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.

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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.

Sapien Releases Lightdogs App

Fredericton-based Sapien has launched its Lightdogs app on Apple’s App Store, and people in several countries have downloaded the app in the hope it will ease them off their cell phone addictions.

Sapien’s mission is to encourage people to spend less time on their phones – and odd as it may sound, it’s invented a mobile app to accomplish the task.

Its new app lets people build up points the longer they stay off their phones, and trade those points for animated dogs. As of Monday, 200 people had downloaded the app with clusters of users appearing in such places as Belgium and Hong Kong.

“We launched on the sixth,” said Founder and CEO Cameron Crain in an interview Monday. “We haven’t spent any money on marketing. … It’s cool to see complete strangers use it and to see clusters popping up in certain areas, as that proves it’s spreading by word of mouth.”

Crain is trying to address the problem of people being glued to their phones all day long. He describes his creation as “a collectable game powered by a focus timer.” Users set the timer and leave the phone alone, with the Lightdogs app still on.  As long as the app is on, they build up points. They’re given a bit of leeway on checking things on other apps, but generally if they switch to other apps before the allotted time, they lose all their points. They can even run it while they sleep, though only for one-quarter as many points as during daytime.

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They can trade their points for animated dogs, and the goal is to develop a group of these crafted figures. You can even breed them once you have enough of them.

“We worked really hard to make the game engaging,” said Crain. “The thing that motivates you to be engaged is to build up the collection of the dogs.”

Sapien’s main competitor is an app called Forest, in which users grow digital trees the longer they stay off their phones. Crain aimed to make his puppies more engaging for the user than his competitor’s trees.

Crain, who works as a user interface designer, developed the business with a $25,000 investment from friends and family, and East Valley Ventures Chair Gerry Pond. He also received support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. He hired six contract developers to help produce the app on Apple’s iOS operating system.

He plans to make money from the initiative through a freemium model. Users can download and use the app free, and there are opportunities to pay for additional benefits. Some of these have yet to be added. For example, you could buy point boosters, in which you get three or four times the points per hour than at normal times.

For now, Crain is pleased the app has not only been downloaded in its first five days but has also been used by people around the world.

“It’s been really heartening to see,” said Crain. “Those 200 users so far have logged just under 30 days of unplugged time. And that doesn’t include night sessions.”

Cribcut’s $1M+ Raise To Aid Growth

Cribcut, whose online platform connects mobile hair stylists and clients, has raised $1.06 million in equity funding to help finance its expansion across Canada and the U.S.

The Halifax company issued a statement saying that it has closed a second pre-seed round of $800,000, bringing its total pre-seed funding up over the million-dollar mark.

Investors in the round include Ramen Ventures, Innovacorp, Valhalla Angels, Georgian Angel Network, Broken Glass Angels, and several fellows and associates from the Creative Destruction Lab, including David Wilson, Frank Sobey, and Tom Hickey. 

Led by CEO David Howe, Cribcut has built a software-enabled marketplace for hairstylists. It helps stylists become travelling hairdressers, providing clients with haircuts, colours and styles at their homes and offices. Last May, the company expanded into Toronto to complement its headquarters in Halifax.

"Cribcut empowers stylists - often women - to become entrepreneurs and achieve freedom, flexibility, and financial success,” said Adam McNamara, a partner at Toronto-based Ramen Ventures and a former Vice-President of Product at Shopify. “We love the team and their mission and we're excited to support them."

Most of the investors are angels, with the exception of Innovacorp and Venture Grade. Cribcut announced in December that it has received $15,000 from Venture Grade, the student-run VC fund at St. Mary’s University. Creative Destruction Lab is mainly an accelerator, but the fellows and associates at CDL-Atlantic have become the most-active group of angel investors in the region in the last year. 

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In a statement, Howe said salon-based stylists earn an average of $24,000 per year and give up more than half of their commissions to salon owners. Cribcut allows a hair stylist to retain 100 percent of his or her earnings, while only paying out US$49 a week as a software subscription fee. The average full-time stylist on the Cribcut platform earns more than $44,000 a year, said the company.

The company’s software helps stylists with bookings, travel optimization, payments and ratings. It also facilitates new client introductions. Bookings can be made through the online booking app with on-demand appointments available.

The company has recorded more than 40 percent monthly growth in terms of revenue and stylists in each of the past six months. The 102 stylists now using Cribcut have carried out a total of 6,000 appointments and are represented in 27 U.S. states and four Canadian provinces.

With a current headcount of 10 employees, the company plans to grow staffing at its offices in Halifax and Toronto by about 50 percent over the next nine months.

“Cribcut helps hairstylists run mobile salons, disrupting the $300 billion-plus haircare industry,” said Howe. “And we do it without needing to own a single salon, blow dryer, or pair of scissors. Cribcut has done for hair stylists what Uber has done for the average car owner, and what Airbnb has done for the average homeowner.”

Mara Lands $3M Loan from ACOA

Mara Scientist Jessie Gao

Mara Scientist Jessie Gao

Mara Renewables Corp. has received a $3 million conditional loan from the federal government to research the best ways to produce commercial quantities of algae-based nutritional supplements.

The government announced last week that the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency would lend $3 million to the Dartmouth company through its Atlantic Innovation Fund, which finances large research projects.

For the past three years, Mara has produced an oil from algae that is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, the oily substance found in salmon that benefits the heart. The company now makes the oil at a plant in Liverpool, England, and sells it in bulk to major food producers as an ingredient for their foods.

What the company must do now is improve its processes to produce more algal oil at lower prices, and the ACOA money will be used for research into the most efficient processes. This research is taking place as Mara – which employs more than 60 people – plans to build a bigger plant, possibly in Canada.

“This technology is very flexible,” said Chief Scientist and Director of Research Roberto Armenta in an interview Friday. “We can actually use different inputs in the process that are widely available . . . like byproducts from other industries.”

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Armenta previously worked for Ocean Nutrition Canada, which like Mara, was founded by Clearwater Fine Foods founder John Risley and produced Omega-3 food supplements. When Risley sold ONC for $540 million to Royal DMC of the Netherlands in 2012, he retained a team to develop intellectual property that the ONC scientists had been working on.

The research team had learned that it could derive Omega-3 from algae found in the Bay of Fundy. A supplement produced from algae would have none of the concerns about a product taken from fish, such as the limits of a finite resource or worries about contaminants found in fish. If Mara could produce the oil economically in commercial quantities, it could compete effectively against other Omega-3 supplements.  

Its research led to a naturally produced vegetarian oil that Mara says can be more sustainably produced than a product derived from fish. Armenta would not detail sales of the product, except to say they have increased in each of the last three years.

“From an idea and a science story that began at the beautiful Bay of Fundy . . . this is a remarkable example of applying science to produce a renewable product with proven benefits to human health,” said Armenta in the ACOA statement. “This project will enable Mara to increase its commercial competitive advantage by investing in innovation.”

Armenta now oversees a team of 23 scientists in Dartmouth researching the development of algal oil. He proudly states they are “a world-class, gender-balanced team of highly-skilled Canadian and multinational scientists.” In the near future, he plans to add three scientists to the team.

A focus of their work will be to find ways to manufacture their product at lower and lower costs, because Mara knows the competition will only intensify.

The team of scientists, said Armenta, will focus on something he learned while working at ONC – the importance of combining R&D with the goals of the company.

“I learned to focus on what are the most important things, rather than just blue sky research.”

 

Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor.

IMV Raises $29.5M in Offering

Montreal-based Fonds de solidarité FTQ has invested $5 million in Dartmouth-based immunotherapy company IMV as part of the company’s recent public offering, which raised almost $30 million.

It is the second investment in IMV by the Fonds, which has almost $15 billion in assets and channels Quebecers’ savings into investments. It previously invested $5.75 million in the company in February 2018.

The funding will be used to develop new cancer immunotherapies using DPX-Survivac, IMV’s proprietary drug release platform, said the statement. With offices and laboratories in Halifax and Québec City, IMV said it has 54 employees, with additional hires planned over the next year.

“This investment will allow IMV to step up the development of its promising immunotherapy platform for five indications,” said Didier Leconte, the institution’s Vice-President of Life Sciences Investments. “With this largest funding round to date, the company will be able to continue its fight against such diseases as bladder, liver, ovarian and lung cancer.”

Added IMV Chief Executive Frédéric Ors: “IMV is a global leader in the development of a new generation of cancer treatment based on T-cell activating immunotherapy. The Fonds’ financial support will allow us to take a new important step in our growth, with the goal of significantly increasing the potential number of cancers and patients that can benefit from our new therapeutic approach.”

Previously known as Immunovaccine Inc., IMV has developed a platform for delivering drugs that allows a constant flow over a long period of time of drugs that work with the immune system to battle diseases.

The company said late last month it had raised more than $25 million through a public offering of shares. On Monday, it added that its underwriters had partially exercised their options to buy additional shares, meaning that the value of the offering had risen to $29.5 million.

Durland Named SMU’s Chancellor

Michael Durland

Michael Durland

Michael Durland, who has invested in some of Halifax’s leading startups, has been named the new Chancellor of St. Mary’s University, succeeding Paul D. Sobey.

Durland is best known as the former Group Head and CEO of Global Banking and Markets for Scotiabank. Since he retired from Scotiabank in 2016, he has been increasingly active in entrepreneurship in Atlantic Canada, investing in startups and donating to SMU and its Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program.

“As an institution, we are incredibly honoured and proud that Michael Durland is taking on the role of Chancellor of the University,” said SMU President Robert Summerby-Murray in a statement.  “His long and successful career in corporate Canada and as an entrepreneur and investor positions him as an excellent role model and inspiration for our students and our community.”

Durland is taking on the role at SMU as the university is increasing its focus on entrepreneurship. As well as the MTEI program, the university is offering more curriculum in entrepreneurship across all faculties, not just in the business school.  

In 2015, Durland and his wife Catherine teamed up with Scotiabank to make a $1.5 million donation to the MTEI program. The university offers the Mike and Catherine Durland Scholarships to students, and the pool of capital that supports founders within MTEI is the Durland Innovation Fund.

“Every time I walk through the front door of Saint Mary’s, I see a group of passionate students and professors thinking beyond the problems of today to what is on the horizon,” said Durland. “The university’s innovative, interdisciplinary approach to learning, teaching and research places them on the forefront of educating the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs. To serve as Chancellor at this special university that has played such a critical role in my life and for my family is an honour.”

Durland is a key investor in and Chair of the Board of TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture, which aims to become the leading vertical farming company in North America. He has also invested in LifeRaft, which helps companies and organizations detect threats on the internet, and Peer Ledger, which uses blockchain to help organizations uphold their social values.

 

Disclosure: St. Mary's is a client of Entrevestor. 

Jobs: Senior Developer at TotaliQ

TotaliQ of St. John’s is searching for a Senior Cloud Platform Developer – someone who is able to work remotely.

TotaliQ has produced a knowledge-sharing online platform that lets a company’s employees share their expertise with one another to improve corporate efficiency. It was founded in 2018 by Andrew Sinclair, who’d spent 15 years in the engineering, construction and natural resource sectors.

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 is an excerpt from the headline posting this week:

St. John’s

TotaliQ

Senior Cloud Platform Developer

Description:

Lead and mentor a development team.

Lead the definition of the design and product features including Product, UX & Design, Development, and QA.

Contribute to and support development of high quality code to provide an application that is intuitive, high-performing and secure.

Contribute to the documentation of the platform’s technical and functional requirements documentation.

Provide continuous support and other duties as required to ensure the successful completion of the project.

Prioritizing safety in the execution of all activities, caring for the safety of others and protecting the environment

Qualifications

Excellent analytical and problem-solving skills.

Strong working knowledge of cloud-based software development best practices.

Experience with architecting AWS cloud environments an asset.

Experience with artificial intelligence an asset.

Experience with the following is an asset: HTML/CSS, Bootstrap3, Python, NodeJs, DynamoDB, Cognito and Lamda

Experience with Source Control Systems (preferably Git).

Effective team player who can establish and build effective working relationships with co-workers.

Strong command of English language both written and verbal.

Self-Managed and results-orientated with sense of ownership.

Excellent organizational and time management skills. . . .

Read the full job posting here.

SucSeed Eyes Further Growth in ‘19

A file photo of Laura Campbell and Emily Bland working on Project SucSeed.

A file photo of Laura Campbell and Emily Bland working on Project SucSeed.

As it sets out to raise $700,000 in debt capital, St. John’s-based SucSeed is looking to build on its proven strategy of selling its vegetable-growing kits to schools and school boards.

The company makes hydroponic grow kits that help people grow nutritious vegetables indoors. It has booked about $500,000 in sales since the end of 2016 and those sales are growing – mainly because the venture has been closing sales to school boards.

Its 1,200 kits now in use include those purchased by school boards in Newfoundland and Labrador and in Saskatchewan. CEO Emily Bland said the great thing about these sales is they lead to follow-on sales by the families of students who use them at school.

“Once we sell one into a classroom, we start getting kids going home and saying they’re excited about kale and spinach,” said Bland in an interview Wednesday. “So. then the parents want to order one for their own home.”

You read that right: Kids. Excited. About. Kale.

Bland laughed at how incongruous it sounded.  On International Women’s Day, it’s a great time to showcase Bland, who says her five-member team has benefited from the support available to women entrepreneurs in St. John’s.

Victoria Lennox Shifts from CEO to President at Startup Canada

Bland formerly headed Memorial University’s chapter of Enactus, the international group that encourages social entrepreneurship among students. During this time, she launched the SucSeed Project, which developed kits to produce vegetables indoors to encourage healthy eating. When she graduated, so did SucSeed. It became a company and has been growing since.

One benchmark in the company’s progress was being one of seven winners last year in the SheEO funding competition for women entrepreneurs. It selected seven winners from across Canada and had them divide a $700,000 prize pot. The winners had to decide themselves how the money was divided.

“Our cohort just came together and we described what each of us needed,” said Bland, who is not allowed to reveal the final breakdown. “We all understood each other’s needs and agreed to it that way. It was an amazing experience.”

Then last autumn, the Western Health Authority led a project in which 21 groups in Western Newfoundland – from day care centres to police stations -- purchased SucSeed systems, with the health authority footing the $500 bill for each kit. It was a big boost for a young company.

Now Bland hopes to build on the success of that program and needs capital to do it. She hopes to raise $700,000 in debt financing, and began courting prospective backers this week.

As well as SheEO, Bland said she has received great support from Genesis , where the company is a resident, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs.

With sales growing, SucSeed now has three main goals for 2019. In the spring, Bland and her team hope to produce a new system, which will feature an enhanced growing container. Second, she wants to expand SucSeed’s relationships with school boards so SucSeed is adopted by at least one school board in each province. And finally. she hopes to do more to develop the SucSeed brand. 

Lennox’s New Startup Canada Job

Victoria Lennox

Victoria Lennox

Victoria Lennox, the head of Startup Canada since its inception, is taking on a new development role within the national entrepreneurship support group, meaning the group is now looking for a CEO.

Lennox was the driving force behind Startup Canada when it began in 2012 and has been the CEO ever since. Now she believes her talents are more useful as the organization’s new president, where she will focus on business development and government relations.

The day-to-day operations of the CEO, including managing the organization's team and programs, have been taken over by Interim CEO Richard Rémillard, whose duties include looking for a new permanent CEO.

Lennox became Startup Canada’s first president on January 14.  She has said that as CEO she managed the organization’s development in addition to managing the organization. As president, her sole focus is growth strategy.

“When it's time to scale up, you can’t be wearing many hats at once,” she said in an interview from her Ottawa base. “And it's really important to focus your energy.”

Startup Canada is a national organization whose mandate is to bring entrepreneurs together and determine what they need to encourage business development in Canada. Lennox, who won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion during a stint in Britain, nurtured the group’s growth across Canada and oversaw its best-known initiative, the annual Startup Canada Awards. Atlantic Canadians have placed well in the competition, and the last two Entrepreneurs of the Year were Lisa Williams, Founder of Unicare Home Health Care of Miramichi, NB, and Anne Whelan,​ ​President​ ​and​ ​CEO of ​Seafair​ ​Capital​ ​Inc. of St. John’s.

Startup Canada Seeks Entries for its Annual Awards

Lennox said Startup Canada has a solid team with a strong track record and sustainable corporate partners, so now is the right time for her transition. As well, Lennox said the organization has grown to the point where it deserves an established non-profit executive to scale up and manage growth.

As President, her three main areas of focus are: developing the organization as a charity; partnering with the government of Canada; and developing national and global strategic partnerships.

She said incorporating into a charity will open new revenue streams and allow Startup Canada to better support marginalized entrepreneurs.

Startup Canada currently supports about 250,000 entrepreneurs and a network of 50 startup communities, she said, and partnering with federal government will help to expand its support for entrepreneurs.

She said Startup Canada wants to extend its reach “to every town, city, and village across the country to really light up the nation with entrepreneurship…We feel like Startup Canada is on the brink of something very exciting and in order to achieve that we need more hands on deck.”

Startup Canada had been funded completely through corporate partners. New strategic partnerships, both public and private, along with changing the organization into a charity, will allow it to support even more entrepreneurs across Canada.

One of the changing elements in the national entrepreneurial ecosystem is a greater focus on scale-ups – that is, young companies with growing revenues that need to expand quickly.

“Canada’s startup community is becoming scale-up nation,” said Lennox. “Our ecosystem across the country has matured to a degree that it’s building more sophisticated national and global approaches to building really exciting companies.”

It takes between 20 and 25 years to develop a sustainable ecosystem, said Lennox, and Startup Canada is right on track in its seventh year.

“I think the key to success is people, people, people, and it seems like we have that in spades,” said Lennox. “That’s where, typically, the greatest challenges lie for scaling up and succession, I think we have those risks nicely mitigated.”

NBIF Names 5 Breakthru Finalists

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation has named the finalists for its 2018-2019 Breakthru entrepreneurship competition.

The provincial innovation agency said Tuesday the five teams will compete for the Grand Prize, Second Place and the CBC Viewers’ Choice awards, with prizes ranging from cash investments by the NBIF and Opportunities New Brunswick to professional services from contributing sponsors. The Viewers’ Choice Award is chosen by the audience of CBC News in New Brunswick, and the winner will receive an audition on Dragons’ Den.

The five finalists are:

  • Better Than Reality (Daniel Kane, Esther Sangodoyin, and Harpreet Kohli) – Virtual reality training platform for nuclear facilities and utility operators.
  • Canum Nanomaterials Inc. (Kyle Woods, Alex Clarkin, Francois Michaud, Jayson Brown, and Felipe Chibante) – Nanomaterial manufacturing technology that produces fullerenes, which are often used in flexible organic solar cells and as an anti-oxidant in health supplements.
  • Punch Reviews (Ross Culberson) – Web application that helps farmers capture food safety compliance and maintenance records more efficiently.
  • R I D D L (Jenelle Sobey, Vanessa Paesani, and Jess Peters) – Cloud-based software that provides investment groups with the information and data needed to make the right investment decisions.
  • Sensory Friendly Solutions (Christel Seeberger) – Mobile app that allows people with sensory sensitivities to find, share and rate sensory-friendly spaces.

In a statement, the NBIF team said it received 36 business plan submissions by the initial deadline in November. After two entrepreneurship bootcamps that offered teams mentoring and support, the submissions were whittled down to 10 in February and further to the current crop of five finalists earlier this month.

 “The teams that have made it this far in the competition have been successful in proving that they are solving real problems and demonstrating customer traction for their ideas through letters of intent,” said Daniel Hoyles, an investment analyst at NBIF.

Each team will have the opportunity to pitch to a panel of judges on March 14, and winners will be announced a week later at the awards dinner at the Fredericton Convention Centre. Tickets for the dinner on March 21 are available here.

Hoyles said that people attending the dinner “can look forward to five promising ideas that have the opportunity to make a real impact on their industries and on our lives.”

 

Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.

Alentic Lands $3M from ACOA

A team of researchers in Halifax are on the brink of releasing a pocket-sized medical device that can generate test results in mere minutes, using only a pinprick of blood.

Alentic Microscience is a Halifax-based microscopy company that has developed a new imaging device that instantly reads patients’ results at the point of care, using only a drop of fluid, without the need for bulky microscopes and lab equipment.  

On Monday, the company was granted a $2,992,162 loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program to commercialize its device. 

It’s a welcome invention for those who feel queasy when having their blood drawn, but the impact of the device will extend beyond our planet.

The technology was chosen by the Canadian Space Agency for research that will result in a device that can monitor astronauts’ immune systems in real time, according to a statement released Monday. The release said it is a task that was previously thought impossible.

Dalhousie University neuroscientist and Alentic CEO Alan Fine began the initial research behind the company in 2003. He was searching for a new way to analyze liquid samples, like blood and other bodily fluids, for medical tests. 

“I had this brainstorm that it might be possible to replace the standard way that people do microscopy with lenses and focusing with machines in a much more simple way,” said Fine in an interview.

“Turns out it was a good idea but it took me a few years to test the idea.”

Over the course of 16 years, Fine was able to build a team of 15 researchers and secured funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for his Dalhousie-based lab.

Maritime BioLoggers Raises $125K After Pivot

“Once I was able to prove to my satisfaction that this wasn’t a totally crazy idea, it was immediately clear I had to spend a lot of time developing it, because it had so much potential, it would be irresponsible not to pursue it,” said Fine.

“So I made the company, sought patents and the rest was history, as they say.”

This new injection of funds will be used to create six jobs, including a biological engineer, a software developer and an embedded systems engineer. They will help with the planning, design, prototype assembly, testing and clinical trials of the new device.

On the business development side, the technology has been granted 10 patents in the United States, one in Canada and one in China and has many more patents in progress. The company claims its technology is fully operational for specific cellular analyses currently used in medical and veterinary settings.

“The core technology is extremely broad in terms of its medical applications,” said Fine. “But we’re focusing on medical applications and more particularly diagnostics, and even more particularly something called in-vitro diagnostics, which means looking at samples outside the body.”

Alentic’s device, once fully on the market, has the potential to make significant improvements to the quality of healthcare and healthcare systems.

“We’re going after the clinically most important tests that can have the most impact on health and improving the delivery of healthcare here and around the world,” said Fine. 

 

Disclosure: The Atlantic Canada Oppotunities Agency is a client of Entrevestor.

BioVectra Unveils $145M Expansion

Charlottetown-based drug-manufacturer BioVectra Inc. on Monday announced a five-year, $144.6 million expansion project in its facilities on P.E.I. and in Windsor, N.S.

The company issued a statement saying the funding will include a $37.5 million contribution from the federal government’s Strategic Innovation Fund – the fund’s largest financing ever in Atlantic Canada.  

BioVectra is a contract drug manufacturer for major pharmaceutical clients, including most of the top 20. Founded in 1970, the company was purchased in 2013 by Questcor Pharmaceuticals of Anaheim, Calif., for $100 million, and since then has been expanding. Last April, it received a $5 million loan from the federal government to build its Windsor facility.

“Canadian companies like BioVectra are creating new jobs and establishing themselves as global leaders in producing lifesaving treatments for serious illnesses that affect millions of people around the world,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in Charlottetown to announce the funding. “Today, we are not only investing in an innovative Canadian business, but also in Canadians and the future prosperity of our country.”

The project is intended to support BioVectra’s on-going Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients production expansion in Charlottetown, as well as an expansion of its Biologics capabilities in Windsor, including a mammalian cell culture facility.

