MacKenzie Wins BioInnovation Event

MacKenzie Healthcare Technologies of Musquodoboit Harbour, N.S., won the BioInnovation Challenge on Wednesday for ParaGlide, a device that can help wheelchair users reposition themselves.

In winning the region’s main life sciences pitching competition, MHT will take home $15,000 in seed funding and an advisory services package worth more than $30,000, including legal, PR, accounting, sales and insurance services.

ParaGlide allows wheelchair users to move from a slouching to upright position by using a remote control that operates a motor-driven belt behind his or her back. This allows wheelchair users to avoid skin ulcers, and allows caregivers to avoid injury when trying to move people in wheelchair.

“Winning the BioInnovation [Challenge] has validated that we have a product that is meeting an unmet need in the market,” CEO Matthew MacKenzie said in a press release. “The prize package will be tremendous help in tying up loose ends and answering our unanswered questions in the next few months as we get ready for market in 2017.”

MHT’s remote control also stores data on how often wheelchair users reposition themselves. This way, caretakers can ensure their patients in wheelchairs are moving around enough.

The Mayo Clinic recently said wheelchair users should change their sitting position every 15 minutes. However, this is usually achieved via a large, lever-type belt attached to a ceiling that takes 10 to 15 minutes to administer, often requiring two caregivers. The ceiling belt often goes unused because of the time and effort required to use it, which means wheelchair users don’t move often enough.

Kinduct Unveils US$9M Round Led by Intel

MacKenzie revealed that treating ulcers costs Nova Scotia $40,000 each year and workplace injury costs the province $100 million.

“A caretaker’s first words were ‘Sweet Jesus,’” MacKenzie said about showing the ParaGlide technology to a caregiver in Dartmouth. He also told the audience about a mother who read a Chronicle-Herald article about MHT and said she was so happy that ParaGlide technology exists because she can now better help her wheelchair-confined son move around more easily.

The other finalists in the BioInnovation Challenge were NovaResp, which is developing software that allows sleep apnea patients to breathe more easily; and SomaDetect, which measures milk quality in real time and straight from the cow in order to produce the best possible milk.

Both the judging committee, called The Commercialization Council, and audience voted on their favourite of the three finalists. The evaluation criteria for The Commercialization Council included adaptability, market pull and consumer readiness.

MacKenzie has a history of building up a successful business using these three criteria, as he currently runs the manufacturing company, MacKenzie Atlantic. He plans to launch ParaGlide next year and estimates he’ll make a 54 per cent margin on each device by 2021, selling a unit for $2500 to individuals.

He wants to keep manufacturing in Nova Scotia so MacKenzie Atlantic can manufacture the device, though he does plan to sell into the U.S. and the rest of the world.

The sixth annual BioInnovation Challenge was part of BioPort Atlantic, a forum run by BioNova to bring together ideas from the life sciences community to build a network within the region, as well as bring Nova Scotian ideas to Canada, the U.S. and beyond. 

Dadavan Beta-Tests Cultural Codex

Jennifer Hill

Jennifer Hill

Dadavan Systems, the Nova Scotian company that has developed educational software for First Nations schools, is now beta-testing its latest product, which helps communities share and preserve their heritage.

Waverley-based Davavan works with First Nations education by providing databases that track students’ attendance and marks, as well as curriculum requirements and lesson plans. Now the company has produced Cultural Codex, which “crowdsources” culture, language and heritage through a shared virtual museum platform.

The need to protect, preserve and share language and culture is a priority for Dadavan’s existing education clients, said the company.

“We listened to our clients,” said CEO Jenny Hill in a statement. “They want tools to preserve and share their culture and language, and they want those tools to be accessible and easy to use. Those conversations inspired the development of Cultural Codex. After speaking with educators, museums, municipalities, academics, and our own friends and families, we knew we needed to create a tool that people from differing cultures, industries, and communities could use.”

The statement said registered individuals, organizations and communities can use Cultural Codex’s templated system to build galleries of sound, video, images, and text that contribute to a shared, searchable repository of cultural knowledge. No design or coding skills are needed to produce beautiful, interactive galleries.

“Cultural Codex enables anyone to readily make a contribution to a pool of knowledge, but also provides tools that support stewardship of access, control and ownership,” said Hill. “It’s designed for communities, and is flexible enough to work well with different types of projects. Projects are only limited by imagination.”

Jedi: Nurturing First Nations Startups

Published galleries are searchable across communities, making it easy to explore galleries from multiple contributors in any given subject. The purpose for Cultural Codex is embedded in its name. Bound, handwritten codices (the plural for codex) were the first ancient books.

Cultural Codex is free while in beta mode. The full release is scheduled for early 2017 with additional features for community management and new templates.

Customers will be able to choose which membership level they choose to join, or request a customized platform.

Founded in the late 1990s, Dadavan set out with the goal of improving the high school graduation rates of First Nations students. The graduation rate of First Nations youth living on-reserve was 35.5 per cent in 2011, compared with 78 per cent in the general population, according to figures in a 2013 report by the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

Dadavan’s student information system, Outcomes, has been informed through close collaboration with Indigenous communities across Canada. 

The company has B Corp certification, which means it is classified as an ethical business by the international B Corporation organization. 

A Digital Society Starts with Mindset

Taavi Kotka

Taavi Kotka

Taavi Kotka can describe a digital society in which 98 percent of government business is paperless, everyone is identified and connected on line, and people can contribute to the country even if they don’t live in it.

He can describe it because he lives in such a place.

Kotka is the Chief Information Officer of Estonia, a former Soviet republic that has been a pioneer in digitizing government operations and the working of society. He has developed links with New Brunswick through the work of such entrepreneurs as David Alston, CIO at IntroHive, and Greg Hemmings, the founder of Hemmings House film studio in Saint John.

Last week, Kotka spoke at the Big Data Congress in Saint John, outlining his country’s development of the digital society. And he said it begins with a mindset that is open to new ways of perceiving citizenship and the people who contribute to a society.

“Estonians are not just people who live in Estonia,” Kotka said in his speech to about 600 delegates. “It’s people who share the same values. Even if you take Estonia away, we will do whatever it takes to act as Estonians.”

The first pillar of Estonia’s digital citizenship is everyone has a digital name. This code is accepted in all government departments, and by private companies and academic institutions. It stays with someone throughout his or her life. But you don’t have to live in Estonia to have the digital name. They are retained by emigrants, and people who don’t live in the country but have businesses there also have them.

“The main idea is to focus on who is connected with your society,” Kotka said in an interview. “The old-fashioned way is to look at only who is living in your country. … If you don’t connect with the people who can contribute to your economy, you can lose them. But they can still be contributors.

“We have been developing our society with the goal that even if you are abroad you can still be part of the society.”

After the fall of the Soviet Union, he said It was clear to authorities that it was physically impossible to for the government to serve people in the country, especially in in the outlying areas. Therefore, the solution was to push people to use internet for government services.

Alston is in the vanguard of the movement to develop such a society in New Brunswick. But Kotka, trying to choose his words diplomatically, said many countries first have to change their mindset before they consider such a move. He noted that the first question from the Saint John audience was about privacy concerns. Privacy concerns are legitimate, he said, but they should be overshadowed by the opportunities of the digital revolution.

And he added that digital health records, for example, can be more secure than those printed on paper because there is a record of everyone who accesses digital documents.

“You share the same problem as other Anglo-Saxon countries,” he said, apologizing for referring to bilingual Canada as an English country. “You struggle with a legacy, and not a technological legacy but a mindset legacy.”

Kinduct’s US$9M Round Led By Intel

Travis McDonough: 'The biggest thing is scaling.'

Travis McDonough: 'The biggest thing is scaling.'

Halifax health-technology company Kinduct Technologies has announced a US$9 million ($12 million) round of funding led by Intel Capital, the venture capital arm of the world’s leading semiconductor chip maker.

Intel was to announce the funding Monday night at the Intel Global Summit in San Diego, where Kinduct Founder and CEO Travis McDonough was to appear on stage with other members of the Intel venture capital portfolio.

The investment group also includes previous investors Clearwater Seafoods Chairman John Risley, through his investment company CFFI Ventures Inc., and Elysian Park Ventures.

"Data is re-inventing the way people approach sports, health, and wellness," Wendell Brooks, senior vice president at Intel Corp. and president of Intel Capital, said in a statement. "The versatility of the Kinduct platform, coupled with Intel compute technology, creates further growth opportunities in these areas by producing deeper data-driven insights into human performance."

Kinduct has pioneered an athlete management system that helps more than 100 professional and elite sports organizations find information on the human body and specific athletes. The software helps these organizations collect, organize, share and analyze data in one centralized platform, leading to more informed decisions. It draws from about 500 data sources and includes the world’s largest library of medical animation.

Kinduct and Intel now plan to combine Kinduct’s platform with Intel’s Saffron Technology and open-source Trusted Analytics Platform, or TAP, technology to create a new system. It will use machine learning and other technologies to make recommendations, like how athletes can avoid injury.

Verisk Buys Halifax's Analyze Re

In an interview, McDonough said the funding will allow his company, which has had great success with professional sports teams, to move strongly into other markets like college and high school sports, military, and law enforcement. It will also bolster the company’s recently opened office in Silicon Valley, which will contribute to faster growth of Kinduct’s Halifax operations.

“There’s a lot to this round of funding, but the biggest thing is scaling,” said McDonough. “Working with Intel enhances things. We’re going to be hiring aggressively and creating a U.S.-based infrastructure.”

McDonough moved to the Bay area this summer and plans to spend the next year in the new Palo Alto office.  But Kinduct will still be a Halifax company. It now employs 67 people in Halifax (up from 45 in the spring) and plans to hire 30 people in the next six to 12 months.

“It’s like my grandfather used to say, you let the money just pile up and it stinks, just like fertilizer,” McDonough said, referring to his grandfather Lloyd Shaw, the founder of Shaw Brick of Lantz, N.S. “But if you spread it around, it does great things.”

The deal means there is now a clear trend of young companies from Canada’s East Coast establishing links with and drawing investment from Silicon Valley.

Already this year, Fredericton agricultural technology company Resson has received US$12 million in funding from a group of investors led by the agricultural giant Monsanto. And St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, which collects and analyzes genetic data, raised US$3 million in a round led by Silicon Valley venture capital fund Data Collective. With the Kinduct deal, that’s a total of C$32 million coming into high-growth Canadian companies in six months, and bringing relationships along with the money.

Meanwhile, John Risley appears to have found another winner. He was the founder of Ocean Nutrition Canada, which he sold to Royal DSM of the Netherlands for $540 million in 2012. McDonough said Risley has been involved in all the major decisions with Kinduct and is on the company’s board. “He’s been an unbelievable champion and he’s been omni-present,” said McDonough. “He’s been my go-to guy.”

Said Risley in an email: “Seldom do you get a combination of a great business plan and a great person. Kinduct is one such situation.”

Verisk Buys Halifax’s Analyze Re

The Analyze Re Team in 2012

The Analyze Re Team in 2012

Analyze Re, a Halifax company whose software-as-a-service product helps reinsurers assess risk, has exited by selling out to Jersey City, N.J.-based data analytics company Verisk Analytics, Inc. for an undisclosed price.

People familiar with the deal said the price was in the $15 million to $20 million range. It meant that the investors in the company’s lone round of funding, in November 2012, doubled their money in a cash payout. Verisk is listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange and has a market value of US$13.7 billion. 

Announcing the deal today in a press release, Verisk said Analyze Re will become part of its AIR Worldwide business. Analyze Re analyzes risk, pricing and other factors for the reinsurance market, which is like insurance for insurers. It will now provide AIR Worldwide clients with additional real-time pricing, exposure management, and enterprise portfolio roll-up capabilities.

“Clients are increasingly looking to track and reduce portfolio risk in real-time,” said Bill Churney, president of AIR Worldwide. “Analyze Re’s advanced analytics will complement our existing software solutions, enabling companies to manage their enterprise view of risk and perform multi-modeling and portfolio optimization, all within a single environment.”

Analyze Re came together when Oliver Baltzer, Adrian Bentley and Shivam Rajdev decided to launch a company after the reinsurance support company they had been working at downsized. They decided there would be huge demand for a risk assessment product among medium-sized companies in the reinsurance market, which is forecast to grow to $2 trillion by 2025.

The company’s first funding round was a doozy by Atlantic Canadian standards at the time – a $1.4 million round led by Innovacorp and including BDC Capital, Rho Canada Ventures and a range of angel investors.

After the funding, Analyze Re hired five employees, moved into an office on Quinpool Road in Halifax. The market they were targeting was known to have a slow sales cycle, but people familiar with the company said it has been gaining clients in the past year.

“We’re excited to join the Verisk Analytics family of businesses,” said Bentley in the statement. “Our team has been creating technology solutions for the insurance, reinsurance, and capital markets industries for more than a decade, turning huge volumes of data into meaningful insights in seconds. We look forward to continuing to offer these capabilities as part of AIR’s already robust product offerings.”

The exit is good news for a host of groups in the region. The Analyze Re team first workshopped its idea at Dalhousie University’s Starting Lean program, and this is the first exit by a company that came together in the course led by professors Mary Kilfoil and Ed Leach.

The team then went through the second cohort of Launch36 (now the Propel ICT accelerator), and again this should be considered the first bona fide exit by a Launch36 alum. It was one of the first tenants at the Volta startup house in Halifax, and is now the organization's second exit (The first was Compilr).

For Innovacorp, which invested $600,000 in Analyze Re, this is the first real exit for one of its portfolio companies since GoInstant sold out to in 2012.

BDC Capital, which invested in home-run-companies New Brunswick companies Radian6 and Q1 Labs, has continued its run of finding Atlantic Canadian companies that exit promptly. And for Jeff Grammer of Rho Ventures, this exit offers some validation of his strategy of investing in Atlantic Canada. Rho has offices in Montreal, Boston and Silicon Valley, but he has targeted several companies in Atlantic Canada. 

Marcato Launches Latest Product

After its business grew by about two-thirds in the last year, Marcato Digital Solutions this month released its most recent new feature, which it calls Maracto Live.

Based in Sydney, Marcato provides organizational software to music festival organizers around the world. The Software-as-a-Service platform was used in 240 music festivals this past summer, up from 143 a year earlier.

Now Marcato Live is offering greater flexibility to the festivals that use the software, and this greater flexibility means the product can be used by a new range of customers, including sports events, film festivals and conferences.

“We’re launching the latest update for our platform and it’s a more flexible and scalable solution,” said Marcato Founder and CEO Darren Gallop in an interview last week. “In addition to the usual performance updates, we’ve allowed flexibility that can allow different types of events to use it.”

He added that the company at the moment is not aggressively courting markets like conferences. However, feedback from clients has told Maracato that clients want to use it for a range of events, and the new release allows them to do so.

With 19 employees, Marcato now accommodates more than 250 festivals and live event organizations worldwide, including Coachella, X Games, Bonnaroo, MAMA & Co., CMA Country Music Festival & Awards, New Orleans Jazz Festival, and Madison House Productions.

Gallop has been working on Marcato for about seven years and is now gaining interest in the Sydney tech community with his latest venture, Arista Data Solutions.

Founded by Gallop, Laird Wilton, and Darryl MacLeod, the company recently won $45,000 in Innovacorp’s Spark Cape Breton competition. Arista is a web-based software that provides clients with data security tools and resources.

Gallop was coy about the details of the new company, but said there will be announcements on it soon. 

Job of the Week: Smart Energy Event

Our Job of the Week column this week is showcasing an opportunity for a marketing coordinator with the Smart Energy conference.

Smart Energy is a greater Atlantic region conference for the smart, renewable and conventional energy sectors. Held each spring, it allows delegates to collaborate and discuss trends in smart energy options for today's energy consumer.

Smart Energy, formerly known as the Renewable Energy Conference, is presented by the Jameson Consulting Group, which also puts on Invest Atlantic.  This 12th annual Smart Energy conference will be held in the spring of 2017.

The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside (formerly Qimple).


Smart Energy

Marketing Coordinator

The marketing coordinator will be responsible for developing partners and attendee awareness for the 12th annual Smart Energy event. The successful applicant can work from home and interact with other team members to increase sales and sponsor participation through targeted one-on-one communications and marketing.The marketing coordinator’s main responsibility is to increase revenues by reaching out to existing and new partners or sponsors and attendees. He or she must also refresh communication plans, including social media for outreach to potential sponsors and attendees, and develop and manage contacts on web-based customer management database The organizers are looking for someone with a college degree in business development and a background in entrepreneurship, event management and/or sales. The applicants should have one to three years’ experience in a similar role. 

Eigen Unveils Product at Dell Event

Scott Everett: Filling the gap between data and machines.

Scott Everett: Filling the gap between data and machines.

Eigen innovations Inc., a Fredericton company specializing in the Industrial Internet of Things, or IIot, has unveiled its Eigen Quality Workbench, a software product that optimizes quality control in industrial manufacturing. 

The company, which has been working with large partners in and outside Atlantic Canada, issued a statement Thursday saying the Quality Workbench is designed to help manufacturers “achieve true defect avoidance.”

Eigen’s 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.

Intellexon selects data from sensors and other sources in a customer’s plant and sends the relevant data to the cloud, where it is analyzed. Finally, it sends information back to the plant, where action is taken. All of this happens in real time, so the actions are precise. With offices in Fredericton and Toronto, From an early stage, Eigen was working with such partners as Oregon’s FLIR Systems Inc., the world’s largest thermal camera and sensor maker, to develop Intellexon to suit these customers’ needs.

“As manufacturing becomes more complex, many companies are struggling to enable a workforce that uses factory floor data to drive efficiency and productivity on a daily basis, which is a constant threat to their ability to remain competitive,” says Scott Everett, the company’s CEO.  “The Quality Workbench fills a gap between this data and the machines, by working with operators to discover new insights for efficiency on a continuous basis.”

NB's Global Companies are Working With Startups

The Quality Workbench works on the Intellexon platform. It revolutionizes the way manufacturers improve quality by capturing and analyzing data with artificial intelligence to discover breakthroughs in operating efficiency.

Eigen saw the need for the new software while working with its their customers and other manufacturers.  The company is increasingly focused on providing solutions for automotive manufacturing and food processing, embedding its technology within Tier 1 and Tier 2 manufacturers, and suppliers of industrial equipment throughout North America.

A graduate of the PropelICT tech accelerator, Eigen is making a habit of working with large partners. It made the announcement in Austin, Texas, where the company is featured at Dell EMC World 2016, the computer maker’s flagship event.  In April, Dell announced their Internet of Things Solutions Partner Program, including Eigen in the initial group of members.

“Dell believes [independent software vendors] are critical in building the bridge between the exciting industry potential of IoT and profitable market reality,” said Jason Shepherd, director, IoT Strategy and Partnerships at Dell. “We value our partnership with Eigen Innovations and look forward to our continued collaboration.”

Last week at the Big Data Congress, Nestor Gomez, Manager Global Information Services at McCain Foods, included Eigen in a slide showing the companies that the food giant is now working with. And late last year, Eigen won a US$25,000 cash prize by placing third at the second annual Cisco Innovation Grand Challenge in Dubai. Because of the bronze showing, Eigen was given a long-term relationship with Cisco, the global maker of networking equipment and a huge proponent of the Internet of Things.

Eigen, which raised $1.4 million this year, is also the only Atlantic Canadian startup listed among the graduates of the University of Toronto’s Creative Destruction Lab, one of the most demanding accelerators in the country. 

Mimir Launches Product with 2 Clients

With a new CEO in place, Sydney-based Mimir Networks has launched its cybersecurity product this year and already has two small internet service providers as customers.

Mimir was founded by cybersecurity veteran Jim DeLeskie, who previously founded Heimdall Networks. That company won Innovacorp’s 2014 I-3 Technology Startup Competition, taking home $225,000 in prize money.  

DeLeskie has since created Mimir, which is also focused on cybersecurity. This year, he hired Tara Milburn, who has worked in a range of businesses across the country, to head its operations. With the new team in place, the company is now selling its product to small and medium-sized businesses that need to protect themselves from cyber-criminals. Though the product is priced to be affordable to SMEs, Milburn emphasized in an interview it also has the capacity to reach larger clients.

“The development was done with scaling in mind,” she said in an interview. “We have no problem with scaling to larger companies because that’s where our founder came from.”

DeLeskie has worked for some of the world’s largest digital security companies and is an expert in the detection and mitigation of distributed denial-of-service, or DDOS, attacks. These attacks swamp an organization’s website and/or network with unwanted traffic, disabling all its online functions.

In January, DeLeskie learned that Milburn would be leaving her post with Nova Scotia Business Inc. and persuaded her to join Mimir. Milburn was new to the tech sector but had a wide range of business experience. She had previously held senior positions with the Vancouver Olympics organizing committee, the Vancouver Canucks and other sports organizations.

She began at Mimir as the head of business development, but soon moved to CEO, allowing DeLeskie to move over to Chief Technical Officer.

The Mimir product is able to detect and mitigate the impact of a DDOS, and can also be used for anomaly detection, or someone using a service in an unusual way, which could mean a system has been hacked. These are services provided by larger competitors but Mimir is priced so smaller companies can afford it.

With a staff of six people, Mimir is now focusing on sales in Canada and the U.S. While it has sold to two ISPs – one in the U.S. and one in Canada – it is targeting other sectors as well, including data centres, aerospace and defence, first nations and governments.

“Right now we’re concentrating on Canada and the U.S., but we’re open to looking at other countries,” said Milburn. “There could be some opportunities in Europe or Israel. … We have the benefit of Jim’s network because he’s quite well connected and respected and that will open some doors for us.”

SimpTek Raises $700K-Plus

Keelin Gagnon, left, and Asif Hasan: Looking forward to a roll out across North America.

Keelin Gagnon, left, and Asif Hasan: Looking forward to a roll out across North America.

SimpTek Technologies, a Fredericton maker of energy monitoring software, has raised more than $700,000 in equity funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and several angel investors.

The company said in a statement the funding will help SimpTek pursue new business opportunities and expand into new markets across Canada and into the U.S. It will also be used to expand the company’s technical, sales and marketing capacity.

Founded by Asif Hasan, Lionel Fernandes and Keelen Gagnon, SimpTek has developed a product that can assess the energy usage throughout a home. It gives the homeowner detailed, real-time information about what appliances or components of the house are using how much energy; and it provides a utility with detailed aggregated information about energy usage in its customer base. SimpTek’s platform helps utility companies to better engage, understand and communicate with their customers.

“Most people don’t realize that power utilities spend tremendous amounts of money to meet the peak demands of their customers and how working together to bring down peaks could have tremendous benefits for both customers and utilities in savings and using less fossil fuels,” said Innovation Foundation CEO Calvin Milbury in the statement. “SimpTek’s technology can help reduce the expenses utilities and consumers face at the same time, and that’s exactly the kind of innovation we invest in.”

NBIF Increases Breakthru Pot to $1M

Founded in 2014, SimpTek was the runner up in the 2015 Breakthru competition, NBIF’s biennial competition for new startups. The company won $222,250 in cash and in-kind services in the competition. The company also graduated from the Propel ICT Build Program. 

Simptek has now completed the first phase of its pilot program with NB Power. Next year, SimpTek will start pilots with various utility companies across North America.

“Today, utilities want to take energy efficiency and savings to the next level by providing customers with precise data about how and when they use electricity,” said NB Power CEO Gaetan Thomas. “Our hope is that [SimpTek] can provide the whole industry with an important tool for customers and utilities to better understand and change electricity behaviors for everyone’s benefit.”

Added SimpTek CEO and co-founder Asif Hasan: “We’ve been extremely pleased with the results of our pilot programs to date and the positive feedback from the consumers and the utilities. We are excited to build upon our success to date and to expand the team with the financial support from these investors.”

The company added it will be hiring new staff to accommodate the growth. 

Global Players Working with Startups

Fiddlehead Co-Founders Shawn Carver and David Baxter are working with with McCain Foods on a range of projects.

Fiddlehead Co-Founders Shawn Carver and David Baxter are working with with McCain Foods on a range of projects.

Two Atlantic Canadian resource giants on Monday outlined how they’ve been working with small locally owned innovation companies to bring their operations into the 21st century.

J.D. Irving Ltd. (the Irving family’s forestry company) and McCain Foods took to the stage at the Big Data Congress in Saint John to tell how they are working with innovators to improve efficiency and make better decisions. The Big Data Congress, now in its fourth year, is notable for the quality of thought leaders it brings to the region, but this session of home-grown technology experts showed how the East Coast tech community in the region has grown and is working with global businesses.

The relationship certainly benefits the smaller companies, which get paying clients with international reach. But the McCain and Irving executives stressed that access to new technology developed in the region has benefited their operations as well.

“We want to partner with startup companies in New Brunswick, and in Atlantic Canada, and eventually around the world,” said Nestor Gomez, Manager Global Information Services at McCains.

Gomez told how his company has partnered with Moncton-based Fiddlehead Technology, whose technology analyzes data to ensure a food producer puts out just the right amount of food demanded by the market. The tech community in New Brunswick frequently praises the McCain partnerships because they go beyond a sales deal; they involve “co-creation”, with the big and small company working together to perfect a product that could be sold around the world.

Gomez told of how McCain and Fiddlehead are now working with artificial intelligence so the technology can instantly respond in English to a range of supply chain queries from people throughout the organization.

Notable Quotes from #BDC2016

McCain similarly worked with Resson, the Fredericton agricultural data company that this year announced a $14 million funding round led by Monsanto. Yves Leclerc, McCain’s Director of Agronomy, detailed how the two companies worked together over several years to learn how to collect and analyze data from a field of crops, from drones, tractors, soil samples and other sources. The challenges were many, given that the data can be impacted on such things as the soil chemistry in different fields, the weather – even taking drone readings on cloudy days as opposed to sunny days.

“One of our biggest challenges is actually managing the data,” said Leclerc. “What we learned is that data can be good or it can be bad or it can be very bad. … We’re at the point now where we can actually start to analyze this data.”

J.D. Irving, meanwhile, has been using technology developed by Fredericton-based Remsoft to analyze its 6 million acres of trees and make long-term decisions on how to manage them. Jason Limongelli, J.D.Irving’s Vice-President Woodlands, said data analysis is critical because the country has to balance industry factors like long-term demand for product and growing conditions with broader worries like wildlife habitat, urbanization and climate change. And the matter is all the more complicated considering how long it takes to grow a tree.

“I will not work long enough to see the impact of my decisions,” he said. “We’re talking about an 80-year time horizon.

Andrea Feunekes, CEO and Co-Founder of Remsoft, told how her company has worked with J.D. Irving to analyze its 14 million trees. With clients around the world (its most recent expansion was its new office in Brazil), she said planning in the forestry is critical and the long time lines compound the risks involved in each decision.  

Quotes from the Big Data Congress

The Big Data Congress wrapped up on Tuesday, after bringing true thought-leaders on digital society to Saint John. Here are a few notable quotes from some of the speakers at the two-day conference:

On the impact of Big Data on society:

“Society soon will be data-driven, for better or worse. It’s our job to make it for the better.”

-- Sandy Pentland

Director of MIT’s Human Dynamics and Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program

On what Big Data means for business:

“The end goal is understanding your business and finding whatever opportunities there are to improve. What’s holding you back is really not the computational part. It’s the imagination to ask the right questions.”

-- Jason Limongelli

Vice President Woodlands, JD Irving Limited

“It isn’t just the technology but it’s the business model that’s transformative. Every company out there that’s, you know, in retail is out to figure out how they can be the next Amazon.”

-- Vivek Kundra

Former CIO of US Government; Executive Vice President, Industries, Salesforce

On social interaction:

“The more people interact with other people, the more they exchange ideas, the more money they make. High income people have a support network, but they also talk to a lot more people.”

-- Sandy Pentland

Director of MIT’s Human Dynamics and Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program

On how digital citizenship expands citizenship:

“Estonians are not just people who live in Estonia. It’s people who share the same values. Even if you take Estonia away, we will do whatever it takes to act as Estonians.”

-- Taavi Kotka

Chief Information Officer, Estonia

On using Big Data in healthcare:

“Big Pharma is now convinced that this [using genetic data] is one of the most exciting and efficient ways to do drug discovery. This is undoubtedly the new paradigm.”

-- Tyler Wish

Co-Founder and CEO of Sequence Bio.

“This is where Big Data can help but only in how it affects the patient. It’s not whether there was an infection during the back operation but, Did the operation make the patient better?”

-- Jamie Heywood

Co-Founder and Chairman, PatientsLikeMe

On replacing human workers:

“I’m sick of hiring humans. I will not hire any more humans. I will only hire robots.”

-- Alec Ross

Author and Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Johns Hopkins University

(Quoting a Taiwanese industrialist, who subsequently laid off 60,000 employees)

On cybersecurity:

“One area that will be a centibillion dollar industry – and this is important for New Brunswick because New Brunswick has made some smart investments in this space – is cybersecurity.”

-- Alec Ross

Author and Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Johns Hopkins University 

Trans-Atlantic Oceans Data Event Set

There’s an oceans industry symposium happening next month that’s so huge it’s being held on both sides of the Atlantic.

The German Canadian Concourse, or GCC, series of symposiums will hold its fifth edition on Nov. 17 and will focus on the use of data analytics pertaining to ocean-based industries. The goal of the day-long event, which will be held concurrently in Halifax and Berlin, will be to explore ways in which Canadians and Germans can work together in the field.

The title of the session, which will be held in English, is: "Across the Data Pond – Analyzing a Sea of Ocean Data: Germany's and Canada's deep dive into Ocean Analytics and its potential for spurring a new industry niche".

“We have reached the state where ocean data is being generated at a rate faster than it can be assessed and interpreted by humans,” said Jim Hanlon, Executive Director of the Institute for Ocean Research Enterprise in Halifax, a collaborating partner in this year’s GCC.

The two groups in the trans-Atlantic symposium will be connected via video conference and the event offers broad networking opportunities. The conference will be opened on both sides of the Atlantic by the patrons of the GCC, Marie Gervais-Vidricaire, Canada’s Ambassador to Germany, and Werner Wnendt, Germany’s Ambassador to Canada.

A statement from the group said the program includes thought-leading speakers from various maritime fields. The organizers are hoping to draw participants from such fields as remote sensing and information technology, marine tourism, energy, fisheries and aquaculture, marine transportation and marine defence and security.

“German-Canadian joint projects play an important role in the development of analytical systems which provide maritime players enhanced decision-making tools on the basis of intelligent fusion of ocean data from different sources,” said GCC Chairman Matthias Mück. “With a view to the value-creation chain in ocean data, starting at earth and ocean observation down to the development of analytical tools, the GCC will demonstrate how the need to control a data flood generates a new field for enterprises and start-ups – also in a German-Canadian context.”

The GCC not only aims to showcase successful projects of German-Canadian cooperation in ocean analytics, but – as in previous years – wants to create a platform for launching further collaboration between the two countries.

You can register for the conference by Nov. 10 here.

The German Canadian Concourse 2016 is organized by the Canada Meets Germany Network, a not-for-profit association aimed at fostering German-Canadian relations.

Fredericton Firrns Eye More Capacity

Employers in the Fredericton region expect the workforce to grow in the next five years, and therefore want the government to focus on attracting skilled workers and tailoring the education system to future job demands.

Those are the findings of a new survey conducted by Ignite Fredericton in collaboration with Opportunities NB. The survey was part of the business retention and expansion, or BRE,  project, which aims to proactively identify issues, challenges and opportunities related to business growth and expansion in the Fredericton region.

