities

1. Trials & Onboarding

Work closely with the sales team to support, train, and engage with potential customers during trial periods.

Deliver training content to potential customers.

2. Customers

Work with Customer Success Manager to ensure that proper strategy is being delivered at all times.

Assist with the setup of new accounts, and specific requests.

Engage with customers to nurture existing relationships and gather feedback and intelligence.

Answer customer questions via Intercom and/or email in a timely manner.

Provide customers with solutions and advice by leveraging insights tools and features within the Dash Hudson platform.

Listen to feedback and report to the team to address customer needs.

Collaborate with the product, marketing, and sales teams to resolve issues and identify solutions.

Monitor for trends in activity levels and feature usage through CSM platform and communicate with team accordingly.

Actively seek opportunities to upsell and/or expand on current offerings.

Help Dash Hudson to create and run scalable processes as we grow. . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Innovation Week Slated for NL

The Newfoundland and Labrador tech community will hold its annual Innovation Week April 29 to May 4, with a range of programs slated for St. John’s and other locations.

For several years, the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries, College of the North Atlantic, Genesis and others have held Innovation Week to celebrate technological development in the province. It aims to bring together proponents from private and public sectors, support organizations and youth is a series of events.

The final event will be the annual TedxStJohns talks, which will be held May 10.

Here are the events planned for Innovation Week this year and links to the registration:

Monday, April 29

Innovation Week Official Launch

Innovation Week 2019 will officially launch with numerous planned events to engage and inspire participants to create opportunities to accelerate innovation in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Time: 8:00 am – 9:30 am

Location: St. John’s Convention Centre

Tech Transformation Summit

Technology transcends across all industries providing exciting new opportunities for greater competitiveness, increased market reach, and growth of local talent. Join NATI as we explore how technology is transforming industry and the economic landscape in Newfoundland and Labrador!

Keynotes:

The Exponential Technology Revolution – Futurist, Nik Badminton

Ocean Supercluster Update – CEO, Kendra MacDonald

Panel Discussions:

Accessing Global Markets

Digital Transformation in Key Sectors

Closing the Talent Gap

Time: 9:30 am -1:30 pm

Location: St. John’s Convention Centre

Tuesday April 30

Diversity, Inclusion & You = Innovation

Research shows that high diversity and high inclusion results in high innovation. This workshop discusses barriers that can prevent innovation and focuses on how YOU can become more inclusive in your day to day interactions as well as organizationally to create more opportunities for innovation.

Time: 8:00 am – 11:00 am

Location: Johnson Geo Centre – Celestial Gallery

175 Signal Hill Road, St. John’s

Innovation – The Key to Women Entrepreneurs’ Growth and Sustainability

A casual, networking lunch with keynote speaker Patsy Tremblett, President and CEO of Prima Information Solutions Inc.

Time: 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Location: NLOWE Head Office– 84-86 Elizabeth Ave, Regatta Plaza II – 2nd Floor

Pitch & Pick

The amazing companies in Genesis’ intensive Evolution program have completed eight weeks of hard work, and the top start-ups have been selected to compete in this edition of Pitch & Pick. After they pitch, you pick! First place receives a cash prize of $500, second place $300, and third place $200.

Time: 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Location: Masonic Temple

Diversity and Social Innovation in Changing Communities

The Association for New Canadians is hosting a panel event and will showcase the documentary HOME: Stories of Newcomers to Newfoundland & Labrador, bringing together participants featured in the film and others behind the scenes. This 25-minute documentary features firsthand accounts of arrival, integration, and settlement in St. John’s, Gander, Corner Brook, and Labrador City.

Time: 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Location: Grand Falls-Windsor – Arts and Culture Centre

Wednesday May 1

Cleantech Innovation Connector

NEIA’s Cleantech Innovation Connector matches environmental challenges and opportunities within key Newfoundland and Labrador industries with those interested in helping pursue solutions – researchers, entrepreneurs, and intrapreneurs within established innovative firms.

Time: 9:00 am -12:00 pm

Location: Signal Hill Campus, St. John’s

Lunch & Learn: Funding Opportunities Through Innovative Solutions Canada

Innovative Solutions Canada – a new SBIR-like program by the Government of Canada – has launched. Through this small business innovation program, 20 federal departments must spend a combined $100M by launching challenges for Canadian SMEs to solve.

Time: 12:00 pm -2:00 pm

Location: Emera Innovation Exchange, 100 Signal Hill Road, St. John’s

Thursday, May 3

C-CORE Innovation Update

Innovation is C-CORE’s primary mandate: we develop smart solutions for challenging environments. We want to highlight our work at CCORE, informing the community about the variety of R&D we are doing, with partners across the planet, hopefully fostering relationships and collaborative sharing with partners in our home province.

Time: 8 am-2 pm

Location: Johnson Geocentre

Registration: Registration by invitation

Social Enterprise Pop-Up

What better example of business innovation than social enterprise? This pop-up brings together local social enterprises (established and up-and-coming) to highlight their work addressing social, cultural or environmental issues and demonstrate the diversity of the social enterprise marketplace.

Time: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Location: Avalon Mall, St. John’s

The Digital Health Revolution: Patient Perspectives of Digital Health in Newfoundland Labrador

The Office of Professional and Educational Development, Memorial University, NATI and the EXCITE Corporation, Grand Falls-Windsor, invite you to attend a public engagement and networking forum on digital health applications in rural communities.

Time: 5:30 pm – 9:15 pm

Location: Corduroy Brook Nature Centre, Grand Falls-Windsor

Registration: Limited Enrollment,  please contact info@excitecorp.nf.ca

Social Enterprise at the Hungry Heart: Through the Eyes of a Stella’s Circle Participant

This special event is a unique opportunity to go behind the scenes at the Hungry Heart Café to experience the kitchen from the perspective of students who are trained at the social enterprise.  Attendees will be guided in creating and packaging a meal for the Hungry Heart Café’s innovative Meals Squared program. Meals Squared is a program that enables our restaurant customers to add $2 to their bill, which directly funds the production of a well-balanced, delicious meal for a Stella’s Circle participant.

Time: 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Location: Hungry Heart Café, 142 Military Road, Rawlins Cross

Registration: Please email or call Cathy White: c.white@stellascircle.ca or 709-738-7730.

Friday, May 3

Youth in Tech Conference

NATI, in partnership with the College of the North Atlantic, present Youth in Technology, an exclusive conference for grade nine students promoting advanced technologies as a rewarding career and academic choice.

Time: 9:00 am – 1:30 pm

Location: College of the North Atlantic, Prince Philip Drive Campus, St. John’s

Scratch 2019 Competition

Brilliant Labs and NATI are partnering to host a virtual scratch competition for grade 4 to 9 students across Atlantic Canada! This annual competition celebrates the creativity and innovative imagination of youth throughout our region. Students will have an opportunity to win prizes including prizes for Best Overall, Best Technical, and Best Artistic Design.

Location: This is a virtual competition.

Saturday May 4

Social Innovation Challenge

The Social Innovation Challenge is a one day pitching competition focused around social enterprise and impact. This event is designed by the United Church of Canada with the goal of transforming communities and opening conversations on innovative solutions to persisting social problems. Social Innovation Challenges are gatherings that inspire local social innovators to collaborate and launch their social ideas. These are hugely impactful as social innovators become part of an ecosystem and are supported by local collaborators through their time, advice, and connections.

Time: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm

Location: Cochrane Centre, 42 Bannerman St, St. John’s, NL 

Friday May 10

TEDxStJohns 2019  

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED has created a program called TEDx. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. Our event is called TEDxStJohns, where x = independently organized TED event. At our TEDxStJohns event, TED Talks video and live, local speakers will combine to spark deep discussion and connection in our community.

Time: Doors 6:00 pm; Show 6:45 pm

Location: St. John’s Community Market

Biotech Tops Recent Startup News

Something is happening in life sciences in Atlantic Canada, which was far and away the most exciting segment of the innovation economy in the first quarter of 2019.

In the three months to March 31, biology-focused companies raised $74.3 million in equity funding, filed a prospectus for a stock market listing and announced a $145 million plant expansion. Behind those headline items, things are happening that should support the long-term outlook for the sector.

These advances are important because things move slowly in the biotech space. An IT company can produce revenues within months if the stars are aligned, but life sciences ventures need years of research and regulatory approval. So big news in the sector is usually the result of years of work.

The biggest recent news has been the landmark US$30 million (C$40 million) funding announced earlier this week by Halifax medical device company ABK Biomedical – Atlantic Canada’s largest venture capital deal ever.

It came days after drug discovery company Appili Therapeutics said it had raised $3.8 million through a private placement and filed a prospectus for its listing on the TSX Venture exchange. Assuming it’s successful, Appili will be the second Halifax life sciences company to gain a public listing in two years, as Sona Nanotech listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange last year.

Immunotherapy specialist IMV is already listed and used the strong rise in its share price over the past two years to raise $29.5 million in March.

This all means the equity funding by Atlantic Canadian companies in the first quarter looked something like this:

Life Sciences   Others  
ABK $40M GSTS $2M
Appili $3,8M Cribcut $1M
Beyond Food $1M    
IMV $29.5    
Total $74.3   $3M

The above are all the announced equity investment deals that closed in the first quarter of 2019. (Fredericton-based Sonrai Security announced a $28 million raise in January, but that deal closed in December 2018.) This means that 96 percent of the equity capital raised by Atlantic Canadian startups in the quarter was attributed to life sciences. For all of 2017 (our most recent data) the total funding by life science enterprises amounted to 24 percent of the total.

Add in that Charlottetown drug-manufacturer BioVectra Inc. unveiled a five-year, $144.6 million expansion project, and you’ve got quite a quarter.

No one expects the bio companies to dominate the East Coast innovation news in the future as they did last quarter, but things are heading in the right direction. There’s now more coordination between the biotech agencies in the four provinces, due to the Atlantic Growth Strategy (a federal-provincial initiative) and Emergence, an incubator based in Charlottetown whose work extends beyond P.E.I.

The province to watch in this space is Newfoundland and Labrador, which produced almost half the new life sciences companies in the region last year. In St. John’s, a new group called Bounce Health Innovation includes the local health authority in developing innovation. It means doctors and health administrators contribute to and test new products – which happens all too rarely in the region.

One final bright spot about life sciences is talent. The growth in IT is constrained by the shortage of developers, but you never hear life science companies complaining about difficulty finding biologists.

Squiggle Park, Tapnbe at Collision

Add two more to the list of Atlantic Canadian companies appearing at the Collision conference in Toronto next month.

Squiggle Park, the Halifax- and Toronto-based startup that helps to teach children to read, and Cape Breton app-maker Tapnbe will also attend what’s been called the fastest-growing tech event in North America. 

On Wednesday, we reported that Halifax companies Frogo, QRA Corp. and Side Door Access had been selected to attend the event. Squiggle Park Co-Founder Julia Rivard Dexter and the team at Tapnbe posted shortly afterward that their companies would be there as well.

Squiggle Park, which received funding last June from Indigo Books and Music CEO Heather Reisman, has launched apps with games that help children to read, which are now being used in several countries. Co-founded by Leah Skerry and Julia Rivard Dexter the company last autumn was accepted into the Rev accelerator at Communitech in Kitchener, Ont.

Cape Breton’s Tapnbe enhances smartphone engagement by placing digital interactive posters on smartphones, just as you would place paper posters on a wall. Its app for iOS and Android gives users timely information about such things as their position and what is near them. The company posted on Twitter that it will be exhibiting at Collision.  

Hosted by the Ireland-based Web Summit group, Collision brings together about 25,000 tech experts, companies and enthusiasts each year and has grown into the premiere tech event in Canada. It will be held this year at the Enercare Centre from May 20 to 23.

Three NS Startups Head to Collision

Three Halifax startups have been selected to showcase their businesses at Collision, the Toronto conference that has been called the fastest-growing technology event in North America.

Hosted by the Ireland-based Web Summit group, Collision brings together about 25,000 tech experts, companies and enthusiasts each year and has grown into the premiere tech event in Canada. It will be held this year at the Enercare Centre from May 20 to 23.

The Halifax-area companies that have been chosen to attend the event are:

Frogo -- Frogo is a gamified dating app, which lets users answer questions designed by professional psychologists to find their perfect match. The mobile app uses advanced algorithms to match people while placing a heavy emphasis on security and privacy. The company is a unit of Dartmouth-based Telcovision Group and has released its app for both Android and iOS operating systems.

Side Door-- Side Door has developed a matching system that connects musicians and other performers with people who would like to host concerts in their homes or other spaces. When the company launched its full platform in February, it had already registered 1,000 performers and almost 300 hosts. At the time, it had booked or held almost 300 shows, in spaces from Newfoundland to New Orleans to Vancouver Island.

QRA Corp. – QRA builds solutions for manufacturers and engineers that analyze complex systems and requirements at crucial stages of development. Its products help engineers to devise better requirements and detect design errors early in the design process. The company’s Founder and CEO Jordan Kyriakidis has been shortlisted to this year’s Ernest C. Manning Innovation Award, which presents cash prizes of up to $100,000 to winners.

If you're interested in attending Collision, you can purchase tickets here

Deloitte Opens Fast 50 Applications

Applications are now open for the Deloitte Technology Fast 50, which recognizes the scaling companies in Canada that are increasing their revenue the fastest over a four-year period.

Deloitte Canada this week opened the applications for the annual event, which culminates with a presentation ceremony in the autumn, attended by a range of investors and support organizations.

The Fast 50 applicants must have at least four years of revenue history and at least $5 million in annual revenue. The application forms can be found here.