“We are pleased to announce plans to create 150 additional jobs, 110 to be located at our Windsor site and 40 in Charlottetown,” said BioVectra President Oliver Technow in the statement. “Since 2015, we have invested approximately $25 million per year in expansions and technologies that have vastly enhanced our capabilities.”

Beyond these expansion plans, BioVectra said it intends to complement its existing academic partnerships by forming additional collaborations with Canadian academic institutions. This investment includes reinforcing its future talent base by providing over 25 students each year with on-the-job training and internship opportunities.

LifeRaft Partners with DarkOwl

John Gallinaugh: 'We are constantly looking for ways to add value.'

John Gallinaugh: 'We are constantly looking for ways to add value.'

Halifax-based LifeRaft, a Software-as-a-Service security company, has struck a partnership with Denver-based information security company DarkOwl, which will improve its ability to find information on the dark web.

LifeRaft’s main product is Navigator, which helps large organizations and other clients to scan social media and other online material to detect threats against them. Under the new partnership, DarkOwl’s Vision platform will be embedded into Navigator to improve Liferaft’s ability to scan the dark web.

Often used by marginal, criminal or terrorist groups, the dark web is part of the world wide web that is accessible only by special software, and therefore allows these groups to operate privately. By extending its reach into the dark web, LifeRaft aims to improve its clients’ ability to detect groups that may wish them harm.

"DarkOwl is a perfect complement to our expertise in open-source intelligence,” said LifeRaft CEO John Gallinaugh in an email. “We are constantly looking for ways to add value to our customers with additional sources and only look to the best in class to partner. We are quite pleased with the relationship and results of our partnership with DarkOwl."

LifeRaft said that its customers will be able to use DarkOwl’s datasets to search and track important information that could potentially expose them to serious risk – material that in some cases could not be found without these datasets. The material that’s hidden in the dark web may include secure credentials, personal information, intellectual property, stolen credit cards or counterfeit documents, malware and viruses, and “related threat actor chatter”.

Said DarkOwl CEO Mark Turnage in a statement: “This partnership empowers us to put vital, full-scope threat intelligence into the hands of as many organizations as possible. We look forward to continuing to expand our darknet intelligence offering within LifeRaft’s Navigator platform and in doing so, bolstering them as the leading provider of open source intelligence in the industry.”

Securicy Launches Free Cybersecurity Platform for SMEs

LifeRaft started in 2014 to develop technology that could scan social media to find words or phrases that indicated someone was contemplating a crime. The company has refined its mission to helping organizations and large companies find out early if someone wants to harm them.

A year ago, LifeRaft signed a similar partnership with PlanetRisk, a security and risk analytics firm based in Virginia. PlanetRisk has since been acquired by Burlington, Mass.-based Everbridge and LifeRaft has maintained the strategic partnership, which it says has been “very positive.”

A LifeRaft spokeswoman said in an email the company had “excellent” sales growth in 2018, as the internal sales team has met its targets and other lines of revenue have met or exceeded expectations.

She added that the company has been “cash-flow positive for some time” and therefore has not raised capital lately. The last change in its investor group took place in October 2017, when angel investor Mike Durland bought shares from existing shareholders. Durland is also an investor in such Halifax startups as TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture and Peer Ledger.

LifeRaft has just hired four employees, bringing its headcount up to 32. It is now looking to hire a graphic designer/website coordinator as soon as possible.

VidCruiter Aids UNDP in Award

The United Nations Development Programme has won an Innovation in Recruitment Award, using the software of Moncton-based video interview company VidCruiter.

The UN agency announced last week that it received the honor at the 15th annual Career Development Roundtable of International Organizations, held recently in Lisbon. It won the award after successfully hiring 126 people to become resident representatives in four months.

“By taking advantage of VidCruiter’s pre-recorded and live video interviewing software, as well as our digital skills testing platform and built-in rating system, the UNDP were able to complete this task on time,” said the UN agency in a statement.

VidCruiter started in 2009 by producing a tool that recruiters could use to conduct interviews online to streamline the hiring process. The company still has the original vision of a video interview system but now combines it with an applicant-tracking system and other features that help to simplify workflow for recruiters. Its questions and evaluations are now standardized and delivered digitally.

VidCruiter CEO Sean Fahey said he hopes the award – which came as a surprise to him – shows the value of video interviewing software to any recruiter.

“Every day more people realize the value of using a video interview software,” Fahey said in the statement. “They understand what benefits it can bring and how it can help recruiters save time and money without diminishing the quality of the hire.”

When Entrevestor last interviewed Fahey in October, he said the company’s target markets are the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia, and its clients range from huge organizations to small recruiting firms. Clients include General Motors, KPMG and more that 20 departments of the Canadian government.

The UNDP is active in more than 170 countries and territories. Its mission is to eradicate poverty while reducing inequality and exclusion.

Jobs of the Week: Code + Mortar

Openings for Backend Web and Hybrid App Developers at Halifax-based Code + Mortar headline our Jobs of the Week column today.

Code + Mortar is a development company that provides web apps, mobile apps and websites for its customers. The company prides itself on its innovation, and has spun out such successful startups as the educational software company Squiggle Park.

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

Code + Mortar

Backend Web and Hybrid App Developers

Role Description & Responsibilities: Reporting to the Lead Developer, the role of a Backend Developer is to support the team in project deliverables.

Responsibilities

What we are looking for in a candidate:

Clear understanding of a project workflow and your role

Knowledge in PHP and JavaScript and can work as a member of a team on a project

Make an effort to know what your tasks are on a daily basis and proactively reach out when you need new work or clarity regarding priorities

Meet your development milestones

Proactively address opportunities and issues

Creating code that works as designed with few bugs

Test code and are confident it to be correct before handing it off

Able to run your own locally hosted Apache and MySQL servers.

Basic understanding of the Unix/Linux command line interface.

Basic understanding of a Git workflow

Able to debug basic code issues

Qualifications

Required Skills & Experience:

iOS / Android app builds (Cordova) and deployment

Backend/server-side development in Laravel framework (PHP)

Database design/management with MySQL/MariaDB.

JavaScript

Git & Gitlab - Issue Tracking & Version Control

Comfort working in terminal/shell environments.

Comprehension of object-oriented programming

Understanding of RESTful APIs & GraphQL

Hosting & Deployment

Testing

Development Workflow:

Local Development

Code Reviews

Staging

QA/Testing

Live Deployment . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Anaconda In #DisruptMining Finals

Acoustic Zoom CEO Jacques Guigné, left, and Vice-President Adam Gogacz at Red Lake Mines.

Acoustic Zoom CEO Jacques Guigné, left, and Vice-President Adam Gogacz at Red Lake Mines.

For the second year in a row, a company from Newfoundland and Labrador is a finalist for the US$1 million #DisruptMining competition.

Mining giant Goldcorp Inc. said this week that Anaconda Mining of St. John’s is one of three finalists in the competition for mining technology startups, which will be decided Sunday. The winner will win the opportunity to negotiate a C$1 million investment from GoldCorp.

Last year, the competition was won by Acoustic Zoom, a Newfoundland company that provides seismic solutions for miners. The prize last year was an investment worth US$1 million, and Acoustic Zoom also undertook a US$150,000 pilot program at a Goldcorp mine.

“#DisruptMining continues to represent the best of innovation in the mining industry,” said Goldcorp Chief Operating Officer Todd White in a statement. “These finalists demonstrate break-through thinking and help build digital momentum in mining. The industry needs to help accelerate the development of these kinds of technologies.”

Listed on the TSX, Anaconda Mining has developed an innovative, two-stage drilling method that enables economic mining of narrow-vein deposits. The company developed the technology, known as Sustainable Mining by Drilling, or SMD, in collaboration with Memorial University of Newfoundland.

SMD has the potential to unlock value in existing deposits that were previously thought to be uneconomic to mine using traditional underground or surface mining methods. The developers also expect this technology could extend the life of current operations by allowing safe excavation to occur beyond the limits of current designs.

The other finalists are: Andritz, which makes training artificial intelligence to autonomously operate a mineral processing facility; and Voith Turbo, which has developed an IoT application that increases the intelligence of belt conveyors.

The finalists will present their technologies to a panel of judges and gala dinner at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention in Toronto on Sunday.

Based in Paradise, NL, just west of St. John’s, Acoustic Zoom is a geophysics company that uses high-frequency three- and four-dimensional imaging to map complex geological formations beneath the Earth's surface. The company intends to provide exploration teams with better information so they can drill smarter and improve the chances of finding ore deposits.

Four Shortlisted for Manning Awards

Jordan Kyriakidis

Jordan Kyriakidis

The heads of four Atlantic Canadian companies have been named to the short-list for the 2019 Ernest C. Manning Innovation Awards, which presents cash prizes of up to $100,000 to winners.

The award organizers this week announced a list of leaders from 18 companies across the country, who are the “qualifying nominees” for the awards this year. The Manning Awards usually hold a reception in Atlantic Canada in the summer to recognize the region’s finalists, and a national event later in the year.  Winners receive one of four cash prizes, ranging from the $100,000 Principal Award to $10,000 Innovation Awards.

The Manning Awards are among the most prestigious competitions for innovation companies in Canada because of the size of the prize package and the rigorous selection process across the country.

The nominees from Atlantic Canada are:

  • Tony Chedrawy, President and CEO of MetOcean Telematics, Dartmouth – MetOcean Telematics develops state-of-the-art data acquisition and end-to-end telematics solutions. Telematics is the segment of IT that deals with the long-distance transmission of computerized information. Chedrawy led the merger of MetOcean Data Systems and JouBeh Technologies to create MetOcean Telematics three years ago.
  • Travis McDonough, Founder and CEO of Kinduct Technologies, Halifax – Kinduct’s Athlete Management System is used by well over 100 professional and elite sports organizations to gain information on the human body and specific athletes. The software helps these organizations collect, organize, share and analyze data on one centralized platform, leading to more informed decisions. It draws from more than 500 data sources and includes the world’s largest library of medical animation. The company last raised funding in a US$9 million round led by Intel Capital in October, 2016.
  • Jordan Kyriakidis, Founder and CEO of QRA Corp., Halifax – QRA has developed design verification technology that helps manufacturers identify problems with sophisticated machinery while still in the design phase. The company builds solutions for manufacturers and engineers that analyze complex systems and requirements at crucial stages of development. The company’s products help engineers to devise better requirements and detect design errors early in the design process.
  • Bethany Deshpande and Nicholas Clermont, Co-Founders of SomaDetect, Fredericton and Buffalo, N.Y. – Just a little more than two years old, SomaDetect provides dairy farms with hardware and software that can scan a cow’s milk and provide instant data regarding the cow's health. Currently, farmers rely on monthly data to make management decisions. With SomaDetect, farmers have access to daily measurements for every cow. The company, which has raised funding from a range of American and Canadian investors, has been working on installations of its technology at Cornell University and 28 farms.

McDonough posted on LinkedIn that it “is truly an honour to be considered for Canada's most prestigious innovation awards. I couldn’t have got this far without the support of my hardworking Kinduct team.”

The Manning finalists from Atlantic Canada last year were: Mark Wood of Ocean Sonics in Great Village, NS; Chris Cowper-Smith, Stephen Fitzgerald and Robert Garrish of Spring Loaded Technology in the Halifax area; and Scott Everett of Eigen Innovations in Fredericton.

Past Atlantic Canadian winners of Manning Awards include Robert Niven, Founder and CEO of Dartmouth-based CarbonCure Technologies, and Glenn Cox, Founder of Charlottetown-based Rupture Seal. They won Innovation Awards in 2016 and 2014 respectively.

Start-Up Yard Seeks Ocean Innovators

Ulaş Güntürkün, left, CEO of Marecomms, tests technology with Jerrad Johnson of GeoSpectrum at Start-Up Yard

Ulaş Güntürkün, left, CEO of Marecomms, tests technology with Jerrad Johnson of GeoSpectrum at Start-Up Yard

Just months after opening, the cavernous COVE (Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship) building in Dartmouth is feeling lived in, with residents gathering over screens and sharing pizza. But there is room for more innovators and the newest are invited to take their ideas to COVE’s Start-Up Yard incubator.

Managed by Innovacorp, Start-Up Yard has been established to help early-stage OceanTech companies commercialize their technologies and reach a global market.

The acceleration programs, space and services, funding, equipment, and mentoring are designed to help startups grow quickly, said Shelley Hessian, Executive Director of Start-Up Yard, as she sat in a meeting room overlooking Halifax Harbour.

“You can contact us at any point, whether you’re at the idea, proof-of-concept, prototype, or in-market stage,” Hessian said, referring to innovators who may not yet have imagined that their idea could become a business.  “We’d be happy to discuss your ideas, progress, and future direction and how we can help.”

Located in what was once the Canadian Coast Guard facility on Halifax Harbour, COVE is becoming home to ocean technology businesses, groups from post-secondary institutions, researchers, and marine-based and service businesses.  It’s all designed to create a network of collaboration and mutual advancement. The young companies in Start-Up Yard benefit by having access to so much help and expertise.

Hessian said the Yard now has two cohorts up and running with 13 ventures involved. They include Ashored Innovations, which is developing intelligent buoy systems that provide ropeless fishing solutions, SEDNA, which is creating a traceability system for seafood producers and distributors, and Marecomms, which is building wireless digital communications for use over long distances under water. 

There have been early successes--some participants have gained funding and a few are involved with other groups, such as Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic.

ReelData Poised to Install Solutions This Year

Hessian said the COVE facility itself, which offers 3,000 feet of deep-water wharves, is a boon. The access to Halifax Harbour allows for real time testing and swift progress. In other marine innovation hubs, it can take many months to win approval from harbor authorities to test a prototype in the water, Hessian said.

“It’s a huge advantage to be able to go outside and test,” she added.

Yard ventures needing assistance on the water can also approach COVE residents LeeWay Marine and Dominion Diving. COVE is also home to Precise Design Engineering Solutions, which offers innovators help with prototype design and production.

Other groups with a COVE presence include diverse bodies such as Nova Scotia Boatbuilders’ Association and Kraken Robotics.

Hessian said that several Start-Up Yard companies will be attending the Oceanology International Americas conference in San Diego later this month where they will deepen their understanding of the sector, including of potential competitors and partners.

COVE and Start-Up Yard are just part of this region’s approach to competing in an increasingly important global sector. Nova Scotia is already home to more than 300 companies in ocean-related businesses, including 60 innovators of new high-tech products and services, according to a report issued by Nova Scotia Business Inc.

These numbers will be boosted by the Ocean Supercluster, a partnership between the federal government and the four Atlantic Provinces that will spend up to $360 million on marine innovation R&D over the next five years.

The Ocean Supercluster is one of five superclusters of specialised innovation across Canada that will share $950 million in federal funding over five years. It’s intended that the ocean supercluster will allow innovators to work with established companies on developing products for ocean-related industries.

Hessian said COVE will soon be welcoming several new post-secondary institutions, including Nova Scotia Community College’s Oceans Research Team and Dalhousie’s Ocean Tracking Network.

“We’re here to help commercialize ocean technology, help early stage startups and connect them to the ocean community,” she said. “We’re open for business…and happy to talk to anyone, even if all they have is an idea.”

The Changing Focus of Due Diligence

Giles Crouch

Giles Crouch

In the heady days of the first dot-com boom, a sketch on a napkin and a sparkle in a coder’s eye could net a nice seed round from angel investors. Subsequent rounds, it seemed, would flow like chocolate at a fondue party.

Then the bubble burst and napkin sketches turned into business plans and three-year forecasts. Investors became a little more sophisticated and entrepreneurs had to learn to pitch. Then along came the lean startup canvas, bootstrapping and SaaS business models. Incubators and coaches and pitch competitions sprang up like dandelions on a spring lawn.

Then 2018 happened.

Startups like Facebook, Twitter, Snap, Google had grown up. Scaled. Become Tech Giants. And the impacts of their technologies on society and geopolitically were suddenly realized in data breaches, hacks and privacy violations. Legislators and regulators in Western democracies had turned a baleful eye on the tech industry.

In the coming few years, it is likely that investors doing due diligence at every stage will ask new governance questions of technology startups, from those developing productivity tools to artificial intelligence, robotics and blockchain. These are on top of the ones they already ask.

I’ve already seen this happen with a few startups I’ve worked with in late 2018 and early 2019. They’re looking something like this:

  • Litigation Risks: Usually these questions focus on possible patent infringement. Now these risks may be people being fired as a result of poor algorithms or the use of predictive analytics impacting a person’s job or insurance premiums. Technologies at the highest risk in these areas are Artificial Intelligence and predictive analytics tools in FinTech, HRTech and InsurTech.
  • Regulatory Risks: As investors see scalability, they are asking questions about the risks of government regulators imposing various rules on an industry sector or certain technologies. Most at risk in this area is again AI, but also blockchain, workplace automation tools, FinTech, InsurTech and social media apps.
  • Reduced Acquisition Viability: One key exit strategy for tech startups is to be acquired by a tech giant or industry giant in the sector they are attempting to disrupt. But as regulators and legislators look to companies like Facebook with an eye towards breaking them up, some investors are questioning if a startup may become less viable for acquisition as regulators may block such an action. This doesn’t mean the startup isn’t worth investing in; it just makes the options different.
  • Cost of a Data Breach: No longer a matter of “if” but a matter of “when” a data breach is a reality and most every tech company today collects, stores and analyses data. The cost of a data breach can quickly exceed $6 million in the U.S. and Canada. As major investors tend to take a board seat, this puts them at risk of litigation and fines. They’re asking tougher questions on a startups data security processes and governance. For Canadian and European startups, new duty to report laws add impetus to this situation.
  • Privacy Implications: With the European Union’s introduction of the GDPR in 2018, a new standard was set. Canada and the U.S. are looking to update privacy laws. Investors are aware that privacy is a growing concern of consumers and thus of legislators who get voted in by those consumers. Laws will only get tougher.

These are just some of the questions I’ve seen being asked, not just by sophisticated venture capitalists in Canada, the U.S. and EU, but increasingly by angel investors. It is a new landscape in 2019 and going forward. Startups that ask these questions and build their products with these questions in mind, will likely fare better in the due diligence process. It adds complications we’ve not seen before for technology startups, but these are the new governance questions. 


Giles Crouch is a serial technology entrepreneur and works with startups and established companies bringing new technologies to global markets. He also advises as a CIO-on-Demand. Crouch is a polymath bringing together digital anthropology, marketing and behavioural economics.
 

A Reminder to Complete our Survey

Thank you very much to everyone who has already taken the time to fill out our 2018 survey. And we’re asking founders  and CEOs who haven’t yet got round to it to please take two minutes to fill it in.

Early next month, we will contact founders, asking them to answer the 15 questions in the survey. It’s a huge help to us if startups would fill in the survey before we bother you. You can find our survey here:

We’re really happy with the response we’ve got so far this year, but we need more responses. We’re hoping that a broad cross-section of founders in each sector and from each province will fill it in.

Why should you fill it in? Because this is the sixth year we've conducted our survey and Entrevestor’s startup data has become the benchmark for the whole region. It is studied by policy-makers and stakeholders. The greater the participation rate, the better information we will all have about the startup community. 

We’ve reduced the number of questions to 15 from 18 this year, keeping in mind how busy you are.

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.

We’ll have some exciting announcements about the Entrevestor survey in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please do us a huge favour and answer our 15 questions.

Many thanks.

ReelData Poised to Launch Pilots

Matt Zimola and Hossein Salimian have post-graduate degrees in computer science, yet they have found themselves immersed in the world of aquaculture.

They are two of the co-founders of ReelData, a Halifax startup that uses artificial intelligence to collect and analyze data for fish farms. Their software can analyze video from fish pens and produce meaningful data on the weight distribution of fish stock and the progress of certain diseases.

ReelData is now working with several regional support agencies to move its business forward, and it hopes to have its solution installed in fish farms in Australia, Norway and Scotland by the end of the year. It’s strong progress for two guys who had no experience in aquaculture a year ago.

“It was definitely a steep learning curve to understand the industry, but everyone in the aquaculture industry is very helpful and open to new ideas,” said Zimola in a recent interview at the Startup Yard at Dartmouth’s Centre for Ocean Ventures & Entrepreneurship, or Cove.

A year or two ago, Zimola and Salimian were a startup waiting to happen. While studying computer science at Dalhousie University, they joined entrepreneurial programs and Zimola went through the Propel accelerator with a former project. But they were looking for a big market that could use an artificial intelligence solution.

Maritime Biologgers Raises $125K After Pivot

They teamed up with Thomas Trappenburg, a Dal AI and robotics professor, who steered them toward opportunities for advanced technology in the oceans space. Soon they settled on aquaculture as a target market.

One interesting thing they learned is that virtually all fish farm pens contain underwater video cameras. They also learned that aquaculture companies have a problem in assessing the weight distribution among the fish in their pens. These operations need to know that a certain percentage of their fish meet a minimum weight requirement, and until now the only way to do it was to get the fish out of the pen and weigh them.

Zimola, Salimian and Trappenburg are now working on what they call the “biomass” component of their technology, which applies artificial intelligence to produce data on the weight distribution of a fish stock just by analyzing video from the pen.

“The coolest thing about what we’re doing is the biomass,” said Zimola. “We’re able to tell what the weight is without knowing how far the fish is from the camera.”

It’s the biomass component that ReelData hopes to install in three fish farm operations this year. That would provide revenue to help the team build out predictive software that could help detect diseases within a fish stock.

The venture is already in talks with a major Australian company on developing a product that can detect amoebic gill disease, which is a huge problem in Australia’s aquaculture industry. In Norway, sea lice are a big issue and Zimola said the ReelData software will soon be able to detect them.

So far, ReelData has not raised equity capital and the team is working with several support groups. The company, which is a Startup Yard resident, received $25,000 from Innovacorp’s Sprint competition and is in Propel’s Incite program.

IdeaHub Accepts Seven Startups

The Emera ideaHUB, Dalhousie University’s new incubator for companies building physical products, has accepted its first seven resident companies, and has room for more.

The goal of ideaHUB is to provide working space and mentorship for companies that aim to produce and sell physical products, not just software. The facility aims to link its resident companies with experts at the Faculty of Engineering and provide access to workshops and 3D printers.

Companies developing a product or hardware have special needs, such as building prototypes and devising manufacturing and supply chain strategies. The ideaHUB’s goal is to provide the support for these companies that is unavailable elsewhere.

“I think Canada has identified innovation and growth as keys to success for our economy,” said Margaret Palmeter, Manager of the Emera ideaHUB. She added that organizations in Atlantic Canada have identified “that we need to grow more companies here in Atlantic Canada, and where better than our academic institutions for these next-gen ideas?”

The facility on Dal’s Sexton Campus is still under construction, but ideaHUB has already accepted the following companies:

The space is designed to accommodate as many as 12 companies, each employing two to three people, though Palmeter thinks the space could fit closer to 15. The ideaHUB is still accepting and looking for applicants.

The ideal candidates are product-based companies with sound business and technology ideas, but without the resources to develop prototypes and MVPs. The facility helps startups validate their technology and bring a minimum viable product to market, so they can start earning revenue and attracting investors.

Some companies in the space have developed prototypes, and some have sales, and the facility aims to help them scale. The team works to connect startups with experts from Dalhousie’s engineering department to help solve technical problems.

