AutoPulse Plans Launch in 2016

A few months after musing with his father about new technologies for the automotive industry, Sam Jesso is one step away from capturing more than $200,000 in seed funding and services to develop such a product.

Jesso heads AutoPulse, a Fredericton startup designing technology that helps auto dealerships monitor their customers’ cars.

Last week, the University of New Brunswick software engineering student found out AutoPulse was a finalist for the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition. The top three finalists, who will be named March 19, will divide a prize pot worth about $750,000.

“When we were working on our first business plan, we started before we’d even heard of the Breakthru competition,” Jesso said in an interview Sunday, together with his co-founder Kristin Killam.

“We plan on going forward regardless of the outcome, but winning would help because it would reduce the need for money.”

The story of AutoPulse began when Jesso did a few work terms in his co-op program with Blue Spurs Consulting in Fredericton, and he became intrigued with the startup world. Then in October, he and his father, Reg, a portfolio manager with an auto dealership, began to discuss the opportunities for new technology in the auto trade.

They teamed up with Killam, a business administration student at UNB, and soon devised a data-based product.

AutoPulse works off existing hardware that is simple to install and operates with the onboard computer in most cars on the road. The system automatically monitors the workings of the car and can detect early signs that problems may arise. AutoPulse transmits the information to a mobile or desktop dashboard at the dealership.

The idea is to provide the dealership with data so it can initiate a service call, rather than wait for a car owner to get around to it. That means the dealership can contact car owners before they even know there is something wrong, thus improving service. It also means a dealership can order parts before a car even arrives at the shop.

That reduces “unsold service capacity,” or having parts sitting around the dealership in case they’re needed. And it facilitates scheduling an appointment by putting the two parties in touch.

“From a competitive standpoint, there are multiple (customer relationship management devices) for dealerships, and what a lot of them focus on is lead conversion for sales,” said Jesso.

“But these are, for the most part, manual entry databases or, at best, they’re estimations. We think there is some value in that information being real-time.”

Though they’re still a few years away from graduation, Jesso and Killam plan to launch the first version of their product in early 2016. They already have four dealerships signed up to test it.

And they believe the cost of developing the software will only be about $25,000, meaning they can proceed regardless of how they do in the Breakthru event.


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: Local Prosperity Event

The Centre for Local Prosperity has issued the following press release:

Regional Economics Conference planned for April 2015

(Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia) March 2, 2015.    It is widely known that small rural communities in Atlantic Canada are struggling.  A regional conference has been organized to address these issues with fresh ideas.  The conference is entitled “Local Prosperity: New Economics for Rural Canada” (, and is taking place April 9-12, 2015, in Annapolis County.

One of the organizers, Gregory Heming, an Annapolis County municipal councilor and President of the Centre for Local Prosperity, says, “Finding solutions to the increasing economic, social and ecological disintegration of small rural communities may seem difficult, but practical and achievable solutions are possible. There are many examples from which we can draw inspiration.”

Heming is part of a group of individuals from several Nova Scotia communities that have banded together to create the non-profit organization Centre for Local Prosperity, located in Annapolis County. The mission of the Centre is to assist rural Atlantic Canadian communities in initiating self-empowering projects and activities that result in the creation of more prosperous and enlightened communities.

Conference organizers have been keeping abreast of many new projects and ideas initiated in small communities in the region and elsewhere in Canada, the U.S. and internationally. Robert Cervelli, a resident of St. Margarets Bay and one of the conference organizers, says many innovative communities have been successful in meeting the rural challenge. Cervelli says, “The conference will focus on how individuals, businesses and communities can design and then implement a future that is cooperative, compassionate and long-term.  We intend to provide an innovative and full tool-box of ideas.”

The conference brings together more than 35 local, national, and international speakers with expertise in new models for community economic development. 

Conference working sessions highlight innovative approaches, such as local investment in new community enterprises, shared community resources, community enterprise hubs, complementary currencies, innovative ways to rejuvenate a town’s “main street,” small farms as economic drivers, development of local food infrastructure, adding value to fisheries, rebuilding value from our forests, the importance of arts and culture economy, and new models of municipal governance.

The conference is being held in an innovative mix of venues in Annapolis County and the town of Annapolis Royal, including the Annapolis Royal Regional Academy, recently vacated and seeking a new purpose, and the successfully converted Pearson Peacekeeping Centre in Cornwallis now serving as the Annapolis Basin Conference Centre.

 “The conference is intended for anyone inspired to revitalize their community,” says Heming, who goes on to list farmers, fishermen, foresters, community leaders, elected representatives, business and industry leaders, small business owners, students, start-up entrepreneurs, agency and association representatives, and local residents.

Organizers of the conference on rural economic development are encouraging early registration. For more information about the conference visit links below.

For more information, contact:

Gregory Heming                               902-955-1267           

Robert Cervelli                  902-222-4391           

Press Release: Next Propel Cohort

Propel ICT, Atlantic Canada’s startup accelerator, has issued the following press release:

Propel ICT Opens Up Applications For Next Round of Startup Programs

Programs Offered for New Startups or Established Early-Stage Companies.

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – Propel ICT, Atlantic Canada’s startup accelerator, today opened up applications for companies to take part in its next round of accelerator programs. Propel ICT’s Launch program is for new companies just getting started, while its ¬Build program is for more established early-stage companies. Applications will be available until 5 p.m. on May 1st, 2015.

“We are seeing steady growth and maturation of the startup ecosystem in Atlantic Canada. More companies are forming and finding success in attracting investment and customers,” said Gary Dinn, Propel ICT CEO. “With Propel ICT’s Launch and Build programs, we want to continue that trend and provide meaningful guidance to the entrepreneurs that will transform our economy.”

Propel ICT is a private-sector led initiative that helps companies take ideas to market and build successful businesses. Working with partner organizations, Propel ICT and its volunteer coaches and mentors support entrepreneurs as they build innovative solutions, create jobs and drive new opportunities throughout Atlantic Canada. Propel ICT helped launch 75 companies since it was founded a decade ago.

Propel ICT’s Launch program, formerly known as Start, helps entrepreneurs get started with a new or pre-revenue business, creating strong teams that take good ideas and turn them into market ready products or services. Launch programming is delivered by Propel ICT at the offices of Community Partners throughout Atlantic Canada, including Planet Hatch in Fredericton, Volta in Halifax and Common Ground and StartupNL in St. John’s.

Propel ICT’s intensive Build program helps early-stage, revenue-generating companies gain traction, find needed funding and grow. Build participants then work directly with mentors, coaches and peers to learn how best to build their business, refining product offerings, opening up new markets and generating more revenue. Startups in this program are eligible for BDC’s $150,000 convertible note program.  

“Propel ICT was an extraordinary experience. We learned from top tier mentors that built successful companies, and also from our peers that are facing similar challenges. Taking part in Propel ICT’s program allowed us to move faster in building our company and it gave us a huge leap forward,” said Sarah Murphy of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Sentinel Alert, a company that provides innovative workplace safety solutions.

Participation in the Launch or Build programs is available to all entrepreneurs based in Atlantic Canada. Space in each program is limited. To learn more or to apply, visit



Venture for Canada Deadline Sunday

The final Fellow application deadline for this year's Venture4Canada cohort is March 1st, 2015.  

Venture for Canada is a career accelerator for recent grads, who want to learn how to build a business, while making an impact. 

Fellows join a cohort that includes a former Apple engineer, alumni of The Next 36, and a Top 20 Under 20 recipient.  Fellows have the opportunity of working at one of Venture for Canada's 90 Partner Startups, and receive five weeks of training at Queen's University.

The applications are available here.

Zed’s Entrepreneurship Education

Robert Zed: 'Entrepreneurs are born, but the skills can be taught and fine-tuned.'

Robert Zed: 'Entrepreneurs are born, but the skills can be taught and fine-tuned.'

After five years of volunteering as a high school entrepreneurship teacher, Robert Zed is working on a new venture of his own, one that will bring entrepreneurship education to many.

Zed, chairman of Triangle Strategies of Halifax, helps a teacher at Citadel High School teach an entrepreneurship program to Grade 12 students.

