Sentinel: 1st NL Startup in Launch36

Sentinel Alert, a St. John’s start-up that is developing a wearable technology devoted to worker safety, has become the first company from Newfoundland and Labrador accepted into the prestigious Launch36 technology accelerator.

The company has spent about a year prototyping and validating technology that can tell large companies and/or governments when a lone worker — such as a lineman for an electricity company — has had an accident or is in jeopardy.

Co-founders Sarah Murphy and Jason Janes attended the Launch36 selection camp in Moncton earlier this month and were accepted into the Launch36 Start program in Fredericton. Murphy will relocate to Fredericton for the next three months, commuting regularly back to St. John’s, where she is conducting graduate studies at Memorial University. Janes expects to spend quite a bit of time in Fredericton as well.

The complete roster of companies in the most recent Launch36 cohort will be announced at the Startup Empire conference today. When the accelerator began three years ago, the organizers aimed for a truly regional program. And now the latest cohort has representation from all four Atlantic Provinces. 

By working with the Launch36 mentors, they hope to devise a path to market for a product that requires industrial partners.

 “Our business is targeting a hot topic in that Newfoundland is in a huge industrial boom and worker safety is a big issue,” said CEO Murphy in a recent interview in St. John’s. “But what we’re finding is that there is a tricky sales cycle in this business.”

Sentinel Alert grew out of an idea that germinated at St. John’s’ first Startup Weekend last November. During the 54-hour entrepreneurship competition, Murphy and her team developed a basic prototype for a smartphone app that would detect a sudden jolt — the likely result of a worker, say, falling of a ladder or collapsing after a heart attack. The cellphone would then automatically contact a central monitoring station, which could call the worker to see if he or she were all right.

The company has since developed a wearable device similar to a wristwatch. Murphy eventually hopes the technology could be built into safety vests or hard hats.

For the past several months, Sentinel Alert has been building relationships with oil and gas companies and construction companies that could be potential customers. The feedback has been positive, though it has yet to sign its first customer.

The company says there are 27 million lone workers in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. The cost of monitoring these workers is now estimated to be $3.3 billion annually, even though companies fall incredibly short of the regulations overseeing such monitoring procedures.

Despite the size of the market, securing the first customer has proven complicated because the client and startup would have to work out the bugs and processes to maximize the product’s efficiency. One avenue may be to tap into the pool of money that oil and gas companies have to spend in research and development as part of their contracts to work on the province’s offshore industry.

Once the product is on the market, Sentinel Alert plans wants to examine the data for telltale signs that an accident could happen. For example, the devise can measure elevation, and might be able to determine when workers are putting themselves in danger.


Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support start-up companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies are featured in this column nor do they have the right to review columns before they are published.

ProductCamp Atlantic Set for October

 “Product manager” is a difficult position to define let alone master. And to help people do both, ProductCamp is coming to Halifax next month.

ProductCamp is a loosely organized get-together in which product managers, marketing professionals and people interested in product management can meet up, find areas of common interest and mentor on another on best practices. ProductCamp Atlantic will be held Saturday Oct. 25 at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre, 1344 Summer Street, Halifax. Admission is free and registration is available here.

If the structure of the conference is difficult to pin down, so is the group it’s targeting because there is no clear definition for “product manager.” The job description tends to vary from industry to industry and from company to company.

“In the pharma sector, it’s mainly about brand management,” said Megann Willson, one of the organizers of the event. “In IT, it can mean something completely different.”

ProductCamp is a movement that has grown out of the U.S. to draw product managers together to discuss the challenges they face and improve the performance of their companies. In the past few years, ProductCamps have been held in several cities around the world, and in such Canadian cities as Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto. The event on Oct. 25 will be the first held in Atlantic Canada.

For the record, Wikipedia defines “product manager” as the person who “investigates, selects, and drives the development of products for an organization.” They are the ones who sit between the engineers and the marketing execs. They make sure a company is producing something the market wants and ensure that product gets to the market.

Megann Willson and her husband Steve Willson, who together operate the Panoptika business consultancy, have teamed up with John Whyte, the head of marketing at Nautel, to organize the event. Whyte has taken notice of the ProductCamp movement in the U.S. and believed that Atlantic Canada could use such an event. All three are organizing the event on a volunteer basis.

Steve Johnson, a noted product management process coach from the Washington, D.C., area, will attend and participate in the event. But the goal is to get people working together to educate one another. As an unconference, the participants come together and decide among themselves what issues they’d like to discuss. They can break into groups or remain as one big session. People with experience in a given field tend to take the lead and others come forward with questions and advice as they see fit.

“We’re hoping for a range of backgrounds, from very experienced to completely new at it,” said Whyte.

The organizers added that they chose the name ProductCamp Atlantic because they’re hoping for participation from throughout the region. They also hope it will be an annual event and can be held in other cities in coming years. 


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


Press Release: Neurodyn’s Phase 1A

Neurodyn, the Charlottetown startup working on treatments for neurological diseases,  has issued the following press release:

Positive Phase 1a outcome for Memogain

Neurodyn Life Sciences Inc. announced completion of its first-in-human clinical study, demonstrating Memogain’s potential benefits over existing Alzheimer’s drugs;

•             increased safety in the absence of significant side effects,

•             more potent cognitive enhancement.

The Phase IA clinical trial addressed safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetics of intranasally delivered Memogain in healthy young and elderly subjects, compared to the daily recommended doses of the current Alzheimer’s drugs: galantamine (16 mg) and donepezil (10 mg). Study participants were additionally tested for improved cognition.

The administration of Memogain was found to be safe and well tolerated at all dose levels. No clinical abnormalities were seen in hematology, blood chemistry, urine analysis, ECG or vital signs. Adverse events were either mild or moderate. The most prevalent being nausea, reported by a few subjects administered the standard galantamine dose of 16 mg, but only observed at the highest Memogain dose (44mg). The excellent safety and tolerability of Memogain, will dispense with the month-long gradual dosage increase that presently is common practice for other Alzheimer’s drugs, permitting the immediate administration of an efficacious dose.

“This outstanding safety and tolerability profile is achieved even though Memogain, a prodrug of galantamine, has a 10 times higher concentration in the brain, as compared to orally administered galantamine” says Dr. Maelicke, Memogain’s developer. “Additionally, Memogain has a delayed release profile which could facilitate single daily dosing.”

In cognitive testing, Memogain was able to improve vigilance and short-term memory capacity: eye-hand coordination and vigilance was measured in the adaptive tracking test, and word learning and recall in the visual verbal learning test (VVLT). Both young and elderly subjects performed better than untreated volunteers in these tests. Galantamine, failed to show improvement in either the adaptive tracking test, or the VVLT, where donepezil also failed to demonstrate improvement.

Earlier preclinical studies have demonstrated Memogain’s potential to provide neuroprotection and delay disease progression. Should future clinical studies also substantiate these findings, Memogain® may become the urgently needed turning point in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.


Skerry Takes Charge on EyeRead

Leah Skerry was shocked to learn that one of her friends struggled through high school without being able to read.

Her friend’s experience helped motivate Skerry to develop EyeRead, an affordable eye-tracking software able to assess and aid children’s reading.

The device is still being developed, and Skerry, a partner at Halifax web development and invention firm Norex, and her co-workers are seeking investment in San Francisco for their idea.

Unlike other eye-tracking devices, EyeRead will not need to be fixed to the wearer’s head. Instead, it will use an infrared camera to track kids’ eyes as they read digital material. The technology will be applicable to languages other than English and able to be used on any type of device.

The development of the product is moving fast since work began in January.

“We’ve been invited to pitch for investment in San Francisco in October, and we’ve been asked to demo the prototype in Tokyo,” Skerry said.

“I’m feeling the kind of excitement you feel on a roller-coaster.”

Clinical trials on the device will start in November at the University of Moncton.

“The technology will allow a more comprehensive gathering of data into individual children’s reading differences than has been possible before,” Skerry said.

Testing is expected to take a year, and it’s possible the device will be in use in public schools shortly after that.

EyeRead is just the latest project for Skerry, her colleague Julia Rivard, who is Norex CEO and a former Olympian, and their team, which totals 15.

Formed in 2010, Norex’s initial focus was on web design, but Skerry said employees increasingly create their own products because the company prioritizes innovation.

“At Norex, all employees spend 20 per cent of their time on innovation, which means that one day a week everyone gets to work on new product ideas.

“Our goal is to have a product development side of the company. Our team get most excited about developing new ideas that allow them to push boundaries.”

Skerry, 28, graduated in business from Saint Mary’s University, with a minor in design from NSCAD University.

EyeRead is the kind of project she most enjoys as it allows her to merge her love of technology with her passion for social entrepreneurship.

Successful products she has already worked on include Pursu.it, a non-profit crowdfunding site for amateur athletes.

Pursu.it is now a separate organization, or “standing on its own legs,” as Skerry puts it, and is being run by volunteers in many countries around the world. Pursu.it has a new partnership with the Canadian Olympic Foundation and will launch in the United States in October and in Germany in 2015. The crowdfunding engine created for Pursu.it has been spun into a separate business called Swell.

EyeRead will also be its own entity and is being incorporated as a stand-alone startup, which Skerry will run as CEO.

The company has also incubated Hashpi.pe, which allows a unified display of hashtags across a range of social media channels.

“I enjoy the combination of working with international clients on boosting their web presence and developing new products,” said Skerry, who helps promote business by serving on the board of the North End Business Association.

She is also a 21Inc Emerging Leaders of N.S. alumna and a member of the Global Shapers Community run by the World Economic Forum.

Skerry stressed that Norex’s success is partly due to the support the company has received along the way.

“Our partnership with Dalhousie has been great for us,” she said. Dalhousie students helped with the initial development of EyeRead.

She also praised Nova Scotia Business Inc., the Industrial Research Assistance Program and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

“Their investment has allowed us to develop our ideas.”



Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Sally Ng: NB Needs Innovation

[Ahead of the New Brunswick election on Monday, Planet Hatch Executive Director Sally Ng wrote the following column for the CBC. The piece was accompanied by this radio interview with Terry Seguin.]  

If you had asked me five years ago if I would still be in New Brunswick, I would have said, “Not a chance.”

Years after studying at Mount Allison University and the Moncton Flight College, here I am in the province back in my hometown of Fredericton, helping to develop the next generation of successful technology companies through my work at Planet Hatch.

Previously, I couldn’t quite see the potential.

After working with start-ups, such as Clarity, and having the opportunity to facilitate Start-up Weekend events with Up Global around the world I saw the potential of what we have in our backyard.

I can see the light at the end of tunnel to get us out of our massive piles of debt. Often times, especially in New Brunswick, we tend to see things as the glass half empty instead of half full.

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us,” Helen Keller once said.

Over the past 10 years and over history, as a province we have had several incredible developments that have revolutionized industries around the world.

From the development of the Scuba tank in the 1800s, to creating a variable pitch propeller, and now creating world class technology companies.

In 2011, we had $1 billion worth of acquisitions through Radian6 (acquired by Saleforce for $360 million) and Q1Labs (acquired by IBM for $700-million plus). The two exits produced 50 new millionaires in the New Brunswick that year.

Moving forward how do we continue to develop these innovations that compete with the world, but yet help bridge our province together. Here are some key points that we need to consider.

Love it or not, we’re in the 21st century and digital age. This will create mountains of opportunities that can connect us to other markets faster than anything else.

Ng said the province's technology industry has many reasons to be proud. For instance, she said Salesforce bought Radian6 for $360 million in 2011. She said in 2011, the acquisitions of Q1Labs and Radian6 generated $1 billion.

Yes we can still ship products across the ocean, but what if the product you ship is virtual? What if it was software? In this example, we are no longer bound by geographic areas.

What if we could speed up the process for applications faster by simply providing the options for digital forms and submissions.

Efficiency would be increased and a more streamlined process of services could be developed.

What if every kid could code? We need to prepare our kids to be ready for the future.

Coding will be just as important as math in less than 10 years. Let’s start early and help kids learn now.

Let’s face it, our province is broke. Moving forward, instead of creating the same thing in every corner of the province, let’s build on what already exists and strive to improve it.

If we continue to have two to three people working for supporting organizations, we end up duplicating and also diluting the resources by not having a central hub.

For example with our three-month accelerator program at Planet Hatch, (now powered by Propel ICT) our province does not have enough critical mass yet to have the program running in every city. We need to build clusters and build the critical mass first.

We only have so many mentors, companies and resources to go around. Let’s not dilute the resources by trying to do everything for everyone right at the start —we can’t afford it.

We need to band together and raise the tide together.

We’re not competing with each other, we’re competing with the world. Coordination of all aspects relating to the economy, departments need to and continue to work closely together.

We have programs that are beginning to work, no they aren’t perfect, but we did see one of the highest drops in unemployment in Canada in August.

It takes time for innovation to happen, it’s not just overnight.

I continue to see our companies and partners rave about such programs such as the small business investor tax credit, (which rivals British Columbia) NB Growth Funding, Innov8 Funding and several others.

Planet Hatch is exactly one year old, within our first year with our 11 start-ups, they have raised more than $1.4 million in private sector funding.

Other organizations such as our partners at Propel ICT have also seen tremendous success in their alumni with having created more than 250 jobs from 2011-13 among 30-plus new companies.

Let’s talk about these success in order to help our province learn and get inspired by what is possible and learn from what other regions and countries are doing in order to help devise our own plans.

Innovation doesn’t happen because someone tells you to “innovate” it's nurtured and developed. Policy can definitely help leverage it, but people need to want it.

Create the opportunities to show us what’s possible.

Support initiatives for early-stage start-up development and support. Support initiatives that are helping create an entrepreneurial-minded community and province.

Help us develop the skills to compete in the 21st century.

When it comes to the state of innovation in New Brunswick, it’s not our ability that’s holding us back, it’s the mindset of being able to take the bull by the horns and jump both feet into the digital future.


Sally Ng is the executive director at Fredericton-based Planet Hatch, which just celebrated its first anniversary. She has also worked as a global facilitator for Startup Weekend.


ScreenScape Simplifies Digital Signage

If you’re a Maritime startup launching a new product, it doesn’t hurt to be partnering with one of the world’s largest makers of hardware.

That’s exactly what digital signage specialist ScreenScape Networks of Charlottetown has done as it unveiled ScreenScape Connect this week in partnership with Round Rock, Texas, computer maker Dell Inc.

ScreenScape launched Tuesday the product to simplify the process and reduce costs for organizations that want to advertise on location-based TV monitors. The device looks like a standard flash drive and plugs into a high-definition TV, allowing operators to control their advertising and other content from just about anywhere.

“This is game-changing for this industry,” Mark Hemphill, ScreenScape founder and CEO, said during an online news conference Tuesday.

“Until now, most digital signage cost the retail outlet or maybe the sponsor several thousand (dollars) to get started. Effective immediately, we can offer the customer a plan with no capital costs, assuming you’re using existing TVs.”

After being in this business for about five years, Hemphill knows there are a lot of screens around in public locations, from hotel lobbies to sports bars to car dealerships and other retail outlets. ScreenScape provides the software that oversees lots of these locations — he wouldn’t say how many — across the continent. But the problem has always been the time and expense needed to install and manage the content.

Customers not only had to buy and install the TVs, they also had to have a computer nearby and spend the time to manage the content. ScreenScape Connect only requires that there is a Wi-Fi network near the television. The retailer or property manager has to plug it in and register on ScreenScape’s website, which has all the tools to create dynamic visual content for a TV screen.

The accounts overseeing each monitor can be held by the local location, as well as the head office of the chain to which they belong. ScreenScape, which employs 22 people, also helps clients create content for their displays and links them so they can share content on monitors.

ScreenScape Connect costs $40 a month per television for all the hardware, software and services. Clients can either pay $200 up front and then $40 a month for as long or short a period as they want, or pay nothing up front and sign a three-year contract.

The Charlottetown company provides the software for the product while Dell provides the hardware.

Hemphill said the partnership came together in 2013 when another ScreenScape partner, AT&T, learned Dell was looking for a leading software developer in the digital signage business. AT&T told Dell about ScreenScape and introduced the two companies.

Since then, ScreenScape has been working closely with the new Dell Wyse group out of Santa Clara, Calif., basically developing the cloud-based software from the ground up.

Hemphill said his company has not raised any new capital to finance the project, and that he has no plans to raise money in the near future.

In 2012, ScreenScape secured a $6-million investment from Hartco of Montreal and gave the publicly traded information technology company two seats on its board. A few months later, it received angel financing from Saint John’s East Valley Ventures chairman Gerry Pond.

Busiest Week on the Startup Calendar

Ready for the busiest eight days on the Halifax startup calendar?

You better be because five events that speak to the entire community will take place in the Nova Scotia capital between Sept. 22 and 30. It begins with MentorCamp on Monday, followed by the new Startup Empire conference, the Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum dinner, Startup Weekend and Invest Atlantic. DemoCamp had been scheduled for Sept. 24, but a notice on the Volta website says it has been delayed until November.

MentorCamp is a session that exposes a handful of promising startups to mentors from around the region and around the globe for an intense one-day instructional session. In its fourth year, the companies invited to the event include Vidsnippets and Athletigen, both of Halifax, Qimple of Moncton and Sky Squirrel of Inverness.

Startup Empire will be held for the first time at the Cineplex in Park Lane, and is an opportunity for startup founders to rub elbows with entrepreneurs from around the world. The speakers include: Don Harrison, Head of M&A, Google Inc.; Daniel Debow; Senior VP, Salesforce; April Dunford, COO, Tulip Retail; John Baker, President and CEO, Desire2Learn; and Michael Litt, Founder and CEO, Vidyard.

Dan Martell, the CEO of Moncton-based Clarity, will host a fireside chat and oversee a “Clarity Zone”, in which entrepreneurs will receive advice.

The Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum dinner – at the Niche Lounge starting at 4 pm on Thursday, Sept. 25 – will feature two discussions led notable leaders in the community. Rob Barbara, Partner at Build Ventures, will lead a discussion on regional equity tax credits, and Innovacorp CEO Stephen Duff will chair a talk on mentorship. The goal is for all attendees to join in the discussion. Tickets are still available here.

Startup Weekend is an international movement that gathers people together, forms them into teams and sees which can come up with the best company in a single weekend. The next Startup Weekend Halifax will begin Friday, Sept. 26, at 6:30 pm at Room 2600 of the Killam Library at Dalhousie University.

The fifth annual Invest Atlantic conference, to take place Sept. 29 and 30 at the World Trade and Convention Centre, will shine a spotlight on a problem that hounds every startup community — how to encourage more wealthy individuals to invest in local young companies?

The main Invest Atlantic conference takes place on Sept. 30 at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax. It is preceded on Sept. 29 by a PitchCamp, in which a select group of new companies compete to see who can deliver the best 60-second pitch.

The keynote speakers at the main conference are coming from North Carolina: Michael Cain Sr. is the member manager at Wilmington Investor Network and chairman of the Angel Resource Institute, and Brett Martin is the founder and CEO of Castle Branch Inc.


Can We Reform Equity Tax Credits?

Next Thursday, members of the startup community will have an opportunity to discuss a matter that has been on their minds for years – how to liberalize the patchwork of angel tax credits in the region.

Rob Barbara, Partner at Build Ventures, will lead a discussion on this subject at the Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum dinner in Halifax. The goal is to come up with new ideas, maybe even a consensus, on how to improve the system for incentivizing angels to invest in startups.

(After this discussion, Innovacorp CEO Stephen Duff will chair a talk on mentorship, which is a follow-on discussion to our dinner in Fredericton in May.)

Entrevestor-EF dinners are opportunities for members of the community – founders, funders and support organizations – to come together and discuss ways to improve the local ecosystem. There are still some tickets left for the Halifax dinner on Sept. 25, which you can order here.

In discussing the challenges of angel tax credits, we will be shining a spotlight on programs that are definitely helping startups but could be doing more.

Each province in the region has its own incentive, all with different names. For the record, the incentives officially are called Small Business Investor Tax Credit in New Brunswick, Direct Equity Tax Credit in Newfoundland and Labrador, Equity Tax Credit in Nova Scotia and Share Purchase Tax Credit in P.E.I.

They have one thing in common – they can be claimed only by residents of a province investing in companies based in that province. For years, people within the community have been arguing that startups – and the economy overall – would benefit if the programs were harmonized and improved. Above all, people crying for reform want the tax credit to be granted to people living outside the borders of each particular province.

Why would the economy overall benefit? Because these incentives help dynamic companies, and even lead to higher tax revenue. A 2010 study for the Ministry of Small Business, Technology and Economic Development in B.C. found that for every dollar granted to startups in provincial tax credits, the province receives $1.98 in taxes. By attracting more money into startups, the economy would grow and provincial revenues rise.

Our discussion wants to look at whether it would be practical to develop a regional tax credit so all the angels in the region could be incentivized to invest in companies from around Atlantic Canada. It would mean harmonizing the programs, as there are now some big differences. The maximum eligible investment is $250,000 in New Brunswick and $50,000 in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

The biggest question – meaning it’s the hardest to achieve but could have the biggest benefit – is whether these incentives could be granted to people outside the region. States such as Arkansas and Minnesota have ways for people outside their borders to claim tax credits for investments. It means capital flows into growing businesses.

We want hear your views on this important subject. Please come to the dinner next Thursday at the Niche Lounge in Halifax and join the conversation.  

Press Release: New Honibe Lozenges

Island Abbey Foods Launches Two New Honibe – Honey Lozenges Across Canada

Honey Lozenges with Cherry and Honey Lozenges with Immune Boost Now Available at Select Pharmacies and Online at http://www.Honibe.com

Charlottetown, PE, Canada – September 17th, 2014 – Island Abbey Foods, a PEI, Canada based natural health product producer, has announced today the launch of their newest innovations: Honibe Honey Lozenges™ - Cherry and Honibe Honey Lozenges™ - Immune Boost with Echinacea, Vitamin C, Zinc and a hint of Citrus.

“We are very excited to announce, based on the feedback from our loyal consumers, two new products to our Honibe family”, shared John Rowe, President of Island Abbey Foods. “Cherry is one of the top selling flavors for throat lozenges. Now, consumers can enjoy their favorite flavor in our natural honey lozenge with Menthol and Eucalyptus.  Honey Lozenges with Cherry are for the temporary relief of sore throat and nasal congestion.”

“We also heard loud and clear that consumers want a natural and effective product they can take at the first sign of a cold to help relieve symptoms before they worsen. Honibe Honey Lozenges with Immune Boost include Echinacea, Vitamin C, Zinc and Citrus, and is the perfect natural product for this. Honey Lozenges with Immune Boost helps to maintain immune function, is used in herbal medicine to help relieve cold symptoms and is an antioxidant for the maintenance of good health.”

Honibe Honey Lozenges contain 100% pure dried honey, with a small amount of naturally derived therapeutics and no artificial ingredients. Honibe Honey Lozenges are only 10 calories per piece (2.5 g) and are available in blister packages of 10 lozenges. Honey Lozenges are conveniently sized for easy transport in pockets, cars, briefcases or purses for increased consumer enjoyment and are available in drug stores and natural health food isles across Canada.

About Island Abbey Foods™

Island Abbey Foods is a Health Canada and FDA licensed specialty food, natural health product, and medicated health product producer based in Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada. We are a 6th generation PEI agricultural family business with our feet firmly planted in our Island's bright red soil, ideal for farming with its high iron and nutrient content.  Honibe honey is sourced from 100% Canadian Grade A honey from Prince Edward Island and Canadian beekeepers. 

For more information please visit us on the web at http://www.IslandAbbeyFoods.com and to check out our newest video release on Why Honey Lozenges are the best choice for you, please visit http://www.Honibe.com.  

Helping People Order Pizzas Online

Matt Stewart and Rob Myers should be poster boys for holding down business development costs.

Last year, the two residents of Sydney won $10,000 from the initial Spark Cape Breton competition, which Innovacorp held to encourage startups on the island. The pair won for a company called InstantDiner, which they hoped would become an online ordering and reservation system for independent restaurants.

After a pivot earlier this year, they are beta-testing a new business called PizzaGO, an online site that lets local pizzerias take orders quickly and easily. They have one paying client in the Sydney area, have a verbal commitment from another and are hoping to line up their first multi-location customer soon.

“Traction is obviously something we are trying to build,” Stewart said in an interview.

“We are currently still in beta mode, so we have not actively marketed our product, aside from going to specific pizzerias. The full launch of PizzaGO is set for early- to mid-October.”

Since receiving funding as one of the runners-up in the Spark competition, Stewart (who concentrates on business development) and Myers (the programmer) have been meeting with restaurant and pizzeria owners to find a market gap they could exploit.

What they found is that there are already restaurant-ordering sites like Just-Eat and GrubHub, but they don’t have the customization that pizzerias demand.

Everyone is particular about their pizza, and often pizzas ordered by a group need to be divided into sections with different toppings. Both the pizzeria operators and their customers demand simplicity in an online ordering system, and it is important that it can be used easily from mobile devices.

“Our target market for pizza is millennials, and the consumers we spoke to love the idea of just making an order, paying for it and receiving a message when it’s done,” said Stewart.

So they developed PizzaGO to meet this demand. Proprietors can set up their own site free in about an hour, which in itself is a bonus as 95 per cent of independent restaurants have no mobile online presence.

PizzaGo offers a selection of 40 to 50 toppings that pizzeria operators can easily click to produce an online menu. There are quick features that let people repeat their last order, or choose from their five most popular orders. There is a payment system, which is convenient for the customer, and helps the operator avoid prank orders that are never claimed and paid for.

A site for pizzerias may seem like a niche, but the total market is huge. People in the United States alone spend $32 billion a year on pizzas, and there are 45,000 pizzerias in that country.

PizzaGO’s research shows that a lot of customers prefer a local establishment to large pizza chains.

Stewart said he and Myers plan to court pizza peddlers in Cape Breton and the rest of the Maritimes, then roll the product out across Canada and then the U.S. Working with mentors they met through the Spark competition, they are putting together six- and 18-month business plans and hope to raise money before too long.

In the meantime, they still haven’t burned their way through the $10,000 they got from Spark. They have been frugal in their expenditures — living on pizzas, so to speak.

Stewart jokes that they’ve been intensely researching the market.


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.

ROV3D Launched at Oceans ‘14

As the Oceans ’14 conference gets under way in St. John’s today, a local startup will debut the 3D underwater visualization system it has been working on for several years.

Whitecap Scientific has developed a product called ROV3D, which creates interactive three-dimensional diagrams of underwater structures and objects using information collected by cameras on un-manned rovers. The company has been working for three years at the Genesis Centre – the Memorial University commercialization centre – with the goal of improving companies’ ability to view underwater topography and structures with un-manned craft. Just in time for the annual conference for ocean industries, the team has concluded its working prototype and is engaging with several potential customers.

“We’re working closely with people who want it,” said CEO Sam Bromley in his office on Friday, as he and his staff scrambled to prepare for the Oceans conference. “We’re doing trials this month, and we’ll be ready to sell our first dozen products very soon.”

Whitecap has been a mainstay of the Genesis Centre group of companies for the past several years, and has been working to improve the way people use remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, to view undersea structures. The problem with current techniques is it is difficult to view the video footage that comes back from the ocean floor. There are problems with depth perception, and the viewers can become dizzy or nauseous after viewing for hours.

The Whitecap team originally set out to improve the quality of video collected by ROVs, using a stereo-camera system to collect 3D video and allow the viewer to watch it longer without adverse side effects.

However, it learned there were problems inherent with using video itself to conduct underwater inspections: it took hours to watch video; the viewer had to go back to locate the footage that showed a problem; it was difficult to compare one inspection with the last one, because there was no way the ROV would follow the exact same course as before.

So ROV3D does not require the viewer to sift through hours of video. It takes the video collected by an ROV and uses it to construct a 3D model instantly that can be viewed from any angle on a monitor. If the viewer is inspecting the model and notices something that needs attention, he or she can stick a virtual pin in the questionable location to easily find the trouble spots later. It’s a far more effective way to note problem spots than a written list of where to look on a stream of video.

One interesting feature of the technology is the viewer can keep a library of inspections and quickly compare one year’s model to previous versions, to look for corrosion or other problems.

Bromley said the range of applications for ROV3D is vast. It can be used for underwater field surveys in the oil and gas industry or pipeline surveys or annual inspections of subsea structures. ROV3D can even survey the biodiversity of a field before a drilling operation, then help to make sure the field returns to its original state after a field is decommissioned.   


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     



Highlights of Entrevestor-EF Event

The problem of attracting early adopters once again showed itself at the Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum luncheon in St. John’s on Thursday, even though it hadn’t been invited.

We had a great turnout and a truly superb meal at the Junior Common Room at Gushue Hall, Memorial University of Newfoundland. About 45 people turned out to join in two discussions – one about the coming Venture Newfoundland and Labrador Fund, and another on encouraging corporations to invest in startups.

Rather than feature keynote speakers, the Entrevestor-EF events are an opportunity for the startup community members to get together and discuss ways to improve the local ecosystem. (In our next dinner, on Sept. 25 in Halifax, Innovacorp CEO Stephen Duff will chair a talk on mentorship while Build Ventures Partner Rob Barbara will lead a discussion on regional investor tax credits.)

In St. John’s, BlueDrop Performance Learning CEO Emad Rizkalla led a dialogue on the best ways to get corporations to invest in startups. But the conversation quickly moved to the related problem of how to attract early adopters.

What’s interesting is that Gerry Pond led a discussion on that very topic at our first Entrevestor-EF Dinner in Fredericton in May. The difficulties of securing early adopters -- and working with them to develop a product – are bedeviling startups across the region. We hope that by discussing the issue, startups and organizers will develop systems that can help overcome the problem.

The first session at the St. John’s event was a discussion on the coming VC fund, which will combine private and public money and be overseen by GrowthWorks Atlantic. It was led by Mark Kennedy, CEO of Celtx. There was a broad agreement the fund will help overcome the financing problem that many startups now experience.

The Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum Dinner in Halifax on Sept. 25 will be held at the Niche Lounge on Barrington Street, starting at 4 pm. The two topics up for discussion are:

--  Rob Barbara, Partner at Build Ventures, will host as discussion on regional investment tax credits. Various governments are discussing whether to offer investment tax credits to people who are not residents of their province to encourage investment in startups. We’ll look at whether such credits should be offered to non-residents, and whether the recipients could even live outside the region.