Each of the accepted companies was interviewed by the ideaHUB’s review committee, and the conversation focused on what the facility could do for the startup and finding companies that fit ideaHUB’s mandate, said Palmeter. The goal is for each company to outgrow the space within 18 months, she said.

The ideaHUB has 3-D printers for building prototypes, and is installing an electronics lab with onsite technical support professionals who can help with unfamiliar equipment. The ideaHUB is above machine and carpentry shops, which the startups can access.

Palmeter said the ideaHUB asks entrepreneurs to look at their product through three lenses. Firstly, they consider the technology and ask if it’s possible to build their product, and if so, at what cost.  From a design standpoint, they must ask how the product will be used. From the business angle, they must consider how the venture will be funded and how much it will cost to get their product to market.

Nova Scotia now has several components of an innovation ecosystem in place to help companies to succeed, said Palmeter, and the ideaHUB is trying to fill a gap.

“We’re going to make sure that what we’re creating is the strongest platform possible for these companies to succeed, and for the best tech-based companies to succeed,” she said.

SMU Places 2nd Again at VCIC

For the second year in a row, a team of under-graduates from Saint Mary’s University's Sobey School of Business has placed second in the New England edition of the world’s largest venture capital competition.

Students from seventy universities competed in the Venture Capital Investment Competition, or VCIC, where they acted as managers for mock VC funds and were judged on their performance by industry professionals.

Members of the SMU team were rated more highly by the judges at the New England tournament than groups from major U.S. schools, including New York University and Babson University. The winner of the competition was a team from Cornell.

“It was great to get that validation that what we’re learning is up to par with what the big schools in the States are learning,” said Emma Scott, one of the students from the SMU team.

Scott has also helped organize a graduate-level VCIC. The undergraduate competition, which Scott’s team won, was held in Boston on February 2. The graduate competition will be held at SMU on March 8.

For the Boston competition, teams spent seventy-two hours conducting due diligence on actual startups, interviewed the founders and prepared “terms sheets” detailing hypothetical investment offers.

Volta Cohort Entries Open Until April 3

Teams were scored on the depth and accuracy of their due diligence, their interviewing skills and the plausibility of their term sheets – such as whether or not the valuations they were offering to invest at were consistent with market prices for comparable companies.

In addition to coming in second overall, the SMU team was also chosen for the entrepreneur’s choice award, recognizing the group that participant entrepreneurs would most like to do business with.

The team comprised students from SMU’s Venture Grade program, which allows students to manage a working venture capital fund. So far, Venture Grade students have raised about $250,000. If an investment returns a profit, it is reinvested into the fund.

“Venture Grade gave us a huge advantage in the competition because as a student at university, you don’t get that experience of going to meetings and sitting down with CEOs, and Venture Grade lets us put ourselves out there like that,” said Scott.

Connections from Venture Grade’s activities were also useful to the SMU team during the VCIC. Scott says Nova Scotia Business Inc., the provincial business development agency, helped the team prepare questions for the entrepreneurs and Charlie Baxter, former vice-president of investment at Innovacorp, offered valuable advice on valuations.

It was the second year in a row that the SMU team came home with the silver medal. A year ago, in SMU’s first year at the VCIC, the team actually tied for first place with Rochester University, only to lose a tiebreaker to decide the winner.

Jobs of the Week: 2 at Dash Hudson

Dash Hudson, the fast-growing visual marketing company, has a pair of openings at its Halifax headquarters, and they headline our Jobs of the Week column today.

The Halifax-based company has an opening for a Sales Development Representative and a Junior Product Manager.

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 postings 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

Manage Lead Generation

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

Assign leads to specific Account Executives.

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.

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 Product Manager.

 As our Junior Product Manager you will work directly with our Product Manager, our incredible dev team and all other DH departments to build a product used by some of the best companies in the world.

A Jr. PM at Dash Hudson truly understands and values our customers and applies their needs to product roadmap planning and execution. With a strong set of communication skills, the Jr. PM will aid in maintaining constant communication across departments at Dash Hudson, so all teams are confident in the direction we are moving with the product. They work hand-in-hand with the Product Manager and are an extension of our customers internally. They will own, and monitor, product usage and adoption and apply these learnings to feature planning and execution. Providing customers with a great experience and a great product is at the root of everything that we do!

Responsibilities

Own and drive the product vision with the Product Manager.

Process, review, and understand customer usage patterns to uncover new product insights.

Gather and organize feedback from customer facing teams to help guide product roadmap decisions.

Maintain idea backlog for future feature consideration.

Execute quality assurance testing pre-launch to ensure product design and functionality requirements are met.

Ensure smooth launch and support of new features cross-functionally.

Define and monitor success metrics post product launch.

Monitor and report on users' reactions and adoption post-product launch.

Support PM in clear, cross-team communications, training and expectation management.

Create + maintain support and training documents for internal users

Active market and industry research to keep up with the industry's development.

Qualifications

About You:

Thrives in a fast-paced environment.

Hyper-organized and detail oriented with a high expectation of quality.

Highly ambitious, self-starting, and self-motivating with the ability to jump into any conversation and work collaboratively across all teams at DH.

Experience managing multiple projects and executing plans in a timely manner.

Enthusiastic about their work and putting customers front and centre.

Experience in SaaS or a start-up environment.

Exceptional problem solving skills.

Fast learner that isn't afraid to ask questions and make mistakes.

Strong communication skills and ability to create and maintain relationships.

Productivity and ability to prioritize are some of your top skills.

Receptive to feedback not only from your team, but from your customers. . . .

Read the full job posting here.

AVSS Joins NASA Project in Reno

It’s a big deal when a startup finds a partner with global reach, but AVSS of New Brunswick has just found a partner whose operations extend to the far reaches of the galaxy.

Rothesay-based AVSS announced this week that it is working with the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, or NASA, and others on a pioneering project to ensure drone safety in urban environments.

The two-year-old company is one of the partners in the NASA-NIAS Urban Flight Project, which for the next few months will conduct tests with unmanned aircraft in downtown Reno, Nevada, to ensure drones can be used safely in cities. Drones are a young technology with the potential to operate in highly populated areas, and the NASA program is designed to make sure they can do so safely.

“The drone industry is constantly evolving – it’s changing month to month,” Mariah Murray, AVSS’s new Vice-President of Operations, said in an interview. “What we’re looking at is: How do we make flying drones coming to your front door as safe as it can be?”

Founded by Josh Ogden of Rothesay, and Josh Boudreau of Ottawa, AVSS is developing hardware and software to improve the safety of autonomous aircraft. The company has developed the Connected Recovery System, which is like a black box for drones connected to a parachute, which can deploy if the system senses trouble. It also offers a Command Centre Platform.

The company now has 15 staff members divided between New Brunswick and Ottawa. Murray, who previously worked with Ogden on the Fredericton company Castaway Golf, joined about a year ago and is now responsible for making sure the company executes smoothly on its various projects.

She was mum on the company’s fund-raising plans. What’s known publicly is that AVSS received $100,000 in funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation in its 2017-2018 fiscal year, and has some angel backers.

New Brunswick Startup Runding Rose 400%+ in 2018

AVSS has grown strongly in two years, with partners around the world. Last year, it said it was working with Canada Post on a project to ensure the safety of drones used in parcel delivery. The company attended an accelerator for drone technology providers in Poland, and has since set up an office in the country. And now it is part of the NASA-NIAS project.

Earlier this month, NASA said it had chosen Nevada in a seven-state competition as the site to conduct urban-area tests in drone safety.

“This involves Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) flying in higher-density urban areas for tasks such as newsgathering, package delivery, and large-scale contingency mitigation,” said the NASA statement. “For the first time in U.S. aviation history in a metropolitan area under beyond visual line of sight conditions, Nevada will conduct this NASA demonstration over several months in downtown Reno.”

AVSS is one of several smaller partners whose technology is being used in the tests. The Canadian company applied to join the project about six months ago, and had a leg up given its previous work with Canada Post and Transport Canada.

Murray believes drone deliveries in large cities will be a reality by 2022, and that they will take place in Atlantic Canada within three years after that. AVSS is now working with NASA, a national organization that will be key to making it happen.

Said Murray: “This is a nationally known company and they’re adopting the drone . . . and it reflects what the future holds.”

Volta Cohort Entries Open Till April 3

Volta, Canada’s East Coast innovation hub, has opened applications for the fourth edition of its Volta Cohort pitching competition, which promises investment of as much as $25,000 to each winner.

Halifax-based Volta began the Volta Cohort two years ago to provide pre-seed funding for early-stage companies, so that companies have enough capital to develop a product and get off the ground. Since then, the program has awarded a total of $400,000 to 16 ventures.

“A big part of developing a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in Atlantic Canada is increasing opportunities for early stage innovation-driven startups that have potential to scale,“ said Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers in a statement. “Volta Cohort aims to support these companies so, in turn, they can develop products that reach global markets, generate jobs that attract and retain talent, and establish the region as a global destination for innovation.”

Selected finalists will pitch at an event held in May, and as many as five winners will receive investment from a micro-fund backed by Volta as well as Innovacorp, BDC Capital, and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. (At the last event, the judges actually awarded funding to six winners as they had difficulty narrowing the field to five.)

Along with investment, Cohort companies are given workspace at Volta, programming, and access to a board of mentors comprising CEOs and founders of Volta’s resident and alumni companies. The board will meet each company every two months – offering peer support, advice and a check on its milestones.

The competition is open to companies from across Atlantic Canada. For winners that aren’t located in Halifax, Volta will work with partner organizations in other cities to ensure support is available where the companies are located.

You can find applications here. The deadline for applying is April 3.

Influitive To Open Halifax Office

Influitive, a Toronto-based customer advocacy platform provider, is in the process of opening a Halifax office, which it refers to as its second Canadian headquarters.

The company was in the news last week when it announced a $10 million equity and debt funding round, led by Canadian growth equity firm Georgian Partners and Dallas-based Comerica Bank. They were joined by Relay Ventures and Export Development Canada.

The announcement included a notice that the company is setting up a Halifax office – a project it has been working on for several months.

Influitive has named Lisa Schnare, a Director of Sales Development, as the head of the Halifax office. The team is now recruiting people and expects to open its office in 2020.

“Our goal is that any role that becomes available in the company could be hired out of our Halifax office,” said Krystle Ficker, Senior Executive Office Coordinator, in an email. “Currently, there’s a big push to hire for our customer success and client services teams, but we’re really excited by the talent potential in the Halifax market.”

Ficker said the company plans to hire about 15 people within the next year and hopes to increase the staff to about 30 within a couple of years.

Founded in 2010, Influitive provides software and services to help companies encourage customers to become their advocates, thereby increasing the value of its network of customers. The idea is that Influitive helps your customers promote your brand and assist you in forming networks of new customers.

The company’s co-founders include David Crow, a regular mentor to Atlantic Canadian companies as a partner in The Next Phase. According to CrunchBase, Influitive has raised a total of $59.8 million since it was formed.

Influitive’s other investors include Atlas Venture, BDC Capital, Converge Venture Partners, CRV, Docomo, Extreme Venture Partners, First Round Capital, Golden Ventures and Leaders Fund.

Earlier this month, Nova Scotia Business Inc. announced that it had approved Influitive for a payroll rebate. If the company employs 30 people as expected, the payroll rebate would amount to $448,000 over five years.

 

Disclosure: NSBI is a client of Entrevestor.

BioLoggers’ $125K Post-Pivot Raise

If a pre-seed company can raise $125,000 from angel investors in 10 minutes, it’s obvious the company has done something right.

In the case of Maritime BioLoggers, what they did right was pivot to help hospitals and pharmaceutical companies improve the transportation of blood samples.

The Halifax company got started a few years ago to help chart the movement of marine species, but last year it began asking healthcare providers whether they could use the BioLoggers technology. The response was overwhelming, and it is about to launch pilot projects with nine European hospitals.

“They were insanely willing to talk to us, which was really surprising,” said Co-Founder Franziska Broell in an interview. “We had long conversations and started to understand there was a huge value in what we were doing.”

A native of Germany, Broell came to Halifax for her PhD in biology at Dalhousie University, where she linked up with Andre Bezanson, a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering. Together, they devised a sensor product that could be tagged to marine animals to track their movements.

After their product was featured in Canadian Geographic and on CBC, oceans researchers began to contact them to buy the product. Broell and Bezanson formed a small business while they continued with their other (mainly academic) pursuits. Their only sales process was to set up a website and wait for people to contact them. They had sales of $150,000 over two years and also got requests from a hospital and pharma company for the product.

By the time the team entered the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic last autumn, they realized they had a problem. Each marine application required customization because a tag for, say, a scallop was different than a tag for a blue whale. They explained to their CDL mentors that they couldn’t grow their business exponentially if they had to customize the sensors for each customer.

Halifax's Beyond Food Raises $1M To Reduce Food Waste

Then they mentioned they had been contacted by a hospital and a pharma company.

“If you have an entrepreneurial mindset and a customer like that comes to you, then the lightbulb goes off,” said Broell. “But neither my co-founder nor I had an entrepreneurial mindset. It’s when you sit in a room with the other entrepreneurs that you see the opportunities.”

The CDL mentors encouraged Broell and Bezanson to explore the healthcare opportunities and the pair found that hospitals alone constituted a huge market for them. Hospitals around the world conduct millions of blood tests each day, and blood samples can be ruined by vibrations, shocks or changes in temperature during transit. The Maritime BioLogger tags can be attached to samples to make sure blood is transported properly or identify problems in blood transportation.

Since November, Broell has been talking to several hospitals and pharma companies. She’s mum about the pharma opportunity, but said the team will soon work with nine European hospitals on three-month pilot projects.

When they reported their progress to the mentors at CDL, Broell and Bezanson told them BioLoggers needed capital to implement the new strategy. Within 10 minutes, they had commitments of $125,000 in funding from five investors. The cheques arrived two weeks later.

Broell said the new business model has happened quickly and she and Bezanson still have things to work out, like how they will price their product and what to do about the residual demand from marine  researchers.

There’s one problem they have sorted out: They’ve agreed on a name-change as the word “Maritime” no longer describes their business. But Broell said they’re not quite ready to reveal the new name.

Hacking Health Set for March in NL

Bounce Health Innovation, the life sciences support group in Newfoundland and Labrador, will hold its second annual Hacking Health St. John’s Hackathon on March 1-3.

Like Startup Weekend, Hacking Health is an international organization that brings together people for a single weekend with the aim of producing healthcare innovations in less than three days.

The event will host healthcare professionals and designers, developers, innovators, and entrepreneurs on Friday, March 1. They will divide into teams and see which group can come up with the best product by Sunday evening.

The event last year gave momentum to the work of Bounce Health Innovation, which is a collaborative group that promotes startups that are working on biotech and life sciences ventures. It has so far helped to nurture several such startups.

The Hackathon will take place at the Faculty of Medicine at Memorial University. You can buy tickets here.

Vertiball Launches Kickstarter Drive

A New Brunswick entrepreneur wants to change the way people approach treating muscle pain.

Curtis Kennedy is the founder of Vertiball, a portable, mountable, rolling massager. The company launched its Kickstarter campaign to manufacture its first order on Tuesday.

Vertiball started out of a personal need for Kennedy. He was looking for a better way to care for his back and muscles after undergoing years of cancer therapy. For years, he was doing what many physiotherapists recommend, laying on a golf or tennis ball.

“Since I was in Grade 6, back and muscle pain has always been a big part of my life. Throughout the course of my day, I would get these very tense muscles in my lower and upper back. I spent most of my life rolling on top of a golf ball or a tennis ball,” says Kennedy.

“I never did it enough as I should have because it’s not really something that fits with your everyday life. To get down and lay on a golf ball three or four times a day, it’s not something that can get into your everyday way of doing things.” . . . 

Read the full story in Huddle.

Also . . . Check out the recent CBC story on Vertiball, which includes a great photo of all the prototypes that Kennedy tried and rejected. 

Liftoff Is Part of John Swan’s Legacy

The Liftoff team, from left: Sergey Labsov, Maksym Bezorudko, Peter Oxley, and Jake Swan.

The Liftoff team, from left: Sergey Labsov, Maksym Bezorudko, Peter Oxley, and Jake Swan.

Jake Swan started Liftoff Capital to help entrepreneurs link up with investors, peers and mentors, but now he sees it as part of the legacy of his late father, the Saint John tech entrepreneur John Swan.

Jake Swan grew up hearing his father, a serial entrepreneur who was Executive Chairman of the tech consultancy Encore Interactive, say entrepreneurs’ greatest challenges are finding investors and mentors. So in 2014, Jake began working on a dating-site concept that would help entrepreneurs expand their networks.

The younger Swan heads a team that launched Liftoff Capital in the autumn and is now at work developing entrepreneur networks, its tentacles extending beyond Atlantic Canada. By the time of the launch, the Swan family had learned that John Swan was suffering from cancer, and the disease claimed him in December.

“Dad was an all-round outstanding guy,” said Jake Swan in an interview last week. “I couldn’t have been luckier than to have him as a father. Dad was a very pragmatic guy. He never got over-excited, but he really liked this idea. He put a lot of himself into it as well, in terms of customer service.”

The Liftoff Capital team is now populating the liftoffcapital.com website, and has about 110 entrepreneurs signed up. Swan said the first 1,000 entrepreneurs who register will enjoy the Liftoff services free for their lifetime. So far most of the registrants are from New Brunswick and the other Maritime provinces, though some founders from Ontario have registered recently. 

Securicy Launches Free Platform for Small Companies. 

Investors can also register for free as the team wants to attract investors – who can remain anonymous on the site so they’re not pestered by startups that need capital.

Swan could not say how much money has been raised through the site, as that is a matter known only to the investors and entrepreneurs. But he did say companies are arranging meetings with potential investors and making sales to people they meet on the site.

“We’ve had a few smaller success stories,” said Swan last week. “I know there’s a meeting scheduled for tomorrow . . . . We’ve made some good introductions and got some good feedback.”

Swan, who makes his living as a physician, heads a four-member team that now oversees the project.   Peter Oxley is in charge of operations while the two IT experts are Sergey Labsov and Maksym Bezorudko.

For now they are all working on Liftoff Capital on the side, and trying to get to that milestone of 1,000 users. Eventually, they hope it will become an essential forum for fundraising and contribute to a growing entrepreneurial community. As a doctor, Swan really hopes it helps grow the medical technology segment and bring new healthcare products to the market. And he wants the company to help memorialize his father, who is still listed among the founders on the website.

“Liftoff Capital was such a positive thing in his life that I think it gave him some inner peace when he was going through his battle with cancer,” said Swan. “We want to honour his legacy and help the business community this way.”

Student Entrepreneurs at SMU for Conference

Conference Keynote Manu

Conference Keynote Manu "Swish" Goswami

Student entrepreneurs from across the country will be in Halifax on Tuesday to begin working with experienced entrepreneurs at the Starting Point Entrepreneurship Conference at Saint Mary’s University.

Starting Feb. 19, the three-day conference will bring student entrepreneurs from post-secondary institutions and high schools together to work with entrepreneurs, CEOs and startup experts. 

The format allows students to focus on developing a business idea or growing an existing business, the organizers said in a statement.

Events include keynote speakers, master classes with successful businesspeople, funder speed dating and the Iron Entrepreneur Tournament.  At the end of the conference, students will have a chance to win cash investments for their businesses.

The Keynote Speaker will be Manu “Swish” Goswami, Startup Canada’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Just 21 years old, Goswami is already a serial entrepreneur, a LinkedIn Youth Editor, a past Fortune 500 consultant for Google and American Express, a venture capitalist, a UN Youth Ambassador, and a three-time TEDx speaker.

Master class instructors include: Kena Paranjape, the Co-Founder of  boutique online retailer BRIKA and the Founder of All You Are; Bailey Parnell, the Founder and CEO of SkillsCamp, a soft skills training company; and Laura Simpson, the CEO and Co-Founder (along with artist, Dan Mangan) of Side Door, a Canadian startup that aims to create greater value and opportunities for performing artists by facilitating shows in houses and other alternative venues.

Since it began in 2015, the conference has hosted 590 student entrepreneurs from post-secondary institutions and high schools from across the country and given over $40,000 in funding and prizes.

The conference is organized by the Saint Mary’s University Entrepreneurship Centre. Over the past five years, SMUEC programs have provided opportunities to more than 4,500 students, allowing them to be engaged in curricular and extra-curricular activities.


 

Securicy Launches Free Platform

Securicy execs Laird Wilton, Darren Gallop and Anthony McQuaid at Techstars in Boston last year.

Securicy execs Laird Wilton, Darren Gallop and Anthony McQuaid at Techstars in Boston last year.

Sydney-based Securicy, which helps medium-sized enterprises meet the cybersecurity requirements of larger customers, has launched free tools to help startups protect their data.

The company announced Wednesday that its new platform is now live, and that it can help young companies understand what they need to do to protect themselves from cyber-criminals.

Securicy was formed in 2016 with the idea that SMEs needed to meet certain cybersecurity thresholds to win contracts from major multi-nationals. But these smaller companies often don’t even know what the requirements are and lose business as a result. Securicy provides a roadmap of what they need to do and helps them implement cybersecurity policies.

“People believe this myth that securing their data comes at a high cost, but that’s not the case anymore,” said Co-Founder and CEO Darren Gallop in a statement. “We are handing over the essential free tools needed to start a strong information security program.”

Gallop and his co-founder Laird Wilton began Securicy when their former startup Marcato Digital, which provides admin software to music festivals and other events, learned it needed cybersecurity certification to work with major corporations like Walt Disney Co. So they launched a new startup that would help others learn what needed to be done in the cybersecurity field.

The company was accepted early in 2018 into the Boston cohort of the prestigious Techstars accelerator, which Gallop says has been a huge help in developing the product and expanding the network.

Smart Engineering: Bringing AI to Building Design

The other major milestone last year was the sale of Marcato in October to Pittsburgh-based Patron Technology for an undisclosed sum. Though Gallop had handed off the day-to-day management of Marcato to others, he said that the sale has allowed him to focus “full-time, 100-percent” on the newer venture, which has been a great relief.

Securicy, which has 13 full-time employees, sells mainly to companies with staffs of 40 to 150 people, and Gallop said its sales have increased about 25 percent since October.

In an interview, Gallop said that his team at Securicy has found that small companies are now learning that they have to upgrade their cybersecurity protocols even to work with mid-sized companies.

In an interview, Gallop said the goal of the free tool released this week is to give a company with fewer than 10 employees the chance to understand the fundamentals of protecting its data. Once the companies adopt the Securicy platform and grow, there is an opportunity for the Sydney company to sell them more sophisticated products so they’re able to win larger contracts without cybersecurity posing problems. He added that Tier 1 investment firms are starting to insist that the companies they back have a cybersecurity program in place, and other investors are considering such a requirement.

The free tools include a customized set of policies that users can edit and configure to meet their own needs, and the ability to track the activity of up to five of their staff members.

Gallop said a lot of companies buy cybersecurity software but don’t even use all the features available to them.

“You should really do this stuff early in the game,” he said. “If you wait . . . you’re really putting yourself in a position where you could lose a deal because of a technicality.”

Densitas Partners with U.S. Beta User

Halifax-based breast imaging analytics company Densitas has announced a collaboration with TeleMammography Specialists of Decatur, Georgia, that will improve the quality of breast screening offered to more than 60,000 women annually.  