With each passing year, I become more and more convinced that Atlantic Canada could and should be better-represented in the Fast 50, as there are several companies in the region that could make the list. The 50th place entry in 2018 reported revenue growth of 386 percent over four years. I have no doubt that at least 20 Atlantic Canadian scaling companies could beat that mark.

Of course, the bar keeps rising. In 2014, for example, the cut-off point was four-year revenue growth of 182 percent. It may be harder to make the list this year, but our research shows one-fifth of the Atlantic Canadian startups doubled revenue or better in 2017. So there are East Coast companies that can make the cut.

Why should you apply?

In a word, exposure. Many companies that meet the rough criteria ($5M+ in annual sales; 400%+ sales growth over four years) are looking for capital, and they’re going to have a hard ttime finding growth-stage investors in Atlantic Canada. Deloitte execs often highlight the connections that can be made at the Fast 50 gala in Toronto each year, and also what it means to a company to be able to say it made the Fast 50.

There have only been a few Atlantic Canadian companies named to the Deloitte Fast 50. Whether it’s a coincidence or not, the last two successful entrants enjoyed major financial events shortly afterward.

STI Technologies of Halifax claimed 41st spot on the list in 2015, booking revenue growth of 204 percent over four years. Then in February 2017, the company was purchased, reportedly for more than $200 million, by American multinational QuintilesIMS.

St. John’s-based Verafin was named to the Fast 50 in both 2011 and 2012, and in 2014 it received a $60 million private equity investment from U.S. private equity firm Spectrum Equity.

Deloitte is also seeking applicants for its Companies-to-Watch competition, which is open to companies with less than $5 million in annual revenue. You can apply for it here.

 

Disclosure: Deloitte Canada is a client of Entrevestor.

ABK Raises US$30M VC Round

Halifax medical device maker ABK Biomedical Inc. has raised a record-setting US$30 million venture capital round, with which it hopes to bring two products to market.

The Series B round is equal to C$40 million, which is the largest venture capital round ever in Atlantic Canada. The record had been held by Fredericton-based cybersecurity outfit Sonrai Security, which closed a US$18.5 million (C$24.6 million) round in late December.

The ABK funding round was co-led by: Cambridge, Mass.-based F-Prime Capital, which is an offshoot of mutual fund giant Fidelity Investments; and Palo Alto, Calif.-based Varian Medical Systems, a maker of medical software. They were attracted to ABK because of the strength of the management team and the potential of its technology – even though the company does not yet have a product in the market.

"ABK has a unique approach to address a large unmet need for patients with non-resectable liver tumors,” said Varian Vice-President of Strategy and Business Development Gregory Sorensen in a statement. “This technology is aligned with our goal of delivering innovative solutions in cancer care."

Non-resectable tumors are those that cannot be removed completely through surgery.

Since it was launched by scientists at Dalhousie University in 2011, ABK has been working to improve a process used to kill some forms of tumor: the company’s tiny beads cling to tumors, depriving them of blood flow and thereby shrinking or killing them.

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The company worked for several years on a product now called Easi-Vue Embolization Microspheres – tiny beads that can be seen by x-ray, which will help doctors assess how well the treatment is working.

Meanwhile, the ABK team – which now amounts to 14 people in Nova Scotia and four in the U.S. – has also been working on a second product called Eye90 microspheres, which are designed to aid in a process for treating liver tumors known as “transarterial radiation therapy”.

"Our thought-leading physician partners and advisors see tremendous opportunities to improve procedural and oncologic outcomes for patients suffering from non-resectable liver tumors," said ABK Chief Executive Mike Mangano in the statement. "The ABK platform aims to deliver key technical benefits over existing . . . microspheres technologies for improved procedural and clinical outcomes.”

The company’s Chief Medical Officer Robert Abraham said in an email that the company’s focus is now on the Eye90 product, which will require clinical trials to gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S.

“The Series B investment allows us to continue development and complete this clinical trial,” he said, adding that the regulatory approval submission for both products will happen in parallel with one another.

ABK has made a habit of surprising the market with larger-than-expected funding announcements. Early last year, the company revealed that in mid-2017 it had raised $9 million in a Series A round, largely coming from angel investors in Canada and the U.S. In 2012, the company raised $1.25 million in debt and equity. Innovacorp, the Nova Scotia government’s VC agency, contributed to both the 2012 and 2017 funding rounds, beginning the parade of VC investors that would show faith in the ABK team and its technology.  

Said Ketan Patel, partner with F-Prime Capital: "We are impressed with the ABK Biomedical team and believe the company has an outstanding product platform with the potential to make a significant impact on the lives of patients with malignant liver tumors."

Bulletproof’s Three-City Roadshow

Fredericton-based tech services company Bulletproof Solutions will launch its 2019 Bulletproof Roadshow on Tuesday, a three-city tour focusing on identity and information protection in the cloud.

The company said in a statement the roadshow will begin Tuesday April 9 at the Atlantica Hotel in Halifax, then proceed to Moncton on Wednesday and Fredericton on Thursday. You can register free here.

The keynote speaker at the events will be Rodney Buike, Senior Technical Solutions Professional at Microsoft Canada. His discussion titled Trusting the Cloud will provide a window into how one security company is empowering organizations to increase their security footprint.

“We’re thrilled to have someone of Rodney’s caliber speak to the constantly changing security landscape, particularly where the cloud is concerned,” said Chris Johnston, Bulletproof’s Vice-President of Sales Canada.  “Rodney brings 20 years of experience with customers of all sizes, from SMB, to global financial services and manufacturing organizations.”

Launched in 2001, Bulletproof offers technology services to the public and commercial services and has a particularly strong clientele in Atlantic Canada. In 2016, Bulletproof was acquired by The GLI Group, a U.S. technology company specializing in compliance and validation in the gaming and lottery industries. A year later, it opened a Security Operation Center in Fredericton.

Fundica Offers Prize of up to $800K

The Fundica Roadshow, one of the largest pitching events for Canadian startups, will hold two pitching sessions in the next six weeks that are open to Atlantic Canadian startups.

The overall winner of the Fundica competition could receive an investment of as much as $800,000.

As was the case last year, the Fundica Roadshow is holding pitching events only in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. The Vancouver competition was held last week, and Atlantic Canadian companies can apply to pitch in Montreal or Toronto next month.

Interested startups can apply for the Montreal event on April 25 with an application deadline of April 14. Or they can apply by May 5 for the Toronto event, which will be held on May 16. The finale will be held in Montreal on June 20. The application forms can be found here

The Fundica Roadshow is an annual competition open to startups from across the country, with a cash prize being given to the winner from all the roadshows. The competition ends with nine companies pitching at the finale, a panel of investors will negotiate investing in the winner or winners.

At each of the three preliminary events, 20 seed- or growth-stage companies – which must have annual revenue growth of at least 50 percent – compete for three spots in the finale. The Fundica organizers encourage applicants from outside the three host cities, and will cover the travel costs of any startup that is chosen to pitch.

At the Vancouver event, the judges chose FTSY, Neuraura, and Moore & Gasperecz Global to attend the final event.

The final prize is determined by the panel of VCs and their due diligence with the winner or winners. The organizers say the funding could reach $800,000. As well as the prize money, the competition offers a chance to present before VCs and support groups. In 2018, 75 investment groups attended the Fundica Roadshow events.

NB Mourns Loss of Yves Maillet

There was somberness in the air at the Moncton chamber of commerce luncheon on Monday. The New Brunswick business community had just lost a large presence. Yves Maillet, the Vice-President of Business Growth at Opportunities New Brunswick (ONB), passed away in an accident on Saturday at the age of 49.

“This past weekend we lost a great friend. Yves Maillet was more than just a leader at ONB, he was a community leader. As the President of the Rotary Club of Moncton West & Riverview, he worked to support many worthy causes throughout the region. Most importantly though, Yves was the energy and laughter in every room. He was genuine, honest, and kind. ONB has lost a great leader, the province has lost a champion and we all lost a friend. Our hearts are with his wife and family,” the economic development agency said in a Facebook post.

An obituary posted on Arbor Memorial’s website says Maillet was born on August 29, 1969, in Labrador City, Newfoundland, but spent most of his life in Shediac and Moncton. He is survived by his wife of 26 years, Suzanne, with whom he travelled extensively and spent time in nature or camping in their RV. He was also survived by his mother Rolande, his brothers and their families.

Maillet was well-known and well-loved in Greater Moncton for his high energy and contributions to the community. He was a member of the Rotary Club of Moncton West and Riverview for nine years, most recently serving as the club’s president. He also served on various volunteer boards honouring the Rotary motto of “service above self.” . . . 

Read the full story on Huddle.

Couturier Eyes Role for Startup NB

If Norm Couturier has his way, Startup New Brunswick will become an umbrella organization for all entrepreneurship in the province, then expand to include the other Atlantic Provinces.

Couturier is a serial entrepreneur who has been through the entire startup process, from concept to exit, more than once, and he perceives the need for a single group that oversees all the components of the startup community.

There are local groups, many affiliated with the Startup Canada network, and startup houses that usually cover a certain area. Then there are organizations promoting IT or life sciences,  and others that are attached to universities. There are groups for young entrepreneurs, others for social entrepreneurship.

What Couturier would like is a single group that represents all these bodies, and he’s working toward it in New Brunswick.

“We’re developing a brand new space,” said Couturier over breakfast in Fredericton recently. “It’s really about building up a presence and then promoting what we’re doing. It’s about building the Kitchener-Waterloo of the East.”

Couturier knows a thing or two about growing tech companies. He was a Co-Founder of the Fredericton IT company Accreon, which was purchased in a management buyout in 2014. He was also a Co-Founder of iTacit, growing it to a market of 100,000 users before departing in 2017. Since October, he has been the President of 3D Planeta, a new venture that offers clients three-dimensional terrain imaging.

Courturier is also a lead in Startup Fredericton, the local community group for Startup Canada. New Brunswick has the highest concentration of Startup Canada community groups in the country, as almost one-fifth of the communities listed on the organization’s website are in New Brunswick. Couturier believes that makes a good base from which to grow a provincial organization.

“We’ve created a not-for-profit group with a board structure,” he said, adding that a variety of startup organizations are represented. “We’ve got people who are ready to help, now we need to tell the story.”

The group is now hoping things will gel in New Brunswick so that one body can speak for startups across the province and address the needs of all sectors and parts of the province. And he hopes it’s successful enough that groups from other provinces reach out to join, adding it's up to the groups outside New Brunwsick to initiate such talks. 

"We believe this model is right for the province," he said. "And we believe it's right for the region, but we can't oversell it."

Spring Loaded Hires VP of Sales

Spring Loaded Technology, the Dartmouth company that makes knee braces that add power to the joint, has hired a new Vice-President of Sales based in the U.S.

The company issued a statement Thursday saying it has hired Joe Khalifa, a Washington, D.C.-based sales exec who has many years experience in the orthopedic device and brace markets. Spring Loaded said he has a successful track record with startup companies, as well as extensive experience managing a variety of sales organizations and guiding new product launches. 

“Joe is a seasoned professional with diverse experience in our industry,” said Spring Loaded CEO Chris Cowper-Smith in the statement. “We look forward to leveraging his expertise and leadership to achieve continued growth, allowing us to serve more patients and expand our market share.”

For several years, Spring Loaded Technology has produced the Levitation brace, which not only stabilizes the knee joint but adds power to it, allowing people with mobility problems to move more freely. The Levitation line includes the world’s first tri-compartment unloader knee brace. It reduces pressure throughout the knee while enhancing strength to alleviate pain and improve mobility for people with knee arthritis and injuries.

Khalifa will head the sales effort for these products in the U.S and beyond, said the company. Khalifa was most recently Director of National Accounts with global bracing and prosthetics leader Ossur, responsible for a US$34 million sales portfolio.  He was responsible for selling to key sales channels such as distributors, prescribers, workers’ compensation, Veterans Affairs departments, clinics and hospitals. 

“With our leadership team, I look forward to building upon Spring Loaded Technology's early success and further advancing the company's mission of improving patient outcomes by providing truly unique, innovative bracing solutions,” said Khalifa.

Vertiball Ready to Ship Next Month

There are a lot of impressive numbers in the Vertiball story, and perhaps the most impressive is 1,100.

That’s the number of units of its back-massage device that the Fredericton-based company has pre-sold before its official launch.

Vertiball is a portable, wall-mounted device that people can use to massage their back and reduce pain. It features a mounting device that fastens to a wall so users can position it at the perfect position to relieve their back pain.

Headed by 22-year-old CEO Curtis Kennedy, Vertiball is getting ready to produce its first batch of products, a 5,500-unit production run that should be ready to ship next month. The company will have to sell 4,300 to break even, and after a successful crowdfunding campaign, Kennedy and his gang are one-quarter of the way there.

Kennedy caught the entrepreneurship bug at University of New Brunswick, won a few competitions with the Vertiball idea, and produced 220 prototypes before he had a version he liked. He’s raised a total of $400,000 in non-dilutive funding. Then the three-member Vertiball team took the product through a Kickstarter campaign that raised $61,000 – more than seven times the target.

“I think I needed to do all that to learn, but for future projects I don’t think I’d do all that again,” Kennedy said in an interview in Fredericton, indicating there will be less trial-and-error going forward. He had just returned from a trip to Shenzhen, China, where he met with suppliers and partners in preparation for the production run.

Kennedy says that the various endeavors of the past two years – from producing 220 versions of the product to learning the complexities of a crowdfunding campaign – have provided a broad-based education in developing and selling physical products like Vertiball.

