Megan McCarthy: 'Earthships . . . have a role to play.'
There has been talk recently about the need to create more startup hubs in Atlantic Canada. Halifax-based entrepreneur Megan McCarthy thinks Nova Scotia is well-placed to become a hub for sustainable technology and renewable energy.
McCarthy is CEO of powerWHYS, a company that provides an app that shows those who own or work on renovated buildings how to conserve energy on a particular property.
She said Nova Scotia already has a developing ecosystem and a lot of initiatives around sustainability, including government-led projects, like Efficiency NS, which helps Nova Scotians save on energy costs.
“Nova Scotia was one of the first places to have an efficiency body,” she said. “We have legal obligations to hit renewable energy targets.”
She praised the sustainability initiatives of Dalhousie University’s school of architecture and Nova Scotia Community College, which runs courses on solar power.
“Nova Scotia has some very forward-looking thinkers, including Don Roscoe, solar designer and builder. We also have impressive environmental projects, like the Ecology Action Centre whose recent renovations might have made them the greenest office building in the world.”
McCarthy began her own company in January 2015. At the time, she was working with the Ecology Action Centre on an energy efficiency project. She said the centre helped her test her prototype, which she cobbled together herself on an Excel spreadsheet.
She has recently forged a partnership with SimpTek Technologies, the Fredericton-based maker of energy monitoring software.
“They’re the big technical team I’ve been looking for,” she said.
McCarthy and her partner, Alex Clark-Gallant, a local eco-friendly builder and artist, are about to further their education by joining builders of sustainable homes, TheEarthship Academy, for a month-long training period at their base in Taos, New Mexico.
She hopes to be able to share her knowledge about how to build these off-grid homes made of recycled and natural materials when she returns to Nova Scotia.
McCarthy became interested in Earthships in 2013 when she won $250 from Dalhousie University's Office of Sustainability after submitting an idea to the Green your Campus contest. She invested the money in a Kickstarter campaign for the Valhalla Movement, a community of Earthship homes being built near Montreal.
“Compared to a normal house, Earthship homes are cheap to build,” she said. Some people in Ontario built a 2,900 square foot home in three months for $55,000 dollars, and they will have no bills to run it…
“Earthship homes are not ideal for all circumstances—they’re not ideal for cities because of zoning issues, but in terms of new construction in a spacious environment, they have a role to play.”
McCarthy said the concepts of sustainability and renewable energy are gaining traction among the general population. That traction will continue to grow, including among investors.
“Clean tech investors are typically the ones who have been investing in energy efficiency, but we are hoping to broaden that investment horizon… We have a massive opportunity to become an R&D hub for Clean Technologies,” she said.
Things are looking good for McCarthy now, but her entrepreneurial path has not been smooth. She became determined to work in renewable energy after spending 10 years in the oil and gas industry in her native Calgary.
She relocated to Halifax in 2009 and completed a Bachelor of Management, majoring in Environment, Sustainability, and Society at Dalhousie University.
Over the years, she has won startup awards and become involved in mentoring other young entrepreneurs, but three previous Nova Scotia-based startups she worked on, including one involving wind turbines, did not work out.
“PowerWHYS is my fourth startup,” she said. “The others failed for a variety of reasons. You make mistakes, you have to become an expert, you have to time your idea right…After a while, you hit your stride.
“Entrepreneurship is a game of perseverance.”
Harbr Brings Big Data to Construction
Dave Kim: The value of the data is 'endless'.
A young Halifax company called Harbr is bringing the promise of Big Data to one of Canada’s biggest and fastest-growing industries—construction.
Harbr has developed a mobile app that allows big construction companies and their project managers to analyze data on the sub-contractors they’ve hired for specific projects. That helps big companies to improve efficiency in the short term, and to understand how to improve their overall performance in the longer term.
“On most construction sites, 90 per cent of work force is made up of subcontractors and it’s the subcontractors’ performance that determines the general contractor’s performance,” said Harbr CEO Dave Kim. “But there’s no data on the subcontractors.” The only way until now that general contractors can assess sub-contractors is on their price.
Harbr, which has been going for about six months, is targeting one of Canada’s hottest industries. According to Statistics Canada, construction accounted for six per cent of the country’s GDP and 7.1 per cent of its workforce in 2010, and the industry grew at twice the rate of the overall economy in the first decade of the century.
Kim, who will present the product tonight at DemoCamp Halifax, is personally a bit new to the construction industry. He’s a tech guy, best known as one of the cofounders of GoInstant, the startup that sold out to Salesforce.com for a reported $70-million-plus in 2012. A while back he linked up with friends Jeff and Ashley Kielbratowski, who were veterans of the construction industry, and CTO Mike Ouellette, to explore ways to apply to tech to the building trades. Eventually, they found the market to focus on was data on sub-contractors.
The product, which requires no integration with a company’s back office, gives the site managers a mobile dashboard that tracks all the work carried out by subcontractors. It captures data in such areas as work-force loading, time to completion and types of delay. The app can be downloaded free, and Harbr makes money by charging for analysis of the data.
The company, which now has six staff and a couple of part-timers, has been financed so far through the resources of the founders. Kim is now working on a seed round with a target of about $1.2 million, which he hopes to close by the end of the year.
Working out of the Volta startup house, Harbr is now working with six major construction companies, either based in Atlantic Canada or the East Coast arms of multinational companies. In the near future, the company will focus on gaining customers in the red-hot Ontario market, and working with existing clients to spread across the country. After that, the team is eyes key markets in the U.S., like Florida, New York or California.
As the company gains more customers, it will develop a unique data bank on the performance of various facets of the construction industry.
“This very much is a data play for us,” said Kim, a native of Australia who has lived in both Cape Breton and Halifax. “The value of that data is quite immense. Understanding such a big industry as construction … is quite huge and remarkable. We think that the value there is endless.”
Briefs: Mashup Lab, CTA, Levitation
Scientists Confirm Benefits of Levitation Knee Brace
Spring Loaded Technology has announced that independent scientists have shown its Levitation knee brace significantly reduces factors that can lead to muscle fatigue.
The Dartmouth company said the study was performed through the NSERC Engage Program at the University of New Brunswick by research scientists, Chris McGibbon in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Abeer Mohamed Abdelhady, PhD Candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
They observed the oxygen intake, carbon dioxide production and muscle activity of three healthy individuals as they repeated a squat to stand task with and without the assistance of the knee brace.
The Levitation knee brace, which uses a liquid spring technology to store energy as the leg is bent and return it as the leg is straightened, required less exertion during movements like standing from a squat or crouched position.
Data from the study revealed that participants used 25 percent less oxygen during the task cycle when compared to their consumption without the brace’s assistance. The researchers also found a drastic 40 percent reduction in carbon dioxide production.
Known as CTA@Boston, the program is open to open to a range of companies, including IT, cleantech and biotech startups.
The Canadian Technology Accelerator in Boston is an award-winning four-month immersion program that connects Canadian companies to U.S. clients, strategic partners, and investors. It is managed and operated by the Consulate General of Canada in Boston's Trade Commissioner Service team in close partnership with Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England.
Mashup Weekend works in a similar way to startup weekends: participants present their business ideas, and then form teams around what they consider to be the best ideas. The teams spend the weekend developing their plans, then present them to a panel of judges at the end.
Mashup Lab and Pulse Pictou County have joined forces to make Mashup Weekend happen in Pictou County.
“If it sounds intense, that’s because it is,” said Andrew Button, CEO and founder of Mashup Lab. “But it’s also a lot of fun!”
Registration is available here and only costs $45, which covers all meals and snacks.
Sales Growth Up as Startups Expand
Something unexpected is happening in Atlantic Canada’s technology and innovation community: as these companies become larger, they are in total growing more quickly than when they were literally a bunch of startups.
What we’re seeing among high-growth innovation companies in the region is the development of a core of larger companies that are actually accelerating their growth. We’ll still call them startups for lack of a better term, but in truth the region is developing a club of high-growth corporations.
That was the major find of Entrevestor’s annual analysis of startups in the region, which we publish today. For the past three years, we’ve been surveying these locally-owned, high-growth innovators, and the results for 2015 show that the community is starting to mature.
The data revealed two important trends, the first being the development of bigger startups. We estimate there are now more than 130 startups in the region that have more than $100,000 in annual revenue. And of these, about 30 have more than $2 million in revenue.
It is these larger companies that are creating the second major finding: overall revenue growth among startups is actually accelerating.
Revenues increased about 30 per cent in 2013, then 37 per cent in 2014 and 66 per cent in 2015.
As these companies grow in size, they develop stronger sales teams and refine their products to better meet market demand.
That means that many are increasing their growth rates as they get larger, and that is amplifying their economic impact.
A company booking its first sales looks great in terms of growth for that company.
But the economic impact is far greater when that company boosts its annual revenues from, say, $500,000 to $1 million.
We identified 368 startups at the end of 2015 and surveyed as many as we could.
Some 152 companies replied to the survey, including 127 that provided data on revenue.
While we in the media often highlight funding by startups, the growth in revenue is the surest indicator of a company’s health.
What we’re finding is that startups are coming to believe that they have to at least double their revenues to be taken seriously.
“In Silicon Valley, your revenues should be tripling or you’re not growing fast enough,” Sean Fahey, CEO of Moncton-based Vidcruiter, said.
He added that his company is “trending toward that and I don’t think I’m an outlier.”
These startups are remarkably optimistic about revenue growth in 2016, forecasting revenue growth of 120 per cent.
We conducted our survey mainly in the second-quarter, so many respondents had a pretty good idea of how the year was shaping up.
The reality is many will likely fall short of their expectations but the important point is that there is strong momentum for sales growth.
Overall, the growth in sales is aiding the growth in exports.
The survey respondents said they made only 20 per cent of their money in Atlantic Canada in 2015 — about the same as the previous year.
About 19 per cent of the revenues came from the rest of Canada and 62 per cent from outside the country.
If there is one reason to be concerned about the revenue picture, it’s that the region’s startups are far too focused on just two markets — Canada and the U.S.
Only five startups of 58 respondents discussing their primary market listed countries other than Canada or the U.S.
Briefs: Honibe, SimplyCast, AIDA
John Rowe: First with all-natural, honey-based supplements and vitamins.
Island Abbey Foods Expands into Vitamins and Supplements
Island Abbey Foods, a Charlottetown-based natural health product manufacturer, has expanded into the vitamin and mineral supplement category with the launch of four new products under the brand honibe honey gummies.
“After years of extensive research and product development, we are thrilled to be the first to market with an all-natural honey-based line of vitamins and supplements for both children and adults,” said Founder and CEO John Rowe in a statement. “Staying true to our promise, pure Canadian honey is the No. 1 ingredient in our vitamins, thus cutting refined sugar by 50 percent versus leading brands.”
The four new products include two for adults and two products for children. The adult products include a complete multivitamin and a complete multivitamin with added immune boost. The pediatric products include a complete multivitamin and a complete multivitamin with added immune boost.
The company made the announcement last week at the CHFA show this weekend in Toronto.
SimplyCast Wins Consumer Choice Award
Dartmouth-based SimplyCast, a global leader in marketing and communication automation, has been named the winner of the Consumer Choice Award in the category of Digital Online Marketing.
Selected as a 2017 Consumer Choice Award winner through a process of statistically accurate market research, SimplyCast is now considered to be a top-ranked organization in the online marketing industry, the company said in a statement.
Consumer Choice Award is the only organization to recognize excellence in business through an intensive four-step process designed to produce reliable results for consumers to make educated decisions.
“We are very pleased to be recognized by this prestigious organization,” said President and CEO of SimplyCast, Saeed El-Darahali. “We have worked hard to offer the best product and service possible and to be acknowledged as a top-ranked business confirms that our efforts are successful.”
AIDA presents Cloud-Based Analytics Overview and Tutorial
The Acadia University institute, known as AIDA, said in a statement data analytics and machine learning are becoming increasingly accessible through easy-to-use tools available on the Web. This means that it is simpler than ever to generate insight and create predictions based on your data without having to purchase and install hardware and software.
In this session, participants will learn about several data analysis and predictive modeling tools available in browsers. They will learn about some of the benefits and drawbacks of Microsoft Azure Machine Learning Studio, the Google Cloud Predictions API, IBM Analytics, and Amazon Machine Learning.
The seminar will be led by Christian Frey, who works for AIDA as a Business and Data Analyst.
Ignite Fredericton Launches Atlantic Canada’s First Export Accelerator
Ignite Fredericton, the community’s economic development catalyst agency, has launched its new export accelerator, Export Igniter.
As a first of its kind in Atlantic Canada, Export Igniter is designed to help export-ready companies seize opportunities, navigate the complex landscape of international business, and jump start their export sales.
“After a year of consultation and planning, we’re very proud to begin accepting applications for this ground-breaking program,” said Adam Peabody, Investment Attraction and Growth Specialist with Ignite Fredericton.
A statement from the organization said export performance and employment are inextricably linked in New Brunswick. Between 2001 and 2014, export sales from New Brunswick were down by over $600 million on average per year. Over the same period, New Brunswick lost 13,000 jobs. Currently, export sales account for 45 percent of the province’s GDP; however, with more than 90 percent of all export sales go to the U.S. market.
Export Igniter will begin in January and run as a 12-week program enabling export-ready companies to develop their export strategy to expand to new markets.
Companies will participate in bootcamps led by subject matter experts such as Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service, Export Development Canada, and Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters. They will also be paired with a successful local exporter, who will provide ongoing mentorship, as well as paired with a team of highly motivated undergraduate students through a partnership with the University of New Brunswick’s Faculty of Business.
Thalmic Raises US$120M Series B
Waterloo-based Thalmic Labs has announced a US$120 million ($158 million) Series B Funding led by Intel Capital, The Amazon Alexa Fund, and Fidelity Investments Canada.
In a statement, Thalmic said the new investment will help the company realize its vision for the next era of computing, “where the lines between humans and digital technology become increasingly blurred.”
Thalmic created its first product, the Myo armband, in 2012. The armband reads the electrical activity of the wearer’s muscles to control technology with gestures and motion. The company said the armband is now used by tens of thousands of customers in over 150 countries.
Thalmic said researchers are using the Myo armband to train amputees on how to use their prosthetic limb and to translate sign language, while some developers have built virtual reality experiences.
The company is currently recruiting.
“We’re hiring experienced team members for sales, marketing, and business development positions in our new San Francisco location while growing our engineering, R&D, and design teams in Waterloo,” the statement said.
NBIF Boosts Breakthru Prizes to $1M
Participants of the 2014-15 Breakthru competition attend a bootcamp.
The Innovation agency holds the Breakthru competition every other year with the goal of helping young companies to get off the ground with funding and mentorship. When it held the 2014-15 edition of the competition, NBIF awarded a total of more than $730,000 to three companies.
In the 2016-17 contest, NBIF will award $750,000 in cash and in-kind services to the top three New Brunswick companies. And it will set aside $250,000 for a company from other parts of Canada that wants to set up base in New Brunswick.
“Imagine, one day you’re dreaming about being an entrepreneur and owning your own company, and the next day it’s a reality—this is what’s going to happen for three hard-working Breakthru participants,” said NBIF Chair Cathy Simpson in a statement. “Starting a new company is a risky adventure, and to take the leap into entrepreneurship, people need to know that turning their ideas into a business is a real possibility—Breakthru does exactly that.”
The sixth edition of Breakthru, sponsored by Cox & Palmer and Deloitte, offers the largest prize package of any comparable competition in Canada. The result of the competition is that four young companies will be growing in the province with an average of $250,000 of development capital or expertise. The prizes include professional services like legal, accounting and marketing advice. NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury likes to call the prize a “company in a box”.
The national competition – which is not open to companies from Quebec, due to unique regulations for competitions in that province – is designed to attract companies to New Brunswick. The winners will receive a $200,000 venture capital investment from NBIF as well as $50,000 in in-kind services.
As well as the prizes, the Breakthru competition helps to educate novice entrepreneurs in developing a business. The process this year will include two different bootcamps, which means that even companies that don’t win awards will gain through the process.
“The purpose of Breakthru is to bring people, ideas and money together in a way that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship,” said the NBIF statement. “The professional services, support and mentoring they receive from NBIF and its prize partners will make a tremendous impact when entrepreneurs need it most – during their start-up phase.”
In 2015, Breakthru was won by Castaway Golf, which develop an automated system for retrieving golf balls from water hazards, which could then be sold on to golfers.
Applicants must submit their applications by Nov. 15. The winners will be announced at the Breakthru LIVE 2017 gala at the Fredericton Convention Centre on March 23, 2017.
Briefs: Qimple, CarbonCure, LLC
Qimple CEO Yves Boudreau: 'Absolutely thrilled.'
Qimple Lands $500,000 from ACOA
Qimple, the Moncton startup that works to improve hiring for companies and applicants, has received a conditional loan of almost $500,000 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program.
ACOA said in a statement the “conditionally repayable contribution” will help the company undertake business development and marketing activities to promote and innovate their product.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have ACOA’s support,” said Qimple Founder and CEO Yves Boudreau in a statement. “The funding is allowing us to significantly increase our business development and marketing activities, so we can continue to grow and be a successful Atlantic Canadian company."
In 2015, the company completed the 500 Startups five-month accelerator program in San Francisco – the first company from Atlantic Canada accepted into the program.
Ozinga Installs CarbonCure CO2 Recycling Technology
CarbonCure Technologies, the Halifax company whose technology makes environmentally friendly concrete, has announced a partnership with Ozinga of Chicago.
Ozinga recently installed the CarbonCure technology at its downtown Chicago ready-mix concrete plant, the companies said in a statement. The CarbonCure technology recycles carbon dioxide gas generated by an ethanol plant in neighbouring Wisconsin and injects it into Ozinga's concrete in order to improve the concrete's compressive strength and significantly reduce its carbon footprint.
The statement said the Ozinga family has a history of service and entrepreneurship, and the adoption of the CarbonCure technology represents a natural evolution for the company. It is the latest in a string of concrete makers across Canada and the U.S. that have adopted the CarbonCure technology in the past three years.
Charlottetown’s Startup Zone Partners with Ladies Learning Code
Startup Zone, the Charlottetown entrepreneurship centre, has formed a partnership with the newly founded Ladies Learning Code PEI Chapter.
Founded in Toronto, Ladies Learning Code is a national organization dedicated to increasing tech education accessibility to more women and youth. It has since spread across the country to 29 cities.
“After being a part of the Ladies Learning Code team in Toronto for the past couple of years, I am beyond excited to bring this amazing organization home to P.E.I.,” said Emily Coffin, the Ladies Learning Code PEI Chapter Lead. “I left the province almost seven years ago due to a lack of opportunities in the tech field. Since then, I’m happy to see that the tech community here on the Island has flourished.”
The official Ladies Learning Code PEI Chapter launch will take place at the Startup Zone on Sept. 24 during the National Learn to Code Day. Tickets and additional information can be found here.
“The Startup Zone is all about fostering successful companies from PEI. We see our partnership with … Ladies Learnings Code on PEI as a great way to encourage more women or men to think about coding and tech,” said Christina MacLeod, Executive Director of the Startup Zone.
Williamson Takes Invest Atlantic to NB
Bob Williamson: The pool of angels is decreasing while startups are increasing
As Halifax-based Bob Williamson prepares to host Invest Atlantic in New Brunswick for the first time, his years of mentoring entrepreneurs are being recognized by a national startup organization.
Williamson, who has won Startup Canada’s regional Entrepreneur Promotion Award, finds he is impressed with New Brunswick. He said the province is leading when it comes to collaborating to grow the startup ecosystem and companies.
“In some ways New Brunswick is a tighter community,” Williamson, CEO and founder of Jameson Consulting Group, said. “They seem to really pull together as one.”
He said the accelerator Propel ICT, which began in New Brunswick and is now regional, has become a model of co-operation, but the sector needs more.
“It appears some of us are still working in silos,” he said. “Governments are working in silos, communities are in silos, and some of our programs are working in silos...By collaborating we will see a large multiplier effect for our time and resources.”
Williamson started Invest Atlantic six years ago after realizing that regional entrepreneurs lacked the supports available to entrepreneurs elsewhere. This year’s event will be in Moncton on Oct.5. Until now, the conference has been held exclusively in Halifax.
“I’d retired from the off shore oil and gas sector and I’d invested small amounts in several startups coming out of universities that had ideas for the energy sector,” he said, as he explained how the conference started.
He said that many of these young entrepreneurs didn’t know anything about business, but they were filled with plenty of dynamic energy.
“I thought, there’s more of these entrepreneurs in other sectors, but there didn’t seem to be formal mechanisms to help them. If we could bring entrepreneurs and investors to one room things would start to happen.”
The first year was a success and the conference has grown steadily since. The number of other events and supports for entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada has also grown enormously. Williamson himself has founded the Pitch101, 201, and 301 series and cofounded the Accredited Investor Outreach program currently being developed.
“We have quite a sector we didn’t have six, seven years ago,” Williamson, who began his career by founding Ocean Resources magazine, said. Over a 22-year period, he created a family of energy-related publications before exiting in 2002.
Williamson’s Startup Canada award stems from his mentoring work which has seen him contribute around the region. Institutions and programs he has been involved with include Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business, the Enactus program at St. Mary’s, Springboard Atlantic, the University of New Brunswick, Cape Breton University, the University of Prince Edward Island, and Memorial University in Newfoundland and Labrador.
He said mentoring has enriched his life and been critical to his contribution in helping grow the ecosystem.
“Without mentoring, I wouldn’t have had the empathy to know what was needed,” he said.
Williamson is now working on developing a program that will encourage more investors to fund Atlantic Canadian startups.
“It’s well known that the pool of angel investors is decreasing, while the pool of startups is increasing,” he said.
He envisions a regional program similar to a Community Economic and Development Investment Fund that would act as a seed fund for startups by removing provincial barriers.
In his vision, the fund would allow a Nova Scotia-based investor to put money into a New Brunswick company and get a full tax credit, which can only be obtained right now if the investor invests in a Nova Scotia venture.
Williamson is also looking for a partner for Invest Atlantic, so that he can eventually move on to other things.
“I would like to help initiate a seed fund and also bring in more angels and accredited investors from outside the region,” he said.
“There is still so much to be done. If my legacy could be summed up in one word I’d like it to be ‘collaborator’.”
The idea for DemoCamp is to get founders that are still at the early stages to demonstrate their products. They can’t talk about revenue projections or the size of the market – it’s all about getting this product to work in front of a crowd. You can find tickets for the event here.
In addition to nine startups now listed on the event website, DemoCamp will feature lightning speeches by: Kyle Racki, Co-founder and CEO at Proposify; Isaac Souweine, VP of Product at Flatbook; Mark, Lever, CEO of the Chronicle-Herald; Sam Haffar, Principal of Real Ventures; and Gloria Palcich, Founder of Optionelle.
Among other things, this is a reason for celebration because the first DemoCamp in Halifax in 2011 seemed to signal the birth of the Halifax startup community. Hosted by TitanFile Co-Founders Milan Vrekic (now CEO of Zora) and Tony Abou-Assaleh, the first DemoCamp Halifax took place in a packed auditorium and was held up by the odd technical glitch. But the companies in the spotlight that night included Compilr, which has since exited, and the fore-runners of LeadSift and Proposify. It was the first time the current generation of startups got together and showed each other what they were up to.
The 2016 edition is being organized by Volta, and was to have been held on the eve of Volta’s flagship event Startup Empire. But Empire has been rescheduled until May so the organizers can hold it in a larger venue – which they believe will be needed given the caliber of speakers they’re bringing in.
Here are companies that will present at DemoCamp Halifax 2016:
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Currently almost all video is presented using a standard layout – containing a thumbnail image, title and short description. But there’s no previewing capability. VidSnippets’ web-based product solves this by enabling easy creation of custom summary clips that link to the source video.
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Chinova Gains Leads at IndieBio
Natasha Dayagude with teammates Emanuel Dinis, left, and David Brown
Chinova Bioworks, a Fredericton company striving to develop new preservatives made from chitosan, has emerged from the IndieBio accelerator in Ireland with a relationship with a multi-national juice maker.
The young company, which was spun out of another Fredericton startup, Mycodev, is now working with two different multinationals, which could provide a path to market for the product.
Chinova is developing new applications for chitosan — Mycodev’s main product — and using the compound as the foundation for an anti-microbial agent. The company was already working with a major beverage company to test the product in preserving the shelf life of premium juices before IndieBio. Now it has two relationships.
“We did meet a client so we are working with a multi-national company within Europe,” Chinova co-founder and CEO Natasha Dhayagude said in an interview at the Startup Canada awards ceremony. “Now we’re now working with two multinationals and sending them samples, which they are testing. The tests being done now so we hope to know (the results) within a month.”
Dhayagude was at the Startup Canada regional awards for Atlantic Canada because she won the young entrepreneur category for the Atlantic region. It’s just one piece of good news she has received this year. The former entrepreneurial services coordinator at the Fredericton incubator Planet Hatch became a fellow at Venture for Canada earlier this year.
Then in the spring she found out that her new startup Chinova had been accepted into IndieBio. Acceptance into the accelerator came with a US$100,000 investment from the Princeton, N.J.,-based venture capital firm SOSV, which hosts the life sciences accelerator. And now she’s been recognized by Startup Canada.
The story of Chinova began with Mycodev, a three-year-old company that has found new, environmentally friendly ways of producing high-quality chitosan — a compound sourced from the shells of crustaceans with a range of uses, most often associated with pharmaceutical or biotech industries.
Chinova developed an anti-microbial agent made of Mycodev’s chitosan, and Dhayagude’s team is now working to adapt it into a preservative that will extend the shelf life of premium juices. Beverage companies face the problem of juices having short shelf lives, and consumers don’t want synthesized preservatives in their juice. So Chinova is working on an all-natural product that can be customized to suit the juice in question.
“It’s pretty revolutionary,” Dhayagude, a recent University of University of New Brunswick graduate, said. “There are natural preservatives on the market but no one right now can customize the natural preservative to fit what the customer needs and that is what is unique.”
Now that it has competed the program in Cork, Ireland, the Chinova team is back in Fredericton and working at expanding its network and getting the product out. The benefits of working in Ireland include being plugged into an international network of mentors, and having contact with some of the world’s major food and beverage producers. It is also working on research with the Community College of New Brunswick.
Dhayagude said she is working on raising the company’s first round of funding, probably with a target of about $500,000.
What the Startup Award Winners Said
The city of Fredericton set a record Tuesday evening when more than 250 people showed up for the Atlantic Canadian regional ceremony for the Startup Canada Awards.
It was the first time in the event’s three-year history that a regional awards ceremony has been sold out.
The crowd was treated to motivational advice and keen observation from the winners and guest speakers.
In accepting the Woman Entrepreneur Award, Laura O’Blenis, Founder and Chief Strategist at the Fredericton consultancy Stiletto said Atlantic Canadians showed many attributes needed to succeed globally. But we still need “focus and guts”, she said – the focus on an area in which we could lead the world; and the guts to gain exports by flying out to meet and sell to international customers.
“Let’s focus and let’s have the guts to believe we can compete because we can,” she said.
One highlight of the evening came at the end when Startup Canada presented the Emcee Rivers Corbett, the CEO of Relish hamburger chain and founder of Startup Fredericton, with a special Startup Champion award.
Here are a few other poignant quotes from the other winners at the event:
Senior Entrepreneur Award: Hope Milner, Co-Owner, Bohemian Findings, St. Peter's Bay, PEI;
Entrepreneur Promotion Award Bob Williamson, Founder & CEO, Jameson Group, Halifax;
Startup Canada in November will announce the national winners for the following categories: Newcomer Entrepreneur; Indigenous Entrepreneur; Resilient Entrepreneur; Community of the Year; and Policy Prize. Those awards will be presented in Toronto on Nov. 29.
Forestry.io Set to Launch Amid Buzz
Jordan Patterson, left, and Scott Gallant at Techstars NYC
Scott Gallant and Jordan Patterson realized they were on to something with their new startup Forestry.io when details of the product leaked to a tech publication and 3,000 people suddenly signed up.
Things were already heading in the right direction for Forestry.io. This summer it was accepted into the New York cohort of Techstars, one of the world’s most famous accelerators. The Charlottetown venture is one of the few Atlantic Canadian startups ever accepted into one of the big American accelerators.
The fact that 3,000 geeks in July suddenly signed up for their new content management system, or CMS, product showed the demand for it. But it was daunting as well.
“It told us that people were really into what we were doing,” Gallant said in a phone interview from New York last week. “But we weren’t really ready for it.”
So what have Gallant and Patterson created to cause all the excitement?
The two journeyman developers have capitalized on a trend in website development and created a CMS that can be used with static site generators. More and more developers are building websites with these static site generators because they are cloud-based and simpler to use and more secure than dynamic systems like WordPress.
But the static sites have been missing a main component. While static site generators simplify the work of the developers, there is no content management system to let non-tech personnel post and manage content on these sites. Forestry.io fills that gap.
“We see the whole UI (user interface) that we’re creating as the missing piece of the puzzle,” said Gallant. “We think it will change the way websites are built around the world for the next five or six years.”
Gallant and Jordan conceived of the product last year after finishing work at Foursum, the Moncton-based maker of a golf app. They began to develop the project over the winter and were accepted into Techstars New York in the spring.