TeleMammography Specialists is an international teleradiology services provider and will be the first U.S. beta user for the new densitasquality solution, the company said in a statement. The product will improve the communications and information sharing needed to meet FDA guidelines.

TeleMammography Specialists also plan to implement the recently released densitasdensity automated breast density assessment software. 

“Our goal is to provide tools that reduce the documentation, process and communication burdens of meeting EQUIP (FDA) guidelines and enables sustainable delivery of quality assurance across the mammography enterprise," Mohamed Abdolell, CEO of Densitas, said in the statement.

The Densitas software provides an automated mechanism for quantifying and recording breast tissue density, a risk factor for breast cancer in women. Dense breasts can mask cancerous cells. Dense breast tissue is also linked to higher chances of cancer.

As well as speeding and simplifying the process of quantifying breast density, the Densitas technology standardizes the density measurement and enables stratification of women to ensure those who need more aggressive follow-up receive it.

Abdolell, an associate professor at Dalhousie University’s Department of Diagnostic Radiology, has been pursuing his idea for software that measures breast density since 2011. During that time, a growing number of jurisdictions have begun requiring mammograms to include an assessment of breast density.

The company last year announced it had signed a partnership with Leeds Teaching Hospitals in the U.K. to bring its breast screening technologies into routine clinical workflow.

The company has also received regulatory approval in Australia. The software is used in Nova Scotian hospitals and clinics.

"Densitas will help us provide consistent quality and standardize density assessment among our radiologists," said Martha H. Garrison, President and CEO of TeleMammography Specialists in the statement. "We will be able to more proactively manage the needs of our clients and provide consistently high quality of care."

Propel Adds Six Board Members

From top left: April Dunford, Ted Graham, Craig Haney, Joe Teo, Tara Wickwire, and Özge Yeloğlu

From top left: April Dunford, Ted Graham, Craig Haney, Joe Teo, Tara Wickwire, and Özge Yeloğlu

Propel, the Atlantic Canadian tech accelerator, has almost doubled the size of its board with the appointment of new directors, drawing from its pool of graduates and the broader business community.

The group said its 14-member board includes members beyond Atlantic Canada and features experts with strong involvement in entrepreneurship and the startup community.

“Over the past year, Propel has been undergoing a transformation to be stronger and to add even more value to the startup world in Atlantic Canada,” said Board Chair Jeff White. “The addition of these accomplished individuals with global experience to our board is further demonstration of this positive momentum.”

Propel recently launched Incite, a virtual program that startup founders can take for up to a year, regardless of where they are in Atlantic Canada. It was designed to overcome two challenges of 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.

15 Startups Join Incite Phase 2

Innovacorp, NBIF Back Propel with $1M

The new board members are:

  • April Dunford, Toronto, founder and CEO of Ambient Strategy. As an executive consultant, speaker and author, Dunford helps technology companies make complicated products easy for customers to understand and love.
  • Ted Graham, Toronto, Head of Open Innovation at General Motors where he helps identify partnerships that will help build new forms of mobility including autonomous and connected vehicles.
  • Craig Haney, Waterloo, Ont., Vice President of Europro, a large real estate developer in Ontario. With more than 10 years of experience in corporate innovation, his previous work with Canadian Tire Innovations helped launch the corporate innovation program at Communitech.
  • Joe Teo, St. John’s, CEO of HeyOrca, a social media approval and publishing platform built for marketing agencies. Since raising a combined total of $2.65 Million, HeyOrca has gained rapid traction and powers the social media production of over 400 agencies in the world.
  • Tara Wickwire, Halifax, Senior Director of Marketing and Brand Strategy at National where she leads strategy for profile and reputation building for people and organizations across the region.
  • Özge Yeloğlu, Toronto, the Data & AI Lead at Microsoft Canada. Previously, she was the co-founder and CEO of topLog, a startup focused on predictive data analysis based on unstructured log data.

Teo and Yeloğlu are alumni of Propel's accelerator programs. 

“April, Craig, Joe, Ozge, Tara and Ted bring new leadership, perspective, extensive networks and a wealth of experience to Propel’s board and the startups Propel works with,” said Propel CEO Barry Bisson. “They will be of great value as we continue to foster successful global tech companies right here in Atlantic Canada.”

The other members of Propel’s board are:

  • Robert Cowan, Partner, McInnes Cooper (Halifax)
  • Dave Grebenc, CEO, Innovatia (Saint John)
  • Gerry Lawless, Chief Technology Officer and Chief Evangelist at iWave (Charlottetown)
  • Gerry Pond, Chairman and co-founder, Mariner Partners Inc (Saint John)
  • Jeff Thompson, Director of Software Investment Strategies, CGI (Fredericton)
  • (Board Chair) Jeff White, CEO, New Brunswick Innovation Fund (NBIF) (Fredericton)
  • Mark Dobbin, Founder and President, Killick Capital Inc (St. John’s)
  • Nicole LeBlanc, Director, Direct Investments and Partnerships, Sidewalk Labs (Toronto)
  •  (CEO) Barry Bisson, CEO of Propel (Charlottetown)

 

Disclosure: Propel is a client of Entrevestor.

Bringing AI to Building Design

Reza Rahimi

Reza Rahimi

A team of Dalhousie University faculty members is creating engineering software to partly automate the design of buildings, and has already arranged two pilot projects with its solution.

Smart Engineering, co-founded by faculty members Reza Rahimi and Gordon Fenton, will allow engineers to request a change to a design and then use artificial intelligence to implement the change without compromising the rest of the structure.

“If an engineer wants to move a column from Point A to Point B, they won’t have to redesign the whole building because the software will re-calculate the design for them,” said Rahimi in an interview.

Other drafting software is already widely used in the industry, but Smart Engineering aims to be the first company to offer a product that automates many of the calculations that ensure a building is structurally sound.

The introduction of automation is made possible by a change in how the program uses computer hardware.

Most software runs on a computer’s core processing unit, or CPU. Smart Engineering’s AI will instead run on a computer’s graphics card. A CPU usually has between two and eight cores. The number of cores corresponds to how many computational tasks the computer can complete at once.

A graphics card is only meant to perform the calculations that produce a computer’s visual output, which is displayed on the monitor. A graphics card has less powerful cores than a CPU, but may have thousands of cores, rather than only a handful.

Novonix To Grow With $500K BDP Loan

The increased number of available cores make it possible for many more calculations to be performed simultaneously, which provide the processing power Rahimi and Fenton need for their AI system.

Smart Engineering will market itself to engineering consultancy firms, whose business model is partly volume-based.

Consulting companies bid on large numbers of projects and each bid involves creating a new design. Automation will help them create more designs in less time, while still maintaining safety standards.

Rahimi also plans to target universities, which he hopes will purchase the software for their students. That would mean that the companies the students end up working for would be more inclined to buy it, Rahimi said.

“If they have employees coming in and saying, ‘I’m comfortable with Smart Engineering,’ the employer will be more likely to buy the software,” Rahimi said.

He and Fenton have arranged two pilot projects: one with Dalhousie and one with engineering consultancy firm CBCL Limited.

They plan to begin small-scale testing of the software a year from now, roll out a more complete “beta” version in two years, and have the finished product ready in three.

The software will be cloud-based to limit the hardware requirements for users.

Potential customers have told Rahimi that they would prefer not to pay a monthly subscription because their usage levels will ebb and flow depending on how busy they are. Instead, they will pay for the software on a per-design basis.

Universities, however, will still be offered a monthly subscription model because students practising their skills are likely to use the software more consistently.

The company is aiming to raise enough money from publicly backed funding sources, such as Crown corporation Innovacorp, to pay for the first two years of the development process.

After that, Rahimi says they will look to the private sector.

Startup Canada Seeks Award Entries

Startup Canada has opened nominations for its sixth annual Startup Canada Awards – a contest that Atlantic Canadians have always done well in.

Startup Canada, whose mission is to promote and nurture startups and entrepreneurship across the country, holds regional awards across the country in 17 categories. The regional winners in most of these categories then compete in the national finals.

“The Startup Canada Awards have become Canada’s leading platform to honour those advancing Canada’s entrepreneurial economy and to inspire all of us to take bigger and bolder steps to make a difference here at home and globally,” said Startup Canada President Victoria Lennox in a statement. “We invite entrepreneurs from all backgrounds, industries, and regions to apply and to nominate the organizations and champions that have supported them along the way.”

For the past two years, the national Entrepreneur of the Year Award has been given to an Atlantic Canadian woman. The winner last year was Lisa Williams, Founder of Unicare Home Health Care of Miramichi, NB, and in 2017 the prize went to Anne Whelan,​ ​President​ ​and​ ​CEO of ​Seafair​ ​Capital​ ​Inc. of St. John’s.

You can nominate yourself or someone else for a Startup Canada Award. Nominations are open until March 24, the forms can be found here.

Startup Canada is planning regional ceremonies this spring in Whitehorse, Vancouver, Edmonton, Mississauga, Montreal, and Fredericton, with a finale event taking place in Toronto in October.

Regional awards will be presented in the following categories:

For advancing the Environment and Culture in Canada

Entrepreneur Promotion Award

Entrepreneur Support Award

Policy Innovation Award

Community of the Year

Community Leader of the Year Award

Communities Collaboration Award

For entrepreneur-led Businesses Demonstrating Excellence

Global Award

Innovation Award

Social Enterprise Award

High-Growth Award

For exemplifying the Spirit of Canadian Entrepreneurship

Woman Entrepreneur Award

Young Entrepreneur Award (Under the age of 19)

Indigenous Entrepreneur Award

Newcomer Entrepreneur Award

For outstanding Impact in Canadian Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Adam Chowaniec Lifetime Achievement Award

Entrepreneur's Choice Award

Picomole Wins Funding for Diagnostic Lung Cancer Device

Moncton-based medical technology company Picomole has announced non-dilutive funding for its breath analytics technology, which has the potential to be a low-cost and effective tool for cancer screening.

The announcement Tuesday revealed that the federal government is providing a total contribution of $818,000 for the project through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP).

It includes a conditional loan of $500,000 through ACOA’s Business Development Program, and a non-repayable contribution of up to $318,000 from NRC IRAP. NRC IRAP provided past funding of close to $890,000 to support early research and technology development of the lung cancer detection prototype.

Picomole aims to bring its cancer diagnostic technology a step closer to commercialization with plans to establish a testing lab and start clinical testing, the company revealed in a statement issued by  the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

“We believe we can transform how cancer is diagnosed so it can be caught early and treated quickly, which would save countless lives,” Stephen Graham, Picomole CEO, said in the statement.

The company said that with the help of the Government, it will be able to research, design and purchase parts and equipment needed to finalize their next generation prototype.

Earlier, Picomole revealed that lung cancer kills 154,000 people each year in the U.S. alone. Its product will be used as a fast, inexpensive test when patients visit their doctor to flag patients who need immediate attention.

“We are targeting the high-risk lung cancer population as a start,” Graham said. “We are going to target them business-to-business, through health care professionals and insurance providers.”

Graham said that by detecting lung cancer early, people with the disease improve their chances of living more than five years from 18 percent to 55 percent.

“Probably the most exciting part of it is our ability to apply our device to other diseases,” said Graham. By changing the algorithms in the analyzing system, it could detect breast cancer, or other lung diseases.

Picomole has already raised $2.5 million in equity funding and last year said it is seeking $12 million more to take the device through regulatory approvals.

Novonix To Grow With $500K Loan

Jeff Dahn

Jeff Dahn

Novonix Battery Testing Services Inc., which tests batteries used as alternative power sources, has borrowed $500,000 from the federal government to help develop a new manufacturing facility.

Bedford-based Novonix issued a statement on Monday saying it would receive the money from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program.

In 2013, the company was spun out from Jeff Dahn’s lithium-ion battery research lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax. It was then purchased about two years ago by Australia’s Novonix Limited, with Chinese battery giant CATL also coming in as an investor.

“Novonix is thrilled to be receiving this support from ACOA to expand the capabilities we have here at our facility in Bedford,” said President and CEO Chris Burns in the statement. “The ability to manufacture commercial lithium-ion cells on site opens up a number of opportunities from expanding our internal research and development, to offering further services to customers.”

He added the upgrade will also allow the company to move into small-scale commercial cell manufacturing.

The story of Novonix began in Dahn’s lab, which has gained an international reputation for its research into lithium-ion batteries. Improving the life-span and performance of these batteries is viewed as an essential element in developing markets for green products like electric cars.

The laboratory drew national attention in the summer of 2015 when it signed a five-year research partnership with electric-car-maker Tesla. It marked the first collaboration between Tesla and a Canadian university.

Beyond Food Raises $1M Funding Round

Novonix Co-Founders Chris Burns and David Stevens, both PhDs who worked under Dahn, started the company to develop a product that could reduce the time needed to test the life of these batteries.

The CBC reported in 2017 – the last time Novonix tapped ACOA’s Business Development Program – that it can take months or even years to test lithium-ion batteries with other methods, but Novonix can do it in weeks.

Novonix has sold more than 1,000 testing units, with customers in 12 countries. About half of Novonix’s sales are in North America, with about 35 per cent in Asia and the remaining 15 per cent in Europe. Its clients include such multinational companies as Apple, CATL, 3M, Panasonic and GM.

The company had seven employees at the time of the 2017 buyout and the staff has now grown to 15 people. In the next year, it expects to add five to seven more employees.

With its new funding, Novonix plans to add a pilot manufacturing program to accelerate the research and development of new and improved battery materials.

The statement said the company is getting ready to meet the expected growth in demand for highly efficient batteries, specifically for electric vehicles, as battery prices drop and restrictions increase for diesel and gasoline powered cars.

Said Navdeep Bains, the federal minister responsible for ACOA: “Novonix’s trail-blazing clean-tech work is helping to meet the world’s energy needs, while leaving a cleaner environment for future generations and creating a more vibrant, prosperous future for Atlantic Canadians.”

 

Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor.

Please Help Us With Our Survey

Today, we’re launching our campaign to ask the founders and CEOs of Atlantic Canadian startups to take two minutes to complete our 2018 survey.

We’re working with partners across the region to enhance our annual analysis of the Atlantic Canadian startup community.

We need your help. In the next week, we will contact founders, asking them to take two minutes to answer the 15 questions in the survey. You can find our survey here:

Why should you fill it in? Because Entrevestor’s startup data is the benchmark for the whole region, followed by policy-makers and stakeholders. The greater the participation rate, the better information we will 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.

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.

We’ll have some exciting announcements about the Entrevestor survey in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please do us a huge favour and answer our 15 questions.

Many thanks.

US Tech Magazine Recognizes Harbr

Harbr Co-Founders Dave Kim, left, Jeff Kielbratowski and Ashley Kielbratowski.

Harbr Co-Founders Dave Kim, left, Jeff Kielbratowski and Ashley Kielbratowski.

Halifax-based Harbr has been recognized as one of this year’s Top 10 Construction Technology Solution Providers by CIO Applications, a Silicon Valley-based technology magazine.

Harbr’s recognition is based on an evaluation of its capabilities in retail artificial intelligence for the construction industry.

“Being amongst this prestigious group of construction innovators is tremendous recognition for the progress Harbr is making towards our mission of making it as simple as possible for retailers to build anywhere at scale while maintaining complete control of their brand," Harbr Co-Founder and Head of Product Ashley Kielbratowski said in a statement.

“We are pleased to recognize Harbr for its ability to enable retailers to expand, innovate and grow so they can serve more customers by creating the best possible omni-channel experience,” said Joe Phillip, Managing Editor of CIO Applications. “Harbr is also the only Canadian company among the top 10, which is very impressive."

Harbr has developed a Software-as-a-Service project management platform for retail construction. It defines its mission as making it as simple as possible for retailers to build anywhere at scale while maintaining complete control of their brand.

Jobs: Dash Hudson, Adaptiiv, CDL

Three openings in Halifax headline our Jobs of the Week column today.

Digital health company Adaptiiv is in the market for an Operations Associate, while visual marketing SaaS company Dash Hudson is looking for a Junior Customer Success Representative. Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic, an accelerator that operates out of Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business, has an opening for a Venture Analyst.

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.

Adaptiiv helps in the fight against cancer with customized 3D products, including its 3D Bolus. A bolus is a piece of plastic placed over a cancerous area so radiation hits the bolus, builds up and then is transferred into the tumour. Adaptiiv is able to customize boluses to each patient.

CDL-Atlantic is a seed-stage program for scalable, science-based startups. It comprises five events over nine months and pairs founders with experienced entrepreneurs and investors who set focused, measurable objectives.

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 is an excerpt from the headline posting this week:

Halifax

Adaptiiv

Operations Associate

Adaptiiv Medical Technologies' mission is to be the world's most empathetic healthcare technology company. Every decision we make, every product we launch, and every experience we create is driven from our relentless pursuit of bettering patient outcomes and embodying our values of innovation, precision, and excellence.

We are at the forefront of innovation in healthcare, transforming novel and experimental ideas into real world applications. When any of our decisions could have life-altering effects, we must remain steadfast in our commitment to accuracy and precision. We do not settle for good enough when greatness is what our patients require.

Position Overview:

The Operations Associate will be responsible for assisting and enabling in the day-to-day execution of the organization's finance and operational activities. This position will play a key role in execution of order fulfilment, analytics assessment, report preparation, in addition to ad-hoc finance projects. This position reports directly to the Manager, Finance and Operations however the candidate will work closely with other members of the organization. The Operations Associate will be tasked with ensuring the removal of all barriers to execution to ensure the continued success of the organization. . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Creative Destruction Lab Atlantic

Venture Analyst

The Venture Analyst will support the CDL-Atlantic operations including venture recruiting, business development support and initiatives to support the growth and continuous improvement of the program.

Responsibilities

Build relationships with investors, incubators and accelerators and technology associations to secure a strong pipeline of high quality CDL-Atlantic applicants.

Support CDL-Atlantic operations, including venture recruiting, providing business development support to CDL-Atlantic Ventures, and supporting the growth and continuous improvement of the program.

Provide business development support to program participants, including coordinating the participants to receive feedback by their mentors.

Support CDL-Atlantic operations including event planning as required.

Qualifications

Undergraduate degree in Business or related field with 3 to 5 years of experience (or equivalent combination of training and experience) is required. Masters Degree in Business or a related field is an asset. Experience in STEM/ technology-related fields and demonstrated experience with start-ups, technology companies or venture capital would be highly preferred. Tact and diplomacy in order to build and maintain strong relationships with program participants and multiple levels of stakeholders is required. Understanding of business models and drivers of success in start-ups across several verticals is a strong asset. Strong analytical and organizational skills are required. . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Dash Hudson

Junior Customer Success Representative

Dash Hudson is a smarter way to market through photo and video. Our visual intelligence platform provides brands with 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 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.

Bend Beauty Aims To Be Global Brand

Marc St-Onge: 'We want to position ourselves as a leader in this space.'

Marc St-Onge: 'We want to position ourselves as a leader in this space.'

A Halifax-based company has created a new skin care line that claims to treat your skin from the inside out. 

Bend Beauty is a high-end skin-care company that produces ingestible supplements that reduce inflammation in the skin and build its resistance against UV radiation.

Customers take a daily dose of the supplements, in liquid or capsule form. The company says this will improve elasticity and overall health of the skin within weeks.

The company now has two products on the market: its Anti-Aging Formula and Marine Collagen + Co Factors, are both formulated with special ingredients.

“It’s essentially skin care from the inside out,” said CEO Marc St-Onge during an interview. St-Onge said new skin care treatments like his are emerging in the natural health and cosmetics market because traditional treatments, like creams and salves, are not always effective.

“You miss spots and forget to reapply,” said St-Onge.

But the Bend Beauty line isn’t supposed to replace current skin care solutions. A bottle of Bend Beauty’s Anti-Aging Formula or Marine Collagen + Co Factors retails for $80 and $44 respectively. Its products are sold in spas and naturopathic clinics across North America.

According to St-Onge, the company serves between 200 to 300 customers, including A-list users who can’t be named for legal reasons.

Its ranking is the effect of the years of research that went into developing the products.

The initial ideas for what would become Bend Beauty began in 2009 inside a Dalhousie University-based research lab of St-Onge’s first company, Ascenta Health.

After receiving $500,000 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, St-Onge started to develop Ascenta Skin, a new type of skin care treatment.

“A lot of the core research originated at Ascenta Health,” said St-Onge. “So that was something I brought forward into this new venture.”

Then, in 2015, Ascenta exited in a sale to Nature’s Way, a herbal supplement company from Wisconsin, for an undisclosed amount. With new capital in hand, St-Onge devoted his time to researching his new idea for skin care.

“We just realized we had this really interesting IP we developed from Ascenta,” he said. “One of the conditions in that sale was to carve out all that skincare IP, and it would come along with me.”

In 2017, the company conducted an eight-week clinical trial with 30 people and got its anti-aging and anti-inflammatory claims approved by Health Canada.

The company will celebrate its fourth anniversary this May.

St-Onge said new products are coming down the pipeline, and he hopes to conduct clinical trials for one come springtime. On top of rallying 75 subjects for the trial, St-Onge is focusing on scaling the business and growing Bend into a global brand.

“We want to position ourselves as a leader in this space so we’re continuing to do research,” he said.

 

Correction: The original article included some inaccurate information. The article may have given the impression that Bend Beauty’s Anti-Aging Formula and Marine Collagen + Co Factors both contain Vitamins C and D and fish collagen. These ingredients are included in one or the other of the products but not in both. The retail price of Marine Collagen + Co Factors is $44 not $40. These products are not sold at health food stores.

2 Exits That Shaped NB’s Ecosystem

The idea for one of Fredericton’s latest tech startups was dreamed up on a hike in Scotland.

As Duncan McSporran and Ryan Groom, the co-founders of Kognitiv Spark cleared their heads in the outdoors and talked about augmented-reality software that could be used for industrial-worker support. McSporran, then in the military, thought it could have the potential for the armed forces.

“It was essentially a meeting of the minds where we put together what we thought would work for workers,” said Yan Simard, who became CEO of the company that launched in 2016.

Kognitiv Spark is the kind of business that emerged in the years since 2011 when two back-to-back exit deals totalling nearly a billion dollars were made.

Salesforce, a San Francisco-based software company, bought Radian6, a Fredericton-based social media monitoring company, for $326 million. Shortly thereafter, IBM bought Q1 Labs, another Fredericton startup, for $600 million.

The Fredericton ecosystem that has developed since then has allowed for the emergence of new businesses ranging from SomaDetect, an agri-tech business, to HomeWurk, a student-founded online platform that pairs people with odd jobs for work. Most recently, a co-founder and a CEO from of Q1 Labs launched Sonrai Security, a cybersecurity startup that attracted 18.5-million in investment. . . .

See the full story at Huddle.

 

Alexandre Silberman is a journalism and political science student at St. Thomas University.

NS Social Venture Fund Launched

The Social Enterprise Network of Nova Scotia and the national Social Enterprise Ecosystem Project have joined up to launch the province’s first impact investment fund, the Social Enterprise Impact Investment Pilot.

The two groups issued a press release Wednesday saying they worked collaboratively to bring the national funds to Nova Scotia to help people looking to start a social enterprise.

The press release says the funding will “level the playing field” for social entrepreneurs. It addresses the long-standing problem of more capital being available for innovation-based companies than for ventures whose main goal is to benefit society and the environment.