“This business intelligence will enable both Ignite Fredericton and Opportunities NB to be more nimble and adaptive with our programming and services based on the needs of the business community,” said Ignite Fredericton CEO Larry Shaw in a statement. “It will also provide us with some clear indicators and benchmark data year-over-year so that we can measure our progress.”

Said Stephen Lund, CEO of Opportunities NB: “ONB’s role is to support and encourage expansion within our business base that will inevitably lead to job growth. The BRE initiative provided a great framework to gain an inside view of the challenges facing local businesses, while providing a venue to help them craft solutions for sustainable growth.”

The survey results showed most companies in the region are in the startup and growth phases as one-third of online respondents reported sales of less than $250,000. Twenty-three percent have revenues of $250,000 to $1 million and 26 percent reported sales of $1 million to $5 million. 

Only one-third of respondents had an export development plan, with companies experiencing various issues such as a lack of knowledge about export markets and regulations, said the statement.  These results reinforce the need for Ignite’s new accelerator program, Export Igniter, and programming will be adapted based on industries’ needs, it added.  

The survey also confirmed efforts to enhance the region’s ability to attract talent, and ensure educational programs are geared towards current and future industry demand. “Only 25 percent of survey respondents reported being aware of resources to support hiring newcomers and foreign workers,” said Shaw. “This indicates that we need to focus more on this area going forward.”

The following are the complete 2016 BRE results:

The survey encompassed two phases: quantitative online survey of 118 companies (18% response rate of the 669 sample size); and qualitative in-depth/in-person interviews with 49 companies with the following highlights:


•Broad industry representation with 23% in manufacturing, 19% information technology, 14% business/professional services, 9% engineering, and the remaining distributed among other industries.

•Online - 69% were incorporated companies and 14% sole proprietorships.

•Online - 65% of companies reported 10 employees or less.

•Online – 67% anticipated employee growth over next five years.

•In-person - 45% of businesses reported to be in growth stage, 35% startup phase, 18% mature, 2% in decline/succession planning.

HR issues - attracting employees:

•One-third of all businesses consulted reported difficulty in attracting new employees due to lack of required skills (73%), lack of experience (52%) and better opportunities elsewhere (27%).  In-depth interviews also cited competitive wages and workforce availability with one-third of businesses hiring foreign workers.

•One quarter of businesses were aware of community resources to support hiring newcomers and foreign workers (supports efforts of establishing Local Immigration Partnership of Fredericton).

Business growth, sales & trends:

•One-third of online respondents (31%) reported sales less than $250,000; 23% reported $250,000-$1 M; and 26% reported $1-5 M. Of these companies, 54% reported increasing revenues over the past five years.

•79 companies were exporting with top markets U.S. 80%, Europe 42%, Mexico 14% other 34%.  58% of these companies reported increasing export sales and 25% remained steady.

•One-third of all businesses reported having an export plan with top export barriers being: lack of knowledge about export markets (25%) and regulations (22%), financial issues (25%), market uncertainty (19%), border issues (17%) and lack of experience (17%).

•Only 14% of online respondents had benefitted from research related tax credits in the last five years.

NB/Fredericton business climate was rated online:

•Top marks (percentage of respondents rating 8 or higher on a 10 point scale, where 1=poor and 10=excellent) went to quality of life (68%), digital infrastructure (60%), educational opportunities (50%), and recreational/cultural amenities (47%).

•Lower rankings were attributed to municipal taxes (6%), U.S. air access for business (7%), provincial/federal taxes (each at 10%).

How Data Is Reshaping Society

When the Big Data Congress session on health wrapped up at 9:05 Monday night, there were still about 150 to 200 delegates in their seats listening to how data analysis could improve healthcare.

It’s the type of conference this is. The first day of the two-day event delved into what can be done to create a digital society, and what is being done in the region already to ensure data analysis is used to benefit society. About 600 people are attending, and they’re engaged in the sessions.

Now in its fourth year, the Big Data Congress has gained a reputation of bringing some of the world’s leading thinkers in technology into the region. What’s interesting this year is they are blending in with Atlantic Canadian business people who are not promising to develop data-based businesses but are actually doing it.  

“This is a world-class conference and everyone here should be proud of you for bringing us together,” Jamie Heywood told T4G President Geoff Flood, the founder of the congress at Monday night's session.

Heywood himself exemplifies the type of speaker we’re talking about. He is the chairman and founder of, which is an online forum on which patients can interact with and learn from people afflicted with the same disease as them. About 400,000 people use the site, which has become a source of data on the experiences and attitudes among patients. It has become a leading source of information for the pharmaceutical industry.

Capping off the healthcare session, he called for the medical industry to make sure it’s focusing on the right data to make sure that patients actually benefit from advances in medicine.

He appeared in a panel with Tyler Wish, CEO and Co-Founder of St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, and Erik Scheme, New Brunswick Innovation Research Chair in Medical Devices at University of New Brunswick. Wish explained how his company is gathering genetic data from 100,000 Newfoundlanders to improve drug discovery, while Scheme reviewed how data can be used and the opportunity for entrepreneurs.

“If you’re a pure capitalist and want to make money, there’s an opportunity here,” Scheme said. “If you are more along the millennial line and you want to make a difference, there’s still an opportunity. There’s enough room for everyone to play.”

Wish was one of several Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs to explain their data-based companies in Day 1. Andrea Feunekes, CEO and Co-Founder of Fredericton-based Remsoft, told how her company has worked with J.D. Irving to improve the larger company’s forestry operations. And representatives of McCain’s foods explained how their company was working with companies like Resson of Fredericton and Fiddlehead Technology of Moncton to increase efficiencies to various sections of its supply chain.

What’s interesting about these presentations is they are describing technologies now being used in Atlantic Canada to improve living standards. In past years, the startups that appeared at the BDC spoke more about what they were planning to do. This year’s presentations show how far the startup community has come.

In the next few days, we will write more about the discussions at the BDC, highlighting how data analysis is changing industry and society at large.

“The term big data -- I don’t like it,” said Sandy Pentland, Director of MIT’s Human Dynamics and Media Lab, one of the speakers. “It’s not that it’s big or that it’s fast. The part that’s important is that it’s about people. … By understanding these things, we begin to understand society and social interaction in ways we never could before.”

Click2Order Expanding in Ontario

The recent storms in Cape Breton threw an unexpected wrinkle into the life of Matt Stewart. They cancelled a flight to Toronto, where he was heading to sign a deal that would transform his company, Click2Order.

Stewart and his cofounder Rob Myers launched the company as PizzaGo with the goal of making an app that would let people order pizza online. In the last year, they morphed into Sydney-based Click2Order, which broadens the base a bit and applies to takeout orders at any type of restaurant.

Already this year, the company has secured about 30 customers with a total of 35 outlets, mainly in Atlantic Canada.

The trip to the Toronto region is transformative because Stewart is now signing with a single delivery company whose clients have 1,000 restaurant outlets.

“This is huge for us,” Stewart said in a phone interview last week. “It allows us to scale beyond what we’re doing now where we have mainly one-offs.”

Docmaster Launches Flagship Product

Click2Order has quite a few competitors in that there are other tech companies that offer ordering systems for restaurants and fast food outlets.

The Click2Order product lets the customer view a menu, place an order and pay, all on a single site.

It integrates with the restaurant’s Facebook page, which is a huge source of traffic for many establishments.

What the Cape Breton company does different than its competitors is to offer a “white label” product. That means that the product integrates into the restaurant’s website or Facebook page without showing any branding of Click2Order.

The customer believes the whole system is the restaurant’s, and that helps with the eatery’s marketing and it means that they can retain a relationship with the client.

Stewart said the white label aspect of the product was really what caught the clients’ eyes and has helped to secure sales.

This week he is in Ontario signing the deal with the client and working on the first installations.

They will be rolling out installations with this client over the next several months.

“This is new to them as well and we’re not going to be implementing it in a 1,000 restaurants on Day 1,” he said. “We’re going to grow it at a pace we’re all comfortable with.”

One interesting note about this company is that Stewart, Myers and their two paid employees have brought their product to market without raising any equity capital. They won $10,000 in Innovacorp’s Spark Cape Breton program three years ago, and it has borrowed from New Dawn Enterprises, a Community Economic Development Investment Fund that supports Cape Breton enterprises. Click2Go has received other grants and loans, bringing the total capital raised to about $150,000.

Stewart said the founders are thinking about raising money, but it’s too soon to tell how much they may need. If the installations with its Ontario partner go well, it will mean the company will be bringing in more revenue. But it could also mean it will need a larger staff, especially in installation experts and support staff.

Meanwhile, the company is targeting other delivery companies as potential customers, with the hopes of growing the business further.

NS Releases RFP For VC Fund

The Nova Scotia government has released its long-awaited request for proposals for the manager of a venture capital fund to invest in early stage tech companies in the region.

Innovacorp, the government-owned innovation agency, released the RFP on Friday as part of its mission to oversee the creation of the new fund.  Private sector fund managers must get their submissions into Innovacorp by Dec. 14.

The government of Stephen McNeil first mooted the possibility of a new fund about two years ago. Then the government earmarked $25 million for a new VC fund in the 2016-17 budget. It said in the spring it would spend about a year finding a private-sector partner and establishing the new fund.

The RFP said the winning applicant will have to come up with at least $3 million in private contributions to the fund, bringing the minimum size of the fund to $28 million. However, given the competitive nature of the bidding, it would be logical to assume the fund will be end up being a good deal larger than that.

The wording of the RFP said that the fund will target “pre‐seed/seed technology companies based in Atlantic Canada”.

That would suggest that the new fund will only be looking at IT companies (with no cleantech, biotech or other such sectors). And it looks like it will be mainly targeting $100,000 to $500,000 investments, though the applicants are invited to spell out their plans for follow-on funding.

The winning applicant will be able to invest in companies throughout Atlantic Canada, though the RFP stipulates that at least half of the investment funds must be devoted to Nova Scotian companies.

The government said the applicants will be assessed by a panel consisting of:

- Charles Baxter, vice-president of investment with Innovacorp;

- Dominique Belanger, managing director of funds investment with Business Development Bank of Canada;

- Gilles Duruflé, independent consultant;

- Bernie Miller, senior executive advisor for the province of Nova Scotia;

- And Senia Rapisarda, principal with HarbourVest Canada of Toronto, who is replacing Rob Barbara, general partner with Build Ventures.

SkySquirrel Eyes Expansion After Loan

Richard van der Put, right, poses with Co-Founder Stephane Sogne in the early days of SkySquirrel.

Richard van der Put, right, poses with Co-Founder Stephane Sogne in the early days of SkySquirrel.

With a new low-interest loan in hand, SkySquirrel is setting its sights in being the market leader in preventing a disease that threatens some of Europe’s most revered wine regions.

The Halifax area company uses drones to gather data from agricultural fields, focusing on the highest-margin segment of agriculture, the wine industry. On Thursday, it announced it received a $500,000 loanfrom the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program.

Though the company is working with clients around the world, it’s emphasis in the near term will be working on its technology to combat flavescence doree, a disease plaguing southern European vineyards. There is no cure for the disease, which prevents plants from producing grapes; once it occurs, the farmer has no choice but to destroy the vine before it spreads.

“The big news for us is probably how we’re going to roll it out in France,” said Co-Founder and CEO Richard van der Put in an interview to announce the loan. “If we can be first in this market, and so far we are, we can create a monopoly product in France.”

SkySquirrel’s Aqweo drones are mounted with multi-spectral cameras supplied by a commercial provider. The latest generation features a camera developed by SkySquirrel that is sensitive enough to detect changes in leaf colour when flavescence doree is in its early stages. That should help to prevent the spread of the disease.

The team spent a month in France this summer during the growing season to test the product and plans to deepen its work in the field next year.

The company said earlier in the year that it had raised $1 million, with equal contributions from Innovacorp and an unnamed Ontario investor. Van der Put said the company may announce more funding soon.

With this money, SkySquirrel has been able to target a big geographical expanse, helped by its partnership with Vineview, based in St. Helena, Calif., in the Napa Valley wine region. It has allowed SkySquirrel to have an office in Napa. And a former SkySquirrel founder is now living in Switzerland, meaning the company has representation in the European company.  The company now has clients in several countries around the world. It will soon add Australia and New Zealand.

Van der Put said the relationship with Vineview means the company has been able to benefit from technology used by NASA in the development of its product.

“What we also have as an advantage is that we have more than 15 years of aerial images because of our relationship with our partner,” said van der Put.

Gemba, Repable Named to CIX Top 20

Daniella Degrace

Daniella Degrace

Gemba Software Solutions and Repable Inc., two companies that originated in New Brunswick in the past couple of years, have been named to the prestigious Canadian Innovation Exchange Top 20 for 2016.

The CIX, a national organization that recognizes leaders in innovation, announced its latest winners last week. They will be honoured at a ceremony at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto on Nov. 22.

“Companies were chosen based on a number of key factors including product/service offering, depth of management, market opportunity, and business model,” said the CIX in announcing the winners. “Our jury of investors and technology experts examined hundreds of applicants and have deemed [these] companies the 20 most innovative of 2016.”

Gemba Software is a Saint John-based startup that helps big business employees navigate their company’s operations. The company was spun out of tech company Innovatia and in September 2015 received $1.5 million in funding from Innovatia and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

Led by CEO Daniella Degrace, Gemba has created a Software-as-a-Service product that addresses the problem of multinational corporations being so big that employees can’t find their way through all the divisions or understand what they do.

The company’s ProcedureFlow software provides visual process maps that offer new employees and others the ability to quickly navigate their way through the company’s operations. The product, which features small hyperlinked flowcharts, reduces training time, delivers a consistent message to employees, and lets team members update the content.

Operating out of Moncton and Toronto, Repable collects and analyzes data on eSports, or competitive gaming, a fast-growing international phenomenon. It’s estimated some 200 million people will watch competitive gaming this year.

Co-Founders Heather Anne Carson and Sean Power teamed up last year and knew they wanted to do a Big Data venture. Eventually settled on eSports. Earlier this year, they took the venture through the Propel ICT Build Program.

ESports is growing so quickly that major consumer product brands want to use it as a marketing vehicle, but they don’t know how. Major TV networks want to broadcast it. It’s an opportunity to reach a young audience that doesn’t usually watch television, let alone read newspapers. But these brands don’t have firm metrics on who or what to sponsor or how to approach this new craze.

Atlantic Canada has been well represented in the CIX the past two years. Three Atlantic Canadian companies – LeadSift and SkySquirrel Technologies of Halifax and RtTech Software of Moncton – made the Top 20 in 2015.

The other Atlantic Canadian companies that have made the list were ClearRisk of St. John’s in 2011; Celtx of St. Johns and LiveLenz of Halifax in 2012; and SmartSkin Technologies of Fredericton in 2013.

The other winners of the CIX 2016 Top 20 are: Blue J Legal, Toronto; CareGuide Inc., Toronto; Drop Loyalty Inc., Toronto; Exact Media, Toronto;, Vancouver; Instant Financial, Vancouver; LANDR, Montreal; LEAGUE Inc., Toronto; Medella Health, Kitchener; Overbond, Toronto; SweetIQ, Montreal; TritonWear Inc., Toronto; TrustPoint Innovation Technologies, Ltd., Waterloo; Unata Inc, Toronto; Wantoo, Vancouver; ZEITDICE INC., Toronto; Zensurance, Toronto; and Inc., Toronto.

Job of the Week: Clockwork Fox

Our Job of the Week column this week highlights an opening for a full-stack developer with the Newfoundland and Labrador education technology company Clockwork Fox Studios.

St. John’s-based Clockwork Fox focuses on game-based learning. It makes video games that inspire and engage young kids to learn math. It analyzes data from these games to provide teachers and parents with information on the students’s progress. It adds up to a personalized gaming and learning experience.

These games, called Zorbit’s Math Adventure, allow children to proceed at their own pace, and teachers to track their progress and optimize lessons for a classroom of individuals.

The company earlier in the year announced a $1 million funding round led by Killick Capital and Venture Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside (formerly Qimple).

St. John’s

Clockwork Fox Studios

Full-Stack Developer

Clockwork Fox, an award-winning game production studio, is seeking a talented individual to develop a web interface with a solid backend and a superior user experience. This is a full-time position working with a successful business that values highly motivated individuals and a friendly atmosphere.

The company is looking for someone who can produce beautiful and intuitive user interfaces using HTML, CSS, Bootstrap, jQuery, or any other libraries, and can develop application code primarily in PHP. The successful candidate will have to administer various databases, including SQL and non-relational databases, addressing issues such as performance and clean design.

Clockwork Fox is looking for someone with one to five years' experience in a comparable role and a Bachelor's degree in computer science, computer engineering, or an equivalent discipline. 

Shaw Broadens the Startup Mandate

Larry Shaw: 'We need to make accelerator-type programming available to a broader audience.'

Larry Shaw: 'We need to make accelerator-type programming available to a broader audience.'

Fredericton is developing a system for streamlining the provision of entrepreneurial services that will also lead to the collection of valuable data, says Larry Shaw, leader of the Fredericton Startup Network Taskforce.

The task force, composed of nearly 20 of the city’s stakeholders, a year ago began debating how to make a smooth and efficient ‘subway’ model for service provision.

Task force members are collaborating to align services and programs around four key stages: ideation; validation; growth and maturity.

“We see the services and programs being delivered as an ecosystem,” said Shaw, who is also CEO of Ignite Fredericton, the city’s economic development agency, and Knowledge Park, New Brunswick’s research and technology park.

“We’re learning what types of programs work, how to modify them . . . Partnering with key stakeholders in the region we can share resources, provide flexibility in physical workspaces, and reach more startup entrepreneurs.”

Shaw said data on the startup community will be analyzed more easily when community partners come together under an agreed model.

“How many startups are there in Fredericton?” he asked. “No one knows the real number . . . Imagine if we knew there were 96 startups, 50 of them at the ideation stage. Then ask, how many of those 50 companies have used services provided by business incubator Planet Hatch, or other partners?

“Answer these questions and the data starts to provide insights as to the services we may need to add.” Shaw thinks developing programming in “tracks” will allow the “subway” model to be aligned across Atlantic Canada.

“At the moment, funding agencies will sometimes fund the same programs across the region. If our ecosystem shares programs we can reach more entrepreneurs and limited funding dollars will go dramatically further,” he said.

Benefits may include offering programming in smaller regions.

Shaw said Ignite Fredericton, Planet Hatch and Knowledge Park are already managed as one organization to provide services for entrepreneurs at the ideation, validation, growth, and mature stages.

Planet Hatch also hosts activities run by other groups. The local Chamber of Commerce runs its Business Immigrant Mentorship Program from the Hive, located in Planet Hatch, Shaw said.

Planet Hatch has partnered with the Business Faculty at the University of New Brunswick to build an experiential learning program that will allow senior business students to obtain work experience with Planet Hatch-based startups.

Shaw, a Fredericton native, returned to the city five years ago. He began his career with NBTel in sales, then worked around the world for various companies in diverse roles. He is currently president of the national network of Research and Technology Parks, a position which gives him insight into how the collaborative subway concept could be expanded.

“Building a network, we could use the same model across Canada. For example, Atlantic Canadian companies could use the MaRS innovation hub as their home base when in Toronto,” he said.

“The subway model will enrich and improve the journey of startup entrepreneurs. It will get companies to success more quickly and create more jobs . . .”

According to Shaw, about 13 startups went through accelerators in Fredericton during 2016. Another 40 companies didn’t get the chance to participate in accelerators, despite having the same needs.

“We can provide the necessary programs and services if we work collaboratively,” he said.

“About 200 jobs were created by those 40 companies. There will always be companies that have hockey-stick growth patterns (companies that grow spectacularly fast), but the other companies are also important to the overall economic development of the region.

“We need to make accelerator-type programming available to a broader audience.”

RBC Donates $1M to UNB Program

Dhirendra Shukla: 'UNB is changing the conversation about business development in New Brunswick.'

Dhirendra Shukla: 'UNB is changing the conversation about business development in New Brunswick.'

The University of New Brunswick’s ambitious entrepreneurial program got a boost Thursday when the Royal Bank of Canada announced a $1 million donation.

Canada’s largest bank said in a statement it is making a leadership gift of $1 million to support innovation and entrepreneurship education at UNB’s Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship, or TME.

The TME program has sparked or contributed to some fascinating startups, including the past two winners in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition – TotalPave and Castaway Golf.

“Canada’s largest financial institution is investing in youth entrepreneurship,” said Kayley Reed, a TME alumna and co-founder of conscious clothing company Wear Your Label. “How great is that? UNB’s TME program was integral to getting our company to where it is today. Now, the RBC Innovative Action Fund will create more opportunities for students at UNB to discover their potential as entrepreneurs and meet today’s challenges with innovation.”

The key to the program, led by Chair Dhirendra Shukla, is that the entrepreneurship program is embedded in the heart of the engineering school. It means that students with the ideas and technical abilities learn how to develop those ideas into businesses, often in partnership with business students.

The TME program also runs the Summer Institute, which helps to teach a range of entrepreneurs the values of design and human experience as they develop their products.

“RBC has a long and distinguished history of supporting innovation at UNB, and I am honoured to accept this gift,” UNB President Eddy Campbell said at a reception in Fredericton. “UNB has been rated best in the nation for teaching entrepreneurship. This investment will build on the success of our programs and create new opportunities for our students to turn their ideas into products and services.”

The statement said the RBC Innovative Action Fund will support a variety of experiential activities associated with the TME program, creating new opportunities for students as well as members of the community. These activities will include:

• RBC idea, student pitch and product design competitions;

• An RBC Lunch and Learn guest lecture series that brings business people with national and international experience into our classrooms;

• An RBC Technology Commercialization Program Fund, to help students move from the idea stage to working models of their products;

• An RBC Export Marketing Fund that will enable the proponents of well-developed start-up businesses to explore new markets outside of New Brunswick;

• An RBC Mentor-in-Residence program with national-class mentors;

• An annual leadership conference, focusing on business leadership in an era of global change; and

• The creation of the RBC Innovative Action Room, a new space for meetings, consultations and mentorship events.

“UNB is changing the conversation about business development in New Brunswick for a generation of new entrepreneurs,” said Shukla. “This gift from RBC will ensure that our programs can continue to develop, expanding UNB’s role as a regional and national leader in entrepreneurship education.”

Docmaster Launches Flagship Product

After a long journey for its husband-and-wife team of founders, Docmaster has launched a product that helps small and medium-sized businesses store, sort and retrieve digital files.

Docmaster is a Sydney-based company founded by Mark and Danielle Patterson, a pair of businesspeople whose careers took them from St. John’s to the southern U.S. and many points in between. And in their work, they came to realize that a lot of companies need a cloud-based repository for their digital documents.

“We saw that there was a real gap in the Canadian market for an affordable program in document storage that is compliant with federal and provincial regulations,” said Danielle Patterson during an interview in Cape Breton, where she and her husband have settled. Docmaster adheres to the rules of a federal regulation commonly called PIPEDA and the provincial regulations that fall under it. These rules stipulate how documents can be stored on the cloud, and one service Docmaster provides is educating clients about the legalities of document storage.

The company’s servers are in Canada, which is important, as the U.S. Patriot Act gives the American government potential access to any document stored in U.S.-based servers.

Docmaster can take new digital documents and store them for clients. The company can also bring in a partner to scan existing paper-based documents and store them for clients.

Though there are higher-priced products on the market for large companies, Docmaster aims to court SMEs. The Pattersons said their pricing, which is offered on a per-employee-per-month basis, is far lower than larger competitors. Its target markets initially are healthcare, physiotherapy, lawyers, post-secondary institutions and not-for-profits.

While the initial focus is on Canadian customers, the Pattersons are talking to Nova Scotia Business Inc. about looking at export markets. They said one market that interests them is the European Union.

The company has beta-tested the product with five or six clients in the past few months and Mark Patterson said they believe all will adopt the product going forward. Danielle Patterson said the company has about 30 potential customers in its sales funnel.

Docmaster has raised about $70,000 in equity financing, which it supplemented with grants and loans to bring in a total of about $300,000.

But the team felt the need for more money as it developed the product. When the Pattersons brought their chief technical officer, James MacKinnon on board in the spring, they decided to make money by opening Devantec, a tech consultancy specializing in IT security. In the first three weeks, the new company made $100,000. In the past five months, Devantec has taken on 25 clients.

The Docmaster-Devantec team now employs seven people. They are working in the basement of the Sampson McPhee law firm, which has been providing Sydney startups with office space for several years. It was a base for several startups before the opening of the Navigate Startup House last year and now serves as the Docmaster base.

Big Data Congress Opens Monday

The fourth annual Big Data Congress opens in Saint John on Monday, once again bringing some of the world’s leading thinkers on technology to the region.

The tech consultancy T4G began the conference in Saint John in the winter of 2013, and last year the event was held in Halifax. It returns to Saint John next week, where it is likely to draw hundreds of participants.

The program will delve into data analytics and the Internet of Things, or IoT, especially as they relate to specific industries. There will be panel discussions on how these technological developments affect such economic and social segments as healthcare, resources and the ocean industries.

One keynote speaker this year will be Sandy Pentland, Director of MIT’s Human Dynamics and Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program. Forbes has called Pentland, who will speak Monday afternoon, one of the seven most powerful data thinkers in the world.

“During his keynote discussion at BDC2016, Dr. Pentland will discuss a critical question to regional development in Atlantic Canada: How can we create organizations and governments that are cooperative, productive, and creative?” said the BDC organizers in a statement. “Dr. Pentland’s work, which he dubs “social physics”, brings together computer science, sociology and psychology to better understand human behavior. He believes, ‘the most important thing about big data is the people.’”

On Tuesday, author Alec Ross will examine the trends that will shape the global and local economy in the next decade. He believes that by embracing big data, Atlantic Canada’s fishing, agriculture, and forestry industries can continue to evolve.

“I think that every business needs to have a data strategy,” Ross, a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Johns Hopkins University, said in a statement. “I don’t care if you’re a carpenter who makes chairs by hand. You should still have a data strategy for how you identify the people to whom you’re going to sell those chairs.”

The other speakers include Vivek Kundra, former CIO of the U.S. Government and Executive Vice President of Industries at Salesforce; and Kate Darling, Researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Taavi Kotka, Chief Information Officer of Estonia.

On Wednesday, the Big Data Congress will throw the doors open to hundreds of high school students, who will work with some of the convention’s thought leaders to learn about how technology can change their lives.

Tickets for the Big Data Congress are available here

5 Startups in Cleantech Accelerator

Five Nova Scotia clean technology companies have been selected to participate in the inaugural cohort of Innovacorp’s CleanTech Accelerate Program, the Nova Scotia innovation agency has announced

Innovacorp exeucutives, including CEO Stephen Duff, for several years has been discussing ways to bring the mentoring available to IT companies, to other parts of the innovation community. Duff has noted that Propel ICT has strong programming from IT companies across the region, but little exists for startups in other sectors.

Innovacorp has also recently announced an early-adopter program for oceans technology companies.

In addition to the financial support, program participants in August joined thenextphase, a three-day business acceleration workshop, at no cost.

The cohort will receive training and mentor support through an Atlantic affiliate of Ecofuel, a Montreal-based clean technology accelerator. Programming will include a mix of videoconferencing and face-to-face sessions.

Innovacorp said it received 23 applications for CTAP from companies across Nova Scotia. A second cohort will be selected in December for a January to March 2017 session, with the deadline for that cohort to be announced in the fall.

The following companies were selected for the cohort and will each receive $20,000 cash to help them prepare to launch the project and move closer to investment readiness:

AgSeed Technologies (Canada) Inc., Sandra Newbold, Trevor Newbold, Bible Hill – AgSeed Technologies develops agriculturally based biochemical and biomaterial products. The company offers proprietary bio-based composite materials for the furniture and green building markets. The technology to make these renewable, sustainable products will be distributed through a licensing model.

Charged Engineering Inc., Lukas Swan, Chris White, Halifax – Charged Engineering develops technologies for lead-acid battery manufacturers. The company is commercializing new methods for measuring and reporting on battery state during production. The innovations enable manufacturers to save money and increase efficiency while making higher quality batteries.

Dingbot Ltd., Jonathan Underwood, Halifax – Dingbot uses emerging and established technologies to simplify the collection and mining of data in aquatic environments. The company designs and builds small robotic vessels that ease the execution of on-water data collection missions. Powered by electric motors, these vessels are emissions-free and safe for protected environments.

NeoThermal Energy Storage Inc., Louis Desgrosseilliers, Moe Kabbara, Jill Johnson, Halifax – NeoThermal Energy Storage, or NeoTES, has developed patent-pending chemical heat storage cells, improving the form and function of electric storage room heaters. The technology will help homeowners, renters and businesses take advantage of time-of-day electricity rates, saving customers up to 50 percent on their heating bills.

XTidal Inc., Craig Chandler, Sue Molloy, Rob Crutcher, Steve De Belie, Bedford – XTidal develops small-scale in-stream energy solutions. The XTidal Instream Platform, or XIP, technology uses tidal or river currents to generate renewable electricity for small applications. The product is ideal for communities, remote locations, or facilities that want electrical utilities to supplement grid power supply. The technology will be brought to market through direct and channeled sales and a licensing model.


Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

Lockheed Martin Supports Jedi

The first Aboriginal Business Accelerator Cohort.

The first Aboriginal Business Accelerator Cohort.

Lockheed Martin Canada said today it will expand its partnership with the Joint Economic Development Initiative, or Jedi, a not-for-profit organization that fosters economic development for First Nations in New Brunswick.

JEDI launched a targeted strategy in 2014 to help Aboriginal people to pursue businesses and careers in the aerospace and defence industry. The organization developed a unique training and mentorship program – the JEDI Aboriginal Business Accelerator program. This program aims to help participating entrepreneurs turn their ideas into businesses focused on exporting and creating intellectual property that is attractive to the aerospace and defence industry. 

After completing the program, Aboriginal entrepreneurs are better equipped to become part of the supply chain for shipbuilding and related defence sector opportunities.

Lockheed Martin Canada has partnered with JEDI since its inception in 2015. The company first reviewed the training and mentorship curriculum, providing constructive feedback to further scale the program and participated in the first training modules.

JEDI Nurtures First Nations Entrepreneurs

The pilot program supported eight participants with companies in mobile software development, security, machining, consulting, cleantech and health sciences. The 10-week program focused on helping the entrepreneurs succeed by introducing them to key skills and resources ranging from financial management to research and development. Following the program, participants have received interest from investors, universities and large aerospace and defence companies.

“Lockheed Martin Canada has a significant focus on strengthening our community of small Canadian businesses,” said Rosemary Chapdelaine, Vice-President and General Manager, Lockheed Martin Canada Rotary and Mission Systems. 

“JEDI’s program has an essential role to play in positioning Aboriginal entrepreneurs for future opportunities in shipbuilding and defence. Our industry needs these talented people to develop their businesses because we are always looking for new partners to meet the increasing demands of our programs.”

Lockheed Martin Canada will continue its partnership with JEDI, increasing its sponsorship support for the new cohort of ten participants in the 2016-17 program. This effort is part of the company’s overarching strategy to engage and support small and medium Canadian businesses for programs like the Canadian Surface Combatant and initiatives like the IMPACT Centre.

"JEDI is pleased to partner once again with Lockheed Martin Canada on the JEDI Aboriginal Business Accelerator," says Alex Dedam, President of the Joint Economic Development Initiative. "The JEDI Aboriginal Business Accelerator is an exciting endeavour that will have a tremendous impact on its graduates, the communities they live in and the aerospace and defence industry. The support of Lockheed Martin Canada will be instrumental in helping many Aboriginal people turn their business ideas into successful companies."

