Eigen Expanding in Auto Sector

Scott Everett: Used to getting on a plane and going to customers.

Scott Everett: Used to getting on a plane and going to customers.

Six years after he began dabbling in the Internet of Things space, Scott Everett is pushing his company Eigen Innovations aggressively into the automotive sector and courting investors. 

Everett is the CEO of Fredericton-based Eigen, which in the past few years has established itself as one of the leading Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT, companies in the region. The company uses artificial intelligence to help machines manage large amounts of data and improve their productivity.

Eigen began a few years ago to gain traction in the food-services business and has been gaining clients more recently in the automotive space – so much so that it now has an office in Windsor, Ont., just across the border from Detroit.

“There’s not a lot of clients in this space in New Brunswick so we’ve got used to jumping on a plane and going out to where the customers are,” Everett said at a reception in Halifax on Thursday night, when he was recognized as one of three Atlantic Canadian nominees for the Manning Awards.

Everett, along with the senior team at Dartmouth-based Spring Loaded Technology, and Mark Wood of Great Village, NS-based Ocean Sonics, will vie for prizes worth as much as $100,000 at the Manning Awards finals in November.

Eigen got its start at the University of New Brunswick when a team of researchers began working on algorithms the could help manufacturers improve production efficiency and reduce waste. They were working under the guidance of professor and co-founder Rickey Dubay, who still sits on the company’s board.

Kognitve Spark Vies for Microsoft Prize

As they developed their systems, they saw the commercial potential and thought of striking partnerships with corporate partners. Chris Mathis, then the CEO of university commercialization agency Springboard Atlantic, suggested they start their own company to develop a product. Soon, Everett was meeting with manufacturers in New Brunswick and learning how the Eigen algorithms could help them.

“We got engaged with the industrial companies in the area and it was a matter of being on the factory floors and seeing all the common problems that these companies shared,” said Everett.

After it graduated from a Propel ICT accelerator, Eigen gained early traction by working on a system that included heat-sensitive cameras to ensure food processing companies were using the right heat to cook food.

As it grew, it accrued a string of accolades. In late 2015, Eigen placed third at the Cisco Grand Innovation Challenge in Dubai, and shortly afterward raised $1.4 million in funding. In 2016, the company entered the Creative Destruction Lab in Toronto, becoming one of the companies to graduate from the program. It was an important period for Eigen because it was the first time it was working with a range of people who understood AI.

“The value of a program like CDL is you get in the room with people who don’t think you’re crazy and can say, ‘I get it and you should go see this friend of mine.’”

The experience in Toronto led to relationships with manufacturers in the auto industry, both large auto-makers and original equipment manufacturers. Today, the automotive and food sectors are the two main target markets for Eigen.

The company has doubled its staff to 25 people in the past year and Everett believes it could double again in the coming year. He is now raising capital, and the company wants to do more work in educating its clients’ workers to enhance machines’ ability to learn.

“We hear a lot about machines being able to learn,” he said. “But to learn better, sometimes you need a better teacher.”

Colin Deacon Appointed to Senate

Colin Deacon: Looking decidedly un-senatorial.

Colin Deacon: Looking decidedly un-senatorial.

Colin Deacon, who has led startups Bluelight Analytics and SpellRead, has been appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Prime Minister announced Friday that the Governor General appointed Deacon as an independent Senator to fill a vacancy in Nova Scotia.

Deacon was a Co-Founder and CEO of Halifax-based Bluelight Analytics, whose technology helps dentists ensure they are using the right amount of energy to cure the resin in fillings. He stepped down in September 2015 (succeeded by the current CEO J.P. Furey), and in April 2017 was named the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Startup Zone in Charlottetown.

Previously, Deacon had been the CEO of  Charlottetown-based SpellRead, a provider of evidence-based reading instruction that became one of Atlantic Canada’s fastest-growing companies. SpellRead was bought by American education company Kaplan in 2006.

"It is my pleasure to welcome Colin Deacon as Parliament's newest independent Senator,” said Trudeau in a statement Friday. “His experience as an entrepreneur and his commitment to serving those in need make him a great choice to represent the people of Nova Scotia."

The statement said that Deacon’s leadership in promoting technology start-ups and businesses has helped create new jobs and opportunities for people across Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada. He is a board member and Vice Chair of the Kids Brain Health Network and serves on the board of the Halifax Assistance Fund, which helps those in need in the community.

Deacon was recommended by the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments and chosen using the merit-based process open to all Canadians, said the statement. This process is intended to ensure Senators are independent, reflect Canada's diversity, and are able to tackle the broad range of challenges and opportunities facing the country.

Deacon lives in Nova Scotia and through his career has worked as a broker and commercialized technology that led to the creation of new job opportunities for Atlantic Canadians.

Huskilson Lauds Ecosystem Growth

Chris Huskilson

Chris Huskilson

Chris Huskilson on Thursday evening showcased the recent improvements in the innovation ecosystem supported by Emera, the company he ran for 14 years.

Huskilson, who retired as the CEO of the Halifax-based energy company in March, was the keynote speaker at the reception for the three Atlantic Canadian nominees for the Manning Awards.   They will be considered for the national awards at a gala in Toronto in November. The Manning Awards will present winners with four cash prizes, ranging from the $100,000 Principal Award to $10,000 Innovation Awards.

The regional nominees for the Manning Awards are: Mark Woods, CEO of Ocean Sonics of Great Village; Chris Cowper-Smith, Bob Garrish, and Stephen Fitzgerald of Spring Loaded Technology of Dartmouth; and Scott Everett of Eigen Innovation of Fredericton.

Huskilson’s speech touched on the initiatives he’s been involved in that have strengthened the ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship in Halifax and the Atlantic Region.  These include the Regional Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program, or REAP, the Idea Lab at Dalhousie University and the creation of the Ocean Supercluster.

“The Ocean Supercluster will generate $300 million in investment in the next five years,” said Huskilson. “That funding will change the capacity for innovation in the region.”

Huskilson has had a hand in all these initiatives and told the gathering that they are helping to change attitudes and improve the region’s ability to launch and develop new companies.

For example, he was one of the Nova Scotians who participated in REAP, a program of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that helps regions improve their startup ecosystems. The result of the REAP team’s work can be seen in the province committing $2.25 million to Volta last December and the development of the Ocean Supercluster.

Under Huskilson’s leadership, Emera also supported such initiatives as the Idea project at Dalhousie University, where engineering students will learn to convert their ideas into businesses. It has also built Halifax’s Discover Centre into its corporate headquarters.

Huskilson, who is also a fellow at the Creative Destruction Lab Atlantic, said all these organizations are changing the environment for business development in the region and helping the evolution of attitudes.

 “Once these changes happen, we’ll have a change in the mindset and a change in the economy and that will make this an even better place to live.”

Job of the Week: Innovacorp

Innovacorp’s posting for a Vice President of Investment is our one job in our Jobs of the Week column today.

The Nova Scotian venture capital and innovation agency aims to help startups commercialize technologies for the global market. Current Innovacorp companies include Appili Therapeutics, Prospify and Dash Hudson.

The Halifax-based organization also boosts early-stage technologies with the Spark Innovation Challenge. Early-stage investment is the core of Innovacorp’s business model so it’s looking for someone with at least 10 years of experience in the venture capital industry.

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 startup communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.

Here is an excerpt from the posting:

Halifax, NS


Vice President of Investment

Reporting to the President and CEO, the Vice President of Investment leads Innovacorp’s venture capital activity and team of investment professionals, overseeing the risk capital commitments for opportunities that offer the best potential for market success and return on investment. Innovacorp’s investment objectives seek to align Nova Scotia's risk capital environment with that of other jurisdictions... 


  • The organization leads the way in investing in high-potential pre-seed and seed venture-grade opportunities, securing private sector co-investment and fostering conditions that position entrepreneurs for success.
  • As the ideal candidate, you have at least 10 years’ experience in the venture capital industry, managing successful investments in technology sectors with multiple exits under your belt. A skilled mentor with a ‘player-coach’ leadership style, you have proven experience leading a highly driven and capable investment team

Apply for the job here.

Kognitiv Spark Vies for Microsoft Prize

Kognitiv Spark, one of the hottest new tech startups in Atlantic Canada, has been named a finalist by Microsoft Canada for the tech giant’s 2018 Impact Awards.

Fredericton-based Kognitive Spark, which uses augmented reality to help workers in remote locations, said Wednesday the company has been named a finalist in the Innovation with Hardware category. The winners will be named at a ceremony in Las Vegas in July.

T4G, a Toronto-based company with large offices in Saint John, Moncton and Halifax, was also nominated for two awards – in the Data and AI Innovation category, as well as Industry Innovation for Manufacturing, Retail, or Financial Services.

In an email, Kognitiv Spark CEO Yan Simard said: “For our team, the Microsoft Impact Award nomination is a significant recognition of all the hard work done in building a product that makes a real difference for industrial field work operations and bringing it to market. We are thrilled to have established such a quality partnership with Microsoft and look forward to see it grow even stronger over the coming months.”

Kognitive Spark only launched its product last year, and months ago said it had already booked more than $1 million in sales. It has also closed a round of funding – the full amount was not disclosed – that included a $200,000 investment from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. The company in the past couple of months has graduated from two different tech accelerators – the Creative Destruction Lab Atlantic in Halifax and the Plug and Play accelerator in Silicon Valley.

What Kognitiv Spark does is assist industrial companies and other clients in helping workers in remote locations understand how to use or repair complicated machinery.

Goldcorp Bets US$1M on Newfoundland's Acoustic Zoom

Founded by Ryan Groom and Duncan McSporran, the technology uses Microsoft’s HoloLens holographic visualization headset to help an instructor in head office show the remote worker the details of the machinery.

For example, if a soldier or worker in a remote location encounters a problem with heavy equipment and has to fix it himself, he can contact an expert back at home base. Donning the headset, he can still see the real equipment but he can also see a holographic image of the piece of gear floating beside it. The expert at home, also wearing a headset, can use the holographic image to show the remote staff member how to fix the equipment. The expert can draw arrows on the image to show the worker precisely what part they are discussing.

Simard has said the company is now accelerating its sales efforts and earlier this year added to its sales force. Going through Plug and Play helped it to increase its exposure in California and meet with a range of potential customers and investors.

Simard said the experience “helped to crystalize our global sales expansion strategy. Kognitiv Spark is rapidly expanding its footprint in North America.”

Startups Join Dal’s LaunchPad

Eleven companies will take part in LaunchDal's 10-week program

Eleven companies will take part in LaunchDal's 10-week program

LaunchDal  has accepted  a diverse range of early-stage companies into this summer's LaunchPad Accelerator. The 10-week program provides each team with $10,000 and the resources to launch and grow their ventures.

Offered by the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship at Dalhousie University, the program is now in its fifth year.

“Being accepted into the Launch Pad Accelerator means validation,” said Michael Boyd the Founder of Podcast Atlantic. “It means that this idea has merit and that there is keen interest, and I look forward to working with other entrepreneurs and to being mentored by the business persons I will meet over the next 10 weeks.”

Past graduates of the LaunchPad accelerator include Graphene Innovations & Technologies, Axem Neurotech, and TripNinja.

The program has helped launch over 100 ventures which have produced nearly 800 jobs and have raised $20 million over the past five years. 

The 2018 companies are:

Tranquility Online

A Software-as-a-Service mental health solution that uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy on a platform that is affordable, timely, stigma-free, personal and accessible. Users will be able to schedule sessions with coaches trained in CBT. Tranquility Online was also a pitching company at the Volta Cohort.

I0bIO Inc.

Automation experts at IObIO Inc have partnered with clinical research to build a medical data capturing platform (called the BioBox), for a wide range of applications. One specific focus is the disruption of the clinical auditory diagnosis space.IObIO hopes to make an impact in bio-electrical diagnosis and assessment sectors. Read our previous coverage on IObIO.

ColourSmith Labs

ColourSmith Labs is creating the world’s first contact lenses that saturate colours, allowing users to unlock a new level of beauty and utility in vision. ColourSmith Labs will implement the technology of sunglasses already on the market into their contact lenses to conceal the fact that individuals are treating a vision condition. The contact lenses will be available to customers via a monthly subscription at an affordable price point. ColourSmith won $25,000 at the Volta Cohort last month.


This company is making an automated brace that uses electrical stimulation to help retrain muscles for individuals who have experienced a stroke. The goal is to create a slim and elegant brace to help restore confidence, independence and mobility to stroke survivors. The sleeve will contain built in sensors to sense muscle activity that can then stimulate the muscles using safe levels of electric current. This method is highly researched and found to be very effective in stroke rehabilitation and pain management.


Inspired by deficiencies in the mining industry and offshore drilling processes, Kavi Technology works to improve the accuracy of detecting materials brought to the surface using visual recognition and machine learning technology. Kavi Technology will provide efficiencies and cost savings for the mining industry that result in improved prediction of incidence of minerals, oil, and gas concentration.

Room Service

A growing online convenience store serving a large portion of HRM. Room Service will offer quick delivery of products you would find at a traditional convenience store such as ice cream, snacks, frozen meals and milk, as well as supplies for coffee shops and small businesses.


An Internet company working on making it possible for customers to shop locally online in a faster and cheaper way. iLokol will provide services to Chinese newcomers to help them adapt to life in Halifax better and faster, and work with service providers in the city by allowing them to open their virtual stores on the iLokol app for free.


Aurea is creating a wind turbine system designed for the natural wind tunnels around high rises. The system can be retrofitted onto existing structures or installed during construction and, when paired with an energy storage system, has the potential to run a building entirely off-grid. Read about our previous coverage of Aurea.

(Disclosure: Cat Adalay, the CEO of Aurea, is the daughter of Entrevestor's owners.)


Speakr is a digital platform that uses face recognition and machine learning technologies to help people communicate more effectively. The platform analyzes an individual’s voice and provides feedback based on data to help improve speaking skills.

Podcast Atlantic

A directory of Atlantic Canadian produced podcasts and a production company for those looking for a simple solution to creating their own podcast. Podcast Atlantic will act as a tool for collaboration in connecting podcasts across the region, an avenue for sponsorship, and a one stop shop for anyone looking to launch, produce or promote a podcast in Atlantic Canada.

Disclosure: Dalhousie University is a client of Entrevestor.

Region on Pace for Funding Record

As we approach the halfway point of 2018, it may be time to take a look on how fundraising by Atlantic Canadian startups has gone in the first half of the year.

Quick answer: Really good.

I posted on the Entrevestor Facebook page a few weeks ago that I believed equity funding for 2018 was already approaching about $45 million to $50 million. As we coast toward the Canada Day weekend, I realize I have understated the figure. It’s probably closer to $60 or $70 million.

Check out what Canada’s Venture Capital & Private Equity Association, or CVCA, said in its first-quarter venture capital data report, which it posted last month. (Go to Page 7 of this report) It’s showing a strong surge in investment in Atlantic Canadian funding.

CVCA Data on Atlantic Canadian VC Funding in Q1 2018
Province No. of Deals Value of Deals
NB 7 $7M
NL 4 $1M
NS 7 $38M
PEI 1 $1M
Total 19 $47M

Forty-seven million dollars.

Please remember, that this data applies only to the first quarter, and there are three things that put this performance into perspective. First, in the first quarter of 2017, there were 13 venture capital deals worth $8 million in Atlantic Canada. So we’ve had an improvement of almost 500 percent in one year. Second, the CVCA reported a total of $99 million in Atlantic Canadian VC deals for all of 2017, so we reached about half that level in the first quarter this year. And third, the CVCA said first-quarter VC funding in the Prairie Provinces amounted to six deals totaling $15 million. Piddly little Atlantic Canada tripled the funding of the Prairies.

It was the best quarter of VC investment ever in Atlantic Canada by a long-shot. The funding parade hasn’t slowed down noticeably in the second quarter. In May, Fredericton-based Resson announced it raised $14 million in funding, the largest deal announced publicly this year.

Just in the past week, we’ve reported two deals totaling $1.8 million: US$1 million (C$1.3 million) by Paradise, NL-based Acoustic Zoom;  and $500,000 by Fredericton-based Stash Energy.  We know of a few other deals in the works, which we’ll be reporting on soon.

Nailing down the specifics in the impressive funding deals in Nova Scotia in the first quarter won’t be easy. There were two announced deals in Halifax that are known to be significant but the amounts haven’t been publicly disclosed: Proposify raised money from investors John Risley and Brendan Paddick; and TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture received investment from McCain Foods.  There are two other major deals we’ve heard of, though the CEOs declined to discuss them.

It’s difficult to believe that 2018 won’t be a record year for equity funding in in the region. At Entrevestor, we’ve just finished analyzing our data for 2017 and found last year was a record year for funding. (We had a higher number than the $99 million reported by the CVCA, even though the national group included some New Brunswick deals that we weren’t told about.) 

When we surveyed Atlantic Canadian companies earlier this year, 95 of them told us they were working on funding rounds, and their total target was $134 million. Four companies were targeting rounds of $10 million. And we get survey responses from only about one-third of the total startup community in the region.

There are some big deals coming in this year.

Hydrotroniks seeks investments

Scott Aucoin presenting at the Volta Cohort in May. (Photo: Riley Smith)

Scott Aucoin presenting at the Volta Cohort in May. (Photo: Riley Smith)

Hydrotroniks is a clean-tech company nestled along the Cabot Trail in Cheticamp, Cape Breton. This company, which is made up of engineers, designers and environmental engineers, aims to create solutions for a more efficient and eco-friendly fishing industry.

Its team is developing environmentally sustainable solutions for small to medium size boats. The company was founded in 2016, with the goal of modernizing the fishing industry by retrofitting vessels with electric drives and other innovations.

Hydrotroniks has built and tested small-scale prototypes of its solutions but it is yet to conduct a full-scale product trial in the ocean.

“It’s investment really, that’s our number one barrier,” said Scott Aucoin, Hydrotronics’ director of product design.  

“The project makes sense in terms of a lot of the provincial and federal funders and it makes sense to do it here but we need to get that one angel investor that’s willing to take a chance and see what we can do.”

Aucoin pitched at the Volta Cohort event in May but did not end up with the $25,000 investment. In 2017, the company received investments of a little over $80,000 from the NRC and Innovacorp’s Spark Innovation challenge.  

The team has been doing market research for a little over two years. 

Aucoin said the electric engines Hydrotroniks would install run at 90 percent energy efficiency as opposed to the current diesel engines which run at 30 or 45 percent efficiency. Current diesel fuel engines also cost well over $50,000 and use nearly $300 of gas per day.

He said Cape Breton is really the ideal place for the company to be located and the local fishing community has been receptive to their ideas.

“One of their major costs is diesel fuel,” said Aucoin “These engines consume a lot of fuel and they are noisy and smelly and, at the end of the day, if we can provide them with a viable piece of technology that could replace that, they’d be willing to take a long hard look at it and make those replacements.”

He continued: “We aren’t necessarily worried about getting the support from (fishers). They see the value added in having a more environmentally friendly product but then also in just the costs saved over time.”

Aucion said they are looking into ways to improve propulsion systems. And after years of data collection on the water, they have discovered efficiencies that could decrease drag and traction.

They’ve built prototypes and IP for propeller control, which would make vessels run more smoothly but they need a boat to conduct tests on. The next hurdle for Hydrotroniks is raising the funds.

“For us right now that’s a major barrier,” said Aucoin. “I know I can’t fund the building of a prototype for much longer so at this point we really need that investor or someone with a bit more money to come in and help out.”

Stash Energy Closes $500K Round

Jordan Kennie, right, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Paris.

Jordan Kennie, right, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Paris.

Fredericton-based CleanTech company Stash Energy has raised about $500,000 in equity investment from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and Island Capital Partners.

The funding will help the company prepare for a full launch of its Stash M1 Comfort System in 2019. It is now carrying out three pilot projects with the system in P.E.I., and is eyeing international markets through recent work in Colorado and Europe.

Last year, Stash Energy raised $200,000 from NBIF, which is now making its second investment worth $250,000 in the company. Island Capital, the Charlottetown-based investment fund, is investing $255,000 in its first investment in Stash.

“We are launching our product in early 2019 and looking at the P.E.I and New Brunswick markets first," said CEO Jordan Kennie in an interview.  “Our sales goal for the end of 2019 is 250 units but we’re also working with Hydro Ottawa so we’re also looking at the Ontario market and then growing from there.”

Stash Energy has developed a system that works with conventional residential heat pumps to store energy for later use. Companies around the world are working on energy storage systems so that consumers can store electricity from the grid during inexpensive, off-peak hours and use stored energy when demand is highest.

The Stash M1 comfort system is the company’s second-generation product, and Stash believes it will be the most cost-effective and energy-efficient heating and cooling solution on the market when it is launched next year. 

“Clean energy is an urgent priority across the globe, and we are incredibly proud to support a local and very competitive solution,” said NBIF Director of Investments Ray Fitzpatrick in a statement. “After competing in our 2017 Breakthru competition, they’ve made tremendous strides to become leaders in this industry.”

NBIF Leads Avrij's $1.2M Funding Round

Stash Energy got its start in the Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship program at University of New Brunswick, where Kennie, COO Daniel Larson, and CTO Erik Hatfield were students. The trio has been working with the City of Summerside since inception to beta test the M1 system.

 “We were attracted to this opportunity by the maturity of their business plans, coupled with the strength of the three founders, one of whom is a native Islander,” said ICP Investment Director Paul Lypaczewski. “Having prototyped their solution in close collaboration with the City of Summerside, they are now ready to expand their team and begin full-fledged production working with Maritime Geothermal, our region’s premier manufacturer of sustainable energy systems.”

More recently, the company has attended the federal government’s Canadian Technology Accelerator in Colorado. In the spring, Kennie also traveled to Paris, joining a trade mission organized by the Canadian Trade Commission Service for artificial intelligence and CleanTech companies. The trip was successful enough in building relationships that Kennie is planning to return in the summer of 2018.

“The experience was incredible because we had no idea of how to enter an export market,” said Kennie. “It almost feels like you’re starting from scratch. They really helped us get those first contacts at the power companies in France and in Europe in general.”

He also got a chance to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a reception at the Canadian Embassy, which he enjoyed.

“You don’t often have the opportunity to have a conversation with the leader of your country and talk about your ambitions, your passion and your business.”

Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.

Global Vision’s Youngest Junior Ambassador

Connor Kirby, 15, preps for his trip to China in July

Connor Kirby, 15, preps for his trip to China in July

For its annual trip to China, Global Vision Junior Team Canada selected 35 student ambassadors to represent businesses from their regions of the country. This year, JTC recruited its youngest ever ambassador, 15-year-old Connor Kirby from the St. Margaret’s Bay area in Halifax.

“I am overjoyed that I got accepted for it,” said Kirby in an interview.  “I did not think I was actually going to make it this year. Being the youngest person to ever apply for this, I figured I was kind of going out on a limb here, so I am beyond excited.”

The trip is scheduled for July 25. But, in order to go, Kirby is required to raise $6,000 through sponsorships from local companies, businesses and community members. You can donate to Kirby's trip here

To date, Kirby has crowd-funded $2,500 and is working his way down his contact list to form partnerships with Nova Scotian businesses.

“It’s a long list of companies,” said Kirby. “I plan to reach out to contacts I already have in the tech sector plus cold calling companies in the general Nova Scotia area.”

As a Junior Ambassador, Kirby’s role is to endorse and promote the companies that sponsor him on his journey. He will meet with Chinese youth, business leaders and politicians to discuss global issues and strengthen relationships between the two countries.

Kirby said he aims to partner with companies in the Atlantic tech sector and promote the growth of Nova Scotia’s digital industry. He said he’d like to represent Nova Scotian companies like Nautel, Fundmetric and LED Roadway Lighting.

“I also have to meet with these companies to understand what they're selling, what they want from me and how I can represent them when I’m in China so their time and money isn’t wasted on me,” said Kirby.

Through JTC’s partnerships with the Embassy of Canada, the Canada-China Business Council and other in-market partners, Kirby can engage with Chinese industry, government, education and youth leaders in order to obtain market intelligence and key contacts for his Canadian partners back home.

Before July, the ninth-grader aims to partner with 10 or 15 Atlantic companies. Currently he has no businesses officially sponsoring him but that's really due to timing.  

Between scheduling meetings with CEOs, learning common phrases in Mandarin, and crowd-sourcing funds for what he calls a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Kirby is writing four exams this week as he ends his career as a junior high student.

“I’m finding a way to manage sports, school and business,” said Kirby, who also does track-and-field and jiu jitsu.

In 2017, Kirby presented his venture,Velox, at Volta Labs and Dalhousie’s Collide Program, earning around $1,500 in winnings. For now, Kirby is tabling that business and is focusing on his new role with Global Vision.

Said Kirby: “I’m hoping as soon as exams are done I can start meeting with people back-to-back in order to finish raising this money.”


Disclosure: Connor Kirby is a family friend of the owners of Entrevestor. 

Goldcorp Bets US$1M on Acoustic Zoom

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

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

Acoustic Zoom, a Newfoundland company that provides seismic solutions for miners, has closed a US$1 million investment from Goldcorp Inc. and will now undertake a US$150,000 pilot program at a Goldcorp mine.

In the past year, the company has twice competed in the #DisruptMining pitching competition in Toronto, which is a Dragons’ Den-style pitching event for startups in the mining space. Acoustic Zoom was a semi-finalist in 2017, and came back to win the event this year.

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

 “It seems like yesterday we were gathered in Toronto to experience the pitch-off between the four finalists at #DisruptMining, the mining industry’s innovation accelerator,” said Goldcorp Vice-President Luis Canepari in a post on LinkedIn. Though other finalists impressed the judges, he said, Acoustic Zoom “ultimately emerged victorious and earned the opportunity to negotiate a deal with us. We’re excited to announce that we recently closed a US$1 million investment with Acoustic Zoom.”

#Disrupt Mining is an annual competition organized by Goldcorp in Toronto that aims to encourage startups that develop new technology for the often-staid world of mining. The competition attracted more than 100 submissions this year from mining-related innovators around the world, and the first-place finish led to the investment by Vancouver-based Goldcorp.

As part of the funding, which is equivalent to C$1.3 million, Goldcorp Director of Geophysics Sergio Espinosa will join Acoustic Zoom’s board of directors. The Newfoundland company this summer will launch its pilot program at Goldcorp’s Red Lake Gold Mines in Ontario, not far from the Manitoba border.

After Nine Years, Labrador's Skizee Is Ready To Take Orders

The pilot project will use Acoustic Zoom’s technology, which employs its own proprietary seismic imaging to get a more precise demonstration of what’s below the surface. Its AZ Seismic Imaging uses what it calls “steerable pencil acoustic beams” rather than broader conventional seismic beams to provide a more detailed presentation of mineral formations.

Established in 2012 as a joint venture between St. John’s- and Aberdeen, Scotland-based PanGeo Subsea and Missouri City, Texas-based Global Geophysical Services, Acoustic Zoom has left its development phase and is emerging into the commercial arena. It is headed by geophysicist Jacques Guigné and now has a staff of eight people.

“#DisruptMining completely accelerated our business,” said Guigné in a statement.  “The strength of our approach is the ability to adapt our imaging techniques to the requirements of a particular site. Working with Goldcorp’s geologists, we will use our winning seismic technology to deliver unique imaging data that adds risk-mitigating value from exploration to mine planning.”

In an email, Guigné added that winning the pitching competition has helped to attract other mining companies interested in the technology.

“This recognition underscores the fact Atlantic Canada innovation can compete internationally and help groups improve the understanding of their mine site,” he said. “The global exposure from our win at #DisruptMining2018 has brought several high-level export markets to our doorstep, including mines in Australia, Argentina, USA and of course elsewhere in Canada."

My First Novel is Out Next Month

I am delighted to announce that my first novel The Haight will be published next month and is now available for pre-order.

Those of you who have got to know us over the past few years know that Carol and I suffer from a rather dismal addiction – writing books. We’ve both published a few and this is my first novel, a murder mystery set in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district in 1968. I call it a whodunnit with hippies.

In early June 1968, the Summer of Love was long past and heroin was becoming the drug of choice on Haight-Ashbury. When a young artist called John Blakely died, his friends thought he’d over-dosed, but the autopsy showed his heroin had been cut with silver cyanide.

When Lieutenant Jimmy Spracklin learned of the murder, he took the case himself. As the head of the SFPD’s Bureau of Inspectors, Spracklin could have handed it off. But he was drawn to Haight-Ashbury. A year earlier, his 16-year-old step-daughter Marie had run away to the Haight. He’d searched for her every spare moment and investigating the Blakely murder would allow him to devote more time to the search for his missing child. 

The Haight is the story of the investigation into Blakely’s death, and Spracklin’s search for his beloved Marie. The response to the book so far has been great. I’m thrilled with the pre-sales my publisher Roger Williams has generated in the San Francisco area.

Interested? Want to know more? Then follow my author’s page on Facebook by clicking here. I’m going to be blogging through the summer. If you’re interested in the era, the story, classic rock and crime fiction, you’ll find something to interest you. Better still, you can order the book on Amazon here. You’ll probably receive the book in July – just in time to take it to the beach.

AVSS in National Drone Research

New Brunswick and Ottawa-based AVSS (Aerial Vehicle Safety Solutions) has announced it is supplying key innovations for Canada Post’s Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Proof of Concept Trials.

AVSS is collaborating with Canada Post to demonstrate the benefits of using drone technology for parcel and medical delivery.

Founded by Josh Ogden of Rothesay, NB, and Josh Boudreau of Ottawa, AVSS is developing hardware and software to improve the safety of autonomous aircraft, or drones. The duo have produced the Connected Recovery System, which is like a black box for drones. It is connected to a parachute and can deploy if the system senses trouble.

“This company started with the question of what happens when a UAV (Unmanned Ariel Vehicle) crashes,” Ogden told entrevestor in an earlier interview.

“We’re putting all these devices in the air, but there are no safety standards yet. … The industry is moving so fast that regulators are having trouble keeping up with performance standards.”

During the newly announced trials, Canada Post, Transport Canada, InDro Robotics, and other industry innovators will gather data, test systems and evaluate pilot performance to develop regulations for BVLOS operations.

“By incorporating the Connected Recovery System hardware and Command Centre software in this trial project, Canada Post is demonstrating the importance of proactive planning and industry collaboration as the industry matures,” said Ogden.