Their acceptance into Techstars granted them access to US$120,000 (C$157,000) in funding, and that has helped them to grow their team, which now comprises six members. Three are in Charlottetown, and there are also developers in New York, Philadelphia and California. After the TechStar cohort ends, Forestry.io will maintain a New York office, and Gallant will travel between Charlottetown (where the company will continue to be based) and New York.
One thing Gallant has noticed while working at Techstars is that other teams in the accelerator have a dreadful time finding developers. But Gallant has been contacted regularly by developers that have dabbled in the product and want to work for the company.
“Almost everybody we’ve hired was a beta user of ours … in the early days,” he said. “They loved it so much that they wanted to work with us.”
Forestry.io has completed its beta tests and got the kinks out of the system, and users now have confidence the company will be around for a while, said Gallant. The team is preparing for a major launch later this month.
The organizers of Techstars are helping Gallant and Patterson to line up investors for its first round of funding. Gallant would not say how much they are hoping to raise in this seed round, but the company already has created a lot of buzz at it taps investors.
LINKETT Growing After 500 Startups
Toronto and California-based LINKETT has quadrupled its customer base in the last year. Appropriately enough for a marketing analytics company, LINKETT has grown by streamlining and deepening its use of paid social media advertising.
LINKETT helps marketers assess and improve the performance of Digital Signage advertising within locations such as malls and airports. It uses internet-connected sensors to recognize smartphones in order to analyze the performance of ads through traffic and behavioral smartphone data.
CEO Douglas Lusted said LINKETT has grown by practising marketing techniques learned while attending Silicon Valley accelerator 500 Startups.
“500 Startups taught us how to market ourselves online,” Lusted said. “Their tools, tricks, and techniques helped our growth.”
Tools, tricks and techniques include buying Facebook ads through AdEspresso, a company Lusted met on the accelerator.
LINKETT, which began in Waterloo, has also been buying ads on Linkedin, which have worked best for them.
Lusted said LINKETT has learned how to monitor all its marketing channels to establish which channel gets the highest conversion rate.
“That tells you where to spend your money,” he said. “You need to double down on those channels that work best for your particular business.”
One thing LINKETT has been able to do only in the U.S. is email scraping or web crawling. This entails using software to find an individual’s email address and sending them a personalized message.
“It’s not sending spam.” Lusted said. “We’re sending a…personal email for a meeting, not selling. This has enabled us to reach our target audience without hiring anyone.”
Still, the company’s growth and recent investments from the Niagara Angel Network and 500 startups, in addition to earlier funding from BDC Capital and XDL Capital Group mean LINKETT is now adding to its team of nine.
The company is looking for a Toronto-based Chief Operations Officer, as well as sales developers.
The company is hiring in order to grow the business while supporting new accounts. The new accounts are mostly medium-sized companies.
“As a startup we need to move fast. We hope to grow with our clients,” Lusted said. “We want the whales in industry, but the bigger the account the longer the sales cycle.”
Lusted said sales talent is hard to find in Canada, and in the U.S. it is very expensive.
“It’s getting harder and harder to find sales talent in Canada. Fresh grads have rarely attended a sales course,” he said.
“In the Valley, with the Canadian dollar being low, salaries are almost double the price…”
Finding talent in the U.S. is important as the company is looking to scale as fast as possible south of the border.
The company is also refining its technology.
The LINKETT product features a dashboard linked to the cloud so the user can see which ads have the greatest impact on consumers.
Now, the company is refining its data so the LINKETT system will know which ads to play for each client at different times of the day for best results using machine learning.
For Lusted, who is only 23, it is an exciting time. “We owe 500 Startups a lot,” he said.
Jobs of the Week: Dash Hudson, DPL
It’s been said that just about every startup is looking for developers, and this week in Jobs of the Week we’re highlighting companies from around the region in the hunt for tech talent.
Companies based in three of the four Atlantic Provinces and New York City are looking for tech staff in the region.
The New York company is Pharm3r, which provides actionable intelligence about medical product safety to the financial and healthcare industries. For several years, it has had a development team in Halifax, which it is now hoping to enhance by hiring a lead software developer.
Two companies are looking for developers who can handle both front- and back-ends: Halifax-based Dash Hudson, whose product helps clients analyze their Instagram and SnapChat data, is looking for a full stack developer; and HeyOrca of St. John’s, whose software helps marketing agencies develop social media campaigns for their clients, has a posting for a full stack web developer.
In Moncton, DPL, which builds network architecture for ATMs, has an opening for a system administrator.
The skills requirements for each position are outlined on the postings.
The Jobs 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 start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Qimple.
Pharm3r (pronounced the same as “farmer”) is looking for a motivated lead software developer with demonstrated abilities to lead a dev team and mentor junior team members. The position offers the flexibility of working from home with the support of local team members. The successful candidate must be able to show leadership experience in software development. He or she must have the ability to develop scalable strategies for integrating data from heterogeneous sources. Pharm3r would also like applicants to have post-graduate degrees in computer science or a related field, and experience in Python and PowerShell scripting.
DPL is looking for a talented candidate to help analyze and optimize its significant network and server infrastructure. This person will help to manage multiple data centres that service more than 35,000 embedded networking devices. The successful candidate will help to shape the future of our infrastructure, including a move to a new embedded platform. The system administrator will influence and create new designs, architectures, standards and methods for all IT systems. He or she must monitor IT operations, investigate reported alarms and resolve service impacts as they occur. The qualifications for this position include superior troubleshooting and problem-solving, and meticulous attention to detail.
HeyOrca’s web and mobile technologies are being used by some of the world's top marketing agencies and brands to plan and collaborate on social media campaigns. The company is growing into large-scale software that is integrated with social networks and numerous third-party APIs. It needs to deliver complex enterprise features while maintaining a robust, understandable and updated code-base. The full stack developer’s responsibilities range from finding and fixing bugs to discussing features with the business team. As a small team, all members contribute in some way to most aspects of the software from ideation to maintenance. That helps developers fully appreciate their role and gets them exploring areas outside of their expertise, further expanding their knowledge. HeyOrca is looking for someone who is open to living in St. John’s and has one to five years of experience in a similar role.
Briefs: NB Events; Dal’s Collide
Events in Fredericton this Week
The Startup Canada Awards on Tuesday evening are just one of a series of events taking place in Fredericton this week.
Startup Canada, the national organization dedicated to developing startups, will hand out their Atlantic Canadian regional awards at a ceremony at the Fredericton Convention Centre starting at 5:30 pm on Sept. 13. Tickets are available here.
Before the awards ceremony, from 1 to 3 p.m., Fredericton will showcase its startup community with its “Ecosystem Tour and Twitter Scavenger Hunt.” It’s an opportunity to learn about the startup ecosystem in the city.
On Monday (today), Startup Canada will hold an interactive Go Global Bootcamp event at Planet Hatch that will inspire, educate, and connect Canadian entrepreneurs to global opportunities and resources. Registration opens at 1:30 pm and the event kicks off at 2.
Finally, on Wednesday, Progress Media will hold its Progress 101 conference, at which it unveils its list of the top 101 companies in Atlantic Canada. The day-long event will take place at the Fredericton Convention Centre. Tickets are available here.
Dal Unveils Collide 2016 Program
Launch Dal, the startup and entrepreneurship initiative at Dalhousie University, has announced a the beginning of its Collide 2016 Program.
Collide is a series of workshops and pitching events tailored to help entrepreneurs launch their ventures. It is open to students, researchers and community members. Anyone pitching at the events is eligible to win as much as $3,000 in prize money.
The first event, Collide Info Night, takes place Tuesday, Sept. 13, in the Collider (room 2600 of the Killiam Library) at 4:30 p.m.. It will be followed by a networking session.
Collide’s first fireside chat, to be held Sept. 20 at 8:30 p.m. at the Dal Grad House, will feature entrepreneur Tom Hickey in discussion with Dal grads Cam McDonald and Daniel Bartek of Iconic Brewing.
Gardner Dedicated to ‘Place-Making’
Chris Gardner: Envisioned a place where Entrepreneurs could 'could feed off of and help each other.'
St. John’s-based entrepreneur Chris Gardner is doing a lot to foster and grow his community. He, in turn, will need community support if his biotechnology company Sequence Bio is to succeed.
Gardner and co-founder epidemiologist Tyler Wish aim to study the genetic profiles of 100,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
The company is developing systems that use machine-learning and artificial intelligence to analyze DNA data. That will, they hope, lead to the development of better and more personalized medicine.
Newfoundland’s population is important, according to Gardner, because the province has a rare — possibly unique — genetic grouping of families that have lived on the island for generations and who have distinct genetic markers.
“We will only succeed if the community believes we can do this ground-breaking research and that we work with the community to return benefits,” said Gardner, who is the company’s President and COO.
“Those who participate will eventually receive data that may benefit their future health care.”
Gardner has had his own genome sequenced.
“I’m going to be much more informed about my health,” he said. ”I can monitor for conditions I’m prone to. Without that information, I may not know about or may misinterpret symptoms.
“My DNA will also enable my doctors to understand which medicines and treatments might help me, and which might have adverse effects.”
Investors seem convinced. Recently, Silicon Valley venture capital firm Data Collective led a US$3 million (C$3.9 million) round of seed funding into the startup, which was formed in October 2013.
The investment has enabled Sequence Bio to grow its staff from four to 15. The figure will rise to 20 by the end of the year.
The company is launching a pilot on the province’s north shore to test processes around gaining participant consent and other formalities.
“Over 1,000 people have already said they want to participate,” Gardner said. “When we’re ready to launch we’ll enroll them.”
Gardner is also the founder of St. John’s co-working space Common Ground, the shared office space for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and creatives.
The non-profit houses more than 100 members. A feasibility study is under way to explore how to grow to meet demand.
“Along with a group of other entrepreneurs, I felt that if everyone had a home 24/7, entrepreneurs could feed off of and help each other,” Gardner said. “Common Ground is a beacon and magnet for entrepreneurial energy in the city.”
He said that several companies in diverse fields have formed as a result of meetings that occurred at Common Ground.
Gardner is also the volunteer Executive Director of TedxStJohns, the local chapter of the Ted Talks series. The provincial Tedx is going into its sixth year. Volunteers organize an annual program of seminars that provide a platform for showcasing new concepts and talent.
“This past year, we decided to make the show about youth,” Gardner said. “You had to be a Newfoundland and Labradorian younger than 24 to speak. We were blown away by the number of applications and the ideas.
“One of the youth speakers was studying archaeology and genetics to see links between the diseases of the past and today.
“Another participant, a young woman in junior high who taught herself to code, has become an advocate for coding in schools.”
Gardner said he works to grow his community because he believes in what he calls “place-making”.
“We often think of solving problems at the macro level, which is incredibly important, but if all of us took care in our own communities, we’d accomplish so much at the micro level,” he said.
He estimates that for the next number of years, growing Sequence Bio will require shouldering a heavy workload, but he is prepared for that.
“I decided this is how to invest my energy,” he said. “I’ve always believed that improvements in healthcare would come at the intersection of data, technology, community and genetics.”
Ella: The Shop To Open in Saint John
Kelly Lawson: 'We are creating a shopping and sharing centre.'
Ella, the Saint John-based app-developer that helps women sell their used clothing, has opened a retail outlet where women can get together to close more sales.
Founder and CEO Kelly Lawson announced Thursday that the company is opening a store called Ella: The Shop at 101 Prince William Street in Uptown Saint John. It will sell high fashion clothing, but it will also serve as a meeting place for women to get together and try on clothes they might buy from one another.
Ella is a mobile app on which women can sell or buy slightly used clothes. The idea is that women who love fashion have closets full of wonderful clothes they might never wear again. They can post the merchandise on Ella and users can buy them.
Lawson estimates there are $50 billion worth of slightly used fashion sitting in American closets, and she wants to help women capitalize on it. She added that women spend on average $300 a month on clothes and within a month most of it is obsolete.
“The challenge for Ella and every other online peertopeer sales platform is finding a place where people are comfortable to meet and try on clothing items,” said Lawson in a press release. “With our new shop, we are creating a shopping and sharing centre where everyone will feel safe and welcome. It’s more than a store and an app; Ella is a community, a movement.”
Ella has graduated from the Propel ICT accelerator and has been working with the Fashion Zone, an incubator for fashion companies affiliated with Ryerson University in Toronto. It launched its app a year ago and women are using it. Lawson hopes that the meeting place will encourage more sales by users, which will lead to more Ella retail outlets in other cities.
"Our long term goal is expansion,” said Lawson in an email. “We want to offer the same features and services in other cities that we are now able to offer to our home base. We will be engaging our most active app communities to choose markets where women really value high fashion.”
Ella now has a staff of four and plans to add more next month. Lawson has not raised capital for the company, preferring to bootstrap while the company gets off the ground. It hopes it is now laying the foundation for future growth.
“Everything that we do, including the opening of The Shop, is a response to the what we're learning from our users,” she said. “We will always be learning and evolving."
Using Data to Fight Global Hunger
Chris Baker: 'We want to be good citizens in this community.'
Chris Baker, CEO of the Saint John data analytics company IPSNP Computing, will outline how his Big Data product can analyze agricultural data in real time to help small farmers improve their output.
Big Data – the real-time analysis of millions of points of data to improve decision-making – is usually thought of as a tool to help large businesses or governments improve productivity. But Baker wants to work with global agencies to use Big Data to alleviate global hunger in the world’s poorest nations.
“If you’re living in a rural setting, the data that’s probably most relevant to you may be agricultural data, and having this accessible to you is really a new avenue,” said Baker, who is also a professor of computer science at University of New Brunswick Saint John. “Having data in a timely manner means that you can make the right decisions at the right time.”
IPSNP (pronounced IP-snip) has developed a system called HYDRA, which can dive into deep pools of digital data, much of it in different formats and languages, to quickly locate information. The company has focused on the pharmaceutical and healthcare segments, and has already done a pilot project with a hospital in Hartford, Conn., and worked with Environment Canada. The company now has a sales representative in the U.K. and is working on leads in Britain.
More recently, Baker has been working with Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition, or GODAN, which came about when the 2012 G8 Summit committed itself to alleviating global hunger. GODAN is supported by 354 partners, from major governments to private businesses. One of the partners is IPSNP.
As well as a doctorate in computer science, Baker has an undergraduate degree in environmental and agricultural studies and understands the challenges faced by farmers.
He has therefore been using HYDRA to tap the vast stores of data held by governments, corporations, not-for-profits and international agencies to improve farm outputs. It will analyze such data as environmental factors, climate, seeds, irrigation patterns, transportation and crops to help farmers improve their strategy.
At the GODAN Summit in New York this month, Baker will show how such analysis can help small farmers who are considering switching crops to produce a better, and more profitable, harvest.
“It helps them to identify the best varieties, the cost of switching to a new variety of crop and the profit margin they can win,” said Baker. “It’s all data-driven. If they want to switch to a new crop, this will help them to rapidly access the data they need.”
On his way to New York, Baker will stop in Boston to give a talk at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology about his technology to a community of experts in data integration.
Baker said he hopes the agricultural sector will become a new business line for IPSNP, and not just because it may lead to profitability.
“I see an opportunity to speak to major agri-chemical companies, government, people in not for profit agencies like the UN,” he said, adding that he wants to work with such groups to combat hunger. “These are the opportunities that await us and we want to be good citizens in this community.”
Innovacorp Launches Spark West
Innovacorp has launched a new competition called Spark West to identify and provide seed capital for startups in western Nova Scotia.
Spark West is the counterpart to Spark Cape Breton, which for the past three years has been helping to launch companies in Cape Breton and the Mulgrave area. Each year, it has awarded development capital of up to $50,000 to companies that have the potential to grow. The provincial innovation agency this week announced seven winners of the 2016 competition.
“Two and a half years ago we piloted a competition called Spark Cape Breton to energize the technology community in that part of Nova Scotia,” said Innovacorp in a statement on its website. “We’ve since run three more rounds there, seeing the quality of start-ups rise each time.”
The agency is now looking for new companies based in western Nova Scotia -- Lunenburg, Queens, Shelburne, Yarmouth, Digby, Annapolis, Kings and Hants counties. The company must involve a knowledge-based product, preferably in the IT, life sciences, clean tech or ocean tech segments.
The winners, who will be notified on Nov. 10, will receive as much as $50,000 in development capital, depending on the potential and complexity of their project. The money must be used to develop the company.
Applications, which must be submitted by 5 pm on Oct. 11, can be found here.
Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.
Ocean Institute Attracts $220M
Government, private investors and academia came together Tuesday to announce $220 million in funding for the Ocean Frontier Institute, a new research group led by Dalhousie University.
A statement from Dalhousie said its other partners include: eight international groups, including four of the top five ocean institutes in the world; the Government of Canada's federal laboratories; the Royal Canadian Navy; the National Film Board of Canada; and national and international industry.
"I am simply thrilled to be a part of this initiative,” said businessman John Risley, who donated $25 million to the project. “I have every confidence the OFI can become an engine for regional economic growth and firmly establish us as global leaders in ocean science."
Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board, said Tuesday the federal government would provide $94 million in funding through its Canada First Research Excellence Fund -- the largest grant in the history of the three partner universities.
OFI has also attracted $125 million in support from provincial governments and partners, including Risley’s donation.
The statement said OFI's research will focus on ocean and ecosystem change. It will deliver ocean data science and technology tools to policy-makers, scientists and industry and develop safe and sustainable solutions for ocean development.
The Northwest Atlantic is one of the few places on earth where ocean changes are happening first and happening fastest, making it an epicenter of international scientific interest, said the statement.
By working with organizations like the National Research Council's Ocean Technology Enterprise Centre and Memorial University's Marine Institute in St. John's, and the Centre for Ocean Ventures & Entrepreneurship in Halifax, OFI aims to become a hub for high-quality marine industries.
DIsclaimer: Dalhousie is a client of Entrevestor.
Jobs of the Week: iWave, Porpoise
A client uses the Dash Hudson dashboard.
Our Jobs of the Week column today highlights a couple of postings by iWave Information Systems, a P.E.I. company that helps non-profits with their fundraising efforts.
Based in Charlottetown, iWave has developed software that helps researchers, fundraisers and other development professionals learn more about their prospects and donors.The company is now looking for a sales manager and an acting marketing manager.
We also have two other postings this week: Dash Hudson, a Halifax company that helps clients analyze their Instagram data, is looking for an account executive; and Moncton-based Porpoise, whose mobile app helps companies to celebrate employees’ charitable work, has an opening for a mobile app developer.
The Jobs 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 start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Qimple.
The sales manager will work with iWave’s team (now at 10 people) to coach and lead account executives and sales development representatives. The goal is to meet the team's new business acquisition and retention objectives. IWave is looking for an energetic self-starter with proactive management skills to achieve sales team quotas. The successful candidate will be responsible for pipeline planning and management to achieve win results and conversion rates. The company is looking for someone with three or more years of experience leading and building high performance sales teams, preferably in SaaS-type companies. Applicants should have a bachelor degree in business.
The acting marketing manager will work with the leadership team to coordinate company-wide marketing and communications initiatives for a 12-month period. This position could become a full-time position, depending on performance and organizational demands. The marketing manager must maintain iWave's marketing strategy and budget, with a focus on increasing inbound leads.
He or she must manage marketing automation strategy, including workflows, emails, lead generation, and SEO. IWave is looking for someone with strong interpersonal and organizational skills, and exceptional communication, writing, presentation, and editing skills. The successful candidate should have a bachelor or college degree and three to five years of experience in a similar role.
Account executives work with Dash Hudson’s sales team to build business with some of the best marketers and companies in the world. It is looking for someone who wants the challenge of selling a leading product in a rapidly growing market. The company is looking for a diligent, creative individual with some analytical capabilities and a bit of swagger. The account executive will work with the sales team in the business development process. This includes lead generation, sales outreach, progress-tracking and closing with leading global brands. He or she must maintain active engagement with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications designed to move leads through the sales funnel. The company is looking for someone with one to four years of experience in a similar role.
Porpoise is looking for a mobile app developer who can work with the company’s new mobile app. This person should own the app – that is, improve it, fix bugs and add features that the company’s clients need. The company is looking for someone with two or more years of modern C# software development experience. It wants someone with a college or university degree in computer science or engineering, and who has worked on real world projects. He or she must have the ability to use Xamarin to code Android and iOS apps and experience developing APIs and working with backend developers. The complete list of technical requirements is available on the Porpoise job posting.
The Spark competition is designed to find promising young companies in Cape Breton and the Mulgrave area and provide a bit of seed capital to allow them to grow. The cash prizes this year range from $20,000 to $45,000, depending on the company’s potential and needs.
Innovacorp said in a statement that the funds must be used to support the completion of prototypes or preparation for taking the product or service to market. In addition to the funding, winners will receive mentoring from seasoned business people through Cape Breton’s MentorConnect program.
This is the fourth year that the Spark competition has been held. A total of 25 companies entered the competition and 10 were invited to pitch to the panel of judges.
The winners are:
Advocate Cognitive Technologies Inc., Anna Manley, Sydney.
ACTI’s legal software, called Hux, uses artificial intelligence computing technologies to analyze and extract meaning and relationships from text and voice material, identify relevant information, and complete legal documents.
Arista Data Solutions, Laird Wilton, Darren Gallop, Darryl MacLeod, Sydney.
Arista is a web-based software that provides clients with data security tools and resources.
Digital Diesel Industries, Matthew Dilney, Howie Centre.
Digital Diesel Industries provides a security device for heavy equipment that reduces tampering, theft and unauthorized use and can increase recovery rates of stolen equipment.
Geter Done Applications, Donald Hanson, Darren Hanson, Todd Chant, Sydney.
Geter Done is a mobile platform designed for busy people to get small jobs done by connecting users with contractors and managing everything from job posting to payment processing.
The Instant Chaga Tea Company, Kevin Chisholm, Barrachois.
The company will manufacture instant chaga tea and conventional chaga products for the nutritional and health food markets around the world.
Perata Data Systems, Glenn Laughlin, Point Edward.
Perata uses real-time data analytics on mobile carrier networks to locate, identify and assess the movement of people, enabling businesses to engage with local prospective customers.
Punch Club, Marc Botte, Shawn Green, Shaun Stevens, Keith Buckland, Sydney.
Punch Club offers a cloud-based platform that allows small businesses to automatically create, track, and deploy loyalty and marketing programs for both existing and new customers based on their individual shopping patterns.
Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.
McLaughlin Heads Startup Award List
John McLaughlin, Professor Emeritus and President Emeritus of the University of New Brunswick, has been awarded Startup Canada’s 2016 Adam Chowaniec Lifetime Achievement Award for the Atlantic Region.
The national organization dedicated to developing startups announced McLaughlin’s award and the other Atlantic Canadian Startup Canada Award winners last week. The awards will be presented at a ceremony at the Fredericton Convention Centre on Sept. 13. Tickets are available here.
McLaughlin, who also serves as the Scholar in Residence at the UNB Technology Management and Entrepreneurship program, served as the university’s president between 2002 and 2009. Professionally, he has an academic background in engineering and institutional economics. He has worked in more than 40 countries on property reform and land administration, and co-founded two companies.
The other winners of regional Startup Canada Awards for 2016 are:
Startup Canada in November will announce the national winners for the following categories Newcomer Entrepreneur; Indigenous Entrepreneur; Resilient Entrepreneur; Community of the Year; and Policy Prize. Those awards will be presented in Toronto on Nov. 29.
Briefs: Propel, Medved, Thorasys
Palmer to Head Propel ICT’s Growth Program
Propel ICT, the Atlantic Canadian regional accelerator, has named Steve Palmer as the head of its new Growth Program.
The Growth Program, which the organization announced earlier in the year, is designed to help Propel alumni and other scaling companies to grow from mature startups into bona fide corporations. The plan is to help them continue to grow revenues and also to develop the needed corporate organizations.
“Stephen will lead the Growth Program,” said Propel CEO Anita Punamiya in an email. “Working with the Propel team, he will identify high potential alumni and other non-Propel companies.”
She said Palmer will work one-on-one with several companies and select 10 that the organization will focus on for current fiscal year. He will assess their needs, opportunities, potential markets and mentors. As well as advising them personally, he will identify and bring in subject matter experts to host bootcamps and programs to prepare them for international markets.
Palmer is a veteran of high-growth tech companies, and is currently a director of Fredericton-based Remsoft. Previously, he was a Co-CEO of Remsoft and Chief Operating Officer for Whitehill Technologies.
No Startup Grind on Wednesday.
Startup Grind Halifax has announced that its talk by Jonathan Medved, which was to have taken place Wednesday, has been postponed until Sunday, Oct. 30.
Medved, an American who has invested in more than 100 Israeli startups, found out at the last moment that he had to go to Asia.
Medved has helped 12 companies exceed $100M dollar valuations. He was the co-founder and CEO of Vringo, which he took public on Nasdaq in 2010. Before Vringo, he was the founder and general partner of the $260 million venture capital fund, Israel Seed Partners.
Thorasys, a medical device company that began life in Halifax before moving to Montreal, has received $1.3 million in investment from Anges Québec, the province’s angel network.
The company said the new funds will allow it to accelerate the commercialization of the tremoFlo C-100 Airwave Oscillometry System, a portable device designed to facilitate the diagnosis of lung diseases in order to improve treatment.
Thorasys has developed a technology for assessing lung function without patient effort, whereas current techniques require substantial effort and coordination by patients and healthcare professionals. Moreover, the technology provides a detailed assessment of changes in and around the lungs. This makes it possible to detect lung diseases even faster.
Thorasys began in Halifax and actually competed in the first BioInnovation Challenge in 2011. The company received a $500,000 loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program in 2012.
Digital NS Offers New Sales Program
Emily Boucher: 'Sales is definitely a pain-point in our sector.'
The need for Atlantic Canadian businesses to increase sales, particularly global sales, is a hot subject. With that in mind, technical industry association Digital Nova Scotia is piloting a sales development program in Halifax for small to medium-sized businesses.
The program aims to help participants focus on issues such as generating cash flow, attracting investment, developing strategic partners, accelerating sales, and building professional networks.
“Sales is definitely a pain-point in our sector,” said Emily Boucher, Director of Marketing and Research at Digital Nova Scotia.
“We’re trying to help fill the gaps we can for the startups and SMEs (small to medium-sized businesses) among our members.”
Boucher said the new pilot program, titled Navigating New Channels: ICT Sales Strategy Bootcamp, teaches participants to consider five key questions associated with channel development.
These are: Who are the influencers that can have the greatest impact on your business? Where will you find them? How will you leverage them to gain the biggest reach with the least effort? What trends are you uncovering that impact your plan? What can be improved this week?
“Our program is about executing,” Boucher said. “The focus is on the participants themselves using their own companies as case studies.”
The program is led by John Robertson, of business development company inspiredEggs Ventures. Participation is capped at five people, to enable frank discussions and peer-to-peer learning.
The participants in the pilot are varied in age, expertise and experience. Companies include: Bitness, a location analytics platform for retail outlets; PowerWHYS, which helps renovators eliminate energy waste through predictive analytics; Dadavan Systems, an established software company with a new product; VidSnippets, a company that allows clients to share videos, and a law firm that’s developing a digital platform.
Boucher said the diversity of businesses is useful as it offers different perspectives.
The 25-week program began in mid-July, and requires a commitment of two-four hours a week. Learning is not classroom-based, location and times vary to suit participants. Occasionally, some participate remotely.
To be eligible, participants must understand how their product or service could disrupt the market. They must be able to pitch their company, and, where relevant, they must have an minimum viable product with prototype or modeling, and have a budget for business development.
Program funding is currently provided through the Workplace Innovation and Productivity Skills Incentive, or WIPSI, program.
“The main thing is, as a community we need to identify how to better support companies in sales,” Boucher said.
If the pilot goes well, the program will be continued.
“We are building a waiting list of companies,” Boucher added. “We’d eventually like to see the program with John expand outside Halifax with support from our partners. This model may also help us develop other programs that offer more flexibility for participants.”
Briefs: Sequence, Sentinel, Curbza
EyeRead Changes Name to Squiggle Park
EyeRead, the Halifax startup dedicated to helping children learn to read, has changed its name to Squiggle Park.
A spinout from the Halifax web development company Norex, Squiggle Park uses the camera facing the reader on a laptop or other device to track the eye as the child reads. By tracking the eye, the software can detect where the child is having trouble in reading a passage. Educators can then use the information to customize a personalized learning routine for the child.
Co-Founder and CMO Julia Rivard Dexter said in an email that the company has changed the name for two reasons: first, Eyeread was causing search issues and typos for its users, and the company was able to acquire the URL SquigglePark.com.
Second, the founders wanted to highlight that their product is a game, so they chose a name connoting the joy and fun that children can find with their game. Squiggle Park is also the name of an actual park not far from the company’s offices.
“This is a timely change with the launch of our free fall pilot for teachers in Pre K-1 classrooms,” said Rivard Dexter.
Sentinel Alert Partners with NLC
Sentinel Alert, a St. John’s startup developing worker safety software, has signed a pilot agreement with the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation, focusing on the hazards created by lifting and moving heavy products.
Sentinel Alert has created safety software that uses data analytics to detect and predict worker accidents. It said in a press release today the pilot is designed to help NLC proactively identify hazards linked to overexertion in an effort to design the safest processes and environment for its workforce.
According to Liberty Mutual Research Institute, overexertion and lifting are the leading cause of workplace injury in North America.