The second Aboriginal Business Accelerator Program will take place beginning in November at Planet Hatch in Fredericton. It will include weekly instruction, office hours with experts and successful entrepreneurs, networking events, presentations as well as business-to-business meetings with key industry stakeholders.

ProductCamp To Be Held Oct. 22

The third annual ProductCamp Atlantic, a gathering for product managers, marketing professionals, agile technology innovators, and thought leaders from across the region, will be held at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre on Saturday, Oct. 22.

Using the “unconference” model, participants will exchange ideas with some of the top thought leaders in product management as they explore issues in product management and work to improve the way companies conceive, develop, and market products. Lunch and snacks are included, and a draw for prizes will wrap things up.

“How companies manage the business of products is key to successful ventures but in many cases poorly understood and executed,” said Matt Herdon, Product Manager at Nautel, one of the sponsors. “We all get to share ideas on how best to understand and nail market needs, resulting in satisfied customers and profitable businesses.”

This year’s ProductCamp is anchored by two internationally acclaimed product management experts. Steve Johnson of Under10 Consulting kicks off the morning with a talk titled, “When the Product is You.” Johnson is one of the leading experts in product management for software-based products and services.

ProductCamp Atlantic will also welcome Rich Mironov, a Silicon Valley-based veteran of six tech startups. Since 2006, he’s provided full-time and interim product management consulting and mentoring to more than 75 large and small technology companies. He wrote “The Art of Product Management,” and kicks off the afternoon off with “Four Laws of Software Economics”.

The organizers are also pleased to have local business consultants, Productivity Solutions, provide our third anchor presentation, “The Agile Method”.

The unconference approach lets participants take an active role in co-created learning by presenting, discussing, and sharing their experience with experts, colleagues, and those interested in learning more about product management. Typical topics include:

-          pricing strategy

-          agile product development

-          how to achieve better customer understanding

-          feature prioritization

-          tools and techniques

-          go-to-market approaches

The day will provide time to highlight product-related career openings, creating ample opportunity for job seekers and hiring companies to meet.

You can register here

What’s Next for Karma Gaming?

Paul LeBlanc, Co-Founder of Karma Gaming

Paul LeBlanc, Co-Founder of Karma Gaming

Karma Gaming has sold its portfolio of lottery and instant games to Scientific Games Corp. of Las Vegas for an undisclosed price.

Scientific Games, which is listed on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange, announced the deal last week, saying it had taken on the portfolio of games and several employees of the Halifax company.

The buyer has established a development team in Halifax and is continuing to grow its operations in the city. But Scientific did not take on all of Karma, meaning the founding team could theoretically carry on with another enterprise.

“By providing consumer analytics, creative interactive games and promotions, loyalty programs, mobile apps and secure technology for the sale of eInstants and other games online, Scientific Games remains committed to helping lotteries continue to evolve,” Jim Kennedy, Scientific Games’ executive vice-president and group chief executive of lottery, said in a statement after the sale.

What’s unknown is what Karma founders Paul LeBlanc and Jay Aird will do with the remainder of the company now that they have sold their core business.

LeBlanc and Aird have not made a public statement since the sale, and they declined to comment over the weekend.

Serial Entrepreneurs Back in the Saddle

The two founders set up Karma in 2012 to develop online games that they could license to regulated lotteries. The thinking was that these lotteries’ customers are getting old and the lotteries would benefit if they had online games that younger people could play for money.

The company gained momentum and brought in $5 million in venture capital funding in 2013. Half of it came from Rho Canada Ventures, the Canadian arm of Rho Capital Partners, which has offices in Palo Alto, CA, New York and Montreal.

Innovacorp invested $1.5 million and Vanedge Capital of Vancouver added $1 million. The company also raised some angel financing.

With that money, the Karma team produced games for a few lotteries and companies around the world, and its clients included Loto Quebec, The Georgia Lottery, IGT Global Solutions of London, and Intralot of Greece. Karma also had worked in partnership with Scientific Games for several years.

Yet it was known that selling to government-owned lottery corporations was proving a challenge. As with all enterprise tech sales, the Karma software had to be integrated with that of the clients, and there was the challenge of selling to public sector bodies. What’s more, introducing an innovative gambling product could require legislative changes.

Though the price that Karma received for its game portfolio has not been released, there’s no indication that it was a huge windfall. Scientific Games’ market capitalization (the total value of its stock) is US$1.1 billion, and it had US$101 million in cash on its balance sheet as of June 30. But if it had paid handsomely for the portfolio, regulators would have likely forced it to release the amount. Karma and its investors would also have been more eager to discuss the gains publicly.

It’s doubtful the Karma team burned through the more than $5 million in three years, and they must have received some compensation for the games portfolio. So there is probably capital left in the company, and there is a team of ambitious entrepreneurs at the helm.

LeBlanc is the founder of the marketing agency Extreme Group, and recently started the ethical clothing line Human Preservation Co. Aird is a talented developer, creative and efficient.

He and a colleague produced the company’s Dystillr business, which analyzes casual games data, in a single weekend; the development cost was less than $20 — the cost of their pizzas that weekend.

Innovacorp’s Oceans Adopter Program

Six Nova Scotia ocean technology companies have been selected to participate in Innovacorp’s Early Adopter Program, the provincial innovation agency said.

Each of the companies in the program will receive as much as $20,000 to help finance the first deployment and testing of a product with an early adopter customer.

The program participants’ customers include government entities, academic institutions, and private companies around the world, and they have agreed to provide test data and feedback.

The program funds can be used to build the product and operate it during testing, as well as for company travel and other costs related to product deployment.

The companies are:

Xeos Technologies Inc., Derek Inglis, Dartmouth – Xeos Technologies is developing a navigation device for ocean robotic vehicles that combines an on-board GPS for surface navigation with a strobe flasher to aid in deep water recovery. With a depth rating of 7,500 metres, the technology is suitable for all ocean robots and reduces costs by mitigating the need for two devices.

Turbulent Research Inc., Chris Loadman, Halifax – Turbulent Research is developing a miniature pipeline inspection gauge tracking tool using a combination of acoustic and magnetic technologies. The company is also developing a small, underwater, broadband acoustic sensor for monitoring sounds emitted by offshore construction. These products make offshore operations faster, easier and less expensive.

Swell Advantage Ltd., Iaian Archibald, Craig Sheppard, Halifax – Swell Advantage is developing a parking management platform for temporary mooring and docking at boat clubs, marinas and government wharves. The technology helps boaters discover new places to tie up, handles payment processing, offers parking guidance, provides check-in and check-out services, and delivers real-time updates to dock managers.

Blue C Designs Inc., Stephen Smyth, Halifax – Blue C Designs is developing a battery-powered underwater camera system with an LED lamp and a compact, portable electric winch to support the camera and other Blue C Designs products. Replacing large, power-intensive and piecemeal systems, the company’s technologies offer streamlined, easy-to-use solutions for commercial fishing companies, survey companies and research institutes, and are ideally suited for use on vessels of opportunity.

4Deep inwater imaging, Stephen Jones, Halifax – 4Deep inwater imaging is developing an underwater fluorescence microscope that will be capable of detecting harmful algae species at low concentrations. The company’s complementary software provides automatic detection, analysis and notification of in-water objects. Suitable for numerous industries, the technology will be able to provide a fingerprint of fluorescence signals by combining image-based analysis with fluorescence detection.

Maritime bioLoggers Inc., Franziska Broell, Andre Bezanson, Halifax – Maritime bioLoggers is developing a low-cost, customizable, multi-channel movement sensor tag for marine and terrestrial animals. The technology significantly improves data quality, enabling scientists, resource managers and aquaculture specialists to better monitor and record the motion of marine wildlife.


Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor

Athletigen Releases Flagship Product

Athletigen Technologies, a Halifax company dedicated to genetics for athletes, on Monday released its flagship product Iris.

Iris produces human performance insights developed from partnerships with world-class athletes and performance experts. The first of its kind, Iris is a suite of apps that analyzes the athlete’s genetic information. The athletes key in daily monitoring data allowing them and their coaches insights into their personal performance that can result in optimum training regimes.

After analyzing an athlete’s DNA through a saliva sample, Athletigen reports on genetic markers related to nutrition, recovery and injury protection that can affect training adaptation and performance.

“Genetics is one very important piece of the human performance puzzle,” Jeremy Koenig, Founder and CEO of Athletigen, said in a statement. “We built Iris to empower athletes to understand how their performance training can be augmented through an understanding of their genetic foundation especially when considered in combination with variables that coaches have considered for more than half a century.”

Consisting of the Iris Athlete app and the Iris Coach app, the software suite was built working closely with Olympic athletes and coaches at the ALTIS training center in Phoenix, leading up to the Rio 2016 games. Starting this fall, ALTIS athletes and coaches will use Iris as Athletigen’s official partner and pioneer of human performance research.

“Athletigen have taken the hard science behind genetics and its role in athletic performance, meticulously sifted through the noise and wealth of research available to create a product that gives coaches and other practitioners accurate and valuable information about the individuals they work with,” said Mike Boykin, Program Manager and Sprints Coach at ALTIS. “Athletigen uniquely understands that their insight does not replace the information already available, but instead serves to paint a broader picture of each athlete’s gifts and opportunities.

In January, Athletigen said it raised more than $2 million in a round of funding led by Exponential Partners, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based venture capital fund that specializes in health and human performance innovations. 

The company also said last week it has appointed John Pereira to its Board of Directors. Pereira previously led all Product, Marketing and Operational activities as the VP of AncestryDNA. He was ultimately responsible for taking the latest scientific advancements in human genomics and combining them with the world’s largest resource in family history to provide a new and simple online resource for discovering your past.

Wise: Best Time Ever for Startups

Sean Wise: 'They’re seizing the concept that we’re no longer constrained by geography.'

Sean Wise: 'They’re seizing the concept that we’re no longer constrained by geography.'

A familiar face on the East Coast startup circuit, Sean Wise had a limited time to answer a range of questions at Invest Atlantic and summed them up in a simple sentence: it’s a great time to be an entrepreneur.

Wise is a professor of entrepreneurship and venture capital at Ryerson University, and served as a consultant to Dragons’ Den when the CBC program was getting off the ground. And he’s appeared frequently at events in Atlantic Canada – including the Propel ICT Demo Day in September 2015.

And he was one of the speakers at Invest Atlantic last Wednesday and Thursday in Moncton, where he was asked to answer five questions for entrepreneurs. They ranged from “Do I really need to raise money, and if so when and from where?” to “What can founders do today, to increase the probability of their success tomorrow?”

In answering these questions, Wise kept returning to his central theme that entrepreneurship in the last 20 years has called for less and less capital and greater and greater access to markets.

“The most import thing to realize is that now is the best time to be an entrepreneur,” said Wise in an interview last week. “When I started in entrepreneurship in the 1990s, you needed $1 million to get your startup out the door.  Over the decades that followed, I have seen the cost to test your concept drop to about $5,000.

“You rarely need outside investors. You just have to go prove your startups to customers.”

Cape Breton Startups On Display

Using lean methodology and surveying potential customers, Wise said it is now possible to test a product “before you write a single line of code.” He added that if there are 100 steps in launching a digital business, hiring a programmer doesn’t have to happen until about steps 50 through 60.

Wise also said that modern consumers are willing to pay for a good idea before it’s even produced, as is shown by the regular success that new products frequently have on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter.

A driving force behind Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone, or DMZ, Wise said he’s made about five to 10 trips to Atlantic Canada in the last few years and has noticed the progress being made in the region.

“I see a lot of things happening here,” he said. “I’m seeing a lot of diversification. Ten or 15 years ago, there were not a lot of tech founders. They’re seizing the concept that we’re no longer constrained by geography. You can have the high quality of life that you enjoy here in the Maritimes and still have a global company.”

Bob Williamson, the founder of Invest Atlantic, applauded Wise’s speech before a packed room, and said the conference in Moncton was a great success. There were 275 registrants and every session was busy with lots of questions and answers.

 “Moncton proved to be a great host and we look forward to going back to New Brunswick,” he said in an email. “The Genesis Centre on behalf of St. John's has invited us to host Invest Atlantic in 2017 in St. John's and we have accepted the offer based on doing due diligence with logistics.”

Job of the Week: Resson Growing

Rishin Behl, left, and Peter Goggin.

Rishin Behl, left, and Peter Goggin.

Our Jobs of the Week column this week features an opportunity for a developer interested in working for one of the hottest tech companies in the region.

The Fredericton agriculture technology company Resson, which this year announced it had raised US$11 million (C$14 million) from Monsanto Growth Ventures and other investors, is looking for a Senior User Interface/Front End Developer.

Founded three years ago by Peter Goggin and Rishin Behl, Resson has created software to assess data from a range of sources on a farm. They developed a system called RAMAS, which collects data from such sources as tractors, sensors buried in the field, and aerial drones flying over the field. It brings all the information together and presents the farmer with a report on what is happening in his field and what actions need to be taken.

The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside (formerly Qimple).



Senior User Interface/Front End Developer

The successful candidate will contribute to a rapidly expanding project that is bringing computer vision to agriculture, and will be responsible for all aspects of front-end development. That ranges from rapid prototyping through to implementation, testing and integration. As a Senior UI Developer, he or she will be working with product management and a team of engineers to design products with rich user experience. In addition to being familiar with cross-platform mobile and Web front-end development technologies, the candidate is expected to show a high degree of creativity. That means being able to balance independent initiative with cohesively working in a larger team. The new hire must help to create a unique and elegant interaction between users and Resson’s applications across all platforms.The company is looking for someone with five or more years of experience in a similar role.

Cape Breton Startups on Display

Cape Breton startups had to compete with Donald Trump, Jeff Hutcheson and Jim Balsillie at the Cape Breton Partnership’s Investor Summit on Thursday, but the young companies more than held their own.

The summit is the annual conference of the organization responsible for economic development on the island. The morning discussions highlighted Balsillie’s purchase and restoration of the Keltic Lodge (where the summit was held) and the international attention the island received as a potential refuge if Trump becomes president. And Hutcheson, the former Canada AM broadcaster, delivered a keynote highlighting his love of Cape Breton.

But in the afternoon, the startups took the stage and demonstrated the vibrancy and potential of high-growth technology companies on Cape Breton. I briefly outlined the metrics of the startup community, but the stars with the startup founders and the groups that are developing the ecosystem on the island.

“Investments in the startup ecosystem are investments in the future of our community,” said Ardelle Reynolds, the co-founder of the Navigate Startup House. “It’s about looking not just to the companies in front of us but the companies that will be formed later down the road.”

The island’s startup community, which is concentrated in Sydney, is a young group, most of the companies are three years old or young. Many are pre-revenue. The thing that always strikes me about the tech community in the Sydney area is the energy of the group, and how much their founders can do with a little capital.

The husband-and-wife team of Mark and Danielle Patterson (who we’ll profile more fully next week) showed how they helped to fund their product-based company Docmaster with little capital: they began a tech consultancy, Devantec, which made more than $100,000 in its first month, and used that capital to build up their business.

The innovative spirit in Cape Breton extends beyond effort to build new products. Like the Pattersons, the community on the island looks for new ways to get things done.

A case in point: Louisbourg Seafoods is a traditional seafood company, but its staff wanted to work with the tech community to find better ways of doing things. So held the Sea++ competition, which awarded a cash prize to an innovator that could improve its operations.

“A lot of people see out industry as old and not very innovative, but we do do innovative things,” executive Adam Mugridge told the conference. “We recognize that there’s a tech sector and it’s young and it’s growing. We wanted to work with the sector and see if we could improve things.”

Another example of innovative thinking is the Verschuren Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment at Cape Breton University, which was originally established to help with the remediation of closed coal mines and the Sydney Tar Ponds. When those programs finished, it needed other things to work on. CEO Andrew Swanson said it has since provided consulting work for environmental projects with 80 organizations around the world, and employing 146 people at different times in the past six years.

One message that resonated through the discussion is that the growth of the startup community is a long-term strategy that will help with economic growth in the coming decades.

“It’s really about planting seeds,” said D. Darren MacDonald, the head of the Island Sandbox, a startup nurturing facility operated by CBU and the Nova Scotia Community College. “We know the average age of a startup founder is about 40, so we’re working with students and building for something that’s coming down the road.”

Cape Breton native Annette Verschuren, the former head of Home Depot in Canada and Asia, added that the young entrepreneurs would determine Cape Breton’s direction in coming years. “The future of this island does not depend on government policy. It depends on the strength and the will of the people here.”

Sullivan Balances Appili’s Risks

Kevin Sullivan: 'We are looking at new drug products.'

Kevin Sullivan: 'We are looking at new drug products.'

Pathogens’ growing antibiotic resistance is a global concern. Halifax drug discovery firm Appili Therapeutics Inc. is developing its own solutions, and scouring the world for potential drugs with which to grow the company.

CEO Kevin Sullivan said since Appili formed last year, its strategy has been to balance risk by acquiring drug candidates at different stages of development.

“Our strategy is based on the idea that one [late stage] drug can get to market quickly. It could produce a steady income stream that would help finance another drug, which could become a blockbuster,” he said.

“We are looking at new drug products…There’s not a part of the world we haven’t looked…We like to look in Canada, because Canada is underserved. We’ve looked at Europe and Asia with some success and a few Australian technologies.

“We’re in negotiations with a few companies. Within the next 12 months, we aim to have at least one new asset in the pipeline.”

The first drug that Appili hopes to get through clinical trials is ATI-1501, which removes the nasty taste from an existing drug, Metronidazole, that treats stomach infection Clostridium difficile.

The Food and Drug Administration has granted ATI-1501 orphan drug designation, giving Appili an accelerated regulatory path and protection against competition for seven years. The company expects to get the drug to market by 2018.

FDA Grants Soricimed Orphan Drug Status

The second drug, which the first will support, is ATI-1503, which could fight deadly infections such as Klebsiella pneumoniae and other antibiotic-resistant infections.

The company’s growth strategy helped Appili attract $3.2 million in equity financing in a recent round -- $1.8 million from individuals brought together by investment firm Bloom Burton & Co. and $500,000 from Innovacorp. An additional $1 million was provided by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and NRC Irap.

Appili intends to close another funding round this fall. Sullivan said the company hopes to stay in Halifax as it grows.

Staying in Halifax would suit Sullivan, who was born and raised in the city, but worked elsewhere for 20 years, including 10 years with London-based Viron Therapeutics, which was developing a cardiovascular drug.

A chance meeting led him to return to Halifax in 2013 to take the helm at DeNovaMed, a company working on a cure for antibiotic-resistant viruses.

Sullivan did not intend to work in biotech as a youngster.

“I did my BSc in Immunology at Dalhousie University then suffered the angst you go through when deciding what to do with your undergrad degree,” he said.

He joined the navy, and became a Victoria-based diver with responsibility for harbour defence.

“I had the time of my life. Then I read The Billion Dollar Molecule, about pharmaceutical startup Vertex. The book describes the process of drug development. It shows how tough it can be.

“Six months later, I was at McGill doing a graduate program in biotechnology. The book provided the realization that you can love the science, but you don’t have to be at a bench doing science. It sent me in the business direction.” (He has an MBA from University of Western Ontario.)

Appili has many competitors, but Sullivan feels their ATI-1503 drug has an advantage.

“Most of the innovation in the antibiotic space involve modifications to existing classes of drugs. That’s a neat strategy, but bugs can evolve ways to overcome the changes made,” he said. “Our approach is a completely new class of drug that offers broad spectrum protection…”

Appili, which started with Sullivan and toxicologist Jamie Doran, now has a staff of 13, some of whom have been recruited from elsewhere.

The company this week appointed Kimberly Stephens as Chief Financial Officer. Stephens was most recently CFO of Halifax-based drug discovery company Immunovaccine.

Sullivan said staff may number 15 to 20 within a few years. He is on the look out for potential

staff with connections to Nova Scotia.

“People who moved away like me and would love to come home.” 

Squiggle Park Joins Fierce Founders

Leah Skerry

Leah Skerry

As it launches the pilot of its first product, Halifax-based Squiggle Park has been accepted into the Fierce Founders Accelerator, a new program in Kitchener-Waterloo for female tech entrepreneurs.

The Halifax educational technology company, formerly known as EyeRead, is one of nine startups from across the country to be accepted into the new program at Communitech, the ever-expanding innovation hub in downtown Kitchener, Ont.

During the six-month program, Squiggle Park will launch its online reading games for pre-kindergarten to Grade 1 teachers to use in the classroom.

The company had hoped to sign up 500 teachers for the pilot and it has ended up with 580, with strong take-up in such American states as New York, Texas, and California. It plans a full launch of the product in the new years at a price of $249 per class per year.

Once a range of students uses the product, Squiggle Park hopes to build up a library of data on how children learn to read and use it to help educators.

“We have heard from teachers that the data from Squiggle Park can be an extremely strong support for them in the delivery of differentiated learning in classrooms where one-on-one time is at a premium,” Squiggle Park CEO Leah Skerry said in an interview from Kitchener this week.

A spinoff from the Halifax web-development company Norex, Squiggle Park was started by Skerry and her co-founder Julia Rivard Dexter with the goal of developing an eye-tracking solution to help children to read. Using an infrared light on a computer or tablet, the system would track the child’s eye as he or she reads so the system can identify what part of the text gives the child problems.

Skerry said the company still has the long-term goal of bringing out an eye-tracking system. But the team realized the challenges in that goal, many of them involving the hardware available to students. So to get a product on the market quickly, it chose to proceed with the simpler product to bring in revenues and build up data.

Brownie Points Targets Small Cities

Squiggle Park, which has raised about $500,000 in financing from investors including East Valley Ventures of Saint John, will have a product in the market by the time it completes the Fierce Founder Accelerator in February.

The new accelerator has grown out of a series of summer bootcamps for female startup founders hosted by Communitech the last three years. The whole Fierce Founder initiative has strengthened the ties between Atlantic Canada and Communitech as the East Coast participants have shone in the programs. There has been an Atlantic Canadian team in each of the three bootcamps, and Sarah Murphy, CEO of St. John’s-based Sentinel Alert, won the $35,000 first prize at the 2015 bootcamp. Now Squiggle Park is continuing the relationship by going through the accelerator.

“The Fierce Founder Accelerator is, from what we know, the first of its kind in Canada,” said Communitech spokeswoman Samantha Clark. “The premise is to diversify startups in Waterloo Region, then in Ontario, and now across Canada because we have accepted teams from across the country.”

Clearpath Raises US$30M in VC

Kitchener-based Clearpath Robotics Inc. said  Wednesday it has raised US$30 million (C$39.5 million) in a follow-on round led by iNovia Capital of Montreal.

The funding is on top of a $14 million round it closed early in 2015.

The other investors in the latest round are Caterpillar Ventures, GE Ventures, Eclipse Ventures, RRE Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank.

Founded in 2009, Kitchener, Clearpath makes self-driving vehicles that do jobs that are too tedious for humans, like fetching materials in a warehouse, or too dangerous for humans, like some mining jobs. It supplies these products to more than 500 customers around the world.

It plans to use the funds to grow its OTTO Motors division, which makes vehicles that transport material inside manufacturing and warehouse operations.

“Factories operate like small indoor cities, complete with roads, traffic, intersections and pedestrians,” said CEO and Co-Founder Matt Rendall in a statement. “Unlike city streets, a factory floor is a controlled environment, which makes it an ideal place to introduce self-driving vehicles at scale. Companies like Google, Tesla and Uber are still testing, whereas our self-driving vehicles are commercially available today.”

Companies including GE and John Deere have deployed OTTO’s material handling equipment in their facilities.

“The market for self-driving passenger vehicles will be over $80 billion by 2030,” Rendall said. “We believe the market for self-driving materials handling vehicles will be equally significant. Clearpath has a big head start, and this new funding will allow us to further accelerate the development of the best self-driving software in the industry – and bring more OTTOs into the world faster.”

The company said manufacturers need flexible and efficient automation more than ever due to rapidly changing market demands. The U.S. alone anticipates a shortage of more than 2 million skilled manufacturing workers over the next decade. Meanwhile, consumers are increasingly demanding ethically sourced, domestically made products.

OTTO Motors’ self-driving indoor vehicles help fill the labor gap while providing manufacturers an affordable way to keep or return operations onshore. Clearpath is helping create a new industry and category of domestic jobs developing, servicing and working with their self-driving vehicles.

“Software-differentiated hardware will disrupt every major sector over the next decade,” said Karam Nijjar, Partner at iNovia Capital. “Self-driving vehicles are already revolutionizing transportation. Clearpath has built a world-class team, technology and customer base to accelerate that vision. Clearpath isn’t just building the factory of the future; they are laying the foundation for entirely new business models enabled by artificial intelligence, autonomy and automation.”

Startups Help To Retain Young People

About four years ago, a trio of game developers came together to form a Bedford-based gaming studio called Alpha Dog Games, and quietly began to grow.

The team started with three founders – two of whom, Jeff Cameron and Shawn Woods, are still with the company – and it took on staff as its production increased. In fact, Alpha Dog recently added its 17th employee.

“We have a few big games that we’re working on, including a title called MonstroCity that’s now being beta tested in the Philippines,” said CEO Cameron in an interview. “We’re planning on a worldwide release for it hopefully later this year. We have other high-level ideas in the pipeline, but all 17 people are working on that game.”

The fact that this one company has almost sextupled its staff in three years tells you something about the startup community in Atlantic Canada. Some of these tiny young companies are turning into mid-sized ventures, and they’re hiring in increasingly large numbers. And most of the people they’re hiring are young -- Cameron said his youngest staff member is about 20.

They are attracting and retaining young people. Alpha Dog is a prime example for another reason – it is a scaling company rather than a brand spanking new startup. The group of companies that call themselves “startups” include many outfits that are several years old.

And the ones that are really adding jobs are the ones that are scaling – they are growing beyond 10 employees because they have a product in the market or soon will. Fredericton-based Resson, for example, plans to double its staff to about 45 by early 2017.

The company that collects and analyzes agricultural data raised about $14 million in new capital this spring, but it also is rapidly growing revenues. The day after its funding announcement, Resson posted four jobs on the Entrevestor Job Board – for two developers, an optical engineer and an agronomist.

The posting for an agronomist is interesting because it shows that startups are hiring people from a diverse range of disciplines.

In Halifax, the data analytics company Affinio had nine people in November 2015. That increased to 38 by the spring and it plans to increase its staff to 60 by year end. CEO Tim Burke said its rapid expansion will likely continue in 2017 and is generated by strong revenue growth.

Another Halifax startup, sports medicine technology company Kinduct Technologies had 48 employees in May and expects to increase the number to 65 by the end of the year.

We’re seeing this pattern across the startup community of medium-sized companies adding employees at ferocious pace.

When Entrevestor surveyed startups this year, 152 companies provided us with employment data. Collectively, these companies employed 792.5 people in Atlantic Canada as of Dec. 31, 2015 – up 160.5 positions or 25 percent from a year earlier. What was really interesting is that three-quarters of the hiring came at companies with more than 10 employees. These companies added 120.5 full-time-equivalent positions, representing a growth rate of 36 percent.

This trend will likely continue as the number of innovative companies hitting the 10-plus staff levels is increasing each year. And many current mid-sized companies are growing into bona fide corporations. They are providing challenging, well-paid jobs to young people. These employees get to live the East Coast lifestyle and have the thrill of working for growing companies.

Alpha Dogs, for example, has already produced the game Wraithborne and has partnered with a German partner to put out MonstroCity. And Cameron notes the reason the company is based in the Halifax area is the quality of life in the region – for the founders as well as the hires. Woods, 38, was working in Vancouver before co-founding Alpha Dog and Cameron, 41, was in New York.

“We take quality of life seriously and we’ve been taking on people who feel the same way,” he said. “We came back here to make sure we were able to raise our families and really enjoy life.” 

Eyesover Exceeds 2016 Sales Target

Ali Ghorbani has been working on the idea for about a decade.

Ali Ghorbani has been working on the idea for about a decade.

As a former cabinet minister in New Brunswick, Craig Leonard knows how quickly and decisively public opinion develops on social media. It helps him as the CEO of Eyesover, a new Fredericton-based social media monitoring company.

Eyesover is the brainchild of Ali Ghorbani, the dean of the computer science faculty at University of New Brunswick. Over the last decade, he has developed software that can not only analyze sentiment on social media but detect the direction that the public discussion is heading.

To launch the company, he teamed up with Leonard, who had served as a Fredericton-area member of the legislature and minister of energy from 2010 to 2014.

Spending time in politics taught Leonard a lot about the value of what people say on social media.

“What it showed me was the online community is really where things take place these days,” Leonard said in a phone interview on Monday. “We often use the term that a Facebook group is the new church basement. It’s where the discussions really take place. What I recognized is that to not listen to that discussion, it really would undercut the policy you’re trying to put forward. And if there are problems forming, you obviously can take steps to mitigate those.”

Ghorbani — who is also a co-founder of the Fredericton cybersecurity company Sentrant Security — set out to create a social media monitoring system that could identify the trends the user was not even aware of. Leonard said there are lots of systems that can highlight public sentiments about a project or policy.

Eyesover analyzes the data on social media to detect how the public is interpreting an issue regardless of what the user is looking for.

“It looks at the data in the areas you’re not looking for and picks out the issues that are now being discussed related to your sector or industry,” said Leonard. “We capture the things that aren’t on your radar yet.”

The team, which includes Abtin Zohrabi as head of research and Jesse English as head of system development, financed the development of the system through an industrial research assistance program grant. On April 1 of this year, they began selling the product and found a strong appetite for the product among large corporations, municipalities and even political parties.

Leonard declined to state the number or names of the clients, but he said they include some of the largest companies in Canada, including some with international operations. He added that he has already met his sales targets for 2016 with an entire quarter left in the year.

Leonard plans to continue selling the product through one-on-one sales meetings, and the product development in the coming months will focus on enhancing ease of use. Users now need the assistance of the Eyesover team to set it up and use all the proper key words. Leonard said the near-term goal is to launch a version that allows users to do these things on their own, that that should improve the scalability of the product.

“The company has been funded so far by the founders themselves, but we are working on a share offering,” he said. “We’re going to keep the target low, about $250,000, but if the demand is there we would be willing to go as high as $500,000.”

Propel Growth Seeks Candidates

Propel ICT is looking for a few good startups – with the potential of becoming a few great companies.

The regional Atlantic Canadian accelerator is hoping to identify successful startups that would be candidates for the Propel Growth program. This new initiative is designed to help scaling tech companies grow into global corporations.

Propel would like high-growth Atlantic Canadian tech companies with more than $1 million in annual revenue to contact the organization sometime this month. It will then invite the qualifying companies to an information session in early November to outline the new program.

Led by the former Remsoft co-CEO Steve Palmer, Growth’s mission is to help companies increase customer acquisition and revenue while helping companies scale organically. 

“The program will emphasize the development of good business fundamentals through measurable and sustainable growth metrics, real customers, revenue and cash,” said Propel in a statement released today.

As well as having more than $1 million in annual revenue, the qualifying companies must meet the following criteria:

- They must be an Atlantic Canada based ICT company, either in the product or service category;

- They must have average annual revenue growth of 15 percent;

- They must have an existing business plan and demonstrated ability to execute on the plan;

- They must have an addressable market of at least $250 million;

- And they must be export-focused with more than 50 percent revenue from outside Canada;

Anyone interested in the program can contact Propel ICT at  

FDA Grants Soricimed Orphan Status

Soricimed Biopharma Inc., the Moncton-based biotech company developing peptide-based cancer treatments, has announced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted orphan drug designation to its flagship compound for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. 