--  Stephen Duff, CEO of Innovacorp, will lead a talk on mentorship. This is a continuation of a discussion that Calvin Milbury, CEO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, led in Fredericton. Since then, Launch36 has received federal funding and launched a new, more regional mandate. And the Mentra, a new mentoring group based in Moncton, has begun to organize a regional mentoring network.

Tickets for the dinner are $75 each and can be purchased here.

Press Release: Norex in Japan

Norex, the Halifax web development company, has issued the following press release:

Halifax based innovation and web firm Norex presenting at the world’s largest AdTech conference in Tokyo

Halifax, NS -- September 9, 2014 – It is not every day that one of our Halifax based technology companies is featured at the largest AdTech conference on the other side of the world but on September 18, Partner Leah Skerry of Norex.ca will be on stage presenting to a crowd of over 14,000 delegates about Norex’s products and innovation.

Hosting marketing and advertising delegates from over 40 countries, this spotlight will offer Norex the platform to further their global reach into markets which can benefit from their technologies. One of the technologies that Norex will be presenting is Hashpi.pe, a social tool that pulls all hashtagged content online into an elegant visual canvas.

Having launched in the fall of 2013, Haspi.pe has been used for such events as the Sochi Olympic Games, the 2014 World Cup, TEDx and the International Smashing conference. Norex sees great opportunity in continuing to expand their technology to any event with a desire to capture the online conversation.

“We think events are awesome. We also think the social web is awesome. Together, they can capture some beautiful, crazy, and entertaining things. But never yet have they lived together in harmony. That's why we created Hashpi.pe” says Skerry.

Hashpi.pe collects #hashtags connected to your brand from across the web and displays them in a single, clean, and manageable feed making your event a ‘real time’. It pulls from social networking websites like Vine, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook so no matter what your fans are saying and where they are saying it, you can access it in one spot. You simply input your #hashtags and watch the magic happen. A live stream of comments, questions, pictures, videos appears instantly for you to share.

At events, Hashpi.pe is helping organizers provide partner recognition, access real time feedback from attendees, drive engagement all in one place that can be neatly packaged and archived as a dynamic record of the event from start to finish. And for those organizations wanting an ongoing stream of their hashtags, Hashpi.pe can live online as an embedded website feed.

Hashpi.pe is just one of a series of innovation products that have been incubated at Norex. While in Tokyo, Norex will have the opportunity to present one of their other main technologies called Eyeread, the only application of its kind using eye tracking to help children read in school or at home, independently, allowing educators to measure and track their progress through analytics.

About Norex

The trend of embracing innovation is one that Norex has taken seriously for several years. It is a part of the company culture that drives staff to keep pushing their limits which is essential for all organizations but especially those in technology. Co-led by partner Julia Rivard Dexter, Norex has grown to be recognized internationally for their work in web, creating award winning innovations and interfaces that are best of class for their clients. For more about Norex you can visit their website at SiteByNorex.com.


Profile: Rayworth’s Road Uphill

Failure isn’t something most of us celebrate, but Kathleen Rayworth said her failures help her to be an effective executive director of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, a regional organization that links entrepreneurs with seasoned advisers from the business world.

Rayworth has been working at the forum since 2007, becoming executive director in 2010. Despite her characteristic modesty, she is respected around the region for her work in linking new entrepreneurs with experienced mentors.

Her path to success hasn’t been smooth, but that doesn’t bother Rayworth, who is known to quote a line from athlete Willie Davis, “The road to success runs uphill.”

As a youngster, Rayworth trained as a chef at the Culinary Institute of Canada, and then later took a small business program at the Nova Scotia Community College. She ran a catering business in Vancouver for 10 years but had to sell her business when the work became too physically demanding due to the effects of injuries sustained in a car crash.

After returning to her native Nova Scotia, she set up a clothing distribution business that grew to become a clothing manufacturer specializing in golf apparel. That venture folded in 1998 after six years, a disappointment she ascribes to “poor partner choices and a lack of mentoring support.”

“The message I pass on to entrepreneurs is that it’s your failures you learn the most from,” she said. “It was hard to leave my first love, catering, but I still do some catering today. And my experiences taught me that I have a huge passion for business of all kinds.”

Rayworth said that the forum’s advisory services and investor readiness initiatives are structured to give entrepreneurs the kinds of support and access to expertise that they need to address the challenges they face at all levels of development, from pre-startups to ventures that are ready to exit (sell).

The forum’s success stories abound, thanks to the growing pool of dedicated forum mentors who hail from a wide range of backgrounds and professions.

“We now have 1,500 mentors across the region and the number is growing all the time,” Rayworth said. “Mentoring is increasingly popular, even something of a trend. These days, many organizations offer mentoring, but we’ve been mentoring for 22 years. We do it best and we support those other groups.”

Rayworth said it has been satisfying to see the forum grow from a small group offering just one service to a regional organization offering a variety of valuable projects.

Inspired by the enterprise forum at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Nova Scotia version began in 1992, reaching Prince Edward Island in 2003, Newfoundland and Labrador in 2006, and New Brunswick in 2008.

A current forum success is the advisory program the group is running in Ontario. The organization subsidizes Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs who wish to visit Ontario to meet with potential partners and investors.

The year-long program began last November and has seen ventures such as educational company Ooka Island and Prism Trade Show Lighting, a designer and supplier of custom lighting products for the trade show industry, benefit from making the trip.

“The mission opens up doors to many new opportunities and potential partnerships,” Rayworth said.

Other new projects include a program for immigrants entering Canada through the Startup visa program, and workshops for entrepreneurs run in conjunction with Progress Media. Entrepreneurs’ Forum also collaborates with Entrevestor in organizing and hosting dinners around the region at which attendees discuss ways to improve the startup ecosystem.

The organization’s work is supported by federal and provincial government organizations, including the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the National Research Council.

“I see Atlantic Canada becoming the startup capital for all Canada,” Rayworth said, sounding almost embarrassed to make such a confident prediction. “We’ve got the ecosystem growing so fast. We’ve scaled it as a region so quickly, it’s possible. At the very least, we should give it a go and Entrepreneurs’ Forum is here to help make this happen.”


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


Invest Atlantic to Focus on Angels

The fifth annual Invest Atlantic conference will shine a spotlight on a problem that hounds every startup community — how to encourage more wealthy individuals to invest in local young companies?

Since it began in 2010, Invest Atlantic has chosen a theme each year, such as partnering with corporations or global investing, and in 2014 is focusing on angel investment. That’s investment in startups by individuals, either on their own or through organized networks.

The growth of angel investment makes sense because there are individuals in the region who have money to invest, and angel investing can serve to diversify their holdings. On the other side of these deals, there are exciting companies in the region that are hungry for capital.

“All the tidbits that I’m hearing say that over the next couple of years — and everyone is in agreement in this — there are going to be issues with our companies finding money,” said Bob Williamson, CEO of Jameson Consulting and the organizer of Invest Atlantic. “What happens if we approach more angel investors and say, ‘What about taking a small portion of your portfolio and investing it in your local community?’”

There are already active angels in the region. According to data compiled by Entrevestor, individuals (other than company founders) invested at least $13.2 million in Atlantic Canadian startups in 2013. However, more startups are forming and reaching growth stages when they need a lot of capital, so there will be more pressure to find new sources of investment.

Brian Lowe, co-founder of the First Angel Network, will chair the conference, and the speakers include Gerry Pond, chairman of the East Valley Ventures of Saint John, and Gerard Buckley, chairman of the Toronto-based Maple Leaf Angels.

The main Invest Atlantic conference takes place on Sept. 30 at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax. It is preceded on Sept. 29 by a PitchCamp, in which a select group of new companies compete to see who can deliver the best 60-second pitch.

The keynote speakers at the main conference are coming from North Carolina: Michael Cain Sr. is the member manager at Wilmington Investor Network and chairman of the Angel Resource Institute, and Brett Martin is the founder and CEO of Castle Branch Inc.

Williamson understands that one conference won’t spark a surge of angel investing, but he hopes it initiates the conversation and helps to educate new angel investors. The education is important because angel investors must be patient and knowledgeable. And they have to understand that each company they back could produce massive returns but could also go bust. He’s hoping some novice angels will attend and that the message gets out beyond the conference itself.

“We’re hoping to at least spread the word to those within the startup community that it’s cool to reach out to those outside the community and let them know about angel investing,” he said.

Assessing the Lean Canvas

When Claire Ciel Zimmerman entered the Summ’er Up entrepreneurship program at Dalhousie University this summer, she hadn’t even heard of a lean canvas.

The co-founder of the magazine publishing startup Bootstrap had to learn how to use the nine panels of the canvas to test theories on developing a business.

“As my colleagues and I moved through the program we began to see the value of the lean canvas as a set of guiding principles, which became very useful in considering how to establish a viable business with a sustainable revenue model,” said Zimmerman.

She has now joined the growing list of entrepreneurs who have come to understand the value of the canvas in plotting out what works – and more importantly, what doesn’t work – in a new business.

The canvas is a single sheet with nine panels where entrepreneurs write in their theories about how their business will work. They then go out and interview potential clients and/or partners about those theories, and adjust the business plan as needed. The idea is to make all your mistakes before you’ve built your product, saving time and money and getting customers more quickly.

“For students, it’s really a starting place,” said Mary Kilfoil, the professor who oversees the Starting Lean and Summ’er Up programs at Dalhousie. “It provides an immersive experience. It meshes the theory with practical, hands-on experience when students are really at the idea stage and they’re bumping up against whether an idea has any traction at all.”

The lean canvas is now a standard tool at entrepreneurship programs, and its acceptance has come about remarkably fast given that it dates back only to the writings of Alexander Osterwalder in 2008. It has two huge strengths: first, it presents all the main components of a business on a single sheet, so a team can view it instantly; and second, it forces a team to make mistakes early, so they save time and money.

“It helps the entrepreneurs to really understand the market in which they operate and understand their competitors,” said Kilfoil. “They’re finding out what’s out there in the market. And that gets them thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of their own business model.”

She added that the practitioners of the canvas also must be adept at tailoring their questions for each group they meet, so they discover the most pertinent information possible. The idea is not to get a set of unified data (as you would with a survey) but to return with information that will help you develop a product the market wants.

But educators and mentors also warn that the lean canvas is not the silver bullet for every startup, and company founders have to be careful to look beyond the canvas for other components of their business.

“The big shortfall is people are integrating their business with the lean canvas … [and] are expecting miracles within a six-week to eight-week program,” said Dhirendra Shukla, who teaches the Management & Entrepreneurship program at the University of New Brunswick. “It’s how it’s used that creates the problems.”

Kilfoil, Shukla and others say the big problem with using a lean canvas is that entrepreneurs – especially those with little experience – often fall in love with their proposal and don’t listen closely enough to what people tell them.

That means they’re reluctant to pivot or adjust their business as needed.

“We tend to fall in love with our solutions rather than acknowledge that we are beginning with a series of guesses,” said Alastair Jarvis, an entrepreneur and game producer from Lunenburg, N.S. “Testing these things and willing to be wrong demands some courage. That’s a big piece for me. It’s something we struggle with as humans.”

Different experts find various shortfalls in a lean canvas. For example, some believe it doesn’t deal enough with the financial aspects of starting a company. Others believe potential clients might not understand a truly revolutionary product, so customer feedback would be muted until people can see, test and understand a product.

“One of the good elements of Lean Methodology is the inclusion of early customer validation,” said Toon Nagtegaal, the founder of THENEXTPHASE mentoring program. “But the customer validation is not necessarily true validation because you only know if a customer will buy your product if you say, ‘Here’s the product, give me your money.’”


This article first appeared in the September 2014 edition of Entrevestor Intelligence, which is available here.


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


Press Release: BioNova Semi-Finalists

BioNova, the life sciences association in Nova Scotia, has issued the following press release:  

BioInnovation Challenge Semi-Finalists Announced

Halifax, NS -- September 9, 2014 -- The semi-finalists have been chosen for the 2014 edition of The BioInnovation Challenge (BIC).

Scott Moffitt, Managing Director of BioNova, the host of BIC, announced today that a selection committee has chosen the semi-finalists who will take part in the program. The semi-finalists will receive professional pitch training between now and the semi-final run off, which will be held in Halifax on October 20.

This year will mark the second time New Brunswick companies will be taking part in the competition and the first year for companies from Prince Edward Island. BioNova has partnered with BioNB and PEI BioAlliance, its sister organizations in NB and PEI, to allow up and coming life sciences companies from all three Maritime Provinces to compete in the challenge. 

“We’re very excited about this year’s BioInnovation Challenge,” said Moffitt. “We have semi-finalists from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island which shows just how much life sciences innovation is happening around the Maritime Provinces.”

The semi-finalists are:

·        Athletigen Technologies Inc., Nova Scotia

·        Biopolynet Inc., New Brunswick

·        Doctor’s Orders, New Brunswick

·        Fenol Farm Inc., Nova Scotia

·        Help Method Inc., Nova Scotia

·        Island Water Technologies, Prince Edward Island

·        NB-Biomatrix Inc., New Brunswick

·        Precise.ai Inc., Prince Edward Island

The winner of the BioInnovation Challenge will receive a $15,000 seed investment and a package of support services and mentoring valued at more than $30,000. The 2014 BIC is presented by BioNova in partnership with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, BioNB, Cox & Palmer, Dalhousie Office of Industry Liaison and Innovation, Jennifer Cameron PR, Marsh Canada Limited, PEI BioAlliance, PwC and Sandler Training. 

BIC will take place over two days in October. The 8 semi-finalists will present to a panel of judges on October 20 at the Life Sciences Research Institute. The top three presenters will then pitch to the judges and the conference audience at BioPort Atlantic, BioNova’s annual conference, the following morning.  The winner will be announced at the close of BioPort Atlantic on the afternoon of October 21.

BioPort Atlantic will take place at the World Trade and Convention Centre on October 20 and 21. Built around the theme “BOLD IDEAS for BIG OPPORTUNITIES”, BioPort  provides a forum to educate, inform and inspire the life sciences community to develop their ideas, commercialize their technologies and build links within the region and with guests brought in from the US and from around the world.

About BioNova:

BioNova is Nova Scotia’s life sciences organization, representing companies working in drug & vaccine development, medical technologies, natural health products & nutraceuticals, digital health and bioproducts, as well as research organizations, service providers and other supporters.

HWKI’s Wearable Hockey Camera

When Shea Kewin and Tim Priamo were playing hockey together as children in Guelph, Ont., they couldn’t have known they’d one day form a company to help players improve their game.

The two former teammates are the co-founders of HWKI, which has developed a camera that fits on a hockey helmet. The device lets players record what they see as they play a game or practise, and then review it later on a mobile or computer device, and share it with coaches or other players.

 “We’re producing a wearable video camera for hockey players,” said Kewin in a phone interview last week. “It lets them rethink the decisions they made in the game and allows them to share and save their highlights quite easily online.”

Kewin and Priamo recently took HWKI through ACcelR8, a tech accelerator at Planet Hatch in Fredericton. They have now moved the business to Waterloo, Ont., where they were accepted into the Velocity Foundry, the University of Waterloo’s accelerator for startups producing hardware. HWKI is the first non-University of Waterloo company accepted into the program, and the story of how Kewin got there is an interesting one.

Kewin had been attending Dalhousie University, playing varsity hockey and studying entrepreneurship and innovation. As an athlete who’d injured a knee, he had an idea for a leg brace that would strengthen (not just stabilize) the knee joint. He took the idea to the starting lean course at the university in the autumn of 2012, and helped found Spring Loaded Technology, a Halifax company that is producing such a brace. (Kewin said he is now in discussions with the other Spring Loaded co-founders to “amicably” resign from the company.)

Continuing his education, Kewin attended University of New Brunswick last year to take an MBA, and he teamed up with Priamo to launch a startup targeting hockey players. They began by focusing on a product that would help prevent concussions, but soon realized that area really involved helmet design, which others were already working on.

So they looked into something that could improve a player’s “hockey IQ,” which in turn could help players avoid situations that cause head injuries. The purpose of HWKI is to let players study after the game what they did on the ice. For example, it shows players whether they kept their head up and scanned the whole rink at key points of the game. It also can help players understand whether they exposed their head to injury, and whether they need to make corrections to avoid such mishaps.

HWKI already has orders on the books. Working with hockey programs in New Brunswick, it let players test the prototype and 50 of them (or about 15 per cent of those who tried it) ordered the product.

In October, Kewin and Priamo are planning to launch a Kickstarter campaign to let people pre-order the product at about $165 and up per unit, a discount to the expected retail price of $300 or higher. They’re planning a general launch in January, and have their sights set on a founding round worth about $250,000.

Kewin said that for the foreseeable future HWKI will be based in Ontario, because of the access to resources for hardware startups and the large hockey market. He said 40 per cent of the registrants in Hockey Canada are in Ontario.

 “The Ontario Minor Hockey Association and Greater Toronto Hockey League form a great nucleus and will be validating for the rest of the market,” he said.



Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Press Release: CelluFuel Funding

Cellufuel, a Halifax renewable energy company, and PwC Corporate Finance have released the following statement:

CelluFuel raises $5 million in capital, launches demonstration scale project

PwC Corporate Finance Inc. acted as lead advisor on the transaction and secured private equity investors

HALIFAX, Sept. 3, 2014  - Today, Halifax, NS-based CelluFuel Inc. announced that it has completed a $5 million capital raise to begin construction of its demonstration scale plant for the production of synthetic, renewable diesel fuel from woody biomass. CelluFuel will construct its demonstration plant at the ReNova Scotia Bioenergy site in Brooklyn, NS, which serves as a provincial incubator for companies focused on bioenergy innovation.

"We are extremely pleased with the successful completion of our demonstration project funding effort and excited about the value our new investors bring to our business," says Chris Hooper, President and CEO of CelluFuel.

The announcement comes just 18 months after Hooper and his three founding partners launched the company, which strives to establish an innovative pathway to help the Canadian forestry sector create value—particularly important in the wake of diminished output resulting from challenges in the pulp and paper and building materials sectors. The demonstration project in Brooklyn will procure wood residuals from the local region, create new employment opportunities in Queens County, NS and serve as a platform for the expansion into commercial scale projects throughout Canada.

PwC Corporate Finance Inc. was the lead advisor for the private equity raise and assisted CelluFuel with securing the necessary capital. This effort included bringing leading strategic investors into the company, positioning it for long-term success.

"We saw tremendous potential with both the business model and the team that CelluFuel had assembled and we are grateful to have played a role in helping the company achieve this important milestone," says Jeff Dawson, PwC Atlantic Corporate Finance Leader.

One of the principal investors in the transaction is Kingsey Falls, QC-based Boralex (TSE:BLX), one of Canada's leading renewable energy producers. Their expertise and knowledge of the renewable energy industry will be complimentary to that of the core CelluFuel team.

"With our investment in CelluFuel, Boralex is strengthening its dedication to the development of renewable energy from sustainable resources and confirms its faith that various sources of wood-residues are to be a part of meeting our energy needs" says Patrick Lemaire, President and CEO of Boralex. "We are enthusiastic about the potential of the collective team that has been assembled".

Another principal investor in the transaction is Chatham, ON-based Tatro Group, which has over 30 years of experience in the commercial trucking industry. This experience will be a tremendous asset to CelluFuel as the majority of diesel fuel in Canada is consumed by the commercial trucking sector.

CelluFuel expects to begin the construction its first commercial scale project within 12 months of commissioning of its demonstration project, and has plans to expand across Canada.

Follow PwC on Twitter at @PwC_Canada_LLP and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pwccanada.

About PwC Canada
PwC Canada helps organizations and individuals create the value they're looking for. More than 5,700 partners and staff in offices across the country are committed to delivering quality in assurance, tax, consulting and deals services. PwC Canada is a member of the PwC network of firms with more than 184,000 people in 157 countries. Find out more by visiting us at www.pwc.com/ca

Education Institution Report is Here

We’re pleased today to release our third Entrevestor Intelligence report of 2014, which focuses on the contribution of educational institutions to the startup community.

Titled “Our Back-to-School Issue”, the report highlights several programs and facets involving universities and colleges that are helping to generate growth in the startup segment. A PDF version of the report is available permanently under the “Entrevestor Intelligence” tab at the right of our home page. You can read it here.

Our aim with the report is to highlight how post-secondary institutions support the startup community – from conducting and commercializing research, to teaching entrepreneurship, to attracting people to the region.

As we point out in the main story, these schools account for roughly 60 percent of the research and development in the region. Some of it has been spun off into successful startups, like Smart Skin Technologies of Fredericton, Verafin of St. John’s, and BlueLight Analytics of Halifax.  In total, the institutions have spent more than $1 billion on R&D in the past three years, half of which has been spent on Atlantic Canadian salaries and a further quarter of which was spent in the regional economy.

“Research faculty are in fact among the greatest risk takers we have in the region,” said Chris Mathis, President and CEO of Springboard Atlantic, an organization dedicated to commercializing research at these institutions. “They see big problems like health, the environment, energy waste, social problems – and they actually try to engage in finding new ways to address these problems. This requires study, observation and experimentation – all of which few if any companies would ever consider tackling.”

In addition to supplying technology as the foundation of new startups, colleges and universities often act as the maternity ward for startups in the region.  Of the 290 Atlantic Canadian startups Entrevestor identified at the end of 2013, at least 48 (or 17 percent) were founded by students or faculty at these institutions, often incubating over several years. The same number of startups were developed from intellectual property developed at the universities.  And at least 72 startups have used the resources, such as laboratory space, supplied by colleges and universities as they grew.

There is some overlap in these groups, and in total some 109 startups in Atlantic Canada – 38 percent of the total – have benefited directly from the presence of Atlantic Canadian universities throughout their development.  These companies employed more than 900 people at the end of 2013 -- almost one-third of the direct employment in the startup industry.

These affiliations could take the form of being spun out of university research, being founded by faculty or students, being incubated in an entrepreneurship program, or lending the company lab space or other resources. Whatever they do, the universities back some great companies.

Last year, these companies attracted at least $22.8 million of equity funding – 44 percent of the total for Atlantic Canadian startups. In the previous two years, startups affiliated with these universities raised $17.7 million and $21.6 million.

The educational institutions report has been printed and will soon be available at startup houses around the region. We’ll have copies at the Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum lunch in St. John’s on Thursday and the dinner in Halifax on Sept. 25. Copies will also be available at the Startup Empire on Sept. 23, and at Invest Atlantic on Sept. 29-30.

The fourth Entrevestor Intelligence supplement, which will focus on the global marketplace, will be out in November.




Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


Profile: ‘Notably Candid’ Nagtegaal

Toon Nagtegaal is ready to take TheNextPhase to the next phase.

The notably candid Dutchman behind the three-day workshop that makes entrepreneurs sweat, and occasionally cry, is developing a new program that would engage startups over a longer period. The idea is to help them transition off the starting blocks and into growth.

In the four years since TheNextPhase started, Nagtegaal and his partners have put about 100 companies through their intensive three-day workshop.

Participants meet in Halifax to look at every aspect of their business, with a particular focus on identifying the pain (problem) of potential clients because, as Nagtegaal stresses, if the entrepreneur is not solving a client’s pain, he doesn’t have a business.

 “On average, one company in every workshop realizes they don’t have a business case. The pain is not clear or their business model makes no sense in relation to the pain.”

Nagtegaal, a former venture capitalist, is known for his bluntness, and his current partner, David Crow of Toronto, is even franker. Not everyone appreciates their approach.

 “It’s not Canadian at all,” Nagtegaal said with a grin. “Maybe three or four participants have not been appreciative. But it’s the ugly baby syndrome; some people can’t deal with having an ugly baby.”

Most people leave the workshop fired up and enthusiastic, “but I can’t keep their fire going,” he said.

 “What they need to do next is execute. So I’m trying to add a new option that would run for six to 12 months where I’ll serve some companies in the execution phase as well.”

Execution is difficult because business plans are about testing assumptions, Nagtegaal said.

 “The plan is a set of assumptions, such as how many clients you’ll need to hit a sales target. You may hit that target because you have a great client, but you may not hit targets for client growth or employee productivity.”

Nagtegaal immigrated to Canada in 2003 and developed TheNextPhase a few years later along with entrepreneur Shawn Carver of Moncton. At the time, Nagtegaal was helping some Atlantic Canadian companies become investment-ready. He said that many companies don’t understand why they fail to find finance.

 “If you’re not prepared for growth, if you haven’t asked yourself all the nasty and difficult questions and assimilated your business into your mind as well as on paper, then you’re not well prepared.”

Before that, Nagtegaal worked with GrowthWorks Atlantic and then tried to set up a regional venture capital fund, but outside investors said they had not seen enough good companies come out of Atlantic Canada to justify a fund.

 “In the middle of the last decade, there was no arguing with that. But now we have a startup ecosystem, thanks to the work spearheaded by New Brunswick-based Gerry Pond and J. Curry of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and we have some great companies.”

Nagtegaal is committed to helping expand entrepreneurship in the region, although he thinks entrepreneurs are mostly born, not made.

 “Entrepreneurs must be extremely resilient and, this is a strange combination, self-confident and self-critical.

 “I don’t consider myself an entrepreneur. My dad inherited a company, but he wasn’t an entrepreneur. He suffered from it, and if the dad suffers, the family suffers. I know what it takes and how tough it is if you fail.”

Nagtegaal and his Dutch-born wife, Mariette Roodenburg, owner of Anderson Fine Art Photography Gallery in Lunenburg, have just relinquished their Dutch citizenship to become Canadian.

 “When people ask why I gave up my Dutch citizenship, I have a few explanations with which I tease Canadians,” he said. “These include finally being able to vote for Stephen Harper and being able to travel more easily to the U.S.

 “In reality, it is about practicality and the fact that this place has become home; I belong here now and want to be part of it.”


 Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Press Release: Modest3D Launch

Modest Tree, a Halifax startup whose SaaS product reduces the cost and time involved in making three-dimensional training programs by as much as 85 percent

Simplifying the Creation of 3D Interactive training: Modest Tree unveils Modest3D™

Halifax, Nova Scotia (September 4, 2014) - Modest Tree, a Halifax-based 3D interactive software and training solutions company, announced today the launch of its 3D authoring software, Modest3D at the DEFSEC tradeshow in Halifax.  Modest3D enables the rapid creation of 3D interactive scenarios without requiring animation or programming expertise.

During Modest3D’s development valuable industry input was gathered from over 70 beta users, including original equipment manufacturers, training companies and military groups. Beta users reported up to 85% reduction in development times through utilizing Modest3D. Charles J. Richer, Area Manager of Valcom Consulting Group said, “In addition to building outstanding 3D educational/training assets the ROI in terms of time and money savings is exponential”.

With Modest3D, users of all experience levels can quickly and easily build complex, high-quality 3D interactive scenarios. Through the drag-and-drop development framework users apply behaviours, interactions and animation to 3D models.  Modest3D is highly flexible, enabling user to build immersive 3D scenarios, desktop procedural trainers, and 3D performance support tools. 

“Modest3D streamlines the development of interactive media for e-learning applications. Its visual storyboarding panel utilizes an intuitive process-flow format to organize the interactivity of the 3D objects in the scene. It is simple enough to allow subject matter experts to create the interactions as opposed to having to instruct the 3D developers on how to make them” said John Worth, L-3 D.P. Associates.

Modest Tree’s CEO, Sam Sannandeji said “Our vision for Modest3D was to streamline the process for creating 3D interactive content.  We are pleased that the innovative processes in Modest3D have been recognized and our launch is the next step to changing the landscape of 3D interactive content development.”

About Modest Tree

Modest Tree is a Halifax-based 3D interactive software and training solutions company. Modest Tree’s flagship product, Modest3D, brings the power of 3D visualizations to all by simplifying the development process of creating 3D interactive scenarios. Modest3D empowers users to bring their 3D scenes to life by applying animations, behaviours and interactions to 3D models to rapidly create 3D interactive scenarios. Through Modest3D’s drag-and-drop interface users create complex scenarios without requiring programming or animation expertise.

What To Do About Startups Leaving

It’s beginning to appear that Atlantic Canadians are going down the road for more than just jobs in Fort McMurray. The region’s startups are also feeling the lure of larger markets.

More frequently, when I contact an Atlantic Canadian startup I learn that the founders — the key decision-makers — have moved to Waterloo, Toronto or other larger centres. I don’t have data on the numbers, though it’s something I hope to produce. But the anecdotal evidence suggests it’s becoming something that’s noticeable when you scan the landscape.

When asked why they have moved to Ontario or another market, these entrepreneurs usually give one of two answers. First, they’ve been accepted into accelerator programs in Kitchener-Waterloo or Toronto. Second, and more frequently, they’ve got to be close to their market and the big market is in Ontario.

So here are five thoughts on our meandering entrepreneurs.

1.       This was bound to happen if Atlantic Canada produced great companies. Within a few years, the region has developed the quality of company that is getting accepted into renowned accelerators. It’s no longer a detriment to tell these tech accelerators that you’re from the East Coast. And for every company that moves to Ontario, there’s another that enters programs in Ontario to receive training, but returns to Atlantic Canada once the course is complete. There are plenty of companies that remain here, even though they’re mentored in Central Canada.

2.       Founders have to do what’s best for themselves and their companies. If the companies — especially those with a business-to-consumer model — need to be close to large population bases, then they should move. If they have received funding, they have a duty to do whatever it takes to make money and reward their shareholders. It’s worth noting that a Halifax company called e-Academy (now Kivuto Solutions) moved to Ottawa several years ago, and has done so well that it has paid dividends to Innovacorp that have exceeded the original investment.

What’s more, young people should travel because it enriches their lives immeasurably. One proviso on this matter: if entrepreneurs are considering leaving their home province, they should reveal their plans before they take money from government-backed institutions.

3.       We have to understand the challenges of locating businesses in Atlantic Canada. The region has a small population base. There are very few large companies (which could be potential customers) headquartered here. Air travel is expensive, and often time-consuming. The people developing the ecosystem must devise and promote advantages to locating here that override these detriments.

4.       Atlantic Canada should use this diaspora to its advantage. The people moving to larger markets still hold a deep affection for Atlantic Canada. The East Coast startup community should capitalize on the networks they are building and use it to link with investors, customers and mentors. There should be more structure in the efforts to build a network of expat entrepreneurs.