“Maintaining a high standard of safety for our team is core to NLC’s mission,” said Kevin Kelly, Vice-President of Human Resources and Corporate Administration with NLC. “Continually improving safety processes is key, but it’s difficult to manage what we can’t measure. Sentinel Alert provides this insight and helps us uncover hidden safety risks to design safer work environments for our team.”
Sentinel Alert recently raised $525,000 in financing through Newfoundland and Labrador’s Pelorus Venture Capital and Killick Capital. It is using the funding to grow its team and open-up its private beta to interested customers, in addition to early partners like Pennecon, Crosbie Group, and NLC.
Brightspark, OurCrowd To Host Seminar
Brightspark and OurCrowd are hosting a seminar in Halifax on their investment models, which have broken away from traditional venture capital to create new investment opportunities for individual investors.
The event will take place Sept. 8 from 11:45 am to 1:20 pm at Volta Labs in the Maritime Centre. You can register here.
Brightspark is a Toronto-based VC firms that allows accredited investors to invest in the companies in its portfolio. OurCrowd is a world-leading equity-based crowdfunding platform, built for accredited investors to provide VC funding for startups. The fund started in Israel and is now making investments around the world.
The session will be led by Sally Ng, the East Coast Community Lead at Brightspark, and David Shore, the Director of Investor Relations at OurCrowd Canada.
Ashley Joins Sequence Bio Advisory Board
Sequence Bio has named Euan A. Ashley to its Scientific Advisory Board.
The St. John’s startup said in a press release that Ashley is Associate Professor of Medicine and Genetics at Stanford University and Co-Founder of Personalis Inc, a genome scale genetic diagnostics company.
Ashley will offer his expertise in human genomics towards advancing innovative therapeutic discovery and more personalized clinical care through Sequence Bio’s 100,000-person genome project in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“I am very excited to welcome Dr. Ashley to Sequence Bio’s Scientific Advisory Board,” said Sequence CEO Tyler Wish in a statement. “As one of the pioneers and leaders in this field, his experience will accelerate our vision to advance both drug discovery and precision healthcare. The entire Sequence team is honoured to work with Dr. Ashley and are excited about the impact he will make.”
Sequence, which recently announced US$3 million in venture capital funding, is leading a 100,000-person genome research project. It will engage people from across the province to provide samples of their genes. Sequence will analyze this data and use the findings to produce new cures and develop better, safer medicines.
“By leveraging the proven power of population genomics and its potential for drug discovery, Sequence Bio has unlocked a one-of-a-kind opportunity in Newfoundland and Labrador that will generate new insights into human biology, therapeutic discovery, and healthcare,” said Ashley in the statement. “I look forward to working with them on this ambitious and project with global reach.”
Curbza Launches University Marketplaces
Curbza, a Dartmouth startup making a peer-to-peer commerce mobile app, has announced the launch of its university marketplaces. Each university in Nova Scotia now has a network on Curbza, offering students a marketplace to buy, sell and trade items to other students at their school as well as vendors within the area.
The latest version of the app provides users with the ability to create and manage customizable networks. The customizable networks feature allows users to create networks based on location, types of items or social groups. Users have the ability to make networks public or private to control who can view items. A network for each university and college in Nova Scotia has been created by Curbza.
“We created networks to give users the ability to make decisions when buying and selling online,” said CEO Scott Theriault in a statement. “Now users can choose if they sell to everyone, or a small group of friends. It's a great safety feature too.”
Students can easily join their school's network by opening their store and viewing all networks. When a student is on campus and the phone's location services are activated, the school's network will be the first to appear under the networks feature.
Well, we're not really fishing, but there was a time when that sign used to hang in office windows if people were away. We will be taking our annual summer break next week. We're having a bit of down time and recharging our batteries before a busy autumn.
We'll be back on Tuesday, Sept. 6, wihch coincidentally will be the fifth anniversary of our launch in 2011.
Stay well, everyone, and have a great Labour Day.
Accelerator Centre Launches Phase One
Waterloo’s Accelerator Centre, or AC, is accepting applications for the first cohort of its newly developed Phase One program launching in September.
Phase One is an intensive four-month program focusing on market validation and investment readiness.
Paul Salvini, CEO of the Accelerator Centre, said the program offers expert sessions and peer-to-peer learning, blended with world-class mentorship.
“The select 10 companies we accept into Phase One will also have access to our newly developed Advisory Network, a group of incredibly talented advisors from industry,” Salvini said.
The Accelerator Centre focuses on building and scaling sustainable, globally competitive technology firms. It also works to commercialize advanced research technologies emerging from academic institutions.
The new program is the first of four phases within the AC’s recently restructured two-year incubation platform, which is tailored to meet the needs of each company as they scale.
The first phase culminates with Presentation Day, an open house event where companies present to a panel of experts and business leaders who determine who is ready to enter the second phase.
Companies successfully entering Phase Two are automatically considered for up to $40,000 in funding and mentorship through the AC JumpStart program, which provides eligible companies with $30,000 in seed capital (to be matched by recipient firms), $10,000 in mentorship, and access to market research and connections to investors.
The deadline to apply to the Accelerator Centre is Sept. 9. Applications can be submitted online at acceleratorcentre.com/programs.
The regional accelerator said Wednesday that MacAusland, who had overseen the organization’s first program, Launch36, has accepted a position as Entrepreneur-in-Residence in Moncton.
“Propel ICT continues to evolve and we identified certain opportunities to enhance our services to our program participants, to our alumni and other stakeholders,” said CEO Anita Punamiya in an email. “Trevor brings valuable experience from Propel's Launch36 program and we are excited to have him on the team.”
Five years ago, MacAusland was the executive director and lone employee of Propel, and he launched a new East Coast accelerator with the goal of launching 36 companies in 36 months. Hence the name, Launch36. He handily exceeded the target as more than 50 companies went through his program in Moncton in three years.
In June 2015, he left Propel to join the 3+ Corporation, the economic development agency for the Moncton area. But he missed the startup world and he has decided to return to Propel to help with the growth of the organization.
MacAusland will be based in Moncton and will help fellow Entrepreneur in Residence Al Sturgeon deliver the Build program, the accelerator for companies that are beginning to scale. He will also lead the development of a new program for Propel alumni.
The organization has developed the means to help companies reach the point at which they are scaling their businesses, but now it wants to help them grow into global corporations. Propel announced earlier this year that it would begin this program by the end of the year.
The new hire means Propel now has four entrepreneurs in residence – MacAusland in Moncton, Sturgeon in Fredericton, Gillian McCrae in Halifax and Peter Gifford in St. John’s.
Brownie Points Targets Small Cities
Newfoundland and Labrador may get a chance Thursday to defend its title at the Fierce Founders bootcamp at the Communitech Hub in Kitchener, Ont.
Niki Pryor, the CEO of St. John’s startup Brownie Points, will find out in the afternoon whether she is one of eight entrepreneurs to compete for a total of $100,000 in development money at Fierce Founders, a mentoring program for startups with female CEOs. The company offers an online loyalty program for locally-owned coffee shops and boutiques. This year, it was the only Atlantic Canadian participant in the program, which comprises two week-long sessions.
Last year, when the program was known as the Women Entrepreneurs’ Bootcamp, the winner was Sarah Murphy of St. John’s-based Sentinel Alert. She took home the $35,000 first prize and has tapped the expertise at Communitech to aid with the growth of her company.
“We’ve got a tremendous amount of learning out of it,” said Pryor, when asked her impression of Fierce Founders. “We’ve got a great startup community in Newfoundland but we do live on an island. It’s really great sometimes to get off that island.”
Pryor recently joined the three-year-old company as CEO and has been focusing the company in terms of both the product and its market.
The product previously featured a tablet near a boutique’s cash register that allowed the customer to swipe a loyalty card. But that is now being replaced with a mobile app that keeps all the details of the customer’s account. Beacons positioned in the establishment can detect when customers with the app enter and how long they stay. That means it can award points not only for purchases but for how long the customer stays. It also provides the business owner with data on the customers’ purchases and frequency and length of visits.
“Brownie Points is more than just a loyalty program — it allows businesses to have better control over the customer relationship,” Pryor said. She added that the shops that use it “want big data without the cost of big data.”
Meanwhile, Brownie Points is also refining its market by targeting not just small business but those that could be described as “boutiques” — those whose clients cherish a local business with a unique ambiance.
Brownie Points is now used by 26 outlets in Halifax and St. John’s, and 24,000 people have downloaded the app. In the coming months, Pryor hopes to deepen the penetration in Atlantic Canada and then move into other markets. The target is boutiques in cities of fewer than 1.2 million people, such as Ottawa or Guelph, Ont.
She’s also hoping to raise capital, though the team is still working out a target for the amount to be raised.
The participation in Fierce Founders is the last chapter in the company’s storied history. Over the past three years, Brownie Points has been led by four people and participated in two programs outside the region.
Matthew Stenback and Adam Puddicombe started the company in 2013. They took the company through the FounderFuel accelerator in Montreal in 2014, but eventually moved on to other ventures. They were succeeded by Dana Parsons, who is still involved as Brownie Points’ chief operating officer while working full time at the Genesis Centre at Memorial University.
The Mune Launches on Kickstarter
A musician performs with The Mune.
With one month to go, Scott Stevenson has already received commitments of $24,568 – almost one-quarter of his $100,000 target – in the Kickstarter campaign for his new musical instrument, the Mune.
The Mune is a hand-held instrument that allows electronic musicians to hold something the audience can actually see, thereby enhancing the performance. Electronic musicians now play a platform that sits flat on a table, which is a bit of a drag for performers working to connect with an audience.
Though the launch of the crowdfunding campaign is the first major announcement by St. John’s-based Mune, the company has been working away for years perfecting the instrument and developing a product that can be made in commercial quantities.
Stevenson, an electronic musician who studied computer engineering at Memorial University of Newfoundland, has been perfecting the Mune for four years. He presented a prototype of the instrument at a demo day I attended in May 2014 in St. John’s. At the time, he said he hoped to launch the product in a Kickstarter campaign once he had a more “manufacturable” product.
He now is in a position to seek buyers for the product and launched the Kickstarter campaign last week.
“The Mune is a brand new device that combines the power of digital music gear with the simplicity, soul and expressiveness of an acoustic instrument,” said the company on the Kickstarter campaign page. “It's expressive, simple to pick up and play, and allows your audience to easily see the interactions you have with sound.”
The instrument features 24 sensors placed on a panel, so the musician has a vast variety of synthesized sounds based on the combination of sensors touched. What’s more, the system operates off its own software called Symphony, which is open-source. That means that as more and more people use the Mune and dabble in the software, they can share the new sounds that they have discovered.
“My immediate plans for the instrument will be to work with the Mune open-source software once it's released to develop hardware that can bridge the gap between the digital possibilities of the instrument and the analog space,” Patrick McMaster, a Montreal synthesizer musician, posted on the Kickstarter page.
The Mune project began at Memorial in 2012 when electroacoustic composer Andrew Staniland wanted to improve on digital interfaces, which he found unsatisfying. He began a research project, bringing in Stevenson to help re-imagine electronic instruments.
They went through dozens of designs and created a few prototypes. The team grew to more than 10 people.
Stevenson and his team have been able to attract 72 backers in a range of price brackets in the Kickstarter campaign. The lowest price that lets the buyer receive the Mune is $776, which the company describes as the “early-bird special”. Only 20 purchasers could take advantage of this deal and it has already sold out.
The Mune has attracted four backers at $899 and one at the deluxe $2,499. The campaign also lets people support the project a lower price brackets ranging from $5 to $199.
The Kickstarter campaign lasts until Sept. 24, and the company expects to be able to ship the Mune in September, 2017.
ReadyPass Eyes 250 Mid-sized Cities
A Fredericton startup company is looking at about 250 cities in the U.S. and Canada with populations of less than 150,000 as the target market for its product to improve transit systems.
Alex Kall, CEO of ReadyPass, admits there are other firms creating technology to improve transit systems. But he said most target large cities with large budgets.
What ReadyPass is planning to do is to target smaller cities, which he said have different needs and spending capacity.
“Once you get out of the large metropolises, a lot of the smaller cities don’t have the same access to these resources,” Kall said in a recent interview.
“Our technology could handle the needs of big cities, but we’re developing hardware that smaller cities could adapt.”
ReadyPass got its start about a year ago when developers Amy Colford and Taeler Dixon realized the difficulty they were having in Fredericton knowing when a bus was coming. They contacted the local transit department and proposed a digital toolkit to address the problem. The transit agency loved the idea and they began to work on it.
Over the past year, the team has developed a system of hardware and software that helps transit passengers and the agency itself in three ways.
First, there’s an app for Android and iOS that shows bus routes and can tell passengers where the next bus is and how long it will be until it arrives. Eventually, Kall said, this feature will include an electronic bus pass so the passenger doesn’t have to go to a physical location to buy a pass.
Second, ReadyPass installs a suite of sensors on each bus allowing the transit department to monitor such data as the location and speed of the buses, and the number of passengers getting on and off at each stop.
Finally, it offers the transit department a dashboard to monitor and chart all the data that’s been collected. That helps to design routes and schedules that meet optimum demand.
Kall said the data can also be used by other municipal departments. For example, the on-bus sensors can measure road conditions, which can be of use to the works departments.
Kall and the team is now working with Fredericton to further develop the product, and expects to continue this work for several months.
It’s also working or having discussions with other municipalities in the region, including Cape Breton and Saint John. And it’s in talks with a Fredericton bus company.
Of course, ReadyPass hopes to break out of the Maritimes though this will be a slow process.
Having gone through Propel ICT’s Launch program this spring, the company is now trying to raise $100,000 to finance its growth.
“The sales cycle is fairly long when you’re talking about selling to cities,” Kall said. “But there’s a lot of buzz about transit adding technology to it’s a good time to be talking to small communities.”
Job of the Week: Springboard Atlantic
Our Job of the Week column today highlights a position at Springboard Atlantic, the organization that coordinates and promotes commercialization at 19 academic institutions across Atlantic Canada.
Springboard is looking for a Program and Communications Administrator to join its central office team. Springboard Atlantic is a not-for-profit corporation owned by 14 universities and five community colleges. Its mission is to help to commercialize research at these institutions. It does this by linking them with corporations that need help with R&D, and by encouraging new companies based on intellectual property developed at these institutions.
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 start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Qimple.
The Program and Communications Administrator is responsible for the efficient administration of Springboard's internal funding programs. The Innovation Mobilization program and the Industry Engagement program provide funding to support industry engagement and pre-commercialization activities for the network.
Applications to these programs are received and evaluated monthly. In addition to this primary role, the administrator will be tasked with significant data entry and data management roles that support the network and Springboard central office staff generally, and the manager of events and communications specifically.
The successful applicant must communicate clearly and have strong computer skills, especially with Excel. He or she should be obsessively data-driven and love getting into details and figuring out what they all mean.
The job involves helping members with their applications to the Innovation Mobilization program, and coordinating IM committee meetings to review and approve applications. It also calls for putting together monthly, quarterly, and annual reports on the outcomes and impacts of the Springboard network.
The program administrator must also assist with social media administration including scheduling social media posts, administering Mailchimp lists, and media monitoring.
Springboard is looking for someone with a college or bachelor degree in business administration or science, and three to five years of experience in a similar role. An ability to work in French will be considered an asset.
Act of Radical Generosity, Season Two
Judith Richardson: 'The founders are feeling more confident in their skills.'
Female entrepreneurs and mentors are invited to prepare for the second year of SheEO’s An Act of Radical Generosity, an initiative that last year raised half a million dollars to fund five female-led Canadian enterprises.
The brainchild of serial entrepreneur and SheEO founder Vicki Saunders, the initiative invites women to contribute $1,000 (plus a $100 program fee) to support female entrepreneurs.
The donors, or activators, can also act as mentors to the fledgling entrepreneurs.
Women supporting women is necessary, according to Saunders, because although Canadian women begin two-thirds of small businesses, they receive less than seven per cent of venture capital funding.
“The five companies that were funded last year have seen an average of 30 per cent revenue growth,” said Atlantic Canada SheEO lead Judith Richardson, the Halifax-based founder of PONO Consultants International.
“The founders are feeling more confident in their skills; they have hired, made introductions. Many of us activators became clients of these companies.”
When activators contribute, they choose the companies from across Canada that receive the money.
A possibly surprising detail — the founders themselves decide how to divide the funds.
“They each have to make the case for their business,” Richardson said. “They are not allowed to divide the money equally.”
Richardson, who has 20 years’ experience in organizational development, said the chosen entrepreneurs are given coaching that allows them to understand their own and other’s business styles.
“Women have to understand their behaviour and decisions so they can ask for what they need. Often, entrepreneurs are so busy they don’t know what they need.”
Richardson always stresses the importance of sales.
“The first thing I ask any young woman looking for funding is, what about sales? You have to know, and believe in, and get your product out there . . . Develop that mindset. I can’t stress sales enough.”
None of the five companies that received investment last year are based in Atlantic Canada, although several made it to the final 25 and 22 local women contributed funds.
The recipients pay back the loans over five years at zero-per-cent interest. The returned money goes into a pool to help other entrepreneurs.
The call for new applicants and activators will go out Sept. 1.
“I’m hoping some of the local companies will re-apply,” Richardson said. “They might be ready now, although some of last year’s applicants have grown past this point.”
Now in its second year, the model is being refined. Richardson said organizers are asking themselves how to engage with women who have mentoring skills but who don’t have $1,000 to spare.
“I’d like to see as many activators as possible re-activating and giving another $1,000 as well as new activators engaging. I’d love to see more mentoring,” she said. “We have to ask — how can this generation of women support the next generation?”
The initiative is also expanding outside Canada and is about to start in Colorado, San Francisco, Los Angeles and India.
Richardson said entrepreneurship is about creating new models and disrupting systems that need to be disrupted.
“It’s all-encompassing; it uses every facet of your being,” she said.
“Even companies that fail produce better leaders . . . The entrepreneurs know more about themselves . . . They think about how to minimize risk to avoid failure.”
Richardson said all ages of women are attracted to the idea of women helping women.
“Seniors like my mom, Dorothy, get behind it. My mom was successful in real estate in Kentville. She and my dad, Jack, a tech-minded veterinarian, inspired me.”
Richardson believes Atlantic Canada is full of entrepreneurial talent, and that a great deal of innovation is already happening.
“I get bored with hearing about the potential of Atlantic Canada,” she said.
“I think we’re potentializing all over the place. There’s more going on here than people realize. Halifax is booming. We’re here, doing it. An Act of Radical Generosity aims to accelerate that process for women.”
Innovacorp Looks to Exits for Capital
Innocacorp Invested $1.5 million last year in George Palikaras' Metamaterial Technologies
Nova Scotia venture capital agency Innovacorp has less money left in its main fund than it usually invests in a typical year, and hopes to replenish the fund through exits by existing portfolio companies.
The agency, which is owned by the Nova Scotia government, posted its annual accountability report for the year ended March 31 on its website this month. The report shows that, as of March 31, Innovacorp’s main fund, the Nova Scotia First Fund, had $5.5 million left to invest in Nova Scotian companies.
Over the years, provincial governments have placed $49.6 million in the fund, and Innovacorp has invested an average of $5.6 million in startups in the last four years. Now, the agency hopes to earn back money as the startups it has invested in are sold to larger companies or listed on stock exchanges.
“As our portfolio matures, we expect to see a return on invested capital through exits (and/or) acquisitions of portfolio companies — capital that can then be redeployed in new Nova Scotia startups,” said CEO Stephen Duff in an email. “Innovacorp management regularly reports to its board of directors on the NSFF’s capital status and works to ensure the fund’s sustainability through a blend of investment returns and new statutory capital.”
The investment focus moving forward will be on rewarding the more successful companies with follow-on funding, he added.
The 2016 report was released as the Nova Scotia venture capital scene is undergoing some transition. The provincial government has allotted $25 million for a private-public fund that will be managed by a private fund manager. The goal is to find someone who can bring in private money, so a Halifax-based fund with scores of millions of dollars will invest in Nova Scotian and other startups.
Meanwhile, Innovacorp has been active, investing $6.3 million in 2015-16, more than 20 per cent more than the previous year. Seventeen companies received the investment last year, bringing the total number of companies in which Innovacorp has invested to 44.
The notion that Innovacorp could restock its larder through exits demonstrates that the agency’s management believes its portfolio of investments has matured greatly. So far, Innovacorp has reported only one real exit — the 2012 sale of Halifax-based GoInstant to Salesforce. It invested $100,000 in the company and is believed to have earned back about $1 million.
Propel ICT, the East Coast regional accelerator, has announced 38 companies from all four Atlantic Provinces that will go through the Fall 2016 Cohort.
The group has accepted five companies into its Moncton-based Build program, which is designed for more advanced companies. These companies will be eligible at the end of the program to receive funding from BDC Capital and the region’s provincial venture capital agencies.
Propel in the autumn will also offer its Launch program for newer companies in the four provincial capitals.
The companies accepted into the cohort are:
Vintelligence, Moncton -- Billing itself as a "digital sommelier", Vintelligence simplifies wine buying through a recommendation-based kiosk for retailers, events and restaurants.
GoBumpFree, Halifax -- GoBumpFree allows airline employees and their traveling companions to book last-minute hotel rooms without the risk of cancellation fees.
Ironflow Technologies Inc., Dieppe, N.B. -- Having offered web-based HR software since 2009, IronFlow this year launched a new online HR suite called PurelyHR to provide companies with a solution to all their human resources needs.
MasterControl, Fredericton -- MasterControl is developing automation and control devices for film studios with the goal of reducing mistakes and production costs.
Stay Golden Apparel, Charlottetown -- Stay Golden is a custom clothing producer that works with teams, schools and other organizations to produce great custom apparel.
Peter Vinall: 'This has got to work and work really well.'
Peter Vinall emphasized that the announcement in Chester was a key step in a long and complicated process.
“It’s a big milestone for us,” said the CEO and Co-Founder of Sustane Technologies Inc. over his cell phone as he drove away from the event announcing his company’s partnership with the Municipality of Chester.
Chester on Friday said that it has formed a multi-year partnership with Sustane, which is dedicated to diverting garbage away from landfills and turning it into marketable products.
The company now has a lease for a site in Chester, on which it intends to build a $15 million facility to sort and transform the trash.
Sustane, which won $225,000 in Innovacorp’s I-3 Startup Competition earlier this year, grew out of technology pioneered in Spain by co-founder and chief technology officer Javier De La Fuente. It has little bearing on standard recycling programs — homeowners still have to sort paper, bottles, organics and the like.
What Sustane does is to take 90 per cent of the stuff that goes into the landfill and cooks it with steam.
Through this process there are a few marketable byproducts produced, most notably a biomass that can be burned to produce energy.
Vinall said the landfill will still have to take special items like old mattresses, but the system should reduce the volume of refuse going into the landfill by nine-tenths.
Obviously, Friday’s announcement was important because Sustane now has a site for its plant and a timeline for development: Vinall hopes it will be out of the ground later this year and that the plant will be in operation in late 2017.
But the agreement is also fundamental to the financing of the product. Like other industrial companies, Sustane has to come up with a lot of capital — $15 million for the plant and about $1 million for what Vinall calls startup costs.
But the company is different from other industrial enterprises in that others have to pay for their feedstock (the raw material that the company manufactures). Through its agreement with Chester, Sustane will actually get paid to take the feedstock, then get paid again when it sells the recycled products.
“We get paid to take the feedstock,” said Vinall. “For investors and especially banks, that’s a really nice feature. Most of my costs are covered by the municipality.”
Now that Sustane has a long-term income stream in place, Vinall believes the pieces will fall into place for financing, and he expects to unveil a debt and equity funding package in about four to six weeks.
Though he is focusing on the task at hand in Chester, Vinall said the company is already considering other sites in Nova Scotia, such as Guysborough County and Halifax. And he has had discussions with municipalities in New Brunswick, that might be interested in a plant.
But first, it has to get the operations off the ground in Chester, where he expects to have 25 employees by late 2017.
“We’re putting all our attention in Chester and making sure this plant is our showcase,” he said. “This has got to work and work really well.”
Jobs of the Week: RevIQ’s 4 Openings
RevIQ, the Charlottetown company that helps game-makers boost revenues, is our featured company in Jobs of the Week today with a quartet of postings.
The one-year-old company has been rapidly increasing its workforce and has now posted openings on the Entrevestor Job Board for a Director of Product, Product Manager, Data Scientist and Data Analyst.
RevIQ began as part of Gogii Games, a Moncton-based producer of casual and free-to-play games, which often advised other gaming studios on how to increase their revenue. Last October, it spun off RevIQas a new company whose technology helped studios increase sales.
RevIQ says its team of multi-disciplinary professionals prides itself on continuous improvement and on-the-job training. “We support our employees’ professional development goals and career plans with ongoing coaching and company-sponsored training,” said the company. “Whether you're a seasoned veteran who wants to gain skills in a complementary field, or you're a little green but want to stretch your skills, RevIQ will support your ambitions to grow.”
The Jobs 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 start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Qimple.
All these postings refer to the gaming industry and the technical requirements for each of them are listed in the job posting:
The Director of Product will manage the Product Team, which is responsible for the optimization and management of our free-to-play titles. The Director of Product connects the Business and Product teams with regular communication to support iterative product optimization. That ranges from working with product managers to ensure product launches and regular updates to identifying potential risks and correcting them before they lead to player disappointment. This position requires someone with demonstrated experience in managing complex projects in the games development, application development, or web development industries, with a focus on ongoing exploitation and live ops.The company would prefer applicants with a bachelor degree in business, economics or comparable discipline and three to five years of experience in a similar role.
The winning candidate will combine strategic and analytical skill sets to design, validate, develop, and manage new features and promotional campaigns within our managed products. This ranges from setting performance goals with the business team to establishing business strategies that reward clients and delight players. The position requires someone with a bachelor degree in a relevant field and two to four years of experience in a similar role.
A Data Scientist will combine analytical, strategic, financial, and technical skills to build data-driven models and analytical approaches that improve our understanding of customer behavior and products, as well as predict outcomes. This person will develop data mining, machine learning, and statistical modeling solutions to better understand game performance and player engagement with guidance from senior product leads. RevIQ wants someone with exceptional, proven experience in business decision-making supported by strong analytical and creative capabilities. The position requires someone with a bachelor degree in a relevant field and two to four years of experience in a similar role.
A Data Analyst at RevIQ must develop, test, and analyze hypotheses that will have a far-reaching impact on the success of the company and its free-to-play products. The analyst will communicate these insights to key executive stakeholders, game designers, and lead developers to play an influential part in establishing this core analytics competency. The successful candidate will also assist in development and implementation of analytics tools and systems to help build out the overall analytics knowledgebase of the company. The position ideally requires a bachelor degree and one to three years of experience.
Erin Flood Grows in COO Role
Erin Flood: 'In startup life, you wear lots of hats.'
Three years ago, HotSpot Merchant Solutions was a small Fredericton startup. Today, it’s growing with a major U.S. partner. Erin Flood, the company’s chief operating officer, said growth is driven by prioritizing relationships and communication.
The HotSpot technology allows the remote payment of parking meters. The product produces data for downtown businesses, and allows the businesses to advertise to customers through their cellphones.
The company can also track customer response rates.
Flood has been with HotSpot since the beginning and her role has changed with the growth of the company.
“I was brought on to manage marketing and social media and develop a brand presence. I’d been working for a non-profit on their social media,” said the young woman, who has also worked in the IT sector.
Her role rapidly expanded to include customer services and human resources. Now, she is also responsible for hirings and strategic partnerships.
“In startup life, you wear a lot of hats,” said Flood who graduated from Nova Scotia’s St. Francis Xavier University in 2011 with a focus in psychology and sociology. She has also completed Seth Godin’s AltMBA and is a C100 Top Tech Women in Canada.
“The hats allow you to gain more experience, although it did seem overwhelming at first. We lived and breathed the company. We still do…Building a company has been an unmatched education.”
HotSpot is currently hiring account managers and developers and could take on up to five new hires in the next few months. The number could grow to 15 by the fall.
Growth is rapid, but the team has learned to be cautious about hiring, after taking on a lot of people in 2013 and then having to downsize.
“We jumped the gun,” Flood said. “We went up to 15 staff. We weren’t focusing on developing our people, we were pushing the product. Now, we’re learning from our mistakes, and investing in great people.”
There are currently three on the executive team — Flood, CEO Phillip Curley and CTO James Lockhart.
They are assisted by veteran entrepreneur David Wagner. With part-time and contract staff, there are 10 people involved in HotSpot operations.
Flood said HotSpot is not about hierarchy.
“At the start of every week, we hold a big meeting. That communication is crucial,” she said.
“We aim to ensure hires fit with our culture. It’s not just qualifications. We see their strengths from conversation. We’re looking for passionate, humble, empathetic, positive and self-directed people.”
Investing in trusted staff allows the executive team to lower their stress levels.
“In a startup, you’re always stressed, but if you weren’t there’d be a bigger issue,” Flood said. “You need to be aware of your company’s position in the marketplace and what is going on elsewhere.
“When you’re not worried, I don’t think you’re learning. You might be missing something,” she added.
Stress may be largely inevitable, in Flood’s opinion, but she does keep it in check by ensuring she has an hour a day, tech-free, to exercise outside.
At the moment, the executive team members are all training to take part in the Duncan Hadley Triathlon.