In a statement, Transport and Infrastructure Canada said that BVLOS drone operations will unlock the commercial potential of the industry, with future applications in long-range infrastructure inspections, precision agriculture, delivery solutions, public safety, and, eventually, public transportation. 

Despite only starting operations in 2017, AVSS has already closed a small funding round and has partnered with the Institute of Drone Technology in Australia to design, build and distribute its Connected Recovery system.

Job of the Week: NBIF

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation is our lone Job of the Week today.

The non-profit seeks a new Director of Research to help manage its growing portfolio of investments. The candidate must have a graduate degree from a recognized university program that ideally involved a research requirement, at least 10 years of relevant work experience and be fluent in both French and English. 

The NBIF is an independent organization that fosters innovation and research in the region. Since 2003, the organization has invested over $85 million into innovative New Brunswick companies. Last month it announced the province's commitment to invest $53.5 million into New Brunswick innovation.

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 startup communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.

Here is an excerpt from the posting:

Fredericton, NB


Director of Research

We are looking for a Director of Research to join our organization. This individual will play a leading role in managing our ever-growing portfolio of research investments, managing our various funding programs in support of applied research and talent development, managing and developing our research team, and realizing sustainable results and outcomes…


  • Develop and implement strategy for the NBIF's research investment activities in support of the organization's mandate and shared vision
  • Actively manage and support NBIF's research and talent development funding programs and oversee its portfolio of research investments with a focus on results and outcomes
  • Manage the evaluation process for research funding applications, including preparing and presenting recommendations as well as organizing and assisting evaluation committees
  • Develop and maintain trusted relationships with key stakeholders within the research community
  • Proactively work with researchers to assist with commercializing their research outcomes…

Apply for the job here.

After 9 Years, Skizee Ready for Orders

Almost a decade after its first prototype drew national media attention, Roshell Industries is bringing its motorized ski accessory to the market.

Originally from Labrador, Roshell is the maker of the Skizee Woodsrunner, a motorized accessory that propels skiers through and over the snow. It’s been nearly a decade since the first prototype was built and it’s now available for preorder.

This is the first Labrador-born venture that Entrevestor has reported on. The company started in Happy Valley-Goose Bay but is currently operating out of The Genesis Centre at Memorial University in St. John’s. 

“We hope to return home but in this phase of company development being in St John’s is the best place for us to be,” said the company’s CEO Donna Paddon in an interview.

“This is not a typical product and it’s not a typical business,” she said.  “When you talk about developing new technology, there is this whole curve of how are you going to get it to the marketplace. And as good as social media reach is, it’s very difficult to do that when you’re in a far northern region.”

The story of Roshell began when 14-year-old Jim Maidment, now the company’s CTO, cooked up the idea for a machine that would push him on skies up steep hills. At the time, the chairlift at his local ski hill was broken and he conceived of a machine that would propel a skier up and over difficult terrain. He invented the Skizee and has been testing the machine for six winters now.

“It was a childhood dream of being able to fly across the snow,” said Paddon.

In 2009, Maidment built his first prototype and had it featured in Popular Mechanics magazine and on the Discovery Channel. This caused a stir and Maidment received thousands of inquiries about his machine. But he was nowhere near ready to bring it to market. 

Then, in 2015, Paddon joined Roshell and turned Maidment’s invention into a real business. The product pre-released this week is much more sleek and user-friendly than the initial prototype. It weighs a little over 100 pounds.

“It will fit in the trunk of a car,” Paddon said.

In terms of funding, the company has received almost $40,000. The money came from the Newfoundland government, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Genesis Centre and The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries.

Roshell is tackling three markets with the Skizee. There is the consumer market of rural winter explorers, industries like search and rescue or military applications, and business-to-business with ski resorts and lodges.

And yes, the Skizee has a ton of safety features. It won’t shred your ankles if you fall. The machine stops if users let go of the handle, which is the throttle, and there is also a lock and key safety feature.

“I’d rather fall using the Skizee Woodsrunner than I would on the snowmobiles these days,” said Paddon. 

“And this is not lazy skiing. Like any outdoor activity, it has significant health benefits. I found when I used it, it really worked my legs and my core.”

The Skizee Woodsrunner is available for preorder online at skizee.ca for $3,799.

Regional Startup Canada Winners

All the winners from the regional Startup Canada Awards

All the winners from the regional Startup Canada Awards

Startup Canada last night announced 10 regional winners of its fifth annual Startup Canada Awards event. Held in Miramichi, N.B., the event celebrated the achievements of Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs, businesses and support organizations.

Winners included respected members of the community such as Dawn Jutla, the CEO and President of Peer Ledger in Halifax, who won the Woman Entrepreneur Award.

ProcedureFlow from Saint John took the Innovation award, and TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture in Halifax won the high-growth award. The Entrepreneur of the Year was Lisa WIlliams, founder of Unicare Home Health Care. 

“These winners represent the very essence of entrepreneurship," said Victoria Lennox, Co-Founder and CEO of Startup Canada.

The competition isn’t over yet.  Last night’s winners will be evaluated by the National Adjudication Committee, which is made up of Canadian entrepreneurship and industry experts. Those results will determine the winners of the national Startup Canada Awards.

The national winners will be celebrated at the Startup Canada Awards Grand Finale in Ottawa on October 18, following Startup Canada Day on the Hill.

Startup Canada, is  the national organization  for Canadian entrepreneurs, and startups. Since its start in 2012, the non-profit has represented over 200,000 entrepreneurs and 50 grassroots communities from across Canada.

This region's winners were:

Entrepreneur’s Choice Award - Hannah Bell, MLA, Charlottetown/ Parkdale.

Entrepreneur Promotion Award - Cynthia Dorrington, President, Vale & Associates.

Entrepreneur Support Award- The Ville Cooperative.

Global Entrepreneurship Award - Boss Gibson Oyster Company.

Innovation Award - ProcedureFlow. This company helps call centres improve their operational efficiency. It recently won the “Series A Track”  at the Fundica Roadshow’s Montreal pitching session and will move on to the Fundica national finals in July to potentially win an investment of $500,000.

Social Enterprise Award - PLATO Testing. This software testing firm recently won a first place $5,000 cash prize at the 2018 JEDI Indigenous Business Pitch Competition.

High-Growth Award - TruLeaf. The company specializes in indoor farming, growing greens in stacked trays under LED ligts. In April, McCain Foods made an investment in TruLeaf but did not reveal the dollar amount. It was the only investor in the funding round.

Woman Entrepreneur Award - Dawn Jutla, CEO & President of company Peer Ledger, a blockchain solution company. Jutla was also a driving force behind the development of the  Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at St. Mary's University. 

Young Entrepreneur Award - Cameron Ritchie, Founder & CEO, HomeWurk.

Entrepreneur of the Year Award - Lisa Williams, CEO, Unicare Home Health Care Inc. Williams recently completed the PropelICT Launch program and is developing a digital solution for seniors to communicate with their caretakers.

Spark Shortlist Announced

Innovacorp has named the companies that have made the shortlist for this year's Spark Innovation Challenge, the province-wide contest for early-stage technologies companies. 

Judges in four regions reviewed 122 Spark submissions to come up with the shortlist below.  Winners, who will be announced next month, could win up to $50,000 and guidance from seasoned business professionals.


Climate ChangeBack Technologies Group – Rob MacKenzie – Sydney
Tidal power technology using a new energy storage design

Commlet – Patsy Leadbeater – Sydney 
Technology to monitor students exploring outdoor learning environments

ContribuTAP – Douglas MacLennan – Sydney 
Digital fundraising tool allowing instant donations

EasyFit – Mykola Kushnir – Sydney 
Virtual fitting room to enhance and simplify online shopping experiences

Honeycomb Technologies – Karen Gillis, Ian McVicar – Sydney 
Mobile data-capturing system to collect and process customized health information for health professionals

MINDSENTINEL – Dave Johnson – North Sydney
Mobile app for alerting users of potential increased risk of mental illness

TrAIner – Shea Munro, Krysta MacIntosh – Sydney 
Mobile app to help optimize user’s movements when exercising or recovering from injury

VMOpro – Matthew T. Gillis – River Ryan
Exercise and monitoring tool for knee rehabilitation, at home and in physiotherapy settings


Acoubit Communications – Colin Ross – Dartmouth 
Acoustic data communications technology for ocean management and monitoring

BlueNode – Louis Beaubien, Grant Wells, Mike Smit – Halifax 
Technology to improve supply chain efficiency in the ocean sector by helping organizations use data

Clockk – Paul Doerwald – Halifax 
Time sheet automation tool to make agencies more profitable

ColourSmith Labs – Gabrielle Masone – Halifax 
Direct-to-consumer contact lenses reducing red-green colour blindness and saturating colours

Eadie Technologies – Brennan Eadie, Frank R. Eadie – Halifax 
Wearable visual field testing device for eye clinics

GreyLit – Cora Cole – Halifax 
Online publishing company for front-line health research and information

inspo – Peter Wünsch, Brian Jeffcock – Halifax 
Technology allowing users to store, organize and compare ideas

Panag Pharma – Chris MacLean, Bill Cheliak – Halifax
Cannabinoid-based formulations for treating pain and inflammation

Reach Orthopaedics – David G. Johnston – Halifax 
Orthopedic shoulder implant for patients with chronic pain

Speakr – Lee Babin – Halifax 
Digital platform for helping people communicate more effectively


Ashored Innovations – Aaron Stevenson, Ross Arsenault, Maxwell Poole – Debert 
Buoy systems to protect endangered marine life and collect data to increase fisher efficiency

Eggcitables – Hannah Chisholm – Heatherton 
Plant-based egg alternative

Lamina Wood – Melanie Hobbs, Brent Thornhill, Steve Brogan – Debert 
Sustainably sourced, pre-engineered mass timber building system

UpCurrent Technologies – Joel Albert, Julien Albert – Truro
Technology to reprocess byproducts from marine resources into high value added products


Deep Cryogenics International – Jack Cahn, Linda Williams – Blandford 
Technology to reduce wear and corrosion on industrial, oil and gas, aerospace and marine items using a cold thermal process

Sedna Technologies – Sheamus MacDonald, Aleksandr Stabenow – West Dublin 
Solutions to reduce waste, mortality and product-integrity issues in the global seafood supply chain

Oakleaf Crane & Inspection Services – Gary LeBlanc, Vince Stuart – Church Point 
Automated lifting device for lobster fishing vessels to reduce crew fatigue

Real Estate Dot Love – Catharine MacIntosh – Wolfville
Social platform connecting consumers in the real estate market with friends, agents and properties

Tactical Acuity – Shawn Adams – Digby
Technology to track, position and map soldiers on the battlefield

Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor. 

Our Data Shows Startups Outperform When Working With Universities

The 2018 Summer Institute at UNB: one of several entrepreneurship programs at Atlantic Canadian universities

The 2018 Summer Institute at UNB: one of several entrepreneurship programs at Atlantic Canadian universities

Sponsored Content

When analyzing our data on the Atlantic Canadian startup community over the past few years, we’ve noticed that startups that collaborate with post-secondary institutions outperform the broader community. Once again, with our study of companies in 2017, we have found that innovation companies working with universities (and in a few cases with communities colleges) have stronger revenue growth and raise more capital than others in the community. The university-affiliated companies aren't quite as strong in terms of employment growth, but it is strong nonetheless.

Each year, Entrevestor collects and analyzes data from interviews and surveys with Atlantic Canadian startups, and we’ve just completed our report on the community in 2017. This year, we’re working with some groups that support our research to produce articles that explore key aspects of the ecosystem. Today, Springboard Atlantic has asked us to look at the performance of startups and high-growth companies that work with universities and colleges.

The relationships between these institutions and startups take several forms. Some startups grow out of research conducted at universities. Others (especially life sciences companies) work out of the institutions’ facilities. Others may have come up through university programs, like Launch Dal at Dalhousie University, the Genesis Centre at Memorial University, or the Technology, Management & Entrepreneurship program at University of New Brunswick.

We found that 134 startups and high-growth companies – more than one-quarter of the total startup community on the East Coast – have some form of relationship with post-secondary institutions. And these 134 companies are growing strongly.

Several companies working with universities shared their revenue data with us, and in total these companies doubled revenues in 2018. This means they outperform the broader community by about one-third in terms of sales growth. The revenue growth is strong in part because several of these companies that work with universities are reporting revenue for the first time.

In terms of attracting equity investment, these companies raised a total of $51.7 million in 2017 – about 45 percent of the total equity funding in the community. To put that number in perspective, $51.7 million is almost as much as the total East Coast startup community raised in 2015.

We also witnessed strong growth in new companies that have relationships with universities. Some 32 companies launched in 2017 are working with or out of post-secondary institutions, and they represent more than one-quarter of the startups launched last year.

This shows that university entrepreneurship programs are effective in producing the next generation of regional startups. Some of the most exciting new companies in the region, such as Pfera (UNB), CoLab Software (Memorial University) and Graphite Innovation and Technologies (Dal), have come up through university programs.

The one category in which the university-affiliated startups lagged the overall community was in job creation. The total employment of the companies working with universities was 951 jobs, which is up 24 percent year-on-year. It’s strong growth, but it’s a few percentage points shy of the employment growth at the other startups. We believe the reason for this is there are several tech companies that do not work with universities that are adding staff at a crazy pace, and they are influencing the overall stats.

Still, the fact that university-affiliated companies are increasing staff by 24 percent annually is a testament to their growth potential. And the other metrics: in sales growth, fund-raising and the generation of new companies, demonstrate how colleges and universities contribute to the startup community.


About Springboard Atlantic:

Springboard Atlantic is Atlantic Canada’s commercialization network representing the collective academic research and development capacity of 19 universities and colleges across the region.  More than 30 professionals work on behalf of Springboard within their institutions bridging academia and business, and fulfilling Springboard’s mandate to bring world class ideas to the marketplace while solving some of the most significant challenges facing industry.   With over 6000 research deals done in the last 3 years, the Springboard network stands as a leading model in Canada to drive industry and institution collaboration, and to mobilize innovation.

A Chat With Hatch’s Adam Peabody

Adam Peabody, the new director of Planet Hatch

Adam Peabody, the new director of Planet Hatch

FREDERICTON – This week, Fredericton-based startup accelerator Planet Hatch announced anew leadership team as it approaches its five-year anniversary. This includes appointing a new director, Adam Peabody.

Huddle chatted with Peabody about the impact Planet Hatch has had on New Brunswick business, where he plans to take it next, and more:

Planet Hatch has been around for about five years now, how would you describe the role it has played over that time in the New Brunswick business landscape?

One of the really important roles is being that catalyst agency for the startup community for the Greater Fredericton region and New Brunswick as a whole. [Planet Hatch] has undertaken a number of different initiatives in its own right, but its real purpose and mission has been to bring the various stakeholders that we have in the community of Fredericton and across New Brunswick together around a mission of supporting startups, originally in the ICT sector, but now including many other sectors as well. . . . 

Read the full article on Huddle. 

Squiggle Park Closes $800K Round

Leah Skerry, left, and Julia Rivard Dexter

Leah Skerry, left, and Julia Rivard Dexter

Dartmouth- and Toronto-based EdTech company Squiggle Park has closed an $800,000 funding round in a deal that strengthens its relationship with Indigo Books and Music CEO Heather Reisman.

Squiggle Park, which has developed an online tool that helps children learn to read, said in a statement today that with the latest round it has raised a total of $1.03 million to date. The statement said the investors in the current round include Reisman, who is the face of Canada’s largest chain of bookstores, and John Montalbano, head of the Royal Bank of Canada’s Global Asset Management division. The company also received business development funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Ontario Centre of Excellence. Previous investors include Saint John-based investment group East Valley Ventures.

A year ago, Squiggle Park announced a partnership with the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, a charity established by Reisman to help promote literacy among disadvantaged youth. The foundation placed Squiggle Park’s EdTech product in some of the most under-privileged schools in Canada.

“I think Squiggle Park is a fantastic way to inspire kids about reading,” said Reisman in the latest statement. “I played with it with my two five-year-old grandchildren and then watched them become totally excited about `figuring out’ how to read by playing with the app themselves. They have now been using it and they are indeed learning to read.”

Electric Puppets Brings VR to Ophthalmology

Co-founded by Leah Skerry and Julia Rivard Dexter, Squiggle Park began as an education technology project within the web development and innovation company they headed in Halifax. They spun off the EdTech project into a separate company, which they brought to market as Squiggle Park in early 2017. The web development company has grown into Code + Mortar under the leadership of Managing Partner Jenelle Sobey, and it now has offices in Dartmouth and Toronto.

The Squiggle Park app is made up of bite-sized games designed by teachers, researchers, and gamers to teach children foundational reading skills. When children complete a level of a Squiggle Park game, they receive physical books and poems to continue their learning. Since January 2017, children have played more than 70,000 hours – or eight years -- of Squiggle Park.

“Our team has developed a breakthrough platform that makes it incredibly simple for children to accelerate their reading skills,” said Skerry in the statement. “Our adaptive platform and educator analytics exemplify the continuing personalization of educational tools and the ease with which even children with no English knowledge can now start learning to read today."

The company will use the funding to invest in further growth, including product development and international expansion. Squiggle Park is now used in more than 6,000 schools around the world and as far away as China and Australia.

“Squiggle Park may have begun its journey in Nova Scotia, but it has very much gone global,” said Rivard Dexter. “We’re incredibly proud of such a reach and we are excited to grow that reach, and make an even bigger impact on bridging the gap between being literate and not.”

DNS Recognizes Female Leaders

Winner Dr Rita Orji

Winner Dr Rita Orji

Female leaders and diversity champions working in ICT were recognized last night during the Digital Diversity Awards presented by Digital Nova Scotia, a non-profit that focuses on the growth and development of Nova Scotia’s digital technologies industry.

“Since 1843, women have led major advances in programming and software development, yet today women still represent less than 25 percent of the industry,” Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, President and CEO of Digital Nova Scotia, said at the Halifax event.

“Our awards were established to address the gender gap, and actively promote role models and champions of diversity in our ICT sector.”

Held in partnership with the Centre for Women in Business Spring Finale, and sponsored by Maplewave, a provider of software and retail optimization services for the telecommunications industry, the event saw awards presented in three categories. The winners were:

Harbr, an owner-oriented construction tech platform based in Halifax, won Diversity Champion of the Year.  Harbr manages construction-scheduling data to create insights, analytics and predictions that help projects stay on-time, on-budget and reveal opportunities. Harbr wants to help drive the construction industry towards more efficient and thoughtful construction. Working within two male-dominated industries, construction and technology, Harbr is committed to gender parity, and achieved their goal in 2017.

Harbr Raises $1.75 Million Funding Round

Dr. Rita Orji won the award for Women Leaders in the Digital Economy. Dr. Orji is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Dalhousie University where her research focuses on investigating how interactive systems can be designed to help people move towards improved health and wellness. She has won many awards both nationally and internationally. In 2017, she was named one of the top 150 Canadian Women in STEM by the hEr VOLUTION.  She was among the top 50 Young Most Influential Best Brains in Enugu State, Nigeria.

Sarah Ryan won the award for Next Generation Leadership. Ryan is the Program Director at Brilliant Labs, a non-profit established to grow creativity, innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit in youth. She has participated in events, panel discussions and been a guest speaker at conferences at which she discussed the gender divide in science and technology, digital literacy, the opportunities of technology and entrepreneurship, and youth tech education.

Through Digital Nova Scotia’s partnership with the Women in Communications and Technology (WCT), all award recipients will also be automatically vetted and nominated for WCT’s national awards program held in 2019.

SMU’s MTEI Overhauls Funding Opportunities

Ellen Farrell:

Ellen Farrell: "The funding accelerates and increases as the start-ups mature."

Students enrolled in the St. Mary’s University Masters of Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation program may have noticed some changes in how they access the university's Durland Innovation Fund.

In a recent overhaul of its funding distribution, the MTEI program will invest in its student-led businesses through a venture capital model, moving away from its pitching competition. 

“The startups in the Investor Ready and Launch and Grow incubation phase receive funding options based on achieving milestones,” Ellen Farrell, a professor of venture capital and entrepreneurship at SMU said in an interview.

“Like the VC model, the funding accelerates and increases as the start-ups mature.”

Farrell said the students enrolled in the Applied Option part of the course will receive funding when they meet their business milestones. These students are responsible for developing a business following the lean startup method.

Throughout the course, there are six milestones, therefore six opportunities to gain new funding. There are 11 students doing the applied project this year, with three working outside the cohort. 

“The option of not receiving investment until they do something spectacular is a pretty motivating factor,” said Farrell.

“In addition to achieving milestones and being rewarded by being awarded more money, it’s also more heavily weighted on the back end which means the earlier milestones receive less funding and they’ll earn more as they go along.”

Read About the MTEI Team Whose Tech Will Save Right Whales

And through a partnership with Mitacs, a national non-profit training and research organization, MTEI students can leverage their investments through its entrepreneurship fund.

“Mitacs came to us and they said ‘wow, more than any other institution we’ve seen in the region, this MTEI program perfectly fits this particular funding opportunity.’ So with that, there is an opportunity for the students to leverage their Durland funding,” said Farrell.

On a community level, MTEI startups are also encouraged to partner with co-founders and organizations outside the program. For example, Ashored Innovations, which is building a ropeless fishing solution through the program, will move into Innovacorp’s Centre for Oceans Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE) this June.

Farrell said the highest performing teams will be provided with office space in the new SMU Entrepreneurship Centre.

The cohort, which is in its third week, will earn investments from SMU’s Durland Innovation Fund, which was created by SMU business alumni Michael and Catherine Durland in 2015.

In previous years, the Durland Innovation Fund awarded the top three MTEI teams with up to $20,000 in investments through a pitching competition.

The MTEI program changed this model so the fund could reach a broader number of its students.

"Mike and Catherine Durland actually made the suggestion of weighting the funding more heavily towards the latter milestones to simulate the VC model and to encourage the students to move quickly," said Farrell through an email.  

Farrell said teams can receive up to $25,000 for their first milestone, with $77,000 available this year from the Durland fund.

“That’s doesn’t include the leveraging from MITACS,” said Farrell. “That opportunity could allow them to access as much as $30,000 or $40,000. The leveraging element of it is quite substantial.”


Disclosure: MTEI is a client of Entrevestor.

12 Firms Graduate from CDL-Atlantic

Twelve companies from the Creative Destruction Lab Atlantic will head to Toronto this week to take part in the CDL Super Session – a celebration of the program’s graduates from across the country.

Operating out of Dalhousie University, the CDL-Atlantic just finished its first cohort, which began last December with 28 companies being mentored by some of the region’s top business leaders. The cohort met every two months, and the participating companies were given tasks to achieve by the following meeting. Companies that failed to meet their milestones were asked to leave, until the cohort comprised just the 12 graduates.

The CDL began a few years ago at University of Toronto and now offers programing in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and New York. The Super Session on Wednesday and Thursday will be a celebration for the graduates from all these centres.

Two startups from each city will present at the Super Session, and St. John’s-based Empowered Homes and Halifax-based Harbr will represent CDL-Atlantic.

“Although Empowered Homes is headquartered in St. John’s, our presence is global, and we can’t wait to share our story and the learnings from CDL Atlantic with a national audience,”  Empowered Homes Co-Founder and COO Zachary Green said in a statement.

CDL is accepting applications for its 2018-19 cohort in all six cities until Aug. 12. You can apply here.

Here is a complete list of the CDL-Atlantic graduates (and links to Entrevestor articles on those we’ve covered recently):

Bereda Training, Halifax – Bereda Training has developed an online platform to help endurance athletes quickly and easily develop training plans. (Bereda Training Raises $250,000)

Borealis Wind, Kitchener, Ont. – Borealis Wind’s wind turbine blade de-icing retrofit is simple to install and maintain. It is able to reclaim 80 percent of the power that would have otherwise been lost to icing downtime.

Chinova Bioworks, Fredericton – Chinova Bioworks has developed a new clean label preservative using natural mushroom chitosan. This preservative is broad-spectrum, easy to use and meets producer and consumer needs. (Chinova CTO Tanzina Huq Recognized by Mitacs)

Empowered Homes – This company manufactures a smart thermostat called Mysa that optimizes the performance of electric baseboard heating systems. (Empowered Homes Lands $600K in Funding)

Energy X, Toronto – Energy X is an energy management technology company that has developed an online energy audit called MyEnergyXpert.

Graphite Innovation & Technologies, Halifax – GIT produces high-quality graphene GNP and develops advanced materials customized for specific applications and technologies. (GIT Mulls New Graphene Products)

Harbr – Harbr gathers data for the construction industry to produce market intelligence that improves efficiency in construction sites.

Jaza Energy, New Brunswick and Halifax – Jaza provides solar energy to people living in Sub-Saharan Africa. The company builds solar charging stations that customers use to charge batteries that they use in their homes to power lights and mobile phones. (Jaza Secures $750K in Equity Funds)

Kognitiv Spark, Fredericton – This company provides Holographic Worker Support technology for industrial cases. It uses augmented reality to help specialists with certain machines help workers in remote locations. (Kognitiv Spark's Sales Top $1M, Enters Plug and Play Accelerator)

Salient Energy, Kitchener, Ont. –  This company has created a zinc-ion battery, made from zinc, water, and a proprietary nanomaterial, that is costs less, lasts longer, and is safe than existing products.

Seaformatics Systems, St. John’s – Seaformatics is producing turbine products that allow customers to harness renewable energy from flowing water or wind to power stand-alone devices. (Seaformatics Unveils Surprising Retail Product)

Whitecap Scientific, St. John’s – Whitecap's ROV3D Recon software transforms subsea video collected by remotely operated vehicles into real-time 3D data. This makes it easy for offshore oil and gas companies to make faster, more informed decisions about their subsea operations. 

Two of the companies have female CEOs and a third has a gender-balanced hiring policy.

CDL Atlantic’s mentors include such businesspeople as developer George Armoyan, former Emera CEO Chris Huskilson, Clearwater Fine Foods Founder John Risley, and IMP Founder Ken Rowe. The program helped to build links between the startup community and leading businesses.

“It’s exciting to be exposed to new innovative technologies, and have the opportunity to help shape the course of their direction early on,” said Jim Spatz, Chairman and CEO of Southwest Properties. “Not only do we get to provide advice and guidance, but the mentors are also learning from these inspiring young entrepreneurs.”

Beer App Links You With Craft Brew

From left to right: Grady Williams, Isaac Lohnes, John Leahy, Alex Irving and Collinda Fahey

From left to right: Grady Williams, Isaac Lohnes, John Leahy, Alex Irving and Collinda Fahey

The boom of Nova Scotian craft beer has blessed the province’s ale drinkers with over 40 breweries to choose from. And, with its new app, ImmediaC, a web development company in Halifax, will help consumers find exactly where they can enjoy their favourite local brew.

The app is called Craft on T’app. The company is currently doing a soft launch with a few breweries. The app is already available to download online, on Google Play, and approval  is pending from the Apple App Store.

The app lets breweries and restaurants show customers what is and isn’t on tap that day so users are shown exactly where they can drink a certain beer. 

"I personally have been a big fan of craft beer and what’s been going on in this town and the province for the last five years,” said John Leahy, the Founder and CEO of ImmediaC.

He had the idea for the app after meeting brewers from across the province. 

“To meet these guys was amazing because they’re all characters with a passion about some aspect of brewing.”

The app itself took six months to build, but the real work got done in the last five weeks of its development. 

ImmediaC coded the basic, back-end functions of the app and with the help of four interns from the Nova Scotia Community College, the app was completed and launched.

Red Meat Developing Horror Game that Monitors Your Heart Rate

The students, who are doing the web development program, built Craft on T’app as a part of their five-week work term with NSCC. Leahy said they will receive an honorarium for their work and 100 per cent of the app's revenue for the first 90 days.  

“This is an exceptional landmark for us as well as to have on a resume, because we’re only first year interns,” said Isaac Lohnes, one of the NSCC interns. A different intern, who is finishing his second year, has already been hired by ImmediaC after he graduates.

“To say that this company has helped us with the opportunity to make a working app is really great for us too,” said Lohnes.

Leahy said apps are incredibly beneficial for small to medium sized companies.

“Everyone has a website, but if you have an app - that’s cool. But one of the challenges is apps are very expensive.” said Leahy.  “Typically an app costs $150,000 (to build) depending on what you’re doing.”

To build an app, developers have to source from old libraries of data that have been growing for, in some cases, decades. Leahy said this is part of why apps are so complex and expensive so he streamlined the process and developed an “app assembly line”.

“It’s not a template but it allows us to build apps more cost effectively. And over the past two years we’ve built four or five apps using that methodology.”

The NSCC students proved the assembly line process works because after learning the methodology and building Craft on T’app, they cranked out another app, this one for Nova Scotian wine.

Remsoft Reports Steady Growth

Remsoft, which moved its software to the cloud last July, said its staff and revenues are growing

Remsoft, which moved its software to the cloud last July, said its staff and revenues are growing

Remsoft, the Fredericton-based company that produces predictive analytics software for the forest industry, reported steady growth after investing heavily in research and development for its new platform, Remsoft RISE.

RISE is a cloud-based, multi-user platform for planning and decision optimization. The software is made to find efficiencies in the forest industry value chain.

“For the company, it means more of everything that Remsoft has offered over the years,” said Remsoft spokesperson Donna St. Jean Conti, in an email.

She said the Remsoft RISE cloud-native platform makes it possible for Remsoft to bring more innovative solutions to its clients, solutions that are faster and collaborative on a platform that provides more capacity and that is secure.

"Additionally, it means providing users with end-to-end planning by incorporating additional databases and partnering with other companies to include their capabilities on the same platform.”

According to a statement released last week, the first solution to be offered on the RISE platform, Remsoft Operations, is expected to be available to Remsoft clients in the second half of 2018.

In the same statement, the company said it has grown its staff by 35 per cent and its revenues had consistent year-over-year growth for the past five years.

St. Jean Conti would not disclose how much the company invested into R&D, but she said it was a significant amount. She added that Remsoft is working on projects with the National Research Council, Industrial Research Assistance Program.

Remsoft began in the early 1990s when husband-and-wife duo, Ugo and Andrea Feunekes, began offering land-management software solutions to forestry companies.