5.       We should fight back. There are real reasons for locating companies in Atlantic Canada. Launch36 is one of the leading tech accelerators in the country. There’s a wealth of talent. Coding talent generally costs less than elsewhere. There are tremendous mentorship networks. An effort to attract startups to establish in the region would have better economic results than offering a Fortune 500 company incentives to set up a branch plant here.

There’s no reason to panic. This is part of the growth of the innovation sector. The best response is to keep improving the ecosystem here and use this trend (if it continues) to our best advantage.

Press Release: Venture for Canada

Venture for Canada, which helps grads find work in Canadian startups, has issued the following press release:

Venture for Canada Launches its Graduate Placement Product

TORONTO, Aug. 25, 2014 -- Venture for Canada has launched its search for the next generation of top Canadian business leaders.  Recent grads and soon to be grads have until September 30th, 2014 to apply for the first application round of Venture for Canada’s Fellowship program.

Venture for Canada connects top recent graduates of Canadian post-secondary institutions to work at top Canadian startups and growth companies that are in need of talent, with the goal that these young Canadians become mobilized to launch businesses moving forward.

Fellows commit to working at partner startups, such as Bionym, InteraXon, and Wattpad, for a minimum of two years.  During that time, fellows are given training, as well as access to mentors.  The program is the Canadian counterpart of Venture for America, which has produced several hundred fellows from universities such as Harvard, Princeton and MIT, and been backed by prominent figures such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman. 

The program has the support of some of Canada’s leading business leaders.  Venture for Canada’s Honorary Chairs include SVP of Salesforce and Co-founder of Rypple.com Dan Debow, Chairman of Drake International Bill Pollock, Clearwater Fine Foods Inc. CEO John Risley, EllisDon CEO Geoff Smith, NexJ Systems CEO Bill Tatham, CSI Group CEO Ajit Someshwar, and former Home Depot Canada President and NRStor CEO Annette Verschuren. 

Moreover, representatives from a wide range of different organizations support the program, with the advisory board including representatives from Build Ventures, Communitech, the Economic Developers Council of Ontario, Enactus Canada, Futurpreneur Canada, iNovia Capital, Launch Academy, MaRS, Mitacs, OMERS Ventures, Osler, Real Ventures, The Next 36, and Queen’s University. 

Young entrepreneurial Canadians have until September 30th, 2014 to apply in Venture for Canada’s first application round.


Press Release: CarbonCure & Snyder

CarbonCure Technologies, the Halifax-based maker of green building materials, has issued the following press release:

Snyder and CarbonCure connect on sustainability

Snyder to offer green concrete products to the Ohio region

August 28, 2014 - Canadian clean-tech company CarbonCure Technologies Inc. has signed a deal with Ohio-based Snyder Brick & Block to begin producing low carbon concrete products for the Ohio building market. Snyder has been providing concrete and masonry products to customers in southern Ohio since 1949, and the company has since grown to include four manufacturing facilities and eight showrooms.

CarbonCure will install its retrofit CO2 sequestration technology at Snyder’s Columbus and Monroe concrete plants, allowing Snyder to produce concrete products that make use of post-industrial carbon dioxide gas (CO2). When added during the concrete-making process, the waste CO2 is converted back into a mineral—making a stronger, more environmentally friendly product.

According to Clean Edge Inc.’s 2014 Clean Tech Leadership Index, Cincinnati ranked 14th out of 50 US cities for green building development. The index tracks LEED design projects, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency’s registry of energy efficient buildings. With Columbus ranked 25th, the report positions southern Ohio as a burgeoning green building market.

“We’re excited to start using this innovative technology,” said Mark Snyder, Vice President of Snyder Concrete. “We’ve made the decision to promote and manufacture low-carbon products so that we can appeal to sustainable construction projects such as LEED, while contributing to a positive long term impact on future generations.” Snyder’s newest manufacturing facility also features a rainwater collection system, which allows them to reintroduce rainwater into their concrete mix design.

CarbonCure masonry products will soon be seen at any of Snyder’s eight showrooms across southern Ohio, giving architects and builders a chance to learn more about the technology. CarbonCure will also be presenting with Snyder at the upcoming 5th Annual Division 8 Update for the Architectural Industry, being held on September 17th at the Four Seasons Marina in Cincinnati.

About CarbonCure Technologies Inc.

CarbonCure is concrete’s gateway to the green building community. Its technology beneficially reuses waste carbon dioxide during the concrete manufacturing process. The company also provides transparency tools such as Environmental and Health Product Declarations for all products made with CarbonCure. Through collaborations with leading designers, the company and its partners are supplying a scalable solution to address the growing demand for green building materials. CarbonCure concrete is available from a growing number of North America’s leading concrete manufacturers--Anchor, Basalite Concrete Products, Brampton Brick, Ernest Maier, Northfield Block, Permacon, Shaw Brick, and Snyder Brick & Block.

Press Release: SimplyCast Q2 Growth

SimplyCast, the Dartmouth-based multi-channel marketing startup, has issued the following press release:

SimplyCast Continues to Achieve Triple Digit Growth in Q2

SimplyCast has experienced triple digit customer growth in Q1 and Q2 for customers using SimplyCast 360.

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, September 3, 2014 - SimplyCast.com, a global leader in multi-channel marketing Platform-as-a-Service solutions, is proud to announce that the company has achieved triple-digit growth in both Q1 and Q2.

In Q1, customer growth increased by 266% for customers using SimplyCast 360. In Q2, growth was up by 216%. Customers from many industries are signing up to use the all-in-one automated solution.

“Our team is very excited that we are achieving such high growth rates,” said Saeed El-Darahali, President and CEO of SimplyCast. “We are focused on providing our customers with the most comprehensive set of communication tools and the best customer experience.”

SimplyCast's recent achievements include gaining a top quadrant position on the Raab Associates Inc. VEST report, which ranks marketing technology companies based on vendor and product fit. Also, SimplyCast was rated as having the fifth most customers and is in the top ten for most popular marketing automation software by Capterra, an online directory of business software.

The SimplyCast team continues to provide the most complete solution marketing automation solution available. New products include SimplyCast Sonar, a powerful lead tracking tool that enables businesses to gain detailed data for highly targeted campaigns and a shorter sales cycle. The SimplyCast Contact Manager builds personal profiles for lead nurturing, and EngagerLive is a live chat tool which empowers businesses to provide immediate online support to customers.

SimplyCast 360 is an automation marketing solution designed to reduce manual tasks while allowing organizations to communicate with their customers and clients in a highly targeted way that was previously unavailable on the market. SimplyCast 360 is used by the e-commerce and automotive industries, sports teams, nonprofit organizations, marketing agencies and government. It is also ideal for communication in emergency situations such as forest fires, bomb threats or blizzard warnings.

About SimplyCast

SimplyCast.com is a leading provider of interactive and multi-channel communication software for organizations worldwide. The company’s 360 Customer Flow Communication Platform is a featurerich solution combining marketing automation, inbound marketing and interactive communication. With customers in over 175 countries, including many of the most recognized brand names around the globe in retail, non-profit and hospitality industries, SimplyCast provides organizations the ability to effectively reach customers on their preferred mode of communication.


SkySquirrel to Launch Farm Product

A year after it pivoted away from a search and rescue product, SkySquirrel Technologies is launching a drone-based product that can help farmers improve growing conditions.

Based in Inverness on Cape Breton Island, the company has always been dedicated to using drones to help customers do things that would be more difficult to do on the ground. The original team of Tim Stekkinger, Richard Van der Put, and Stephane Sogne had planned to use the drones to help search and rescue teams look for lost people. But the market proved difficult to commercialize — too small, too hard to develop revenue channels.

So they have been developing an agricultural product that can help farmers improve their yields by efficiently collecting data on what’s going on in their fields and responding before problems can occur. The company is now developing two commercial drones, and the first product, called Aweo, will be available next month.

 “When you have a flying platform equipped with multi-spectral cameras,” Stekkinger said in an interview at the company’s headquarters, “you can get a lot of data on the crops. It can help a farmer to optimize yield.”

SkySquirrel uses drones to hover over fields of crops using cameras to collect data on four areas: yield estimation, nitrogen stress, water stress and disease detection.

This information can help farmers in several ways. For example, if farmers know early whether their crop will be big or small, and when it may ripen, they can line up the appropriate number of workers to pick it at the right time. By learning early whether there is too little or too much water or nitrogen in certain patches of a field, the farmer can make adjustments before it becomes a major problem.

 “What many farmers are very excited about is early disease detection because a disease can destroy a significant part of your crop,” said Stekkinger.

Drones are becoming more common in agriculture because of their efficiency in gathering data. Stekkinger said it could take six hours for a farmer to scout a 40-hectare field, but a SkySquirrel drone can do it in half an hour. The SkySquirrel team and another Atlantic Canadian startup working in the same field, Resson Aerospace of Fredericton, have been in contact to compare notes, said Stekkinger.

Agriculture is such a massive industry that the market could likely support a lot of these companies. Already, SkySquirrel has fielded inquiries from 20 countries from around the world and is working on a pilot program with academics in Greece. The company has eight full-time employees and one part-time worker and has raised two rounds of finance from angel investors.

The Inverness company is offering services outside of agriculture. Its web page highlights that it can mount cameras on drones and inspect structures such as transmission towers or wind turbines — hard-to-reach assemblies that require regular inspection and maintenance. But the focus, for now, is on agriculture.

 “It can save so much time for a farmer,” said Stekkinger, “and reduce farm inputs (such as fertilizer) by about 20 per cent, depending on the crop.”


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.     


New Time for St. John’s Event

The time of the Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum event to be held in St. John’s on Sept. 11 has been changed to mid-day due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict.

The Entrevestor-EF Luncheon will now begin at 11 am at the Common Room at Gushue Hall at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Like the Entrevestor-EF Dinners, the purpose of the luncheon is to let members of the community come together to discuss ways to improve the ecosystem.

The Sept. 11 event will feature two one-hour discussions before adjourning for dinner:

--  Mark Kennedy, the Founder and CEO of Celtx, the St. John’s-based maker of pre-production software for the film industry, will moderate a discussion on the new venture-angel fund that the Newfoundland and Labrador government is working on. The government has outlined a model that would combine investments from both wealthy individuals and government to fund startups. This discussion will provide an opportunity for members of the community to say how they’d like the fund to be structured.

--  Emad Rizkalla, CEO of Bluedrop Performance Learning, the St. John’s-based training software company, will lead a talk on how to encourage corporations to invest in and support startups. Atlantic Canadian startups get more funding from strategic partners than many of us would expect, but we’ll look into how to increase the number. The discussion will also look at other ways that corporations can help young companies.

The first Entrevestor Dinner was held in Fredericton in May, and we received glowing feedback on the format that features discussions on improving the ecosystem for Atlantic Canadian startups. Now we’ve partnered with Entrepreneurs’ Forum to jointly host the final dinners of the year. The dinners are being supported by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

The Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum Dinner scheduled for Halifax on Sept. 25 will proceed as planned. The dinner will be held at the Niche Lounge on Barrington Street, starting at 4 pm. Rob Barbara, Partner at Build Ventures, will host as discussion on regional investment tax credits. And Stephen Duff, CEO of Innovacorp, will lead a talk on mentorship.

If anyone has purchased a ticket for the St. John’s event and can’t make it because of the new time, your money will be refunded in full. Tickets for the luncheon and dinner are $75 each. Tickets for the St. John's luncheon are available here, while those for the Halifax event can be purchased here.

Four Launch36 Grads Get BDC Notes

As it announced ambitious organizational changes, PropelICT revealed Thursday that four startups that went through Cohort 4 of its Launch36 accelerator have received $150,000 convertible notes from BDC Venture Capital.

Propel held its annual general meeting Thursday night, formalizing its plan to hold three simultaneous cohorts this autumn and announcing a new board of directors and new role for executive director Trevor MacAusland.

The organization said the following companies have received a $150,000 convertible note from the venture capital arm of the Business Development Bank of Canada:

Adeptio, Charlottetown, which offers software and programs for personal coaches;

HotSpot Parking, Fredericton, which allows for remote payment of parking meters and helps small businesses manage customer relationships;

Qimple, Moncton, which helps companies to manage and analyze applications when hiring people;

• And Resson Aerospace, Fredericton, whose aerial surveillance system helps farmers detect crop diseases.

BDC Venture said last summer it would extend convertible notes of $150,000 each to recent graduates of Canadian accelerators that it deems to be investment ready. As well as Launch36, it makes this offer to such accelerators as GrowLab in Vancouver and FounderFuel in Montreal.

With the inclusion of the four most recent companies, seven Launch36 graduates will have now secured BDC funding through the program.

In other news, Jeff Thompson (profiled today on Entrevestor) became chair of the organization, replacing Scott MacIntosh. He welcomed new directors to the board that reflect the organization’s regional nature. The new directors are Rob Cowan (Halifax), Steven Burns (Fredericton), Jeff Grammer (Boston), Gerry Lawless (Charlottetown) and Jo Mark Zurel (St. John’s).

MacAusland, who has overseen the Launch36 program since its inception and made it a regional initiative, will now become the Vice-President of Business Development.

“It will enable me to focus on what I love doing the most -- helping to curate the entrepreneurial community, build a more diverse and international mentor network and work with our community partners,” said MacAusland in a statement. He said the goal is “to make sure we continue to deliver the quality accelerator services that the community has become accustomed to in recent years.”

Earlier this month, Propel announced that it would collaborate with Volta Labs in Halifax and Planet Hatch in Fredericton to deliver its next cohort.  Both of the startup spaces will host a new initiation program called Launch36 “Start”, which will provide mentorship and physical space over 12 weeks for seed-stage startups. 

Meanwhile, growth stage companies will be able to enter the Launch36 “Build” accelerator, which will meet over 12 weeks in Moncton.

Propel aims to have nine companies in each of the “Start” programs, and six in the “Build” program. That means 24 companies will be mentored by PropelICT this autumn. It also means that if every team completes the course, the total number of Launch36 graduates in three years will be 56. 


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      


After 2 Exits, Thompson Heads Propel

Having founded and successfully exited two tech startups by the time he was 43, Fredericton native Jeff Thompson brings a lot of street cred and star quality to his new role as chairman and president of regional startup support group, Propel ICT.

Thompson took up his role on Thursday, although he has been involved with Propel ICT, most recently as vice-president, since 2011 when he helped thrash out the vision for what has become the group’s successful regional accelerator, Launch36.

His new role will see him focusing on Propel 2.0, a vision of what should come next for Propel and the Atlantic Canadian region.

“The focus will be on achieving growth through working with regional partners and differentiating between the opportunities we offer early- and late-stage companies,” Thompson explained from his Fredericton home, having just returned from an early morning run.

Never one to do things by halves, Thompson is training for Fredericton’s Fall Classic half marathon.

He regularly runs half marathons (21 kilometres) and credits the exercise with helping him stay mentally and physically healthy during the stressful years spent building companies.

The early riser is often out running the trails around Fredericton’s St.John River as early as 4 a.m.

“I run solo so it is an opportunity to get away from everything,” he said.

“Sometimes I reflect on business. Other times I don’t think at all, just notice the birdsong.”

Thompson began running in 2006 when he was the founder and CEO of his first startup, Conseros Software, which prioritizes and distributes work to a company’s best-skilled and available employees.

“All startups are stressful,” he said. “We bootstrapped Conseros. We had no outside investment. There were months when we had no money for payroll and you don’t miss payroll, ever.

“The company had a line of credit and I was the guarantor. It gets really personal. I got hyper-focused when clients owed us money.

“But, of course, having no outside investors is good when you sell, and 100 per cent of the company remains in the hands of you and your team.”

Thompson hit payday with Conseros when he sold it to Genesys Telecommunications in 2009. He continued to work with Genesys for the next three years, taking the product into the Asia Pacific region, and garnering big clients like Telstra and PayPal. But the role meant he often spent 10 months a year abroad, usually living in hotels.

“Running became very important then,” he said. “I had to start my day with a run. If I didn’t, something would get under my skin and it would be a horrible day. The body gets into a routine.”

Eight months ago, he sold his second company, UserEvents, to California-based LiveOps for an undisclosed sum. The UserEvents product analyzes a corporation’s data to detect when a customer is having problems with a website or other communications channel. It then notifies the company’s call centre so the problem can be sorted out.

Since the sale, Thompson has continued to work with LiveOps on product strategy and business development.

All startups might be stressful, but Thompson said that experience helped when it came to working on his second venture.

“You are more realistic the second time,” he said. “The first time, if a sales meeting went well, I would expect them to buy and that doesn’t always happen. The second time, I wore less rosy glasses and I knew how to close the sale, and I think I was better at managing staff.”

Having spent so much time selling his products around the world, these days Thompson is happy to stay close to home.

“I haven’t found a better place than Fredericton to live,” he said. “It’s a good place to start a company. I’ve twice found good people to hire here.”


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Entrevestor on Holiday Next Week

Entrevestor will take its annual summer holiday next week and will not be covering news until after Labour Day. 

We will return as usual on Sept. 2. 

We hope all our readers have a happy and safe long weekend. 

Peter and Carol Moreira. 


GetGoing Gets Going at Bootcamp

Starting this week, a new Halifax startup is taking part in a boot camp for women in technology at Waterloo, Ont.-based Communitech, the country’s premiere startup lab.

GetGoing hopes to use its time in the Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp to get feedback on its product for entrepreneurs. It has created a simple app that helps small businesses — traditional businesses as well as innovation-based startups — come up with a simple, effective business plan very quickly.

“What we’re trying to do is bring an added sense of confidence to small-business planning, especially people starting businesses for the first time,” said founder Emily Richardson in an interview before leaving for the boot camp.

The team is one of 25 startups accepted into the Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp, which started in Waterloo this week. Richardson, a Halifax entrepreneur who previously worked for such startups as Truleaf Smart Plant Systems and Carboncure Technologies, applied for the boot camp, competing against 70 other teams.

The other team members of GetGoing are Moontasir Abeer (who previously worked on the software for Halifax startup Presenters Podium), Matthew Carleton and Ben Boudreau.

The idea behind GetGoing is to create a simple online tool for anyone starting a business — especially those averse to using products that use Excel spreadsheets. Once the entrepreneur fills out the forms in the program, he or she will be in a position to talk to a banker about the prospects of the business.

The product comprises three components:

•The value proposition: GetGoing helps the entrepreneur craft a single paragraph describing the business and explaining why it has a good chance of succeeding.

•A modified business canvas: This is a basic template outlining the business model, bearing in mind such factors as customer demand, location, competition, etc.

•A financial planner: In about 15 minutes, the entrepreneur can produce realistic financial projections for a new business. A really cool feature of this tool is it includes Industry Canada statistics that show what revenues a certain type of business can expect in a specific province in Canada. So if you’re planning a restaurant in Saskatchewan, you can see the average revenues for a restaurant in that province in its first year. That is important because business people rarely know what revenues to realistically predict in their first few years.

 “If you can get through these three programs, you are in pretty good shape with your business, but if you get stuck on any one part, you should probably re-evaluate,” said Carleton.

Richardson said the market is huge given that there are six million new businesses launched in Canada and the U.S. each year. GetGoing will initially target three markets: people under 30, baby boomers, and recent immigrants.

GetGoing spent three days this week at the boot camp, where the mentors included Sally Ng, executive director of Fredericton’s Planet Hatch. The GetGoing team will now return to Halifax to execute on what it learned at the camp. It will return to Waterloo for a wrap-up session in September. It is planning a full launch of the product in late October.

The team has so far not sought any equity funding for the project. Richardson said she and her teammates are hoping to get to launch without taking any investment.

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      


BioPort Now a More Regional Event

BioPort Atlantic, the annual conference for the East Coast life sciences industry, is moving closer to being a truly regional event as it is now being promoted by organizations in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

BioNova, the Nova Scotia life sciences association, has announced that companies from the three provinces will be able to enter the BioInnovation Challenge, the $15,000 pitching contest at BioPort. And BioNB and the PEI BioAlliance will promote BioPort on a more regional basis. The parties also hope to secure the participation of Newfoundland and Labrador at some point.

“This represents a positive step forward for regional collaboration as we need to be taking advantage of each other’s strengths to assist companies in developing faster,” said Scott Moffit, Managing Director of BioNova.  “We need to get to market sooner and compete harder. After all, our competitors are global not local so collaboration just makes good sense.” 

BioPort will take place at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax on Oct. 20 and 21.

The organizers are now calling for new biotech and medical device companies to enter the BioInnovation Challenge, saying it is an “opportunity to capitalize on valuable coaching and exposure.”

The first prize for the competition is worth $15,000 in cash and in-kind services. Applications, which are available here, close Sept. 3. 

The semi-finals will be held on October 20 in Halifax. The top three qualifiers will present the following day at the BioPort conference.

The winner last year -- when the competition was open to just Nova Scotia and New Brunswick companies -- was Spring Loaded Technology of Halifax, which is developing a knee brace that not only stabilizes the joint but brings power to the legs. 

Moffit said the organizers are still putting together the agenda for the BioPort conference and will have more announcements in the next two months. 

Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Gillis, 15, Brings Bitness to Market

While most of the teens at the Shad Valley tech and entrepreneurship camp in July focused on their science projects, Alex Gillis might have been a bit distracted by the business he’d started two months before.

He is now launching the business, which places a small electronic monitor in retail locations like coffee shops to track the customer traffic and spending, and provide data on customer behaviour. Gillis and his partners call their service Bitness and the little device the Bitness Beacon. And he hopes to have them in scores of locations by the time he’s midway through Grade 12.

“I definitely have the goal of getting 100 customers by the end of next year,” the 15-year-old Haligonian said in an interview shortly after his first sales call at a metro Halifax coffee house. “I really want to get a few chains on board.”

Gillis is now entering Grade 11 at Sacred Heart School, and he already strikes you as an entrepreneur worth listening to. On a humid August afternoon, he’s clad in creased trousers and a dress shirt. He has already pitched his business model at Volta Labs, the Halifax startup hub. And the fact that he attended Shad Valley — a competitive national program that selects only accomplished high-school students — shows that he’s one to watch.

He began to toy around with a serious business in the past year, when he set up a company called MicroCent Technology, which is now the corporate umbrella for Bitness. (Because he’s too young to be a director of a company, his mother owns the stock and has a board seat.)

He brought in a classmate, Aristides Milios, who is helping develop the company in return for equity. And they signed up Troy Nelson, a hardware specialist who divides his time between San Francisco and Moncton, to make the Bitness Beacons. Nelson will receive a cut from the licensing of the beacons.

“Having a three-person team work on this with no money has been crazy,” said Gillis. “We’ve put a total of 200 bucks into this. Now that’s bootstrapping.”

The way the product works is to place a Bitness Beacon in a store or coffee shop — one is all you need for a regular-sized coffee shop. The customer pays $99 to license a beacon, and then pays $45 per month per store (for a regular-sized location) for the service.

The beacon tracks anyone who enters the establishment with their cellphone set to receive Wi-Fi signals (which is most people with smartphones). It can track who lingers at the cash register (signalling a sale), who stays in and who leaves. It can track the number of returning customers. The system assigns numbers to customers and does not identify them by name, thereby preserving their privacy.

The service includes an easy-to-use dashboard that can tell the business owner what are the peak times in the establishment, which helps with staffing and in arranging promotions.

Gillis said the first sales call went well and he hopes to sign up the customer soon. He is especially keen to sign up a few retail or restaurant chains, because that will help to impress investors.

The company is now hoping to raise $50,000 in investment to buy more beacons and hire a salesperson.


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Press Release: FoodTender Launch

FoodTender, the Shediac, N.B.-based online ordering system for restaurants, issued the following press release today:

FoodTender Launches Free Online Ordering Service In Major Technology Advance for Restaurants and Foodservice Suppliers

Web-based Platform Allows Restaurants to Easily Order from Multiple Suppliers

For Immediate Release - August 19, 2014

SHEDIAC, CANADA—FoodTender, the first comprehensive web-based ordering system for restaurants, is now available as a free service to restaurants in the United States and Canada. FoodTender’s founders are a restaurant owner and a chef who understand why this new service is badly needed by restaurant managers and chefs.

While technology has been quick to change the “front of the house” in the restaurant industry, the “back of the house” has lagged behind. Today most restaurants juggle orders from a dozen or more suppliers through faxes, phone calls or texts. It’s a time consuming and complicated process.

FoodTender solves that problem with its user-friendly service, saving the average restaurant up to six hours each week. FoodTender lets restaurants easily manage orders from multiple suppliers through a simple web-based platform. The FoodTender service is free for restaurants. Foodservice suppliers, from local farmers to international operators, can sign up to deliver special promotions to a growing number of restaurants that are part of the FoodTender community.

“As a restaurant owner and someone who worked in the foodservice supply business for many years, I know firsthand the struggles that restaurants face in managing their suppliers. We used our experience to create FoodTender and make life easier for chefs and restaurant managers, saving them time and money,” said Andre Pellerin, co-founder of FoodTender.

FoodTender lets restaurants:

•Centralize orders for all suppliers

•Create customized supplier lists

•Manage costs

•Avoid time-wasting calls, faxes and texts

•Make it easy for receivers to reconcile deliveries and prices

•Keep a running history of all orders

“As a chef, I spent many hours each week trying to manage all my suppliers and making sure I received what I ordered at the right prices. It’s a problem that chefs and restaurant managers face every single day. We’ve built FoodTender to streamline and simplify ordering so chefs can focus on their true passion; creating great menus and running outstanding restaurants,” said Andre Leblanc, co-founder of FoodTender.

Restaurants can sign up to FoodTender for free at http://www.foodtender.com


About FoodTender.com 

FoodTender offers the first and only comprehensive online foodservice ordering platform for restaurants. This free service saves chefs and restaurant managers up to six hours per week. Find out more at http://www.foodtender.com @Food,Tender_FT or Facebook.com/FoodTendercom.

Pitch 101 To Be Held Tuesday

Entrepreneurs’ Forum will host a Pitch 101 competition Tuesday, August 19, at 12:30 pm at the Innovacorp offices at 1344 Summer St., Halifax.

Pitch 101 is an initiative launched by Bob Williamson of Invest Atlantic to encourage students and rookie entrepreneurs to hone and deliver concise pitches.

“The pitches are designed to be the first step in helping prepare these entrepreneurs and perhaps those in the audience to develop longer pitches for when they meet real-time investors and potential partners,” said a statement from Entrepreneurs’ Forum.

Each participant is given 60 seconds to describe a business proposition, after which judges will provide them with feedback. The judges will be: Ross Finlay, Co-founder & Director, First Angel Network: Gregg Phipps, Managing Director, Innovacorp; and Sean Williams, President & Founder, Williams Marketing.

The audience will select the top three pitches. The winner will receive $500, second place $300 and third place will be handed $200.

The online registration is free. 

Profile: Robert Niven’s Next Product

Eight years after he attended a climate change conference as a student and realized that his carbon capture theory could help lessen climate change, Robert Niven is launching a ready-mix concrete product he expects to grow his company and cut pollution.

Niven is CEO and founder of Halifax’s CarbonCure Technologies, a clean-tech company that adds waste carbon dioxide to concrete production, thereby reducing CO2 emissions.

Concrete is the world’s most-used construction material, and it emits five per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions because traditional processes cure concrete blocks by heating them.

CarbonCure’s concrete looks and performs like regular concrete, is priced the same and is increasingly sought after, Niven said.

“Since January, CarbonCure has licensed its technology to 12 concrete factories in Canada and the U.S., with an additional 18 by the end of the year,” said Niven, who last year oversaw a Series B financing round of $3.5 million for the company’s expansion.

Back in 2006, Niven was an outdoors enthusiast and an environmental engineering student at McGill University when he attended a United Nations climate change conference in Montreal and realized the potential of his technology.

“Attending the conference put the significance and human side of the idea in context. I thought, I need to get this into the real world.”

The company raised its first round of funding in 2012. Since then, it has focused on injecting carbon into concrete blocks and other concrete masonry products. Niven said Atlantic Canada’s Shaw Group was the first industrial partner, and it sells CarbonCure to the local construction market. But the ready-mix concrete industry is about four times larger than the block market.

“Ready-mix has a larger potential to allow us to expand rapidly, and it is an important bridge to international markets,” said Niven, adding that no direct competitors use similar technology.

The company’s first ready-mix client is a well-known but as yet unnamed Halifax company. Other markets are much further away, including the Middle East and China, where Niven spends a lot of time.

“Bill Gates recently said that in the last three years, China has used as much concrete as the U.S. used in the last 100,” he said.

“We’re a wonderful fit for those countries that need to develop economically and can’t afford environmental degradation.”

The company’s growth in the ready-mix industry is assisted by the increasing global demand for green building materials that is being led by consumers, government regulators and forward-thinking investors.

Navigant Research predicts that the worldwide market for green construction materials will grow from $116 billion in 2013 to more than $254 billion in 2020.

“New rules introduced in November by the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification program mean that building material manufacturers must report their environmental and health implications, including CO2 emissions,” Niven said.

“Despite concrete’s many sustainability attributes, concrete makers have lost market share to producers of perceived greener materials, like wood and steel that have done a better job of telling their green story.”

It has been a hectic ride bringing the venture to this point. Niven has been working on his company since 2007, when he used his environmental consulting business to support the development of the technology under the name Carbon Sense Solutions.

CarbonCure now has a Halifax team of 17. Niven has worked all along with Sean Monkman, a McGill classmate and the company’s vice-president of Technology Development.

Niven said the company benefited from the worldwide recession that hit while the technology was being developed and is set to profit from the economic upswing.

“When we were developing the technology, the industry was in the gutter so concrete plants were able to give us production time,” he said.

“And now the technology is ready to go, the economy is picking up. CarbonCure’s timing has been excellent.”


Disclaimer: Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup companies in Atlantic Canada. The sponsoring agencies play no role in determining which companies and individuals are featured in this column, nor do they review columns before they are published.      

Engage Conference Set for Sept. 25

The Engage 2014 Conference, which will encourage innovation and commercialization at post-secondary institutions, will be held in Halifax on Sept. 25 and may lead to other similarly themed events throughout the region.

Although the number of events in the startup space has risen dramatically in recent years, organizer Mark Taylor said there is a need for an event examining how universities and colleges spawn innovation and then turn it into young businesses.

 “Atlantic Canada has a lot of world-class research and a lot of talented entrepreneurs, and the goal of Engage is to bring them together and to help them reach the next level,” Taylor said in an interview from Fredericton.

