The province’s innovation agency hosted a seminar at the Venn Centre in Moncton on Tuesday at which it unveiled the new thinking on funding. The foundation’s mandate for making venture capital investments is largely staying the same – it will continue to make about 10 early-stage investments each year. But it wants to take a more proactive role in working with companies that are seeking multi-million-dollar financing rounds.
NBIF Investment Analyst Raymond Fitzpatrick said the group up to now has had a “soft ceiling” of $1 million in investing in any one company. It would also participate in follow-on rounds as long as the company found an independent investor to lead the round.
Though it still wants other funds to be the main investor in a large round, the foundation is now more interested in initiating such rounds, possibly writing the term sheet to draw interest from other investors. In certain cases, when a startup has hit or exceeded all its milestones, NBIF may exceed its $1 million ceiling as long as there are other funds making large investments.
“We’re not happy with companies just getting going – we really want those companies to scale up,” said Fitzpatrick. “We’re going to take our best-performing companies and we’re going to step up first. One million [dollars in total investment] is good. Three million is better. Five million – now you’re talking.”
He said NBIF intends to invest $4.8 million in each of the next two fiscal years. The fund invested $4.2 million in 2014-15, the most recent data available.
As well as a more assertive investment policy, NBIF is also going to work with its 40 to 50 portfolio companies and other New Brunswick startups to encourage them to focus on all aspects of scaling.
Naturally, that includes financing. A panel of entrepreneurs speaking at Venn event said founders looking for follow-on funding have to present a clear vision of how they will create value and show they can execute on their growth plans.
“We had people coming to us because there was a sense that we had a vision and there was a sense that we were creating value,” said David Baxter, President of Fiddlehead Technology, which recently raised $1.8 million.
The other areas that NBIF wants to focus on are sales and human resources (including establishing a board of directors).
Fitzpatrick said the NBIF will probably focus more on sales development at the bootcamp for its Breakthru startup competition, which will begin later this year.
“A lot of companies think you can build a company without a sales team,” said Yves Boudreau, the CEO of Qimple. “The reality is you have to build a sales team so … be prepared to hire some people.”
Fitzpatrick said NBIF has been getting some pushback from startups when it encourages them to set up boards of directors. But Daniella DeGrace, CEO of Gemba Software Solutions urged entrepreneurs to think of a board as source of expertise and connections.
“Think about it as a great situation that you cannot do without,” she said.
Disclaimer: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.
15 Companies to Present at AVF
The Atlantic Venture Forum has unveiled the 15 companies that will present at the 2016 edition of the conference, which will be held in Halifax June 22 and 23.
The list features eight early-stage and seven growth-stage companies, including representatives from all four Atlantic Provinces, and each of the major sectors, IT, biotech and cleantech.
As a member of the selection committee, I can say the process was rigorous and the competition tough. The 40-odd entries featured some really great companies, not all of whom made the cut. Even the seed-stage companies include some companies that are developing into dynamic enterprises.
Here is a complete list of the presenting companies:
Airbly, Charlottetown – Airbly has developed the Canairy Cockpit Monitor, which is installed on top of an aircraft's instrument panel to monitor the craft’s position, usage and cabin environment. Airbly is the only member of the current Propel ICT Launch Program to present at the AVF.
DMF Medical Inc., Halifax -- DMF Medical develops biomedical devices that make the process of delivering anesthesia safer.
Ella Online Marketplace Inc., Saint John – This member of the current Propel Build Program and Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone has developed an online market place through which women can sell clothes they no longer want.
Panag Pharma Inc., Halifax -- Panag is developing novel cannabinoid-based formulations for treatment of pain and inflammation. Panag’s pipeline of products includes formulations for topical application to the skin, the eye and other mucous membranes.
Photodynamic Inc., Mount Uniacke, NS – The company once known as Fenol Farm, which won $100,000 at the 2014 I-3 competition, has developed hardware that uses a combination of light and natural compounds extracted from invasive plants to cure oral health problems.
Site 2020, Halifax – Working out of the Volta startup house, Site 2020 has developed technology that reduces costs and improves safety for signage crews on highway construction sites.
Woods Camp, Mahone Bay, NS -- Another member of the Propel Build group, Woods Camp offers an online platform that helps woodland owners understand the value of their land and manage their forest.
Zora, Las Vegas and Halifax – This graduate of The Mill accelerator in Las Vegas has developed a property management platform for landlords.
4-Deep Inwater Imaging, Halifax – Recently funded by Chinese optics manufacturer Guangzhou Bosma, 4-Deep makes powerful electronic microscopes, and focuses on those that operate under underwater.
Athletigen, Halifax – Athletigen uses an online interface to present genetics analysis in a format that athletes and coaches, looking to improve performance, can easily understand and incorporate into their training plan. The company recently raised US$1.55 million in venture capital.
FundMetric, Halifax – Fundmetric’s platform uses data analytics to help charities raise more money. The company has recently been growing its client base in New York after pitching at an event organized by the Canadian Digital Media Network.
HeyOrca!, St. John’s – The recent recipient of $650,000 in funding, HeyOrca! helps marketing agencies that manage multiple client brands to visually plan and seamlessly approve social media content. The graduate of the Propel Build Program operates out of the Genesis Centre in St. John’s.
NB BioMatrix, Saint John – The company, which won $220,000 in the 2015 Breakthru competition, is using nano-technology to develop a biodegradable, anti-bacterial liquid that can remove heavy metals and other pollutants from waste water.
Half a decade after first conceiving of an online wardrobe management tool, Debbie Fraser and John Leahy are preparing to beta-test their mobile app that helps people choose clothes.
Leahy owns Bedford-based web development company ImmediaC and has been working with Fraser for the past five years. Together, they came up with the idea as an enterprise-based application for clothing retailers. They launched a separate division of ImmediaC called Imagine That Technologies to develop the product. But they found it hard to land a contract with large companies for various reasons. So they started over to build a consumer app that could tap several revenue streams from individuals and corporate customers.
The product is now a two-dimensional augmented reality-based tool that lets people super-impose pictures of clothes on their own image on their phone. They can swap clothes and accessories around to find the best combination, and they can swap colours to find the one that’s right for them.
“We have an app that is about 95 per cent finished,” said Leahy in his office overlooking the Sackville River. “It’s a shopping app that lets you try on clothes and share them on social media. So it’s a virtual fitting room on your phone.”
Fraser, who joined the conversation via video-link from Phoenix, where she is on a business trip, added that users can view the clothes from their own clothes as well as something they’re thinking about purchasing to see what matches and suits the wearer. For example, a woman thinking of buying a scarf can see what it looks like on herself with clothes she already owns. She could also share the results on social media.
Over the past 18 years, ImmediaC has built clients more than 2,500 websites — more, Leahy believes, than any other web design company in Canada. But like many service-based companies, they devote resources to the development of products. There are two other products in development that Leahy declined to detail. He simply said that ImmediaC is a bit of an incubator.
They said ImmediaC built the latest version of Imagine That from the ground up, and have been testing it in-house. Now they will test it was about 100 young fashion-conscious individuals in preparation for a full launch this summer. The initial product operates off Apple’s iOS platform, and the intention is for it to be available free in the App store.
“There’s a lot of competition but none of them has all of what we’re doing,” said Leahy. The competitors, he said, don’t allow customers to try on clothes over their own photos and are more limited in the mix-and-match functions.
Clothing brands make photos of their products available developers of such apps, so there is no difficulty in finding merchandise for the app.
There are three ways the app could make money — bringing in retailers to customize their own product; taking a cut if someone buys clothes through the app; and selling premium features on the app to consumers.
Leahy and Fraser hope Imagine That will eventually become a standalone company with its own team. But they added that for the next year or so it will continue to be a division of ImmediaC.
NBIF Innovation Vouchers Hit $1.3M
The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation said Monday it provided $1.3 million in funding for small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, through its Innovation Voucher Fund in 2015-16.
Through the fund, NBIF provides as much as $80,000 to SMEs to help them work with universities, colleges or research institutes in conducting applied research.
“In today’s economy, finding new and better ways to do business is how the most successful companies keep their competitive edge,” NBIF President and CEO Calvin Milbury said in a statement. “Our innovation vouchers have opened up a whole new world of opportunities for SMEs in New Brunswick, and in the three years since we started the fund, 41 companies from every corner of the province have collaborated with applied researchers to turn their ideas into enterprise.”
The startups that tapped the program last year included Moncton-based Smartpods, which makes desks that adjust automatically for standing and sitting positions, and Fredericton-based BioPolynet, which has used nanotechnology to develop a fastening agent. They worked respectively with University of New Brunswick and the Fredericton research organization RPC.
To be eligible for the voucher, applicants must cover at least 20 percent of the project’s cost. Intellectual property developed during the project remains with the company.
Since the fund’s inception in 2014, NBIF has paid out $2.8 million in the program and companies have spent more than $700,000.
You can find a complete list of the companies that participated in the program in the year to March 31, 2016, here.
Jobs of the Week: 3 New Postings
This week we are featuring three new postings on the Entrevestor Job Board – one each from Dash Hudson of Halifax, Remsoft Inc. of Fredericton and Clockwork Fox Studios of St. John’s.
Dash Hudson, a developer of Instagram retail solutions, is accepting applications for a junior brand strategist at its Halifax offices. The company provides data analytics on Instragram posts for major brands.
Remsoft Inc. specializes in providing businesses insight into how to best use woodlands to maximize profitability and sustainability. Started 24 years ago, Remsoft has seen accelerated growth over the last five years due to its early development of software that produces key strategic information. Remsoft is looking for a QA analyst to join its Fredericton office.
Educational game developer Clockwork Fox Studios started the year by closing a million-dollar round of funding. Clockwork Fox is using this funding to publish its grade-level specific Zorbit series of math games, the Grade 2 version of which is due for release later this year. Clockwork Fox Studios is looking for a social/digital marketing specialist.
The Jobs of the Week column features postings on the Entrevestor Job Board. Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Job Board which helps match positions and candidates in the tech and start-up communities.
This person will work closely with the brand strategy team and assist the business development process by participating in lead generation, sales outreach, and progress tracking. The junior brand strategist will be actively engaged with both new and existing leads to move them through the sales funnel. Responsibilities for the role include reaching monthly quotas for lead generation and contacts, management of CRM and sales pipeline, and assisting in the creation of custom marketing and sales materials. No formal education is necessary, though analytical, business development, strategic, sales, and marketing skills are required.
The QA Analyst will be responsible for helping to ensure customer satisfaction. This will be accomplished by developing, simplifying and refining user-acceptance tests. This person will remain up-to-date on how enhancements to Remsoft products will impact customers and share insight other team members insights on what customers want. Qualifications for the position include a Bachelor degree in Forest Management, Engineering, Operations Research/Analytics, or Computer Science/software testing. Remsoft is looking for someone with one to three years’ experience in a similar role. A Master’s degree in forestry or another natural resource science will be considered an asset.
This person will be responsible for building and maintaining Clockwork Fox’s social media presence through an array of campaigns, as well as sending emails and deploying digital marketing strategies to drive click rates. He or she will also brainstorm strategies to create and nurture new sales leads, and evaluate all strategies against set goals. Qualifications include a Bachelor degree in marketing or a related field and proven work experience in digital marketing. Resumé and cover letter can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Social/Digital Marketing Specialist”.
Dal Team To Join Startup Bus in Tampa
Yoon Park, left, Isaac Greenberg and Tobias Oedegaard are raising money for their Tampa-to-Boulder trek
Aspiring entrepreneurs often go to great lengths to boost their creativity and connections. Now, a trio of students hope to raise enough money to become the first Atlantic Canadians to travel on a Startup Bus.
Similar in concept to the Startup Weekend, the Startup Bus hosts entrepreneurs for 72 hours, with the aim of allowing new networks and ideas to flourish. The difference, in this case, is that the venue travels.
The Halifax trio, who are all students at Dalhousie University, aim to join a food and beverage themed bus that departs Tampa, Fla. on May 15 and travels to Boulder, Colo. over the following three days. They are now raising money for the trip through this crowdfunding campaign.
Yoon Park, a fourth-year management student, said the bus experience allows participants to meet would-be entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Participants have the common goal of launching a startup by the end of the journey.
“I believe we need a student-initiated idea that is fun to get Atlantic Canadian students interested in entrepreneurship,” said Park, a Korean-Canadian.
“People have started paying attention to entrepreneurship, but it still sounds too monumental to most students. A lot of students in Atlantic Canada have a conservative approach to their career, and this is where we want to inspire a change.
“They intend to study hard and get a job at a big company and the company will take care of them forever, but that’s not the case.”
Park and the other Dal students — Norwegian Tobias Oedegaard, a second-year management student, and American-Canadian Isaac Greenberg, who is in his second year studying economics and sustainability — intend to document their journey on social media.
Their accounts will include video of life on the bus, which will stop overnight en route to Boulder. Once at their destination, teams will pitch their ideas to stakeholders and be mentored by industry leaders.
Each team’s progress will be documented online. The event also has a virtual stock market for trading shares in each startup as it develops.
The trio hope that Atlantic Canada will be represented with a bus of its own in next year’s competition.
“To make that happen we need a success story,” Park said.
Oedegaard and Greenberg are already establishing a tempeh business in Halifax and intend to explore the intersection of the food and tech industries as they travel to Boulder.
Tempeh is an Indonesian soy protein similar to tofu. The duo are poised to begin distribution of their product to local vendors in the coming weeks.
They hope the Startup Bus will introduce them to people who can advise on supply routes, and connect them to suppliers and other contacts in the U.S.
The three are joining the bus together but don’t have to form a team, as participants will split into groups after pitching ideas during the first hours of the trip.
“As soon as the journey starts, we all introduce ourselves. People pitch their ideas and skills and teams are formed on the bus,” Park said.
The Startup Bus was founded in Australia in 2010.
Since then, the group has held 14 events on four continents, driving across 26 countries.
The Dal trio originally wanted to begin their own journey on a bus from Halifax, but realized it was too expensive.
So, they intend to fly to Tampa to join the food and beverage bus.
They need $5,100 to fund the trip. So far, they have secured $1,200 from stakeholders at Dalhousie. They intend to try crowd-funding next, while also reaching out to local businesses for sponsorship.
Park said he is hopeful they will raise the rest of the money. You can contribute to their campaign here.
Briefs: Propel, Startup Grind, IBMC
A recent Propel Demo Day.
Propel Demo Day Set for June 21
Atlantic Canadian accelerator Propel ICT has announced that its next Demo Day will be held June 21 at Neptune Theatre in Halifax.
The event featuring company presentations will begin at 5:30 pm, and is being held on the eve of the Atlantic Venture Forum, which will take place at the Nova Scotian Westin on June 22 and 23.
Demo Day will include pitches from the nine teams that are going through the Build Program, which is for growth-stage companies. In the last Demo Day in September, some promising companies in the seed-stage Launch Program also pitched, but there has been no announcement whether that will be the case in June.
In the current cohort, the Build Program is being run out of the Venn Centre in Moncton, while the Launch Program is being offered in startup hubs in Charlottetown, St. John’s, Halifax and Fredericton.
Johnson Concrete To Use CarbonCure Technology
Halifax-based CarbonCure Technologies has announced that Johnson Concrete Co., a family owned business with locations across North Carolina, added the CarbonCure Masonry Technology in its Lexington plant. The CarbonCure technology recycles waste carbon dioxide into concrete products, effectively making Johnson concrete masonry units more environmentally friendly.
“We completed extensive due diligence into the viability of the technology, and its potential to create value for Johnson Concrete, and we are now pleased to offer our customers concrete products with a reduced carbon footprint,” said Johnson Executive Vice President Charles Newsome in a statement.
The CarbonCure technology injects carbon dioxide gas captured from nearby smokestacks into concrete products during the mixing phase. Once introduced into the concrete mix, the carbon dioxide chemically converts into a solid calcium carbonate mineral.
Since the gas has been converted into a mineral, it will never escape into the atmosphere. This means that Johnson Concrete will continue to provide high quality concrete products, and effectively get rid of local air pollution at the same time.
The two Saint Mary’s University teams will pitch in Redmond are: ProTell, which is creating wearable technology for people with Sickle Cell Anemia; and SeeMePly, which is lessening the administrative burden of African students applying to private schools.
As the organizers of the competition, Dalhousie University was also able to nominate a team to compete in the international competition. As such, 3 Meals, from Dalhousie’s Agricultural Campus, will attend the IBMC. The company is generating a protein from meal worms that can be used as a protein supplement.
Lucey To Speak at Startup Grind Halifax
Ian Lucey, the founder of the Lucey Fund, will deliver a talk to the Halifax chapter of Startup Grind on May 31 starting at 6 pm at the Innovacorp Innovation Centre in Halifax. Tickets are available here.
The Lucey Fund is a venture capital fund that backs early-stage IT startups. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based fund has offices in six countries including the U.S., Ireland, U.K. and Spain. It has invested in more than 70 startups over the past three-and-a-half years. In 2015 alone the Lucey Fund invested in 30 new projects and it plans to invest in more than 50 in 2016.
Lucey recently opened an office in Los Angeles and is actively seeking further investment opportunities across the United States and Canada.
Venor Buys Assets of Equals6
Executive search firm Venor has bought the assets of Equals6, a career-focused social network for students, for an undisclosed price.
Halifax-based Equals6 was designed to be a place where students could discuss career prospects, as opposed to other social media sites, which tend to be more about lifestyles. Students can communicate with one-another, or with companies that pay to join the site.
Started by Co-Founders Craig Coady and Ian Sullivan, Venor now plans to use Equals6’s Students2Mentors product to develop a resource for young people getting started on their career path. Overseeing the new division will be Chantal Brine, who has been the Venor executive in charge of youth career advancement for the past year.
“Venor has an established reputation for placing qualified candidates in challenging and rewarding positions,” Brine said in a statement. “We are taking that same standard of excellence to helping new talent in our province’s students prepare for and find meaningful employment.”
Equals6 was developed by entrepreneurs Andy Osburn and Mark Boyle, who oversaw its steady growth over the past five years. Meanwhile, the pair was also working on SecureReset, which has developed two products for simplifying user passwords and authentication. Last November, Osburn and Boyle sold SecureReset to Atlanta-based Courion and signaled that they were also in talks to sell Equals6.
In buying the assets of Equals6, Venor plans to use Students2Mentors to link students with mentors in their field of interest. A cloud-based, automated and customizable platform, the tool enables students, mentors and university administrators to create mentorship programs and track their success.
The statement said Brine would bring her experience in organizational change, human resources, community relations, entrepreneurship and technology to help students and graduates to transition to the workforce. She is already collaborating with academic institutions to further develop Students2Mentors.
Venor said Equals6 has already impacted more than 13,000 students and 125 employers from across North America.
“We see firsthand the challenge of employers who want to attract the right talent and grow businesses here,” said Sullivan. “We want to do our part to support the call of the One NS Coalition and the Ivany Report to act. Rather than standby idly on the sidelines, we have created a focus solely on building a stronger and more inspired youth talent pool in Nova Scotia.”
Innovacorp, the innovation agency owned by the Nova Scotia government, invested $250,000 in Equals6 in 2012 through a convertible debenture. Since the company never raised follow-on funds the debenture would never have been converted to equity.
“Innovacorp anticipates repayment of our debenture and, while we can’t share the commercial terms of Venor’s license of the E6 platform, one can infer that Equals6 derives revenue from that partnership,” said Innovacorp Managing Director Greg Phipps in an email.
Equals6 is the second Innovacorp portfolio company to announce a major deal recently. Livelenz, which received $1.4 million in investment from the agency, recently sold out to Chandler, Arizona-based Mobivity Holding Corp. for less than $1 million in stock in a bid to grow with the larger company.
Innovation Week Starts in NB
Innovation Week is taking place in New Brunswick over the next week with a range of events across the province.
The annual celebration began last night with the Open Data Awards in Saint John, which leads into the Canadian Open Data Summit in the port city today.
The highlight of the week will be the KIRA Awards Gala, which will recognize people who have made great contributions to the knowledge industry. The Gala will take place 5:30 next Thursday at the Fredericton Convention Centre.
You can find a complete schedule of the events here.
InTheChat Partners with Facebook
InTheChat announced at Facebook’s recent F8 Conference that it can now offer Facebook Messenger as a platform for enterprises worldwide, allowing companies greater reach and flexibility when dealing with customers.
The Waterloo-based company offers a full-scale digital customer service platform that enables companies to serve customers through social media chat, email, text, and now Facebook Messenger.
InTheChat is one of the first platforms to engage with Messenger. The Ontario company reached out to Facebook late last year and both parties saw the integration of Messenger into InTheChat as strategic: Facebook wants to grow the “chat” side of Messenger among big businesses, the exact market that InTheChat specializes in.
InTheChat makes customer service on messaging channels 58 per cent more efficient than a regular phone call, and thus offers significant savings on a company’s customer service costs. The company, which operates out of the Accelerator Centre, uses text analytics to route messages from customers to the best-skilled customer service agent. Customer service representatives can then chat with three to five customers at one time through various digital channels, rather than with one customer through the traditional method of the telephone call.
“People are so used to communicating with their friends and family through these channels that they’re waiting for companies to open them up and engage in that way,” InTheChat CEO John Huehn said in an interview.
Huehn worked at Rogers Communications for 12 years: he started as call centre representative and worked his way up to Vice President, Client Management, accountable for call centre strategy.
He started InTheChat six years ago as a more efficient way for companies to interact with their customers through social media rather than telephone. However, he noticed that many customers would prefer to privately message the company rather than send a public tweet with a query or problem and introduced private messaging capabilities via text, chat and Messenger.
He said the company’s aim is “that a customer can get service whenever and however they want, and we make that [happen] so you get a great customer satisfaction.”
Last year, InTheChat launched TD Bank Group as one of the first big businesses available for chatting on Facebook Messenger. They also put Newegg, a California-based computer/electronics e-retailer, on Messenger. Though Messenger is an unsecured channel, webforms and other applications enable customers to provide information through secure channels rather than giving out private information over the chatting platform.
Huehn himself has gone through a review of his data usage and changed his data plan with his telecom company—all through Messenger and text chatting.
“You’re able to continue your conversation without disclosing private information to get your problem solved just as easily as you can on the phone,” he said.
InTheChat targets mainly large enterprises, as the most complex part of their system is routing the right message to the right person via text analytics.
Each company pays a personalized fee, which includes a platform fee. Companies then add users on to the platforms that they can access.
InTheChat is a growth-oriented company and its 22 employees are always looking to expand channels.
“How do we innovate emerging channels that emerging generations choose to communicate on to make those available for customer service?” Huehn said.
NPC: ‘Like Emergence on Steroids’
When the federal government announced funding in February for Charlottetown-based Natural Products Canada, it was the culmination of several years of effort by the PEI life sciences community.
The PEI BioAlliance first applied to create a natural products commercialization centre after the federal government launched its Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research, or CECR, program in 2007. But it was rejected at the time because the original proposal was too local. So it began to work with partners from across the country and came up with a proposal that won the backing of Ottawa. It’s the first time a Maritime proposal received CECR funding.
“What we’re really good at is bringing our local networks around the best idea and developing a strong structure in terms of design,” said BioAlliance Executive Director Rory Francis in an interview. “We have a very credible name across the country and we were able to bring in partners from Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan to make it happen.”
In February, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Navdeep Bains announced that the federal government would contribute $14 million to Natural Products Canada, which would be headquartered in Charlottetown. While the BioAlliance would serve 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 over $10 million from industry and other sources, for total funding of more than $24 million over the next five years.
The Natural Products Centre will be headed by CEO Shelley King, who previously worked with Synapse (the tech transfer office at the University of P.E.I.) and Genome Atlantic. She and her eight staff members will work with companies that have products based on natural substances and need to bring them to market.
It’s a project that has Francis and others in the Atlantic Canadian life sciences community excited, and here’s why.
First, the sector it works in is hot. There’s a push from consumers and government for businesses to offer more products made from sustainable materials, including those drawn from nature. That offers a huge opportunity to study how to extract useful chemicals and materials from natural sources, and to apply them to products ranging from food to cosmetics to agricultural inputs to drugs to animal health products. The list is endless.
Second, by working with partners from across the country, the companies in the NPC program will have access to a tremendous network. All four of the founding institutions bring with them vast groups of contacts in business, government and academia. That means a company in Atlantic Canada entering the program will have access to researchers, labs, investors, mentors and potential customers from across the country and beyond.
And third, the centre has the ability to finance companies, but the competition is tough. That means the companies interested in gaining the funding will have to up their game, which should benefit the entire sector.
“I get excited because the bar to get to CECR funding for that program is really, really high,” said Francis. It is the second time in three years that Charlottetown has won a federal competition to offer programing for life sciences companies.
“NPC can do a bunch of things that Emergence can’t – it’s sort of Emergence on steroids,” said Francis. “The nature of these CECRs is they have to be sustainable over a period of time. … so [the member companies] have to have a stream of income.”
And Francis believes the NPC will be adept at helping companies develop those streams of income because so much of the expertise is drawn from private business. It will have academic partners like University of New Brunswick Saint John, UPEI and universities in other regions, but it’s led by private business people.
“Most of these CECRs tend to be academically led,” said Francis. “They’re known for great science and academic research. In this case, we’ve kind of turned this around – you haven’t heard too much about the academic component because this was really very much a private sector-led initiative.”
Repable Eyes Analytics for ESports
Heather Anne Carson and Sean Power
Heather Anne Carson fully understood she was on to something big with her new startup Repable when she attended the KeSPA eSport championship in South Korea last autumn.
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.
KeSPA was held in a packed arena in Seoul. Thousands of fans — many dressed like characters in the games — were screaming madly as two five-member teams faced off against each other. It was the mania that convinced her and technical co-founder Sean Power they are in a fantastic market.
“When I started looking at the ecosystem of gaming, I learned it’s amazing,” she said in a recent interview. “When I started looking at the numbers I couldn’t ignore the potential in this space. It’s the fastest growing segment of the entertainment industry.”
An expert in public relations and marketing, Carson is a veteran of the East Coast startup community. (She actually emceed the first PropelICT Demo Day four years ago.) In 2012, she and Renee Warren launched Onboardly, a PR and marketing agency that targeted startups and quickly secured clients across North America. Last year she left the agency to co-found a product-based startup.
“I always knew that eventually I would build a product company,” she said. “Most of it was being exposed to so many really, really, really smart startups in my job. You get the bug. But ideas don’t always just come and it takes just the right catalyst.”
She teamed up with Power last year, and they found that his background in data analytics complemented her marketing savvy. They knew they wanted to do a Big Data venture, and they eventually settled on eSports.
This pastime 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.
Repable can charge the brands to provide the data. Power is close to completing a dashboard that will analyze the data collected from the audience of 60 million people around the world. It can tell brands what teams are hot, how to engage players and spectators, and what is gaining in popularity.
The seven-month-old company is now preparing to enter the market. It is now going through the PropelICT accelerator in Moncton and working out of the Digital Media Zone of Ryerson University in Toronto. The company expects to launch a product for enterprise clients in the late summer. Eventually it would like a consumer product that will help people playing the games what is hot and how they can move up in the industry.
“We help teams and agencies understand the attention of the fans,” said Carson. “It’s a huge, huge, huge market and the excitement for us is helping people to make informed decisions.”
The Fredericton-based Industrial Internet of Things company has been gaining international attention lately, and now it has named former CTO Scott Everett as its new CEO. He replaces Richard Jones, who will remain on the board of directors.
“Scott has grown from co-founder and visionary to an executive leader doing a great job shaping the strategic direction of the company, and now is a good time for me to step away and let Eigen continue on its upward trajectory,” said Jones in a statement.
A graduate of the PropelICT tech accelerator, Eigen’s product, Intellexon, 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, Eigen is working with partners, including Oregon’s FLIR Systems Inc., the world’s largest thermal camera and sensor maker, to develop Intellexon to suit these customers’ needs.
Having previously raised a bit of seed funding, the company has now received $250,000 from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. NBIF has now invested a total of $500,000 in the company. The other investors are BDC Capital, which invested $100,000, and a range of angels. The company is listed as one of the portfolio companies of East Valley Ventures, a division of Mariner Partners that channels private money into startups.
Last week, Texas computer maker Dell unveiled its Dell IoT Solutions Partner Program to help build an ecosystem to help customers navigate the fragmented IoT landscape and identify the right technologies to develop solutions. Eigen is one of the partners in the program.
In December, 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. The top three finalists have VIP access to industry, investment and business experts.
Also in December, when CB Insights listed the 100 companies worldwide influencing the IoT market, Eigen made the list in the industrial category.