The FDA granted a similar designation earlier this year to the compound SOR-C13 for the treatment of ovarian cancer.

“Receiving orphan drug status in both ovarian and pancreatic cancer highlights the unmet medical need and the potential of SOR-C13 to address these devastating cancers,” said Soricimed President and CEO Paul Gunn in a statement. “We look forward to meeting with the FDA to discuss our development plans for SOR-C13 and to initiating additional clinical trials in 2017.”

Orphan drug status qualifies Soricimed for various development incentives, including tax credits and reduced filing fees for clinical trials undertaken in the U.S.  If approved for commercialization by the FDA, SOR-C13 may qualify for seven years of marketing exclusivity in the U.S.

In granting orphan drug status, the regulatory body reviews the rarity and severity of the medical condition, as well as the potential benefit of the product treating this condition.

Earlier this year, Soricimed reported it had received positive initial readings from the Phase 1 trials of SOR-C13, including indications that it can stabilize some cancer tumours.

Sor-C13 is a peptide, or a naturally occurring biological molecule, that clings to the calcium in a cancer cell and deprives it of oxygen, thereby killing the tumour. Soricimed hopes to establish that it is an effective means of treating cancer with minimal suffering for the patient.

Soricimed began when Mount Allison professor Jack Stewart – now the Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer – discovered interesting medical properties in the saliva of the northern short-tailed shrew. After further research, Stewart’s team isolated the key compound in the saliva and learned that among other things it could be used to treat cancer.

Pancreatic cancer remains one of the world’s deadliest cancers, with a five-year survival rate of eight percent, said Soricimed. According to the Cancer research Institute, each year more than 337,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and more than 330,000 people die from the disease.

At the recent American Association of Cancer Researchers annual meeting, Soricimed released positive results indicating safety, tolerability and potential activity in a Phase I trial of SOR-C13 in subjects with advanced solid tumour cancers. 

Subjects were enrolled at Juravinski Cancer Centre, London Health Sciences Centre and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Job Openings: SimpTek, Dash Hudson

Our Jobs of the Week column this week features opportunities for a data scientist in Fredericton and sales executive in Halifax.

SimpTek Technologies, a Fredericton startup that helps utilities and homeowners better understand and predict their energy usage, has an opening for a data scientist. SimpTek has developed two dashboards: one for the residential consumer that shows in real time how much energy each appliance in their home is using; and one for the utility companies that allows them to assess their customers’ energy usage and communicate with customers.

Dash Hudson, whose product helps clients analyze their Instagram and SnapChat data, is looking for an account executive. Dash Hudson collects data on how major brands are connecting with customers on Instagram. The photo-sharing app is one of the most popular social media tools available but before Dash Hudson they were unable to analyze what effect Instagram posts were having with customers. It is now moving into providing the same service for SnapChat users.

Dash Hudson also has an opening for a full-stack developer.

The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Alongside (formerly Qimple).


SimpTek Technologies

Data Scientist

SimpTek is looking for a team member to help make the SimpTek analytics platform a world-class product. This person will work with the data to discover potential insights that can be used to improve the SimpTek platform. He or she will then work with the SimpTek team to implement analytics into its cloud architecture and devise features that that can incorporate the data and its insights. SimpTek is looking for a person with a bachelor’s degree and one to three years of experience in a similar role. The successful candidate must be able to work in a dynamic environment, with lots of deadlines. Working for a startup is very different than working in a regular, large corporation job. Six months of working at a startup is the equivalent of about 4 years of experience working anywhere else.


Dash Hudson

Account Executive

Dash Hudson is looking for an account executive to work with its sales team to build business with some of the best marketers and companies in the world. It wants someone who wants the challenge of selling a leading product in a rapidly growing market. The company is looking for a diligent, creative individual with some analytical capabilities and a bit of swagger. The account executive will work with the sales team in the business development process. This includes lead generation, sales outreach, progress-tracking and closing with leading global brands. He or she must maintain active engagement with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications designed to move leads through the sales funnel.  The company is looking for someone with one to four years of experience in a similar role.

McLaughlin Calls for Urbanization

Atlantic Canada should foster urbanization in order to build the kind of capital-attracting, wealth-creating culture the region needs, says New Brunswick-based academic and writer, Prof. John McLaughlin.

Exciting urban centres would be especially appealing to youth and new immigrants and would make it easier for people to share ideas and expertise, said McLaughlin, shortly after receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award from Startup Canada.

Canada’s population is aging rapidly. About five million Canadians are aged over 65, and the situation is acute in Atlantic Canada.  In 2014, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, all recorded more deaths than births, according to Statistics Canada.

Atlantic Canada is also largely rural, leading to scattered communities. But McLaughlin, who recently chaired the panel on the Seniors Agenda for New Brunswick’s Alward Government, said these issues can be addressed and aging is not all negative.  

“The boomers are the wealthiest and most engaged group ever to go into retirement. They are healthier than many younger people. They have much to contribute and are a resource to be used,” he said.

“Yes, some want to stay home with their boots on, but there’s a big group in the middle that would love to be part of a new urban movement.”

Vibrant downtowns create opportunities to bring young and old together, he said, a blending that could strengthen the culture of entrepreneurship.

McLaughlin has acquired many roles and awards over his long career. He is a member of both the Order of Canada and the Order of New Brunswick. He has an academic background in engineering and institutional economics and is currently President Emeritus at the University of New Brunswick.

McLaughlin Heads Startup Awards List

He said Canada’s economy is going through a period of deep change, with a need to prioritize new sectors and technologies, many of which focus on the environment, social entrepreneurship and arts and design.

Twenty years ago, when the nation was pushing for improvements in productivity, Atlantic Canada was trying to figure out its place in the country, he said.

“Now, thanks to globalization and new technology, we have as much opportunity to re-imagine the future as the rest of the country. We are all struggling to find our place in the new narrative.”  

Atlantic Canadians should be encouraged to see developing countries creating their own narratives, said McLaughlin, who has co-founded two companies and held academic appointments at a dozen universities, including Hong Kong Polytechnic where he is currently an Honorary Professor.

Emerging economies often surprise by not following the paths taken by developed countries.

“Many middle income economies, like China, India, Turkey, and Brazil are doing things in new and different ways,” he said. “They are leapfrogging with technology. For instance, they may go straight to using cellphones and bypass landlines.

“With China, the old assumption was that issues about the environment would have to be parked, that they were a luxury for advanced economies that have reached a certain minimum GDP…But China is moving aggressively and quickly on green energy because they have to. They’re re re-imaging their future, not taking our path.”

McLaughlin said Japan has been wrestling with issues created by its own aging society.

“They’ve been struggling to reboot their economy. They have tried to keep older people in work and offered part-time work. But they have a rigid social and economic system. It might help if they were more flexible.”

Being more flexible in Atlantic Canada means boosting urbanization and fostering growth.

“Fredericton is growing, but not enough development is happening downtown,” McLaughlin said. “It often seems that New Brunswick is a province in transition. We seem to always be having the same conversations…We need to become more open to the world and new ideas.” 

Invest Atlantic To Focus on Fundraising

Invest Atlantic, the pan-Atlantic conference for startups and investors, will open Wednesday in Moncton with a range of speakers from around the region and other startup centres.

The 2016 event – the first held outside Halifax – has assembled a group of speakers with the goal of helping all founders to understand the entire funding process. That is, companies regardless of their stage of development, can learn how to plan to raise capital, how to raise it, and what should be done after the deal closes.

“IA2016’s focus is two-fold: one to provide startups with the opportunity to hear directly from investors what today’s investors are looking for in companies,” said Bob Williamson, the President of the Jameson Group, which stages the event. “And secondly, it will help prepare them for early-, mid- and late-stage challenges by hearing from and meeting entrepreneurs who have been in the trenches and on the peaks."

Invest Atlantic will he held Wednesday and Thursday at the Delta Beauséjour in Moncton. You can register here.

The conference begins Wednesday with a series of seminars and Pitchcamp, a pitching event that has three tiers of competition, depending on the companies’ stage of development. The day will include a talk by Philippe LeBlanc, Co-Founder and CEO of, about his entrepreneurial journey.

The main conference on Thursday will be chaired by Francis McGuire, the founder of Major Drilling Group International Inc.

The other speakers at the event include: Sean Wise, Startup Mentor of the Year 2014 and Canada’s Startup Laureate for 2016-17; Sanjay Singal, the Canadian partner of 500 Startups; and Steven Abrams, Partner in the IT Venture Fund of BDC Capital.

The luncheon keynote will feature a discussion moderated by Jeff Harriman, Capital Market Specialist at Financial and Consumer Services Commission, on raising the second round of financing. The panelists are Abrams; Jeff White, Cofounder and COO of East Valley Ventures; and Ray Fitzpatrick, Investment Manager at the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

Dozr Closes $2.5M Round, Eyes US

The Dozr team: Tim Forestell, left, Erin Stephenson and Kevin Forestell.

The Dozr team: Tim Forestell, left, Erin Stephenson and Kevin Forestell.

Dozr Inc., which has developed an online heavy equipment marketplace, has closed a $2.5 million equity financing round from FairVentures Inc., the innovation initiative of Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. 

As part of the deal, Toronto-based Fairfax subsidiary Federated Insurance Company of Canada has developed an insurance coverage plan built into Kitchener-based Dozr so equipment owners will be protected when people rent their machinery.

Dozr is now the first company in the heavy equipment market to provide insurance as part of the platform. Other companies in the space require contractors to provide their own insurance, and often those policies don’t cover another party renting the equipment, which leaves owners at risk.

Dozr is an online peer-to-peer marketplace in which a contractor needing a certain piece of equipment can rent it from another contractor, who’s not using it at the time. The two parties agree on the price and Dozr gets a commission.

As well as providing the platform, Dozr helps the parties by providing contracts that nail down the length and terms of the rental, and taking care of the payment process. There is also a rating system so customers can see evaluations of people on both sides of the transaction.

Founded by the family team of brothers Tim and Kevin Forestell and Erin Stephenson (Kevin’s wife), Dozr has grown quickly since its founding in June 2015. It has gone through the Google for Entrepreneurs and Communitech Rev programs. Earlier this year, it won the Rev Centre Stage competition. And now has more than 2,200 customers across Canada, representing over $200 million worth of equipment. With the investment from FairVentures, Forestell plans to expand operations into the United States.

“Now we can give equipment owners comfort that they are protected if something goes wrong while someone is using their equipment,” said Kevin Forestell. “Until now, they just had to keep their fingers crossed because no one else offered insurance, and it was nearly impossible to get through a broker.”

Not only does Dozr create revenue for equipment owners, rates on the contractor-to-contractor platform tend to be about 40 percent less than retail rental rates and the variety of equipment is greater. Dozr offers both construction and agricultural equipment and is free to join.

“We are very pleased for FairVentures to partner with Kevin and the entire entrepreneurial Dozr team to deliver their innovative new service in Canada and globally,” said Paul Rivett, President of Fairfax. “Dozr is a great new Canadian innovator that is transforming the heavy machinery industry, with an outstanding equipment sharing platform developed by Kevin’s team.”

Dozr is based in the Communitech startup hub in Kitchener, Ontario. Dozr recently took home the top prize at the demo day for Communitech Rev, the accelerator’s program for product-ready startups focused on sales and marketing. 

Nurturing First Nations Startups

The first Aboriginal Business Accelerator Cohort.

The first Aboriginal Business Accelerator Cohort.

To truly appreciate the uniqueness of the JEDI Aboriginal Business Accelerator Program, it’s a good idea to spend time with Cameron Paul.

Paul is the Economic Development Officer at the Joint Economic Development Initiative, or JEDI, which fosters economic growth for First Nations communities. In the spring, JEDI hosted the 10-week accelerator to teach business fundamentals to a group of aboriginal founders. And Paul, a Maliseet originally from the Tobique First Nation, stresses that the program was a key ingredient in helping the entrepreneurs flesh out their ideas and develop roadmaps to get to market.

But all accelerators fulfill such a role. In this case, there is a cultural gap between the aboriginal and business communities, and the accelerator brought them together to work at launching businesses.

But there’s even more to it than that. Paul, who has been with JEDI for four years, explained that people living on reserves do not legally own their homes. That means that native entrepreneurs who need capital can’t draw on equity built up in their homes – an option that is open to Canadians who don’t live on reserves. These types of impediments, he said, make the work of JEDI and the Aboriginal Business Accelerator essential in developing First Nations’ entrepreneurs – these organizations understand dynamics that aren’t familiar to run-of-the-mill accelerators. 

“I think that it’s definitely a revolutionary program,” said Paul. “We’ve definitely taken a risk in taking on this program, but we have established that there is a need for a high-level program like this.”

The Aboriginal Business Accelerator is the first accelerator of its kind in the country, and the story of how it all came together in January of this year is rather surprising. It is actually part of JEDI’s New Brunswick Aboriginal Shipbuilding Engagement Strategy, which was launched in 2014.

Governed by the four Aboriginal Tribal Councils in New Brunswick, JEDI is a not-for-profit that supports Aboriginal participation in the economy. It works with all levels of government and the New Brunswick Business Council. A few years ago, JEDI decided that something should be done to help Aboriginal businesses to participate in the multi-billion-dollar federal shipbuilding program awarded to Irving Shipbuilding of Halifax in 2011.

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So JEDI came up with a program that worked with various partners to help indigenous business people to gain work from the shipbuilding contracts. It mentored participants, for example, on how to gain the needed certification and respond to a request for proposals. But something was still missing. The group was generating some interesting ideas for innovative products, so the organizers decided they needed a vehicle to teach business fundamentals and product development. They launched the tech accelerator with the goal of teaching entrepreneurship for the defense and aerospace sector.

The surprising part comes when you meet some of the eight teams of entrepreneurs in the first cohort of the accelerator, which are not your typical defense and aerospace companies.

Consider Melissa Lunney, the founder of a startup called AppDiginous. As the name suggests, the company is developing apps. Specifically, Lunney is working on a cell phone app that would help disabled people to open doors. Many entries in public spaces have doors that open when someone pushes a button; but the location of the button often forces someone in a wheelchair to reverse or maneuver their wheelchair to get through the doors. AppDiginous is an app that automatically opens the door when someone approaches it with their cellphone.

Or consider Melvin Nash from Oromocto First Nation. Nash is the founder of WaterMoc One Power Corp, an Aboriginal-owned business that is developing a river turbine that can provide green energy. Nash has been working on the project for about eight years and has come up with a design for a device that floats on the water and produces an exponential gain in power the larger the turbine blade.

“We’re keeping it in line with the goal of preventing climate change, and it’s the most eco-friendly device there is because it doesn’t destroy any fish,” he said. “It is about as close to perfect as anything out there.”

WaterMoc One has been collaborating with the local researchers and post-secondary institutions to optimize its technology and create a prototype to demonstrate how its concept is a step ahead of any river turbine technology on the market today. The company will be concentrating on developing the technology so that it is scalable, green and economical.

JEDI Shipbuilding Strategy Manager Mark Taylor agreed these may not be typical “defense and aerospace” ventures. However, he said companies in the defense and aerospace field have a variety of needs. And the new government in Ottawa is demanding that there be a cleantech component to companies doing business with the federal government.

“If you talk to anyone in aerospace and defense these days, they’ll tell you that a huge area is technology with mobile platforms,” said Taylor. “And cleantech is heavily desired.”

Nash, Lunney and the other entrepreneurs entered the program with plans for what they wanted to do, but none was an experienced entrepreneur. Nash, for example, describes himself as an inventor who has a long career in putting his mechanical know-how to work solving such problems as how to clean commercial quantities of fiddleheads.

The eight teams met regularly at the National Research Council offices in Fredericton, going through a series of seminars.  Learnsphere, a New Brunswick-based training organization, facilitated the training and Dale Thibodeau of DJ Thibodeau and Associates was the lead instructor. The group also worked with community partners like the Pond-Deshpande Centre and business groups like Lockheed Martin Canada and the Saint John River Valley Tribal Council. Each entrepreneur was paired with a mentor with some experience in their business sector. Lunney, for instance, was paired with Trevor Bernard, an experienced programmer who has worked for three companies that have had successful exits.

Taylor said JEDI is now putting together a five-year plan, the amount of time needed to make sure the program evolves. It will include partnerships with other startup groups in the region like PropelICT, the regional accelerator. The next cohort is already being planned to take place in Planet Hatch, the entrepreneurship centre in Fredericton.

The entrepreneurs not only want to see their ventures succeed and generate profits. They also hope their success will put them in a position to give back to their communities. “We’re all trying to figure out ways to include First Nations in our businesses because they’re all in need of revenue,” said Nash. “And we can do it in ways that allow us to grow responsibly.”

Eventually, the JEDI organizers hope the program will include a fund to help provide seed financing for native startups. The long-term goal is to add the financing component on to the program that has helped entrepreneurs like Nash and Lunney to begin their entrepreneurial journeys.

“They offered this course to us and we learned so much,” said Lunney. “By the time it was over, I thought, I wish I could have taken it a long time ago.”

Natural Products Canada Staffs Up

Shelley King, second from right, with her staff.

Shelley King, second from right, with her staff.

Natural Products Canada, the Charlottetown-based organization that supports businesses that commercialize natural products, has fleshed out its staff and is ready to help build a vibrant, pan-Canadian ecosystem.

The organization announced this week that it has hired two new positions in Charlottetown, Karen Wight, Vice-President Investment and Finance, and Stephen Ball, Regional Director of NPC-Atlantic. That means NPC now has six full-time employees, including CEO Shelley King.

“There is a ton of scientific expertise and a growing interest in our natural product companies here in Atlantic Canada,” Russ Kerr, CEO of Nautilus Biosciences Canada and Chair of the PEI BioAlliance, said in a statement. “NPC’s evaluation, support and investment will make it faster and more efficient for companies like ours to turn that into valuable products.”

After years of work by the BioAlliance and others, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Navdeep Bains announced in February that the federal government would contribute $14 million to NPC.

While the BioAlliance serves as the Atlantic Canadian hub for the centre, the partnership includes AgWest Bio in Saskatchewan, the Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization and the Institute for Nutrition and Functional Foods in Quebec. The federal contribution will be matched by more than $10 million from industry and other sources, for total funding of more than $24 million over the next five years.

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King, who previously worked with Synapse (the tech transfer office at the University of P.E.I.) and Genome Atlantic, will eventually have staff of eight to work with companies that have products based on natural substances and need to bring them to market.

As the East Coast regional director, Ball will work closely with the BioAlliance to identify promising products, technologies, and companies for potential investment from across Atlantic Canada, said the statement. They will ensure these companies are linked to the national and international resources and partners they need.

Additional hires across the country include two regional directors: David Gauthier of NPC-West will work closely Ag-WestBio in Saskatoon; and Paul-Thomas Lacroix of NPC-Quebec will collaborate with Quebec’s regional node, the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods, Université Laval. Sue Coueslan, Vice-President of Communications and Stakeholder Relations, has been hired in Charlottetown and other regional directors will be recruited in the near future, said the organization.

Key initiatives for the first year of operations include launching the NPC investment program and developing a database of the technologies, platforms, service providers, investors, and expertise essential to the successful commercialization of natural products.

“NPC is already creating connections and opportunities in the natural products sector in a way that’s great for Prince Edward Island and the rest of the country,” says Rory Francis, CEO of the PEI BioAlliance. “We look forward to continued collaboration that brings positive results for companies in the region.”

Serial Entrepreneurs Back in the Saddle

Gavin Uhma, right, formed Sidestory with Co-Founders Brian Jeffcock and Ben DeCoste

Gavin Uhma, right, formed Sidestory with Co-Founders Brian Jeffcock and Ben DeCoste

There was something interesting on display at DemoCamp Halifax on Thursday night: Four of the 10 presenters were serial entrepreneurs who are back in the arena with new ventures.

It’s a trend in the East Coast startup hub, and is especially pronounced in Halifax.

We’re seeing entrepreneurs who have put a notch in the win column with one venture, and a few years later get back at it with a completely new business.

This is more than just an interesting thing to mention. It’s an important development in the fastest-growing segment of the region’s economy.

Experienced entrepreneurs have proven they can succeed, have learned some pitfalls of entrepreneurship (no one knows all of them) and have international networks that can help them grow their companies.

They also have greater credibility than novices, which means they can often attract more capital, increasing their chances of success.

One of the speakers at DemoCamp, Sam Haffar, a principal at Real Ventures of Montreal, highlighted that when his investment board considers investments in companies, it places a high premium on having a team of founders who have previously succeeded.

“We look for that legendary team,” said Haffar. “Serial entrepreneurs take precedence over first-time entrepreneurs because they’ve been there and done that . . . They have the credibility to do what they say they’ll do.”

Harbr Brings Big Data to Construction

Two of the companies demonstrating new companies on Thursday night were founded by members of the team behind GoInstant, a Halifax startup that sold out to in 2012 for more than $70 million.

Gavin Uhma is now the CEO of SideStory, a social network app that allows users to create a story with text, pictures and/or videos and share it with specific contacts. He said it offers more privacy and discretion than Facebook.

Another GoInstant veteran, Dave Kim, presented his new company, Harbr, which provides data analytics for big construction companies.

Alastair Jarvis, whose last startup was the game developer Orpheus Interactive, was also at DemoCamp to present his latest venture, WoodsCamp, which is an online broker for the timber industry. And David Howe, who formerly co-founded two startups, (now and Retailkit (now, appeared to present his new business, Cribcut.

The two GoInstant vets are worth noting because both are now resident in the Volta Startup house, which is home to a little hub of these serial entrepreneurs. Patrick Hankinson, who sold his previous company, Compilr, in 2014 for upward of $20 million, is also a tenant at Volta, where he’s working on his new company, Hello Focus.

The former CEO of GoInstant and founder of Volta, Jevon MacDonald, is also working away on a new venture, though he has yet to go public with it.

Away from Volta, Tim Burke and Stephen Hankinson, who in 2010 won the I-3 Technology Startup Competition with Tether, are already gaining traction with their latest venture, Affinio, which went through the Microsoft Seattle Accelerator earlier this year.

Kim said working in Volta has been a great experience for these repeat entrepreneurs because they offer one another a range of experience and connections and can help each other.

“It’s been great working at Volta,” he said. “There is just so much support and encouragement among the whole group.”

Briefs: Alongside, TruLeaf, Fredericton

Gregg Curwin: Recognized for sustainable growth

Gregg Curwin: Recognized for sustainable growth

Qimple Changes its Name to Alongside

Qimple, the Moncton-based maker of digital recruitment tools, has changed its name to Alongside.

The company said in a statement that the online hiring space has become less personal, so Qimple recognized the need for a hiring solution that facilitated human connection – the driving force behind every great hire.

The company applied that understanding and began to strategically evolve away from traditional online hiring practices to a more comprehensive approach with a personal touch.  The company aims to support the hiring efforts of companies to help them find their perfect hire, all while improving the candidate experience with an empowering application process, said the statement. From this, a new brand, Alongside was born.

“Every single member of our team is passionate about helping others succeed -- Alongside reflects this care perfectly,” said Co-Founder and CEO Yves Boudreau. “Alongside is our commitment to working with employers and job seekers so they can connect and do amazing things together.”

He said the company ran into phonetic and spelling challenges with the name “Qimple” and “the name just didn’t represent who we are and what we stand for anymore.”

Alongside has raised $1.6 million to date and now boasts a team of 13. The product is used by more than 105 active companies and has featured nearly 1000 job postings since its launch with a 65 percent hiring success rate.”

TruLeaf’s Gregg Curwin Receives 2017 Clean50 Award

Gregg Curwin, the President and CEO of TruLeaf, has been awarded the Clean50 award by Delta Management Group for developing and scaling TruLeaf’s Smart Plant System.

Each year Delta Management Group recognizes 50 individuals from across Canada who have developed new technologies or instituted company-wide changes that create a positive net environmental impact from business operations. Delta carefully considers actual measurable accomplishments, demonstrated innovation, collaboration with other organizations, and the power of the honouree’s contribution to inspire other Canadians to take similar action.

“I was truly honoured to be nominated to receive this prestigious award from Delta Management Group,” said Curwin in a statement. “Our company has come a long way in taking an idea and building a strong business that is sustainable in every sense of the word. The award will be shared with all of my hard-working colleagues at TruLeaf.”

The average pound of California lettuce requires a whopping 160 litres of water. By combining that same water with collected rainwater and rigorous filtration, Halifax-based Truleaf’s indoor farm can grow 80 pounds of leafy greens, demonstrating that indoor multi-level farming has moved from concept to reality.

TruLeaf was founded to design and build a prototype indoor commercial farming system to grow leafy greens and herbs for retail and wholesale markets with the idea of getting nutritious, local food to Atlantic Canadians without pesticides or run off. With the first one up and growing nearly 200,000 lbs. of fresh produce annually, the next stop is Toronto.

I Choose Fredericton Social Set for Thursday

Fredericton on Thursday will host its “I Choose Fredericton Student/Business Social”, at which post-secondary students can network with local businesses and employers.

The event aims to raise awareness of current and future local career opportunities in a comfortable, professional setting. It showcases Fredericton’s assets and amenities to better integrate students in the community so they will want to remain here after graduation.

This event is free and takes place after the 2016 Post-Secondary Career and Educational Options Fair.

You can register here

Accelerator Centre Unveils Phase One

Waterloo’s Accelerator Centre has announced the first cohort of its newly developed Phase One program.

Phase One is the first of four phases within the AC’s recently restructured two-year incubation platform. The program offers a combination of expert sessions and peer-to-peer learning, blended with traditional mentorship.

“It was an extremely competitive process to select these companies from the wide spectrum of applications we received, but I am proud to have this group of very talented, high-potential entrepreneurs in our first cohort,” said Paul Salvini, CEO of the Accelerator Centre.

The Accelerator Centre is dedicated to building and scaling sustainable, globally competitive technology firms, and to commercializing advanced research technologies emerging from academic institutions.

Companies joining the first cohort of Phase One include:

- Green-tech chemical processing company Advanced Chemical Technologies
- Healthcare software company Aspire
- Online marketplace Backpacker College
- Collaboration software developers Care Connector
- Neuroscience platform DeepSubconscious
- Collaborative Marketing Technology iGotPro
- Hardware solution for trucking Industrial Cyber Sensing
- Word of mouth marketing App InstAppDeals
- Privacy-centric social platform LiiV
- Biomedical technology engineers MechanoSight
- Digital psychology resource centre PsyAlive
- Facial recognition software Vocord
- eCommerce developers WEcord
- IT and Integrated Communications Specialists Xenium

Phase One concludes with Presentation Day, an open house event where companies present to a panel of experts and business leaders who determine whether a business is ready to enter the second phase of the program.

Companies entering Phase Two are considered for up to $40,000 in funding and mentorship through the AC JumpStart program which provides eligible companies with $30,000 in seed capital (to be matched by recipient firms), $10,000 in mentorship, and access to market research and connections to investors.

Since 2006, 55 companies have graduated from the Accelerator Centre, with over 90 percent of companies still active after two years, and 100% remaining headquartered in Canada. 

We Need A Federal Investment Credit

New Brunswick’s venerable tech investor Gerry Pond often bemoans the fact that he can receive a tax incentive to invest in Arkansas but not in Nova Scotia.

The investment group that Pond chairs, East Valley Ventures, has a portfolio of 26 active companies, and Pond could have claimed New Brunswick’s Small Business Investor Tax Credit only on the 17 that are based in New Brunswick. His investments in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia would not have been eligible.

The problem is that the only real Canadian tax incentives to invest in startups are offered by provincial governments, and they apply only when both investor and the startup are based in the province that issues the credit.

Navdeep Bains, the federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, needs to change this. The Minister is now devising “a bold, coordinated strategy on innovation” and the cornerstone should be a federal tax credit to encourage investment in innovative startups.

Canada cannot develop an innovative economy without startups. Pure research is essential for innovation, but innovation that stays in a lab has a limited economic impact. To truly diversify the economy, Canada needs companies that produce revolutionary products for industry and consumers. They will need tens of billions of dollars of investment, and a federal investment tax credit is the best way to ensure that investment.

Investment tax credits are now available in roughly seven provinces and 30 American states. They return to investors a percentage of the money they place in a new business up to a certain maximum. The New Brunswick program is probably the most generous in Canada, offering a credit of 50 percent on investments of up to $250,000.

But New Brunswick companies can only use the credit to attract investment from 750,000 New Brunswick residents. The British Columbia program only applies to BC residents. Ontario doesn’t have a program.

A federal tax credit would at least allow Canadian startups to draw investment from any Canadian taxpayer. I say “at least” because Ottawa could enhance the program by following the example of such states as Arkansas and Minnesota, which allow investors from outside the state to benefit from the tax credit.

The big worry about such a program is that it would be a drain on the Treasury, even though repeated studies (such as Thomas Hellman’s “An Evaluation of the Venture Capital Program in British Columbia” in 2010) have shown these tax credits actually increase tax revenue. A federal tax credit doesn’t have to be an open-ended drain on the Treasury. Like the B.C. program, the federal government could cap the program each year so it would only offer a certain amount of tax credits.

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Some also worry an investment tax credit would be viewed as a gift for the wealthy as moneyed investors would be the only ones to claim the credit. That argument ignores the fact that startups need capital and can only get it from people or institutions with capital. The message has to be that financing innovative companies is essential to our national goals, and the investment tax credit is the best way to do this. Members of cabinet know this is the case. Before he became Transport Minister, Marc Garneau said in 2013, “If the rich are encouraged to invest in Canada’s startups, then it will be worthwhile.”

There is now a splendid opportunity to bring in these tax credits because the best imaginable salesperson for such a policy is the current Prime Minister. Justin Trudeau gets innovation and is superb at discussing technology in ways that grab people’s attention. He also has the ear of many of the groups that would criticize an investment tax credit.

So what should the tax credit look like?

First off, the maximum allowable investment has to be $250,000 or higher, and each qualifying company should be able to apply the credit to investments up to $3 million per year. Hundreds of Canadian startups are now in their growth stages and need multi-million-dollar funding rounds. The investment strategy will fail if these companies need to find dozens of investors to raise meaningful money.  The high threshold would also allow investors in smaller companies to benefit, so it would encourage startups of all sizes.

Second, the incentive should be offered to investors outside Canada. All Canadian governments spend gazillions attracting external investment, but are strangely reluctant to incentivize foreign investors to put money in our fastest-growing, domestic companies. By extending the credit to foreigners, investors from around the world would be encouraged to consider backing some of the great innovators in Canada.

Third, the government should work with provinces to reform their investment tax credits so they mesh with the new federal program. This could reduce the immediate cost to the federal treasury and amplify the power of the program in luring investment into innovation. It would also ensure the tax credits go to startups outside Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

One word of warning: the economic impact of this initiative will be blunted if the government tries to channel too much of the investment into renewable energy. The pressing need to end the use of fossil fuels is obvious. But the conversion to clean energy will require hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure changes. A tax credit for innovation isn’t the way to finance infrastructure. Our research at Entrevestor shows the greatest economic payback comes with investment in information technology. And given the collapse in resource prices, Canada needs investment in enterprises that will grow quickly.

So let’s say that the federal government awards a 30 percent tax credit, and will cut off the spigot after it awards, say, $2 billion of tax credits. And let’s say half the credits are awarded to people living outside Canada. What would the effect be if investors maxed out on the program?

First, the net hit to the federal treasury would be minimal, and it could even benefit the government’s coffers in the medium term. Second, it would mean an equity investment of $6.7 billion in the fastest growing segment of the Canadian economy. That would compare to the $2.3 billion invested by venture capital firms in Canada in 2015, according to Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association. It would be the most effective way possible to develop innovation in our economy.

