Five early-stage startups -- three of them from outside Nova Scotia -- received $25,000 each in equity funding from the Volta Cohort Pitch Event on Wednesday.
This marks the seventh time that Volta Cohort has staged a pitching event to provide seed funding for Atlantic Canada companies. At each pitch event, as many as five companies are chosen for up to $25,000 in funding. They also receive mentorship and office space in Volta or another innovation hub in the region.
“Volta Cohort Pitch Competitions continue to prove that there is no shortage of big ideas and innovative thinking in Atlantic Canada,” said Volta Vice-President of Programs and Partnerships Meghann Coleman in a statement. “The calibre of companies and the significant impact they intend to make on various industries and sectors is incredibly impressive and rewarding to be part of.”
Volta, the Halifax innovation hub, initiated the funding program three years ago, and before Wednesday the program had awarded $725,000 to 29 startups. These companies have since raised $9 million and employ more than 100 people.
When the Cohort program – which is supported by BDC, Innovacorp and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency – started several years ago, almost all the pitching companies were from the Halifax area. The latest event was virtual, and the 16 participants hailed from all four Atlantic Provinces. Only seven are from the Halifax area.
The five winners are:
- Smooth Meal Prep (Dartmouth) delivers healthy, fitness-focused meals to people’s homes, helping them to lose weight and improve their health while avoiding time in the kitchen. The company, which already has $200,000 in sales in its first year and employs 12 people, is planning an app that will help people manage their fitness regime while subscribing to the meals program.
- MICC Financial (Charlottetown) is a collaborative platform that helps groups of people save money, access capital and build credit. It has produced an IOS, Android and web app meant to be used by groups of friends as an alternative to predatory lenders like payday loan companies. The concept of rotational savings refers to a group of people pooling their money and taking turns to borrow from the collective fund without paying interest. MICC began testing its software in May and launched an open beta in June. It has 200 early adopters and has allowed $10,000 in transactions.
- Granville Biomedical (St. John’s) is a women's healthtech company that designs anatomical models to enhance healthcare training and advance patient education. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the company has pivoted to develop swabs that can be used in testing for COVID-19 or other diseases. The company has been working with Health Canada on gaining regulatory approval for the swabs, and is planning clinical trials in Peru. It is planning to manufacture its swabs in Vancouver and hopes to meet the need for more swabs in Canada and other countries.
- Pocket Finance (Halifax) is developing a personal finance mobile app that minimizes waste, highlights banking fine print, and improves financial literacy. The app is easy to use and helps people and their financial planners understand all components of their financial health, hoping to increase their financial literacy. The company has signed a letter of intent for a financial firm with more than 1300 financial planners to licence the app.
- Swiftsure Innovations (Pasadena, NL), which won the $55,000 BioInnovation Challenge earlier this month, is developing a device to facilitate the moisturization and cleaning of ventilator patients’ mouths and noses by flushing them with fluid. The process is meant to limit the creation of aerosols, which can sometimes spread disease. The tubes’ lack of a proper seal on the mouth and the prolonged dryness in the mouth and nasal cavity can work to produce germs, that can be carried into the lungs through the tubes. The Swiftsure tube improves the seal and includes a system that sprays the mouth and nose, to reduce the risk of infection.
For the first time, Volta has announced that members of the Volta Cohort are eligible for follow-on funding, as long as they achieve certain milestones. As many as six companies will receive an additional $25,000, bringing their total investment from Volta Cohort to $50,000. This follow-on funding is open to participants chosen in the November 2019 in-take or later, and recipients have to have been in the program for at least six months to qualify. The funding will be awarded on a company-by-company basis in the coming months.