Developing a Healthier Fish Stock
Amber Garber at the R3 Gala in Fredericton
Fish farming often gets a bad rap. New Brunswick scientist Dr. Amber Garber is working to make farmed salmon and farming processes healthier, more sustainable and more profitable.
She’s doing it by breeding for traits like fast growth rates and improved natural resistance to sea lice and bacterial kidney disease.
“Selective breeding programs use the fishes’ natural genetic variability to make them better,” said the scientist who has been working on this broodstock program since 2010. Broodstock are a group of mature individuals used in aquaculture for breeding purposes.
“The broodstock program is responsibly improving fish. It’s maintaining genetic diversity, helping industry, and using fewer resources. It’s more sustainable.”
The scientist at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre, who was recently recognized at the R3 awards for scientific research, has been living in St. Andrews for 10 years. She previously worked on the Atlantic cod genomics and broodstock development project.
She said that breeding fish for desirable natural qualities helps the industry expand and become more efficient.
“It allows the use of fewer chemicals and antibiotics and increases the quality of the fish,” said the scientist who grew up on a farm in Ohio and learned to love animals while helping her father, a vet.
By producing a fish that is more resistant to sea lice, for example, the program decreases the number of treatments required, reducing many costs and the stress on fish.
Garber said the combined Nova Scotia and New Brunswick farmed salmon industries are currently worth $356 million annually.
“This equates to over 300 million meals of farmed Atlantic salmon every year and over 3,000 jobs.”
She said the latest generation of salmon in the broodstock program are growing 26 per cent faster than their parents did.
In Norway, where broodstock programs are more developed, farmed Atlantic salmon typically reach the harvest size of four kilograms in less than two years, compared with four years in the 1970s. The fast growth rate means the salmon industrysaves around 120,000 tons of feed annually.
Broodstock programs are not new or unusual, although it’s estimated less than 10 per cent of aquaculture production is based on these stocks.
“Breeding programs add a level of complexity and cost which often makes themseem unattainable, but set up and executed properly the benefits can outweigh these costs.”
Broodstock programs may not be new but winning the R3 Award has brought recognition and validation.
“The win helped boost awareness of the importance of aquaculture,” said Garber.
As a youngster, Garber knew she wanted a career that would make a difference.
She considered cancer research, but later gained a masters in population genetics in stock enhancement.
“I hadn’t done genetics to that point and I liked it, liked working with numbers and statistics,” she said.
“Aquaculture was growing, so I pursued my PhD in that at North Carolina State University.”
She said broodstock programs can also help wild species.
“Depletion of wild fish is a problem. Many commercially harvested species of fish are depleted to some extent…We’re protecting wild fish by shifting pressure from fishing to farming and consumption from wild to farmed. We’re trying to help the industry grow and reduce the environmental footprint…”
She said the Huntsman has recently been contracted by companies in Atlantic Canada and Ontario to design, assess, or complete statistical analysis associated with breeding programs.
“I want to help other industries become more sustainable,” she said. “Other species can all have broodstock programs.”
Machine Learning for Chemists
Jason Pearson: Developed algorithms that identify patterns in the formation of compounds.
Jason Pearson hopes that chemists around the world will soon be using a machine-learning system to accelerate the discovery and development of new compounds.
In fact, he’s preparing to release such a platform to a restricted group in July.
A professor at University of Prince Edward Island, Pearson is a computational chemist — that is, a chemist who uses computers in the development and analysis of compounds. He’s also the head of Retrievium Inc., the Charlotte-town-based startup that is developing the platform.
They’ve produced algorithms that recognize molecular patterns and properties and automatically lead researchers to new compounds that might have similar properties.
Discoverygarden, which oversees a digital repository for archives and museums around the world, worked with the team on developing the dashboard.
“If we compile a big enough data bank for chemists, then the computers we have get will smarter and smarter and smarter and eventually they’ll do a lot of things that humans can’t do,” said Pearson in an interview on Monday.
He explained that elements can be combined in an infinite number of groupings, and chemists in industry and research institutes spend their lives in search of better compounds than previously existed.
Retrievium will allow chemists in a variety of fields to input their data on compounds, the elements used and the properties of the molecules.
As the databank grows, the algorithms can make intelligent decisions on how to group together different elements to produce better drugs or industrial materials.
It would analyze the composition of chemicals and how different chemicals interact with one another.
“We’re putting together a business model,” said Pearson. “We’ve got some anticipated revenue streams that we’re going to have to test. We’re looking at industrial clients that have a lot of data and need a way of managing that data. It includes Big Pharma, of course, but it also includes industrial companies.”
He added Retrievium is also considering marketing the platform to data centres and academic researchers, who could benefit from its artificial intelligence.
The company will release a working prototype to about a dozen close collaborators in July, and then seek feedback from them.
Depending on the response from these working chemists, Pearson is hoping for a general release late this year or early in 2017.
Pearson and Poirier have fund-ed the project so far from various sources, largely from Springboard Atlantic, the organization that helps to commercialize Atlantic Canadian university research, and NSERC, which helps companies work with academic researchers. Pearson said their universities, especially the UPEI tech transfer office Synapse, helped as well.
In the future, they plan to seek private funding for the company and would be especially interested in teaming up with a corporation that would use the platform.
“If there’s an industrial client who sees a lot of potential, there’s a chance they will underwrite the development,” he said. “As researchers who developed the tool, we really want to see this tool grow.”
Vancouver-based HitchPlanet and Maritime Rideshare are both ridesharing services – that is, they allow drivers with empty seats in their car to link up with people who need a lift, cutting travel costs and reducing fuel consumption. The companies did not reveal the terms of the deal.
By buying out Maritime Rideshare, which started in Prince Edward Island in 2012, HitchPlanet now has communities on both coasts and plans to expand to become a true coast-to-coast service.
“We have come a long way since our genesis offering rideshares between Vancouver and Whistler,” said HitchPlanet CEO and Co-founder Flo Devellennes in a statement. “We saw a very strong market opportunity because of limited options for non-drivers or those without vehicles in Atlantic Canada. The popularity of Maritime Rideshare also gave us confidence in the Atlantic market.”
Maritime Rideshare was developed by a company called Seeets, which went through the second cohort of the Launch36 (now PropelICT) accelerator.
The statement said HitchPlanet is among the new breed of for-profit companies driven to create impact and change the way business is done. Through technological innovations and new business models there has been a surge in collaborative consumption and peer-to-peer platforms in the global market.
“Ultimately, HitchPlanet is a community,” said Devellennes. “We feel strongly that technology is our tool, not our objective.”
The company, which received $150,000 in angel investment last year, has set the goal of attaining 50,000 members who have shared 500,000 kilometers of journeys by the end of 2016. Members so far this year have logged 184,000 kilometres.
It also hopes to create 10 jobs across Canada including two in the Maritimes, this year.
Bridgit Raises US$1.7M VC Round
Mallorie Brodie, left, and Lauren Lake plan to use the money to expand in the U.S.
Bridgit, a Kitchener startup that has developed a mobile communications platform for the construction industry, has secured US$1.7 million (C$2.2 million) in venture capital financing, which it hopes will help to fund its U.S. expansion.
Lake and Brodie have developed a cloud-based app called Closeout, which replaces the pen-and-paper task of documenting unfinished, damaged or incorrect work. People in the industry refer to this list as a “punch list.”
With Closeout, users take pictures of the work areas and upload them along with notes for immediate viewing by the team, significantly streamlining the task. The app has been adopted by more than 100 companies since its launch in March 2014, including powerhouses Minto and CentreCorp.
“The construction industry has been slow to adopt to new technology, but as we talk to residential and commercial builders, it’s clear they are hungry for technology that lowers cost, simplifies processes and make it easier to get their jobs done,” said CEO Brodie in the statement. “We’re excited to partner with Hyde Park and Vanedge so we can put Bridgit’s solutions into the hands of more people who need them.”
The statement said the new funds will help to hire new engineers and sales people as well as fund the U.S. expansion.
“We created Google for Entrepreneurs Demo Days in order to highlight amazing entrepreneurs like Bridgit,” said Mary Grove, director of Google for Entrepreneurs. “Many founders have told us that they’re able to hire more quickly, get the attention of large corporate partners and open doors with investors as a result. We were very impressed by the Bridgit team and their traction at the event, and are thrilled to see them continue that great momentum.”
Previously, Bridgit raised angel financing from such investors as prominent New York City angel investor Joanne Wilson and Rypple co-founder Daniel Debow of Toronto.
“We believe that this type of innovation is sorely needed in the construction industry and that Bridgit has the ideal team to deliver it,” said Greg Barnes, principal of Hyde Park Venture Partners. “We can’t wait to see Mallorie, Lauren and their growing corps of experts build upon their solid foundation in the U.S. market.”
Checking Out Nashville’s Project Music
Kam Lal of Montreal-based Notetracks
I was really lucky in February to drop by the coolest accelerator I’ve ever heard of – Project Music in Nashville.
At an old brick transit garage in the heart of Nashville, two cohorts of music-related startups have been held, mentored by business leaders in one of the hottest music markets in the world. The focus is not, as you’d expect, on country music. It’s on any startup that could disrupt the music industry.
As a writer, something that fascinated me is that the latest cohort is being held in tandem with a complementary program called 1440, which is for startups looking to disrupt the publishing industry. Nashville also has a vibrant publishing industry.
These accelerators draw applicants from around the world, and one of founders I met while reporting on Project Music was Kam Lal of Montreal, who’s startup Notetracks was going through the music Program. Lal and his girlfriend had been watching the TV series Nashville and thought the city looked cool. When he learned there was a music-based accelerator in the city he applied and was accepted.
“It’s the music environment,” said Lal. “If I had known it had been here a long time ago, I would have been here a lot sooner.”
Two-year-old Notetracks has developed a platform that lets musicians record music, analyze it and make notes for one another. The company released the $9.99 app last year, and it is being used by more than 1,000 musicians and producers.
Lal is a member of the second cohort. The first cohort took place in winter 2015, and its eight teams each received $30,000 in funding in exchange for 7% of their company.
Cohort 2 features a core of seven teams, including representatives from Ukraine and Canada, with each receiving $47,000 for a 7% stake. A local non-profit also joint the program but did not receive funding.
One thing that is really cool about Project Music is the role of the local business community in launching and sustaining the program. The Country Music Association and local businesses were and are major sponsors. And all the investment came from private investors in the Nashville business and music community.
There are two lessons for Atlantic Canada in Project Music. First, this is how to get traditional businesses to back startups. And second, Project Music is a living example of how to use the indiginous culture of an area to spark new technology. It's something we should look at more.
Why You Should Complete our Survey
The whole community benefits when you fill out our survey.
We want to heartily thank the dozens of founders who have completed our survey, and remind those of you who haven’t done so to please fill it out.
We’re thrilled with the response we’ve had to the survey. A vast range of founders have taken a few minutes to fill out our 23 questions, and we’re starting to get a picture of what happened in the community last year.
You can find the survey here, and it only takes two to four minutes to fill it out.
We’ve already done preliminary calculations on what we’ve received, and made our first presentation to a government department. We can’t reveal the findings yet but here is what we can say: policy makers’ interest in startups has never been stronger.
From the new prime minister on down, the federal government is embracing innovation as a pillar of economic development. Same goes for the provincial governments. They want reliable information on the startup community so they can design better policies.
The Entrevestor data analysis is most authoritative source of information on the East Coast startup community, but we need your help to complete it. We need you to provide us with information on the surveys. We promise it will be 100 percent confidential.
The result will be a better information group of policy makers as they design programs to help your business.
Mobivity Buys Livelenz, Signals Growth
Livelenz, a Bedford-based company that analyzes data for fast food restaurants, has been sold to Mobivity Holding Corp. for less than $1 million in stock in a bid to grow with the larger company.
Chandler, Arizona-based Mobivity, whose shares trade over-the-counter in the U.S., said in a regulatory filing that in January it paid 1.015 million of its shares for all the stock of Livelenz. Mobivity shares at the time were trading for about 70 US cents, each, which values the deal at the time at about C$950,000.
Livelenz had previously received two equity investments from Innovacorp totaling $1.4 million, and the provincial innovation agency is now a shareholder in Mobivity as a result of the acquisition. Those shares are subject to an 18-month lockup.
Livelenz and Mobivity initially met because they are both partners with Epson, the Japanese manufacturer that dominates the market for receipt printers for fast-food and casual dining restaurants.
Founded in the Annapolis Valley in 2010, Livelenz understood that receipt printers revealed a wealth of data about a restaurant’s business that could be used to reduce waste and increase sales. The company partnered with Epson to exploit the Japanese company’s dominance in the point-of-sales market in the sector.
Two years ago, Mobivity bought SmartReceipt, Inc., a similar company that offers coupons and special offers through receipts for such companies as Subway, Baskin-Robbins and Dairy Queen. Now Mobivity is offering both this technology and that of Livelenz.
“It was a good deal for both parties in that we’re both in the same space,” said Livelenz’s former CEO Jon McGinley in an interview Monday. “They are an Epson partner and we are an Epson partner and the technology alignment made sense.”
Since Mobivity trades publicly, there are limits to what it can say about its future plans (Chief Financial Officer Christopher J. Meinerz declined to discuss them Monday). But it’s obvious the company is planning to grow its new Halifax operations.
McGinley, who has a background in marketing, has joined Mobivity as Vice-President of Marketing. He is one of about five employees at the Bedford office.
Last week, as reported in the Chronicle-Herald, Nova Scotia Business Inc. announced payroll rebates for Mobivity, under which it will create as many as 40 new jobs, in which case it would pay out $5.8 million in salaries over the five-year period.
The Arizona company offers Livelenz a far larger reach than it would have had independently. Its clients include Subway, Sonic, Jamba Juice, Chick-fil-A, and Baskin-Robbins.
Mobivity recently reported that in 2015 it lost US$3.9 million (a mild improvement from the 2014 loss of US$4.1 million). Its sales meanwhile rose 15 percent to US$4.6 million.
The company’s shares were quoted on Bloomberg Monday at 63 US cents, down 40 percent in the past year.
“We are well-positioned for expansion in 2016, and we are now beginning to realize the revenue growth from all of the groundwork laid in 2015,” Mobivity CEO Dennis Becker said in its results statement. “we are engaged in discussions with a number of new brands, and we see 2016 as a year that will continue to bring great opportunities."
Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.
Jobs of the Week: Spring Loaded
Spring Loaded Technology, the Dartmouth company that is making the bionic knee a reality, is staffing up its marketing department and looking for two individuals for key positions.
The company, which announced a $1.9 million venture capital investment in March, has posted openings for a Vice-President of Sales and Marketing and a Marketing Coordinator on the Entrevestor Job Board.
The four-year-old company has developed the Levitation knee brace, which gains energy when the knee bends and then releases it when the knee strengthens, increasing the power in the joint. It has applications for athletes, soldiers and people with mobility problems.
Spring Loaded has had a busy year. It raised US$208,652 in an Indigogo campaign and signed a contract worth $1 million with the Canadian Department of National Defence.
Our Jobs of the Week column features positions that are currently available on the Entrevestor Job Board. Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Entrevestor Job Board which helps match job openings and candidates within the tech and start-up communities.
This person will work closely with the CEO to develop the Spring Loaded sales and marketing teams, and to grow pipeline. He or she will have to design and implement the framework and processes to scale the sales and marketing functions effectively. As the team grows, this person will focus more on marketing than sales. Spring Loaded is looking for someone with a proven track record of marketing or sales experience in a senior management role. It wants someone who has consistently exceeded quotas and met strategic objectives using various methods including traditional, digital, automation, inbound, content, etc. A bachelor degree is required, as well as a willingness to travel.
The Marketing Coordinator is responsible for coordinating various digital and event-based marketing initiatives, copywriting, assisting with public relations strategy, organizing tradeshows, and interacting with customers. This person must work closely with senior management, including the CEO and VP Marketing, to set and execute on the marketing and sales strategy. The successful applicant should be a self-starter with effective project management skills and attention to detail. He or she must have experience writing and creating content, and in using Hubspot and Wordpress.
Moyer Wants to Extend Pelorus Model
Chris Moyer: 'The problem is how to get angels invested.'
After a successful first year in which he invested in four new companies, Chris Moyer believes that Venture Newfoundland and Labrador provides an investment model that other Atlantic provinces should emulate.
Moyer is the Director of Pelorus Venture Capital, the young firm that manages Venture Newfoundland and Labrador. Moyer and his partners worked together for years at GrowthWorks Atlantic.
The fund, which invests in ICT, ocean tech and medtech, comprises $10 million from Newfoundland and Labrador, $2 million from BDC Capital, as well as funds from angel investors. What’s unique about the model is it draws money from government and private investors and assigns a professional manager to the fund.
“We’re using a model that can be highly effective for Atlantic Canada, which has a very early-stage startup ecosystem with a lot of seed-level companies,” said Moyer, a Saint John native.
“The gaps that exist in Newfoundland and Labrador exist elsewhere in Atlantic Canada. There’s the problem of how to get angels invested.”
Moyer said the companies that receive funding know Venture Newfoundland and Labrador will invest more if they hit their milestones.
“A percentage of our fund is dedicated to follow-on investment,” he said. “Private funds allow everyone to work together to push the companies forward…. In all our investments, angels that invested in our fund invested their own money in the companies as well.”
“With our first four companies, private investment alone ranged from $525,000 to over a million. . . .It puts Newfoundland and Labradorian companies on a level playing field with companies elsewhere. I’d love that opportunity to be available for all Atlantic Canadian companies.”
Moyer said that many pieces of a nurturing ecosystem are already in place in the region, including effective programming offered by regional accelerator Propel ICT, incubators, contests, and knowledgeable mentorship.
“When we started talking about this fund about three years ago, people wondered if there would be enough good companies to invest in. We said, ‘They’ll be there,’ and they are. Now, we’re looking at more investments.”
Moyer relishes helping early-stage companies, believing it’s at the early stage that he can add the most value. For years, he’s been known as the guy who gets his hands dirty at the GrowthWorks Atlantic fund in Halifax.
He’s known for being skeptical about most ideas, but once he’s on board he’s a champion for his companies.
He’s a Launch36 mentor and he serves on the board of eight portfolio companies, five in Newfoundland.
“Early stage companies need help at the strategic level,” he said. “Interesting decisions are made at this stage, such as who will the company’s clients be? How should the product be priced?
“Small seed companies have one or two founders and maybe one or two employees who may not be able to help with these decisions. It’s important CEOs can talk to someone who’s seen and experienced a lot more than the team.”
Moyer joined Growthworks Atlantic 11 years ago as a controller. He had gained a CMA designation and was finishing an MBA at Saint Mary’s University. He did his Bachelor of Commerce at Dalhousie.
He instantly felt at home in the startup world, where he was able to use his talent for out-of-the-box thinking.
Now, he said he and the team at the new fund are committed to “growing companies to the point where we have a vibrant economy.”
It’s a theme that’s also big at his home: Moyer recently became engaged to Gillian McCrae, currently vice-president of Propel ICT.
“We met at a Propel selection camp. We got in a fight during our first meeting,” he said with a grin. “It’s all startups all the time in our house.”
Halifax-based Build Venture accounted for $1.5 million of the round.
Moncton-based Fiddlehead said it will use the money to increase its development and data analytics team, and to expand the sales efforts led by its co-founders David Baxter and Shawn Carver.
“Forecasting has often been more art than science,” said Baxter, the company president, in a statement. “But with our prescriptive analytics, we can go beyond simply measuring forecast accuracy to offer data-driven recommendations to improve performance. That leads directly to more accurate demand forecasts, allowing companies to lower inventory, improve service levels and boost margins.“
Carver and Baxter are two veterans of the New Brunswick tech community who teamed up in 2012 to launch a data analytics company. They eventually settled on the food and beverage industry, and partnered with McCain Foods Ltd. to help with the development of Fiddlehead’s flagship product, Forecast Guardian. Forecasting demand is essential to food producers to make sure they don’t waste product that doesn’t sell, and to ensure they’re not penalized by retailers for having insufficient stock.
Forecast Guardian works with a food producer’s existing budgeting and operations software, layering over it to analyze factors that the company may have previously overlooked. It analyzes data on such factors as weather patterns, economic conditions and holidays to more accurately predict the demand for specific types of food.
In an interview, Baxter said Fiddlehead and McCain are now “coming out of the co-creation initiative” that has validated that the product. Now they plan to work with other food producers to install the system and ensure they can use it to predict demand in their specific markets.
He added that he and Carver will personally be leading the sales effort initially because they understand the product and are the best people to work with new clients on optimizing performance.
“As co-founders, we need to understand and be close to our customers and we need to help them understand what they should focus on to create value,” he said. “Once we understand exactly what that sales process is, then we can look at expanding the sales staff.”
Fiddlehead is the tenth investment for Build Ventures, and Partner Rob Barbara said the firm was attracted to the company because of the strength of the founding team and the size of the market.
“It’s a massive market,” he said in an interview. “There are 4,600 food and beverage manufacturers in North America alone that would benefit significantly from Fiddlehead’s platform. “
He added: “But the No. 1 reason is the team. Shawn and David are not just really experienced and smart but followed a wonderful business approach and are a pleasure to work with.”
Briefs: V4C, Masitek, Volta, TSX
The 2016 Venture for Canada Cohort
Venture for Canada unveils cohort
After receiving a record 1670 applications, Venture for Canada has announced its 2016 cohort of fellows, awarded to students representing 22 universities from across the country.
The group received twice the number of applications from a year earlier. This year’s applicants were vetted through a four-step process involving a written application, video interview, phone interview, and in-person Fellow Selection Day, where applicants went through an intense 10-hour series of interviews.
The new group of fellows includes a diverse mix of Canada’s best and brightest talent, coming from a variety of educational backgrounds and institutions. They include a Vancouver native who is graduating as valedictorian of an Ivy League university, an alumnus of The Next 36, and the 2016 HSBC Woman Leader of Tomorrow for Central Canada.
“We continue to be impressed by the high calibre of applicants and the many diverse ways they have been preparing for this opportunity,” said Scott Stirrett, Venture for Canada’s Executive Director. “They are inspired and committed to learning everything they can about startups.”
MMAAZZ launches advanced sensor tech
MMAAZZ Technology, a division of Moncton-based Masitek Instruments, has released its new advanced sensor technology, designed to transform how the packaging industry detects and prevents damage in the production process.
The result of two years of client consultation, the technology release is a complete overhaul of the sensor technology that drives the company’s products. ShockQC, PressureQC and VerticalQC are acrylic replicas of packaging containers that are placed in client’s production lines to generate real-time sensor data. The sensors measure variables in the production process such as shock or pressure which cause product damage and costly downtime.
In addition to a vastly enhanced sampling rate and Bluetooth beacons, the new sensors are enabled with a direct calculation of IPS (Inches per second) velocity measurement as well as Scuff Index, a revolutionary new indicator for the packaging industry.
“One of the most significant accomplishments of this release is the new Scuff Index,” MMAAZZ EVP of Global Business Development Pablo Asiron said in a statement. “Scuffing was identified as a significant problem as it reduced the recycled-life for returnable bottles and significant aesthetic damage to non-returnable containers. With this release, we offer the first and only sensor with a Scuff Index calculation that quantifies the scuffing that a container is experiencing when processed through the line.”
Volta hackathon set for April 29-May 1
Volta, the Halifax startup house, will hold an open hackathon April 29-May 1. Following on the success of the Global Game Jam in January, Volta is now hosting a hackathon at which participants can make anything – hardware, software, games, whatever.
The winner of the 48-hour event will take home $1,000, and tickets ($5 for individuals and $10 for teams) are available here.
Rather than have judges, the participants at the event will vote on the winner.
TSX Ignite set from Halifax
The Toronto Stock Exchange will hold TSX Ignite at the Marriot Harbourfront in Halifax on May 10. It is a free half-day conference that will focus on how to build and fund great businesses.
The speakers will include: Gregory Phipps, Managing Director, Investment, Innovacorp; Patrick Keefe, Partner, Build Ventures; Gillian McCrae, Vice-President and EIR, Propel ICT; Steve Nicolle, Board Member and Former CEO, STI Technologies Ltd.; Steven Uster, Co-Founder and CEO, Fundthrough; Som Seif, President and CEO, Purpose Investment; Brad Langille, President and CEO, GoGold Resources Inc.; and Frederic Ors, Acting CEO, Immunovaccine Inc.
The panel discussions will deal with such issues as transitioning from startup to a successful company, preparing to raise money and funding options that entrepreneurs are probably ignoring.
There is no charge for the event but seating is limited. Tickets are available here.
Hacking Health Launches in Halifax tonight
Hacking Health, a movement that encourages innovation in healthcare, will hold its first Halifax cafe and chapter launch this evening at 5 pm at the IWK Goldbloom Pavillion.
Luc Sirois, founder of Hacking Health, will attend the meeting as guest speaker.
This is the first in a series of cafes and workshops leading up to a healthcare-focused hackathon in November.
The organizers said 120 people have already signed up to attend the event, which aims to connect health professionals with developers, designers and innovators. The signup form can be found here.
Google Invites PACTA, Knowledgehook
The PACTA team.
Google has invited two up-and-coming Canadian startups – Waterloo-based EdTech company Knowledgehook and Halifax-based contract management startup PACTA – to pitch at its annual Demo Day next month in Silicon Valley.
They are the only Canadian companies to pitch to investors and respected judges at the event at the Google Headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., on May 4. In total, 11 companies from the U.S., Canada and Mexico will pitch at the Google Demo Day.When Google held its Demo Day for female-led startups in December, the winner was another Canadian outfit, Bridgit of Kitchener.
“Being invited to pitch by Google shows that our technology is not only cutting edge, it is also solving a real problem for businesses across the globe,” said PACTA Co-Founder and CEO Charlotte Rydlund in a statement. “Companies can dramatically increase their productivity and minimize risk by turning their contracts into smart contracts.”
Knowledgehook has developed new gaming software that analyzes the academic performance of math students. Currently trying to raise more investment, co-founders Travis Ratnam and James Francis will deliver the pitch.
“We’re thrilled to share our software with potential investors,” Ratnam said. “We believe our products will be pivotal in connecting teachers and school boards all over the world with data that identifies what concepts students are struggling with and also provides them with immediate teaching solutions.”
Knowledgehook software analyzes the academic performance of math students in real-time play to recommend to educators alternative teaching practices.
Since March 2015, Knowledgehook software has been used by more than 65,000 students and teachers in math classes throughout Canada and the U.S. The company is currently going through the Rev accelerator at Communitech in Kitchener.
A graduate of the Propel ICT and FounderFuel Accelerators, PACTA has developed software that helps organizations, especially large corporations, manage their vast portfolios of contracts. It tells the organization when an action is needed in each contract, and how external events may impact the company’s contracts.
PACTA was named one of Canada’s Top 25 Up and Coming ICT companies by Branham Group.
“PACTA enables better business relationships and better results and is the future of contract management for businesses everywhere,” said Isak Rydlund, PACTA co-founder and Chief Operating Officer. “We look forward to representing eastern Canada in general, and Montreal and Halifax in particular at Google Demo Day.”
FDA Grants Appili Orphan Drug Status
Kevin Sullivan at the recent ECCMID Conference in Vienna
After growing quietly for several months, Appili Therapeutics Inc. of Halifax announced Tuesday it has received a key U.S. regulatory designation for a drug that treats Clostridium difficile infection, or CDI, in children.
The company said in a statement the Food and Drug Administration has granted orphan drug designation to its drug candidate ATI-1501. This medicine removes the bitter taste from a long-standing drug so that children are more willing to take it, thereby improving its effectiveness.
It is the latest step for a young company that has created excitement in the region’s biotech community. Appili was formed last year when CEO Kevin Sullivan, one of the most experienced biotech execs in the region, partnered with Bloom Burton & Co., a Toronto investment bank specializing in healthcare. Together, they formed a company to identify promising drug candidates and take them to development, including ATI-1501.
“In just three months, we received orphan drug designation from the FDA,” said Sullivan in a statement. “Having this quick turnaround is an indication of the high quality of the regulatory team we have built, and an important step on our path to becoming the first company to offer an approved treatment for C. difficile designed specifically for children affected by this serious infection.”
Sullivan came to Halifax in 2013 as CEO of the drug discovery company DeNovaMed after spending 10 years (including four as COO) with London, Ont.-based Viron Therapeutics Inc., which was developing a cardiovascular drug. The company raised more than $35 million in equity and non-dilutive capital and took its lead product through Phase 2 trials.