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As an entrepreneur, Kennedy falls into the gadgeteer camp – he obsesses over design and wants to learn about the manufacturing process. When the team did the Kickstarter campaign, he left the details to Vertiball Chief Marketing Officer Seth Barkhouse. But Kennedy and the whole team gained a huge understanding of how to market a new product and the benefits of a proper campaign.

The Kickstarter campaign resulted in distributers and retailers from as far away as Japan contacting the company, and these contacts should help them increase sales.

One thing that is obvious from an interview with Kennedy is that Vertiball is not going to be his last product. He’s already working on the next one and has learned that his own specialty is the design and production side of the venture. That’s why when his crowdfunding campaign ended, he took the time to go to Shenzhen, to the world’s manufacturing heartland, and learn as much as he could about manufacturing and logistics.

“It’s really good that everyone does what he’s best at, and I think my strength is on the creative side,” said Kennedy. “My dream is to start a multi-brand consumer products company here in New Brunswick.”

Genesis Takes Over Common Ground

Less than a year after its most recent expansion, St. John’s-based Genesis is growing again by taking over the city’s co-working space, Common Ground Coworking.

Common Ground opened in 2013 on Harvey Road when a group of nine volunteers established a space where entrepreneurs, freelancers and creatives could work. Overseen by a non-profit organization, it became a startup hub in the downtown area, serving as a meeting space for such groups as Propel ICT.

Now it is being rebranded as Genesis Coworking, according to a statement released Wednesday by Genesis, Memorial University’s innovation centre. It means Genesis will now operate out of two locations near the city centre and offer entrepreneurs and small teams in a range of sectors another place to work.

“Common Ground is a place of inspiration, collaboration and community, and we are thrilled through this acquisition that the next chapter under the Genesis brand will build on that vision," said Craig Tucker, chairperson of Common Ground Coworking. "I can’t think of a better fit as we continue to support and help facilitate the important work that happens here every day.”

Genesis Launches Micro Fund for Startups

After operating for more than two decades on the Memorial campus, Genesis last summer moved to the Emera Innovation Exchange on the edge of Signal Hill. The move tripled the group’s space and gave its resident companies greater access to downtown businesses.

Now Genesis will have a second base on Harvey Road, offering month-by-month coworking, fixed desk and private office memberships with access to meeting rooms and a common kitchen. The statement said it will enable Genesis to continue to help build promising and innovative companies in all sectors. It added that Genesis is committed to maintaining current operations, keeping the spirit of Common Ground alive and supporting the community it has created.

In the statement, Genesis President and CEO Michelle Simms paid tribute to the founders and directors of Common Ground for their dedication and commitment. She also thanked the YMCA for supporting Common Ground in recent years.

Said Simms: “Over the years, Genesis has developed a great working relationship with Common Ground, and we are happy to welcome them into the Genesis community.”

JEDI Alters Mandate, Mulls Angels

Penny Polchies

Penny Polchies

As it continues to nurture early-stage companies in its incubator, the Joint Economic Development Initiative is working on new and enhanced programs to support First Nations entrepreneurs, even pondering a native-focused angel network.

Based in North Fredericton, the Joint Economic Development Initiative, or JEDI, fosters economic growth for First Nations communities. It offers a range of programs, including its incubator which helps novice entrepreneurs in various sectors to develop their business ideas into fledgling businesses. In the past it has also offered an accelerator program for more developed businesses, and it is planning to resurrect this program in the autumn once a few more companies have graduated from the incubator.

Penny Polchies, JEDI’s Manager of Economic Development, said in an interview that the organization wants to nurture entrepreneurship and to do so within the framework of the indigenous experience. It has had success in nurturing technology companies such as Appdigenous Development, yet it wants to focus on a broader range of businesses.

“We’ve changed our mandate a bit,” said Polchies. “We want to focus on First Nations entrepreneurs who are doing business [in a greater range of sectors] like retail, manufacturing and tourism.”

Companies within these sectors have been moving through the incubator program, and its seven graduates include three tourism enterprises as well as a campground operator and general construction company.

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JEDI used to also offer an accelerator program for more seasoned enterprises, but it put the program on hold last year as it re-assessed its mandate. Polchies said it plans to offer the program again in the autumn. The programs so far have been offered at the group’s North Fredericton headquarters and within the next few years Polchies hopes they can be staged in communities throughout New Brunswick.

One graduate of the accelerator who is progressing well is Melissa Lunney, the founder of Appdigenous, which has developed a cell phone app that helps disabled people to open doors. Many doors to public spaces open when someone pushes a button; but the location of the button and the design of the doors often force someone in a wheelchair to reverse or maneuver to get through the doors. Appdigenous’s app, which is called Doorable, automatically opens the door when someone approaches it with their cellphone. It has been installed in 10 locations in Fredericton, and Appdigenous is part of Fredericton’s bid in the national Smart Cities competition.

Jedi is also working with the National Angel Capital Organization in looking into an angel network for indigenous entrepreneurs. Polchies actually began discussing the initiative with NACO Chief Executive Yuri Navarro while the two were ice fishing in Yukon recently. NACO is already collaborating with a young angel group in the territory and the two met at an event in Whitehorse. Navarro said in a recent interview that his group hopes to use the Yukon project as a model for other First Nations groups such as JEDI.

“We’re in talks with NACO about what this could be and about maybe holding an event together,” said Polchies. “I think the first step is to decide what it will look like.”

Routinify Launches in NB

Routinify, a software company that uses data to help with the care of seniors, has launched its product in New Brunswick.

Founded by serial entrepreneur Pat Kelly, the company has dual headquarters in Fredericton and Kelly’s home of Denver, and it is beginning to market its WellAssist product in New Brunswick and Colorado. Routinify plans to expand into other jurisdictions in the coming months.

WellAssist is software that operates on hardware provided by established companies, such as Amazon, Garmin, FitBit, Omron, Nymbl Sciences and others. It gathers data through wearable technology and other devices and presents information through smart displays that can help the seniors themselves, as well as their families, doctors and caregivers.

“It’s important that care be delivered with the clients’ needs first, and the only way to do that is with concrete information,” Kelly, the President and CEO, said in a statement. “Routinify’s technology collects information – vitals, sleep patterns, activity, and more – and that data allows for a more tailored care plan and real-time connection in the care circle.”

Kelly has been involved in several ITC companies over the years. He was a founding member of GeoTel Communications, which was purchased by Cisco. He was the CEO of OnState Communications, which Teletech Holdings bought in 2012. Since 2002, he has also headed Denver-based Crosswinds, which provides a range of research and advisory services to early-stage companies.

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Routinify was born out of necessity when Kelly began to care for his aging mother. He learned that there are problems with caring for seniors who live in their own homes such as navigating the in-home care plan and communicating with family members who live out of town. Care is usually scheduled by time, not by the patient’s needs, which change constantly.

“My mother stayed in her home and received good care, but I knew that home care could be better managed and monitored for both families and caregivers,” said Kelly.

The WellAssist platform offers several services designed to make it easy to use for seniors. The features include a dashboard that provides reminders, records caregiver check-ins, encourages engagement, and allows members of the care circle to contribute.

Kelly had previously overseen telesales and other operations out of New Brunswick for earlier ventures and had connections in the province. So as he grew the new company he established operations in Fredericton. Routinify now has six employees in New Brunswick, in sales, support and development, and has six openings in its Fredericton-based development team.

“We will also be employing a staff of nurses to provide remote care management services to clients in the States,” said Kelly in an email.

Routinify has already tested the product with early adopters in New Brunswick, and the announcement included testimonials from existing clients. These include Fredericton-based Wellness Connections, which has been working with the Routinify team as they’ve prepared their launch.

“I truly think that Routinify is the wave of the future,” said Teena Canavan, Owner and Manager of Wellness Connections. “We have an aging population and many of our clients’ children do not live in the same city, the province, or sometimes even in the country. Not only does the Routinify platform give us concrete data to help shape care plans, but the Caregiver Check-Ins allow us to update our clients’ loved ones in real time.”

Eigen Eyes Growth in Auto Sector

Scott Everett

Scott Everett

When Scott Everett started pitching his company, Eigen Innovations, more than five years ago, he was trying to explain to rooms of manufacturing executives and potential investors about the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).

It was an industry that was going to be worth huge amounts of money, and he knew it.

“I remember some of the first pitches that I gave about how the Industrial Internet Of Things is going to be worth trillions of dollars and this is what’s happening, and how artificial intelligence and machinery is going to be such a powerful component of this,” says Everett, the company’s co-founder and CEO.

“There were just crickets in the room.”

But now in 2019, the industry is more than listening. . . .

Read the full story on Huddle.

PDC Eyes Region-Wide Expansion

Desh Deshpande, left, Karina LeBlanc and Gerry Pond

Desh Deshpande, left, Karina LeBlanc and Gerry Pond

Soon to celebrate its 10th anniversary, the Pond-Deshpande Centre is planning to offer programs and services across Atlantic Canada to meet the changing needs of entrepreneurs.

The centre opened at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton in 2010 with a goal of promoting entrepreneurship among students and beyond the university. It was to place a special emphasis on social entrepreneurship, or the creation of enterprises that solve social or environmental problems as well as make money.

“The Pond-Deshpande Centre has been evolving since its inception,” said PDC Executive Director Karina LeBlanc in an interview. “Three of the four programs have plans to expand this year.”

The Pond-Deshpande Centre was launched by Mariner Chairman Gerry Pond, an early investor New Brunswick startups Radian6 and Q1 Labs, and UNB alum Gururaj Deshpande, a successful serial tech entrepreneur. Together they donated $5 million to open the entrepreneurship centre, which has grown into a driving force for social entrepreneurship in the region.

And Pond, the head of East Valley Ventures, still thinks that supporting social enterprises is important.

"Absolutely," said Pond when asked whether it’s necessary to back impact ventures. "These are the companies of the future. These are the companies that young people want to start and grow."

The PDC programs and services include: the Changemaker Funding Program; the Student Ambassador Program; Noulab; and the Be For Change Social Venture Accelerator, known as B4C.

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One program that will expand this year is Noulab. The initiative, offered in partnership with New Brunswick's Social Policy Research Network, allows for discussion of complex social, environmental, and economic issues.

“With new partnerships made in other provinces, this social and public innovation lab is set to expand from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia,” LeBlanc said.

Plans are also in the works for the B4C Social Venture Accelerator and the Student Ambassador Program to launch across Atlantic Canada.

“Administration for these programs will continue to run out of Fredericton,” LeBlanc said. “Despite this, the PDC will offer local service delivery and local cohorts to other locations.”

LeBlanc said the funding for the centre will continue to be provided by federal and provincial governments. The PDC also offers consulting services such as Noulab that generate revenue.

“The PDC has added to this by generating its own funding,” she said. “Last year we generated $140,000 in funding.”

The centre also has plans to offer virtual programming so entrepreneurs aren’t required to travel to Fredericton to participate.

“B4C will be experimenting with an online curriculum,” said LeBlanc.

She would like other programs to be available online in the future, but for now their complex curriculums are a barrier to offering them as virtual courses.

“We’re a transforming business model,” she said.

The centre’s priorities in the near future will be venture creation, policy change, and access to data. And it will continue to be a champion of social innovation.

Said LeBlanc: “The next five years will see a culture shift locally and globally towards socially innovative entrepreneurs and we see B4C, along with our partners, leading the conversation for our region.”

Woodward Cup Prizes Total $35K

The PolyUnity Co-Founders: Michael Bartellas, left, Travis Pickett and Stephen Ryan.

The PolyUnity Co-Founders: Michael Bartellas, left, Travis Pickett and Stephen Ryan.

The Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship on Thursday handed out $35,000 in prize money to five startups at the 2019 Mel Woodward Cup, with a special emphasis on the MedTech and life sciences space.

The three main winners, each of whom captured $10,000 in development funds as well as in-kind services, are: Duff: Ocean Resources; UnBound Chemicals; and Poly Unity. According to an article in the Memorial University Gazette on Friday, two honourable mention prizes were also awarded. 

The Woodward Cup began only three years ago to provide seed funding for student-led businesses, and has become a major event in the St. John’s startup calendar. As well as coverage in the university paper, the pitching competition at the Emera Innovation Exchange on Memorial University’s Signal Hill campus was featured by the CBC.

“What an absolute honour to be apart of the #MelWoodwardCup last night,” tweeted Poly Unity on Friday. “Entrepreneurship is alive and well in NL! Humbled and grateful to have received the top prize, and we have already started the work again!”

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The three winners are:

  • Duff: Ocean Resources, Colton Etheridge and Joycelyn Moulton – The company is developing a way to extract chitin – a material with several biotech applications – from the shells of the invasive species green crab. These crabs are affecting biodiversity on North American coastlines, so Etheridge and Moulton have devised a process to make chitin from their shells. Chitin has a range of commercial applications, such as edible films, fertilizers and products that can defend plants against diseases.
  • PolyUnity, Michael Bartellas, Travis Pickett, Stephen Ryan, Tahrin Maruf and Marc-André Brien -- PolyUnity uses 3D printers to create high-quality medical simulations and wants to produce these models anywhere in the world. It already has six of these printers set up across Newfoundland and Labrador, said the CBC. The group plans to use the prize money to develop its online database, the PolyBase.
  • UnBound Chemicals, Blaine Edwards, Abis Abbas and Gerard Noseworthy – UnBound Chemicals is working on a process to extract substances from unwanted medications and re-use them for research or non-human uses. The company draws chemicals from unused and expired drugs that patients or pharmacies would otherwise discard into a landfill or flush down the toilet. They believe these compounds can be used in such products as veterinarian drugs.  