Let’s emphasize again: Canadian startups need capital, especially at the scaling phase of their growth.  The government should encourage private investment, even if it could be seen as a benefit to wealthy investors. This is the best way to generate jobs for young people and to diversify the Canadian economy.

A federal innovation tax credit would be the type of “bold” strategy that Minister Bains has so rightly called for. 


This column has been adapted from the author’s submission to Minister Bains as he consults on the government’s innovation strategy.

McCarthy Spends a Month at Earthship

Megan McCarthy: 'Earthships . . . have a role to play.'

Megan McCarthy: 'Earthships . . . have a role to play.'

There has been talk recently about the need to create more startup hubs in Atlantic Canada. Halifax-based entrepreneur Megan McCarthy thinks Nova Scotia is well-placed to become a hub for sustainable technology and renewable energy.

McCarthy is CEO of powerWHYS, a company that provides an app that shows those who own or work on renovated buildings how to conserve energy on a particular property.

She said Nova Scotia already has a developing ecosystem and a lot of initiatives around sustainability, including government-led projects, like Efficiency NS, which helps Nova Scotians save on energy costs.

“Nova Scotia was one of the first places to have an efficiency body,” she said. “We have legal obligations to hit renewable energy targets.”

She praised the sustainability initiatives of Dalhousie University’s school of architecture and Nova Scotia Community College, which runs courses on solar power.

She said Dalhousie’s battery expert, Jeff Dahn, is working with electric car maker Tesla Motors.

“Nova Scotia has some very forward-looking thinkers, including Don Roscoe, solar designer and builder. We also have impressive environmental projects, like the Ecology Action Centre whose recent renovations might have made them the greenest office building in the world.”  

Sustane's Deal Paves the Way for Funding

McCarthy began her own company in January 2015. At the time, she was working with the Ecology Action Centre on an energy efficiency project. She said the centre helped her test her prototype, which she cobbled together herself on an Excel spreadsheet.   

She has recently forged a partnership with SimpTek Technologies, the Fredericton-based maker of energy monitoring software.

“They’re the big technical team I’ve been looking for,” she said.

McCarthy and her partner, Alex Clark-Gallant, a local eco-friendly builder and artist, are about to further their education by joining builders of sustainable homes, TheEarthship Academy, for a month-long training period at their base in Taos, New Mexico.

She hopes to be able to share her knowledge about how to build these off-grid homes made of recycled and natural materials when she returns to Nova Scotia.

McCarthy became interested in Earthships in 2013 when she won $250 from Dalhousie University's Office of Sustainability after submitting an idea to the Green your Campus contest. She invested the money in a Kickstarter campaign for the Valhalla Movement, a community of Earthship homes being built near Montreal.

“Compared to a normal house, Earthship homes are cheap to build,” she said. Some people in Ontario built a 2,900 square foot home in three months for $55,000 dollars, and they will have no bills to run it… 

“Earthship homes are not ideal for all circumstances—they’re not ideal for cities because of zoning issues, but in terms of new construction in a spacious environment, they have a role to play.”

McCarthy said the concepts of sustainability and renewable energy are gaining traction among the general population. That traction will continue to grow, including among investors.  

“Clean tech investors are typically the ones who have been investing in energy efficiency, but we are hoping to broaden that investment horizon… We have a massive opportunity to become an R&D hub for Clean Technologies,” she said.

Things are looking good for McCarthy now, but her entrepreneurial path has not been smooth. She became determined to work in renewable energy after spending 10 years in the oil and gas industry in her native Calgary.

She relocated to Halifax in 2009 and completed a Bachelor of Management, majoring in Environment, Sustainability, and Society at Dalhousie University.

Over the years, she has won startup awards and become involved in mentoring other young entrepreneurs, but three previous Nova Scotia-based startups she worked on, including one involving wind turbines, did not work out.

“PowerWHYS is my fourth startup,” she said. “The others failed for a variety of reasons. You make mistakes, you have to become an expert, you have to time your idea right…After a while, you hit your stride.

“Entrepreneurship is a game of perseverance.”

Harbr Brings Big Data to Construction

Dave Kim: The value of the data is 'endless'.

Dave Kim: The value of the data is 'endless'.

A young Halifax company called Harbr is bringing the promise of Big Data to one of Canada’s biggest and fastest-growing industries—construction.

Harbr has developed a mobile app that allows big construction companies and their project managers to analyze data on the sub-contractors they’ve hired for specific projects. That helps big companies to improve efficiency in the short term, and to understand how to improve their overall performance in the longer term.

“On most construction sites, 90 per cent of work force is made up of subcontractors and it’s the subcontractors’ performance that determines the general contractor’s performance,” said Harbr CEO Dave Kim. “But there’s no data on the subcontractors.” The only way until now that general contractors can assess sub-contractors is on their price.

Harbr, which has been going for about six months, is targeting one of Canada’s hottest industries. According to Statistics Canada, construction accounted for six per cent of the country’s GDP and 7.1 per cent of its workforce in 2010, and the industry grew at twice the rate of the overall economy in the first decade of the century.

Kim, who will present the product tonight at DemoCamp Halifax, is personally a bit new to the construction industry. He’s a tech guy, best known as one of the cofounders of GoInstant, the startup that sold out to for a reported $70-million-plus in 2012. A while back he linked up with friends Jeff and Ashley Kielbratowski, who were veterans of the construction industry, and CTO Mike Ouellette, to explore ways to apply to tech to the building trades. Eventually, they found the market to focus on was data on sub-contractors.

DemoCamp Halifax Set for Tonight

The product, which requires no integration with a company’s back office, gives the site managers a mobile dashboard that tracks all the work carried out by subcontractors. It captures data in such areas as work-force loading, time to completion and types of delay. The app can be downloaded free, and Harbr makes money by charging for analysis of the data.

The company, which now has six staff and a couple of part-timers, has been financed so far through the resources of the founders. Kim is now working on a seed round with a target of about $1.2 million, which he hopes to close by the end of the year.

Working out of the Volta startup house, Harbr is now working with six major construction companies, either based in Atlantic Canada or the East Coast arms of multinational companies. In the near future, the company will focus on gaining customers in the red-hot Ontario market, and working with existing clients to spread across the country. After that, the team is eyes key markets in the U.S., like Florida, New York or California.

As the company gains more customers, it will develop a unique data bank on the performance of various facets of the construction industry.

“This very much is a data play for us,” said Kim, a native of Australia who has lived in both Cape Breton and Halifax. “The value of that data is quite immense. Understanding such a big industry as construction … is quite huge and remarkable. We think that the value there is endless.”

Briefs: Mashup Lab, CTA, Levitation

Scientists Confirm Benefits of Levitation Knee Brace

Spring Loaded Technology has announced that independent scientists have shown its Levitation knee brace significantly reduces factors that can lead to muscle fatigue.

The Dartmouth company said the study was performed through the NSERC Engage Program at the University of New Brunswick by research scientists, Chris McGibbon in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Abeer Mohamed Abdelhady, PhD Candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

They observed the oxygen intake, carbon dioxide production and muscle activity of three healthy individuals as they repeated a squat to stand task with and without the assistance of the knee brace.

The Levitation knee brace, which uses a liquid spring technology to store energy as the leg is bent and return it as the leg is straightened, required less exertion during movements like standing from a squat or crouched position.

Data from the study revealed that participants used 25 percent less oxygen during the task cycle when compared to their consumption without the brace’s assistance. The researchers also found a drastic 40 percent reduction in carbon dioxide production.

The knee brace is now available for pre-order.

Applicants Sought for CTA@Boston

The Trade Commissioner Service at the Consulate General of Canada in Boston is looking for candidates for the Canadian Technology Accelerator in Boston for the winter-spring 2017 cohort.

Known as CTA@Boston, the program is open to open to a range of companies, including IT, cleantech and biotech startups.

The Canadian Technology Accelerator in Boston is an award-winning four-month immersion program that connects Canadian companies to U.S. clients, strategic partners, and investors.  It is managed and operated by the Consulate General of Canada in Boston's Trade Commissioner Service team in close partnership with Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England.

The application deadline is Oct. 13. You can apply here.

Mashup Lab To Host Pictou County Event

Mashup Lab, the organization dedicated to developing startups in rural areas, will host Mashup Weekend: Pictou County on Oct. 14 and 15 at the NSCC Pictou Campus in Stellarton.

Mashup Weekend works in a similar way to startup weekends: participants present their business ideas, and then form teams around what they consider to be the best ideas. The teams spend the weekend developing their plans, then present them to a panel of judges at the end.

Mashup Lab and Pulse Pictou County have joined forces to make Mashup Weekend happen in Pictou County.

“If it sounds intense, that’s because it is,” said Andrew Button, CEO and founder of Mashup Lab.  “But it’s also a lot of fun!” 

Registration is available here and only costs $45, which covers all meals and snacks.

Sales Growth Up as Startups Expand

Something unexpected is happening in Atlantic Canada’s technology and innovation community: as these companies become larger, they are in total growing more quickly than when they were literally a bunch of startups.

What we’re seeing among high-growth innovation companies in the region is the development of a core of larger companies that are actually accelerating their growth. We’ll still call them startups for lack of a better term, but in truth the region is developing a club of high-growth corporations.

That was the major find of Entrevestor’s annual analysis of startups in the region, which we publish today. For the past three years, we’ve been surveying these locally-owned, high-growth innovators, and the results for 2015 show that the community is starting to mature.

The data revealed two important trends, the first being the development of bigger startups. We estimate there are now more than 130 startups in the region that have more than $100,000 in annual revenue. And of these, about 30 have more than $2 million in revenue.

It is these larger companies that are creating the second major finding: overall revenue growth among startups is actually accelerating.

Revenues increased about 30 per cent in 2013, then 37 per cent in 2014 and 66 per cent in 2015.

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As these companies grow in size, they develop stronger sales teams and refine their products to better meet market demand.

That means that many are increasing their growth rates as they get larger, and that is amplifying their economic impact.

A company booking its first sales looks great in terms of growth for that company.

But the economic impact is far greater when that company boosts its annual revenues from, say, $500,000 to $1 million.

We identified 368 startups at the end of 2015 and surveyed as many as we could.

Some 152 companies replied to the survey, including 127 that provided data on revenue.

While we in the media often highlight funding by startups, the growth in revenue is the surest indicator of a company’s health.

What we’re finding is that startups are coming to believe that they have to at least double their revenues to be taken seriously.

“In Silicon Valley, your revenues should be tripling or you’re not growing fast enough,” Sean Fahey, CEO of Moncton-based Vidcruiter, said.

He added that his company is “trending toward that and I don’t think I’m an outlier.”

These startups are remarkably optimistic about revenue growth in 2016, forecasting revenue growth of 120 per cent.

We conducted our survey mainly in the second-quarter, so many respondents had a pretty good idea of how the year was shaping up.

The reality is many will likely fall short of their expectations but the important point is that there is strong momentum for sales growth.

Overall, the growth in sales is aiding the growth in exports.

The survey respondents said they made only 20 per cent of their money in Atlantic Canada in 2015 — about the same as the previous year.

About 19 per cent of the revenues came from the rest of Canada and 62 per cent from outside the country.

If there is one reason to be concerned about the revenue picture, it’s that the region’s startups are far too focused on just two markets — Canada and the U.S.

Only five startups of 58 respondents discussing their primary market listed countries other than Canada or the U.S.

Briefs: Honibe, SimplyCast, AIDA

John Rowe: First with all-natural, honey-based supplements and vitamins.

John Rowe: First with all-natural, honey-based supplements and vitamins.

Island Abbey Foods Expands into Vitamins and Supplements

Island Abbey Foods, a Charlottetown-based natural health product manufacturer, has expanded into the vitamin and mineral supplement category with the launch of four new products under the brand honibe honey gummies.

“After years of extensive research and product development, we are thrilled to be the first to market with an all-natural honey-based line of vitamins and supplements for both children and adults,” said Founder and CEO John Rowe in a statement. “Staying true to our promise, pure Canadian honey is the No. 1 ingredient in our vitamins, thus cutting refined sugar by 50 percent versus leading brands.”

The four new products include two for adults and two products for children. The adult products include a complete multivitamin and a complete multivitamin with added immune boost. The pediatric products include a complete multivitamin and a complete multivitamin with added immune boost.

The company made the announcement last week at the CHFA show this weekend in Toronto.

SimplyCast Wins Consumer Choice Award

Dartmouth-based SimplyCast, a global leader in marketing and communication automation, has been named the winner of the Consumer Choice Award in the category of Digital Online Marketing.

Selected as a 2017 Consumer Choice Award winner through a process of statistically accurate market research, SimplyCast is now considered to be a top-ranked organization in the online marketing industry, the company said in a statement.

Consumer Choice Award is the only organization to recognize excellence in business through an intensive four-step process designed to produce reliable results for consumers to make educated decisions.

“We are very pleased to be recognized by this prestigious organization,” said President and CEO of SimplyCast, Saeed El-Darahali. “We have worked hard to offer the best product and service possible and to be acknowledged as a top-ranked business confirms that our efforts are successful.”

AIDA presents Cloud-Based Analytics Overview and Tutorial

The Acadia Institute for Data Analytics will hold a seminar on cloud-based analytics at Patterson Hall on Tuesday, Sept. 27.

The Acadia University institute, known as AIDA, said in a statement data analytics and machine learning are becoming increasingly accessible through easy-to-use tools available on the Web. This means that it is simpler than ever to generate insight and create predictions based on your data without having to purchase and install hardware and software.

In this session, participants will learn about several data analysis and predictive modeling tools available in browsers. They will learn about some of the benefits and drawbacks of Microsoft Azure Machine Learning Studio, the Google Cloud Predictions API, IBM Analytics, and Amazon Machine Learning.

The seminar will be led by Christian Frey, who works for AIDA as a Business and Data Analyst.

You can sign up here.

Ignite Fredericton Launches Atlantic Canada’s First Export Accelerator

Ignite Fredericton, the community’s economic development catalyst agency, has launched its new export accelerator, Export Igniter.

As a first of its kind in Atlantic Canada, Export Igniter is designed to help export-ready companies seize opportunities, navigate the complex landscape of international business, and jump start their export sales.

“After a year of consultation and planning, we’re very proud to begin accepting applications for this ground-breaking program,” said Adam Peabody, Investment Attraction and Growth Specialist with Ignite Fredericton.

A statement from the organization said export performance and employment are inextricably linked in New Brunswick. Between 2001 and 2014, export sales from New Brunswick were down by over $600 million on average per year.  Over the same period, New Brunswick lost 13,000 jobs. Currently, export sales account for 45 percent of the province’s GDP; however, with more than 90 percent of all export sales go to the U.S. market. 

Export Igniter will begin in January and run as a 12-week program enabling export-ready companies to develop their export strategy to expand to new markets.

Companies will participate in bootcamps led by subject matter experts such as Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service, Export Development Canada, and Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters.  They will also be paired with a successful local exporter, who will provide ongoing mentorship, as well as paired with a team of highly motivated undergraduate students through a partnership with the University of New Brunswick’s Faculty of Business.

Thalmic Raises US$120M Series B

Waterloo-based Thalmic Labs has announced a US$120 million ($158 million) Series B Funding led by Intel Capital, The Amazon Alexa Fund, and Fidelity Investments Canada. 

In a statement, Thalmic said the new investment will help the company realize its vision for the next era of computing, “where the lines between humans and digital technology become increasingly blurred.”

Thalmic created its first product, the Myo armband, in 2012. The armband reads the electrical activity of the wearer’s muscles to control technology with gestures and motion. The company said the armband is now used by tens of thousands of customers in over 150 countries. 

Thalmic said researchers are using the Myo armband to train amputees on how to use their prosthetic limb and to translate sign language, while some developers have built virtual reality experiences.

The company is currently recruiting.  

“We’re hiring experienced team members for sales, marketing, and business development positions in our new San Francisco location while growing our engineering, R&D, and design teams in Waterloo,” the statement said.

NBIF Boosts Breakthru Prizes to $1M

Participants of the 2014-15 Breakthru competition attend a bootcamp.

Participants of the 2014-15 Breakthru competition attend a bootcamp.

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation launched its Breakthru competition last week, ramping up the total prize pot to $1 million and opening the competition to startups across the country.

The Innovation agency holds the Breakthru competition every other year with the goal of helping young companies to get off the ground with funding and mentorship. When it held the 2014-15 edition of the competition, NBIF awarded a total of more than $730,000 to three companies.

In the 2016-17 contest, NBIF will award $750,000 in cash and in-kind services to the top three New Brunswick companies. And it will set aside $250,000 for a company from other parts of Canada that wants to set up base in New Brunswick.

“Imagine, one day you’re dreaming about being an entrepreneur and owning your own company, and the next day it’s a reality—this is what’s going to happen for three hard-working Breakthru participants,” said NBIF Chair Cathy Simpson in a statement. “Starting a new company is a risky adventure, and to take the leap into entrepreneurship, people need to know that turning their ideas into a business is a real possibility—Breakthru does exactly that.”

The sixth edition of Breakthru, sponsored by Cox & Palmer and Deloitte, offers the largest prize package of any comparable competition in Canada. The result of the competition is that four young companies will be growing in the province with an average of $250,000 of development capital or expertise. The prizes include professional services like legal, accounting and marketing advice. NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury likes to call the prize a “company in a box”.

The national competition – which is not open to companies from Quebec, due to unique regulations for competitions in that province – is designed to attract companies to New Brunswick. The winners will receive a $200,000 venture capital investment from NBIF as well as $50,000 in in-kind services.

As well as the prizes, the Breakthru competition helps to educate novice entrepreneurs in developing a business. The process this year will include two different bootcamps, which means that even companies that don’t win awards will gain through the process.

“The purpose of Breakthru is to bring people, ideas and money together in a way that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship,” said the NBIF statement. “The professional services, support and mentoring they receive from NBIF and its prize partners will make a tremendous impact when entrepreneurs need it most – during their start-up phase.”

In 2015, Breakthru was won by Castaway Golf, which develop an automated system for retrieving golf balls from water hazards, which could then be sold on to golfers.  

Breakthru began as a student competition in 2004 and previous participants have included such high-profile startups as TotalPave, Smart Skin Technologies, Inversa Systems and Scene Sharp.

Applicants must submit their applications by Nov. 15. The winners will be announced at the Breakthru LIVE 2017 gala at the Fredericton Convention Centre on March 23, 2017. 

Briefs: Qimple, CarbonCure, LLC

Qimple CEO Yves Boudreau: 'Absolutely thrilled.'

Qimple CEO Yves Boudreau: 'Absolutely thrilled.'

Qimple Lands $500,000 from ACOA

Qimple, the Moncton startup that works to improve hiring for companies and applicants, has received a conditional loan of almost $500,000 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program.

ACOA said in a statement the “conditionally repayable contribution” will help the company undertake business development and marketing activities to promote and innovate their product.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have ACOA’s support,” said Qimple Founder and CEO Yves Boudreau in a statement. “The funding is allowing us to significantly increase our business development and marketing activities, so we can continue to grow and be a successful Atlantic Canadian company."

In 2015, the company completed the 500 Startups five-month accelerator program in San Francisco – the first company from Atlantic Canada accepted into the program.

Ozinga Installs CarbonCure CO2 Recycling Technology

CarbonCure Technologies, the Halifax company whose technology makes environmentally friendly concrete, has announced a partnership with Ozinga of Chicago.

Ozinga recently installed the CarbonCure technology at its downtown Chicago ready-mix concrete plant, the companies said in a statement. The CarbonCure technology recycles carbon dioxide gas generated by an ethanol plant in neighbouring Wisconsin and injects it into Ozinga's concrete in order to improve the concrete's compressive strength and significantly reduce its carbon footprint.

The statement said the Ozinga family has a history of service and entrepreneurship, and the adoption of the CarbonCure technology represents a natural evolution for the company. It is the latest in a string of concrete makers across Canada and the U.S. that have adopted the CarbonCure technology in the past three years.

Charlottetown’s Startup Zone Partners with Ladies Learning Code

Startup Zone, the Charlottetown entrepreneurship centre, has formed a partnership with the newly founded Ladies Learning Code PEI Chapter.

Founded in Toronto, Ladies Learning Code is a national organization dedicated to increasing tech education accessibility to more women and youth. It has since spread across the country to 29 cities.

“After being a part of the Ladies Learning Code team in Toronto for the past couple of years, I am beyond excited to bring this amazing organization home to P.E.I.,” said Emily Coffin, the Ladies Learning Code PEI Chapter Lead. “I left the province almost seven years ago due to a lack of opportunities in the tech field. Since then, I’m happy to see that the tech community here on the Island has flourished.”

The official Ladies Learning Code PEI Chapter launch will take place at the Startup Zone on Sept. 24 during the National Learn to Code Day. Tickets and additional information can be found here.

“The Startup Zone is all about fostering successful companies from PEI. We see our partnership with … Ladies Learnings Code on PEI as a great way to encourage more women or men to think about coding and tech,” said Christina MacLeod, Executive Director of the Startup Zone.

Williamson Takes Invest Atlantic to NB

Bob Williamson: The pool of angels is decreasing while startups are increasing

Bob Williamson: The pool of angels is decreasing while startups are increasing

As Halifax-based Bob Williamson prepares to host Invest Atlantic in New Brunswick for the first time, his years of mentoring entrepreneurs are being recognized by a national startup organization.

Williamson, who has won Startup Canada’s regional Entrepreneur Promotion Award, finds he is impressed with New Brunswick. He said the province is leading when it comes to collaborating to grow the startup ecosystem and companies.

“In some ways New Brunswick is a tighter community,” Williamson, CEO and founder of Jameson Consulting Group, said. “They seem to really pull together as one.”

He said the accelerator Propel ICT, which began in New Brunswick and is now regional, has become a model of co-operation, but the sector needs more.

“It appears some of us are still working in silos,” he said. “Governments are working in silos, communities are in silos, and some of our programs are working in silos...By collaborating we will see a large multiplier effect for our time and resources.”

What the Startup Canada Award Winners Said

Williamson started Invest Atlantic six years ago after realizing that regional entrepreneurs lacked the supports available to entrepreneurs elsewhere. This year’s event will be in Moncton on Oct.5. Until now, the conference has been held exclusively in Halifax.

“I’d retired from the off shore oil and gas sector and I’d invested small amounts in several startups coming out of universities that had ideas for the energy sector,” he said, as he explained how the conference started.

He said that many of these young entrepreneurs didn’t know anything about business, but they were filled with plenty of dynamic energy.

“I thought, there’s more of these entrepreneurs in other sectors, but there didn’t seem to be formal mechanisms to help them. If we could bring entrepreneurs and investors to one room things would start to happen.”

The first year was a success and the conference has grown steadily since. The number of other events and supports for entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada has also grown enormously. Williamson himself has founded the Pitch101, 201, and 301 series and cofounded the Accredited Investor Outreach program currently being developed.

“We have quite a sector we didn’t have six, seven years ago,” Williamson, who began his career by founding Ocean Resources magazine, said. Over a 22-year period, he created a family of energy-related publications before exiting in 2002.

Williamson’s Startup Canada award stems from his mentoring work which has seen him contribute around the region. Institutions and programs he has been involved with include Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business, the Enactus program at St. Mary’s, Springboard Atlantic, the University of New Brunswick, Cape Breton University, the University of Prince Edward Island, and Memorial University in Newfoundland and Labrador.

He said mentoring has enriched his life and been critical to his contribution in helping grow the ecosystem.

“Without mentoring, I wouldn’t have had the empathy to know what was needed,” he said.

Williamson is now working on developing a program that will encourage more investors to fund Atlantic Canadian startups.

“It’s well known that the pool of angel investors is decreasing, while the pool of startups is increasing,” he said.

He envisions a regional program similar to a Community Economic and Development Investment Fund that would act as a seed fund for startups by removing provincial barriers.

In his vision, the fund would allow a Nova Scotia-based investor to put money into a New Brunswick company and get a full tax credit, which can only be obtained right now if the investor invests in a Nova Scotia venture.

Williamson is also looking for a partner for Invest Atlantic, so that he can eventually move on to other things.

“I would like to help initiate a seed fund and also bring in more angels and accredited investors from outside the region,” he said.

“There is still so much to be done. If my legacy could be summed up in one word I’d like it to be ‘collaborator’.”

DemoCamp Halifax Set for Thursday

DemoCamp Halifax, where nine startups will present their products without the aid of PowerPoint, will be held Thursday at the Potter Auditorium at Dalhousie University.

The idea for DemoCamp is to get founders that are still at the early stages to demonstrate their products. They can’t talk about revenue projections or the size of the market – it’s all about getting this product to work in front of a crowd. You can find tickets for the event here.

In addition to nine startups now listed on the event website, DemoCamp will feature lightning speeches by: Kyle Racki, Co-founder and CEO at Proposify; Isaac Souweine, VP of Product at Flatbook; Mark, Lever, CEO of the Chronicle-Herald; Sam Haffar, Principal of Real Ventures; and Gloria Palcich, Founder of Optionelle.

Among other things, this is a reason for celebration because the first DemoCamp in Halifax in 2011 seemed to signal the birth of the Halifax startup community. Hosted by TitanFile Co-Founders Milan Vrekic (now CEO of Zora) and Tony Abou-Assaleh, the first DemoCamp Halifax took place in a packed auditorium and was held up by the odd technical glitch. But the companies in the spotlight that night included Compilr, which has since exited, and the fore-runners of LeadSift and Proposify. It was the first time the current generation of startups got together and showed each other what they were up to.

The 2016 edition is being organized by Volta, and was to have been held on the eve of Volta’s flagship event Startup Empire. But Empire has been rescheduled until May so the organizers can hold it in a larger venue – which they believe will be needed given the caliber of speakers they’re bringing in.

Here are companies that will present at DemoCamp Halifax 2016:

Security gaze

With an aim to keeping you alert against crime and mental health emergencies, Security Gaze has developed a tool that helps people find instant help whenever they require it.


Sidestory lets you send beautiful messages – it’s like email from the future, a more beautiful form of texting, and a more intimate way to blog.


Providing analytics for big construction, Harbr captures workforce performance and quality metrics through key engagements with site managers while making their job easier and more efficient.


Cribcut is a marketplace startup that connects barbers and consumers for in-home or in-office haircuts.


The unprecedented transparency and efficiency of WoodsCamp’s technology-enabled timber brokerage is unlocking trapped value for landowners while delivering the hardest and most complex part of the forest industry’s supply chain at a lower marginal cost.


Currently almost all video is presented using a standard layout – containing a thumbnail image, title and short description. But there’s no previewing capability. VidSnippets’ web-based product solves this by enabling easy creation of custom summary clips that link to the source video.

Sacred Seed Studio

Sacred Seed is a games and creative studio focused on creating works that inspire and engage. A unique business model sets us apart from the constraints of typical development.

Blockship Wars

A DemoCamp staple, Blockship Wars, will return with Chris Adams demo-ing Blockship Wars Rougelike.

Swell Advantage

When looking for fun new places to visit on a day trip, overnight cruising, or using your boat as normal transportation for things like commuting and running errands, Swell shows you safe and convenient places to tie up.

Chinova Gains Leads at IndieBio

Natasha Dayagude with teammates Emanuel Dinis, left, and David Brown

Natasha Dayagude with teammates Emanuel Dinis, left, and David Brown

Chinova Bioworks, a Fredericton company striving to develop new preservatives made from chitosan, has emerged from the IndieBio accelerator in Ireland with a relationship with a multi-national juice maker.

The young company, which was spun out of another Fredericton startup, Mycodev, is now working with two different multinationals, which could provide a path to market for the product.

Chinova is developing new applications for chitosan — Mycodev’s main product — and using the compound as the foundation for an anti-microbial agent. The company was already working with a major beverage company to test the product in preserving the shelf life of premium juices before IndieBio. Now it has two relationships.

“We did meet a client so we are working with a multi-national company within Europe,” Chinova co-founder and CEO Natasha Dhayagude said in an interview at the Startup Canada awards ceremony. “Now we’re now working with two multinationals and sending them samples, which they are testing. The tests being done now so we hope to know (the results) within a month.”

Dhayagude was at the Startup Canada regional awards for Atlantic Canada because she won the young entrepreneur category for the Atlantic region. It’s just one piece of good news she has received this year. The former entrepreneurial services coordinator at the Fredericton incubator Planet Hatch became a fellow at Venture for Canada earlier this year.

Then in the spring she found out that her new startup Chinova had been accepted into IndieBio. Acceptance into the accelerator came with a US$100,000 investment from the Princeton, N.J.,-based venture capital firm SOSV, which hosts the life sciences accelerator. And now she’s been recognized by Startup Canada.

The story of Chinova began with Mycodev, a three-year-old company that has found new, environmentally friendly ways of producing high-quality chitosan — a compound sourced from the shells of crustaceans with a range of uses, most often associated with pharmaceutical or biotech industries.

Chinova developed an anti-microbial agent made of Mycodev’s chitosan, and Dhayagude’s team is now working to adapt it into a preservative that will extend the shelf life of premium juices. Beverage companies face the problem of juices having short shelf lives, and consumers don’t want synthesized preservatives in their juice. So Chinova is working on an all-natural product that can be customized to suit the juice in question.

“It’s pretty revolutionary,” Dhayagude, a recent University of University of New Brunswick graduate, said. “There are natural preservatives on the market but no one right now can customize the natural preservative to fit what the customer needs and that is what is unique.”

Now that it has competed the program in Cork, Ireland, the Chinova team is back in Fredericton and working at expanding its network and getting the product out. The benefits of working in Ireland include being plugged into an international network of mentors, and having contact with some of the world’s major food and beverage producers. It is also working on research with the Community College of New Brunswick.

Dhayagude said she is working on raising the company’s first round of funding, probably with a target of about $500,000.

What the Startup Award Winners Said

The city of Fredericton set a record Tuesday evening when more than 250 people showed up for the Atlantic Canadian regional ceremony for the Startup Canada Awards.

It was the first time in the event’s three-year history that a regional awards ceremony has been sold out.

The crowd was treated to motivational advice and keen observation from the winners and guest speakers.

In accepting the Woman Entrepreneur Award, Laura O’Blenis, Founder and Chief Strategist at the Fredericton consultancy Stiletto said Atlantic Canadians showed many attributes needed to succeed globally. But we still need “focus and guts”, she said – the focus on an area in which we could lead the world; and the guts to gain exports by flying out to meet and sell to international customers.

“Let’s focus and let’s have the guts to believe we can compete because we can,” she said.

One highlight of the evening came at the end when Startup Canada presented the Emcee Rivers Corbett, the CEO of Relish hamburger chain and founder of Startup Fredericton, with a special Startup Champion award.

Here are a few other poignant quotes from the other winners at the event:

John McLaughlin, Professor Emeritus and President Emeritus of the University of New Brunswick

Adam Chowaniec Lifetime Achievement Award

“It’s very humbling to win this award because it isn’t about the individual. It’s about the community – people who come together and interact on a shared vision.”

Kent Estabrooks, Vice President, New Brunswick, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Entrepreneur Support Award

“We feel very lucky every day to do what we do – helping energetic and ambitious and I should say courageous entrepreneurs.”

Natasha Dhayagude, CEO, Chinova Bioworks, Fredericton

Young Entrepreneur Award

“I have been lucky enough to work on my two passions of science and business and I will endeavor to encourage more young women to enter the field of entrepreneurship.”

Peter Goggin, Co-Founder, Resson, Fredericton

Global Entrepreneurship Award

“When we started, we got a lot of advice but the best was get out of the building and go global.”

