On the surface, MotionHall is a Silicon Valley tech company that helps people in the pharma and biotech spheres complete transactions more quickly. But CEO Rachael Craig likes to emphasize that her company has deep roots in Nova Scotia and hopes its presence in the province grows this year.
Co-founded by expat Nova Scotians Craig and Matthew Jewkes, MotionHall has developed software that helps people working in pharma, biotech, and life sciences venture capital find the right information about drug candidates to accelerate deals. It uses data analytics and artificial intelligence to help deal-makers find innovations that will help them bring new drugs to the market. And it’s finding customers around the world.
What’s difficult to pin down about the company is where it’s based, though most would say San Francisco. Its 15 staff include people in Vancouver and four in Nova Scotia – a number the founders want to increase.
“If you look at our company, Motionhall has never NOT been a Nova Scotia company,” said Craig in an interview last week. “We’ve always had headcount in Nova Scotia. . . . In terms of our staff we’re a pan-Canadian company. In terms of mindset and financing, we’re absolutely a San Francisco company."
She added: “If you look at our customers, we’re a global company and compete on the global stage. If you look at my life, you could say Rachael lives on a plane or in a network.”
With International Women’s Day taking place on Sunday, it’s a good time to showcase Rachael Craig, one of the many astonishing female entrepreneurs in the Atlantic Canadian startup community.
It’s not an accident that her company MotionHall exists at the intersection of IT and biotech, because Craig herself grew up dabbling in computers, and went on to study at Dalhousie University’s Croll Lab for Comparative Neurobiology.
During her time at Dal, she worked in the Industrial Liaison and Innovation office, which taught her the challenges that pharma companies, biotech investors and researchers have in sorting through the mountains of data that exists in life sciences research. After university, she moved on to the Halifax tech community, including a stint at gaming company Twisted Oaks Studios (acquired by River Studios of San Francisco in 2016), where she met Jewkes.
They began to work together on a solution that would help people working on new drugs find the scientific information they need for their work and helps facilitate M&A or licencing agreements. They founded MotionHall with a staff across Canada and a base in San Francisco, where they drew financing from such funds as Discovery Parks, First Star Ventures, Right Side Capital Management.
Craig is especially proud to have also received financing from Village Global, a VC fund founded by such business titans as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg and Mark Zuckerberg. (Craig has discussed her company with Gates and Bloomberg.)
Though she spends time meeting customers around the world, when in San Francisco, she stays at Template House in the Lower Haight neighbourhood. Founded by tech entrepreneurs, Template's residents include formerly incarcerated people and its mission is to give them a place to live while they transition back into society.
It is part of The Embassy Network, which has similar facilities in several cities, and Craig stays in the Network’s homes when traveling to such places as New York or Berlin.
As MotionHall gains traction, the co-founders want to continue to build the staff in Nova Scotia, hoping to hire people in junior positions that they can mentor and develop.
“We have to find the right people and we’re going to be running a campaign to find them right across Nova Scotia,” she said. “We’re hiring broadly for roles in data analysis, software engineering, number of sales operation positions, customer success -- all in a junior capacity.”