He held his first Engage event in Saint John last October, focusing on export development as the theme. But he believes there is a bigger issue to be tackled in the region in bridging the gap between researchers and profitable businesses.

It is a problem that is often discussed in Atlantic Canada. The region’s universities employ researchers who are recognized in their fields around the world. But too often, there are problems either spinning this research into new businesses, or in linking these researchers with corporations that would benefit from research.

 “This event will break down the barriers to innovation in the region and help entrepreneurs discover what it takes to bring their ideas to life and who can help,” Taylor said.

One of the speakers at the conference will be Chuck Cartmill, CEO of LED Roadway Lighting of Halifax. Taylor said LED Roadway is a sterling example of a company that has tapped the research capacity of universities in the region and used it to produce products for the global marketplace.

The other speakers and panelists include: Dawn Jutla, founder of the master of technology entrepreneurship and innovation program at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax; Milan Vrekic, executive director at Volta; Patrick Keefe, partner at Build Ventures; Jeff Grammer, partner at Rho Canada Ventures; Permjot Valia, founder of MentorCamp; and Rob Cowan, partner at McInnes Cooper.

Taylor hopes that his Engage conference can bring people together to encourage more commercialization. He also is planning to host a series of seminars around the region under the Engage brand that will also address the potential of innovation and commercialization.

The Engage 2014 Conference will take place in an already busy week in Halifax for startup enthusiasts.

MentorCamp, a one-day, intensive mentoring session for invited startups, will take place Sept. 22, followed the next day by Startup Empire, a new event organized by Vrekic. Entrevestor and Entrepreneurs’ Forum will host a dinner Sept. 25 focusing on developing the startup ecosystem in Halifax. The following week, on Sept. 29 and 30, Invest Atlantic will take place.

Press Releases: Planet Hatch

Planet Hatch, the Fredericton startup centre, has released the following press releases:

 Launch36 Information Session

As you may know, applications for the Fall 2014 Cohort are now OPEN!

In collaboration with Volta Labs, we will be adopting both the Start and Build accelerator programs, products of Launch36, for our next batch of startups!

This evening (Thursday) we will be hosting an information session from 5pm-6pm at Planet Hatch on our partnership and programs..Did we mention there'll be PIZZA?

If you have a colleague or friend that is interested, feel free to pass the message along! To register  https://phprograminfo1.eventbrite.ca/

Startup Weekend New Brunswick Updates

It’s been a busy couple of months but we are sad to announce Startup Weekend New Brunswick (Youth Edition) won’t be happening this summer.

However, the next Startup Weekend New Brunswick (Fredericton Edition) is just around the corner! Startup Weekend New Brunswick is organizing their fourth event to be held on November 21-23 for ages 16+ in Fredericton, New Brunswick as part of GLOBAL STARTUP BATTLE!

Global Startup Battle is the only event of its kind, with over 40 cities and 15 000 participants around the world. This incredible initiative is driven by Up Global as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week.

For more information about the previous Global Startup Battle 2013, check out the blog!

Stay up to date by checking out our new community site nb.up.co. It will be updated soon with the new Startup Weekend New Brunswick (Fredericton Edition) information and registration. 

Entrevestor-EF Dinners Set for NL, NS

Entrevestor and the Entrepreneurs’ Forum are delighted to announce we will host the next in our series of dinners in St. John’s on Sept. 11 and in Halifax on Sept. 25.

The first Entrevestor Dinner was held in Fredericton in May, and we received glowing feedback on the format that features discussions on improving the ecosystem for Atlantic Canadian startups. Now we’ve partnered with Entrepreneurs’ Forum to jointly host the final dinners of the year.

The Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum Dinners convene in the late afternoon for two discussions on how we can improve the ecosystem for startups in the region. Each discussion is led by a leader in the startup community, who invites entrepreneurs, funders and support personnel to join in with their opinions on how to improve the environment for startups.

“We believe the entire community benefits when its members get together to discuss common problems and initiatives,” said Kathleen Rayworth, Executive Director of Entrepreneur’s Forum. “We hope that entrepreneurs and others in the startup community will join us to try to plot a course to a stronger ecosystem.”

The Sept. 11 dinner will take place at the Common Room at Gushue Hall at Memorial University of Newfoundland, starting at 4 pm. We will hold two one-hour discussions before adjourning for dinner:

--  Mark Kennedy, the Founder and CEO of Celtx, the St. John’s-based maker of pre-production software for the film industry, will moderate a discussion on the new venture-angel fund that the Newfoundland and Labrador government is working on. The government has outlined a model that would combine investments from both wealthy individuals and government to fund startups. This discussion will provide an opportunity for members of the community to say how they’d like the fund to be structured.

--  Emad Rizkalla, CEO of Bluedrop Performance Learning, the St. John’s-based training software company, will lead a talk on how to encourage corporations to invest in and support startups. Atlantic Canadian startups get more funding from strategic partners than many of us would expect, but we’ll look into how to increase the number. The discussion will also look at other ways that corporations can help young companies.

The dinner in Halifax will be held Sept. 25 at the Niche Lounge on Barrington Street, starting also at 4 pm. The two discussions will be:

--  Rob Barbara, Partner at Build Ventures, will host as discussion on regional investment tax credits. Various governments are discussing whether to offer investment tax credits to people who are not residents of their province to encourage investment in startups. We’ll look at whether such credits should be offered to non-residents, and whether the recipients could even live outside the region.

--  Stephen Duff, CEO of Innovacorp, will lead a talk on mentorship. This a continuation of a discussion that Calvin Milbury, CEO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, led in Fredericton. Since then, Launch36 has received federal funding and launched a new, more regional mandate. And the Mentra, a new mentoring group based in Moncton, has begun to organize a regional mentoring network.

Tickets for the dinners are $75 each. Tickets for the St. John's Dinner  are available here, while those for the Halifax event can be purchased here.



Oasis Farmery: Aquaponics Pioneers

Imagine, if you will, a goldfish tank sitting in your kitchen, with a vegetable and herb garden sitting on top of it. The waste from the goldfish fertilizes the plants, a process that in turn cleans the water for the fish. Now imagine your family sitting beside it, eating the produce from this system.

This simple system — known as aquaponics — is the premise behind Oasis Farmery, a Fredericton startup now trying to raise $10,000 in a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.

Oasis is dedicated to using aquaponics to increase the production of local food in an environmentally sustainable manner. It has just graduated from the Summer Institute, an entrepreneurial program at the University of New Brunswick, and has a prototype facility that will show it can produce vegetables for the local market in Fredericton. And it is developing a residential product.

Now it is looking for $10,000 to fund a larger, energy-efficient facility to allow full production of food for restaurants.

 “We’re helping to reduce global food waste by focusing on local food development,” said Jake Wildman-Sisk, one of the project founders.

 “We need to look at the way we’re growing food and constantly improve on it. There are ways to improve it, and I think aquaponics is a step in that direction.”

Wildman-Sisk and co-founder Andrew Mathis -- shown above with mentor Philip LeBlanc -- have travelled to Nevada, California, Milwaukee and Chicago talking to experts in food production and discussing their aquaponic ambitions.

Throughout the summer at the institute, they have developed a 1,000-litre prototype in which they are growing basil, tomatoes, sunflowers and herbs. They have expressions of interest from restaurants that may take their produce. So far, they are using goldfish to provide nutrients for the plants, but eventually they want to introduce food fish.

 “Our aim is to be able to produce fish that you can eat like trout or arctic char, as well as cilantro, basil, a whole bunch of herbs and vegetables that you can use every day,” said Mathis.

They have learned that the system can grow vegetables faster than traditional farming and uses 90 per cent less land and water.

The two entrepreneurs are developing small systems that people can set up in their homes, and a pledge of $250 to the Kickstarter campaign will get you one when they are released in November. But their main focus is on their new facility. It will be a greenhouse powered by renewable energy, with two rows of vegetable gardens over fish tanks. There’s an observation area through the middle of it. That’s important because Mathis and Wildman-Sisk believe part of their mission is to educate school children and the public at large about the importance of innovative food production.

 “I really have a lot of faith in the Oasis Farmery … to really make a huge difference because they’re combining technical rigour with a real care for social causes and food and things that really matter to people,” Fredericton author and architect Johnny Leroux said in the video on the company’s Kickstarter web page.

As of this morning, the Kickstarter campaign has raised $2,644. In order to claim any money, they must receive commitments of $10,000 by Aug. 29. People contributing to the campaign will receive gifts made by local businesses in Fredericton.

Summ’er Up! to Expand Next Year

As they wrapped up their first Summ’er Up! Accelerator on Monday, Mary Killfoil and Ed Leach announced the program will expand next year, thanks to a $100,000 donation from the John Dobson foundation.

Kilfoil and Leach, who teach business, innovation and entrepreneurship at Dalhousie University, are best known for their Starting Lean Initiative, which entails several courses and programs teaching lean methodology to startups. They organized the eight-week Summ’er Up! program to give several teams of entrepreneurs the guidance needed to launch their companies.

On Monday, four teams presented their businesses to a packed house at Dal, displaying how they are now positioned to take their products into beta tests and (hopefully) the broader market.

“Every single one of them plan to do these things,” said a proud Kilfoil after the pitches. “They need more work. They need some help. But they’re all planning to proceed with it.”

She also outlined plans for next summer when the Starting Lean Initiative will be able to fund more teams because the Dobson Foundation, which supports entrepreneurial training at 16 Canadian universities, has offered $100,000 in support. It will likely mean 10 teams can take the program next year, and each would receive $10,000 to fund the development of tits product.  

This year’s accelerator provided student entrepreneurs with working space, some funding, programming and mentoring from successful entrepreneurs and business people.

The four teams that presented on Monday are:

Bootstrap, a community-based magazine. Claire Zimmerman and Stephanie Taylor are King’s College journalism grads who wanted to produce their own magazine to celebrate the lifestyle and opportunities in Nova Scotia. It will be part of a movement to tell stories from across the province. They are experimenting with a community-based business model in which the magazine reports on small businesses and organizations that have become members of the Bootstrap community.

Peanut, a social gaming app for sports fans. Founded by Callum Mayer and Costa Zafiris, Peanut lets sports fans bet against one another during a sporting event for “peanuts”, a sort of virtual poker chip.  Friends bet against one another for bragging rights, and players can buy additional peanuts for real money if they run out. Venues like sports bars can use the app for in-house promotions.  

Salubrian, an e-booking system for medical clinics. Cameron Seiffert and Justin Javorek, pictured above, have devised a system that lets patients book online for doctors’ appointments. The doctors pay a monthly subscription fee, and the patient can pay $2 to get alerts if the doctor is running late. The pair will beta-test the product this autumn with a Halifax clinic.

Vantij Software Inc., a communication system for hospitals. Tyler Zemlak, a PhD who works as a porter at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Halifax, teamed up with Ashraf Abusharekh to produce Harmonized Healthcare, a software product that  allows staff in emergency wards to communicate better. It will also provide valuable data to hospitals to help improve operations. The QEII is working with the team in developing the product.

“We are very pleased to see the success of this program,” said Leach in a statement. “Young people have the ideas and the enthusiasm to be great entrepreneurs. We can provide the learning tools to help them achieve their goals. We have the very good fortune to be working with the willing.”

Irap Funding on the Rise

Irap funding has returned almost to Economic Action Plan levels – and the rise has been especially strong in New Brunswick.

The National Research Council’s Industrial Assistant Program, known as Irap, is a cornerstone program of startup communities across the country, and certainly in Atlantic Canada. Data from the NRC show that Irap funding in Atlantic Canada rose 49 percent to $20.6 million in the year ended March 31, 2013 (The most recent data available). The growth was strongest in New Brunswick, where Irap funding rose 80 percent to $8.3 million. New Brunswick accounted for 40 percent of the total Irap funding in Atlantic Canada.

As part of its Keynesian response to the recession of 2008, the government greatly increased Irap funding for startups. That additional funding ran out two years ago. Then the government decided to ramp up funding again, this time as part of a sustained effort to increase innovative industries across Canada.

When Entrevestor asked Atlantic Canadian startups in its survey what government programs they had tapped in the past two years, 66 said they had tapped Irap, more than any other program. The second most frequently mentioned was the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program, cited by 49 companies.

One facet of Irap that is under-appreciated is its advisory service, which actually helps more entrepreneurs than its financing and which is growing strongly. The number of advisory clients in Atlantic Canada has more than doubled in the past two years to a record 606 companies.  Though the number of clients receiving financial aid rose 70 percent in 2013, it was only reaching the numbers seen two years earlier.

The place where Irap funding really took off in 2012-13 is New Brunswick, though not in the way you’d expect. The New Brunswick startup community is more concentrated in IT than any other Atlantic province, and indeed its Irap contributions in ICT increased by one-third to $2.0 million. But that was dwarfed by growth in other segments – food and agriculture up 160 percent to $1.1 million; construction and related products up 497 percent to $1.1 million; and the “Other” category doubled to $1.1 million.

Irap funding for ICT is most pronounced in the region in Newfoundland and Labrabor, where the $2.2 million accounted for half the provincial total.

As might be expected, Nova Scotia was the largest recipient of Irap funding for health and life sciences – its $1.4 million accounts for 54 percent of the funding in the Atlantic Canadian life sciences segment. And P.E.I. punches above its weight in this category – with $391,000 of funding or 16 percent.


Irap Funded and Advisory Clients in Atlantic Canada                                                       


                                Funded                  Advisory                             

2008-9                   206                         558                        

2009-10                377                         581                        

2010-11                344                         283                        

2011-12                201                         559                        

2012-13                340                         606                        


This article first appeared in our June 2014 Entrevestor Intelligence report, which you can find here

Profile: MacAusland Extends Reach

With this week’s announcement of new collaborations with regional partners Planet Hatch and Volta Labs, East Coast startup accelerator Launch36 is moving one step closer to its goal of being a truly regional organization.

On Wednesday, the group’s friendly-and-frank leader Trevor MacAusland announced the group will hold its Launch36 Start program for new companies at Volta in Halifax and Planet Hatch in Fredericton. Launch36 Build, for growth-stage companies, will continue to be held in Moncton.

“The collaborative nature of the program will allow us to focus on building scalable startups together,” said MacAusland, executive director of Propel ICT, the group that runs the accelerator.

“We’re aiming to be geographically agnostic and to become the world’s first federated accelerator model.”

Propel ICT began in Saint John 10 years ago, but MacAusland lives in Moncton and travels to boost regional links.

The group’s virtual programming will be improved with funds it has been awarded by the National Research Council’s Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program (amount yet to be announced).

Virtual programming will allow Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs to participate in accelerator programs, events and workshops.

There is a lot of untapped entrepreneurial potential in rural communities, MacAusland said.

“In the digital world, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, only where you’re going. We want to overcome the challenges entrepreneurs face in accessing the right people at the right time.”

The NRC funds will also allow the group to diversify away from pure tech to serve companies in other segments, and it will help with building better bridges to startup hubs in Silicon Valley, New York and Europe.

Propel ICT began Launch36 early in 2012, with the goal of putting 36 startups through its program within three years.

Launch36 has now graduated 32 startups from across the Maritime provinces and is known for the quality of the support it offers graduating companies. These include well-known names such as Eigen Innovations, which is developing an Internet of Things application for the food industry, and topLog, which helps to prevent network failures.

In May, the accelerator won Incubator/Accelerator of the Year in the Startup Canada Atlantic Awards.

When he became executive director in February 2011, MacAusland vowed to boost mentorship, believing it essential to entrepreneurial success.

Now, he gives credit to the couple of dozen regular volunteers on whom the non-profit relies.

“Our mentors strive to get entrepreneurs the answers they need,” he said. “They work tirelessly and open up their networks. If not for them, we wouldn’t have accomplished what we have.”

MacAusland said the group will “never have real estate” but will continue to keep costs down by working with community partners and relying on the generosity of sponsors, who provide free office space when required.

He describes himself as, “not the smartest or most talented person, but I am the hardest working.”

“I believe it’s my responsibility to future generations to foster entrepreneurship as much as I can.”

MacAusland is a francophone and fully bilingual. He grew up just outside Moncton, where his dad, Gerald, was an entrepreneur, owning a successful fire protection company.

The junior MacAusland worked for two decades in sales and marketing in the ICT sector, for T4G Limited and Whitehill Technologies.

MacAusland is the father of six-year-old Emma, and he says parenthood increases his commitment to local entrepreneurship.

“I want Emma to be able to stay in this region, if she chooses,” he said. “I feel a cultural shift is needed if Atlantic Canadian youngsters are to have that choice.

“If you see a problem, don’t say ‘Someone should fix that.’ Say ‘I can fix that, or if not, how do I find someone who can fix that?’”

David King Leaves Genesis for Qatar

The Genesis Group of St. John’s, which operates one of the most successful business incubators in the country, will soon enter a new phase of its development — but without the man who has steered the firm for the past two decades.

David King, who joined an earlier incarnation of the group in 1993, has announced that he will leave his post as chief executive officer to move to Qatar in the United Arab Emirates.

Instead of retiring, King will become the dean of business at the College of the North Atlantic’s campus in the Middle Eastern country.

Genesis Group, the Memorial University of Newfoundland’s technology commercialization arm, will soon begin its search for King’s replacement. The next chief executive officer will lead the organization through a new phase, as it considers shifting focus from incubation — mentoring fledgling startups — to developing an accelerator, which would help young firms make plans for growth as they become established.

 “There’s been a whole kind of entrepreneurial revolution in the past few years,” King said, pointing to groups like Startup St. John’s, Build Ventures and the province’s coming venture capital fund, which are changing the landscape. “This whole spectrum is there in pieces, and what we’d like to do is to bring it all together.”

A bit of background: In the 1990s, Memorial University set up a technology transfer group — a common feature in academic institutions that helps them commercialize their research, either through startups or in partnership with corporations. That unit evolved into the Genesis Group, which took over commercializing university research and became the Genesis Centre in 1996.

That centre nurtures between 10 and 12 startups at a time. It has graduated many of the leading startups in the region, including fraud-detection company Verafin, risk-analysis provider ClearRisk and a marine training company, Virtual Marine Technology.

This summer most of the technology transfer responsibilities went back to Memorial University, leaving the Genesis Group mainly focusing on mentoring startups.

It’s also preparing to move from the university campus to The Battery, a former hotel complex on the slopes of Signal Hill. Memorial University bought the old complex last year and plans to turn it into housing for graduate students and the Genesis Group’s new home.

The incubator is now plotting out how it will grow and adapt to its changing environment. King said it may develop an accelerator that would mentor companies that receive venture capital funding.

King has taught business at Memorial University (he describes himself as an “MBA/CA type”) and, of course, has immense experience in mentoring entrepreneurs.

He had been planning to help oversee the changes at Genesis Group, and retire in the middle of next year, but then he caught wind of the opportunity in Qatar.

When he leaves the Genesis Centre on Aug. 21, he will head straight to the airport to travel to the campus that Newfoundland and Labrador’s technical college established in Qatar.

 “I would have liked to have had a little more time to prepare for it,” he said. “But it’s like everything entrepreneurial — you have to seize the opportunity when it’s there.”

Wagepoint Launches in the U.S.

Having attracted its 500th client by focusing on Canada, Wagepoint last month launched in the U.S. and is now offering its online payroll service in all 50 states.

Wagepoint offers an affordable solution to help businesses perform all the tasks associated with payroll through a single solution. That means that small and medium-sized businesses can use Wagepoint to pay employees, deduct taxes, keep records of their payments and similar functions.

The company has assembled an impressive client list since launching in June 2013, handling more than $120 million in paycheques, and its business has doubled in the past six months. CEO Shrad Rao has known that it had to move into international markets, but that’s hard because of so many tax codes from many levels of government.

“We’re now in all 50 states in the U.S., which is an accomplishment because it means we deal with 13,000 tax codes,” said Rao in an interview from Toronto late last month.  “We have a very good team, and we’ve been able to find people who understand all these tax codes.” He said one of the company’s keys to success has been finding people will experience in human resources and payrolls and who understand the technology used in the fields.

Wagepoint was formed in Halifax two years ago. Though it is now headquartered in Waterloo, Ont., it has retained a presence in Nova Scotia, employing four people in Halifax and Amherst to handle customer service and operations. It also has a few Nova Scotian investors, advisers and customers.

It also has customers in the region, including Halifax-based Analyze Re, which provides risk management services to the reinsurance industry.

"We have been using Wagepoint since June 2013 and are very happy with it," said Co-Founder Shivram Rajdev in a statement provided by Wagepoint. "Wagepoint's on boarding process was quick, the customer service is excellent and the costs are reasonable for a start-up such as ours. It takes me literally 30 seconds to do my payroll and this is very important to me given the time constraints for other critical tasks."

Wagepoint recently graduated from Hyperdrive, the accelerator program at Communitech, the startup hub in Kitchener-Waterloo. It has also been accepted into the Canadian Technology Accelerator in New York, one of the federal government’s three accelerator programs in the U.S.

The advantage of entering the New York program – the other two are in Boston and San Francisco – is that New York is of course the financial capital of the U.S. so it is an excellent place for developing business networks and finding mentors.

“We want to grow into a very large company,” said Rao. “We know the U.S. is a very large market so we have to learn how to grow there. We’re now trying to march toward the 1,000 customer mark and we will keep investing in Canada.”


Press Release: Propel, Volta & Hatch

PropelICT, the regional accelerator program, released the following press release yesterday, announcing its partnership with Planet Hatch and Volta Labs:

Launch36 Announces Launch of "Start", "Build" Tracks

For immediate release

Moncton, NB – August 5, 2014 – East Coast startup accelerator Launch36 has opened applications for its fifth cohort of companies. So far, 32 companies have completed the 12-week program and it is expected that the next cohort will help Propel ICT exceed its goal of launching 36 companies in less than three years. The deadline for application is September 8, 2014.

There are some big changes ahead for the Launch36 format with news that Propel ICT will be collaborating with community partners to deliver programming at Volta and Planet Hatch.  Each location will host a program track called Launch36 “Start” which will be 12-weeks in duration, provide mentorship and physical space.  Workshop sessions will be in the evenings twice a week and will focus on helping founders pick the right co-founder and team; how to perform customer validation using lean startup methodologies and securing early-adopter customers.

 “Volta will assist this program by providing meaningful mentorship and a physical space with a strong internal community,” states Milan Vrekic, Executive Director at Volta Labs.

 “We are excited to take our programming to the next level by collaborating with Volta and Propel ICT to better serve and align resources for entrepreneurs and startups across Atlantic Canada,” said Planet Hatch Executive Director Sally Ng.

The Launch36 “Build” track format will be a bi-weekly cohort session held in Moncton, NB for later stage startups who are looking to shape a repeatable model for customer acquisition (sales), strengthening their startup team, and putting in place a framework for scale across people, process and systems.  Only startups that are accepted into the Build track will be eligible for BDC’s $150,000 Convertible Note program.

 “The collaborative nature of the program will allow us to focus on building scalable startups together,” said Propel ICT Executive Director Trevor MacAusland.

Propel ICT plans on adding more Launch36 community partners in the future as demand for the program grows.  Companies interested in applying for the Start or Build tracks should visit http://launch36.ca



About / Stats:

Propel ICT

Website: Launch36.ca or propelict.com

Twitter: @PropelICT/@launch36

Volta Labs

Website:  voltaeffect.com

Planet Hatch

Website:  planethatch.com

Press Release: Startup Calendar

The Atlantic Media Group issued the following press release last week:

Atlantic Mentor Group Launches Startup Calendar in Halifax

July 31, 2014 – Halifax, NS

Today marks the official launch of Startup Calendar, an online tool to enable start-ups to share their events with other members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The intent is to connect events with start-ups, sponsors, supporters, and attendees – all in one convenient, easy-to-use location. By visiting www.startupcalendar.ca, stakeholders can post and view events, or raise the profile of their event through the use of sponsored listings.

“We’re very excited to introduce Startup Calendar to the entrepreneurial community,” said Steve Willson, Partner, Atlantic Mentor Group. “Our contacts in Atlantic Canada tell us they’ve been looking for a solution to the challenge of searching multiple start-up sites to be sure they don’t miss out on important events.  By consolidating these events in a single place we hope to simplify their day, allowing them to get on with the important job of creating a successful business.”

In addition to a calendar and event listing, registrants can create a free directory listing, allowing others to find their business, start-up, or organization.  They can also get events sent right to their desktop or mobile devices though our media links.

The Atlantic Mentor Group consists of four partners: Bob Williamson, Judy Lugar, Megann Willson, and Steve Willson. The members are based in Atlantic Canada and work as advisors to organizations at home in North America, and abroad.


VidSnippets Eyes Autumn Launch

To enter the pitching competition at Invest Atlantic this year, entrepreneurs must submit a one-minute video introducing their business, and they can highlight the most enticing 10 seconds using an exciting piece of technology being developed in Halifax.

VidSnippets is preparing to launch its new product at a few events this September after incubating the product for almost a year in the Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at Saint Mary’s University.

The product is designed to solve a problem common to people who post or send digital video online — usually you have to wade through minutes of footage to see a really good part. Or just as often the viewer doesn’t bother watching an entire video because it takes too long to see the highlights.

VidSnippets’ technology allows users to create and share highlight clips of up to 10 seconds from their video. If viewers are impressed by the preview clip, they can go to the VidSnippets site to see the full video.

That means that you can post the 10 seconds from a youth soccer game when your child scored a goal, or the 10 seconds of a 15-minute corporate presentation that highlights your main point.

“Every person who sees this can find their own way to use it,” said Josh Galloway, the company’s head of technology. “There are almost too many applications. It’s a good problem to have.”

Co-founder Paul Farmer came up with the idea before joining the program last year, and fellow students Suman Pettem and Kevin Gallant soon joined him as co-founders and began working on the product. Galloway, a veteran of Dartmouth multi-channel marketing firm SimplyCast, joined earlier this year. Over the summer, the team has included two interns from Dalhousie University’s computer science faculty, Scott Theriault and Brian Yip.

The team members are now preparing for a launch of a prototype website and Android-based mobile application in September, and have a few projects under consideration.

VidSnippets is hoping to launch a product in time for university frosh weeks so students can post and send the highlights of the videos they take.

The group is looking at a LinkedIn product, so people can video a description of themselves and post the 10-second highlight of the talk on the social networking platform.

Organizers also plan a launch of the product for the startup pitching competition at Invest Atlantic, the regional startup conference taking place in Halifax from Sept. 29 to 30.

Delegates and the public will be able to view the pitches and vote for their favourites; they’ll have a chance to see a 10-second highlight and, if that intrigues, to see the full-length version.

They also hope to get involved with online video contests that allow registered members to submit and vote on videos. Whoever submits and votes for a video will receive SnipCoins (a form of loyalty points).

Right now, VidSnippets is working to get a product out as the universities welcome students back to their campuses.

“We thought it might work well to roll it out though the universities, maybe through frosh week or maybe some of the sports teams,” said Farmer. “It will give us a chance to see how it goes.”

Profile: Building a Metamaterials Hub

Now that Dartmouth-based Metamaterials Technology has signed a partnership agreement with Airbus, founder and CEO George Palikaras aims to turn Atlantic Canada into a centre for producing optical metamaterials.

Palikaras has developed metamaterials — synthetic substances with properties not found in nature — that use nanotechnology to filter, absorb or enhance light. Now he’s looking at partners to create a manufacturing facility in this region.

“We’re the first company in the world to commercialize optical metamaterial thin-film technology on a large scale and Atlantic Canada is the ideal location,” he said. “Atlantic Canada offers quick access to key markets, and the aerospace and defence ecosystem is strong. We are here because we believe this is the right location to grow our business.”

The first application Palikaras and his team have focused on is a transparent nano-composite thin-film that offers a solution to the problem of laser interference — there are now 4,000 laser attacks on airplanes annually in the U.S. alone.

The company’s Lamda Guard division recently partnered with Airbus, the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, to develop the thin-film which can be applied to an aircraft’s cockpit windshields to block laser beams.

Since the Airbus announcement in June, Palikaras has begun to increase his Atlantic Canadian staff. Two new local jobs — a thin-film designer and a metamaterials scientist — have already been posted. Palikaras has received applications from around the world but says he is talking to regional universities about setting up training programs to educate workers.

“We want to attract new talent, especially local talent,” he said. “And we believe the Maritimes has a highly qualified workforce.”

Palikaras now has enough money to go forward with Lamda Guard and its sales growth will help finance the other two divisions: Lamda Solar, which focuses on increasing solar energy output by up to 100 per cent, and Lamda Lux, which can increase the efficiency of LED lighting by 10 times.

“We have four patent families, two of which are dedicated to solar technology that can improve solar panels enough to save costs, increase output, and reduce carbon emissions,” he said.

It is 15 years since metamaterials first emerged as a scientific field with great promise, and Palikaras believes market analysts will soon see growth in the sector which will surpass their predications.

“Analysts predict that the market for metamaterials will be worth more than $800 million in less than 10 years,” he said. “But I’m on the inside and I say our industry will be a multibillion-dollar industry. Nanofabrication costs are coming down, so the technology can be applied to making consumer products less expensive in larger quantities and easily attainable.”

Palikaras’s interest in metamaterials was sparked by Alex Feresidis and Prof. Clive Parini, whom he studied under in England between 2002 and 2010.

A born problem solver, Palikaras was shocked to learn of the emerging problem of laser attacks during a visit to his native Greece at that time.

“Watching TV, I saw fans committing laser attacks on basketball and soccer players,” he said. “Research told me that laser attacks were also affecting pilots. In the U.K., I found that laser attacks on pilots there were more than doubling every year. I knew metamaterials could be a potential solution.”

He got to work, establishing his company in 2010 with co-founder Themos Kallos. His search for a manufacturing partner revealed that the University of New Brunswick and Universite de Moncton both had facilities that could help to produce his first prototypes. With the support of several groups, including the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, he contracted the New Brunswick universities and other Canadian researchers to start work on his designs in 2012.

He said he and his wife, life scientist Nadine Geddes, intend to stay here. “We’re passionate about using this new science to make the world a little better and to assist the economic development of this region,” he said.

Persistence Pays Off for eOLIO

Traci Johnstone’s story is a study of tenacity and style, and she has poured those two facets into the startup she’s launching this year, eOLIO.