“It started when one of my sons took me into school for a show and tell session,” said Zed.

“The school program is very practical. We examine launching, growing and sustaining a business. We have a module called Food for Thought, where we look at one kind of food, such as Oreo cookies, and examine how they are marketed, distributed or packaged, etc.

“We also have icebreaker thought-starters. Each student in the class makes a brief presentation or answers a question or reports on a current news flash. Presentation skills are vital in entrepreneurship.”

The students create their own businesses, and the year concludes with the Phoenix Nest Competition sponsored by Scotiabank and local companies, while local entrepreneurs act as judges.

Zed said that some former students and interns that he has mentored have gone on to start businesses, notably Alex MacLean, founder of East Coast Lifestyle Clothing.

The classroom experience has inspired Zed to create Prime 101, which will launch across Canada by September 2016 and offer a curriculum in entrepreneurship.

“We are working on the curriculum now,” said Zed.

“It will have an online component. We will roll it out to school boards, First Nations and others that want to learn about entrepreneurship.”

Zed hopes Prime 101 will play an important role in increasing knowledge about entrepreneurship, something he thinks particularly important in this region.

“We need people trained and ready to start, grow and sustain businesses. I believe entrepreneurs are born, but the skills can be taught and fine-tuned.”

Prime 101 will be just the latest in a varied group of businesses for Zed who, early in his career, established Crothall Services Canada, which provides out-sourced management solutions for hospitals and schools. He sold Crothall after leading the company to nearly $30 million in annual revenue.

Today, he heads Triangle Strategies, which is the umbrella organization for a group of companies that cover health-care strategy and navigation, hospitality and event production.

Zed said there is no secret to success, believing it stems from hard work, focus and accountability.

He has had many mentors since his own entrepreneurial career began when he was young.

“My first business was a Kool-Aid stand when I was four. Then I had candy and hot dog ventures and a clothing venture with my brother.”

He gained degrees in health administration, public administration and hospital management, later becoming an administrator at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.

“Then I felt the return of that childhood entrepreneurial spirit and bought a company. I’d missed the fun.”

Zed has recently launched an event called FANfit Challenge with Dartmouth’s Olympic paddler Andrew Russell. It will benefit Canada’s Olympians, and the two have just partnered with the Canadian Olympic Foundation.

Zed said he finds the time to mentor and run varied ventures because he is able to rely on his teams.

“I think great teams are the basis of entrepreneurship. I believe in giving someone responsibility and opportunity and letting them make mistakes.”

He said mentors should ask questions and give support and advice. The questions help entrepreneurs clarify their vision.

“In today’s competitive world, where young entrepreneurs are starting up around the globe, good mentors can mean the difference between success and failure.”





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.

A Look at Failures in 2014

Entrevestor recently completed its second survey of Atlantic Canadian startups, and one of the striking figures was the number of companies that vanished in 2014.

Here are the basics. Of the 290 companies we surveyed last year, eight were acquired or merged with other startups. Nine moved outside the region. There were 43 that either went out of business or never really moved beyond a group of dreamers with an idea.

So the headline number is that about 15 per cent of the startups we were tracking at the end of 2013 went under or never got going. But the deeper truth is more complicated, nuanced by the makeup of the startup community and by its attitude toward failure.

In many respects, the startup community is a pyramid, with a clutch of strong companies at the top and a broad range of the weak and experimental at the bottom. The bottom tier includes teams that intend to develop into companies but in actual fact are just a few people coming together to work on an idea. We include them in our dataset because some do morph into robust companies, and it’s impossible at the early stage to tell who will survive.

The strength of any startup community is that you have this mishmash of talent and ambition at the bottom. They come together and try something. If it doesn’t work, they break apart and try something else.

One of the catchphrases heard frequently is “fail fast, fail often.” The community operates off lean methodology, under which you come up with an idea and ask several potential clients what they think. If you find problems, you adjust your business model to fix them. If you find lots of problems, you abandon your idea promptly before you spend too much time and money on a fruitless venture. Then you try something else.

It’s a model that works, as some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the community went through failures. And the startup types frequently talk about “celebrating failure” because persevering is a badge of honour.

Again, the truth is more complex than getting giddy about failure. Startups are hard work, and people can give up too soon if failure is too viable an option.

What’s more, these ventures often accept government money. The departments that write these cheques understand that some businesses will fail, but taxpayers rightfully want to be assured that the number will be kept to a minimum.

And people suffer when bona fide companies go bankrupt. The 43 that failed last year had employed 58 people on a full- or part-time basis at the end of 2013.

That actually understates the pain, as one had laid off more than 20 people a few months before it collapsed.

In total, about four of these startups were bona fide companies that six or more people depended on for their livelihoods. Obviously, dozens of people suffered from the closures.

Meanwhile, 26 of the failed companies had no paid employees.

Startup failure is indeed a complicated subject. But one more metric produced from the survey is that about 63 startups launched in Atlantic Canada in 2014.

Startups open. Startups close. And some linger to become big.


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.

WaitShare Aims at Clinic Wait Times

Fredericton-based VeroSource Solutions, a tech startup that incorporated last year, has launched its first product WaitShare, a free app that aims to inform the public about wait times at walk-in clinics and emergency rooms.

Though several startups have tried to tackle the problem of people spending too long to wait to see a doctor, WaitShare relies on crowdsourcing to build up information on wait times. The idea is to give a patients an idea which facilities near them would offer the fastest service so they can choose the most efficient option.

“As a mother, I’ve been in the situation of having a sick child and not know which ER would give us the quickest attention, and sometimes had trouble finding out when the local after hours clinic opened,” said Christina Taylor, VeroSource’s spokesperson. “That’s why we developed this app, to help parents and other patients get access to that information, so that they could get the quickest health care available to them.”

A nine-member team with a background in healthcare has been working on WaitShare since 2012, either as investors, workers or a combination of the two. Taylor said that a core of six people did most of the work.

The team launched WaitShare in late January and received coverage in the Fredericton Gleaner and CBC, which gave an instant boost to the product. The team had been hoping to get 500 users by the end of February, but by last week the number had already reached 800. They hope to reach 2500 users by the end of March. Most of the users are now concentrated in New Brunswick, but the team hopes to roll it out across Canada and then beyond the country’s borders.

WaitShare works by asking members to report on the app the wait times in the facilities they’re using. That means that other people can consult the app to see which facility in their vicinity offers the fastest service. Users can sort the information by the service they need, and the app tells them the fastest combination of driving time and wait time.

It also tells users where the nearest health facilities to them and gives information like operating hours and services offered.

Taylor said in an interview the target market is largely mothers of children, and VeroSource believes mothers’ customary willingness to help one another should ensure the app is populated with useful information.  

The app is free and available on the App Store and Google Play. Taylor declined to reveal the team’s plan to monetize the product. WaitShare can operate independently of the health authorities, but the team would like to work with clinics and hospitals to get their information on the app.

“WaitShare is about the local community taking control of the information that you and your neighbors need about your local health facilities,” said Mark McAllister, VeroSource’s CTO. “Information that your local health facilities can’t provide on an ongoing real time basis.  Along the way, friends, strangers and visitors to your area using WaitShare are all helped by the community’s acts of caring.”



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.


Press Release: CBMC Deadline

The Rowe School of Business at Dalhousie University has issued the following press release:

Call for Student Startups: Canada’s Business Model Competition

Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business is hosting Canada’s Business Model Competition (CBMC) on March 13th and 14th. The event gives student entrepreneurs from across Canada an opportunity to showcase their startups, expand their networks, and compete for prizes. This is the last week for students to submit an application before the deadline on February 28th at midnight AST.

The organizers are expecting 25-30 applications from top ranked universities from across Canada to compete for a share of the $50,000 Deloitte Smart Launch Award. Last year Teknically from Wilfrid Laurier University received the first prize of $25,000 in cash and in-kind services from Deloitte. Sparkgig from the University of Waterloo captured the $15,000 second prize package, and Santé West from the University of British Columbia won the $10,000 third-place prize package

Canada’s Business Model Competition is sanctioned as the national qualifier competition for the International Business Model Competition (IBMC). The first place team will win $25,000 in cash and in-kind services and will advance to the IBMC at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, in early May.