The team is also busy learning the culture of Passport. The U.S. company has raised US$7.5 million in investment, has satellite offices in Barcelona and Bangalore, and operates in more than 1,000 locations, including Chicago, Toronto and Boston.
“We have to ensure communications with Passport are streamlined and consistent,” Flood said. “We travel quite a bit. When our technology is introduced to a new city we’re there. It’s exciting. We’re learning how things are done in the U.S.”
WellTrack Near Closing $1M Round
Natasha O'Brien: Close to doubling revenues again in the third quarter.
There’s part of the WellTrack story that overshadows its pending $1-million funding, or even its efforts to double revenue every quarter this year.
It’s the tale of how CEO Darren Piercey decided one day that his COO Natasha O’Brien deserved a significant stake in the company and handed over half his share.
Piercey, a University of New Brunswick psychology professor, started the company in 2010 to create an online tool to help treat mental health issues like anxiety and depression. After the company, whose official name is CyberPsyc Software Solutions, received funding in 2012, he hired O’Brien, now the company’s COO. Together, they altered the product and its target market so they are now making sales.
WellTrack is a product that helps organizations improve the mental health of its members, especially those suffering from stress, anxiety and depression. The company has had some sales to corporations, but it found a more responsive clientele in universities.
The reason is that depression and anxiety afflict about 45 per cent of university students in North America — more than double the percentage of the general population.
“It’s like an epidemic,” Piercey said in an interview in Fredericton this week. “What’s more, the number of people seeking help is rising, and universities are really worried about the first-year dropout rate.”
Helping universities to help their students represented a huge business opportunity, and Piercey and O’Brien turned to the regional startup accelerator Propel ICT to help them capitalize on it. Though Piercey had gone through the program in 2012, they enrolled again. Propel helped them to adjust their business practices to bring in more money.
Focusing on the university market, they adjusted the price point so the product is now offered at six to eight times what early adopters paid. And they set ambitious sales targets. It’s now selling to about 30 universities and has 10 more poised to sign up.
The company posted $120,000 in recurring revenue in the second quarter, and is on track to increase it to $240,000 in the third quarter. The goal is to double it again in the fourth quarter, which would give the company a neat $1 million in annual recurring revenue.
“We’ve closed $100,000 to $150,000 in the next few weeks, which would put us close to doubling our revenues in this quarter, just as we did in the last one,” said O’Brien.
Because of that revenue growth, Piercey expects to close a $1-million funding round in the next four to six weeks. He wouldn’t say who the investors are, though they may include previous investors such as New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and East Valley Ventures. That funding will allow the company to add four staff members, bringing the total to nine.
Throughout it all, Piercey understood O’Brien was key to the growth of the company and deserved a share of the company. So one day, out of the blue, he suggested she should get half his shares.
“I was thinking about it and it just seemed to make sense,” said Piercey, who is just starting a two-year leave of absence from the university to focus on the company. “We couldn’t do this without each other.”
Briefs: Sequence, CarbonCure, Venn
Incubators collaborate to deliver market intelligence
Moncton-based Venn Innovation said Wednesday that market intelligence services will be available to qualifying technology companies across Atlantic Canada through organizations that are part of the Canadian Digital Media Network, or CDMN.
Volta Labs and Innovacorp, based in Nova Scotia, Genesis Centre, based in Newfoundland and Labrador, and Venn Innovation are collaborating to deliver market intelligence to their clients. In addition, P.E.I. companies will be able to access the service through referral to Venn by Innovation PEI.
The service will be provided by sector-specific analysts based at MaRS in Toronto.
“For the past two years, Venn has been providing market intelligence to New Brunswick-based companies through a partnership with MaRS,” said Venn CEO Doug Robertson in a statement. “The opportunity to extend the access to market intelligence across Atlantic Canada was facilitated through our participation in the Canadian Digital Media Network and the relationships that we have forged with the other participating organizations in the network.”
The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program contributed $170,000 to the project.
Sequence to work with Twillingate hospital
St. John’s genetic data analytics company Sequence Bio on Wednesday named the Notre Dame Memorial Health Centre in Twillingate, Newfoundland and Labrador, as the first investigator site for the pilot phase of the 100k Genome Research Project.
Sequence, which announced US$3 million in venture capital funding this month, is leading a 100,000-person genome research project. It will engage people from across the province to provide samples of their genes. Sequence will analyze this data and use the findings to produce new cures and develop better, safer medicines.
Dr. Mohamed Ravalia of the Notre Dame centre will head an investigative team that will invite patients to enroll in the pilot phase of the project. It will provide feedback on the study process, and aid in the development of a continuing education program to increase genomics literacy.
“This community project will directly impact the people of Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Ravalia in a statement. “By changing how we look at healthcare and engaging in this study, the people of this province will be on the forefront of cutting edge initiatives and technologies that have the potential to realize significant clinical benefits.”
Added Neala Quigley, Director of Community Engagement of Sequence Bio: ““We couldn’t be more proud to have Dr. Ravalia and his team on board. He has been recognized as one of the best physicians in the country and brings a forward-thinking and patient-first mindset to everything he does.”
CarbonCure competing in $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE
Team CarbonCure, whose members represent the entire cement and concrete value chain, is among 47 teams from around the world vying for their share of the $20 million prize purse.
The Carbon XPRIZE is a competition that challenges teams to develop breakthrough technologies that convert the most CO2 into one or more products with the highest net value. Co-sponsored by NRG and COSIA, the multi-year competition is designed to address CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, a leading contributor to climate change.
“We believe that our technology will fundamentally change the way concrete is made globally,” said CarbonCure CEO Robert Niven in a statement. “Competing in the Carbon XPRIZE drives us to push the envelope on innovation, and establish partnerships with influential industry players, in order to demonstrate to the world that this technology will play a key role in driving down global CO2 emissions.”
CarbonCure’s technology injects carbon dioxide captured from nearby smokestacks into concrete during manufacturing. Once introduced into the concrete mix, the CO2 chemically converts into a solid mineral and never escapes.
Team CarbonCure was formed to develop new approaches to capture and convert CO2 from industrial sources and sequester it into concrete. CarbonCure’s technology is installed in 35 concrete plants, which have supplied material to more than a hundred construction projects across North America.
Broadening the team to include leaders from the entire value chain will enable the company to collaborate with suppliers and end users alike, in order to facilitate rapid deployment of the technology. CarbonCure said it is competing in the Carbon XPRIZE challenge to demonstrate that its technology is the most cost effective, highest impact, and most scalable solution available today to recycle CO2 to make better building materials.
Simms Returns to Genesis as CEO
Michelle Simms has not only returned to the Genesis Centre. She is now running the St. John’s startup incubator.
Simms had worked at the Genesis Centre on the Memorial University campus for 14 years, most recently as Vice-President of Programs and Operations. In June, she left to take a position with the Business Development Bank of Canada.
But she soon learned that Genesis CEO Greg Hood had agreed to take a job back in his native Toronto. She was approached and accepted the position of President and CEO of the Genesis Centre. After seven weeks with BDC, she rejoined Genesis last week.
“Being able to come back to the Genesis Centre in this role was a really exciting opportunity to me and one that I couldn’t pass up,” she said in an interview Tuesday. “Being able to put my mark on the Centre would be great, and we have a really incredible team here.”
The appointment of the new CEO is the latest in a wave of changes at the Genesis Centre, which opened in 1993 as an agency to commercialize intellectual property at Memorial. It has evolved into an incubator that offers office space and programming to St. John’s startups. Of the 11 tenants in its offices now, none have grown out of IP developed at the university.
In 2014, David King, who had been with the Genesis organization since its opening, left to take up a teaching position in Qatar. He was replaced by Hood, who Simms said has now found a position in Toronto that allows him to be with his family.
Meanwhile, the Genesis Centre plans to leave its elegant offices in Memorial's Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation in 2017 for the university’s new development at the Battery, on the side of Signal Hill.
Simms is slotting back into a team that is gelling together at the Genesis Centre. Angelo Casanas, Manager of Startups and Partnerships, joined the organization from the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto last year. And Dana Parsons, the CEO of St. John’s Brownie Points, came on board this year as the Centre’s Venture Lead.
Since rejoining, Simms has already made a few changes. She recently toured incubator spaces in Silicon Valley and realized they feature more open spaces than Genesis. So she has tried to create more collaborative spaces in the existing facility. This will be a major push in the Battery complex, which she hopes will house as many as 20 companies of different sizes.
In the long-term, Simms hopes to enhance the Genesis Centre’s partnerships. The Centre is one of several Atlantic Canadian organizations that recently partnered with the MaRS Market Intelligence Services. Simms wants to work with more organizations across Canada and the U.S. Similarly, Simms hopes to continue to work with groups in Newfoundland and Labrador that are dedicated to building the startup community.
“The Genesis Centre has in my opinion has always been a strong pillar of the technology sector in Newfoundland and Labrador, and we have always worked closely with our partners,” she said. “I envision that continuing.”
NS Should Maintain VC Policy
The closing of Unique Solutions has ignited calls for the Nova Scotia government to get out of the venture capital business. After four companies in the Nova Scotia Business Inc. VC portfolio have failed in 18 months, people on social and traditional media are demanding the government exit VC investment. Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie has said the government should instead lower the tax on small businesses.
Such a policy would be a mistake. Nova Scotia – in fact the whole Atlantic region – needs high-growth companies, and these enterprises need capital. And the makeup of our economy is such that government must play a role in providing that capital – hopefully in a way that the capital will be returned.
Until recently, two provincial agencies in Nova Scotia made VC investments – Innovacorp in the early stages, and NSBI in growth stage. In 2014, the government halted new investments by NSBI, leaving Innovacorp as the only active provincial-government-owned fund in Nova Scotia.
[Full disclosure: I once invested in Unique Solutions, and my past and present clients include Unique, Innovacorp and NSBI. But I also used to work for Jamie Baillie and don’t like to see my taxes wasted any more than you do.]
The recent ire has focused on NSBI because it invested almost $30 million in companies that failed since January 2015. We taxpayers will likely lose money on this portfolio. It made $5.4 million on its investment in DHX Media, and still includes some great companies like Halifax Biomedical and Health Outcomes Worldwide. They’d have to sell out at superb valuations to make up for other losses.
But the Innovacorp portfolio seems healthier and features smaller investments than that of NSBI. I say seems because the only way to assess the health of a VC portfolio is to look at its companies’ follow-on funding and the strength of the underlying businesses.
Several companies backed by Innovacorp – such as Spring Loaded Technologies, TruLeaf Smart Plant Systems and CarbonCure Technologies – have had follow-on funding from other investors, suggesting their businesses are improving. (Innovacorp has also backed privately managed Build Ventures, which has invested in three companies that have follow-on funding.)
As for the underlying business, Entrevestor surveys Atlantic Canadian startups, and here are the results for companies in the Innovacorp portfolio that responded to our surveys: 27 Innovacorp companies reported they had a total of 264.5 employees in Atlantic Canada at the end of 2015, up 38 percent from a year earlier. And 18 Innovacorp companies shared revenue data with us. Their 2015 revenues totaled $11 million, almost double the previous year. These are strong gains, and in keeping with what’s going on among Atlantic Canadian startups.
There’s reason to be optimistic about the Innovacorp portfolio. It may make money for taxpayers, and it is already showing strength as an economic development vehicle.
Nova Scotia’s GDP increased 0.8 percent in 2015 – its strongest rate in five years. That is a dreadful economic performance. We need high-growth companies, and they need investment capital. Lowering the small business tax rate won’t help these companies because most don’t pay income tax as they are years away from profitability.
The government has called for proposals for a privately managed fund to set up in Halifax, with the province contributing $25 million. This may be the next phase of VC in Nova Scotia – a public-private fund with a private fund manager choosing the investment targets.
There would still be some losses and the winners would take time to emerge. But the economy needs the provincial government to maintain a measured, disciplined venture capital policy.
The Digital Side of Charlottetown
The first P.E.I. Propel cohort.
Gillian McCrae smiled as she looked back at the makeshift stage where six Prince Edward Island digital technology companies had just pitched.
McCrae, the Propel ICT Vice-President, had just overseen her organization’s first Local Demo Day in Charlottetown. It had taken place before a packed house at the Upstreet Craft Brewery, the crowd full of mentors, entrepreneurs and politicians. And, she had to agree things were different when she started her own IT company on the Island four years earlier.
When McCrae went through the Propel accelerator, then called Launch36, she had to drive to Moncton each week for instruction. Propel and the Charlottetown tech community were too young to have a cohort in P.E.I. Both have grown up, as was evident at the Local Demo Day.
“You can see how much support there is here to help companies succeed,” said McCrae. “There wasn’t anything like this when I was going through.”
With its rich tradition in agriculture and veterinary medicine, the Prince Edward Island innovation community until recently was skewed heavily toward life sciences. Yes, there were great IT success stories, like video display advertising company ScreenScape Networks and digital archive manager discoverygarden. But with institutions like the PEI BioAlliance and the Regis Duffy Bioscience Fund, the support network for life sciences teams was far greater than for their brethren in IT.
But that is changing for a few reasons.
First, there are more IT companies springing up in P.E.I. Consider this: the latest Propel ICT cohort received a record 168 applications and P.E.I. (which has about 6 percent of the region’s population) accounted for 18 percent of the entries.
Second, there are more established places for them to meet and work. Some of the young startups have been working in the Launchpad PEI co-working space, which is where the Propel cohort met. Charlottetown’s Startup Zone opened this summer. This startup house was expecting to welcome 16 companies in IT and other segments, offering them office space, programming and peer-to-peer support.
And third, there is Propel itself. Island companies are still able to join the advanced Build accelerator and travel to Moncton once a week for mentoring. Onset Communications, a Charlottetown company that helps film crew members communicate with one another instantly, did just that in the first cohort of 2016.
But there is also an option of joining the Launch program for entrepreneurial beginners, which for the first time this year met in Charlottetown. Five companies completed the Launch accelerator on the Island this spring and presented at the Local Demo Day. They included companies like Airbly, which has developed hardware and software that automates the process of keeping a flight log for small aircraft, and King Ding Productions Inc., which aims to improve food safety.
“IT is the fastest growing industry,” said J. Heath MacDonald, the minister of Economic Development and Tourism. “It just continues to expand. And what’s going on in P.E.I. is just phenomenal – especially the involvement of our youth as they are our future.”
McCrae knows the importance of building IT companies, and the challenges these companies face. Before joining the Propel staff in 2015, McCrae was the CEO of GetGifted, an Island phenomenon that let merchants give gifts to customers as long as they stopped by the shop or restaurant. The company went through Launch36 but shut down when the problems of expanding in a big city became obvious. Now, based in Halifax, McCrae works mentoring companies across the region and is looking forward to the next cohort – for which applications are now open.
She said the entrepreneurs and experts throughout Charlottetown have come out to help mentor the new tech entrepreneurs. “This has created an integrated program with support from the community and from the people within the program itself.”
Job of The Week: 4Deep Inwater
Halifax-based 4Deep Inwater Imaging, which makes cutting-edge microscopes that can operate in the water, is seeking a product verification/quality control lead.
The company makes advanced microscopes that can examine micro-organisms and other small material in the water in real time. They can check the size, shape, and movement of anything from embryonic invasive species to beads of oil in an oil spill – all without having to waste time taking samples out of the water and sending them to a laboratory.
Having received $500,000 in funding from its Chinese partner Guangzhou Bosma Corp., 4Deep Inwater is now ramping up its sales and working on new applications.
The Jobs 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 start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Qimple.
Halifax-based 4Deep has an immediate opening for an organized, motivated, and self-reliant person who can be "task flexible" and readily accommodate customer and company needs.
This is a multifaceted position that emphasizes product verification but also requires work in quality control. The successful candidate must become an expert user of all company products and formulate and execute test plans for current and future hardware/software products. He or she must also ensure design specifications are met in prototype and software betas before the final product is released.
The company is looking for someone with the ability to establish and manage quality control tests.
The successful candidate should have: at least two years of university or college with a preference for a bachelor degree; and at least three years of experience in quality control and product verification for hardware and software. The ability to communicate in both English and Chinese would be an asset as the role will require some travel to Guangzhou Bosma’s offices in Guangzhou, China.
New Programming at Planet Hatch
A method for streamlining access to entrepreneurial services is being developed in New Brunswick. The idea is to prevent service duplication, said Lisa Kinney, Entrepreneurial Services Coordinator at Fredericton’s Planet Hatch.
Chicago-born Kinney, who has been in her post at the New Brunswick incubator and co-working space for the past six months, said she is impressed by the collaboration in the province’s startup community.
That collaboration is enabling the streamlining work, which is being undertaken by a task force of stakeholders, led by Larry Shaw, CEO of Ignite Fredericton.
“We are not a huge community so we can’t duplicate services,” said Kinney, who sits on Fredericton's Startup Taskforce.
“The taskforce, with the leadership of Larry Shaw, CEO of Ignite Fredericton, is working to create a subway model in which we lay out services available to entrepreneurs, so startups can be seamlessly directed to the correct provider…”
Planet Hatch is known for fostering startups in the IT sector. It has recently said it intends to provide more help to non-IT startups.
“We’re expanding to programs that include the broader startup community,” said Kinney, who has lived on Canada’s east coast since 2009, when she arrived with her New Brunswick-raised engineer husband Jeremy Kinney.
“For example, we have recently taken on an artrepreneur-in-residence at Planet Hatch with the aim of building better connections to local artists.”
The first artrepreneur is Kate Roy, a film-maker and photographer. Artists in any discipline can apply for the one-month role. They receive a dedicated working space, display their work and are invited to networking events.
They also act as a mentor, and take part in the group’s monthly Office Hours, providing consultation to startups.
“The artrepreneur is also promoting the wider artistic community. We see them as entrepreneurs and want them to have the same resources as everyone else,” said Kinney, adding that Planet Hatch expects to house six artrepreneurs a year.
Over the summer, the group ran a creativity workshop for entrepreneurs, led by painter Ingrid Mueller.
“It was to help entrepreneurs access their creative side,” Kinney said. “We weren’t allowed to use social media…We drew and painted. We listened and engaged.”
Also new—for two Wednesdays every month Planet Hatch offers ‘open working hours’.
“Half of our centre is a co-working space for our tenants. We also have community space, so that people who work from home or who are students, can work here and have networking opportunities twice a month.”
Kinney said there is a lot of cross-over between her new role and her previous post with the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia, where she worked for nine years in executive education management.
“I planned and populated programs there too. What’s different now is that after a few years at home, caring for my children, I find social media has become very important.
“We use social media to communicate everything we do. This summer, we have three university student interns who opened my eyes to platforms like Snapchat, Periscope and other ways to reach youth.”
It’s essential to use all avenues to educate the community about the resources and opportunities available for entrepreneurs, Kinney said.
“We do a lot of youth initiatives. Recently, we ran a kids learning code session for ages six to 12. We try to be present at child and youth events, such as a recent STEAM contest (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).
Kinney said the taskforce is also planning for the Startup Canada Regional Awards, which will be held for the first time in Fredericton. The September 13th event is timed to coincide with the city’s Harvest Jazz and Blues festival to attract a particularly celebratory crowd.
“Fredericton is a great place to start a business,” Kinney said. “We strive to encourage youth to take the opportunities and start what they’re interested in.”
Sequence Announces US$3M Funding
Chris Gardner and Tyler Wish: 'A globally significant opportunity.'
Silicon Valley venture capital firm Data Collective is leading a US$3 million (C$3.9 million) seed round of funding in St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, calling the company’s work in health data “a globally significant opportunity.”
The parties issued a press release Wednesday saying the other investors in the round were: Killick Capital, the St. John’s investment fund headed by Mark Dobbin; Venture Newfoundland and Labrador, the fund backed by the NL government, BDC Capital and private angels and managed by Pelorus Venture Capital; and Klister Credit Corp., an Ontario investment fund headed by John H. Phillips.
The funding is significant for Atlantic Canada because it’s the first time a Silicon Valley fund has led a seven-figure seed round for one of the region’s startups. VC investors tend to invest in companies close to their headquarters, so it’s noteworthy that a fund in the world’s biggest tech market has backed such a young company.
“Technology is disrupting the traditional drug-discovery paradigm, but these new technologies are starved for ground truth genomic and clinical data,” Zachary Bogue, Co-Managing Partner at DCVC, said in a statement. “We see Sequence Bio as a breakthrough source of both data and insight to improve global health by enabling faster, less-expensive delivery of more effective therapeutics. And while Newfoundland and Labrador is geographically far from Silicon Valley, this is for drug discovery that we’re excited to support.”
Founded in 2013, Sequence works with partners to analyze vast sets of data from gene pools to get a deeper understanding of human biology and the treatment of diseases. The company was founded by entrepreneurs Tyler Wish and Chris Gardner to capitalize on Newfoundland’s genetic data. The island has a rare — possibly unique — genetic grouping of families that have lived on the island for generations and who have distinct genetic markers. Sequence has signed an agreement with Memorial University to use the university’s genetic databank.
The company says it is building “the world’s most powerful big data resource for drug discovery” through a 100,000-person genome sequencing project. The company is developing systems that use machine-learning and artificial intelligence to analyze the data and increase our knowledge of human biology. That will, it hopes, lead to the development of better drugs.
“Building a company that can both impact drug discovery and patient care in a meaningful way is important to all of us at Sequence Bio,” said Wish in the statement. “This investment will accelerate our already rapid growth. With this unique network of talent, advisors and expertise in big data supporting us, we have never been better positioned for success in drug discovery and precision medicine.”
Gardner added that Data Collective is “one of the premier venture capital firms” investing in companies involved in Big Data. “Its principals have supported people seeking to disrupt industries for over 20 years, helping create tens of billions of dollars of wealth,” he said.
Last year, Sequence received $1 million in equity funding from Killick and Venture NL. Sequence also said Wednesday that James Hardiman, a partner at Data Collective, will join its board of directors.
Unique Solutions Closes its Doors
Dartmouth-based body scan company Unique Solutions has closed down after burning through tens of millions of dollars in capital, including $5.6 million it raised from the Nova Scotian government.
A spokesman on Wednesday said that the company had ceased operations and that the secured creditors would appoint a receiver or agent to auction off the company’s assets.
[Full disclosure: Entrevestor founder Peter Moreira invested in Unique Solutions and did some freelance work for the company, all in 2010.]
The termination is the final chapter in a corporate story that began in 1997 when entrepreneur Tanya Shaw began an online clothing enterprise. Eventually, she secured the intellectual property for scanning equipment that could capture the human body while the subject was fully clothed.
That led to an ambitious plan to establish scanning booths in shopping malls throughout the U.S. The scans, which only took a minute, would tell shoppers where to find clothes that fit them precisely, and the retailers or brands would pay Unique Solutions for the referral.
The company began to install the booths in major malls, reaching about 40 by early 2012. But the strategy proved too expensive for the revenue it generated and the booths were all removed that year. Shaw tried again with a different strategy – using a handheld scanner and going after enterprise clients, especially those with uniforms. But that too fell short.
It’s difficult to say how much money Unique Solutions raised in its history. The company raised $30 million from Northwater Capital Management of Toronto in 2011. In 2015, it announced it had raised a further $15 million from Northwater and investor Skip Battle.
Before these investors came in, the company had raised money in Nova Scotia, including funding from Nova Scotia Business Inc., which has an exposure of $5.6 million. It also raised money from the First Angel Network, or FAN.
Unique is the latest in a wave of companies from the NSBI venture capital portfolio that have shut down in the past 18 months. The others include TechLink Entertainment (which NSBI had invested $13 million in), Origin Biomed ($7.9 million) and Intellivote ($2.8 million). Members of FAN had also backed Origin and Intellivote.
The Nova Scotia government in 2014 announced that NSBI would no longer make new investments. All VC investments by the government are now carried out by Innovacorp.
The Unique Solutions auction will be interesting because the company’s assets do have considerable value. As well as the IP for the scanning devices, the assets include the world’s largest databank of body scans. These scans each comprise 200,000 points of the human body and are a trove of information on the human body.
Event Season in 2016 Focuses on NB
We’re entering event season in the Atlantic Canadian startup community, and the focus this year will be on New Brunswick.
There are at least five big events planned for the region this autumn, and three that were held in Halifax last year will be in New Brunswick this year.
Two conferences that have been held in Halifax since their inception will take place in the Nova Scotian capital again this year – Startup Empire on Sept. 23, and BioPort Atlantic on Oct. 25 and 26.
The largest of these events is the Big Data Congress, which the tech services company T4G started in Saint John in January 2013. The goal of the conference has always been not just to discuss developments in data analytics with people who work in the field but also to educate the broader community on how data analytics can improve a range of industries.
After a year in Halifax, it will be held once again at the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre this year with the theme of Big Data and the industrial Internet of things, or IIoT. The organizers are expecting about 800 attendees and more than 30 speakers. Tickets are available here.
The Big Data Congress tends to attract speakers who are household names in global tech circles. This year’s selection includes Alex ‘Sandy” Pentland, Director of MIT’s Human Dynamics and Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program; Alec Ross, author and Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Johns Hopkins University; and Sandy Bird, Chief Technology Officer for IBM’s Software Security Division. Two regional entrepreneurs who will speak at the event are: Tyler Wish, CEO and Co-Founder of St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, and Andrea Feunekes, CEO, President and Co-Founder of Remsoft of Fredericton.
Invest Atlantic started in 2010, and it’s always been held in Halifax. Last year’s Chair Nancy Mathis, the head of the Wallace McCain Institute at University of New Brunswick, suggested to organizer Bob Williamson that the next one be held in New Brunswick. So this year’s event will be held at the Delta Beauséjour in Moncton. Tickets are available here.
Along the same lines, the Startup Canada Awards last year had so many regional winners from New Brunswick that the awards presentation for the region this year will be held at the Fredericton Convention Centre. You register for the event here. The regional winners will compete for the nation awards, which will be handed out in Toronto on Nov. 29.
Startup Empire is hosted by Volta Labs in Halifax and as such will be held in Halifax this year. Volta has announced the date but no other details.
Organized by the Nova Scotia life sciences association BioNova, BioPort is the oldest of these events, having first been held in 2002. The highlight of the life sciences conference is the BioInnovation Challenge, a pitching competition for biotech companies. This year the winner will take home $50,000 in cash and in-kind services.
Government Must Adopt Innovation
There are a few things that investors don’t like to hear from entrepreneurs who are pitching them for money, and one is that the startup plans to sell mainly to government.
Selling to government is difficult. The sales cycle is long – so long the startup can run out of money waiting for an answer. Bureaucracies often resist change, which interferes with the adoption of new technology. If the technology saves money, unions worry about job losses.
There’s no ideology or bias in these statements. It is simply the result of observation of several startups that have tried to sell to government, often with disastrous consequences. Yes, there are exceptions, but overall mentors and investors worry about startups targeting government.
So if there were a single thing that the Nova Scotia government – or other governments in the region -- could do to improve innovation in both the private and public sectors, it would be to improve its process of adopting new home-grown innovation. Such a policy would have two effects: it would create an early market for young companies and help them to refine their products; and second it would improve productivity within government.
High-growth companies (we call them startups but some are decades old) are the cornerstone of an innovative economy. Atlantic Canada has a lot of the components needed to develop these companies – abundant talent, access to capital, lots of universities, stable government. And the provincial and federal governments have some tremendous programs to fund and nurture startups.
What we don’t have is a lot of private industry. The best startup communities have big corporations that spin off startups, offer entrepreneurs experience in industry, and work with startups to develop their products. There are some of these in Atlantic Canada, but not enough.
Government in the Maritimes makes up a larger portion of the economy than other provinces or U.S. states. It would be a huge help to Nova Scotian startups – which are the vanguard of modernizing our economy – if government filled the void left by the lack of big business in the region.
Sadly, it hasn’t.
The rule of thumb is that if your business model depends on selling to government, change your model. Most biotech companies selling in Canada have to sell to the public sector because healthcare is largely provided by government, but many if not most have go-to-market strategies that target other jurisdictions.
What’s needed is an adopt-an-innovation program in specific departments, something akin to an adopt-a-highway program in some jurisdictions. The government should name a couple of departments that will initiate programs to buy technology from Atlantic Canadian startups. The Departments of Health and Education seem obvious candidates as they’re big and there is a lot of innovation that improves performance without threatening staff levels.
These departments should create panels to hear pitches, and the panels have to include both senior management (who can make fast decisions) and rank-and-file staff (who can address difficulties in implementing the technology). The program should be open to young companies that have new products and also established companies that have sold their products outside the region. Once the panel selects a company, it remains in place to help with the implementation.
Obviously, the winners in this situation would be the startups themselves. But Nova Scotian citizens would also benefit from access to the improved performance of new technology.
Curbza, a new Dartmouth company that is developing a peer-to-peer mobile commerce platform, has raised $83,000 in seed capital from angel investors.
Curbza has developed a mobile application that lets individuals buy, sell and barter their household goods. It can also act as a personal inventory for their possessions.
“Curbza has been in development mode over the past eight months and this funding will help us
accelerate our development cycles,” CEO Scott Theriault said in a statement. “The current version has the potential of changing the way the sharing economy works by offering users more choices and
opportunities to customize their online bartering experience.”
Curbza, whose chairman is SimplyCast CEO Saeed El-Darahali, will launch its first commercial version in the coming months, enabling users to start listing an inventory of items in an innovative and secure way.