The startup — the name is a shortening of e-portfolio — is an online tool that helps people present a portfolio of their work online, and helps companies view such portfolios when they are recruiting prospective employees. The Halifax company has been going through limited launches for its two products this summer, and is planning a full commercial launch in the autumn.

 “The beautiful thing about eOLIO is we’ve streamlined the process of presenting your brand,” said Johnstone, the CEO of the Halifax-based company. “LinkedIn is about what you’ve done and eOLIO is about who you are.”

Personal branding is important to Johnstone. In fact, the company’s promotional literature says that “without personal branding, your career is dead.” Her mission with eOLIO is to help people assemble their work and personal assets and present them in the best way possible to create, maintain and promote a personal brand.

Her emphasis on personal branding comes from her own experience. She was, to use her own words, a “big girl,” weighing, at one point, 268 pounds. But she lost her excess weight and has kept it off for more than a decade. After she posted some indiscreet beach photos online in 2009, she came to understand we all have personal brands and it’s important to create the best brand possible.

Excited by the startup world, she set out to launch a company that would help people establish a favourable brand for themselves. She founded eOLIO in early 2012 and worked to find the right niches to make money from her vision.

She has worked with 13 partners, including the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Department of Economic and Regional Development and Tourism and Dalhousie University. The result is a software-as-a-service product that is visually compelling, with a striking black, white and red motif.

After reworking the business model, Johnstone is targeting two markets: “creators,” or people who want to create an online portfolio of their work (photos, writings, videos), and “locators,” or business recruiting people who need to see people’s portfolios, and organize and score them.

The company held a private launch for creators in July by contacting 10,000 people and alerting them about the new product. “The response has been phenomenal,” said Johnstone. “It’s the summertime and still we’ve seen this incredible response coming in. … It’s all been positive. We haven’t really had any negative response at all.”

The soft launch for the locators product is coming in August, and then the company, which now has two full-time employees and one part-time employee, hopes for a full commercial launch in the autumn. The basic products are free, and eOLIO charges for premium products.

The company has received some investment, so it now has eight shareholders and it is now raising capital, with a target of $300,000.

FounderFuel Accepts Brownie Points

Brownie Points, the St. John’s startup that has developed a customer loyalty tool for small retailers, has been accepted into the Montreal accelerator FounderFuel, offering it a chance to grow in a major Canadian city.

The company now has its point of sale product in about 40 locations in St. John’s and Halifax and now has to figure out a way to increase sales dramatically, especially in larger markets. Founders Matthew Stenback and Adam Puddicombe believe the 12-week course in a large city like Montreal will help their business immeasurably.

“I think it will be big for us,” said Puddicombe. “We’ve established some pretty good traction in St. John’s and Halifax that’s allowed us to validate the idea and the product. But we feel we’re ready to scale. I think the access to mentors FounderFuel offers will provide us with the direction and focus we need to reach our goals.”

The two former business students at Memorial University began Brownie Points as a tool for coffee shops (as the name suggests) but their product has applications for other retailers as well. The thinking is that larger companies can afford loyalty programs; but small retailers need the sophistication of a digital program that engages customers and generates data to help the shopkeepers track of and retain customers.

Stenback said they are pleased with 40 customers but know they have to do a lot more to get clients. They surveyed all their clients this month, and 80 percent responded on the first day with overwhelmingly positive feedback about the product.

The two founders had thought about just moving to a larger market. Then they realized that attending an accelerator like FounderFuel would place them in a city of 1.6 million people and give them an instant network and mentors within that city.

“We’re sort of poised now to scale and we’re looking for the strongest way to scale,” said Stenback. “So at FounderFuel, we’re going to be looking forward to working with mentors who understand growth.”

He added that the team believes the best route to growth may include partnering with other companies that target SMEs. For example, they recently spoke with Phillip Curley, the CEO of HotSpot Parking of Fredericton. The two sides agreed there may be opportunities to work together as they offer different but complementary services to SMEs.

The 10-team FounderFuel cohort begins on Sept. 1 and runs until the DemoDay on Dec. 2, and after that Stenback and Puddicombe expect to return to St. John’s. “We had discussed plans of moving to Montreal or Toronto but we need to sell remotely,” said Stenback. “We can field calls from everywhere, regardless of where we’re based.”

The company plans to raise funds, but is taking time to decide the best approach. It will receive a $50,000 investment on joining FounderFuel, and at the end will be eligible for the $150,000 convertible note that BDC Ventures offers some graduates of major Canadian accelerators (including PropelICT). The team also wants to consult with its new mentors on the best route to financing the company. 

EnginuityMED: Idea to Sales in 1 Year

Taking a new product from concept to customers in a year is difficult, and in medical devices, it’s unheard of.

But EnginuityMED of Halifax is now selling the FIVA product it dreamed up in June 2013.

FIVA is designed to solve a very simple — and sort of obvious — problem for hospitals, especially for anesthesiologists and nurses in operating and emergency rooms. There has never been a device to tell them when a gravity-fed IV bag is empty and needs to be filled — until EnginuityMED invented one.

FIVA, which stands for Fluid Intravenous Alert, clips onto the tube at the bottom of a gravity-fed IV bag and beeps when the bag is empty. It requires no altering of the system of bags and tubes, and runs on a long-term battery. It’s now being tested at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax and at other hospitals across Canada.

“The device itself is fascinating, but what is really, really exciting about this is that we went from concept to market in eight or nine months,” said Ben Garvey, a principal of the company.

The story began last summer when Orlando Hung, professor of anesthesia at Dalhousie University, pointed out the need for such a device to Barbara Campbell, the head of Hammock Facilitation, a consulting firm that advises companies on the development of medical devices.

Together, they took the project to Garvey and his colleagues at Enginuity, an engineering firm in Halifax. It had experience in design and manufacturing, but had never built its own medical device.

They ended up forming a five-member team, comprising Hung, Campbell, Garvey and two Enginuity execs, business development expert Alastair Trower and engineer Lee Babin. Thus EnginuityMED was born.

What followed was a fascinating story of resourcefulness, strategy, discipline and teamwork. It’s a textbook case of conceiving a minimum viable product, and rigorously developing it to bring in early revenue before proceeding to more sophisticated products.

With little more than a concept, Hung received $50,000 from Innovacorp’s Early Stage Commercialization Fund, which allowed early prototyping and meetings with focus groups. With their business model honed a bit, they entered I-3, Innovacorp’s competition for Nova Scotia startups. They finished in the top five for the Halifax region, and set a goal for themselves.

In preparing their January 2014 pitch for the I-3 competition, EngiunityMED decided to focus on a single, simple product that it could produce by the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society’s annual conference in St. John’s, N.L., in June. If they didn’t have the product ready for that conference, they’d have to wait a year to go to the next national conference.

All five members had other full-time jobs, but they managed to develop the product over the winter. That meant Babin and Enginuity engineer Gleb Sekretta produced six different prototypes. They were even able to obtain the necessary medical device establishment licensing for EnginuityMED and put the FIVA product through the regulatory approval process for a Class 1 (i.e., simplest) product with Health Canada.

The founders financed it themselves. They were working on it up till the night before Babin and Trower boarded the plane for St. John’s.

But they made the deadline and landed sales.

Now, with experience in producing and getting approval for a medical device, EnginuityMed is planning its next products. It is securing a round of financing, and is hoping to hear from other clinicians with ideas for products.

Said Campbell, “We want to see people’s concepts, vet them and see if they fit our stream of clinician-driven innovation.”

Press Release: LED Promotes Lavoie

LED Roadway Lighting, the Halifax-based manufacturer of LED-based street lighting and wireless controls, released the following press release Monday:

Denis Lavoie Appointed President of LED Roadway Lighting Ltd.

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (July 28, 2014) -- LED Roadway Lighting Ltd. (LRL) CEO Charles Cartmill is pleased to announce the appointment of Denis Lavoie as company President.  The appointment was announced today in Halifax and received unanimous approval by the company’s board of directors.

Mr. Lavoie is an industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience in international sales and marketing and senior management.  Denis joined LRL in January of 2013 and was most recently Executive Vice-President, Sales and Marketing.  He graduated from l’École Polytechnique de Montréal as an Industrial Engineer in 1990.  He has been an active member of the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) since 1991, and has chaired numerous committees at the local, regional and national levels.  He also received two Presidential Awards for his work on the TM-15 (Luminaire Classification System for Outdoor Luminaires) and the MLO (Model Lighting Ordinance).  After eight years on the Board, he also served as President of IESNA for the 2011–2012 term.

Charles Cartmill will continue in his role as company CEO and focus on strategic initiatives.  Mr. Lavoie will oversee all day-to-day operations and will report to Mr. Cartmill.

LRL has experienced tremendous growth over the last 3 years, and the company expects this level of growth  to continue.   Mr. Lavoie’s appointment will allow Mr. Cartmill to focus on company vision and strategy and ensure that the company meets its aggressive sales and operational goals

In 2013, LRL launched its award-winning NXT series luminaires, and expanded its reach into lighting controls and smart street lighting with technology partnerships and new products.  Today’s announcement is a positive development that will ensure that LRL continues to be a leader in LED based street lighting and controls.

About LED Roadway Lighting Ltd.

LED Roadway Lighting Ltd. (LRL) is a leading designer and manufacturer of LED (light-emitting diode) based street and area lighting fixtures and control systems. LRL is headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, with primary manufacturing located in Amherst, Nova Scotia. LRL also has manufacturing capabilities in the US, UK, and Australia.   In addition to research and design facilities in Halifax, our Victoria, British Columbia operation is engaged in the design and manufacturing of our Lumen IQTM wireless control system.  Our NXT TM series luminaire was awarded Best in Class – Local Residential Roadway in the 2013 Next Generation LuminairesTM Competition, and was also selected for inclusion in the 2013 Illuminating Engineering Society Progress Report.  LRL’s products are RoHS compliant (free of lead and mercury), provide average energy savings of 60% and substantially reduced maintenance costs. LRL has municipal, utility, and commercial installations in more than 40 countries. For further information please visit our website http://www.ledroadwaylighting.com.  






CyberPsyc Moving Ahead After Pivot

Having pivoted earlier this year, Fredericton startup CyberPsyc Software Solutions is gaining traction with new products that help employees treat mental conditions. Thousands of people have used its online products this year, and the number looks set to grow in the future.

CyberPsyc began in 2010 to develop a Software-as-a-Service product that would use the research of University of New Brunswick psychology professor Darren Piercey to help people treat phobias and anxiety.  Its first two products aimed to treat the fear of dentists and public speaking, but they did not gain the customer base Piercey and his team had hoped for.

So since January, CyberPsyc has been selling products to treat three conditions – stress, anxiety and depression. Together, they make up a massive market when you consider that anxiety and depression cost the North American economy an estimated $46 billion each year.

Chief Operating Officer Natasha O’Brien said in an interview the company has signed up three major providers of Employee Assistance Programs – voluntary, confidential programs that large employers have for their staff – to distribute the CyberPsyc products. One of these EAP providers is now giving CyberPsyc access to 200,000 individuals, and is part of a larger group that has access to 2 million people. The other two EAP providers can distribute to 100,000 people each.

O’Brien said the company’s products so far have been used by about 10 percent of the people who’ve had access to them. That’s impressive given that as a rule only 2 to 7 percent of the people with access to EAPs use their products.

“These early customers are critical for obtaining large volumes of data and proving our metrics to help us better understand the market and future customers,” said Piercey in an email exchange.

The company – which now has six employees -- is still offering companies its public speaking product, which animation and virtual reality to acclimatize the user to speaking in front of people. The program to help people get over their fear of dentists has been shelved after not receiving sufficient sales. The focus of the company is now on selling the stress, anxiety and depression products.

Piercey this month is attending the Human Resources Management Institute West Coast in Newport Beach, Calif., at which he has lined up sales meetings with 14 multi-national companies, which are potential customers. 

In 2012, CyberPsyc was in the first cohort of the Launch36 accelerator and it received funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, Mariner Partners chair Gerry Pond and other angels. Last year, the company raised $200,000 in funding and Piercey is now raising money again with a target of $200,000. 

Profile: Karina LeBlanc’s Social Mission

Having graduated a successful first cohort of social entrepreneurs from the B4 Change accelerator, the Pond-Deshpande Centre’s executive director Karina LeBlanc is redesigning the program to better assist entrepreneurs in this emerging sector.

A social entrepreneur is someone who founds a for-profit or non-profit venture with the aim of addressing a social or environmental issue. The sector is increasingly relevant as charities experience lower donations and consumers pressure businesses to demonstrate a social conscience.

The B4 Change accelerator is held at the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick and has been designed to help social entrepreneurs deal with the unique challenges they face.

“Social entrepreneurship has elements of charitable non-profits but it’s about creating new models that create shared value and wealth,” explained LeBlanc. “It can be hard to make this kind of venture financially viable,” she added.

“We try to create focus, to give entrepreneurs a robust infrastructure to test their ideas from the perspective of financial viability. We aim to make that as important as the social mission.”

Seven ventures graduated from the first cohort, two non-profits and five for-profits, and they covered a range of sectors and were at different stages of growth, which did cause some problems.

As a result, the accelerator will now run from September through May, instead of for just six months, and include as many as 18 to 25 social ventures. The many seminars and workshops will be offered more than once and ranked at different levels so entrepreneurs can attend at the time that’s right for them. Some previously external programming will also be included.

“It will be a more open model. We want the programming to offer the right tools at the right time,” said LeBlanc.

The Pond-Deshpande Centre is funded by serial tech entrepreneurs and UNB alumni Gerry Pond of New Brunswick and Gururaj Desh Deshpande, originally from Hubli, India, and now resident in Boston.

The centre, which opened in 2012, advances innovation and entrepreneurship for all entrepreneurs, not just social entrepreneurs, by facilitating collaboration among emerging and aspiring companies, students, faculty and alumni.

The centre is fortunate to be able to work with the other Desphande Centres, two in the Boston area, including one linked with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the other in Deshpande’s hometown of Hubli, said LeBlanc.

“Desh Deshpande’s vision is to combine the executional excellence of the private sector with the compassion of the non-profit sector,” she said.

“The international network is a great strength, allowing the sharing of experience and best practices,” she added.

“In India, the Deshpande Centre helps rural communities, which are often the poorest, to innovate. They create relationships with the Western World so that technology from MIT is used to solve local problems by Indian entrepreneurs.”

LeBlanc said her own involvement “feels like a gift.” Her role allows her to combine her two decades of management experience in the private sector, including 10 years at Proctor & Gamble in Toronto, with her experience of working for non-profits.

Originally from Montreal, LeBlanc moved to Fredericton to join the startup community. Prior to joining UNB, and for six years, she was the vice-president of operations at Autism Pro, a virtual autism clinic.

She was also a president of the board of directors of the YMCA Fredericton and was the campaign co-chair of the Your New Y fundraising initiative.

She said that when it comes to social entrepreneurship, the U.K. and the U.S. are setting the pace.

“In the U.K., especially, governments are engaged. They facilitate social impact bonds that finance social entrepreneurs. They have broad curriculums in post-secondary institutions, and support for social innovators. … The U.S. followed the U.K. and has come out blazing with support from the federal government.

“It’s not a fad. Social entrepreneurship will last, but if it’s a 100-metre race, we’re only just out of the starting gates.”

NB Council Backs Regional Tax Credit

A New Brunswick committee that includes both candidates for premier in the coming provincial election is calling for a regional equity tax credit to help fund startups and improve innovation in the region.

The New Brunswick Research and Innovation Council on Wednesday released its 2013-2014 annual report, which called for the development of a more entrepreneurial and tech-savvy society. Among its many recommendations, the council calls for a regional tax incentive that would allow investors in one province to invest in companies in another.

“The Government of New Brunswick should help its investors build bridges for new capital to flow into the province and accelerate the growth of our best companies,” says the report. “The creation of a regional tax incentive or similar vehicle would provide a unique value proposition for outside investors.”

It’s a significant move because private-sector investors and entrepreneurs have been calling for years for such a vehicle to encourage greater flexibility in financing growing businesses. The four provinces now each offer tax credits of 20 to 35 per cent to people investing in growing companies, but both the investor and company must be based in the same province.

Given that the population of each Atlantic province is so small, there have been calls to award the credits to people investing in any province in the region, thereby expanding the pool of investors.

This is probably the first time a committee that includes elected officials has supported regional tax credits.

Premier David Alward created the council last year so members of government, academia and the private sector could work together to improve research, innovation and entrepreneurship in the province. The premier co-chairs the council with Geoff Flood, CEO of tech consultancy T4G, and its 20 members include Opposition Leader Brian Gallant.

“This report outlines ways we can continue our momentum by building an increasingly digitized society which we feel offers an opportunity and platform for growth,” said Flood in a statement.

Overall, the report lays out three goals for New Brunswick to improve its economy and make government more responsive: build a digital society, establish an innovation-based procurement policy, and create an R&D infrastructure fund.

The council challenges New Brunswick to become “a North American leader in digital government services” by 2017. These services would include developing a single entry point and secure online access to all government services.

For its procurement policy, the council believes government departments, agencies and Crown corporations should earmark a specific percentage of overall procurement budgets for innovations created by local small businesses. It also calls on the government to join the New Brunswick Business Council’s early-adopter program to use the products of New Brunswick startups.

The council said New Brunswick should encourage public and private investors and academic institutions to work together to build up an R&D infrastructure fund, to invest in various forms of innovation in the province.

Startup Empire Set for Sept. 23

Startup Empire, a new conference aimed at educating founders and employees of startups, will take place Sept. 23 in Halifax.

Milan Vrekic, the Executive Director of the Volta Labs and the organizer of the conference, said Startup Empire will feature a range of top-flight speakers from the tech and startup world who can advise young companies on the path to success.

“This conference will not be a typical cheer-leading conference,” said Vrekic, who recently announced he will soon leave Volta. “The focus will be on learning. We want all the startups to understand where they are right now and what it will take for them to move forward. “

Held at the Park Lane Cinemas on Spring Garden Road, the conference is now planned for Tuesday, Sept. 23, though Vrekic said it may be extended to the 24th because of the number of speakers attending the event continues to grow.

The speakers so far include: Don Harrison, Head of M&A, Google Inc.; Daniel Debow; Senior VP, Salesforce; April Dunford, COO, Tulip Retail; John Baker, President and CEO, Desire2Learn; and Michael Litt, Founder and CEO, Vidyard.  Vrekic said more speakers will be added.

Dan Martell, the CEO of Moncton-based Clarity, will host a fireside chat and oversee a “Clarity Zone”, in which entrepreneurs will receive advice.

The program also includes 15-minute Startup Showcases by five Halifax-based startups – GetGiftedtopLog, Modest Tree Media, DashHudson, and Swapskis. It’s worth noting that four of the five founders delivering these presentations are women – a pleasant change in the male-dominated world of tech startups.

Vrekic said the cost of the conference is being held to $90 for startup founders and employees to encourage people to attend. The price will be $25 for students and $499 for service providers.

Startup Empire will be one of several startup events in the final 10 days of September in Halifax. MentorCamp, a one-day, intensive mentoring session for invited startups, will take place Sept. 22, and Invest Atlantic will be held Sept. 29 and 30. Entrevestor and its latest partner will also hold our dinner in Halifax Sept. 25 – details are coming soon. 

Code Kids to Air Saturday on CBC

Code Kids, a documentary on the movement to teach computer coding to Atlantic Canadian school children, will air on CBC television Saturday at 8 pm, hopefully building greater support for tech education.

Though Code Kids was directed by Greg Hemmings, , the founder of Hemmings House film studio in Saint John, it is really a collaboration between Hemmings and a range of tech evangelists in the region, especially in New Brunswick. It shows how these evangelists started a movement to teach coding to school kids, and the team traveled to Estonia and Finland to discover how those countries developed technical education.  (We previously featured the project on Pages 14 and 15 of our Winter 2014 Entrevestor Intelligence report.)  

The story began when David Alston, the Chief Innovation Officer at Introhive, the Fredericton- and Washington-based relationship analytics company, began to push for coding in schools and to work with Premier David Alward on such a plan. Other enthusiasts such as GoInstant CEO Jevon MacDonald in Halifax were also pushing for similar measures.

Hemmings had recently completed a documentary called Sistema Revolution about a music education program for children of all income-classes in Venezuela. He and Alston decided to apply the same approach to the tech project. They would find the best computer education programs in the world, which happened to be in Estonia and Finland, and use a documentary to show how they could be replicated domestically.

“The outcome was phenomenal,” said Hemmings in a phone interview yesterday. “There’s no way we could have known what the final product would be like when we started.”

He said that in the 12 months since they had the idea for the project, they witnessed a grassroots movement gain momentum, and the New Brunswick government actually take action on the project.

The government action was Alward’s announcement last winter that Alston would work on a new educational initiative called Brilliant Labs, which encourages teachers throughout New Brunswick to adopt new strategies for teaching programing. The goal is to produce a generation of computer-literate citizens who can compete in the modern economy.

The Brilliant Labs concept is gaining steam and moving throughout the region.

Hemmings said the artistic side of the project was interesting because “so many cool things happened” during the course of the filming. It was difficult to develop a unifying impression that runs through the whole film, he said, because so many things happened in so many different locations. But throughout the 12-month project, the team was able to capture wonderful scenes that are scattered throughout the documentary.

Code Kids will be broadcast initially in the Maritimes and is due to air nationally at a later date, both on CBC TV and on the CBC Documentary channel. It will also soon be available online.

Hemmings now hopes the film will continue to build the momentum for more tech education in schools and greater prosperity through a digital economy.

“We want Atlantic Canada to be one of the healthiest and more thriving economies in the world,” he said. “We saw it done in Estonia. It can be done.”


Press Release: Lee Joins Fundmetric

Fundmetric, the Halifax startup that provides SaaS fundraising solutions for charities and non-profits, has released the following press release:

SCoReS Founder Joins Fundmetric to Build and Implement Charitable Predictive Analytics

HALIFAX, NS- Today, Fundmetric is excited to announce the addition of Sports Commentary Recommendation System (SCoReS) founder and creator, Dr. Gregory Lee, as the newest member of the Fundmetric team as Lead Data Scientist.

SCoReS is an innovative system, developed in Alberta that uses Artificial Intelligence to automatically match sports situations to relevant stories and anecdotes for announcers and colour commentators.  Dr. Lee will be applying machine learning and predictive analytics in order to further enhance and develop Fundmetric’s donor score system built to better predict whom charitable organizations should contact for donations next. 

SCoReS had previously been featured on National Public Radio, CBC, The Verge, and Engadget.

“We are incredibly excited to have Dr. Lee bring his research and skill set to Nova Scotia as we continue to expand Fundmetric’s offering and develop our Donor Score Algorithm,” says Fundmetric co-founder Christopher Kolmatycki, “Dr. Lee’s successes and findings with SCoRes will be invaluable as we continue to develop new and innovative ways for charities and non-profits to increase their success in donor interactions.”

Dr. Lee will now be focusing full time on improving Fundmetric’s ability to tell charitable fundraisers which donors to contact next, as well as developing an automated and predictive system to help charities better communicate with their donors using SCoReS’ scenario-based predictive modelling technology.

“I’m looking forward to focus and apply my previous research and findings to an organization committed to helping charities and non-profits make the world a better place.  It is clear that different situations and scenarios require different forms of communication from charities and their stakeholders,” says Dr. Lee, ”I’m further excited to be able to do it in Atlantic Canada where I was raised and educated.  What Fundmetric is currently doing is exceptional in the field of machine learning and predictive analytics and I hope to take what they are doing to the next level.”


Fundmetric is a Software as a Service (SaaS) tool for charities and non-profits who need to better target their campaigns and in turn save time and money. Unlike other solutions that utilize blanket (volume) approach, Fundmetric leverages social and public data to prioritize prospects. By providing real-time analytics, using predictive modelling and statistical analysis, we are able to turn gut-feeling and guess work in to statistically relevant decision-making data.  Fundmetric also automates and personalizes several day-to-day communications processes for charitable and non-profit organizations.

 For more information check out: http://www.fundmetric.com

TotalPave Preps for Autumn Launch

More than a year after capturing the $192,000 first prize in New Brunswick’s Breakthru competition, brothers Drew and Coady Cameron are deep into the development of their TotalPave product and preparing for a launch in the autumn.

It’s a smartphone app that helps municipalities and their contractors test road surfaces at a fraction of the current cost. It has drawn the attention of a few local governments and at least one private company, all of whom are impressed by its simplicity and cost-effectiveness.

The concept won the 2012 national Nicol Entrepreneurial Award for a new technology coming from a Canadian university, and the 2013 Breakthru competition, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s biennial contest for the province’s top new startups.

In addition to winning several awards, TotalPave has just gone through the ACclr8 program at Planet Hatch in Fredericton, where their mentors were Jeff Thompson, the founder of UserEvents, and Ryan Strynatka, the chief adoption officer at Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

“What we’ve been doing in the last three months is a huge focus on development,” said Coady Cameron in an interview in Planet Hatch last week. He added that they have completed the first of three phases of the product’s development. “By September, we hope to have all three pieces done, and then we have to sell the thing.”

The Cameron brothers were students at the University of New Brunswick — Drew in business, Coady in engineering — when they got the idea for TotalPave. In the TotalPave system, the user mounts smartphones into standard municipal vehicles to collect data on road surfaces as these cars and trucks drive around on their customary routes. They relay this data to a central facility that automatically assesses it and reports on what roads need repair most acutely.

Getting such data is critical because a typical road will maintain its surface for several years, but once the roadway starts to break down it will do so quickly and dramatically. If a municipality detects the deterioration at the right time, it can make minor, inexpensive repairs promptly rather than paying a lot of money to repave the road.

According to the 2012 Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, 52 per cent of Canadian roads are in bad repair and it would cost an estimated $92 billion to repair them all.

Coady Cameron said the first phase of development involved the manual input of programs and logarithms, and this has been finished. The next phase involves mounting the phones in cars and collecting data. In the final phase, the company will complete its web portal.

TotalPave now has one full-time employee, Coady Cameron, and it has been contracting out the development. Under the company’s sales strategy, TotalPave will allow clients to download the app on as many phones as they want, and then the clients will pay every time they use the system.

The company is looking to secure its first clients, possibly starting with a private contractor, in the fall. That means they could test it before snow falls and spend the winter analyzing the data and working out any bugs.

The Cameron brothers so far have financed the development from their Breakthru winnings and a few government programs. They will consider whether they need to raise capital after they complete the development.

Press Release: Modest Tree, CGTrader

Modest Tree, the Halifax startup whose software-as-a-service product reduces the cost and time involved in making three-dimensional training programs by as much as 85 percent, has put out the following press release:

Modest Tree and CGTrader.com announce partnership to streamline access to 3D models and creation of 3D interactive scenarios

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, July 21 2014 – Modest Tree Media Inc. ("Modest Tree"), an innovator in 3D authoring software, and CGTrader, a leading 3D model marketplace are pleased to announce that they have formed a partnership to streamline coordination between access to CGTrader’s marketplace of 3D models and Modest Tree’s 3D authoring software.

Customers of Modest Tree’s 3D authoring platform, Modest3D, will be referred to CGTrader’s marketplace, as the preferred off the shelf model provider, which houses a library of over 65,000 models. Modest3D is currently in beta and will be commercially released in the fall of 2014. CGTrader’s 3D modelling customers will be able to bring their 3D models to life by creating 3D interactive scenarios in Modest3D.

Modest Tree’s Modest3D uses a drag-and-drop framework to apply behaviours, animations and interactions to 3D models to create an interactive scenario.  “Partnering with CGTrader is a natural fit as it provides our clients with access to an impressive library of models that fit well in Modest3D’s asset pipeline, as well as access to curated designers for custom projects. ”, said Sam Sannandeji, CEO of Modest Tree.

For CGTrader customers the partnership provides 3D authoring software to rapidly create 3D interactive scenarios using the CGTrader models. “Modest Tree empowers anyone to create animations and interactive scenarios without any programming experience, and with CGTrader no 3D modeling skills are required as well. We are very excited to make the creation process seamless for both our and Modest Tree customers by working together.” said Marius Kalytis, CEO of CGTrader.

CGTrader and Modest Tree are both part of the growing movement to demonstrate and view the world in 3D.

About Modest Tree Media Inc.

Modest Tree is an innovator in 3D authoring software and training solution services. Modest Tree was founded to bring the power of authoring 3D visualizations to all, by simplifying the development process of creating 3D interactive scenarios. Modest Tree is the creator of 3D authoring software, Modest3D. Modest3D empowers users to bring their 3D models to life by applying animations, behaviours and interactions to 3D models to rapidly create 3D interactive scenarios. Modest Tree also provides services for developing 3D interactive solutions.

For more information, visit http://www.modesttree.com


Press Release: Teen Startup Weekend

Startup Weekend New Brunswick has announced a 54-hour event for teenagers next month in Fredericton. Following is a press release for the event:

Startup Weekend NB (Youth Edition) is coming to Atlantic Canada for the first time!

On August 22-24, 2014, Startup Weekend New Brunswick will be putting on a youth event for 14-18 year olds. The event will be happening at Planet Hatch in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The event will begin at 5pm on Friday, August 22.

Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of active and empowered community leaders, and entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. All

Startup Weekend events follow the same basic model: participants have the opportunity to pitch, but anyone is welcome! Teams organically form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) and then it’s a 54 hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation.

Participants engage with community leaders, entrepreneurs, mentors and leave the event better prepared to navigate the chaotic, but fun world of startups. You can find out more at http://startupweekend.org


Through workshops, mentors, and collaborating with other young people, participants will gain essential skills in creating, pitching, and building ideas. We are inviting students from across the province to join us for a weekend of creativity, collaboration and connection.

To register and for more information, check out our community site: http://nb.up.co

Nova Scotia Revamps VC Funding

The Nova Scotia government unveiled a new policy on business development on Thursday, which will result in a three-pronged approach to venture capital investment in the province.

The most immediate change will be Innovacorp, the provincial innovation agency, becoming the sole Crown corporation responsible for VC investment and adopting a simplified procedure for seed investments. Nova Scotia Business Inc., which has a portfolio of 12 companies, will no longer make venture capital investment. Its primary roles will be business attraction and the development of businesses and trade.

Meanwhile, government will release a Request for Proposals in the autumn for proposals from the private sector to launch a new investment vehicle that would use public and private funds.  