The Gazette said the MCE also awarded two honourable mention prizes: Prospre, led by engineering students Jonathan Young and Colin Hunt, won $3,000; and ECHARGES, founded by Kheya Zaman, Sadman Rhythm, Mohammed Nabeel Hamdan, and Eti-Abbasi Umobong, won $2,000.

Five of the eight finalists in the Woodward Cup received development capital. It capped off a busy academic year for the university’s main entrepreneurship program.

“We’ve had more than 300 students attend at least one of our workshops over the past two semesters, with many of them then approaching us with innovative business ideas,” MCE Director Florian Villaumé told the Gazette. “We’re very encouraged and excited by the growth that’s apparent in the Memorial University entrepreneurial community.”

Kognitiv Spark Inks Navy Deal

A New Brunswick tech startup will be providing its new system to the Royal Canadian Navy.

Fredericton-based Kognitiv Spark announced Tuesday that the Royal Canadian Navy its new Mixed Reality Remote Assistant Support (MIRRAS) system, as part of a project that aims to improve maintenance and repairs aboard active naval vessels.

The project aims to validate technology adopted from Kognitiv Spark, whose software is designed for use with the Microsoft HoloLens. The software leverages Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality, and the integration of Artificial Intelligence to improve efficiencies with ship operations including repairs, maintenance and knowledge transfer.

The new MIRRAS system created at the request of the Royal Canadian Navy, with whom Kognitiv Spark has worked with previously,” said Duncan McSporran, Kognitiv Spark co-founder and vice-president of Aerospace and Defence. . . .

Read the full article in Huddle.Today.

GSTS Closes $2M Seed Round

Dartmouth-based ocean technology company Global Spatial Technology Solutions has closed a $2 million funding round to further develop its platform, which helps marine operators improve safety, security and their environmental footprint.

GSTS has developed a platform called OCIANA, which collects data from satellites and terrestrial sources then uses artificial intelligence to help crews plot the best route possible for their ships. The idea is that AI can assess weather patterns, ocean conditions and the traffic of other ships to help ships’ crews plot the safest route with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions.

“Our capability directly aligns with the Government of Canada’s initiatives to expand trade while reducing emissions and improving efficiencies,” said GSTS Chief Executive Richard Kolacz in a statement. “We’re also aligned with major capital defence programs under way in Canada that require an advanced technology capability to support defence objectives, as well as the offset requirements associated with these programs.”

The company issued a statement on Wednesday saying Innovacorp, the Nova Scotia government’s early-stage venture capital agency, contributed $1 million to the seed round. The remainder came from Montreal-based cleantech-focused VC firm Ecofuel and some angel investors. GSTS expects it will not have to raise another round of funding for about four years.

Ecofuel is backed by Cycle Capital, a Montreal-based cleantech group that has invested in and/or mentored such Atlantic Canadian companies as LED Roadway Lighting, SabrTech and Island Water Technologies.

The funding demonstrates how the ocean-technology sector is evolving in Atlantic Canada. More oceantech startups have been forming in the past two years, and now this deal shows that oceans companies in the region can attract seven-figure seed rounds from venture capital investors.

GSTS was founded by Kolacz and other execs who worked for the Ontario satellite company Com Dev, which was purchased by the multinational engineering company Honeywell. After leaving Com Dev, Kolacz teamed up with Chief Operating Officer Stephen Martins and others to form a company that could use satellite data to improve marine efficiency.

Appili Raises $3.6M in Private Placement

“It’s going to provide artificial intelligence for risk assessment and a vessel management solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Martins in an interview. He added it can also reduce security risks by avoiding ships whose traffic patterns indicate they may be involved in suspicious activities.

Martins said the company is growing quickly and is “winning contracts daily now,” noting he had just closed a contract with the Canadian government on Wednesday.

The statement said Kolacz and his team are backed by years of experience in the naval, space, surveillance, and data science sectors. The company’s target market includes government and corporations, such as shipping lines and charter companies, port authorities, and defence and security agencies.

“Ninety per cent of global trade happens across open ocean waters, which leads to significant operational, environmental and security issues,” said Rob Burns, investment manager at Innovacorp. “The GSTS team has the expertise, technology and partnerships to disrupt the maritime logistics market.”

 

Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

Four NS Winners in Pitch@Palace

Four Nova Scotian startups – Clockk, eOceans Motryx, and Securicy – have won the Atlantic regional Pitch@Palace competition and will proceed to the national finals in Toronto.

The four companies were selected at a pitching competition at Volta on Tuesday, hosted by the Rideau Hall Foundation, which aims to develop a more entrepreneurial culture in Canada. Winners will move on to the Pitch@Palace Canada Boot Camp in Toronto during Canadian Innovation Week, which takes place May 21 to 31.

The overall Canadian winner will attend the global Pitch@Palace pitching event organized by Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, at St. James’s Palace in London in December.

The Atlantic winners are:

Clockk.com, Paul Doerwald – Clockk automates time sheets, making the worst part of agency life less annoying.

EOceans Research and Consulting, Christine Ward-Paige – eOceans collects and analyzes ocean data using a global network of scientists and observers.

Motryx (formerly Maritime Biologgers), Franziska Broell and Andre Bezanson – The company has developed a sensor-based product that help hospitals and pharmaceutical companies improve the transportation of blood samples.

Securicy, Darren Gallop and Laird Winton – Securicy helps SMEs to meet the cybersecurity thresholds needed to win contracts from major multi-nationals.

East Valley Plots an Active Future

Gerry Pond: 'We started in early 2012, and we’re still chugging along.'

Gerry Pond: 'We started in early 2012, and we’re still chugging along.'

There’s one angel group in Atlantic Canada that is not shutting down, and Gerry Pond wants everyone to know it has a management team that can take it into the future.

It’s East Valley Ventures, the wing of Saint John-based Mariner that invests in startups, providing both capital and mentorship to young entrepreneurs. While the First Angel Network of Halifax announced late last week it will be ceasing operation, Pond said in an interview that East Valley is still going strong.

“We’re pretty much where we’ve been,” said Pond, the group’s chair and spokesman. “We started in early 2012, and we’re still chugging along. We didn’t want to be the biggest angel network anywhere. We wanted to have the capital to deliver some money to the market. More importantly, we wanted to provide some mentorship to entrepreneurs.”

East Valley is a unique organization – so unique it’s difficult to describe. First, it’s a division of a corporation, Mariner, whose prime business is providing IP network software solutions for telecom and cable companies, but East Valley is also a loose collection of individual New Brunswickers who want to invest in young high-growth companies.

East Valley now has a portfolio of 27 startups, and the investment group varies with each investment. Sometimes Mariner itself invests in these companies, but usually the investors are the individual members of the group.

For several years, the faces of the organization have been Pond and former CFO Jeff White. Pond turns 75 this year, and White last year left the organization to become the CEO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. Pond’s age and the loss of White have raised questions in the startup community about the future of East Valley.

NACO Aims To Support Atlantic Canadian Angels

Pond says he will be an investor and mentor for the rest of his days, and stresses that there is a younger generation of seasoned managers already in place in the investing group.

The management team includes: Bob Neal, the former Vice-President of Business Development at Aliant Telecom and a 25-year veteran of the ICT sector; and Head of Business Development Rick MacPhee, who has 24 years experience in ICT.

“People say, ‘There’s that old Gerry Pond’, but I’m not the only one here,” said Pond. “It’s a pretty strong and experienced group. We’ve been In ICT for 30 or 40 years, most of us.”

Angel groups tend to do their work quietly, said Pond, and many in the startup community may be unaware of how active East Valley has been. Perhaps, he added, people are expecting the group to continue to roll out a succession of exits like Radian6, Q1 Labs and Brovada, which collectively sold out for more than $1 billion.

East Valley now has investments in the three Maritime Provinces, and will continue to look at opportunities in these provinces. However, Pond has long expressed his frustration that Nova Scotia’s equity tax credit is not extended to investors in Nova Scotian companies who do not reside in the province. After a decade of fruitless discussions, said Pond, he said he personally won’t invest in any more Nova Scotian companies unless New Brunswick investors receive the credit. 

Pond has looked at companies in Newfoundland and Labrador but never found a good fit, though he says there are some fine companies on the Rock. Given that East Valley places a high value on mentorship, Pond has never found a situation in which he could meet regularly with St. John’s founders given the distances involved.

Pond also serves as the Chair of Mariner and admitted in the interview that the company has had a “pause in revenue growth.” He said IPTV (Internet Protocol television) was a growth market when Mariner began in 2003 but the market has changed with other forms of video transmission entering the market.

“We weren’t quick enough” in responding,” said Pond. “But we have new products that we’re bringing out and they’re looking good.”

Meeting on Women’s Angel Fund

There’s a movement afoot to establish a women’s angel network in Atlantic Canada, and proponents are inviting anyone who’s interested to an information and planning workshop on April 12.

Tentatively called the Atlantic Women’s Angel Investment Fund, the fund is being proposed by a group of professional women who are in the region or have close ties to Atlantic Canada. The goal is to find a group of wealthy women who are interested in backing young, female-led companies.

The organizers says space is limited at the one-day workshop, which will take place at Volta. Interested people can inquire about attending at rsvp.atlantic@national.ca. You can find more information here.

“We can significantly accelerate the number of women participating fully in the innovation and entrepreneur landscape, particularly as investors, which will benefit the ecosystem and the larger economy,” said Sarah Young, one of the organizers. “We need to engage more women to actively participate in the entrepreneur and innovation ecosystem, as founders, investors, and mentors. . . . The emergence of this fund is one of the ways we will make this happen.”

Young, who is a Halifax-based partner at National Public Relations, said a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem needs a broad range of investors, mentors and founders. And while more women are becoming accredited investors (people recognized by securities commissions as being wealthy enough to invest safely in unlisted companies), Young noted there is a gap between the numbers of men and women in the angel community.

“This is enabling the next generation of female investors,” said Young. “With this fund, we will invest in female entrepreneurs who then become investors themselves, creating an ecosystem with strong sustainable growth.”

The workshop on April 12 will serve to educate participants on angel investing, and solicit opinions on how the fund should evolve.

In the morning, panels of experts will discuss their experiences and make recommendations on the fund. Then in the afternoon, participants will be able to share their own experiences and work collectively to determine how the fund should be structured.

The organizers, who hope to launch the fund this spring, include:

Amy Risley, CEO Skinfix, Inc.
Shannon MacDonald, Managing Director, Accenture Canada
Cathy Bennett, Bennett Group of Companies, Corporate Director
Nicole LeBlanc, Director, Investments & Partnerships, Sidewalk Labs
Chere Chapman, CEO, DGI Clinical
Rhiannon Davies, Former VP and Board Member GrandVision N.V.
Ozge Yeloglu, Chief Data Scientist, Customer Success Unit, Microsoft Canada
Karen Hutt, President and CEO, Nova Scotia Power

“This is just in the early stages and coming together quickly,” said LeBlanc. “This workshop is targeted at a wide variety of groups, to share ideas, build relationships and determine what the best path forward to be effective will be.”

Introhive Expanding in Saint John

The Introhive office in Saint John (Photo by Cherise Letson)

The Introhive office in Saint John (Photo by Cherise Letson)

SAINT JOHN– New Brunswick startup Introhive is experiencing faster than expected growth in its new Saint John operation, company executives say.

Last July, the Fredericton headquartered company announced that it was adding 12 new staff to its team, and establishing its first office in Saint John, where members of its engineering and program management teams would be based. The port city office started with about six staff in a rented spot in Connexionworks, a co-working space in the city centre.

Since then, Introhive’s Saint John team has grown from six to 18, and they have found a permanent home at 75 Prince William Street in the city’s uptown – a space that chief technology officer Jerry Carr says is almost full.

“We’re going to have to do some desk reconfiguration here to get more people in, which is great,” said Carr in a recent interview with Huddle. “It will hold another 12 people, and then we will have to start looking for adjacent space in the building.” . . . 

Read the full story at Huddle. 

Appili Raises $3.6M, Files Prospectus

Kevin Sullivan

Kevin Sullivan

As it moves closer to listing its stock on the TSX Venture Exchange, Appili Therapeutics of Halifax has raised an additional $3.6 million by selling shares and warrants through a private placement.

The drug discovery company issued a statement Monday saying it had raised gross proceeds of about $3.6 million through the placement, though the total is lowered somewhat by fees paid to the banks that sold the securities.

Appili said last year it was planning to list its stock publicly, and Monday’s announcement included the news that it has filed its preliminary prospectus with six Canadian securities commissions, including the Ontario Securities Commission. Filing the preliminary prospectus is a key step in the company’s ambition to list on the TSX Venture Exchange.

“As we prepare for our next phase of growth, financial strength and careful stewardship of our resources remain incredibly important to Appili,” said CFO Kimberly Stephens in the statement. “As we pursue additional pipeline assets and continue with the process of taking Appili public on the TSX Venture Exchange, we are grateful for the continued support of our investor base.”

Just three years old, Appili has been working on a two-track strategy to get to market. Two years ago, it was allowed a fast-track regulatory process for its first drug candidate, ATI-1501, because the compound is based on a drug called metronidazole that had already been approved. Meanwhile, it is also working on a second compound, ATI-1503, which will take longer to develop but aims for a larger market in addressing antibiotic-resistant viruses.

Eadie Developing Glaucoma Testing Device

The offering announced Monday brings the company’s total equity funding of the past three years to more than $15 million. The company said the net proceeds from the most recent offering will be used for the research and development of its current anti-infective pipeline of products, working capital, and general corporate purposes.