The event is organized by the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship at the Rowe School of Business.

The Centre’s Director, Dr. Ed Leach says, “Canada’s Business Model Competition is a truly national event; we have teams applying from coast to coast. It’s a great opportunity for student entrepreneurs and innovators. And the event showcases the capacity of our region to be the go-to venue for a national event like this. ”

The Newman Centre and Dalhousie University – along with their partners, Deloitte and McInnes Cooper -- are looking to host more student startups, provide more learning and have a bigger impact on the Canadian university start-up ecosystem than last year.

For more information, visit our website: Appli.cations are open until February 28th, 2015 and you can apply here: And i.f you have any questions, please contact one of our event organizers using the contact information listed below!

Information Contact:

Akram Al-Otumi

Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship

Dalhousie University


Kathleen Heymans

Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship

Dalhousie University


McRock, NBIF in $3M RtTech Deal

RtTech Software, whose state-of-the-art automation helps industrial companies improve manufacturing processes, will announce Tuesday that it has closed a $3-million venture capital round led by the world’s leading industrial Internet of things fund.

McRock Capital's new McRock iNFund LP will invest as much as $2.5 million in the Moncton company, while the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation will contribute $500,000.

The fund is backed by major institutions, such as Cisco Investments, Teralys Capital Innovation LP and BDC Capital, and will be worth about $65 million when funding closes this year. Co-founder Scott MacDonald said it is the world’s only fund investing exclusively in the industrial Internet of things, which uses software and sensors to automate industrial processes more quickly and precisely than a group of humans could.

“It’s an honour and a privilege that they’ve invested in us,” said RtTech CEO Pablo Asiron in an interview. “They’ve been looking at a lot of companies, and they had a lot of other options where they could have put their money. For me, it’s a sign that they believe in the things we’re doing.”

MacDonald echoed the comments in a separate interview, saying he and his partner, Whitney Rockley, have been examining companies from across North America and were most impressed by RtTech’s plan to release a software-as-a-service product in the coming months.

RtTech was spun out of ADM Systems Engineering of Moncton four years ago. Its main products are RtEMIS, which can pinpoint when and where part of a system is using excess energy, and RtDUET, which allows companies to examine specific processes to find the cause of downtime and poor utilization issues.

MacDonald said RtTech makes what he calls “industrial software apps,” meaning it takes data an industrial company already has and uses it in automated systems that improve performance.

Now the company is preparing to release its cloud-based product, which will allow easier distribution and reduce the customer’s implementation cost.

“It opens a bigger market than the one we are currently serving because it requires less capital investment,” said Asiron.

MacDonald said it is one of the first cloud-based products in the industrial Internet of things segment, and it will make these processes more affordable. Older forms of software would have required the manufacturer to have its own servers and information technology staff dedicated to the project, but cloud-based products remove such expenses.

“There are a lot of medium-sized manufacturing companies that don’t have the budget for this,” said MacDonald.

“But when you go into the cloud, you can get the same functionality as a massive company like Michelin without buying monolithic software.”

With the new product and funding, RtTech will build up its sales and marketing staff. It has 11 employees, mostly in product development, and plans to hire about 10 sales and marketing specialists in the coming year.

Up to now, Asiron has handled the lion’s share of sales, with considerable success. RtTech has clients in 14 countries and its sales increased about 20 per cent last year. Asiron and his new backer both expect stronger results with the new product.

“RtTech is one of the unique companies pushing into it, and Pablo has sales with the cloud-based product,” said MacDonald. “He’s not just dreaming about it. He’s already doing it.”

Press Release: Breakthru Finalists

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation has issued the following press release:


After months of work for our five finalist teams, the idea of becoming entrepreneurs remains a dream. But three of them will become exactly that, receiving over $750,000 in investments and professional services from our partners to start their own company—and a new life.

Breakthru tickets are already selling fast. Get yours now before we sell out! Breakthru LIVE - March 19th at the Fredericton Convention Centre - is one of the most anticipated events of the season. In addition to a cocktail reception and dinner, the audience will get to see each finalist pitch onstage, enjoy a live band, and special musical performances by the Calithumpians Theatre Troupe.

The five finalists are:


Team leader: Samuel Jesso

Autopulse’s technology communicates vehicle problems and warnings to the dealership or service center of your choice, in real time. Service center staff will receive an alert about your vehicle’s issue along with all of the data from the onboard computer. Equipped with this information, the service center can reach out to the customer, give a general explanation of the problem, the time, effort and estimated cost of the repair, and book an appointment—increasing customer retention while reducing unsold service capacity.


Team leader: Keith Brunt

BioMatrix’s product, Naqua-Pure, is a magnetic compound that provides cost effective removal of heavy metals in waste water, and is simple to use. It is non-toxic, non-corrosive and safe to handle. An adsorbent, Naqua-Pure increases the density and facilitates the drying of post-treatment wastewater sludge to the extent that it can be used in bio, or plasma reactors for energy generation. Finally, the leftover heavy metals, now ultra dense (vitrified) can be forever removed from the environment.

Castaway Golf Technologies

Team leader: Josh Ogden

Castaway Golf has developed a new machine that will dredge and clean almost all the balls at the bottom of the bog. Additional technology sorts the balls into the 200 different models so they can be repackaged and resold by brand and kind. Castaway’s system will increase major ball makers’ revenues on resold balls while saving millions dollars per year in manual sorting costs. Finding lost golf balls, repackaging and selling them is a big business, a $400 million business.

SimpTek Technologies

Team leader: Keelen Gagnon

SimpTek Technologies provides customers with the ability to control and understand how energy is being consumed in their homes using innovative artificial intelligence technology. As many jurisdictions move towards “Smart Grids” and “Smart Homes”, SimpTek’s solution has the ability to understand consumers’ energy usage behaviours, while making predictions and providing actionable recommendations. At the same time, the system will allow utilities reduce their peak loads and base loads with in a more precise and predictable way.

Smart Castle Labs

Team leader: Elaheh Biglar

Today’s children are exposed to the Internet at a very early age. They play with tablets, smartphones and all sorts of digital devices, but the safety measures of most are far from adequate.  Smart Castle Lab’s product, DrawBridge, is a hardware device that once plugged into a home network, will help protect children by filtering content they receive through their browser or apps, including inappropriate content, cyber bullying and child luring—including an alert to their caregivers. 

NB BioMatrix Prepares for Q4 Launch

NB BioMatrix, the New Brunswick cleantech company that won the BioInnovation Challenge last autumn, is developing into a bona fide business by adding staff and planning to launch late this year.

The Saint John company is using nano-technology to develop a biodegradable, anti-bacterial liquid that can remove heavy metals and other pollutants from waste water. The product, called Naqua-Pure, binds with water-soluble particles such as heavy metals and non-soluble components such as oil. It then uses electromagnetic forces to remove the material from water.

Founded by CEO Jeff Jennings and Chief Science Officer Keith Brunt, the company is now expanding by hiring a researcher, Kim Clarke, to help with the development of the product. The hiring is being carried out in collaboration with the Health and Environments Research Centre Laboratory at Dalhousie University, and Mitacs, a program that encourages research partnerships between academia and industry. The University of New Brunswick has also been a partner with the company.

“I really like involving co-op students and interns in the company,” said Brunt, an assistant professor at Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick. “They are so bright and open to possibility – it’s like a booster-shot of energy when they are around. Engaging our first full time staff adds to that magic and accelerates NBBM towards commercialization."

NB BioMatrix – whose tagline is “Solutions for Contaminated Solutions” -- said in a statement that Brewer will be focused on supporting the advancement of Naqua-Pure. With a PhD in chemical engineering, she will work on the scale-up of the manufacturing process and establish quality assurance protocols for the end consumer.

“We’ve got some early product prototypes and are working on the manufacturing and the chemistry in order to ramp it up,” said Jennings in an interview last week.

He and Brunt hope to launch Naqua-Pure in the fourth quarter by bringing an initial product to market and then ramping up the manufacturing as revenues come in. Jennings said the target market for the early product will be industrial manufacturing and the pulp and paper industry in Atlantic Canada, though they hope to eventually target a number of industrial processes.  