Last year, Sullivan left DeNovaMed and linked up with Brian Bloom and Jolyon Burton, who he’d known for years. They agreed to launch a company targeting treatments for infectious diseases and Appili was born. The company is in the process of closing a round of seed financing and is developing two drug candidates: ATI-1501 for CDI, and ATI-1503, an antibiotic that could fight deadly infections such as Klebsiella pneumonia. Appili has hired six PhDs and plans to hire another three in the coming month. Seven of them will be based in Halifax.
Appili applied for and quickly received orphan drug status for the first drug. The designation grants the company reduced FDA application and administration fees, tax credits for clinical research in the U.S. and seven years of marketing exclusivity. The company hopes to take its CDI drug into clinical trials next year.
The FDA granted the application because CDI is one of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s most urgent antibiotic-resistant bacterial threats. It affects more than 500,000 Canadians and Americans each year and causes 29,000 deaths annually.
A drug called Metronidazole has been used to treat the condition since the 1970s, but kids don’t want to take it because of its dreadful taste. Like something out of Mary Poppins, API-1501 masks the bitter taste making children more likely to take their medicine.
“We teamed up with formulation experts to reformulate and taste-mask the bitterness of Metronidazole,” Sullivan said in an email from Amsterdam, where he is attending a conference. “This orphan application is one of the first steps in our regulatory strategy, which will take the product into human clinical testing and subsequently to approval.”
Dal Launches $100K Competition
Entrepreneurs with new ideas are invited to apply for Dalhousie University’s third annual $100K Competition, part of the university’s LaunchPad Accelerator.
The $100K Competition is one of several Launch Dal initiatives organized by the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship. The contest is modelled after the $100k competition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It’s the entry point for Launch Dal’s on-campus LaunchPad Accelerator which runs at The Collider from mid-May to mid-July. Anyone interested in the program can apply here until April 29.
The 10 top finalists receive $10,000 each in non-dilutive funds through the competition and are accepted into the LaunchPad.
“We started Dal's on-campus LaunchPad Accelerator in 2014, largely driven by the early successes of teams like Spring Loaded Technology, Analyze Re, and Sage Mixology, participants in the initial Starting Lean course in 2012,” said Professor Mary Kilfoil in an email.
“We see our role as feeding the entrepreneurial pipeline in the ecosystem, and helping to fill a need in the market where university-based early-stage startups are still developing their go-to-market strategy.”
The LaunchPad Accelerator is an accredited eight-week Canadian university accelerator program for early-stage startups that have validated their business model and achieved some market traction.
The accelerator brings together mentors, venture capitalists, and serial entrepreneurs. It provides prototyping capacity and other discounted services to help the early-stage ventures better enter the market.
The programming is modelled on that offered through the REV program at Communitech in Kitchener, Ont.
Kira Awards Finalists Announced
The organizers of the Kira Awards have announced the finalists for the awards, which are presented annually to members of New Brunswick’s knowledge industry.
In a statement, the organizers said the awards, which will be presented at a gala in Fredericton on May 5, are focusing this year on innovation and entrepreneurship.
“In business we know that ‘knowledge’ is a fundamental component of how we operate,” Heather MacLean, 2016 KIRA Awards Co-Chair, said in the statement. “As the KIRA Awards mature, it only makes sense for us to recognize that we need to celebrate innovation and all that it brings to our province, region and country as a whole. We are fortunate to have tremendous world class talent right here at home.”
•Cities of Saint John, Fredericton, and Moncton, Service NB, Department of Public Safety, and Ambulance NB
•Horizon Health Network - NB Telestroke
•New Brunswick Cancer Network Dr. Kumar
Swift Labs Partners with Miovision
Swift Labs, an end-to-end wireless product design and development company, has struck a partnership with Miovision to design, develop and test products to improve traffic flows in modern cities.
The two Waterloo Region companies issued a statement today saying they would collaborate on hardware products put forth by Miovision for Smart Cities across North America.
Having recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, Miovision has grown into a leading traffic platform provider, with 650 customers in 50 countries.
It recently issued a request for proposals for a patented design, and in responding Swift Labs produced a fully functional prototype in seven weeks that Miovision CEO Kurtis McBride described as stretching “the laws of physics, beyond what we thought was possible.” It led to the two companies forming the partnership.
“We believe in promoting and working with local entrepreneurs where possible,” said McBride in the statement. “Swift Labs is an expert in design, having the skills to bring concepts with strict parameters into a truly innovative and technically sound product—all of which will comply with international regulations.”
After a successful product design and several testing engagements, Miovision invited Swift Labs to partner on future products, said the statement.
Under the partnership, the two companies will design, test and certify products at an accelerated rate. They said it means cities worldwide will have access to leading technology to upgrade their systems to help manage traffic flow, decrease traffic congestion and manage technical upgrades in a timely and efficient manner.
“I believe in Kurtis McBride’s vision for smart cities,” said Swift Labs CEO Anthony Middleton. “With that mindset, I didn’t hesitate to work closely with Miovision during the RFP process to better understand the use case, the process and the road map. Our partnership naturally evolved as Swift Labs product designs hit the mark at a strategic level as well as fit into today’s requirements.”
CARIS To Be Acquired by Teledyne
CARIS, a Fredericton company that has developed over 37 years into a leading producer of marine mapping software, has agreed to be acquired by Teledyne Technologies Inc. for an undisclosed price.
The companies said in a statement that the deal is expected to close by the end of June. In joining Teledyne’s digital imaging segment, CARIS will remain in Fredericton and expand its advanced software solutions and support for a wide range of products.
Based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Teledyne Technologies makes a range of technology, including sophisticated instrumentation, digital imaging products and software, aerospace and defense electronics, and engineered systems. The company has a market capitalization of US$3 billion, and its sales last year were US$2.3 billion.
In buying CARIS, it is buying one of the world’s leading providers of software for underwater mapping.
“By providing powerful data processing, mapping and geospatial imaging software, CARIS ideally complements both our marine instrumentation and digital imaging businesses,” said Teledyne Chairman, President and Chief Executive Robert Mehrabian in the statement. “CARIS immediately extends our marine capabilities, advancing the delivery of imaging and information from Teledyne’s broad portfolio of marine sensors and systems. Furthermore, we believe that CARIS will help Teledyne further improve our software and real-time processing tools across our sonar and bathymetric and topographic LIDAR businesses.”
CARIS began in 1979 when University of New Brunswick Professor Salem Masry was approached to advise a client on digital mapping software. The company until now has remained a family-owned business based in Fredericton, with offices in the Netherlands, U.S., U.K. and Australia. Some 140 people work at its 50,000-square-foot Fredericton headquarters.
“The combination of CARIS with Teledyne is a positive development for the company’s owners, employees, and customers,” said Masry. “I am pleased to see CARIS continue its name and operations, including its presence in Fredericton, the Netherlands, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, while offering employees additional opportunities for collaboration and advancement across Teledyne.”
Taylor Wins Sea++ Competition
Lawrence Taylor, centre, poses with Louisbourg Seafoods owners Lori and Jim Kennedy.
Dartmouth marine biologist Lawrence Taylor won first place in the Sea++ Competition on Sunday for an automated visual inspection system that can improve efficiency and data analytics for seafood producers.
Sea++ was organized by Louisbourg Seafoods as means to bring in tech experts to help a traditional industry improve its productivity. The idea was that startups or researchers have ideas and understand technologies that can help established businesses compete better. It launched the competition in February with the goal of finding innovators who can solve seafood industry problems, and the winners were announced on Sunday in Sydney.
The Cape Breton seafood company offered a first prize of $5,000, which Taylor claimed for his work in using imaging technology in seafood plants to help generate and analyze data on various species of seafood. The system can help retailers and restaurants authenticate the origin of the fish, and tell producers important information about the fish they are harvesting. That information is especially important given the sparse funding available for research.
“A big element of it is just having your hands on the data,” said Taylor in an interview. “That’s a huge challenge because when they do have the money to do the research the sample size (of the fish being monitored) is always small.”
Taylor’s company NovaSpectrum places imaging equipment in the seafood processing plants, and scans fish as they move along the conveyor belt. It can classify the size of the product. And using different frequencies of light, such as infrared, it can tell such qualities as fat content, which can reveal a lot about the fish’s feeding habits. NovaSpectrum will retain the intellectual property for the system.
Taylor said the technology can be used to efficiently gather data in experimental fisheries such as whelk or sea cucumber. Such data can be critical in gaining approval from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in harvesting new species.
In the coming months, Taylor will assess the market for his technology and work on a minimum viable product. And he will continue to work with Louisbourg Seafoods. Manager Glen Fewer said in an interview the company has an optical sorter at its shrimp plant in North Sydney, and it could be used to test Taylor’s software.
Fewer said the company is looking forward to talking further with several of the entrants. These include Wendy Muise and Allyson White of Scotchtown Labs, who won the $2,000 second prize for a marketing strategy for the company. It also includes Susan Beaton, whose crate coolers to assist in shipping live lobster won the $1,000 third prize.
Fewer, a marine biologist and a judge in one of the early knockout rounds of Sea++, said the competition grew more intense in the final phase. He added that it allowed the company to connect with a range of innovative people whom it otherwise would have never met.
“It was something that we didn’t have a guide or a model for and we kind of made it up as we went along,” said Fewer. “But I can honestly say that the quality of the applicants was at such a high level that it exceeded expectations.”
Lux Tests New Crowdfunding Rules
Terry Norman: 'It's a technology that has a lot of potential to really change the industry.'
Halifax-based Lux Wind Turbines wants to revolutionize the wind energy industry. But its first big impact may be in the way equity crowdfunding is carried out in Canada.
The company has launched a campaign to raise between $500,000 and $800,000, which would fund the test project for its new form of wind turbine. The campaign is worth examining because it involves several different regulatory frameworks and could be a model for future campaigns.
What’s more, Lux Wind is the first company ever to raise money using a crowdfunding framework recently approved by the Ontario Securities Commission and other provincial regulators.
If the crowdfunding and trials are successful, Lux Wind believes its turbine can solve one of the problems bedeviling the wind energy industry – economic feasibility. These turbines can be constructed and installed at least 40 percent cheaper than conventional wind turbines, and that means that they could be used profitably without government subsidies.
“It’s a technology that has a lot of potential to really change the industry,” said CEO Terry Norman in an interview. “It’s a Canadian design, has Canadian entrepreneurs behind it and it’s a chance for us to show the world what we can do.”
Norman is a veteran of the Nova Scotian wind industry and says the reason traditional wind turbines are so expensive is so much of the machinery is high in the air, difficult to install and maintain. And the structure has to turn to face the wind.
Designed by Saskatoon-based engineer Glen Lux, the Lux two-megawatt turbine looks like an eggbeater with six blades that catch the wind and whir around a vertical axis, regardless of which way the wind is blowing.
Norman said the design – which won an award from a division of NASA two years ago – cuts the manufacturing and installation costs by at least 40 percent, and that means these turbines could generate electricity profitably in any jurisdiction.
Norman has decided to crowdfund the test product on the FrontFundr platform, and in doing so is entering uncharted waters in crowdfunding in the country. Equity crowdfunding – or the sale of investments to a broad range of people over the internet – is regulated in Canada by provincial security commissions, so there is a patchwork of regulation.
Ontario and a few other provinces (including Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) recently approved what’s known as “the crowdfunding exemption” to existing security rules. It allows any investor to invest as much as $2,500 in a campaign. Lux is the first Canadian company to launch a crowdfunding campaign using the crowdfunding exemption.
However, this exemption has only been approved by five provinces. Retail investors in British Columbia and Saskatchewan can invest in the campaign through the more restrictive “startup exemption.” They can invest up to $1,500.
Accredited investors – which is what regulators call rich people – from any province can invest as much as they like.
And within Nova Scotia, Lux Wind is raising money through a Community Economic Development Investment Fund, or Cedif. Nova Scotia retail investors qualify for an equity tax credit under the scheme.
Prior to the crowdfunding campaign, Lux Wind already raised about $90,000 from family and friends.
One of the interesting things about the crowdfunding campaign is that retail investors should end up with a majority stake, as the company is selling off as much as 78 percent of the equity. Norman said there will be more fundraising efforts in the future, which will undoubtedly dilute early investors, but for now he feels it best that the company have a diverse base of shareholders.
He also said there is a lot of interest in the crowdfunding community in Canada about the outcome of the Lux campaign. This sort of layered approach, in which the rules apply according to the province, may be a model other issuers in the country adopt. And the wind industry, of course, will be watching the development of the Lux turbines.
“The large turbine manufacturers won’t want to see the thing because they have a lot of money invested in the [current system],” he said. “But this is really going to change the industry.”
Jobs of the Week: Startup Zone, HealthQR
This week in Jobs of the Week, we are featuring three positions in the marketing, managerial, and software categories.
Startup Zone out of Charlottetown, is looking for an Executive Director, while Halifax-based HealthQR is seeking a Marketing Coordinator, and McKenzie College of Moncton wants a Software Tester Instructor.
Startup Zone is a new incubator launching in Prince Edward Island with the goal of connecting start-ups in the region and forming a community of support around them.
HealthQR is an early stage startup and the developer of an app that helps patients manage their prescriptions.
McKenzie College of Art and Design is a liberal arts college.
Our Jobs of the Week column features positions that are currently available on the Entrevestor Job Board. Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Entrevestor Job Board which helps match job openings and candidates within the tech and start-up communities.
Startup Zone is looking to hire an Executive Director for its Charlottetown office. The Executive Director is responsible for general management and operations of the centre, program development, community events and outreach, marketing and communications, financial management, and fundraising. Qualifications for the position are a Bachelors Degree and two to five years’ experience in a similar role. Desired skills include program development, partnership development, event management, marketing, communication, problem solving, community outreach, management, and Google applications.
HealthQR is looking for a Marketing Coordinator to maintain the reputation, credibility, and visibility of its brand among customers. Candidates should be motivated individuals who are capable of working with tight deadlines and multiple projects. Responsibilities for the position include customer service, social media presence, coordinating materials inventory, sales support, training support, website management, and attendance of conferences and trade shows. Qualifications for this position include a minimum of five years’ experience working with a target-driven marketing team, evidence of successful implementation of a marketing plan, and experience in marketing mobile technology. HealthQR is looking for candidates with a post-secondary education in business, marketing, public relations or a related field, Photoshop proficiency, and project management training.
McKenzie College is in need of an instructor to deliver courses in software testing, computer programming, test execution, and all related content. Responsibilities of this position include the quality delivery of assigned courses, maintaining a positive learning environment, ensuring academic integrity, tracking daily attendance, and grading tests, labs, assignments, and exams. Qualifications include a college degree or diploma in Information Technology or a Bachelors in Computer Science, five to 10 years’ experience in a software development role, and experience using C++ and Python.
Sustane Aims to Open Facility in 2017
Peter Vinall: The validation of winning I-3 is more important than the money.
A disruptive technology that eliminates the need for landfills will soon be operational on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, according to Peter Vinall, CEO of Chester-based Sustane Technologies Inc.
Sustane has developed technology that allows solid waste destined for landfills to be made into clean and valuable products such as fuel pellets.
The Sustane facility to be built near the Chester landfill at Kaizer Meadow will divert over 90 per cent of material away from the landfill.
Vinall said the Sustane technology is unlike other techniques that create biomass from waste because it lowers contamination by plastics to a negligible 0.1 percent.
Such a low point of contamination means the products have commercial value.
“This is the first technology that can take raw garbage destined for landfill and separate it into clean products,” said Vinall, who has worked around the world in the bio-energy and pulp and paper industries.
The Sustane core technology was developed by the company’s second co-founder and chief technology officer Javier De La Fuente of Spain.
Vinall and De La Fuente met three years ago. “I was looking for something like this and what he was doing was amazing. When we combined this with a new cleaning idea we had the complete solution….” Vinall said.
The pair founded Sustane in 2014 with chief financial officer Robert Richardson, an accountant and businessman.
Work on the $15 million Chester plant will begin this spring.
When it’s completed in the third quarter of next year, the plant will employ 20-25 people in a 24-7 operation.
Vinall said Chester should be able to close its landfill within a few years. Initially, the landfill will be needed to bury a sand-glass grit waste, equal to 5-10 per cent of current waste. In the future, a use such as road construction may be found for it.
He said the plant will produce no pollution. “It’s a benign process. Our process does not use combustion but rather steam cooking.”
The fuel pellets produced will be sold for power generation, while plastics and metals will be recycled. Some of the plastic will be converted to oil that will be used to run the plant.
The company sees an opportunity to build a total of three plants in Nova Scotia to deal with almost all landfilled garbage. That would make Nova Scotia a world leader in recycling. Sustane is also talking to other communities in Canada and the U.S.
The company has proven its technology with funding from Innovacorp and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
To get the plant built, Sustane is securing a further $15 million. “Some federal money is available, and we are securing both debt and equity investors,” Vinall said.
Vinall said he’s learned a lot about being an entrepreneur.
“It’s been month to month surviving at times,” he said. “But we’ve proven the technology and raised enough money.”
He said the technology offers environmental benefits and saves cities money on landfilling.
“Our facility in Chester will be equivalent to taking 17,000 cars off the road in terms of greenhouse gas impact and will also prevent the possibility of contaminants leaching from landfill into groundwater.”
Eliminating landfill slashes the production of the greenhouse gas methane.
“Animals and landfill are the two main sources globally of methane, each accounting for about a third of the total,” he said.
“Organic material rots and gives off methane, which is 25 times as bad as CO2 when it comes to warming.
“I remember from my days growing up on a dairy farm near Melbourne, Australia that cows belch a lot of methane.”
Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.
Ubique Lands $2M, Preps for Series A
Vijai Karthigesu: Ending lagtime in online gaming.
Serial entrepreneur Vijai Karthigesu considers himself a citizen of the world, and the latest location he’s developing a business in is Sydney.
The native of Sri Lanka last year founded his fourth business, Ubique Networks Inc., based it in the Cape Breton city and has ambitious growth plans.
Ubique — pronounced U-bi-quay, it’s the Latin word for “everywhere” — has developed technology that significantly reduces the lag time in online communications, especially in multi-player online games.
Karthigesu, who is based in Toronto, came up with the idea for Ubique because he has a background working with telecom service providers like Rogers and Bell. He noticed that there is a huge problem with multi-player online games: when players in different parts of the world are playing one another, the system is much faster for the player closest to the server, giving that player an unfair advantage.
“We came up with an idea that will fix the Internet or end this frustration to make the technology better,” said Karthigesu in an interview Tuesday.
“We looked at gaming industry online, which is struggling with the lag and is a very big industry — it’s a big pain for this industry.”
The gaming industry is now worth $15 billion, and more than 700 million people around the world play multiplayer online games or are engaged in e-sports. Ubique said the numbers are growing.
Ubique’s solution is to develop a network of remote servers, so the players are always playing on a server based roughly equal distances from each of them.
It now has servers in Toronto, Seattle and Chicago and is growing the network.
As he was developing plans for the company, he spoke with Jim Deleskie, the CEO of Sydney-based Mimir Networks (formerly Heimdall Networks), who suggested Ubique consider Cape Breton as its base. Karthigesu checked out Sydney and was impressed with the coding talent and support from the community and government programs.
So the company and its five-member development team are now based in Sydney, though the sales team is in Toronto.
Ubique was listed as a regional finalist for Innovacorp’s recent I-3 competition, but had to leave the race once it became apparent that Innvoacorp was considering in equity investment in the startup.
Ubique has so far tested the product and plans in the next three months to roll it out with consumers. The goal in the next year is to prove the product can generate revenue and use that to come up with a larger funding round to grow internationally.
“Our plan is to prove the revenue model and go to the second round of financing to help us go global,” said Karthigesu. “In 12 to 18 months, we hope to be a global company with global customers using the product.”
Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.
Mike Kirkup to Leave Velocity
Mike Kirkup is moving on.
The director of Velocity, the University of Waterloo’s technology incubator, said in an open letter on Tuesday that he is leaving to become the CTO at Kitchener-based Encircle.
“After four years of working to make it the best place in the world to build a startup, the time has come for me to go help a startup become the best in the world,” said Kirkup in the letter. "I truly love the team we have built at Velocity and will miss working with them every day."
Kirkup will head the technology team of Encircle, which will soon move out of the Velocity facility but remain in the Communitech Hub. Encircle provides real-time documentation and collaboration software for the Property/Casualty insurance industry.
Under Kirkup’s leadership, Velocity has grown into the largest free accelerator/incubator in North America.
Velocity is based in the Communitech hub, where it has recently expanded to encompass a total work space of 36,711 square feet. At the end of 2015, the incubator had the capacity for about 74 to 76 companies at any one time. With the recent expansion, the capacity has risen to 120 companies.
An alumnus of the University of Waterloo and the region’s most successful startup, Research in Motion (now BlackBerry), Kirkup has been the director of Velocity since 2011. As of late 2015, a total of 163 companies entered Velocity during Kirkup’s tenure, and more than 40 have graduated from the program.
Graduates include such companies as the chat service Kik, Thalmic Labs, whose Myo armband lets users wirelessly control technology through gestures and motion, and Vidyard, whose platform helps marketers use video to reach their audience. As well as finding clients, the companies have been darlings of venture capital investors. Kik has raised a total of US$120.5 million, Vidyard US$60.7 million and Thalmic Labs US$14.5 million.
Velocity said last year that its graduates had raised a total of $250 million (valued with the Canadian dollar at par to the US dollar). Velocity also helps to fund early stage companies by contributing seed capital totaling $400,000 each year to the best prospects.
Remembering the Radian6 Exit
Chris Ramsey: 'There has definitely been an increase in entrepreneurship.'
For Marcel LeBrun, it was like winning the Stanley Cup.
“Just like hockey players who work all their lives toward that goal of winning the Stanley Cup, entrepreneurs work very hard to build a startup into a successful business,” said LeBrun, reflecting on the landmark exit of the company he co-founded, Radian6. “We felt like we won the Stanley Cup of tech entrepreneurship. It is also a great feeling to achieve this together with a team of people you really enjoy working with every day.”
The exit of Radian6, which was announced five years ago last week, on March 30, 2011, transformed the landscape across Atlantic Canada in startups and technology. LeBrun’s company sold to Salesforce.com of San Francisco for US$276 million in cash and US$50 million in stock. Certainly there have been larger Atlantic Canadian deals -- only seven months after the Radian6 exit to Salesforce.com, Q1 Labs, originally of Fredericton, sold to IBM for an estimated US$500 million. And Ocean Nutrition Canada of Dartmouth sold out to Royal DSM for $540 million in 2012. But it was the Radian6 deal that changed the startup ecosystem for good.
The deal rewarded a group of angels, who reinvested in other companies. It allowed an early institutional investor to invest more in New Brunswick. It helped to finance the regional accelerator Propel ICT. It drew other tech entrepreneurs into the startup field and it established Salesforce.com on Canada’s east coast.
“The exit resulted in getting the fastest growing software company in the world, Salesforce.com, to set up shop here in New Brunswick,” said LeBrun. “That is huge. This is the most innovative and fastest growing company in tech and software. How do you attract a company like that?
Only through an acquisition. They are an important presence here, creating leading edge-jobs, contributing to economic growth, investing in charitable causes, and developing top tech and business talent which is very important to our future growth.”
Founded by LeBrun, Chris Newton and Chris Ramsey in 2006, Fredericton-based Radian6 quickly established itself as the pre-eminent company in the world for monitoring and analyzing social media. Its technology monitored hundreds of millions of conversations every day across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and online communities, delivering insights in real-time. The company was profitable by 2009, and it was used by half of the Fortune 500, including Dell, GE, Kodak, Molson Coors, Pepsico, and UPS. Radian6 employed 350 people in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia when the deal closed.
The sale of Radian6 became a windfall for many Atlantic Canadian investors in the company. For example, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation turned two investments in Radian6 totalling $326,973 into an investment return of $9.25 million. The money has helped support investments in numerous companies since then.
“Since the acquisition, there has definitely been an increase in entrepreneurship in the form of new incubators and many, many new startups,” said Ramsey.
“Many of those startups are doing well, some doing very well. It’s a numbers game. Many will burn out, a few will make it, and a few of those will become leaders in their industries, big enough to make it all worth it. The ones that don’t make it, they will graduate new, skilled people who will hopefully go on to create or join new startups, and the ecosystem will continue to grow.”
The next Facebook, Google or Amazon can be created and built in Atlantic Canada, Ramsey added.
Best of all, the company continued to grow in Atlantic Canada as part of Salesforce. A year later, Salesforce.com did another Atlantic Canadian deal, buying GoInstant of Halifax, reportedly for more than $70 million.
“An exit isn’t an event where we lose a local company to the U.S.,” said LeBrun. “Rather, it is an event where we gain a new company from the U.S. This brings in more outside capital and a lot of spin off benefits. Also, you often see employees from the start-up eventually spinning-out to start new ventures of their own. It has a generational effect.”
He said the Atlantic region has a huge potential but needs more talent.
“The potential is always infinite,” said LeBrun. “There is no better time in history to be innovating and solving our world’s most important problems. With the internet, cloud computing, mobile technology, the internet of things, big data, and the world of socially connected consumers, the opportunities are boundless and easier to address than ever before. I also love the growth of impact-minded entrepreneurs - those who are not just looking to maximize shareholder value but also looking to improve our communities and our environment. It is a great time to be an entrepreneur. The global market potential is incredible and it is entirely accessible from any location. All that is needed is execution.”
According to the Information and Communications Technology Council of Canada, ICT sector growth in Atlantic Canada has surged since the Radian6 deal. New Brunswick saw its sector grow more than 8 percent since the deal while the ICT industry in Nova Scotia grew 8.3 per cent in 2014 alone. Prince Edward Island is one of only four Canadian provinces to experience positive ICT GDP growth each year since 2011.
“It has grown tremendously thanks to the effort of many dedicated tech leaders, mentors and investors in our community who choose to contribute their time and energy for the betterment of our region,” said LeBrun. “Just look at the last two cohorts of companies that just came through the Propel ICT programs. The activity level is incredible. Radian6 played just a small part and the credit goes to our region’s mentors, teachers, investors and incubators.”
Propel ICT’s Launch36 accelerator became one of the first resulting activities to follow the Radian6 and Q1 Labs deals. The accelerator in 2011 set a goal to graduate 36 companies within three years. Propel ICT exceeded its goal in 2015 with 49 Atlantic Canadian startups emerging from Propel’s Launch36 accelerator in 33 months.
“The potential is to hit over 200 startups per year in the total ICT ecosystem,” said Gerry Pond, one of Radian6’s early investors. As well as being a driving force behind Propel ICT, Pond and several other investors in Radian6 have created East Valley Ventures, which has invested in more than 30 startups in the past five years, all but one in the Maritimes.
“We have to keep in mind there is a high turnover rate of 30 to 40 percent after five years in operation,” said Pond. “This is a normal condition in healthy ecosystems globally. However we should see a couple more Radian6s or Q1 Labs by 2020. I’m personally out on the far end of that, predicting a $1 billion exit by 2019 from Atlantic Canada.”
He added that Propel ICT now operates in all four Atlantic Provinces and graduated 33 companies in 2015 alone.
“Propel ICT now serves all four provinces and the next cohort’s two streams received 162 applicants by February 2016,” said Pond. “I estimate this is about a five times growth factor in the last five years.”
Propel ICT’s success is one example of how the Radian6 exit impacted the region, he added. “It put New Brunswick and the Maritimes on the map as a credible centre for ICT startups in new tech fields,” said Pond.
The former head of New Brunswick Telecom said he remembers the Radian6 exit well, and that it put millions of dollars in circulation for startups, the ecosystem and tax revenue.
“It was rewarding on two fronts,” said Pond. “I was part of a team that built $400 million of value in just five years in New Brunswick with New Brunswick founders and a New Brunswick management team. It returned on my investment 23 times, a record rate of return in the millions for me and other angel investors.”
And as for LeBrun himself, he spent almost five years with Salesforce as Senior Vice-President of Tech & Product Marketing Cloud. He left the company in September, 2015, and now describes himself as a tech and social impact entrepreneur.
“It is a rare and special accomplishment that we will always enjoy looking back on,” he said, reflecting on Radian6. “However, an exit isn’t the final goal of business. It is a step along the way. It was important for us to continue to work to see that the company was successful, now as part of Salesforce.com, and to ensure that we built a great reputation in the region for having created lasting value.”
Mark Taylor, a verteran journalist and entrepreneur, is the owner of Fredericton-based Delora Media.
Wave of New Startups in 2015
Daniella Degrace: Her company Gemba contributed to the surge of new companies.
Tanya Collier MacDonald in many ways exemplifies what was happening in the Atlantic Canadian startup community in 2015.