But the company also suggested it could be interested in purchasing other drug candidates as it grows.

“Our business model allows us to pursue a broad range of infectious disease pipeline assets, which places us in the unique position of being able to maximize the capital efficiency of our drug development programs,” said CEO Kevin Sullivan. “We have secured $19.1 million in non-dilutive funding from a range of sources that has further bolstered our disciplined approach to building out our pipeline.”

The capital markets experts that brokered the offering were Mackie Research Capital Corp., Echelon Wealth Partners Inc. and Bloom Burton Securities Inc.  Bloom Burton has been a backer of Appili from its inception.

ATI-1501 addresses two problems with metronidazole. First, the existing drug is only available in a solid form, which means that seniors who have trouble swallowing can only take it if it’s ground up and mixed with something like apple sauce. Second, metronidazole tastes terrible, which dissuades patients, especially children, from taking it. ATI-1501 can come in a liquid form and doesn’t have metronidazole’s bitter taste.

The company plans to first sell the product to old people who have difficulty swallowing but need metronidazole to treat parasitic and anaerobic bacterial infections. It plans to later target children who need metronidazole to treat a disease called clostridium difficile infection, or CDI. Selling into this second market may require additional regulatory approval.

Said Sullivan: “The $3.6 million from this round of financing is an important component of our growth plans and we look forward to working with our partners – with the ongoing support of our shareholders – to advance our novel programs toward fruition.”

Smart Energy Seeks Pitchers

The Smart Energy conference is looking for startups to pitch at its 15th annual conference, which will take place in Halifax on April 15 and 16.

The Smart Energy conference is hosted by the Jameson Group, which also produces the Invest Atlantic series of conferences. It will be attended by about 250 delegates, who are representatives of the energy industry in Atlantic Canada and beyond.

For the last decade and a half, Smart Energy has provided a forum for new ideas and trends in green energy for Atlantic Canadians. For the last few years, the event has included a pitching session for startups in the green energy space. The official deadline to apply to pitch is March 27, though the organizers say they will accept applications till the end of the week.  You can apply here.

The pitches will take place April 16 and all participants will receive a pitch grooming session before the event. The winner will receive at least $1,000.

The winner of the event last year was Aurea Technologies, which is developing new wind energy products.

The theme for Smart Energy this year is planning a collaborative energy ecosystem, and it will examine how utilities, corporations, governments, researchers and consumers are interfacing with one another.

Applicants Invited for Planting Seed$

Young Nova Scotian entrepreneurs with a good idea are invited to apply to this year’s 100 Entrepreneurs Planting Seed$ pitching contest for the chance to win $10,000.

Now in its fourth year, Planting Seed$ sells tickets to 100 people in the startup community at $100 per head. That money makes up the $10,000 prize that is awarded to the company with the most successful pitch.

Applicants must be between the ages of 16 and 24 and resident in Nova Scotia.

Previous winners include: Eggcitables, a company that makes a vegan egg substitute from chickpeas; Aurea Technologies, a company that is creating wind turbine technology for the consumer and commercial markets; and Canada Cold Press Juices, which uses undersized fruit and vegetables that would otherwise go to waste. 

100 Seed$ is run by Halifax non-profit 100 Seed$ Atlantic. It was started in response to Ray Ivany’s Now or Never report which said only 12 percent of youth between the ages of 16 to 24 aspire to start their own business. The micro-funding pitching competition was the organizers’ solution to improve that statistic.

“It gets better and better every year,” said Allyson England, one of the co-founders and organizers of the event. “The pitches are awesome and I’m just happy to see more young people in entrepreneurship.”

The submission deadline is April 30th. The event will occur on June 5th from 4 to 6 pm in the McNally Auditorium at Saint Mary’s University. 

To make things easier, organizers have simplified the process this year, and are asking for short answers to seven questions instead of a pitch deck or business plan.

Application link: https://100seedsatlantic.com/pages/youth-applicants-2019 

Acoubit Wins at COVE Demo Day

Wireless underwater communications company Acoubit was voted most improved startup by its peers in Dartmouth-based Start-Up Yard last week, winning a $1000 Air Canada gift card.

While the gift card will prove useful, Co-Founder Colin Ross said he really hopes his pitch at the Start-Up Yard Demo Day will lead to partnerships. Specifically, he is looking for a partner that could get his prototype acoustic transmitter on an underwater autonomous vehicle, or UAV, to demonstrate the product in a real-world environment.

“We really need to prove the technology under different conditions,” said Ross. “So having access to working with a larger company to get the technology out there, deploy it and actually test it would be the next big step for us.”

Acoubit is designing a low-power, compact acoustic transmitter for undersea apparatus, such as oil and gas extraction monitoring sensors or UAVs. Low power is important because of limited battery capacity for underwater equipment, the high cost to replace deployed underwater sensors, and the expense of downtime for UAVs.

The company was founded by Ross and partner Tejinder Sandhu in June 2018 and works out of Start-Up Yard, the home for young OceanTech companies at the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship, or COVE, in Dartmouth. Ross said he plans to use the $1000 Air Canada gift card to attend ocean technology conferences, so he can network partnerships to get his technology tested in the field.

Start-Up Yard Seeks More Ocean Innovators.

 “The benefit to the end user is that they spend less time and money having to go out, using an expensive vessel, a full crew, to go down, pull the sensor up, replace the battery and then deploy it again,” said Ross. “Our goal is to have them out there longer, collecting data.”

Ross said working out of COVE has been a huge advantage for the budding company. COVE’s in-house machine shop, Precise Design Engineering Solutions, built the casing for Acoubit’s hardware and transmitter.

“The other companies [at COVE] have been absolutely amazing to work with,” said Ross. “So, you see a lot of collaboration happening within the Start-Up Yard companies, just amongst themselves, and then overall with the other SMEs and larger companies that are located here. So that atmosphere is really a great thing to be a part of.”

Acoubit hasn’t raised capital by selling any equity yet. Its funding has come from non-dilutive, government-supported programs like Innovacorp’s Accelerate Program.

The Accelerate Program, which awards about $50,000 to each winner, got Acoubit’s first prototype in the water, and now the company is working on developing its second-generation prototype. That prototype will be built and ready for testing in three or four months, said Ross.

Acoubit has three employees –  Ross and Sandhu, and a recently hired engineer, specializing in software to hardware interfacing. Ross said they are planning to hire a business manager to develop the company’s growth strategy.

Ross has been handling the business and entrepreneurial aspects of Acoubit, but said it’s important for him to focus on the technology, and to have an expert to manage the company’s growth.

First Angel Network Closes Down

Brian Lowe

Brian Lowe

First Angel Network is shutting down after 14 years of channeling the money of wealthy investors into Atlantic Canadian startups.

As first reported by Betakit, Co-Founders Ross Finlay and Brian Lowe notified their friends and contacts on Friday that the investment group would cease operations on March 31. The move comes a little more than a year after one of its portfolio companies launched a lawsuit against FAN and others. Though Lowe and Finlay believe the suit is no longer active, they admit that the case had an impact on the group.

“Our board felt it was time,” said Lowe in an interview on Sunday. “Our contract with ACOA [the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency] ended last June 30, and now . . .  we would like to see other angel groups grow up in the Atlantic region.”

FAN was a trailblazing organization in that Finlay and Lowe were raising awareness about angel investing early in the century, before most Atlantic Canadians had ever heard of angels or startups. One of their first investments was with drug discovery company Immunovaccine Technologies, now IMV Inc., a publicly listed company with a market value of $241 million.

The angel group was known for choosing one company each quarter to present to FAN members in the hopes of receiving backing. It brought together 200 individuals who invested more than $16 million in 40 companies. FAN said these companies have created 400 jobs.

The group was no stranger to controversy. In 2012, Lowe and Finlay came under hash criticism for charging companies to pitch to the organization – a practice they soon did away with. Despite the controversy, FAN in the past few years attracted some of its strongest investments, including Metamaterial Technologies Inc. and Spring Loaded Technology.

Beyond Food Raises $1M To Help End Food Waste

Then early last year, Fredericton-based KnowCharge launched a law suit against FAN, Finlay, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and two former NBIF officers. FAN and NBIF were investors in KnowCharge, which sought damages for actions it said adversely impacted the company.

Neither FAN nor NBIF have commented on the case for several months, though Finlay said Sunday he now believes there is no longer any litigation open against either of the funding bodies or their officers. He plans to meet with his lawyers this week to confirm that the case is over.

When the case was filed, Finlay and Lowe asked FAN members to contribute to a defence fund, which they did. Finlay and Lowe said they felt they could not then ask FAN backers to buy new memberships in 2018, so for the past several months FAN has not had a membership base.

Finlay and Lowe intend to remain active in the angel community. Lowe is now a Co-Founder of the recently formed company Beyond Food, which plans to produce nutritional supplements from excess produce from grocery stores. He says his passion is life sciences and medical technology companies, and he intends to continue to engage with these ventures.

Finlay is the Vice-Chair of the Angel Resources Institute of Boca Raton, Fla., and will continue his work with angel education.

Though they know of no new angel groups springing up in the region, Finlay and Lowe hope at least one group will emerge to help investors find, back and mentor high-growth companies.

“There’s always a demand for capital,” said Finlay. “I hope we see many angel groups forming in Atlantic Canada right now.”

Jobs: Full Stack Developer at CoLab

Our Job of the Week column today showcases an opening for a Full Stack Developer at St. John’s-based CoLab Software.

CoLab helps engineering teams better communicate and manage feedback when designing 3D models with its integrated platform, called Gradient.

The platform lets engineers share input on a design model, which is a process normally done through a convoluted string of emails, spreadsheets and other messages. Gradient keeps communications to a single platform.

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

Here are excerpts from the posting this week:

St. John’s

CoLab Software

Full Stack Developer

CoLab Software is looking for a Full Stack Web Developer to join our growing team, and help us deliver the best design review and issue tracking platform to our customers. With CoLab you will be given the opportunity to wear many hats and be technically challenged every day. We are implementing a number of exciting features over the course of the next year, and are seeking a passionate and experienced person to help us achieve our goals.

What makes CoLab a great place to work?

Join a growing startup at the forefront of online collaboration in the Computer Aided Design industry

Express your own creative input in the design and implementation of features being pushed to users on a regular basis

Competitive compensation, and opportunity to own shares of the company

Enjoy exciting employee perks and benefits like free coffee and snacks, standing desks, health and dental insurance, frequent team lunches, Friday socials and other events

Opportunity to learn and grow faster than anywhere else

Responsibilities

Building upon the current Python Flask and JavaScript stack to implement customer feature requests, bug fixes, code refactors, etc.

Building a beautiful a web application that is responsive, performant, and accessible

Researching, evaluating and contributing to the planning of high level architecture decisions

Translating feature requests and bug fixes into development tasks

Helping prioritize, story point and assign development tasks

Contributing to company and product vision, ideation and planning. . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Canum Wins $446K in Breakthru

Canum Nanomaterials, which aims to disrupt the market for fullerenes, is one step closer to financing its pilot facility after it won awards worth $446,000 in the Breakthru competition last night.

The Fredericton company won the top prize at the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s biennial startup competition, and also captured the CBC Viewers’ Choice award, which allows it to appear on Dragons’ Den in the coming season. The prizes comprise cash and in-kind services. 

The $175,000 second prize was captured by R I D D L, which is developing a platform that will help impact investors determine whether their money is making a meaningful change in society or the environment.

Canum’s prizes include a $375,000 cash investment from NBIF and Opportunities New Brunswick, and the young company has already flagged what it will use the money for. Canum plans next year to build a $600,000 pilot facility for the production of fullerenes, which are carbon-based nanoparticles that have a number of commercial applications.

“This is a huge, huge boost,” said Canum CEO Kyle Woods after the awards ceremony. “We need $600,000 and we’re more than half way there, and this gives us a lot of confidence.”

Canum has grown out of Professor Felipe Chibante’s research at University of New Brunswick, which has resulted in a new, cost-effective way of making fullerenes. These nanoparticles are spherical structures of carbon atoms that have a range of commercial uses, including in healthcare and solar energy. Canum believes it can cut the price of making fullerenes by half in five years.

R I D D L has developed a platform that will help impact investors assess the social or environmental effects of their investments., as well as their financial return.  It has arranged pilot tests with impact investment houses in Amsterdam, New York and Atlanta, which will help prepare the platform for a general launch. As the runner up, the company will receive $150,000 in cash investment.

R I D D L and Canum will both receive a range of in-kind services to round out the value of their prize packages.

One interesting note is that the win by Canum continues the University of New Brunswick’s streak in producing winners of the Brekathru award. The top prize two years ago went to Phera, led by UNB student Lisa Phister, and two years before that the winner was Castaway Golf, again founded by UNB students.

The dinner Thursday night, attended by about 500 people, was the culmination of a competition that began last autumn, when 34 companies applied. The organizers narrowed the pool down to five finalists, who competed for the top prize.

“From the initial batch of 34 startups that began the competition through our semi-finalists and finalists, we were consistently impressed with the quality of the ideas coming from this province’s entrepreneurs,” said NBIF Chief Executive Jeff White in a statement. “New Brunswick always punches above its weight. From virtual reality to bioscience to neural networks, New Brunswick researchers and startups are at the forefront of some of the world’s most promising industries. We’re thrilled to offer them a platform and support network through the Breakthru competition.”

 

Disclosure: NBIF, ONB and UNB are clients of Entrevestor. 