They have been working on a model that calls for initial equity funding of $225,000, but that total could be supplemented by revenues in the early production runs.

The founders have also entered NB BioMatrix in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition. The top three companies in the contest will receive funding and in-kind services of more than $200,000 each, so a strong showing in Breakthru would help the company a lot.

At the BioInnovation Challenge, a competition for Atlantic Canadian biotech and cleantech companies, Brunt told the judges that Naqua-Pure is a cost-effective product that can remove 98 percent of heavy metals from water within 10 minutes.


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.

Pond Offers $500K for Sales School

Gerry Pond has offered $500,000 to any university or other body in Atlantic Canada that establishes an academy to teach international sales.

The Co-Founder of Mariner and East Valley Ventures was the 15th panelist to speak on educational reform at an Association of Atlantic Universities symposium on Thursday. After several speakers had called for action and urgency, Pond brought the room to life by announcing he would contribute half a million bucks to any group that sets up an institute to teach curriculum in sales. (He said the winner can add the words “and marketing” if it likes, but the goal has to be the training of sales people.)

The focus on international sales – especially tech sales – is nothing new for Pond. He was an early investor in Q1 Labs and Radian6, the two most successful tech companies in the region. Since they announced exits in 2011, he has devoted his energy to funding and mentoring a succession of startups in the region. East Valley Ventures, of which he is a key member, has invested $10 million in about 30 startups. He is also a co-founder of the Pond-Deshpande Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of New Brunswick. 

He’s long held that the innovation in the region is tremendous, but there is a dire need for people who can sell technology in the global market place. Atlantic Canadian companies simply can’t scale to significant size without greater expertise in selling to international customers. He says the need is pervasive in Canada and acute in Atlantic Canada, and he called for some institute to remedy the shortfall.

“It will take an international sales academy that will produce competencies in these skill sets,” Pond told the Atlantic Leaders Summit. “I will put $500,000 into that institute today.”

The mid-afternoon announcement roused the crowd. Christine Hamblin of the Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at St. Mary’s University rose to say her program would offer a sales course in the coming year. Before she could tell him where to mail the cheque, Pond pointed out that his plan would take more than a single course because the skill sets that must be taught are quite complicated.

They include:

-  Cross-cultural communications;

-  Basic communications skills, including listening;

-  Clarity of messaging;

-  Negotiations;

-  And problem-solving.

Pond said the final point is critical because good sales people find ways to solve their customers’ problems. That, he added, is why engineers make great salesmen.

Pond indicated that he’s willing to be flexible on the fine points of the program, but he envisions a university initiating a dean of sales position and a complete curriculum in collaboration with the private sector.

Atlantic Canadian tend to think of sales people as being slick and sleazy, he said, but developing a professional, effective sales force is essential to building good businesses.

It’s a huge absence in the ecosystem now.

“I know enough to know that’s what is inhibiting Canadian companies, Atlantic Canadian companies, from scaling,” he said. “That’s where the problems are.”

Jutla Uses Startup Boom to Lure Talent

Dawn Jutla: 'Today, the hub ecosystem in Nova Scotia keeps growing.'

Dawn Jutla: 'Today, the hub ecosystem in Nova Scotia keeps growing.'

Halifax is gaining such a reputation for entrepreneurship that the buzz is helping Dawn Jutla attract mature students to the program she runs at the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University.

Now in its second year, the master of technology, entrepreneurship and innovation program offers graduate students the chance to gain their master’s in just eight months of part-time study, followed by an eight-month work placement or work on their own startup.

The course offers eight short modules on vital subjects like marketing and finance to students who may already be tackling these issues in their lives.

“Most of our students want to start a business and many have already done so,” said Jutla, the program director and an award-winning researcher and professor in the fields of business and computer science.

“Some have developed their own technology and they’re looking to develop or commercialize it. They are studying and running their businesses simultaneously.”

Jutla said the program was created partly in response to the good things occurring locally.

“When we started creating this program in 2011, we were encouraged by things that were happening in Nova Scotia.

“These included the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and culture, and the $25-billion naval vessel building contract being awarded to Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax. Things got even better when the Atlantic provinces established Build Ventures, the regional venture capital fund.

“Today, the hub ecosystem in Nova Scotia keeps growing, with ever more groups, mentors and events for entrepreneurs. It helps us sell the program — people want to be part of that.”

Jutla said the program is receiving more applications, including from overseas students who make up a third of the intake.

Jutla was born in England but raised in Trinidad and can empathize with the experiences of many of her students. Halifax has been her home for 25 years, ever since she came to Nova Scotia to study as a 23-year-old graduate student.

She had already completed business and computer science courses as part of her natural sciences degree and was working in marketing in her home country when she made the decision that changed her life.

“My first winter here was hard,” she recalled with a laugh.

“Three years later, I was doing my PhD in computer science at the Technical University of Nova Scotia, when Saint Mary’s needed a person to teach an intro to computers in its business school.

“I had the right work experience and academic qualifications. Soon my foot was in the door.”

She joined the university full time five years later.

One of the things she most enjoys about academia is the opportunity to form teams with colleagues and students from around the world.

“This makes you feel like you are doing meaningful work that positively impacts societies.”

She has achieved a lot of success with her research into online privacy, and her PhD work on multi-view access control has been cited in patents. She also co-chairs an international technical committee of the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards.

“Without security and privacy, electronic commerce is at risk,” she said. “And without privacy, you don’t have democracy. There are huge social implications.”

Jutla said entrepreneurs in Halifax are fortunate in many ways, but she and the school’s career services are struggling to find work placements for her international students.

“We must work from many angles to create intern positions for international students. It would help if the provincial government extended their employer co-op subsidization programs to interns.

“It depresses me when we attract highly qualified people to Nova Scotia but then advise them to apply for jobs in Toronto or elsewhere.”


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.      

Summit Urges Entrepreneurial Teaching

Academic, business and political leaders came together in Halifax on Thursday to call for reform in post-secondary education, and including a greater emphasis on teaching entrepreneurship.

The speakers at the Atlantic Leaders Summit organized by the Atlantic Association of Universities voiced a near unanimous message that the region’s institutes of high education need reform, or at least improvement. They have the potential to be an economic boon, to spur innovation and to train the work force for the modern economy. But there is an urgent need for improvement in various areas, they said. Though there were several points of view, several speakers called for the university system to increase its training of entrepreneurship to better prepare student for the workplace of today and tomorrow.

“Universities should have the goal of getting everyone into that entrepreneurial experience,” said businessman and philanthropist Gururaj Deshpande, one of the keynote speakers, adding such experience teaches students to solve problems that impact society. “When you have a society of problem solvers, you live in a very healthy society.

A native of India, Deshpande is a graduate of University of New Brunswick who moved to Boston and launched four tech businesses that were listed on the Nasdaq. He is the founder of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Co-Founder of the Pond-Deshpande Centre for Entrepreneurship in Fredericton.

He and several other speakers said that by teaching student entrepreneurial skills, universities are teaching them to create enterprises that have impact on society, the planets and their communities.

Various themes recurred through the day, such as a need to retain more international students, and to develop a sense of urgency. Saying he was optimistic things will improve, SimplyCast CEO Saeed El-Darahali said these are matters that should have addressed long ago.

Throughout the day, speakers returned frequently to the need to give all students more entrepreneurial training.

Kevin Lynch, the Chair of the Board of Governors of the University of Waterloo, noted that Harvard Business School professor Bill Solomon  has noted that entrepreneurship is not an inherent trait. It can be “taught and untaught” and our university system spends too much time “unteaching” entrepreneurship.

“Why don’t we make it a hallmark [of Atlantic Canadian universities] that everyone who comes here will have some entrepreneurial experience?” asked Martha Crago, Vice President of Research at Dalhousie University

Deshpande urged the educators to give their students knowledge that has an impact on the wider world. He also urged experiential learning because it shows students that they can apply their knowledge to solve problems, and that leads to entrepreneurship.


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.

Nova Scotia’s Next VC Fund

One of the overlooked segments of Premier Stephen McNeil’s State of the Province speech last week was his revelation that Nova Scotia will soon proceed with a new public-private venture capital fund.