She entered (and did well in) a competition. She worked with an accelerator outside the region. And she gained traction with her product. But above all, she launched a tech company. That’s worth noting because strong company formation was one of the hallmarks of the East Coast startup community in 2015.
“Orenda is developing its platform and heading into the commercialization phase,” said Collier MacDonald of the company, which produces social media analysis technology that analyzes in real-time the overall reputation of an organization, usually a medium to large enterprise. “And we’ve formed one partnership with a national company.”
Orenda was part of a wave of company launches across Atlantic Canada in 2015. In our preliminary tally, Entrevestor has counted a total of 355 startups in Atlantic Canada as of Dec. 31 2015 – an increase of 24 percent over a year earlier. The big reason for the increase is that we’ve counted 93 companies that formed last year, with the heaviest concentration in the IT sector.
In compiling the Entrevestor Databank for 2015, we really strove to make sure we cast a wide net (with a fine mesh) over the region to capture as many startups as possible. We refused to compromise on our definition of a startup: each has to be a locally owned company that is developing a product for the global market from proprietary technology. It can’t be a service company. At least one founder has to be in Atlantic Canada.
We’re now in the process of surveying these companies, and next quarter we’ll give more data on such areas as revenue, funding and employment. For now, we’re presenting our initial findings on the composition of the startup community, and the big news of 2015 was company formation.
Calculating company formation is always tricky. Consider this: In the autumn of 2014, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation received 62 entries for its Breakthru competition, which targets the hottest new startups in the province. A year later, Innovacorp in Nova Scotia received 188 applications for its I-3 Technology Startup Competition. And the regional accelerator Propel ICT took 33 companies through its 2015 cohort, and then received 162 applications for its first cohort of 2016.
So how do we end up with only 93 new startups in 2015?
The answer is that there is high attrition in startup teams. Within the selection process, these organizations weed out people who are thinking about starting a business, but decide against it for various reasons. And as the accepted teams go through the programs, several drop by the wayside. Last year there was considerable attrition within the Propel Launch program.
So our 93 startups are those that were “active” as of Dec. 31 – which means the teams are working diligently on moving their companies forward. They include some – but not all -- of the regional finalists from the I-3 event. They also include all of the first 2016 Propel cohort, because those teams were all active enough to pass the Propel selection camp early in the year.
Our list of companies launched in 2015 ranges from teams working on an idea part-time to those in accelerators to those incubating at universities to a company like Saint John-based Gemba Software Solutions, which launched with a $1.5 million investment in September. Gemba was spun out of Saint John-based Innovatia. The new 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. At its launch, it received $1.5 million in funding from NBIF and Innovatia.
“The money is helping us to actually develop the market,” said Gemba's CEO Daniella Degrace. “We are using the money to help us expand the sales capability and to continue to develop our product.”
Most of the 93 rookie startups – including Orenda and Gemba – are in the IT space. A full 73 new tech startups entered the databank -- or 78 percent of the total startups founded in 2015. That’s an even larger weighting in IT than you’d expect, as IT accounts for just two-thirds of the broader Atlantic Canadian startup community.
The creation of 93 new startups marks a dramatic increase over the two previous years, when we counted about 60 companies launching each year. We also witnessed a decrease in companies that failed – there were 33 of them in 2015, about half the number a year earlier. (There was also a handful of companies that exited, left the region or became service companies, thus leaving our databank.)
There are a few interesting notes about our tally on new companies throughout the region. There is stronger company formation in both Newfoundland and Labrador (12 new companies) and Prince Edward Island (seven new companies) than we witnessed previously.
And the buzzing startup community in Cape Breton continued to launch new companies without losing many to attrition. Even though a high proportion of its companies are pre-revenue and have not received equity investments, there have been relatively few teams that left the arena. Some 10 new companies have formed, all in IT.
Meanwhile, the IT sector is undergoing slower growth in Halifax.
With 128 in total, Halifax is home to more than one-third of the total startups in the region, and it accounted for about one-third of the startups that launched in 2015. But the 18 new IT companies that sprouted up in Halifax last year amounted to just 54 percent of the new companies in the city. That confirms the impression held by several observers that there has been a deceleration in the formation of tech startups recently in Halifax.
On the other hand there were 10 new life science companies formed in Halifax. They were companies like Covina BioMedical, founded by Dalhousie University researchers Caitlin Pierlot and Brett Dickey. The company (formerly known as Biofix) won the 2015 BioInnovation Challenge, which searches for the top new life sciences company in the region.
Covina is developing a new bone cement to be used in the treatment of orthopedic patients. The new product is a non-toxic glass ionomer cement that would simplify the procedure for treating broken bones in such patients.
The formation of new companies is good news for the startup community. It brings new life to the grouping of startups in the region and shows that Atlantic Canada has the intellectual capacity to develop new marketable ideas. But it also strains capacity. One question that UNB’s Shukla asks is: how will all these new companies be funded in the future?
“Unless we see some exits, we might not see fresh money coming in,” he said. “The next few years will have to result in something more exciting in terms of exits. If not, [the result will be] pressure for companies to go looking for capital elsewhere.”
Our Latest Intelligence Report Is Out
We’re delighted today to launch our spring Entrevestor Intelligence report on Atlantic Canada, which focuses the growth of new startups, and the deal that sparked the startup craze in the region.
As we’re reporting today, this supplement shows that Atlantic Canada saw a surge in company formation in 2015. By our count, there were 93 new startups launched last year. That boosted the entire number of startups in the region to 355 – an increase of 24 percent over the year before. Check out the tremendous infographic by our artist, Roxanna Boers.
These are, of course, preliminary numbers and we will refine them as we develop the databank. (To help us, we’d ask all Atlantic Canadian startups to take two to three minutes and complete our latest survey.)
The cover story of the Entrevestor Intelligence report looks back at the deal that sparked the mania for startups in the region – the exit of Radian6. We just passed the fifth anniversary of this landmark deal, and Mark Taylor talks with the main players in the company, asking them what the deal meant.
In other articles, we look at a key crowdfunding campaign that is being watched across the country, and the new national Natural Products incubator that is headquartered in Prince Edward Island. Gerard Buckley, the Founding Partner of Jaguar Capital, weighs in with advice on structuring boards of directors or advisers to ensure maximum performance.
You can download the report here, and hard copies will be available soon in startup hubs around the region. This is the twelfth Entrevestor Intelligence we've put out in Atlantic Canada, and please also check out the report we put out on the booming tech community in Kitchener-Waterloo.
Huddle: Aho Calls for Tech Advances
Former Finnish Prime Minister Esko Aho (Photo by Huddle)
Former Finnish Prime Minister Esko Aho called on New Brunswick companies last week to capitalize on the second industrial revolution to prosper in the digital age.
Huddle reported on Esko Aho’s speech in Moncton, and you can read the full report here.
Venn Innovation invited Aho to the region because Finland has developed into one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world, and he provided essential leadership as prime minister in transforming the country’s economy. He had advice on how provinces in Eastern Canada can follow this example.
In his speech, Aho pointed to the book The Second Machine Age, by MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. “The first machine age made it possible for mankind to cross the border of physical power of human beings and animals. But the next phase is going to be based on the second machine age making it possible to go beyond the limits of our brain power. That is going to happen now.”
Velocity Fund Rewards 7 Startups
The Velocity Fund on Thursday presented a total of $125,000 in seed funding to seven companies whose products range from hardware that can diffuse landmines to an app that eradicates the need for passwords.
Held at the Student Life Centre at the University of Waterloo, the Velocity Fund Finals are held three times a year to find and reward the best young companies coming out of the university. The Velocity Fund hands out about $400,000 a year to help develop startups affiliated with the university.
“The Velocity Fund has enabled the growth of more than 75 companies in Waterloo region, by awarding over $1.5 million in funding,” said Mike Kirkup, director of Velocity, the university’s incubator. “It is a testament to the University of Waterloo’s entrepreneurial culture to see so many incredible companies today, and we look forward to having them join our community of startups at the Velocity Garage.”
The four $25,000 winners announced on Thursday in the 15th finals were:
Fiix – This company’s popular app connects consumers with car mechanics so they can arrange repairs at their home or office. The users simply go online to state what they need and they get a quote. They agree to a job at a fixed price – often 20 to 50 percent cheaper than usual – and the mechanic comes to the customer. Fiix is now live and did $15,000 in business in its 12th week. The company says the market is huge – worth $150 billion in the U.S. alone.
Landmine Boys – This team of students has built a new robot to diffuse landmines to avoid human or environmental harm. There are now 100 million landmines in the ground in 70 countries and disposal teams can only get rid of them by blowing them up. It can be lethal and harms the environment. Landmine Boys’ device can work on any landmine and reduce the time to dispose of it from six hours to 15 seconds. The compan has the support of all the major landmine organizations.
Okey – This mobile app gets rid of passwords by using smartphones to log into computers instantly. As long as the phone is near the computer, the desired site opens instantly through the app, which protects the user with military-grade encryption. It works the second the computer is turned on. Okey is starting with Apple products and the company retained 86 percent of the customers who downloaded the app in its first week.
Pegasus Aeronautics – This team of engineers is developing advanced hybrid powertrains to extend the time that drones can stay in the air. Drones are unmatched for industrial inspections but the problem is flight time. Pegasus has developed a safe hybrid power source can extend 15 mins of flying time to two hours. The product can be retrofitted on to existing drones. It is gearing up for a limited release with five companies and preparing for a full launch within three months. Pegasus was the top hardware company, meaning it took home an additional $10,000 in funding.
The Velocity Fund each semester also presents $5,000 each to three early-stage startups. The winners on Thursday were AVRO Life Science, Moocow Unicycles, and Gamelynx, which was selected by the audience for the People’s Choice award.
Job of the Week: Fiddlehead Technology
This week in Job of the Week, we are featuring a position with Fiddlehead Technology, which is seeking a principal software engineer on the Entrevestor Job Board.
Fiddlehead Technology is based in Moncton and focuses on using Big Data to better manage the food and beverage industry supply chain. Its technology helps global food and beverage manufacturers make better forecasting decisions. It wants to reduce the 2.4 billion kilograms of food that are wasted in supply chains each year in Canada alone.
Our Jobs of the Week column features positions available on the Entrevestor Job Board. Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Entrevestor Job Board, which helps job openings and candidates within the tech and start-up communities.
Fiddlehead Technology is seeking a principal software engineer to fill a vacancy at its Moncton office. The company is looking for a technically adept and experienced individual with understanding of API development, statistics, SaaS, back-end and middleware development, data-science, supply chain management, NoSQL, and Java. Applicants are expected to have three years’ experience in a similar role. The compensation includes a competitive salary, stock options, and health benefits. The company is offering the successful candidate the opportunity to have a big impact on a small team and be well rewarded for it.
Briefs: Kinduct, SimplyCast, V4C
ACOA Funds Venture for Canada Program
Top university graduates from across Nova Scotia in June will begin two-year paid fellowships at some of the province’s most promising emerging and early-stage startups. The Government of Canada on Friday announced a $45,450 contribution to enable Venture for Canada to create the infrastructure needed to place six fellows at venture-backed Nova Scotian companies. The non-repayable contribution comes through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program.
A new Nova Scotia Program Director will work to close a gap between startups and post-secondary institutions by matching top university graduates with cutting-edge, homegrown organizations in the ICT, oceantech, cleantech and life sciences sectors. Through a fellowship program, companies will gain access to the talent and energy they need to thrive, and graduates will gain the experience, mentorship and networking opportunities they need to become the innovative entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
After receiving nearly 1,700 applications, Venture for Canada is confident of the very high quality of graduate talent that will be made available to the startup companies.
Kinduct Joins RBC Training Ground
Kinduct Technologies, provider of innovative data collection and analysis software, is partnering with the Canadian Olympic Foundation in supporting a new talent identification program called RBC Training Ground. The program is a series of regional combine events designed to help Canadian sport officials uncover athletes with Olympic podium potential. A collaborative effort between RBC, CBC, the Canadian Olympic Foundation and the Canadian Olympic Committee, RBC Training Ground was hosted in Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and Halifax in 2016.
At RBC Training Ground, athletes perform a set of workouts that measure speed, power, strength and endurance. Using performance benchmarks provided by high-performance officials from various national sport organizations, Kinduct Technologies can collect and analyze these young athletes’ results, and ultimately determine if they exhibit Olympic-level fitness potential.
SimplyCast Launches Hands-Free
SimplyCast, a leader in marketing automation, has announced the launch of its new service: Hands-Free.
Hands-Free is a new initiative of SimplyCast where the team’s collective knowledge will be used to create and manage marketing campaigns for clients. Essentially with Hands-Free, a client can sign up and SimplyCast will create, manage, and report on any and all marketing campaigns done in the SimplyCast 360 platform for that organization.
Hands-Free will allow companies to harness the power of marketing automation and offer more to their customers without needing to learn how to operate the technology. This is ideal for businesses that may not have the staff or resources to use marketing automation themselves.
“This new service is something we’re really looking forward to,” said President and CEO Saeed El-Darahali. “It’s a great way for us to put our knowledge of automation to work for clients and help them expand their reach easily and effectively.”
The funding announcement was one of two announced by Innovacorp on Thursday. The venture capital fund also said it provided half of a $1 million funding-raising round by Halifax-based SkySquirrel Technologies, which uses drones to assess the health of crops, especially vineyards.
The statement did not reveal how much money Ubique raised but the deal is still an interesting one for two reasons. First, it’s Extreme Venture Partners’ first investment in Atlantic Canada that we’re aware of, part of a mild wave of VC money coming into the region from Toronto. Second, Ubique appears to be the first of the one- or two-year-old IT startups in Cape Breton that has attracted private VC investment.
“We see a huge potential in the dynamic optimization technology developed by Ubique,” Ray Sharma, executive managing partner of Extreme, said in a statement. “There are more than 700 million people around the world playing multiplayer online games or engaged in e-sports and the numbers are growing.”
In multiplayer online gaming, one of the key problems is the lag caused by network congestion, and by the distance between the players and the game servers. Ubique has developed a platform called Swarmio, which drastically reduces lag through “dynamic optimization of game servers”.
Swarmio also hosts an intelligent lobby system for multiplayer and e-sports games.
“The multiplayer online games and the e-sports sectors are growing rapidly but both the publishers and the gamers want drastic reduction in lag, and that is what we are providing,” said Ubique Founder and CEO Vijai Karthigesu. “This funding will enable us to build out our user base, increase our production output and meet our global customer demands.”
“This investment will let us ramp up to launch the next-generation of our product before the current year’s growing season is in full swing,” said SkySquirrel Co-Founder and CEO Richard Van der Put. “We’ll also be able to hit the gas on pursuing new customers in the U.S. and Europe."
The company’s initial focus is on the $85-billion global wine market. SkySquirrel’s flagship product is helping commercial vineyards improve crop yields and reduce costs, tackling stubborn viruses such as leafroll disease and flavescence doree, where often the only solution for an affected crop is to tear out the infected vines before the disease spreads to the entire field.
“SkySquirrel has developed an outstanding aerial imaging solution for the high-value wine industry, and the technology has tremendous potential for other agricultural markets as well,” said Andrew Ray, investment manager for IT at Innovacorp. “We’re proud to back this strong team and technology.”
Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.
Entrepreneurs3.0 Shuts Down
After a quarter-century of helping Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurs3.0 is closing down.
The non-profit organization formerly known as Entrepreneurs’ Forum announced Thursday that its board has decided to cease operations due to financial constraints.
Entrepreneurs’ Forum was probably best known for its mentorship dinners, in which a select group of mentors would have a meal with an entrepreneurial team and work through their challenges. They often led to long-standing relationships. As Entrepreneurs3.0, or E3, the organization enhanced its programing to include access-to-capital missions that helped startups travel to Toronto to meet with potential investors.
“We had an amazing run,” said CEO Kathleen Rayworth in an interview. “We helped over 2,500 entrepreneurs over the years. And this year was our best year in terms of performance. There obviously is a need for this service in the ecosystem.”
Rayworth said there is approved funding in place for part of the E3 programing, especially the access-to-capital missions. She is in talks with groups that she hopes will take it over.
The most recent access-to-capital mission was held in February in Toronto. Six companies from New Brunswick and two from P.E.I. took part, participating in more than 50 meetings. An E3 report said the missions are gaining a favorable reputation, not only among Atlantic Canadian startups but also among investors in Toronto.
The organization surveyed 40 clients that it assisted in 2015 and received 17 responses. These companies’ employment levels from their first E3 session to the survey increased 20 percent to a total of 60 people, and their revenues increased 51 percent to $793,900. The 17 respondents raised a total of $600,000 in 2015.
The report also said 96 percent of the respondents said they could not have found the assistance they received from E3 elsewhere.
“E3 has had numerous successes over the years such as building a network of over 2000 advisors, working with over 2000 entrepreneurs to grow their enterprises, advancing business, partnerships and strategic networking in a variety of ways,” the organization said in a note to supporters Thursday. “By doing so, we have helped to accelerate the regional economy for over two decades. 2015-2016's results were in fact our best, showing e3's importance across Atlantic Canada.”
One Immigrant Entrepreneur’s Story
Akram Al-otumi: The founder of multiple businesses is in two Masters programs
With his focus on entrepreneurship, new technologies and immigration, Akram Al-otumi is working hard to grow the population and economy of Nova Scotia, his adopted home.
Halifax-based Al-otumi is a Co-Founder of 3D Next, which he set up in 2012 with Montreal-based Michael Groenendyk. The partners sell and install Tinkerine DittoPro 3D printers and train buyers to use the technology.
Al-otumi’s many community contributions include founding the Azal Student Agency for international students and newcomers, and the Enactus Nova Scotia Alumni Network, which helps students use entrepreneurship for social good.
“I have a big interest in immigration,” he said. “It’s crucial to retain and attract youth to grow our economy.”
His commitment to the cause has been recognized numerous times. His accolades include Provincial Representative and HRM Volunteer Awards. He was also named a 21 Inc. Leader for the 21st century, and a Top 25 Immigrant in Canada by the Royal Bank of Canada.
As an immigrant himself, Al-otumi understands the complexities of adjusting to a new place and culture.
He came to Halifax in 2007 having grown up in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. He was attracted to Halifax because of the universities, the legendary friendliness of the people, and the fact it is a sea-side province.
“I came to Nova Scotia when I was 19,” he said. “I worked. I was very social. I did my best to integrate, to understand the culture. It wasn’t easy, but after a few years I felt at home.”
After studying English, he received a Bachelor of Commerce from Dalhousie University in 2012. At Dalhousie, he also gained an Entrepreneurial Skills Program Certificate and an Intercultural Communication Certificate.
He wants others to benefit from his experience.
He sits on diverse professional boards, including the board of Fusion Halifax, the board of 21inc and the Sub-Committee on Population, Immigration and Retention with the OneNS Coalition.
Fusion Halifax is the largest networking association for young professionals in the city with more than 2,000 members and outreach to more than 10,000 people.
At Fusion Halifax, Al-otumi is the Director of the Entrepreneurship Action Team with responsibility for entrepreneurial programming and events. He works closely with universities, innovation incubators and accelerator programs across Nova Scotia.
Previously, at Fusion, he was Director of the Immigration and Diversity Action Team where he helped organize the first annual Career, Education and Settlement Fair, an Immigrant Entrepreneur Showcase and Career Spark.
It’s not easy to fit all this activity around his work and studies, especially as he is currently working toward two Masters Degrees.
“I work 14 hours a day, but my schoolwork is almost done. That’s a relief,” he said with a grin.
Rather than look forward to relaxing, he is working on a new platform to facilitate import and export trade between Canada and the world.
“I want to simplify the process to help people import and export easily,” he said.
“The system is difficult. There are long waiting times while banks and other parties notify each other. There’s a lot of wasted time and costs. I’m developing an online platform that will allow the process to be managed in a systematic manner.”
He said that competing platforms exist, but that the others tend to focus on either supply chain management or import and export matchmaking whereas his will facilitate the entire export and import processes.
“We will make things faster and more efficient,” he said.
“Now that Nova Scotia is home I want all the best for it. My vision is to grow my Nova Scotia startups and take them to the world.”
Eyeball for Tournaments, Leagues
Eyeball Inc., the Bedford company that’s developed an online network for amateur sports, has launched a new web-based platform for league and tournament organizers.
The company said in a statement today it has formed a partnership with the 2016 SEDMHA Honda Minor Hockey Tournament, a 240-plus-team event that will use the new platform.
Founded by tech vets Jay Steele and Shaun Johansen, Eyeball has developed a social network that allows people to follow minor sports teams. The company found a strong market among sports teams in the Halifax area. That led to a $1 million investment from publicly traded Clearwater Fine Foods Inc. late last year and additional funding from a handful of angel investors.
“The SEDMHA Honda Tournament is the perfect opportunity for us to launch our web platform,” said CEO Steele in the statement. “We initially developed this app so that it could be a venue to assist with the coordination of youth sports, but it’s also a place for communicating important information, and celebrating achievements in sport. The web platform will help bring this type of engagement to the next level and allow us to reach a new set of users.”
Held in the Halifax area, the four-day SEDMHA Tournament is one of the largest in North America, comprising 18 different ice surfaces, more than 500 games and more than 5,000 players and coaches.
The new Eyeball platform will allow tournament and league organizers to upload their complete schedules, rosters, and information in a few simple steps.
The company said the clean design of the web platform lets visitors quickly find when and where their next game is. In addition, the platform still offers users the ability to network and communicate on mobile devices.
“Eyeball’s platform is ideal for streamlining communication and fostering tournament engagement,” said Wayne MacDonald, chairman of the SEDMHA Honda Tournament.
“Eyeball will assist the SEDMHA coaches, parents and players with everything from showcasing division brackets, coordinating carpooling and tracking stats, among countless other details.”
Steele and Johansen have previously launched and sold two startups. During the original dot-com boom in the mid- to late-1990s, they teamed up to launch Plazmic, an early mobile venture that they ended up selling to Research in Motion. A few years later, they started another mobile startup called Viigo. And again they sold it to RIM.
MediaSpark Crowdfunds Card Games
Interviewing MediaSpark CEO Mathew Georghiou about his new Kickstarter campaign is a surprising experience. You start talking about the crowdfunding of his new board game and end up hearing about his growing portfolio of high-growth businesses.
Here’s the news we set off discussing: Sydney-based MediaSpark has launched a crowdfunding campaign for two table-top card games under its GoVenture brand. The games are called Entrepreneur and Monster Hunter. The company hopes to raise $5,000 in a campaign for the games, which will be available in September.
Beyond that, Georghiou revealed the exciting things happening at other businesses he heads under the MediaSpark umbrella. The massive multi-player online business education game GoVenture World, which he has been working on for years, will begin its initial tests soon. MediaSpark is in discussions with universities and community colleges about awarding credits for students who play GoVenture World, which simulates the actual business world.
And Georghiou is now raising capital for Lokol.me, the hyper-local news site that is now a hit in Cape Breton. The site received 650,000 unique visits in 10 months. He is seeking about $500,000 in funding for Lokol.me.
Georghiou and a staff of 17 are now developing these products from the Sydney headquarters, and right now their focus is mainly on the crowdfunding campaign for the card games.
“We’ve been developing games for many years — all of our products are educational, though,” said Georghiou in an interview. “We wanted to try something that was more consumer-focused and not necessarily focused on education. Of course, every game is educational in some way.”
When it thought of a consumer card game, MediaSpark gravitated naturally to entrepreneurship, the subject of GoVenture World. So it came up with Entrepreneur, a game in which players have to sell a product.
But the team also wanted something that was completely different, so it came up with a companion game on a similar format, Monster Hunter, in which the players buy the weapons needed to hunt monsters.
Georghiou said it’s a common strategy for table-top games to crowdfund in pairs and then to consider marketing the two games separately in the future based on the feedback gained from the campaign.
“One curious stat is that on Kickstarter the table top games category has more funding than the video game category,” said Georghiou. “Crowdfunding has actually created a bit of resurgence in table top gaming. There are a lot of successes. Of course, there are a lot of failures as well . . . . It’s a very large market and a lot of competition.”
A few days into the campaign, Georghiou said the feedback has already led to a few possible changes in the product, such as in the design of the cards.
The 2015 Entrevestor Survey
Today we are launching our annual survey of Atlantic Canadian startups -- a key component in allowing us to provide you with news on the East Coast startup community.
We're asking each Atlantic Canadian startup that was active in December 2015 to complete this confidential survey for the good of Entrevestor and the community it reports on. If you believe, as we do, that Entrevestor helps in the development of the Atlantic Canadian startup community, this is your chance to support us. Just as PBS has its funding drives, Entrevestor has its annual data campaign. We're not asking for money. Our only ask is that you take three minutes to fill out our 23-question survey.
There are two reasons why you should take the time to do so. First, our data gives all of us a greater understanding of what is happening in the startup community. We publish aggregated data (never data from individual companies) in our quarterly Entrevestor Intelligence reports, so everyone can understand what is happening in the startup world. This is a rare benefit for a startup community of our size. We also produce a 40- to 50-page report that we sell to interested parties. These include government departments, accelerators, venture capital funds and regulators. This means decision-makers gain an understanding of the community, which leads to better programs.
The second reason to participate is our databank allows us to continue reporting on what you do. It's no secret that monetizing news is difficult. There's a market for our data. When you complete our survey, you're helping us to stick around. It's like a crowdfunding campaign -- only it costs you no money and helps us to improve our product.
We are looking for companies that meet three criteria:
- They must be locally owned;
- They must be commercializing proprietary technology;
- And they must be producing at least one product for the global market.
Age is insignificant. We have a couple of companies that date back to the 1990s. We're interested in new companies, but we want active teams that are actually developing their product and business. It's got to be beyond the idea stage.
We have collected a list of 355 companies in Atlantic Canada that meet our criteria. We'll be contacting them by email next week. It would be great if you could complete the survey now and save us the trouble of bothering you. Remember, everything you tell us will be absolutely confidential. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Peter at 902 401 2048 or email@example.com.
Many thanks in advance,
Peter and Carol Moreira
AVF Seeks Presenting Startups
Atlantic Venture Forum, an investor conference that showcases startups on the Canadian East Coast, is looking for founders to present at this year’s event June 22 and 23 at the Westin Nova Scotian in Halifax.
Applications to present at the event close tomorrow and can be found here.
Now in its fourth year, the AVF each year has allowed more than 20 companies to present before the audience, which includes a range of investors from outside the region.
The conference features two streams of presenters – early-stage and growth-stage – and chooses the best pitch from each. Last year, PACTA of Halifax won the early stage category, while the winner among the growth stage companies was HotSpot Parking of Fredericton.
Critical Path Group, the company organizing the Atlantic Venture Forum, said the investors attending the event this year for the first time include Clete Brewer, Managing Partner of NewRoad Capital Partners, Greg Smith, Chief Investment Officer of Timia Capital and Marcus Daniels, Founder of CEO of HIGHLINE, to name a few.
The keynote speakers this year will be Ted Graham, Innovation Leader at PwC Canada, Russell Tencer, Co-Founder and CEO at United Wind and Michael Katchen, Founder and CEO at Wealthsimple Financial Inc.
Disclosure: Peter Moreira is a member of the AVF Industry Advisory Board, a voluntary position.
IWT: Scaling Remote Water Treatment
Patrick Kiely: 'The world's first mobile solar-powered water treatment plants.'
There are two big things Patrick Kiely hopes his company Island Water Technologies will accomplish in 2016: one he is certain will happen, and the other he hopes will happen.
Montague, P.E.I.-based Island Water Technologies, which uses its unique technologies to treat wastewater in small communities or outlying areas, is now working with three distributors to sell its ClearPod product across Canada. Kiely, the company’s CEO, is certain sales of ClearPod — a small device that is dropped into a septic tank to restore performance of failing systems — will increase through the year.
What he hopes will happen this year is the first installation of the company’s larger and newer product.
“I hope the highlight of 2016 will be the installation of one or two of the world’s first mobile solar-powered water treatment plants — one in New Brunswick and one in North Africa,” said Kiely in an interview last week. “Now that’s an optimistic goal, but it’s what we’re working toward.”
Until this month, Island Water Technologies and ClearPod were two separate companies with Kiely being a key shareholder in both. ClearPod produced its product for septic tank owners, and Island Water Technologies was pioneering a solar-powered water treatment facility for small communities.
The company has received funding from Innovacorp (secured because it has based all of its product testing and validation in Truro), various angels and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. ClearPod and Island Water Technologies have just merged under the Island Water Technologies name and have enough funding for about the next 18 months.
The enlarged company is now selling ClearPod through distributors in British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia, and is looking at lining up sales agreements in the United States in the Carolinas, Georgia and Texas.