The Vantec Model of Angel Funding

One of the country’s most successful angel communities showed its stuff earlier this month as the Vantec Angel Network held its monthly pitching session.

About 150 people – half of them investors – assembled in the VentureLabs offices in downtown Vancouver to consider the three pitches and go over monthly business. Vantec has been holding these sessions for about 20 years and more than 2,000 companies have presented. I was lucky to attend the meeting and want to share a few observations.

The state of angel investing in Atlantic Canada is a popular subject in the East Coast startup community these days, as funders and promoters are wondering how angel groups will evolve in the coming years. So it’s worth looking at the process used by one of the bigger angel groups in the country. The model could not be strictly applied to Atlantic Canada because Vancouver is bigger and richer than any of our jurisdictions, but the format is interesting nonetheless.

What I found most striking was that the pitching CEO actually has to leave the room after the pitch so the investors can have a candid discussion about the company. “The whole idea is to do better deals, and hopefully to share responsibilities, such as due diligence,” said Mike Volker, the Vantec Co-Founder who conducted the meeting. Each investor has a blind spot, he said, and all of them benefit from hearing the views of other funders.

NACO Aims To Support Evolution of Angel Groups in Atlantic Canada

Refined over the years, the Vantec meetings are designed to bring forward the best companies, and develop the best relationships possible with investors. Here’s the way a typical Vantec meeting proceeds:

Community Announcements – These 90-second plugs range from a message about cancer month, to an announcement about the New Venture BC startup competition.

Company Updates – Companies that previously received funding update investors on their progress. In 90 seconds, they usually focus on revenue growth and follow-on funding. It gives investors a chance to check on their investments and possibly join in the next round. 

Previews – Several young companies deliver 90-second pitches, outlining why they should be considered for investment. The investors then vote on which ones should be invited back to the next meeting to deliver a full pitch. This ensures it is the investors, not the angel group executive, who choose which companies pitch.

Pitches – Three companies pitched this month, each being introduced by a Vantec member who serves as the company’s sponsor. Each CEO delivers an eight- to 10-minute pitch, followed by questions. Then the interesting part happens. The company CEO is escorted to another room and the sponsor receives candid feedback from investors. It means the company receives frank feedback second-hand through the sponsor while avoiding the problem of no one wanting to hurt the founders’ feelings. If there are lingering questions, the CEO comes back in to answer them.

Networking – Investors get a chance to meet founders. Everyone else drinks beer and chats.

What really stands out about the process is its efficiency. The investors select the pitching companies, and these companies usually receive candid responses. The atmosphere is collegial throughout.

As for the pitches themselves: they were good, and the companies were solid. Once again, I came away with the feeling that Atlantic Canada is producing companies on a par with other parts of the country.

Help Prevent Me From Nagging You!

Please help me NOT pester you.

I’ve been bothering people lately about filling out our survey, and I’d love to stop. Once you fill out our survey, I promise to leave you alone for the rest of 2019. If enough people complete it, I won’t have to pester anyone.

Why should you fill it in? Because, over the past five years, Entrevestor’s startup data has become the benchmark for the whole region, followed by policy-makers and stakeholders. The greater the participation rate, the better information we all have about the startup community. 

We’re looking for responses from companies that meet three criteria: majority owned by Atlantic Canadians; commercializing innovation; and developing a product for the global market.

If your company meets those criteria, please fill out the survey at this link:

We know it’s a pain for people to complete surveys, so we have reduced the amount of time it takes. We only have 15 questions, down from 18 last year.

All your answers will be 100 percent confidential – we publish aggregated data but never divulge information on individual companies. And if there are any questions you don’t want to answer, just skip them.

This is a key part of our business, and the income we earn from analyzing the startup community allows us to provide free news for and about you. We love reporting on East Coast startups, and hate nagging people about the survey. So please do us a huge favour and fill out the survey so we can focus on the news.

Many thanks.

Canum To Disrupt Fullerene Market

Alex Clarkin, left, and Kyle Woods

Alex Clarkin, left, and Kyle Woods

As a graduate student at Rice University in Texas, Felipe Chibante was inspired by his professor Richard Smalley, a co-winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the discovery of fullerenes.

On Thursday, Chibante and his co-founders in a young company called Canum Nanomaterials hope their work with fullerenes will win them a more modest prize – the 2019 Breakthru competition title. Canum is one of five finalists in the biennial award hosted by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

Fredericton-based Canum has grown out of Chibante’s research at University of New Brunswick, which has resulted in a new, cost-effective way of making fullerenes. These nanoparticles are spherical structures of carbon atoms that have a range of commercial uses, including in healthcare and solar energy. And the good news for Canum is that their price is rising due to strong demand.

“We want to meet the growing demand, and as we scale up [use the increased production] to bring down the price,” said CEO Kyle Woods in an interview this week. “Our strategy is to bring the price down by about half in about 5 years. … The real advantage from our standpoint is to bring the cost down.”

The story of Canum Nanomaterials starts with Chibante, who was a graduate student at Rice when Smalley’s team discovered fullerenes. He then joined the faculty at UNB, where he is respected as one of the institution’s leaders in terms of using research to start companies. His work has resulted in ventures such as Smart Skin Technologies, which raised $3.1 million in funding last year, and Atlantic Hydrogen, which unfortunately ran out of money and declared bankruptcy in 2015.

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Since his days at Rice, Chibante has been fascinated by fullerenes, which are extremely small groups of carbon atoms arranged in a hollow sphere. Canum can produce them cheaply.

Woods explained that the last big change in the way fullerenes are produced came about a decade ago, and the price fell as this process became prevalent. Now it’s worked its way through the system, and prices rose in the past couple of months.

Now the Canum team – Woods, Chibante, Alex Clarkin, Jayson Brown and Francois Michaud – want to get into the market and disrupt it.

The team is currently producing fullerenes in a lab, and hopes to be working out of a pilot facility sometime in 2020. (The timing would depend on raising investment.)  

“That would move us from producing a few grams a month to a few kilograms a month,” said Woods.

He added that the team hopes to be in a full-scale commercial facility within 12 to 18 months after its pilot facility goes into production. Once the full-scale plant is up and running, Canum would likely employ about 12 to 15 people, as well as the founders.

“It’s going to take some money,” said Woods, estimating the cost of setting up the pilot facility would be about $600,000. “It would take us to the point where we can ramp up the production and make some money. And once we built the facility, we’d actually be profitable in a few months, which you really wouldn’t expect in a pilot plant.”

Seeberger’s Sensory Friendly Forum

Christel Seeberger

Christel Seeberger

Christel Seeberger dreams of one day overseeing a digital forum that will tell people about sensory friendly places and products.

She’s working toward that goal, and on Thursday night her Saint John-based company Sensory Friendly Solutions will be one of the finalists in New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition.

Having worked for a quarter-century as an occupational therapist, Seeberger has long thought about the need for a publicly accessible list of products and places that don’t irritate people who are extremely sensitive to their surroundings. With Sensory Friendly Solutions, she is building it herself, and hoping to make some money in the process.

“Sensory Friendly Solutions was borne of trying to help the clientele that I’ve had over 25 years in a new way, maybe a disruptive way,” Seeberger said in an interview on Monday. “For some people, the world is too busy, too noisy, too bright.  …  For them, just going out and living their daily lives was becoming more and more difficult, so I wanted to solve that problem in a different way.”

The problem that Seeberger is addressing is most often associated with people on the autism spectrum. Many people with autism have acute sensitivity to such things as bright lights, strobe lights, noises of a certain frequency or some scents. Seeberger says the need for sensory friendly places and products extends to other groups as well, such as people with anxiety, concussions, or post-traumatic stress disorder, to name a few.

Eadie Technologies At Work on New Glaucoma Testing Device

There is a global movement to highlight places where these people can go and feel comfortable. For example, Odeon Theatres in London, U.K. has begun “sensory friendly nights”, where movies are shown that won’t antagonize people with these sensitivities. Closer to home, Seeberger says that Sobey’s has begun sensory friendly shopping periods.

In addition to these places, there are also sensory friendly products like noise-reduction headphones that help people with sensory issues cope with the modern world.

What Seeberger is doing is building a two-sided market in which groups offering sensory friendly places and products can display them, and those looking for such things can search and discuss them. The company will make its money by charging companies to post their product or retail outlet on the website. The goal is to have a comprehensive showcase for things that can help people who are searching for all things in the sensory friendly space.

Seeberger began working on the project last autumn, and won $25,000 for it in an Economic Development Greater Saint John competition. Working with the New Brunswick Community College, she built a basic app and began testing it. Now she is working in ConnexionWorks in Saint John and is building up the database in the app.

Seeberger is also building a potential client base and has received 20 letters of intent from companies that would like to appear on the site. The date of the full launch will depend on whether the company can raise investment, and Seeberger said it could happen in a few months if it wins money in the Breakthru competition.

“We’re kind of pre-MVP,” said the occupational therapist, displaying her facility with startup-talk. “We got our prototype and we’re refining that. One of the challenges we face is that no one has ever brought all this data together. We have to do the work to bring this together and bring the community together as well. “

App Connects Youth to NS Professionals

The Halifax Partnership is launching Connector+, a web and mobile app for professional networking.

The app provides an online version of the Partnership’s award-winning Connector Program that allows business professionals to match, connect, and refer young talent to industry professionals across the province.

The Connector Program matches new immigrants as well as local, and international graduates in Halifax with established business people and community leaders. The informal networking program is as simple as having a cup of coffee and a chat, and then offering three contacts that Connectees can also get in touch with.  

“With Connector+, industry professionals and young talent will have the flexibility to choose when and how they meet.” said Robyn Webb, the Director of Labour Market Development at Halifax Partnership in a statement.

The platform allows the Connector program to expand from supporting 600 Connectees annually to potentially thousands across Nova Scotia.

“We want more young people to call Nova Scotia home, building their careers and lives here,” said Internal Services Minister Patricia Arab. “By offering programs that support new grads, we are providing opportunities for them to tap into their potential and grow their careers.”

Supported by the Province of Nova Scotia and with funding through the Canada-Nova Scotia Workforce Development Agreement, the app is being launched as a pilot and will expand throughout the province in 2019.

The app is being launched in partnership with Connector Programs delivered by the Cape Breton Partnership, Western REN, Eastern Strait REN, and Valley REN. Connector+ will be available for download on the App Store or Google Play and at connectorplus.ca.

Punch Review Aims to Aid Farmers

Ross Culberson

Ross Culberson

Ross Culberson considers himself a problem-solver, and he’s sure his startup Punch Review can solve a big problem for farmers.

Culberson is a sixth-generation farmer himself, overseeing a 340-acre potato operation near Hartland, NB, just north of Woodstock. And he knows what a pain it is to manage food safety records on paper. So he developed a mobile app that digitizes such records, and now he’s hoping to find a partner who can help him sell the solution to other farmers. Punch Review is one of five finalists in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation's Breakthru competition, whose winners will be announced Thursday. 

“Every winter I try to pick out a pain point that I can fix, asking myself what will be the big problem in the summer,” said Culberson in an interview. “In the winter of 2015, I came up with this one – what can I do so I can stop chasing paper?”

Like many farmers, Culberson had noticed he had to keep records of a lot of aspects of his operation for auditors and regulators. These range from problems that arise in the crops themselves to readings on the water used to clean equipment that interfaces with food. Most of these measurements are recorded outdoors, which meant carrying paper records around his fields and organizing everything once he got home.

He believed there had to be an easy-to-use digital solution for the problem, but he was a farmer not a programmer. He knew nothing about developing digital products. So he teamed up with Fredericton web development company Blue Spurs, which he found to be a great partner in developing the technology.

“If you dream it, we can build it – I don’t know if that’s their motto but maybe it should be,” Culberson said of Blue Spurs.

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In the spring of 2016, they worked on the minimum viable product, and came up with a mobile app that could keep food safety records, including the traceability of specific foods. They added in some farm-management tools. For almost two years, Culberson has been using the app on his cell phone and finds it has improved the efficiency of his farm greatly.

Farmers, he said, are great adopters of technology and most have to bring new technology into their operations each year. What’s more, the federal government’s Safe Food for Canadians regulations came into effect on Jan. 15, which is forcing farmers to keep better records on such things as the traceability of the food they produce. So Culberson believes there would be a substantial market for the app once it is launched to the general public.

He is looking for a partner to work with him on scaling his invention and makes no secret of the fact that the startup world is new to him.

“I always chuckle to myself and say that my first round of investment was provided by a bake sale,” he said, adding quickly that he was only joking.

What Culberson is dead serious about is his hope that Punch Review can help to bridge the widening gap between the consumers and producers of food. By creating more transparency about where food comes from, he hopes Punch Review can help consumers understand more about how their food is produced.

VR Training for Hazardous Industries

The BTR Team: Esther Sangodoyin, Daniel Kane, and Harpreet Kohli

The BTR Team: Esther Sangodoyin, Daniel Kane, and Harpreet Kohli

Better Than Reality asks a simple but important question: How do you train the younger generation to safely participate in high-risk industries?

Its three co-founders believe the answer is virtual reality.

The company has been co-founded by three mature students from diverse backgrounds who have come together in the past year in the Masters of Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship, or MTME, program at University of New Brunswick. Now it is a finalist in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation's Breakthru competition, which will choose its winners Thursday night.

CEO Daniel Kane has 20 years of experience in nuclear power, and he understands the dire need to find the right method to train people in such an industry. He and classmates Esther Sangodoyin and Harpreet Kohli have devised a virtual reality solution that immerses trainees in an on-site environment and shows them how to carry out tasks, and what can happen if they slip up.