On Feb. 11, McNeil delivered his address to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, and the focus was on the need for change, reinforcing the theme of the Ivany report.

But he also noted that the province would soon release a request for proposals for a private-sector venture capital partner to manage a fund that would be financed in part by the province. The announcement is a followup to the statement last July by Michel Samson, the minister responsible for economic development, that the province hoped to seed a new venture capital fund based in the province.

What we’re witnessing is the evolution of a three-pronged approach to funding high-growth companies by the Nova Scotia government.

Last summer, Samson decreed that Innovacorp would be the provincial agency making venture capital investments, with a special emphasis on simplified seed-funding rounds of less than about $250,000. Nova Scotia Business Inc. would not make new venture capital investments, though its previous investments have remained housed under the NSBI umbrella.

The second pillar is Build Ventures, the privately managed $60-million fund that has drawn most of its funding from the four Atlantic provinces. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have each invested $15 million.

The fund invests in more developed companies, so far in increments of $1.5 million to $3 million.

The third pillar will be the fund that will result from the request for proposals, which should be released within weeks. What it will look like will depend on the wording of the request and the responses it draws.

Judging from the premier’s and Samson’s remarks, it appears that the wording will be broad enough that responding firms can show some creativity in submitting proposals. The considerations will probably include what sectors will be the focus of the fund, how it will expand investment expertise in the region and what international networks the private-sector partner brings.

The government has mentioned a private-public collaboration, so it seems likely that a key factor will be how much money the venture capital manager puts into the fund. This will probably be subject to some negotiation because private investors would want the fund to be able to invest beyond Nova Scotia.

Samson has said he’s interested in the recent model of the Venture Newfoundland and Labrador fund, in which the provincial government and the Newfoundland and Labrador Angels Network together put money in a fund managed by GrowthWorks Atlantic.

McNeil seemed to suggest the request for proposals will leave the door open for venture capitalists in the region to compete for the contract. It makes sense, given the heightened interest of international funds in companies in the region.

Rho Canada Ventures, based in Boston and Montreal, has invested in four Atlantic Canadian companies in the last two years. And last year, Intel Capital sank money into Reno Sub-Systems, whose global headquarters is in Nova Scotia.

The thinking is that the array of high-growth companies in the region is diverse enough for a new funding vehicle.



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.

Pond Tells Students: Dream Big

Gerry Pond: 'Think about making a difference while making a living.'

Gerry Pond: 'Think about making a difference while making a living.'

The following is the text of an address by Gerry Pond given at the recent Saint Mary’s University convocation, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate:

As you graduate from this fine university and begin the next stage in your journey, you will receive considerable amounts of advice, all well intentioned, and much of it useful. Let me add my voice to the chorus with some thoughts on how you can take what you’ve learned here at Saint Mary’s and use it to create a rewarding life.

There is a world of opportunity before you. You have talents, insights and passions that can create positive change in the world. Advances in technology have created a time of disruption unequalled in history. That disruption sets the stage for change.

Individuals can, and do, create tremendous change. You can too. Every single one of you can harness your energy and focus it on creating real change in the world.

Dream big. Think globally. Think about making a difference while making a living. Certainly, the world needs you. There are many challenges facing us – economic, social and environmental. You can help solve them.

Don’t be modest, don’t be timid, and don’t be afraid to get started.

I want to go beyond this simple exhortation. I want to offer three direct suggestions to you as you consider what you will do next.

Rise to the challenge of entrepreneurship

I want to encourage you to consider charting your own path by becoming an entrepreneur. This is not a new idea for you – entrepreneurial teaching runs deep at SMU. Entrepreneurship is a great way to use your educational investment by changing the status quo in almost any field.

Entrepreneurs are smart and nimble. They work hard to find a better way. Entrepreneurs aren’t limited to business. It’s about a mindset. Entrepreneurs are vital to helping not-for-profit or social enterprises tackle difficult issues like poverty or environmental degradation. Entrepreneurs are also needed – quite badly – in the public sector. It’s no secret that governments need to find better and more cost effective ways of delivering services.

At its core, entrepreneurship is about improving upon the status quo, about determination, about starting with nothing, about managing assets wisely, and about delivering an impact locally and globally. In fairness, it could also be about creating a better coffee, hamburger, or mousetrap.

Entrepreneurship is often surrounded in layers of mystery and intrigue. It can seem glamorous and exciting, and it often is. But remember that the “Social Network” was a movie. In most cases, entrepreneurship is about plain hard work and a powerful determination to make something better, and in turn, reap the personal and/or financial rewards.

Stay in Atlantic Canada

Most of you graduating today are from Atlantic Canada; others have come to Halifax from other parts of Canada or the world. I want all of you to recognize that this region is a great place to launch and grow a new company. The start-up or new business formation ecosystem is maturing throughout our region and is now better enable to assist with early stage growth.

This ecosystem for entrepreneurs is composed of a network of mentors attached to accelerators such as Propel ICT, and incubators like Volta in Halifax, along with university-based programs such as the Wallace McCain Institute, and capital funding sources both private, like First Angel Network and Brightspark East, and public, like lnnovacorp, NBIF, and Build Ventures. Over the last 10 years a rich, interconnected support structure has emerged for early stage entrepreneurs.

So as you consider taking the entrepreneurial step, know that you won’t be alone. There are many organizations in place that will support you and help you succeed.

What’s more, many of our existing businesses have become “early adopters” of the region’s start-ups’ products or services and many professional organizations are gearing their practices to support entrepreneurs’ needs as well. Atlantic Canada’s ecosystem is ready to support local or immigrant entrepreneurs in a meaningful way.

Do it Soon

Timing, some say, is everything.

There is a consensus building in Atlantic Canada that we need to boost our economy with new businesses. Some would say the economy is in a crisis.

We have deep roots in starting world-class businesses from this region with iconic names like Sobey, Irving, Bragg, Rowe, McCain, and Dobbin leading the way. However, the growth in our economy has slowed compared to the demand for public services in health and education, in particular. We need to renew our entrepreneurial capacity. It needs to happen now.

So how will you add your name to the list of extraordinary entrepreneurs that have come out of Atlantic Canada?

Again, technology is helping drive new opportunities. There are many options open to you to build the next “Sobey’s” of medical devices, Internet security, robotic manufacturing, green cars, aquaculture or senior care.

What’s stopping you? Remember, entrepreneurs just like you are creating the future. Atlantic Canada is a wonderful place to build a world-class company or social enterprise. There is a growing and vibrant ecosystem here to support you.

I urge you to get started and be a positive force for change. And I wish you well in all your future endeavours.


Gerry Pond is the Co-Founder and Chairman of Mariner Partners and Co-Founder of East Valley Ventures. He lives in Saint John.


Kurzweil Coming to Big Data Congress

The third annual Big Data Congress, to be held in Halifax this October, will feature as its keynote speaker Google’s Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil.

The brainchild of T4G CEO Geoff Flood, the first two Congresses were held in Saint John and both attracted more than 600 delegates even though they were held in the depth of winter. The event is designed to promote the use of data analytics to generate economic growth and improve the performance of all organizations.

This year, the event will shift to Halifax and to the autumn, and it will have a special emphasis on how Big Data is improving productivity. The event will be held in conjunction with the World Confederation of Productivity Science, which will also be meeting in Halifax.

The other themes of this year's Congress will be the internet of everything, smart cities and industrial efficiency.

"Big Data is having an incredible impact on productivity in government and industry,” said Co-Chair Peter Watkins, president of the World Network of Productivity Organizations. “We believe this may be one of the most important Big Data conferences in 2015."

The main organizers of the event are T4G, Digital Nova Scotia, Dalhousie University and the World Network of Productivity Organizations. (Full disclosure:  Some of these organizations have sponsored or advertised in Entrevestor publications and we continue to seek them as clients.)

The organizers announced Tuesday that Kurzweil will be the keynote speaker. He is primarily an inventor and futurist, having created the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, and several other inventions.

Inc. magazine described him as the “rightful heir to Thomas Edison”, while PBS selected him as one of the “sixteen revolutionaries who made America.”