Jordan Kyriakidis, Co-Founder and CEO, QRA Corp.

“Innovation is really about leading and looking to innovate you really have to be a maverick. … It’s about doing new things in new ways.”

Mitchell Cobb, Co-founder Upstreet Craft Brewing, Charlottetown

Social Enterprise Award

“When we started Upstreet, we wanted to do two things: we wanted to make great beer, of course, but we also wanted to contribute to our community in a meaningful way.”

Alex MacLean, Founder, East Coast Lifestyle, Halifax

High-Growth Entrepreneurship Award

“Anything is possible with hard work if you dream big in Atlantic Canada.”

The winners who were unable to attend and collect their awards were:

Entrepreneur of the Year: Zita Cobb, Founder & CEO, Shorefast Foundation;; Joe Batt's Arm, NL;

Senior Entrepreneur Award: Hope Milner, Co-Owner, Bohemian Findings, St. Peter's Bay, PEI;

Entrepreneur Promotion Award Bob Williamson, Founder & CEO, Jameson Group, Halifax;

Startup Canada in November will announce the national winners for the following categories:  Newcomer Entrepreneur; Indigenous Entrepreneur; Resilient Entrepreneur; Community of the Year; and Policy Prize. Those awards will be presented in Toronto on Nov. 29. Set to Launch Amid Buzz

Jordan Patterson, left, and Scott Gallant at Techstars NYC

Jordan Patterson, left, and Scott Gallant at Techstars NYC

Scott Gallant and Jordan Patterson realized they were on to something with their new startup when details of the product leaked to a tech publication and 3,000 people suddenly signed up.

Things were already heading in the right direction for This summer it was accepted into the New York cohort of Techstars, one of the world’s most famous accelerators. The Charlottetown venture is one of the few Atlantic Canadian startups ever accepted into one of the big American accelerators.

The fact that 3,000 geeks in July suddenly signed up for their new content management system, or CMS, product showed the demand for it. But it was daunting as well.

“It told us that people were really into what we were doing,” Gallant said in a phone interview from New York last week. “But we weren’t really ready for it.”

Digital Segment Takes Off in Charlottetown.

So what have Gallant and Patterson created to cause all the excitement?

The two journeyman developers have capitalized on a trend in website development and created a CMS that can be used with static site generators. More and more developers are building websites with these static site generators because they are cloud-based and simpler to use and more secure than dynamic systems like WordPress.

But the static sites have been missing a main component. While static site generators simplify the work of the developers, there is no content management system to let non-tech personnel post and manage content on these sites. fills that gap.

“We see the whole UI (user interface) that we’re creating as the missing piece of the puzzle,” said Gallant. “We think it will change the way websites are built around the world for the next five or six years.”

Gallant and Jordan conceived of the product last year after finishing work at Foursum, the Moncton-based maker of a golf app. They began to develop the project over the winter and were accepted into Techstars New York in the spring.

Their acceptance into Techstars granted them access to US$120,000 (C$157,000) in funding, and that has helped them to grow their team, which now comprises six members. Three are in Charlottetown, and there are also developers in New York, Philadelphia and California. After the TechStar cohort ends, will maintain a New York office, and Gallant will travel between Charlottetown (where the company will continue to be based) and New York.

One thing Gallant has noticed while working at Techstars is that other teams in the accelerator have a dreadful time finding developers. But Gallant has been contacted regularly by developers that have dabbled in the product and want to work for the company.

“Almost everybody we’ve hired was a beta user of ours … in the early days,” he said. “They loved it so much that they wanted to work with us.” has completed its beta tests and got the kinks out of the system, and users now have confidence the company will be around for a while, said Gallant. The team is preparing for a major launch later this month.

The organizers of Techstars are helping Gallant and Patterson to line up investors for its first round of funding. Gallant would not say how much they are hoping to raise in this seed round, but the company already has created a lot of buzz at it taps investors.

LINKETT Growing After 500 Startups

Douglas Lusted

Douglas Lusted

Toronto and California-based LINKETT has quadrupled its customer base in the last year. Appropriately enough for a marketing analytics company, LINKETT has grown by streamlining and deepening its use of paid social media advertising.

LINKETT helps marketers assess and improve the performance of Digital Signage advertising within locations such as malls and airports. It uses internet-connected sensors to recognize smartphones in order to analyze the performance of ads through traffic and behavioral smartphone data.

CEO Douglas Lusted said LINKETT has grown by practising marketing techniques learned while attending Silicon Valley accelerator 500 Startups.

“500 Startups taught us how to market ourselves online,” Lusted said. “Their tools, tricks, and techniques helped our growth.”

Tools, tricks and techniques include buying Facebook ads through AdEspresso, a company Lusted met on the accelerator.

LINKETT, which began in Waterloo, has also been buying ads on Linkedin, which have worked best for them. 

Lusted said LINKETT has learned how to monitor all its marketing channels to establish which channel gets the highest conversion rate.

“That tells you where to spend your money,” he said. “You need to double down on those channels that work best for your particular business.” 

One thing LINKETT has been able to do only in the U.S. is email scraping or web crawling. This entails using software to find an individual’s email address and sending them a personalized message.  

“It’s not sending spam.” Lusted said. “We’re sending a…personal email for a meeting, not selling. This has enabled us to reach our target audience without hiring anyone.”

Still, the company’s growth and recent investments from the Niagara Angel Network and 500 startups, in addition to earlier funding from BDC Capital and XDL Capital Group mean LINKETT is now adding to its team of nine.

The company is looking for a Toronto-based Chief Operations Officer, as well as sales developers. 

The company is hiring in order to grow the business while supporting new accounts. The new accounts are mostly medium-sized companies.

“As a startup we need to move fast. We hope to grow with our clients,” Lusted said. “We want the whales in industry, but the bigger the account the longer the sales cycle.”

Lusted said sales talent is hard to find in Canada, and in the U.S. it is very expensive.

“It’s getting harder and harder to find sales talent in Canada. Fresh grads have rarely attended a sales course,” he said.

“In the Valley, with the Canadian dollar being low, salaries are almost double the price…”

Finding talent in the U.S. is important as the company is looking to scale as fast as possible south of the border.

The company is also refining its technology.

The LINKETT product features a dashboard linked to the cloud so the user can see which ads have the greatest impact on consumers.

Now, the company is refining its data so the LINKETT system will know which ads to play for each client at different times of the day for best results using machine learning.

For Lusted, who is only 23, it is an exciting time. “We owe 500 Startups a lot,” he said.

Jobs of the Week: Dash Hudson, DPL

It’s been said that just about every startup is looking for developers, and this week in Jobs of the Week we’re highlighting companies from around the region in the hunt for tech talent.

Companies based in three of the four Atlantic Provinces and New York City are looking for tech staff in the region.

The New York company is Pharm3r, which provides actionable intelligence about medical product safety to the financial and healthcare industries. For several years, it has had a development team in Halifax, which it is now hoping to enhance by hiring a lead software developer.

Two companies are looking for developers who can handle both front- and back-ends: Halifax-based Dash Hudson, whose product helps clients analyze their Instagram and SnapChat data, is looking for a full stack developer; and HeyOrca of St. John’s, whose software helps marketing agencies develop social media campaigns for their clients, has a posting for a full stack web developer.

In Moncton, DPL, which builds network architecture for ATMs, has an opening for a system administrator.

The skills requirements for each position are outlined on the postings.

The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Qimple.


Dash Hudson

Full Stack Developer

Dash Hudson, which recently posted an opening for an account executive, is looking for a developer who will work with the development team to build products used by some of the best companies in the world. The company has a small but productive engineering team of three working with a current stack that includes Python, Flask, Celery, Docker, Redis, MySQL, and AWS. The company wants talented and motivated engineers across all levels of experience who want to take responsibility for future products. These people will influence the initial specs for new products and features, build and modify the backend APIs, write the front-end javascript code, and be responsible for ongoing improvements. Dash Hudson wants someone with proven work experience in software engineering, and a bachelor's degree or at least three years of experience doing hands-on software development.


Lead Software Developer

Pharm3r (pronounced the same as “farmer”) is looking for a motivated lead software developer with demonstrated abilities to lead a dev team and mentor junior team members. The position offers the flexibility of working from home with the support of local team members. The successful candidate must be able to show leadership experience in software development. He or she must have the ability to develop scalable strategies for integrating data from heterogeneous sources. Pharm3r would also like applicants to have post-graduate degrees in computer science or a related field, and experience in Python and PowerShell scripting.



System Administrator

DPL is looking for a talented candidate to help analyze and optimize its significant network and server infrastructure. This person will help to manage multiple data centres that service more than 35,000 embedded networking devices. The successful candidate will help to shape the future of our infrastructure, including a move to a new embedded platform. The system administrator will influence and create new designs, architectures, standards and methods for all IT systems. He or she must monitor IT operations, investigate reported alarms and resolve service impacts as they occur. The qualifications for this position include superior troubleshooting and problem-solving, and meticulous attention to detail.

St. John’s


Full Stack Web Developer

HeyOrca’s web and mobile technologies are being used by some of the world's top marketing agencies and brands to plan and collaborate on social media campaigns. The company is growing into large-scale software that is integrated with social networks and numerous third-party APIs. It needs to deliver complex enterprise features while maintaining a robust, understandable and updated code-base. The full stack developer’s responsibilities range from finding and fixing bugs to discussing features with the business team. As a small team, all members contribute in some way to most aspects of the software from ideation to maintenance. That helps developers fully appreciate their role and gets them exploring areas outside of their expertise, further expanding their knowledge. HeyOrca is looking for someone who is open to living in St. John’s and has one to five years of experience in a similar role. 

Briefs: NB Events; Dal’s Collide

Events in Fredericton this Week

The Startup Canada Awards on Tuesday evening are just one of a series of events taking place in Fredericton this week.

Startup Canada, the national organization dedicated to developing startups, will hand out their Atlantic Canadian regional awards at a ceremony at the Fredericton Convention Centre starting at 5:30 pm on Sept. 13. Tickets are available here.

Before the awards ceremony, from 1 to 3 p.m., Fredericton will showcase its startup community with its “Ecosystem Tour and Twitter Scavenger Hunt.” It’s an opportunity to learn about the startup ecosystem in the city.

On Monday (today), Startup Canada will hold an interactive Go Global Bootcamp event at Planet Hatch that will inspire, educate, and connect Canadian entrepreneurs to global opportunities and resources. Registration opens at 1:30 pm and the event kicks off at 2.

Finally, on Wednesday, Progress Media will hold its Progress 101 conference, at which it unveils its list of the top 101 companies in Atlantic Canada. The day-long event will take place at the Fredericton Convention Centre. Tickets are available here.

Dal Unveils Collide 2016 Program

Launch Dal, the startup and entrepreneurship initiative at Dalhousie University, has announced a the beginning of its Collide 2016 Program.

Collide is a series of workshops and pitching events tailored to help entrepreneurs launch their ventures. It is open to students, researchers and community members. Anyone pitching at the events is eligible to win as much as $3,000 in prize money.

The first event, Collide Info Night, takes place Tuesday, Sept. 13, in the Collider (room 2600 of the Killiam Library) at 4:30 p.m.. It will be followed by a networking session.

Collide’s first fireside chat, to be held Sept. 20 at 8:30 p.m. at the Dal Grad House, will feature entrepreneur Tom Hickey in discussion with Dal grads Cam McDonald and Daniel Bartek of Iconic Brewing. 

Gardner Dedicated to ‘Place-Making’

Chris Gardner: Envisioned a place where Entrepreneurs could 'could feed off of and help each other.'

Chris Gardner: Envisioned a place where Entrepreneurs could 'could feed off of and help each other.'

St. John’s-based entrepreneur Chris Gardner is doing a lot to foster and grow his community. He, in turn, will need community support if his biotechnology company Sequence Bio is to succeed.

Gardner and co-founder epidemiologist Tyler Wish aim to study the genetic profiles of 100,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

The company is developing systems that use machine-learning and artificial intelligence to analyze DNA data. That will, they hope, lead to the development of better and more personalized medicine.

Newfoundland’s population is important, according to Gardner, because the province has a rare — possibly unique — genetic grouping of families that have lived on the island for generations and who have distinct genetic markers.

“We will only succeed if the community believes we can do this ground-breaking research and that we work with the community to return benefits,” said Gardner, who is the company’s President and COO.

“Those who participate will eventually receive data that may benefit their future health care.”

Gardner has had his own genome sequenced.

“I’m going to be much more informed about my health,” he said. ”I can monitor for conditions I’m prone to. Without that information, I may not know about or may misinterpret symptoms.

“My DNA will also enable my doctors to understand which medicines and treatments might help me, and which might have adverse effects.”

Investors seem convinced. Recently, Silicon Valley venture capital firm Data Collective led a US$3 million (C$3.9 million) round of seed funding into the startup, which was formed in October 2013.

Sequence Announces US$3M Funding

The investment has enabled Sequence Bio to grow its staff from four to 15. The figure will rise to 20 by the end of the year.

The company is launching a pilot on the province’s north shore to test processes around gaining participant consent and other formalities.

“Over 1,000 people have already said they want to participate,” Gardner said. “When we’re ready to launch we’ll enroll them.”

Gardner is also the founder of St. John’s co-working space Common Ground, the shared office space for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and creatives.

The non-profit houses more than 100 members. A feasibility study is under way to explore how to grow to meet demand.

“Along with a group of other entrepreneurs, I felt that if everyone had a home 24/7, entrepreneurs could feed off of and help each other,” Gardner said. “Common Ground is a beacon and magnet for entrepreneurial energy in the city.”

He said that several companies in diverse fields have formed as a result of meetings that occurred at Common Ground.

Gardner is also the volunteer Executive Director of TedxStJohns, the local chapter of the Ted Talks series. The provincial Tedx is going into its sixth year. Volunteers organize an annual program of seminars that provide a platform for showcasing new concepts and talent.

“This past year, we decided to make the show about youth,” Gardner said. “You had to be a Newfoundland and Labradorian younger than 24 to speak. We were blown away by the number of applications and the ideas.

“One of the youth speakers was studying archaeology and genetics to see links between the diseases of the past and today.

“Another participant, a young woman in junior high who taught herself to code, has become an advocate for coding in schools.”

Gardner said he works to grow his community because he believes in what he calls “place-making”.

“We often think of solving problems at the macro level, which is incredibly important, but if all of us took care in our own communities, we’d accomplish so much at the micro level,” he said.

He estimates that for the next number of years, growing Sequence Bio will require shouldering a heavy workload, but he is prepared for that.

“I decided this is how to invest my energy,” he said. “I’ve always believed that improvements in healthcare would come at the intersection of data, technology, community and genetics.”

Ella: The Shop To Open in Saint John

Kelly Lawson: 'We are creating a shopping and sharing centre.'

Kelly Lawson: 'We are creating a shopping and sharing centre.'

Ella, the Saint John-based app-developer that helps women sell their used clothing, has opened a retail outlet where women can get together to close more sales.

Founder and CEO Kelly Lawson announced Thursday that the company is opening a store called Ella: The Shop at 101 Prince William Street in Uptown Saint John. It will sell high fashion clothing, but it will also serve as a meeting place for women to get together and try on clothes they might buy from one another.

Ella is a mobile app on which women can sell or buy slightly used clothes. The idea is that women who love fashion have closets full of wonderful clothes they might never wear again. They can post the merchandise on Ella and users can buy them.

Lawson estimates there are $50 billion worth of slightly used fashion sitting in American closets, and she wants to help women capitalize on it. She added that women spend on average $300 a month on clothes and within a month most of it is obsolete.

“The challenge for Ella and every other online peer­to­peer sales platform is finding a place where people are comfortable to meet and try on clothing items,” said Lawson in a press release. “With our new shop, we are creating a shopping and sharing centre where everyone will feel safe and welcome. It’s more than a store and an app; Ella is a community, a movement.”

Ella has graduated from the Propel ICT accelerator and has been working with the Fashion Zone, an incubator for fashion companies affiliated with Ryerson University in Toronto. It launched its app a year ago and women are using it. Lawson hopes that the meeting place will encourage more sales by users, which will lead to more Ella retail outlets in other cities.

"Our long term goal is expansion,” said Lawson in an email. “We want to offer the same features and services in other cities that we are now able to offer to our home base. We will be engaging our most active app communities to choose markets where women really value high fashion.”

Ella now has a staff of four and plans to add more next month. Lawson has not raised capital for the company, preferring to bootstrap while the company gets off the ground. It hopes it is now laying the foundation for future growth.

“Everything that we do, including the opening of The Shop, is a response to the what we're learning from our users,” she said. “We will always be learning and evolving."

Using Data to Fight Global Hunger

Chris Baker: 'We want to be good citizens in this community.'

Chris Baker: 'We want to be good citizens in this community.'

When the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition initiative holds its first summit this month, one speaker will be a New Brunswick entrepreneur who aims to use data analytics to alleviate world hunger.

Chris Baker, CEO of the Saint John data analytics company IPSNP Computing, will outline how his Big Data product can analyze agricultural data in real time to help small farmers improve their output.

Big Data – the real-time analysis of millions of points of data to improve decision-making – is usually thought of as a tool to help large businesses or governments improve productivity. But Baker wants to work with global agencies to use Big Data to alleviate global hunger in the world’s poorest nations.

“If you’re living in a rural setting, the data that’s probably most relevant to you may be agricultural data, and having this accessible to you is really a new avenue,” said Baker, who is also a professor of computer science at University of New Brunswick Saint John. “Having data in a timely manner means that you can make the right decisions at the right time.”

IPSNP (pronounced IP-snip)  has developed a system called HYDRA, which can dive into deep pools of digital data, much of it in different formats and languages, to quickly locate information.  The company has focused on the pharmaceutical and healthcare segments, and has already done a pilot project with a hospital in Hartford, Conn., and worked with Environment Canada. The company now has a sales representative in the U.K. and is working on leads in Britain.

More recently, Baker has been working with Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition, or GODAN, which came about when the 2012 G8 Summit committed itself to alleviating global hunger. GODAN is supported by 354 partners, from major governments to private businesses. One of the partners is IPSNP.

As well as a doctorate in computer science, Baker has an undergraduate degree in environmental and agricultural studies and understands the challenges faced by farmers.

He has therefore been using HYDRA to tap the vast stores of data held by governments, corporations, not-for-profits and international agencies to improve farm outputs.  It will analyze such data as environmental factors, climate, seeds, irrigation patterns, transportation and crops to help farmers improve their strategy.

At the GODAN Summit in New York this month, Baker will show how such analysis can help small farmers who are considering switching crops to produce a better, and more profitable, harvest.

“It helps them to identify the best varieties, the cost of switching to a new variety of crop and the profit margin they can win,” said Baker. “It’s all data-driven. If they want to switch to a new crop, this will help them to rapidly access the data they need.”

On his way to New York, Baker will stop in Boston to give a talk at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology about his technology to a community of experts in data integration.

Baker said he hopes the agricultural sector will become a new business line for IPSNP, and not just because it may lead to profitability.

“I see an opportunity to speak to major agri-chemical companies, government, people in not for profit agencies like the UN,” he said, adding that he wants to work with such groups to combat hunger. “These are the opportunities that await us and we want to be good citizens in this community.”

Innovacorp Launches Spark West

Innovacorp has launched a new competition called Spark West to identify and provide seed capital for startups in western Nova Scotia.

Spark West is the counterpart to Spark Cape Breton, which for the past three years has been helping to launch companies in Cape Breton and the Mulgrave area. Each year, it has awarded development capital of up to $50,000 to companies that have the potential to grow. The provincial innovation agency this week announced seven winners of the 2016 competition.

“Two and a half years ago we piloted a competition called Spark Cape Breton to energize the technology community in that part of Nova Scotia,” said Innovacorp in a statement on its website. “We’ve since run three more rounds there, seeing the quality of start-ups rise each time.”

The agency is now looking for new companies based in western Nova Scotia -- Lunenburg, Queens, Shelburne, Yarmouth, Digby, Annapolis, Kings and Hants counties. The company must involve a knowledge-based product, preferably in the IT, life sciences, clean tech or ocean tech segments.

The winners, who will be notified on Nov. 10, will receive as much as $50,000 in development capital, depending on the potential and complexity of their project. The money must be used to develop the company.

Applications, which must be submitted by 5 pm on Oct. 11, can be found here.


Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

Ocean Institute Attracts $220M

Government, private investors and academia came together Tuesday to announce $220 million in funding for the Ocean Frontier Institute, a new research group led by Dalhousie University.

The OFI, which is a partnership between Dal, Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Prince Edward Island, promises to be one of the world's most significant ocean science research organizations. It will focus on the Northwest Atlantic and Canadian Arctic gateway.

A statement from Dalhousie said its other partners include: eight international groups, including four of the top five ocean institutes in the world; the Government of Canada's federal laboratories; the Royal Canadian Navy; the National Film Board of Canada; and national and international industry.

"I am simply thrilled to be a part of this initiative,” said businessman John Risley, who donated $25 million to the project. “I have every confidence the OFI can become an engine for regional economic growth and firmly establish us as global leaders in ocean science."

Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board, said Tuesday the federal government would provide $94 million in funding through its Canada First Research Excellence Fund -- the largest grant in the history of the three partner universities.

OFI has also attracted $125 million in support from provincial governments and partners, including Risley’s donation.

The statement said OFI's research will focus on ocean and ecosystem change. It will deliver ocean data science and technology tools to policy-makers, scientists and industry and develop safe and sustainable solutions for ocean development.

The Northwest Atlantic is one of the few places on earth where ocean changes are happening first and happening fastest, making it an epicenter of international scientific interest, said the statement.

By working with organizations like the National Research Council's Ocean Technology Enterprise Centre and Memorial University's Marine Institute in St. John's, and the Centre for Ocean Ventures & Entrepreneurship in Halifax, OFI aims to become a hub for high-quality marine industries.


DIsclaimer: Dalhousie is a client of Entrevestor. 

Jobs of the Week: iWave, Porpoise

A client uses the Dash Hudson dashboard.

A client uses the Dash Hudson dashboard.

Our Jobs of the Week column today highlights a couple of postings by iWave Information Systems, a P.E.I. company that helps non-profits with their fundraising efforts.

Based in Charlottetown, iWave has developed software that helps researchers, fundraisers and other development professionals learn more about their prospects and donors.The company is now looking for a sales manager and an acting marketing manager.

We also have two other postings this week: Dash Hudson, a Halifax company that helps clients analyze their Instagram data, is looking for an account executive; and Moncton-based Porpoise, whose mobile app helps companies to celebrate employees’ charitable work, has an opening for a mobile app developer.

The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Qimple.



Sales Manager

The sales manager will work with iWave’s team (now at 10 people) to coach and lead account executives and sales development representatives. The goal is to meet the team's new business acquisition and retention objectives. IWave is looking for an energetic self-starter with proactive management skills to achieve sales team quotas. The successful candidate will be responsible for pipeline planning and management to achieve win results and conversion rates. The company is looking for someone with three or more years of experience leading and building high performance sales teams, preferably in SaaS-type companies. Applicants should have a bachelor degree in business.

Acting Marketing Manager

The acting marketing manager will work with the leadership team to coordinate company-wide marketing and communications initiatives for a 12-month period. This position could become a full-time position, depending on performance and organizational demands. The marketing manager must maintain iWave's marketing strategy and budget, with a focus on increasing inbound leads.

He or she must manage marketing automation strategy, including workflows, emails, lead generation, and SEO. IWave is looking for someone with strong interpersonal and organizational skills, and exceptional communication, writing, presentation, and editing skills. The successful candidate should have a bachelor or college degree and three to five years of experience in a similar role.


Dash Hudson

Account Executive

Account executives work with Dash Hudson’s sales team to build business with some of the best marketers and companies in the world. It is looking for someone who wants the challenge of selling a leading product in a rapidly growing market. The company is looking for a diligent, creative individual with some analytical capabilities and a bit of swagger. The account executive will work with the sales team in the business development process. This includes lead generation, sales outreach, progress-tracking and closing with leading global brands. He or she must maintain active engagement with new and existing leads through creative outreach and follow-up communications designed to move leads through the sales funnel.  The company is looking for someone with one to four years of experience in a similar role.



Mobile App Developer

Porpoise is looking for a mobile app developer who can work with the company’s new mobile app. This person should own the app – that is, improve it, fix bugs and add features that the company’s clients need. The company is looking for someone with two or more years of modern C# software development experience. It wants someone with a college or university degree in computer science or engineering, and who has worked on real world projects. He or she must have the ability to use Xamarin to code Android and iOS apps and experience developing APIs and working with backend developers. The complete list of technical requirements is available on the Porpoise job posting. 

Spark Cape Breton Awards $225,000

Innovacorp and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency last week awarded a total of $225,000 in development money to seven winners of their 2016 Spark Cape Breton Innovation Challenge.

The Spark competition is designed to find promising young companies in Cape Breton and the Mulgrave area and provide a bit of seed capital to allow them to grow. The cash prizes this year range from $20,000 to $45,000, depending on the company’s potential and needs.

Innovacorp said in a statement that the funds must be used to support the completion of prototypes or preparation for taking the product or service to market. In addition to the funding, winners will receive mentoring from seasoned business people through Cape Breton’s MentorConnect program.

This is the fourth year that the Spark competition has been held. A total of 25 companies entered the competition and 10 were invited to pitch to the panel of judges.

The winners are:

Advocate Cognitive Technologies Inc., Anna Manley, Sydney.

Amount: $45,000

ACTI’s legal software, called Hux, uses artificial intelligence computing technologies to analyze and extract meaning and relationships from text and voice material, identify relevant information, and complete legal documents.

Arista Data Solutions, Laird Wilton, Darren Gallop, Darryl MacLeod, Sydney.

Amount: $45,000

Arista is a web-based software that provides clients with data security tools and resources.

Digital Diesel Industries, Matthew Dilney, Howie Centre.

Amount: $20,000

Digital Diesel Industries provides a security device for heavy equipment that reduces tampering, theft and unauthorized use and can increase recovery rates of stolen equipment.

Geter Done Applications, Donald Hanson, Darren Hanson, Todd Chant, Sydney.

Amount: $30,000

Geter Done is a mobile platform designed for busy people to get small jobs done by connecting users with contractors and managing everything from job posting to payment processing.

The Instant Chaga Tea Company, Kevin Chisholm, Barrachois.

Amount: $20,000

The company will manufacture instant chaga tea and conventional chaga products for the nutritional and health food markets around the world.

Perata Data Systems, Glenn Laughlin, Point Edward.

Amount: $20,000

Perata uses real-time data analytics on mobile carrier networks to locate, identify and assess the movement of people, enabling businesses to engage with local prospective customers.

Punch Club, Marc Botte, Shawn Green, Shaun Stevens, Keith Buckland, Sydney.

Amount: $45,000

Punch Club offers a cloud-based platform that allows small businesses to automatically create, track, and deploy loyalty and marketing programs for both existing and new customers based on their individual shopping patterns.


Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.

McLaughlin Heads Startup Award List

John McLaughlin, Professor Emeritus and President Emeritus of the University of New Brunswick, has been awarded Startup Canada’s 2016 Adam Chowaniec Lifetime Achievement Award for the Atlantic Region.

The national organization dedicated to developing startups announced McLaughlin’s award and the other Atlantic Canadian Startup Canada Award winners last week. The awards will be presented at a ceremony at the Fredericton Convention Centre on Sept. 13. Tickets are available here.

McLaughlin, who also serves as the Scholar in Residence at the UNB Technology Management and Entrepreneurship program, served as the university’s president between 2002 and 2009. Professionally, he has an academic background in engineering and institutional economics. He has worked in more than 40 countries on property reform and land administration, and co-founded two companies.

The other winners of regional Startup Canada Awards for 2016 are:

Entrepreneur of the Year: Zita Cobb, Founder & CEO, Shorefast Foundation;; Joe Batt's Arm, NL;

Woman Entrepreneur Award: Laura O’Blenis, Founder & Chief Strategist, Stiletto, Fredericton;

Senior Entrepreneur Award: Hope Milner, Co-Owner, Bohemian Findings, St. Peter's Bay, PEI;

Young Entrepreneur Award: Natasha Dhayagude, CEO, Chinova Bioworks, Fredericton;

Global Entrepreneurship Award:  Resson, Fredericton;

Innovation Award: QRA Corp., Halifax;

Social Enterprise Award: Upstreet Craft Brewing, Halifax;

High-Growth Entrepreneurship Award: East Coast Lifestyle, Halifax;

Entrepreneur Promotion Award Bob Williamson, Founder & CEO, Jameson Group, Halifax;

And Entrepreneur Support Award: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Startup Canada in November will announce the national winners for the following categories  Newcomer Entrepreneur; Indigenous Entrepreneur; Resilient Entrepreneur; Community of the Year; and Policy Prize. Those awards will be presented in Toronto on Nov. 29. 

Briefs: Propel, Medved, Thorasys

Palmer to Head Propel ICT’s Growth Program

Propel ICT, the Atlantic Canadian regional accelerator, has named Steve Palmer as the head of its new Growth Program.

The Growth Program, which the organization announced earlier in the year, is designed to help Propel alumni and other scaling companies to grow from mature startups into bona fide corporations. The plan is to help them continue to grow revenues and also to develop the needed corporate organizations.

“Stephen will lead the Growth Program,” said Propel CEO Anita Punamiya in an email. “Working with the Propel team, he will identify high potential alumni and other non-Propel companies.”

She said Palmer will work one-on-one with several companies and select 10 that the organization will focus on for current fiscal year. He will assess their needs, opportunities, potential markets and mentors. As well as advising them personally, he will identify and bring in subject matter experts to host bootcamps and programs to prepare them for international markets.

Palmer is a veteran of high-growth tech companies, and is currently a director of Fredericton-based Remsoft. Previously, he was a Co-CEO of Remsoft and Chief Operating Officer for Whitehill Technologies.

No Startup Grind on Wednesday.

Startup Grind Halifax has announced that its talk by Jonathan Medved, which was to have taken place Wednesday, has been postponed until Sunday, Oct. 30.

Medved, an American who has invested in more than 100 Israeli startups, found out at the last moment that he had to go to Asia.

Medved has helped 12 companies exceed $100M dollar valuations. He was the co-founder and CEO of Vringo, which he took public on Nasdaq in 2010. Before Vringo, he was the founder and general partner of the $260 million venture capital fund, Israel Seed Partners.

You can buy tickets for the event here.

Thorasys Lands $1.3 Million from Anges Québec

Thorasys, a medical device company that began life in Halifax before moving to Montreal, has received $1.3 million in investment from Anges Québec, the province’s angel network.

The company said the new funds will allow it to accelerate the commercialization of the tremoFlo C-100 Airwave Oscillometry System, a portable device designed to facilitate the diagnosis of lung diseases in order to improve treatment.

Thorasys has developed a technology for assessing lung function without patient effort, whereas current techniques require substantial effort and coordination by patients and healthcare professionals. Moreover, the technology provides a detailed assessment of changes in and around the lungs. This makes it possible to detect lung diseases even faster.

Thorasys began in Halifax and actually competed in the first BioInnovation Challenge in 2011. The company received a $500,000 loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program in 2012. 

Digital NS Offers New Sales Program

Emily Boucher: 'Sales is definitely a pain-point in our sector.'

Emily Boucher: 'Sales is definitely a pain-point in our sector.'

The need for Atlantic Canadian businesses to increase sales, particularly global sales, is a hot subject. With that in mind, technical industry association Digital Nova Scotia is piloting a sales development program in Halifax for small to medium-sized businesses.