Remsoft analyzes forests for clients in industries like land management and civil infrastructure. The age, size and growth rate of wooded areas are examined in order to predict the best times to do certain tasks such as get logs to market or predict where trees may fall and damage a power line.

The software has always been on clients’ desktop computers, but last July the company committed to the massive undertaking of moving the platform to the cloud.

To complete that process, Remsoft hired 10 new employees.

Now, almost a year later, the company reports adding several essential hires, including experts in forest industry and software development.

"Remsoft has experienced strong growth across all areas of our business, allowing us to make significant investments in technologies that will allow our customers to realize the full promise of the cloud," said Andrea Feunekes, CEO and co-founder of Remsoft in last week’s statement.

"A key component of our strategy has been adding to our team in order for Remsoft to develop and deliver quality products based on the Remsoft RISE platform as quickly as possible."

Scale-Up Tour Hits NB, NL, and NS

The Lazaridis Institute Scale-Up Tour is coming to several Atlantic Canadian cities, bringing with it webinars on “blitzscaling” with Chris Yeh.

On Friday, we mentioned that the Kitchener, Ont.-based Lazaridis Institute will have a session in Halifax on Tuesday. What we didn’t realize is that there will also be stops in Moncton, St. John’s and Charlottetown.

The Institute, named for BlackBerry Co-Founder Mike Lazaridis, is now undertaking a tour across Canada to meet startups and discuss Canadian innovation and blitzscaling.

“On this tour, we invite you to come hear about our recent research findings on the growth of Canadian technology companies and the various ways we can work together when it comes to entrepreneurship, innovation and technology,” said a note from the organizers.

Pioneered by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, blitzscaling is a business strategy in which founders apply speed in phases, so each phase of development is attacked with urgency. Yeh, a General Partner at Wasabi Ventures Global, worked with Hoffman in co-writing the book The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age.

The date of the PE.I. stop has yet to be determined, but here are the dates for the other Atlantic Canadian cities (Click on them to register):

Halifax                  June 5

St. John’s             June 6

Moncton             June 7

The Lazaridis Institute offers programs that help Canadian companies scale more quickly through a several-month accelerator. Spring Loaded Technology and QRA Corp., both of the Halifax area, have attended the accelerator. (Applications for the accelerator’s third cohort are open until July 27 and can be found here.)

Jobs: Dash Hudson and Atlantic Lottery

There are four posts in our Jobs of the Week column today, two are from Dash Hudson.

There are four posts in our Jobs of the Week column today, two are from Dash Hudson.

There are four positions in our Jobs of the Week column today. Dash Hudson in Halifax seeks an Account Executive and a Product Designer. And in Moncton the Atlantic Lottery Corporation is looking for a Manager of eCommerce and a New Proposition Designer.

Dash Hudson, a visual marketing SaaS company, is offering an opportunity to work with “the raddest, most discerning brands and publishers in the world”. Known for its software Vision, Dash Hudson provides a one-stop spot for its clients to manage, source and engage with the traffic of their photos and videos.

Dash Hudson is seeking an Account Executive to work with its sales team and a Product Designer to assist its design and engineering teams.

In Moncton, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation is seeking a Manager of eCommerce to lead a team of marketing experts and grow its eCommerce status. It’s also looking for a New Proposition Designer. This person reports to the Director of Customer Innovation and oversees the development of new innovation propositions through to the completion of the Design phase of the Innovation Development Life Cycle.

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 startup communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.

Here are excerpts from the job postings:

Halifax, NS

Dash Hudson

Account Executive

As an Account Executive, you will work with our incredible sales team to build business with some of the best marketers and companies in the world. The most important thing we need from you is this: You want the challenge and opportunity to sell a leading product in a rapidly growing market. You can't be afraid to take on challenges you don't understand, and you need to have the confidence to figure it out.  Must be hyper-organized. We'll be checking your Moleskin / Evernote.


  • Work with our sales team in the business development process including lead generation, sales outreach, progress tracking and closing with leading global luxury, apparel, consumer electronics, media, beauty, food and publishing brands.
  • Maintain active engagement with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications designed to move leads through the sales funnel.
  • Achieve monthly and quarterly sales quotas.
  • Review and qualify inbound leads.
  • Manage CRM and sales pipeline.

Apply for the job here.

Halifax, NS

Dash Hudson

Product Designer

As a Product Designer you will work with the incredible Design and Engineering teams by applying a wide range of creative and design capabilities to help grow our products used by some of the best companies in the world. You take feedback and direction well, and are able to meet deadlines in a high pressure environment.


  • Solve problems by designing simple and elegant user flows and experiences.
  • Create wireframes, mockups, and prototypes to effectively communicate interactions.
  • Work closely with product managers and engineers to oversee the user experience of a product from conception until launch.
  • Take feedback and continually improve the quality of products.

Apply for the job here.

Moncton, NB

Atlantic Lottery

Manager, eCommerce

As the Manager, e-Commerce you will lead a team of integrated marketing professionals to plan and execute a variety of strategies and tactics to grow Atlantic Lottery's eCommerce status. Particular focus will be placed on customer acquisition, customer retention and revenue growth. Products sold on alc.ca include a blend of products also available in land-based retail outlets and some that are web-exclusive.


  • Our People are our greatest asset so you will be expected to further develop and energize a team of talented individuals as a leader.
  • You will provide expertise and coaching on current and emerging e-Commerce industry best practices.
  • You will be responsible for alc.ca planning and budget control and in some cases also work with internal client budgets.
  • You will develop successful alc.ca positioning and compelling differentiation.
  • You will oversee digital campaigns to increase awareness and loyalty.

Apply for the job here.

Moncton, NB

Atlantic Lottery

New Proposition Designer

The incumbent's primary role will be to apply a mixture of Traditional Research and Design Thinking methodology to understand customer needs or pain points, drive ideation, develop prototypes of the best ideas and quickly validate /iterate these with customer input. The person will also be required to collaborate with internal subject matter experts in order to scope out operational considerations and high level financials for these concepts.


  • New Concept Development: Facilitates the development of 4-6 new products, service models, and/or new lines of business per year that will reinforce and improve Atlantic Lottery's relevance and business performance.
  • Financial Modeling: Develop early lottery math models to support the concepts.
  • Market Research: Apply strategic analysis and research to properly assess a concept's viability with the marketplace.
  • Team Leadership: Lead internal cross-functional groups to gain a 360 degree view of the operational impacts of new initiatives being developed.
  • Collaboration: Collaborate with innovation team on all aspects of the innovation program as to ensure strong cohesiveness and redundancy.

Apply for the job here.

Heart Rate in a Horror Video Game

Red Meat Games, a game studio in Halifax, is developing a horror game that reads players' heartbeats

Red Meat Games, a game studio in Halifax, is developing a horror game that reads players' heartbeats

BOO! A sudden scare gets your heart pounding against your chest. Jump scares are the backbone of horror video games and Red Meat Games wants to up the scare factor by monitoring players' heartbeats and incorporating the sound in the game.

“We’re trying to find the opportune times when a player is scared but then also find out when they might be too scared,” said Keith Maske, the CEO of Red Meat Games, an indie game development company based out of Kitchener Ont. and Halifax.

“And we can do other things, not just scare the player, we set them on edge.”

Red Meat Games will monitor players' heartbeats for its upcoming horror puzzle game, Bring to Light.  The company plans to release the game for PC and console in July on a rather fitting day--Friday the 13th.

Bring to Light stems from a project Maske started over four years ago in Newfoundland.

After receiving $50,000 in funding from the National Research Council, Maske started an AI project to modify games through user input in real time.

“Now we’ve taken it one step further. So, rather than the game learning from you, the game learns about you,” said Maske. “So it says ‘hey this person's heart rate is pretty low right now, let's scare him’ or it thinks ‘this guy's heart rate is really high right now and we don’t want him to have a heart attack.’”

Maske, who has more than 15 years of experience in the gaming industry, started Red Meat Games in St. John's, out of the Genesis Centre. In 2015, he relocated to Kitchener and in 2017, opened the Halifax offices to develop Bring to Light. 

Red Meat Games Expands to Halifax

Maske stresses that players do not need to buy a heart monitor in order to play Bring to Light. However, he said every player will benefit from the heart rate monitoring.

“We’re collecting the heart rate data, which is all anonymous, and we’re creating what we’re calling scare maps,” said Maske.  

“The way they work is with enough data, we can actually determine where people are more likely to be scared by things like audio triggers or jump scares.”

The company has identified two devices on the market that can record real time data from a heart rate monitor. One is a chest strap and the other is a wrist attachment, and they’re looking into partnerships with the companies to sell these products alongside Bring to Light.

The game is inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu, a 1926 fantasy short story. It begins in a subway station after a horrific accident that leaves the player the lone survivor, searching for a way out using only light. It's a puzzle-based game with creepy shadows and underground monsters. 

The heart rate data doesn’t drastically alter the storyline. It simply harnesses the power of user data to generate a statistically scarier experience.

Said Maske: “Hearing your heartbeat in a horror game is a scary thing.”

Lazaridis Institute in Halifax Tuesday

The Lazaridis Institute Scale-Up Tour will make a stop in Halifax on Tuesday, featuring a webinar on “blitzscaling” with Chris Yeh.

The Kitchener, Ont.-based Lazaridis Institute offers programs that help Canadian companies scale more quickly through a several-month accelerator. Spring Loaded Technologies and QRA Corp., both of the Halifax area, have both attended the accelerator. (Applications for the accelerator’s third cohort are open until July 27 and can be found here.)

The Institute, named for BlackBerry Co-Founder Mike Lazaridis, is now undertaking a tour across Canada to meet startups and discuss Canadian innovation and blitzscaling.

“On this tour, we invite you to come hear about our recent research findings on the growth of Canadian technology companies and the various ways we can work together when it comes to entrepreneurship, innovation and technology,” said a note from the organizers.

Pioneered by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, blitzscaling is a business strategy in which founders apply speed in phases, so each phase of development is attacked with urgency. Yeh, a General Partner at Wasabi Ventures Global, worked with Hoffman in co-writing the book The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age.

The Lazaridis session will be held at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre on Summer Street at 5 pm Tuesday. You can register here.

Ex-CEO Milbury Proud of NBIF Tenure

Calvin Milbury: Monday was his last day as CEO of NBIF.

Calvin Milbury: Monday was his last day as CEO of NBIF.

Days after his departure as CEO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, Calvin Milbury said he was taking time to review his options and looking forward to the next phase of his career.

The non-profit innovation agency based in Fredericton released a statement on Wednesday saying that Milbury was no longer heading the organization, and that it would commence the search for his replacement immediately. The rupture took place on Monday.

In an interview following the announcement, Milbury reflected on the 15 years he spent at NBIF, including the past nine years at the helm, and spoke with pride of what the organization had accomplished.

“It’s been 15 years for me,” said Milbury in the phone conversation. “I was there from Day 1 and helped them set up their venture capital fund. When I started there, people in New Brunswick didn’t know what venture capital was. Financing was getting loans or government grants. We were able to step it up and provide something different. We’ve reaped the harvest of that over the last five or six years.”

The NBIF statement did not give any reason for the move, and spokeswoman Vanessa Matthews said the foundation will not have an interim CEO as it seeks a replacement. Board Chair Cathy Simpson will assume some executive duties, she said.

“NBIF was at an inflection point and the board decided it was time for a change of leadership,” said Matthews in a phone interview.

In his own interview two hours later, Milbury said: “Myself and NBIF have agreed to part ways and move on in our separate directions.”

ProcedureFlow Moves on to Fundica Finals.

Milbury’s interview with Entrevestor dwelt mainly on the pride he felt in building up an organization that has helped 106 New Brunswick companies grow, and provided applied research funding to academics and scientists across the province.

The NBIF is a non-profit corporation and is the New Brunswick government’s main vehicle for implementing innovation policy. Milbury said the foundation last fiscal year provided more than $14 million in funding, divided evenly between VC investment and innovation vouchers, which allow companies to work with researchers. That’s up from funding levels of about $4 million when he became CEO.

Milbury’s tenure as CEO included the high-point of NBIF’s 15-year history – its announcement in 2011 that it made a return of $9.3 million on Radian6 or 28 times its original investment. The Radian6 exit was the CVCA Deal of the Year for venture capital in 2011.

The other portfolio company that Milbury highlighted in the interview was Moncton-based RtTech Software, an Internet of Things company that sold its Cipher unit in December for an undisclosed amount. He said he learned a lot from the staff and board at the company, including from the principals of McRock Capital of Toronto, which invested in RtTech three years ago.

Milbury is also proud of initiating and growing the biennial Breakthru competition, which last year awarded about $1 million to four young companies. Milbury never hid his fondness for Breakthru, and on Wednesday said it helped to change the culture of the province and make New Brunswick more entrepreneurial.  

“I am most proud of the gains we as a community have achieved together to put Atlantic Canada on the startup radar nationally,” said Milbury. “I am positive there are many more success stories to emerge from within the NBIF portfolio and I am confident the team at NBIF will do its best to ensure continued strong results.”

Both Milbury and Matthews said the parting of ways had nothing to do with a law suit filed this year by an NBIF portfolio company against the foundation, Milbury and others. Fredericton-based KnowCharge Inc. launched a suit against NBIF, the First Angel Network, and some of their current and former officers, seeking $11 million in damages.

NBIF currently has over $85 million invested and has helped to create more than 106 companies. Earlier this month, the government of New Brunswick announced it was investing a further $5 million in NBIF’s research funding and support for graduate students, bringing the total for that work to over $11 million.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, I want to thank Calvin for his important contribution to the NBIF and innovation in New Brunswick,” said Simpson in the statement. “He has supported research and startups and helped secure new funding for the NBIF that will yield significant benefits for New Brunswick for many years to come.”

Milbury said he wants to take his time to find his next opportunity. After taking a break, he hopes he’ll be able to find a position in Fredericton.

“I’ve never been naive enough to think that I would be there forever,” said Milbury. “I was happy to serve for nine years and I believe I did that passionately and in a dedicated way. But there comes a time when you have to step away. I really want NBIF to succeed because I believe in its mandate and I know they have the team to make it happen.”


Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.

Nominations for 2018 Discovery Awards

The 2018 Discovery Awards will take place November 22.

The 2018 Discovery Awards will take place November 22.

You can still make last minute nominations for the 2018 Discovery Awards. The nominations, which close today, are looking for the best and the brightest in Nova Scotia's science and technology fields.

The awards will take place on November 22, 2018 at the Discovery Centre in Halifax. Tickets for the event go on sale in July.

The Discovery Awards began 16 years ago to recognize individuals and companies in Nova Scotia for their exceptional work in science and technology. The awards bring together universities, corporations, businesses, and members of the local community for an evening of celebration.

Last year’s winners included Jason Clyburne for Professional of Distinction, Densitas for the Innovation Award and Dr. Ghada Koleilat for the Emerging Professional Award.

The categories up for nomination are:

  • Professional of Distinction: This will recognize an individual who is a leading innovator and a role model for those pursuing a career in science and technology
  • Science Champion: This award is for someone who promotes science and technology to the public, above and beyond the normal avenues of communication
  • Innovation: This award is for a company that has produced a commercially viable product or service that is ready to, or has already, launched in the market
  • Emerging Professional: Someone under the age of 35 who demonstrates intellectual achievement, professional excellence, and promise for ongoing development and success.

Click here to submit your nomination.

Stirrett Wins LGBTQ Innovator Award

Stirrett won Telus LGBTQ Innovator of the Year at the INSPIRE awards in Toronto.

Stirrett won Telus LGBTQ Innovator of the Year at the INSPIRE awards in Toronto.

Scott Stirrett, the Halifax-born Founder and CEO of Venture for Canada, has been named the Telus LGBTQ Innovator of the Year. Stirrett won the national honour for his work at the non-profit that recruits and trains youth to work for Canadian startups.

Stirrett, 26, founded Venture for Canada in 2013 while working as an analyst with Goldman Sachs in New York City. He modeled Venture for Canada after its American counterpart Venture for America. He was honoured last Friday at the INSPIRE Awards in Toronto.

“Going to work at a startup can have a transformative impact on a young grad in terms of growing their entrepreneurial skills,” said Stirrett in an interview “The idea came to me right before I started with Goldman Sachs. I worked there even though I knew it wasn’t the best fit for my skill set.”

Stirrett grew up in Dartmouth, before moving to Washington, D.C. to attend Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.  After graduating, he took a position as an analyst with Goldman Sachs on a cross-product client experience team.

He incorporated Venture for Canada while in New York and left the Big Apple in April of 2014 to pursue the non-profit full-time.

During its most recent cohort, Venture for Canada selected 60 grads from a pool of roughly 2,300 applicants. Stirrett said his organization now employs 16 full-time staff across the Atlantic provinces and Ontario with over 90 young grads in its fellowship program, which takes in recent graduates and pairs them with Canadian startups. 

Last April, Venture for Canada received $4.4 million for its internship project which will place at least 500 interning graduates in startups across the Atlantic region in September.

V4C Lands $4.4M for 505 Interns

Stirrett came out nearly six years ago as a gay man. He discussed the challenges that LGBTQ entrepreneurs face and how his identity factors into his entrepreneurial drive.

“I’m proud to be gay and I think it’s shaped who I am as an entrepreneur,” he said. “In the sense that growing up when you are gay, or LGBTQ in general, you’re to some extent always looking at things from the outside. It makes you more empathetic for other people especially for those who might be discriminated against.”

He added: “When you’re gay or marginalized and you look at those power structures, it gives you an incentive to create your own thing. So that’s why I think being gay and my entrepreneurial identity are somewhat interlinked.”

Stirrett is fortunate and said he has not experienced direct hatred or discrimination in the startup world but the community as a whole needs diversity.

“The startup community and innovation community in general are very inclusive. If anything there is just a lack of LGBTQ entrepreneur role models. There are diversity challenges because it’s often an older, straight, white man’s game.”

Last March many of Venture for Canada's fellows attended Venture Out, a conference organized by LGBTQ organization Start Proud, which brought together LGBTQ entrepreneurs from across the country.

“It’s important to see role models,” said Stirrett. “Because you can feel very alone and isolated. But Venture for Canada actually has a large number of gay fellows so I think LGBTQ individuals are starting to be well-represented in the startup community.”

Planet Hatch Announces Five-Year Plan

With its fifth anniversary looming, Planet Hatch, Fredericton's startup acceleration centre, has outlined its plan for the next five years and the team that will lead the way.

The team includes new Director Adam Peabody, formerly Investment Attraction & Growth Specialist at Ignite Fredericton, the community’s economic development catalyst agency.

He is being joined by Julia Ramirez, formerly Population Growth Specialist at Ignite Fredericton, who is the new Entrepreneurial Programming Specialist, and Vanessa MacLean who will take on an enhanced role as Entrepreneurial Services Coordinator.

Since 2013, Planet Hatch has supported the creation of over 150 startup companies resulting in over 400 jobs for New Brunswick, the group said in a release. Startups range across sectors including ICT, biotechnology, arts & culture, consumer products, craft alcohol, agri-technology, and others.

“Planet Hatch has made a significant impact in economic development over the past five years, and I have full confidence in this team to build on that success to achieve even greater results…” said Larry Shaw, who is CEO of Ignite Fredericton, and Knowledge Park, the city’s technology and research area.

When it began in 2013, Planet Hatch had a mandate to support the creation and development of high-growth startups in the technology sector. The centre later expanded its focus to include a wider variety of traditional businesses and entrepreneurs. The leadership team will expand service offerings, programming and partnerships with the goal of increasing economic development, jobs and new businesses.

“Our community reached a watershed moment in 2016 being recognized as the Startup Capital of Canada, and I’m looking forward to building on that momentum as we strive to create a startup ecosystem regarded as world-class,” said Peabody.

Ramirez said the group is evaluating its programming and seeking increased collaboration with current partners while looking for new opportunities to expand its programming locally and internationally.

“Planet Hatch has a variety of programs that are unique in New Brunswick, like the Start-up Visa Program, and we have reached multiple agreements for soft-landing zones in different locations around the world,” said Ramirez.

MacLean said she is looking forward to executing plans that will further enhance the services the group offers entrepreneurs and the city of Fredericton.

AioTV Closes its Doors

AioTV, an IT company with a significant development team in Halifax, has closed its doors.

The company was founded by Halifax native Michael Earle, a serial entrepreneur who is now based in Denver. The company had operations in both Halifax and Denver. Earle did not respond to a request for a comment on the company last week, but a person familiar with the situation confirmed it has closed.

In a May 2016 interview, Earle said the company employed about 20 people in Halifax and that he hoped to increase the size of the operation through the year with the goal of doubling it.

People within the IT community in Halifax said several companies have expressed interest in hiring aioTV's personnel as there is high demand for development talent everywhere. 

AioTV began in 2011 with the goal of developing a platform that could deliver a range of video services – television, streaming services, YouTube, etc. – on a single platform. Earle received a $1 million funding from Innovacorp, and a year later sold 44 percent of the company to China’s UTStarcom Holdings Corp. for $8 million.

The company pivoted about three years ago to design a video curation system for Tier 1 telecomm companies. The aioTV curation function was a personalized recommendation engine that chose a broad array of material for the user from more than just a list of movies. For example, if you had just watched a movie, the curation function could inform you of material on YouTube about the making of the movie, or where to find interviews with the stars.

Earle said at the time that aioTV was in talks with four blue chip companies about taking the product. These included the second-largest cable operator in the world, as well as top-tier players in the U.S and Canada.

The news from the company since then had seemed positive, as it struck a partnership with publicly listed ARRIS International in late 2016 and announced a new patent approval in 2017. Yet regulatory filings by UTStar indicated there were problems. The Chinese company reported a $1.7 million “investment impairment”, or a decline in the asset value of an investment, in 2017, which followed a $4.3 million impairment in 2016.

Halifax Partnership CEO Hanlon Dies

Ron Hanlon: Remembered as 'a person of great integrity and strong values.'

Ron Hanlon: Remembered as 'a person of great integrity and strong values.'

We at Entrevestor were deeply saddened Monday to learn of the passing of Ron Hanlon, the President and CEO of the Halifax Partnership. The city’s economic development body announced that Hanlon died Sunday after a brief illness.

Hanlon was a true champion of the innovation community in Halifax, and saw startups and tech companies as an engine for growth in the city. It was all part of his mission to promote the city and region and encourage its economic development.

“Ron was a person of great integrity and strong values,” Matt Hebb, the chair of the Halifax Partnership Board, said in a statement. “Important among these was ‘wisdom’ – the intent to understand issues through knowledge and listening. It was in this manner that he developed his unshakeable view of Halifax’s potential. He took the time to meet with hundreds of businesses, learning their capabilities and capacities. He familiarized himself with the research expertise and programs at our universities. He immersed himself in the challenges of immigration, settlement and youth retention.”

Hanlon joined the Partnership in the summer of 2015, returning to his native Halifax after serving as President and CEO of Price Mechanical (PMI) in Minneapolis, Minn. PMI is an independent wholly owned subsidiary of Price Industries, a leading North American Air Distribution company in Minnesota. 

From 1997 to 2013, Hanlon held various leading roles at McQuay International (a subsidiary of Daikin Industries Ltd.), a global corporation that designs, manufactures and sells heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) products and systems.

In 2007, Ron was named President and CEO and led the merger of Daikin Industries and McQuay International and was responsible for all day-to-day business operations of the North American businesses.

As the top executive at the Halifax Partnership, Hanlon developed the Sell Halifax plan, a strategic campaign designed to promote the city and attract immigrants, investment, and new business. He championed the creation of an Innovation District to better leverage our density of universities, hospitals, innovative companies, and entrepreneurs. He sharpened our efforts on youth retention and played a key role in the Atlantic Immigration Pilot.

A graduate of St. Mary’s University, Hanlon’s contributions to the community extended beyond the business world. He sat on the Board of Feed Nova Scotia. He was a member of the Consider Canada Cities Alliance. And because Halifax is the only Atlantic Canadian city in that alliance, Hanlon led the creation of the Atlantic Canada Economic Coalition in partnership with Saint John, Moncton, Fredericton, Charlottetown, Sydney and St. John’s to promote collaboration amongst Atlantic Canada’s largest urban centres.

“Ron was a colleague, a mentor, a leader, and a friend,” said Hebb. “He spurred us to a higher level of ambition. And he lifted us to a level where such ambition is achievable. His passing is a painful loss. We shall strive to honour his memory by sustaining his positive sense of urgency and his unbounded optimism for our city.

“Above all, Ron cherished his family, who were a source of immense pride and joy for him. On behalf of the Board of Directors, staff, and all the members of the Halifax Partnership, we express our deepest condolences to Ron’s wife Greta and their family.”

EVV Adds Stepscan to Portfolio

Stepscan, formally ViTRAK, is raising a round of funding with the goal of $300,000

Stepscan, formally ViTRAK, is raising a round of funding with the goal of $300,000

Prince Edward Island biometrics company Stepscan (formerly known as ViTRAK) has been quietly raising a round of funding with the end goal of $300,000.

The Charlottetown company makes pressure-sensitive floor tiles that help analyse people's gait to identify walking disabilities or balance issues.

“We sell a medical product,” CEO Crystal Trevors said in an interview. “It’s FDA-, Health Canada-approved and offers a turn-key gait analysis system.”

So far, the company has raised $150,000 through private investors. The most significant investment came from East Valley Ventures, an angel investor group out of Saint John, that came in with an undisclosed portion.

Trevors says the funding will cover growth capital for the remainder of 2018. The company last raised capital in 2014 in a $2 million funding round led by the Regis Duffy Bioscience Fund. 

“We have some big projects we’re expecting to close in the next six to eight months,” said Trevors. “It’ll be for working capital, supporting new distributors, training, development, marketing.”

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Trevors said she recently hired two new people, bringing the Stepscan team to eight members. With a solid clientele in the medical space, Trevors said the company is approaching new markets for new market applications.

“Where we’re going now is into new verticals mainly as a training system,” said Trevors who wants to take Stepscan’s technology to the military and professional sports worlds.

The Stepscan product is modular, so you can buy a couple of tiles or outfit a whole room with the pressure sensing flooring. Trevors says at the moment she typically sells four tiles, roughly eight feet of space, that are usually only testing one person at a time.

Trevors says Stepscan products can actually track more than one person. She said there are huge benefits for military or RCMP training with tech.

“If they need to enter a room and clear that room there is very specific protocol,” said Trevors.

“Sometimes they’ll train and use cameras so they can see themselves, but now we’re instrumenting the floor to unobtrusively track each person, exactly where they go, their reaction time, where they are supposed to be. If one person is walking backwards, we can make sure no one comes up on the rear. We can track all that and replay it and can provide quite a few statistics to the trainer.”

The Stepscan system also collects and analyzes data on the recorded movement.

Trevors plans to go after contracts with the Build in Canada Innovation Program and said she has been generating interest with a couple of intelligence agencies in the United States.

Nexus wins $30,000 in Indiana

Teric Greenan is the founder of Nexus Robotics.

Teric Greenan is the founder of Nexus Robotics.

Nexus Robotics, the Halifax-based startup that is building a robot that can identify and remove weeds, has won $30,000 at an agriculture tech challenge in Rockville, Indiana.

The third annual agBOT challenge took place May 17 to 19.  Nexus was a come-from-away win and took home first place in the Weed and Feed Competition, beating out teams from Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis (IUPUI).

Nexus is made up of a team of young developers led by Thomas Trappenberg, a professor with Dalhousie Faculty of Computer Science. In an email, Trappenberg said the team will use the winnings to improve the drive functions of the robot so it can be tested over the summer. 

"We learned a lot from this competition, not only what we can improve, but also that we can be very competitive," said Trappenberg, adding that it is not only the technology that keeps the team going. "There are real problems in agriculture such as herbicide resistance, labour shortage, and a changing climate that require new solutions," he said. "I think it is cool to see that a team from Nova Scotia can be at the forefront of new ideas."

Drawing Youth to Farms With Robots

So far, the team has received around $150,000 in funding from Innovacorp through its Spark Innovation Challenge and Cleantech accelerator, and the National Research Council.

The team has built the bare bones prototype but the prototype needs developing, specifically its software.The colleagues will use the summer to design and tweak the visual recognition software so the machine can properly identify weeds.

The agBOT competition was hosted by Gerrish Farms and an Indiana agricultural communications solutions company called, airBridge.

The judging panel included the CEO of Blue River Technology, an ag-tech company that was acquired by John Deere in 2017, and a seasoned farmer with over 45 years experience.

Job of the Week: Harbr

A student co-op position at Harbr is the only post in our Jobs of the Week Column today.

Harbr is a Halifax company that developed a mobile app for big construction companies to track data and progress on large projects, improving efficiency over time.

The company, which made a commitment to gender parity last year, is looking for a Computer Science or Engineering student to join its engineering team in the fall. The official title is Software Engineer Co-Op- Data Engineering (machine learning) and the candidate will help with machine-learning projects.

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 startup communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.

Here are excerpts from the job posting:

Halifax, NS


Software Engineer Co-Op- Data Engineering (machine learning)

Harbr is looking for developers who will be working in a collaborative environment using a variety of dynamic languages, tools, frameworks. You will be a part of a team working on adding value to existing applications, and helping architect and design new features. We're looking for driven, creative, and collaborative co-op students to join our engineering team this fall (2018) to work on ground-up machine learning projects.


  • Help lead efforts taking raw data and turning it into something useful.
  • You'll straddle the line between engineering and data science, iterating for continuous improvement of projects creating and executing on S.M.A.R.T. goals.
  • Be passionate about our mission, vision, and execution strategy. Exhibit our core cultural values.
  • Be a model for thoughtful design and execution. Collaborate and learn to deploy using best practices and highlighting risks.

Apply for the job here.

AVF Names 12 Presenting Companies

The Atlantic Venture Forum has announced the dozen companies that will present at this year’s event in Halifax.

The sixth annual AVF, which will take place June 28 and 29 at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel, is a meeting place for Atlantic Canadian founders and investors from inside and outside the region. The two-day event will include pitches by six early-stage startups and the same number of growth-stage companies. You can register for the AVF here.