“We are thrilled to be able to deepen our work in supporting social enterprises across the province,” said SENNS President Cathy Deagle Gammon in a statement. “This investment fund means more access to capital, which means more opportunity for startup success and growth, something our social enterprises need in order to have a lasting impact in our communities.”

The fund will provide between $1,000 and $15,000 to successful applicants, either as a loan or an equity investment. It will not make grants to companies.

Applicants will be assessed on both their business case (including the opportunity, business plan, leadership team, and community support) as well as the venture’s social or environmental mission. The assessment will consider the financial sustainability of the proposal and whether it has the ability to grow and expand its social impacts.

Applications for the fund are available here.

SENNS is a non-profit, member-led society, building a movement on behalf of social enterprises across the province. It is committed to advocating on behalf of entrepreneurs and businesses whose missions involve strengthening our communities.

Genome Atlantic Fighting Superbugs

Halifax-based non-profit Genome Atlantic has announced the development of a $1.4 million research project to develop new surveillance tools to help identify and track genes involved in superbugs.

In a statement, Genome Atlantic said that bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, posing an enormous risk to the agri-food industry and to the health of Canadians.

A team of researchers at Dalhousie University, Simon Fraser University, McMaster University and the Public Health Agency of Canada will work to develop new surveillance tools to help identify and track the problem genes. The research team want to know which genes are being shared, which bacteria are sharing genes, and how bacteria are moving between habitats. 

“Resistance genes can be shared by pathogenic bacteria, and these resistant bacteria also move between habitats, such as agricultural soil and farm animals,” said Dr. Robert Beiko of Dalhousie University, who is one of the research leads.  

“To track this process, we will develop informatics algorithms and software that will shift how we look at AMR (Antimicrobial Resistance) from a static “snapshot” to a dynamic view of AMR transmission.”  

Once the tools are developed, they will be tested by using thousands of genomes of Salmonella, E. coli, and other pathogenic bacteria collected by partners in the Public Health Agency of Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the statement said. The integrated software modules developed through the project will be open-sourced and freely available.

The project, Antimicrobial Resistance: Emergence, Transmission, and Ecology (ARETE) is being funded by Genome Canada’s Bioinformatics and Computational Biology funding program with additional funding from The Public Health Agency of Canada, The Research Nova Scotia Trust, Simon Fraser University, McMaster University, and Compute Canada.  The project is led by Genome Atlantic and supported by Genome BC.

Beyond Food Raises $1M Round

TJ Galiardi, left, and Darren Burke

TJ Galiardi, left, and Darren Burke

Halifax-based Beyond Food Inc. has closed a $1 million funding round to help it launch its system that will convert aging supermarket produce into a powdered food supplement.

The company issued a press release this week saying it raised the money from a range of investors, including several National Hockey League players. The company’s website shows that it plans now to develop its first Zero Waste Pod this month and to launch its first partnership with a national supermarket chain in April.

The company was formed two years ago with a core of sports and health enthusiasts. Its mission is to reduce food wastage, which now amounts to $31 billion a year in Canada alone, by finding supermarket produce that is about to be tossed out and using it to make a nutritional food supplement. It sells nutrition products under the brand TDF Sports.

“We are building a revolutionary technology and company,” said Co-Founder and CEO Darren Burke in a statement. “Our Zero Waste Pod is a first in this race to tackle the large challenges related to the excessive food waste occurring in North America and beyond.”

Burke is a serial entrepreneur, who sold his previous company Rivalus Sports Nutrition, Inc. in 2013. He linked up two years ago with former NHL forward TJ Galiardi to plot a business that would develop a product from food that would otherwise be wasted. The management team they assembled includes First Angel Network Co-Founder Brian Lowe, who previously held senior positions with such Halifax companies as Immunovaccine Technologies and ABK Biomedical.

They learned that a huge cause of food waste is grocers discarding produce that is unsold at its expiry date. Their solution is the patent-pending Zero Waste Pod, a modular facility about the size of a shipping container. It can process aging fruits and vegetables into a fine powder that can become an all-natural, nutritious ingredient in food manufacturing.

Numus Financial Backs Spain's Nodalblock

“As for our Zero Waste Pod, it’s being completed in our facility in Dartmouth,” said Burke in an email. “Once complete, we will be conducting numerous tests to get it ready for deployment in the summer.”

She added the company – which employs 20 people – is planning partnerships with “major national and international” retail chains in the coming months.

To finance the growth, Beyond Food has received investment from Truro businessmen Stu Rath and Jamie Bagnell.  The investor group also includes pro hockey players Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks, Adam Lowry of the Winnipeg Jets, and John-Michael Liles of the Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Beyond Food had previously raised funding from friends and family in 2017 to get the company going.

The company said the recent financing will help to expand the engineering and sales teams as well as develop new partnerships with key organizations, universities and grocers.

“Our work on creating a clean food upcycling technology was very important for Darren and I,” Galiardi, the Chief Marketing Officer, said in the statement. “We have backgrounds in science and athletics and are both passionate about the environment, health and fitness.”

NB Funding Up 400%+ in 2018

Resson Co-Founders Rishin Behl, left, and Peter Goggin.

Resson Co-Founders Rishin Behl, left, and Peter Goggin.

Any time an economic metric more than quadruples in one year, you have to figure it was a pretty good year. So, 2018 was definitely a good period for funding by New Brunswick startups.

Though all the funding from last year has yet to be announced, the deals that are already public amount to about $69 million in 2018. This compares with the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association’s finding that New Brunswick companies raised $16 million in 2017.

Admittedly, 2017 was a weak year for funding in the province, but the amount of equity capital raised in 2018 was off the charts. Maybe this puts it in perspective: the whole Atlantic Canadian startup community raised about $72 million in 2016, and that was a record year for funding across the whole region at the time.

The big reason for last year’s boom in New Brunswick funding was the three big deals that accounted for about four-fifths of the total funding.

Sonrai Security, a recently formed cybersecurity company with a sterling management team, raised US$18.5 million (C$24.6 million), almost all from two American venture capital funds. Relationship intelligence company Introhive said in June that it had raised US$15.2 million in an equity-and-debt round led by Toronto-based venture capital firm Lake Bridge Capital. (The equity portion of that deal is equivalent to C$16.2 million.) And AgTech data company Resson in May said it had raised $14 million with Indian conglomerate Mahindra & Mahindra taking the lead.

Here are the funding deals that were announced in 2018:

Company                          Amount              Lead investors

Sonrai Security                $24.6M               Polaris Partners, TenEleven Ventures.

IntroHive                          $16.2M               Lake Bridge Capital

Resson                             $14M                  Mahindra & Mahindra

Eigen Innovations             $3.5M                 Globalive Technology

Smart Skin                        $3.1M                 Schott AG

Chinova Bioworks             $2.6M                 DSM Venturing, Rhapsody Venture

Beauceron Security          $1.5M                 New Brunswick Innovation Foundation

Avrij Analytics                    $1.2M                 NBIF

Jaza Energy                      $750K                  NBIF, Angels

Stash Energy                     $500K                  NBIF, Island Capital Partners

EhEye                                $500K                  NBIF

SomaDetect*                     $250K                  NBIF

Eyesover Technologies      $200K                  NBIF

*SomaDetect also announced an investment from Dairy Farmers of America without revealing the amount.

The super year for funding in New Brunswick was the pillar of a very good year across Atlantic Canada. Again, the final tallies aren’t in yet, but high-growth companies in the region probably raised about $160 million. Assuming that’s the final number, that would be a gain of more than one-third from $116 million in 2017, which was itself a record year. Any way you cut it, we see green arrows pointing up.

Looking at New Brunswick specifically, the big thing to notice is that about $60 million of the investment came from institutions outside Atlantic Canada. That’s almost 90 percent of the investment in the province’s startups last year. Around 2014, we started noticing that institutions outside the region accounted for more investment than those headquartered on the East Coast. Now they account for the lion’s share.

That’s important for two reasons: first, there’s a finite pool of capital within the region whereas institutions in other places have more capital than our startups could ever use. And every time an Atlantic Canadian company attracts foreign capital, it chisels away at the stigma of Canada’s East Coast being – dare I say it – a backwater.

That’s not to say the local investment groups had a bad year. NBIF, the non-profit organization that oversees the New Brunswick government’s innovation policy, has invested in all the companies listed above. And it had a couple of exits in its portfolio when video analytics company EhEye and fluid analysis company Envenio found buyers.

 

Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor

SMU Centre Targets Social Ventures

Michael Sanderson: 'You can create revenue but also do things for the world.'

Michael Sanderson: 'You can create revenue but also do things for the world.'

As it extends its mandate beyond the university’s business school, the Saint Mary’s University Entrepreneurship Centre is focusing more heavily on helping students launch social enterprises.

Founded almost two decades ago as the Sobey School Business Development Centre, the SMU Entrepreneurship Centre helps students learn about entrepreneurship and start their own businesses. It is now broadening the mandate to work with students from all faculties, not just the Sobey School of Business.

The focus on social ventures – companies whose central mission is to benefit society or the planet as well as make money – is already in the centre’s lifeblood. It has a long history with Enactus, an international group that works with students at post-secondary schools around the world to form social ventures.  

“We’ve seen the success and the opportunities when people get involved in social innovation,” said Director Michael Sanderson in an interview. “You can create revenue but also do things for the world.”

The centre’s involvement with social ventures goes back 17 years to when the centre began its Options Youth program to help troubled youth find jobs by offering employment training. Now, he said, social innovation could be a “real game-changing opportunity” for the centre.

“We are putting a significant amount of effort to say we know social enterprise because we are building an entrepreneurship mindset that specifically resonates with students,” said Sanderson, who joined the centre 17 years ago and became director last March.

Halifax's MTI and Carboncure Named to the Global Cleantech 100

The SMU Entrepreneurship Centre has already had success in generating social ventures, such as Square Roots, which grew out of its Enactus initiative.

Aiming to reduce food waste and help low-income people, Square Roots works with farmers to find produce that would be rejected by normal supermarkets because it’s an odd shape or is unappealing. The company sells bundles of this food to low-income customers, the price depending on what they can afford.

Since launching, the company has distributed over 17,000 pounds of food to hundreds of families, while bringing in nearly $14,000 in revenue, according to its website.

Although the business model is quite simple, Sanderson said, Square Roots has been globally recognized. The team was invited to the Global Restaurant Leadership Forum in Dubai last year to present its social enterprise idea. It gave the young entrepreneurs a chance to discuss the initiative and they met with the CEOs of world-class companies, such as Coca-Cola.

As well as launching social ventures, the Entrepreneurship Centre helps companies to grow and bring on workers. It offers a 50 percent wage subsidy to small and medium-sized companies for hiring youth across the Atlantic region.

Sanderson is also a strong believer in partnership when it comes to serving the public good. One of the centre’s key programs is The Spark Zone, which aims to help students work on business ideas and social innovation. As well as Saint Mary’s, The Spark Zone is backed by NSCAD University, Mount Saint Vincent University, Nova Scotia Community College, University of King’s College, and the Atlantic School of Theology.

“We all have our roles and it’s better if we find our uniqueness and work together,” Sanderson said. “That’s the idea behind The Spark Zone.”

NBIF Names Breakthru Semi-Finalists

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation has announced the semi-finalists for its 2019 Breakthru Competition, which will award more than $500,000 in prize money next month.

The New Brunswick early-stage venture capital organization holds the competition every second year to find and nurture the next wave of startups in the province. It provides mentorship programs for all the participants, and development capital to three winners.

“We use the same criteria to judge these business plans that we do for all our investments: analysis of the product, team, market and financials,” said Daniel Hoyles, an investment analyst at the NBIF. “All of the applicants [this year] were great, but the teams that are moving on were really successful in demonstrating customer validation, and showing that there was a viable pipeline for their product.”

The 10 semi-finalists are:

Aurea Technologies (Cat Adalay and Rachel Carr) – Portable wind turbine to create and store energy for USB devices.

Better Than Reality (Daniel Kane, Esther Sangodoyin, and Harpreet Kohli) – Virtual reality training platform for nuclear facilities and utility operators.

Canum Nanomaterials Inc. (Kyle Woods, Alex Clarkin, Francois Michaud, Jayson Brown, and Felipe Chibante) –  Nanomaterial manufacturing technology that produces fullerenes, which are often used in the skin-care industry for their anti-oxidant and anti-aging properties.

Enso Beverage Company Inc. (Henry Yates) – Premium wine packaged in convenient single-serve cans.

Gray Wolf (Matthew Sampson, Paul Aaron Frank, Ekta Sharma, and Jasmine Le Anne Lim) – Analytics platform and analysis tools for enterprise blockchain in the energy utility sector.

Lincoln Air Dynamics (Mike Rushton) – Particulate-reduction system that improves air quality and reduces particulate matter quantities in polluted workplace environments.

Potential Motors (Nick Dowling, Sam Poirier, and Isaac Barkhouse) – Electric conversion kit that simplifies the process of converting fossil fuel vehicles to electric.

Punchfiles.com (Ross Culberson) – Web application that helps farmers capture food safety compliance and maintenance records more efficiently.

R I D D L (Jenelle Sobey, Vanessa Paesani, and Jess Peters) – Cloud-based software that provides investment groups with the information and data needed to make the right investment decisions.

Sensory Friendly Solutions (Christel Seeberger) – Mobile app that allows people with sensory sensitivities to find, share and rate sensory-friendly spaces.

“We had really strong applications from companies ranging from clean tech to blockchain to augmented reality,” said Hoyles. “The Energia Accelerator at UNB in particular was able to produce some great candidates, which is fantastic because it feels like the competition has benefited from the presence of an innovative provincial accelerator.”

The Breakthru competition held its second entrepreneur bootcamp this weekend, which focused on pitching to investors and creating a slide deck. The teams now have one more chance to adjust their business plans before NBIF chooses five teams to pitch to a panel of judges March 14.

Winners and prizes will be announced at the Breakthru LIVE Awards Dinner on March 21. You can purchase tickets here.

Job of the Week: SDR at Harbr

Harbr Co-Founders Dave Kim, left, Jeff Kielbratowski and Ashley Kielbratowski.

Harbr Co-Founders Dave Kim, left, Jeff Kielbratowski and Ashley Kielbratowski.

Our Job of the Week column today showcases a position as a Sales Development Representative at Halifax’s Harbr, which makes software for the construction industry.

Harbr, which has made a commitment to gender parity in its hiring, has developed a Software-as-a-Service project management platform for retail construction. It defines its mission as making it as simple as possible for retailers to build anywhere at scale while maintaining complete control of their brand.

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 is an excerpt from the headline posting this week:

Halifax

Harbr

Sales Development Representative

At Harbr we're a team of creative and experienced technology entrepreneurs. We are well-funded by an impressive group of real-estate and construction leaders, technology angel investors and venture capital.

We're looking for a self-motivated, organized individual who is eager to lead the growing demand for our solutions and to drive new customer growth. We are a very focused, collaborative team who grow with working together to reach the moon.

Responsibilities

You will be the initial point of contact for the top of the sales funnel for the entire company. The SDR is often our customer's first experience with Harbr, you ought to be able to make a great first impression to earn the right to qualify our leads and identify what the appropriate next steps should be. You should have great social skills, be highly organized and have experience dealing with cold leads. You should possess excellent oral and written communication skills and be passionate about sales and process.

Research potential accounts, identify key players, and generate interest

Qualify inbound/outbound leads and generate SQLs for AEs

Interact with prospects via telephone, email and Linkedin

Develop a strategy to reach potential customers

Help highlight where we need to improve with regard to sales

Help route inbound through the web, qualifying them as a lead to pass off to an account executive

Work closely with business team to ensure monthly and quarterly goals are being hit

Ability to move fast and work together . . .

Read the full job posting here.

SolarAssist To Help NS Go Solar

Nova Scotians can now access a free, interactive online tool to help them assess their solar potential and calculate how much they’d save by installing solar panels.

SolarAssist is a new web platform that gives Nova Scotians the tools and information to determine whether their home is a good candidate for solar panels, the developer, sustainability agency R&G Strategic, said in a statement.

The tool uses a resident’s location, Nova Scotian weather, and kilowatt-hour consumption data to estimate a homeowner’s solar energy generation potential, the amount of money they could save, and their available solar incentives, rebates and programs.

The statement said that solar technology has been considered an expensive option, but better technology, declining up-front costs and increased government incentives are now making solar installation affordable.

“Renewable energy isn’t some distant future, it’s now,” said Sarah Riley Rosen, Director of Strategy for R&G, which helps sustainable businesses in the marketplace.

“We wanted to help give people interested in solar energy an access point. Now, with our online calculator, everyone can find how easy it is to go solar, and why they should.”

The statement said that SolarAssist was made possible by the Nova Scotia Department of Energy and Mines, and Clean Foundation, with help from R&G Strategic, the Halifax Regional Municipality and Solar Nova Scotia.

Numus Backs Spain’s Nodalblock

Nodalblock CTO Ariano Hernandez, left, and RFEF President Luis Rubiales

Nodalblock CTO Ariano Hernandez, left, and RFEF President Luis Rubiales

When the Royal Spanish Football Federation announced this week that it was adopting a blockchain-based ticket distribution system, it brought in a tech company that is partly based in Halifax.

The federation – whose official name is the Real Federación Española de Fútbol, or RFEF – said this week it had partnered with technology company Nodalblock to develop a ticketing system based on blockchain, the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies.

While Nodalblock was founded in Madrid and still 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 CEO Daniel Faria. The company has a range of products including digital identity, document verification and ticket distribution, and now it is helping the governing body of Spanish soccer protect and verify the tickets to its games.

“I would argue this is one of the most interesting blockchain announcements so far in terms of actual application,” Brenan Isabelle, Nodalblock’s Halifax-based Sales Director, said in an interview.

The story of the Halifax involvement in Nodalblock began when Numus Financial, the investment company headed by serial entrepreneur Wade Dawe, began searching the world for blockchain-based startups.

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. Numus found that Nodalblock was a blockchain company that actually had sales and therefore led an investment round for the Spanish company and therefore the Halifax investment firm. Numus did not reveal the size of the investment.

CarbonCure, MTI Named to Global Cleantech 100. 

Though Dawe and Numus are most active in the resource sector, they have backed several innovative companies, such as: drug discovery company Immunovaccine Technologies; construction software company Harbr; and Bereda Training, which is making a collaborative tool for endurance athletes.

To head Nodalblock, they brought in Faria, an MIT-trained native of Portugal, who has been involved in a few recent ventures in Nova Scotia. He was first recruited to the province by Jim DeLeskie, CEO of Sydney-based Mimir Networks and has been based in Halifax for a few years.

Now he has worked with Nodalblock to provide a state-of-the-art solution for a problem encountered by many sports and entertainment organizations. The problem of ticket fraud and price-gouging is becoming more and more prevalent. Nodalblock will use blockchain to ensure the football federation can track who owns tickets to games and ensure that only people who have bought digital tickets from accredited sellers can enter the games.  

“Technology supplied by Nodalblock will enable the RFEF to digitize traditional tickets as interactive assets on a blockchain, making each ticket fully traceable during its lifecycle,” said the RFEF in a statement.  “This system will integrate with the official and authorized sales channels of the RFEF without any special requirements for fans, who will now be able to use their smartphones to manage tickets and enter events by scanning a unique code at the gate.”

LeBlanc, Beaton Join Innovacorp Board

Nicole LeBlanc

Nicole LeBlanc

Innovacorp has named Nicole LeBlanc, Director of Investments and Partnerships at Sidewalk Labs, and women's leadership advocate Eleanor Beaton to its board of directors.

The Nova Scotia early-stage venture capital group issued a statement Thursday saying the two natives of the Maritimes would be joining the eight-member board. All board members are volunteers.

A native of St. George, N.B, LeBlanc now works in Toronto for Sidewalk Labs, the urban innovation arm of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. She previously worked as an investment professional for such groups as BDC Capital and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, managing early-stage investments for more than 100 companies.

“I’m very excited to help Innovacorp advance its mission of making Nova Scotia one of the top 10 startup ecosystems in the world,” said LeBlanc in the statement. “Nova Scotia’s start-up ecosystem has incredible growth potential.”

Originally from Windsor, Beaton is an award-winning entrepreneur, speaker and women’s leadership development mentor. Through her speaking opportunities, live events and training programs, she helps ambitious professional women and business owners develop the confidence and influence they need to be stronger leaders.

The Seasoning of PEI’s Ecosystem

Jordan Patterson, left, and Scott Gallant, Co-Founders of Forestry.io

Jordan Patterson, left, and Scott Gallant, Co-Founders of Forestry.io

The pillars of a startup ecosystem – working spaces, university, funding agency, support organizations, network of mentors – have been in place for well over a year. A recent visit to the P.E.I. capital showed how these components are now maturing.

The funding body Island Capital Partners has backed six companies, and has a pipeline of others. Startup Zone, the downtown entrepreneurship hub, has worked with 60 companies and is emphasizing mentorship like never before. And the granddaddy of Island support organizations, the PEI BioAlliance, is reporting success at attracting companies, including startups, to Charlottetown.

If there is one item that troubles some stakeholders it is the challenge of finding tech talent, especially developers. It’s a problem I’ve heard before from P.E.I. companies. There is a global demand for tech development talent and the need is especially strong in Charlottetown.

The P.E.I. startup community, concentrated in Charlottetown, is surprisingly diverse for a province with a population of 152,000, and it is benefitting from a strong underlying economy. The Island’s population has increased 12 percent this century, and GDP increased about 2.2 percent last year, building on 3.2 percent growth the year before.  

With this backdrop, Island Capital Partners has been approached by 82 companies in 18 months, including some willing to move operations to the province to gain ICP funding and mentorship.

Martin Yuill Heads to Cleantech Commons in Peterborough, Ont.

“We’ve been surprised by the number of companies that have approached us and by the number of off-Island companies that have come to us knowing our mandate is to invest in P.E.I. companies,” Stefanie Corbett, the group’s Director of Operations, said in an interview at the Kettle Black coffee shop.

Added Managing Director Alex MacBeath: “I’m impressed with the quality of companies we’ve seen.”

Three doors away, Startup Zone CEO Patrick Farrar is working to improve the quality further, with a focus on boosting sales. Though it’s known mainly as a work space, Farrar emphasizes that Startup Zone is ramping up its mentorship of companies, broadening its network of coaches in such fields as sales, marketing and product development. The overall goal is to drive sales for its young companies.

In another working space for tech companies, LaunchPadPEI, three-year-old Forestry.io is showing signs of growth. The ICP portfolio company, which has developed a content management system for static site generators, has moved into a larger office, is taking on more clients and is increasing its staff.

“We’re at 11 [employees] now and will grow to 20 by the end of the year,” said CEO Scott Gallant. “We’re going to hire as many as we can locally, but we don’t know what that’s going to look like.”

Gallant has a range of well-paid openings for senior people, including developers, but said finding the talent in P.E.I. is difficult.

The labour market is kinder to life sciences companies, which are buoyed by the bioscience programs at University of PEI and other local research institutes. What’s more, the BioAlliance has a human resources specialist to help biotech companies find and nurture the experts they need.

Martin Yuill, the outgoing Director of the Emergence life science incubator, said in an interview that the bio sector is seeing “a very strong attraction of companies into the province”, many of them early stage companies. In some cases, he said, companies are setting up R&D teams in Charlottetown, and in others the founders themselves are moving to the Island.