The third prong is Build Ventures, the regional private VC fund for follow-on financing, which all Atlantic Provinces and the federal government have committed to funding.

Michel Samson, the minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, said the government is not saying how much it will contribute to the new Nova Scotian investment fund, preferring to first review the proposals it receives.

"The private sector has told us … that government needs to be more responsive to the needs of business," said Samson in a statement. "This means having experts who understand solid business cases and the need for quick turnaround.”

Nova Scotia has had two publicly owned VC funds, with Innovacorp tending to invest in early-stage companies and NSBI doing later stage investments.  Innovacorp will now consider whether to take over some members of the NSBI portfolio, said CEO Stephen Duff. (There are a few companies, such as Oris4 and Health Outcomes Worldwide, that have received investment from both organizations.)

Innovacorp has adopted a new policy in which it will offer a simplified term-sheet to companies receiving seed investment, of say $250,000 or less. More thorough negotiations may still be required for larger investments.  Duff said the goal of the simplified term sheets is “to introduce speed, lower costs and more efficiency when we’re reaching agreements.”

As for the new VC vehicle, Samson said the government wants private operators to look at gaps in the current financing ecosystem and propose a system that would improve it. In a brief interview with Entrevestor, the minister said his department is aware of reforms now being introduced in Newfoundland and Labrador that could serve as a model.

Newfoundland will put money into a fund managed by GrowthWorks Atlantic, and members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Angel Network will also be invited to invest. NLAN members putting money into the fund will be eligible for an investment tax credit.

“I’m pretty sure the Newfoundland model will be something we’ll be looking at,” said Samson.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for NSBI said the organization is reviewing the future of its investment portfolio, and the team headed by Peter MacNeil.

NSBI will assume some of the business development duties -- including the Capital Investment Rebate and the Small Business Development Program -- now handled by the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism. It means the government will no longer operate the Jobs Fund, which had been criticized as a political slush fund.

Thursday’s announcement came about after the government received three reports in the last year: the report of the OneNS commission led by Acadia University President Ray Ivany; a report on venture capital by consultant Gilles Durufle; and a review of economic development tools by former Dalhousie University president Tom Traves.

The companies in the NSBI portfolio, as listed on the Crown corporation’s website, are:


Industry: CRM Software Development

Authorized Investment: $2,500,000


Industry: Energy Control Management

Authorized Investment: $1,000,000

Halifax Biomedical

Industry: Life Sciences

Authorized Investment: $2,000,000

Health Outcomes Worldwide

Industry: Healthcare/ e-health/ technology

Authorized Investment: $1,500,000

Impath Networks

Industry: Software Development

Authorized Investment: $4,000,000


Industry: Electronic Voting Software

Authorized Investment: $2,800,000


Industry: Medical Product Development

Authorized Investment: $2,000,000

LED Roadway Lighting

Industry: Renewable Energy

Authorized Investment: $11,000,000

Origin BioMed

Industry: Health

Authorized Investment: $7,928,000


Industry: Enterprise Technology

Authorized Investment: $1,000,000


Industry: Responsible Gaming Software

Authorized Investment: $13,000,000

Unique Solutions

Industry: Apparel and Health

Authorized Investment: $5,628,108

Stressing Economics in Social Ventures

There’s a common misconception that you have to be naive or idealistic to create a socially responsible business.

In fact, establishing social credentials makes sound business sense, believes Kristy O’Leary, co-founder and lead impact strategist at Halifax communications agency Scout & Burrow.

“Lots of people think that because you want to create social change you’re some kind of flake,” O’Leary said as she sat in the May Street office that still feels new 11 months after the agency opened.

“But companies need to look at their social and environmental impact. Studies show that more than 80 per cent of consumers want to know what companies are doing to make the world better.”

O’Leary and co-founder Carly Murray established Scout & Burrow in August last year with the aim of helping businesses increase their impact for social good, and thus boost their customer base and their profits.

“It doesn’t matter what you did yesterday. Today, you can build a better company or organization,” she said.

“Advertising corporate social responsibility is powerful, so do it right and create impact. Then let people know about it.

“We scout for clients that demonstrate the will to be better,” she added. “It doesn’t matter what industry they work in.”

An increasingly popular way in which companies demonstrate their social responsibility is by acquiring B Corp (Benefit Corporation) status, O’Leary said.

A U.S.-based initiative, B Corp certification requires companies to demonstrate their commitment to social good by scoring at least 80 out of 200 in four key areas: workers, governance, environment and community.

Traditional companies score an average of 44.

O’Leary and Murray went ahead and acquired B Corp status for their own agency and now they assist many of their clients in the process. O’Leary said she believes Scout & Burrow to be the only B Corp certified marketing group east of Toronto and the only female-led B Corp in the Maritimes.

“B Corp matters because it’s a third party saying you’re not green washing or social washing,” she said.

 “You can’t fake it. Of our for-profit clients, 100 per cent are going for B Corp certification. A year ago, no one in Nova Scotia knew what B Corp was, but it’s starting to filter into consciousness.

“We’re aiming for 10 new B Corps in Nova Scotia by the end of the year,” she continued. “At the moment, there are just four — us, Common Good Solutions, Maritime Tidal Energy and EcoAdvisors.”

Many companies take several attempts to achieve B Corp status. But weakness in one area can be offset by strength in another. For example, a tire maker can increase their score by developing community projects.

Originally from Smiths Falls, a small town in Ontario, O’Leary, now 36, has been in Nova Scotia for nearly 11 years.

Her parents ran a general store which was decimated by the arrival of big-box stores, she says. Jobs were lost in the town when big businesses closed local operations.

That background gave her a natural interest in social justice which she developed initially through art.

She was a NSCAD artist-in-residence and completed an archiving project that documented the changes caused by climate change and witnessed by seniors on Nova Scotia’s South Shore.

In 2008, she entered the advertising world, cutting her teeth on food and energy clients. “I wanted to help consumers make choices on an ethical level,” she said.

She and Murray are still bootstrapping their business and have been assisted by completing the B4 Change accelerator program for social entrepreneurs at the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick.

“There is a lot of interest in our process and we are working on our first companies that have huge scalable potential. We are going to change the game,” she said, her eyes brightening at the thought.

Press Release: Peter Zimmer Retires

CarShareHFX, the Halifax-based car-sharing outfit, has issued the following press release:

CarShareHFX cofounder retires

CarShareHFX announced today that its cofounder and co-owner, Peter Zimmer, is retiring from his position of general manager. Peter has grown CarShareHFX into a Halifax institution with almost 1000 members and 25 cars.

“Peter is a true pioneer for starting CarShareHFX. It was his passion and dedication that enrolled me into the partnership and made it happen operationally. He’s created a real legacy for Halifax”, says President Pam Cooley.

For ten years, Zimmer gathered the knowledge, resources and passion he would need to start CarShareHFX, before he teamed up with Pam Cooley in 2008 to launch the ideas into action. To date, CarShareHFX has taken 250 personal vehicles off the road by offering residents an alternative mode of car ownership. Now Zimmer is ready to pass on everything he knows.

“I’m the resource,” says Zimmer, who will be close at hand for guidance and support. “I want CarShareHFX to benefit from the things I’ve learned.”

Zimmer’s position will be filled by John Laroche, from Ottawa. Laroche spent the last four years in various positions at Vrtucar, Ottawa’s carsharing company. There, he saw the company grow from 50 to 100 cars and 1,000 to 2,500 members. Laroche is ready to drive the same growth at CarShareHFX. One of his first tasks will be to oversee the addition of five more cars to the fleet over the summer, bringing the total to thirty and creating more value for CarShareHFX’s members.

“Halifax is extremely fortunate to have John’s experience imported from Ottawa!” says Cooley. Car sharing is a game changer for cities that want to have a mobility mix that creates a higher quality of life. We are an important part of that mobility mix.”


About CarShareHFX

CarShare Atlantic Limited (“CarShareHFX”) is a year-round service that provides Halifax businesses, institutions, organizations and household members with easy, self-service access to a fleet of vehicles that can be rented on an hourly basis. CarShareHFX aims to make Halifax greener, by providing a viable, convenient alternative to vehicle ownership.

Bluelight Partners with Henry Schein

The world’s largest provider of health-care products and services has begun to offer Halifax-based BlueLight Analytic Inc.’s main product to its customers in Canada.

Henry Schein, Inc., the Melville, N.Y.-based medical product distributer that had US$9.6 billion in sales last year, issued a statement last week saying its Henry Schein Canada subsidiary will be the first distributor of checkMARC, BlueLight’s main product. CheckMARC is the world’s only independent and accurate measurement system for testing the amount of light dentists use for curing the resin in their patients’ dental fillings.

 “We’ve been doing things with Schein almost from the very beginning,” said BlueLight CEO Colin Deacon in an interview. “They’ve even lent us dentist chairs at conferences so we could do demonstrations. Then about a year ago we really began to talk seriously about doing something together.”

Deacon said BlueLight is also talking to “about half a dozen” other private sector companies about distributing checkMARC. The company is now four years old and Deacon said it is starting to bring in meaningful revenues in 2014, though he declined to provide details.

 “What’s really great about this deal is that they (Schein) are paying for the first test provided to each dentist,” said Deacon. “They see checkMARC as central to the quality of care.”

Built from an idea generated at Dalhousie University, checkMARC addresses a sizable problem in modern dentistry. Dentists make more than half their income from resin-based fillings, but have never been able to ensure they are using the right amount of energy when curing the resin. CheckMARC lets dentists check their curing lights and make sure the energy levels are optimal.

BlueLight provides the checkMARC equipment and software to Henry Schein. and then earns revenue each time they are used to test a dentist’s curing light.

 “Henry Schein customers rely on us to provide the latest innovations in products and services,” Peter Jugoon, Henry Schein Canada’s vice-president, marketing and planning, said in the statement.

 “BlueLight’s checkMARC service brings cutting-edge technology to dental practices, helping to improve the quality of care and patient experience.”

In January, Deacon gave a presentation on checkMARC to the U.S. military at an event in San Diego, and he said the talks with the military are ongoing. The American forces provide medical and dental treatment for all their personnel, and spend more on dental services than all of Ireland.

 “What’s exciting about the U.S. military is that they have the payer, the provider, and the patient all in one organization,” said Deacon. “They’re unique from that perspective and we can provide them a unique opportunity.”

Still, the driving force behind the company’s growth now is the dealings with private sector distributors, including Schein. The company has 10 full-time employees, is now searching for two programmers, and will soon announce other openings.

BlueLight so far has been funded by angel investors, and has just closed a round of $750,000 in equity funding.

Verafin’s Culture Led to $60M Deal

One week before he announced the deal that would transform his company, Verafin CEO Jamie King came home to his alma mater to describe the secret to his company’s success.

King and two co-founders had started Verafin, which develops software that helps banks fight money laundering and fraud, at the Genesis Centre at Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2003. The story is often told in St. John’s that they set out to develop software for the mining industry. But they soon realized there was a better market in helping banks prevent fraud and money laundering, so they pivoted.

On Thursday May 8, King delivered the closing address at the Open House being held that day by the commercialization centre of the Newfoundland university.

He made a vague reference to the pending $60 million buy-in by Spectrum Equity, saying only that he’d been talking to investors and hoped to have an announcement soon. One week later he would reveal that the Boston and Silicon Valley-based private equity firm would take a major stake in the company, allowing several early investors to exit. During his speech, what he wanted to detail for the students and entrepreneurs at the Open House was the culture that makes Verafin unique.

“I realized years ago our continued success as a business would not be based on my ability to write code or algorithms all day that would detect and prevent fraud,” he said. “Our business success depended on developing a company where innovation could flourish.”

And Verafin has undeniably become a success. It attracted its 1,000th customer in March 2013, and has kept growing. It has 200 employees, and its revenues this year are expected to increase 50 percent to $30 million. King plans to continue growing and to add as many as 150 employees in the next two to three years.

And the company meets a definite need as debit fraud losses could reach $20 billion by 2015 and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated in 2009 that the amount of criminal proceeds laundered globally each year reached $1.6 trillion.

Verafin frequently learns of its software being used to catch people engaging not only in white collar crime but also drug trafficking, terrorism, elder abuse and human trafficking – news that invigorates the entire staff.

King stressed in his speech that Verafin is perpetuating its winning formula by developing a corporate culture that stresses six facets: purpose, value, growth, reward, freedom and joy. And the speech demonstrated that Verafin goes beyond the usual clichés in addressing these values.

“Verafin has been a great company to be associated with, both in their product and their approach to management,” said Mark Dobbin, the head of Killick Capital, an early investor in the company. “I’ve learned more from being on their board than from working with any other company I’ve been associated with.”

Case in point: when Verafin opened its first office, King and his cofounders didn’t like the factory-made cubicles that were available because they didn’t engender teamwork or creativity. So they bought plywood and built their own tables – circular and portable. They could be moved anywhere. That means employees can sit around a table one week and move around the next as teams reconfigure. Some staff sit at a different table each day, depending on who they need to sit with.

Verafin encourages “continuous improvement” throughout the entire organization, King said. Once a month, there are hackathons in which a team proposes a new product and has 24 hours to come up with a prototype. King said the benefits of such innovation radiate throughout the organization.

Verafin also has each of its divisions set its goals for the coming quarter, and detail those goals to the entire company. That means 30 teams, quarter after quarter, set higher standards for themselves and fight to meet those standards.

“People love it,” said King. “Do you know what they like about it? They love it because no one is telling them what their target will be. They’re setting it themselves.”

Much of the culture in Verafin rests on the employees setting their own standards, and having their performance assessed by their peers.

Rather than performance reviews set by managers, Verafin encourages peer reviews so everyone – even King himself – is assessed by other staff members.

The company aims to reward its employees, but not necessarily with cash. There are no performance-related compensation packages, even for the sales people. King said the sales team is paid well but not with commissions.

So how does it reward employees? The employees – sales people and others – compete to see who can make the most noise when they meet their quarterly targets. (King’s slides included photos of cowbells, fog horns, gongs and other instruments of mass dissonance the staff use.)

Any team hitting a target can celebrate by making all the noise they want. A big sale calls for a chain of high fives. That means every employee (as many as 200 people on any given day) line up and the sales person who scored the sale runs through the office high-fiving them.

There may be fewer than 200 people on some days because Verafin employees are allowed to work wherever they want, at home or at a coffee shop, as long as they meet their targets. Or they may be on vacation. Verafin does not track its employees’ vacation. “We’re talking about adults here,” said King simply.

King also said he and the company founders have had their own book club since they started the company. They read and discuss the same books to mine the ideas of leading business thinkers. “If you ever want to build something impressive, never, ever, ever stop reading,” said King, who is trained as an engineer. “If you stop reading, you’re done.”

Finally, King said his staff likes to have fun. The company has been known to clean out the nerf gun section of Toys R Us so the staff will have guns to play with. If he’s walking through the office and gets hit by a nerf dart in the side of the head, he just keeps walking because it’s just another day at Verafin.

As King delivers his speech, it’s necessary to keep reminding yourself that this is a company that successfully foils the world’s leading crime syndicates in their essential goal of laundering illicit funds. And the company that hands out nerf guns to its staff is good at fighting financial crime, as $30 million in revenue and a $60 million buy-in will attest.


This article first appeared in the Spring 2014 Entrevestor Intelligence report, which can be found here

Marli MacNeil, BioNova Part Ways

BioNova, the Nova Scotia life sciences association, has adopted a new strategic course that has resulted in the departure of Marli MacNeil, who was the group’s executive director since its founding 12 years ago.

MacNeil said in an interview Friday that her position ended last week and is now taking time to enjoy the summer and consider her options.

“I’d love to be able to continue working to help the life sciences companies because I continue to believe we’ve got some super companies here.”

BioNova was founded early in the century when there were a handful of life sciences companies in the region, but the sector was embryonic at best. A group of founding members understood there was huge potential to commercialize the research being carried out at the hub formed around Dalhousie University’s medical and dentistry schools and the hospitals in Halifax.

In 12 years, the sector has grown to the point where it could be on the cusp of becoming a significant hub on a national or international level.

Several of the life sciences companies in the province are now gaining notice, because of impressive sales or the potential of their technology or both. For example, Halifax Biomedical of Mabou has landed some huge sales lately.

ABK Biomedical of Halifax has received funding recently from First Angel Network of Halifax and other angel groups across North America. It also received a $2.1-million Atlantic Innovation Fund loan to commercialize new biomaterials that will simplify and enhance the delivery of chemotherapy and radiotherapy for patients.

MacNeil said a group of BioNova members recently attended the BIO International Convention for life sciences in San Diego, where Immunovaccine of Halifax was “the talk of the town” because of new-found interest in immune system-based medicine.

She said BioNova and the sector overall now need to determine ways to move these and other companies on to “the next level.” Essentially, the industry has gone through a lot of company formation and now has to gain expertise in helping these startups grow into bona fide companies.

“We’re great at having babies, but what are we going to do when they’re teenagers?” MacNeil said.

Asked what is needed and how to provide it, she said BioNova is beginning to determine what is required and what to do, and more work will be needed to plot the next chapter.

BioNova is now headed by a 12-member board of directors chaired by Brian Lowe, the head of ABK operations and co-founder of First Angel Network. The three-member staff is now led by managing director Scott Moffitt.

MacNeil’s news marks a changing of the guard at two of the leading startup support organizations in Halifax. Milan Vrekic, executive director of Volta Labs, the city’s main tech startup facility, said this month he will be stepping down in the autumn to pursue other opportunities.

MacNeil said she hopes to stay in Nova Scotia and will always support the local companies in any way she can.

“My job has always been to be a cheerleader for these companies, and now I’ll be cheering from a different side of the field.”

BioNova could not be reached for comment.

Kinduct Buys HealthMet Tech

Kinduct Technologies, the Halifax health-technology company, has acquired Vancouver-based HealthMet Technologies for an undisclosed sum to extend its reach in the community and corporate markets.

Founder and CEO Travis McDonough said in a statement Saturday that the combination of the two companies will accelerate their growth in key markets.

Kinduct has developed a technology platform that helps medical professionals, trainers, coaches and other improve the health and fitness of people.  The platform is multi-faceted and can be adapted to specific markets. For example, it includes the world’s largest databank of medical animation, which can help physicians to explain procedures to patients and to educate them.

Now the Halifax company will be able combine its work with HealthMet, which has spent two decades developing scalable programs to deliver health training to the masses. Its three main programs are the Corporate Challenge, Community Challenge, and 60-Minute Kids Club Challenge. These will now be offered under the Kinduct brand.

“Both Kinduct and HealthMet are passionate about the benefits of healthy living,” said McDonough. “But we know most people have trouble attaining – and maintaining – the health and wellness levels they need. Together our products offer a powerful combination of information, motivation, accountability, tracking, behavior change tools and analysis that is currently lacking in the health, wellness and performance marketplace.”

HealthMet founder and CEO Matt Young will remain with the enlarged company and said he perceives benefits of combining the two companies’ operations.

“Kinduct’s technology platform is so robust and scalable that it has exponentially boosted the power and reach of the HealthMet program,” Young said. “Existing and future clients will see enormous benefits in functionality and results.”

Kinduct has been growing this year in part because of the partnerships it is striking with complementary groups. In April, the company joined with Capital District Health Authority, OrthoMX Inc., both of Halifax, and Laval, Que.-based Emovi to form Mobility at Capital Health, a $2.6 million project designed to accelerate the treatment of patients with mobility issues. The project received a $1.7 million loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund.

O’Brien Capitalizes on B Corp Status

With less money and staff than corporations, community groups and non-profits often struggle to make their websites and social media effective. To help them, Kelly O’Brien, a Fredericton-based web designer, has established BBoards.org to allow non-profits to easily post and share content.

“We want to help non-profits and social enterprises around the world find their voices and connect with each other,” said O’Brien, who has more than 20 years of technical experience in product and business development for names like U.S. Surgical Corp. and NBTel Global.

“A few years ago, I became engaged with non-profits and I realized how few tools and resources they have to deliver on their mandate compared with corporations,” he said. “It struck me as unfair and I did a mid-life pivot from the global IT marketplace to help these organizations keep up online.”

Born in Halifax, where he worked for Enercom and AT&T, O’Brien has been developing BBoards.org in collaboration with many partners and has just completed the B4 Change accelerator program for social entrepreneurs at the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick. The six-month program helps those who found a business that meets a social, economic or environmental need and turns a profit.

“B4 Change made me feel part of the growing global social enterprise movement,” he said. “They also introduced me to the idea of the Benefit Corporation (B Corp).”

A growing U.S.-based initiative, B Corp certification requires companies to meet high standards that demonstrate their commitment to social good. Acquiring B Corp certification is tough, but O’Brien went ahead, becoming New Brunswick’s first B Corp in the process.

“It took a couple of months to get B Corp certification. There were challenges, but B Corp status demonstrates that we think differently, operate differently, and are not going to change. For instance, we’re not going to clutter our customers’ boards with adverts. We even have non-profit shareholders. It helps us establish credibility among the people we want to support.”

So far, most BBoards.org clients are Canadian, although there are a few in the U.S., Mexico and Latvia.

The venture has high-profile New Brunswick business accelerators as clients, as well as some small businesses that have been attracted by the system’s ease of use and ability to share content. Pictures, videos, links and supporting documents can all be shared in one bulletin, O’Brien said. A single click allows the bulletin to be shared to social media where links direct the viewer back to the home page where there is a donation button.

“We also provide analytics; we give clients real-time feedback on the content people are engaging with,” he said. “And we allow organizations to connect and syndicate their content on each other’s boards; it’s co-operative, not competitive.”

BBoards.org’s basic cost is $19 a month, but discounts for early adopters and groups are available.

O’Brien said he is currently talking to interested First Nations communities and plans to target large umbrella organizations that often shelter thousands of smaller groups, such as Lions Clubs International.

During these years of hard development work, O’Brien has had little time to play his treasured Les Paul guitar or listen to vinyl, but things are coming together.

“We’ve had people volunteering to help us,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful and challenging experience to bootstrap this and it’s exciting to be getting to market now. We’re aiming to build a global community of change-makers.”


Assessing the First Half of 2014

Looking back on the first half of 2014 in the Atlantic Canadian startup world, there’s not a single event, company or story that stands out as a singular highlight.

So in writing a wrap-up of the first half, I think the dominant feature would really be a state of mind that didn’t exist six months ago. It’s a new-found maturity.

There were lots of candidates to be highlights of the first half. The Big Data Congress in Saint John and Atlantic Venture Forum in Halifax were both successfully held for the second time. St. John’s held its first Innovation Week. There were exits by UserEvents of Fredericton and Compilr and Newpace, both of Halifax. PropelICT of New Brunswick and the P.E.I. BioAlliance both received federal funding under the Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program that will change the scope of their work.

All of those are great, but there’s a bigger story in this sector. People were pleasantly surprised when Entrevestor reported in March the startup community now directly employs about 3,000 Atlantic Canadians, and is indirectly responsible for about 15,000 jobs in the region.

Yes, that was a shameless plug, but the findings of our survey were reported in the National Post and several regional media outlets. And they set a baseline from which to assess future employment growth. They also showed that young innovative companies are becoming a force in the economy.

That message was borne out two months later when 26 companies pitched to investors from the region and across the continent at the Atlantic Venture Forum. As we reported recently, 22 of these companies revealed their revenue for the past two years, and in total they booked $4 million in 2013. For this year, they’re expecting revenue of $13.8 million — an increase of almost 250 per cent. Eight of the companies are expecting revenue of $1 million or more.

Here’s the thing about the Atlantic Venture Forum pitchers: they weren’t out of the ordinary. Yes, there were some great startups that were pitching, but I believe the organizers could have chosen another 26 companies with no decline in quality.

There are a handful of Atlantic Canadian startups that are shooting ahead of the pack and there’s a lot of buzz about Smart Skin Technologies of Fredericton, Blue Light Analytics of Halifax and Halifax Biomedical of Mabou, among others. Marching behind them is a regiment of companies that are growing at an impressive pace.

If I were asked to name one thing to watch for in the next six months, I think the answer would be the biotech sector. The digital segment so far has captured most of the attention in the startup world, but I think life sciences could be about to correct that. Two biotech companies — Neurodyn of Charlottetown and DeCell Technologies of Halifax — captured the top award for pitching at the venture forum. The segment as a whole could produce a lot of news in the last half of the year.

Of course, all of this means the bar is being raised across the startup community. Weaker companies are being left behind, and support organizations have to let them die. Financial and human resources need to be concentrated on the best companies. Is that a harsh reality?

Nope. It’s just part of being in a more mature ecosystem.

Vrekic to Step Down at Volta

Milan Vrekic will soon step down as the Executive Director of Volta Labs, the organization that has established itself as the hub of the startup community in Halifax.

In an Interview Tuesday, Vrekic said he is eager to return to his first love, which is building young companies. He said he is considering three options, one of which is in Halifax, and his preference would be to remain in the city. He is aiming to leave Volta on about Sept. 1, but it will depend on the ability to find his replacement.

“We basically agreed from day one that this should be a temporary role,” said Vrekic. “We don’t want to build a cult of personality. The role should always be fresh. … The way to do this is to have someone in the role for a year or a maximum of two years.”

Having previously served as Co-Founder and CEO of the secure document-sharing startup TitanFile, Vrekic joined Volta Labs when it opened in May 2013 and played a key role in establishing the startup house and setting its tone.

The facility on Spring Garden Road is home to about a dozen startups, houses Build Ventures and hosts regular events.

Vrekic said the continuity in the organization will come from the staff members and from the board, which includes Jevon MacDonald, Co-Founder of GoInstant, and Patrick Keefe, Partner at Build Venture.

In filling the new position, it’s possible the board will opt for an entrepreneur-in-residence rather than an executive director so the focus will be on working with startup founders.

“We’re looking for someone who has done it [running a startup] before – someone who entrepreneurs can relate to,” said Vrekic. He said his replacement will have to work with inexperienced entrepreneurs and show them how to structure and manage their company, attract investment and land clients. The person should also have a network of contacts in and outside the region to help open doors for entrepreneurs.

Whether Vrekic’s successor is an executive director or not, the Volta team is now looking at expanding its operations and searching for a larger physical space. The startup house has formed a partnership with PropelICT of New Brunswick, which will soon offer 12-week accelerator programs at the facility.

It wants a larger space because it wanted to house more startups, including space for more late-stage companies. (The current tenants are now expected to move on after a year.) 

ACOA Unveils $43M AIF Funding

The Federal Government on Tuesday announced that it has awarded $43 million in loans to research projects in the region through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund.

The AIF lends money to startups and public organizations to conduct market-oriented research, usually over a period of years. The ACOA press release said the projects have a total value of more than $123 million, and will bring in an additional $80 million from a variety of private and public sector sources.

The following is a description of the projects and the amount they will receive:

Nova Scotia

Capital District Health Authority

AIF funding will allow the Capital District Health Authority to develop push-button MRI diagnostics to ultimately improve diagnostic capabilities and aid in clinical decision making to improve patient outcomes. 

AIF Amount: $2,959,855

ABK Biomedical Incorporated

ABK Biomedical’s project will focus on the development and commercialization of new biomaterials that will simplify and enhance the delivery of chemotherapy and radiotherapy for patients.

AIF Amount: $2,140,000

Dalhousie University

This project will help to improve the performance of underwater sensors and instrumentation by developing an innovative acoustic wireless modem that performs complex signal processing.

AIF Amount: $2,321,299

Metamaterial Technologies Inc.

With AIF funding, Metamaterial Technologies Inc’s project will develop and commercialize a thin, transparent film that can be applied to the windscreens of airplanes in order to protect against cockpit laser illuminations.

AIF Amount: $3,000,000

New Brunswick

Forest Protection Ltd.

AIF funding will allow Forest Protection Limited to develop new products and techniques to intervene early in spruce budworm outbreaks in order to mitigate pest-related impacts on forest integrity, timber supply, and industry productivity.

AIF Amount:  $10,000,000

Enovex Technology Limited

Through this project, Enovex Technology Ltd. will develop an adsorbent material that produces nitrogen at lower costs compared to existing products in the industrial gas market.

AIF Amount: $2,319,554

Prince Edward Island


iWave will develop and commercialize a new software solution designed to provide an efficient and effective tool for prospecting and fundraising initiatives undertaken by non-profit organizations.

AIF Amount: $1,994,624


Springboard Atlantic

With AIF funding, Springboard will continue its focus on programs and activities that help accelerate academic innovation, push technologies to market and attract industry demand for university research.

AIF Amount: $8,500,000

HotSpot Aims for Third City This Year

Now that it has completed the Launch36 accelerator, Fredericton startup HotSpot Parking is gearing up to roll out its solution for downtown shoppers and merchants in its third Atlantic Canadian city.

HotSpot Parking began as a product that allows consumers to pay parking meters remotely through their cellphones. But as it passed through two accelerators — ACelr8 at Planet Hatch and Launch36 — the company has refined its product and the focus of its technology.

When he presented the company at the Launch36 DemoDay last month, CEO Phillip Curley said the company is now operating in Fredericton and Saint John and hopes to be on the streets of Halifax in the autumn. And the aim is to help to sustain downtown businesses in these and other cities.

 “What we’re all about is connecting cities,” said Curley. “Every city is growing but the downtown cores are in trouble.”

The HotSpot technology allows the remote payment of parking meters. Drivers can feed the meter without interrupting their shopping or meetings. Or merchants can use a cellphone to pay a customer’s parking, rather than have the customer run out of the store to feed the meter and never return.

But that’s only what the driver sees in the solution.

In the past year, Curley and his team have advanced their system so it produces invaluable data for downtown businesses. Hotspot Parking allows these businesses to advertise directly to customers through their cellphones. And because of the geolocation capabilities of cellphones, the company can track how many people respond to their ads, who returns and who spends money.

The system is now bringing in about 20 to 40 customers a month for a restaurant, said Curley, enough of a boost that it makes it worthwhile for the operator to subscribe to HotSpot.

Curley said that a small business can now spend $2,000 to $4,000 a month on radio ads, which is not focused on its customers and has no way of tracking the ad’s effectiveness. But with HotSpot parking, the business proprietor knows when a customer is nearby, can send a targeted ad and see whether it works.

 “It doesn’t matter if I only brought in five customers as long as I can prove I brought in those five customers,” he said.