I was on the selection committee for these companies. While I can’t divulge any of the discussions, I can say this is a strong group. One company is on the cusp of listing on the TSV Venture exchange. Three have attended accelerators outside the region.  Entrevestor's data on the 12 companies shows that collectively their staffing rose by 50 percent in 2017, and they expect to increase staff by a further 54 percent this year. Together, they have raised almost $25 million in equity funding that they have publicly disclosed.

Here are the presenting companies:

Early Stage

Eyesover Technologies, Fredericton – Eyesover is a software development company devoted to real-time market and public opinion data. Its platform analyzes online discussions for its customers, allowing them to make decisions based on accurate customer opinion. It has attended the L-Spark Accelerator in Ottawa.

Global Spatial Technology Solutions, Ottawa – GSTS provides data monitoring and analysis solutions through the use of terrestrial and space-based sensors and communication systems. Its applications provide enhanced safety, security and operational capability in the maritime, environmental monitoring, and oil and gas sectors.

Loft1, Fredericton – Loft1’s software is used to transform any whiteboard markings into digitized script, eliminating the need to take notes or keep minutes.

Securicy, Sydney – Securicy is a software-as-a-service product that helps enterprises ensure they are compliant with their clients’ and partners’ cybersecurity standards. The company this year entered the Techstars accelerator in Boston.

Sona Nanotech, Halifax – Sona, which produces gold nanorods, agreed last year to merge with publicly listed mining concern Stockport Exploration and raise about $700,000 in a private placement. The merged company will focus solely on Sona’s core business of producing gold nanorods. If the deal passes all the relevant regulatory requirements, the parties say it should close within the next few weeks, paving the way for the listing on the TSX Venture exchange.

RetailDeep (formerly Skyline), Halifax – RetailDeep equips retailers with sensors that use facial recognition from partner companies like Microsoft, Google, Kairos and Face++ to help bricks and mortar stores offer a more tailored in-store experience. The company is hoping to enter the XRC Labs innovation accelerator in New York City.

Growth Stage

Appili Therapeutics, Halifax – Appili has been working to develop a portfolio of anti-infectious drug candidates. In October, Appili’s first drug candidate ATI-1501 received approval to begin clinical trials in both Canada and the U.S. It treats clostridium difficile infection, or CDI, in children.  The company raised $4.3 million in February.

BlueLight Analytics, Halifax – BlueLight, which has a distribution agreement with 3M Corp., began about eight years ago to solve a problem few dentists spoke about. The lights they use to cure resin vary greatly, and each model has to be used for just the right amount of time to cure the resin properly. Too long a time could adversely affect the tooth and too little would leave the resin only partially cured.

Celtx, St. John’s – Founded in 2000, the company has attracted millions of users who are film writers, designers, producers and others involved in “scripted media” like film, video, games, theatre and the like. The company’s breakthrough came when it launched its software-as-a-service product in 2012 and began to focus more on gaining revenues.

ProcedureFlow, Saint John – The company helps corporate clients (especially those with call centres) simplify complicated procedures for employees. ProcedureFlow provides companies with a series of flow charts and digital tools that help to train employees and let them find information more quickly. The company is a finalist for the Fundica Roadshow.

Somru BioScience, Charlottetown – Somru offers a range of products centred around antibody technology for research, diagnostic and therapeutic applications. The company uses a unique technology that produces antibodies that bind more readily with or draw greater responses from living tissue than other products. Last year, it signed a major joint venture with Radiant Pharmaceuticals of Bangladesh.

VineView (formerly SkySquirrel, Halifax) – The company, which raised $3 million to buy out its California associates in January, uses high-altitude images taken from airplanes to map entire grape-growing districts. It uses the images to analyze data to improve production in the wine industry.

NACO To Host Summit May 28-29

Yuri Navarro wants 'collaboration among partners and for funding for the long term.'

Yuri Navarro wants 'collaboration among partners and for funding for the long term.'

The National Angel Capital Organization, which represents angel investors from across Canada, is on an offensive to increase investment in Atlantic Canadian startups, and is already working with a few.

NACO earlier this month completed the NACO Academy Roadshow, which held stops in each Atlantic province, taking in about 250 participants. And the group will hold its Atlantic Regional Summit in Halifax next week.

The organization wants to help wealthy individuals on the East Coast learn about angel investing and support young high-growth companies. It also wants to help local companies raise capital from local angels and those in other parts of Canada and other countries. In fact, CEO Executive Director Yuri Navarro said investors outside the region are now reviewing term sheets of three to five Atlantic Canadian startups.

“Our goal is to ensure there are opportunities, not for competition for capital, but for collaboration among partners and for funding for the long term,” said Navarro in an interview. "We want to make sure startups have access to the local capital on the ground and then can link up with the national and international funding community.”

East Valley Ventures Backs Greenlaw's New Company Brunvalley

For more than a decade, the group that has gathered together angel investors across the region and organized investments into startups has been the Halifax-based First Angel Network. FAN was also affiliated with NACO, hosting its national conference twice and serving on its board.

Navarro said there’s been a “difference of opinion” between FAN and NACO, so the national organization is now undertaking its own initiatives to develop the funding in the region. He added there is “no ill will” between the organizations.

In the past month, NACO has organized day-long seminars and information sessions in Halifax, Fredericton, Moncton, Charlottetown and St. John’s. Navarro said there were really good turnouts in Fredericton (in spite of the flood) and Halifax. Of the 250 people who showed up at the events, he estimated about 50 of them were potential angel investors. To help organize the events, NACO contracted Sally Ng, the head of The Triple Effect in Fredericton.

The format involved both instruction on strategies, benefits and pitfalls of angel investing, and an opportunity to discuss the successes of some Atlantic Canadian companies that have received funding.

There will be similar discussions at the Atlantic Summit, which will take place May 28 and 29 at Pier 21 in Halifax. (You can register here.) Last year, NACO held its first Atlantic Summit in Moncton.

“The purpose of the event is to help the community to share their experiences (both successes and failures) and to learn from each other as a way to drive regional success for Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs and investors,” said Navarro. “This includes celebrating home grown regional success stories on both days.”

Navarro said he’s told that Atlantic Canadian companies and investors don’t feel comfortable celebrating their success, so the Summit will discuss some of the companies that have thrived here.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in engaging the successful business people in the region in supporting the startups,” he said. “If we can show success and showcase the companies in Atlantic Canada that have generated good return for investors, whether it’s GoInstant or Radian6, . . . I think that that is very valuable.”

Rise is a winner at NB Power Awards

The Rise team at the awards ceremony.

The Rise team at the awards ceremony.

Fredericton-based company, Rise, was recognized at the Energy Efficiency Excellence Awards on Wednesday night for its web platform that helps people build energy efficient homes.

Rise received the Innovation Award at the dinner presented by New Brunswick Power. Six New Brunswick groups were honoured at the ceremony that celebrates the province’s innovation and leadership in energy efficiency.

“Sustainable education is one of the toughest roadblocks for homeowners and home professionals here in New Brunswick,” said Rise CEO and Founder, Matt Daigle.

“We’re proud to not only help homeowners discover products and companies that are truly sustainable, according to their values, but to raise awareness for professionals right here in New Brunswick who are offering sustainable solutions.”

Rise Focuses on Two Initiatives

Last year, through a partnership with 3D design software company Sketchup, Rise held a North America-wide competition for tiny home designs to promote its sustainability assessment initiative. The company also works with different utility rebate programs through its platform. 

Since January, over 100,000 users have sourced information from Rise for home renovation projects or new builds. Daigle hopes to reach over a million homeowners by the end of 2018.

The other winners of the night were:

ProcedureFlow On To Fundica Finals

Daniella Degrace: 'I love these events.'

Daniella Degrace: 'I love these events.'

Daniella Degrace is not resting on her laurels after capturing top prize at the Fundica Roadshow event in Montreal  earlier this month.

The CEO of Saint John-based ProcedureFlow has been on the road, meeting with clients and potential investors. The company, which helps call centres improve their operational efficiency, has doubled sales in the past year and staff since December. There’s no sign of the growth slowing down.

A recent highlight for the company was its appearance at the Fundica Roadshow’s Montreal pitching session, where it was one of three Atlantic Canadian companies pitching. ProcedureFlow ended up winning the “Series A Track” (which features the most mature companies) in Montreal, and will go on to the national finals in July, at which it could win an investment of $500,000.

“It was great to be selected and to represent the region,” said Degrace in a phone interview from New York, where she was meeting clients before flying on to Chicago. “I love those events. As a startup, one of the things you’re always looking for is ways to accelerate your growth and your presence in the marketplace. And having all these great events to network at and meet people and investors, it helps you grow more quickly.”

ProcedureFlow – whose corporate name is Gemba Software Solutions – began in 2015 when it was spun out of Saint John tech services company Innovatia. It secured $2 million in equity funding from Innovatia and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and was headed by tech veteran Degrace, who had previously worked for such successful startups as Radian6 and Q1 Labs.

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The company’s mission was to sell a digital product developed by Innovatia that helped corporate clients simplify complicated procedures for employees. Some companies – especially those with call centres, or contact centres -- need their employees to understand hundreds or thousands of business procedures. ProcedureFlow provides companies with a series of flow charts and digital tools that help to train employees and let them find information more quickly.

Degrace said the companies that use ProcedureFlow have experienced a reduction of as much as 90 percent  in the time it takes to train employees and an increase of up to 50 percent in performance. Operating costs of these companies have fallen by as much as 5 percent. She added that contact centres have huge problems with turnover and ProcedureFlow helps to retain employees.

“We started with the contact centre market and within that we’ve seen tremendous success in healthcare, insurance and utility/telecoms,” said Degrace. “We have a very broad market across industries, across size of companies, and around the world. We’ve had really good relationships with customers in our region.”

The company, which was named to the Top 20 of the Canadian Innovation Exchange in 2016, is continuing to grow. Degrace is now raising capital (she declined to say how much) and expects to double her staff, now at 13, again in the next 12 months.

ProcedureFlow is also working on new features for its product, which it hopes to roll out in the next year. These include a “social collaboration feature”, which will enable every employee in a work force to contribute to the improvement of operational processes. The company is also working on a new reporting system that will tell clients how well their employees and teams of employees are using the ProcedureFlow product.

Ropeless Traps Could Save Whales

Aaron Stevenson, the CEO of Ashored

Aaron Stevenson, the CEO of Ashored

One hallmark of Canada's East Coast is the bright, fluorescent buoys that fisherman release across our region’s oceans, freckling the Atlantic shorelines. But the ropes that link the buoys to the lobster and crab traps below are deadly hazards for marine life, especially for the endangered right whale.

Ashored Innovations, a young Halifax-based startup, aims to eliminate the risk of whale entanglement by designing a ropeless buoy system for smarter, sustainable fishing practices.

“We’re doing a bottom bound, ropeless fishing solution,” said CEO Aaron Stevenson, who co-founded the company with Maxwell Poole and Ross Arsenault.

“Instead of having the buoy floating at the top of the water, we’re going to be taking the rope and the buoy and holding that down next to the trap. When the boat is nearby, it’ll send a signal to it which will activate the release and allow the buoy to rise to the surface.”

Stevenson and Arsenault are currently enrolled in St. Mary’s University’s MTEI program. Ashored is their applied project.

The students are still building the prototype, which Stevenson hopes will include geo-tracking and data collecting technology, so fishers can locate lost or stolen traps.

“It would help the fisher improve their process by automating their records and also provide some historical context of past catches to help with trap placement to increase gain,” said Stevenson.

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Ashored is one of six companies accepted into the first Startup Yard cohort at the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship. The company was given $25,000 in non-dilutive funding to expand on the tech.

Stevenson said he also plans to go after NRC-IRAP and CICan funding to hire student interns.

He wants to recruit engineering students from The Nova Scotia Community College to help build a seaworthy prototype over the summer and prepare for beta tests in the fall.

“We’re enjoying and looking forward to the resources and mentoring opportunities it will provide and are looking forward to their capabilities,” said Stevenson about his future team.

“They’re going to be able to bring in a lot of talents and skills they've learned in this program that will really help us accelerate our technological development in the next four months.”

According to Stevenson, there are almost 30,000 lost or broken traps sitting in the region’s oceans. This can cost fishers thousands of dollars per year but it’s also contributing to the entanglement and demise of right whales.

Said Stevenson: “It’s a big deal from two perspectives. For the fisher, it’s the financial cost, the ropes, traps and buoys all have a cost. But there is also an ecological cost.”

Right now, there are around 450 right whales left in the world. With a record death toll of 18 whales last summer, 12 of which died in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, as well as zero recorded calves, ecologists and governments have cause for alarm.

Fishing gear entanglement is currently the main threat to right whales and scientists are racing to preserve this endangered species. With it’s ropeless solution, Ashored could help save these gentle giants.

“We really want to show the financial benefit to the fisherman,” said Stevenson  “But really it’s the ecological benefit to society by protecting an endangered species.”  

Manning Awards’ Short List Revealed

Scott Everett is in the running for a cash prize worth up to $100,000

Scott Everett is in the running for a cash prize worth up to $100,000

The Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation has announced the three Atlantic Canadian companies whose founders are in the running for the $145,000 in cash prizes to be distributed later in the year.

The foundation said this week the Atlantic Canadian shortlist comprises: Mark Wood of Ocean Sonics in Great Village, NS; Chris Cowper-Smith, Stephen Fitzgerald and Robert Garrish of Spring Loaded Technology in the Halifax area; and Scott Everett of Eigen Innovations in Fredericton.

These entrepreneurs will be recognized at a reception at the Emera headquarters in Halifax on June 14. The reception will feature a keynote address by former Emera CEO Chris Huskilson. (You can register for the event here.)

They will be considered for the national awards at a gala in Toronto in November. The Manning Awards will present winners with four cash prizes, ranging from the $100,000 Principal Award to $10,000 Innovation Awards.

Mark Wood has been working with ocean acoustics in Great Village since 2000. His company Ocean Sonics designs and manufactures robust ocean acoustic instruments. Every product is evaluated for usability and ease of deployment, and the team strives to make products small and user-friendly.

Dartmouth-based Spring Loaded Technology produces the Levitation knee brace, which not only stabilizes the joint but adds power to it, allowing people with mobility problems to move more freely. The Spring Loaded nominees include: CEO Chris Cowper-Smith; his Co-Founder and original CTO Bob Garrish, who left the company last year for health reasons; and the current CTO Stephen Fitzgerald.

Spring Loaded Shows the Impact It Makes in People's Lives. 

Headed by CEO Scott Everett, Eigen is an industrial internet of things company whose Intellexon platform helps manufacturers improve production efficiency and reduce waste. The system uses algorithms developed under the guidance of researcher and co-founder Rickey Dubay at the University of New Brunswick. Everett worked with Dubay and has been the technical expert developing the product for the past few years.

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

Greenlaw Returns with Brunvalley

Having sold his last company Brovada for US$15.2 million in 2015, Karl Greenlaw is back in the startup game with a new fintech company called Brunvalley Cloud Solutions Inc.

The Quispamsis, NB-based company, which plans to use artificial intelligence to simplify applications for home and auto insurance, has already attracted funding from East Valley Ventures of Saint John and other investors.

Greenlaw was the founder and CEO of Brovada, which streamlined the communications between insurance companies and brokers. Brovada accounted for about 90 percent of the data transferred between the two groups in Canada. He sold the company, which was also backed by East Valley, to professional services company Towers Watson in September 2015. Greenlaw moved on from Towers Watson more than a year ago, and hopes the new company picks up where Brovada left off.

“At Brovada, I’d meet regularly with brokers and insurance companies and get their views, and what I found was . . . that insurance hasn’t been properly disrupted,” Greenlaw said in an interview Tuesday. “If you want to move from one company to another, it’s not very easy. There’s all kind of questions like how big’s your home and what’s your floor area . . . and that ends it for some people.”

Brunvalley has a four-member team working at simplifying the process of getting insurance. The company is using artificial intelligence to help insurers produce an instant quote for a potential customer, and then move through the process of buying a policy without answering dozens of questions.

Read About a new Company by Another Brovada Veteran, Mike Wright

The idea behind Brunvalley is that many people, especially millennials, will give up on finding a new insurer rather than answer all the questions about insulation or oil tanks or age of the furnace. Greenlaw believes a lot of the questions are not needed, and that an AI program can provide insurers with all the information they need to give a fast quote and issue an insurance policy.

He foresees a product that will let a buyer go to a car dealership or see a house for sale and instantly get a quote on how much he or she would pay for insurance and financing. That would lead to a smoother sale and increase sales to the financial company that offered such a service.

With industry consolidation and the need to reach younger customers, Greenlaw said insurers would be open to disruptive technology that allows them to grow market share and meet the demands of younger generations. He’s now looking forward to having a working product to demonstrate to people in the financial industries.

Greenlaw said he has not been trying to raise capital, but as he discussed his plan with former backers they let him know they’d be interested in investing in the company. Now the team is working on its minimum viable product.

“Our proof of concept is coming along quite nicely,” he said. “We’re trying to hurry it along so it can be shown to industry people, and we should be able to do that in the next few months. . . . We’re probably a year away from a formal launch.”

NBIF Leads Avrij’s $1.2M Round

The Avrij Analytics Team

The Avrij Analytics Team

Avrij Analytics, a Fredericton- and Ottawa-based sports analytics startup, has closed an equity funding round worth $1.2 million, led by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

NBIF said in a statement it invested $500,000 in the round, which also included investments by Technology Venture Corporation of Moncton and other public and private investors.

Avrij provides a software that helps sports organizations track and monitor an athlete’s off-field behaviour. A statement released Tuesday said the funds will be used to refine the platform by integrating video and photo analysis in addition to text.

In the world of professional sports, an athlete's online image can affect his or her career and personal brand. Avrij has found a way to use data and machine learning to monitor that image and help organizations monitor and track an athlete’s behaviour.   

Avrij’s founders became aware of the market need while working in New York as data science consultants for various educational institutes and health organizations. On the advice of a friend, they moved back to New Brunswick to develop the business.

“We look forward to a successful future as we build our sports analytics application in the province,” said Avriji CFO Carmen McKell in the statement.

“We’re pleased to be back home and part of the growing start-up scene in New Brunswick. The landscape has changed dramatically over the years with new support for early stage businesses.”

Resson Raises $14M; Mahindra Leads

The company is led by CEO Garfield Fisher, alongside McKell and COO Shambhavi Pundir. Combined, they have over 50 years' experience in statistics and predictive analytics. The company's website, which lists offices in Ottawa and Fredericton, lists a five-member team. 

“Pro sports teams have already expressed interest, and knowing that they were able to come home to New Brunswick to make this dream a reality is all the better,” said NBIF Director of Investments Raymond Fitzpatrick.

Technology Venture Corporation is a boutique investment fund headed by Jon Manship and Susan Hicks, who were involved in the sale of Spielo Manufacturing to GTECH Holdings for as much as US$185 million in 2004. TVC operates quietly but is a key backer of such Atlantic Canadian institutions as the VC fund Build Ventures and the Moncton-based business hub Venn Innovation. 

It's believed that this is TVC's first new investment since it backed Sentrant Security, a cybersecurity startup that sold out last September to Neilsen Holdings. TVC has also invested in other startups including Masitek Instruments of Moncton, Inversa Systems in Frederiction and Medusa Medical Technologies in Halifax. 

Alongside Works With CareerBeacon

CareerBeacon, Atlantic Canada’s leading job board, has teamed up with Moncton-based Alongside to launch an updated recruitment tool that focuses on mobile devices.

The job site, which is owned by the Irving family’s media company, Brunswick News Inc., unveiled its revamped website today, saying it provides a richer and easier experience for both recruiters and jobseekers.

The updated product, which improves its mobile experience, is the first result of the partnership between CareerBeacon and Alongside. The two New Brunswick companies partnered last year, when CareerBeacon invested an undisclosed amount in the Moncton company formerly known as Qimple. (Among the properties overseen by Alongside is the Entrevestor Job Board.)

“CareerBeacon has demonstrated a strong commitment to enhance its services for employers and job seekers, which is why they approached us with the idea of partnering,” said Alongside Co-Founder and CEO Yves Boudreau in an email. “They felt we could complement their offering with our applicant tracking system, and we thought partnering with Atlantic Canada’s market-leading job board was a great opportunity to have our product in front of all Atlantic Canadian companies.”

The companies said in a statement that they hope the new design creates an easier way for jobseekers to search, save, and apply for jobs and even apply for jobs directly from their mobile devices. Employers benefit by providing a clean and mobile-friendly experience for job-seekers, said the statement.

WEnTECH Planning 2 Launches in 2018

Boudreau said the launch today is the first phase in the partnership, and the focus is on improving the experience for job-seekers – especially on mobile. “Later this summer, we will release the CareerBeacon employer services, which will make the partnership more obvious as both sites will communicate seamlessly,” he added.

Founded in 2005, CareerBeacon has the largest market share of any job board in Atlantic Canada, with more than 20,000 daily job-seekers and 2,500 companies using the site.

"With 63 percent of recruiters stating that talent shortage is their biggest problem, we believe that our flexible and efficient jobseeker experience will help increase talent acquisition rates," said CareerBeacon Director of Sales Jason Warren in the statement.

Alongside operates a hiring platform that humanizes the online hiring experience by bridging the communication gaps between employers and candidates. Founded in 2014, Alongside was named to the Top 25 Up and Coming Canadian ICT Companies by the Branham300 and was the first Atlantic Canadian startup to be accepted into 500 Startups, one of the world’s top startup accelerators.

Boudreau said the company, which now has 12 employees and will add employees later this year, has been growing its business in other areas while it has been working on the CareerBeacon relaunch. “Actually, this partnership allowed our team to take a step back and re-evaluate our offering and how we can reposition Alongside to be a market leader in the human capital management industry in North America.”

Bringing VR to the Eye Doctor

Ryan Cameron, the CEO of Electric Puppets, testing out the Evrisia system.

Ryan Cameron, the CEO of Electric Puppets, testing out the Evrisia system.

Virtual reality and augmented experiences have revolutionized entertainment and gaming industries. Now, Halifax entrepreneur Ryan Cameron is working on bringing this technology to a clinical setting.

His company Electric Puppets uses VR and eye-tracking technology to improve on the basic tests patients take when they visit the eye doctor.

“In current cases, they’re using tests that are over 100 years old," Cameron said in an interview. "It’s a combination of lenses, physical equipment, dials and whatnot.”

Electric Puppet’s system, called Evrisia, uses VR to simulate two standardized eye tests – the Bagolini striated lens test and the Worth 4-dot test. They examine a patient's binocular functions, meaning, they look at how the eyes work together. 

Using the Evrisia system, patients wear the same device that goes over a player's eyes in VR gaming. Depending on the settings used, patients can be transported to a virtual room with leather chairs and a carpet, a cartoon jungle, or the middle of a lake. Patients are then shown different objects and illusions and are asked to describe what they see while the system tracks and records data about their eye movements.

Spring Loaded Shows the Impact of its Knee Brace

He said earlier generations of VR would have produced images more slowly than the eye can see, creating a disorientating and often nauseating experience. Now, developers have found a way for the tech to track the user’s fovea, a part of the eye behind the pupil with the highest concentration of rods, and rapidly generate video from those specific movements.

“So the theory is, if you can track a person's eye movement with enough precision, you can send their eye movement to the video card and the video card would render, with great precision, just the bit you are looking directly at,” said Cameron.

Electric Puppets is harnessing this high-precision eye-tracking tech to better understand ophthalmology. 

“We’re still contemplating whether or not this is a valid research tool,” said Cameron. “For now, we’re just collecting data that has never been collected before.”

 The company has received investments of $87,000. It is operating out of Innovacorp’s Summer Street offices and won $50,000 in last year's Innovacorp Spark Innovation Challenge.

Cameron plans to use another of his ventures to get the Evrisia system to market. He is the CTO of Unified Health, which helps people create customizable healthcare solutions. This company is setting up wellness clinics that merge traditional and alternative care practices.

Cameron said he plans to test the efficacy of VR as a tool in these clinics. He’s also working with the Children’s Centre for Pain Research, in Halifax,  as an early adopter to test more applications of VR in the medical space. 

“We’re in preliminary talks to use VR for therapy to work with kids and help pain,” he said.

Job of the Week: Sendwithus

A Software-as-a-Service startup in Victoria, British Columbia is our lone posting in our Jobs of the Week column today.

Sendwithus is a communications platform designed for email management by providing a centralized hub for email creation and publishing. Its latest product, Dyspatch is an email template, content management system.

The company is seeking talent from the East Coast to become the Product Owner for the Dyspatch system. It advertises a $100,000 or higher salary and a relocation package.

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 startup communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.

Here are excerpts from the job posting:

Victoria, BC


Product Owner

Sendwithus is hiring our first Product Owner. This person will engage with customers regularly, work closely with company executive and leadership teams, and analyze product data to build and manage our product roadmap.

This position pertains specifically to our latest product, Dyspatch, an email template CMS for enterprise. You’ll be the single point of entry for new product features and you’ll report directly to the executive team. You will direct product research and design, triage bugs, and be the final decision maker on everything related to the Dyspatch product... 


  • Work with our product team to become a Dyspatch expert
  • Triage all new bugs, feature ideas, and customer feedback
  • Set goals for a Dyspatch release and write customer facing release notes
  • Become an expert in how we create, develop, and deploy user stories
  • Run weekly product grooming and planning meetings... 

Apply for the position here.

Easy Golf Aligns with Association

Pat Laderoute, left, and CEO Todd Chant are rolling out Easy Golf Tour's product.

Pat Laderoute, left, and CEO Todd Chant are rolling out Easy Golf Tour's product.

When Todd Chant was developing his software for golf tournaments, he was worried about the narrow path to market. But he’s come up with a strategy that broadened his path to the width of the friendliest fairway.

Chant is the Co-Founder and CEO of Sydney-based Easy Golf Tour, whose software helps golf courses administer the tournaments they hold several times each season. The strength of the sales strategy is its partnership with the National Golf Course Owners Association of Canada (NGCOA), which has 1,300 members across the country.

In an interview, Chant said the company is now working with three paid customers and making sure all the kinks are ironed out. It is also marketing the product through the NGCOA, which is allowing it to reach more customers with greater ease than it could through individual sales calls.

“In the next six weeks or so, we’re hoping for 40 to 60 golf courses to sign on,” said Chant, who was in Halifax after meeting course owners and managers at an event at Chester Golf Club. He added the company is looking for steady, not hasty, progress as “we want to make sure the roll-out is smooth.”

Chant has a long history of developing software for the golf industry. For 18 years, he has operated an IT company that carries out projects for golf courses. Clients kept coming back so he began to canvas them on what they wanted in a software product.

“We worked with the courses to build something they wanted – not only did I ask them what they wanted but I also asked them what they didn’t want,” he said.

Sydney's Talem Health Among the Winners at Volta Cohort

The result is an integrated platform that simplifies the whole process of staging a tournament. The system lets course members sign up for a tournament, and arranges and announces the draw, so all golfers know when they’re teeing off. It posts scores online, and notifies players of special messages. It can even send the media the results of a tournament.

The software is a white label product, meaning it can be used on any club’s website without members knowing outside software is being used. As well as tournaments, the product can be used to organize golf leagues, which have become popular among golf club members.

“We try to automate all the tasks that take up their [golf course employees’] time,” said Chant. “It’s all about making it easier for the golf courses so their staff do what they’re supposed to do – spend more time looking after their members.”

The system will be used this weekend at the Lingan Golf Course’s Spring Thaw tournament and will be rolled out at other tournaments throughout the summer.

Easy Golf Tour, which won $50,000 at last year’s Spark Innovation Challenge, now has eight employees, including Chief Marketing Officer Pat Laderoute, a member of the Professional Golf Association of Canada.

Chant and his brother Kevin have so far been bootstrapping the company and are working on raising $300,000 in equity funding.

Inboundli’s New Home in Halifax

Gene Sobolev moved his company, Inboundli, to Halifax from Berlin.

Gene Sobolev moved his company, Inboundli, to Halifax from Berlin.

Gene Sobolev, the CEO of Innovacorp’s newest resident company Inboundli, was torn between three Canadian cities when deciding where to relocate from Berlin, Germany. The Start-Up Visa program put Halifax on top, and Sobolev moved his content curation platform to the East Coast.

Inboundli specializes in inbound marketing and social engagement, generating content for its clients via data and machine learning. The Inboundli platform, which works with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, is able to automate social media posts for small to medium sized companies, or SMEs.

Before coming to Halifax, Sobolev established a clientele of around 130 SMEs throughout North America. He ran Inboundli remotely with his co-founder in Tel Aviv, Israel.

With a solid customer foundation already established, Sobolev is now focused on growing the company, aiming for a 50 percent increase in revenue each month before looking for any Atlantic investors.

“I’m looking for signs that it [the business] is going to be scalable and trying to understand how big it can be,” said Sobolev during an interview.  “When taking other people’s money, from my perspective, it only makes sense when you know you’ll do something positive with it.”

Spritely Unveils App To Aid Newcomers

He said that in Germany, investors are risk averse.

"They invest in proven ventures so maybe that’s where attitudes come from,” he said.

He is assessing whether Halifax is a good base for a scaling company. It's an interesting time in Nova Scotia as the province is focusing on growing its innovation community. 

A potential obstacle to Inboundli's growth is the distrust that has arisen between the public and the data-mining industry since the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal. The affair highlighted issues of data-privacy, and companies like Inboundli are having a hard time regaining the trust of the public.  

“People get anxious,” said Sobolev. “And social media networks have now changed their policies regarding social media automation so it makes things difficult and harder. It didn’t change anything profoundly but it made some people get a bit scared, but I see this trend reversing.”

He said Twitter wants to avoid that kind of scandal and has taken preemptive steps by changing its anti-spam policies. "So sharing content recurrently, with the same post is now impossible,” said Sobolev.

The problem is, when the same content is shared multiple times, it interferes with the online traffic from real users. This becomes an even bigger problem when the process is automated and the software is left to its own devices, generating spam. 

Sobolev said social media networks are also changing their policies to prevent AI aggregating data from all over the internet and using personal information without consent. 

“More things are being taken away, you cannot publish the same content to multiple profiles, This is going to be a very decisive time,” he said.

For now, Sobolev is settling into Inboundli’s new base at Innovacorp’s Summer Street offices. Like most newcomers, he's already picked up on a classic Maritime stereotype.