The other speakers include Dave Kasik, Boeing’s Senior Technical Fellow in visualization and interactive techniques, and Hilary Mason, the Data Scientist in Residence at Accel Partners, a leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm.

"The past two years saw this event grow in importance,” said Co-Chair Michael Shepherd, the Dean of Computer Science at Dal. “Big Data is having a profound effect on our world and this year we are delighted to be partnering with the World Confederation of Productivity Science to expand the event across three days."



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: Startup Week in NB

The organizers of East Coast Startup Week in Fredericton have issued the following press release:

A Week of Innovation and Entrepreneurship with Something for Everyone! Press Release:

FREDERICTON, NB – The blossoming East Coast start-up scene will get a major boost with the second iteration of East Coast Startup Week, a series of events being held on March 16 to 22 in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Brought to you by organizing partners Planet Hatch, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and the Pond-Deshpande Centre, East Coast Startup Week is a series of events bringing entrepreneurs and local leaders together to build momentum and opportunity. This annual event exists to connect Atlantic Canada’s growing entrepreneurial community with fellow market driven and socially driven entrepreneurs and changemakers.

“East Coast Startup Week gives our region the critical mass needed to support our growing community of entrepreneurs and attract investors and mentors from both inside the region and around the world.” states Karina LeBlanc, Executive Director of the Pond-Deshpande Centre. “Startup week is a catalyst. When you bring entrepreneurs with good ideas together with mentors and investors, good things are going to happen.”

There will be eight major events put on by a variety of community leaders including:

● The Social Impact Development Dialogue by the Pond-Deshpande Centre

● Speaker Series by Planet Hatch

● Startup Sleigh Ride by Planet Hatch

● 20 Mentor Minutes by the Pond-Deshpande Centre

● Fullsail 2015 (Raising Capital and Exit Strategies) by FCNB

● New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru LIVE Awards Dinner

● Youth Entrepreneurship Summit Atlantic by the Pond-Deshpande Centre

● Startup Weekend New Brunswick

● UNB Lunch & Learns and much more

Venues will include the Fredericton Convention Centre, the University of New Brunswick campus and Planet Hatch. The first East Coast Startup Week took place two years ago and is one of many Startup Weeks happening around the world. Registration is now open online. More details will be released as the week approaches.

About Global Startup Week

Startup Week celebrates the achievements of entrepreneurial communities in cities across the globe. Our mission is to develop and support thriving communities wherever they may exist. The best way to do this is to bring entrepreneurs together in a way that they can connect, share and bond.

SimplyCast Launches ‘Game Changer’

SimplyCast, the Dartmouth multi-channel marketing company, has announced the release of its new Agency365 product, its first that allows several people in the same organization to collaborate on a messaging campaign.

CEO and founder Saeed El-Darahali started the company six years ago, with the aim of establishing a platform that allows users to communicate simultaneously through a range of channels, such as email, fax, Twitter, etc. Last year, it introduced its 360 Automation Manager, which allows incredible ease of use in these campaigns.

Now the company has increased the functionality with Agency365, which allows several people to work on and approve each piece of communication issued by a company or organization. El-Darahali said the flexibility it brings to the SimplyCast offering is something akin to Microsoft advancing from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 two decades ago.

“Agency365 is a major game changer,” El-Darahali said in an interview Friday. “Now the whole process of disseminating information has a centralized point for brand consistency, and it gives access to people who would never have had this (access) before.”

The new product allows groups of people within an organization to collaborate on each message. They can work on it together, share it with people in the department affected by the announcement and get decision-makers to authorize it quickly.

The organizations can create as many as 10 user logins for employees working on various client projects. The master account holder can control what each user can do on the platform. The organization can use the new product for its own campaigns, and agencies can sell its service to their clients.

The staff at SimplyCast, which has grown to 36 people, have been working on the new product for about four years. It has already sold Agency365 to a local recreation facility and is working on other sales.

Meanwhile, SimplyCast has continued to grow, and El-Darahali said 2014 was a record year in terms of sales. Sales of 360 Automation Manager are still doubling monthly. The company aims this year to convert all of the users of its original product over to 360 Automation Manager and retire the legacy product.

SimplyCast was recently rated in the top five or six multi-channel marketing outfits in the world in a study by Raab Associates of Swarthmore, Penn. The study rated the product fit and vendor fit of 26 players in the space, and SimplyCast was rated near the top, along with its well-known American competitors HubSpot, Infusionsoft and SharpSpring.

The Dartmouth company raised money in the past year by selling equity to two new external investors and to SimplyCast employees. All the company’s shareholders remain Nova Scotians, and the total raised in 2014 was less than $1 million.

El-Dahahali, a former investment manager at Innovacorp, has always emphasized that, so far, all his investors are from Nova Scotia. He has also said he will eventually raise money from venture capital investors, likely based outside the province.

“It will happen in a matter of months or years.”


Entrevestor receives financial support from various 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.

Corbett’s Passion Born in Frustration

Rivers Corbett: 'Entrepreneurs will save the world.'

Rivers Corbett: 'Entrepreneurs will save the world.'

People give many reasons for assisting others. Frustration isn’t usually among them, although that helps motivate New Brunswick entrepreneur Rivers Corbett.

Corbett, the co-founder of Relish Gourmet Burgers, spends a lot of time mentoring young entrepreneurs and speaking to high school students.

He strives to make youngsters realize that they can become entrepreneurs.

“I’m focused and passionate about mentoring because I’m frustrated,” he explained.

“I believe entrepreneurs will save the world, but the social value of innovation isn’t recognized.

“When I speak in schools, I ask the kids if doctors work for free. They say, ‘No.’ I say, ‘If not for entrepreneurs creating the tax base, doctors wouldn’t get paid.’

“Why are doctors held in high esteem but entrepreneurs are regarded as greedy? Entrepreneurs are just as important as doctors and one step below moms.”

Corbett is a member of Startup Canada’s National Advisory Council, and he helped found StartUP Fredericton. Most recently, he was the entrepreneur in residence at the University of New Brunswick.

He’s been named entrepreneur of the year and made Canada’s hottest startups list, as well as Canada’s fastest growing companies list.

Relish Gourmet Burgers began in Fredericton in 2009, when Corbett and chef Ray Henry opened their first store.

Relish now has franchises across Canada and one in the United States. The company also runs several corporate stores, with another soon to open in Halifax.

“For us, it’s all about the taste and being original,” Corbett said. “I’ve been successful when I’ve zagged when others zigged. We try to be different. We just got investment from a European group attracted by that philosophy.”

Corbett also runs the Chef Group, an agency that allows event organizers to hire Atlantic Canadian chefs.

“I’m a chef pimp,” he said with a laugh. “I hate to cook.”

Another of his ventures is The StartUP CEO, which allows him to work with emerging entrepreneurs.

He holds business degrees from several regional universities and initially worked in marketing. When he began to feel the urge to own his own venture, he bought the businesses started by his dad, Robert.

“My dad started various traditional ventures in the Fredericton area, including a construction company, a nursing home and a marina. I thought his businesses would be a way for me to do my own thing, but I soon realized that what really interests me is the ideas stage.

“I want to build businesses, not manage them. I’m not a good manager. I’m a cloud guy. The details drive me nuts.”

Corbett is the author of several books, including 13 Fears of Entrepreneurs, and is a lively and sought-after event host.

But he makes no secret of his struggle with depression, which hit him about seven years ago.

“It knocked me on my back. It’s ugly. It was brought on by a perfect storm of stressors, including work.

“I went to the doctor for something and he said, ‘How are you doing?’ I broke down. It was like a wave hit me.

“The doctor recommended medicine. Part of the journey back was exercise. Exercise remains part of staying well. And, in winter, when I feel worse, I sleep a ton.”

He said he considers his illness a blessing, as he now prioritizes health.

“Richard Branson said, ‘The biggest thing you can do for your business is look after your health.’”

Entrepreneurs are known for relishing the adrenaline rush of their high-stakes lifestyles, but Corbett said stress must be controlled.

“There’s a difference between the rush caused by the thrill and challenge of business and constant stress. But stress is part of the game and you have to learn how to handle it.”

Corbett is looking at starting a web-focused business.