Two NS Companies in Cleantech 100

George Palikaras

George Palikaras

Two fast-growing Nova Scotian companies have been named to the 2019 Global Cleantech 100, an international list of companies deemed most likely to solve clean technology challenges.

Dartmouth-based CarbonCure Technologies, which is working to reduce the carbon footprint of the concrete industry, and Halifax-based Metamaterial Technologies, which has developed a new class of smart materials, were selected from over 13,000 innovators from more than 90 countries. They were among 12 Canadian companies named.

It’s the fourth consecutive year that CarbonCure has made the list, the company said in a statement. CarbonCure has become a leader in the global CO2 Capture and Utilization (CCU) industry. The sector is estimated to be valued at $1 trillion by 2030.

“The Global Cleantech 100 award recognizes successes achieved by our team and partners at making concrete more sustainable and prosperous,” Rob Niven, Founder and CEO of CarbonCure, said in a statement.

“This prestigious recognition will play a critical role in helping us realize our goals of technological advancements and geographic expansion, with the ultimate vision aimed toward reducing up to 500 megatonnes of carbon dioxide annually.”

Concrete is the second most abundant man-made material in the world, and cement, its key ingredient, is responsible for an estimated seven percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

CarbonCure’s technology is already being used by more than 120 concrete producers across North America and is expanding into Asia. The company is also one of 10 finalists in the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE challenge.

Carboncure's Tech To Be Added to 11 More Plants

MTI, Mitacs, Dal in $1.6M Project

George Palikaras, Founder and CEO of Metamaterial, said the team is proud to have made the Cleantech list for the first time.  The company is working with Airbus to produce metaAIR, a transparent screen that fits onto cockpit windshields to filter out laser beams.  Metamaterial also recently announced it will work with Dalhousie University and Mitacs on a $1.62 million project to explore light manipulation for use in a range of commercial applications.

The project will be the largest ever financed in Atlantic Canada by Mitacs, a national non-profit organization that finances research projects between industry and universities.

“Our mission is to master light through disruptive technology to improve life on earth,” Palikaras said in a statement. “Our innovations have the potential to revolutionize multiple industries towards a sustainable future.”

Cleantech Group was established in 2002 and is headquartered in San Francisco with a presence in London. A statement from the group said this year’s list—the tenth—was made by an international 87-member panel comprised of leading investors and experts active in technology and innovation scouting.

“Our tenth edition is dominated by innovations for the future of food and mobility, and a decentralized and digitized future not only for energy, but for the industrial world more generally,” said Richard Youngman, CEO of Cleantech Group.

“This is a far cry from the dominance of hardware, solar and biofuels in the inaugural Global Cleantech 100 in 2009.”

Yuill Heads To Peterborough, Ont.

Martin Yuill, right, will be heading the Cleantech Commons in Peterborough

Martin Yuill, right, will be heading the Cleantech Commons in Peterborough

Martin Yuill will step down as the head of Charlottetown-based Emergence life sciences incubator next month to head the new Cleantech Commons in Peterborough, Ont.

Under Yuill’s leadership, Emergence has grown into a business development support organization for biotech companies inside and outside Atlantic Canada, and has built up a portfolio of 73 Canadian companies. He is departing as the organization aims to develop more of a presence in each Atlantic Province. He will leave Emergence Feb. 28.

The next day, Yuill will become the founding Executive Director of Cleantech Commons and his mission will be to convert what is now an empty 85-acre field into a thriving research and entrepreneurship centre for clean technologies.

“While it is with a heavy heart that I will be saying goodbye to my many new friends and colleagues in Atlantic Canada, I am honoured to have been tapped for this exciting new opportunity.,” said Yuill in an email to stakeholders this week.

A native of South Africa, Yuill came to Charlottetown in 2016 to join the PEI BioAlliance as its head of accelerators and incubators and to build out Emergence. The BioAlliance in 2014 had received funding for the incubator from the federal government’s Canadian Accelerators and Incubators Program, or CAIP, and wanted to build a facility that could nurture life sciences companies on P.E.I. and beyond.

With Yuill at the head, Emergence evolved into a facility that aided a core of companies in Atlantic Canada, and other companies across Canada to build out its network. About 65 percent of the companies are pre-revenue and 45 percent of them are headed by women, Yuill said in an interview.

Atlantic Canadian Startups Are Tapping Accelerators Outside the Region

With CAIP funding expiring in March, organizers are working on the next generation of Emergence. The goal is for Emergence to have personnel in each of the four Atlantic Provinces, to develop common mentorship programs across the region and help to harmonize support provided by the provincial biotech groups.

Meanwhile, Yuill will be launching the new facility near Trent University with the goal of growing it into Canada’s premiere CleanTech facility. His initial job will be to oversee construction of the first building on the site, negotiating its financing and finding its first tenants. He hopes to achieve that within a year. He will have to begin developing a network for the new park, ranging from the financial community in Toronto to academics at the neighbouring university.

“This is an exciting time for Cleantech Commons,” Leo Groarke, President and Vice-Chancellor of Trent University, said in a statement.  “Martin brings a wealth of experience in launching community economic development initiatives and the commercialization of university research.”

Yuill has previously worked in the innovation space in Peterborough (as well as Kelowna, B.C., and South Africa), which helped in winning the top job at Cleantech Commons. In an interview, he said the new opportunity only came together over the holidays.

Yuill is optimistic about the outlook for bio-science companies in Atlantic Canada and believes their ecosystem will be strengthened if an enlarged Emergence works with the local biotech organizations.

Said Yuill: “With the strengthening of a key program like Emergence across the region…you’re really pulling together the collective elements that will have an exponential impact on the bioscience companies.”

 

Disclosure: Emergence is a client of Entrevestor.

Innovacorp, NBIF Back Propel with $1M

Barry Bisson

Barry Bisson

Innovacorp and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation are putting up a total of $1 million to help companies in Phase 2 of Propel’s Incite accelerator cover the cost of executing their sales strategy.

The Nova Scotia and New Brunswick early-stage venture capital groups will each put $500,000 into the program, which will allow companies from across Atlantic Canada to receive $50,000 each in investment.

Propel, the regional tech accelerator, recently announced the 15 companies that are going through Phase 2 of Incite, a virtual accelerator that mentors startups regardless of where they’re based in the region. The goal of Phase 2 is to help early-stage companies develop repeatable sales strategies and execute on those plans to bring in early clients and build up a sales pipeline. Phase 1 of the program wrapped up in December.

“We’re constantly striving to bring more value to the companies we work with through Incite,” said Propel CEO Barry Bisson in a statement. “We’re extremely thankful to Innovacorp and NBIF for this partnership and we’re excited about the opportunities these investments will create for the companies in our accelerator.” 

The first cohort of Phase 2 is now under way. The 15 companies going through the program will develop a sales strategy and submit this plan as part of their application for investment. Propel will evaluate the plans and make recommendations to an investment committee comprising Innovacorp and NBIF representatives, who will have the final decision on which companies receive investment.

Sales require a commitment of time and often money. Rather than award investment after pitches at the end of the program, this system will give companies a bit of financing so they have the resources to go after customers.

Sonrai Deal Ticks All Boxes for NBIF

The first round of companies to receive investments as a result of the partnership will be announced in the coming weeks, said Propel.

“This is a great investment opportunity for us,” said Andrew Ray, vice president of investment at Innovacorp. “Combining the expertise of Propel with the financial resources of NBIF and Innovacorp will provide these companies with increased potential to create great startups in Atlantic Canada.”

Added NBIF Director of Investments Ray Fitzpatrick: "Propel is a proven accelerator that helps startups grow and prosper. These startups are vital to New Brunswick's economic prosperity. By investing in the strongest of these companies, NBIF is supporting the talents and ambitions of New Brunswickers and helping to create new jobs and growth in the province."

Four years ago, NBIF and Innovacorp participated in a funding program for graduates of a Propel accelerator program, but each fund only backed companies based in their respective provinces. This time, the two funds will pool their contributions and jointly back approved companies regardless of where they are based in Atlantic Canada.

 

Disclosure: Propel, NBIF and Innovacorp are all clients of Entrevestor. 

Racki Launches Book at Volta Tonight

Kyle Racki

Kyle Racki

Those who know Kyle Racki as a Software-as-a-Service entrepreneur may be surprised to know about a project he did way back in grade school. The guy who would become the CEO of Halifax-based Proposify had to interview someone who held a job he’d like when he grew up.

So young Racki interviewed Nova Scotia-based author Lesley Choyce, who even then was known as a prolific writer.

Today, Kyle Racki fulfills his dream of becoming an author as he launches his first book, Free Trials (and Tribulations): How To Build a Business WHile Getting Punched in the Mouth. An entrepreneur to the core, Racki has self–published the book, and will officially launch it tonight at Volta, the Halifax startup hub that housed Proposify in its early days.

“It’s been kind of a goal of mine for a long time,” said Racki over lunch at Halifax’s Baton Rouge restaurant, which is a favourite haunt of the 65 Proposify employees as their new office sits just above it.

“Writing has always been one of my creative outlets, so as soon as I had a story to tell, I just felt I had to share it.”

Racki has quite a story to tell, one that sets him apart from the legions of successful entrepreneurs who have written books.  He grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness. After his father’s death, he split with the faith, sparking a crisis within his family. All the time he was struggling to build his business, he was also wrestling with questions of faith, seeking guidance from anti-cult advisers and coming to terms with the rupture from family and friends.

Free Trials, which is equal measures autobiography and instruction for SaaS entrepreneurs, details the influences that made Racki an entrepreneur, including his childhood as a Jehovah’s Witness. As a boy he had to deliver 10-minute talks to the congregation at the Kingdom Hall, which honed his skills in presenting. Many entrepreneurs fear rejection when selling their products, but not the kid who grew up knocking on doors in search of converts.

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The book tells how Racki and his business partner Kevin Springer learned how to run a business with their first venture, web development firm Headspace, which they sold in 2015, barely breaking even.  They wanted to focus on Proposify, which was developing a platform that helps to automate the process of developing proposals. Free Trials details their missteps and successes, and the closing of a large funding round from Atlantic Canadian businessmen John Risley and Brendan Paddick last year.

Racki’s book and his blogs often highlight a central theme in developing a SaaS company: don’t compete on price.

“Basically, something everyone does when they start a business is, they think, ‘I can do this as well as anyone and I can do it at a lower price,’” said Racki in the interview. “It’s a mistake I’ve made a few times.”

Proposify’s data analysis has shown the company makes more money and loses fewer clients with high-quality, high-margin products. The company has sold a lot of them.  Its annual recurring revenue now stands at $5.7 million, up 40 percent from a year earlier. That’s a slower growth rate from the doubling of revenue that Proposify experienced in 2017. The company introduced its enterprise product last year and adjusted to meeting the needs of large organizations. Racki noted revenue growth began to accelerate again late in 2018.

Proposify has always been a great company to report on because Racki and Springer are so transparent. Free Trials is even more revealing, sharing details of Racki’s personal life and business smarts to show the forces shaping one of the region’s best SaaS entrepreneurs.

Bursity To Help Finding Scholarships

Edward Ma, left, and Charles Milton

Edward Ma, left, and Charles Milton

A team of students from Nova Scotia Community College is building an online platform to address a problem they know well: the cost of higher education.

Bursity.ca will help match users to scholarships for which they are eligible, and automate the application process. Its founders plan to raise money on Kickstarter to help cover their startup costs.

“We’re going to use that to be able to go through our database and match you with different bursaries or grants based on the criteria that they’re looking for,” said co-founder Charles Milton in an interview. “But instead of just leaving it there … we’re going to make it so the application process happens directly from our website.”

Milton and his business partners, Edward Ma and Allen Lyiard, met while studying computer science. Milton and Ma were asked by their college’s administration to help organize a job fair, and they met Lyiard shortly afterward.

All three have found the cost of post-secondary education to be a challenge. Milton once wanted to become a lawyer, but could not afford the tuition costs.

The idea for Bursity.ca was hatched when Milton began applying for scholarships for his final year at NSCC.

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He was surprised at the large number of scholarships and bursaries that he would potentially qualify for, but did not have enough time to manually complete applications for them all.

This gave him the idea to build a website that would reduce the time investment required to apply for funding by allowing users to submit applications in batches.

When the site is ready, it will allow students to input demographic information about themselves, such as community leadership credentials and information about their financial needs. It will then generate a list of scholarships and grants for which the students are eligible.

The database of funding sources will be freely available to anyone who visits the site and is generated in part through partnerships with the organizations offering scholarships.

“We want to see people go to school,” said Milton. “We want to see people better themselves, so we’ll give you the list if you want to use it.”

For students who purchase a subscription, Bursity.ca will also bundle opportunities based on similar application criteria, such as shared essay topics.

The team hopes to have a beta version of the platform ready within a year, and a full version ready in about 18 months. (Beta software is software that is being tested by a limited pool of users to determine its readiness for a wider market.)

Milton said he and his partners plan to launch a Kickstarter campaign in February to help cover their development costs.

He expects they will need over $300,000 to fully take Bursity.ca to market, with their goal for the Kickstarter campaign being slightly over a third of that amount.

In addition to helping to fund development, Milton said the Kickstarter campaign will have the benefit of demonstrating the viability of the business. If the campaign is able to reach its fundraising goal, this will prove that there is a ready customer base.

The team will consider taking on angel investors in the future but would prefer to avoid conventional venture capital.

Said Milton: “We want this to be a student-run company, created for students, by students who understand the struggle.”

Job of the Week: Swept Account Exec

Halifax’s Swept, which makes software for the janitorial sector, is searching for an Account Executive, which is our Job of the Week today.

Swept makes simple software designed specifically for commercial cleaners. Its mobile and web-based solutions promote communication between the companies and their cleaners, providing both with important information.

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 is an excerpt from the headline posting this week:

Halifax

Swept

Account Executive

Reporting to the VP, Client Experience, the Account Executive will be focused on new customer acquisition and identified targets within existing contacts and leads. Working with your team, you will develop a sales plan to achieve targets by identifying new lead pools and actualize new business from established lead generator initiatives.

You will have a proven track record of exceeding quota in a sales role, preferably in a SaaS environment. You will be a motivated and tenacious self-starter who is comfortable in managing and delivering on progressive sales targets. You know how to move fast and you take care of the details.

Responsibilities

Drive the full sales cycle to attain new business: make introductory calls, assess business goals through qualifying, and close the deal

Understand the prospect's business challenges and communicate value proposition

Outbound telephone-based sales with reliance on web-meetings to present solutions

Work through provided leads and cultivate your own

Ensure a seamless transition of customer expectations and account responsibilities to the operations team

Utilize professional networks, relationships within current contacts, and other industry forums to create new opportunities and prospects

Record all activities in Hubspot CRM

Meet and exceed quota on monthly, quarterly, and annual basis . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Mariner Addresses Gap in Communications Industry

Saint John-based tech conglomerate Mariner Partners has announced it’s developing software that will assist communication service providers as the industry moves away from physical network infrastructure and into software-defined virtual networks.

Mariner’s solution, SONAR4 Assurance Analytics, will support agility in the industry and ensure the quality of customer experiences, Mariner and the federal government said in a statement. The federal government will lend the company almost $3 million to support the development of the product through ACOA, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. 

Marc Savoie, President of Mariner xVu, part of the Mariner Partners group, said the goal is to empower the communications industry to fast-track the adoption of next generation network technologies.

“SONAR4 addresses the complexities faced by these operators as they endeavor to deliver innovations such as 5G to the end consumer,” he said in the statement.  “Investment in network innovations such as these differentiates Canada in the global market and Mariner is proud to contribute to this success.”

Wayne Long, Member of Parliament for Saint John-Rothesay, said Mariner has been contributing to the local economy and ICT sector for many years.

“To have a product with the potential to help move the wireless industry forward into cloud-based networks developed here in Saint John is great news for the city, and for all of New Brunswick,” he said. “This new project enables Mariner Partners to continue growing our region’s reputation for cutting edge wireless products, and will certainly boost our competitiveness while bringing more expertise to our local industry.’’

Navdeep Bains, the Minister Responsible for ACOA, said the federal government is making strategic investments that fuel economic growth by helping businesses build on their strengths.

“This project supports the development of a highly innovative solution for a rapidly changing industry, and will bring a wealth of expertise to the region, while also contributing to the wireless communications industry worldwide,” the Minister said.

Mariner began in 2003 when veterans of iMagicTV, which provided software for video services, launched a new company to improve the delivery of videos online and alert providers of any problems with video transmissions. That business, known as xVu, is the core of Mariner’s business.

The company’s other three pillars are: Shift Energy, which has developed an internet-of-things application to conserve energy in large facilities; Mariner Innovations, which provides advisory and professional services and project delivery; and East Valley Ventures, the loosely held portfolio of startup investments, held by Mariner itself and/or members of its network.

Construction AI Eyes Partnerships

Jeff Graham

Jeff Graham

Construction AI, one of the winners in the recent Sprint competition in Nova Scotia, is negotiating with two major software companies to adopt its technology.

Based in Mosquodoboit Harbour, NS, and Alberta, Construction AI has developed artificial intelligence software that helps the construction industry plan the excavation of a work site.  The pain it addresses is something known only to people who prepare construction sites – the need to do away with spot elevations. These are points on the site that are at a different height or depth than the rest of the terrain.

The company’s software automates the tedious task of identifying and accounting for spot elevations. CEO Jeff Graham said in an interview that construction is a $40 trillion industry worldwide so the market is huge, though he admits explaining the solution to non-construction folk is also a tedious chore.

“If you’re not in construction, you’re going, ‘Man, is that actually a thing and is there pain?’” he said. “But if you’re in the industry, you know the pain and you think, ‘Wow, I don’t actually have to do this.’ One of my contacts calls this [finding spot elevations] the worst part of his job.”

Construction AI made the news this week when it was chosen as one of four winners in Innovacorp’s Sprint competition, which awarded $25,000 each to early-stage software companies. The other winners, all from Halifax, were: Maritime BioLoggers, which improves blood specimen transport; ReelData, which makes software for aquaculture feed cameras; and SalesRight Technologies which helps sales professionals close deals through interactive and intelligent pricing.

What's Next for Nova Scotia's ETC Reforms

As well as Graham, Construction AI’s team comprises two PhDs based in Alberta, Jason Heard and Max Klein, who have developed the AI capabilities of the software. The company has also raised $245,000 in angel investment to fund the early stage of development.

Graham said estimators, or the people who assess what’s needed to excavate a site, need to account for a range of factors, such as the amount of gravel and the length of pipes that will be needed. “There’s a million different things you have to think about, and heaven forbid you get it wrong because it can sink your company,” he said.

He said that about 40 companies currently make earthworks software, but none has the ability to identify and account for spot elevations. Construction AI can be used on all 40 of these earthworks software packages.

A few end users are now using the Construction AI software. And the company is in talks with two major earthworks software producers, who are interested in licensing the solution to be included in the software bundle they sell to customers.

Graham said just one of these potential partners has 40,000 clients, and any of these clients could have a dozen estimators. These numbers give an indication of the size of the market, and how quickly Construction AI could reach into the pool of potential clients.

“We think 500,000 to 1 million estimators that could use it,” said Graham. “You don’t need that many of them. If we get just 1 percent of the market we’ll be rocking, absolutely rocking.”

Lobster Forum Set for Truro Tuesday

Ocean to Plate, a one-day forum to discuss innovation in the lobster industry, will take place Tuesday in Truro.

The forum will bring together lobster industry players from all parts of the value chain as well as academics from Atlantic Canada’s universities and colleges, said a statement from organizers Springboard Atlantic and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. The goal is to drive new research and development collaborations to support one of Atlantic Canada’s key industries at a time of significant change.

Lobster is one of Atlantic Canada’s most important exports and is primarily shipped as a live product. The Nova Scotia industry alone landed over 51,000 million tons of lobster worth $570 million in 2014.

Lobster landings have been experiencing an upward trend and remain at one of the highest levels recorded this century. In Nova Scotia alone, landings have more than doubled over the past 20 years.

“The lobster industry is integral to Atlantic Canada’s economy and finding innovative ways to help it thrive is really why Springboard Atlantic and ACOA are collaborating on this project,” said Springboard President and CEO Daryl Genge in the statement. “We have our 19 universities and colleges throughout the region that are conducting research and providing technical solutions ranging from lobster biology and genetics, bait, data analytics, value-added products to automation.”

Atlantic Canadian lobster is recognized worldwide for its quality and outstanding taste, said the statement. But climate change, rapidly evolving technologies, and globalization, are presenting the Atlantic Canadian lobster industry with new challenges.

Springboard and ACOA have already held four events on lobster innovation with harvesters, processors, shippers and buyers in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and PEI. These events led up to the pan-Atlantic meeting to be held in Truro.

The Truro event will feature keynotes from industry leaders who will share best practices for building partnerships. These speakers will be followed by working sessions where industry and academia can engage to explore collaborative solutions to industry challenges.

You can register here.

What’s next in Nova Scotia’s ETC Reform?

The Nova Scotia government delivered half a reform on its equity tax credit last week, and it will be interesting to see what the other half of the reform will entail in a few months.

Don’t get me wrong. Last week’s announcement was a welcome step forward – something I’ve long called for in this column. The government says there are more changes coming, and I suspect they will be announced hand-in-hand with the other three Atlantic Provinces to harmonize investment tax credits across the region.

The main thing to watch for is whether the credits can be used by investors outside the region. That could have a huge impact in attracting investment to the fastest growing segment of the Atlantic Canadian economy. Our research in 2017 found that Atlantic Canadian startups are growing revenue by a weighted average of 75 percent annually. (I know plenty of startup founders who say this isn’t fast enough.)

The government said last week its new Innovation Equity Tax Credit will apply to investments in approved companies of up to $250,000, up from $50,000. Investors will receive a credit equal to 35 percent of their qualifying investment, or 45 percent in the priority sectors of oceans technology and life sciences.

The statement added: “The province is also exploring options to expand the tax credit through legislation this spring. Those options include making corporations and qualified venture capital funds eligible for the credit.”

So we know two things are likely coming. By allowing corporations to claim the credit, it means Nova Scotians could efficiently invest in startups through their family businesses, rather than by withdrawing money, paying income tax and then investing as individuals.

Singling out VC funds is intriguing. There are now only three such funds based in Nova Scotia, and one (Innovacorp) is owned by the provincial government. The fact that VCs are even mentioned suggests that the policy will be extended to more than this trio of funds.

I believe the big opportunity is to make the credits available to investors outside the region. That could be done just by writing cheques for the tax credit to investors outside the region (which is the policy in Minnesota). Or the credits could be transferrable, so come-from-away investors could sell their tax credits to people who pay income tax in Atlantic Canada (a model used in Arkansas).

The reason: the demand by Atlantic Canadian high-growth companies for capital is greater than the pool of Atlantic Canadians who can invest $250,000 year after year. What’s more, studies have shown that tax credits for high-growth companies actually increase government revenue over time.

More is being done to increase investment from external angel investors in these companies. Bob Williamson of Invest Atlantic has been working with startups to court Ontario investors, and the National Angel Capital Organization is becoming more active in Atlantic Canada.

It would be great if Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs could meet investors outside the region and offer them a company that is growing by 75 percent or better annually and a tax credit to reduce the investment risk.

Kognitiv Spark Works With Northern UAVs

SenseFly eBee drone, one of the UAVs to be maintained using RemoteSpark.

SenseFly eBee drone, one of the UAVs to be maintained using RemoteSpark.

