Venn's Program Manager Alicia Grayeb and Entrepreneur in Residence Norbert Demps

Venn's Program Manager Alicia Grayeb and Entrepreneur in Residence Norbert Demps

Venn Innovation, a New Brunswick innovation hub, has accepted three companies into its Venn Garage incubator program via its first Open Pitch Competition, in which 13 New Brunswick businesses competed for access.

The winners and their CEOs are: Welkom-U, Ajibola Oluwatosin; LifeTrack Safety Systems, Amy Andrews; and Parados Cerebral Solutions, Pascal McCarthy. The three companies also appeared in July at the University of New Brunswick's MTME Virtual Demo Day, which LifeTrack won.  

Held online July 30, the Open Pitch Competition required entrepreneurs to submit a five-minute video pitch and answer 10 minutes of questions from the judges, who included Venn staff and Garage alumni. Companies from across New Brunswick were allowed to apply, with the top candidates being chosen to pitch.

“We are always excited to hear new ideas that are going to have a significant and positive impact on New Brunswick and beyond,” Alicia Grayeb, Program Manager for Venn’s startup services said in a statement. “The Garage is an important piece in activating the New Brunswick economy, particularly following the changes we’re seeing from the pandemic.”

Created in 2014, Venn Garage is a non-cohort based program billed as helping New Brunswick entrepreneurs validate their ideas, acquire early adopters, gain initial funding and prepare for other accelerators.

Intake usually occurs on a rolling basis, with companies initially remaining for a year and extending their residencies by six months if their performance merits it. Grayeb said in an email that the creation of the Open Pitch Competition was inspired by increased demand for access to the incubator.

Venn Garage companies can also access up to $50,000 of in-kind services. In a press release, Venn said these include “access to securely Canadian-hosted tools and resources, international mentorship, world class training, networking opportunities as well as connectivity to the regional, national, and international markets.”

Companies do not have to relinquish equity in exchange for the backing, which includes access to private cloud storage and secure video-calling, among other benefits.

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Eighty-five startups have so far completed the program. Venn Innovation said in 2019 that the Garage’s capacity is 15 companies, but a spokesperson was not immediately available to comment on how many are currently enrolled.

In 2019, Moncton-based Venn received a $475,685 grant from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to fund its Garage operations.

Venn Garage alumni include food-truck maker and social venture The Farmers' Truck and workout tracking app FITIV.

The three Open Pitch Competition winners are:

Welkom-U

Ajibola Oluwatosin, CEO

Welkom-U is developing a software platform to help new and prospective immigrants navigate issues such as currency exchanges, finding housing and job-hunting. The system will consolidate offerings from other providers, giving immigrants a “one-stop-shop” to help them assimilate.

LifeTrack Safety Systems

Amy Andrews, CEO

LifeTrack is designing a lifejacket and radio communication system that does not inflate until it is submerged in water, making it less awkward to wear. It also broadcasts a distress signal that includes its GPS location. The jacket’s distress signal will be sent 30 seconds after it is exposed to water, and the wearer will be able to cancel it if they are not in danger. Other boats that receive the radio signal will also be able to acknowledge the request for help.

Parados Cerebral Solutions

Pascal McCarthy, CEO

Parados is developing a mouth guard with sensors that will allow athletes to know whether they have sustained a head injury that is likely to lead to a concussion. Later, the team will release a spine-mounted device using similar technology. Over time, an artificial intelligence system will be able to offer insights into the cumulative effects athletes face when they suffer repeated brain injuries.