There are now about 100 businesses in New Brunswick that use the service, up about 10 fold from late last year. The company has a strong pipeline of other companies planning to subscribe. And about 3,500 individuals have signed up for the parking app — a figure that is growing 20 per cent per month.

 “We’ve got to keep growing it. There are 12,000 people in the Fredericton downtown daily, so what can we do to excite these people and get them enrolled.”

Curley is still looking to grow the company. In terms of geography, HotSpot has identified 400 advanced cities in North America and has already contacted 175 of them. In terms of products, the company is looking at expanding into a transit service.

The company has already raised $325,000 in equity funding from angels and other investors, and added about $175,000 from government programs.

Startup Cape Breton Event Monday

Startup Cape Breton, the new group promoting entrepreneurship on the island, will hold its inaugural event Monday, July 14, from 4 to 6 pm at the Verschuren Centre of Cape Breton University.

The event aims to explore new opportunities in technology, business, and education and will feature speakers from Cape Breton, Atlantic Canada and outside the region.

Startup Cape Breton said it aims to develop a startup community on the island to capitalize on its strengths in creativity and human resources. It wants the island to be a “place that is home to hundreds of startups — small and medium-sized technology and innovation companies, working in everything from healthcare and the health sciences, to energy and transportation, to government and education.”

The guests at the event will include: Gavin Uhma, CTO , GoInstant; Valerie Fox, CEO, Digital Media Zone;  Wes Gould, COO, REDspace, Annette Verschuren, Chair/CEO , NRStor Inc.; David Rae, Dean, Shannon School of Business, CBU; Rachael Mackeigan, Coordinator, Community Access Program, Darren Gallop, CEO, Marcato Digital Solutions, Dale Keefe, VP, Academic & Research, CBU; Andrew Swanson, CEO, Verschuren Centre, CBU; Sheldon Levy, President, Ryerson University; David Wheeler, and President, Cape Breton University. 

Dan Martell: Tier 1 Accelerator Needed

Whenever we build a component of the Atlantic Canadian ecosystem, we have to model ourselves on the best examples in the world.

So we need to develop an accelerator in the region that meets the criteria of the Global Accelerator Network, or GAN, the governing body of startup accelerators. That means there has to be an Atlantic

Canadian accelerator backed by a fund, and that invests in the companies it mentors.

It’s the model used in the U.S. by Y Combinator, TechStars and 500 Startups. It’s also being used in Canada by such leading groups as Grow Labs in Vancouver and FounderFuel in Montreal. It’s simply best practice in the accelerator world. You can’t be recognized by the GAN without it.

Atlantic Canada now has a few accelerators and there are discussions about developing more. We have groups that call themselves accelerators, but fall short of the accepted model. But what we need is a mentorship group backed by private sector investors who can attract the best companies from anywhere in the world, as well as companies grown in Atlantic Canada.

By developing an accelerator backed by a fund, we will suddenly occupy a different position in the global market. Investors will insist that the accelerator be able to court the best companies anywhere and attract them to the region.

That doesn’t mean we’d be crowding out Atlantic Canadian companies.

It means that local startups have to make sure they are as good as any in the world to gain entrance to the accelerator. If they’re not at this level already, they have to up their game to get in – which is the whole point of an accelerator, isn’t it?

Many of the companies that would come to Atlantic Canada to work in the accelerator would end up staying here. That has certainly been the experience of Startup Chile, which follows the fund-backed model and has been attracting entrepreneurs from around the world. TechStars is based in Boulder, Co., and 35 to 40 percent of the companies that enter TechStars end up staying in the Boulder area.

The accelerator will need to focus on a specific growth segment – such as 3-D printing, drones, bitcoin, big data, biotech or stem cell – to differentiate itself from all the other accelerators out there. By focusing on a specific sector, this accelerator would become option of choice for startups around the world operating in that specific growth industry.

To attract the best companies, you can’t be the fourth or fifth option for startups that couldn’t get into Y Combinator. You have to be their first choice. And that means developing an accelerator that is recognized globally.

It would not take a ton of money to launch this initiative. TechStars was started with an initial funding of $118,000. Half the money could come from local entrepreneurs and the other half from a fund-of-funds. There would have to be physical space – another criteria of the GAN.

The biggest challenge will be finding the right person to run the accelerator. It would have to be a seasoned entrepreneur with experience in the specific segment chosen by the accelerator. And if we find that unique person, we could create an accelerator in Atlantic Canada that would gain an international reputation quickly.

 Dan Martell is the Founder and CEO of Clarity.

 This article first appeared in our Spring 2014 Entrevestor Intelligence report, which can be found here

Financing Ugandan Entrepreneurs

Eight years after it was founded to save a sick child, Uganda Venture and its dedicated managing director, Fadi Al Qassar, are getting high-profile help in its efforts to finance Ugandan entrepreneurs.

Among its many valuable projects, Uganda Venture reduces poverty in rural Uganda by providing entrepreneurs with access to capital through micro-credit loans of between $300 and $750.

There is huge need, and the group is struggling to meet demand. It’s hoping that with the help of a local entrepreneur who is part of California-based tech giant Salesforce.com, that effort will receive a boost.

Salesforce is well known in the region after buying into several Atlantic Canadian companies, including New Brunswick’s Radian6, co-founded by Marcel LeBrun. It was sold to Salesforce for $326 million in 2011.

“Marcel LeBrun is now senior vice-president and general manager of Salesforce Radian6 and he is going to be mentoring me for six months,” said Al Qassar by phone as he strode the streets of Halifax, keen to catch up on local work after spending seven weeks in the village of Tabiro, the venture’s Ugandan base.

“We’ve been able to provide loans to 25 individuals since the micro-loan program launched in May 2013,” he said.

“People are expanding their businesses, paying us back and living sustainable lives, but many others would benefit from this kind of loan.”

Al Qassar said that, among other things, LeBrun will advise him on raising funds through crowdfunding, the collection of money from many backers that usually occurs through the Internet.

“It will be great to have the help of someone who has a lot of knowledge in the area of bringing a digital product to market.”

Born in Jordan, Al Qassar joined Uganda Venture as a student volunteer in 2006, when the connection between Halifax and Tabiro was forged through the work of Halifax physician Wally Schlech.

While working in Uganda, Schlech met Dorcas Nazziwa, a teen with a heart ailment. Schlech and his colleagues brought Dorcas to Halifax for treatment free of charge. Sadly, Dorcas did not survive, but her illness created a profound connection between the two communities that endures and strengthens.

Back then, Al Qassar had already completed a commerce degree with a major in marketing. He was working in advertising and offered to re-design Uganda Venture’s logo and help with the fledgling group’s marketing plan. Since then, Uganda Venture has been a central focus of his life, and he is often on the road.

The last few months have been exciting. In addition to linking up with LeBrun, Al Qassar has participated in the first cohort of the social entrepreneurship program at the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick. The six-month B4 Change accelerator program helps social entrepreneurs — those who found a business that meets a social, economic or environmental need and turns a profit.

“Often, accelerators are focused on technical organizations, but B4 Change had a good mix of social entrepreneurs,” Al Qassar said. “It brought in intelligent people who wanted to learn where we wanted to go and who wanted to help us bridge the gap.”

Additionally, the centre awarded Uganda Venture $15,000 toward its work providing micro-credit.

MBA students from Halifax’s Dalhousie University have also provided assistance. They gave accounting and financing training to the recipients and provided valuable evaluation of the group’s first year providing loans.

According to LeBrun, the Uganda Venture team is led by special people who have accomplished amazing things in Uganda and for the Canadians who have partnered with them.

But Al Qassar feels he’s the lucky one.

“For me, it feels awesome, satisfying and a privilege to be working with the people I’m working with and serving the people I’m serving.”

Building Startups in Rural Areas

Having spent a career in rural economic development, Andrew Button was blown away when he discovered the potential of startups in creating jobs and wealth. Now he’s using the startup model to encourage economic growth in rural communities.

He was the CEO of the South Shore Business Growth Association when he began to notice a few years ago that new tech businesses were growing strongly. He heard about the growth prospects from entrepreneurs like Blair Ryan of the Rounds and Leah Skerry of Norex, two Halifax tech companies.

 “I was working in the business development role for eight years, and none of this hit my radar,” said Button, sitting on the sun-strewn deck of a Mahone Bay coffee shop last weekend. “This got me to thinking that businesses in my community are just not aware of this.”

As a result, Button formed MashUp Labs, an organization devoted to nurturing startups on the South Shore. Button, who is also chairman of the Acadia Centre for Entrepreneurship at Acadia University, has a network that spans the province, and he intends for MashUp Labs' reach to extend throughout the province, the region and beyond.

Button has been studying how startups are formed and the resources they need. He said the model can be exploited more fully in rural settings. MashLab is not an accelerator like Launch36, he said, but it can bring entrepreneurs together, flesh out their ideas and prepare them for such accelerators.

So far, MashUp Labs has worked with the Hub South Shore in staging events to bring together entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs and familiarize them with the ways of startups. It has invited Ryan and others to come in and talk about their businesses and held instructional sessions on methods in growing lean businesses.

For example, Alistair Jarvis, executive producer of gaming studio Orpheus Interactive, led a session on the uses of a lean canvas, a digital device entrepreneurs use to plot the course for a business.

What was interesting about the session was the range of entrepreneurial pursuits of the 20 or so South Shore residents who attended. One person was developing a data analytics startup, another a mobile app and another a biotech company. One is working on a project to recycle coffee grounds.

Button stressed during the interview simply how many businesses — and people who have ideas for innovative businesses — there are in rural communities. They simply need some guidance in getting these off the ground, he said.

Button plans to continue with these programs and to link the startup community with the young, growing businesses on the South Shore. Beyond that, he said he wants MashUp Labs to work with a range of startup entrepreneurs.

 “It’s not a stretch to think, how do we bring this to any community with socio-economic challenges in North America, and combining it with the work of, say, a Launch36.”

Using Social Media to Fight Violence

LifeRaft, a Halifax startup focused on detecting signs of dangerous behaviour on social media, will launch its beta test this week with the participation of several educational and law enforcement groups.

LifeRaft is a social media monitoring tool that detects language signalling threats, cyberbullying and other signs that people may pose a threat to themselves or other people.

While most social media monitoring systems are used in marketing or measuring public opinion, LifeRaft is designed to help educational bodies and law enforcement agencies ensure public safety.

The company is being spun out of Citrus Mobile Solutions, a Halifax tech consultancy best known for its mobile real estate product TxT2look. The firm has spent about eight months developing LifeRaft and is now launching a 30-day test.

Three U.S. universities, a Canadian university and half a dozen law enforcement agencies are participating in the test. Citrus is planning a full public launch of the product once it assesses the results.

The tool “allows us to listen to what’s going on in social media and drill down and see what’s happening on a granular level,” said Citrus CEO Brian Perry. “We can understand the context of their discussions and in most cases can identify their geo-location.”

LifeRaft aims to help solve several serious issues. It can detect cyberbullying and therefore help schools, universities and school boards intervene before bullying results in a crisis. It can help identify people who strongly resent authority or the police, or could even be planning violence at a school.

Using LifeRaft, authorities can tell in real time who posted the questionable material and where they are, and can even see an archived street view of the building they are in. Authorities can also follow people of interest to make sure their social media posts don’t indicate they’re about to do something violent or harmful.

Perry said the device does not violate people’s privacy because social media posts are public information and police departments already monitor it. For example, the New York Police Department already has 12 employees assigned full time to monitoring social media. LifeRaft will simply improve the efficiency of such work, said Perry.

Citrus has been working with several partners in developing the product, including the Saint Mary’s University Sobey School of Business and the computer science department at Dalhousie University.

Perry said Citrus plans to develop LifeRaft as its own company, with the new entity employing about eight of the 10 people now working in the service company.

He said Citrus expects to be able to continue with its other work, in part because it contracts out to overseas developers. In the past year, it has even helped two of these programmers move to Halifax from Uruguay.

To finance the early development of LifeRaft, Perry and his team are now working on raising $1.5 million in seed financing. They have started talks with a few potential investors, he said.

Citrus’s main activity is custom software development, focusing on building and managing SMS communications and mobile technology platforms. The company evolved into this line of work by initially launching and operating SaaS text message solutions for the real estate and mobile marketing industries.

Our Anti-Spam Policy

As Canada’s new anti-spam legislation went into effect yesterday, we want to assure our readers that we respect their privacy and to clarify our policy on spam.

Every single person receiving our daily email does so because they left their email on our website. We therefore felt no need to pester people with emails asking them to confirm their wish to continue.

If you now receive the emails and wish to stop, please use the unsubscribe function at the end of each email. If that doesn’t work, please contact me at peter@entrevestor.com and we’ll remove you from the list.

At the same time, if you don’t receive our daily updates and would like to, please leave your email address at the bottom of our homepage. 

The Mentra Grows in Atlantic Canada

The Mentra Co-operative, a new initiative dedicated to developing a network of mentors throughout Atlantic Canada, has launched in New Brunswick and is looking for members from other provinces.

In early June, The Mentra hired as Executive Director Janna Hare, a coach, management consultant and training expert. And the organization is now building an online platform that will serve as a dating service between mentors and mentees.

Mentra was created by a group of organizations in New Brunswick that identified the need for a broader and deeper pool of mentors to help entrepreneurs develop their business. As it’s the home of the Launch36 accelerator, New Brunswick already has the best pool of business mentors in the region and now they want to improve it.

“There are a lot of organizations that are keenly excited about this,” said Hare in a phone interview on Friday. “The vision for the Mentra is to become a centre of excellence for mentoring, and we’re going to partner that with several organizations and develop these relationships to make it happen.”

Hare’s mission now is to train not only more mentors but more mentees as well. One of the curious aspects of mentorships is that the parties receiving lessons have to be prepped as thoroughly as the teachers themselves, otherwise the advice falls on deaf ears.

Hare is a certified coach and she plans to build coaching skills into the fabric of the program to encourage the development of both mentors and mentees.

She said the online platform for the group is now in development and the full service should be launched by the end of the year.  The beauty of the platform, said Hare, is that it allows the co-operative to link mentors and mentees in different locations. Entrepreneurs participating in the program will be asked how important it is to them to meet face-to-face with their mentors. If it’s not important, the network could allow founders to work with mentors in other locations.

One of the priorities now is to attract member organizations from other provinces for two reasons: first, it will allow more companies to benefit from the project; and second it will broaden the pool of mentors, in terms of numbers and expertise.  

“I have had a couple of conversations with Innovacorp in Halifax,” said Hare. “They’re keenly interested in the training program. Entrepreneur’s Forum will be in the list. I’m reaching out to people to see … how to have a strong mentoring network in all four provinces in Atlantic Canada.”

The development of the Mentra began last year when the New Brunswick Government put out a request for proposals for an organization to mentor entrepreneurs, and seven organizations came together with a single proposal, which won.

The Mentra will operate out of the Venn Centre (formerly Tech Southeast) on Main Street in Moncton. The founding members are: The Wallace McCain Institute; BioNB; the New Brunswick Business Council; Planet Hatch; the Pond-Deshpande Centre; the Venn Centre ; and the New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network.

They have held discussions with other members who may become members, including: Propel ICT; the New Brunswick Information Technology Council; the University of New Brunswick's Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management & Entrepreneurship; the New Brunswick Community College; 21inc., and Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick.



Press Release: EY’s Analytics Centre

EY, the global accounting and business consultancy, announced the opening of the Canadian Centre for Advanced Analytics in the following press release:

EY opens Canadian Centre for Advanced Analytics in Nova Scotia

HALIFAX, June 27, 2014 - EY is empowering Canadian businesses to capitalize on the transformational power of data analytics, with the launch of its Canadian Centre for Advanced Analytics (CAA) in Halifax today.

"In times of increased competitive pressure, businesses are constantly looking for innovative ways to grow and improve bottom line performance," says Jim Lutes, EY Atlantic Managing Partner. "Data analytics can help organizations improve their performance through driving better business decisions. This Centre exemplifies our commitment to supporting clients through the acquisition of talent, delivery of resources, technology and, above all, analytics insights."

EY's Centre will leverage the rich talent pool right here in Atlantic Canada to build its dedicated team, which will serve clients across Canada and around the world.

"Atlantic Canada – Halifax in particular – has been selected as the hub for analytics in Canada at EY and we're very proud of that," says Steven Maynard, Performance Improvement Partner in Halifax. "EY's investment to grow this capability in Atlantic Canada, along with our recent acquisition of Ambir Solutions, the leading independent IT and business consulting firm in Atlantic Canada, will support our efforts to respond to the significant demand for analytics.  We are currently serving clients from around the world from our new state of the art Centre at RBC Waterside place.  We will continue to expand both in numbers and capabilities in the coming months."

EY's opening of the Centre for Advanced Analytics is not only a benefit to its clients, but also represents a boost for the Atlantic economy.

"Private sector investment is vital to Nova Scotia's economic growth, and EY's new centre is a positive example of the impact it can have in our province," says Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil. "It also reinforces the strength, drive and innovation of our province's biggest asset — its people."

About EY's Centre of Advanced Analytics

The Center of Advanced Analytics (CAA) consists of a team of highly specialized Advisory professionals, part of EY's Performance Improvement Advisory practice. The CAA will support Canadian and Global EY clients to enable them turn data driven insights into improved productivity, competitiveness and growth.

About EY

EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

EY is proudly celebrating 150 years in Canada. For more information, please visit ey.com/ca. Follow us on Twitter @EYCanada.

EY refers to the global organization and may refer to one or more of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. For more information about our organization, please visit ey.com.

CTA@Boston Seeks Applicants

The Canadian Technology Accelerator at Boston, or CTA@Boston, is calling for applications for its coming cohorts.

The applications for the four-month program open on Wednesday and run until July 23.

The following is a description issued by the Canadian Consulate in Boston, which operates the program:

The Canadian Technology Accelerator in Boston (CTA @ Boston) is a 4-month immersion program that connects your business to the unique resources and contacts in New England to help accelerate your growth. The benefits of participating in the CTA and the resources in Greater Boston are highlighted below.

Program Placements:


Winter /Spring



Accelerator candidates are small to mid-sized Canadian companies from Life Sciences, ICT (Including Green IT and Health IT), Robotics and Security technologies, and emerging food product sectors, with initial traction in the market, differentiated technology, and potential to scale the business through the CTA experience in Boston.

WHY: Benefits of participating in the CTA@Boston:

•Space/services at the Cambridge Innovation Center in Kendall Square for up to 4-months

•Trade Commissioner's Assistance – including connections in the territory to help meet your goals.

•Mentors – from the Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England (http://www.TheCENE.org)

•Pitch Coach to refine your investor, partner, or client-focused presentation

•Member privileges at key industry associations

•Introductions to potential industry partners/funding groups/customers

•Weekly CTA Client Newsletter highlighting upcoming events/opportunities

You’ll find the following resources in the Greater Boston area:

•Over 400 biotechnology companies

•R&D sites for global pharmaceutical companies

•Strong tech cluster (Microsoft, Google, Amazon, EMC, Akamai, IBM,Nuance,…)

•World renowned research institutions (MIT, Harvard, Tufts, Northeastern)

•Venture Capital Firms, Corporate VCs and Angel investors interested in Canadian technologies

The online CTA@Boston application opens Wednesday, July 2, 2014 through Wednesday, July 23, close of business. 

Press Release: Oris4-Box Deal

Halifax-based Oris4, which has developed a cloud-based document-organization system,  has issued the following press release:

Oris4 Integrates with Box to Simplify File Migration and Discoverability

Palo Alto, Calif. — June 30, 2014 — Oris4 today announced a new integration with Box. The integration makes it easier for businesses to search for content across various software applications and provides the option of migrating it to a centralized cloud-based platform like Box.

When files are stored on numerous applications, such as network drives, email or legacy software, users often lack a secure and simple way to find what they are looking for from any device. According to an IDC report, information workers waste a significant amount of time each week dealing with a variety of challenges related to working with documents. This wasted amounts to a loss of 21.3% of the organizational total productivity. For organizations with 1000 employees, this time wasted would equal hiring an additional 213 workers.  Many organizations try to solve this challenge by building expensive interfaces between systems that are expensive and difficult to maintain. Instead, the Oris4 and Box integration greatly improves the discoverability of content with an easy point and click search method that gives a centralized view of an organization’s files, while also providing customers with an affordable way to either synchronize or migrate their content to the cloud.

“The biggest organizational expense firms are trying to grapple with is the time wasted searching numerous information repositories” according to Reza Kazemipour, CEO of Oris4. “People just don’t know where it is or how to find it. Box is a powerful platform for content management and collaboration in the cloud, and their customers are challenged with migrating all of their most important files from disparate, legacy solutions. We make finding all of this easy but clients were asking us if certain content can simply be moved directly into Box making it the ultimate online repository.”

The partnership between Box and Oris4 does just that providing a simple UI making things findable and by offering enterprise the ability to sync or migrate content from a current source into Box.com. 

About Oris4

At Oris4, we automate the organization of content. Oris4 is an easy to use and scalable cloud content management system that delivers real ROI for business as soon as you install it. The system gathers and indexes information from sources such as Box, Salesforce, network drives and email, organizing it in a manner that lets you find anything in a few clicks. Each file is linked to the people or companies you are working with and available to you regardless of how and where it was saved. For more information visit Oris4.com/box.

Ryan’s New Take on Maternity Wear

Like most women, Danielle Ryan struggled to look stylish when she was pregnant with her daughter, Penny-Laine.

Her clothes strained at the waist and it was hard to feel comfortable. The lifelong fashion lover decided women needed clothes that would expand throughout their pregnancies. When she failed to find the clothes she wanted, her company Penny Posh was born.

That was five years ago. Ryan, previously a director of business development for an Alberta land company, turned herself into a clothes designer, coming up with two novel garments: a sleek faux-leather jacket and a cosy hoodie. Both have subtle stretch panels in the sides that expand as the mother’s body grows and shrink back after she has given birth, while still allowing space for a baby to snuggle in close to Mom’s body.

St. John’s-based Ryan launched her venture in November. Her clientele is now growing and so is her product line.

“I was surprised at how difficult it was to find maternity wear that would fit my blossoming body and still allow me to feel sexy and stylish at the same time,” she said by phone from her Newfoundland base.

“The St. John’s climate reminded me of the need for maternity jackets that will zip up over a growing belly and remain zipped. When I was pregnant, I had broken zippers all the time,” she said with a laugh.

It took Ryan four years to learn how to design clothes. She was helped by Julia and Bonnie Cook, a mother and daughter team who co-own Newfoundland company AbbyShot Clothiers.

“I would send over sketches and Julia would forward them to their technical designer,” Ryan said.

“Bonnie helped guide me on the business side of manufacturing, and they also facilitated my manufacturing overseas.”

The new entrepreneur has also been fortunate with her father, Bruce, who is her financier.

“After watching me work on these designs for four years, Dad saw my passion and financed my whole project.”

Ryan’s garments are sold at Bellies & Bundles Maternity Boutique in St. John’s, but her focus is on growing her online market because online retail allows her to keep more of her profits and expand her client base nationally and even internationally.

So far, most of her clients are based in St. John’s and Ontario, but she is working with a branding firm on putting together a pitch in the hopes of selling her clothes to large American department stores.

“Our fake leather jacket currently sells for $139. Our mid-level price points are perfect for medium- to higher-end department stores. We think it’s a good fit,” she said, “excuse the pun.”

Despite being new to this line of work, Ryan feels she has got off to a good start. She credits her early Facebook party and her launch, which was held in conjunction with the national Oh baby! magazine, for giving her business an initial splash and attracting early clients.

“I’d highly recommend this kind of partnership to anyone starting out. You want to reach as many people as you can.”

She had initially planned to call her company Penny-Laine after her daughter and was disappointed to find the name heavily trademarked.

“But Penny Posh is working out. My faux leather jacket is posh. It looks and feels real. It’s the image we’re after. The name flows nicely.”

She is working on new designs for a blazer and leggings that will be available this summer. Jeans, which are unexpectedly tricky to design, are planned for the fall.

Stewart: Lessons in Civic Open Data

I like to think of myself as a pretty creative person. This past weekend, however, I got to meet a whole lot of creative people – many much more creative than me. 

I was privileged to experience firsthand what happens when you put a bunch of these insanely creative people in the same room for two entire days.  This is exactly what happened at the True Growth Civic Hackathon this past weekend.

Hosted by the University of New Brunswick’s Maker Space, this civic hackathon was incredibly timely considering the perfect storm that is now under way. With the current trend for global urbanization, leaders need to find innovative solutions to make their infrastructures work in ways that they were not originally designed for. The convergence of technology and the vast amounts of data now available translates to an infinite number of innovative possibilities.

Today’s cities have access to inexpensive technologies capable of capturing and storing huge amounts of data. This data can be sensor data taken from wireless traffic cameras, infrastructure monitoring of buildings and bridges, mobile health and fitness, and people tracking to name a few. Government organizations also have access to many sources of data ranging from property tax assessments, geographic mapping, and location based service information.

It has been recognized that sharing such data can lead to things like smarter transport, lower energy consumption and increased efficiencies and productivity.

Over the course of the sunniest weekend that I can remember, this civic-minded event focused on ‘people solving problems for people’ using open data. That is, data that organizations make available to the public without restriction on usage or distribution. Making such data open has the ability to transform a city by increasing transparency of governance and enabling outside expert collaboration. The reality is, most government agencies do not have the resources to create innovative solutions, nor do they typically enjoy a culture that allows for failure – a prerequisite of innovation. Allowing citizens to apply their specialized skills and localized knowledge from an outside perspective is a powerful model that benefits from experimentation.

The group of 20+ civic hackers present was complemented with people traveling from other cities, and even other provinces to compete. Imagine, people care enough about making a difference that they are willing to invest in traveling to another province to help solve problems. Good food, great conversation, and new friends made sitting inside during this first weekend of summer awesome.

At the end of the weekend, there were three amazing products completed.  These ranged from a portal to all pertinent information on a given address (see civic311.com), an interactive virtual city tour, and a service to find the location of the most desirable parking spots in the city.  All of these were built using open data, which, as we all quickly found out, is scarce.

This event should serve as proof of the value of open data. Despite how open the government claims to be, we still have a long way to go.  For example, we may have ‘access’ to property tax information, but it is not ‘open access’. 

Open means unrestricted.  Open means sites like propertize.ca would flourish – the very site that property assessors are rumoured to use themselves because it is better than their own site.  Need another example?  Try to obtain your city’s geocoded civic addresses, something you can create yourself if you know how, just to see the restrictions placed on it and anything you build on top of it.

The true smart city empowers its citizens from the bottom up to create a living lab.

The true smart city empowers its citizens from the bottom up to create a living lab. While there are glimmers of brilliance being shown in the innovative work being done across city departments like transportation, energy, and public safety. This is just the beginning as the real data mining and analytics opportunities arise from opening all data and combining these datasets together. Powerful transformative insights exist in these combined open datasets, and they are just waiting to be unlocked to provide useful patterns, trends and predictive power. Tim Berners-Lee tells us of the innovative power that comes from blending different data sources together to enable people to do “wonderful things in ways we would never have imagined”.

‘Government 2.0’ should be in stark contrast to the opaque, “we know better” attitudes of current bureaucracies and needs to embrace the power, innovation, and insights that the crowd will bring to advance good governance. Government should not squander the opportunity to shine a very bright light on its practices with open data (such as pseudo-open policies that attempt short-term gains by monetizing access rather than seeking the big time savings that will come from innovation by allowing open access by all to all).

Every elected government in the free world claims they are simply interested in improving on the cost effective delivery of their systems and programs; if this is indeed a core value, then there should be no hesitation in inviting the electorate to scrutinize their performance and provide valuable feedback and innovation to achieve improvements in cost and service.

There are very few options for governments to both reduce spending while increasing economic activity, but embracing an open access approach just might provide that opportunity. The spoils will go to the government who chooses to take a leadership role in fostering technology innovation in big data analytics by adopting true open-access.


James Stewart James Stewart, Ph.D. candidate,  is an intelligence analyst at Predexa Analytics and teaches data mining at the University of New Brunswick. This blog first appeared on the Predexa website. 



SimplyCast Aim: Double Sales Monthly

As he prepares for a lengthy sojourn in Silicon Valley, Saeed El-Darahali laid out a lofty goal for his Dartmouth company, the multi-channel marketing startup SimplyCast.

He wants it to at least double its revenues monthly.

That’s right. Double its sales or better. Every. Danged. Month.

SimplyCast was founded in 2009 as a platform-as-a-service product that would help companies and organizations carry out marketing and communication campaigns over email, social media and a range of other channels. A year ago this month, after three years of development, SimplyCast launched its flagship product, the 360 Automation Manager, which allows incredible ease of use in these campaigns.

The product is selling, and revenues are rising at 30 per cent per month, but that’s not enough for the company’s founder and CEO.

“I want growth percentage up to triple digits per month,” said El-Darahali in an interview at the company’s headquarters. “Five per cent is OK, and 50 per cent is good but not good enough. But 100 per cent would be super.”

El-Darahali has never lacked ambition. When the native of the Middle East left his job as a fund manager at Innovacorp in 2009, he said his goal was to build a $1-billion company based in Nova Scotia. He’s never deviated from that goal and never lost his belief that SimplyCast could be such a titan.

The company has grown to 34 employees, virtually all of them in Dartmouth. (One is in South Korea because his wife took a job there.)

The company is not on a hiring binge because El-Darahali believes he has the firepower he needs to drive sales with the 360 Automation Manager.

Certainly, customers have been rolling in lately. On June 3, the company, which already had clients in 175 countries, reported that customer totals of SimplyCast 360 increased 266 per cent in the first quarter.

Customers who have signed up include the Make-A-Wish Atlantic Provinces foundation and cartoonist and marketer Stu Heinecke. SimplyCast has not revealed all its customers, but El-Darahali said they include two banks in the United States and several government agencies.

El-Darahali said the focus of the company is on revenue growth, whereas for the first three years the critical mission was building the platform.

“We couldn’t have had the revenue growth that we’re now seeing if we’d focused on revenue at the start,” he said.

SimplyCast was formed with $758,000 in financing from Innovacorp and Nova Scotia angels. El-Darahali has never raised money outside Nova Scotia. He said he’s been approached by two or three potential investors, purchasers or strategic partners every week but has so far not signed a deal.