Venture for Canada Announces Scale-Up Partnership with BDC Capital
The not-for-profit organization that recruits recent graduates for leading Canadian startups said it will organize the “BDC Canadian Scale-Up Speaker Series” featuring high-profile Canadian entrepreneurs who have built and grown successful companies. Mark Organ, Founder and CEO of Influitive, will be the first presenter in the series, at an event on August 18. Influitive recently raised a nearly $40 million Series B investment round, and has close to 200 employees.
Later this year, Annette Verschuren, Chair and CEO of NRStor, will be speaking as part of the speaker series. Ms. Verschuren was formerly president of The Home Depot Canada and Asia.
“We are proud to partner with BDC Capital to provide education to our fellows and partner startups on best practices for creating high growth companies,” said Scott Stirrett, Executive Director of Venture for Canada.
“BDC Capital helps build outstanding companies,” said Jérôme Nycz, Executive Vice President, BDC Capital. “We are excited to support the work of Venture for Canada in educating the next generation of Canadian entrepreneurs on what it takes to scale startups and create high growth firms.”
Cheep Insurance Launches in Nova Scotia
Cheep Insurance, Nova Scotia’s first online insurance brokerage, has launched and is now accepting clients.
The Dartmouth-based company provides online quoting, eSignatures, and a mobile app with the aim of simplifying the insurance experience for today’s busy, modern consumer.
“For a lot of people, insurance can be a hassle,” said Jennifer Jackson, who headed the company’s launch. “So we created a business model that simplifies the entire process – from comparing quotes to binding coverage to accessing your policy and filing claims.”
Cheep Insurance has an online quoting system that allows Nova Scotians to instantly compare insurance prices from their smartphones or computers. Clients can receive coverage over the phone with one of the company’s licensed insurance brokers who will review the policy and answer any questions clients may have. Instead of driving all the way to a broker’s office to sign the paperwork, clients can simply use their fingers to sign on the touchscreen of their phone.
MentorCamp to Debut in Sydney
MentorCamp, the event that brings together entrepreneurs and mentors for intense training sessions, will take place in the Sydney area this month — the first time it’s been held in Cape Breton.
Founder Permjot Valia launched MentorCamp in Halifax in 2011 and has since held the event in such locations as Arkansas, South Africa, and Manitoba. He recently became the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Island Sandbox, an innovation program for post-secondary students in Cape Breton, and has therefore decided to hold the 2016 event on the island.
“I’m looking forward to bringing in the mentors and introducing them to Cape Breton — both for the mentors, to show then what Cape Breton has to offer, and for the local companies,” said MentorCamp Chief Operating Officer Carolyn Clegg in an interview last week.
MentorCamp was formerly an annual event in the region and is now held every second year. It has been held five times in the region, always in Halifax, and the big change this year is it is being held in Cape Breton for the first time. It’s the first time Sydney will host a startup event aimed at companies from beyond the local startup community.
Sydney boasts one of the fastest growing startup communities in the region. As of the end of 2015, there were 32 startups on Cape Breton and 21 were less than two years old. The local incubator, Navigate Startup House, has recently received federal and provincial funding and is working to stage more events for startups based in Cape Breton and elsewhere.
The MentorCamp event will bring together an array of mentors from Atlantic Canada and outside the region who are experts in a range of disciplines.
They include: Arkansas entrepreneur Carol Reeves, who has been profiled in such publications as Forbes; Michael Sikorsky, the CEO of Calgary startup Robots & Pencils; Mark MacLeod, the founder of SurePath Capital Partners of Toronto; and April Dunford, a Toronto-based specialist in startup sales, marketing and customer support.
As well as startups from all four Atlantic Provinces, the companies attending MentorCamp include promising startups from other areas so all participants — mentors and entrepreneurs — can compare the local companies with those from elsewhere.
The event spans two days. On Monday, Aug. 15, the eight invited companies will spend the day with the mentors.
The next day, about 20 companies from Sydney’s burgeoning startup community will be invited to attend one-on-one sessions with the mentors attending the event.
Clegg said the MentorCamp organizers will decide after the event whether to hold it in Cape Breton again or to return to Halifax or try another part of Atlantic Canada. She added the team is impressed with the energy they’re finding in the Sydney area, and Valia hopes to be involved in many other events in the area.
“They’re eager, and there’s definitely skill there,” said Clegg. “And what’s happening now is they’re pulling it all together, and we’re really seeing the support happen.”
Jobs of the Week: Forestry.io
Forestry.io, a Charlottetown company developing a new content management system, or CMS, is looking for two programmers to help the young company grow.
Today’s Jobs of the Week column highlights the postings by this startup, whose recent beta test attracted 2,500 users around the world.
Founded by startup veterans Scott Gallant and Jordan Patterson, Forestry.io is developing a CMS for static site generators like Jekyll, Middleman, and Hugo, rather than the more conventional systems like WordPress and Drupal.
The Jobs 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 start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Qimple.
The backend developer will build features with Ruby on Rails based on user feedback, write automated tests, communicate with customers and set up and manage infrastructure. Forestry.io is looking for someone with one to four years of experience in a similar role. The skills required for this position include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Docker and Ruby on Rails.
Miller Seeks Input for G20 Gathering
Emily Miller: 'I want to share the cool stuff that's happening in Atlantic Canada.'
Entrepreneur-in-training Emily Miller wants to be briefed by young Atlantic Canadians like herself so she can better represent the region in in her role as a G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance delegate.
Halifax-based Miller leaves for Beijing on Sept. 2, and would like to hear from members of her tribe before then.
“I look forward to strengthening relations with Chinese business people,” said Miller. “And I want to share the cool stuff that’s happening in Atlantic Canada. I’m looking for feedback from the entrepreneurial community here so I can represent everyone.”
Miller first visited China five years ago when she completed a political science exchange at Changzhou University. She is excited to return. She will fly first to Shanghai where she will meet with entrepreneurs and incubators, before traveling to Beijing for the G20 Summit’s Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance.
At the summit, she’ll attend sessions on subjects such as robotics and humanity, the future of food, travel to Mars and self-driving cars.
Miller is also one of the first cohort of the inaugural Venture for Canada Fellowship, which offers graduates the chance to work with startups for two years.
Having completed her first year of the program, Miller is currently working as the Customer Success Manager at Halifax-based social media analytics company LeadSift.
“Sales is new to me,” she said. “It’s fascinating, the persistence it takes. I’m learning the ability to get someone onside, although calling people up definitely takes getting used to.”
The child of two lawyers, entrepreneurship has interested Miller since High School when she began her own photography business in order to take part in a school-building trip to India with Free the Children.
After graduating from St. Francis Xavier University with a Double Major in Development Studies and Political Science, she worked in New Delhi, India, at startup NGO PORDAC, through the Canada World Youth program.
“PORDAC was started by one woman, Manjir Gupta. She created her own school for kids with autism and other learning disabilities…It was fascinating to see such a power house of a woman,” Miller said.
“I realized the tenacity and fight you need as an entrepreneur to keep believing in your vision. There can be really low days and very high days. You need resilience and can’t give up.”
When Miller returned from India, she interned at the Clinton Foundation’s international office in New York City, which was already 10 years old with an established internship program.
“It was the opposite of PORDAC, that was a startup and this was a multi-national… My take away from the foundation was just how much can be achieved when business leaders, NGOs and governments all work together and make commitments to action.”
Miller said companies can have a big impact when they have a social conscience.
“I’m interested in social ventures,” she said. “I’d love to open my own social enterprise in Halifax. It would be good to open somewhere like the Bridge in the North End.
“The Bridge offers eight reduced cost office spots for groups like NGOs and non-profits. It’s a great space for community organizations.”
Miller, who is also a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers Hub and a 21 Inc. alumni, likes the flexibility and variety of entrepreneurship. She figures she will cope well with the strains of starting her own venture.
“I like being busy and on my toes, and you can create jobs in the community if you’re successful,” she said. “I’m a bit of a risk-taker…I also do a lot of yoga to manage stress…”
A new study of Canada’s information technology sector shows the country’s tech segment is bigger — and slower growing — than you might have expected.
And the report offers glimpses of the tech scene in Atlantic Canada. It said tech employees make up a far lower percentage of the region’s workforce than the country overall, but also says Atlantic Canadian cities match or exceed the concentration of tech employees in the country.
The data is found in a new report titled The State of Canada’s Tech Sector, 2016 by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship at Ryerson University in Toronto. The report — prepared in conjunction with partners across the country, including the Venn Centre in Moncton and Volta Labs in Halifax — focuses on the impact that technology and tech-related jobs have on the size of Canada’s economy and workforce.
“The key to future economic growth and stability is understanding where Canada’s strengths lie,” said Brookfield Executive Director Sean Mullin in a statement. “This benchmark study demonstrates a vibrant and diverse tech sector, and its potential as a driver of innovation and economic growth.”
But it also highlights just how slowly the sector is growing.
Between 2007 and 2015, the technology sector in Canada grew at an annual rate of 1.4 per cent, a slow steady progression that overall fell short of the growth in such sectors as finance and construction, said the report.
It adds that the tech growth was less volatile than those other two sectors.
The Brookfield researchers add, however, that 14.9 per cent of the companies in the tech sector can be classified as “high-growth companies,” which are those that grow 20 per cent or more three years in a row.
That’s a higher percentage than any other sector.
Overall, technology accounts for 7.1 per cent of the Canadian economy, making it a larger sector than finance, wholesale, retail, transportation or utilities.
The area in which tech really shines is Business Enterprise Research and Development — tech companies spent $9.1 billion on R&D in 2015, more than half of the Canadian total.
Tech wages average almost $67,000, or 40 per cent more than the average Canadian wage of $48,000.
About 864,000 Canadians are employed by the tech sector, or about 5.6 per cent of the Canadian work force.
Atlantic Canada has a lower concentration of information technology than the rest of the country, given that tech employees account for only two per cent of the region’s work force.Only Saskatchewan has a lower proportion among the provinces.
The report notes that tech concentrations are highest in major cities.Halifax has a concentration of tech professionals that is 20 per cent higher than the overall Canadian figure. Halifax is exceeded only by Montreal, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver. Even Saint John and St. John’s have a tech concentration that matches the Canadian figure and is higher than Edmonton, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, London and Hamilton.
The Brookfield report also noted that average annual wage for Halifax tech employees is $58,780 — 12 percent lower than the national average.
“Halifax has almost as high a concentration as the Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo area, and even Toronto,” Volta Labs CEO Jesse Rodger said in an email. “The competition for talent is global, and Halifax is well positioned, as established in the Brookfield report.”
Applications Open for The Next 36
Applications are now open for the 2017 cohort of The Next 36, a mentorship program for the country’s leading undergraduates interested in entrepreneurship.
Based in Toronto, The Next 36 takes in about 36 undergraduate students each year and puts them through a rigorous program of entrepreneurship and academics. It’s known to be a blend of frank business assessment mixed with classroom sessions with leading business people and academics.
The program is open to undergraduates and recent grads from all academic backgrounds. Anyone interested has until Oct. 18 to apply. They can do so here using Kira Talent, a venture created during the 2012 cohort.
In less than five years, The Next 36 has won the backing of the presidents of nine Canadian universities across Canada and several prominent Canadian business leaders including Galen Weston, Paul Desmarais Sr., and Jimmy Pattison.
“The Next 36 identifies some of Canada’s most promising students and recent grads who are entrepreneurial and driven,” Janet Bannister, General Partner with Real Ventures, said in a statement. “It gives them an opportunity to start and grow their business with guidance from an amazing network of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders. I am thrilled to be a mentor to this impressive group and am confident they will make a significant contribution to the Canadian economy in the years to come.”
The Next 36 welcomes applications from individual entrepreneurs with founding teams in place as well as those looking to meet like-minded peers and launch new businesses. Last year, almost half of the ventures participating started before entering The Next 36.
“Many of Canada’s most promising entrepreneurs start working on an idea while they are still at school.” said Peter Carrescia, Managing Director of The Next 36. “Others are looking to meet big thinkers from across the country to build something new, and our program provides all of them with the same world class founder development.”
The statement said 36 exceptional undergraduates from across Canada are chosen through a rigorous national selection process last year. During the seven-month program, the young entrepreneurs build a business, while receiving unparalleled support that includes mentorship from Canada’s top business leaders, up to $50,000 from top venture capitalists, and academic instruction from some of the world’s top faculty. The 2016 cohort will showcase their start-ups Aug. 16, at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto.
The Next 36 and related programs have contributed to the success of industry-changing startups including, Bridgit, Kira Talent, Nymi, Revlo and Thalmic Labs in its first five years, as well as the creation of over 820 new jobs and over $50 million in funding raised by alumni since inception.
In a ceremony in Halifax, Treasury Board President Scott Brison announced that the company will receive a $2.995 million conditionally repayable sum from ACOA’s Atlantic Innovation Fund. QRA, which now employs 17 people, will use the money to develop a commercial, industry-ready software platform to assist engineers with the rigorous analysis of early-stage engineering designs. The Canadian Press reported the money will allow the company to hire 13 people for its research and development team.
Growing out of a research project at Dalhousie University, QRA has developed technology that helps large manufacturers identify flaws in complicated machinery early in the design stage. The idea is to work out the kinks before the manufacturer spends millions of dollars prototyping a machine that has ill-matched components.
“For new systems such as autonomous cars and commercial spacecraft to be deployed and accepted, we need to ensure that errors in the integrated design are caught during the earliest stages of development,” said Co-Founder and CEO Jordan Kyriakidis in a statement. “These are early days, but that’s what we do. It’s why we exist - and this funding is allowing us to work even harder towards fully accomplishing our mission.”
QRA, which has a close relationship with the world’s largest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, has two main products: QVTrace, an enterprise solution that helps large teams identify design flaws; and QVScribe, which helps engineers understand the requirements listed in the documents they write when they are first proposing a piece of machinery.
On Tuesday, four-year-old QRA said it has it has now conducted more than $6 million worth of projects for the aerospace and defense industry.
The company also said QVScribe, which launched its beta-test in May, is now in use in 25 countries. It will move out of its beta test soon, said the company.
The funding for QRA was part of a $7.1 million financing package that federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains announced earlier this month for four innovative projects under AIF. The funding meshes with the Atlantic Growth Strategy announced by the federal government and four Atlantic provinces to stimulate the region’s economy.
Briefs: Cloud-A, Ignition, Ag Award
Innovation PEI’s Ignition Fund deadline on Friday
Applications for Innovation PEI’s Ignition Fund – which offers $25,000 to launch or expand a business on P.E.I. – must be submitted by Friday.
“The fund is proving popular again this year as evidenced by the number of participants attending Ignition fund information sessions across the province this past spring,” said Economic Development and Tourism Minister Heath MacDonald in a statement. “The Ignition Fund helps new and expanding companies when that help is needed most – in the early stages of development.”
Qualifying applicants must be startup businesses or entrepreneurs who are committed to establishing and operating new businesses in Prince Edward Island. The products or services must have the potential to be sold outside of the province.
The prize package is more than $30,000 in cash, in-kind services, counseling and other contributions from sponsors, said the chamber in a statement.
This annual award program recognizes outstanding agriculture and agri-food-related innovators including producers, processors, suppliers and organizations. The award is intended to help the successful applicant move a project forward to the next phase of development. Past applicants are welcome to apply again.
You can find application forms and information here.
Cloud-A Launches Node in B.C.
Cloud-A Computing Inc., a Canadian public cloud provider, last week launched its first Western Canadian cloud infrastructure node in Vancouver. The new node allows Cloud-A to better service the entire country while offering faster speeds to its western customers, as well as satisfying data residency requirements for companies in B.C.
The company said the new node features all key Infrastructure-as-a-Service components, including compute, network, and storage. Similar to its existing Halifax node, the B.C. node is built on Cloud-A's OpenStack-based cloud platform. This platform gives customers the ability to spin up cloud infrastructure in a matter of minutes from both an easy-to-use web-based GUI and a powerful set of APIs.
"From day one, our mission has been to be Canada's cloud IaaS provider,” said Cloud-A CEO Jacob Godin in a statement. “We are now the first provider to truly launch a full multi-node, OpenStack cloud in Canada. This opens new doors for Canadian businesses who are looking for geographically dispersed data without the headaches of using legacy IT infrastructure."
Cloud-A is the leading provider of public cloud infrastructure based in Canada. It was launched by Godin and CMO Brandon Kolybaba.
Channeling Funds Into Drug Discovery
MP Andy Fillmore, left, BioNova's Scott Moffitt and Kevin Sullivan at the Appili lab opening,.
Kevin Sullivan had the pride of a guy showing off his new Cadillac. But it wasn’t a car he was displaying, it was the new laboratory that his company had recently moved into.
The company is Halifax-based drug discovery outfit Appili Therapeutics Inc., which in May announced $3.3 million in funding, comprising equity, debt and grants. On the same day, Sullivan unveiled the company’s new lab in the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre in Halifax and introduced the team of PhDs working for the company. A month earlier, Appli had announced it received a special fast-track approval designation from the Food and Drug Administration.
Not bad for a company that began last year.
“Appili is a company that hasn’t been around long, and coming from where they started to where they are today is truly impressive,” said Scott Moffitt, the Managing Director of BioNova, the life sciences industry association in Nova Scotia.
Appili is a notable company because of its leadership, its strategy and the story of how the company came together. Sullivan is a businessman operating in a segment that is often known for the high concentration of academics. He’s raised more than $40 million for various companies, and he brings a deep expertise in developing new drugs.
Sullivan came to Nova Scotia in 2013 to take the helm at DeNovaMed, a Halifax company working on a cure for antibiotic-resistant viruses. He had previously spent 10 years (including four as COO) with London-based Viron Therapeutics Inc., which was developing a cardiovascular drug. Viron raised more than $35 million in equity and non-dilutive capital and took its lead product through Phase 2 trials.
During his work in the biotech field, Sullivan met up with Brian Bloom and Jolyon Burton, the principals of the Toronto-based healthcare-focused investment boutique Bloom Burton & Co. Together, they decided to form a company in Halifax headed by Sullivan that would develop drug candidates.
The first is ATI-1501, which aims to remove the nasty taste from an existing drug that treats Clostridium difficile infection, or CDI, an urgent antibiotic-resistant bacterial threat that causes 29,000 deaths annually. A drug called Metronidazole has been used to treat the condition since the 1970s, but kids with CDI don’t want to take it because of its dreadful taste. ATI-1501 removes the bitter taste.
The Food and Drug Administration recently granted orphan drug designation to ATI-1501, meaning Appili could have an accelerated regulatory path and protection against competition for seven years. The company expects to begin clinical trials next year and have a product on the market in three or four years.
The second drug candidate is ATI-1503, a drug that could fight deadly infections such as Klebsiella pneumoniae. The media is full of warnings about viruses that are resistant to antibiotics and Sullivan said this drug could help combat them, but it’s a longer, riskier project than the first drug.
“We’re now entering a post antibiotic era, where a common cut could be deadly,” said Sullivan. “That’s what keeps us up at night.”
Sullivan described Appili’s strategy as one based on “hitting home runs and singles.” The idea is that the drug for CDI can get to market quickly, but address a limited market. By selling the product, it could produce a steady income stream. That would help to finance the drug for antibiotic-resistant viruses, which could become a blockbuster drug.
The strategy helped Sullivan attract $2.3 million in equity financing in the latest round -- $1.8 million from individuals brought together by Bloom Burton, and $500,000 from Innovacorp. Appili supplemented the raise with funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and NRC Irap.
“This is a seed round,” said Sullivan. “We’ll be looking to go back to the capital markets in the summer and close another round of financing in the fall.”
Lighthouse Labs’ New Halifax Program
Halifax native Rebecca Haliburton moved to Vancouver to work as the marketing manager for the tech education company, Lighthouse Labs. Six weeks later, the company told her that they would be expanding their software and app development bootcamps to her hometown.
“I’m really stoked to be able to bring back everything that I love about my job in Vancouver back to my hometown,” she said. “I know how much Halifax deserves it.”
Lighthouse Labs aims to train developers and deliver stellar tech education. A group of developers founded Lighthouse Labs in 2013 because they saw a lack of developers in the emerging Vancouver tech scene.
Now Lighthouse Labs has two brick-and-mortar locations in Vancouver and Toronto and six satellite locations in places like Halifax, Kelowna and Montreal. Satellite locations include a daily two-hour lecture streamed in from Toronto or Vancouver, and then hands-on coding and development time for about 10 hours with local developers.
Lighthouse Labs expanded to Halifax for the same reason it was started in Vancouver: a lack of developers in a vibrant and emerging tech scene.
“With the addition of more developers and more tech events, I think Halifax could be one of the best hubs in all of Canada for technology,” Haliburton said.
In the past three years of its existence, Lighthouse Labs has already seen 95 per cent of its 450 graduates receive jobs as developers in several startup and tech hubs across Canada.
Lighthouse Labs offers two eight-week bootcamps: web development, which focuses on developing software, and iOS development, which focuses on developing apps for iPhones, iPads and Apple TV. However, it only offers the iOS development bootcamps in its main campuses in Vancouver and Toronto.
Lighthouse Labs also offers six-week, part-time intro courses to both web development and iOS development. Those who complete the intro courses will receive $850 off the $8000 tuition for the bootcamps.
Five people have already signed up for the Halifax bootcamp, which is held out of Volta Labs. Lighthouse Labs only wants 10 people in its first bootcamp to ensure that it runs smoothly.
The admissions process is rigorous and includes an hour-long one-on-one interview with the Lighthouse Labs admission coordinator. Lighthouse Labs wants to ensure that people will both complete and succeed in the bootcamp so that they can get hired and contribute to their local tech community.
“Bootcamps are this really awesome way to get into an industry and make a change in their life,” Haliburton said. “They're an excellent complement or alternative to something like a computer science degree. You learn less theory and focus more on hard skills by building software and practicing industry-relevant technology.”
Lighthouse Labs partners with local community organizations in order to help a city grow its tech scene. In Halifax, Lighthouse Labs has partnered with Volta Labs, Fusion Halifax and the Halifax Central Library, among others.
Haliburton said that Halifax has a thriving tech scene, and hopes Lighthouse Labs can help contribute by supporting additional meetups, hackathons and coding events. Lighthouse Labs already has plans to hold frequent tech meet-ups out of Volta Labs.
“It’s kind of cool that tech is the place that really resonates with the Nova Scotian style: it’s approachable, it’s laidback, you can wear sweatpants to work – it’s not stuffy,” Haliburton said. “That’s why I feel like Halifax is the perfect place for a bootcamp to pop up because the tech community is so natural and vibrant because they work in that community-based way.”
Velocity Fund Chooses Seven Winners
The Velocity Fund on Thursday awarded $125,000 to seven startups based at the University of Waterloo to help them with their product development.
The Velocity Fund Finals are held three times a year to find and reward the best young companies coming out of the university. The Velocity Fund hands out about $400,000 a year to help develop startups affiliated with the university.
The 16th Velocity Fund Finals were held Thursday, allowing a range of startups three minutes each to pitch to a panel of judges. The winners in the more advanced division receive $25,000 in development funds and are welcomed into the Velocity Garage startup incubator.
The four winners were:
- CubeXLab Technologies, which provides automated vision inspection solutions that are highly affordable, flexible and easy-to-use for part and component manufacturers in automotive, fastener, plastic injection and pharmaceutical industries.
- Knote, which offers a natural language processing platform to help companies leverage the power of artificial intelligence in documents and big data processing. Its tools enable companies to support employees by automating routine, time consuming work, and by improving efficiency.
- Salient Energy, which is commercializing a revolutionary new battery based on research at the University of Waterloo. Its zinc-ion battery is perfectly suited, both technically and economically, for storing electricity in the grid.
- UpGrain, which uses low frequency electro-magnetic field stimulation of seeds to increase overall yield of various crops by 20 percent. The company uses advanced mathematical algorithms to calculate the most suitable time to maximize treatment effects on seeds.
Salient Energy was also the top hardware or science company, which means it took home an additional $10,000.
The early-stage companies that won $5,000 each were Gymnatik, The Playful Pixel, and MycoCup, which was voted in as the People’s Choice award winner.
Teaching the Rewards of a Sales Career
Chantal Brine, left, and Tracey Kieley
Young Atlantic Canadians, and the region’s economy, are missing out because young people don’t understand the rewards of a career in sales, according to professionals at executive search firm Venor.
“Many youth are unaware of sales, and some are intimidated by it. Negative stereotypes, such as the used car salesman, persist,” said Chantal Brine, Vice President, Youth Employment at the Halifax-based firm.
Many in Atlantic Canada have been calling for the community to pay more attention to sales, particularly global sales. Veteran entrepreneur Gerry Pond last year pledged to donate $500,000 to any Atlantic Canadian university that initiates an international tech sales program.
Sales is a high rejection business admits Brine’s colleague, Tracey Kieley, Senior Consultant in Sales and Marketing at Venor.
“It’s a mental game, every day there’s head trash. The phone can feel like it weighs 20 pounds and you have to pick it up and make the call.
“To be a good sales person, you need drive, passion and understanding of what sales is.”
What sales is, is solving someone’s problem.
“When sales people find the right culture and product they flourish,” Kieley said. “Belief in oneself and the product or service you are selling is key.”
Brine said the millennial generation (those born roughly between 1980 and 2000) can find sales particularly frustrating because they grew up with the instant access afforded by technology.
“Sales and business development can be hard,” said Brine, who is a millennial herself. “You’re going to get rejection…that and instant access and gratification don’t necessarily align.”
Brine and Kieley believe youth should be taught business literacy in schools.
Young people often don’t realize that careers in sales and business development offer things they value and prioritize, such as interaction with people, challenge, and problem solving.
Less than a quarter of 110 job applicants Brine surveyed said they were interested in sales, but Brine said sales pervades life.
“When they come out of university, graduates are selling themselves. Every business needs sales people…”
Kieley, who’s originally from Newfoundland, said fear about rejection can be lessened with the right mentorship.
“The youth I work with think mentorship is very important. They want to keep learning, to grow,” she said.
In Atlantic Canada, relationships are particularly important to success in sales.
“There has to be a likability factor and connection,” said Brine, who came to Saint Mary’s University from Bermuda to study Psychology and Human Resources.
Money is not the primary motivator for the youth Brine assists.
“Of the 110 folks I’ve chatted with lately, less than 10 per cent have brought up money early on, it’s not their driving factor,” she said.
“They say they want to learn, to receive mentorship. They ask whether the company cares about the community. The social factor is big. If young people believe in something they get on board, what they really enjoy is solving a problem.”
Venor acquired the assets of Equals6, a career-focused social network for students, for an undisclosed price in April this year. The acquisition helps Venor to work to keep youth in Atlantic Canada, Brine said.
Despite concerns about the state of sales locally, local companies are succeeding in diverse markets.
“Employers in the region have major clients in the U.S., said Brine. “Companies are having success in broader sales. Sometimes you need to hop on a plane. Relationships are also important internationally. Luckily, Atlantic Canadians are good at relationship building.”
UNB Summer Institute Presentations
A few of the Petite Forêt puppets.
The University of New Brunswick’s Summer Institute will hold its graduation Friday night, with presentations by seven companies spanning the entrepreneurial spectrum.
Organized by the J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship, the Summer Institute is a three-month program that teaches a range of businesses the human element of entrepreneurship. While other mentoring programs emphasize technology or lean methodology, the Summer Institute encourages participants to consider design and the wishes of the people who constitute their market.
“This has been one of the most diverse groups of entrepreneurs we have had to date,” said coordinator Melissa Erin O’Rourke. “Our ventures range from the highly technical to the highly creative. It’s made for an incredibly unique experience.”
The celebration of this cohort will begin at 6 p.m. Friday at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre in Fredericton. You can find tickets here.
The seven presenting entrepreneurs and their companies are:
- Sylvette Fortin | Petite Forêt: Toy and puppet maker.
- Alex Jamael | Fox and Foal: Horse jump builder and equestrian designer.
- Scott Allen, Joshua White, and Thomas Bird | CanCross:This group has designed a rapid-response bridge that solves multiple transportation issues across industries.
- Laura Cushnie | La Dulse Vie: A chef who has created a dulse chip/dulse snack food.
- Courtney Johnson | Ashes to Ashes: A potter who makes funerary urns that incorporate the ashes of loved ones in the design.
- Jordan Kennie, Daniel Larsen, Erik Hatfield | Stash Energy Storage: This group has built an energy storage system to help homeowners save money during peak energy periods.
- And, Amirmahdi Taheri, Sadigh Tabei, Pooya Naderi | BreezeBird: This group uses drone technology to aid in lifesaving efforts.
Started three years ago by TME head Dhirendra Shukla, the Summer Institute has gained popularity and recruited participants from across Canada and other countries.
“The program has grown a lot this year,” said O’Rourke. “In our recruiting processes, we had over 300-plus applicants from around the world. I really feel this highlights the quality of we’re offering entrepreneurs on a global scale. I expect next year to be even bigger.”
Remembering Neville Gilfoy
With the passing of Neville Gilfoy, Atlantic Canada has lost three types of people that are in short supply – journalists, salespeople and genuine wits.
Gilfoy was the founder and publisher of Progress Media, and I had the pleasure of writing for his publication for more than a decade. “Pleasure” is the operative word in that sentence, because it was fun to be in Gilfoy’s presence. He had a sense of joyful mischief that filled any room he was in.