“We’re really eager to drive the sales in Canada, and we’re also looking at select states in the U.S.,” said Kiely. “The challenge for us is to find distributors who can sell the product. It’s very difficult to sell anything involving septic tanks to homeowners unless they are recommended by people who work with septic systems — so tank manufacturers, pumpers, installers.”
Meanwhile, the company has been working with the Cycle Capital and Dalhousie on solar-powered water treatment facilities, and is enhancing the product by making it mobile. What that means is they can be driven to remote locations, such as outlying communities or mine sites, where there is no — or limited — electricity, and treat the water.
Kiely said the first two markets for the product will be the military and the mining industry. He is interested in using the facilities for disaster relief, but agencies working in that field want to know the technology is 100 percent proven before they use it. They’ll be later adopters, he hopes.
Kiely cautions that a lot of things would have to fall into place for the mobile units to be in operation this year. He’s more confident they can be operational in 2017.
“In reality we’re looking at 12 to 18 months from now, and it’s looking pretty good,” he said.
David Wagner can also teach them the importance of luck and timing, and that sometimes they go against you.
For almost 10 years until October 2015, Wagner was President and CEO of Fredericton-based Atlantic Hydrogen Inc., a company that developed the CarbonSaver technology that removes carbon from natural gas and produces a low CO2 hydrogen.
Under his leadership, AHI raised $50 million from private and public sources including Emera, Shell, Encana, and federal and provincial governments.
But the company ran out of money and declared voluntary bankruptcy last September.
For Wagner and the other staff it’s been tough accepting that conclusion, although most have now found new work in the Fredericton area.
“It was difficult through the bankruptcy process, the liquidation of assets, seeing the company dismantled,” Wagner said. “Everything we’d built over 14 years is gone.
“I’m proud of all we did at AHI. We didn’t fail, we just ran out of money. We raised $50 million over my 10 years and we spent $50 million. Some have said we could have expected to spend $100 million when developing game-changing technology.”
Wagner said the experience has highlighted the importance of providing startups with continuing funds as they develop.
He said the company’s fund-raising efforts were hampered by the downturn in the energy sector, and New Brunswick’s recent change of government.
“We got caught in a funnel of downward motion … ” he said. “… The new government’s timing to decide and our ability to hang on didn’t equate.”
He said it took 10 years to get to the stage of commercial development, but without sustained money they couldn’t finish the job.
“People see you’re a 10-year-old startup with no revenue, and they wonder why.
“At AHI we had a lot of success. We wouldn’t have got where we did without the support of our 47 shareholders and government at all levels.
“But when a company gets to a certain point you’re old news. People wonder, do I keep putting money into that company or put investment somewhere else?”
Wagner, who was raised in Cape Breton, had an international career with Unisys Corporation, including six years as the CEO of Unisys Canada.
He said Canada should increase its investments in innovation and the commercialization of university research.
“Government has a role to play in the very early stages when the risk is high. You can’t expect private investors to take all that risk. They can get burned — either the companies don’t work or they get diluted by later rounds of financing.”
Red tape is a problem, he said.
“Currently, the bureaucracy involved in getting and maintaining funding make it hard to explain that what you said three years ago in your proposal has changed and you now need to do something differently to meet market demands.”
The San Francisco-based group announced last week that it has named a group of “well-connected ambassadors” in major Canadian cities who can identify and engage the most promising startups in their region.
Comprised largely of Canadians working in the tech community in Northern California, C100 helps Canadian startups with introductions, mentoring and regular events. Its most popular event is 48 Hours in the Valley, in which select startups spend a couple of days at programs in Silicon Valley. (C100 is now looking for applications for the next 48 Hours in the Valley in June.)
“C100 has historically done an excellent job of selecting quality startups for their annual programs,” Harley Finkelstein, C100 Board Member and COO of Shopify, said in a statement. “However, being headquartered in San Francisco, we have relied on our partners to recommend companies. We’re excited to launch the Ambassador Program as an opportunity to activate C100 members in Canada, who can effectively analyze and refer the most impressive companies within their regions.”
In Atlantic Canada, the C100 ambassador is Jevon MacDonald, who was the Co-Founder and CEO of GoInstant Inc., which was acquired by Salesforce.com in 2012. He is also a Co-Founder of Startup North.
The C100 ambassador in Waterloo Region is Stephen Lake, the Founder and CEO of Thalmic Labs. Lake and his co-founders were named EY Ontario’s Entrepreneur of the Year in the Young Entrepreneur category in 2015.
The other ambassadors are:
- Aydin Mirzaee, Ottawa, Co-Founder of Fluidware.
- Dan Debow, Toronto, entrepreneur and angel investor. Most recently, he was SVP, Emerging Technologies at Salesforce.
- Matt Switzer, Vancouver, Senior Vice President, Labs, Corporate & Business Development at Hootsuite.
- And, Dax Dasilva, Montreal, CEO of Lightspeed.
Jobs of the Week: NewAE, Sentinel
This week in Jobs of the Week, we are featuring three positions from the Entrevestor Job Board that feature development and content marketing skills.
NewAE Technology of Halifax is looking for a software development programmer. DPL is looking for a content marketing specialist in Moncton, and Sentinel Alert of St. John’s is looking for a senior full stack developer to work remotely from anywhere in Canada.
NewAE Technology develops open-source hardware and software solutions for performing security analysis of embedded computer systems.
DPL is a data-management company out based out of Moncton.
Sentinel Alert is an early stage start-up that uses advanced mathematics to avoid workplace accidents.
Our Jobs of the Week column features positions available on the Entrevestor Job Board. Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Entrevestor Job Board, which helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities.
NewAE Technology is looking for a software development programmer to fit in with its small company culture, which would occasionally mean performing tasks that are not specifically listed in the position’s job description. Responsibilities of this position include design and implementation of Python application for data capture, design, and implementation of embedded firmware in C/C++, research of security analysis techniques, supervision of students and interns, and management of related open-source projects. Desired qualifications include a PhD in VLSI, microelectronics or similar field, 10 or more years of C++ on larger structured projects, four or more years’ experience with Python for desktop/server, and a working knowledge of assembly language on microcontroller and microprocessors.
DPL is looking to fill a position with roles in management, and the writing/creation of online content for YouTube, Facebook, and blogs including training and content videos. Responsibilities include content writing, video production and editing, working with media channels, and administering marketing campaigns. Desired skills include email marketing, CMS, Hootsuite, Storyboarding, SEO, lighting, video editing, and video production. There are no educational requirements and all employees receive five weeks’ vacation.
St. John’s-based Sentinel Alert is looking for an energetic and enthusiastic engineer to work with their four-person development team on managing and fine-tuning the back-end infrastructure, database, communications protocols, front-end websites, and web apps. Responsibilities for the Senior Full-Stack Developer include participation in design, development and maintenance of database, web, and mobile solutions, as well as improving user experience through user interface, widgets and visualizations. Qualifications for the position include five-plus years’ experience working on end-to-end enterprise grade software, expert knowledge of PHP, MYSQL, architecting APIs, experience, familiar with emerging trends in web technologies and frameworks, and a bachelor’s degree or diploma in computer science, computer engineering and/or relevant work experience.
Coke’s New Model for Innovation
Corporate and statup communities should embrace a new collaborative model for innovation that will hasten the next wave of technology, Coca-Cola Co.’s head of innovation told a Fredericton audience Wednesday night.
David Butler told the R3 Gala that corporations and startups operate in dramatically different environments. So the best way for established businesses to nurture startups and benefit from their pioneering mentality is to contract them to solve problems.
Butler, the Vice-President of Innovation at the Atlanta-based beverage giant, calls the process a “co-creation system” and said Coke is now using it to solve big problems. The company simply tells startup communities about a big problem it’s having and lets the geeks come up with a solution. The result is often a new business that can solve similar problems for a range of companies, and Coke becomes the first client, brings the startup on to its Founders’ Platform and offers seed investment.
“Think about the assets you have in your company,” Butler told the business people in the audience. “Now think of what would happen to local entrepreneurs with a co-creation system. Think of how big it could be.”
Butler was the keynote speaker at the dinner, hosted by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, which honoured the work of three practical researchers in New Brunswick whose efforts were improving the province’s economy.
Butler said the ecosystems for startups and traditional corporations are as different as a coral reef and desert. And corporations can try to innovate by acquiring startups, setting up accelerators or acting like startups. But such efforts would be as disastrous as expecting fish from a coral reef to thrive in a desert.
“It’s not that it just doesn’t work -- it’s that the models are flawed,” said Butler. “So we tried to come up with a new model, one that we think will be responsible for the next wave of innovation.”
He cited examples in the U.S., Australia and Vietnam in which Coke had told tech entrepreneurs about their problems and the result was a new startups. For example, Coke wanted to know more about when to stock vending machines and what to put in them. Sydney-based Hivery, which is offering predictive analytics to a range of food companies, is now on the Founders’ Platform.
The focus of the R3 dinner was on the pioneering work of three researchers:
- Liuchen Chang is an expert in renewable energy conversion and systems. He has developed ways for energy to flow from small sources on to the grid, rather than just having the grid just deliver electricity from big plants. Chang's research has allowed a variety of different types of energy sources to be added to the grid at varying voltages.
- Alain Doucet has worked with several small and medium-sized businesses to develop a variety of innovations. For example, he and his team developed a “plug and play” type of adapter for Leading Edge Geomatics’ aircraft that allows them to exchange a range of highly sophisticated aerial surveying equipment. Before that, the company was required to have a separate aircraft for every configuration – just to meet Transport Canada certification. Now it has a permanent, certified mounting system that fits all of its equipment.
- Amber Garber of the Huntsman Marine Science Centre has developed a selective breeding program for salmon. Her salmon broodstock have a higher growth rate and are resistant to sea lice and bacterial kidney disease. Sea lice resistance reduces the need to bathe the fish in peroxide, which makes the fish stop eating for at least a week. Bacterial kidney disease resistance significantly reduces the need to use antibiotics.
5 Thoughts on the New Volta CEO
On Monday, Volta Labs announced that Jesse Rodgers will be the new CEO of the Halifax incubator for tech companies. Rodgers will be moving from Waterloo Region to fill the position next month.
Here are five thoughts on the appointment of the former director of the incubator/accelerators at the Universities of Waterloo and Toronto:
1. The pool of mentorship in Atlantic Canada instantly increases. Rodgers was a founding director at both Waterloo’s Velocity and Toronto’s Creative Destruction Lab. He’s had an exit. He’s been in both product and business development. And next month he will be head the key startup facility in the region’s largest city. It’s a huge boost for the community given that he has expertise in so many of the key components of a startup ecosystem.
2. Hopefully, the universities will call Rodgers and ask for advice. Though the Atlantic Canadian universities have come a long way in teaching innovation in the past few years, there’s nothing in the region like Velocity or the Creative Destruction Lab. Rogers should have great insights on how to develop programs that convert waves of university startups into high-growth companies. It won’t hurt that the Dalhousie engineering school is right across the street from his office.
3. This hiring further strengthens links between Atlantic Canada and the Toronto-Kitchener-Waterloo corridor. This can’t be emphasized enough. East Coast startups must — they just have to — position themselves more closely to international customers. With the Canadian dollar so weak, it’s excessively expensive to travel to London, New York and San Francisco for prolonged sales calls. But international business does meet Canadian innovation in the tech corridor between Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo. There are really great programs in this area that Atlantic Canadian companies are entering and should do so in greater numbers. And there are vast networks of investors and customers to be tapped. Volta already has strong links to Kitchener-Waterloo, and Rodgers should bolster this connection.
4. Hopefully, Rodgers will bring some needed oomph back to the IT segment in Halifax. Some promising IT companies have formed in the city in the past year or so, but not enough of them. At Entrevestor, we’ve just finished tallying Atlantic Canadian startups, especially new startups, for 2015, and we found that 78 per cent of the new companies in the region are in the IT segment. In Halifax, only 54 per cent of the new companies are in tech. (There was surprising strength in biotech and cleantech in the city last year.) There’s a feeling in Halifax that the tech group needs a shot in the arm — more collaboration, better ideas, bringing back mentors who may have wandered away.
5. I hope the Kitchener-Waterloo influence leaves its mark on Halifax architecture. (Yes, you read that correctly.) In Kitchener, they have done a wonderful job of taking old industrial buildings and repurposing them for tech companies. To name just two examples, the new Google headquarters and the Tannery Hub (where Communitech operates) are marvelous edifices. Rodgers will be the point man on establishing Volta in the Memorial Library. It would be great for the city’s architectural heritage if the Volta team creates a building as dynamic as the Tannery.
It’s a big list, but Rodgers is an interesting hire.
Tory Calls for Innovation Corridor
Mayor John Tory
Toronto Mayor John Tory on Wednesday called for his city and Waterloo Region to work more closely to develop and promote the two cities as a single technology corridor.
Tory made the call during a speech to the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, at which he said the two municipalities will grow a knowledge economy better and more quickly if they work together. Earlier in the day, he and the mayors of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge hosted a roundtable discussion at Communitech on how they can collaborate to improve the ecosystem.
Early next month, these municipal leaders will go to Silicon Valley together to promote the innovation corridor, meet with major technology companies active in Ontario and greet Canadian expats living in the San Francisco area. It’s the beginning of a more coordinated effort at developing a single tech ecosystem in the region.
“The relationship between Toronto and this region is similar to that of San Francisco and Silicon Valley, London and Cambridge and Tel Aviv and Haifa,” said Tory. “Each of those hubs is comprised of two regions no further apart than Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo, one of which is a large urban metropolis and the other home to a renowned institute of higher education.”
In his speech, Tory outlined a plan to promote the Toronto-KW innovation corridor as a globally competitive hub of innovation, on par with San Francisco, London, and Tel Aviv.
This corridor is a special place in the global tech world, he said, because of its diversity, educated population, global network, and quality of life.
And he stressed that all politicians and leaders in the enlarged region have to work together to improve transportation links so that Toronto-KW can truly be considered a single destination.
“The most obvious and immediate area for joint advocacy is to accelerate the flow of people, ideas and goods along the corridor by improving our transit and transportation networks,” said Tory.
“We need to push for improved connections as an economic imperative for our region -- as a competitive imperative. And that means we should have faster and more frequent rail service, commuter flights and access to HOV lanes.”
The two regions are not competing against one another but must work together to compete against the rest of the world, he said. And the story they have to tell is especially timely as the low Canadian dollar makes Toronto-KW an affordable alternative to other hubs.
Aterlo Raises $1M, led by MaRS IAF
Waterloo-based Aterlo Networks Inc. has raised $1 million in venture capital financing to help the company expand sales of its flagship product, Nightshift.
Nightshift allows households with weak internet connections to download high-volume content like videos during off-peak hours and then lets family members watch them at their convenience.
“Aterlo Networks has the opportunity to offer millions of people with small data caps and lower bandwidth in the U.S. and Canada a solution to streaming high definition video,” said Dan Mathers from MaRS IAF in a statement. “Aterlo’s product solves a problems faced by millions of people in both urban and rural environments, which means that there is a high potential for the company to build a scalable business.”
There are about 30 million high-speed internet subscribers in the U.S. who receive less than the 5 Mbps required to stream a single video in high definition, said the company. Aterlo has been providing their solution to these people for a year and half. More than 200 satellite internet dealers are offering Nightshift to their customers.
“Internet subscribers not being able to stream high definition video is a much bigger problem than most people realize,” said Gerrit Nagelhout, CEO of Aterlo Networks. “Their bandwidth is almost high enough to stream it, but it just misses the mark. Streaming just an hour of HD video a day uses 3GB, so many households very quickly collide with their data caps. With 4K video content coming and the desire for several video active video streams, the problem will only get worse.”
Aterlo has incubated in the Google for Entrepreneurs and Communitech’s Rev programs, and is now in residency at the Accelerator Centre as it grows its team.
“NightShift doesn’t interfere with the DRM set in place by the streaming video provider. A valid subscription and active connection to the provider is still required,” said Dan Siemon, VP production management of Aterlo. “We’ve worked very hard to build a solution that is friendly to video streaming providers and doesn’t break DRM or enable copyright violation.”
Halifax’s InNetwork Acquired by gShift
InNetwork, the Halifax marketing startup that helps clients spread their messages through influencers, has been acquired by Barrie, Ont.-based gShift.
GShift announced the all-stock deal in a statement Monday, but declined to place any value on the transaction or say what proportion of the enlarged company will be held by InNetwork shareholders.
GShift was founded in 2009 by Krista LaRiviere and Chris Adams to enhance search engine optimization through big data and predictive analytics. It has now chosen to merge with InNetwork, which uses a network of influencers to help clients amplify their marketing efforts.
“The marketing tech stack is ripe for consolidation as customers are demanding single sign on platforms with integrated functionality,” said InNetwork CEO and Founder Chris Keevill in an email Monday night. “With gShift, together we begin to line up the integrated content marketing functionality of what we are calling Content Performance Cloud.”
Keevill will join the board at gShift and stay on with the enlarged company for a period of time to ensure a smooth transition.
With offices in Halifax and Toronto, InNetwork vets and approves influencers to ensure that they are bona fide opinion leaders. It then uses this network of influencers to help clients with their marketing.
It beta-tested the product with about six Canadian customers in 2014 and has since been working with many more paying customers.
In 2013, InNetwork received seed funding of $250,000 from Innovacorp and $240,000 from a group of angels led by East Valley Ventures Chair Gerry Pond, who became chair of the board. InNetwork had been trying to raise money through Brightspark Ventures of Toronto since last summer, but Keevill said the team “paused the Brightspark round as we got closer to closing this transaction.”
GShift announced the transaction at the MarTech Conference in San Francisco. It said the integration of the two companies’ platforms provides digital agencies and brands with a unique marketing technology suite for planning, optimizing, amplifying and reporting on content marketing strategies and investments.
“Acquiring InNetwork and adding influencer identification and management to gShift’s existing suite of software strengthens the entire content campaign process and helps marketers get their message to target audiences,” said CEO LaRiviere in the statement.
It is the second major transaction in a year for Keevill, who is best known as the CEO of the Halifax marketing firm Colour. Last July, Colour was acquired by the CHR Group, a New York-based network of creative communications agencies, for an undisclosed sum. The deal was designed to help the agency spread into the U.S.
Volta Hires Jesse Rodgers as CEO
Job 1 for Rodgers will be forming a tech hub in the old Memorial Library
The startup house, which offers office space and mentoring to tech statups, has been looking for a CEO since last summer. With the hiring of Rogers, Executive Director Melody Pardoe will become the organization’s Chief Operating Officer.
“We’re entering into our next growth stage at Volta,” Pardoe said. “Jesse will primarily work on executing our growth plans and fundraising.”
A 15-year veteran of the startup world, Rodgers was the founding director of the Velocity incubator at the University of Waterloo and later of the Creative Destructive Lab at the University of Toronto. Rodgers also has startup experience as the co-founder of TribeHR, an HR SaaS company acquired by NetSuite. For the 15 months, he has been the Vice-President of Business Development at Waterloo-based startup Boltmade.
“Jesse brings a unique view of both the customer and the user to the product development at TribeHR,” David Crow, a partner at TheNextPhase mentorship team, wrote of Rodgers in 2012. “He has insight in both how the service offering should be priced (i.e., the economic decision of the purchaser) and around the usage scenario for everyday users.”
Aside from bringing fresh blood and experience to the Volta executive, the hiring of Rodgers strengthens the links between Volta and the burgeoning tech community in the Waterloo Region. Iain Klugman, the CEO of Communitech, already serves on the Volta board.
Rodgers and Pardoe now have the long-term goal of creating a new innovation hub at the old Memorial Library, which has been empty since the new Central Library opened in late 2014. The city staff has recommended that Volta be allowed to occupy the building.
“This is an exciting time for Volta,” said Jevon MacDonald, the chair of the Volta Board. “We’re thankful for the support of our sponsors and local community as we continue to grow our team to serve the ICT community in Nova Scotia and across Atlantic Canada.”
Rodgers’ duties will also include assisting Volta’s resident founders, building on Volta’s community partnerships, expanding its influence in the ICT sector and forging new relationships within the Atlantic Canada business ecosystem.
Volta began three years ago in a smaller location in Halifax, and moved in 2014 to the Maritime Building, where it occupies two floors. The organization said that its resident companies can receive more than $43,000 worth of resources, such as office space, in-house experts, scholarships, Amazon Web Services, travel program discounts and more.
Since 2013, Volta’s 39 resident startups and alumni have raised more than $24.5 million in equity financing.
RevIQ To Double Staff in 2nd Quarter
A new Charlottetown firm that helps game and app developers increase income has tripled its staff in six months and plans to double it again by Canada Day.
As it is now structured, RevIQ is more a service company than a conventional product-based startup, and its nine-member team helps game and app developers use their data to develop more successful sales strategies.
The problem the company addresses is that the world is awash with free-to-play games, and it’s difficult to make money from them. There are only two revenue streams: selling the player bonus items, and advertising. But less than six per cent of players will pay money for these bonuses, even on the most popular games, and it’s hard to attract advertisers if players abandon the game after a few plays.
“You have to continue to engage the player and it’s really hard to compete for players,” said CEO John Kimmel in a phone interview last week from the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. “And some (companies) are reluctant to ask how to get money out of their customers. “
RevIQ began as part of Gogii Games, a Moncton-based producer of casual and free-to-play games, whose portfolio includes the games based on the Archie comic series. The company is a Canadian leader in the development of these games, and it developed analytics tools and processes that could assess how to increase revenue from its games.
Gogii began to advise other gaming studios on how to increase their revenue, but this created a conflict as some of these companies competed with the Moncton group. So last October, Kimmel and Gogii CEO George Donovan announced that it would spin off RevIQ, to be established in Charlottetown.
There was immediate demand for the service. This consultancy work had been cash flow positive (meaning it brought in more cash than it expended) while it was within Gogii, and it has been cash flow positive ever since. That’s a true rarity in the startup world.
The company launched with three employees, and it’s now increased the staff to nine. Kimmel expects to raise the number to 19 by the end of June.
The growth has been financed entirely by revenues. RevIQ, continued those sales efforts last week at the Game Developers Conference, one of the largest gaming conferences. (RevIQ and Gogii were part of a 12-member Atlantic Canadian contingent that included such companies as Celsius Game Studios, of St. John’s, and 4th Monkey Media, of Lunenburg.)
Kimmel said he was talking to a few companies at the conference about signing deals.
As it looks ahead, RevIQ plans to train its new staff, increase its client base and get the team working with new and existing clients. Kimmel said he hopes to “increase the density of the clients we’ve got.”
And it wants to further develop its analytics tools, and possibly to release them as a stand-alone product. The idea is to sell or license the product to clients, so RevIQ in the end would become more of a conventional startup rather than a service company.
Celebrating Youth Entrepreneurship
The Hat team: Geoff Mason, left, Wes Booth and George Kashap (Photo by Tom Dalmazzi)
Atlantic Canada last week hosted a flurry of youth and student entrepreneurship events, with hundreds of participants and cash prizes totaling thousands of dollars.
The highest profile event was YES Atlantic, or the Youth Entrepreneur Summit, in Fredericton, which attracted about 300 delegates from across the region. But there were also student pitching events in Fredericton and Wolfville, and the Starting Lean program at Dalhousie University held its regular presentation night early in the week.
“Many of these types of events focus on home-grown solutions for Atlantic Canada, but YES frames the impact young citizens have on our communities, and how we are different from the generations that came before us,” said Nicola MacLeod, one of the millennials attending YESatlantic. “It highlighted our uniqueness in a positive light, especially when it comes to our interest in environmental and social responsibility and a natural tendency towards entrepreneurial thinking.”
Most of the events featured student pitches, some for ideas cooked up over the weekend. It’s difficult to assess youth or student pitches because the ideas are presented as real businesses, and you’ve got to remind yourself that these are students. By definition, the students are there to learn and the measure of success should be how many young people are learning and how they’re progressing.
“Wow! 30 pitches, 70 students involved in #SPC2016 at @UNBTME. That's a 5X jump since inception 10 years ago. #ECSW2016.”
So the number of teams in the UNB pitching competition has gone from about six to 30 in a decade. The pitches ranged from Rainbow Data Computing, which helps students save money, to Trispectra Innovation, which senses, and reports power outages. The winner, claiming $2,000, was CanCross, which is proposing stronger, field-tested prototype bridges allowing heavier transportation loads in the forestry industry.
On Saturday, I had the pleasure of being a judge at Start It Up, a pitching competition organized by Launchbox, the Acadia University sandbox.
Seven teams of students had 29 hours to come up with a business proposal, and the winner of the $6,000 first prize was a team called The Hat, comprising Wes Booth, George Kashap, and Geoff Mason. The Hat uses social media to assess the characteristics of a company’s employees, and then uses that information to help the company recruit the best hires.
The $3,500 second prize went to Ohme Energy, which is developing smart wall sockets that tell homeowners how much energy each appliance is using. Smartbox, which proposed a form of packaging that would enhance tracking during shipment, took home the $500 third prize.
All in all, it was a week-long celebration of young people’s contribution to the entrepreneurial community in the region.
“Those messages are so needed in places where confidence in millennials can be low,” said MacLeod. “Some even believe we're too lazy to make a bowl of cereal. The conversations that occur at YES and projects like the Millennial Dream shatter all of that. We are entrepreneurial and community oriented in a way that generations have not been before.”
Job of the Week: Sequence Bio
Today in Job of the Week, we are featuring an opening for Manager of Technical Development at Sequence Bio of St. John’s.
Founded in 2013, Sequence works with partners to analyze vast sets of data from gene pools to get a deeper understanding of which people are at the greatest risk of contracting a disease. It recently signed an agreement with Memorial University to use the university’s genetic databank to study colon cancer.
The company, which received $1 million in investment last year, is seeking an executive to oversee the development of its data analysis platform.
Each Monday, our Jobs of the Week feature showcases positions that are currently available on the Entrevestor Job Board. Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Entrevestor Job Board, which helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities.
Sequence Bio is in need of a manager to lead the development of its data-and-analysis platform to enable data-driven precision medicine. The platform will use the latest in genomics, big data, analytics, and cloud computing to conduct the analysis. The successful candidate will be responsible for making significant contributions to architecture, strategy, vision, planning and design of the data framework. He or she will also evaluate third-party vendors’ cloud based technologies and platforms to ensure they mesh with the company’s requirements. Qualifications for this position include seven or more years of software development and five or more years’ experience managing software development and quality teams. A Bachelors degree in Computer Science or Computer Engineering, and a working knowledge of or experience in analytics, big data, data modeling and machine learning are also required.
Sequence posted the listing through Acquaint Personnel Services Inc. of St. John’s. To view the direct listing on Sequence’s website, go here. Interest for this position should be directed to Charles Luther, Lead Recruiter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Agile Signs Deal with China’s Gaitech
Brian Terry, left, appears with colleagues Michael Harvey and Teng Wang
Agile CEO Brian Terry said in an interview Thursday that the Chinese company has provided seed funding for his startup, which grew out of a research project at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Gaitech, which has offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei and Seoul, will distribute Agile Sensor’s products in Asia and collaborate on the development of new products.
“We’re very excited about this new partnership,” Terry said in a statement. “Gaitech’s investment enables us to accelerate growth and launch our technology into international markets. Our collaboration with Gaitech on product development will result not only in new products, but also in rapid knowledge transfer for our team.”
The story of Agile Sensor began in 2007 when a groups of MUN researchers secured funding from aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund. The group launched the company in 2014 originally to sell a proprietary quadcopter (a little unmanned helicopter with four rotors) that could fly with stability even in high winds.
Terry said Agile Sensor found that it had a range of products that could be used for different applications. So it morphed into a company that provides components to the burgeoning robotics industry, including drones and unmanned underwater vehicles.
The company’s products include a Parallel Kinematic Mechanism, which allows greater freedom of movement in the devices on unmanned vehicles, such as pointing a camera.
The company is working on an intelligent camera, which automatically locates an object and can instruct a drone or underwater craft to hold its position in relation to that object. It also has devises that increase the functionality in controlling motors on these vehicles.
Terry said he was exhibiting the products at a tradeshow in San Jose, Calif., in September when he met Gaitech CEO Jenssen Chang. They began to speak regularly, which led to the investment and partnership.
“We believe that the combination of Agile’s state-of-the-art FPGA (field-programmable gate array) technologies with our expertise in ROS (robot operating system) will result in several exciting new products for the high-growth global robotics market,” Chang said in the statement.
Terry had said previously that his company was looking for about $1.5 million in funding. He said Thursday that he may seek other funds such as grants, or raise more investment if needed in six to nine months.
“The business plan I floated in the past called for seven figures of funding,” said Terry. “But I don’t want it all at once. I want it in tranches.”