“I worked in the nuclear industry for 20 years and one of the things that I saw was that the training pass rates are falling,” said Kane in an interview. “We believe conventional training methods don’t work as well as they used to. You’ve got a generation of people raised in the digital era and they’re being given a stack of paper to memorize.”

The Better Than Reality team is offering companies a VR alternative. First off, the VR software can replicate their work areas. Kane said the team is working on a drag-and-drop function so that customers can assemble a virtual environment that recreates the actual work space. For example, a nuclear facility can start with a virtual empty office, and can drag consoles, monitors, and power outlets into place, so trainees feel like they are working in the actual facilities.

Then, Better Than Reality wants to train people on how to use the material needed to do the job. It will use haptic gloves – special gloves that give the users the impression they are feeling or holding the items they see on the VR headsets – to give trainees experience in handling equipment. And given that it is a virtual environment, it can even safely produce the consequences of making mistakes.

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“We want to build a simulation in your own virtual plant,” said Kane. “You can walk up to the panel you work at in the plant and if there is an error, you own it.”

The trio has reached an agreement with NB Power to produce a digital training program for its nuclear facility at Pont Lepreau. They will demo it in July.

They also have several consulting assignments to provide customized VR training programs for specific clients. Their plan is to use these contracts to bring in some revenue while they build out a scalable product. The goal is to build “industry-specific” products that can be adapted easily by any company working in a sector, said Kane, and thereby avoid having to customize the development for each client. The nuclear industry will be their beachhead then they will move to other industries, such as oil and gas, mining, aeronautics and automotive.

One final note about Better Than Reality: the team believes one of its strengths is the diversity of its founders. Sangodoyin is a web developer from Nigeria, while Kohli is an HR executive from India.

Said Kane: “It’s been interesting because we have different points of view, different experiences and come from different industries as well.”

Eadie’s Glaucoma Testing Device

Brennan Eadie

Brennan Eadie

When Brennan Eadie, an ophthalmologist from Vancouver, moved to Nova Scotia from the other side of the country, he wasn’t expecting to stay.

Eadie travelled out east for a one-year fellowship program to study glaucoma. But when he learned that Halifax is home to some of the world’s most highly regarded research in glaucoma, an eye disease that causes permanent blindness, his plans changed. He started a company that aims to improve how glaucoma vision tests are conducted.

His company, Eadie Technologies, is creating a wearable headset that will improve the standard testing glaucoma patients undergo to manage their disease. Eadie and his team are building a modified virtual reality headset that can produce the same results faster and with greater accuracy than what is now available, he said.

“I see a lot of patients who really dislike the tests I do,” said Eadie during an interview, describing the current system. “They find it uncomfortable and tend to feel that they don’t do well. And it’s an expensive test to run in our office.”

The tests, called visual field tests, are currently conducted via a large, clunky desktop device. Patients place their head in a chinrest, wear an eye patch over one eye and must maintain focus on one focal point, as lights flash in their periphery.

In his office, Eadie conducts around 10 to 12 tests a day on one machine with one technician. Each test takes around 30 minutes to complete.

According to guidelines from the Canadian Glaucoma Society, ophthalmologists should be conducting visual field tests once every four months in extreme cases of glaucoma and once every six months for moderate cases.

Eadie’s device will reduce the time it takes to conduct a visual field test and it will allow doctors and technicians to conduct tests remotely.

“It has all the technical components that will allow . . . a visual field test that’s not inferior to the gold standard,” he said.

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Eadie has been building the prototype of the device for a little over a year. He hopes to have it ready for clinical testing in the spring.

The company, which is currently being incubated at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre in Halifax, has raised over $500,000 in funding from provincial and federal government funding bodies, as well as from private investors. Most recently, the company won $50,000 in Innovacorp’s Spark Innovation Challenge, which took place last summer.

“And we’re probably looking at raising another 1 or 2 million in the next year,” said Eadie.

Eadie has three full-time employees and has garnered a lot of support from researchers and experts in glaucoma research through Dalhousie University’s Glaucoma Research Group. This group includes Balwantray Chauhan, the president of the International Glaucoma Research society.

“So, we have one of the biggest names in glaucoma research right here in Halifax, across the street from us,” Eadie said.

Eadie is working with engineers contracted from Enginuity in Halifax.  His father Frank Eadie is also part of the company, focusing on the legal and business development side of the venture.

The company is trying to address a big problem. Eadie said glaucoma affects 3 to 4 percent of the world’s population. He said that by 2020 there will be 10 million people who experience some level of blindness due to glaucoma.

“The idea is to catch all these people with glaucoma early and treat them before their disease can progress.”

A Tool To Measure Impact Investing

Vanessa Paesani, left, and Jenelle Sobey are joined virtually by Jess Peters.

Vanessa Paesani, left, and Jenelle Sobey are joined virtually by Jess Peters.

Fredericton has long been a hub of social innovation, and now a trio of female entrepreneurs hope the city will become a centre for measuring impact investing.

R I D D L, a finalist for the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition, is the brainchild of Jenelle Sobey, Vanessa Paesani, and Jess Peters, who have a background in business and social ventures.

The company has developed a platform that will help impact investors assess the social or environmental effects of their investments. It has also arranged pilot tests with impact investment houses in Amsterdam, New York and Atlanta, which will help prepare the platform for a general launch. The three co-founders believe there’s a market in assisting investors who are curious about solving problems, so they called their company a name that sounds like "riddle".

“A new breed of investor is emerging, one who is more interested in solving a real-world problem than they are in financial returns,” said Sobey. “They are curious about solving a riddle. R I D D L represents the puzzle impact investors are interested in cracking.”

Impact investing is the growing practice of backing a company, not just for financial return, but because the company is trying to cure a severe problem – whether it’s global warming, childhood illiteracy or cancer.

Assessing a financial return in an unlisted company can be difficult enough, but impact investors also want to know that their money is really helping to improve the world. What R I D D L does is help investors and their portfolio companies assess how much of a difference they’re actually making. For example, if a company aims to end childhood illiteracy, the platform can track how many books the children using the site are acquiring. That would be one of many measures of success for the company. 

“Our customers are the impact investors but also the organizations that they invest in,” said Sobey in an interview. “They could be for-profit or non-profit. If they want to move the dial on a problem, they have to be able to measure the work they’re doing.”

This article is the first of our profiles of the five Breakthru finalists, which will run until Thursday. Learn more about the competition here.  

The R I D D L team is now working with its early adopters on finding out how the platform works and making improvements. These funds back 500 social ventures between them, and by the end of the year all of these companies (and their data) will be on the platform. Each time a fund becomes a full customer of R I D D L, it brings a host of portfolio companies that also become clients.

The team is developing a composite score that will assess both the financial and social performance of a company or non-profit. As well as impact investors, R I D D L sees a target market in the corporate social responsibility divisions of large companies, wealth management firms, foundations and government.

The team is now setting out to raise $1.2 million in equity investment – a task that would get a boost if it’s one of the winners of Breakthru on Thursday night.

Sobey is best known as Managing Partner of Dartmouth-based web development company Code + Mortar, but she previously worked with the Pond-Deshpande Centre, the University of New Brunswick group that specializes in social innovation. Paesani once headed the Gaia Project, a New Brunswick group that helps young people understand the impact of energy on the environment. And Peters brings more than a decade of tech sales experience to the team.

Now they want to grow R I D D L so it becomes a new pillar in the proud tradition of social innovation in New Brunswick.

“In Fredericton, there is a culture of social innovation that I would say . . . [developed] before the Pond-Deshpande Centre opened and it has continued on,” said Sobey. “It has gained momentum.”

Genesis Launches Micro Fund

St. John’s-based Genesis has initiated a $775,000 micro fund that will provide initial financing to about 38 companies over the next three years.

Genesis announced this week that the Genesis Micro Fund will provide grants of up to $20,000 to each company, to be released in increments based on milestones that the parties agree on. The companies are all members of Genesis’ Enterprise incubator, which supports early-stage companies.

The fund received contributions of $300,000 from the federal government and $125,000 from the provincial Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation. 

“This fund will be a vital resource to our companies in the Enterprise incubator program, and a means to empower local entrepreneurs,” said Genesis President and CEO Michelle Simms in the statement. “It will lower the barriers to launching a successful technology business and enable accelerated growth.”

Genesis is Memorial University’s support network for tech businesses, providing access to office space, marketing, finance and management expertise. The organization said the new fund is designed to address a gap in the funding ecosystem as early-stage companies find it difficult to secure the initial money that can help them get going.

Genesis said in an email that six of the 19 companies now in the Enterprise program have already been accepted to receive money from the fund.

“Genesis is tuned in to the needs of the start-up community and provides a supportive, mentor-driven environment where companies can thrive,” said St. John’s East MP Nick Whalen, who’s worked as an IP lawyer for McInnes Cooper. He added the fund “will provide access to much-needed help for new businesses to accelerate their innovative ideas, develop entrepreneurial skills and advance their businesses.”

B4checkin Books a Lake Tahoe Sale

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe said Thursday it will be the first casino in the Lake Tahoe area to install b4easypost, the credit card authorization payment and posting platform developed by Halifax’s b4checkin.

The hotel said in a statement it partnered with b4checkin to ensure customers have peace of mind when making various types of payments at the property. b4easypost allows people to make payments at hotels and restaurants even when they don’t have their cards.

“Utilizing b4easypost allows us to offer a seamless guest experience that bundles quick, cardless transactions along with market leading security,” Brandie Warr, Director of Resort Marketing at Hard Rock Hotel said in the statement. “A vacation at the Hard Rock in Lake Tahoe has never been easier and more fitted to the modern adventurer’s lifestyle.”

B4easypost is an online platform that allows guests and meeting planners to seamlessly make deposits and payments to a hotel. The platform then automatically and securely posts those payments to the property management system. This eliminates the need for paper credit card authorization forms, which are inconvenient, prone to human error and contrary to payment card industry compliance standards.

Lake Tahoe is a resort area on the California-Nevada border.

Regional Universities Excel in VC Contest

Students from Wolfville’s Acadia University won an undergraduate venture capital contest at a recent event, with a team from  Mount Allison in Sackville, New Brunswick, taking second.  Teams from other regional schools also won accolades.

The international Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) was held March 8 at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.  The school hosted ten teams of venture capital students from nine institutions, organizers said in a release.

Teams vied for $2,000 in prize money and the title of VC Investment Competition—Canadian Region winners. The school made VCIC history by hosting both events on the same day.

“It’s really learning entrepreneurship from the outside in,” said Ellen Farrell, principal faculty advisor to SMU’s Venture Grade team, on the value of learning about VC. 

“The sector needs knowledgeable investors, but it’s also valuable learning for aspiring entrepreneurs. They learn the things investors look for in their companies and pitches.”

The international Venture Capital Investment Competition engages teams from 80 institutions in Canada and the U.S., the release said. 

University teams compete as “junior partners” to a fictitious investment fund. They hear presentations from startup companies, conduct due diligence, analyze the companies’ innovation, value propositions, valuation, profit potential and sustainability. They draw up a ‘terms sheet’ to negotiate an investment. Judges from the VC, financial services and angel investment sectors score the teams on their analysis and insight.

Among the prizes, a special Halifax Partnership award went to Halifax’s Dalhousie University, and the Entrepreneur’s Choice was given to Memorial University in St. John’s by participating entrepreneurs.

In the MBA/Graduate category, the winners were University of Toronto, with University of Waterloo in second place.

Ashored, Trip Ninja, B-Line Analytics, Colour Smith Labs, Retail Deep, and Aurea were the startups invited to participate. 

The judges included many well-known names from this region.  The full list included:

·         Brenan Isabelle, Numus Financial

·         David Colter, Digital Cinema Labs, Saint Mary’s University, and Beacon Labs

·         Gerry Pond, East Valley Ventures

·         Stephen Denton, SeaFort Capital

·         Saeed El-Darahali, SimplyCast

·         Toon Nagtegaal, Phasemap

·         Rob Barbara, Build Ventures

·         Rob MacKenzie,AramaxIP

·         Patrick Hankinson,Concrete Ventures

·         Stefanie Corbett, Island Capital Partners

·         Charley Baxter, Saint Mary’s University

·         Lidija Marusic, Innovacorp

·         Chris Moyer, Pelorus Venture

·         Paul Lypaczewski, Island Capital, Charlottetown

·         Michael Nobes, Six Bridges Capital

·         Brian Lowe, First Angel Network Association

·         Ross Finlay, First Angel Network Association

·         Andrew Ray, Innovacorp

The Acadia and Rotman teams will go on to participate in the World Finals at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. SMU students do not compete in their own event, but rather in the New England and the Silicon Valley regionals. 

NL’s TotaliQ Teams up with UdeM

TotaliQ, a St. John’s IT company that helps businesses use the expertise of their workforce, has struck a partnership with Université de Moncton to develop artificial intelligence for the product.

The company is currently working on an implementation project with the St. John’s engineering firm Cahill Group. It hopes that Cahill will be the first adopter of the technology and that more clients will come on board as totaliQ updates and refines its solution.

To help with that, the company is working with the Perception, Robotics and Machine Intelligence group at the Université de Moncton, directed by Professor Moulay Akhloufi of the Computer Science Department.

“TotaliQ is a knowledge-sharing solution that is focused on helping companies to collect and share their knowledge and experiences, even if it’s just to solve everyday challenges and problems,” said totaliQ Founder and CEO Andrew Sinclair in an interview.  

Sinclair has a background in the engineering, construction and natural resource sectors, and in 2016 he founded an engineering company called trajectorE. He learned that he had a problem that was common to a lot of companies in his space: They employ people with a vast range of expertise, but it’s difficult for all employees to tap that knowledge.