Progress, the publication that he devoted himself to, published Wednesday that Gilfoy had passed away the night before. It was a blow to many of us who had worked with him and called him a friend.
His LinkedIn profile tells what was important to him in his professional life: it simply says “Owner, Progress Magazine, 1992-Present.”
Working with a core of seasoned journalists like David Holt and Pamela Scott Crace almost a quarter-century ago, Gilfoy founded Progress as a showcase for Atlantic Canadian businesses and the region’s economy. He believed passionately in the excellence of entrepreneurship in the region and the potential of oceans industries and the military-aerospace sectors. Ten times a year, he penned an introduction to the magazine that burst with his conviction that there was massive potential in these four provinces. He had an active hand in steering editorial policy and was always searching for the next big development in the region’s economy.
He pioneered the concept of Atlantica – the notion that the Atlantic Provinces formed an economic zone with the states northeast of Massachusetts. He campaigned tirelessly for closer economic ties between these jurisdictions.
Gilfoy, of course, was working in an industry going through perilous times. The past two decades have been brutal for the news business, and Gilfoy reacted to the downturn the only way he knew how: by selling and by innovating. Anyone who admires salespeople – and I’m one of them – could learn a lot from Gilfoy. He had a massive network and he tapped it effectively. He could work a room, work the phone, and he closed deals.
As ad revenues proved challenging, Gilfoy moved his product online and aimed to translate Progress’ reach into a personal experience. He created Face2Face, an event that was very much a manifestation of Gilfoy’s ebullient personality. Face2Face is a three-day gathering of business and government leaders at a resort with a program of business and personal development. It allows people to really get to know each other, rather than just offer a day of speakers and panels.
And at the centre of it all was Gilfoy himself, introducing speakers, telling salty jokes, swapping good-humoured barbs with old chums in the crowd. Gilfoy was a funny guy, always quick with a joke or anecdote that brought on his devilish laugh. You’d hear that laugh frequently on the cocktail circuit, as assuredly as you’d see Gilfoy’s silver mane across the stadium at a St. Mary’s University basketball game.
He was always present, always laughing, always analyzing, always selling. Neville Gilfoy’s unique brand of entrepreneurship will be missed.
Invest NS Backs Navigate, Propel ICT
Lindsay Uhma and Ardelle Reynolds
The Invest Nova Scotia Fund on Tuesday announced a pair of grants totaling more than $1.5 million that will support the ecosystem for startups, especially in Cape Breton.
The fund — which aims to invest in the ecosystem rather than in individual companies — issued a statement saying it would provide $1.2 million in funding to Propel ICT, the regional tech accelerator. It also said it would give $346,000 to the Navigate Startup House in Sydney.
Though the funding will be used to provide programming for entrepreneurs across the region, the impact will be felt most strongly in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. The funding will help the nine-month-old Navigate Startup House expand both its physical space and programming. And it will also help Propel offer its first cohort in Cape Breton Island, which is planned for the fall of 2017.
“I’m proud of the way we started up as a community-driven project, with very much grass-roots support,” Navigate executive director Ardelle Reynolds said in an interview. “But the timing of this is perfect for us because it helps us to move into Phase II.”
Reynolds and co-founder Lindsay Uhma set up Navigate last year as a base for the growing tech community in the second-largest metro area in Nova Scotia. It offers co-working space, subsidized offices for as many as four startups and a range of mentoring sessions.
The outfit has now outgrown its space, said Reynolds, and it is in the process of raising $1.19 million to expand. As well as the Invest Nova Scotia grant, Navigate received $326,000 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and is progressing with the remainder. The expansion will allow the organization to offer office space to as many as seven companies, and the physical expansion will be accompanied by an enhancement of programming.
Reynolds said Navigate has signed a one-year agreement with Jeff Amerine, the founder of Startup Junkies Consulting in Arkansas, to work on programming for Navigate. Amerine, a close collaborator with Cape Breton University Entrepreneur-in- Residence Permjot Valia, will provide one-on-one mentorship to the Navigate tenants and work with the organization itself to develop the ecosystem.
Meanwhile, the Invest Nova Scotia grant to Propel represents the Nova Scotia’s government contribution to Propel's $2.56 million plan to enhance its programming.
“Propel exists for the purpose of accelerating entrepreneurial growth in Atlantic Canada, and we’re excited that support from Invest Nova Scotia will enable us to reach more entrepreneurs,” Propel ICT Chair Dave Grebenc said in the statement. “This aligns with Propel’s approach, and our mission of facilitating economic growth through entrepreneurship in the region.”
The grants announced Tuesday are the first offered by the Invest Nova Scotia fund, whose decisions are government by an independent board of directors.
“This is a different kind of fund that supports organizations with innovative ideas that demonstrate co-operation and long-term, broad-based benefits for Nova Scotians,” Invest Nova Scotia chair Kenneth Deveau said in the statement.
“These first two investments align with our principles and vision supporting job growth in Nova Scotia’s economy.”
DMF Medical Preps for 2017 Launch
A Halifax medical technology company has a basic aim: to make anesthesia safer.
DMF Medical plans to release its signature product, Memsorb, in the next year and hopes it will improve the process of removing carbon dioxide from the system that puts patients to sleep during operations. Memsorb is a membrane-based device that replaces the collection of chemicals that is now used to remove CO2 from the process. The new device, which will go through regulatory processes in Canada and/or the European Union this winter, is safer, better for the environment and can save hospitals money.
“Anesthesia is an old, traditional business and things can be improved by eliminating problems,” co-founder and director of R&D Florentin Wilfart said at the recent Atlantic Venture Forum.
In this traditional medical process, a patient inhales a vaporized anesthetic mixed with oxygen, and exhales a combination of oxygen, anesthetic, carbon dioxide and toxins. It passes through a chemical filter to strip out the toxins and CO2, and then feeds it back into the stream of gases being delivered to the patient. Because anesthetics are so expensive, the filtered exhalation is used again to get maxiumum use out of the anesthetic.
But there are problems with this “anesthetic loop” because of the chemical reaction used to remove CO2 — mainly, it produces compounds that can be harmful to the patient.
“People don’t like to admit this is a real problem even through it’s been published in several places,” said Wilfart.
What’s more, the process spews CO2 and chemicals into the air, so the impact worldwide on the atmosphere is equivalent to the production of 4.4 million tons of CO2 a year. And the residue chemicals produce 115,000 cubic metres of solid waste a year that is expensive to dispose of. In most operating rooms, the chemical canisters must be replaced daily.
DMF Medical has devised Memsorb to solve these problems. The device uses a membrane to filter out the CO2 and toxins, creating no chemical reaction. The product, which fits seamlessly into existing anesthesia equipment, lasts for several months, and is recyclable. The only thing it needs to work is a stream of oxygen, which would be readily available in any operating room.
Wilfart and a team of medical and business professionals have been working on the project for more than five years. (In 2011, DMF actually competed in the first BioInnovation Challenge, the region’s main life sciences pitching competition.) The company has raised a total of $3.1 million in capital, including private investment and government loans and grants. This included a $1.25 million loan from the Atlantic Innovation Fund in 2012.
DMF Medical now has a working prototype of Memsorb and has done clinical trials on 20 patients. It will soon be in the midst of the regulatory process to have the product approved in Canada and the EU. The first jurisdiction to grant approval will be the first market it will enter.
Assuming the manufacturer can produce Memsorb in the quantities the market demands, the group hopes to have the product on the market in 2017.
Briefs: Flixel, Medved, Hive Market
Flixel wins StartupFest Pitching Competition
A company with New Brunswick roots walked away from StartupFest on Friday with the $160,000 first prize at the Montreal festival’s pitching competition.
Toronto-based Flixel, which began life in Moncton, captured first place on Friday for the competition of three-minute pitches.
Flixel’s app lets users construct cinemagraphs -- still photos that include a portion of the picture that moves so the viewer’s eye is drawn to the moving part of the photograph. Flixel’s apps include a feature that allows users to easily turn short videos into eye-catching photos for the web, social media ads, offline display and broadcast television.
The competition was billed as having $200,000 in prize money. But according to MontrealinTechnology.com, the 14 judges/investors chose two other winners: HelloMD, a San Francisco startup that helps medical marijuana patients buy their cannabis online, won $50,000; and another Toronto company, YouCollab, was awarded an “honorary” $35,000 investment for its app that lets YouTube creators collaborate.
Of the seven other competitors in the pitching competition, three were from Atlantic Canada – WellTrack of Fredericton and Bitness and PACTA, both of Halifax.
Jonathan Medved to speak at Startup Grind Halifax
Jonathan Medved, an American who has invested in more than 100 Israeli startups, will be the next speaker at Startup Grind Halifax.
Medved has helped 12 companies exceed $100M dollar valuations. He was the co-founder and CEO of Vringo, which he took public on Nasdaq in 2010. Before Vringo, he was the founder and general partner of the $260 million venture capital fund, Israel Seed Partners.
The Washington Post called him ”one of Israel’s leading high tech venture capitalists”. In the 2008, the New York Times Supplement “Israel at 60” called Medved one of the 10 most influential Americans who have impacted Israel.
Oleg Yefymov, the director of Startup Grind Halifax said he will make sure Medved will meet with Nova Scotia’s government and industry leaders to ensure he has some impact on the local ecosystem.
“But I also really want him to get a good taste of our community here, so I encourage [all startup community members] to take an advantage of Jon's short visit and come to meet him in person at our September's event,” he said in an email.
The event will be held Sept. 7 at the McInnes Cooper office in Halifax. Tickets are available here.
The Hive Market launches in Halifax
The Hive Market, which brings fresh local products to neighbourhoods, has launched in Halifax.
The neighbourhood delivery truck will distribute farm fresh local products to select locations so residents can enjoy seasonal produce, fresh meats and cheeses, along with other local products.
“The Hive Market leverages the social experience behind good food that’s meant to be shared
and experienced together,” said found Giselle Bryan in a statement. “Now, farmers and delivery managers have a new forum to connect with markets and buyers, while communities can take advantage of their shared needs to reduce the cost of local goods and transportation.”
‘Buy Local’ is the foundation, she said, and the Hive Market is working with entrepreneurs all over Atlantic Canada to strengthen commerce, build sustainable markets, and bring neighbours together.
You can find more information here at the company’s website.
Celebrating Tech and Femininity
Sage Franch with the Prime Minister.
There can’t be many technology blogs that also offer reviews of summer shoes and proclaim a girl’s right to feel sexy, but Sage Franch is known for celebrating her love of tech and her femininity.
Franch, a.k.a. the Trendy Techie, is a computer programmer at Microsoft who volunteers her time to encourage other youth. Despite having only just graduated with her degree in computer science from Dalhousie University, she was recently one of eight young Canadians invited to meet the Prime Minister.
The subjects under discussion were issues that affect Canadian youth.
“The PM really listened to our views,” she said. “I spoke to him about women in tech and the need for women to have male allies. I also spoke about closing the wage gap and computer science in schools.
“Computer science and creative technology are expensive. Only schools with lots of resources are teaching them, but everyone needs these skills nowadays. So we need to find ways to get resources to schools that are less fortunate.”
She wants youth to get involved in tech as early as possible. (Tech education currently varies enormously across the country.)
“Kids can be introduced to coding at three or four. I’ve seen toddlers coding... Kids have innately logical brains. They understand the difference between true and false, they can learn these skills.”
Despite being a new graduate, Franch has already spent a year working remotely for Microsoft. She is part of the company’s learning experiences team, which creates training content.
Her involvement with the tech giant began when she was nominated to attend a week-long recruitment event at the company’s Seattle offices.
Coding first excited her when she discovered it in Grade 10 while attending a computer graphics program at the University of Pennsylvania.
“The professor showed us a rendering of fire made from code,” she said. “The code looked almost like a novel, or a script, then the fire burst to life on the screen. That was my spark. I realized I wanted to create from the back end — that was more like creating real things.”
She began her website, TrendyTechie.ca, three years ago after facing negative stereotypes about being a woman in tech.
“I was buying a laptop and the guy selling it said it was too powerful for my needs. I said I needed the laptop for augmented reality applications. He said, ‘You look too pretty to code.’
“When I got home, I went online to see if there were blogs for girls who are not afraid to be pretty and who are into technology, girls who wear lipstick and code. I didn’t find anything so decided to write such blogs myself.”
Franch now has around 8,000 followers across various platforms.
She believes that young boys are encouraged to do math, but girls are not given the same encouragement.
“My role is to be voice for young women, to show what can happen if you pursue this.”
Now, after five years in Halifax, she’s moving back to her home town of Toronto where she’ll continue to work remotely for Microsoft and support youth in tech.
She said that Dalhousie and Halifax have shaped her life.
“When I came here I’d never really done anything alone . . . Halifax felt like my training city . . . Halifax is a safe place for young people.
“Dal was intimate, I like that. The communication channels were open . . . .I knew my professors personally. They do a lot to foster a culture of respect and promote camaraderie.”
Working remotely gives her the freedom to work and speak around the world.
Franch has been a speaker at high-profile events such as the Perimeter Institute’s Inspiring Future Women in Science conference, the National Business in Technology Conference, ICTC’s Digital Youth Summit, and YouthSpark Live.
“I want to live in a world where there’s no stigmatization of women in tech,” she said. “My goal to be part of that in some way.”
The MBA program offered at the Saint John campus will begin a new special topic course called sales. If students rate it highly, it will probably be offered again. The nine-week course will draw heavily on mentorship from the private sector, inviting people with sales experience in to discuss the components of sales like negotiation, problem-solving, communications and emotional intelligence. It will also delve into sales ethics.
“The point is not to train people to become sales people,” said Chris Weir, the EY executive who will lead the course. “When people leave this course, they will be armed with knowledge and information, not sales skills. What I hope to do is give the students an appreciation for sales, the importance of it, the professional nature of it.”
The course is noteworthy because several business people are pushing strongly for an Atlantic Canadian business school to offer a full program in sales. Saint John investor Gerry Pond last year offered $500,000 to any institution that launches a full sales program, but there’s no sign of any program in the offing.
The story of how the UNBSJ course came about dates back to 2013 when Weir was invited to address MBA students at the school. He was then working for the tech consultancy Ambir Solutions, which was acquired by the global accountancy firm EY in 2014.
In the course of his talk on communications, Weir said he was probably covering material the students had already learned in sales courses. One student raised his hand and said there was no sales course.
That was a spark for Weir that ignited his interest in launching such a course. Earlier in his career, he’d worked for Xerox, famed for its sales training, and he had completed the Sandler sales training courses.
He’d come to believe that sales training is essential in developing complete business people, and of the importance of the ethics of sales.
“I really want to leave them [the students] with the impression that in order to become an effective leader…they need to know that you cannot run away from selling,” said Weir. “Some people have a very jaded view of selling. It will never go away but the skills of selling are used every day.”
Weir worked with the business faculty, including MBA Director Shelley Rinehart, who persuaded him to lead the course himself.
“Gerry can be very persuasive but the evidence supports his position on the importance of exposing students to sales in business education,” said Rinehart.
“Each year we offer a special topics course for our students - this seemed like an excellent opportunity.”
The course includes reading material but the highlight will be the talks delivered by business leaders on sales methods. The first guest lecturer on Wednesday will be Pond, who is the former president of Aliant.
Weir admits a full sales program is still needed and hopes this course will help the cause.
“I believe it’s a baby step in the right direction,” he said. “Having said that, every journey begins with a single step. “
Briefs: STI-PopRx, Propel, Volta
STI Technologies partners with PopRX
PopRx, whose mobile pharmacy app helps people to manage their medication, has partnered with Halifax-based STI Technologies’ innoviCares program to offer Canadians a mobile solution to their healthcare needs.
The companies said in a statement Tuesday that Toronto-based PopRx has an app for iOS or Android systems that connects the user to a pharmacist to manage, order and deliver medication. It is partnering with innoviCares to ensure that patients across the country can save money on their prescriptions.
InnoviCares is a free prescription savings card that helps Canadian patients save money on select prescription medications.
Through the partnership, PopRx and innoviCares ensure Canadians are able to receive the medications prescribed by a physician with fewer barriers, including a reduction in cost and access to a pharmacy. “Partnering with PopRx was a natural fit for us,” STI Executive Vice-President Dave Morton said in the statement. “Integration with the PopRx mobile app is just another way we can help patients gain access to medications of their choosing, based on their physician’s advice.”
Deadline for Propel applications July 22
Time is running down to apply for the next cohort of the Propel ICT Launch and Build programs.
Applications are now open for the regional accelerator, but the deadline to apply is July 22.
The Propel Launch program is designed to help companies that are past the concept stage and in the early stages of growing a business. The course is being offered in Fredericton, Charlottetown, Halifax, and St. John's.
The Build program, which is delivered in Moncton, is for more advanced companies – those that have sales and need to ramp up revenues. Graduates of this program are eligible for (but do not automatically qualify for) funding from BDC Capital and some funding agencies in their home province.
Volta, the Halifax-based startup house, will host the Hackit Camp Volta hackathon July 22-24, which will feature more than $2,000 in prize money.
The participants in the hackathon will be invited to make something innovative for one of three participating Volta companies -- The Rounds, PACTA or Zora. Each of these companies is awarding a prize of at least $750 for the best product.
The 48-hour event gives participants the option of staying at Volta overnight. The entry fee is $5 a person and you can find an application form here.
The company was founded by CEO Guy Shaham and chief IT Officer Isaak Moscovich to teach entrepreneurship through the same model as the neighbourhood lemonade stand. The idea is to give students with the target ages of nine to 18 the online tools they need to conduct fundraising drives for their schools or organizations. And while they’re raising money for a good cause, the website teaches them the principles of entrepreneurship.
The company hopes to raise US$50,000 through its campaign on Indiegogo, which will run for the next two months. That would complement previous funding it raised from private angel investors like Saint John investor Gerry Pond and a development contribution it received from online payment company PayPal.
“In less than five years, everyone, including K-to-12 students, will buy many of their consumer products and services online,” said Shaham. “The question we need to ask ourselves as educators and parents is, will our children just buy online like everyone else or will they be members of the elite team that will sell online?”
Shaham and Moscovich started the company last year as a means to help youth-oriented charities and schools raise money and to teach children entrepreneurship. Shaham said in an interview over the weekend that the model has shifted slightly as BuyMyLemonade now has a model similar to eBay. It lets young people sell their “the stuff under their bed”, such as old toys and things they have outgrown, on the platform. “Call it eBay for kids,” he said.
EBay, the online auction site, prohibits children from using its site. BuyMyLemonade does allow people under the age of 18 to sell things, but the payments must go to a school or youth group. This means sports groups and other youth-oriented charities can raise money simply by teaching children online entrepreneurship. Shaham estimates this market would be worth about $50 billion in North America.
He has been promoting the site for more than a year, and frequently heard that groups liked the sound of it but wanted to see it. So now that it’s launched, he plans to re-connect with “dozens and dozens” of schools and youth groups across Canada and the U.S.
He added that he’s interested in drawing investment into the company, but investors in several countries have told him that the company has to gain sales before they invest in it. He’s hoping the crowdfunding campaign and sales push will help to persuade investors.
Shaham has been an entrepreneur for the past 23 years, and he specializes in sales, marketing and business development. In conversation, he speaks glowingly about the social benefits of entrepreneurship and believes his site can teach children entrepreneurship and improve their financial literacy.
“By allowing young kids to experience e-commerce and run their own online small stores we predict that when they finish their high school, self-employment, entrepreneurship and online sales won’t be strange activities for them,” said Shaham. “When push comes to shove, or as a choice, they will be able to generate themselves revenues and income and run a small successful businesses right from their laptops and mobile phones.”
Briefs: Navigate event, Startup Awards
Forum for business resources takes place next week
Aspiring and established business owners will converge on the Mount St. Vincent University campus next week to attend a reverse trade show focused on the business resources available in Nova Scotia. “Navigating Businesses Through the Sea of Resources” is a free, half-day event at MSVU's Rosaria Student Centre in Halifax on July 14 from 8:30am to 2pm.
The event is being presented by the Centre for Women in Business and several Halifax research institutions and will feature more than 30 exhibitors. These include government organizations that offer programs and funding opportunities that support the entrepreneurial journey. Representatives will be on-site to answer questions, and help connect entrepreneurs to specific business services.
Kevin Buchan, Director of the MSVU Office of Innovation and Community Engagement, said the event was borne from the number of meetings his office and others conduct with companies and aspiring entrepreneurs looking for help in navigating the array of government business services and programs.
“We decided to put together a ‘one-stop-shop’ where entrepreneurs can meet with several service providers at once to determine which programs are right for them,” said Buchan in a statement. “In addition, Springboard Atlantic, the network of university and college technology mobilization offices in Atlantic Canada, will have a strong representation at the trade show. A number of institutions will present on their research capabilities and how companies can access the incredible brainpower available.”
The Startup Awards are a national competition that recognize achievements by various members of the startup community – both entrepreneurs and the ecosystem members who support them.
The awards process first includes a regional round, which showcases the achievements of the local community. This year, the awards ceremony will be held in Fredericton, at time and date yet to be announced.
And then later in the year the national awards will be announced. The process wraps up with a gala at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto on Nov. 29.
Atlantic Canadians have done well over the past two years in the national awards. Last year, Alex Gillis of Halifax was the young entrepreneur of the year and RtTech Software of Moncton won top honours for innovation.
You can nominate yourself or someone else and find the nomination forms here.
Launchpad Dal to hold Demo Day
Launchpad Dal, the summer training program for several teams of entrepreneurs, will hold its Demo Day on July 18 at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium on the Dalhousie University campus.
Overseen by professors Mary Kilfoil and Ed Leach of Launch Dal, LaunchPad accepts a range of teams that received $10,000 each in development costs to help get their businesses off the ground. The program received 20 applications this year. The organizers said the teams chosen have what it takes to participate in a fast-paced and forward-thinking environment.
The presentations by nine companies will begin at 7 pm and a reception will be held afterward.
A couple of opportunities for specialized developers in Halifax are the focus of our Jobs of the Week column today.
MindSea Development, a Halifax company that develops apps for iOS and Android systems, is hiring an Android mobile software developer. Since 2009, MindSea has developed a team of developers and specialists who focus exclusively on apps. The company says that focus means it can deliver a better product faster than its competitors.
Medical data provider Kinduct Technologies is hiring a database architect. The company says it has built “the world’s most advanced human performance software platform.” (CEO Travis McDonough describes the company really well in this video.) That means the company can pull together disparate data on athletics and health and present them on one platform. The company has the world’s largest library of medical animation, which is essential in telling athletes what problem they’re experiencing and how to cure it.
The Jobs 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 start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Qimple.
MindSea is working on a diverse and exciting group of projects and needs an Android software developer to help out. The winning applicant will work with a team developing native client-side user interface and application components for the Android mobile platform. The company is looking for someone who strives for innovative solutions when confronted with a challenge and likes a fast-paced environment. MindSea offers a creative open-concept work environment and a fun startup atmosphere. The company is looking for someone who wants to work in an agile environment with small self-managed teams to deliver high quality native apps. Applicants must have experience creating applications for Android using Java and a desire to build quality software. MindSea is looking for someone with a bachelor degree in computer science and three or more years of experience in a similar role.
Kinduct is looking for a Database Architect who will be responsible for managing all client and partner databases and determining solutions to technical problems. These solutions often include a software-systems development component, but may also consist of process improvement, structural changes or architectural planning. The company’s ideal candidate would possess exceptional attention to detail and technical skills. He or she would work well in a team and as an individual, could multi-task and would be open to giving and receiving suggestions about new, better or different methods. The database architect must design scalable and reliable Big Data solutions leveraging Hadoop, RDBMS, BI tools, SaaS platforms and APIs, as well as design data warehousing strategies and architectures to efficiently analyze Big Data sets. The ideal candidate would have a bachelor degree in computer science and five to 10 years of experience in Big Data computing and analytics.
Formerly called Fenol Farm, PhotoDynamic has developed a system that kills plaque buildup on teeth through a combination of light and an extract from a plant that grows wild in Nova Scotia. The company plans to launch the product in the Canadian orthodontic market in early 2017.
First Angel co-founder Brian Lowe declined to say how much money members of the Halifax-based network invested in PhotoDynamic. “What I can tell you is that our level of funding met PDI’s expectations and their opportunity was well received by the FAN members,” he said in an email.
PhotoDynamic CEO Martin Greenwood recently told the Atlantic Venture Forum the company was looking for about $600,000 in funding.
“We’ve discovered a really exciting platform technology,” Greenwood said in a statement. “The money we’ve raised through FAN will fund the final pieces of our commercialization program and turn this technology into our first product.”
PhotoDynamic grew out of research led by Sherri McFarland, a professor at Acadia University. She and co-founder Colin Cameron discovered a group of compounds extracted from an invasive species of plants that can be activated by light to kill certain cells. In fact, they found the combination of compound and light kills plaque.
They devised an oral tray that looks like a sports mouth-guard, which contains tiny LED lights. The users place foam made from the plant extract in the tray, put it in their mouths and switch on the lights.
Within a minute or two, the plaque on their teeth is killed.
The product also has a digital component so it automatically tells orthodontists, dental professionals or parents how often it has been used.
McFarland led the company through its early stages and won $100,000 as a zonal winner in the 2014 I-3 Technology Startup Competition. Last year, Greenwood joined the company to bring the product to market.
PhotoDynamic has identified several markets for the product, but Greenwood said it plans to find its first clients by selling through orthodontists. Braces produce a plaque buildup where the metal meets the teeth. It can produce a side effect called white spot lesions in as many as 90 per cent of all brace patients. This permanently stains the teeth and can cause tooth sensitivity.
“So far we’ve surveyed five percent of all Canadian orthodontists, and adoption intent is far higher than our business model predictions,” Greenwood told the Venture Forum.
The company plans to eventually move into the consumer market, with a product that can be sold over-the-counter in drug stores. The product can also benefit those individuals known as rapid plaque formers, a group comprising one-fifth of the North American population who suffer from a high buildup of plaque.
PhotoDynamic said the funds raised from FAN members will be used mainly for user testing, consumer product development, and preparation for the product launch. PhotoDynamic is working with Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Dentistry and the Forsyth Institute in Cambridge, Mass. to conduct human clinical trials.
“In 2017, this product will create a brand new oral hygiene category for orthodontists and brace wearers, but that will be only the beginning,” said Greenwood. “This technology can revolutionize oral hygiene for everyone.”
CarbonCure, a Halifax green building materials company, has been working with Shaw Brick for nine years as it was an early adopter of one of the startup’s early prototypes. This week, CarbonCure announced the brickmaker is extending the latest generation of its technology throughout its product line.
“Shaw Brick understands that its customers are demanding more sustainable products, and we are pleased to announce that as of July 15, 2016, all of our standard concrete masonry units and architectural blocks produced in Lantz will automatically capture recycled CO2," said Shaw Brick General Manager James Bond in the statement.
CarbonCure, which received $1.75 million investment from Vancouver-based Pangaea Ventures in May, has developed a process that injects waste carbon into the concrete mix to eliminate CO2 emissions created in the manufacture of concrete products. Concrete, the world’s most common construction material, is responsible for more than 5 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions because traditional processes cure concrete blocks by heating them.
In addition to the deeper penetration at Shaw Brick, the company has been gaining clients across Canada and the U.S. lately.
Since 2007, Shaw has been manufacturing products with CarbonCure’s technology when specified by architects, engineers or builders. The products have been used in such buildings as Bedford High School, Dalhousie University’s Collaborative Health Education Building, and UPEI’s School of Sustainable Design Engineering.
In the state of Georgia, Thomas Concrete of Atlanta announced in February that it would use CarbonCure’s CO2-recycling technology in its Doraville, Georgia, plant. Then last month, Thomas announced the expansion of the CarbonCure technology across four additional concrete plants surrounding the Atlanta metropolitan region.
"The decision to expand the CarbonCure technology across further plants was a no-brainer,” said Technical Services Director John Cook in a statement. “We verified at our Doraville plant that the technology allows us to optimize our cement content, which significantly reduces our carbon footprint. Thomas Concrete is committed to doing what’s best for our employees, our customers, our community and our environment.”
In May, CarbonCure announced it had hired William Holden, who has more than 30 years of experience in the concrete and cement industry, as Vice President of Sales. Holden will lead CarbonCure’s sales activities across Canada and the US.
NB Biomatrix Aims for 2017 Production
In about a year, the co-founders of NB Biomatrix hope their company will have a plant in Saint John producing a solution that can help to clean heavy metals from the most contaminated water sites around the world.
CEO Jeff Jennings and chief science officer Keith Brunt are now planning to open a test facility in Fredericton early in 2017 to demonstrate the commercial production of Naqua-Pure, their main product.
If all goes according to plan, they will then open their commercial production plant in Saint John in the summer of 2017. And then they hope to help clean up environmental disasters around the world.
Naqua-Pure is a liquid that uses nanotechnology to remove heavy metals and other pollutants from waste water. The product binds with water-soluble particles such as heavy metals and non-soluble components such as oil. It then uses electromagnetic forces to remove the material from water.
“When you think about pollution, it’s pretty simple: it’s something you don’t want mixed in with something you want,” said Brunt during a presentation at the recent Atlantic Venture Forum. What NB Biomatrix aims to do, he said, is to remove heavy metals — the hardest contaminant to remove from water — more quickly and easily than other methods, and do so without harmful residues.