Agile Sensor is now working out of the Genesis Centre, the incubator affiliated with MUN, but will soon move as it’s outgrowing the space. The company has three employees but that will likely rise to seven by mid-April. As well as engineers, the company is adding sales and marketing staff.
“The next year is going to be all about increasing sales and doing it right in respect of the marketing side of things,” said Terry. “What we’ve got to do is get it out there, and get our products into Asia.”
Can Entrepreneurship Save Us?
So Maclean’s magazine has touched quite a nerve in New Brunswick.
The national weekly this month published an article with the apocalyptic title, “Can anything save New Brunswick?”
As expected, it catalogued a litany of problems, from the aging population to French-English friction to an economy that’s “in free fall.”
And as expected, New Brunswickers reacted to the article with indignation, expressed pointedly in traditional and social media. “New Brunswick’s economy isn’t in ‘free fall.’ It’s in transition,” countered the online business publication Huddle. It highlighted that entrepreneurship is accelerating to replace the traditional resource-based jobs.
I guess the biggest question I have is why Maclean’s narrowed its focus to New Brunswick. Most of the problems highlighted so painfully in the article apply to the entire region. Let’s just consider employment.
According to Statistics Canada, here are the data on changes in the number of jobs in the four Atlantic Provinces in the 12 months to February: Newfoundland and Labrador, down 4,200; New Brunswick, down 6,000; Nova Scotia, down 2,700; and Prince Edward Island, down 2,200.
So the Atlantic Provinces shed 15,100 in one year. In that same time span, Alberta shed 21,900. And we all know how bad things are in Alberta. But consider this. Atlantic Canada has 56 percent the population of Alberta, yet we’ve lost 70 percent as many jobs as the western province. Yes, Atlantic Canada lost jobs at a faster rate than Alberta in the past year.
So can entrepreneurship compensate for these losses in Atlantic Canada in the long-term? If the answer is yes, it will take a while.
Last year there were about 3300 people working in the startup space – the portion of the entrepreneurship community that develops innovative products. The number has been growing by about 15 percent, or 500 jobs, a year. Even if the total entrepreneurship community is far, far largest than the startup segment, it’s not going to replace the loss of 15,000 jobs in a year.
And failures are always a risk in entrepreneurship and sometimes the companies that go under can be significant employers.
I’m not a huge fan of the Maclean’s article. (What the hell is an economy “in free fall”, anyway? It might apply to Venezuela, but not New Brunswick.)
But is contains some painful truths. There are a lot of great things happening in entrepreneurship in the region. It is probably the most promising aspect of economic development right now. But it has to go hand in hand with other aspects of the economy, such as fiscal discipline by government, attraction of immigrants, improved education (especially in maths, science and technology and improved productivity.
But for all the positives on entrepreneurship, the impact of home-grown businesses is not going to offset the forces acting against for a few years at least.
Alaunus Sets Sites Beyond Ontario
With thousands of carers now using its software in Ontario, Alaunus is working on a plan to extend its reach into other Canadian provinces and the U.S.
The Waterloo-based company’s HealthPlanr software helps home-care agencies organize their rostering, invoicing and patient care. The company works out of the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo and was recently one of the four companies accepted into the third Rev cohort at Communitech.
“We help out these companies by allowing them to be able to automate their process,” said Founder and CEO Andrew Ringer in an interview. “Alaunus is an all-in-one platform to bring all of this together. …
The problem with your standard software is it is fine with scheduling but this product has to do scheduling as well as invoicing and rostering and other things.”
When Ringer was studying at Wilfrid Laurier University several years ago, he had a friend working for the Victoria Order of Nurses. He noticed that she would come home each night with a stack of papers – charts, patient records, invoices – that had to be filled in, filed and sent to headquarters.
He thought there had to be a better way for these agencies to administer their patient relationships. He interviewed dozens of homecare agencies and found there was a gap in the market. There were expensive software products that only the largest agencies could afford, but there was no one catering to the small and medium-sized agencies.
Thus Alaunus was born.
Its HealthPlanr software is a single platform on which home-care organizations and their fieldworkers can carry out all their administrative tasks and work on health records. The demands of this industry are unique because many of the workers are on contract, they travel to people’s homes, and many are specialists. The software must be compliant with several regulators in different jurisdictions. The records must be confidential. And the payment sources vary greatly, from government to insurers to private individuals.
Healthplanr allows agencies to scan their rosters and find the best carers for each individual patient, arrange the billing and later to send out invoices. At the point of care, the carer can record the time spent with the patient, and access and record the relevant health information.
Ringer said the number of carers using the platform is now “in the low thousands”. The company targets agencies with a back-office staff of two to 10 people. It’s found a broad client base in Ontario – or as Ringer says, “from North Bay to Niagara Falls and everywhere in between.”
Now as it goes through the Rev program, it wants to develop sales processes to help sell beyond Ontario. Within Canada and the U.S., there are about 50,000 organizations that fit its criteria, and they employ about 2 million people.
Alaunus raised $250,000 in 2014, and Ringer said the company, which has seven or eight full-time employees, is almost cash-flow positive. So he said the company is doing “passive fundraising” – it’s open to investment not actively courting investors.
“In the meantime,” he said, “we’re rocking along quite well.”
R3 to Honour 3 NB Researchers
Three leading New Brunswick researchers will be honoured in Fredericton next Wednesday at the R3 Gala, which celebrates the innovations of the province’s top applied researchers.
Presented by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, Cox & Palmer and Deloitte, the R3 awards are held every second year to recognize the achievements of New Brunswick researchers who are having an impact on industry and society. Tickets are available here.
The keynote speaker at the gala will be David Butler, the Vice-President Innovation at Cola-Cola. Butler will discuss the secrets of Coke’s ongoing success and how its new startup-focused venture platform is poised to change the way large organizations innovate. Tickets are available here.
The focus of the evening will be the three R3 recipients:
- Liuchen Chang is an expert in renewable energy conversion and systems. He has developed ways for energy to flow from small sources on to the grid, rather than just having the grid just deliver electricity from big plants. Chang's research has allowed a variety of different types of energy sources to be added to the grid at varying voltages.
- Alain Doucet has worked with several small and medium-sized businesses to develop a variety of innovations. For example, he and his team developed a “plug and play” type of adapter for Leading Edge Geomatics’ aircraft that allows them to exchange a range of highly sophisticated aerial surveying equipment. Before that, the company was required to have a separate aircraft for every configuration – just to meet Transport Canada certification. Now it has a permanent, certified mounting system that fits all of its equipment.
- Amber Garber has developed a selective breeding program for salmon. Her salmon broodstock have a higher growth rate and are resistant to sea lice and bacterial kidney disease. Sea lice resistance reduces the need to bathe the fish in peroxide, which makes the fish stop eating for at least a week. Bacterial kidney disease resistance significantly reduces the need to use antibiotics.
The R3 Gala this year includes an afternoon program focusing on tech trends and how to increase company sales. It will feature the Deloitte 2016 predictions in technology, media and telecoms by Duncan Stewart, Director of TMT Research.
The other speakers will be: Jeff Roach, CEO of Sociallogical, speaking on Aligning Social Media With Your Brand; Wayne Chamberlain, Principal of Atlantic Growth Solutions, speaking on the Five Components of a Sales Machine; and David Veale, Founder of Vision Coaching, speaking on Developing a Leadership Culture.
The Tech Leadership Conference – to be held at Communitech on May 12 – will examine trends in technology and the direction the markets for tech are heading. The organizers expect about 800 people to attend the event. You can buy tickets here.
The two keynote speakers are: futurist Ray Kurzweil, whose many titles include the Co-Founder and Chancellor of the Singlaurity University; and transportation entrepreneur Robin Chase, founder and former CEO of Zipcar, the largest car-sharing company in the world.
The other speakers in Key Learning Sessions will be:
- Nikolas Badminton, futurist and writer with the Huffington Post;
- Kate Darling, research specialist with Mit Media Lab;
- Helen Papagiannis, an augmented reality specialist;
- Chris Eliasmith, Co-Founder of Applied Brain Research;
- Mark Roberge, Chief Revenue Officer at Hubsport Sales Division;
- And Adam Green, Creative Agency Lead at Google Canada.
They will be joined by host Sarah Prevette, the Founder and CEO of Future Design School, and two entrepreneurs who will deliver “T-Minus Five” talks, Vidyard CEO of Co-Founder Michael Litt and Nexonia CEO and Co-Founder Neil Wainwright.
Lux Wind Crowdfunding for Trials
A Halifax company has launched a $500,000 to $800,000 crowdfunding campaign to test a revolutionary form of wind turbine that could improve the economics of wind power.
Lux Wind Turbines is raising money so it can build a test version of its new product, and send it to trials at the Wind Energy Institute of Canada in P.E.I. If the nine-month trials prove successful, the company believes its product will solve many of the problems that now plague the wind power industry — namely economic feasibility.
“We need to bring in a lower-cost alternative because it will really drive the market,” said Lux Win CEO Terry Norman in an interview.
Norman is a veteran of the Nova Scotian wind industry and says the reason traditional wind turbines are so expensive is so much of the machinery is high in the air, difficult to install and maintain. And the contraption has to turn to face the wind.
Designed by Saskatoon-based engineer Glen Lux, the Lux two-megawatt turbine looks more like an eggbeater with six blades that catch the wind and whir around a vertical axis, regardless of which way the wind is blowing. (Such as the design within the logo above.) Norman said the design — which won an award from a division of NASA two years ago — cuts the manufacturing and installation costs by at least 40 per cent, and that means these turbines could generate electricity profitably in any jurisdiction.
Lux Wind is now looking at a few specific niches in which to install the turbines — including tall smoke stacks from decommissioned coal-fired electricity plants. These plants are being phased out across the U.S., and it costs about $5 million to $10 million to take down each smoke stack. Lux Wind is now working with one U.S. partner to use a smoke stack as the vertical axis for one of the turbines. This could be a large market as there are now about 1,000 abandoned smoke stacks in the U.S. and 60 more become available each year.
Lux Wind is also planning for offshore installations, as the design make them easier to install in deep water than existing turbines. And the Lux system could be used to replace existing turbines, many of which are reaching the end of their life span.
Assuming the trials in P.E.I. are successful, Lux Wind plans to develop an assembly facility for the turbines at the former Bowater plant near Liverpool, where the provincial government hopes to establish a cleantech park.
“It would be primarily an assembly plant,” said Norman. “The blades are in sections that would be fitted together so we can put all the parts in one container and ship it anywhere in the world.” Once the container arrives, someone from Nova Scotia would fly to the site and oversee the assembly.
The focus of the company now is the crowdfunding campaign, which is being carried out on the platform of FrontFundr, a British Columbian crowdfunding platform. As part of this campaign, Lux Wind is raising money in Nova Scotia through the Community Economic Development Investment Fund, or Cedif. Nova Scotia investors would qualify for an equity tax credit under the scheme.
Soricimed Wins Orphan Drug Status
Sackville, N.B.-based Soricimed Biopharma Inc., a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company developing peptide-based cancer therapeutics, has won a key regulatory approval from the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S.
The company said in a statement the FDA has granted orphan-drug designation to Soricmed’s flagship compound SOR-C13 for the treatment of ovarian cancer. 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.
Soricimed last month 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 cited the American Cancer Society as saying ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system, with an incidence rate of 11.9 per 100,000 and a death rate of 7.7 per 100,000. In some cases, orphan drugs can be made available to patients before marketing approval on a compassionate use basis.
“Receiving orphan drug status is significant,” said Soricimed President and CEO Paul Gunn in the statement. “It is an important regulatory milestone, offering special incentives to Soricimed through the development stage of SOR-C13.”
Soricimed last year conducted trials with 22 patients with advanced solid-tumour cancer in Hamilton and London, Ont., and Houston, Texas. The goal was to gain Phase 1 approval from both Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Phase 1 trials are designed to establish that a drug is safe for use in humans. The next step in bringing the product to market will be Phase 2 trials, which are far more costly and aim to prove the drug’s efficacy.
PACTA Wins Fundica Roadshow
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage and Charlotte Rydlund
PACTA, the Halifax company whose technology helps to manage contracts, won the Atlantic Canadian stop in the Fundica Roadshow on Friday, securing a trip to and office space in Silicon Valley.
The Fundica Roadshow goes across the country, hearing pitches and rewarding the top pitching company in each city with a return trip to Silicon Valley, a Quickbooks subscription and a cloud hosting package from CANARIE and SoftLayer. The prize also includes three months of office space in Silicon Valley.
In the three years that the Fundica Roadshow has stopped in Halifax, a woman has won the top prize. This year was no exception: Charlotte Rydlund, CEO and Co-Founder of PACTA, took home the prize.
Rydlund worked at Proctor & Gamble in senior management and noticed that she and her colleagues found it difficult to keep track of contracts between departments and with other companies.
PACTA solves this problem by storing and monitoring the contracts. It automatically searches for events outside the company to flag the users about parts of a contract that could be affected by news, such as recalls. PACTA also reminds the users that an action in the contract will soon be due so that they can fulfill it on time.
The two-year-old company has raised $300,000 in its first seed round. Rydlund was asking for $800,000 at the Roadshow for product development and customer acquisition. With six customers currently using PACTA, Rydlund wants to bring the company to the rest of the $15.9 billion management market.
“We need to put ourselves on the map, but the only way to make relationships down there [in Silicon Valley] is to be down there,” Rydlund said.
The other companies who pitched at Fundica Roadshow included: Lootbag, a platform that sends you free products in return for feedback; SimpTek, a platform that uses data analytics to help electric utility companies better understand and predict their customers’ energy use; BuyMyLemonade, an e-commerce and e-learning platform for kids, which helps them sell their toys; Orpheus Interactive, a narrative video game company; and Fundmetric, a platform that uses big data to help charities raise more money.
Even though the judges picked the company that won the big prizes, audience members got to vote on the Roadees’ Choice Awards: Best Pitch. The audience voted via text for Fundmetric. CEO and Co-Founder Mark Hobbs delivered a fun and laid-back pitch for his company, which is creating the “first transformational change in 20 years” to the charity business. Fundmetric works with Dalhousie University, St. Mary’s University and Valley Regional Hospital. The platform shows them information and patterns of their current donors so that they can find other potential donors.
The Roadshow also featured presentations in the morning about pitching, payroll and the cloud. Halifax Mayor Mike Savage showed up to announce the winner.
As previous Halifax Fundica Roadshow winner Leah Skerry of Eyeread said, “It’s never too early to pitch.”
Job of the Week: BlueLight Analytics
This week in Job of the Week, we are featuring a posting from a company involved in dental health: BlueLight Analytics of Halifax is looking for a software developer.
BlueLight specializes in the measurement of the curing light used to harden fillings in dental practices. The company’s products include checkMARC, MARC patient simulator, and MARC resin calibrator.
Jobs of the Week features positions currently available on the Entrevestor Job Board. Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Entrevestor Job Board, which helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities.
The Millennial Dream to Air March 15
As the American Dream gives way to the more socially responsible Millennial Dream, this region should work to attract and keep members of the millennial generation, argues Greg Hemmings, founder and CEO of New Brunswick’s Hemmings House Pictures.
Hemmings is one of the creators of a new documentary, The Millennial Dream, which explores the values of millennials and looks at how communities can make themselves more attractive to those born between the early 1980s and 2000s.
It’s a generation known to be afflicted by poor job security and high student debt, but to prioritize preservation of the environment and social justice.
Hemmings argues that Atlantic Canada already practises many millennial values.
“We have so many young entrepreneurs, artists and culture makers who are working hard to build this Millennial Dream,” said Hemmings, a native of Saint John.
“There is opportunity here, and there’s a community of support from people making it happen. We’re so small and connected, if you have a good idea, and your heart’s in the right place the speed with which you can get support is unparalleled.
“It’s probably not as easy for a young entrepreneur to get access to mentorship and support from icons of business in larger cities like Toronto. . . .There seems to be great support in small places.”
Hemmings said the idea for his company’s latest documentary arose when he and a group of other New Brunswickers began to discuss the province’s most pressing problem—the loss of young people.
The group included entrepreneurs Marcel LeBrun and David Alston, and Karina LeBlanc, executive director of the Pond-Deshpande Centre.
They agreed that New Brunswick does have much to offer, including jobs, but theorized that perhaps some of the jobs are not the kind that attract Millennials.
Millennials stress community, Hemmings said. They want walkable cities with public transit. They want locally grown food. Ideally, they want to know the farmer who produces their food.
Encouraging entrepreneurship helps create communities attractive to millennials. So does effective post-secondary education and the widespread use of technology.
Millennials and those educating them need to consider what kinds of jobs and companies thrive in the new economy, and how best to provide that training and education.
“We wanted to see if Atlantic Canada supports millennial values and, if not, what can we do to accelerate the support of these values,” Hemmings said.
He said this region has the advantage of good digital connectivity, which can be used to foster innovation. He cites the example of Estonia, which he and Alston visited while making a previous film Code Kids.
Hemmings said that Estonia was bankrupt in 1992 following the departure of the Soviets. So the government asked telecom engineers to eliminate the costs of using paper within government.
The engineers did, creating an e-government in which every citizen has just one digital ID.
Hemmings said that many of the telecom engineers became entrepreneurs who created companies, including Skype, which led to a thriving tech sector.
“Atlantic Canada could do the same thing if we embraced more of our digital infrastructure in government and society, and opened up opportunities,” Hemmings said.
Hemmings hopes the new film will be “the start of a movement, not just a one-off.”
He said the production team began with the idea of focusing on New Brunswick. The scope of the documentary rapidly widened to include the world, although Hemmings said the original New Brunswick stories are available on the film's website, http://www.millennialdream.com
Hemmings, whose company is a certified B-corporation, meaning it espouses the same values as the Millennial Generation, said he would like to focus entirely on making this kind of documentary.
“I want to showcase films that empower people to create positive action,” he said.
“Watch this film and think how you can help that small entrepreneur. Maybe you won’t go to the big box store, instead you will go to the local guy.”
The Millennial Dream documentary will have its first screening on March 15 in Saint John.
Singolar Enters SAP Startup Program
By attending a Canadian government program in Silicon Valley, Wolfville-based Singolar has initiated a relationship with one of the world’s biggest enterprise software companies.
Five weeks ago, we wrote that Singolar was heading to Northern California to attend the Canadian Technology Accelerator, or CTA, a program that the Canadian consular service offers in tech hubs around the U.S. and the world.
As it went through the program, Singolar got to know representatives of SAP, the German multinational that makes enterprise software to manage business operations and customer relationships. The Nova Scotian company has now been accepted into the SAP startup program, which means it will work with SAP for the next year with the goal of rolling out the Singolar product to the German company’s customers.
“This means that we have a great channel for getting our product across to SAP customers in all kinds of verticals, and that includes big retailers, and major airlines,” said Singolar CEO Suman Kalyan in an interview. “It gives us the ability to go across lots of geographies.”
Singolar — which already had two clients — has developed algorithms that can help companies to better understand how to interact with customers. It therefore helps these companies to deepen customer relationships and attract new customers. Singolar can track customer interaction at a range of points, including contacts with the call centre, on social media, through the website or other avenues.
The company was recently accepted into the Silicon Valley CTA, which helps IT companies make inroads in the world’s technology Mecca. Kalyan said one of the first events was a match-making session, at which Singolar met several major companies and investors, some of who arranged second interviews.
One of these was SAP, which is Europe’s largest software company with 20.8 billion euros (C$30.6 billion) in revenue in 2015.
Kalyan said the two parties ended up speaking on several occasions, and they began to examine how Singolar could be adapted for the SAP platform, which means the product could then be introduced to SAP’s blue chip clients all over the world.
As a result of these meetings, SAP admitted Singolar to its 12-month startup program in Silicon Valley.
Kalyan said his company will spend the first 12 weeks getting its program to operate with the SAP systems. “Then we’ll work with them to take it to their customers and see what they think,” he said.
Being in the startup program also allows the company to attend SAP events and interact with its clients, he added.
Kalyan said that within the next two months Singolar should close its first round of funding. It has been trying to raise $1.5 million.
A native of India, Kalyan spent 18 years in a number of technology roles around the world, for blue chip companies and startups, and working as a consultant. In 2013, he and his family moved to Nova Scotia and he eventually became a tenant in Acadia University’s Rural Innovation Centre.
Even before it joined the CTA, Singolar had two clients: one in Malaysia, and Halifax-based Azorus, which helps post-secondary institutions communicate with incoming students and their families. Azorus and Singolar are piloting an enhanced customer relationship management recruitment tool with three universities: Warwick and Leicester in the U.K., and Ryerson in Toronto.
Velocity: A Unique University Facility
Mike Kirkup: Velocity 'may be the largest in the world.'
When Ted Livingston was 23 years old, he had a problem not many people that age face: he had to get rid of $1 million.
Livingston is the Founder and CEO of Kik.com, the high-flying chat service that has almost a quarter-billion registered users. In 2011, the company was closing a funding round, and to make the deal work Livingston had to sell some of his own shares, for which he was to receive $1 million. He was worried that wouldn’t sit well with the other founders, so he donated every nickel to one of the organizations that helped him get started: Velocity.
“I wanted it to be a statement to the community and to the world,” Livingston said two years later. The statement was not just that Kik was something special. It was that Velocity was special as well.
Velocity is the accelerator of the University of Waterloo. Livingston’s seven-figure donation became the cornerstone of the Velocity fund, which each year hands out about $400,000 to companies in the program.
The accelerator is based in the Communitech hub, where it has recently expanded to encompass a total work space of 36,711 square feet.
To call Velocity a university accelerator is technically correct. Every company that goes through the accelerator has at least one founder that attended the University of Waterloo. But it also misses the point. Velocity is an organization that has produced companies like Kik and Thalmic Labs and Pebble – startups that draw international attention and customers.
At the end of 2015, the accelerator had the capacity for about 74 to 76 companies at any one time. With the recent expansion, the capacity has risen to 120 companies. It is now the largest accelerator in North America that doesn’t take equity in its client companies.
“That may be the largest in the world,” Mike Kirkup, the director of Velocity, said in a recent interview in the Hub. “We just had no way to check it beyond North America.”
An alumnus of the University of Waterloo and the region’s most successful startup, Research in Motion (now BlackBerry), Kirkup has been the director of Velocity since 2011. In that time, a total of 163 companies have entered Velocity, and more than 40 have graduated from the program. Seven have been acquired.
Kik is certainly the posterchild for Velocity, and Livingston’s smiling presence shines through at many of the events. But graduates include such companies as Thalmic Labs, whose Myo armband lets users wirelessly control technology through gestures and motion, and Vidyard, whose platform helps marketers use video to reach their audience. As well as finding clients, the companies have been darlings of venture capital investors. Kik has raised a total of US$120.5 million, Vidyard US$60.7 million and Thalmic Labs US$14.5 million.
In fact, Velocity revealed in the autumn of 2015 that its companies have raised $250 million in “follow-on funding”. But there is one proviso about the statement: it assumes that the Canadian and U.S. dollars are at par.
When you consider that the C-dollar closed 2015 at just over 72 US cents, it’s obvious the Velocity grads have raised substantially more than that amount.
So how have Kirkup and his band of collaborators produced such excellent results?
The first reason is great partners, starting with the University of Waterloo itself. The university is recognized as the preeminent institution for science education in the country. That means it attracts students who thrive on the sciences. Its coop program has operated for decades, so the students get hands-on experience over four years with leading corporations in their chosen field. And finally, the university has a pragmatic bent, so there is virtually no blowback from professors who worry that science is tainted by teaching students to commercialize their work.
“The culture of the university has always been entrepreneurial,” said Kirkup. “It was founded by engineers that needed help and expertise to help grow their businesses.”
It’s also worth noting that Velocity is a cornerstone of the Communitech hub, and that the Velocity companies can tap all the mentorship and industry expertise that is drawn to Communitech. It’s a happy, symbiotic relationship.
The second reason for the success is the program itself, which is loosely structured and basically lets founders get on with the business of developing their businesses. It’s divided into three main sections (which will be united under one roof with the expansion): Velocity Garage, which houses largely software companies; Velocity Foundry for hardware companies; and Velocity Sciences, which is predominantly for life sciences startups. The participants must be working on their projects full-time, and at least one must have gone to the university. What that means is that the founders are customarily Waterloo grads, but they flesh out their staff with coop students (who learn about startup life through the experience).
Velocity is unlike other accelerators in many ways. There are relatively few formal classroom sessions. The most frequent form of mentorship is the founders identifying what they need to learn and linking up with someone who can teach it to them. Such people are rarely far away. And it is not the customary four- to six-month “accelerated” format, but a process of one or two years. There’s not a set time for companies to launch. Usually, successful companies know when it is time to leave because they have outgrown their allotted space, or decided there is nothing more to learn from the Velocity mentors.
Whereas the university is renowned for the quality of its scientific education, Kirkup said students by their nature don’t have the experience in life or career that allows them to identify acute pain points. They’re keen to solve problems, but they don’t fully understand the problems that need to be solved. To overcome this hurdle, Velocity and the university created the Problem Lab. It’s a meeting place where corporate executives can get together with students, discuss the company’s challenges and work with students on developing technologies that can help. The Problem Lab will get a new space under the recent expansion.
The third factor is the Velocity Fund – which is a rare, possibly unique, facet of a university-affiliated accelerator. The fund awards funding to startups coming out of the university once a semester, or three times a year. It gives $25,000 to each of four startups, plus a $10,000 bonus for the best hardware company. And it also awards $5,000 funding packages to three early-stage teams. Ten finalists deliver three-minute pitches in each division before a room packed with students who come out to witness the contest.
Now Velocity is growing. On Jan. 12, the facility almost doubled its capacity, all under one roof. Kirkup said the organization now has to “press both ends of the pump at the same time” to develop enough new companies to fill the space. He believes the enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and the quality of research at the University of Waterloo will ensure that they can fill the space in a couple of years.
In short, Kirkup said this new expansion will mean three things to Velocity.
“One, we can repatriate the facilities back into one facility,” he said. “Two, we’re going to have a dedicated facility for our hardware and life sciences companies that will be a big improvement over what we have today; and three, we will have more space for more companies."
Vesuvius Preps for Gen Con in August
On a beach in Greece in 2004, Konstantinos Manos and Dimitrios Xanthakis were playing a browser game.
“We can make games 10,000 times better than this one — in a weekend!” Manos said. They laughed it off.
Six years later, the software developer and master storyteller realized that they ought to stop denying their talents—and so, they began working on Vesuvius Media, a gaming company.
Not many game companies start or headquarter in Greece. Vesuvius Media had one strong local competitor, and so they found it hard to get off the ground. With no gaming companies, they had neither friends nor enemies to help them evolve.
“If you’re alone, you don’t know, you don’t have any competition—competition makes you become better,” Manos said in an interview.
Nova Scotia, however, has lots of gaming companies, ranging from Alpha Dog Games to Xona Games Inc. Nova Scotia Business Inc. heard of Vesuvius Media from across the ocean, reached out to them and told them tales of the supportive and diverse ecosystem of gamers in the province.
In 2014, Manos picked up his family and moved to Halifax.
The company began to pick up momentum here. It already had the foundations, and with Manos’ expertise in software frameworks and Xanthakis’ unstoppable imagination, the games kept coming. And with access to other gaming companies, schools like Nova Scotia Community College and support systems offered to them through NSBI, Vesuvius Media could thrive.
The company has not only received local attention, but also international recognition. In August, Vesuvius Media will be one of the 21 companies chosen to have a booth in Entrepreneurs' Avenue at the biggest gaming convention in the world: Gen Con in Indianapolis. Vesuvius was also one of the six companies chosen to receive a marketing fellowship from Gen Con, which means that conference will promote Vesuvius even more.
“We’re small, but we’re extremely creative,” Manos said.
Vesuvius Media currently offers three games: Nocturion, an online medieval game; Universe Online, an online space game; and Centauri Saga, a strategy board game.
In the coming months, Vesuvius plans to release Atlantean World, an online resource-management game to rebuild Atlantis; Cosmic Pioneers, a board game; Dwar7s Fall, a board game; and a mobile version of Universe Online.
Vesuvius also plans to take its current games and expand them into different media. The company will release graphic novels for some of its games and start creating mobile versions of the games. Manos said that the company wants to engage players in different media so that they can experience each game in a different way.
“We’re listening to our players in the games we’re creating,” Manos said. “Their ideas and input guide our productions.”
Vesuvius has used crowd-funding campaigns several times to finance the production of its games. Nocturion's browser game was finished with $11,000 through Indiegogo and Centauri Saga the board game was solely financed by the $70,000 raised over Kickstarter.