“I’ll never be fully retired. I’ll always be looking to start stuff.”


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.

Thanks for Aiding our Survey Campaign

We’ve almost reached our target of getting surveys submitted by about half of the Atlantic Canadian startup community.

The response has been fantastic and I want to thank everyone who completed the survey. I especially want to thank those who were patient with my persistent nagging.

We’d still like to get more surveys in, so if you haven’t completed one, please do so today. It only takes three minutes and all the material is completely confidential.  You can find the survey form here.

I’m already starting to see a few patterns emerging. I will be writing about them first in our Entrevestor Intelligence report that will come out in mid-March. There will be some interesting stuff in there.

Again thanks to all, and please get those late surveys in. 

TopLog Strikes Deal with Bitnami

Halifax’s topLog announced Wednesday its new product for application developers will soon be available on the Bitnami platform, which should help increase its distribution.

For the last two years, topLog has been developing software that helps notify developers and system administrators if there is a problem on their system and to sort out any troubles quickly.

The company will soon launch a “freemium” version, meaning that users can download a basic product for free and pay for additional functionality.

It is partnering with San Francisco’s Bitnami, which has a platform that offers more than 100 technical tools to software developers and other information technology personnel, including the growing segment of so-called DevOps teams.

It’s difficult to define their jobs, but they tend to span development and operations.

Users can access the tools with a single click, and Bitnami deploys more than one million programs a month.

“For us, it will mean that we will be getting in front of more than one million DevOps users and software developers,” said Ozge Yeloglu, CEO of topLog, in an interview.

She first met with the Bitnami team in May, and the two companies began to discuss a partnership seriously in October.

Yeloglu said topLog’s freemium product is available, and a paid version with analysis features will be available on Bitnami in less than two months.

Growing out of the computer science program at Dalhousie University, topLog began life with the goal of providing system administrators for corporations and large organizations with a tool that would help them prevent system failure.

The team, which now comprises six full-time and two part-time employees, is producing the freemium product so it can be used by a broader range of clients.

In particular, topLog is marketing more to developers of applications, or those who Yeloglu says work on the outward-facing parts of companies, especially software-as-a-service enterprises.

he said the freemium product can serve as an alternative to an increasingly popular trio of open-source tools called Elastic Search, Logstash and Kibana.

The so-called ELK stack is being used by developers who don’t want to pay for software, but it can take a long time to configure them to a developer’s needs. The topLog product will serve the same function and can be downloaded easily, she said.

“This is a great free resource for engineers and developers who want to maintain ownership of their logs and for those who cannot ship their logs to our cloud solution,” said Yeloglu.

A lot of these processes are automated by topLog, solving major problems in this $1.5-billion global industry.

Even before systems and applications collapse, topLog analyzes events that take place over the applications and learns what are normal and anomalous events on the system.

This knowledge can prevent applications from going down and alert teams when anything out of the ordinary happens.

The company, which graduated from the Volta startup house in Halifax in October, has received funding in the past from Innovacorp and BDC Capital. Yeloglu said the company is raising more capital, though she declined to reveal details.


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.

The Next36 Seeks Post-Uni Startups

The Next36, an entrepreneurship non-profit based in Toronto, wants Atlantic Canadian startup founders to apply to join this year’s cohort of 20 founders for The Next Founders, a program to accelerate startup growth.

The Next36 has been around for five years, but for the first three years it’s been solely focused on growing undergraduates’ startups. The program allows undergraduates to take courses with business experts from across North America, as well as meet The Next36’s network of more than 300 of the top business influencers in Canada.

The participants in The Next Founders have finished their undergraduate degree, but are in the early stages of creating their own startups. They can benefit from the business training and large network from The Next36.

For example, after completing The Next Founders last year, Toronto-based cardio rhythm tracking tool company Bionym raised $15 million in its early stages of funding.

“There are hotbeds of innovation across the country, and a few of them in Atlantic Canada,” The Next36’s director of marketing and events Jon French said. “If there’s someone who can scale their company and really increase their chances as an entrepreneur with access to our program, it doesn’t matter for us where they are.”

This is the second year of The Next Founders. Last year, the companies participating were almost all in southwestern Ontario. But with a grant from the Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program, The Next36 will pay for founders to fly out and stay in Toronto to complete the program.

The Next Founders requires that participants be in Toronto four times throughout May to August for three-day crash courses in business-related topics, such as financing.

In its program for undergraduates, The Next36 provides funding for the startups and takes equity once the company gets started. For The Next Founders, no money is given or taken from the startup. It is expected that companies entering The Next Founders already have investors.

The Next36 receives its funding from its giving board, the government and its national partners, including companies like Toronto-Dominion Bank, Rogers and MasterCard.

The application for The Next Founders program is on its website and is due on March 3.

“Our organization’s mission is to increase national prosperity by identifying a small number of high potential entrepreneurs and proving them with all of these resources,” French said. “We’re looking for the real game-changers, the ones that are successful, that will disrupt industries, that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and tens of millions—if not billions—of value for the country.”







Doctor’s Orders Develops Smart Cane

Fielding a question from a judge at the BioInnovation Challenge last year, Graeme Powell hesitated for a second, then said that, no, his company is not just making a walking stick with a bathroom scale in it.

The company, Doctor’s Orders of Fredericton, is designing a “smart cane” to help speed the recovery of people who have had surgery like knee or hip replacements. The design will help individuals accelerate their recovery, and it will also provide the medical community with data that should improve recovery times overall.

“We know from professionals we’ve spoken to that offsetting the correct amount of weight reduces some of the risk of needing another hip replacement,” Powell said in an interview in Fredericton recently.

A team is developing a cane that assesses the weight the user places on it. It means that people recovering from orthopedic surgery can tell how much weight they should place on the cane and can be told when they’re doing it wrong. By applying the correct amount of pressure, patients can reduce complications, and that should result in optimal recovery time. It might also reduce the need for further surgery.

“Approximately 88 per cent of revision surgeries are needed because of some kind of infection in the joint after surgery,” said Powell. “We’re targeting the other 12 per cent.”

What’s more, the device would collect the data and transmit it to the doctor or physiotherapist. That would let them know if the patient is adhering to his or her rehabilitation schedule and adjust it, if necessary.

“Originally, the idea was pretty much making it something like a cane with a bathroom scale in it, but the value we’re finding now is in the data,” said Powell. “There isn’t a retail product out there that provides this data over the full course of rehabilitation.”

Doctor’s Orders grew out of the technology, management and entrepreneurship program at the University of New Brunswick, where the founders all studied engineering. Powell is the company CEO, while his co-founders — Alex Belyea, Kadie Wright and Ghislain Maillet — are pursuing their master’s degrees at the university’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering.

They entered their company in the BioInnovation Challenge, hosted by BioNova, last autumn, and are competing in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition.

The team so far has made the first iteration of the product and is working with the institute on the second. Doctor’s Orders is also working with Dalhousie medical school’s Saint John campus on clinical trials.

The team plans to seek regulatory approval first from Health Canada and then, after a small introduction in Canada, seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. Health Canada classifies the cane as a Class 2 medical device; Powell said approval for such a product could take about one year.

He added that the Doctor’s Orders team believes it needs about $250,000 in seed funding to get through the first regulatory stage.

Powell said the co-founders have plans to make the cane applicable to more than just hip and knee replacement patients.

 “We’re focusing on hip and knee replacements now because they have the most data available. But we’re looking at other applications like ankles and (anterior cruciate ligaments).”


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.




Get Those Survey Forms In!

We’re into the home stretch with the Entrevestor Survey, and we’re really heartened by the response from the startup community.

Almost half the startups in the region have completed the survey, and I can’t thank enough the people who have taken the time to submit the form.

But we still need to receive more surveys. The more founders that complete this form, the better our data is for the entrepreneurial community. We want to be able to leave this exercise with a clear picture of what is happening in the startup world, now that startups are becoming a substantial slice of the regional economy.

This data helps people in the community demonstrate what is taking place with startups. Recently in this space, we had an outpouring of support for the development of a regional investment tax credit. How can the community persuade governments that enhanced tax credits are a worthwhile initiative? By presenting them with the proper data.