The program aims to help participants focus on issues such as generating cash flow, attracting investment, developing strategic partners, accelerating sales, and building professional networks.

“Sales is definitely a pain-point in our sector,” said Emily Boucher, Director of Marketing and Research at Digital Nova Scotia. 

“We’re trying to help fill the gaps we can for the startups and SMEs (small to medium-sized businesses) among our members.” 

Boucher said the new pilot program, titled Navigating New Channels: ICT Sales Strategy Bootcamp, teaches participants to consider five key questions associated with channel development.

UNBSJ Offers Sales Course for MBA Students

These are: Who are the influencers that can have the greatest impact on your business? Where will you find them? How will you leverage them to gain the biggest reach with the least effort? What trends are you uncovering that impact your plan? What can be improved this week?

“Our program is about executing,” Boucher said. “The focus is on the participants themselves using their own companies as case studies.”

The program is led by John Robertson, of business development company inspiredEggs Ventures. Participation is capped at five people, to enable frank discussions and peer-to-peer learning.

The participants in the pilot are varied in age, expertise and experience. Companies include: Bitness, a location analytics platform for retail outlets; PowerWHYS, which helps renovators eliminate energy waste through predictive analytics; Dadavan Systems, an established software company with a new product; VidSnippets, a company that allows clients to share videos, and a law firm that’s developing a digital platform. 

Boucher said the diversity of businesses is useful as it offers different perspectives. 

The 25-week program began in mid-July, and requires a commitment of two-four hours a week. Learning is not classroom-based, location and times vary to suit participants. Occasionally, some participate remotely.

To be eligible, participants must understand how their product or service could disrupt the market. They must be able to pitch their company, and, where relevant, they must have an minimum viable product with prototype or modeling, and have a budget for business development.

Teaching the Rewards of a Sales Career

Program funding is currently provided through the Workplace Innovation and Productivity Skills Incentive, or WIPSI, program.

 “The main thing is, as a community we need to identify how to better support companies in sales,” Boucher said. 

If the pilot goes well, the program will be continued.

“We are building a waiting list of companies,” Boucher added. “We’d eventually like to see the program with John expand outside Halifax with support from our partners. This model may also help us develop other programs that offer more flexibility for participants.” 

Briefs: Sequence, Sentinel, Curbza

EyeRead Changes Name to Squiggle Park

EyeRead, the Halifax startup dedicated to helping children learn to read, has changed its name to Squiggle Park.

A spinout from the Halifax web development company Norex, Squiggle Park uses the camera facing the reader on a laptop or other device to track the eye as the child reads. By tracking the eye, the software can detect where the child is having trouble in reading a passage. Educators can then use the information to customize a personalized learning routine for the child.

Co-Founder and CMO Julia Rivard Dexter said in an email that the company has changed the name for two reasons: first, Eyeread was causing search issues and typos for its users, and the company was able to acquire the URL

Second, the founders wanted to highlight that their product is a game, so they chose a name connoting the joy and fun that children can find with their game. Squiggle Park is also the name of an actual park not far from the company’s offices.

“This is a timely change with the launch of our free fall pilot for teachers in Pre K-1 classrooms,” said Rivard Dexter.

Sentinel Alert Partners with NLC

Sentinel Alert, a St. John’s startup developing worker safety software, has signed a pilot agreement with the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation, focusing on the hazards created by lifting and moving heavy products.

Sentinel Alert has created safety software that uses data analytics to detect and predict worker accidents. It said in a press release today the pilot is designed to help NLC proactively identify hazards linked to overexertion in an effort to design the safest processes and environment for its workforce.

According to Liberty Mutual Research Institute, overexertion and lifting are the leading cause of workplace injury in North America.

“Maintaining a high standard of safety for our team is core to NLC’s mission,” said Kevin Kelly, Vice-President of Human Resources and Corporate Administration with NLC. “Continually improving safety processes is key, but it’s difficult to manage what we can’t measure. Sentinel Alert provides this insight and helps us uncover hidden safety risks to design safer work environments for our team.”

Sentinel Alert recently raised $525,000 in financing through Newfoundland and Labrador’s Pelorus Venture Capital and Killick Capital. It is using the funding to grow its team and open-up its private beta to interested customers, in addition to early partners like Pennecon, Crosbie Group, and NLC.

Brightspark, OurCrowd To Host Seminar

Brightspark and OurCrowd are hosting a seminar in Halifax on their investment models, which have broken away from traditional venture capital to create new investment opportunities for individual investors.

The event will take place Sept. 8 from 11:45 am to 1:20 pm at Volta Labs in the Maritime Centre. You can register here.

Brightspark is a Toronto-based VC firms that allows accredited investors to invest in the companies in its portfolio. OurCrowd is a world-leading equity-based crowdfunding platform, built for accredited investors to provide VC funding for startups. The fund started in Israel and is now making investments around the world.

The session will be led by Sally Ng, the East Coast Community Lead at Brightspark, and David Shore, the Director of Investor Relations at OurCrowd Canada.

Ashley Joins Sequence Bio Advisory Board

Sequence Bio has named Euan A. Ashley to its Scientific Advisory Board.

The St. John’s startup said in a press release that Ashley is Associate Professor of Medicine and Genetics at Stanford University and Co-Founder of Personalis Inc, a genome scale genetic diagnostics company.

Ashley will offer his expertise in human genomics towards advancing innovative therapeutic discovery and more personalized clinical care through Sequence Bio’s 100,000-person genome project in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“I am very excited to welcome Dr. Ashley to Sequence Bio’s Scientific Advisory Board,” said Sequence CEO Tyler Wish in a statement. “As one of the pioneers and leaders in this field, his experience will accelerate our vision to advance both drug discovery and precision healthcare. The entire Sequence team is honoured to work with Dr. Ashley and are excited about the impact he will make.”

Sequence, which recently announced US$3 million in venture capital funding, is leading a 100,000-person genome research project. It will engage people from across the province to provide samples of their genes. Sequence will analyze this data and use the findings to produce new cures and develop better, safer medicines.

“By leveraging the proven power of population genomics and its potential for drug discovery, Sequence Bio has unlocked a one-of-a-kind opportunity in Newfoundland and Labrador that will generate new insights into human biology, therapeutic discovery, and healthcare,” said Ashley in the statement. “I look forward to working with them on this ambitious and project with global reach.”

Curbza Launches University Marketplaces

Curbza, a Dartmouth startup making a peer-to-peer commerce mobile app, has announced the launch of its university marketplaces. Each university in Nova Scotia now has a network on Curbza, offering students a marketplace to buy, sell and trade items to other students at their school as well as vendors within the area.

The latest version of the app provides users with the ability to create and manage customizable networks. The customizable networks feature allows users to create networks based on location, types of items or social groups. Users have the ability to make networks public or private to control who can view items. A network for each university and college in Nova Scotia has been created by Curbza.

“We created networks to give users the ability to make decisions when buying and selling online,” said CEO Scott Theriault in a statement. “Now users can choose if they sell to everyone, or a small group of friends. It's a great safety feature too.”

Students can easily join their school's network by opening their store and viewing all networks. When a student is on campus and the phone's location services are activated, the school's network will be the first to appear under the networks feature.

Gone Fishin’

Well, we're not really fishing, but there was a time when that sign used to hang in office windows if people were away. We will be taking our annual summer break next week. We're having a bit of down time and recharging our batteries before a busy autumn. 

We'll be back on Tuesday, Sept. 6, wihch coincidentally will be the fifth anniversary of our launch in 2011. 

Stay well, everyone, and have a great Labour Day. 

Accelerator Centre Launches Phase One

Waterloo’s Accelerator Centre, or AC, is accepting applications for the first cohort of its newly developed Phase One program launching in September.

Phase One is an intensive four-month program focusing on market validation and investment readiness.

Paul Salvini, CEO of the Accelerator Centre, said the program offers expert sessions and peer-to-peer learning, blended with world-class mentorship.

“The select 10 companies we accept into Phase One will also have access to our newly developed Advisory Network, a group of incredibly talented advisors from industry,” Salvini said.

The Accelerator Centre focuses on building and scaling sustainable, globally competitive technology firms. It also works to commercialize advanced research technologies emerging from academic institutions.

The new program is the first of four phases within the AC’s recently restructured two-year incubation platform, which is tailored to meet the needs of each company as they scale.

The first phase culminates with Presentation Day, an open house event where companies present to a panel of experts and business leaders who determine who is ready to enter the second phase.

Companies successfully entering Phase Two are automatically considered for up to $40,000 in funding and mentorship through the AC JumpStart program, which provides eligible companies with $30,000 in seed capital (to be matched by recipient firms), $10,000 in mentorship, and access to market research and connections to investors.

The deadline to apply to the Accelerator Centre is Sept. 9. Applications can be submitted online at

Trevor MacAusland Rejoins Propel ICT

Trevor MacAusland

Trevor MacAusland

Trevor MacAusland is returning to Propel ICT.

The regional accelerator said Wednesday that MacAusland, who had overseen the organization’s first program, Launch36, has accepted a position as Entrepreneur-in-Residence in Moncton.

“Propel ICT continues to evolve and we identified certain opportunities to enhance our services to our program participants, to our alumni and other stakeholders,” said CEO Anita Punamiya in an email. “Trevor brings valuable experience from Propel's Launch36 program and we are excited to have him on the team.”

Five years ago, MacAusland was the executive director and lone employee of Propel, and he launched a new East Coast accelerator with the goal of launching 36 companies in 36 months. Hence the name, Launch36. He handily exceeded the target as more than 50 companies went through his program in Moncton in three years.

In June 2015, he left Propel to join the 3+ Corporation, the economic development agency for the Moncton area. But he missed the startup world and he has decided to return to Propel to help with the growth of the organization.

MacAusland will be based in Moncton and will help fellow Entrepreneur in Residence Al Sturgeon deliver the Build program, the accelerator for companies that are beginning to scale. He will also lead the development of a new program for Propel alumni.

The organization has developed the means to help companies reach the point at which they are scaling their businesses, but now it wants to help them grow into global corporations. Propel announced earlier this year that it would begin this program by the end of the year.

The new hire means Propel now has four entrepreneurs in residence – MacAusland in Moncton, Sturgeon in Fredericton, Gillian McCrae in Halifax and Peter Gifford in St. John’s. 

Brownie Points Targets Small Cities

Newfoundland and Labrador may get a chance Thursday to defend its title at the Fierce Founders bootcamp at the Communitech Hub in Kitchener, Ont.

Niki Pryor, the CEO of St. John’s startup Brownie Points, will find out in the afternoon whether she is one of eight entrepreneurs to compete for a total of $100,000 in development money at Fierce Founders, a mentoring program for startups with female CEOs. The company offers an online loyalty program for locally-owned coffee shops and boutiques. This year, it was the only Atlantic Canadian participant in the program, which comprises two week-long sessions.

Last year, when the program was known as the Women Entrepreneurs’ Bootcamp, the winner was Sarah Murphy of St. John’s-based Sentinel Alert. She took home the $35,000 first prize and has tapped the expertise at Communitech to aid with the growth of her company.

“We’ve got a tremendous amount of learning out of it,” said Pryor, when asked her impression of Fierce Founders. “We’ve got a great startup community in Newfoundland but we do live on an island. It’s really great sometimes to get off that island.”

Pryor recently joined the three-year-old company as CEO and has been focusing the company in terms of both the product and its market.

The Mune Launches on Kickstarter

The product previously featured a tablet near a boutique’s cash register that allowed the customer to swipe a loyalty card. But that is now being replaced with a mobile app that keeps all the details of the customer’s account. Beacons positioned in the establishment can detect when customers with the app enter and how long they stay. That means it can award points not only for purchases but for how long the customer stays. It also provides the business owner with data on the customers’ purchases and frequency and length of visits.

“Brownie Points is more than just a loyalty program — it allows businesses to have better control over the customer relationship,” Pryor said. She added that the shops that use it “want big data without the cost of big data.”

Meanwhile, Brownie Points is also refining its market by targeting not just small business but those that could be described as “boutiques” — those whose clients cherish a local business with a unique ambiance.

Brownie Points is now used by 26 outlets in Halifax and St. John’s, and 24,000 people have downloaded the app. In the coming months, Pryor hopes to deepen the penetration in Atlantic Canada and then move into other markets. The target is boutiques in cities of fewer than 1.2 million people, such as Ottawa or Guelph, Ont.

She’s also hoping to raise capital, though the team is still working out a target for the amount to be raised.

The participation in Fierce Founders is the last chapter in the company’s storied history. Over the past three years, Brownie Points has been led by four people and participated in two programs outside the region.

Matthew Stenback and Adam Puddicombe started the company in 2013. They took the company through the FounderFuel accelerator in Montreal in 2014, but eventually moved on to other ventures. They were succeeded by Dana Parsons, who is still involved as Brownie Points’ chief operating officer while working full time at the Genesis Centre at Memorial University.

The Mune Launches on Kickstarter

A musician performs with The Mune.

A musician performs with The Mune.

With one month to go, Scott Stevenson has already received commitments of $24,568 – almost one-quarter of his $100,000 target – in the Kickstarter campaign for his new musical instrument, the Mune.

The Mune is a hand-held instrument that allows electronic musicians to hold something the audience can actually see, thereby enhancing the performance. Electronic musicians now play a platform that sits flat on a table, which is a bit of a drag for performers working to connect with an audience.

Though the launch of the crowdfunding campaign is the first major announcement by St. John’s-based Mune, the company has been working away for years perfecting the instrument and developing a product that can be made in commercial quantities.  

Stevenson, an electronic musician who studied computer engineering at Memorial University of Newfoundland, has been perfecting the Mune for four years. He presented a prototype of the instrument at a demo day I attended in May 2014 in St. John’s. At the time, he said he hoped to launch the product in a Kickstarter campaign once he had a more “manufacturable” product.

He now is in a position to seek buyers for the product and launched the Kickstarter campaign last week.

“The Mune is a brand new device that combines the power of digital music gear with the simplicity, soul and expressiveness of an acoustic instrument,” said the company on the Kickstarter campaign page. “It's expressive, simple to pick up and play, and allows your audience to easily see the interactions you have with sound.”

Simms Returns to Genesis as CEO

The instrument features 24 sensors placed on a panel, so the musician has a vast variety of synthesized sounds based on the combination of sensors touched. What’s more, the system operates off its own software called Symphony, which is open-source. That means that as more and more people use the Mune and dabble in the software, they can share the new sounds that they have discovered.

“My immediate plans for the instrument will be to work with the Mune open-source software once it's released to develop hardware that can bridge the gap between the digital possibilities of the instrument and the analog space,” Patrick McMaster, a Montreal synthesizer musician, posted on the Kickstarter page.

The Mune project began at Memorial in 2012 when electroacoustic composer Andrew Staniland wanted to improve on digital interfaces, which he found unsatisfying. He began a research project, bringing in Stevenson to help re-imagine electronic instruments.

They went through dozens of designs and created a few prototypes. The team grew to more than 10 people.

Stevenson and his team have been able to attract 72 backers in a range of price brackets in the Kickstarter campaign. The lowest price that lets the buyer receive the Mune is $776, which the company describes as the “early-bird special”. Only 20 purchasers could take advantage of this deal and it has already sold out.

The Mune has attracted four backers at $899 and one at the deluxe $2,499. The campaign also lets people support the project a lower price brackets ranging from $5 to $199.

The Kickstarter campaign lasts until Sept. 24, and the company expects to be able to ship the Mune in September, 2017. 

ReadyPass Eyes 250 Mid-sized Cities

A Fredericton startup company is looking at about 250 cities in the U.S. and Canada with populations of less than 150,000 as the target market for its product to improve transit systems.

Alex Kall, CEO of ReadyPass, admits there are other firms creating technology to improve transit systems. But he said most target large cities with large budgets.

What ReadyPass is planning to do is to target smaller cities, which he said have different needs and spending capacity.

 “Once you get out of the large metropolises, a lot of the smaller cities don’t have the same access to these resources,” Kall said in a recent interview.

“Our technology could handle the needs of big cities, but we’re developing hardware that smaller cities could adapt.”

ReadyPass got its start about a year ago when developers Amy Colford and Taeler Dixon realized the difficulty they were having in Fredericton knowing when a bus was coming. They contacted the local transit department and proposed a digital toolkit to address the problem. The transit agency loved the idea and they began to work on it.

Kall, who had just taken a startup called Pilotalk through the University of New Brunswick’s Summer Institute, soon joined the company as CEO.

Over the past year, the team has developed a system of hardware and software that helps transit passengers and the agency itself in three ways.

First, there’s an app for Android and iOS that shows bus routes and can tell passengers where the next bus is and how long it will be until it arrives. Eventually, Kall said, this feature will include an electronic bus pass so the passenger doesn’t have to go to a physical location to buy a pass.

Second, ReadyPass installs a suite of sensors on each bus allowing the transit department to monitor such data as the location and speed of the buses, and the number of passengers getting on and off at each stop.

Finally, it offers the transit department a dashboard to monitor and chart all the data that’s been collected. That helps to design routes and schedules that meet optimum demand.

Kall said the data can also be used by other municipal departments. For example, the on-bus sensors can measure road conditions, which can be of use to the works departments.

WellTrack Near Closing $1M Round

Kall and the team is now working with Fredericton to further develop the product, and expects to continue this work for several months.

It’s also working or having discussions with other municipalities in the region, including Cape Breton and Saint John. And it’s in talks with a Fredericton bus company.

Of course, ReadyPass hopes to break out of the Maritimes though this will be a slow process.

Having gone through Propel ICT’s Launch program this spring, the company is now trying to raise $100,000 to finance its growth.

“The sales cycle is fairly long when you’re talking about selling to cities,” Kall said. “But there’s a lot of buzz about transit adding technology to it’s a good time to be talking to small communities.”

Job of the Week: Springboard Atlantic

Our Job of the Week column today highlights a position at Springboard Atlantic, the organization that coordinates and promotes commercialization at 19 academic institutions across Atlantic Canada.

Springboard is looking for a Program and Communications Administrator to join its central office team. Springboard Atlantic is a not-for-profit corporation owned by 14 universities and five community colleges. Its mission is to help to commercialize research at these institutions. It does this by linking them with corporations that need help with R&D, and by encouraging new companies based on intellectual property developed at these institutions.

The Job of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Qimple.


Springboard Atlantic

Program and Communications Administrator

The Program and Communications Administrator is responsible for the efficient administration of Springboard's internal funding programs. The Innovation Mobilization program and the Industry Engagement program provide funding to support industry engagement and pre-commercialization activities for the network.

Applications to these programs are received and evaluated monthly. In addition to this primary role, the administrator will be tasked with significant data entry and data management roles that support the network and Springboard central office staff generally, and the manager of events and communications specifically.

The successful applicant must communicate clearly and have strong computer skills, especially with Excel. He or she should be obsessively data-driven and love getting into details and figuring out what they all mean.

The job involves helping members with their applications to the Innovation Mobilization program, and coordinating IM committee meetings to review and approve applications. It also calls for putting together monthly, quarterly, and annual reports on the outcomes and impacts of the Springboard network.

The program administrator must also assist with social media administration including scheduling social media posts, administering Mailchimp lists, and media monitoring.

Springboard is looking for someone with a college or bachelor degree in business administration or science, and three to five years of experience in a similar role. An ability to work in French will be considered an asset.

Act of Radical Generosity, Season Two

Judith Richardson: 'The founders are feeling more confident in their skills.'

Judith Richardson: 'The founders are feeling more confident in their skills.'

Female entrepreneurs and mentors are invited to prepare for the second year of SheEO’s An Act of Radical Generosity, an initiative that last year raised half a million dollars to fund five female-led Canadian enterprises.

The brainchild of serial entrepreneur and SheEO founder Vicki Saunders, the initiative invites women to contribute $1,000 (plus a $100 program fee) to support female entrepreneurs.

The donors, or activators, can also act as mentors to the fledgling entrepreneurs.

Women supporting women is necessary, according to Saunders, because although Canadian women begin two-thirds of small businesses, they receive less than seven per cent of venture capital funding.

“The five companies that were funded last year have seen an average of 30 per cent revenue growth,” said Atlantic Canada SheEO lead Judith Richardson, the Halifax-based founder of PONO Consultants International.

“The founders are feeling more confident in their skills; they have hired, made introductions. Many of us activators became clients of these companies.”

When activators contribute, they choose the companies from across Canada that receive the money.

A possibly surprising detail — the founders themselves decide how to divide the funds.

“They each have to make the case for their business,” Richardson said. “They are not allowed to divide the money equally.”

Richardson, who has 20 years’ experience in organizational development, said the chosen entrepreneurs are given coaching that allows them to understand their own and other’s business styles.

“Women have to understand their behaviour and decisions so they can ask for what they need. Often, entrepreneurs are so busy they don’t know what they need.”

Erin Flood Grows in COO Role

Richardson always stresses the importance of sales.

“The first thing I ask any young woman looking for funding is, what about sales? You have to know, and believe in, and get your product out there . . . Develop that mindset. I can’t stress sales enough.”

None of the five companies that received investment last year are based in Atlantic Canada, although several made it to the final 25 and 22 local women contributed funds.

The recipients pay back the loans over five years at zero-per-cent interest. The returned money goes into a pool to help other entrepreneurs.

The call for new applicants and activators will go out Sept. 1.

“I’m hoping some of the local companies will re-apply,” Richardson said. “They might be ready now, although some of last year’s applicants have grown past this point.”

Now in its second year, the model is being refined. Richardson said organizers are asking themselves how to engage with women who have mentoring skills but who don’t have $1,000 to spare.

“I’d like to see as many activators as possible re-activating and giving another $1,000 as well as new activators engaging. I’d love to see more mentoring,” she said. “We have to ask — how can this generation of women support the next generation?”

Read our Report from Last Year's Fundraising Event

The initiative is also expanding outside Canada and is about to start in Colorado, San Francisco, Los Angeles and India.

Richardson said entrepreneurship is about creating new models and disrupting systems that need to be disrupted.

“It’s all-encompassing; it uses every facet of your being,” she said.

“Even companies that fail produce better leaders . . . The entrepreneurs know more about themselves . . . They think about how to minimize risk to avoid failure.”

Richardson said all ages of women are attracted to the idea of women helping women.

“Seniors like my mom, Dorothy, get behind it. My mom was successful in real estate in Kentville. She and my dad, Jack, a tech-minded veterinarian, inspired me.”

Richardson believes Atlantic Canada is full of entrepreneurial talent, and that a great deal of innovation is already happening.

“I get bored with hearing about the potential of Atlantic Canada,” she said.

“I think we’re potentializing all over the place. There’s more going on here than people realize. Halifax is booming. We’re here, doing it. An Act of Radical Generosity aims to accelerate that process for women.”

Innovacorp Looks to Exits for Capital

Innocacorp Invested $1.5 million last year in George Palikaras' Metamaterial Technologies

Innocacorp Invested $1.5 million last year in George Palikaras' Metamaterial Technologies

Nova Scotia venture capital agency Innovacorp has less money left in its main fund than it usually invests in a typical year, and hopes to replenish the fund through exits by existing portfolio companies.

The agency, which is owned by the Nova Scotia government, posted its annual accountability report for the year ended March 31 on its website this month. The report shows that, as of March 31, Innovacorp’s main fund, the Nova Scotia First Fund, had $5.5 million left to invest in Nova Scotian companies.

Over the years, provincial governments have placed $49.6 million in the fund, and Innovacorp has invested an average of $5.6 million in startups in the last four years. Now, the agency hopes to earn back money as the startups it has invested in are sold to larger companies or listed on stock exchanges.

“As our portfolio matures, we expect to see a return on invested capital through exits (and/or) acquisitions of portfolio companies — capital that can then be redeployed in new Nova Scotia startups,” said CEO Stephen Duff in an email. “Innovacorp management regularly reports to its board of directors on the NSFF’s capital status and works to ensure the fund’s sustainability through a blend of investment returns and new statutory capital.”

The investment focus moving forward will be on rewarding the more successful companies with follow-on funding, he added.

Sustane Deal Paves Way for Funding

The 2016 report was released as the Nova Scotia venture capital scene is undergoing some transition. The provincial government has allotted $25 million for a private-public fund that will be managed by a private fund manager. The goal is to find someone who can bring in private money, so a Halifax-based fund with scores of millions of dollars will invest in Nova Scotian and other startups.

Meanwhile, Innovacorp has been active, investing $6.3 million in 2015-16, more than 20 per cent more than the previous year. Seventeen companies received the investment last year, bringing the total number of companies in which Innovacorp has invested to 44.

The notion that Innovacorp could restock its larder through exits demonstrates that the agency’s management believes its portfolio of investments has matured greatly. So far, Innovacorp has reported only one real exit — the 2012 sale of Halifax-based GoInstant to Salesforce. It invested $100,000 in the company and is believed to have earned back about $1 million.

So far this year, two companies in the Innovacorp fold have been purchased for stock — transactions that don’t qualify as exits because they were small deals that did not return cash to investors. Livelenz in January was bought by Arizona-based Mobivity Holdings Corp., and in March InNetwork was taken over by gShift Labs of Barrie, ON.

[Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.]

The companies Innovacorp invested in in 2015-2016 are:

Information Technology  
Ubique Networks  $500,000
Vendeve $105,000
PACTA $100,000
Clean Simple (now called Swept $100,000
Shout $50,000
AioTV $680,000
Marcato Digital Solutions $500,000
Life Sciences  
Appili Therapeutics  $500,000
Densitas $250,000
Health QR $250,000
ABK Biomedical $753,000
DeCell Technologies $250,000

CleanTech and Ocean Technology

Metamaterial Technologies  $1.5 million
SkySquirrel Technologies  $500,000
Ocean Executive $150,000
Island Water Tenologies $100,000
Total $6.3 million

Propel ICT Names Autumn 2016 Cohort

Propel ICT, the East Coast regional accelerator, has announced 38 companies from all four Atlantic Provinces that will go through the Fall 2016 Cohort.

The group has accepted five companies into its Moncton-based Build program, which is designed for more advanced companies. These companies will be eligible at the end of the program to receive funding from BDC Capital and the region’s provincial venture capital agencies.

Propel in the autumn will also offer its Launch program for newer companies in the four provincial capitals.

The companies accepted into the cohort are:


Vintelligence, Moncton -- Billing itself as a "digital sommelier", Vintelligence simplifies wine buying through a recommendation-based kiosk for retailers, events and restaurants.

GoBumpFree, Halifax -- GoBumpFree allows airline employees and their traveling companions to book last-minute hotel rooms without the risk of cancellation fees.

Ironflow Technologies Inc., Dieppe, N.B. -- Having offered web-based HR software since 2009, IronFlow this year launched a new online HR suite called PurelyHR to provide companies with a solution to all their human resources needs.

MasterControl, Fredericton -- MasterControl is developing automation and control devices for film studios with the goal of reducing mistakes and production costs. 

Stay Golden Apparel, Charlottetown -- Stay Golden is a custom clothing producer that works with teams, schools and other organizations to produce great custom apparel.



Ad Blocking Aware

Remote Vision

Rabbit Hole Studios

AlphaTech Business and Technology Inc.

The TnT Food Experience




Kin Kit


Follow Me Care App (pending)

Jeff Alpaugh Custom



rayZen Innovations Inc.

WEnTech Solutions Inc.

BlueSuit Inc.


Move The Median Business Consulting

Uvisor Wealth

The Hive Market

Sandcastle Application Development Inc. (PartyUP)

Sufata Software Solutions, Inc.


NovaSpectrum Analytics


swifty (formerly Pair N Park)

St. John’s


SassyTuna Studio

Fridge Friend



Metrics Flow


Creative Maple

Sustane’s Deal Paves Way for Funding

Peter Vinall: 'This has got to work and work really well.'

Peter Vinall: 'This has got to work and work really well.'

Peter Vinall emphasized that the announcement in Chester was a key step in a long and complicated process.

“It’s a big milestone for us,” said the CEO and Co-Founder of Sustane Technologies Inc. over his cell phone as he drove away from the event announcing his company’s partnership with the Municipality of Chester.

Chester on Friday said that it has formed a multi-year partnership with Sustane, which is dedicated to diverting garbage away from landfills and turning it into marketable products.

The company now has a lease for a site in Chester, on which it intends to build a $15 million facility to sort and transform the trash.

Sustane, which won $225,000 in Innovacorp’s I-3 Startup Competition earlier this year, grew out of technology pioneered in Spain by co-founder and chief technology officer Javier De La Fuente. It has little bearing on standard recycling programs — homeowners still have to sort paper, bottles, organics and the like.

What Sustane does is to take 90 per cent of the stuff that goes into the landfill and cooks it with steam.

Through this process there are a few marketable byproducts produced, most notably a biomass that can be burned to produce energy.

Vinall said the landfill will still have to take special items like old mattresses, but the system should reduce the volume of refuse going into the landfill by nine-tenths.

Shaw Brick Extends Use of CarbonCure Technology

Obviously, Friday’s announcement was important because Sustane now has a site for its plant and a timeline for development: Vinall hopes it will be out of the ground later this year and that the plant will be in operation in late 2017.

But the agreement is also fundamental to the financing of the product. Like other industrial companies, Sustane has to come up with a lot of capital — $15 million for the plant and about $1 million for what Vinall calls startup costs.

But the company is different from other industrial enterprises in that others have to pay for their feedstock (the raw material that the company manufactures). Through its agreement with Chester, Sustane will actually get paid to take the feedstock, then get paid again when it sells the recycled products.

“We get paid to take the feedstock,” said Vinall. “For investors and especially banks, that’s a really nice feature. Most of my costs are covered by the municipality.”

Now that Sustane has a long-term income stream in place, Vinall believes the pieces will fall into place for financing, and he expects to unveil a debt and equity funding package in about four to six weeks.

Though he is focusing on the task at hand in Chester, Vinall said the company is already considering other sites in Nova Scotia, such as Guysborough County and Halifax. And he has had discussions with municipalities in New Brunswick, that might be interested in a plant.

But first, it has to get the operations off the ground in Chester, where he expects to have 25 employees by late 2017.

“We’re putting all our attention in Chester and making sure this plant is our showcase,” he said. “This has got to work and work really well.”

Jobs of the Week: RevIQ’s 4 Openings

RevIQ, the Charlottetown company that helps game-makers boost revenues, is our featured company in Jobs of the Week today with a quartet of postings.

The one-year-old company has been rapidly increasing its workforce and has now posted openings on the Entrevestor Job Board for a Director of Product, Product Manager, Data Scientist and Data Analyst.

RevIQ began as part of Gogii Games, a Moncton-based producer of casual and free-to-play games, which often advised other gaming studios on how to increase their revenue. Last October, it spun off RevIQas a new company whose technology helped studios increase sales.

There was immediate demand for the service. And as its own revenues rose so did its staff, tripling to nine employees in about six months.

RevIQ says its team of multi-disciplinary professionals prides itself on continuous improvement and on-the-job training. “We support our employees’ professional development goals and career plans with ongoing coaching and company-sponsored training,” said the company. “Whether you're a seasoned veteran who wants to gain skills in a complementary field, or you're a little green but want to stretch your skills, RevIQ will support your ambitions to grow.”

The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Qimple.

All these postings refer to the gaming industry and the technical requirements for each of them are listed in the job posting:



Director of Product

The Director of Product will manage the Product Team, which is responsible for the optimization and management of our free-to-play titles. The Director of Product connects the Business and Product teams with regular communication to support iterative product optimization. That ranges from working with product managers to ensure product launches and regular updates to identifying potential risks and correcting them before they lead to player disappointment. This position requires someone with demonstrated experience in managing complex projects in the games development, application development, or web development industries, with a focus on ongoing exploitation and live ops.The company would prefer applicants with a bachelor degree in business, economics or comparable discipline and three to five years of experience in a similar role.