Vesuvius is currently looking for investors, but Manos said that they don’t want an investor to just give them money: they want someone who has expertise in the gaming field in order to help them create a sustainable business as they expand, as they plan to do with a bureau in the U.S.
“It is a roller-coaster, it is scary, but we are willing to go all the way,” Manos said.
Confessions of an Entrepreneur
Heather Spidell, owner of the Sweet Brier Boutique
First things first. Small business owners are not so inclined to confess how they are feeling about their own small business ... especially when they are stressed to the point where their jaw feels perpetually locked in one position. Well I have a few confessions to make. I hope these truths will help other entrepreneurs along their journey. Cause we're all in this together, right?
Confession #1 - Staying in business is a lot tougher than starting one.
I had to learn this by doing. Starting a business is an adrenaline rush. Your friends and family are excited ... they show up for you. Agencies offer start-up funding, training and mentorship. I know. I worked for one. You're the next new thing and our society appreciates new. And when those lights fade it can feel lonely. I'm blessed with family and friends near and far who are there for me in a heart-beat. But they don't know I need help if I don't ask for it. Don't be afraid to ask.
Confession #2 - Being the master of your own destiny is scary sh*t.
There, I said it. I don't know one entrepreneur who hasn't broken out in a cold sweat when they let themselves think about the risks they've taken and what they stand to lose. It's okay to think it. It's okay to say it. Just don't let it beat you down. Says Bidemi Mark-Mordi: “The human spirit is like an elastic band. The more you stretch, the greater your capacity."
Confession #3 - I don't know everything.
This is the hard part because entrepreneurs ARE expected to be the experts. We've done the research, prepared the business plans, developed our unique value proposition, and tested our products and services with prospective customers. But there are lessons in running a business that can only be learned by doing. And failing.
Stand in your business every day. Interact with staff, customers, suppliers, and partners. Listen to them. Don't take offence. Just listen for recurring themes and for opportunities to adjust and improve. Small tweaks can make for huge gains. And never forget to say thank you.
Confession #4 - I want to make a difference AND I want to make money.
I believe that: "If you do the right thing, the money will follow." I continuously search for ethically responsible fashions and gift items to sell in my two shops known as the Sweet Brier Boutique. I showcase the creations of more than 20 female entrepreneurs in my two stores. I support social entrepreneurs like Wear Your Label, All-Ways-Us, Morning Star Couture and Inner Fire. I care about my hometown. I volunteer.
However, some smart people ... my mother and father, my mentors (Danny, Cindy, Lisa, Crystal, Mary Jane), tell me that the greatest thing I can do to help others is to be successful myself. (Let me just say that hard truths like these are never easy to hear. Don't they know I want to help others ... that it's my calling?!)
I spoke with a gentleman named Ray who 'reps' several lines of clothing I have been looking at for the Sweet Brier. Ray has met countless business owners over the years. I'm still thinking about something he said: "The successful ones ... the ones that stay in business for years, make money, and give back to their communities ... have one key characteristic in common. They focus with precision on one or two products or ideas that they firmly believe in and they go for it with all they've got. Luke warm is no good."
Confession #5: I'm turning up the temperature and giving it everything I've got.
Heather Spidell is a PR gal who left the private sector to become a boutique owner and author. She is pro small business, ethical fashion and tidal power development (her hometown of Parrsboro is at the centre of it all). She loves her family, dogs and goats.
Build Invests $1.9M in Spring Loaded
A month after launching its successful crowdfunding campaign, Spring Loaded Technology has announced a $1.9 million venture capital investment and a new $1 million contract with the Canadian military.
The Dartmouth company has developed the Levitation knee brace, which strengthens the joint as well as stabilizes it, and has received US$172,000 ($229,000) in orders through its Indiegogo campaign, which ends in three days.
Today, the company issued a release saying it has raised $1.9 million in funding from Halifax-based Build Ventures, headed by Rob Barbara and Patrick Keefe. Spring Loaded had previously raised more than $1.8 million in equity and non-dilutive capital, including investments from the First Angel Network and Innovacorp.
“Spring Loaded Technology has the potential to revolutionize the marketplace,” said Barbara in a statement. “The affordable technology they’ve developed will make bionics more accessible. We’re excited to see this company continue to develop its offerings and impact the industry.”
In an interview, Spring Loaded CEO Chris Cowper-Smith said the parties agreed to a $1.9 million funding through negotiation, with Build wanting to invest more but Spring Loaded feeling more comfortable with a smaller investment.
“We’ve been chatting with Build for several months and we’re at an earlier stage than they usually like when they come into a company,” said Cowper-Smith. He added the investors came in now because they were impressed with the traction Spring Loaded has gained in its crowdfunding campaign and its deal with the Canadian military.
“Patrick and Rob as VC investors are generalists but they’re also very deep thinkers and they have provided great insights into our business and strategy,” he said.
Since they began in 2012, Cowper-Smith and his Chief Technical Officer Bob Garrish have been working on a brace that gains energy when the knee bends and then releases it when the knee strengthens, increasing the power in the joint. They tested and rejected three different joint technologies before settling on the fourth.
Spring Loaded also said today it has signed a contract worth $1 million with the Canadian Department of National Defence, which is the first contract for the military applications of the Levitation knee brace. Cowper-Smith said the military is interested in the product for performance enhancement and injury prevention.
The Levitation knee brace could allow elite troops to greatly increase the equipment they carry on commando excursions. These soldiers now greatly increase their chance of injury if they carry more than 80 or 90 pounds, but Levitation could increase that to about 120 pounds. Or the knee braces could reduce the risk of injury as they crouch, stand and run on uneven terrain.
“What our brace would enable people to do is carry that extra 30 or 40 more of gear,” said company spokesman J.J. Podboski in an interview last month. “Picture a whole platoon where everyone can carry an extra 30 or 40 pounds of ammunition, food, equipment – they’re going to have pretty distinct advantage over the enemy.”
Cowper-Smith said the company is pleased with the results of the crowdfunding campaign. It launched the product on Indiegogo just to see if they could sell the Levitation brace through an eCommerce channel. They will continue with an eCommerce sales strategy but are also looking at more traditional retail sales procedures.
Disclaimer: Build is a client of Entrevestor.
Briefs: Kinduct, Selectbidder, RtTech
Indiana Pacers Adopt Kinduct Platform
Halifax-based startup Kinduct Technologies announced Monday that the Indiana Pacers are its newest high-profile client. The Pacers have partnered with Kinduct as their athlete management software provider to collect performance and health data for smoother visualization and analysis within a centralized location.
Kinduct has recently added several new teams across the NHL, MLS, MLB and now works with more than half of the NBA.
“The Pacers are excited to be using the state-of-art technology that Kinduct delivers to give our team and players an advantage over the competition,” said Dan Dyrek, Doctor of Physical Therapy for the Indiana Pacers.
Three NB Startups in Soft Landing Program
Moncton-based support organization Venn Innovation has announced that three more New Brunswick companies will participate in the Canadian Digital Media Network’s Soft Landing program. They will be part of the spring 2016 cohort to help forge the partnerships and connections for international expansion.
The companies are SelectBidder of Hillsborough, and RtTech Software and MASITEK, both based in Moncton. Venn is the New Brunswick hub in CDMN and this brings to seven the number of New Brunswick companies it has helped gain international market access to since December 2014. Destination markets have included the U.K., Netherlands, U.S. and Australia.
CDMN’s Soft Landing program helps mature startups and SMEs kickstart their international growth by helping them access a foreign market. For a period of up to three months, the participating company can take up residence in a partnered facility that provides the regional support required to help grow its business, as well as receiving up to $4,000 in travel and accommodation costs.
Selectbidder Adds West Coast Client
Automotive technology company Selectbidder has signed its first auction partner on the west coast: AVDA Auction, one of the largest independent auto auctions in California. This follows deals recently signed with major independent auto auctions in Florida, Maine and Pennsylvania.
AVDA will use Selectbidder's platform to manage real-time bids between dealers for auto trade-ins. “This new technology is important to our business. Using Selectbidder will help our dealers buy and sell more cars straight from their lots because they will be dealing with us at the point of trade," said AVDA Auction owner Victor Soghomonian. "This makes the whole process faster and easier."
LifeRaft Closes $2M Funding Round
Halifax-based LifeRaft, whose platform uncovers potential threats through social media posts, has closed a $2 million round of financing, including a $1.4 million investment from an unnamed strategic investor from outside the region.
Launched in 2014, LifeRaft identifies threatening keywords, such as “kill” and “gun,” on social media sources like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. It filters the findings so only the most important information is communicated to the client. Once Liferaft’s clients have been alerted about someone using suspicious terms, they can drill into any post to better understand the context of an individual’s comments.
LifeRaft said in a statement this morning its shareholders had approved a $1.4 million strategic investment from an organization it would only describe as a “major international partner.” The company also said a small group of independent investors also put money into the company, raising the total round to $2 million.
The investment will allow LifeRaft to accelerate its growth strategy and to hire more people in its sales, customer support and development teams in Halifax.
“This investment from an active strategic partner is a testament to the power of our technology and the exceptional potential it represents,” CEO John Gallinaugh said in the statement. “It also demonstrates the confidence placed in our team’s ability to deliver.”
He added: “These funds will help grow our presence in the North American market and invest in new hires to build out our team and prepare the company to accelerate our growth.”
Previously, the company had secured a $700,000 round of seed funding from angel investors, complemented by $270,000 in funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
Last April, Liferaft said it had more than 100 users in various jurisdictions either piloting or actively paying for the platform. LifeRaft said its users are mainly within post-secondary education and law enforcement, and that it has resellers throughout Canada, the U.S., the United Kingdom and Australia.
ExVivo Wins $25K CBMC Prize
Eric Blondeel, left, and Christian Brum (Photo by Rebecca Hussman)
Co-Founders Christian Brum and Eric Blondeel won the prize for a poised and focused presentation on the development of their product, which reduces the pain and wait times involved in testing for allergies.
The pitchers described current tests for allergies as primitive, painful and inconvenient. People who believe they have an allergy now have to wait several months for a test, which involves placing substances on a needle, pricking the skin, and looking to see if there is a reaction. This is repeated with different substances until there’s a reaction.
ExVivo has developed a simple, painless patch that detects allergens through biomarkers present in the skin. Once the product is launched, patients could buy it at a pharmacy and apply it at home. If there’s a positive reading, they can book an appointment with an allergist. If not, they’ve saved a lot of hassle. It could reduce the wait times, which can stretch to more than a year.
“That’s why we’re calling it the home pregnancy test of allergies,” said Blondeel. “We’re not trying to take away the allergist. We are trying to find the right people who should be going to see an allergist.”
It is also now trying to raise investment capital. CEO Moufeed Kaddoura was unable to attend the competition in Halifax because he was at an allergy conference in Las Vegas, meeting with potential investors.
Brum and Blondeel charted the progress of the company, which previously received funding from the Velocity Fund.
As well as interviewing allergists, pharmacists and allergy patients, the team at one point surveyed 700 people across the country, many of whom said they would test repeatedly with the product. The main reason for wanting the patch was to speed up the testing process and be able to use it at home. And mothers of children with allergies don’t want their children subjected to the repeated pinpricks.
The team is preparing for an initial product that will test for grass allergies, which are increasingly common.
They added that the patch could be used by researchers to generate an early income stream. Clinical researchers need to find people with allergies to conduct their tests, but they can only determine whether people have allergies using the existing primitive process. By using the ExVivo patch, researchers could quickly find a group of people with allergies, cutting time and costs of the trials. And ExVivo would not have to go through the lengthy regulatory process to sell to researchers.
The Canadian and International Business Model Competitions assess student entrepreneurship teams based on the process they used in building their company. They place particular emphasis on the use of a lean canvas and interviewing potential customers and partners to shape the business case.
Lumos, Ohm Claim CBMC Prizes
Lumos Energy Strips of Queen’s University, which has developed a quick and calorie-free means of getting a caffeine shot, won the $15,000 second prize at Canada’s Business Model Competition on Saturday.
The $10,000 third prize was awarded to the University of British Columbia’s Ohm Wearables, which has developed a smart belt that checks your breathing during yoga.
Dalhousie University hosted the Fourth Annual Canada’s Business Model Competition, which assesses student entrepreneurship teams based on the process they used in building their company. It places particular emphasis on the use of a lean canvas and interviewing potential customers and partners to shape the business case. ExVivo Labs, Lumos and Ohm with the big winners Saturday from a group of six finalists, which were chosen from a total field of 30 entrants.
Presented by Co-Founder Chris Angelatos, Lumos Energy Strips are similar to fresh-breath strips that dissolve in your mouth, only they deliver a shot of caffeine. There is now a $115 billion market for coffee and energy drinks, but these products can be unhealthy and take time to pass through the digestive system to work. Flavoured with mint, the Lumos strips work instantly through sublingual absorption – meaning the caffeine enters the blood stream through blood vessels in the mouth.
Angelatos said Lumos has been in business since May, and has interviewed more than 1,000 people. It now has a product developed and its four-member team, which is in The Next 36, is moving the product to market.
“Why us? Because we are our market,” he said. “Every member of our team thrives on high-pressure, high-stress environments.”
Ohm grew out of a Startup Weekend project that identified the key role that breathing plays for the millions of people who do yoga. But there is no way to monitor your breathing.
The Ohm product is a belt with sensors that you can use during yoga to monitor and analyze your breathing.
“Our passion is to bring technology and oneness together,” said Co-Founder Adrian Wong. “This product is the first step that will help to bring that vision together. We’re going to improve health one breath at a time.”
She said the company interviewed 122 yoga practitioners and 76 percent of them identified with the problems of not being able to track their breathing. The company plans to sell its smart belt for $179 directly to customers over the internet or in partnership with yoga studios.
The other three finalists in the competition were:
University of Waterloo
This company has developed biodegradable polymers that can secure a broken bone while it heals. Broken long bones are now held in place with titanium rods, which need to be removed with a second operation – which can be painful and expensive. The BioFlex solution would end the need for that second operation. The company is now developing its prototype and doing a patent search. It plans to soon begin clinical trials with animals, hoping the market for pets can produce revenues as it moves into regulatory trials for humans.
Suavair uses drones to monitor the growth of trees in woodlands. Private foresters on crown lands in B.C. need to produce reports for government on their reforestation efforts, but producing the data can be expensive, time consuming and dangerous. Sauvair has developed expertise in using drones to monitor reforested areas, and working with foresters to interpret the images brought back by the drones. The company is now working with a few clients, and is able to cut their costs in compliling the reports by 30 to 50 percent.
This week in Jobs of the Week, we are featuring two positions from Fredericton-based software solution developer Loft1.
Loft1’s software is used to transform any whiteboard markings into digitized script, eliminating the need to take notes or keep minutes.
Loft1 is seeking to fill two roles in their Fredericton offices: one as a UI/UX Mobile Developer, and one as a Principal Software Engineer. All Loft1 employees receive competitive benefits including health, dental, and vision.
Our Jobs of the Week feature jobs now open on the Entrevestor Job Board. Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Entrevestor Job Board, which helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities.
Loft1 is looking for a talented individual to contribute to the overall design and architecture of its software and supporting infrastructure. Ideal candidates would have a Master’s degree in either Computer Science, Electrical Engineering or another related field of study, though preference will be given to applicants holding a PhD. Candidates must have at least two years’ related work experience and be knowledgeable in Cloud Scale application development, knowledge of REST, JSON, and JQuery. An exceptional mathematics/algorithms background is also required. Annual salary is set at $100,000 to $110,000, based on qualifications with $300 annual fitness allowance and eligibility for a performance bonus.
Thayer Scott Calls for Arts Investment
Jacquelyn Thayer Scott
Nova Scotia would do well to follow the example of Australia and implement policies like those that are boosting the Australian film industry, said Cape Breton academic Jacquelyn Thayer Scott.
Thayer Scott recently read in the Financial Times that the Australian film sector has long been overshadowed by New Zealand’s, but tax breaks and the fall in the Australian dollar are attracting U.S. film crews.
Foreign films generated US$300 million expenditure in Australia in 2014-2015, more than double the income of the previous year.
Nova Scotia is rich in creative talents and traditions that could grow the economies of the region said Thayer Scott, who is a professor at Cape Breton University’s Shannon School of Business.
“I believe an under-exploited area of startups is the arts and creative sector,” said Thayer Scott, who is also a former president of Cape Breton University and a former chair of Innovacorp.
“It was stupid, stupid, stupid, getting rid of the Nova Scotia Film Industry Tax Credit…We’ve got music, theatre, film, visual artists…”
Plus, Nova Scotians already value and promote the creative sector.
That support was demonstrated to Kansas-born Canadian Thayer Scott when she arrived in Sydney in 1993 to become president of the college that became Cape Breton University.
“I was taken aside by an influential person who said, of several people on the university payroll, ‘Don’t necessarily expect a full day’s work from them. They have the support of the artistic community…’”
“They were good employees but, more importantly, they were real cultural icons…”
Thayer Scott said Cape Bretoners have helped young musicians fund albums. Rita MacNeil’s first two albums were published by the university, she said.
Cape Bretoners volunteer during the annual Celtic Colours International Festival. The festival has increased tourism, exposed local musicians to the world and brought international artists to the island.
Since the Celtic Colours International Festival began in 1997, recording studios have opened on the island, Thayer Scott said, and sound technicians are now trained locally.
“When something is important to a community, why not exploit it in a respectful way?” she asked. “We have that resource in Nova Scotia. Why turn our backs on its commercial potential?”
She said the creative sector may be facing the same misconception tech startups faced in the 1990s when Thayer Scott and others began trying to start a tech cluster in Sydney.
At first, there was little official support because tech startups were not seen as real businesses like retail outlets, steel plants and coal mines.
Eventually, Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation provided money for a monthly meeting.
“We knew that if we had tea and sandwiches, people would come,” Thayer Scott said. “We started TAG, the Technology Advisory Group, at the university.”
Over time, the group helped birth 12 small companies. Most of the 12, which include Marcato Digital, a specialist in web-based management of live events, and e-learning company MediaSpark, are still growing.
The sector was boosted in 1995 when Innovacorp began the province-wide I-3 Technology Startup Competition.
Now, Sydney houses a growing tech cluster. The university has partnered with entrepreneur Gavin Uhma, founder of the UIT Startup immersion stream, to teach entrepreneurs.
Innovacorp, led in Cape Breton by regional manager Bob Pelley, continues to fund new companies. Innovacorp and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency run the Spark Cape Breton contest.
Problems include: the difficulty of obtaining later-stage funding; the scarcity of expert mentorship; the shortage of key graduate programs at the university and associated research; distance from markets and the lack of good staff.
“But if Donald Trump gets elected we may get more people,” she said jokingly, referring to the website called Cape Breton if Trump Wins, which has unexpectedly generated tourist bookings and immigration queries.
“The site’s been worth a million dollars in advertising,” she added.
Disclaimer: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.
MappedIn Saw 500% Growth in 2015
Kitchener startup MappedIn managed a staggering 500 percent sales growth over the past year while pursuing its simple mission of helping people find things indoors.
MappedIn provides customizable interactive maps for retailers that are seeking to make navigation easier for their shoppers.
“Everyone knows the Canadian Tire experience on a Saturday morning,” said Co-Founder Hongwei Liu, “When you need one thing and it takes you 20 minutes to buy it. We think there’s tremendous benefit in people being able to self-serve.”
Liu added, “If you imagine the retail store of the future five years out, it’s unimaginable that that technology won’t exist. It’s so obvious, but it’s hard to do because managing the data is hard.”
The company simultaneously was founded and launched four-and-a-half years ago when Liu, Mitchell Butler and Leander Lee, all students at the University of Waterloo, showed their then side-project to the general manager of a local mall. She immediately put in an order to purchase a system for use during the Christmas rush, mere weeks away.
“From there, it’s sort of been this epic journey of trying to move as fast as we can,” said Liu, who noted that he and Butler have deferred their degrees while pursuing the company.
MappedIn was founded out of the University of Waterloo’s Velocity accelerator, and has also been supported by various Communitech initiatives.
“Certainly, I don’t think Mitch and I would be doing what we’re doing right now if it wasn’t for the influence of the school and the community.”
MappedIn’s maps are currently at use or will be soon in use at nine out of 10 of the biggest malls in Canada, and the company works with the four major premium mall owners in the nation, each of which own and manage tens or even hundreds of sites. Liu estimates they work with a total of about 50 companies, but across them support hundreds if not thousands of sites. Perhaps most impressively, they haven’t lost a customer yet.
MappedIn also has a few U.S. clients, including high-fi wireless speaker manufacturer Sonos, which uses the map internally to aid in finding employee workspaces in a densely populated office. Liu noted that the 24-person company also just won what will be a landmark deal in the states, though he is not yet able to discuss the details.
Liu says MappedIn’s main competition comes in the form of individual agencies that will create similar systems from scratch that will look good within the first month, but quickly go out of date.
“Our biggest difference is that we take the time to build up the infrastructure to maintain and automate an indoor dataset, a real-time view of what’s indoors.”
The last round of funding for the company closed March 2015 with $1.5 million raised. Liu said the company prefers organic growth but would raise capital again if the right funding opportunity arises.
“We see tremendous opportunity in the space we’re in,” said Liu, “In some ways we haven’t even really gotten started in turning the taps on.”
Fundmetric Lands Clients in NYC
Mark Hobbs at Google for Entrepreneurs in the Communitech Hub
Fundmetric, the Halifax startup that helps charities raise more money, is plotting a bold move into the U.S. after a successful meeting with clients in New York.
CEO Mark Hobbs was in New York last week for an event organized by the Canadian Digital Media Network, where he met with about 20 charities based in the area.
Fundmetric also became the first startup to take advantage of the office space available at Communitech NYC, the new facility operated by the Kitchener-based support organization Communitech.
“We were able to meet some of the leading charities in the New York,” Hobbs said in an interview Tuesday.
Many are household names, though he would not name them.
“To put it mildly, we got an outstanding reception from those customers and many of them are in the process of getting on our software now.”
Hobbs said the company was invited back for second meetings with two of the charities, and in one case to meet the charity’s CEO.
And Fundmetric now plans to open a sales office in New York due to response to its sales pitches.
Founded by Hobbs and Chris Kolmatycki, Fundmetric provides charities with software that helps to increase the results of their funding campaigns.
First, it scans a broad swath of data to learn about the charity’s donors. Then it uses algorithms to determine who is most likely to give and what their concerns are. Finally, it helps the charity contact the donors, so they understand the impact their gifts have had.
Fundmetric now has about 20 paying customers in Canada, including the fundraising teams at Saint Mary’s University and Dalhousie University.
Hobbs said that the last fundraising campaign to use Fundmetric experienced a 25-per-cent growth in donations and more than doubled the number of donors.
The charities Hobbs met in New York were far larger than those in Canada, he said, and they were impressed with Fundmetric’s unique ability to use data to enhance engagement with donors.
“It was neat going into a new market and learn that the pain is the same (as in Canada),” said Hobbs.
“The intensity at which that market innovates is well known and we were really pleased to be there from Nova Scotia and be there as a company that is bringing innovation to the charitable marketplace.”
One of the impressive things about Fundmetric is how much Hobbs and Kolmatycki have done with relatively modest amounts of capital.
The students in this graduate program for entrepreneurially minded executives will “pitch” themselves at Volta Labs in Halifax on Monday, March 7, from 5 to 7:30 pm.
MTEI intern students are trained in the entire startup process, from innovation processes and management to commercialization and business development.
Organizers of the event said these students have the skills to become innovators and to grow a business, whether it is a startup or a long-established organization. With an average of five years’ work experience, MTEI students have already demonstrated a track record of success and have the knowledge, skills and abilities to help companies drive innovation and solve complex business challenges.
You can learn more about the students here and register for the event here.
[Disclaimer: MTEI is a client of Entrevestor.]
Silver Economy Summit Set for Next Week
The Silver Economy Summit, a conference on the opportunities in providing products for the elderly, will take place March 8 and 9 at the Pictou County Wellness Centre.
Organizer John Hamblin said the growing number of seniors in the region require major changes in health, housing, home care and other areas. They also represent a great opportunity for startups and entrepreneurship.
“Dealing with the issues and problems of seniors requires new products and new applications, and these opportunities can result in great businesses that have world wide application,” he said.
The two-day conference includes keynote speeches from Gerry Pond, Chairman and Co-Founder of Mariner Partners, and noted futurist Ayelet Baron, as well as a range of other speakers.
Automotive technology company Selectbidder has signed two more U.S. auto auction partners: Acadia Auto Auctions and Port City Auto Auction, both of Maine. This follows deals signed recently with auction partners in Florida, Pennsylvania and New Brunswick.
These partners will use Selectbidder's platform to manage real-time bids between dealers for auto trade-ins. With Selectbidder, the auction partners, as well as their dealers and customers, enjoy a more efficient and fair trade-in process.
“Our teams are very excited to begin using Selectbidder," Dave Wescott, president of both Maine auction groups, said in a statement issued by Selectbidder. “It will help us grow our online sales and allow us to sell fresh vehicles every day, not just on sale day. This new tool will re-energize our sales team and dealers out in the field."
Selectbidder’s easy-to-use platform is attracting interest from independent auto auctions throughout North America, said the company.
Fundica Roadshow at Volta March 11
The Fundica Roadshow will stop in Halifax next week, holding a pitching and mentoring event on Friday, March 11, at Volta Labs in Halifax. The winner of the event will get a chance to pitch at the Grand Finale in San Francisco.
Fundica is a national organization dedicated to helping startups accelerate the funding process, and one of its key events is the coast-to-coast Fundica Roadshow. The event next Friday will include a few fireside chats, and pitches from a range of startup. The Atlantic Canadian winner will travel to the grand finals in San Francisco, receive three months of office space in Silicon Valley, and receive a cloud hosting package and one year of free Quickbooks online.
Fundica will also give $250 to the best pitch as voted by the audience.
"This is a national initiative designed to help entrepreneurs in the path towards getting funded,” said Lana Tayara, Fundica’s partnerships and marketing manager. “In 2015, 31 percent of the pitching companies were offered funding and the best pitch in each city won trip to San Francisco and a pitch opportunity to investors in the Valley. "
In the 2015 Roadshow, there were 144 piches, 1147 participants and 124 funders, and the events featured 96 educational and inspirational “RoadTalks”.
The winner of the Halifax event last year was Vendeve, the Halifax-based startup that helps women in service industries and professions find markets for their services.
Companies interested in pitching can register here. To be eligible, the companies must feature a technological component, be incorporated in Canada, be in seed or growth stage and expect revenue growth of more than 50 percent.
New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant has outlined plans to establish a centre of excellence for cybersecurity in New Brunswick.
The premier attended the RSA Conference 2016 in San Francisco this week to promote the province to information technology companies and security specialists. Before he left, he told the media that New Brunswick, and Fredericton in particular, is already strong in the field of cybersecurity, but more needs to be done to promote it.
“Developing a centre of excellence in cybersecurity will create jobs, protect our businesses and help us become the smart province,” said Gallant in a statement issued by his office. “This will be a great opportunity to showcase what New Brunswick has to offer.”
By attending the conference, Gallant is following up on recent efforts by his government, which include participating in the Halifax Securities Forum, meetings with IBM, aligning with the priorities of the federal government and a visit from the Israeli ambassador to Canada Rafael Barak in January.
At the conference in San Francisco, Gallant met with some of the leading figures in international IT security, including Avi Shavit, chief scientist of Israeli Cyber and Homeland Security.
Companies with operations in New Brunswick, such as Bulletproof Solutions Inc., IBM and Sentrant, and institutions like the University of New Brunswick are at the forefront of developing cybersecurity technologies, said the government.
Gallant told the media that cyber attacks each year have an economic impact of between $400 billion and $500 billion.
Solace Wins Sikorsky Competition
Solace Power has won Sikorsky Innovations’ 2016 Entrepreneurial Challenge, allowing the Newfoundland and Labrador company to work more closely with the U.S. Aerospace company.
Based in Mount Pearl, NL, Solace Power specializes in wireless power – that is, delivering electrical energy to batteries or devices without any wires attached to them. It works on projects for specific customers and then licences the technology to them.
The Newfoundland and Labrador company entered and won the sixth annual Entrepreneurial Challenge organized by Sikorsky Innovations, whose ultimate parent is the aerospace giant Lockheed Martin. As the winner, Solace received US$25,000 and – more importantly – an opportunity to explore with Sikorsky the impact of Solace Power technology on Sikorsky's product line.
“It’s obviously great market validation in the aerospace market – a market we’ve been working on for a while,” said Solace SEO Kris McNeil in an interview on Tuesday.