“Everyone is so friendly,” he said. “It’s so easy to approach people here. Literally every day someone has approached me on the street to talk to me.”


Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

BDC Lends $140M on East Coast

Over the last 12 months, Atlantic Canadian businesses, including high-growth ventures like TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture, have received over $140 million in financing from the Business Development Bank of Canada.

The money is part of the bank’s two-year financing package for the region’s small and mid-sized businesses.  The program has led to over 449 transactions since it was announced in May 2017, BDC said yesterday in a press release.

The bank plans to provide $280 million in financing over two years in order to assist companies that work in four industries: ICT; agri-food; ocean technology and tourism.

“This package supports the Atlantic Growth Strategy and is just one of the ways we are creating opportunities for innovation and growth in Atlantic Canada’s economy,” said Gina Gale, Senior Vice President, Atlantic at BDC.

The release said BDC’s Atlantic Growth Envelope has helped SMEs in all four Atlantic provinces. Some of the companies helped include:

* Anchor Inn Hotel & Suites: BDC gave the hotel financing to increase its number of rooms in order to take advantage of an increase in tourism in Twillingate, the iceberg capital of Newfoundland.

* TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture: BDC provided the Halifax-based vertical farming company with financing to expand their operations into Ontario through the construction of a new facility in Guelph.

* Mrs. Dunster's: BDC provided Mrs. Dunster’s bakery, based in Sussex, NB, with financing to support continued expansion.

BDC’s $280-million financing commitment for Atlantic Canada represented a $100-million increase in the bank’s normal lending volume for the targeted industries, the bank’s release stated.

The initiative is focused on supporting growing companies, including those pursuing acquisitions, change of ownership transactions and investment in export strategies.


Disclosure: BDC Capital is a client of Entrevestor.

5 Teams Split $125K at Volta Cohort

Innovacorp's Andrew Ray, left, congratulates Paul Travis and Matthew Kay of Talem.

Innovacorp's Andrew Ray, left, congratulates Paul Travis and Matthew Kay of Talem.

Volta Labs on Wednesday night awarded $125,000 to five startups – including two from outside the Halifax area – in the second Volta Cohort pitching competition.

Backed by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, BDC Capital and Innovacorp, the Volta Cohort is an early-stage investment program designed to provide about 10 young companies a year with initial funding. The program awarded the full amount of $125,000 in its first pitching competition in November, and handed out the same amount Wednesday.

Some 48 companies applied for the second Volta Cohort and 16 of them pitched.The winners included Sydney's Talem Health Analytics and UAV Control Tower of St. John's, showing that the Volta Cohort program is extending its reach beyond Halifax. 

“The quality of applicants to this program is very high,” said Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers in a statement. “Selecting only five of the pitching companies was tough given each founder’s potential. Together with our partners, we look forward to helping these early-stage companies grow and succeed from their home base in Atlantic Canada.”

The five winners are:

Talem Health Analytics, Sydney – Talem uses machine learning and data analysis to predict how someone who has been in an accident will recover. Drawing on data from physiotherapy clinics, it can help insurers assess how the patient will rehab. CEO Paul Travis said it can save as much as 10 to 20 percent on the cost of each claim.

Grey Lit, Halifax – Founded by Cora Cola, Grey Lit has developed a platform that provides researchers with a targeted audience for research that has not yet been reviewed by peers. Only 10 percent of scientific research ends up in peer-reviewed academic journals, and Grey Lit helps the other 90 percent progress into the development of useful products.

ColourSmith Labs, Halifax – This company is creating North America’s first direct-to-consumer contact lenses that restore a full spectrum of colour in red-green colour blind people. Founder Gabrielle Masone has self-funded the project so far and is now in the process of raising $100,000 to accelerate research and development.

UAV Control Tower, St. John’s – The team of experienced commercial drone operators has developed a drone-monitoring system used by air traffic controllers to approve, manage and record drone flights. CEO Duncan Wallace said the digital product will disrupt a cumbersome paper-based process now in use.

Speakr, Halifax – Headed by Lee Babin, Speakr is developing digital tools that help people improve their public speaking. Its software can analyze data on such facets as the speaker’s voice, facial expressions and body language and make constructive feedback.

Before the pitching began, Halifax MP Andy Fillmore announced the government would provide Volta with $200,000 through ACOA to more fully develop the Volta Cohort program. This will include hiring a full-time program manager as well as the costs of events, meetings and outreach.

Highline Relaunches Female Funders

Highline BETA of Toronto has announced the relaunch of Female Funders Angel Academy, a national program that will help women become angel investors.

Highline, which supports and invests in new ventures, last year bought Female Funders and is now working with the National Angel Capital Organization to roll the program out across the country.

"There are a handful of incredibly talented women investors today—but we need more," Lauren Robinson, Executive Director of Female Funders and COO of Highline BETA, said in a release.  "We talk a lot about the growth of female entrepreneurship, and we see the tides starting to shift. But without representation on both sides of the table — among both entrepreneurs and investors — we won't see real change.”

Only 6 percent of deal-making venture capitalists and 20 percent of angel investors are women, Highline said in the statement. The revamped Female Funders program will focus on three key areas to help women make their first investments: blended education; investment opportunities, supported by expert and peer guidance; and a curated network of women executives, investors and innovators.

Members of Angel Academy's first cohort will undertake an eight-week self-paced training program that covers the fundamentals of angel investing. These include the mechanics of a successful deal; sourcing high-potential startups; and creating an investment thesis and portfolio strategy.

In the year following the training program, Angel Academy members will have the opportunity to initiate their own deals or join deals through the Female Funders syndicate, and to co-invest alongside Highline BETA. The Highline BETA executive team (which has made 42 pre-seed investments) and Female Funders advisors will provide cohort members with guidance and support throughout the investment process.

"Women executives have the networks and industry expertise to become exceptional angel investors and to help entrepreneurs at the most critical stages of a company's development," said NACO Executive Director Yuri Navarro NACO.

Angel Academy members will also have access to a curated deal flow of early-stage, high-growth startups through Highline BETA accelerator programs, said the statement.

“Women corporate and technology executives have the networks and expertise to impact startups and to source great investment opportunities that others may overlook,” said Robinson. “We're relaunching Angel Academy to give women the edge they need to become standout angel investors."

Spring Loaded Shows its Impact

The Levitation Knee Brace

The Levitation Knee Brace

Spring Loaded Technology on Tuesday used a press conference to show what its Levitation knee brace means to the people who use it --especially to users who suffer from osteoarthritis.

The manufacturer held the media event at its Dartmouth headquarters to announce a $460,000 loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program, and the launch of a new add-on product for the Levitation.

But the highlight was a video and speech by Jane Grover of the Annapolis Valley, who explained what the knee brace – which not only stabilizes the joint but adds to its power – has meant to herself and her granddaughter.

Grover, 64, said the Levitation knee brace has helped her granddaughter Kelsie, who has muscular dystrophy, continue to enjoy exercise and outdoor life in spite of her disease. So, when Grover found out she herself needed a second knee replacement, she opted for a Levitation knee brace instead.

“I was offered surgery within a month but I declined because of my faith in the Levitation knee brace that my granddaughter Kelsie was wearing,” said Grover, who mounted the stage wearing one of the devices. [Watch the video here.]

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Spring Loaded began six years ago when Chris Cowper-Smith (now the CEO) and two co-founders set out to design a knee brace that would store energy when the knee joint is bent and release it when the leg is straightened. The company launched its Levitation knee last June, and its sales have risen steadily, especially among osteoarthritis patients.

“It’s the most attractive market to us because it’s the market where we actually got pull,” said COO Dawn Umlah in an interview. She added that the 14 million people in Canada and the U.S. living with osteoarthritis have no other suitable alternatives.

On Tuesday, the company unveiled its new Levitation Offloader, an add-on to the knee brace that improves performance for osteoarthritis patients.

“With the launch of the Levitation Offloader, we’re able to offer customized relief to further reduce pressure on the worst-affected compartment of the knee,” said Cowper-Smith in a statement. “This allows us to better support a wider range of osteoarthritis patients, to reduce wear and tear and provide the pain relief they need.”

The statement said conventional knee braces only address a narrow range of arthritis cases--uni-compartment tibiofemoral arthritis--which account for less than 4 percent of knee arthritis cases. Spring Loaded said its knee brace is the only one capable of reducing forces in all three compartments of the knee.

The company will use the ACOA funding to expand its manufacturing capacity and increase its output. It has increased its staff 40 percent year-on-year and now employs 35 people, said Umlah. She added Spring Loaded is now raising equity capital, though she declined to say how much.

Spring Loaded is one of three Nova Scotia life sciences companies to announce loans from ACOA’s Business Development Program this week.

Adaptiiv, formerly 3DBolus, announced it has received funding of $328,943. The company has developed software that works with 3D printers to produce a personalized bolus — a plastic fitting used in radiation therapy. The company recently announced a distribution deal with CIVCO Radiotherapy.

And Sona Nanotech announced a $500,000 BDP loan. Sona, which produces gold nanorods for medical markets, is going through the process of gaining a listing on the TSX Venture exchange. 

Sayle Awarded BCIP Contract

CEO Stephen Sayle (second left) aims to start a

CEO Stephen Sayle (second left) aims to start a "culture of safety" in Canadian workplaces.

The Halifax company devoted to fostering a culture of safety in the workplace has been awarded a $551,770 contract through the Government of Canada’s Build in Canada Innovation Program.

SayleSafety, a Software-as-a-Service company based in Hammonds Plains, received the funds for its app that digitizes and manages risk assessments for job sites.

“The vast majority of site safety is paper-based. And paperwork is inefficient, often gets damaged or lost and makes sharing the practices difficult,” said Stephen Sayle, company CEO. “A strong safety culture results in strong businesses, great jobs and a growing economy.”

MP Andy Fillmore announced the contract at a press conference in Halifax yesterday.

The BCIP is a federal program that helps Canadian innovators get their products to market faster by securing sales with early adopters.

Sayle’s app will be tested by Public Services and Procurement Canada with the Halifax Port Authority and the Nova Scotia Community College serving as early adopters.

The SayleSafety app eliminates the need for paper, making it easier for those working in the field to keep safety records. It is customizable to each worksite, factoring in physical hazards and weather conditions, and highlights trends and challenges that require attention.

WEnTECH Plans 2 Launches in 2018

In addition to its app, the company offers affordable online courses that describe ideal “safety culture” for companies of all sizes, as well as consulting for risk management.

The venture was initially headed by Stephen and and his brother Bryan, who has left the company after accepting a new position in Washington. Stephen’s wife, Heidi, is a chartered accountant and is company CFO.

SayleSafety currently employs six people and is taking on two new employees as a result of its new funding.

So far, in its eight-year history, the BCIP has supported over 27 companies in Nova Scotia with contracts worth more than $13 million. Yesterday’s funding announcement was the program's 300th contract.

“One of the toughest aspects of growing a business is developing new products to take to market and often the hardest hurdle is the final testing, tweaking and commercializing of the product. And the Build in Canada Innovation Program focuses on this very challenging stage,” said Sayle.

The company recieved recognition last year when it won the Halifax Chamber of Commerce’s New Business of the Year award. It was also named the Most Promising Startup by the Atlantic Canadian Aerospace and Defense Association.

Said Sayle during the conference: “I have worked in high-risk jobs in dangerous areas in over a dozen countries. I started my career as a commercial diver but I can tell you being an entrepreneur is the scariest job I’ve ever had.”

Cribcut Expands to Toronto

Cribcut, a SaaS company for mobile hair stylists, has launched in Toronto.

Cribcut, a SaaS company for mobile hair stylists, has launched in Toronto.

When Entrevestor featured Cribcut last spring, founder David Howe was deciding how and where to expand his company, which provides a software-enabled marketplace for mobile hairstylists. Almost a year later, Cribcut is expanding into Toronto.

“Launching in Toronto means a lot for us. It proves our model works in a city outside of Halifax, it gives us access to an estimated 35,000 stylists in the GTA, and it allows us to increase our velocity significantly,” said Howe in an email.  

“Our early success here is one reason why we're considering a seed round, to help keep up with the demand and increase our speed to market.”

Cribcut is a Software-as-a-Service marketing company for mobile hair stylists who travel to clients instead of working out of bricks-and-mortar spaces.

By charging a monthly fee for its software and marketing, Cribcut allows stylists to bring in their cwn clients through its platform and keep 100 per cent of their revenue and product sales.

"Even though clients are loyal to a particular stylist—not a salon or brand—stylists still typically work under a 50/50 commission split," Howe said. "Only half of the revenue from their work actually goes to them, the rest goes to the salon owner." 

Howe’s initial idea was for Cribcut to take a cut of each styling transaction, but the company pivoted in 2017 to focus more on SaaS after its successful beta in Halifax where it booked around 500 appointments over a six-month period.

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Since that beta, Cribcut has gone on to book over 1,000 appointments. It has 15 stylists signed up and hundreds more inquiring.

Howe said the company has about an 80 percent retention rate for stylist clients who make the switch to mobile hairstyling. To make the booking process simpler, the company plans to launch a mobile app for iOS and Android this summer.

Howe grew the company quickly by catching the eyes of Halifax entrepreneurs and obtaining investments of $150,000. Investors included Kyle Racki and Kevin Springer of Proposify, Ron Lovett, who founded the Atlantic Chapter of the Entrepreneurs Organization, and Bill Wilson, CEO of Mindsea.

Explaining his decision to invest, Lovett said: "David is a gritty entrepreneur who has developed an innovative business model with Cribcut. His ability to put a strong team together, get traction and move fast are just a few of the reasons I decided to invest. I'm excited for what's to come at Cribcut—they have the chance to do something special.”

With a strong investment and advisory team that includes Blair Ryan from The Rounds as well as Racki and Springer of Proposify, which is currently valued at over $30 million, Howe anticipates launching Cribcut in more cities. He will have to decide whether to raise a seed round to further amplify growth.

CyberSmart 2018 Starts Today

Melissa Hathaway

Melissa Hathaway

CyberNB today will open CyberSmart 2018, a conference that features presentations by cybersecurity experts from around the world.

The conference will develop themes that were brought out at the inaugural  event last year, CyberSmart is the only cybersecurity skills and workforce development event of its kind in North America, said a statement from one if its sponsors, Saint John-based Mariner. It will take place in Fredericton today and Wedneday.

Last year’s event drew more than 300 delegates from across Canada and the United States. Attendees included industry leaders and influencers, all three levels of Canadian government, private and public post-secondary institutions and university and high school students.

“Finding and fostering talented information security professionals is critical for Mariner as we continue to grow our business,” Mariner Innovations President Paul Eisner said in a statement. “The CyberSmart Summit brings together key stakeholders essential to developing the cybersecurity workforce, and provides the perfect forum to exchange valuable learnings.”

The keynote address – International Cyber Readiness: Lessons for Canada – will be delivered by Melissa Hathaway, President of Washington, D.C.-based Hathaway Global Strategies. She spearheaded the Cyberspace Policy Review for President Barack Obama after leading the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative for President George W. Bush.

The schedule includes a session on cybercrime, chaired by Mariner’s Vice-President of Security Solutions Anthony English, as well as seminars on trends in cyber workforce development, building cyber and digital literacy in youth and an international cyber warriors program.

The event will also feature Canada’s first country-wide youth summit for cybersecurity. The CyberSmart Youth Summit will be attended by students from across Canada. It will feature hands-on sessions and an interactive career-path-focused trade show. A number of industry leaders, including Fredericton-based Blue Spurs, will speak at the youth event.

This youth summit is the first of its kind in Canada, organizers said. It aims to be the first step in building a stronger IT-skilled workforce in New Brunswick and establishing the province as the key centre of cybersecurity in Canada.

CyberNB is a division of Opportunities NB that aims to foster the cybersecurity community in New Brunswick.

Skyline Rebrands to RetailDeep

The RetailDeep team in 2015

The RetailDeep team in 2015

RetailDeep, the Halifax-startup that used to be known as Skyline, is currently in the running for some big prizes and was shortlisted to the Top 20 at the XRC Labs innovation accelerator in New York City.

XRC runs two cohorts annually and RetailDeep will travel to the Big Apple next week to participate in the final round of the application process, which had over 500 applicants. The applicants will be whittled down to five.

If accepted, RetailDeep will win US$100,000 and spend 12 weeks working out of XRC office space in Manhattan.

In addition to being XRC finalists, the company is also developing a pitch for the RBC Innovation Fund, Borealis AI, and will be among the first pitchers vying for the $1 million Salesforce Trailblazers Canada Fund. 

“This is exciting,” said company COO Michael Himmelman in an interview. “We chased XRC but [other partners including Salesforce] came to us.”

RetailDeep equips retailers with sensors that uses facial recognition from partner companies like Microsoft, Google, Kairos and Face++ to help bricks and mortar stores offer a more tailored in-store experience.

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Recently, RetailDeep rebranded to better reflect the company's vision. 

“Skyline didn’t really mean anything so we wanted to find something that was reflective of the fact that we’re in retail and use deep learning and AI,”  said Himmelman.

The company, which started in Shanghai, China, is expanding its eight-store pilot with Chinese retailer, Pocket Noir, to include 100 locations across China. It is also piloting locally, testing its AI at the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market and several other businesses in the city.

“We came a long way, but have stayed true to our original vision of helping retailers deliver on a promise of personalized customer experience,” said CEO and Co-Founder Hai Hu in a statement yesterday.

Co-founders, Hu and Changhai Jiang initially started the business in Shanghai with a fully automated shop. Through Innovacorp’s Start-up Visa Program, the team came to Halifax to bring its type of retail expience to North American markets.

“We looked at the automated store (in China) and thought what could be easily deployed. We took the best part of that technology and refined it and put it out in the NA market,” said Himmelman.

Since then, RetailDeep has landed a residency at Volta Labs, worked with Nova Scotia Business Inc. on export development, and recently inked an agreement with its first US-based customer, which operates pop-up stores.

“Our growth and success in Canada wouldn’t be possible without the continued support of our partners,” said Hu. “There are many organizations, programs and people who have been instrumental in helping us develop our business from the moment we came to Canada.”

Mastering the Art of the Pivot

Dash Hudson's ever-growing team.

Dash Hudson's ever-growing team.

How Dash Hudson launched (and killed) four products in two years and lived to tell the tale.

If you’re an early-stage startup founder, a successful pivot story is much like a modern-day fairytale. It’s got all the right elements—heroism, suspense, and near-death encounters.

Most companies that attempt a pivot will die on the battlefield. They’ll put up a good fight, but eventually, their time runs out and they’re quickly forgotten.

Yet, every so often, a legend is born…

Twitter started as Odeo—a podcast network.

Instagram started as Burbn—a check-in app for gamers.

Groupon started as The Point—a crowdfunding platform for social causes.

And, then there’s Dash Hudson. Granted… their fairytale ending is still in the works, but they’ve been on one helluva journey.

Dash Hudson started as Pathmata—a location-based marketing analytics tool for big retailers.

That was in early 2013.

By late 2015, the Halifax-based Dash Hudson team had launched and killed four products.

They’d gone from a B2B analytics platform for retailers (Pathmata)… to a B2C shopping app for menswear, (Dash Hudson 1.0)… to an Instagram shopping app for everyone (Dash Hudson 2.0)… to a two-sided marketplace where brands could hire Instagram influencers (Dash Hudson 3.0).

By late 2015, they had four months of runway in the bank, a shiny new product ready to sell, and just ONE more chance to get it right.

Well, as the legend goes, they did it.

Dash Hudson pivoted one last time, becoming an analytics and insight platform for brands that sell through Instagram. It was a runaway success.

Today, Dash Hudson is trusted by the world’s top brands and publishers like Glossier, Vanity Fair, and GQ. They’re hailed as one of the fastest growing tech companies in Canada, and they’re hiring new talent as quickly as they can find it.

I sat down with Thomas Rankin, co-founder and CEO of Dash Hudson, to hear their story.

I wanted to understand how they were able to launch four products in two years and live to tell the tale.

Thomas opened up about the ups and the downs of their journey. He shared lots of golden nuggets and behind-the-scenes details that few people know.

Several dominant themes emerged from my conversation with Thomas. If you’re considering a pivot, below are a few hard-learned lessons from Thomas Rankin.

Lesson 1: Run a good business from day one

“In the really early days, we kept it super lean and we leveraged everything we could.” ~ Thomas Rankin

As a CPA and former venture capitalist, Thomas understood the importance of managing cash flow. He’d watched other startups burn through their investment money too quickly and was determined not to make the same mistake.

“We tried to run a good business from the very beginning,” says Thomas. “I think a lot of startups don’t start off as good businesses.”

For Thomas and his cofounder Tomek Niewiarowski, running a good business meant running lean.

“We’re always conscious of economics in terms of how much of we get out of our investments,” explained Thomas. “It doesn’t mean being cheap. It means being focused on value and strong economics.”

Running a good business also meant full accountability from day one.

“From the very beginning, we always had a board, even when it was just me and Tomek,” says Thomas.

“We always kept that cadence even if we didn’t meet [in person]. There was a board deck and record of accountability.”

Because Thomas knew what a ‘good business’ looked like and was carefully tracking their progress, he also knew when Dash Hudson’s early business models weren’t working, which is a nice segway to the next lesson…

Lesson 2: Own your numbers

“Good or bad, own your numbers. Have them on a dashboard even if they’re depressing. Even if it’s all zeros, it better be on a dashboard.” ~ Thomas Rankin

Few teams survive a pivot. It takes guts to kill a product that’s gaining traction in favour of an unknown, potentially better future.

Dash Hudson was able to sustain several pivots because they partnered with investors who believed that Thomas and Tomek would make it work (and ponied up capital when needed.) That kind of trust is hard-earned.

“I believe in full transparency,” says Thomas.

“The data is always out front. It’s always real, and we always speak to the good and the bad in the data. That just buys you a ton of credibility from your investors because they know that you’re trying to do the right thing.”

Thomas knew what numbers they needed to hit because he’d done his homework. He studied the top performing companies in their category and benchmarked their growth goals against those businesses.

“I just look for best practices—like I’d read blogs, and see what the best companies measure—and those are the things we measure ourselves against. Even if you can’t necessarily always reach best in class, at least you know where the best companies are.”

Because they had clear targets, Thomas also knew when things weren’t working and he was quick to react.

Lesson 3: Move really fast, but move smart

“We just always believed in moving really, really quickly and learning as much as we could. When it wasn’t working we had the data to support the decision, we just really quickly shut it.” ~ Thomas Rankin

Dash Hudson moved fast, but they were also highly strategic.

“Each pivot was backed by some insight,” Thomas explains.

“You always need to be experimenting and trying new things. Being able to operate at speed is critical, and if you don’t have that, you’re at a serious disadvantage.”

By carefully following the data and market trends, Thomas was able to identify new opportunities—from using YouTube to fuel their early growth, to becoming one of the first Instagram shopping apps, to connecting brands with micro-influencers, Thomas and his team were always ahead of the trend.

When Thomas identified a gap in the market and decided to pivot, he didn’t waste time crying over their failed products.

According to Thomas, “You’ve got to put best efforts into trying to make something work. But, you’ve got to cut the cord really quick whenever you feel like it’s not going in the right direction because you only have so much life.”

Thomas knew where his market was going: brands understood the value of visual media, but they wanted to get more out of platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

Despite making a lot of the right moves, it still took a few tries for Dash Hudson to figure out where they fit in the visual media landscape. Luckily, their early B2B customers were quick to tell them what they needed—better analytics—and Thomas was listening.

Lesson 4: Talk to your customers

“Long story short, we raced to product/market fit, by talking to as many customers as we could.” ~ Thomas Rankin

By early 2015, Dash Hudson had pivoted to a B2B marketplace to manage Instagram influencer campaigns. They hustled to build a great product and started partnering with some powerful brands and big-name influencers.

Thomas rustled up lots of media attention and Dash Hudson began steadily growing. But Thomas knew that the product needed something special if it was going to be sticky. That’s where the idea came from to build out a custom analytics dashboard for Instagram.

In the beginning, the analytics dashboard was just one feature of the product. But, it didn’t take long for Thomas to recognize that they’d hit on an even bigger opportunity.

“The more we put it out there, the more we realized that people didn’t want the influencer marketplace, or they were just ‘blah’ on it,” Thomas explains.

“But as soon as they saw the analytics, they were like, ‘Oh, my God.’ It became very clear that we were selling analytics and insights.”

Thomas and his team had finally zeroed in on their sweet spot, but success was still far from guaranteed. They needed to act extremely fast because their runway was getting shorter.

Thomas emailed a few of the smartest brand managers he knew with a simple question: what are the top five things you would want in an Instagram analytics dashboard?

He collected their responses and those features became the specifications for Dash Hudson’s analytics dashboard.

“The product was really built by three or four people,” Thomas explains.

Their team finally knew what they were building, but getting the business model right was another story.

Thomas knew they needed to talk to as many customers as possible if they were to reach product/market fit before their funding ran out. He took a big gamble and decided to hire two new team members. Having grown to a six-person team, Dash Hudson spent the next few months interviewing customers and rapidly refining their product and sales pitch.

“We had to speak to two or three hundred customers before we got pricing right,” says Thomas.

The bet paid off. It was working… finally.

After four death-defying pivots, Dash Hudson now firmly owned their place as one of the world’s leading analytics and insights platforms for visual media.

From startup to scale up

Today Dash Hudson is one of the fastest growing startups in Canada. They’ve tripled or quadrupled year after year, and they show zero signs of slowing down.

Dash Hudson recently announced their new product, Vision. Vision is a visual intelligence platform that analyzes a brand’s photos and makes real-time recommendations on how to increase ROI.

“We’ve signed up to grow this company,” says Thomas.

“In the early stages you can’t wait too long to kill a product. And now it’s more like you can’t wait too long to launch a new product so you can maintain your growth.”

In closing, I asked Thomas what advice he’d give to a team that’s considering a pivot. His answer is an important reminder for every startup founder…

“Trust yourself,” says Thomas.

“Trust that you can do something that’s different from what you’re doing today. Nobody’s going to care that the thing you did before sucks. It’s totally fine. You can make that part of your story.”

Author Bio

Katelyn Bourgoin is a 3X founder turned growth geek. With experience spanning the marketing, tech and hospitality sectors, Katelyn’s entrepreneurial journey has been a rollercoaster, to say the least…

She was named as one of Nova Scotia’s top 10 young entrepreneurs in 2012, she sold her first business in 2013, she was named an influential entrepreneur by Forbes Magazine in 2016, and, in 2017 she made the difficult decision to close down her venture-backed tech startup after 3 years in operation.

With vast experience as a marketer and product designer, today Katelyn works as a growth strategist. The majority of her clients are early-stage tech companies.

Follow Katelyn’s adventures at www.KatelynBourgoin.com and @katebour on Twitter.

Editor's note: This blog first appeared on the website of Build Ventures. Build is a client of Entrevestor. 

Dal Seeks $100K Contest Entries

Applications must be submitted by May 23.

Applications must be submitted by May 23.

Applications are open for Dalhousie University’s $100K Competition.

The competition, now in its fifth year, assists teams of early-stage ventures in harnessing their talent, resources, and technological know-how to build high-growth companies.

The ten finalists will receive $10,000 in non-dilutive funding and automatic entry into Dal’s 10-week LaunchPad Accelerator, which is part of the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship’s Launch Dal program.

"These start-up ventures are proportionately more likely to launch successful businesses here in Nova Scotia, generating economic impacts for the province and for the region," said Mary Kilfoil who teaches entrepreneurship at Dal in an email.

Kilfoil said that in 2017, a high number of start-up ventures that emerged from LaunchPad programming successfully competed in regional and national accelerator programs.

The accelerator will teach ten teams about founding skills, network building, venture capitalists, serial entrepreneurship and prototyping.  

Previous graduates of Dal’s LaunchPad accelerator are Rovault AI, which is bringing visual recognition to the seafood industry, and UpFront, which uses blockchain technology to avoid ticket scalpers.

To apply for the competition, applicants must prepare an eight-minute video explaining how the business model canvas has been used within their startup.

Applications are due Wednesday, May 23. Click here to apply. 

Disclosure: Dalhousie University is a client of Entrevestor. 

Jobs: NBIF, Aycoutay, DH, Soma

NBIF is seeking a Director of Research in our jobs of the week column.

NBIF is seeking a Director of Research in our jobs of the week column.

We have quite the list for our Jobs of the Week column today with six positions ranging from COO with Aycoutay in Halifax, to a Director of Research with the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation in Fredericton.

Aycoutay is an early-stage startup that is building software to measure and track your body’s well-being. Its technology allows users to capture and analyze data about digestive, neurological, cardiovascular and hormonal health. Today, it seeks a COO to assist with its commercialization process.

Also in Halifax is Dash Hudson. Known for its software product Vision, Dash Hudson provides a one-stop spot for its clients to manage, source and engage with the traffic of their photos and videos. Today, it seeks to fill two positions, an Executive/Admin Assistant and an Account Executive.

In New Brunswick, the NBIF, a non-profit dedicated to building the province’s capacity for innovation, is seeking a new Director of Research. This person would manage its growing portfolio of investments.

Finally, also in Fredericton, is SomaDetect. This company collects agricultural data that analyzes cows milk to monitor health and milk quality. In March, the company expanded its offices to Buffalo and today, it seeks to add a Dairy Equipment Specialist and a Full Stack Web Developer to its team in Fredericton.

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 startup communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.

Here are experts from this week’s postings:


Dash Hudson

Account Executive

As an Account Executive, you will work with our incredible sales team to build business with some of the best marketers and companies in the world. The most important thing we need from you is this: You want the challenge and opportunity to sell a leading product in a rapidly growing market.You can't be afraid to take on challenges you don't understand, and you need to have the confidence to figure it out ...


  • Work with our sales team in the business development process including lead generation, sales outreach, progress tracking and closing with leading global luxury, apparel, consumer electronics, media, beauty, food and publishing brands.
  • Maintain active engagement with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications designed to move leads through the sales funnel.
  • Achieve monthly and quarterly sales quotas.
  • Review and qualify inbound leads.
  • Manage CRM and sales pipeline…

Apply for the job here.


Dash Hudson

Executive/Admin Assistant

You want the challenge and opportunity to help Dash Hudson sell a leading product in a rapidly growing market.