Kognitiv Spark of Fredericton has announced a partnership that will help communities in the Canadian North benefit from the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

The company issued a press release today saying that it had formed an alliance with LOOKNorth, a Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research, specializing in programs for northern communities.

The goal of the partnership is to use Kognitiv’s flagship technology RemoteSpark to help people in remote communities improve the maintenance of UAVs, which have a range of applications in the North.

“The costs and logistics of training and maintenance support can be considerable when deploying technology in northern and remote locations,” LOOKNorth Project Manager Neil Cater said in the statement. “RemoteSpark can reduce the need for costly travel and lead to more cost-effective remote operations.”

Established in 2016, Kognitiv Spark offers an augmented reality solution to help the military and industries with training and the instructing of remote workers using complex equipment. Workers in remote locations frequently need to repair complex machinery, or need training with machines. RemoteSpark uses augmented reality and mixed reality so a specialist at a main office can work with remote workers and walk them through what’s needed to get a piece of equipment working.

The company, which now employs about 20 people, has already landed sales in several industrial sectors, including: aerospace and defence; manufacturing; engineering and construction; and oil and gas. Spokeswoman Vanessa Matthews said in an email that sales are going well and the company has seen some seven-figure contracts lately.

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The company has raised investment from angels and venture capital funds, including a total of $250,000 from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. It is also a portfolio company of East Valley Ventures.

The statement issued today said the latest partnership includes LOOKNorth and Igutchaq UAV, a professional UAV and geographic information system services company based in Inuvik, NWT. Igutchaq UAV trains and certifies UAV pilots from communities in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region and the Gwich’in Settlement Area. The statement said the services offered by Igutchaq UAV will support regional priorities, ranging from the effects of climate change on Inuvialuit and Gwich’in culture to sovereignty and food security.

LOOKNorth is an innovation support body operated by St. John’s-based C-Core, which aids research and development in three main areas – ice engineering, geotechnical engineering and remote sensing.

RemoteSpark’s software, designed for the Microsoft HoloLens, will be used to assist with repairs and maintenance on UAVs operating across the Inuvialuit and Gwich’in territories. Kognitiv Spark said the solution will save equipment downtime and travel costs, while delivering enhanced training and support and ensuring that the UAVs are operational when needed. 

“We’re thrilled that RemoteSpark can help improve safety and day-to-day living in northern communities,” said Kognitiv Spark CEO Yan Simard. “We’re really looking forward to the positive outcomes for this project.”  

CarbonCure To Be Added to 11 Plants

Carboncure Technologies of Dartmouth has announced its client Irving Materials, Inc. of Greenfield, Indiana, is adopting the Carboncure technology at 11 of its plants in the coming months.

Irving now uses the technology at four plants, and the expansion brings the total to 15. It is a major expansion of Carboncure’s customer base, given that the system is now used at a total of 126 plants.

Carboncure execs have said before that many of its major customers are using the technology at one or two plants, even though they have several plants that could use it. As well as bringing on new clients, the company has been working at getting existing companies to implement the system at more than one site.

Irving, which goes by the brand name imi Concrete, was founded in 1946 and operates 155 active ready-mix concrete plants across Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio. The company said that every cubic yard of concrete it makes with the CarbonCure technology will save 25 pounds of carbon dioxide, reducing the carbon footprint of its concrete.

“Imi Concrete has been at the forefront of concrete innovation, including the development of the front discharge concrete mixer that is now an industry staple,” Bob Haldrup, imi North Division President, said in a statement. “CarbonCure fits within our vision to lead our industry with forward-thinking processes that provide better products for our customers.”

The CarbonCure Technology works by injecting recycled post-industrial CO2 into concrete during the manufacturing process. The CO2 undergoes a mineralization process that enhances the concrete’s compressive strength, which enables concrete producers to optimize concrete mixes without impacting the concrete’s quality or price.

Imi Concrete first installed the CarbonCure Technology at its Whiteland, Indiana, plant in July 2017, where it conducted extensive testing. This past November, it added three more plants, and will now have more plants using the technology by early spring.

“CarbonCure enables us to produce the same high-quality concrete that our customers have relied on us to provide for the past seven decades, but now with a reduced environmental impact,” said Jeff McPherson, Vice-President of Sales and Marketing.

CarbonCure recently announced its international expansion as Pan-United, the leading concrete producer in Singapore, agreed to install the technology at three plants. CarbonCure is a finalist in the US$20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE challenge, which will be decided next year.

Barrington Edge Grows Portfolio

Dennis Young

Dennis Young

Halifax-based tech consulting group Barrington Edge has invested in a high-growth U.S. tech company and hopes to use the relationship to improve sales for Atlantic Canadian clients.

Barrington Edge, which grew out of the more established Barrington Consultancy, has developed its relationship with CieloIT, which has been booking annual revenue growth of 300 percent. The Texas company recently placed No. 331 in The Inc. 500, the list of the 500 fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. Barrington Edge this month deepened that relationship by taking an equity stake in CieloIT, a move its principals hope will help the ecosystem for Atlantic Canadian startups.

With offices in Halifax and St. John’s, Barrington Edge is already working with four to five Atlantic Canadian startups companies. It has taken an equity position in one Halifax-based client (which it is unable to name due to a confidentiality agreement), and has helped it raise more than $2 million in equity funding from Halifax investors.

“[CieloIT] is seeing 300 percent per year growth and we’re going to help them with that growth,” Barrington Edge Founder and Managing Director Dennis Young said in an interview. “This allows us an opportunity to work with a high-growth technology company and it further validates our high-growth business model…In time, we feel that it will help us in Atlantic Canada to accelerate our ecosystem.”

The story of Barrington Edge began 15 years ago with the launch of Barrington Consultancy, which now employs about 75 people. It offers advice in such areas as strategy, project management and IT design to a range of private- and public-sector clients.

In late 2016, it hired Young, an IT veteran who had held a range of senior positions, and soon he was heading Barrington Edge, which focuses on startups and high-growth companies.

NS Boosts Equity Tax Credit and Promises More Reforms

Young said the new unit has a dual mission. First, it helps early-stage companies develop their product, find a market and launch. Though Edge itself has fewer than 10 staff, it has access to the team at Barrington Consultancy, which includes experts in IT design and development. What’s more, it can tap the group’s network of clients, which can help portfolio companies find partners in export markets.

Young explained that he encourages early-stage companies to avoid taking on staff to keep costs low, and instead to rely on Barrington’s expertise. If Barrington Edge sees a market for the company’s product, it takes an equity stake in the company, helps it raise investment and find foreign clients.

The second part of its mission is to help scaling companies expand their client base in international markets. Its relationship with CieloIT would be a prime example.

CieloIT offers services in IT support, communications and education in such industries as health and fitness, theme parks and fast food restaurants. It is part of Lubbock, Texas-based Cielo Global Holdings, which has over 800 employees in the U.S. and Latin America. Young is now helping CieloIT roll out six to eight new tech products in cooperation with the CieloIT development team in Mexico.

With its network expanding, Young now hopes to build up a book of clients in Atlantic Canada, both in the early-stage and scaling phases.

“Our partners in Barrington have been partners in large companies, so they bring skills that can help to form a company quickly,” said Young. “Through our relationship, we can help bring a product to market quickly.”

Pitch@Palace, Dream Summit Seek Entries

Two upcoming events are offering Atlantic Canadian startups a chance to pitch before national or international investors and stakeholders.

Invest Atlantic is looking for East Coast startups to apply to pitch at this year’s Canadian Dream Summit, which will take place in Toronto on Feb. 19. And the Ottawa-based Rideau Hall Foundation is looking for participants for Pitch@Palace Canada, which leads to an opportunity to pitch at St. James’s Palace in London in December.

The organizers said there are no cash prizes for the competitions, and participants have to cover their own travel costs. But they highlighted the networking and mentoring opportunities that come from participating in the events.

Invest Atlantic, the annual regional conference for entrepreneurs and investors, is collaborating this year with the Canadian Dreamer Summit, a get-together in Toronto on Feb. 19 for Canadian innovation companies, investors and stakeholders. Its speakers include such luminaries as: Tanya Baker, Global Head of Goldman Sach’s GS Accelerate; Michael Denham, CEO of Business Development Bank of Canada; and Jennifer Jackson, President of Capital One Canada.

The summit includes a pitching event, and past participants included Hannah Chisholm, the founder and CEO of Antigonish, NS-based Eggcitables. The company has created a chickpea vegan egg replacement that can be used to make omelettes, scrambles, and other egg-based meals.

Anyone interested in applying needs to submit a video application by Jan. 30. You can find more information here.

The Rideau Hall Foundation, which aims to develop a more entrepreneurial culture in Canada, is organizing the Canadian portion of Pitch@Palace, a pitching event organized by Prince Andrew, the Duke of York. The foundation will hold the regional round of pitching March 26 at Volta in Halifax.

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 Canadian winner will travel to London for the event at St. James’s Palace in December.

You can find applications here.

NS Boosts Equity Tax Credit Limit

Nova Scotia has quintupled the size of its equity tax credits for people investing in young, innovative companies, and signaled that more changes are on the way.

The provincial government announced Friday that its new Innovation Equity Tax Credit will apply to investments in approved companies of up to $250,000, up from $50,000. Investors will receive a credit equal to 35 percent of their qualifying investment, or 45 percent in the priority sectors of oceans technology and life sciences.

The announcement comes amid a movement across Atlantic Canada to improve and harmonize the investment tax credits that attract private investment to innovative companies. Last summer, James Curry of the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency led a group that produced a research paper on the matter, and Senator Colin Deacon has called for increased credits at both the provincial and federal levels.

“This new tax credit encourages Nova Scotians to invest in our home-grown entrepreneurs and local companies so they can drive growth, be more competitive and succeed,” said Finance Minister Karen Casey in the statement. “It will add to our ongoing efforts to improve the business climate in Nova Scotia for innovation-driven entrepreneurship by doing things differently to support economic growth.”

Momentum Growing for Regional Investment Tax Credit

The statement on the new policy said the new tax credits are effective immediately and the government will narrow the range of businesses that are eligible for the tax credit.

Most provinces in Canada and states in the U.S. offer these investment tax credits to encourage private investment in startups. With the new levels, Nova Scotia’s investment tax credit is more in line with those of New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.

According to the online information on provincial or territorial tax credits, these are the investment tax credits available across the country:

Province Maximum Qualifying Investment Tax Credit Percentage
BC $200,000 30%
Alberta $200,000 30%
Manitoba $450,000 45%
NWT $100,000 30%
NB $250,000 50%
PEI $100,000 35%
NS $250,000 35-45%
NL $250,000 20-35%

The big question remaining is what the coming announcements will entail.

“The province is also exploring options to expand the tax credit through legislation this spring,” said the statement. “Those options include making corporations and qualified venture capital funds eligible for the credit.”

There has been an effort through the Atlantic Growth Strategy, an economic initiative involving the federal and provincial governments in the region, to harmonize regional equity tax credits. Some people are pushing for taxpayers in one province to be eligible for credits if they invest in companies based in another province, or even to allow investors from outside the region to benefit from the tax credit by investing in Atlantic Canadian companies.

“This is a great first step,” Keith MacIntyre, a tax partner at Grant Thornton in Halifax, said in an email Friday. “What they are promising for the spring is what’s most encouraging.  They are open to modernizing the credit to reflect today’s market. This will give tech companies the greatest chance to get the funding they need.”

Funding Spike Led to Higher Sales in NL Startups

The Emera Innovation Hub now houses Genesis' enlarged headquarters overlooking St. John's.

The Emera Innovation Hub now houses Genesis' enlarged headquarters overlooking St. John's.

Sponsored Content

There’s one big lesson from the most recent analysis of our data from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Funding is important.

There’s nothing startling in that statement, but as we look back on our data presentations from 2018, the highlight was the clear correlation between funding and company performance in Canada’s most easterly province.

Our 2017 data shows that equity investment on the Rock has risen strongly over the past few years, peaking last year at $18.4 million. And that investment is helping generate real revenue growth. Startups in Newfoundland and Labrador had the highest revenue growth of any province in the region in 2017, and it’s likely due to increased funding.

Each year, Entrevestor surveys startups across the region and produces an analysis on the state of the startup community and its ecosystem. In our most recent data in 2017, we had tremendous cooperation from founders in the St. John’s area. Of the 46 startups we identified in the city, half completed the survey, and 18 provided revenue data. It allowed us to get a really clear picture of what’s happening in our most easterly province.

The big news is funding, which hovered just above the $3 million mark each year between 2014-2016 and spiked last year at $18.4 million. (Note: we don’t include private equity funding in our tallies, so the $60 million PE funding of Verafin in 2014 does not show up in this chart.) The recent gains have been driven largely by the Venture NL Fund (managed by Pelorus Venture Capital) and Killick Capital both funding several companies, usually in tandem.

We believe funding in NL dropped in 2018, but companies are still reaping the rewards of recent funding.

The provincial government several years ago teamed up with BDC Capital and local angels to back Venture NL, and brought in experienced fund managers Pelorus Venture Capital to manage the fund. At about the same time, Killick Capital received the proceeds from two exits – from St. John’s anti-fraud company Verafin, and from the sale of part of Killick’s Texas-based aerospace operations. As a result, Killick and Pelorus have co-invested in several companies, including HeyOrca, Sequence Bio, Seaformatics and Empowered Homes.

But that is only part of the funding story. Having invested in St. John’s-based film software company Celtx in 2016, Build Ventures of Halifax invested $3 million in Radient360 in 2017. Sequence Bio also brought in investors from outside the country in 2016 with its US$3 million round led by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Data Collective. And wireless energy company Solace Power has also brought in millions in external funding. Companies in Newfoundland and Labrador are now receiving bona fide follow-on rounds, which is fueling further growth.

The result: revenues are growing strongly. Our survey respondents’ collective revenues increased 178 percent in 2017 over the previous year, with five startups reporting sales for the first time. One of the high-flyers HeyOrca said in November 2018 that its annual recurring revenue had hit $3 million, and its growth is continuing.

As I outlined in a recent talk at the Emera Innovation Exchange in St. John’s, the other metrics among the 46 Newfoundland and Labrador startups are also impressive. Some 13 of the total were founded in 2017, including SucSeed and CoLab Software, so there is a strong inflow of new talent and ideas. We only flagged six zombies, or companies that appear to be languishing.

We said NL companies increased their staffing by one-third to 651, and that they hired more than 200 people in 2017. I now believe both those figures are low. After recent discussions in St. John’s, I understand that Verafin has far higher staffing than I estimated, and the total employment for NL startups at the end of 2017 should have been closer to 800.

Meanwhile, the underlying ecosystem in St. John’s has been strengthened in several ways. Genesis has expanded and is now in its new facility on the side of Signal Hill, increasing its capacity to nurture more companies. The Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship has been going for a couple of years and is hitting its stride.

This has led to the launch of the Bounce Health Initiative. MCE Director Florian Villaumé explained that Bounce is a collaborative effort between MCE, Eastern Health, the MUN Faculty of Medicine and the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technical Industries, or NATI.

 

This article is sponsored by Killick Capital and the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation.

 

About the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation

The vision of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation (TCII) is of a vibrant, diverse and sustainable economy, with productive, prosperous and culturally-rich communities and regions, making Newfoundland and Labrador a business and tourism "destination of choice". The Department is the lead for the economic, culture, and innovation agenda of the Provincial Government. 

 

About Killick Capital

Killick Capital Inc. is a private equity investment firm headquartered in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Killick invests primarily in three target sectors known to have strong industry fundamentals—sectors we know and understand from experience: Venture businesses; Aerospace businesses; and Newfoundland and Labrador businesses.

Jobs: SpryPoint, LifeRaft, Spring Loaded

Three jobs from Charlottetown’s SpryPoint headline the Jobs of the Week column today. We also have openings at Spring Loaded Technology in Dartmouth and LifeRaft of Halifax.

Founded in 2011, SpryPoint has developed a cloud-based platform of enterprise solutions that help utilities improve customer service and operations through business automation. The company has openings for a CIS Implementation Specialist, a CMMS Implementation Consultant, and a Software Developer.

Spring Loaded produces the Levitation knee brace, which stores energy when the knee joint is bent and releases it when the leg is straightened. It helps osteoarthritis patients and others with mobility. The company is now looking for a Customer Service Specialist.

LifeRaft is a Software-as-a-Service company whose product detects safety threats through social media. It wants to hire a Senior PHP Developer.

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 postings this week:

Charlottetown

Sprypoint

CIS Implementation Specialist

We are looking for an Implementation Specialist to exceed our customers expectations. The successful candidate will spend the majority of their time working directly with our utility customers to implement cutting edge enterprise applications.

The Implementation Specialist will be responsible for the following:

Lead or support the implementation of SpryPoint applications. This will involve:

Leading gap analysis sessions with customers

Evaluating existing business processes

Mapping to-be business processes

Configuring and tuning the software

Performing data conversions from legacy systems

Training end users

Providing support to the customer during acceptance testing, through Go Live and post implementation stabilization.

Work with development & dev-ops teams to influence, design, and validate solutions

Assist the Project Manager in creation and review of project documentation. This may involve the creation of specification documentation where application customization is required.

You will advise SpryPoint customers on the best use of the SpryPoint applications by way of business process analysis, communicating industry best practices and understanding the current and desired future states.

Travel and working at client sites across North America is anticipated to be up to a 50% commitment to be successful in this position. The successful candidate must be able to travel outside of Canada with no known legal or immigration related impediment in doing so.

Qualifications

Experience:

3+ years of experience working with enterprise utility software. Customer Information Systems (CIS), Mobile Workforce Management (MWM) and Work Order & Asset Management (WAMS) experience is preferred.

Ability to map processes and have worked in a large process mapping project.

Proven ability to train users on software applications.

Technical Skills:

Strong understanding of relational databases & SQL

Experience working with web technologies HTML, Javascript, and CSS

Experience working with Reporting & Business Intelligence Platforms

Understanding of modern development and deployment methodologies including experience with AWS, GCP and/or Azure

Interest in expanding knowledge and applying knowledge to solve industry problems. . . .

Read the full job posting here.

CMMS Implementation Consultant

We are looking for an Implementation Specialist to exceed our customers’ expectations. The successful candidate will spend the majority of their time working directly with our utility customers to implement cutting edge enterprise applications.

The Implementation Specialist will be responsible for the following:

Lead or support the implementation of SpryPoint applications. This will involve:

Leading gap analysis sessions with customers

Evaluating existing business processes

Mapping to-be business processes

Configuring and tuning the software

Performing data conversions from legacy systems

Training end users

Providing support to the customer during acceptance testing, through Go Live and post implementation stabilization.

Work with development & dev-ops teams to influence, design, and validate solutions

Assist the Project Manager in creation and review of project documentation. This may involve the creation of specification documentation where application customization is required.

You will advise SpryPoint customers on the best use of the SpryPoint applications by way of business process analysis, communicating industry best practices and understanding the current and desired future states.

Travel and working at client sites across North America is anticipated to be up to a 50% commitment to be successful in this position. The successful candidate must be able to travel outside of Canada with no known legal or immigration related impediment in doing so.

Qualifications

Experience:

3+ years of experience working with enterprise utility software. Customer Information Systems (CIS), Mobile Workforce Management (MWM) and Work Order & Asset Management (WAMS) experience is preferred.

Ability to map processes and have worked in a large process mapping project.

Proven ability to train users on software applications.

Technical Skills:

Strong understanding of relational databases & SQL

Experience working with web technologies HTML, Javascript, and CSS

Experience working with Reporting & Business Intelligence Platforms

Understanding of modern development and deployment methodologies including experience with AWS, GCP and/or Azure

Interest in expanding knowledge and applying knowledge to solve industry problems. . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Software Developer

SpryPoint builds fantastic web and mobile applications using cutting-edge technologies. As a developer at SpryPoint, you will be building and integrating interactive web applications, services, and apps that real people will actually use. As a full-stack developer, you will work in a range of languages and environments from Java and C# to Scala, Akka, and JavaScript.

As a big part of a growing development team, you will be called on to play a role in architecting, testing, and deploying SpryPoint's enterprise applications. You will participate in building and deploying enterprise-level web and mobile applications for clients across North America from SpryPoint's Charlottetown office. You will learn constantly.

Qualifications

A keen interest in learning and the ability to apply your knowledge to craft clean code.

Demonstrated fluency in developing clean, maintainable, testable code.

Understanding of relational databases & SQL.

Experience working with web technologies HTML, Javascript, and CSS.

Experience or knowledge on modern development and deployment methodologies including experience with AWS, GCP and/or Azure.

Interest in expanding knowledge and applying knowledge to solve industry problems. . . . 

Read the full job posting here.

Dartmouth

Spring Loaded Technologies

Customer Service Specialist

We are looking for an experienced and dedicated Customer Service Specialist to help ensure customers get the most out of our groundbreaking products. The Customer Service Specialist will be responsible for interacting with customers through email, phone, and online chat. This includes answering general inquiries, assisting customers with product sizing, and if necessary, de-escalating the concerns of dissatisfied customers. Some outbound work will also be required to support sales and general business needs. Does the idea of working with customers, ensuring their satisfaction, and bringing a new product to market in the biomedical industry excite you? Do you have customer support, satisfaction, and/or sales and marketing experience?

Responsibilities

Effectively communicate and work with various customers, ranging from end-users to medical professionals.

Learn appropriate language and techniques for interacting with different customer types

Interact with existing and potential customers through email, click-to-chat, and on the phone.

Conduct regularly scheduled appointments with customers to determine brace size and fitting requirements

Assist customers with understanding how their braces work

Answer questions from customers regarding brace use, application, sizing, and fitting

Provide overflow support to sales representatives

Handle difficult customers professionally and with empathy, in order to retain and repair the relationship.

Remain calm and stay cool under pressure. . . .

Read the full job posting here.

Halifax

LifeRaft

Senior PHP Developer

LifeRaft is looking to fill a Senior PHP position with our Halifax, NS Development Team, reporting to the Chief Technology Officer.

This individual will play a critical role in helping to build and enhance our world class intelligence platform, working with the rest of our seasoned software development and R&D team. Thinking outside the box to resolve technical challenges and understanding the customer when coding is key for success.

Responsibilities

• Work closely with the software development team and Development Lead to deliver on the product roadmap and fix bugs along the way wink

• You will be working on new exciting features as well as enhancing existing functionality

• You will gain an understanding of how our platform works and how our customers use it, and hopefully will be able to contribute with new ideas on how to improve it

Qualifications

• At least 5 years of experience working with object oriented (MVC) PHP frameworks

• Experience using LAMP-stack technologies

• Understanding of Linux commands

• Heavily experienced in Javascript (jQuery and Angular JS) and proficient with HTML5/CSS3

• We will value experience with Laravel framework, Python and Google Maps API

Read the full job posting here.

Envenio Exits, Purchased by Juul

Fredericton-based Envenio, whose technology assists in the understanding of fluid dynamics, has quietly exited, being taken over by San Francisco electronic cigarette company Juul.

Neither Envenio nor Juul has put out a public statement on the deal and no one from the New Brunswick company is talking. However, Monica Schnitger, head of Massachusetts engineering software consultancy Schnitger Corp., blogged in late November that the deal had taken place, though she had no details on the price. People familiar with the matter have confirmed that it occurred.

Juul, which has 800 employees, was formed by electronic vaporizer company Pax Labs, which spun it off into a separate company in 2017. According to Wikipedia, Juul had US$1.1 billion of revenue in fiscal 2018.