Obviously the pain NB Biomatrix is addressing is profound. Brunt said there are now 87 major water sites in the world that would take 35 years to clean up at a cost of $250 billion. What’s more, as the world’s population grows, so do the number of severely-contaminated sites.
And he added that even cleaning up the sites can produce residual problems as the waste removed from the water is usually a pollutant that has to be disposed of.
Industries now spend about $700 million a year trying to get rid of heavy metals. NB Biomatrix has a solution it says can clean contaminated sites better.
“We can actually decrease those heavy metals by 90 per cent within 10 minutes,” said Brunt, who works as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University’s medicine program in Saint John. “It’s safe, bio-degradable and easily deployed.”
Naqua-Pure increases the density and allows for the drying of post-treatment wastewater sludge — so much so that it can be used in bio- or plasma-based reactors for energy generation. The leftover heavy metals become what is known as “ultra dense”, which means they are removed from the environment forever.
The company is only two years old and has already done well in two different startup competitions.
In its first year, it won the BioInnovation Challenge, the $35,000 competition for life sciences companies in the Maritimes. Then last year it placed second in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition, taking home $222,250 in cash and services.
Now NB BioMatrix, which has a staff of four and is growing, is raising money from private investors with a target of $425,000. It received a commitment of $150,000 in mid-June.
SimplyCast Had 37% Growth in 2015
SimplyCast, the Dartmouth company dedicated to marketing automation, said Wednesday its revenue increased 37 percent in 2015.
With clients in 175 countries, SimplyCast is a leading provider of interactive and multi-channel communication software for organizations around the world. The seven-year-old company said its sales are increasing each month, but it did not reveal any specific information about what its sales amount to.
“We are very pleased with our year-over-year results for 2015,” said President and CEO Saeed El-Darahali in a statement. “It’s very exciting to see how our sales strategies are paying off and users are realizing the importance of marketing automations and how our services can benefit their organization.”
SimplyCast’s 360 Customer Flow Communication Platform combines marketing automation, inbound marketing, and interactive communication.
In February 2015, the company launched its Agency365 product, which increased the functionality of its offerings. Agency365 allows several people to work on and approve each piece of communication issued by a company or organization.
The statement said another factor in its continued growth is its White Label Reseller program in which companies can take SimplyCast’s platform and rebrand it to offer to their clients. From 2014 to 2015, the White Label program saw a 61% increase in the number of current resellers.
SimplyCast said it anticipates that it will also report double-digit growth in 2016.
“We’re seeing great growth across a broad selection of industries,” said Ariel Hopper, Vice-President of Partnerships. “The White Label program has really taken off and we’re now seeing resellers in over 17 different countries.”
SimplyCast has continued to expand its head office in Dartmouth by hiring positions in marketing, sales, and development over the course of 2015. This trend has continued into 2016 with additional positions being added since the beginning of the year.
The list of nominees includes entrepreneurs whose names appear regularly in Entrevestor, including Ed Clarke of Global Ad Source of St. John’s, Saar Fabrikant of Halifax’s B4Checkin and Travis McDonough of Kinduct Technologies of Halifax.
"Entrepreneurship is about finding new ways to approach challenging problems. It's about growing your community while growing your business, and building prosperity for yourself, as well as others," Gina Kinsman, Entrepreneur Of The Year Atlantic program director, said in a statement. "This year's finalists in our region are diverse and brimming with ideas to help build a better world for the next generation.
An independent panel of judges will name winners in a number of categories, and one of the category winners as the overall Atlantic winner. That winner will then compete with winners from Québec, Ontario, Prairies and Pacific regions for the Canadian Entrepreneur Of The Year title. The Canadian winner will go on to compete with winners from more than 50 countries for the title of EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year, in June 2017.
One side note: The Entrepreneur Of The Year Award in Ontario also features one team that has links to Atlantic Canada. Daniel Bartek, Robert Besant, and Cam McDonald of the Iconic Brewing Company of Oakville were nominated in the Young and Emerging category. Formerly known as Sage Mixology, the team’s origins go back to the Starting Lean program at Dalhousie University.
The Atlantic Canadian nominees are:
The 2016 Atlantic EY Entrepreneur Of The Year finalists
A patient-centered platform incorporating technology and disease-specific protocols to provide 24/7 teletriage support, remote biometric monitoring, and behavioral health counseling to 10 million individuals globally.
A digital studio specializing in creating interactive experiences for large broadcasters and media brands all over the world. Services include website and application development, game production, design and animation, live event support and more.
The global accountancy consultancy announced the nominees for the competitions across the country on Wednesday, including 50 nominees from Ontario.
"Entrepreneurs have big ideas and take risks as they innovate, create jobs, generate wealth and invest in communities across the country," says François Tellier, Entrepreneur Of The Year national program director. "Ontario has so many impressive and successful entrepreneurs, and I know it wasn't an easy task for the independent panel of judges to narrow down from 165 nominees to 50 finalists."
An independent panel of judges will name winners in a number of diverse categories, and one of the category winners as the overall Ontario winner. That winner will then compete with winners from Québec, Atlantic, Prairies and Pacific for the Canadian Entrepreneur Of The Year title. The Canadian winner will go on to compete with winners from more than 50 countries for the title of EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year, in June 2017.
In the past year, St. John’s has witnessed an evolution that many in its startup community had been working on for a long time. It has had an active community, mentorship and work areas for a while, but now there are new funding streams in place that are generating growth.
“It’s incredible for the community,” said Peter Gifford, Propel ICT’s St. John’s-based Entrepreneur in Residence. “At the moment, we’ve got very active seed-stage investors who are not only investing their capital in the companies but are also investing their expertise.”
Two factors led to the funding growth. The Newfoundland and Labrador government teamed up with several parties to form the Venture Newfoundland and Labrador fund, which is managed by Pelorus Venture Capital. Meanwhile, Killick Capital, the investment fund of the Dobbin family, realized gains from a few exits and was in a position to redeploy capital.
“When we looked at the investment opportunities available in St. John's they were skewed to earlier stage companies,” said Mark Dobbin, who heads the fund. “We decided to respond to this market by investing in more companies at smaller amounts per company.”
Through last autumn and winter, Venture NL and Killick spearheaded a funding drive into four growth-stage companies in St. John’s:
- Sequence Bio, $1 million, co-founded by Tyler Wish and Chris Gardner. The St. John’s company that analyzes genetic data to improve medical outcomes received $500,000 in equity funding from both Killick and Venture NL. Founded in 2013, Sequence works with partners to analyze vast sets of data from gene pools to get a deeper understanding of which people are at the greatest risk of contracting a disease.
- Clockwork Fox, $1 million, founded by Ed Martin. The educational game producer landed $750,000 in new investment from Killick and Venture NL. It also received funding from Pluto Investments, Petten Holdings, and Joe Antle. The company’s flagship product is Zorbit’s Math Adventure, a game-based learning system for early math that aims to improve K-3 learning outcomes.
- HeyOrca!, $625,000, co-founded by Teo and Sahand Seifi. HeyOrca! is an online platform that helps marketers collaborate on social media content. The company, which operates out of the Genesis Centre, is a graduate of the PropelICT Build program, allowing it to tap into a $150,000 convertible note from BDC Capital. The other investors in this round are Venture NL and Killick.
- Sentinel Alert, $525,000, co-founded by Sarah Murphy and Jason Janes. Sentinel produces software that can detect when a worker has had an accident or may soon have one. The software is originally being used on devices like smartphones, but the company hopes to eventually partner with a hardware company to produce a wearable device. The company received investment from Killick, Venture NL and a private angel investor.
These deals amount to just over $3 million, which is significant but not earth-shattering. What’s interesting about the recent funding wave is the various sources. In addition to individual and family investments, several institutions have invested in Newfoundland lately. BDC Capital is a direct partner in Venture NL and made a direct investment in HeyOrca! In addition to these investments, Halifax-based Build Ventures in late 2014 invested $3 million in St. John’s-based Celtx, which makes software for the film industry.
The greater significance is what comes next. These companies are now in a position to raise more money, assuming they build their operations significantly. And as the St. John’s success story Verafin has demonstrated, the real economic benefit comes in the later stages.
“A percentage of our fund is dedicated to follow-on investment,” Pelorus investment manager Chris Moyer recently told Entrevestor. “Private funds allow everyone to work together to push the companies forward…. In all our investments, angels that invested in our fund invested their own money in the companies as well.”
MappedIn Extends Round to $3.5M
Kitchener-based Mappedin, whose software helps people find things in malls or stores, has raised an extension to its seed-stage financing, bringing its total funding to $3.5 million.
Green Century Investments led the round, with participation by Amolino and several local angel investors.
The company, whose revenues rose 500 percent in 2015, also announced two significant hires in its sales and marketing teams: Greg Barber has joined as Vice President of Sales and Suzanne Farb has joined as interim Vice President of Marketing.
MappedIn provides customizable interactive maps for retailers that are seeking to make navigation easier for their shoppers. The company said in a statement that the new funding will help it to meet demand from retailers, REITs and mall owners.
“We’ve always believed in the value of search indoors and the underlying need for better data management tools to digitize dynamic spaces,” said CEO and Co-Founder Hongwei Liu in the statement. “Last year’s market demand was truly eye-opening for us. We learned that premium malls and retailers are actively seeking a solution that can help them bring the discoverability inherent online to the in-store experience, and that they recognize the only way to do that is through great digital infrastructure and wayfinding experiences.”
Founded in 2011, Mappedin is forecasting a tripling of revenue by the end of 2016.
Barber joins Mappedin after a 23-year career at Microsoft, most recently serving as Vice President of the Consumer Channels Group at Microsoft Canada. A member of the executive team at Microsoft Canada for more than a decade, Barber was accountable for more than 30 percent of the region’s revenue.
Before joining Mappedin, Farb was the Head Merchant of Electronics and Entertainment for Target Canada. She launched Target’s entertainment and electronic departments in more than 133 stores nationwide. Before her tenure at Target, she worked at Microsoft Canada, where she helped re-establish the Windows consumer brand by developing integrated marketing strategies.
“With Greg and Suzanne on board, this funding allows us to accelerate our go-to-market strategy while continuing to invest in our product platform,” said Liu. “We set ambitious growth and product development goals each year and 2016 is no different.”
The company simultaneously was launched four-and-a-half years ago when Liu, Mitchell Butler and Leander Lee, all students at the University of Waterloo, showed their then side-project to the general manager of a local mall. She immediately put in an order to purchase a system for use during the Christmas rush, mere weeks away.
MappedIn was founded out of the University of Waterloo’s Velocity incubator, and has also been supported by various Communitech initiatives.
Presenters Podium Aims to Boost Sales
Harrison Fisher: 'You have to know it well enough to talk about it.'
With a new CEO in place and a base of Canadian customers, Presenters Podium has set an aggressive expansion plan to get their oral presentation tool into a range of schools across Canada and the U.S.
Presenters Podium was launched about three years ago by Matt Fanning, a former medical device salesman and St. Mary’s University student. He perceived that professors with large classes can never have everyone make oral presentations because there is simply too little time. So he developed Presenters Podium, an online tool that lets students rehearse an oral presentation, then submit it once it is perfect. In the latest iterations, it includes a peer review function that allows classmates to review each student’s presentation.
Fanning recently has moved on to further his sales career elsewhere and handed the reigns for Presenters Podium to Harrison Fisher. He also has a background in medical sales and collaborated with Fanning on the development of the business over the past two-and-a-half years.
The Halifax company now has paying customers in 22 post-secondary institutions, including one in the U.S.
“For the next 12 months, we have a goal of having 280 new professors using the platform,” said Fisher. He added that a customer base of 280 profs “translates in to an estimated 13,000 users.”
He said the company is planning to reach these professors with a mix of social marketing by delivering content that can help university and college professors, educational conferences, and outbound calling campaigns. For example, he is attending the conferences of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and the Teaching Society for Management Educators.
Though he was quite detailed in his description of the sales process, Fisher doesn’t refer to himself as a salesman.
“Our approach isn't to sell someone, but to inform professors and universities that there is a solution to a challenge that they may not know they even had,” he said.
The problem is that modern universities and colleges have large classes – so large that professors could never find the class time to have everyone do a presentation on a particular subject. Presenters Podium lets every student research the subject, and work toward a flawless presentation. Once its submitted, the students’ peers can review the presentations, meaning the professor doesn’t have to wade through hours of video.
Fisher added that the goal is to have the students understand that they are engaged in an exercise in professional speaking, that they have to speak to about five viewers and to speak persuasively to them.
Fisher -- who is working with two part-time staff and hopes to hire a developer and sales person – said the aim has always been to produce an online tool that ensures the student learns and maintains the course material.
“If you think about learning in the traditional model, it’s about memorizing a bunch of things and regurgitating them on a final exam,” he said. “But if you ask someone to explain something to you, it’s going to be apparent whether or not they know it. You have to know it well enough to talk about it.”
Dartmouth-based Spring Loaded, which makes knee braces that add power to the knee, is growing its team to meet the demand for its Levitation Knee Brace, which will launch later this year. As Spring Loaded Technology’s COO, Umlah will use her more than 15 years of experience to help the company navigate its expansion and mature its manufacturing capabilities.
“We’re thrilled to bring Dawn on as Spring Loaded Technology’s COO,” said CEO Chris Cowper-Smith in a statement. “Her hands-on experience propelling companies through various growth transitions will be invaluable as we near the launch of our Levitation bionic knee brace in the consumer and medical markets this fall.”
Umlah has held senior roles in venture capital, finance, operations, strategic planning and corporate development, and has been involved in corporate development transactions and fundraising activities aggregating more than $365 million in value. She played an integral role in propelling DHX Media from formation to IPO in just two years, followed by four years of growth-by-acquisition strategy and application.
Spring Loaded recently received $1.9 million in investment from Build Ventures.
Sentinel Strikes Partnership with Crosbie
St. John’s-based Sentinel Alert has struck a partnership with the Crosbie Group of Companies, a fifth-generation family business involved in such Newfoundland and Labrador industries as offshore oil and gas services, onshore industrial services, real estate and construction.
Sentinel Alert, creator of safety software designed to detect and prevent worker accidents, said it has entered into a pilot agreement with the Crosbie group. The initial partnership will focus on exploring early indicators of worker risk around industry challenges like noise exposure and repetitive strain injuries. The pilot is designed to help Crosbie create the safest operating environment to support the health and wellbeing of its workforce. Longer-term, the Sentinel Alert platform will add predictive safety benefits for workers and offer additional efficiency gains.
“With the ever evolving workforce and workplace, it is important that we continue to strive for improvements in protecting our people and improving our safety performance,” said Crosbie VP of Health, Safety, Environment and Quality William Foote. “This software is evolutionary for the safety industry and this partnership with Sentinel Alert will help us step further into new technological aids for a safer workforce and workplace.”
Sentinel Alert recently raised $525,000 in seed round financing through Pelorus Venture Capital and Killick Capital. Sentinel Alert is using the funding to open up its software to larger industrial customers and continue to grow its team.
Howe Launches IgniteTheMaritimes.com
Dartmouth entrepreneur David Howe has launched a series of online videos on startups that are prospering in the Maritimes.
The project is called IgniteTheMaritimes.com, and Howe describes it as a mini-documentary series that tells the stories of top founders in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.
Howe previously co-founded two startups, ToothbrushSubscriptions.com (now Boka.com) and Retailkit (now Tend.ag).
Israeli Lessons in Building Ecosystem
Oded Hermoni has lived, created and invested in business in the top two regions for startups: Israel and Silicon Valley. Hermoni discussed valuation, acquisition strategy and profit and loss at his Wednesday night fireside chat at Startup Grind. However, he said that this is the No. 1 thing to take away from his fireside chat:
“Tech and innovation is about people.”
The man has invested in companies sold to Facebook and Apple, has founded three startups in Israel (one of which was acquired by Yellow Pages), led the Israeli VC Industry Association and the Israeli High Tech Industry Association, and is now a partner at the early stage venture capital firm Rhodium Capital, where he is the liaison between Israeli and Silicon Valley.
Hermoni’s big takeaway may not seem new, but did you even read the highlight reel of his achievements in the previous paragraph? I’d listen closely.
Throughout his fireside chat at Startup Grind, Hermoni emphasized the importance of creating an ecosystem in the Maritimes, like the ones in Israel and Silicon Valley.
“You need to have a trigger to start it,” he said. “Ecosystem isn’t just the university: it’s funding, it’s talent—it’s everything.”
His No. 1 recommendation to create a solid ecosystem was to connect with the universities. Israel and Silicon Valley heavily depend on commercialization, talent and funding from universities like Stanford and Tel Aviv University.
Hermoni recommended that entrepreneurs provide incentives to the university and these offices to fuel more successful startups.
In Israel, academics who help companies with research and development are allowed to have one day a week to work with the company exclusively. Forty to 50 percent of investment into the company also goes back to that university faculty.
“The main job of the academic is to publish papers, not work on a multimillion dollar company,” Hermoni said. “So give them freedom.”
Universities can also provide both funding and talent. Hermoni emphasized that using talent from the universities will allow young people and academics to stay in the region—something the Maritimes struggle to do as many youth go westward.
Keeping immigrants in the region is also important for startups, Hermoni said. When immigrants first come to a new country, they usually aren’t able to teach because of language barriers, despite having high levels of education. Startups should use this to their advantage and hire these immigrants to help them with research and development.
This is exactly what Israel did: after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, a wave of Russians came to Israel, many of whom were engineers, scientists and academics. Israel turned this potential problem into an asset: it allowed the Russians, many of whom didn’t speak Hebrew well, to continue their research and use their top-notch scientific and technical skills to help build what we now know as Startup Nation.
“This is an opportunity to open the door to immigrants,” Hermoni said. “You may find something that can create growth in this area, if you find the right mechanism.”
Hermoni had also heard about the large amounts of government funding available to startups in the region—and was amazed by the support. However, he said that the government needs to understand that failure is a part of startup life.
“Failure is experience. It’s okay to fail,” Hermoni said. “If the [Israeli] government had only looked at profit and loss, if what they lost in three or four or five years, nothing would happen. But in 20 years, it was an amazing problem.”
CEED Wins Community Partner Award
Laurie Cameron: "We work with the entire ecosystem."
Founded by the provincial government more than 20 years ago, CEED won this year’s RBC Community Partner Award for its involvement with more than 2,000 youth each year.
“We work with the entire ecosystem,” said CEED’s President and CEO Laurie Cameron.
“We’re trying to get our reach as far as possible into the education system.”
The group recently piloted a workshop in Truro for children in Grades 4 to 6. At the end of the day, the students formed teams and started their own ‘businesses’. Local business people judged their ideas and presentations in a mini dragons’ den.
The program is now running at a Dartmouth school.
“The little ones don’t know the words ‘no’. or ‘I can’t’,” Cameron said. “They’re so incredibly creative. The energy is vibrant, the ideas dynamic, everyone’s jazzing together.
“As students move through the system, their thinking becomes channeled, they’re not as quick to embrace the art of the possible.”
With the aim of reaching young adults, CEED works with high schools, colleges and universities. The group collaborates with Brilliant Labs, the New Brunswick-based non-profit that brings technology to students through project-based learning.
Cameron said that in higher grades, students concentrate on getting the marks they need for universities and colleges.
“They’re focused on academics as opposed to the fun side of life…Creative exercises give them permission to think differently.
“Entrepreneurship is about attitudes and competencies. We want to support the development of leaders, problem-solving, risk-taking.”
She said that at a high school education day hosted by the province last October, CEED introduced youth to the business model canvas, a visual chart that helps users understand and develop new and existing business models.
“Each team was given two words and then had to brainstorm a business concept around the words. They had to fill in the business canvas and pitch. They did very well.
“Youth today are confident and collaborative. They’re not easily intimidated. They’re not necessarily looking at the bucks and the bottom line. They care about health and the environment, about society, about the wellness of everyone.”
Cameron said that CEED advocates for entrepreneurship as a career option, and provides funding and advice for people who want to start their own business.
The group’s recent RBC award was presented at the Action Entrepreneurship Canadian Summit in Toronto in May.
The colourful event provided welcome validation for CEED’s work, said Cameron, who has been with the group since November 2014.
She feels the province and region need to reduce red tape and barriers to business. Barriers are lessening, she said, but progress is slow.
“Inter-provincial regulations need to be looked at,” she said. “Someone recently told me they can export out of Canada more easily than to neighbouring provinces.
“In Atlantic Canada, we’ve got to let kids unleash their talents and support them…I’d hate to see that youthful enthusiasm stymied, because of regulatory barriers.”
She believes that successful entrepreneurs have passion for what they do and also know how to take calculated risks.
“Some people think entrepreneurs are risk-takers at large, but successful entrepreneurs know the pros and cons of what they do. They do their homework. And they often have good support networks.
“A lot of excellent mentoring goes on in this community. … At CEED, we tap into the mentoring network of the youth group Futurpreneur. Peer mentoring is also valuable, a lot of that happens at universities and other educational institutions.”
She finds the current growth of entrepreneurship in the region exciting.
“The landscape is changing. In a few years, it will be even better if we enable youth to unleash their talent.”
Jobs of the Week: Dash Hudson, BioNB
Dash Hudson is growing rapidly, and its openings for a product manager and junior brand strategist headline our Jobs of the Week column today.
The Halifax startup launched two-and-a-half years ago and has developed a tool for analyzing the market response to Instagram posts. It now bills itself as a smarter way to grow on Instagram.
This week, we’ll also look at the mobile app development company 14 Oranges, which is looking for a web developer in Halifax, and the Fredericton-based life sciences promotion group, BioNB, which is seeking an international business development officer.
The Jobs 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 start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Qimple.
Dash Hudson is looking for a candidate with a joie de vivre and intense burning desire to make things happen. Product manager will be a critically important position within the company, and the successful applicant will have to acquire information from a broad array of sources including engineering, sales, marketing, and customers. Then he or she must make critical project decisions based on data and qualitative analysis. This person will have to gain a deep understanding of customer experience, identify and fill product gaps and generate new ideas that grow market share, improve customer experience and drive growth. The company is looking for someone with two to five years of experience in a similar role. He or she should have experience in product design, pricing, management, customer experience, feedback, and strategy.
The junior brand strategist will work with the company’s brand strategy team to build business with some of the best marketers and companies in the world. Dash Hudson is looking for an organized, creative person who can take on new challenges and have the confidence to figure them out. This person will work with the brand strategy team in lead generation, sales outreach and progress tracking with major brands. The skill set of the successful applicant will include analytical capabilities, business development, strategy, sales and marketing.
BioNB works with startups, small and medium-sized businesses, growth-stage companies and researchers to help foster economic development in New Brunswick's biosciences sector. The international business development officer will work closely with BioNB staff to increase the visibility of the province's Bio sector on the global stage. He or she will also support clients' efforts in becoming export ready and opening new international market opportunities. This person will collect information on potential international market clusters, successful models for global partnerships; and
existing models for inward investment attraction. This role involves research, relationship-building, and intelligence-gathering. The candidate must hold a valid driver's licence, passport and possess a second language. This is a 20-month contract with the possibility of extension. The successful applicant must have experience in gathering market intelligence gathering, developing news market development and working with stakeholders like the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service or the province’s Trade and Export team. Speaking both French and English would be an asset.
NS Searches for Private VC Partner
The Nova Scotia government on Wednesday resurrected its plan to establish another venture capital fund in the province, and is seeking a private partner to lead the fund and most likely invest in it.
The government of Stephen McNeil first mooted the possibility of a new fund about two years ago. The VC community in and outside the region had expected a request for proposals, or RFP, in the winter of 2014-15, but none came through two winters.
Then the government earmarked $25 million for a new VC fund in the 2016-17 budget, and on Wednesday announced that it would spend about a year finding a private sector partner and establishing the new fund.
“When businesses have better access to capital, it means more jobs for Nova Scotians,” said Business Minister Mark Furey in a statement. “The creation of this fund will mean stronger communities and more opportunities for young people to live and work here in Nova Scotia.”
–- Gilles Duruflé, the consultant whose 2014 report recommended changes in the funding ecosystem in Nova Scotia;
–- And Bernie Miller, senior executive adviser for the province.
The government would like the fund to be established in 2017.
The strong growth of startups in Atlantic Canada has ramped up demand for investment capital, and the success of companies in the region has piqued the interest of venture capital funds from outside the region. I was surprised at the Breakthru dinner in Fredericton 15 months ago when two VC fund managers from outside the region were talking about the Nova Scotia RFP and when it might come.
From the outset, people familiar with the project have said the province does not simply want someone who can manage a fund in Halifax. It wants a party that will bring its own capital to the fund, and possibly attract money from other parties, known as limited partners. That means the $25 million commitment from the province could turn into a $50 million or $75 million venture capital fund. With the private money, it would also have a mandate to invest outside of Nova Scotia, which would help the fund to build partnerships with other investors.
The announcement comes as the current VC bodies based in Halifax could reach the point in a year or two where they will be constrained in making new investments. Innovacorp has been investing about $5 million a year and is approaching the point at which it will need new funds, a few exits, or a new mandate. Build Ventures, the three-year-old privately managed fund, has invested in about a dozen companies. Again it could make a few more new investments, and then will have restrict itself to follow-on investments until it raises a new fund. GrowthWorks Atlantic has not raised money in years and has signaled that it is managing its existing fund rather than making new investments.
Disclaimer: Build Ventures and Innovacorp advertise on Entrevestor.
Airbly To Launch 100 Units This Summer
When Chris VanHorne bought his own small plane with seven other pilots, he wished there were some system that automatically compiled the flight logs.
There is now.
VanHorne set up a company to make one.
An engineer by training, VanHorne teamed up with developer Peter Osif to form Argyle Shore, P.E.I.-based Airbly, which has created hardware and software that can be installed in private aircraft to automatically produce the flight log.
The company, which has four installations, eases the burden on owners of private aircraft, who often have to write out these logs by hand. If they’re lost or destroyed, the plane’s value can plunge.
Presenting at the recent Atlantic Venture Forum in Halifax, VanHorne explained that preparing flight logs by hand are a hassle for aircraft owners, but aircraft lose their value drastically if the owner can’t produce a detailed history of flights and maintenance.
“An aircraft’s value is very tightly linked to the history of the plane,” said VanHorne. “But 90 per cent of plane owners still write their logs on paper . . . to get aircraft owners out of the stone age, we have created a block box for small aircraft.”
Airbly’s product is the Canairy Cockpit Monitor, a small piece of hardware that is installed on top of an aircraft's instrument panel. The device monitors the aircraft's position, usage and cabin environment and regularly sends the data over a cloud-based relay to Airbly’s data centre.
The company’s software then automatically generates flight logs. It also tracks the aircraft’s maintenance and alerts the owners when something falls outside a normal range.
The business model is similar to a cell phone plan — the customer pays for the hardware then pays a regular bill for the tracking. VanHorne said the initial market is flight schools — an $8-million market.
These schools often have a fleet of five or more airplanes and Airbly can spare them the bother of doing flight logs and make sure they have a regular rotation of planes in maintenance.
In an interview, he said the Canairy monitor simplifies things for groups of people who join together to own a plane, such as VanHorne himself and his friends. The costs each person pays depend on the amount of use, and Airbly sorts out each person’s usage.
Airbly, which recently went through the Propel ICT Launch accelerator, now has two installations in the U.S. and two in Canada, and the company is now manufacturing its first 100 units.
VanHorne will present the product this summer at the AirVenture air show in Wisconsin, which bills itself as “the world’s greatest aviation celebration.”
VanHorne said the company plans to market the Canairy to other segments of the aviation market, such as the sight-seeing and plane-for-hire markets, and is also interested in products in other industries.
It is thinking about developing fast and affordable in-flight internet for small planes. And the team is interested in products for the drone and marine markets.
Airbly is now working on raising $220,000 to $250,000 in investment, which it hopes will cover the costs of hiring sales and development support.
Affinio Adds Staff as Sales Rise
Tim Burke, left, and Stephen Hankinson
Tim Burke wandered through the empty half of Affinio’s office to the meeting room where the interview would take place.
In the early morning sunshine, this half of the open-plan office was an expanse of empty tables, and a ping pong table, but no sign of anyone working – so far.
“Oh, it will fill up,” Burke said with an easy smile when he was seated.
When Affinio, the company Burke heads, moved into the space in the spring of 2016, the co-founders wanted a lot of room for growth. The three-and-a-half-year-old social media analytics company is staffing up – fast. It had nine employees when it raised $4 million in venture capital last November. Six months later, there were about 37 employees, all but three of them in the Halifax headquarters. By the end of 2016, Burke expects to have a staff of 60, and he foresees the company’s galloping growth to continue through 2017.
“It’s pretty aggressive,” Burke said of his hiring spree, adding that most of the hires are in sales, marketing and customer support. “It’s primarily because it’s an enterprise SaaS [software-as-a-service] sales structure. It’s very similar to Radian6, and we see very aggressive growth. We’re going after accounts we think we can and should win.”
There’s no shortage of buzz in Halifax about Affinio, given its rapid expansion plans. The company does not release revenue details, but its strong funding and growing staff have turned heads.
“They are definitely one of the rising stars,” said Dawn Umlah, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Innovacorp. “Even in terms of talent acquisition, they’re working very well … I hate to say ‘killing it’, but that’s what they’re doing.”