You can't be afraid to take on challenges you don't understand, and you need to have the confidence to figure it out. Must be hyper-organized. In short, you have the skills, and want to work in a fast-paced environment. You are detail-oriented and diligent, but have the flexibility and drive to take on new challenges as they arise.


  • Facilitate the daily operations of the office, including: Facilities management, Ordering and stocking office supplies, Ordering catering, Managing vendors (coffee, plant care, etc)
  • Draft and update policies and procedures as needed
  • Organize and support events
  • Administer software tools
  • Document control and management for the corporate and sales drives... 

Apply for the job here.




As COO you will be instrumental in the commercialization process, building teams, and supporting the overall vision and strategy of the company.

Reporting to the CEO, you will be responsible for the overall forward movement of the company as it commercializes its products, and on-going management and company growth going forward.


  • Overseeing all areas of the company including finance, sales, marketing, product development, quality, and compliance
  • supporting the CEO and Chief Innovation Officer on the company vision including product and technology
  • supporting functional department leads on strategic planning and overseeing implementation
  • establishing and implementing strategy for company performance, growth, while maintaining alignment with company vision
  • leading technology projects from concept to commercialization...

Apply for that position here.



Director of Research

We are looking for a Director of Research to join our organization. This individual will play a leading role in managing our ever-growing portfolio of research investments, managing our various funding programs in support of applied research and talent development, managing and developing our research team, and realizing sustainable results and outcomes.


  • Develop and implement strategy for the NBIF’s research investment activities in support of the organization’s mandate and shared vision
  • Actively manage and support NBIF’s research and talent development funding programs and oversee its portfolio of research investments with a focus on results and outcomes
  • Manage the evaluation process for research funding applications, including preparing and presenting recommendations as well as organizing and assisting evaluation committees
  • Develop and maintain trusted relationships with key stakeholders within the research community
  • Proactively work with researchers to assist with commercializing their research outcomes... 

Apply for the position here.



Dairy Equipment Specialist

We are looking for a motivated individual with excellent communication skills for a position as Dairy Equipment Specialist. This individual will have the opportunity to work with breakthrough technology and will lead the full installation and integration of our innovative sensor with dairy equipment. Appropriate follow-through will be needed to ensure the installation is optimized and running smoothly...


  • Leads and supports the installation and integration of SomaDetect’s sensor with existing on-farm/dairy equipment
  • Troubleshoots, repairs, and maintains the equipment, hardware, and software
  • Ensures that all IT applications are updated, optimized, and functioning properly
  • Ensures quality and reliability of dairy equipment to meet customer needs and expectations
  • Builds and maintains effective relationships with dairy equipment distributors, manufacturers, and key internal and external stakeholders... 

Apply for the job here.



Full Stack Web Developer

SomaDetect is looking for a Full Stack Web Developer to design and redefine the web interface of our analytics solutions, website and other applications. We are building a data visualization and analytics platform for our sensor system that requires simplified and refined design to help dairy farmers understand milk quality…


  • Design and implement web-based software to analyse and display information from our sensor system and from other IoT devices for dairy farms.
  • Work with hardware and product development team to develop new product designs and lead the development of software solutions for deployment.
  • Design and implement software solution for our cloud platform and data processing infrastructure.

Apply for the job here.

Manifold Makes 2018 Narwhal List

Jevon MacDonald

Jevon MacDonald

Halifax-based Manifold has been named to the 2018 Narwhal List, a group of Canadian high-growth companies that have raised a lot of capital quickly.

The Halifax startup, founded two years ago by GoInstant Co-Founder Jevon MacDonald, was actually placed on the list earlier in the year. But it only came to my attention Thursday when TechVibes published the updated list.

Compiled by the University of Toronto’s Impact Centre, the Narwhal List assesses what it calls the “financial velocity” of high-growth companies. It divides the amount a company has raised by the number of years it has been in existence, indicating the firm’s momentum in building up its capital structure.

Manifold, which helps software developers access services, placed No. 28 on the list of 49 companies. It makes the list because of its US$15 million (C$18.5 million) funding round led by OMERS Ventures last September.

Founded in 2016, Manifold is one of the youngest companies on the list – a group more notable for the speed with which they’ve raised money than the amounts they've raised. The Halifax company joins five others on the list that were founded in 2016 or later. Of that group, only one has raised more money than Manifold – Toronto-based Platterz, which was founded in 2016 and has raised US$20 million.

Resson Raises $14M for the 2nd Time in Two Years

Working out of Volta Labs in Halifax, Manifold provides a single platform on which developers can access a range of services, thereby simplifying the process of building digital products. Software developers often need an array of services that they can incorporate into their products to accelerate the development process. But finding and accessing all these services can be cumbersome.

Manifold allows developers to easily find, buy, and manage their favourite services without being locked into a single cloud platform. With Manifold, developers are no longer restricted by the confines of any particular cloud, allowing them to create stacks tailored to their project needs.

The Narwhal List – a Narwhal is the Canadian equivalent of a unicorn, a high-growth company worth at least $1 billion – is dominated by larger, older companies that have raised hundreds of millions of dollars. Vancouver-based Hootsuite, a decade-old company that has raised US$230 million, heads the list.

Why does it matter that Manifold is on the Narwhal List? It’s important because Canadian venture capital in the past two or three years has been dominated by large funding rounds, those worth $50 million or more. But no Atlantic Canadian company has breached that threshold yet. East Coast startups are active in the national discussion about small companies, and the next step in the region's evolution is to appear in the lists of large companies. Manifold’s strong “financial velocity” is likely the first step.

One final note about this list is that, as of this week, another Atlantic Canadian company has almost made the grade. Fredericton-based Resson just closed a $14 million funding round, meaning that it has raised a total of $31 million in its five-year history. At current exchange rates, that is equal to about US$24.4 million. By my calculation, that placed Resson just outside the current Narwhal List.

SucSeed Tackles Food Security

Project SucSeed execs Laura Campbell, left, and Emily Bland.

Project SucSeed execs Laura Campbell, left, and Emily Bland.

What began as a student-run project at the Memorial University of Newfoundland has scaled into a successful business that is addressing key social issues, like youth employment and food security.

Project SucSeed builds small-scale hydroponic gardening systems that allow people to grow fresh herbs and vegetables at home. CEO Emily Bland started SucSeed two years ago during MUN’s Enactus program. The venture won first place at the Enactus World Cup in 2016 and then second place in 2017.

“Food security is at the heart of what we do,” said Bland, 23, during an interview. “I think we’ve lost touch with our food over the past couple of decades. We need to get people excited about growing food again.”

SucSeed’s initial goal was to build 15 systems to donate across Newfoundland and Northern Canada, bootstrapping all the resources.

“And we thought if we could do that, it would be incredible and it would have been something we would have been proud of,” said Bland, who studied accounting at MUN.

But after local media spread the word of SucSeed's hydroponic garden, Bland said she and her team received about 100 enquiries from around the world.

“I thought I had my whole life figured out. But SucSeed grew a lot quicker than any of us ever expected so we reached a point where we’ve outgrown being run by a volunteer group of students," said Bland.

NL Innovation Week Starts Monday

By partnering with Choices for Youth, a Canadian organization that aids at-risk youth, SucSeed hired eight employees to build the gardening systems.

Said Bland: “It’s been our mission to show people you can run a business and have a social heart and it doesn’t always have to have a financial bottom line. You have to make sure things are financially stable but there is such an impact you can have on the social side of things.”  

SucSeed’s business team was chosen as one of seven top ventures by SheEO, a global network of high-growth female-led ventures. The team is also travelling to Toronto in a few weeks to take part in the Next36 accelerator.

With funds from SheEO, SucSeed plans to design a new iteration of its system to make it more efficient and reflect its social impact through the design.

Today, there are over 200 SucSeed hydroponic systems in Northern Canada. Bland says the company is moving around $10,000 worth of merchandise a month and is maintaining a 30 to 40 per cent profit margin.

Big corporations like McCain Foods and Tim Hortons have also partnered with SucSeed and helped it get its systems into soup kitchens, classrooms, community centres and even into ships all across the country.

“We’ve seen photos pop up on our Facebook and social media feeds of people in the middle of Northern Labrador in minus 20 degree weather holding fresh kale, and that’s the most rewarding thing,” said Bland.

“It reaches so many different groups and brings so many people together but it’s something as simple as a rubbermaid container.”

WEnTech Plans 2 Launches in 2018

WEnTech Solutions, the Fredericton software company that aids waste-to-energy projects, is planning to launch two new products by the end of the year.

In an interview in the company’s Knowledge Park office, Founder and CEO Amir Akbari said WEnTech in August will have the full launch of its initial product, which helps engineering firms and others choose the right waste-to-energy system for a given situation. Then two months later, it plans to launch a related product, which helps to improve the efficient operation of the waste-to-energy system over its lifetime.

“Cleantech is really wide-ranging,” said Amir. “We are in the green energy side of it. And using software like ours helps to make sure your clean energy project is successful because we consider not just the early stages of the project but also the next five, 10, 20 years of the facility.”

The company gained attention last year when it placed second in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition, capturing $176,000 in money and in-kind services. The company grew out of a realization that there are now a range of products on the market that can convert garbage into energy. But these products are not one-size-fits-all propositions. Different systems perform best based on where they’re located and what sort of waste they’re accepting – household, commercial, agricultural or forestry refuse.

WEnTech has developed a Software-as-a-Service solution that helps consulting engineers and project developers assess the needs of a waste-to-energy project and pick the right system. It takes into account such variables as the regulations in the jurisdiction, the environmental concerns, the materials being converted and the desired product.

Since its strong showing at Breakthru two years ago, the company has come up with its minimum viable product, taken it through a few pilot projects and continued to refine its features. Chief Product Officer Kenneth Kent said the upgrades have involved improvements in the user experience and bringing in new algorithms so the system can accommodate more content in its databanks.

Akbari said the company has carried out a small number of pilot projects and its target market is mainly consulting companies that work on behalf of municipalities or other project developers to help install waste-to-energy systems. Akbari added that the company – which has five full-time and five part-time staff – is now getting more traction with the project developers themselves.

He said one consulting company has been so impressed with the software that it has opened the door to gaining contracts in international markets in the Middle East and Asia.

“This customer had this project that was almost dead,” said Akbari. “By using our product . . . it went from being a dead project to being a project worth almost $50 million for them.”

Akbari also said WEnTech, which intends to build up its business development team in the coming year, is looking at the U.S. market.  As well as funding itself through its Breakthru winnings and grants, WEnTech had a small equity raise in 2017. (Akbari declined to say how much.) WEnTech is now raising more capital with a target for the coming round of $1 million.

NL Innovation Week Starts Monday

The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technologies Industries, in partnership with other Newfoundland organizations, is holding a series of workshops, seminars and classes across the province for its Innovation Week, which starts Monday.

Innovation Week welcomes the province's business community, youth and public and private partners to take part in over 20 events happening across the province. The week aims to promote and celebrate the province’s technology sector.

“These events will celebrate and showcase innovative advances in information and ocean technology, oil and gas, the environment, health care, and social enterprises,” said Julie Rickward the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at NATI.

Seminars on innovation in rural Canada and workshops on robotics and coding are just some of the ares that will be explored next week. 

On Wednesday, NATI is hosting a knowledge summit on corporate innovation. Keynote speakers include John Weigelt, the CTO of  Microsoft Canada, and Jim Harris, a disruptive innovation speaker and best-selling author.

NATI is a non-profit organization that represents the province's advanced technology sector.

“Together we will inspire participants to create opportunities to accelerate innovation and make new connections,” said Rickward.  

“An innovative and collaborative business culture is a key factor in the province’s future prosperity.”

You can read the full schedule, as well as register for the events here.

Resson Raises $14M; Mahindra Leads

Jeff Grammer: ' For us, it's an opportunity to get closer to some of the hardware vendors.'

Jeff Grammer: ' For us, it's an opportunity to get closer to some of the hardware vendors.'

Resson has raised a $14 million round of funding led by Indian conglomerate Mahindra & Mahindra. This is the Fredericton AgTech company’s second eight-figure funding round in two years.

Resson issued a statement today saying Mumbai-based Mahindra & Mahindra, which employs more than 200,000 people in over 100 countries, will invest in the company for the first time.

The other investors in the current round are return investors, who previously contributed in the company's last round, a US$11 million (C$14 million) fundraising in June 2016. They are: Monsanto Growth Ventures; McCain Foods Ltd.; Build Ventures; Rho Canada Ventures; New Brunswick Innovation Foundation; BDC Capital; and East Valley Ventures. (Though the last round was raised in US dollars, the current round is priced in Canadian dollars.)

“Each of our strategic partners has offered us something different,” said Executive Chairman Jeff Grammer in an interview. “In the case of McCains and Monsanto, it was a strong agricultural background. In the case of Mahindra & Mahindra, they are the world’s No. 1 supplier of tractors. For us, it’s an opportunity to get closer to some of the hardware vendors and see new developments in technology.”

Said Rajesh Jejurikar, President of Mahindra's Farm Equipment division, in a statement: “Agriculture is an increasingly technology-intensive business, and Resson’s precision farming solutions will help growers get more yield from every acre. We are delighted to join McCain Foods Limited and Monsanto Growth Ventures as a strategic partner of Resson.”

With this funding, Entrevestor estimates Atlantic Canadian startups have raised close to $50 million already in 2018. The major fundings this year include McCain Foods (a member of the Resson investment group) putting money into TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture of Halifax, as well as substantial rounds by Proposify, Appili Therapeutics and others. To put that in perspective, Atlantic Canadian startups raised a total of $66 million in equity funding in all of 2015, just three years ago.

Co-Founders Peter Goggin and Rishin Behl established Resson five years ago to create software that would assess data from a range of sources on a farm. They developed a system that gathers data from such sources as tractors, sensors buried in fields, and aerial drones flying over fields. It brings all the information together and presents the farmer with a report on what is happening in the field and what actions need to be taken.

Proposify Raises, Says ARR Roses 121% Last Year

Resson’s breakthrough came when they signed McCain as their first customer and were able to improve the yield of the company’s potato crop. Resson booked revenues of $1.4 million in 2017, according to a recent regulatory filing by Mahindra & Mahindra. The filing also said the company may buy as much as 10 percent of Resson for up to $6.8 million.

Grammer said the Indian company has identified “precision ag” as a key strategic market and has been developing a relationship with Resson for some time. Resson still had cash left from its last funding round but sees the current fundraising as an “opportunistic round.”

Resson still has not had a full commercial launch though it has been working on pilot projects with partners in four different countries and cultivating several different crops.

“Certainly, we’ve done a lot of work on potatoes with McCain and they’ve been a tremendous partner,” said Grammer. “We’re furthest along with potatoes, and the reason is the support we’ve received from McCains. … They’ve been the ideal early partner.”

Resson has also been working in such crops as spinach, table grapes, tomatoes, cotton and lettuce. Grammer said the company’s focus in the coming year will be on these crops, and it may add new specialty crops and new geographies.

“McCain has a proud history of advancing agricultural practices in potato growing and we remain committed to this approach," said McCain President and CEO Max Koeune in a statement. "Our desire for continual improvement fuels our ongoing drive to partner with leading-edge technology companies such as Resson, to create breakthrough innovation in agricultural technologies and set new standards for efficient crop production.”

Resson now has 50 employees, most of them in Fredericton, and the new funding will mean it will be adding staff, said Grammer.

Bereda Training Raises $250,000

Dennis Cottreau

Dennis Cottreau

Having booked hundreds of customers for its athletic training platform, Bereda Training of Halifax has closed an initial funding round worth $250,000.

CEO Dennis Cottreau said in an interview last week the company has raised $100,000 from Innovacorp, and the remaining $150,000 from three angel investors it met through the Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic. They are Halifax businessmen Wade Dawe, Tom Hickey and George Armoyan, all of whom are fellows at CDL-Atlantic.

Just as the funding closed, Cottreau and his co-founder Blake Pucsek learned that they had graduated from CDL-Atlantic -- no mean feat, as a significant proportion of the participants are weeded out during the half-year program. Bereda will attend the CDL Super Session in Toronto in June, which will feature graduates from across the country. 

The funding round came about, Cottreau said, largely because the company was able to demonstrate that even its initial product has attracted an unexpectedly large number of customers.  The number of customers is now “in the hundreds”, he said. 

“We launched a significant product update at the start of October and we started running more Facebook ads, and the result we were getting really exceeded our expectations,” he said. “Our product really is quite minimal . . . This was the first product on the way to what we envisage.”

Given that customers paid even for the MVP, Cottreau concluded: “It’s that traction that showed there is a problem to be solved here.”

Bereda Training, which has been a resident in Volta Labs since last summer, has developed an online training platform that automates the training plans that coaches prepare for endurance athletes (runners, cyclists, triathletes, etc.). It greatly reduces the time it takes for coaches or self-coached athletes to customize the training schedule over the course of a year. It allows them to build highly customized training strategies that can take into account hectic schedules and things like injuries or holidays.

Read About Harbr Landing Funding from CDL-Atlantic Fellows, Innovacorp

The company grew out of the frustration its founders (both elite athletes) felt with the inflexibility of existing platforms. Cottreau was a semi-professional cyclist for two years and CTO Pucsek was the captain of the Harvard University rowing team.

The reason Cottreau describes the current product as a minimal tool is it only tracks weekly performance. What he and Pucsek are working toward is a platform that allows athletes and coaches to track each workout, then apply that daily data to assess weekly or monthly analyses.

With the money they have now raised, they plan to increase the size of their development team and produce the next-generation product. The goal is to have it out in the autumn.

Meanwhile, Cottreau also wants to expand the marketing channels the company uses. The main channel so far has been ads on Facebook, and he is increasing the business development role to reach customers through other channels.

One interesting facet of the fundraising is that Bereda met its angel investors through CDL-Atlantic. The East Coast offshoot of the University of Toronto startup program is nearing the end of its first cohort. (The last meeting between companies and their mentors in Halifax will be held Thursday, after which the top companies will be selected for a national event in Toronto.)

One goal of the program has been to position its fellows to invest in startups they mentor. That’s starting to bear fruit. Bereda Training and Halifax-based Harbr, which works in predictive analytics for the construction industry, have both announced funding rounds that included investment from CDL-Atlantic fellows.

Cottreau also said the cohort has been a great experience, and he’s glad it was a demanding course that frequently challenged participants.

“In the first round, I think it could have gone a lot better, but it was great because I got to hear all these great mentors and business people,” He said. “Going from Session 1 to Session 2, I got to answer a lot of the fellows’ questions and learned a lot. . . . For that sprint I worked with [investor and mentor] Patrick Hankinson, who continues to provide fantastic mentorship to Bereda.”


Disclosure: Innovacorp and CDL-Atlantic are clients of Entrevestor.

Orenda’s FinTech Pitch Sparks Leads

Tanya Seajay: 'We've been moving quite aggressively to keep our momentum going.'

Tanya Seajay: 'We've been moving quite aggressively to keep our momentum going.'

When the Boston-based FinTech Sandbox held its Demo Day for Wall Street bigwigs in New York last month, there was only one Canadian company presenting, and it hailed from Sydney.

Tanya Seajay, CEO of Orenda Software Solutions, made the presentation before the crowd that included 300 executives from major American financial institutions. [Check out the video.] Within a day, she was fielding inquiries from people in the audience.

“It led to 30 very strong leads and other leads that filled up our pipeline and we’ve been moving quite aggressively to keep our momentum going,” said Seajay in an interview last week.

Orenda set out three years ago to develop a reputation analysis technology that analyzes in real-time the public perception of an organization. As would be expected, it monitors social media but it also looks at such other sources of opinion as traditional media, comment sections, and blogs. Orenda’s technology can place words in their social or cultural context to filter out the ambiguity in online content and get a more accurate understanding of what people are posting.

The technology applies numerical metrics to emotions, connections and associations with the brand, allowing the corporation to understand in real time its reputation with the general public or specific niches.

Sydney's Bid Tasker Plans To Launch Soon.

After winning the Cape Breton region in Innovacorp’s I-3 competition in 2016, Seajay moved to Toronto, where the company was enrolled in the IBM Innovation Centre. She says the move allowed her to be closer to corporate customers, and the company now has operations in both Toronto and Sydney. It is also now working with the MaRS Discovery District to develop its business, and it was accepted into the FinTech Sandbox in Boston.

“What that [the move to Toronto] gave us was greater access to the market, which gave us a greater understanding of the market,” said Seajay. “The market has shifted and we were able to have an understanding of that shift.”

The company is now using its emotion analysis to assess perceptions of publicly traded companies, and other tradable goods like cryptocurrencies. Using this data, Orenda can be used to predict whether the value of stocks or cyptocurrencies will rise or fall. It can cover 12,000 to 15,000 equities and Seajay said the movement of its ratings system is strongly aligned with stock price movements.

The system is also effective in determining how the values of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin will move because so much of their fluctuation is based on sentiment. At the Paris Fintech Forum last year, Seajay met a European institution interested in cryptocurrencies, which led to a pilot in the blockchain-based money.

With eight employees based in Sydney and Toronto, Orenda now has more than 12 customers and is working at signing the companies in its pipeline after the New York event.

As for raising capital, Seajay seems lukewarm on the idea.

“We have not raised funds yet,” she said. “It’s something we were considering as we scaled up. But it’s quite an effort and we are more interested in getting sales from our customers.”

EhEye’s Crowdfunding Goal: $200K

EhEye aims to raise $200,000 through its crowdfunding campaign

EhEye aims to raise $200,000 through its crowdfunding campaign

There have been a couple of setbacks at EhEye, the Fredericton company that has built a gun detection software to enhance public safety.

After a significant loan fell through, the company is hustling to raise $200,000 through a crowdfunding campaign.

“We’ve got 21 months in innovating and are in the right exact place we need to be in to protect people and we cannot get the support we need,” said James Stewart, the CEO of EhEye.

EhEye’s software is able to detect people and weapons through visual recognition technology and alert security teams to potential threats, saving valuable time during a crisis.

In its second round of funding, EhEye raised $800,000 in investments from organizations like the National Research Council. However, in order to fully access the $800,000, the company needs to drum up $200,000 in equity financing.

“The equity funding for us is difficult because we’re a different type of innovation,” said Stewart.

“The investors want to know how are you going to make or save people money, and public safety is different. How do you quantify public safety? The province invested $53 million into innovation but because that follows equity, a company like ours cannot access it.”

When it comes to product validation, EhEye has piqued the interest of globally recognized security brands and was selected as one of six startups to travel to Vienna, Austria for a tech startup conference. Recently EhEye set up a booth at a trade show in Toronto and attracted quite a crowd, according to Stewart.

“People were blown away in Toronto, they said our tech was like something out of a movie,” said Stewart. “We see the validation and the pull we’re having in different public safety organizations. The organizations that are looking at us are household brands, they are recognizing the need.”

Stewart says he is having trouble catching the eyes of investors in Atlantic Canada.

“I think our problem is we’re in a location that doesn’t have a public safety problem. We’re knocking on everyone's door but everybody says we're not going in unless you have equity investors and we’re getting there but we’ve kind of had the wheels blown off the bus with the bridge loan collapse.”

You can donate to EhEye’s GoFundMe page here.

16 Startups To Pitch at Volta Cohort

The judges and winners of the first Volta Cohort in November.

The judges and winners of the first Volta Cohort in November.

Volta Labs has announced the 16 companies that will pitch for a chance to win $25,000 in investment at the second Volta Cohort Pitch Event on May 16.

As many as five companies will receive $25,000 in investment, mentorship and resources. The Halifax startup house launched the pitching event late last year to help provide promising startups with initial funding. Five companies received funding at the first event.

“When we launched Volta Cohort, the goal was to accelerate the growth and success of startups in Atlantic Canada,” said Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers in a statement. “It’s been exciting to watch the current Cohort companies progress. The program proves that, when given the opportunity and resources, founders can fast-track growth and increase their likelihood of success from right here in Atlantic Canada.”

The second pitching competition will take place May 16 at 5:30 at the Kenneth C. Rowe Hall at Pier 21. Tickets are available here.

Volta received 58 submissions for the event. Applicants were narrowed down to a shortlist of 25 companies and 16 were selected to pitch – one more than the initially planned 15 finalists. As well as finalists from the Halifax area, two are from Cape Breton and one is from St. John’s. In a sign of how the Halifax startup community is moving, one quarter of the companies are in the OceanTech sphere. 

The selected companies are:

Talem Health Analytics, Sydney – Talem Health Analytics is a healthcare technology company that uses machine learning to predict outcomes in musculoskeletal rehabilitation, providing financial and rehabilitation insights for private sector insurance.

Hydrotroniks, Chéticamp – Hydrotroniks is designing electric drives for commercial fishing vessels and leisure boats to provide those involved in the commercial fisheries, from harvesters, to processors, to consumers, with more sustainable economies and environments.

Grey Lit, Halifax – Grey Lit is a knowledge mobilization platform that increases access to grey literature by allowing members to publish and share their research while nearly instantaneously searching for and reviewing the research of their “True Peers” around the world.

Tranquility Online, Halifax – Tranquility Online is a Software-as-a-Service solution that uses the gold standard therapy approach for anxiety: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Quantum Link, Halifax – Quantum Link is developing an app to link community members with local providers of goods and services.

ColourSmith Labs Inc., Halifax – ColourSmith Labs is creating North America’s first direct-to-consumer contact lenses that restore a full spectrum of colour in red-green colour blind individuals.

Marine Footprint Solutions Inc., Halifax – Marine Footprint Solutions partners with existing clean tech firms to adapt their innovative emission reduction products for marine use.

Commlet Technologies, Sydney – Commlet Technologies uses GPS tracking bracelets and an innovative app to offer a user-friendly solution for real-time positioning tailored to the education and child care industries.

National Digital Solutions, Halifax – National Digital Solutions, described as the Kayak for the financial services industry, provides software solutions for the financial services industry and Independent financial advisers.

eOceans Research and Consulting Inc., Dartmouth – eOceans Research and Consulting Inc. aims to be the Fitbit/Strava for the more than 100 million passionate global ocean explorers, including divers, sailors, boaters, surfers, and fishers.

Knack, Halifax – Knack is on a mission to save retailers money by increasing new hire speed to proficiency, employee retention and overall employee performance by streamlining the employee on-boarding and training experience.

NovaSpectrum Analytics Inc., Dartmouth – NovaSpectrum is creating a suite of tools using vision-based platforms and machine learning with the goal of becoming a leader in real-time automated marine animal identification for commercial applications in aquaculture, seafood processing, marine resource management and research, and tourism.

UAV Control Tower, St. John’s – UAV Control Tower has developed a drone monitoring system used by air traffic controllers to approve, manage and record drone flights.

ExperienceFunding.ca, Halifax – ExperienceFunding.ca allows NGOs to fundraise through the power of the internet to reach a broader audience by providing them with an online platform to sell e-tickets for a raffle-based fundraising event.

Speakr, Halifax – Speakr develops digital tools that provide constructive feedback for verbal and non-verbal communication by allowing users to analyze data on their voice and body language and see how it compares to others (through data sets only, in a confidential fashion), to help pinpoint strengths and weaknesses and provide a means of training over time.

Neothermal Energy Storage Inc, Halifax – Neothermal Energy Storage is addressing the high cost of indoor heating with an innovative electric thermal storage heater for residential supplemental heating. This new appliance, best suited for oil and electrically heated homes, uses Time-of-Day electricity rates to lower heating costs by up to 50 percent.

Jobs: CSR at Dash Hudson

Dash Hudson, a Halifax Software-as-a-Service company, is searching for a Customer Success Representative in our Jobs of the Week column today.

Its platform, Vision, provides a one-stop spot for its clients to manage, source and engage with the online traffic of their photos and videos. The CSR would help train potential customers during a trial period with its software.

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 startup communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.

Here are excerpts from the job posting:


Dash Hudson

Customer Success Representative

As a Customer Success Representative, you will be one of the founding members of our Customer Success team who will work to help our customers with their visual marketing strategies, maximize the value they get from the Dash Hudson platform, and increase the lifetime value of Dash Hudson customers. As with all other roles, we marry automation and smart tools with a high touch human component to deliver great service. Providing customers with a great experience is at the root of everything that we do.


  • Work closely with the sales team to support, train, and engage with potential customers during trial periods.
  • Deliver training content to potential customers.
  • Work with Customer Success Manager to ensure that proper strategy is being delivered at all times.
  • Assist with the setup of new accounts, and specific requests.
  • Engage with customers to nurture existing relationships and gather feedback and intelligence.
  • Answer customer questions via Intercom and/or email in a timely manner.
  • Provide customers with solutions and advice by leveraging insights tools and features within the Dash Hudson platform. . . .

Apply for the job here.

4 Groups Take Home Kira Awards

Fredericton's SomaDetect Captured the Most Innovative Startup award

Fredericton's SomaDetect Captured the Most Innovative Startup award

Four companies or organizations were recognized for their leadership in innovation in New Brunswick on Thursday, receiving Kira awards at the 20th annual presentation of the awards.

The Kiras, which recognize success in New Brunswick’s knowledge industry, were held as planned even though the St. John River was rising to record levels within sight of the Fredericton Convention Centre. New Brunswickers this week are talking of little else, but it did little to dampen the enthusiasm at the gala.

The organizers also announced that Ignite Fredericton, which has organized the awards for the past two decades, will hand the oversight of the Kiras over to the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation in future years. NBIF already hosts major celebrations of innovation on alternating years: R3 recognizes leading researchers; and Breakthru is a competition for the leading new startups in the province.

NBIF Chair Cathy Simpson said after the dinner that her organization still has to decide whether the Kira galas from on will be blended with the R3 or Breakthru events, or whether there will continue to be two innovation events each year.

Here are the 2018 Kira Winners:

Innovation Champion Award:


The Fredericton-based group is the association of life sciences innovation in New Brunswick and now works with more than 40 companies. In accepting the award, Executive Director Meaghan Seagrave said biotech grows out of the province’s traditional industries and called for greater cooperation among the various sectors in innovation. “Life Sciences can’t exist without IT,” she said. “And IT can’t exist without our traditional industries.”

Most Innovative Product or Service:

Blue Roof Distillers Ltd.