Product Manager

The winning candidate will combine strategic and analytical skill sets to design, validate, develop, and manage new features and promotional campaigns within our managed products. This ranges from setting performance goals with the business team to establishing business strategies that reward clients and delight players. The position requires someone with a bachelor degree in a relevant field and two to four years of experience in a similar role.

Data Scientist

A Data Scientist will combine analytical, strategic, financial, and technical skills to build data-driven models and analytical approaches that improve our understanding of customer behavior and products, as well as predict outcomes. This person will develop data mining, machine learning, and statistical modeling solutions to better understand game performance and player engagement with guidance from senior product leads. RevIQ wants someone with exceptional, proven experience in business decision-making supported by strong analytical and creative capabilities. The position requires someone with a bachelor degree in a relevant field and two to four years of experience in a similar role.

Data Analyst

A Data Analyst at RevIQ must develop, test, and analyze hypotheses that will have a far-reaching impact on the success of the company and its free-to-play products. The analyst will communicate these insights to key executive stakeholders, game designers, and lead developers to play an influential part in establishing this core analytics competency. The successful candidate will also assist in development and implementation of analytics tools and systems to help build out the overall analytics knowledgebase of the company. The position ideally requires a bachelor degree and one to three years of experience.

Erin Flood Grows in COO Role

Erin Flood: 'In startup life, you wear lots of hats.'

Erin Flood: 'In startup life, you wear lots of hats.'

Three years ago, HotSpot Merchant Solutions was a small Fredericton startup. Today, it’s growing with a major U.S. partner. Erin Flood, the company’s chief operating officer, said growth is driven by prioritizing relationships and communication.

The HotSpot technology allows the remote payment of parking meters. The product produces data for downtown businesses, and allows the businesses to advertise to customers through their cellphones.

The company can also track customer response rates.

HotSpot operates in Fredericton, Saint John, Moncton and Charlottetown, and has about a 30 per cent penetration rate in each. Last year, the company began a partnership with North Carolina-based mobile payments company Passport. It’s expected the move will increase HotSpot’s accessible market by 100 times.

Flood has been with HotSpot since the beginning and her role has changed with the growth of the company.

“I was brought on to manage marketing and social media and develop a brand presence. I’d been working for a non-profit on their social media,” said the young woman, who has also worked in the IT sector.

Her role rapidly expanded to include customer services and human resources. Now, she is also responsible for hirings and strategic partnerships.

“In startup life, you wear a lot of hats,” said Flood who graduated from Nova Scotia’s St. Francis Xavier University in 2011 with a focus in psychology and sociology. She has also completed Seth Godin’s AltMBA and is a C100 Top Tech Women in Canada.

“The hats allow you to gain more experience, although it did seem overwhelming at first. We lived and breathed the company. We still do…Building a company has been an unmatched education.”

HotSpot is currently hiring account managers and developers and could take on up to five new hires in the next few months. The number could grow to 15 by the fall.

Growth is rapid, but the team has learned to be cautious about hiring, after taking on a lot of people in 2013 and then having to downsize.

“We jumped the gun,” Flood said. “We went up to 15 staff. We weren’t focusing on developing our people, we were pushing the product. Now, we’re learning from our mistakes, and investing in great people.”

There are currently three on the executive team — Flood, CEO Phillip Curley and CTO James Lockhart.

They are assisted by veteran entrepreneur David Wagner. With part-time and contract staff, there are 10 people involved in HotSpot operations.

Flood said HotSpot is not about hierarchy.

“At the start of every week, we hold a big meeting. That communication is crucial,” she said.

“We aim to ensure hires fit with our culture. It’s not just qualifications. We see their strengths from conversation. We’re looking for passionate, humble, empathetic, positive and self-directed people.”

Investing in trusted staff allows the executive team to lower their stress levels.

“In a startup, you’re always stressed, but if you weren’t there’d be a bigger issue,” Flood said. “You need to be aware of your company’s position in the marketplace and what is going on elsewhere.

“When you’re not worried, I don’t think you’re learning. You might be missing something,” she added.

Stress may be largely inevitable, in Flood’s opinion, but she does keep it in check by ensuring she has an hour a day, tech-free, to exercise outside.

At the moment, the executive team members are all training to take part in the Duncan Hadley Triathlon.

The team is also busy learning the culture of Passport. The U.S. company has raised US$7.5 million in investment, has satellite offices in Barcelona and Bangalore, and operates in more than 1,000 locations, including Chicago, Toronto and Boston.

“We have to ensure communications with Passport are streamlined and consistent,” Flood said. “We travel quite a bit. When our technology is introduced to a new city we’re there. It’s exciting. We’re learning how things are done in the U.S.”

WellTrack Near Closing $1M Round

Natasha O'Brien: Close to doubling revenues again in the third quarter.

Natasha O'Brien: Close to doubling revenues again in the third quarter.

There’s part of the WellTrack story that overshadows its pending $1-million funding, or even its efforts to double revenue every quarter this year.

It’s the tale of how CEO Darren Piercey decided one day that his COO Natasha O’Brien deserved a significant stake in the company and handed over half his share.

Piercey, a University of New Brunswick psychology professor, started the company in 2010 to create an online tool to help treat mental health issues like anxiety and depression. After the company, whose official name is CyberPsyc Software Solutions, received funding in 2012, he hired O’Brien, now the company’s COO. Together, they altered the product and its target market so they are now making sales.

WellTrack is a product that helps organizations improve the mental health of its members, especially those suffering from stress, anxiety and depression. The company has had some sales to corporations, but it found a more responsive clientele in universities.

The reason is that depression and anxiety afflict about 45 per cent of university students in North America — more than double the percentage of the general population.

“It’s like an epidemic,” Piercey said in an interview in Fredericton this week. “What’s more, the number of people seeking help is rising, and universities are really worried about the first-year dropout rate.”

Helping universities to help their students represented a huge business opportunity, and Piercey and O’Brien turned to the regional startup accelerator Propel ICT to help them capitalize on it. Though Piercey had gone through the program in 2012, they enrolled again. Propel helped them to adjust their business practices to bring in more money.

WellTrack Will Attend MentorCamp in Sydney

Focusing on the university market, they adjusted the price point so the product is now offered at six to eight times what early adopters paid. And they set ambitious sales targets. It’s now selling to about 30 universities and has 10 more poised to sign up.

The company posted $120,000 in recurring revenue in the second quarter, and is on track to increase it to $240,000 in the third quarter. The goal is to double it again in the fourth quarter, which would give the company a neat $1 million in annual recurring revenue.

“We’ve closed $100,000 to $150,000 in the next few weeks, which would put us close to doubling our revenues in this quarter, just as we did in the last one,” said O’Brien.

Because of that revenue growth, Piercey expects to close a $1-million funding round in the next four to six weeks. He wouldn’t say who the investors are, though they may include previous investors such as New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and East Valley Ventures. That funding will allow the company to add four staff members, bringing the total to nine.

Throughout it all, Piercey understood O’Brien was key to the growth of the company and deserved a share of the company. So one day, out of the blue, he suggested she should get half his shares.

“I was thinking about it and it just seemed to make sense,” said Piercey, who is just starting a two-year leave of absence from the university to focus on the company. “We couldn’t do this without each other.”

Briefs: Sequence, CarbonCure, Venn

Incubators collaborate to deliver market intelligence

Moncton-based Venn Innovation said Wednesday that market intelligence services will be available to qualifying technology companies across Atlantic Canada through organizations that are part of the Canadian Digital Media Network, or CDMN.

Volta Labs and Innovacorp, based in Nova Scotia, Genesis Centre, based in Newfoundland and Labrador, and Venn Innovation are collaborating to deliver market intelligence to their clients. In addition, P.E.I. companies will be able to access the service through referral to Venn by Innovation PEI.

The service will be provided by sector-specific analysts based at MaRS in Toronto.

“For the past two years, Venn has been providing market intelligence to New Brunswick-based companies through a partnership with MaRS,” said Venn CEO Doug Robertson in a statement. “The opportunity to extend the access to market intelligence across Atlantic Canada was facilitated through our participation in the Canadian Digital Media Network and the relationships that we have forged with the other participating organizations in the network.”

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program contributed $170,000 to the project.

Sequence to work with Twillingate hospital

St. John’s genetic data analytics company Sequence Bio on Wednesday named the Notre Dame Memorial Health Centre in Twillingate, Newfoundland and Labrador, as the first investigator site for the pilot phase of the 100k Genome Research Project.

Sequence, which announced US$3 million in venture capital funding this month, is leading a 100,000-person genome research project. It will engage people from across the province to provide samples of their genes. Sequence will analyze this data and use the findings to produce new cures and develop better, safer medicines.

Dr. Mohamed Ravalia of the Notre Dame centre will head an investigative team that will invite patients to enroll in the pilot phase of the project. It will provide feedback on the study process, and aid in the development of a continuing education program to increase genomics literacy. 

“This community project will directly impact the people of Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Ravalia in a statement. “By changing how we look at healthcare and engaging in this study, the people of this province will be on the forefront of cutting edge initiatives and technologies that have the potential to realize significant clinical benefits.”

Added Neala Quigley, Director of Community Engagement of Sequence Bio: ““We couldn’t be more proud to have Dr. Ravalia and his team on board. He has been recognized as one of the best physicians in the country and brings a forward-thinking and patient-first mindset to everything he does.”

CarbonCure competing in $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE

Halifax-based green building materials company CarbonCure Technologies said Wednesday it is leading a team that has entered the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE.

Team CarbonCure, whose members represent the entire cement and concrete value chain, is among 47 teams from around the world vying for their share of the $20 million prize purse.

The Carbon XPRIZE is a competition that challenges teams to develop breakthrough technologies that convert the most CO2 into one or more products with the highest net value. Co-sponsored by NRG and COSIA, the multi-year competition is designed to address CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, a leading contributor to climate change.

“We believe that our technology will fundamentally change the way concrete is made globally,” said CarbonCure CEO Robert Niven in a statement. “Competing in the Carbon XPRIZE drives us to push the envelope on innovation, and establish partnerships with influential industry players, in order to demonstrate to the world that this technology will play a key role in driving down global CO2 emissions.”

CarbonCure’s technology injects carbon dioxide captured from nearby smokestacks into concrete during manufacturing. Once introduced into the concrete mix, the CO2 chemically converts into a solid mineral and never escapes.

Team CarbonCure was formed to develop new approaches to capture and convert CO2 from industrial sources and sequester it into concrete. CarbonCure’s technology is installed in 35 concrete plants, which have supplied material to more than a hundred construction projects across North America.

Broadening the team to include leaders from the entire value chain will enable the company to collaborate with suppliers and end users alike, in order to facilitate rapid deployment of the technology. CarbonCure said it is competing in the Carbon XPRIZE challenge to demonstrate that its technology is the most cost effective, highest impact, and most scalable solution available today to recycle CO2 to make better building materials.

Simms Returns to Genesis as CEO

Michelle Simms

Michelle Simms

Michelle Simms has not only returned to the Genesis Centre. She is now running the St. John’s startup incubator.

Simms had worked at the Genesis Centre on the Memorial University campus for 14 years, most recently as Vice-President of Programs and Operations. In June, she left to take a position with the Business Development Bank of Canada.

But she soon learned that Genesis CEO Greg Hood had agreed to take a job back in his native Toronto. She was approached and accepted the position of President and CEO of the Genesis Centre. After seven weeks with BDC, she rejoined Genesis last week.

“Being able to come back to the Genesis Centre in this role was a really exciting opportunity to me and one that I couldn’t pass up,” she said in an interview Tuesday. “Being able to put my mark on the Centre would be great, and we have a really incredible team here.”

The appointment of the new CEO is the latest in a wave of changes at the Genesis Centre, which opened in 1993 as an agency to commercialize intellectual property at Memorial. It has evolved into an incubator that offers office space and programming to St. John’s startups. Of the 11 tenants in its offices now, none have grown out of IP developed at the university.

In 2014, David King, who had been with the Genesis organization since its opening, left to take up a teaching position in Qatar. He was replaced by Hood, who Simms said has now found a position in Toronto that allows him to be with his family.

Meanwhile, the Genesis Centre plans to leave its elegant offices in Memorial's Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation in 2017 for the university’s new development at the Battery, on the side of Signal Hill.

Sequence Announces US$3M in Funding

Simms is slotting back into a team that is gelling together at the Genesis Centre. Angelo Casanas, Manager of Startups and Partnerships, joined the organization from the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto last year.  And Dana Parsons, the CEO of St. John’s Brownie Points, came on board this year as the Centre’s Venture Lead.

Since rejoining, Simms has already made a few changes. She recently toured incubator spaces in Silicon Valley and realized they feature more open spaces than Genesis. So she has tried to create more collaborative spaces in the existing facility. This will be a major push in the Battery complex, which she hopes will house as many as 20 companies of different sizes.

In the long-term, Simms hopes to enhance the Genesis Centre’s partnerships. The Centre is one of several Atlantic Canadian organizations that recently partnered with the MaRS Market Intelligence Services. Simms wants to work with more organizations across Canada and the U.S. Similarly, Simms hopes to continue to work with groups in Newfoundland and Labrador that are dedicated to building the startup community.

“The Genesis Centre has in my opinion has always been a strong pillar of the technology sector in Newfoundland and Labrador, and we have always worked closely with our partners,” she said. “I envision that continuing.”

NS Should Maintain VC Policy

The closing of Unique Solutions has ignited calls for the Nova Scotia government to get out of the venture capital business. After four companies in the Nova Scotia Business Inc. VC portfolio have failed in 18 months, people on social and traditional media are demanding the government exit VC investment.  Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie has said the government should instead lower the tax on small businesses.

Such a policy would be a mistake. Nova Scotia – in fact the whole Atlantic region – needs high-growth companies, and these enterprises need capital. And the makeup of our economy is such that government must play a role in providing that capital – hopefully in a way that the capital will be returned.

Until recently, two provincial agencies in Nova Scotia made VC investments – Innovacorp in the early stages, and NSBI in growth stage. In 2014, the government halted new investments by NSBI, leaving Innovacorp as the only active provincial-government-owned fund in Nova Scotia.

[Full disclosure: I once invested in Unique Solutions, and my past and present clients include Unique, Innovacorp and NSBI. But I also used to work for Jamie Baillie and don’t like to see my taxes wasted any more than you do.]

The recent ire has focused on NSBI because it invested almost $30 million in companies that failed since January 2015. We taxpayers will likely lose money on this portfolio. It made $5.4 million on its investment in DHX Media, and still includes some great companies like Halifax Biomedical and Health Outcomes Worldwide. They’d have to sell out at superb valuations to make up for other losses.

But the Innovacorp portfolio seems healthier and features smaller investments than that of NSBI. I say seems because the only way to assess the health of a VC portfolio is to look at its companies’ follow-on funding and the strength of the underlying businesses.

Several companies backed by Innovacorp – such as Spring Loaded Technologies, TruLeaf Smart Plant Systems and CarbonCure Technologies – have had follow-on funding from other investors, suggesting their businesses are improving. (Innovacorp has also backed privately managed Build Ventures, which has invested in three companies that have follow-on funding.)

As for the underlying business, Entrevestor surveys Atlantic Canadian startups, and here are the results for companies in the Innovacorp portfolio that responded to our surveys: 27 Innovacorp companies reported they had a total of 264.5 employees in Atlantic Canada at the end of 2015, up 38 percent from a year earlier. And 18 Innovacorp companies shared revenue data with us. Their 2015 revenues totaled $11 million, almost double the previous year. These are strong gains, and in keeping with what’s going on among Atlantic Canadian startups.

There’s reason to be optimistic about the Innovacorp portfolio. It may make money for taxpayers, and it is already showing strength as an economic development vehicle.

Nova Scotia’s GDP increased 0.8 percent in 2015 – its strongest rate in five years. That is a dreadful economic performance. We need high-growth companies, and they need investment capital. Lowering the small business tax rate won’t help these companies because most don’t pay income tax as they are years away from profitability.

The government has called for proposals for a privately managed fund to set up in Halifax, with the province contributing $25 million. This may be the next phase of VC in Nova Scotia – a public-private fund with a private fund manager choosing the investment targets.

There would still be some losses and the winners would take time to emerge. But the economy needs the provincial government to maintain a measured, disciplined venture capital policy. 

The Digital Side of Charlottetown

The first P.E.I. Propel cohort.

The first P.E.I. Propel cohort.

Gillian McCrae smiled as she looked back at the makeshift stage where six Prince Edward Island digital technology companies had just pitched.

McCrae, the Propel ICT Vice-President, had just overseen her organization’s first Local Demo Day in Charlottetown. It had taken place before a packed house at the Upstreet Craft Brewery, the crowd full of mentors, entrepreneurs and politicians. And, she had to agree things were different when she started her own IT company on the Island four years earlier.

When McCrae went through the Propel accelerator, then called Launch36, she had to drive to Moncton each week for instruction. Propel and the Charlottetown tech community were too young to have a cohort in P.E.I. Both have grown up, as was evident at the Local Demo Day.

“You can see how much support there is here to help companies succeed,” said McCrae. “There wasn’t anything like this when I was going through.”

With its rich tradition in agriculture and veterinary medicine, the Prince Edward Island innovation community until recently was skewed heavily toward life sciences. Yes, there were great IT success stories, like video display advertising company ScreenScape Networks and digital archive manager discoverygarden. But with institutions like the PEI BioAlliance and the Regis Duffy Bioscience Fund, the support network for life sciences teams was far greater than for their brethren in IT.

But that is changing for a few reasons.

First, there are more IT companies springing up in P.E.I. Consider this: the latest Propel ICT cohort received a record 168 applications and P.E.I.  (which has about 6 percent of the region’s population) accounted for 18 percent of the entries. 

Second, there are more established places for them to meet and work. Some of the young startups have been working in the Launchpad PEI co-working space, which is where the Propel cohort met. Charlottetown’s Startup Zone opened this summer. This startup house was expecting to welcome 16 companies in IT and other segments, offering them office space, programming and peer-to-peer support.

And third, there is Propel itself. Island companies are still able to join the advanced Build accelerator and travel to Moncton once a week for mentoring. Onset Communications, a Charlottetown company that helps film crew members communicate with one another instantly, did just that in the first cohort of 2016.

But there is also an option of joining the Launch program for entrepreneurial beginners, which for the first time this year met in Charlottetown. Five companies completed the Launch accelerator on the Island this spring and presented at the Local Demo Day. They included companies like Airbly, which has developed hardware and software that automates the process of keeping a flight log for small aircraft, and King Ding Productions Inc., which aims to improve food safety.

“IT is the fastest growing industry,” said J. Heath MacDonald, the minister of Economic Development and Tourism. “It just continues to expand. And what’s going on in P.E.I. is just phenomenal – especially the involvement of our youth as they are our future.”

McCrae knows the importance of building IT companies, and the challenges these companies face. Before joining the Propel staff in 2015, McCrae was the CEO of GetGifted, an Island phenomenon that let merchants give gifts to customers as long as they stopped by the shop or restaurant. The company went through Launch36 but shut down when the problems of expanding in a big city became obvious. Now, based in Halifax, McCrae works mentoring companies across the region and is looking forward to the next cohort – for which applications are now open.

She said the entrepreneurs and experts throughout Charlottetown have come out to help mentor the new tech entrepreneurs. “This has created an integrated program with support from the community and from the people within the program itself.”

Job of The Week: 4Deep Inwater

Halifax-based 4Deep Inwater Imaging, which makes cutting-edge microscopes that can operate in the water, is seeking a product verification/quality control lead.

The company makes advanced microscopes that can examine micro-organisms and other small material in the water in real time. They can check the size, shape, and movement of anything from embryonic invasive species to beads of oil in an oil spill – all without having to waste time taking samples out of the water and sending them to a laboratory.

Having received $500,000 in funding from its Chinese partner Guangzhou Bosma Corp., 4Deep Inwater is now ramping up its sales and working on new applications.

The Jobs of the Week column features openings posted on the Entrevestor Job Board, which focuses on jobs in technology, innovation and startups in Atlantic Canada. The Entrevestor Job Board helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities and is operated by Entrevestor and Qimple.


4Deep Inwater Imaging

Product Verification/Quality Control Lead

Halifax-based 4Deep has an immediate opening for an organized, motivated, and self-reliant person who can be "task flexible" and readily accommodate customer and company needs.

This is a multifaceted position that emphasizes product verification but also requires work in quality control. The successful candidate must become an expert user of all company products and formulate and execute test plans for current and future hardware/software products. He or she must also ensure design specifications are met in prototype and software betas before the final product is released.

The company is looking for someone with the ability to establish and manage quality control tests.

The successful candidate should have: at least two years of university or college with a preference for a bachelor degree; and at least three years of experience in quality control and product verification for hardware and software. The ability to communicate in both English and Chinese would be an asset as the role will require some travel to Guangzhou Bosma’s offices in Guangzhou, China.

New Programming at Planet Hatch

Lisa Kinney

Lisa Kinney

A method for streamlining access to entrepreneurial services is being developed in New Brunswick. The idea is to prevent service duplication, said Lisa Kinney, Entrepreneurial Services Coordinator at Fredericton’s Planet Hatch.

Chicago-born Kinney, who has been in her post at the New Brunswick incubator and co-working space for the past six months, said she is impressed by the collaboration in the province’s startup community.

That collaboration is enabling the streamlining work, which is being undertaken by a task force of stakeholders, led by Larry Shaw, CEO of Ignite Fredericton.

“We are not a huge community so we can’t duplicate services,” said Kinney, who sits on Fredericton's Startup Taskforce.

“The taskforce, with the leadership of Larry Shaw, CEO of Ignite Fredericton, is working to create a subway model in which we lay out services available to entrepreneurs, so startups can be seamlessly directed to the correct provider…”

Planet Hatch is known for fostering startups in the IT sector. It has recently said it intends to provide more help to non-IT startups.  

“We’re expanding to programs that include the broader startup community,” said Kinney, who has lived on Canada’s east coast since 2009, when she arrived with her New Brunswick-raised engineer husband Jeremy Kinney.

“For example, we have recently taken on an artrepreneur-in-residence at Planet Hatch with the aim of building better connections to local artists.”

The first artrepreneur is Kate Roy, a film-maker and photographer. Artists in any discipline can apply for the one-month role. They receive a dedicated working space, display their work and are invited to networking events.

They also act as a mentor, and take part in the group’s monthly Office Hours, providing consultation to startups.

“The artrepreneur is also promoting the wider artistic community. We see them as entrepreneurs and want them to have the same resources as everyone else,” said Kinney, adding that Planet Hatch expects to house six artrepreneurs a year.

Event Season in 2016 Focuses on New Brunswick

Over the summer, the group ran a creativity workshop for entrepreneurs, led by painter Ingrid Mueller.

“It was to help entrepreneurs access their creative side,” Kinney said. “We weren’t allowed to use social media…We drew and painted. We listened and engaged.”

Also new—for two Wednesdays every month Planet Hatch offers ‘open working hours’.

“Half of our centre is a co-working space for our tenants. We also have community space, so that people who work from home or who are students, can work here and have networking opportunities twice a month.”

Kinney said there is a lot of cross-over between her new role and her previous post with the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia, where she worked for nine years in executive education management.

“I planned and populated programs there too. What’s different now is that after a few years at home, caring for my children, I find social media has become very important.  

“We use social media to communicate everything we do. This summer, we have three university student interns who opened my eyes to platforms like Snapchat, Periscope and other ways to reach youth.”

It’s essential to use all avenues to educate the community about the resources and opportunities available for entrepreneurs, Kinney said.

“We do a lot of youth initiatives. Recently, we ran a kids learning code session for ages six to 12. We try to be present at child and youth events, such as a recent STEAM contest (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).

Kinney said the taskforce is also planning for the Startup Canada Regional Awards, which will be held for the first time in Fredericton. The September 13th event is timed to coincide with the city’s Harvest Jazz and Blues festival to attract a particularly celebratory crowd.

“Fredericton is a great place to start a business,” Kinney said. “We strive to encourage youth to take the opportunities and start what they’re interested in.”

Sequence Announces US$3M Funding

Chris Gardner and Tyler Wish: 'A globally significant opportunity.'

Chris Gardner and Tyler Wish: 'A globally significant opportunity.'

Silicon Valley venture capital firm Data Collective is leading a US$3 million (C$3.9 million) seed round of funding in St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, calling the company’s work in health data “a globally significant opportunity.”

The parties issued a press release Wednesday saying the other investors in the round were: Killick Capital, the St. John’s investment fund headed by Mark Dobbin; Venture Newfoundland and Labrador, the fund backed by the NL government, BDC Capital and private angels and managed by Pelorus Venture Capital; and Klister Credit Corp., an Ontario investment fund headed by John H. Phillips.

The funding is significant for Atlantic Canada because it’s the first time a Silicon Valley fund has led a seven-figure seed round for one of the region’s startups. VC investors tend to invest in companies close to their headquarters, so it’s noteworthy that a fund in the world’s biggest tech market has backed such a young company.

“Technology is disrupting the traditional drug-discovery paradigm, but these new technologies are starved for ground truth genomic and clinical data,” Zachary Bogue, Co-Managing Partner at DCVC, said in a statement. “We see Sequence Bio as a breakthrough source of both data and insight to improve global health by enabling faster, less-expensive delivery of more effective therapeutics. And while Newfoundland and Labrador is geographically far from Silicon Valley, this is for drug discovery that we’re excited to support.”

Resson's $14M Round Led by Monsanto

Founded in 2013, Sequence works with partners to analyze vast sets of data from gene pools to get a deeper understanding of human biology and the treatment of diseases. The company was founded by entrepreneurs Tyler Wish and Chris Gardner to capitalize on Newfoundland’s genetic data. The island has a rare — possibly unique — genetic grouping of families that have lived on the island for generations and who have distinct genetic markers. Sequence has signed an agreement with Memorial University to use the university’s genetic databank.

The company says it is building “the world’s most powerful big data resource for drug discovery” through a 100,000-person genome sequencing project. The company is developing systems that use machine-learning and artificial intelligence to analyze the data and increase our knowledge of human biology. That will, it hopes, lead to the development of better drugs.

“Building a company that can both impact drug discovery and patient care in a meaningful way is important to all of us at Sequence Bio,” said Wish in the statement. “This investment will accelerate our already rapid growth. With this unique network of talent, advisors and expertise in big data supporting us, we have never been better positioned for success in drug discovery and precision medicine.”

Gardner added that Data Collective is “one of the premier venture capital firms” investing in companies involved in Big Data. “Its principals have supported people seeking to disrupt industries for over 20 years, helping create tens of billions of dollars of wealth,” he said.

Last year, Sequence received $1 million in equity funding from Killick and Venture NL. Sequence also said Wednesday that James Hardiman, a partner at Data Collective, will join its board of directors.

Unique Solutions Closes its Doors

Dartmouth-based body scan company Unique Solutions has closed down after burning through tens of millions of dollars in capital, including $5.6 million it raised from the Nova Scotian government.

A spokesman on Wednesday said that the company had ceased operations and that the secured creditors would appoint a receiver or agent to auction off the company’s assets.

[Full disclosure:  Entrevestor founder Peter Moreira invested in Unique Solutions and did some freelance work for the company, all in 2010.]

The termination is the final chapter in a corporate story that began in 1997 when entrepreneur Tanya Shaw began an online clothing enterprise. Eventually, she secured the intellectual property for scanning equipment that could capture the human body while the subject was fully clothed.

That led to an ambitious plan to establish scanning booths in shopping malls throughout the U.S. The scans, which only took a minute, would tell shoppers where to find clothes that fit them precisely, and the retailers or brands would pay Unique Solutions for the referral.

The company began to install the booths in major malls, reaching about 40 by early 2012. But the strategy proved too expensive for the revenue it generated and the booths were all removed that year. Shaw tried again with a different strategy – using a handheld scanner and going after enterprise clients, especially those with uniforms. But that too fell short.

It’s difficult to say how much money Unique Solutions raised in its history. The company raised $30 million from Northwater Capital Management of Toronto in 2011. In 2015, it announced it had raised a further $15 million from Northwater and investor Skip Battle.

Before these investors came in, the company had raised money in Nova Scotia, including funding from Nova Scotia Business Inc., which has an exposure of $5.6 million. It also raised money from the First Angel Network, or FAN.

Unique is the latest in a wave of companies from the NSBI venture capital portfolio that have shut down in the past 18 months. The others include TechLink Entertainment (which NSBI had invested $13 million in), Origin Biomed ($7.9 million) and Intellivote ($2.8 million). Members of FAN had also backed Origin and Intellivote.

The Nova Scotia government in 2014 announced that NSBI would no longer make new investments. All VC investments by the government are now carried out by Innovacorp.

The Unique Solutions auction will be interesting because the company’s assets do have considerable value. As well as the IP for the scanning devices, the assets include the world’s largest databank of body scans. These scans each comprise 200,000 points of the human body and are a trove of information on the human body.

Event Season in 2016 Focuses on NB

We’re entering event season in the Atlantic Canadian startup community, and the focus this year will be on New Brunswick.

There are at least five big events planned for the region this autumn, and three that were held in Halifax last year will be in New Brunswick this year.

The regional finals for the Startup Canada Awards will be held Sept. 13 in Fredericton.  Invest Atlantic arrives in Moncton on Oct. 5 and 6, and the Big Data Congress returns home to Saint John on Oct. 17 and 19.

Two conferences that have been held in Halifax since their inception will take place in the Nova Scotian capital again this year – Startup Empire on Sept. 23, and BioPort Atlantic on Oct. 25 and 26.

The largest of these events is the Big Data Congress, which the tech services company T4G started in Saint John in January 2013. The goal of the conference has always been not just to discuss developments in data analytics with people who work in the field but also to educate the broader community on how data analytics can improve a range of industries.

After a year in Halifax, it will be held once again at the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre this year with the theme of Big Data and the industrial Internet of things, or IIoT. The organizers are expecting about 800 attendees and more than 30 speakers. Tickets are available here.

The Big Data Congress tends to attract speakers who are household names in global tech circles. This year’s selection includes Alex ‘Sandy” Pentland, Director of MIT’s Human Dynamics and Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program; Alec Ross, author and Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Johns Hopkins University; and Sandy Bird, Chief Technology Officer for IBM’s Software Security Division. Two regional entrepreneurs who will speak at the event are:  Tyler Wish, CEO and Co-Founder of St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, and Andrea Feunekes, CEO, President and Co-Founder of Remsoft of Fredericton.

Invest Atlantic started in 2010, and it’s always been held in Halifax. Last year’s Chair Nancy Mathis, the head of the Wallace McCain Institute at University of New Brunswick, suggested to organizer Bob Williamson that the next one be held in New Brunswick. So this year’s event will be held at the Delta Beauséjour in Moncton. Tickets are available here.

Along the same lines, the Startup Canada Awards last year had so many regional winners from New Brunswick that the awards presentation for the region this year will be held at the Fredericton Convention Centre. You register for the event here. The regional winners will compete for the nation awards, which will be handed out in Toronto on Nov. 29.

Startup Empire is hosted by Volta Labs in Halifax and as such will be held in Halifax this year. Volta has announced the date but no other details.

Organized by the Nova Scotia life sciences association BioNova, BioPort is the oldest of these events, having first been held in 2002. The highlight of the life sciences conference is the BioInnovation Challenge, a pitching competition for biotech companies. This year the winner will take home $50,000 in cash and in-kind services.  

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