The buzz is nothing new for Burke and Stephen Hankinson, his technical co-founder and long-time collaborator. In the first decade of the century, they formed Quark Engineering, a small team of product whizzes that built products for themselves and others. It was a team with diverse talents, and at the core were Burke, an engineer with an entrepreneurial flare, and Hankinson, a programmer who other coders speak of in reverential tones. They struck gold in 2009 when they produced TetherBerry (later called Tether), an app that let people gain an online connection for their laptop through their cell phone plan. That consumer product brought in more than $100,000 in revenue in the first three days, and won the team Innovacorp’s 2010 I-3 Technology Startup Competition.
Tether was a cash cow for Quark and provided revenues while Burke and Hankinson built out the team, including Ardi Iranmanesh, an expert in SaaS metrics, and Phil Renaud, who is now Affinio’s VP Engineering. As well as working on their own projects, the team did contract work for several companies, including startups. Hankinson is known throughout the region for the speed and precision of his coding, and clients came to Quark to get the team to build out their technology.
Then in 2013 the Quark team began to work on a new project, which they called Affinio. It is an advanced database technology that allows low-cost, real-time processing of social network data to determine how every person on the web is connected. It mines publicly available social media posts and other business data to find people who are connected by common interests, experiences or networks.
Burke admits there are other similar products on the market but what sets Affinio apart is its ease of use, its interpretive functions and its vivid graphics. From the outset, it drew attention.
“Even at that stage, the response to the demo was overwhelming,” said Burke. “The most common response we got was, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this before.’”
The company launched in 2013 with $1.5 million in investment from Halifax venture capital fund Build Ventures. Build Principal Rob Barbara says his firm likes to invest in technology that “a few really smart guys can’t duplicate in a couple of months.” Affinio fit the bill as it immediately drew international attention. In the past three years, Affinio has been showcased at the O’Reilly Strata Conference in New York, and has participated in the Canadian Technology Accelerator in New York, the BBC Worldwide Labs incubator in London and Microsoft’s Seattle Accelerator.
And, the company is having success in sales, with 80 percent of the revenue coming from the U.S., led by the New York-based Vice-President of Customer Success John Gleeson.
“It was a really smart move for us to have a guy in New York,” said Burke. “John has a daily presence there and it’s been significant in developing and retaining clients. … We’ve got a lot more traction in the media and entertainment industries that are using our platform to guide their brand strategy.”
Along with the sales came more funding. Whitecap Venture Partners of Toronto led a $4 million round last November, joined by Build, New York-based Social Starts, New York-based BRaVeVentures and several angels. And that money is funding the hire of a significant staff. From nine to 37 in six months and then an expected 23 more in the next seven months.
“We’re hiring a lot of great young talent,” said Burke. “It’s a really young group, most of them straight out of university.”
About one-quarter of the staff is in product development, with 35 percent in sales and marketing and the rest in executive positions and customer support. As he focuses on building his staff and the company, Burke is leaning heavily on some key mentors. First there are Marcel LeBrun, Chris Ramsey and the team that built Fredericton-based Radian6, one of the most success tech companies in the region. Burke talks with them regularly to discuss scaling of a company. And he’s found that the Microsoft accelerator has a tremendous alumni program, which has been instrumental in introducing Affinio to clients.
As the summer deepens, Burke is turning his attention more and more to a Series B round of financing, which he hopes to close in early 2017. He didn’t reveal many details but he said some clients in the media industries have investment arms that have noticed Affinio. The company is also working with clients to adapt new products, some of which analyze data owned by the clients themselves.
“With a lot of the new products, growth will continue on a really fast pace, even more fast than what we’re doing now,” said Burke. “Our revenue per customer is growing and the size of deals is continuing to rise as well.”
Grads Love Region, Worry About Jobs
An overwhelming majority of students studying at Atlantic Canadian universities and colleges want to stay in the region but have grave concerns about opportunities here, a new poll shows.
The survey of 4,643 graduates of 21 post-secondary institutions in the region found that 82 percent of the grads would like to remain in the province where they studied. Among international students, 75 percent would like to stay. However, most grads also believe job opportunities and compensation levels in Atlantic Canada are inferior to other jurisdictions. Graduates also told CRA they believe the most important considerations in planning where to live are quality of life, job opportunities, cost of living and compensation levels.
Corporate Research president Margaret Brigley released the findings Friday at the Atlantic Leadership Summit, the annual half-day conference of the Atlantic Association of Universities.
“We found that students hold this region in such high regard,” said Brigley. “But they clearly have some concerns about what opportunities would be presented to them if they stay.”
Atlantic Canada has the oldest population in Canada, and Statistics Canada said the region suffered a net out-migration of 6,700 people in 2014-15. The largest outflow was in New Brunswick, which lost 2,800 more people than it attracted.
Thus, there is an urgent movement to increase immigration and retain young people in the region, and educational institutions have a key role to play in both missions.
The poll findings showed that 75 percent of international students would like to remain in the province where they studied.
Don Mills, the chairman and CEO of CRA, said the fact that so many students would like to remain in the region is good news given that so much of the Atlantic Canadian workforce is nearing retirement. He said the current problem of too few jobs will soon turn into a greater problem of too few workers, and students who want to stay here will be needed to meet demand.
The CRA poll reveals that 87 percent of graduating students are highly satisfied with the overall quality of post-secondary education they have received in the region.
“The high degree of satisfaction expressed by graduates about their educational and living experience while studying in the region speaks volumes about the high quality of our institutions and the communities in which they are located,” said University of New Brunswick President and AAU Chair Eddy Campbell in a statement.
But he and others expressed disappointment that only one in 50 grads want to start their own business, despite the resources that institutions have devoted to entrepreneurship.
Brigley emphasized that the survey assessed the immediate plans of graduates, and it does not mean more grads don’t want to start a business at some point in the future. (The survey found that 33 percent of graduates will look for a job, 29 percent return to school, 23 percent have a job and 15 percent will travel or do something else.)
Some three percent of international students want to start their own businesses and half of these grads want to locate their business in the province where they studied.
Startup Zone Opens in Charlottetown
Government and geeks came together in downtown Charlottetown on Friday to officially open the Startup Zone, the new incubator for young businesses on P.E.I.
The 3,600-square-foot facility at Water and Queen streets has enough space for about 16 companies, and will be a work zone for tech and innovation startups as well as other entrepreneurial pursuits. It will also be the P.E.I. base for Propel ICT, the regional tech accelerator.
The opening of startup zone means there are now co-working spaces throughout Atlantic Canada allowing Propel and other regional groups a network of local bases for staging events and hosting mentoring programs. The other community incubators and co-workign spaces are Common Ground in St. John’s, Volta Labs in Halifax, the Venn Centre in Moncton, the Navigate startup house in Sydney and Planet Hatch in Fredericton.
“The Startup Zone provides a space for our entrepreneurial community to gather and continue to grow,” said Startup Zone Executive Director Christina MacLeod in a statement. “Entrepreneurs of all ages and sectors can contribute to developing our diverse economy and create partnerships globally through our incubator space.”
MacLeod, the founder of Fusion Charlottetown and a member of the first Prince Edward Island cohort for the 21 Inc Emerging Leaders program, was named to the post recently.
The Startup Zone is a non-profit entity whose mission is to provide entrepreneurs with support and mentorship, enabling them to become successful. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is contributing $500,000 to the project, while the government of P.E.I. is putting up $514,395 over the next three years.
The opening was attended by P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLaughlin and Charlottetown MP Sean Casey, who represented Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.
P.E.I. has recently witnessed a strong growth in its tech sector, and this year hosted its first cohort of the Propel ICT accelerator. Life sciences startups have deeper roots in the province and are supported by groups like the PEI BioAlliance, the Emergence incubator program and the newly created headquarters of Natural Products Canada. The growth in the tech segment gives the island a more diverse entrepreneurial community.
Jobs of the Week: Resson is Hiring
Rishin Behl and Peter Goggin
Resson’s new motto could be: Have Money. Will Hire.
We’ll also look at Carleton Manor, a Woodstock, N.B., nursing home that is looking for a chief executive officer.
Founded three years ago by Peter Goggin and Rishin Behl, Resson has created software to assess data from a range of sources on a farm. They developed a system called RAMAS, which collects data from such sources as tractors, sensors buried in the field, and aerial drones flying over the field. It brings all the information together and presents the farmer with a report on what is happening in his field and what actions need to be taken.
The company is looking for software developers, an agronomist and an optical engineer.
Carleton Manor is now an 80-bed nursing home under renovations to expand to a 110-bed facility that specializes in providing nursing care and services to adult clients.
The Jobs 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 start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Qimple.
The successful candidate will help to apply Resson's machine-learning engine to multiple levels of agricultural data under observation. He or she will assess the data collected by the analytics team and work with others to use the data to improve farm yields. This work will be done in collaboration with machine vision and robotic systems engineers, corporate agronomists and agricultural operators. The candidate will help to design and monitor field experiments. Resson is looking for someone with a bachelor degree in agronomy and crop science or an agricultural field.
This person will immediately be involved in a rapidly expanding project to bring computer vision to agriculture. The goal is to integrate and optimize hardware systems, linking optical technologies to farm-management equipment to meet defined requirements. The work will be carried out in both lab and field environments, moving quickly through calibration, testing and deployment phases. Resson is looking for a candidate familiar with computer vision hardware, experienced in troubleshooting and failure analysis and someone who thrives in a fast-paced, collaborative environment. The company would like someone with a master’s degree in optics, computer vision, electrical engineering or computer science.
Resson has actually posted two openings for software developers, including a computer vision developer. The computer vision software developer will contribute to the development of an image classification system for agriculture. The ideal candidate will be driven by his or her own creativity and ingenuity and a passion to pioneer the capabilities of state-of-the-art machine-learning and image-processing solutions. The role requires a robust understanding of the theory and practice of computer-vision techniques and the related fields of algorithm development. Resson is looking for someone with two to five years’ experience in a similar role and a bachelor or master’s degree in computer science.
The successful candidate will be responsible for all aspects of development, from rapid prototyping through to implementation, testing, and integration. In addition to being familiar with front-end and back-end development technologies (including Java and cross-platform mobile technologies), the applicant would benefit from experience with image processing, machine learning, and/or high-performance computing. Resson is looking for someone with a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field and two to five years’ experience in a similar role.
Carleton Manor is looking for someone to provide leadership and organize the nursing home to effectively and efficiently provide services to residents. The successful candidate must manage human resources and maintain an excellent rapport with the residents, their families, the community, related agencies and government departments. The nursing home is looking for someone with proven leadership and management skills and excellent decision making skills regarding financial and budget issues. The candidate must have strong financial, communications and team-building skills, and preference will be given to people who have worked in long-term care. Carleton Manor is looking for a candidate with at least five years’ senior management experience.
The delegates at the conference – which serves as a meeting place for Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs and investors from outside the region – chose the winners, both of whom demonstrated strong potential in a global market.
Halifax-based 4Deep is a maker of advanced microscopes that can examine micro-organisms in the water in real time. They can check the size, shape, and movement of anything from embryonic invasive species to beads of oil in an oil spill – all without having to waste time to take samples and send them to a laboratory.
CEO Stephen Jones enticed the audience to imagine a product that could detect algae outbreaks in water before they become a menace, that could monitor ballast water in ships for microscopic invasive species, that can check oil rigs under water to detect leaks in real time.
“In the not too distant future, all those potential situations will be a reality and 4Deep will be right in the middle of it,” said Jones.
WoodsCamp is an online marketplace that helps private woodlot owners understand the value of the trees on their land to improve their profit from responsible forestry. It’s been a big week for the company as it pitched at the Propel ICT Demo Day on Tuesday and gained many new customers from a range of media coverage.
WoodsCamp pitched with the seed stage companies on Wednesday while 4Deep and the other growth-stage startups presented their companies on Thursday morning. These more advanced companies showed how they had recently increased their sales, often with very impressive clients.
Halifax-based Athletigen, which analyses genetic codes to help with athletic performance, said it has now built up a databank of genetic samples from more than 20,000 people, with gives it more than 5 billion data points. That’s the largest such data set in the world, and it is working with nutritional and sports partners to gain more revenue.
Saint John-based NB Biomatrix, which uses nanotechnology to remove heavy metals from contaminated water sites, explained how it had gained clientele from governments and emergency agencies.
St. John’s startup HeyOrca’s Joe Teo said his company, which helps marketers collaborate on projects, is now gaining traction with such clients as Microsoft, Saatchi & Saatchi and Amazon. Its main market is marketing agencies, and its monthly recurring revenue is now increasing 31 percent per month.
Halifax’s Fundmetric, which provide customer-relationship software to charities, has sold its product to 26 charities across Canada and just landed its first U.S. client, St. John’s college. Its MRR is growing at 30 percent per month.
Gemba Software Solutions, another Saint John company, has found a range of customers for its product ProcedureFlow, which helps companies bring all employees up to speed on their processes. The company, which has a range of clients, is forecasting revenue growth of 300 percent next year and more than 200 percent in 2018.
Pacta, a Halifax company whose software monitor portfolios of contracts for large corporations, is gaining traction in its $15.9 billion market. It has signed a range of partnership and is raising $1 million, 60 percent of which is already committed.
Itavio Enters Matter in Silicon Valley
Itavio, the Moncton startup that helps parents control how much money their children spend on online games, has been accepted into the prestigious Matter accelerator in Silicon Valley.
Itavio is the first Canadian company ever accepted into the accelerator, which teaches curriculum developed at Stanford University and works with such partners as the Google News Lab, the New York Times and the Associated Press.
Melani Flanagan and Matt Pichette, the co-founders of Itavio, arrived in the San Francisco area about a week ago to attend the one-week bootcamp for the accelerator. Matter on Thursday morning announced the 13 companies that will go through the program, which lasts until October.
“This accelerator is an amazing connector,” said Flanagan in an interview from San Francisco on Thursday. “The people who we already met in our first week are pretty awe-inspiring.”
Itavio allows parents to set limits for their children’s spending, almost like giving them a digital allowance. Parents can use the app not only to restrict spending but also to monitor how long a child is using the game.
Flanagan says the system helps game makers, who actually pay for the product. First, they don’t hear from infuriated parents whose kids have racked up a huge bill. And second, gaming companies using Itavio know how much money each customer has available to spend so they can market products to the child appropriate to their budget.
Itavio can also reduce a gaming company’s cost of hosting a young client and thereby improve the profitability of each game.
Flanagan said that Itavio applied to Matter because the company is designed for technology media companies. She said the curriculum emphasizes the Stanford design principals, with a strong emphasis on the fast development, testing and failure of new features for each product.
Itavio in the past year has been beta-testing its product with a couple of early adopters, including Gogii Games of Moncton. Flanagan said it is now at the point at which it needs to connect with more gaming companies to serve as early adopters for its product, and working in the Bay area should help meet this need.
“We could think of no one better to help with our out-reach and to build our message,” she said. “Being so much closer to our customers just makes so much sense. It’s that’s building of relationships that is so important when you’re starting out. That’s how you build technology.”
The two-year-old company, which is a graduate of the Propel ICT accelerator, raised about $275,000 in its first year, including an investment from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. Itavio recently raised additional funding from NBIF, and received some investment on joining Matter. It is now hoping to raise another $250,000.
The Farmers’ Truck Rolls into Moncton
After starting Moncton’s first farmers’ truck to sell local produce last year, Fred Laforge and his co-founder Mathieu Reyjal, are working out of Moncton’s Vennture Garage with the aim of franchising their idea.
The duo set up The Farmers’ Truck to sell a range of produce farmed within 160 kilometres of Moncton after realizing the difficulties farmers face in getting their products to market.
Farmers’ markets often have waiting lists of would-be vendors and big stores and chains require a large quantity of produce.
A farmers’ truck could address those issues, decided Laforge who grew up on a New Brunswick farm, and Reyial, who turned to farming after becoming an engineer and gaining an MBA.
“Most consumers choose local when it’s easy to do,” Laforge said. “It needs to be easy for both the consumer and the farmer.”
The Farmers’ Truck stops at seven locations around Moncton between June to October, and the number will soon rise to 13.
The partners have 25 suppliers and the number is growing. They have designed a new truck, to be unveiled in July, which holds more produce and allows clients to browse shelves as in a store. Refrigeration has been installed to hold meat and dairy.
The partners minimize waste by donating unsold good produce to the local food bank.
“Such trucks are popular in Europe,” Laforge said. “Mathieu saw trucks like this in France, but they’re not as nice. We wanted to stay away from the greasy food truck image and have a higher- end feel so people would buy in confidence.”
The co-founders met at a startup event. At the time, Laforge owned an advertising agency and Reyial was thinking of opening a farm store in his barn.
“We discussed branding,” Laforge said. “I asked if a store is a good idea. Will people travel 40 minutes to go to a store? He needed to reach urban populations.”
Laforge said mobile food markets like theirs are usually in areas of poor food availability.
“Some non-profit groups bring in fresh vegetables and fruit to improve community health. We’re trying to encourage the local economy,” he said. “We could produce a white-label truck for non-profit use eventually.”
The partners are complementing the truck with an online store which is launching in central Moncton.
“The online store has the same variety as the truck and some more. It will continue throughout winter,” Laforge said.
The partners are currently working out of the Vennture Garage incubator space.
“The Venn Garage has been critical,” Laforge said. “We’ve been getting advice from peers and mentors.”
While he develops The Farmers’ Truck, Laforge is also working for a company called Dovico, which makes a time-tracking app. And he visits schools to spread awareness of drug addiction, which caused him to drop out of high school before seeking treatment.
“I was a drug addict, mostly pot, but I did everything I could get my hands on,” he said. “In schools, drugs are an epidemic. Parents need to know it can happen in any setting…Some parents can’t relate, but they need to try to understand.”
When he finished high school Laforge studied graphic design at College Communautaire du Nouveau Brunswick and started his own marketing company called Smithy Creative Group.
“We grew nicely and had big clients like Bell Aliant, Johnson Insurance, Irving Oil…I started working with startups and really fell in love with the community.”
He ran his company for six years but had trouble scaling (growing) and decided to close.
“The first thing I thought about with this new business was -- how do we scale?”
So far, the partners have funded The Farmers’ Truck themselves, but they will be looking to fundraise in the fall.
They want the idea to go Canada-wide, and believe franchisees will be tempted by the company’s custom-built trucks, knowledge and support.
“We want to move fast,” Laforge said. "Being first to market is important."
AVF Pitchers Highlight Initial Markets
If there is a theme developing in the pitches we’ve seen this week in Halifax, it is that East Coast startups are finding their paths to an initial market.
In the Propel Demo Day on Tuesday and the first day of the Atlantic Venture Forum on Wednesday, we’re seeing pitches that highlight sales or lay out (for the most part) credible plans on getting to market.
At its heart, the AVF is a meeting place for Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs and investors from outside the region. And the underlying message in many of the meetings is that the founders have identified their first markets and know how to get to them.
“We’re looking at getting these products to market – one this year – and we want to move our research forward,” said Mary Lynch, the President of Halifax’s Panag Parma, which is developing cures for chronic pain.
Panag is developing three products, including some using compounds from marijuana, to cure pain. It received Health Canada approval for its first product the week and hope to launch it this year. Panag is in talk with a partner to handle distribution to retailers.
Several of the pitches by early stage companies on Wednesday stressed the work the companies have done to make inroads in their initial markets. Martin Greenwood, CEO of PhotoDynamic of Halifax, said his company will first tap the Canadian orthodontic community for its product, which kills plaque. This is a $60 million market for the company.
Alastair Jarvis, the CEO of WoodsCamp of Mahone Bay, N.S., said the first market for his company’s online market place for timber is private woodlot owners in Nova Scotia. Essentially the company has to create an identifiable market so it is building up a network of woodlot owners. He added the company has been inundated with contacts this week due to recent media coverage of the company.
Milan Vrekic of Halifax-based Zora said landlords are already subscribing to his software that helps in screening tenants, and the company already has $16,000 in monthly recurring revenue.
Some of the investors providing feedback on the pitches criticized the founders for dwelling too much on the initial market and not giving a broad enough picture of the total addressable market that can be tackled.
Most of the entrepreneurs responded by describing large markets, but emphasized that they are now focused on attacking that first beachhead.
The material that the presenting companies have submitted to the AVF organizers shows how the founders expect these early sales campaigns to go. All but one of the early-stage companies had no income last year. However, five of the seven are expecting traction this year totaling $1.3 million in revenue.
The seven growth-stage companies that will present today demonstrate how startup revenues can grow once sales begin. Only one of these companies had six figures of sales in 2014, but in 2015 all but one had sales, and for the group they totaled $830,000. Collectively, they expect revenues to increase almost fourfold in 2016 to $3.1 million.
Resson’s $14M Round Led by Monsanto
Rishin Behl, left, and Peter Goggin
In a landmark venture capital funding, Fredericton agriculture technology company Resson has raised US$11 million (C$14 million) from Monsanto Growth Ventures and other investors to expand its team and open a Silicon Valley office.
Resson said in a statement today that the investment was led by the VC arm of Monsanto, the St. Louis-based agrichemical and agritech giant that is best known for its genetically modified foods. Monsanto is a new investor in the company, as is McCain Foods Ltd., which has been a customer of Resson for the past two years.
Resson also said that Jeff Grammer, a partner at Rho Canada Ventures, will become the executive chairman of the company. Peter Goggin, who had been the CEO, will move to VP of Operations.
Resson’s funding marks one of the largest venture capital investments ever in Atlantic Canada, and lends credence to claims that American institutions are beginning to take an interest in some of the region’s startups. The investment by the McCain group is also significant because it marks a strong investment by a local blue chip company that served as the startup’s early adopter.
“This is an example of what can happen when things come together properly,” East Valley Ventures Chair Gerry Pond, one of the investors, said in an interview. “You’ve got smart young people not long out of university and they hooked up with a great early adopter. And the space they’re working in is hot.”
Goggin and his co-founder Rishin Behl established the company three years ago to create software that would assess data from a range of sources on a farm. They developed a system called RAMAS, which collects data from such sources as tractors, sensors buried in the field, and aerial drones flying over the field. It brings all the information together and presents the farmer with a report on what is happening in his field and what actions need to be taken.
Their breakthrough came when they signed up McCain as their first customer and were able to improve the yield of the company’s potato crop. The company booked revenues of almost US$1 million in 2015 and Goggin hopes it will triple that number this year.
“We have worked with Resson from the earliest days of the company and have seen the tremendous potential to improve our operations by using their predictive analytics technology,” said Dirk Van de Put, President and CEO of McCain Foods. “We continue to work with Resson towards the implementation of their breakthrough technology and are excited by the prospects it brings to the community of potato professionals.”
There are many companies using data to improve agriculture by assessing a crop’s variation from what’s known as the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index. But Resson has moved beyond that to diagnose problems that can be corrected immediately.
“We envision this impressive data-driven technology helping to improve yields, while reducing costs across a number of crops and cropping systems,” said Ryan Rakestraw, Venture Principal at Monsanto Growth Ventures. “We’re looking forward to working closely with Resson as its team continues to develop a predictive solution that could benefit the entire global agriculture industry.”
Goggin said in an interview the company plans to double its staff to about 45 people by early next year. Resson will continue to be headquartered in Fredericton, and will open an office in San Jose, Calif.
“Monsanto is one of the world’s top agriculture companies and its support will help us continue to develop a product that helps large and small farms improve crop production,” said Grammer in a statement.
Propel To Create New Grow Program
Six companies from the Propel ICT Build Program displayed last night the budding revenue streams that place them in the top tier of the Atlantic Canadian regional accelerator – at least, for now.
Up until now, Propel has been divided into two programs – Build for more advanced companies and Launch for seed stage startups. And six Build companies last night made their case for investment by laying out their path to market and telling of the revenue they had already captured.
But Propel also announced that soon there will be a third layer in its programing. Propel Chair Dave Grebenc said the accelerator by year-end will launch its new Grow program for its alumni and other late-stage companies. It is designed to help the burgeoning number of mature companies develop from startups into corporations that are attracting global clients.
But on Tuesday night, the focus was on the Build Program and the six companies that had just completed it.
Read our recent coverage of these Build Program grads:
Fredericton-based TotalPave exemplified the messages by showing traction and an acceptance by investors. TotalPave, which won New Brunswick’s Breakthru competition in 2013, has developed a smartphone app that helps municipalities and their contractors test road surfaces at a fraction of the current cost. The goal is to identify small cracks, which are cheap to mend, before they become more expensive potholes.
“What we’ve got is technology that allows municipal engineers to collect this vital data at 15 times less money than the industry standard,” said CEO Coady Cameron, who founded the company with his brother Drew.
TotalPave is now being used by four Atlantic Canadian municipalities. The company now has $16,000 in annual recurring revenue, or ARR, and is on track to raise it to $250,000 by the end of the year. TotalPave is now raising $500,000 and has already lined up $150,000 from a lead investor.
Another Fredericton company, WellTrack, is raising $1 million. The company, which went through a previous Propel accelerator in 2012, has developed software that helps organizations improve the mental health of its members, especially those suffering from stress, anxiety and depression.
COO Natasha O’Brien explained that the company has recently gained customers by tracking universities, where 45 percent of students experience depression at some point. Because of depression, about 20 percent of first year students drop out, costing Canadian universities about $14 million a year. WellTrack now has $260,000 in AAR and is on track to reach $1 million by year-end.
Garago of Moncton has developed software that simplifies the grant application process, both for the applicant and the organization issuing the grant. The company, which is looking for $500,000 in funding, can help the applicant find the right grants, complete the application and track it. CEO Francis Thériault said the company has two price levels, including a more advanced product for the enterprise market. The product has already been used by 300 schools and by Canadian Tire, and it helped the New Brunswick government save $90,000.
In his speech, Grebenc said Propel will continue to evolve by offering virtual mentorship sessions to reduce the travel of its far-flung members. These livestreamed sessions would complement in-person meetings to retain the program’s community spirit.
By offering remote programing, Propel will be able to offer cohorts for companies in similar fields but based in different cities, thereby enhancing the benefits to the mentees.
Propel is now accepting applications to its next cohort. The applications are open until July 22.
8 Launch Startups Pitch at Demo Day
Craig Sheppard and Iaian Archibald of Swell Advantage
Eight companies from the Propel ICT Launch program pitched at Demo Day today Tuesday night, seeking in total investment of more than $3 million.
The companies – two from each Atlantic Province -- entered the program at an early stage less four months ago, and displayed in their pitches their paths to their markets.
Led by Chris VanHorn, Airbly has created hardware and software that can be installed in private aircraft to automatically produce the plane’s flight log. The company, which already has four installations, eases the burden on owners of private aircraft, who often have to write out logs by hand. Airbly, which is presenting at the AirVenture air show in Wisconsin this summer, is looking for $250,000 in investment.
Empowered Homes is dedicated to lowering energy consumption in the 15 million homes in North America that have multi-zone heating systems. These systems place thermostats throughout the home, and are too complicated to allow smart thermostat to run off the homeowner’s cell phone. Empowered Homes is developing Mysa, which places a hub adjacent to the family’s electrical panel. The hub communicates with thermostats throughout the house and the homeowner’s smart phone. The company is planning to a Kickstarter campaign next February.
Mighty Pebble is a video game studio whose first game is called Miner Meltdown. The 2D game takes place inside a mine, in which teams have to find gold so they can buy better weapons to use on the other team. The game, to be played on PCs or Macs, is scheduled to be released on the prestigious Steam market in February, 2017. Mighty Pebble is hoping to raise $350,000 to $500,000.
ReadyPass calls itself the smart bus upgrade every transit agency deserves—including accurate GPS tracking, clear routing, and simple e-ticketing. The company is creating smart and simple transit systems by tracking buses, ridership and client satisfaction, and presenting the data analytics to the transit agency. The company is now undertaking a pilot project in Fredericton and will soon do a project in Cape Breton. The company is trying to raise $400,000.
Seaformatics Systems is an ocean technology company that is set to revolutionize the ocean monitoring industry. It makes products that harvest power from ocean currents and communicates them wirelessly, thus providing reduced costs and risk for monitoring of oceans and waterways. Traditionally, boats must be used to change batteries on and download data from ocean sensors at great cost. SEAformatics’ patented technology uses a subsurface turbine that harvests power from ultra-low-speed ocean currents. The systems also enables real-time data communications so that data is immediately available. SEAformatics is seeking $750,000.
Shed is an on-demand household services platform, which means people can use the website to contact a range of service-providers to, for example, shovel snow, mow lawns or do home repairs. The company began last winter in Moncton with a snow removal function. It is now targeting three cities with 20 service providers. The site is designed with ease-of-use in mind, so homeowners can find a service provider within three minutes, seeing the price and customer reviews. Shed is hoping to raise $650,000.
Swell bills itself as AirBnB for moorings, docks and wharves. The company is developing an app that allows people with docks or mooring sites to connect with boaters looking to tie up their boat for a short period. CEO Iaian Archibald said the company will run a trial with the product with Waterfront Development Corporation in Halifax this weeks. It will also be used at six moorings and boat clubs within two weeks. In the winter, he plans to work with the product in the southern U.S. Whereas some competitors target major yacht clubs, Swell plans to work with small- and medium-sized locations. The company is seeking $200,000 in investment.
Yimbie helps local merchants communicate with their ideal customers when they are only steps away and most receptive. For the end-user, information is live and intelligent as Yimbie matches user preferences with merchant products/services within communities. The company is now raising $500,000.