Based in Malden in South-Eastern New Brunswick, Blue Roof makes premium vodka using potatoes that would otherwise be discarded as waste. The company grew at a farm that has belonged to six generations of the Strang family, dating back to 1855. Head distiller Devon Strang said Blue Roof produces vodka – and more recently gin – of the highest quality and purity, and provides a locally made and superior product compared with the mass-market “water mixers”.

Most Innovative Startup:


Fredericton’s SomaDetect has developed hardware and software for dairy farmers. Its technology scans raw milk with a laser beam, scanning the fat content and somatic cell count as each cow is milked. This provides data that can point to the presence of mastitis, an udder disease, as well as measure the quality of the milk. In accepting the award, Director of Deep Learning Bharath Sudarsan thanked a range of supporters and partners, singling out New Brunswick’s farmers. “They have taught us everything we know,” he said.

Premier’s Award for Innovation:

Treasury Board, Government of New Brunswick

The Treasury Board is overseeing the provincial government’s efforts to digitize all government services. The government recently unveiled a five-year digital strategy that would allow residents to access information and government services from mobile devices. The province aims to provide New Brunswickers with digital ID cards, consolidating information from such documents as their drivers’ licenses, Medicare and hunting or fishing permits.

The winner of the People’s Choice Award, voted on by people attending the dinner, was Family Medicine New Brunswick.

Students Aim To Aid Stroke Rehab

Manar Alamri, left, Hayam Mahmoud-Ahmed and Batlah Alnemer are finding new ways to help stroke patients. (Photo: Jennifer Lee)

Manar Alamri, left, Hayam Mahmoud-Ahmed and Batlah Alnemer are finding new ways to help stroke patients. (Photo: Jennifer Lee)

A team of three Dalhousie University neuroscience students is planning to conduct clinical trials in Saudi Arabia for the device they’ve built in a robotics course at the university.

Hayam Mahmoud-Ahmed, Manar Alamri and Batlah Alnemer completed Dal’s Creator Series, an entrepreneurship program for students to design and build hardware. The three women have built a sleeve wired with electrodes to help victims of strokes regain motor skills in their arms.

“Some electrodes will detect muscle activity, and the other ones will administer electrical stimulation,” said Mahmoud-Ahmed.

By harnessing electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) and electromyography (EMG) technology, the team hopes to build a finished prototype for stroke rehab by the end of the summer.

“Often, stroke patients can’t get their arms back to 100 percent,” said Mahmoud-Ahmed. “They can get their legs working, get them walking and running back to 100 percent. But their arms, with stroke patients, it’s very slow progress and usually patients can’t get back full function.”

Alnemer said this project is very close to her heart. She watched her own father suffer from two strokes and, for years, saw his struggle to regain motor function in his hands.

Though they call their product Saied, which translates to ‘help’ in Arabic, the women aren’t set on a business name yet. But they plan to incorporate into a business this month and start clinical trials in Saudi Arabia in December.

“There is a lot more red tape here. Even trying to get patients from physiotherapists is hard,” said Mahmoud-Ahmed.  

Alamri and Alnemer are both natives to Saudi Arabia and plan to travel back home to test the product with physiotherapists and occupational therapists, with whom Alamri has leveraged personal connections.

Through the Creator Series, the team received initial funding of $1000 to start the project then an additional $1500 at the end of Dal’s RADIANT (Rehabilitative and Diagnostic Innovation in Applied NeuroTechnology) program, which is where the group came together four months ago.

At the end of the program, each group of students presented their products to the class, the Saied team ended up winning for ‘most outstanding pitch’ and will have their names engraved on a trophy.

The women were also quick to add that they received an A+ for their final grade in the course.

Their prototype is still very rudimentary in its design, so the team is looking to bring on an electrical engineer this summer to help hone what they already have built in school.

"With the stroke patients we’ve interviewed, we found that they don’t want the world to know,” said Mahmoud-Ahmed. “We want to have a very sleek design and have all summer to mess around with the prototype.”

In a time when so many people in the community are encouraging women in tech entrepreneurship, it’s worth noting that the Creator Series at Dal was led by two women, Mary Kilfoil and Cat Adalay, and at the demo day two weeks ago more than 70 per cent of the presenters were female.


Disclosure: Launch Dal is a client of Entrevestor and Cat Adalay is the daughter of Entrevestor's owners. 

6 Startups Join COVE’s Startup Yard

The Start-Up Yard at COVE is welcoming its first cohort.

The Start-Up Yard at COVE is welcoming its first cohort.

Six companies will be joining the inaugural cohort of Start-Up Yard at COVE, the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurshipin Dartmouth.

The early-state ocean companies, whose businesses range from rescuing endangered marine life to advancements in underwater communications, will receive $25,000 in non-dilutive funding and access to mentoring, workspaces, workshops and experts through the incubator.

Overseen by the provincial innovation and venture capital agency Innovacorp, Start-Up Yard is an incubation facility and accelerator that provides resources to companies in energy, marine and fisheries industries. The program will run for six to nine months, hosting workshops and bootcamps on customer discovery, intellectual property and product development.

The companies in the cohort are:


Having previously received funding through Dalhousie’s Launch Oceans and Launch Dal’s Collide programs, Aaron Stevenson, Maxwell Poole and Ross Arsenault have created a solution that can not only help fishermen, but also help prevent death of an endangered species. By equipping crab and lobster traps with geo-tracking and underwater buoys to collect data, fishermen can locate lost or stolen traps and eliminates entanglement of right whales. “When you look at what we have for resources, it’s no contest,” said Stevenson. “Our oceans and our harbour – that’s something we can’t take for granted. It’s something we have an advantage of over anywhere else in the world.”

Atlantian Acoustics

Specializing in underwater communications, Colin Ross and Tejinder Sandhu are looking to improve signal transmissions between Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, which tend to be sporadic and unreliable since they’re often operating in harsh environments. “Being able to connect and communicate between submerged assets is going to be a critical component for the expansion of effective AUV operations,” said Ross.


Louis Beaubien, Grant Wells and Mike Smit are developing a technology solution to improve supply chain efficiency in the ocean sector. With organizations drowning in mass amounts of data, the goal is to help them tap into the value that data holds, which organizations may find difficult to retrieve. “We would like to have something in place in terms of a prototype by the time we finish with our engagement with COVE and the Start-Up Yard,” said Beaubien.

Happy Fish Technologies 

St. Francis Xavier University alumni Sheamus MacDonald and Aleksandr Stabenow are collaborating on a traceability system for the seafood and fisheries industry, targeting the live lobster industry. By eliminating waste and decreasing mortality through real-time condition monitoring, it allows harvesters to take better care of their catch and provide a higher quality product to the public. “Through our experience in commercial fishing, we know where some of the fragmentation is, so that’s what we’re looking to correct,” said MacDonald.


Ulaş Güntürkün is using his research on fifth-generation cellular communication technology and physics to create an underwater communication system that will deliver information, even in the harshest conditions. Said Güntürkün:  “The big advantage of our communication system is that it will be truly eco-friendly since we are reducing the transmission power to 10 per cent of what is currently the industry standard. In other words, we are making a lot less noise underwater.”

Maritime bioLoggers 

Co-founders Franziska Broell and Andre Bezanson developed a tagging device to monitor and track the movement of marine life while working with Dalhousie University’s Ocean Tracking Network. Once a tag is attached, it collects and stores data that can be used to measure an animal’s activity and underwater behaviour. Broell brings a high level of expertise to her product and believes Nova Scotia is the best place to expand her startup. “There are so many great resources here. There’s really no other place in Canada like this,” said Broell.


Disclosure: Innovacorp and Dalhouse are clients of Entrevestor.

Innovacorp’s 2018 Spark Competition

Submissions are now open for the 2018 Spark Innovation Challenge

Submissions are now open for the 2018 Spark Innovation Challenge

Applications are now open for the 2018 Spark Innovation Challenge, a Nova Scotia-wide competition for early-stage technologies companies.

Last year, Innovacorp and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency awarded up to $800,000 to 18 different companies across four regions in Nova Scotia. The goal of the competition is to support high-potential, innovative solutions in the province.

Companies can receive up to $50,000 in non-dilutive funding as well as workshops and one-on-one sessions with seasoned professionals. In last year’s competition, each of the winning companies received no less than $25,000.

Last year’s winners included FinLeaf Technologies and Axem Tech, which have since gone on to grow into bona fide companies.

FinLeaf is the research development partner of Aqualitas, a hydroponic grow company and the third licensed producer of cannabis in Nova Scotia. Axem, a tech company in Halifax, recently travelled to China to build its beta prototype.

Innovacorp first began the Spark competition in Cape Breton years ago, and gradually it grew into a provincial competition, replacing the biennial I-3 Startup Technology Competition.

To apply, entrants must submit a 5 to 8 page business summary online by May 22.

You can read more about and apply for the competition here.


Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

Surround Shower Wins Retail Contest

When the New Product Design Competition was held in Halifax in April, the winning prize of $11,000 went to Surround Shower, a team that aims to add comfort and enjoyment to showering.

Founded by St. Mary’s University commerce students Logan Inglis and Evan Higgins, Surround Shower is a dual-head shower fitting that lets you enjoy streams of hot water from two directions. The product has a standard head that fits on to a shower outlet, and a second head that uses an industrial-strength suction cup to mount on the facing wall. (Check it out on this video.)

“We split the water flow to two shower heads, bringing the luxury of multiple shower heads to the everyday consumer without having to redo plumbing,” said Higgins last week. “Surround shower does not use any excess water and it does not have less water pressure compared to a modern shower head.”

In early April, Surround Shower was one of 32 teams to enter the New Product Design Competition offered by The Spark Zone, the sandbox (or entrepreneurial education facility) shared by six Halifax educational institutions. The student teams are charged with producing a consumer product, and the winners receive some money to help with the launch.

As the month progressed, the number of competitors fell until there were four teams competing for the top prizes. Surround Shower captured the top spot, which meant they received $10,000 plus $500 for each team member. The runner-up was a team called Go Sonik, which has come up with a chemical-free product that keeps fleas and ticks off pets.

Bid Tasker Plans To Help Homeowners Find Workers for Odd Jobs

Now the Surround Shower team has set its sights on trying to bring their product to market. They are working on a business model in which the product would have a retail price of $79.99. However, they want to ensure the product features a really strong and durable suction cup, so the overall price could rise if they find the cost of suction cups exceeds their expectations.

Their plans are fluid but Higgins said the duo is considering producing 250 units and selling them in the Halifax market through August. That would prepare the ground for a launch at the Montreal Fall Home Expo in October.

Another option they are considering is crowdfunding Surround Shower to bring in more development capital and increase the product’s profile. The team is due to meet with Michael Sanderson of SMU’s Business Development Centre, who has been encouraging them to consider a Kickstarter campaign.

One issue they have to tackle is how to protect their intellectual property, and Higgins said some of their prize money would be used to consult a lawyer on IP protection.

Meanwhile, Higgins and Inglis are also focusing on their academics. Inglis is graduating this month with a degree in commerce, major in finance. He now works at Dartmouth Dodge in a marketing position. Higgins is due to graduate in December with a bachelor of commerce, major in marketing. Part of their education was learning to start a business through the New Product competition.

“It provided some sort of a skeletal model on how to get a business going,” said Higgins, reflecting on the competition. “Usually you have a lot of ideas that don’t go anywhere and it was really cool to take a business idea and see how far we could run with it.”


Disclosure: St. Mary’s University is a client of Entrevestor.

Side Door’s Successful First Year

Dan Mangan plays at a house concert (Photo: Scott Munn)

Dan Mangan plays at a house concert (Photo: Scott Munn)

Side Door Access, a Halifax company that's building a network of hosts for private house concerts, is celebrating its growth by moving into spanking new offices in the expanded Volta Labs on Barrington Street.

CEO Laura Simpson's home in the North End has been the venture's home during its first year.

The company's first-year milestones include hiring more staff, making strides in developing its technology and organizing more than 130 house shows across Canada, including for Tim Baker of Hey Rosetta!

In terms of funding, the company raised around $200,000 from friends, family, angel investors and Innovacorp, and an additional $100,000 through the Creative Industries Fund and a non-profit called FACTOR.

With over 400 artists signed up for its services, Side Door is building its technology to manage customer growth. The next phase of product development is a software that would automatically match a host to an artist.

“Our sort of ‘secret sauce’ is to match a host with an artist like a Tinder-style match,” said Simpson. “Someone can say, ‘I really dig jazz music and have a space for seated concerts, have a dog and can only do afternoon events,’ and we’d go out and send you options that meets that criteria.”

Side Door took on a full-time developer in February to build the automatic booking portal and, according to Simpson, he’s been burning through the “scaffolding” of the software, simplifying the matching and booking process.  

Simpson also runs The Syrup Factory, a Halifax house concert venue, from her home. She said it’s Side Door’s mission to ensure that intimate concerts at small venues benefit the performer.  

The company generates revenue through ticket sales, which hosts set at a $15 dollar minimum. Side Door ensures that 80 to 90 percent of the revenue goes back to the artist.

“Usually the artist is the last to get paid,” said Simpson. “They’ll pay out the merch person, the door person, the venue gets a cut, the sound guy gets a cut, you have to pay gas and by the end of the day the artist is the last.”

Simpson said she wants to start bringing in acts outside of music, like stand up comedy or theatre performances. She said Side Door is hosting a live podcast tour for the Polaris Music Prize in Hamilton, Ontario.

She said the industry is changing and artists rely on making money through live shows. She hopes her business can help offset those overhead costs.

“The money isn’t there in the industry anymore, artists can’t make money off of record sales like they used to.”

5th Cohort for UNB Summer Institute

The 2018 Summer Institute

The 2018 Summer Institute

Seven ventures ranging in scope from the fashion, food and automobile industries have been accepted into the University of New Brunswick’s Summer Institute.

The three-month startup accelerator is run out of the J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship.

“Narrowing the businesses down from 106 applications was an incredible amount of work” said Joe Allen, Managing Director of Accelerator Programs for TME in a statement. “But we are thrilled with the results and feel each business has great potential.”

TME’s new accelerator team consisting of Joe Allen, Program Manager Melissa O’Rourke, and Operations Coordinator Luke Robertson, will be leading the program this year. 

“The Summer Institute has risen the bar each year with its programming and this year will be no different” said O’Rourke. “The program has expanded into a new space in downtown Fredericton and we are excited to host participants from around the region and the world.”

Dr. Dhirendra Shukla will continue in his role as Chair of the TME Centre. Shukla is focused on finding new ways to grow the centre. He is considering a possible PhD program in entrepreneurship, as well as additional programs for more mature companies or expanding the Energia accelerator

Previous Summer Institute participants include Wear Your Label, a clothing company that has received international media attention over the past year and even appeared at New York Fashion Week. 

The accelerator kicked off on April 28th and will conclude on July 20, with a final demo day on July 19. The ventures accepted into the 2018 program are:

Potential Motors- Fredericton, New Brunswick

Engineering students, Nick Dowling, Issac Barkhouse, Sam Poirier, and Mike Barnhill are developing  a method that quickly and cheaply converts gasoline-guzzling vehicles into electric-powered ones. The team, which retrofits car engines with different modules to reduce fuel consumption, sees market potential in Europe.

D.A.S Concrete Countertops -Moncton, New Brunswick

Founders Emma Theriault and Yannick Theriault are building Atlantic Canada’s first large-scale concrete countertop manufacturer.

Eggcitables -Antigonish, Nova Scotia

Hannah Chisholm has concocted a chickpea vegan egg replacement that can be used to make omelettes, scrambles, and other egg-based meals. In January the company won $10,000 cash at the third annual 100 Seeds Atlantic pitching competition.

Educated Beards- Fredericton, New Brunswick

Alicia Philips and Kevin Lebouef  will grow their business that offers natural and organic beard-grooming products. 

Modern Maternity Boutique - Fredericton, New Brunswick

Founder Keshia Matthews, is creating an online shop to provide functional, comfortable, affordable, yet stylish clothes for women who are expecting.

Wildland Organics-  Los Angeles, California

Daane Griffeth and Marisa Griffeth are travelling to New Brunswick to grow their company that sells natural skincare and haircare products

Tücy -  Truro, Nova Scotia

Chris Cameron is starting an east-coast inspired, streetwear fashion brand. He is designing unisex outerwear for young folks in the Maritimes.

NB Adds $5M to NBIF Funding

The government of New Brunswick announced today that it is investing a fresh $5 million this year to support research and graduate students with its New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) funding

The statement released today announced a $11.4 million investment. A government official said that $6.4M had been announced last year.

“This boost in investment is incredibly welcomed and promising,” said NBIF President and CEO Calvin Milbury in the statement.

“Research does the often-unseen legwork required before any innovative product or service can launch. These funds are critical for the recruitment and retention of the brightest minds in Canada and help us build the capacity to do world-class research.”

Today’s announcement means that NBIF gets a $5 million per year increase in the budget from the previous fiscal year.

“RIA funding afforded me the opportunity to stay in New Brunswick to pursue a Masters degree in electrical engineering,” said Katie Wilson, a UNB alumni in today's release.

“Because of that, I got a job here as a project officer at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering. The funding allowed me to do research in an area I'm passionate about - myoelectric prostheses - and I was able to see the real-life impacts that my research was having on the amputees that came into the clinic.”

Today’s release follows a string of funding announcements from New Brunswick. Last week, it announced it will spend $53.5 million to boost innovation, research and development in the province.  


Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.

Bid Tasker Plans To Launch Soon

Bid Tasker links homeowners and workers who do odd jobs

Bid Tasker links homeowners and workers who do odd jobs

A Cape Breton entrepreneurial team with an exit under its belt plans to launch a new online product that helps homeowners find people to perform odd jobs.

The company, Bid Tasker Mobile Applications, features entrepreneurs Donald Hanson, his cousin Darren Hanson and Chief Technical Officer Todd Chant. The two Hansons previously headlined a company called Coretech, which they sold in 2015.

Now they hope to launch Bid Tasker in the next few months, first in Atlantic Canada and then across Canada. In an interview, Donald Hanson said the team is buoyed knowing that they have already been through the complete startup cycle with Coretech, which they sold in 2015.

“The very first thing that it does is it gives us the confidence that we can do it successfully,” said Hanson. “We can move forward with the confidence that we have a product that is the right one and we can take it to market.”

He admitted that the two projects are markedly different. Coretech developed a software tool that helped oil and gas companies record the findings of core samples produced in exploration. It was a business-to-business play, with a narrow market. With Bid Tasker, they will have to capture clients among two populations – homeowners, and the workers that perform jobs.

Full Plate To Help Seniors Eat Well

As well as receiving support from the Cape Breton startup community, Donald Hanson also noted the support he personally has received as a Mi’kmaw entrepreneur and a member of the Membertou First Nation.

The genesis of Bid Tasker dates back to a time when Darren Hanson – the ideas guy in the partnership – was working in the oil patch out West and needed jobs done back home in Cape Breton. He wished he had an online or mobile tool that could help him find handymen or trades people at home.

The resulting product is similar to online tools found in other markets, like Task Rabbit in the U.S. and Air Tasker in Australia. Donald Hanson said there is only one competitor now in Canada, a Western Canadian business, and Bid Tasker is a more open system, allowing the participation of all forms of workers.

What Bid Tasker will do is allow homeowners to post the jobs they want performed – say, a window repaired or the lawn mowed – and suggest a price. A range of workers can bid for the task, providing a quote. Once the site has been going for a while, the homeowners will be able to see ratings of the workers, allowing them to make an informed decision on who to pick.

“Think of it as a hybrid between Kijiji and eBay,” said Donald Hanson. “You just log in and can post any sort of job.”

He admitted that the team faces a challenge in getting word out to both sides of the market. The solution will involve a combination of word of mouth (essential in the early stages), traditional and social media. He’s even preparing to go through the local Yellow Pages and call workers to tell them of the new service.

“We see it as a very busy year for us,” he said. “For the first quarter of the launch, we’re going to stay with Atlantic Canada and make sure it works perfectly. Then we’ll hit some of the larger centres across the country and continue to develop.”

Stockport Shareholders OK Sona Deal

Darren Rowles

Darren Rowles

The shareholders of Halifax-based Stockport Exploration have approved the company’s merger with Sona Nanotech, completing another step in the merged company’s path to a stock market listing.

The companies on Friday released a statement saying the Stockport shareholders voted 99 percent in favour of the merger last Thursday. The meeting was attended by 18 Stockport investors, as well as employees and board members from both companies.

Halifax-based Sona Nanotech, which produces gold nanorods, agreed last year to merge with publicly listed mining concern Stockport Exploration and raise about $700,000 in a private placement. The merged company will focus solely on Sona’s core business of producing gold nanorods. If the deal passes all the relevant regulatory requirements, the parties say it should close within the next few weeks, paving the way for the listing on the TSX Venture exchange.

“We see the vote as also being a vote of confidence in our ambitious plans for Sona,” said Sona CEO Darren Rowles in the statement. “This merger will give Sona a strong and stable financial foundation from which to build our brand in the life sciences market.”

Sona was formed by St. F.X. University profs Gerrard Marangoni, Michael McAlduff and Kulbir Singh to commercialize their research in nanotechnology, which includes health-care applications such as cancer treatment. The founders discovered a way to produce gold nanoparticles free of a toxic substance called cetrimonium bromide, or CTAB.

The rod-shaped nanoparticles are known to have uses in several tasks associated with medicine, such as diagnostics, but traditional methods of making the microscopic particle create toxic substances in the process. The company’s founders believe absence of the toxic substance makes Sona’s nanoparticles ideal for a range of medical applications.

Having recently recruited Rowles from Wales, Sona also recruited a new nanotechnology scientist and is recruiting a new business development manager. It plans to hire up to five new members of staff in total by the end of 2018.

It now plans to relocate its facilities and team to the Halifax-Dartmouth area from Antigonish, and is actively looking for new premises.

Talking startups with Katelyn Bourgoin

Katelyn Bourgoin discusses why her last venture failed and mental health

Katelyn Bourgoin discusses why her last venture failed and mental health

It’s been just over a year since Katelyn Bourgoin folded her company Vendeve, a skill-swapping platform for female entrepreneurs similar to LinkedIn. She sat down with Entrevestor to discuss her latest venture, founder burnout and why her company failed.

“I think my glasses were a bit rose-coloured about how easy it would be to raise those funds,” said the Halifax-based serial entrepreneur and growth marketer.

“That was a big lesson learned.”

Bourgoin fell into the pit many founders wind up in--building a product with no real market demand.

“There were too many best guesses rather than validating and talking to customers. Customer research often gets pushed to the side because it takes a lot of time. And for a lot of (founders), time is their most valuable resource,” Bourgoin said.

As a marketer, Bourgoin is obsessed with customer research. She now works for herself as a growth strategist and trains her clients in the importance of customer discovery, helping them avoid her past mistakes.

She said the questions founders ask their customers are often riddled with personal bias and false assumptions.

“I did 400 interviews before starting Vendeve,” she said. “I felt very confident that I checked all the boxes and asked all the questions but I realized, after the fact, I was unintentionally biasing those interviews.”

To help other founders avoid that bias, Bourgoin has teamed up with Colin Deacon to offer a series of workshops for early-stage companies on customer growth. Through Digital Nova Scotia, Deacon and Bourgoin are presenting a two-part series on leveraging customer data. One of the workshops has already occurred, the next is scheduled for May 15.

Bourgoin also spoke about the challenges of being an entrepreneur, specifically challenges with mental health and burnout. She said there are high expectations in startup culture.

“In a high growth company the expectation is that you’re going to grow extremely quickly and the only way you can sustain that growth is building the right product the first time, which rarely happens, or by being gifted in raising venture capital. It’s a ton of pressure.”

While she ran Vendeve, Bourgoin was working 100-hour weeks and rarely took a break.

“Even when you’re not working your brain is always trying to solve that problem, and that’s celebrated in startup culture and I don’t think it should be,” she said. “I think it makes people sick and for a while I thought I was the one that was failing because I wasn’t able to maintain that hustle but now I recognize it’s a problem.”

It’s been said that one in three entrepreneurs suffers from mental health issues. Bourgoin said that, even within the community where the stress is festering, she found a world of support.

“I wasn’t afraid to ask for help and say I was struggling and I think a lot of people are afraid to admit that, and they shouldn’t be. Every time that I would put it out there to advisors or stakeholders or just friends from the startup community, I was greeted with nothing but support.”

NB Outlines 5-Year Digital Strategy

N.B. making residents' information accessible

N.B. making residents' information accessible

MONCTON – The government of New Brunswick announced Friday a five-year digital strategy that would allow residents to access their information and government services from “any device, anywhere, at any time.”

Treasury Board President Roger Melanson said the province aims to be the first jurisdiction in North America to provide government services digitally. The strategy is a piece of a larger plan announced Wednesday, ahead of Innovation Week April 29 to May 5.

“The digital strategy is a piece of the entire strategy for innovation,” Melanson said. “By embracing a digital platform, New Brunswickers will have direct access to personal health information and will be able to use technologies that will improve communications between patients and their caregivers.”

The province aims to move New Brunswickers to one digital ID card, consolidating information from documents like their drivers’ license, Medicare and hunting or fishing permits. Other services could also be digitized. . . . 

Read the full article on Huddle. 

AVSS To Be OEM for Drone Makers

When the 2018 Fundica Roadshow kicks off in Montreal on Tuesday, one presenter will be a one-year-old New Brunswick company that is quickly making a name for itself for safety standards in the drone industry.

Founded by Josh Ogden of Rothesay, NB, and Josh Boudreau of Ottawa, AVSS is developing hardware and software to improve the safety of autonomous aircraft. The company’s main product so far is the Connected Recovery System, which is like a black box for drones connected to a parachute, which can deploy if the system senses trouble. AVSS is already working with a major Canadian drone operator, which has a fleet of several hundred drones across the country.

“This company started with the question of what happens when a UAV drone crashes,” said CEO Josh Ogden in an interview, using the trade name for an Unmanned Ariel Vehicle. “We’re putting all these devices in the air, but there are no safety standards yet. … The industry is moving so fast that regulators are having trouble keeping up with performance standards.”

Pitching at the Fundica Roadshow is just the latest badge of honour for a company that got going only a year ago. Ogden was best known in the New Brunswick startup community as one of the founders of Castaway Golf, the company that won the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition in 2015. He moved on from Castaway and teamed up with Boudreau. They spent “two years looking at various ideas with Steve Blank methodology” before deciding that drone safety was the market to be in.

Kognitive Spark Attends Plug and Play in the Valley

It’s no secret that the use of drones is growing strongly, but what the two Joshes discovered is that the industry and its regulators have had trouble developing standards for safety, tracking and other issues. It's a problem. The Ontario Provincial Police were using a $130,000 drone in a search and rescue operation last year when it vanished, never to be seen again. Six people in Japan were recently hospitalized when a drone crashed in a crowded area.

AVSS’s Connected Recovery System uses data to sense when a drone is having problems and deploys a parachute if the machine is going down. The founders are working on new products to improve safety and tracking of the machines, and want to become an original equipment manufacturer that will supply drone makers. They hope for a full launch in the fourth quarter of 2018. The company now employs the two co-founders, who are aided by contractors and advisers. It plans to raise full-time staffing to 12 by year-end. 

The plan is gaining attention. In January, AVSS partnered with the Institute of Drone Technology in Australia to design, build and distribute the system.

“This is a key development in the drone technology space,” said Institute CEO Joel Spence in a statement. “For governments, the safety system gives comfort against the inevitability of mechanical failure in built-up areas. [And] the ability to independently verify the locations of drones opens up a huge number of possibilities for governments being able to safely and effectively manage their airspace.”

Earlier this year, AVSS closed a small funding round with local angels in New Brunswick. The company also participated late last year in the Investment Opportunities Program offered by Springboard Atlantic and Invest Atlantic. The program took Atlantic Canadian companies to Toronto to meet investors, and Ogden said some Toronto investors have committed to the next funding round, which it hopes to close soon.


[Editor's note: I boobed last Thursday in writing that BluelLight Analytics of Halifax is the only Atlantic Canadian competitor in Fundica this year. AVSS, a new company I wasn’t familiar with, was also on the list. The organizers on Friday also added ProcedureFlow of Saint John, which we’ll profile later in the week.]

Jobs of the Week: NBIF, CAA

The two postings in our Jobs of the Week Column today both come out of New Brunswick from widely recognized organizations. One in Fredericton is with the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, the other is in Saint John with the Canadian Automobile Association’s Atlantic division, CAA Atlantic.

The NBIF is an independent nonprofit that fosters innovation and research in the region. Since 2003, the organization has invested over $85 million into innovative New Brunswick companies. Last week it announced the province's commitment to invest $53.5 million into New Brunswick innovation. Today, it is seeking a Marketing Administrative Assistant.

CAA Atlantic, which serves 236,000 customers across the region, is looking to hire a Director of Innovation to report directly to the President and CEO of the division and help lead new opportunities to keep CAA Atlantic relevant in a changing world. CAA provides Canadians with a range of auto services, like roadside assistance.

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 startup communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.

Here are excerpts from the postings.


New Brunswick Innovation Foundation

Marketing Administrative Assistant

We are looking for a Marketing & Administrative Assistant to join our organization. You will play an integral role in fulfilling the mandate of NBIF by ensuring exceptional customer service delivery and actively supporting our marketing and communications activities.


  • Support the management team in the delivery of exceptional customer service
  • Serve full cycle reception functions and operate as first point of contact for guests including the answering/filtering of all incoming inquiries
  • Represent the firm professionally in written and verbal communications
  • Assist in the content creation and management relating to the corporate website and marketing materials, including social media (e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) and other marketing automation tools (e.g. MailChimp, Hootsuite, Survey Monkey)
  • Assist with promotional activities

Apply for the job here.

Saint John

CAA Atlantic

Director of Innovation

In this newly-created role, you will be the thought leader who will research, validate, and introduce multiple new innovative solutions to CAA Atlantic.