“We continue to look for the right partner, but we don’t need the money,” he said. “We haven’t found the right partner yet, and we’re not on our knees.”

Yet within the next two months, he will head to Silicon Valley to meet with potential partners. His options for financing further growth include a public listing, venture capital, private equity or a strategic partner. But he emphasized his main goals for the company — a billion-dollar enterprise based in Nova Scotia — have not changed.

“The public markets are one of the options we would look to in the future. But we want to build this company properly and keep the headquarters in Nova Scotia.”

Revolution in Newfoundland Funding

There’s a quiet revolution taking place in seed funding in Newfoundland and Labrador.

When Newfoundland and Labrador Finance Minister Charlene Johnson unveiled in her spring budget that the province would participate in two venture capital funds, she was signaling her government’s commitment to improve funding for companies on the Rock.

The province’s government is on board with a strategy to develop more startups and is therefore radically altering the seed funding of young tech companies.

Most visibly, the province has announced it will invest $10 million in Build Ventures, the regional VC fund. More quietly, it is working with GrowthWorks Atlantic, the Newfoundland and Labrador Angel Network and an as-yet-unnamed financial institution to develop the Venture Newfoundland and Labrador Fund. Complementing this effort, the government will soon allow private investors in the Venture fund to receive equity tax credits for the fund’s investments. In total, it will mark a huge advance in funding startups in the northeastern province.

“I hope that we can develop a community of funding societies here in Newfoundland and Labrador and across Atlantic Canada so that more of our entrepreneurs can be supported and help to grow our economy,” said Mark Dobbin, the founder of Killick Capital, one of the province’s prime funding bodies.

The most visible announcement so far was the investment in Build Ventures. The other investors are the three Maritime Provinces, the Business Development Bank and private investors, who together with Newfoundland have committed a total of $65 million.

Build so far has invested in tranches of $1.5 million, so the Newfoundland and Labrador government also wants to improve financing in the earlier phases of a company’s development.

An official with the provincial government, who asked not to be named, said startups in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have an easier time finding seed funding than those in Newfoundland because of bodies like Innovacorp and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

This Venture fund is meant to fill that gap, but it will be structured differently to allow maximum fire power. First, it will have a private fund manager in GrowthWorks Atlantic. GrowthWorks already has several investments in Newfoundland, such as Virtual Marine Technologies, adfinitum Networks and ClearRisk.

Members of NLAN will also be invited to invest in the fund. People in the community say NLAN has previously had trouble finding lead investors to identify target companies, draw up terms sheets and lead the funding. In the future, such tasks would be taken over by the fund manager. And the angels will be allowed to receive equity tax credits based on the fund’s investments. Newfoundland and Labrador’s current equity tax credit is granted only to individuals investing directly in Newfoundland companies.

The official said the government will contribute at least as much to this fund as it did to Build Ventures, meaning the new fund will be substantially more than $10 million. The hope is there will be a substantial body of money at the inception, and over time the government’s role in the fund will diminish as it attracts more private capital.

“We really feel that this is an area we have to build up to develop these great young companies,” said the official.


This article first appeared in our Spring 2014 Entrevestor Intelligence Report, which can be found here.


Resson Unveils Deal with McCain

Resson Aerospace, a Fredericton company that uses aerial imaging to improve farm productivity, has signed a multi-year memorandum of understanding with Canada’s largest food producer aimed at improving potato production.

The company unveiled its deal with McCain Foods Ltd. at an event Monday near Fredericton, at which Premier David Alward announced the province would invest $5 million in a research and development project with McCain.

The other startups involved in the project include Eigen Innovations, Solanum Genomics, Envirem Organics and Hyton Innovation.

Resson was co-founded by Peter Goggin and Rishin Behl in 2013 while they were studying at the University of New Brunswick. They came up with an idea to use aerial drones as surveillance mechanisms and develop software that can analyze the data they collect. The first application they came up with was an agricultural product, gathering and analyzing a range of data that can improve crop production.

Plants, like animals, undergo metabolic changes, including changes in their temperature, when they contract diseases. Resson’s system — which it calls the Resson Agricultural Management and Analytics System — detects these changes and reports it to the farm operator before the disease spreads. That means the operators can quickly address the problem in a contained area.

Tests have shown that the system decreased the chemical used in farming and increases crop yields.

“Our software is the brain behind the platform,” said Goggin in an interview. “Any imaging platform can capture images. Our software processes the information and generates the report.”

The company has just completed the Launch36 accelerator program and has been in talks with three major food producers. In April, it signed a three-year memorandum of understanding with McCain Foods to apply the management and analytics system to potato crops. The memorandum calls for a business relationship covering several years that is worth seven figures. It will produce $280,000 in revenue for Resson this year.

In his presentation at the Launch36 graduation last week, Goggin said the company continues to work with major agricultural companies involved in such crops as wheat and canola. There are other crops and industries that Resson hopes to focus on in the future.

“We’re working with McCain, working to tailor the system for potato production,” he said.

“Different crops react differently and need to be calibrated individually. But once it is calibrated, it can be used by anyone.”

It’s rare for a startup so early in its development to be working with such a large customer, and that may be why Resson Aerospace has already been able to raise about $600,000 in equity funding. Goggin said during his Launch36 pitch that the company is working on a funding round totalling $2.1 million — the largest target ever revealed in a Launch36 graduation pitch.

Goggin said one thing he and Behr learned going through the accelerator was to aim high.

“The biggest thing limiting a lot of Atlantic Canadian companies is a restrictive mindset. Launch36 taught us to go after the big fish and be a big fish. That mindset is critical.”

Press Release: Oris4’s New Features

Halifax-based Oris4, which has developed a cloud-based document-organization system,  has issued the following press release:

Oris4 to unveil latest integration at Salesforce.com event in Toronto

Oris4 will participate in salesforce.com’s Force1 World Tour event in Toronto on June 25th and unveil a new integration developed for a major telecom designed to help improve user adoption of salesforce.com’s social enterprise application, Chatter, while improving the company’s ability to quickly find files across multiple software applications like SharePoint, email and network drives via salesforce.com.

According to Google’s Eric Schmidt, “Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003. That’s something like five Exabyte of data.”  This massive amount of content is stored across numerous applications and the Internet and as a result is often difficult to find.

“Our previous integrations which automatically link files from SharePoint, email, and the most popular cloud-based file storage solutions were key in understanding how we can enhance the social enterprise experience” according to Reza Kazemipour, CEO of Oris4. “Clients were asking us how we could improve their ability to easily find previously shared presentations and relevant comments regarding the opportunities they were currently working on. Working with the client team really helped us design this offering and we’re ready to share that experience.”

According to IDC, information workers waste a significant amount of time each week dealing with a variety of challenges related to working with documents. This wasted time amounts to a loss of 21.3% of the organizational total productivity. For organizations with 1000 employees, this time wasted would equal hiring an additional 213 workers.  Oris4 helps clients gain back the lost time looking for and managing their files by providing an easy point and click search method that gives users a secure, centralized view of an organization’s files.

“During one of our presentations there was a lot of excitement. One executive said, “This will make us use salesforce even more.” said Peter Hickey, founder of Oris4. “That’s the fun part. Seeing something we built get the client excited. We’ve tied it all together; salesforce, the social enterprise, SharePoint, email and the cloud. We’re giving people a complete view of the information they require to make decisions and win business.”

Social enterprise software is gaining popularity within many organizations for its ability to share information and collaborate with colleagues organizations have adopted it as part of their culture. Oris4 allows for content shared within Chatter to be automatically organized and linked to relevant contacts, accounts and opportunities.

About Oris4

At Oris4, we automate the organization of content. Oris4 is an easy to use and scalable cloud content management system that delivers real ROI for business as soon as you install it. The system gathers and indexes information from sources such as SharePoint, Salesforce, network drives and email, organizing it in a manner that lets you find anything in a few clicks. Each file is linked to the people or companies you are working with and available to you regardless of how and where it was saved. For more information visit Oris4.com.


Populus Inks Major Deal in Barbados

Health information company Populus Global Solutions has won an international bid to supply the Government of Barbados with a fully-integrated national electronic health information system – its fourth major contract in the Caribbean-Central American market.

Fredericton-based Populus, which received a $260,000 investment from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation several year ago, has commercialized software for running an electronic health information system, or HIS. It has been recognized by the World Health Organization as one of the best all-encompassing systems of its kind, said the company.

“We have developed a big data, health software product that manages more than 1 million transactions every day,” said Populus CEO Tristan Rutter in a statement. “Harnessing the power of our Canadian technology, governments like Barbados are proving that we can expand access to healthcare, reduce the burden of disease and save money all at the same time.”

Populus began to gain traction in 2007 when it sold a system to the government of Belize. Though located in Central America, Belize is a member of Caricom, the Caribbean Community, and word began to spread through the island nations of the strength of the Populus system. In the past seven years, Populus has installed national HIS products in St. Lucia and in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and now in Barbados.

In an interview, Rutter said the company did not set out to become a supplier to Caribbean customers but it simply gained traction there. And it hopes its success in Barbados can help it expand to other markets.

“What this really means to us is Barbados is a country that everyone knows,” he said. “The hospital is a 600-bed facility that does a full range of [procedures]. . . . “What Barbados means is to us is validation. It’s the opportunity to refine the process.”

Populus will provide every Barbadian citizen with an electronic medical record and electronically tie all its doctors, hospitals, clinics and pharmacies together under one cloud-based integrated system. The features of the system include: E-prescribing with inventory control; embedded disease management protocols; data analytics complete with real-time reporting; and billing.

“The entire system will be up and running within nine months at cost of less than ten dollars per citizen,” added Rutter.

He said the company’s priority in the near-term is to install the system properly in Barbados, but it is also planning to grow in more markets. It now has about 18 employees, 15 of them in Fredericton. It has only done one round of fundraising with NBIF and a group of angels mainly based in Atlantic Canada. The company’s board has discussed raising more capital, but has no immediate plans, Rutter said.

In the long-term, the company wants to get into the Canadian market and believes it can help governments improve service and save money. Rutter notes that Canadian healthcare spending rose 54 percent between 2002 and 2010 and that did nothing to improve mortality rates. He believes the country is at a crossroads in terms of healthcare and will have to adopt new technologies.

“Out of my office in Fredericton, I look out at the Department of Health,” he said. “Do I want my software running there? Yeah I do.”

Propel, BioAlliance Win CAIP Funding

PropelICT and the P.E.I. BioAlliance have been awarded five years of funding under the National Research Council’s Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program, or CAIP, which will allow them to expand their programing.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in Waterloo, Ont., today that the federal government will devote $100 million to funding several organizations across the country, including PropelICT and the BioAlliance. Though the government did not announce the size of funding, it said no accelerator would receive more than $5 million over the five-year period and all recipients must come up with matching funds.

People familiar with PropelICT, the New Brunswick-based tech mentoring group that operates the Launch36 accelerator, say it will be sufficient to pay for a meaningful increase in the group’s work.

“It means we can finally scale our operations regionally in each of the Atlantic Provinces,” said PropelICT Executive Director Trevor MacAusland in an interview. “We’ll be taking the program and tweaking it a bit and developing programs based on various categories [of businesses].”

PropelICT was formed in Saint John 10 years ago to foster growth in the technology industry. In the winter of 2012, it launched its own accelerator, Launch36, with the goal of putting 36 startups through its program within three years. With the graduation of five companies on Monday, PropelICT has now graduated about 30 startups from across the three Maritime Provinces.

Headed by Executive Director Rory Francis, the P.E.I. BioAlliance is a not-for-profit organization that has brought together government, academics and private companies to nurture the life sciences industry on the Island. Its growth has accelerated during the last 10 years as the members of the alliance -- including Nautilus Biosciences, Island Abbey Foods and Neurodyn – have increased their activity and are now coming into their own.

In recent months, senior people within PropelICT have been talking internally about “Propel 2.0”, in which the increased funding will produce a richer program offering that extends across Atlantic Canada.  The plan involves working with various partners – including Planet Hatch in Fredericton, Volta Labs in Halifax and StartupNL in St. John’s -- to develop more and better tech companies. The ultimate goal is to establish at least one billion-dollar company in the region.

MacAusland said Propel 2.0 will feature 12-week programs offered in specific locations so companies can go through the course without having to travel between provinces. The group is planning to offer cohorts at both PlanetHatch in Fredericton and Volta Labs in Halifax this autumn. Propel plans to have a program director who can travel to the various cities to conduct the programs.

In the future, Propel may offer sector-specific accelerators if it determines there is a critical mass of one type of company in one location that could benefit from the course.

“It’s incredible to have this opportunity to work organizations across Atlantic Canada and align our resources,” said Sally Ng, Executive Director of PlanetHatch. She added it is an “exciting next step in the evolution of our region and Planet Hatch.”

One of the strengths of the Propel programming has been its stable of mentors, many of whom are in New Brunswick. In the future, the accelerator will develop networks of mentors across the region, including Launch36 graduates who can help to coach a new generation of entrepreneurs.

Propel will also use the services of Moncton-based Clarity to link its entrepreneurs with thousands of international mentors. Founded by serial entrepreneur Dan Martell, Clarity links entrepreneurs and business people with the best advisers in different fields from around the world.

MacAusland said Propel, which now has two staff members, will likely expand to a staff of five this year with the goal of eventually increasing to seven people.

Propel has no plans to own a working space for its member companies as some accelerators do, largely because its mission is to mentor startups across a broad geographic area. Similarly, the group will continue to be a not-for-profit organization and will not be affiliated with a fund that invests in the companies it mentors.

The government announcement had been expected for several months, and follows an intense effort in October by a number of groups in the region to land the CAIP funding. 

Teaching Youth Art, Entrepreneurship

A strong smell of pizza, along with words like “futurepreneur” and “artpreneur” drift in the air as the first cohort of ArtPreneur 2.0 meet at the Halifax offices of the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development, or CEED. This is the second of eight meetings for the young artists who are here to learn skills they hope will help them turn their talents into profitable businesses.

A collaboration between CEED and the Youth Art Connection, a group that partners with community organizations and professional artists to deliver programs that empower youth, the new eight-week business incubation program offers 15 young creators the opportunity to learn useful skills, such as creating a business plan.

“At (the art connection) we are very concerned about the issues youth are facing in Nova Scotia right now,” said Ryan Veltmeyer, co-founder of the organization with his wife Ann Denny.

“High youth unemployment rates, stress and mental-health challenges and a cultural gap with older generations, are some of the issues causing young people to leave our province for opportunities elsewhere in Canada.”

Veltmeyer, himself a musician, said it makes sense to teach artists business skills as “every artist is an entrepreneur, but artists wouldn’t think to go to CEED.”

The students are receiving business training from CEED staff and mentoring from Veltmeyer, Denny, and hip-hop artists J-Bru and Shevy Price. The young artists will also attend off-site meetings, workshops and individual coaching sessions with the goal of designing a professional-level product or service by the end of the eight weeks.

“I’m hoping I can get the tools, help and advice I need to propel my business to the next level. Currently I’m selling my jewelry through word of mouth and online, but I want to make a name for myself here in Halifax,” said participant Aaron Stevens of X.A.C. Productions.

This is the first of this kind of program for CEED, although the organization has over a decade of creating programs that connect youth to the workforce through either entrepreneurship or employment.

CEED education and small-business consultant Melissa MacMaster said the students in this group are younger than those in regular cohorts and the program has been adapted to their specific needs. Students are looking at creative industries in some depth. All the artpreneurs will present and pitch their product or service at the ArtCeleration event on July 8 at the offices of sponsor McInnes Cooper.

As he sat down, pizza in hand, ready to learn how to write a business plan, rapper Nima Tabatabaei, 18, said he has been rapping since he was 12 and had decided it was time to learn the business side of the music industry. “I’ve learned a lot so far,” he added.

AVF, Launch36 Prove Our Progress

To assess the superb quality of the companies on display in Halifax this week, we should start with Charlottetown drug discovery company Neurodyn, which captured the best growth stage company at the Atlantic Venture Forum.

It’s difficult to highlight just this company.  You could choose DeCell Technologies of Halifax, which won the award for the best early-stage company.  Or any of the five companies that pitched Monday night at the Launch36 DemoDay. Or the other 24 startups that presented at the AVF. You could even focus on topLog of Halifax, which missed these events but was at metabridge 2014 in Kelowna, B.C. as one of the Top 15 startups in Canada.

Suffice it to say the quality of these young companies was exceptional. It can be seen in the comments from visiting venture capital fund managers, who validated the feeling in Atlantic Canada that our startups can compete anywhere.

“At Launch36 last night, the teams were incredible,” Jeff Grammer, a Boston-based Partner with Rho Canada Ventures, said Tuesday. “They were equal to or better than the teams we see at accelerators across Canada. The energy and camaraderie were incredible.”

Let’s focus on Neurodyn, which specializes in treating diseases of the brain such as Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. Last year, it bought a drug candidate called Memogain, an updated compound that had already been developed and commercialized in Germany. Neurodyn bought the drug because it displayed stronger treatment powers than existing drugs for Alzheimer’s, with none of the awful side effects such as diarrhea.

Neurodyn Executive Director Bob Cervelli said the company decided to test the drug not on old people with dementia problems, but on young, healthy people. They gave some college students a battery of cognition tests, gave them Memogain (some received a placebo) and then had them take more tests. The cognitive powers of those who’d taken Memogain increased dramatically.

“We saw not side effects – we expected that,” said Cervelli. “But we noticed improved memory performance, and this is in healthy adults.”

He added the drug could have an accelerated regulatory process for two reasons: first, there has not been a new Alzheimer’s medication in 11 years so the Food and Drug Administration has lowered the bar somewhat for such drugs; and second, Memogain is a derivative of a previously approved drug and can build on previous tests.

The company, which is also developing other drugs, is now looking for $10 million in equity funding to finance the development of Memogain.

Neurodyn is a graphic illustration of the great stories being told by Atlantic Canadian startups, and I don’t have the space here to tell the others.  But the written AVF program shows how a broad range of our startups are performing, because it reveals the revenue data for 22 of the 26 startups that presented at the forum.

In 2013, these companies reported total revenue of $4.0 million. Ours is a young startup community and only seven of these companies had sales of more than $20,000 last year.

We’re now half-way through 2014 and these companies have a pretty good idea of their sales for this year. They estimate a total of $13.8 million – an increase of almost 250 percent. Eight of the companies are expecting to book revenue of $1 million or more.

As for their forecasts for 2014, you would expect startup founders to be optimistic about their prospects. So we could take this with a sizeable grain of salt. But for what it’s worth, these 22 companies are forecasting $56.9 million in revenue in 2015 – a gain of 13 times over 2013.

If these projections miss the mark by 50 percent, these companies will still report better than 600 percent revenue growth over two years. It speaks to the quality – not to mention the breadth of markets – on display this week. 

Car Service Uber Comes to Halifax

Uber, a car-for-hire service that’s created controversy across the continent, has come to Halifax.

The San Francisco company announced Wednesday that it has launched its service in Halifax, so a fleet of drivers can now use its app to communicate with customers and accept payments.

Uber, which began five years ago, provides users with a smartphone app that takes their credit card number and connects them with a fleet of cars. When users need a car, the app shows a map of their immediate vicinity and outlines what cars are nearby. They can view the ratings of each driver as determined by previous users, order the car they want and watch its progress on the map. The rider doesn’t have to fumble for change at the end of the trip because the ride is paid for through the app and a receipt emailed out immediately.

 “It’s great to see this spreading across to Halifax now,” said general manager Ian Black in an interview at the Atlantic Venture Forum in Halifax on Wednesday. “What’s important for us is to offer a high level of service to our customers.”

Uber offers taxi services in some cities and black car limousine services in others. For example, it offers both services in Toronto and just a taxi service in Montreal. Halifax will be its third Canadian city and will offer only the black car service at first.

In entering other markets, Uber has met with strong opposition from both taxi operators and those that regulate the industry. Reuters reported last year that Uber has faced licensing offences in Toronto, been declared illegal in New York, and served with cease-and-desist orders by regulators from California to Massachusetts.

The problem is that Uber either is a taxi service or performs many of the tasks of a taxi service, and taxis are a heavily regulated industry. Taxi operators usually require licences, so some jurisdictions have tried to have Uber behave like traditional taxi companies.

 “The problem is that the laws weren’t written to account for technology that exists today,” said Black. “In most cities, taxis are a large and entrenched lobby group, so they pushed back.”

What many drivers have found over time, he said, is that Uber actually helps them because the service allows them to make more money. Riders also prefer it, he said, because it allows greater flexibility contacting, selecting, rating and paying drivers.

Uber began four years ago when founders Travis Kalanick and Calgary native Garrett Camp grew tired of waiting for cabs in San Francisco, so they developed a smartphone app that would improve the experience of ordering a cab. The company has since spread to 140 cities, notwithstanding the controversy. Black said the company has lined up a fleet of Halifax drivers — he wouldn’t say how many — and users can now download the app on Uber.com.

Press Release: SHIFT in Vancouver

SHIFT Energy, a Saint John company that is developing automated energy-control systems for large facilities, issued the following press release yesterday with Canucks Sports & Entertainment:


17 June 2014, Vancouver, BC

Canucks Sports & Entertainment (CSE), in conjunction with SHIFT Energy, announced the launch of a comprehensive, automated Energy Optimization System (EOS™) at Rogers Arena. As part of CSE’s commitment to environmental sustainability and energy conservation, SHIFT’s EOS solution, the first enterprise-wide Intelligent Live Recommissioning solution on the market, will allow for significant reduction in energy consumption. 

 “As a live events facility, Rogers Arena has a dynamic, complex footprint of energy usage,” Al Hutchings, Director of Facility Operations and Engineering at Rogers Arena.  “EOS™ is able to fine-tune the entire facility from HVAC to chillers to lighting - optimizing the facility in real-time, while respecting our event management needs.  We feed the EOS™ solution with our event needs and the system takes care of the energy and space planning, continuously adjusting the equipment setpoints for optimal efficiency and performance.  The result is big savings without significant changes to our daily operations.”

EOS™ began as a pilot project in June of 2013.  After six months of development and another three months of engineering implementation, EOS is live at Rogers Arena, saving 14 percent of total energy in the arena. 

“We were very pleased to have the Canucks collaborate with us on the development of EOS™,” Brock Sansom, President and CEO of SHIFT Energy said commenting about the launch. “The joint effort has produced an excellent result – establishing a new paradigm in building energy management.  When big data analytics, cloud computing and the Internet of Things are combined with engineering principles, a new era of energy waste reduction begins.  We have taken an ‘intelligent-ready’ building and truly made it an ‘intelligent building ‘.”

The sophisticated intelligence powering EOS™ is a collection of patent-pending algorithms that have been developed by SHIFT over the past five years.  These algorithms, combined with recent technological advances, have enabled EOS™ to derive a new, optimal energy plan for a building each minute of the day and immediately action the plan using the existing building automation systems.  EOS saves $.30 to $.80 per minute for each building, resulting in an average annual portfolio energy savings of 15% to 35%.

About Rogers Arena

Owned by Canucks Sports & Entertainment (CSE), Rogers Arena is home to the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League and operates as one of the most active and versatile entertainment venues in North America. Rogers Arena has welcomed more than 23.6 million visitors through its doors since opening in September 1995.

In March 2011, CSE became a founding member of the Green Sports Alliance along with a num­ber of professional sports teams based in the Pacific Northwest. This alliance offers the opportunity for leagues, teams and venues to build on individual greening initiatives by working together to implement effective, science-based and measurable environmental programs. Concourse recycling and food waste disposal are now available for fans to use.

Singh Sets Sites on Incubators, Grants

When Paul Singh speaks, it’s usually a good idea to forget the F-bombs and concentrate on the wisdom and candor of the other 60-percent of his speech.

When he returned to the Atlantic Venture Forum yesterday morning, he set the tone for the discussion for the rest of the day by challenging some of the pillars of the Atlantic Canadian ecosystem, including the availability of government grants and the number of incubators and accelerators.

Singh is the founder of Disruption Corporation in Washington, D.C., which operates the $50 million Crystal Tech Fund. Last year, when he was with 500 Startups, he was the keynote speaker at the AVF. He has a tremendous global perspective because he travels constantly, visiting startup events around the world.

And his cheerfully foul-mouthed oratory Tuesday pulled no punches in telling entrepreneurs to sharpen their game and to realize they can compete with their peers in the U.S.

“I think you guys have a confidence problem,” Singh told local startup founders during a panel discussion. “Canadian founders have to realize they’re just as smart as their counterparts in the U.S.” (I must have a puritanical pen – none of the quotes I jotted down included his expletives.)

He bemoaned the politeness and lack of aggression of the entrepreneurs he meets in Canada, and said there is a huge problem with companies exiting too early in the country.

Singh has heard that Atlantic Canada has become the development shop of Salesforce.com due to the San Francisco giant’s acquisitions in the region. But he said the problem is founders are exiting too early and too cheap. So large American companies are buying startups “for pennies” because our entrepreneurs don’t have the resources or confidence to move through the growth phase.

Canadian venture capitalists and other investors should be looking at ways to let founders remain in business longer, he said. For example, U.S. investors are now doing growth-stage rounds in growing companies that would allow the founders to take money out of the company, improve their lifestyle and continue to grow the company.

Singh also warned that the startup community has to be more aware of the costs of growing businesses. “While it’s true that it’s cheaper than ever to start a startup, it’s also true that it’s never been more expensive to grow a business,” he said. “When you hire people, you have to pay them a market rate.”

His sharpest criticisms were for our dual reliance on incubators and grants.

On incubators and accelerators:  “Most of them misunderstand their goal. Most of them are this Kumbaya  thing rather than weeding out the companies that are failing.”

He said he hates going to accelerator demodays that are celebrations of mediocre companies. On the flip side, he loves going to the Start-up Chile demoday because the organizers announce how many companies started the program and how many graduated, highlight those that fell by the wayside.

On grants: “They’re a great idea but you’ve got a lot of living-dead companies.” He said the government grants let companies survive when they should be allowed to die so their employees can join more productive businesses. “A lot of talent is locked up in things that aren’t going to happen.”

Not everyone agreed with all of Singh’s views. Keynote speaker Dan Park, the Calgary-based Vice-President of Azure Capital said he likes the opportunities for leverage that are offered by so many government programs.

Park’s speech outlined the opportunities for e-commerce in Canada. He noted the market is now dominated by Amazon, which is growing in Canada. That’s a good thing because it will lower shipping rates and develop a greater mindset among Canadian consumers to buy online. That will create opportunities for Canadian entrepreneurs.


Proposify Named to Techvibes 20

On the day it delivered a superb pitch at Atlantic Venture Forum, Halifax-based Proposify was named Tuesday to the Techvibes 20.

Launched in February, the Techvibes 20 is a bi-monthly list of the hottest and most promising tech startups across Canada. The list is carefully curated by Techvibes editorial staff and reflects who's making waves in our nation's tech ecosystem right now.

Proposify’s founders Kyle Racki and Kevin Springer recently sold their web design firm Headspace Design so they could concentrate full time on Proposify. Formerly called PitchPerfect, the company helps service providers produce professional-looking written proposals.

The company has about 20 paying customers and raised a funding round of $670,000, including an investment from Innovacorp and loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. 

Launch36’s Cohort 4 Focuses on Sales

A few hundred startup enthusiasts gathered at Pier 21 in Halifax on Monday evening to graduate the fourth cohort of tech companies from Launch36, the regional startup accelerator.

While the headline story is five more tech companies progressing into the real economy, the deeper story is about the quality of great mentorship growing out of New Brunswick and spreading through the region.

Dealing with the headline first, the graduating companies include:

Adeptio, Charlottetown, which offers software and programs for personal coaches;

HotSpot Parking, Fredericton, which allows for remote payment of parking meters and helps small businesses manage customer relationships;

• KinderGuardian, Moncton, which is developing a game monetization platform;

Qimple, Moncton, which helps companies to manage and analyze applications when hiring people;

• And Resson Aerospace, Fredericton, whose aerial surveillance system helps farmers detect crop diseases.

What was impressive about the pitches was the emphasis on revenue. KinderGuardian was only devised in January, and is therefore pre-revenue, but the other four companies are already drawing clients. Resson has signed a $1.48 million first contract. Qimple raked in $200,000 last year and is on track for $400,000 in revenue next year; its target for 2015 is $1.2 million. Hotspot has 3,000 users and has programs operating in Fredericton and Saint John. It will soon add Halifax. It’s expecting sales of $600,000 this year. Adeptio has doubled its customer base just in the 12 weeks it was in the Launch36 program and is forecasting $400,000 in revenues in 2015.

With this graduation in the books, Launch36 now has 29 alumni companies. That means that with one more seven-member cohort, executive director Trevor MacAusland will have achieved the goal he established two and a half years ago — to launch 36 companies in 36 months.

These graduates should be ready to attract investment and take their products to market. BDC Ventures has an agreement with Launch36 (and other accelerators) to assess their graduating companies, and grant a $150,000 convertible note to those it deems “investment ready.” Three of the six companies in the last cohort received these notes. The assessment of the fourth cohort will be completed in the next few weeks.

Launch36 is operated by PropelICT, a startup support group that started in New Brunswick 10 years ago and is determined to spread its work across the region. It has graduated companies from the three Maritime provinces and is working to bring in its first Newfoundland and Labrador startup. And the fact its latest graduation ceremony was held in Halifax shows its regional ambitions.

The reason this is important is New Brunswick is ground zero for mentorship in the region, and mentorship is absolutely essential in developing great companies. While more companies have formed in Nova Scotia in the past two years than in the other provinces, New Brunswick has a stronger record for whipping companies into shape.

When we surveyed Atlantic Canadian startups this year, 76 Nova Scotian companies shared their revenue data with us, while the number was 41 in New Brunswick. Those 76 Nova Scotia companies recorded sales of $35.8 million in 2013, whereas the figure for those 41 New Brunswick companies was $33.2 million.

We’ve dug down into the data and can find no single reason that New Brunswick is generating more revenue on a per-company basis than Nova Scotia. But a huge factor is that the province has a stronger, more established and co-ordinated network of mentors. It recently launched The Mentra Co-operative, which will co-ordinate and promote mentorship in the region.

Monday night’s celebration — and the Atlantic Venture Forum, which begins today — are showing the products of that wave of mentorship. It’s already spreading through the region and will continue to do so.