Sikorsky said in a statement that its Entrepreneurial Challenge is a one-of-a-kind gateway in which disruptive ideas can quickly gain exposure and a customer base within one of the most exciting transportation verticals in the world.
"We look forward to exploring the applications of the exciting Solace Power technology,” Chris Van Buiten, Vice-President of Sikorsky Innovations, said in the statement. “The Sixth Entrepreneurial Challenge exceeded our expectations, and we're anticipating strong additions to the portfolio with competitors from the seventh competition."
A graduate of the Genesis Centre at Memorial University, Solace Power has been working with about 15 customers and gaining revenues through the licensing fees. A year ago, it announced a partnership with Boeing, under which the Solace technology is used to wirelessly recharge unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. The technology uses energy transmitters that send electricity to receivers on drones to keep them in the air for longer periods of time without landing or swapping batteries.
McNeil said the company has been focusing closely on UAVs, and is now branching out into new projects. It is working with an original equipment manufacturer in the U.S. on an automotive product, and is even helping an office furniture company develop new devices related to electrical outlets in boardroom tables.
Having previously raised money from the First Angel Network and a few other angel investors, McNeil said he is raising a Series A financing round in 2016. He declined to name a target for the round. Solace now employs 21 people, and McNeil expects to add about 12 in the next year. In the meantime, the company will continue to work with Sikorsky and its other partners.
"The Sikorsky Entrepreneurial challenge was a fantastic opportunity for Solace Power to showcase its unique wireless power technology and earn validation from one of the world's most innovative companies," said Neil Chaulk, Solace Power’s Vice President of Business Development. "We are looking forward to working with Sikorsky to develop leading edge technology in the aerospace and defense market."
Now in its fourth year, CBMC judges student teams from across the country based on their use of the lean canvas, which emphasizes speaking directly with potential customers and users of their business idea. Teams don’t receive points for library research or fancy graphs, but by showing how their business idea could legitimately find a place in its market.
Eighty-three per cent of businesses fail within their first year, said CBMC organizer Mary Kilfoil. By sticking with the business model canvas, she hopes the 52 businesses competing at this year’s CBMC won’t become part of that statistic.
“Teams that have gone through this process and have learned the skills of customer discovery are much more likely to launch businesses,” said Kilfoil, who heads Dal’s Starting Lean program, which teaches students to use the lean canvas.
The participants not only have the chance to become first-, second- or third-place winners and receive a shared $50,000 in cash and in-kind services from Deloitte, but also to network and receive mentorship throughout the weekend.
The overall winner of CBMC will go on to the International Business Model Competition, which will be held in April at the Microsoft Campus in California.
The judges, who include representatives from the Business Development Bank of Canada, the University of North Carolina and The Next 36, among others, give feedback to the teams to help them develop further. Teams also receive mentoring from local entrepreneurs on Friday night to prepare them even more for their Saturday presentations.
“There are dinners, networking sessions, and everyone gets to meet one another, which adds real value to the nature and friendliness of the event,” Kilfoil said.
In conjunction with CMBC, the inaugural Canada’s Pitch Competition will also take place Friday and Saturday. (You can register to pitch or watch the event here.) Pitch 101, which teaches new entrepreneurs how to create one-minute pitches, is hosting the pitch competition to celebrate the university participants who completed the Pitch 101 program.
The reason for putting both competitions on at the same time is to show the Pitch 101 participants, who are in the ideation stage, what can happen once one works more on an idea and further develops a pitch.
The pitching competition participants can also participate in the networking events and dinners so that they can expand their networks and further their business ideas.
Kilfoil describes it as “a competition where there is tremendous learning—with, of course, an after party after the final pitches.”
The CBMC organizers, Kilfoil, Ed Leach and Akram Al-otumi, all work at the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship at Dalhousie.
Al-otumi is a graduate student himself, but also owns two businesses and is Manager of Programs and Projects at the Newman Centre.
Leach is the director at the Norman Newman Centre and oversees all the activities related to entrepreneurship both academically and extra-curricular.
Disclaimer: The author of this article also did paid work for Canada's Pitch Competition.
Castaway Selling Through 1,400 Stores
Matt Vance, second from right, and the Castaway team at the Breakthru Gala in 2015.
A year on from winning New Brunswick’s Breakthru competition, Castaway Golf Technologies has exceeded its annual sales targets and is selling its second-hand golf balls in 1,400 stores in Canada and the U.S.
The Fredericton company last year won the $287,250 first prize in Breakthru, which seeks to find the top new startup in New Brunswick. The company won with a mechanized device that can retrieve the millions of golf balls that end up in water hazards. It now retrieves ball from more than 75 golf courses in the Maritimes and the U.S. and then resells the balls under the Castaway brand.
The number of golf courses is growing as Castaway forms more partnerships.
“This summer we really got into the industry as a whole and figured out our position in it,” said CEO Matt Vance during a recent interview in Toronto, where he was meeting with potential investors. “We created some very strong partnerships over the past summer and that’s what really helped us to grow the business.”
Castaway grew out of Vance’s love of golf and his realization as a boy that there’s money to be made from retrieving and reselling golf balls lost in water hazards. Now he’s on a mission. “We want to help make the game of golf more affordable as we want to help grow the game of golf,” he said.
Vance said Ogden’s passion is starting companies, so he is working on new startups while Vance is in growth mode with Castaway.
Vance’s company is now making improvements to its hardware so the next iteration will be more sophisticated and user-friendly than the previous version.
The five-member team (which includes at least one Maritimer lured home from Western Canada) at Castaway is developing new revenue streams, he added. However, Vance was coy about the specifics of what partnerships he has formed given the fact that there are a number of competitors with similar products.
“We really nailed down and asked our customers what they wanted and we’ll launch some new products this summer that our customers have told us they’d like to see,” he said.
The growth has been strong enough that the team is now looking at finding a new, larger warehouse in the Fredericton area, as it’s outgrowing its current location.
Without getting into specifics, he said he is talking to “smart money” investors, that is individuals or institutions that bring expertise and networks as well as capital. It’s similar to the benefit the company got from winning Breakthru.
“Winning that competition proved our business model, helped us to be poised for growth and established relationships,” said Vance. “And it gave us the opportunity to bring some Maritimers from out West back to the East Coast.”
We Want to Hear from NB Startups
As we build a list of Atlantic Canadian startups, we’re putting out a special request for young innovative companies based in New Brunswick to let us know they’re in business.
Why New Brunswick?
We believe that the province has been a hotbed of company formation in the past two years, especially in the IT segment. There are New Brunswick startups that we haven’t heard of yet, and we’d love to be aware of them.
We’re not reporting on these companies or naming them publicly if they don’t want to be named. We are just developing our list of startups and high-growth companies in Atlantic Canada – all those that were active as of Jan. 31, 2015. We have a list of about 300 companies that we’re familiar with.
If you’ve appeared in Entrevestor, then you’re on our list. If not, or if you haven’t contacted us before, please email me at email@example.com and let me know the company name, location, sector, year founded and CEO.
This list of companies is the backbone of the Entrevestor Databank. In a few weeks, we will be surveying all the companies and come up with metrics on the size and performance of Atlantic Canadian startups. We aggregate this data and publish most of it free on Entrevestor, and we also prepare reports for clients. It helps us to finance the daily news we provide for the startup community.
Of course, there are grey areas on what constitutes a startup, so here are the criteria:
You have to be actively working on your company. That doesn’t mean the company has to have paid employees. But a person or team has to be working each week on the project and have to be well into customer discovery and product development. It can’t just be a hobby. And it can’t be something you were working on last year and may return to one day.
It has to be owned by at least one Atlantic Canadian. We want companies based here. We will include companies that have at least one co-founder in the region. We won’t include companies based elsewhere that have some developers working on the East Coast.
The company must be developing proprietary technology for the global market. You have to be working on a product. Service companies and companies serving the local market would not be included.
If you meet these criteria and haven’t been mentioned in Entrevestor before, please shoot me an email. You should do this for three reasons: first, it means we’ll know about you when your company reaches the stage that it merits press coverage; second, our reports are read by decision makers, and the better our information, the more impact it has on policies for startups; and third, this helps us to continue to report on the Atlantic Canadian startup community. And we believe that helps the whole community.
Jobs of the Week: Halifax
This week in Jobs of the Week, we’re focussing on the Halifax area, including a new posting on the Entrevestor Job Board from Hacket’s Cove, N.S.-based transmitter developer Nautel.
Nautel is a manufacturer of high powered radio frequency products that are primarily suited for broadcast, navigation, industrial, and plasma rocket applications.
The company, which is looking for a Product Management and Marketing Specialist, has sold its radio broadcast transmitters in 177 countries.
Entrevestor and Qimple operate the Entrevestor Job Board, which helps match job openings and candidates in the tech and start-up communities.
Nautel is looking to fill an opening for an entrepreneurially minded, motivated individual with a flair for crafting messaging and positioning a brand within a marketplace. The successful candidate must help to develop marketing programs and events and work on demand generation and product launches. He or she will approach each of these tasks with a keen eye for detail. This person will be continuously engaged with the sales team, and understand the technical capabilities and benefits of Nautel products. The successful candidate will be an expert on competitors’ strategies and customers. Qualifications include an MBA or a Bachelors in Marketing and technical acumen gained through experience or technical education. Alternatively, the candidate may have a technical degree complemented by business experience. Multiple languages, and communication skills would be an asset. This role will require international travel.
STI Technologies is looking for a UX designer to work within its R&D/Innovation team. Qualifying traits include an analytical sensibility, good business sense, strong research ability, a passion for technology, and exceptional problem-solving skills. This role will be responsible for customer retention, researching customer behavior, recommending improvements, site architecture and navigation, and user flow. The successful candidate must also create user interfaces and functional specification documents. Qualifications for this position include a bachelor or college degree, and three to six years’ experience in a similar role.
Proposify is seeking an experienced marketer/growth hacker to join their small team in Halifax. The ideal candidate would fit in with Proposify’s corporate culture of customer service, inter-departmental communication/cooperation, respect and humour. The applicant should have a track record of driving revenue for SaaS companies, be data-driven, analytical, innovative, creative, and posses a diverse set of skill to drive growth. This includes SEO marketing automation, conversion optimization, and consumer psychology. Responsibilities for the role include using data and analytics to develop insight for improved decision making, and drive growth related to revenue, retention and referrals. Qualifications for this position include five plus years’ experience in a similar role.
Gracenote is looking for an applicant to fill the position of web developer in its Halifax office. The successful applicant will work independently alongside a technical team, and write web, desktop, and mobile applications. They will be responsible to expose themselves to relevant industry applications (IIS, Bamboo, Jira, Confluence, Fisheye, etc.) and technologies (NuGet, Gradle, MongoDB, etc.). Qualifications include a Computer Science Degree or equivalent, five-plus years’ experience working with the following – Java and/ore NET (C# and VB), HTML, XML and SQL Server. Experience with third party and open source tool such as Hibernate and Spring would be considered an asset.
Clean Simple, whose platform improves communications in commercial cleaning services, is looking for a talented Software QA lead to join its team. This person will design and implement the company’s Quality Assurance Program with the expressed objective of ensuring the best possible performance for both its Mobile and Web software. The successful candidate will be given creative control over the design of Clean Simple’s QA program with the mandate of thoroughly de-risking and refining products in development. He or she will collaborate with development and design teams to plan and execute testing across a variety of world-class applications on the newest web and mobile technologies. Clean Simple is looking for someone with three to five years of experience in a similar role.
Working within the technical team on web-based projects, the Front End Developer’s main responsibility is to produce, modify and maintain web-based user interfaces. The successful candidate must also work closely with server-side developers to understand and use their server-side code to develop complex, interactive and database-driven websites. Dadavan is seeking a candidate with experience designing and implementing web applications that are part of larger, multi-tiered distributed applications that include server and database components and processes.
QRA develops software to help engineers build flawless products. The company is searching for an experienced software engineer with confidence and talent. It is seeking candidates with a minimum of three years of progressive web and client/server software development experience. A formal education in Computer Science or Engineering is a major asset.
VMO is searching for a lead developer based in the Halifax area with three to five years of experience. The successful candidate should be a self-motivated and independent senior level developer who is current with modern web and cloud-based technologies. The position calls for programming for mission-critical real-time systems, transforming the way airlines operate today. On occasion, the developer will also be tasked with communicating with clients to address open issues with beta and production software.
As part of the product development and engineering team, the Java Developer will be expected to play a critical role in shaping Athletigen’s technology offering. This will involve participating in building a state of the art DNA analytics engine using different technologies such as Java, Hibernate, Spring AOP, Spring IoC, python, R, big data systems and REST services. Minimum Qualifications include in-depth knowledge of data structures and Java Collections including, Maps, Sets and Graph implementations. The candidate should have a very strong knowledge of Java Language including, inner, nested and anonymous classes, private constructors, final methods, overloading, and overriding.
An Update on Rev Cohort 2
There is a massive display screen above Marylin Ma’s desk in the Communitech Hub and all day, every day, it flashes the weekly sales goals of each team in the Rev accelerator.
It is a constant, Orwellian reminder that the cohort members have to get out and sell, and meet their weekly targets. And it is one reason that all four cohort members – BluePoint Technology, FunnelCake, Knowledgehook and Tallyfi – increased their sales in the first two months of the program, even though the holiday period is usually a dead season for sales.
“This new model is going extremely well,” Ma, the Program Manager, said in an interview in January. “We’re working with the companies religiously on their sales and marketing strategies.”
Rev started early last year as a means of helping companies with revenues to scale. The thinking was that the Waterloo Region was really great at launching companies but needed to pay more attention to helping companies grow. So Rev is a program for companies with a product and that need to get serious about building scalable marketing and sales processes.
After the first cohort successfully concluded with about eight companies graduating, the organizers refined the program.
First, they staggered the intake. Four companies entered the six-month program in November, and another four entered the program in February. By staggering the program with a four-company intake at one time (rather than eight companies at once), Rev allows for more customized programming because each business is unique.
The second change is that the organizers intensified the executives-in-residence positions for the program, naming three of them for the four teams, and deepening their work with the companies.
“The mentors are almost acting as embedded executives,” said Ma, adding that these experienced executives are diving into the companies’ strengths and weaknesses, coming with them on sales calls and working side-by-side with the founders. “Being in the field allows the executives to gain insights directly from the customers. They’re then better positioned to advise where the companies should go.”
But for the most part, the goals of Rev haven’t changed since the program started a year ago – to grow revenues and develop solid corporate organizations. When the four members of Cohort 2 pitch at Centre Stage (the name for Rev’s demo day) in May, they will have to demonstrate how the sales and marketing engine they’ve built will help them achieve their future revenue targets. It’s what Rev companies have to do to graduate.
“We’ve gone in since Day 1 with that goal,” said Ma. “It’s never easy but we have a lot of knowledge under our belt now to better guide our companies.”
Peer-to-Peer Mentorship in Propel
Propel ICT’s recent announcement of its latest cohort of tech startups illustrates just how quickly Atlantic Canada is developing a huge pool of expertise in launching and scaling high-growth companies.
The regional accelerator this month announced that 38 companies will participate in its first course of 2016, including nine in its elite Build program, which is tailored to more advanced companies. What’s interesting about the group of entrepreneurs in the Build course is that the participants include authorities in their own right in a range of different fields.
Al Sturgeon, the Propel exec who will oversee the Build program, will no doubt bring in a range of mentors to teach this group. But the peer-to-peer mentorship (one of the key benefits of any accelerator) will be fantastic.
It’s great for the nine entrepreneurial teams going through this specific program, but it also demonstrates a positive development in the economy of Atlantic Canada. In the past half-decade or so, there has been a steady march of people from universities and traditional businesses into the startup segment, and they have been experimenting, failing, trying new things and seeking guidance from others.
Through it all, the regional startup community has developed a body of expertise and – this is key – an eagerness to share it with one another. It’s difficult to over-state how happy startup entrepreneurs are to help each other out. So when the Build program convenes next week, the participants will have a range of talent, experience and networks to draw on.
The group will include Heather Anne Carson, a previous Propel mentor. Carson is entering the course as the Co-Founder and CEO of Moncton- and Toronto-based Repable, which provides analytics for the gaming industry. She previously was a founding partner of the public relations and marketing firm, Onboardly, whose clients include startups around the continent. She brings a huge network to the program.
Another member is Alastair Jarvis, the Co-Founder and CEO of WoodsCamp of Lunenburg, N.S. Jarvis has a deep background in gaming and tech, and is an authority on using a lean canvas to develop business models. His last startup, Orpheus Interactive, produced the successful Sons of Anarchy game.
As well as Propel, Kelly Lawson is also taking her Saint John-based startup Ella Online Marketplace Inc. through the Fashion Zone at the Digital Media Zone at Ryerson University in Toronto. Her husband is Jeff Roach, the head of social media marketing firm Sociallogical.
Then there are brothers Kousha and Ehsan Nakhaei. Their company MouseStats is now based in Halifax, but six months ago it was headquartered in Iran. The tool for analysing online user interaction once won an award for the best English-language website in Iran. These guys, who came to Canada in the immigrant entrepreneur program, grew a global client base in a country subject to international sanctions. Don’t tell they can’t teach other entrepreneurs about sales and scaling.
Others in the group include another team of brothers, Drew and Coady Cameron, the co-founders of Fredericton-based TotalPave, winners of the 2013 Breakthru competition in New Brunswick, and Colin MacInnis and Brian Best, whose company Phased.io grew out of the UIT program at Cape Breton University. It also includes WellTrack, which went through the first cohort offered of Launch36, the previous Propel accelerator.
All these people embody one of the revolutionary features of startup communities – the way that they provide sustenance for themselves and spontaneously develop business expertise. And accelerators are one way that this business knowledge spreads.
Disclaimer: Propel is a client of Entrevestor.
Briefs: Kinduct, Venn, Qimple
Minnesota Twins become Kinduct Client
Kinduct Technologies has announced that the Minnesota Twins are the newest addition to their growing list of high-profile sports clients. The two-time World Series champions, now gearing up for spring training, have adopted Kinduct's innovative suite of athlete management tools across their organization, including their minor league affiliates. The Twins' coaching staff and sports scientists can now leverage Kinduct's technology to streamline their performance and operational capabilities in an effort to achieve further success on the field.
"We're excited to partner with Kinduct to create a custom athlete management system that we can use to improve our players overall health and performance," Tony Leo, athletic therapist with the Minnesota Twins, said in a statement. "Kinduct provides us with highly relevant data in a quick and efficient manner so that we can individualize player programming which is essential to adapting their workload to maximize health and performance throughout the season."
Kinduct has recently sent a group of their consultants to Minnesota to assist with implementing the athlete management system. "The Minnesota Twins are an exciting team and they are quickly becoming one of the most innovative teams in the league," said Kinduct CEO and Founder Travis McDonough. "Our technology will help the Twins consolidate athlete data in a centralized system that promotes more informed decision making.”
Venn Launches V-Lab for Corporations
Venn Innovation, the Moncton-based support facility for innovative industries, is launching a new corporate innovation program called V-Lab to encourage new technologies at corporations.
Based in the VennCentre in Moncton, the V-Lab program is designed to provide corporate clients with a methodology to change their processes and/or adopt new technologies to disrupt their market. The goal is to help them gain a competitive edge and deliver new innovation to their customers.
V-Lab clients will be immersed in a collaborative program that allows their execs to work closely with tech companies of all sizes, from early-stage startups in the Vennture Garage program to growth-stage tech companies and others. They will also have regular interaction with academic partners and service providers.
“The intrapreneurship model has emerged as a key vehicle for enterprise to survive and grow in an environment where most of the innovation and disruptions are emanating from the startup community,” said Venn CEO Doug Robertson in a statement.
“Innovation outposts like V-Lab become the eyes and ears of the corporation, actively engaging with the innovation ecosystem, being alert to threats that could lead to disruption of the corporation, and identifying and creating innovative products and services for new and existing markets.”
Qimple, Oulton, Dovico Unveil Bursary
Moncton-based organizations Qimple, Oulton College and Dovico have formed a partnership in which they will provide bursaries to two New Brunswick students.
YU Tech Sales Bursary program will benefit two deserving Grade 12 students who demonstrate a financial need and a personal interest in a sales career in the local tech industry. They must also plan to enroll in Oulton College’s Business Marketing and Sales Diploma program starting in September 2016. The successful applicants will receive full tuition for their diploma program, plus a practicum option with Qimple or Dovico.
An early employee at Qimple, Anthony Yu (now Online Media Marketer for Intercom in San Francisco), inspired the bursary. “This partnership is an opportunity for Qimple to give back and empower New Brunswick's youth to explore all of the incredible opportunities associated with technology sales and marketing,” said Yves Boudreau, Founder and CEO of Qimple. “Anthony worked with Qimple through the world's leading startup accelerator, 500 Startups. He was so thankful for the great experience he had working with Qimple that he opted to have his compensation donated to benefit the future of tech in New Brunswick.”
Jackson: We Must Unite on Transport
Like many in the Waterloo Region, tech executive Tim Jackson knows that the commute to or from Toronto is not just a massive inconvenience.
It’s a deterrent to economic growth.
Back in 2007, when he was CFO of Pixstream, Jackson commuted daily from his Toronto home to Waterloo. Now, as EVP Corporate and Community Development and Lead Executive at the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, he finds himself travelling the 401 once again, shuttling on Sundays and Thursdays between his family in Waterloo and his condo in Toronto.
He’s not alone. An estimated 10,000 individuals now commute daily from the Greater Toronto Area to the Waterloo Region. Tens of thousands more head the other way.
“As early as 2000, when my family and I decided to relocate here to Waterloo, you could clearly see that a significant sector was being built, as the community transitioned from its traditional manufacturing and insurance roots into a centre for information and communications technology excellence,” said Jackson in an interview. “Companies such as RIM (now BlackBerry), OpenText, Descartes and MKS were pioneering the way back then, and were the companies we all looked up to and admired. Alongside University of Waterloo, they were laying the groundwork for Waterloo Region to become what it is today – an emerging hotbed for startups in North America and a magnet for global tech brands such as Google, Huawei, SAP, Shopify, Square and others.”
But the Waterloo Region has not earned this reputation without growing pains. One problem is the 100-plus kilometres between Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo, which on a good day translates into a typical four-hour round trip.
The individual frustrations aside, the lack of an efficient transportation connection is a business inhibitor, said Jackson.
“While Waterloo Region is highly regarded as a source for engineering talent, the community has always struggled to attract executives [like CEOs and COOs], as well as marketing and sales professionals.
Companies in this area need this kind of business talent to grow to the next level. So the question we’re wrestling with is, ‘How do we better dock with Toronto and the resources it offers to expand our access to capital, talent and customers?’”
Jackson is one of the industry, academic and government leaders who are collaborating on a long-term strategy to solve this challenge. But, Jackson warned, the process will be far from easy and will demand a massive infrastructure overhaul.
“Let’s look at what happened with Light Rail Transit in Waterloo Region. It took different groups coming together to speak with one voice and advance the business case,” he said. “That effort gave politicians the cover to make the hard decisions. We now need to do the same to move people through the digital corridor. It will require strong intestinal fortitude to make this kind of infrastructure investment, and so we need broad involvement. ... And it needs to happen all the way along the line, involving other municipalities that lie along the corridor including Milton, Brampton, Mississauga and so forth.” Glimmers of early cooperation are there. University of Waterloo and University of Toronto recently joined together to publish an op-ed piece.
The Accelerator Centre, Communitech and MaRS are collaborating more, with the Waterloo organizations tapping into the significant health sciences, cleantech and fintech expertise in Toronto. Toronto and Waterloo are also cooperating on efforts to bring capital up from the U.S.
Jackson noted that the resolution to the transportation challenge is likely a decade or more away. “If the ultimate plan is an all-day train link, then these things always take longer than anyone would like. What we need to build is a long-term plan with milestones, and then figure out interim solutions, such as dedicated HOV [High-Occupancy Vehicle] lanes, or train/bus combinations to bridge us to our final destination.”
The ultimate result would mean greater economic prosperity for Waterloo Region. “Even a few decades ago you could see that something extraordinary was happening here,” said Jackson. “The more we can do to help entrepreneurship flourish and to attract capital, the more all of Canada benefits.”
Ellyn Winters-Robinson is President and Chief Marketing Officer for Ignition Communications, a boutique marketing communications and PR firm based in Waterloo Region focused on the tech sector. She also serves as the in-house PR and communications mentor with the Waterloo Accelerator Centre. You can follow her on Twitter @ellynjane.
HeyOrca! Adds Staff After Funding
Joe Teo, left, and Sahand Seifi
Having finally secured seed funding of $650,000, Newfoundland startup HeyOrca! is looking to take on more staff and increase the sales of its marketing collaboration platform.
Until recently, the company had just three people on staff Co-Founders Joseph Teo, Sahand Seifi and web developer Nadia Sajjadi. Now it is in the process of bulking up to a five-member team, as well as adding some co-op students and part-time employees.
That will help the company to increase its sales effort, working with both marketing agencies and the marketing departments at major corporations that want to simplify the process of creating content.
“2015 was the year that we validated the business model and 2016 is the year when we’ll amp it up and bring on more developers,” said CEO Joe Teo.
HeyOrca! was the first company from Newfoundland and Labrador to go through the Propel ICT Build program the regional accelerator’s mentoring course for more advanced companies. Once it completed the course, it was able to close funding from BDC Capital and the Venture Newfoundland and Labrador fund, which are funding partners for Propel. And St. John’s-based Killick Capital also joined the funding party, bringing the total equity investment up to $650,000.
Teo said he expects the funding to last 12 to 18 months, depending on how much revenue the company takes in.
Operating out of the Genesis Centre in St. John’s, HeyOrca! helps marketing agencies managing multiple client brands to visually plan and seamlessly approve social media content. “We are doing to social media content what Google Docs did to Word Doc,” said Teo.
HeyOrca! has integrated it with software commonly used by marketers, such as Dropbox and Google Drive.
“The whole focus is: how can we make the social media process absolutely seamless for the [marketing] teams and other stakeholders?” said Teo.
When they began, they planned to target mainly marketing agencies. But they have also found that brands (meaning large corporations with consumer products) have also learned of HeyOrca! and a few are now using the product.
As it scales its business, Teo said the team wants to “double-down on agencies,” meaning that it’s planning a sales and marketing drive that will increase the use of the product among major marketing agencies. He added that the main target market for the coming drive now is the U.S., although it now has clients evenly divided between the U.S. and Canada.
“But our goal is also to get a few marquee brands that can serve as references,” he said.
Teo added that the HeyOrca! is contemplating applying for another accelerator outside the region, which has become an increasingly popular route for companies aiming to expand their network. But first the company wants to increase its revenues and be in a better position to present its business.
The conference will look at the rapid innovation in the design and manufacturing of wood products, and the need for Atlantic Canada’s forest and wood product industries to keep abreast of trends. You can register for the event here.
The conference will be held at the Moncton Coliseum. Speakers will include Robert K. Irving, Co-CEO of J. D. Irving, who will be the keynote speaker for the luncheon on March 1.
Irving’s presentation will focus on keys to business success, building the economy of tomorrow, and opportunities and challenges in doing business in Canada and the U.S.
The host of the conference will be Y. H. Chui, Director of the UNB Wood Science and Technology Centre and holder of the New Brunswick Innovation Research Chair in Advanced Wood Products.
Chui’s presentation will focus on applications of wood products in mass construction and mid-rise buildings, with an emphasis on business opportunities for Atlantic Canada’s wood industry.
Meaghan Seagrave, Executive Director at BioNB, a partner of the conference, said that New Brunswick’s economy is closely tied to natural resources, with 80 percent of the province’s land covered by forest.
“We have the industry and technology assets to transform this resource into high value products bound for international markets,” she said in a statement.
“The UNB Wood Science and Technology Centre is a powerful research asset for the wood products industry and the province, and this conference is a fresh step toward fostering the growth of the region's wood technology cluster.”
Greg Brooks of Louisville, KY, will also be a guest speaker. Brooks, a consultant and author, is President of the Building Supply Channel, editor of LBM Executive, and a Steering Committee member of the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies.
His presentation will explore how the U.S. housing industry is evolving post-recession and discuss how wood and building product distribution channels in the U.S. and Canada are responding to these changes.
Another guest speaker is Phillip Bibeau, Executive Director of the Wood Products Manufacturers Association, headquartered in Boston and representing some 300 wood product manufacturing companies in 37 states.
Bibeau’s presentation will examine changes that impact small and mid-size wood product manufacturers in the U.S., and the opportunities they present to suppliers in Atlantic Canada.