In purchasing Envenio, Juul is buying a specialist in computational fluid dynamics, or CFD, meaning its software helps engineers understand how fluids move. (Though most of us think of fluids as liquids, they can also be gases, solid particulates or anything else that flows.)

Growing out of intellectual property developed at the University of New Brunswick, Envenio’s algorithms allow basic computers to simulate the flow of these substances. Like a virtual wind tunnel, it can chart the interactions of liquids and gases in specific conditions and with certain solid shapes.

It seems that vaping devices contain extremely complex mechanisms that have to account for various states of matter, temperature and combustion, all interacting in a tiny space. Envenio’s software, which Juul had already been using as a customer, can help with product development and understanding of how these factors work together. 

Fredericton's Sonrai Closes US$18.5M VC Round

Schnitger quoted an email from Envenio Vice-President Scott Walton to clients as saying that Envenio’s engineering expertise will “become an exclusive and integral part of JUUL’s product development division, helping to shape the future of the company’s products.”

Envenio began about eight years ago with three mechanical engineering grads building a business out of IP they licensed from UNB. Initially, it was a service company, helping companies and organizations like the Canadian military with their CFD projects. Then it launched products that clients could buy to conduct their own CFD studies at a fraction of the price of competing products.

Early in 2017, the company had clients in Canada, the U.S. and Europe but the team is now working exclusively for Juul.

In June 2017, Envenio secured $1.3 million in venture capital investment from Celtic House Venture Partners, Green Century Investments and the New Brunswick Investment Foundation.

In their most recent interview with Entrevestor, CEO Ian McLeod and Walton said the company employed more than 10 people in Fredericton. Schnitger’s blog said the engineering team will continue to grow in Canada, which likely means it will remain in Fredericton.

According to their LinkedIn profiles, both McLeod and Walton are now working for Juul Labs and based in New Brunswick. McLeod is now the Senior Director of Simulation Research and Development while Walton is the Director of Business Development.

Schnitger noted in her blog that the acquisition is unusual as it involves a manufacturer buying a software company.

“Over the last couple of decades, a lot of manufacturers have divested themselves of in-house software assets –they make planes or cars, after all, and software development and maintenance costs can best be amortized across a wide user base,” said Schnitger. “I’m not aware of [any] other acquisitions like this, where a manufacturer buys a software developer, but I wonder if it could be the start of a trend.”

CarShare Atlantic’s Cooley Steps Down

Pam Cooley hands the keys to Tim Callanan as she prepares to step down as CEO of CarShare Atlantic after 10 years

Pam Cooley hands the keys to Tim Callanan as she prepares to step down as CEO of CarShare Atlantic after 10 years

It was a bittersweet birthday for CarShare Atlantic as the Halifax company celebrated its 10th anniversary last month. The company’s co-founder and CEO, Pam Cooley, announced that she will step down from the position in February.

CarShare Atlantic is Halifax’s first and only car-sharing network. Its members share a fleet of vehicles which can be booked any time via web, mobile app or through a hotline and picked up at one of the 50 CarShare stations located within Halifax or Dartmouth.

Car-sharing allows people to drive a vehicle when they need it, without the worry of insurance payments or maintenance costs.

Cooley started Car Share Atlantic shortly after she moved to Halifax in 2008. After living in Vancouver for 25 years, she was struck by the city’s lack of car-sharing services.

“This is a worldwide industry, it’s a common thing elsewhere but in Halifax it wasn’t,” said Cooley in an interview. “But now, 10 years later, I believe that it is part of the mobility infrastructure in Halifax.”

Car sharing has been around since the mid 1980s and is popular in large European cities.

Cooley and co-founder, Peter Zimmer, started CarShare Atlantic in Halifax with only nine cars. Today, the company owns over 70 vehicles, most of which are hybrids, and serves over 1,600 members.

In 2011, Cooley reached out to Communauto, North America’s first car-sharing service, headquartered in Montreal, and forged a partnership that still remains today.

Because of this partnership, CarShare Atlantic’s staff in Halifax remained relatively small. Cooley built a team of three full-time staff, one of whom is Tim Callanan, who will oversee the company when Cooley leaves.

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“I think there is a lot of people right here in Halifax that still don’t know what a positive impact (car-sharing) can have in their lives,” said Callanan during an interview. “So for me, a huge priority is meeting the need that’s already out there, even if people don’t know they have it.”

Callanan, an avid user of CarShare’s services, joined the CarShare team in 2017. He is now responsible for a company that has already laid the foundation for new high-tech mobility solutions, like autonomous vehicles, to integrate into the city. 

“Where mobility is going, this is going to be a huge disruptor. But Halifax is already on the path of being on top of that because we have car-sharing,” said Cooley.

“Car-sharing is a precursor to autonomous vehicles. If people get used to using a service like ours, when autonomous vehicles come they will have the option to use car-sharing with autonomous cars, which would be fleet owned.”

When Cooley started CarShare Atlantic in 2008, not many understood the concept of car-sharing. Now the company has amassed hundreds of users and car-sharing is a part of the city’s Integrated Mobility Plan.

Cooley will continue as President of her other business, Choosethical Ventures Inc., which helps to facilitate collaboration between business, government and NGOs. And as the mobility industry steers down new roads, Cooley feels confident about those she’s left at the wheel.

Said Cooley: “I’m leaving it in top shape. We have a kickass team who is young and energetic and full of ideas.”

Accenture Opens Office at Volta

Andy Fillmore (Photo by Jay Witherbee/ACOA)

Andy Fillmore (Photo by Jay Witherbee/ACOA)

The global consultancy Accenture has opened an innovation outpost office at Volta in Halifax, made possible through a $400,000 grant from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Halifax MP Andy Fillmore announced the funding at a reception at Volta on Wednesday.  He said the money will fund a one-year pilot program that will include programing delivered by Accenture.

Innovation outposts are becoming common features in startup hubs around the world, and are places where traditional businesses can have an innovation office away from corporate headquarters. The idea is that these remote employees can come up with innovations for the parent company and interact with the brainboxes who work at the nearby startups. The goal is to benefit both the startups and traditional businesses.

Volta opened its Innovation Outpost two years ago and has attracted the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, the Government of Nova Scotia and now Accenture as participants.

"Programs that foster relationships between large companies and growing startups are crucial to bolstering the region’s global competitiveness,” said Volta CEO Jesse Rogers in a statement. “Strengthening connections between corporations and startups will not only lead to new ideas and product developments but also further establish the region as a global destination for innovation.”

The addition of Accenture will bring a new dimension to the outpost because the consultancy will offer programs to improve the skills of entrepreneurs in the startup house. This is something that Accenture is doing on a national and global basis by participating in programs at such innovation hubs as Silicon Dock in Dublin. What’s more, the Volta office will be connected with a network of Accenture innovation outposts across Canada.

Accenture’s Innovation Outpost will be headed by Christine Hamblin, a veteran of the startup community and graduate of St. Mary’s University’s Master of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program.  

“Companies that embrace innovation and harness the power of disruption are better positioned for long-term growth,” said Claudia Thompson, Accenture’s Managing Director of Health and Public Service. “Accenture is pleased to deliver a curriculum presenting new, innovative ways of thinking to guide Atlantic Canadian companies on their innovation journey and solve their most significant challenges.” 

 

Disclosure: Volta and ACOA are clients of Entrevestor.

Mitacs, MTI, Dal in $1.6M Project

George Palikaras

George Palikaras

Metamaterial Technologies Inc., Dalhousie University, and Mitacs on Tuesday announced a $1.62 million project to explore light manipulation for use in a range of commercial applications.

The project will be the largest ever financed in Atlantic Canada by Mitacs, a national non-profit organization that finances research projects between industry and universities. It will allow scientists to research metamaterials – materials whose compounds are not found in nature – that have an impact on light.

MTI is dedicated to producing these light-altering metamaterials and is already working with Airbus to produce metaAIR, a transparent screen that fits onto cockpit windshields to filter out laser beams.  The company is also working on products that can enhance solar power and provide other functions. 

“Materials research is complex and Mitacs researchers allow us to investigate research questions, pushing the boundaries of conventional knowledge,” said MTI Chief Executive George Palikaras in a statement. “We believe that the partnership with Dalhousie University will lead to new breakthroughs in metamaterials, applications and nanofabrication techniques that will re-shape how we think about optics.”

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The statement on Tuesday said the project will attract new researchers and inventors into metamaterials science. It will span different applications of metamaterials, including:

•            Metamaterials that absorb light in ultra-thin solar cells – MetaSOLAR, MTI’s highly efficient solar panel for solar-powered aerial vehicles, will collect light from all angles and absorb it across the most useful parts of the spectrum. The technology will be ideal for lightweight aircraft and vehicles, where efficiency and weight are of prime importance.

•            Stronger light-emitting diodes, or LEDs – This portion will research devices that can be mounted on existing LEDs to substantially improve their brightness.

•            Optical filters based on metamaterials – This part of the project will develop next-generation optics for augmented reality applications. It will bring together experts from the fields of materials science, chemical engineering, nanotechnology, photonics and metamaterials. 

•            Improvement of medical diagnostics using metamaterials –The goal of this portion is to develop a wearable thin-film glucose sensor, that will produce more precise blood glucose measurements.

Palikaras has said he hopes to use his suite of light-altering metamaterials for commercial applications in several industries, including aerospace and defence, healthcare, and green energy. In October, the company partnered with global aerospace industry supplier Satair to produce goggles that can protect pilots and others from laser attacks.

“Our partnership with Mitacs and Metamaterial Technologies Inc. allows us to recruit and train a number of new PhDs in advanced materials and nanotechnology and conduct the type of cutting-edge research that has the potential to disrupt the way the world works today,” said Dal Vice-President of  Research and Innovation Alice Aiken.

Added Mitacs CEO and Scientific Director Alejandro Adem: “Mitacs is pleased to support this important research collaboration in the field of light manipulation. Discoveries in this arena will impact a variety of sectors ranging from aviation to healthcare, improving the lives of Canadians.”

State of the Ecosystem Talk at Volta

There’s a State of the Ecosystem discussion taking place at Volta in Halifax today, and you can tune in regardless of where you are.

Chris Crowell, VP of Corporate Innovation at Volta, and I will hold a fireside chat about what’s happening in the startup community across the region. It will all take place at noon at Volta, and a good crowd is expected.

If you’re not in Halifax, you can follow along through a livestream on the Volta Facebook Page.

We’ll be discussing some of the things I’ve been banging on about in Entrevestor recently, like the highlights of our 2017 data analysis report, and the growing engagement between corporations and startups. We’ll look at how the 2018 databank is shaping up, and chat about Sonrai’s whopper of a VC deal announced yesterday.

Following our discussion, Halifax MP Andy Filmore will make an announcement on behalf of Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains, the minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Hope you can join us.

Sonrai Closes US$18.5M VC Round

Sandy Bird: 'We’re in this to do a big, large and lasting enterprise.'

Sandy Bird: 'We’re in this to do a big, large and lasting enterprise.'

Sonrai Security, an enterprise cybersecurity company launched by senior executives from Q1 Labs, has closed a US$18.5 million (C$24.6 million) round of venture capital funding, likely the largest VC round in Atlantic Canadian history.

With a development team based in Fredericton, Sonrai was established in 2017 to help large corporations organize and protect their data on the cloud, which is a network of remote, independently owned servers. The company has officially launched today with a variety of clients, including the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York.

In late December, the company closed its first round of financing, led by Boston-area VC firms Polaris Partners and TenEleven Ventures. They both named representatives to the Sonrai board. New Brunswick Innovation Foundation also invested US$246,000 in the round.

“This is a big opportunity and we want to make sure we have the dollars to do the engineering in Fredericton,” said CTO Sandy Bird in an interview. “We want to make sure we can do all the machine learning . . . We’re in this to do a big, large and lasting enterprise and to do that we needed capital.”

Sonrai has its origins in Q1 Labs, a cybersecurity company that Bird co-founded in Fredericton. As Q1 grew, it took on Brendan Hannigan as CEO and expanded into Waltham, Mass., maintaining its development team in New Brunswick. The company sold out to IBM in 2012, reportedly for more than $600 million. Bird and Hannigan became the heads of IBM Security, Big Blue’s cybersecurity division that grew to a $2 billion-a-year operation.

The two execs left IBM in the past few years and came together again to quietly develop Sonrai. With a bit of initial funding, they assembled a team of cybersecurity engineers in Fredericton. That eventually led to a total round equal to C$24.6 million. The only larger funding rounds in the Atlantic Canadian tech space were more private equity deals than VC: a $60 million deal by St. John’s-based Verafin in 2014; and a $30 million raise by Unique Solutions of Dartmouth in 2011.

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The problem they set out to solve arises from the wave of corporations moving their data on to the cloud from their own servers over the past decade, often in a haphazard way. These companies can have hundreds of cloud accounts running across Amazon, Microsoft and Google. Their IT groups don’t know some accounts exist, what’s in them, or who has access to them, Bird said.

Sonrai (the Irish Gaelic word for “data”) addresses these problems by tying together identity and search solutions so these corporations can organize and protect their cloud-based data. As well as offering comprehensive data security, Sonrai enhances the quality of an organization’s compliance. It also allows DevOps teams – in which development and operations teams work closely to produce solutions quickly – to work more efficiently with data spread across different accounts and cloud providers.

Most of Sonrai’s 16 employees are now with its development team in Fredericton, and the company also has offices in New York and Austin, Texas. Hannigan, the company president, said in the interview that the goal for the coming year is to launch a major sales expansion, and that the company envisages doubling its staff this year and every year thereafter for the foreseeable future. On the development side, Sonrai aims to improve the machine learning in its solutions.

“Cloud adoption affords us a unique opportunity to reimagine how we secure corporate data, and to make a clean break from the limitations of device, data center and perimeter centric security," Hannigan said in a statement. "By putting data and identity at the center of a security model that spans cloud-providers and third-party data stores, Sonrai Security offers a level of control and security never possible in a traditional enterprise network.”

Sonrai Deal Ticks All Boxes for NBIF

Raymond Fitzpatrick was positively giddy about the last deal he signed in 2018 – the US$18.5 million ($24.6 million) financing of Fredericton cybersecurity company Sonrai Security.

Fitzpatrick is the Director of Investment for the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, the not-for-profit organization that oversees the provincial government’s innovation policy. It invested US$246,000 in the funding round, which was led by two Boston-area funds, Polaris Partners and TenEleven Ventures.

In an interview last week, Fitzpatrick wasn’t focused on the numbers so much as what the deal means to NBIF, the Fredericton tech sector, and the province overall.

“This deal from an NBIF perspective is huge,” said Fitzpatrick. “It’s the most experienced team that I have ever invested with . . .  and the fact that it’s in cybersecurity, a strategic priority for this province, it really ticks all the boxes.”

Last year was a year of ups and downs for NBIF. In February, news broke that one of its portfolio companies, Fredericton-based KnowCharge, was suing the organization and the First Angel Network. Then NBIF’s small team suffered a few departures, most notably CEO Calvin Milbury in May. When I ran into Fitzpatrick at an event in July, he noted that NBIF continued to participate in funding rounds throughout it all. “We’re still writing cheques,” he said.

Indeed, as the year progressed, it became obvious that 2018 would be a year of record venture capital investment in New Brunswick, with NBIF participating in many of the largest deals. In the first six months alone, the organization had joined the US$15.2 million equity and debt round announced by Introhive and Resson’s C$14 million raise.

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Morale at NBIF improved in October when the organization named Jeff White, an accountant with a world of experience in the tech space, as its new CEO.

Somewhere along the line, Fitzpatrick heard that Sandy Bird, the former CTO of IBM’s global cybersecurity operations, was developing a new cybersecurity company in Fredericton. The two had never met. So Fitzpatrick did something he hadn’t done since joining NBIF three years earlier: he sought out an entrepreneur with a view to a possible investment.

Fitzpatrick was blown away by Sonrai’s vision, team and technology, and hoped NBIF could join its first VC round. In mid-December he heard the company would be closing its round Dec. 28 and there was an opportunity for NBIF to participate if it moved quickly. The NBIF staff, lawyers and board all signed off on the deal speedily enough that it was in when the deal closed between Christmas and New Year. Fitzpatrick said the deal is helping to develop relationships with investors outside the region, which could benefit other New Brunswick companies.

The deal meant that New Brunswick companies raised about $75 million to $80 million in VC funding last year – a jump of about 400 percent from the previous year. The Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association data for 2018 hasn’t been released yet, but it will probably show that Fredericton was the fifth hottest VC market in the country last year.

Beyond the numbers, Sonrai was the perfect deal for New Brunswick because the government has targeted cybersecurity as a key strategic industry in its economic development plans. Bird mentioned in a separate interview that he has been working with the Fredericton-based Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity, which already has about 50 to 60 people.

Fitzpatrick was jazzed to join eight-figure deals with Introhive, Resson and now Sonrai after a disappointing year of funding in 2017.

“With all the challenges we went through [last year], we look at this investment and it shows that companies can attract historic investment around here,” said Fitzpatrick. “To have three fairly massive deals shows that we may be bucking that trend.”

 

Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.

MESH/Diversity Eyes Sales in 2019

With a new name and brand, MESH/Diversity is now building its client base, aided by a changing attitude among corporations toward diversity and inclusion, or D&I.

The New Brunswick and Toronto-based company launched as Enkidu more than a year ago to provide an online platform that companies or organizations can use to assess whether their culture meets modern D&I standards.

The co-founders – CEO Michael Wright and Chief Diversity Officer Leeno Karumanchery– have found that their market has evolved to their advantage, but they needed a better name and brand to capitalize on it.

“I think that what we’re seeing in the industry is that there’s a real increased focus and urgency around diversity and inclusion,” said Wright in an interview last week. “We’re happy with the growth we saw in 2018 knowing it’s just a pre-cursor for what’s in store for 2019.”

The company has developed a Software-as-a-Service platform that helps organizations and their staff or members develop an inclusive culture. That can mean changing personal behaviour to ensure all team members feel comfortable and poised to succeed. It can also mean adjusting a company’s hiring process to welcome people who will work well with a diverse workforce and show the flexibility needed to change culture.

Wright himself has made a career out of being a Toronto-based business development executive for New Brunswick-based companies. That includes almost five years as Senior Vice-President of Operations with Brovada, the Rothesay, NB-based company that provided integration software for the insurance industry. It was purchased by Towers Watson for $15 million in 2015.

Propel Announces 15 Companies in Incite Phase 2.

Wright said MESH/Diversity has been growing but decided it could do better than the name Enkidu (a character from Mesopotamian mythology), which customers found hard to pronounce and remember.

As MESH/Diversity, the company has been taking on clients, such as Toronto sales platform OSL, Saint John-based airline software maker Intelisys, and the University of Charleston. The company has also been adding to its roster of those partners which add the MESH platform to their online offerings, including Habitat for Humanity and Extend A Family.

Karumanchery said customers want the product because D&I policies go beyond simply hiring more women and minorities. He should know. He is recognized as an international expert in diversity and delivers regular speeches on the topic around the world. The MESH/Diversity platform helps companies assess the attitudes and open-mindedness of employees and candidates for new positions. That helps to shape corporate culture on an ongoing basis, he said.

Wright said the company made connections in 2018 and he feels confident he will be able to transform many of them into paying customers. Organizations are not just adopting diversity programs because it’s the right thing to do, he said, but because they realize it is a key strategic component to achieving growth in today’s world.

MESH/Diversity has increased its staff to seven and plans to double staff this year. It recently added Vice-President of Business Development Al Sturgeon, a veteran of Salesforce and former Entrepreneur-in-Residence with regional accelerator PropelICT.  Mesh/Diversity previously received funding from the Saint John investment group East Valley Ventures, but Wright said it has no immediate plans to raise more money. For now, the goal is to grow by taking on more clients.

“D&I is going to become more and more in the mainstream,” said Wright. “For us, we see this as a very, very exciting year. But we see it also as a big and exciting year for DNI.”

15 Startups in Propel’s Incite Phase 2

Propel, the Atlantic Canadian tech accelerator, has announced the 15 companies that will participate in the second phase of its Incite program, which is designed to ramp up sales.

Incite is a virtual program that startup founders can take for up to a year, regardless of where they are in Atlantic Canada. It 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.

Phase 1 began with 21 companies in September with the goal of helping them validate their products. Now 15 companies will go through Phase 2 until the end of the summer with the goal of attacking their chosen markets and bringing on more paying customers.  Some of these companies already have significant revenues.

“We are always looking for the most exciting companies to work with,” said Propel CEO Barry Bisson in a statement.  “We’re also continuously evaluating the companies we’re investing our time in to ensure we’re maximizing our impact on the region and startup ecosystem.” 

These are the companies participating in the program:

Agyle Intelligence

David McNally

Mount Stewart, P.E.I.

Agyle automates data collection and reporting throughout teams, operations and supply chains to improve decision making, simplify reporting and optimize profitability.

Atlantic Institute for Resilience

Jackie Kinley

Halifax

AIR is developing a mental fitness training platform that enables workplaces to assess and build resilience.

Bereda Training

Dennis Cottreau

Halifax

Bereda offers a peer-to-peer coaching platform that lets athletes connect and collaborate with friends and coaches and improve their training.

Dugo

Kianoosh Yazdani

Halifax

Dugo is an asset management, automation and planning platform for remote sites such as cell towers. Dugo replaces what is typically a tedious, time-consuming and error prone task with a comprehensive network action plan in less than a minute.

InsightWell

Shameer Iqbal

Wolfville, NS

InsightWell has developed a platform that helps people with sleep apnea find better lifestyle habits to improve their sleep.

Passiv

Brendan Lee Young

Fredericton

Passiv helps passive investors in Canada to rebalance their portfolio cheaply and easily, allowing them to exercise more control over their retirement savings.

ReelData

Matt Zimola and Hossein Salimian

Halifax

ReelData provides artificial intelligence software for aquaculture feed cameras, allowing fish farms to measure biomass, sea lice and health in real-time without bringing in extra hardware.

Room Service

Johnathan Cannon

Halifax

RoomServiceHFX.com delivers food to Haligonians’ front doors within 45 minutes of receiving an order.

Safa

Jason Trask

St. John’s

Safa increases conversion rates when group benefit insurance brokers are prospecting by providing them with human resource tools and data.

Sensory Friendly Solutions

Christel Seeberger

Saint John

The company has developed an app that identifies and rates public places like restaurants or hotels that are sensory friendly – meaning they don’t have light, sounds or other sensory stimuli that could irritate someone with autism.

Side Door

Laura Simpson and Dan Mangan

Halifax and Vancouver

Side Door has developed an online ticketing and booking platform that helps artists perform in such places as people’s homes, allowing for unique, fun and intimate concerts.

Team Stripes

Brandon Bourgeois

Moncton

The company has developed an eLearning platform for hockey officials.

Trip Ninja

Andres Collart

Halifax

Trip Ninja builds better and cheaper multi-city itineraries for travel providers, increasing their bookings and margins.

Unum Home Care

Lisa Williams

Miramichi, NB

Unum Health provides a digital solution for home care providers to improve productivity and communications.

Vinocount

Jon King

St. John’s

Vinocount is a beverage management tool that analyses inventory usage and saves owners up to $20,000 per year.

 

Disclosure: Propel ICT is a client of Entrevestor.

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