As Director of Innovation, you will provide insight and lead strategic opportunities to ensure that CAA Atlantic continues to remain relevant in a rapidly changing world. Your work will allow the organization to provide value to its current, as well as, future members and customers, with an innovation mindset at the core of all offerings…


  • Maintaining an idea management platform that facilitates the submission, evaluation, and development of a pipeline of innovative new idea submissions from various organizational sources.
  • Initiating and facilitating periodic ideation/brainstorming sessions for ongoing concepts development to fill CAA Atlantic’s funnel of product innovation opportunities.
  • Leveraging existing, as well as, emerging product development methodologies and frameworks (e.g. Lean Startup, Design Thinking, Six Sigma) to ensure CAA Atlantic’s innovation model is optimized for best-possible performance organizationally.
  • Finally, you will act as the champion for an Innovation mindset. Collaborating with a diverse group of internal stakeholders, your leadership will be key to evolving our culture to ensure CAA Atlantic is a place where innovation is identified and embraced as essential for the continued long-term success of our business.

Apply for the job here.

Nicole LeBlanc Joins Sidewalk Labs

Nicole LeBlanc

Nicole LeBlanc

Nicole LeBlanc is moving on from BDC Capital.

The New Brunswick native sent out an email Thursday night saying she would be joining the investment team at Sidewalk Labs. That’s the Alphabet Inc. unit that's conducting a huge experiment in urban development in Toronto.

LeBlanc, who previously worked for the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and First Angel Network, will begin her new position on Monday.

“My focus will be on the Toronto project and I will continue to stay connected into the tech community, with a focus on sustainability, mobility, connectivity, energy, and other related fields,” said LeBlanc in the email.

Based in New York City, Sidewalk Labs is an urban innovation company owned by Alphabet Inc., the company that owns Google. Since last year, it has been working with Waterfront Toronto to develop a “live-and-work district” on 12 acres of former industrial land on the eastern end of the city’s lakefront. The goal is to combine design, technology and input from citizens to create a new exemplar of urban living.

LeBlanc joined BDC in Toronto as Associate Director of Strategic Investments and Partnerships. Last year, she became director of Director of Strategic Investments and Women in Tech. She was a force behind BDC’s investment in several Atlantic Canadian companies, including Swept, Eigen Innovations and HeyOrca. For the past two years, LeBlanc has served on the board of Propel ICT

Before leaving the Maritimes, she had been the Director of Investment at NBIF. She also spent time working as an investment analyst with FAN while her husband Philip LeBlanc attended NSCAD University in Halifax.

In her email, LeBlanc bid adieu to her boss Michelle Scarborough and the team at BDC Capital, saying they will continue to help improve the startup ecosystem.

“Michelle and the team are building out a number of interesting new initiatives that will be implemented over the next few years that will continue to support and build not only great companies, but the ecosystem as well.”

NB To Spend $53.5M on Innovation

The province of New Brunswick will invest over $50 million to boost innovation

The province of New Brunswick will invest over $50 million to boost innovation

The Government of New Brunswick announced on Wednesday it’s spending $53.5 million to foster innovation and boost research and development in the province.

“This investment is a big boost for innovation and will enable NBIF to support and nurture even more research and startup ventures in New Brunswick”. said Calvin Milbury, President and CEO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation in a statement.

“Continued investment like this is essential to enable our innovators to turn their ideas into enterprises that impact and grow our economy.”

In December, Premier Brian Gallant announced New Brunswick would up its funding to the NBIF by $10 million over the next five years, which represented about a 20 percent increase in funding.

NBIF is a private, not-for-profit corporation that supports startups in New Brunswick and fosters research and development. In the previous year, NBIF spent close to $14 million to help boost the province’s innovators.

This week’s announcement was paired with the release of the New Brunswick’s Innovation Agenda and kicked off Innovation Week, a celebration of New Brunswick innovation, which starts this Sunday.

The agenda identifies six main points that need attention in order to grow innovation and research and development. The six goals are: grow innovators, boost R&D capacity, commercialize, start and scale enterprises, foster innovation spaces, lead the cybersecurity agenda in Canada and to become a smart province.  

Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor. 

KRS Wins Dutch Safety Contest

Josh and Angus Poulain (Photo by Jennifer Lee)

Josh and Angus Poulain (Photo by Jennifer Lee)

Keeping Roads Safe, the company that is designing a software to keep drivers off their phones while behind the wheel, won first place during a pitching competition at Intertraffic Amsterdam, a worldwide annual exhibition for the traffic and mobile safety industry in March.

This win has led to the Halifax company forming significant partnerships in European markets and piloting its product with key industry partners.

Angus and Josh Poulain, the father and son duo behind Keeping Roads Safe, took part in the first-ever Intertraffic Startups Pavilion (ITSUP) competition, where they beat out four other startups in the automotive safety industry.

“Part of the show is about technology and how technology can improve safety, so we took part in the challenge” said Angus Poulain. “By winning that we won a partnership with the Dutch government and they agreed to do a pilot project in the Netherlands to figure out how they can roll out the product for its citizens.”

The product, called DriveCare, is a mobile app that disables users' phones while they’re driving. The app also tracks routes, times and whether or not a driver is trying to access their phone while on the move.

Sensys Gatso, a worldwide provider of traffic safety and management solutions sponsored the exhibition. It will also be piloting DriveCare.

“And if they like what they see over the next three months they’ll roll it out to the rest of their customers,” said Poulain.  “We’re on a good road. This gives us confidence that our product works and we’re getting to where we want to be.”

A Peek Inside Volta's New Digs

As a result of all its success in Europe, Keeping Roads Safe plans to expand its offices to the Netherlands and do a hiring spree that will triple its staff in the coming months. Poulain said he wants to do more business development in Europe, while developing the software in Canada.

“We’re going to have a European focus and we’ve been courted by the Dutch government to open an office as a European centre base, so we’re pretty excited about that,” said Poulain.

He said the market for traffic safety innovation is more progressive in Europe, pointing to connected cars, vehicles that interact with city infrastructure like street lights, road lanes and speed limits, as examples. 

“The thinking there is more advanced and they’re very progressive with road safety and their citizens,” said Poulain. “We’ve been in the Netherlands three times now and the only accident we saw was two cyclists colliding.”

The DriveCare solution is now patent-protected in 150 countries and has evolved from a hardware solution to a software. The product works via an app on your phone and connects to the bluetooth in your car. The company still has its hardware component for older vehicles, without bluetooth.

Poulain has plans to go back to the Netherlands in two weeks to “put ink to paper” regarding the pilot projects. In the meantime, Keeping Roads Safe has some big deals on the table as it nears a close to its first round of funding here in Halifax.

Full Plate To Help Seniors Eat Well

Jay McNeil:

Jay McNeil: "The opportunity is for us to assist the home care agency."

Many seniors wish to age in their own homes but struggle to buy and prepare the food they enjoy. To address this, a new grocery delivery service, Full Plate Care, will soon be piloted in Cape Breton.

Full Plate Care will begin an eight-week pilot in May in partnership with Loblaws and two home care agencies: The Cape Breton Homemaker Association and VON Cape Breton

The pilot will source 100 families from its home care partners and use Loblaws' click and collect program so patients, families or helpers can place their grocery orders online through the Full Plate app and have a member deliver the groceries and put them away.

“For those aging in place with minimum homecare supports our service could be as basic as ensuring difficult packaging is removed, freshness seals popped, and everything stored away where they like,” said founder Jay McNeil. 

“For most home care clients though, the opportunity is for us to assist the home care agency in delivering on their meal preparation commitments to their client families.” 

McNeil said at-home caretakers and VONs normally prepare at least a meal a day for clients but they are not responsible for ensuring food is in the residence. Full Plate Care would eliminate the worry of not having favourite staples in the pantry.

Peachy To Help Seniors Live at Home

“Those are the low-level barriers that the medical field identifies as healthy indicators of aging at home, nothing else changes and that’s super important,” he said.

“It’s also about more than just food and meals, it’s about personal hygiene and pharmacy products, household cleaning supplies, and everything that’s needed to support the client as they age in place at home.” 

McNeil said it’s important that seniors continue to eat the foods they enjoy. 

“You look at services that deliver a healthy meal to your door, and as the son who lived away from an aging parent, I was super excited about that until I realized my mother still wants instant mashed potatoes and fried bologna and not asparagus with a blue cheese vinaigrette reduction. In her aging in place she’s not going to change her consumer patterns.”

After winning $31,250 through Innovacorp’s Spark Innovation Challenge in November, Full Plate conducted a mini pilot and narrowed its customer demographic from a personalized grocery service open to all, to deliveries for people who are aging in place.  The long-term goal is to build an app that would inventory and manage grocery orders.

McNeil said that if he had started programming on day one, he would have built a solution that wouldn’t fit what the market now appears to need.

McNeil previously worked at Newcap Radio in Fredericton, where he was a morning host and sales and marketing manager.  He knew his own venture would take careful time and planning to address customer needs.

“Because of my marketing background, I’m obsessed with the customer,” said McNeil. “When I got into sales I watched a ton of businesses build the store they wanted to work in rather than the one customers wanted to shop in, so I just came into this with a stubbornness to rigorously test all of the assumptions.”

McNeil said the Atlantic provinces need to better serve their aging populations. He said Cape Breton is the perfect sandbox for anyone who is testing a product or service for this growing demographic.

BlueLight To Attend Fundica Event

BlueLight Analytics, the Halifax company that helps dentists cure fillings properly, appears to be the lone Atlantic Canadian competitor in the Fundica Roadshow this year.

The organizers on Wednesday announced the 18 companies that will pitch at its event in Montreal on May 1. The list includes BlueLight.

The Fundica Roadshow is an annual competition open to startups from across the country, with a cash prize being given to the winner from all the roadshows. The prize this year is a maximum of $500,000 in cash.

The organizers this year have announced pitching events only in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver and offered to cover the travel costs of three companies not based in those cities. Atlantic Canadian companies could apply for one of these packages to attend the Montreal event, and BlueLight was the only company accepted.

Growing out of research at Dalhousie University, BlueLight began about eight years ago to solve a problem with the lights dentists use to cure resin. These lights vary greatly, and each model has to be used for just the right amount of time to cure the resin properly.

BlueLight developed the checkMARC system, which can test and identify the efficacy of a dental office’s curing lights. It has partnered with industrial giant 3M Corp. to greatly expand the startup’s sales power in the U.S.

Last year, the Fundica Roadshow brought together over 150 startups, 2000 attendees, 132 funders, and 125 partners, making it the largest pitch competition across Canada. The 2017 competition included a stop in Halifax, at which the regional winner was Halifax-based Grey Lit Matters.

This year, the pitching competitions will be head in Montreal on May 1, Vancouver on May 31 and Toronto on June 28. As many as 20 entrepreneurs will be selected to pitch in each city. The top pitchers in each city will win prizes and an invitation to the Finale in Montreal on July 12. The winner of the Finale will have a chance for investment of up to $500,000 from Panache Ventures.

NouLAB Tackles Immigration Issue

With New Brunswick facing the double threat of an aging and shrinking population, the NouLAB project is working to devise new strategies to attract and retain immigrants.

NouLAB is a social lab overseen by the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick and New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network. It is owned and driven by citizens and aims to tackle the big problems the province is facing. NouLAB has helped teams working on issues ranging from aging to rural revitalization and to housing for people with complex needs. Now it is working on immigration.

“New Brunswick is facing a crisis. By 2032, there will be one retiree for every person earning income in New Brunswick,” Karina LeBlanc, executive director of the Pond-Deshpande Centre at UNB, said in a news release.

“We need a new path,” added Leblanc, who is also interim acting director of the Social Policy Research Network. “The province is looking to immigration to attract new people to live, work and contribute to the community. But how do we do that in ways that help ensure success?” 

NouLAB launched the first cycle of its Economic immigration Lab last fall. More than 30 participants representing government, private sector, non-profit and citizens provided input on eight projects. A summary report can be found on the website.

The group recently began the second cycle.

“Participants from the first cycle on economic immigration formed strong, lasting partnerships leading to actionable solutions,” said NouLAB director Amanda Hachey. “In this second cycle, participants will be working to answer the following questions: How might we shorten processing times for international recruits for New Brunswick employers? How might we fill pending nursing shortages with newcomers? How might we improve community infrastructure to be more welcoming to newcomers?”

A social lab consists of a series of workshops designed to fully understand an issue and then develop innovative, actionable solutions that are tested right away. By bringing together the knowledge from diverse groups into one room, all perspectives are shared and more holistic responses to complex challenges can be achieved.

In addition to the NouLAB work, New Brunswick will host the Atlantic Immigration Summit in Moncton May 23 and 24.  

AVF Begins To Unveil Speakers

The Atlantic Venture Forum, which will be held in just over two months, is rolling out its list of speakers for the conference in Halifax.

The speakers include financing expert David Brennan, innovation leader Jim A. Gibson, SkipTheDishes Co-Founder and CEO Josh Simair, and Techstars Vice-President of Network John Hill.

The sixth annual AVF, which will take place June 28 and 29 at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel, is a meeting place for Atlantic Canadian founders and investors from inside and outside the region. The organizers are still looking for applications from startups interested in presenting at the event. Early- and growth-stage companies can apply here by Friday.

Each AVF includes a range of speakers, and so far Critical Path Group, which stages the event, has lined up the following to speak:

David Brennan

With more than 30 years of experience in accounting, finance and investor relations in several industries, Brennan is an expert in raising significant capital and attracting talent. As the current Chief Financial Officer at Ecobee, he has recently completed a capital raise of $50 million, for a total of over $130 million in financing. 

Jim A. Gibson

After 30 years in technology, Gibson is an advocate of “paying attention” to what’s coming and providing concrete examples of how we can all be leaders and role models for change. The author of Tip of the Spear will challenge the audience to understand and respond to a new world that sees infinite possibilities meeting serious global problems head on.

Josh Simair

After leaving a career in banking, Simair went on to co-found the largest restaurant delivery network in Canada, SkipTheDishes. Founded in 2012, SkipTheDishes ranked fifth on the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 list in 2017 and reporting 10,969.6% revenue growth from 2013-2016. Now in over 30 markets across Canada and the U.S., the on-demand food delivery network was recently acquired by Just-Eat in 2016 for more than $200 million.

John Hill

The VP of Network at Techstars is charged with supporting and growing a global network of tech entrepreneurs, mentors and investors. In his career, Hill left Michigan State University to become the Higher Education Evangelist at LinkedIn. Then he moved on to Techstars. Hill believes “changing the world” can be more than hyperbole.

Bay Area Talent Mulls Canada Move

A trip to San Francisco last week included a few meetings with startup entrepreneurs and the discussions inevitably turned to one topic — immigration.

This subject is never far from the minds of senior teams in growth-stage companies in Atlantic Canada. But it isn’t limited to the East Coast of Canada. It’s woven into the fabric of startup life everywhere. If you run a high-growth company, you’ve educated yourself in the ways to attract the best possible expertise.

Innovative companies live on two things — capital and talent. The need for capital can be eased over time by increasing cash flow, but the need for specialized talent is insatiable. And the people with specialization, especially in high-demand fields like blockchain, robotics and artificial intelligence, show a willingness or eagerness to go where they can find the best opportunity.

For our lifetime and the foreseeable future, those opportunities are concentrated most heavily in Northern California. (According to Angel List, there are about 33,000 startups just in Silicon Valley, compared with 13,000 in all of Canada.) The Bay Area is something akin to Rome in the ancient world. It’s the place all ambitious tech people, including Canadians, long to be. This is a global yearning as brainy people from every country in the world have at least considered trying to get to Silicon Valley.

Kognitiv Spark Attending Plug an Play in the Valley

But things began to change 17 months ago. Donald Trump was elected president and the whole dynamic started to shift. Northern California is still the promised land but more and more people are questioning whether to move there, or anywhere else in the U.S. Some are worried about tighter immigration policies and some just don’t want to be part, however tangentially, of contributing to a country whose current administration they dislike.

Canada, it seems, is becoming an attractive alternative.

“Canadian companies are not only staying in Canada, but using new high-skill immigration programs to compete for talent on the global stage, and compete successfully,” said Sean Lynch, one of the Canadian-born entrepreneurs I met last week. “There’s an opportunity for Canadian companies now to pull the great talent, that would have historically migrated to the U.S., to Canada instead. We’re seeing it with tech startups; we’re seeing it with research.”

A Saskatoon native and U Waterloo grad, Lynch is the founder of The Eh List, a support network for Canadian founders in the Bay Area. The group has regular events and in the last month it did something for the first time: it had a briefing co-hosted with the Canadian Consulate in San Francisco on immigrating to Canada. The event was well attended, including entrepreneurs and tech specialists from the U.S. and — most important — other countries. Expats from around the world are arriving in Silicon Valley and showing an interest in moving on to Canada.

It’s an opportunity for Canadian companies, including those on the East Coast. Word on the street is people are most interested in moving to Vancouver or Toronto, but many are considering the opportunity more than the city. Atlantic Canada has growing companies that can compete in this race for talent.

Digital NS To Host Creativity Seminar

Anne Stieger

Anne Stieger

Facilitator and design expert Anne Stieger will conduct a two-session seminar on Fostering Creativity and Effective Ideation in Halifax starting May 16.

The seminar, hosted by Digital Nova Scotia, will show participants how to increase and harness the creativity of their staffs with the goal of developing better innovation.

The organizers note that a recent Ipsos Canada found 88 percent of Canadian executives said empowering staff to be more creative was a crucial factor in creating a prosperous work environment.

“By using creativity techniques, playfulness, and good facilitation in everyday meetings, any team can increase their creativity, lead effective brainstorming sessions, and push the envelope with truly innovative solutions,” said the notice.

With a master’s degree in education, Stieger has worked as a facilitator and trainer in Nova Scotia and Europe and teaches at Acadia University. She has facilitated design thinking sessions for social innovation and led brainstorming sessions for creative projects at Cool Ideas Society Germany.

The DNS sessions comprise a training day from 9 am to 3:30 pm on May 16, and a check-in and feedback session from 1 to 3 pm on June 15.   

The cost to Digital Nova Scotia members is $118 per participant or $228 for a team of three co-workers. For non-DNS members, the price is $598. You can register here.

A Peek Inside Volta’s New Digs

The Volta staff is jumping for joy over the new space.

The Volta staff is jumping for joy over the new space.

Last weekend, a team of movers descended upon Volta Labs in Halifax to start moving the tech hub into its new 60,000 square foot home in the Maritime Centre. Its resident companies are now settled into their new offices, while construction continues on the other wings.

"This is an exciting time for Volta," said Jesse Rodgers, CEO of Volta. "Our new space, which is the largest innovation hub outside the Toronto-Waterloo corridor, allows Volta to be the growth catalyst for Halifax’s technology community."

The new Volta offices take over the ground, mezzanine and second floors of the 19-storey office building, tripling in size from its old space. This huge expansion is the result of more than $4 million in funding from the Canadian and provincial governments and the rise of the Atlantic startup region.

“Volta’s growth is a result of the growth in the Halifax entrepreneur ecosystem that continues to build momentum, making this province a great place to build a globally competitive company,” said Rodgers.  “We are looking forward to providing more resources to innovators across Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada,”

The funding will also support operational costs related to the expansion over the next three years.

The lobby, located right on the Barrington street level, will serve as a reception and an open co-working space that will encourage residents and new founders to collaborate. The mezzanine level hosts the cohort companies as well as smaller-stage residents. Manifold and Swept, two of Volta’s bigger companies, take over most of the second floor.

“You would literally be moving up,” said Sahil Ahuja, Volta’s Events Coordinator. “Founders can bounce their ideas off people in the lobby level, then join the cohorts on the floor above that, and then if they grow even more, there is space in our larger offices on the second floor.”

“We should all get fitbits,” said Krista White, the Programs Director at Volta, during a tour of the new facility.

More than 50 early-stage companies have worked out of Volta Labs since its inception in 2013, and more than two-thirds of them are still in business.

The grand opening of the new facility will be in September. Said White: “We need to make sure all the artwork is on the wall first.”

Jobs: Dash Hudson and Remsoft

There are three postings each from Dash Hudson in Halifax and Remsoft in Fredericton in our Jobs of the Week column today.

Dash Hudson is a visual marketing company for content creators. Its AI-powered software, Vision, helps its corporate clients grow brands on Instagram by finding its best images and receiving real-time recommendations for future posts. Dash Hudson has three postings this week: it’s looking to hire a Sales Analyst, Sales Development Representative, and an Account Executive to its growing team.

Remsoft, a predictive analytics software company, has openings for a Data Architect, a Business Analyst and a Web Developer. Remsoft’s solution helps its clients in the forest industry increase land value by analyzing forests' age, growth, and the market value of the lumber. This company has been providing land optimization software to businesses since the early 1900s.

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 startup communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside.

Here are experts from this week’s postings:


Dash Hudson

Sales Analyst

As a Sales Analyst, you love working with numbers and are capable of recognizing patterns in data sets. You’re integral to the success of our sales team as you will proactively identify trends in our processes and work to optimize them. Forecasting, analyzing, and tracking are words you live for...


  • Track the data and numbers throughout our sales process, ensuring that our metrics are always up to date.
  • Provide opportunity and threat analysis reports to identify obstacles in the sales process, as well as recommendations for how to overcome them.
  • Work with HubSpot to implement and manage sales reports and dashboards.
  • Prepare presentations and reports that analyze our sales performance. Be ready and willing to discuss your findings with the team.
  • Provide weekly, monthly & quarterly reports on team performance…

Apply for the job here.

Dash Hudson

Sales Development Representative

As a Sales Development Representative, you are a critical piece to the growth and development of Dash Hudson's sales process. You will manage a creative and customized outreach strategy to potential customers in verticals such as fashion, beauty, luxury, travel food, publishing, consumer electronics, and many more…


  • Find and source new leads for companies to go through the outreach process.
  • Assign leads to specific Account Executives.
  • Manage the early stages of the sales pipeline by communicating with potential customers through the outreach process.
  • Customize messages to leads, and maintain a consistent follow up schedule.
  • Collaborate with Account Executives to support their communications with warm leads, providing them with sales collateral…

Apply for the job here.

Dash Hudson

Account Executive

As an Account Executive, you will work with our incredible sales team to build business with some of the best marketers and companies in the world. The most important thing we need from you is this: You want the challenge and opportunity to sell a leading product in a rapidly growing market.You can't be afraid to take on challenges you don't understand, and you need to have the confidence to figure it out ...


  • Work with our sales team in the business development process including lead generation, sales outreach, progress tracking and closing with leading global luxury, apparel, consumer electronics, media, beauty, food and publishing brands.
  • Maintain active engagement with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications designed to move leads through the sales funnel.
  • Achieve monthly and quarterly sales quotas.
  • Review and qualify inbound leads.
  • Manage CRM and sales pipeline…

Apply for the job here.



Data Architect

The successful candidate will provide data architecture expertise in support of Remsoft Solution implementations and participate in the development of application systems and technical solutions, focusing on new/enhanced data structures. This includes database logical and physical design, BI design, design and overview of data requirements…


  • Designing and developing the data architecture for a project, in the context of the client's overall system architecture.
  • Provide technical data analysis, database, and BI expertise and advice on projects and technological initiatives.
  • Working with clients to design and develop a data integration approach between on premise data systems and Remsoft Cloud-based product offerings.
  • Monitoring and supporting the development of the system's data to ensure it is compliant with the data architecture, and refine the data architecture as required…

Apply for the job here.


Business Analyst

Remsoft is seeking an enthusiastic, positive and self-motivated Business Analyst to join its Product Innovation Team. We are currently in the early design stages of a multi- phased development program that will see the release of a series of cloud-based products over the coming years. Working closely with product and engineering teams during early SDLC phases, the successful candidate will play a key role in helping to define the business requirements for these products…


  • Develop and document statements of requirements for considered alternatives
  • Perform business analyses of functional requirements to identify information, procedures, and decision flows
  • Evaluate existing procedures and methods, identify and document items such as database content, structure, application subsystems
  • Define and document interfaces of manual to automated operations within application subsystems, to external systems, and between new and existing systems
  • Translate business requirements into systems design and specifications…

Apply for the job here.


Web Developer

The Full Stack ASP.Net Developer will have the opportunity to grow, learn and expand their career, while making an immediate positive impact on the business and its offerings to Remsoft's global clients. We are currently seeking a highly enthusiastic, positive and self-motivated individual who cares deeply about delivering high-quality software in a tightly knit team environment in our Fredericton, NB office…


  • Develop, test and support custom web applications
  • Resolve and troubleshoot problems and complex issues
  • Participate in sprint planning sessions
  • Remain up-to-date on developments and enhancements in web development tools and technologies
  • Share expertise and knowledge with other Remsoft team members to assist them in their client facing efforts…

Apply for the job here.

Kognitiv Spark in Plug and Play

Having booked sales of more than $1 million in less that a year, Fredericton-based virtual reality company Kognitiv Spark has now entered the Plug and Play accelerator in Silicon Valley.

Kognitiv Spark offers an augmented reality solution to help the military and industries with training or instructing remote workers using complex equipment. The company released its RemoteSpark product last August, and in just eight months the team has made sales in such markets as: aerospace and defence; manufacturing; engineering and construction; and oil and gas.

Its new updated product is expected to be out in a couple of weeks, and CEO Yan Simard said the sales process is fairly smooth because clients need a device that can instruct workers in remote locations.

“The market is already looking for a solution that offers what we do,” Simard said in an interview from Silicon Valley, where he is attending Plug and Play. “We don’t really have too much trouble explaining the product to people.”

Founded by Ryan Groom and Duncan McSporran, Kognitiv Spark lets the trainee or remote worker use an augmented reality headset as a training aid or instructional guide.

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For example, if a soldier or worker in a remote location encounters a problem with heavy equipment and has to fix it himself, he can contact an expert back at home base. Donning the headset, he can still see the real equipment but he can also see a holographic image of the piece of gear floating beside it. The expert at home, also wearing a headset, can use the holographic image to show the remote staff member how to fix the equipment. He can draw arrows on the image to show the worker precisely what part he is talking about.

In selling the product, Kognitiv Spark has been working in partnership with Microsoft, whose HoloLens holographic visualization headset is the hardware. With the sales effort accelerating, the company is growing. It recently hired two more people, bringing its total staff to 11. Simard expects the staffing numbers to double in the next 12 months.

Kognitiv Spark recently closed a round of funding from angel investors and is hoping to raise a larger round in the near future. In the year ending March 2017 (the most recent data available), the company received $200,000 in funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

The company’s time in the Plug and Play accelerator is helping its sales and funding efforts as Simard is getting to hobnob with potential funders and customers he wouldn’t normally meet. There are 156 companies in the current three-month Plug and Play cohort, which focuses on business development, and the organizers say they accepted only two per cent of the companies that applied.

Of course, Simard is meeting California-based companies, institutions and angels, but Plug and Play is big enough that it also attracts guests from places like Asia and Europe, some of whom could aid the company.

“I’m networking with prospective customers and investors who go through the place all the time,” said Simard. “It’s a non-stop show.”

IP Workshop by Emergence, BioNova

Charlottetown's bioscience incubator Emergence and Halifax’s BioNova have partnered to host an intellectual property workshop in Halifax for bio-sector innovators and entrepreneurs.

The seminar, scheduled for May 8, is presented by Canadian IP law firm Bereskin & Parr LLP Intellectual Property Law and will discuss different types of IP rights, including trademarks, copyright, trade secrets and patents.

The talk will be followed by a Q&A session and the opportunity to chat with the presenters.

"In today’s increasingly hyper-competitive and global knowledge-based economy, having an IP strategy is critical to protect a venture's value proposition, help define a company's key points of differentiation, and offer protection to a startup's competitive advantage," said Emergence Director Martin Yuill.

The talk starts at 9 a.m. at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre in Halifax. You can register for the event here.  

Adaptiiv, CIVCO Ink Distribution Deal

The executive team of Halifax-based Adaptiiv, fresh with a recent round of financing, is attending an international radiotherapy conference in Barcelona this week to announce a new distribution partnership.

Formerly known as 3DBolus, Adaptiiv is a company that has been gaining notice in Halifax biotech circles for a couple of years, even though it just released its first public statement this week. The company has developed software that works with 3D printers to produce a personalized bolus — a plastic fitting used in radiation therapy.

Adaptiiv has launched three different products, booked sales in six countries and raised almost $3 million in equity funding. Last week Adaptiiv announced it had signed a distribution agreement with Iowa-based CIVCO Radiotherapy, which will give it sales representatives in all main districts of North America.

“This is a special company,” CEO Peter Hickey said in an interview Tuesday before jetting off to the Estro Conference in Spain. “When I was first approached by the team I initially thought, ‘This isn’t for me,’ because I was in IT. But the team, especially (board member) Bruce Ross, kept driving home the point that this is a software play. It was one of those cases where I fell in love with the company.”

Hickey is best known in the community as a serial entrepreneur in the IT space, most recently for being the CEO of Oris4, which shut down two years ago. In Adaptiiv, he’s teamed up with James Robar, chief of medical physics at the Nova Scotia Health Authority and director of medical physics graduate programs at Dalhousie University, and serial tech entrepreneur Alex Dunphy.

What Adaptiiv does is revolutionize the use of a bolus in radiation therapy. A bolus is a piece of plastic placed over the cancerous area, assuming the tumours are close to or in the skin. The radiation hits the bolus, builds up and then is transferred into the tumour.

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There can be no air pockets between the bolus and the skin, which complicates matters given that every body is unique. Hospitals using the Adaptiiv product buy a system that includes 3D printers with special filaments, so unique boluses customized to each patient can be printed within seconds. They can be reused as the patient receives repeated radiation dosages. Or if the patient’s body shape changes over the course of multiple treatments, the medical staff can print off another bolus quickly.

The company has received its CE Mark certification, meaning it can sell into several countries including members of the European Union. It already has clients in the U.K., Ireland, Israel, Australia and Canada. It has applied for its 510k approval in the U.S. and Hickey said it hopes to receive approval “soon.”

Adaptiiv recently closed a round of funding which included investment from Alexander Capital in New York, an investment boutique that makes direct investments and rounds up angel investors to back companies. Hickey said Adaptiiv has now raised almost $3 million and is planning a larger raise once it receives its 510k approval.

Adaptiiv has three products in the market, including one that helps to prevent healthy organs from being damaged during radiation therapy. With nine employees (soon to be 12), the company continues to develop new products.

“We have a pipeline with some really great innovation,” said Hickey. “That’s what we are. We’re a Nova Scotian-based innovation company that’s producing solutions to problems that people haven’t solved yet.”

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