So he set out to develop a sister company, totaliQ, with the goal of developing a platform that can help employees in a company or organization transfer their knowledge from one to another.

The backend of the system contains a repository where employees can stash different forms of information. These include documents and project lessons, even stories, which Sinclair considers a key part of the corporate knowledge base.

Sinclair said the system’s front end resembles a social media platform where employees can find their colleagues’ posts. It includes a “Netflix-like recommendation algorithm function”, and a Q&A format so employees can find information just by typing in a question.

For the AI component, Sinclair has brought in Akhloufi’s team in Moncton, which totaliQ met through Mitacs, an organization that supports companies conducting R&D with university researchers. Mitacs and the National Research Council’s Irap program are financing the partnership.

The team is working on a machine learning algorithm that will help the system recommend to all employees the content they should consult to do their jobs. They are also working on a voice-recognition component, so employees can ask questions orally rather than by typing them in.

Sinclair said he and his six-member team, which operates out of St. John’s’ Genesis Centre, will initially target such industries as engineering, construction, oil and gas, and mining, but hopes to broaden the target market eventually. The totaliQ team hopes to devise specific functions for each industry but avoid having to customize the product for each client.

So far, totaliQ has been financed by trajectorE, and Sinclair is planning to raise investment capital for the SaaS company, though he declined to reveal the target. One final thing that Sinclair is working on is splitting the management teams of both companies. He’s now the CEO of both trajectorE and totaliQ and realizes they need their own leaders.

“It’s been busy times running both, but there is a plan in place,” he said.

Atlantic Canada Books $158M in VC

Atlantic Canada's share of Canada's VC funding has soared. (Source: CVCA)

Atlantic Canada's share of Canada's VC funding has soared. (Source: CVCA)

Led by an off-the-charts performance in New Brunswick, Atlantic Canada recorded $158 million in venture capital investment in 2018, accounting for its biggest ever proportion of Canada’s VC funding.

The Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association, known as the CVCA, released its annual data on Wednesday, which showed that VC funding in Atlantic Canada rose by 60 percent from $99 million in 2017, and shattered the previous record of $103 million in 2016. The four eastern provinces accounted for 4.3 percent of Canada’s VC funding last year, beating the previous high of 3.2 percent in 2016.

The star of the funding report was New Brunswick, which recorded $78 million in funding – more than it booked in the previous four years combined. That said, there were also record funding amounts in Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island.

For the country overall, Toronto-based CVCA said Canadian startups raised $3.7 billion in venture capital in 2018, down 2 percent from the previous year. Almost 83 percent of the VC funding last year was invested in the three main markets of Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, which always account for the lion’s share of the country’s innovation funding.

“We are seeing more VC flowing into more Canadian companies at all stages, which is an important metric for the health of the sector,” said CVCA Chief Executive Kim Furlong in a statement. “A healthy mix of new growth funds, increased interest from international investors and government support through VCCI [the federal government’s Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative] is helping to fuel the momentum.”

Though Atlantic Canada still represents a small portion of the overall VC funding in the country, the growth of VC funding in the region has far outpaced the rest of Canada in recent years. For example, the CVCA website has five years of data and it shows that Atlantic Canada’s VC investment has more than quintupled since 2014, when it accounted for 1.4 percent of the national total.

Atlantic Canada in 2018 recorded a total of 64 VC investments, or 10.5 percent of the national total. The region customarily books about one-tenth of the country’s VC deals, most of them small pre-seed rounds.

Here is a breakdown of the data for each Atlantic Canadian province:

New Brunswick

According to the CVCA, New Brunswick’s VC investment surged 387 percent last year – though it was from a weak year in 2017. Most of the funding came in three deals: Cybersecurity company Sonrai Security raised US$18.5 million (C$24.6 million); relationship intelligence company Introhive raised US$15.2 million in an equity-and-debt round; and AgTech data company Resson raised $14 million. But New Brunswick (as usual) was active in smaller deals, booking a total of 28 deals, the most in the region. The CVCA ranked the New Brunswick Innovation Fund as its second most active “government fund” (Technically, it’s a non-profit that gets provincial funding.) with 22 deals, outranked only by the federal government’s BDC Capital.

Nova Scotia

The region’s most populous province booked 19 deals worth $67 million. It wasn’t a record, but it was still within a band of $64 million to $77 million from the past three years. In 2014, the figure was $18 million. Not all of the Nova Scotian deals have been announced publicly, and it’s possible the largest single deal was not announced. Innovacorp, the provincial government’s VC agency, closed 12 deals, ranking sixth among the government funds. The average deal size is now $3.5 million (compared with $1 million in 2014), indicating most of the investment is going into scaling companies.

Newfoundland and Labrador

With Killick Capital and Pelorus Venture Capital active, Newfoundland and Labrador startups received $8 million in 11 deals – both numbers are records. The biggest total VC funding before that was $7 million in 2016. Most of the funding in 2018 was for early-stage companies, as the average investment was less that $1 million.

Prince Edward Island

The effects of the new Island Capital Partners fund are becoming apparent as P.E.I. booked $5 million in six deals. It was the first time the total for P.E.I. surpassed $4 million, or the Island booked more than two deals.

NACO to Support Region’s Angels

Yuri Navarro

Yuri Navarro

The National Angel Capital Organization wants to help nourish local investment groups in Atlantic Canada, but its CEO stresses that the development of angel groups in the region has to be organic.

In an interview in his Toronto office last week, Yuri Navarro said the Canadian umbrella organization for angel investment groups has been focusing on Atlantic Canada lately. The goal is to provide the support, education and research enjoyed by angel communities in other parts of the country.

Yet he said repeatedly that NACO is positioning itself to support a group or groups that sprout up in Atlantic Canada, not initiating a group of angels in the region.

“We’re not going to say, ‘Thou shalt have an angel group,'” said Navarro. “Our approach is to see who the angels are in the community and what the naturally forming networks are that we can support.”

Angel investing is the funding of startups by wealthy individuals. It often involves local groups that can attract and vet young companies and bring them together with enough investors to raise a meaningful amount of capital. NACO is the Canadian body that supports these local groups by teaching angels best practice, researching the industry and broadening each group’s network.

When Navarro took over the CEO role seven years ago, there were strong angel groups in Central Canada, and NACO focused on developing the network in the West. Now that there are thriving networks from British Columbia to Quebec, NACO is turning its attention to Atlantic Canada, where there are questions about the outlook for angel groups.

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The First Angel Network, which for years was the regional angel group making regular quarterly investments, still exists but has not made a quarterly investment in more than a year. There are other groups whose members make angel investments, such as East Valley Ventures of Saint John, and Charlottetown-based Island Capital Partners.

Navarro is unsure how the angel community in Atlantic Canada will evolve, but he wants to ensure that NACO can support any groups that emerge in the next few years.

Last year, NACO held meetings throughout the region with support organizations, then hosted a five-city road show, staging events to help educate individuals on how to become angel investors. This year, it is working with Island Capital Partners to hold an angel summit in Charlottetown in the autumn.

Navarro said the national organization supports its members in three ways:

  1. NACO connects angel groups to one another. These connections help investors share best practices and join other groups’ investment opportunities, thereby diversifying and reducing risk.
  2. NACO conducts research. It analyzes data on investment deals across the country, producing benchmark metrics on such areas as number of deals, valuation, failures and follow-on funding. Navarro said the research helps NACO understand what works best in angel investing, and this leads to educational programs that helps investors develop successful strategies.
  3. The group raises awareness. NACO represents the angel community in discussions with government, and tries to inform wealthy individuals of the opportunities presented by angel investing.

“Our goal is to . . . make sure people are aware of the opportunities for investment in Atlantic Canada,” said Navarro. “It’s already happening on its own, but we want to support it.”

Drive to Boost NB Exports

In what is described as a first for Canada, the Atlantic Canada Marketing and Export Centre, or AMEC, is opening a virtual centre that will support the marketing efforts of small and medium-sized enterprises in New Brunswick. 

The aim is to help SMEs pursue international business opportunities. The Government of Canada is providing a grant of $147,000 for the project through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency's Business Development Program, the agency said in a release.

The money will help AMEC, a not-for-profit organization based in northern New Brunswick, conduct a feasibility study and create a business plan that supports increased exports.

“The centre will become a unique, accessible, modern and efficient electronic platform for exporting the products of our companies in order to increase their profitability, create jobs and thus contribute to the economic development of all,” said Norman G. Thériault, président du conseil d’administration du Centre de commercialisation et d'exportation du Canada atlantique

Genesis Launches Micro Fund

St. John’s-based Genesis has initiated a $775,000 micro fund that will provide initial financing to about 38 companies over the next three years.

Genesis announced this week that the Genesis Micro Fund will provide grants of up to $20,000 to each company, to be released in increments based on milestones that the parties agree on. The companies are all members of the Genesis Enterprise incubator, which supports early-stage companies.

The fund received contributions that included $300,000 from the federal government and $125,000 from the provincial Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation. 

“This fund will be a vital resource to our companies in the Enterprise incubator program, and a means to empower local entrepreneurs,” said Genesis President and CEO Michelle Simms in the statement. “It will lower the barriers to launching a successful technology business and enable accelerated growth.”

Genesis is Memorial University’s support network for tech businesses, providing access to office space, marketing, finance and management expertise. The organization said the new fund is designed to address a gap in the funding ecosystem as early-stage companies find it difficult to secure the initial funds that can help them get going.

Genesis said in an email that six of the 19 companies now in the Enterprise program have already been accepted to receive money from the fund.

“Genesis is tuned in to the needs of the start-up community and provides a supportive, mentor-driven environment where companies can thrive,” said St. John’s East MP Nick Whalen, who’s worked as an IP lawyer for McInnes Cooper. He added that the fund “will provide access to much-needed help for new businesses to accelerate their innovative ideas, develop entrepreneurial skills and advance their businesses.”

Patchell Brook Eyes Growth in 2019

Brian Donovan

Brian Donovan

Having secured such enterprise clients as TD Ameritrade and the Globe and Mail, stock market analysis company Patchell Brook Equity Analytics is expecting dramatic growth in 2019.

The Miramichi company’s product is StockCalc—an automated service designed to calculate the intrinsic value of publicly traded companies and exchange traded funds.

“Every night we run six different valuation models on 8,000 stocks that trade on the Canadian and U.S. markets,” said Founder and CEO Brian Donovan in an interview. “We let you load the analysis for a company, we present our findings and let you do your own testing and your own ‘what-if’ analysis.”

StockCalc performs fundamental analysis, which is the process of assessing a company’s appropriate price on the basis of its overall health. The algorithm uses a weighted average of six criteria, such as cash flow and the pricing of other, comparable stocks.

Users pay a subscription fee that gives them access to reports detailing the results of the technical analysis.

The algorithm applies all six metrics whenever possible, but in some cases may discard one or more. For example, one of the metrics involves cash flow, which would not be appropriate to apply to a pre-revenue mining company.

Exchange traded funds—collections of equities that can be bought and sold as a unit—are analyzed based on the equities they track.

Companies or funds that the algorithm values at above their current market prices are considered to be “undervalued”. Companies that the algorithm values at below their current market prices are considered to be “overvalued”.

Investors typically buy undervalued stocks and sell overvalued stocks, with the expectation that the market price will eventually move in the direction of the company’s fundamental value.

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Donovan said the actual market price of a stock or ETF eventually reaches StockCalc’s target price in about seven out of 10 cases. The target price, meanwhile, continually evolves to reflect new data about the company.

StockCalc subscriptions can be purchased by individual investors, investment advisors and larger corporations. Individual investors pay $39 per month, financial advisors pay $199 per month and enterprise rates vary on a case-by-case basis.

Enterprise clients include TD Ameritrade and the Globe and Mail, both of whom buy the service for the use of their own customers.

Donovan founded Patchell Brook in 2013 and spent several years working on the StockCalc software before it was released. The current iteration has been online for about a year, with four full-time staff and one-part time employee currently working on it.

The company has completed three small fundraising rounds and is in the process of a fourth, larger round.

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, the Miramichi Technology Fund and Technology Venture Corporation have all participated in the investment rounds.

The money from the current round will be used to ramp up expansion efforts and grow Patchell Brook’s customer base.

“This is a growth round for us. This is going to allow us to add sales and marketing capacity and to drill down into our target markets,” said Donovan. “The product is in very good shape, and this will allow us to spend a lot of time on the sales part.”

ACOA Backs Eigen with $800K+

Scott Everett

Scott Everett

Fredericton-based Eigen Innovation has received financing of more than $800,000 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, which will fund marketing programs.

ACOA issued a statement on Tuesday saying the company would receive a conditional loan of $708,067 through the agency’s Business Development Program. It will also receive two $50,000 grants to help the company hire a lead data scientist and a lead machine learning architect.

The New Brunswick company uses artificial intelligence to help machines manage large amounts of data and improve their productivity. CEO Scott Everett has said the company is aggressively courting leading customers in the automotive sector.

“Eigen is proud of its Atlantic roots and committed to growing and creating jobs here,” said Everett in a statement. “We are thrilled to partner with ACOA and look forward to adding to our team here in order to grow our business in North America and around the globe.”

The statement said Eigen is expanding its footprint within the U.S. and looking to new markets, including Asia, and Europe. The new funding will help the company to execute a market development strategy targeting these regions, as well as build up its development team.

In October, Eigen Innovations closed a $3.5 million round of equity funding, led by Toronto-based tech specialist Globalive Technology.

 

Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor.

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