When you take three minutes to complete one of our surveys, you’re helping develop the data that is the benchmark for the startup community. Governments in the region use this data when they debate policy, and it’s in our best interest to make it as thorough as possible.

So if you are a founder who hasn’t yet filled out the survey, please click here and fill it in. We guarantee complete confidentiality. 

MacAusland: Our Size Is Our Strength

Trevor MacAusland: Our region continually punches above its weight.

Trevor MacAusland: Our region continually punches above its weight.

One of the benefits of schlepping across the Cobequid Pass on a regular basis is that it gives me time to decompress from the chaotic nature of running one of Canada’s best accelerator programs. Typically that means tuning into CBC’s Vinyl Café. The show is an hour-long variety format featuring short stories. On a recent trip one of their stories got me thinking about our value proposition as a region to entrepreneurs, businesses and investors. The story was about Dave, who grew up on Cape Breton Island and runs an independent record store. His slogan for the store was, “We may not be big, but we're small”.

You might be asking yourself, why is this slogan relevant to our startup community or regional economic development? Well, I have been at Propel ICT for four years now and in that time I have seen our region continually punch above its weight and do the statistically impossible. Our successes and momentum have led many to ask me how the East Coast is accomplishing this feat. The answer is found in Dave’s slogan.

When I first arrived at Propel ICT as Executive Director, I found myself being apologetic and insecure with those from outside the region that we were not as big as Silicon Valley, NYC or Waterloo. Then I received feedback that surprised me. People told me that our size was an advantage not a disadvantage because we would be able to access the right people at the right time. That was an extremely valuable asset that not many jurisdictions can claim.

Now some of you might be skeptical so allow me to provide you an example. Not that long ago, a startup from University of New Brunswick was working on a technology that could give agriculture operators analytical insight and dynamic control over their farm area. One of their mentors was Susan Holt, the CEO of the N.B. Business Council. Susan facilitated an introduction to key decision-makers at McCain Foods. In a very short time frame, the multi-national company signed on as the startup’s first early adopter customer. That deal helped Resson Aerospace raise $3 million in funding to help them build their company from here in Atlantic Canada. What would have been a lengthy sales cycle lasting months if not years in larger urban centers was expedited because Resson didn’t have to waste precious time navigating a lengthy sales cycle to secure their first customer. Want more examples? See HotSpot Parking, Simptek, XipLinx, Eigen Innovations and Qimple, to name a few.

All of this is to say the next time you hear someone try to crap on Startupeast or relevance to the global startup scene, tell them unapologetically we might not be big, but we’re small and that is our strength.

P.S. I felt compelled to write this from attending the 3+/Fibre Center announcement in Moncton on Saturday. It's just another example of our size playing to our advantage by having everyone gang up on the opportunity rather than on each other. Kudos to Ben Champoux and his team.


Trevor MacAusland is the ‎Vice-President Business Development at Propel ICT.



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.      

Using Tech to Aid Native Schools

Jennifer Hill: 'We have been practising a lot of what B-Corp stands for.'

Jennifer Hill: 'We have been practising a lot of what B-Corp stands for.'

After refining its educational databases that track the progress of First Nations students, Dadavan Systems is demonstrating its commitment to social good by acquiring B-Corp (Benefit Corp.) certification.

A growing U.S.-based initiative, B-Corp certification requires companies to prove that they meet high standards in terms of social and environmental practices, accountability and transparency.

B-Corp status is tough to acquire. Dadavan is just the eighth company in Nova Scotia to gain the designation, but Dadavan president Jenny Hill said it was important to do so.

 “We have been practising a lot of what B-Corp stands for, but we didn’t know about the certification,” she said. “Once we did, we realized it was a good fit for us.

 “The process has provided us with an even greater degree of transparency and accountability. The process also revealed ways in which we can improve.”

Hill said acquiring B-Corp status makes good business sense.

 “The convergence of technology and social businesses is the way of the future. It’s a strategic business move.

 “The process was a lot of work but we did very well. We scored a total of 102 in our B-Corp assessment, compared to B-Corp’s median score of 80.”

The Waverley company began in 1998 and works with First Nations communities by providing databases that track students’ attendance and marks, as well as curriculum requirements and lesson plans.

Improving the high school graduation rates of First Nations students is important.

The graduation rate of First Nations youth living on-reserve was 35.5 per cent in 2011, compared with 78 per cent in the general population, according to figures in a 2013 report by the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

The Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey community of Nova Scotia has been using Dadavan for the past 10 years as part of a school success program, and now has an 87.7 per cent graduation rate, according to the company.

Hill said Dadavan helps communities customize their databases to keep track of students, whether they attend school on- or off-reserve.

 “We have different products that track the progress of students depending on where they go to school,” she said. “They’re designed to ensure no students slip through the cracks.”

Teachers can also search for certain things on the Dadavan database to see correlations between information.

For instance, a teacher can search for all students with grades below 60 per cent, and see the students’ attendance records. The teacher can then ascertain if poor attendance explains students’ poor marks.

Privacy is important and the First Nations communities own their data and are the only ones that can access their information.

Hill said that Dadavan learns about students’ success from conversations with their clients.

 “We’re here to provide support with the software and help them use it to the most benefit,” she said. “But it’s their data.”

The company works with more than 100 First Nations communities in Central and Eastern Canada and Saskatchewan, with 40 per cent of its revenue coming from Atlantic Canada.

Hill said the company now intends to devise methods of measuring their products’ social impact on First Nations communities without infringing on the privacy of the communities’ data.

 “We are presently working on developing metrics for measuring our own company’s social impact,” she said. “Demonstrating our effectiveness while ensuring the privacy of our clients’ data is a tricky balance.”



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.     


Reminder to Complete Our Survey

We’re into the final week of the Entrevestor Survey, and are thrilled with the response we’ve received from the startup community.

So far about 100 founders have taken the three minutes to complete the survey and help out both Entrevestor and the startup community.

Just how much this survey helps the community became apparent to me on Wednesday when I presented our data to the Island Advance luncheon in Charlottetown, sponsored by the Greater Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce and the PEI BioAlliance.

I was able to give a solid overview – backed by data – of the growth and economic contribution of the Atlantic Canadian startup community. With the data collected from these surveys, I can plainly demonstrate how startups are contributing to the region’s economy. I’ve been told by policy makers in at least three provinces that the data is having an impact on making policies and programs that benefit the community.

We have to complete the survey process by Feb. 14, so the next week will be a full court press to get the rest of the surveys in. This weekend, I will be focusing in particular on new companies.

If you operate a startup (Owned by Atlantic Canadians and commercializing technology for a global market), please take the time to complete the survey. We guarantee your information will be kept confidential. We only publicize aggregate data.

You can find the survey form here.

Thanks again to everyone who has helped out. We really appreciate it. 

Press Release: NBIF’s Rankings

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation has issued the following press release:


FREDERICTON, NB, February 5, 2015 – After a record year of investing in startups, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) was ranked the third most active venture capital fund in its category by the Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA) in their 2014 report on investment in Canada.

"One of the major challenges of venture capital investing is having enough viable startups to invest in, or what we call 'deal flow'," says NBIF chair Robert Hatheway, "with 18 investments last year, placing third most active in the country is great for NBIF, and the province, because it sends a message to the rest of the country that New Brunswick is a hotbed for innovation and entrepreneurship."

Since inception in 2003, NBIF has invested over $15 million, leveraging another $107 million from other investors to help create over fifty companies, 35 of which remain in its active portfolio. With 75% of its portfolio's revenues coming from exports, its company exits and investments in applied research activity, NBIF's work has helped create more than a billion dollars of value for the New Brunswick economy. NBIF's largest exit to date was its sale of social media monitoring pioneer Radian6 to generating a a return of $9.25 million, 28 times its original investment.

"This is great news for NBIF as we come to the end our fifth biennial Breakthru Startup Competition, the largest competition of its kind in Canada," says Hatheway, "Over $750,000 in investments and professional services from our corporate partners will be awarded to three new never-before-seen companies in New Brunswick." Receiving applications from 62 teams across the province, five finalists will be put the test at the foundation's Breakthru LIVE 2015 event on March 19, 2015 in Fredericton.

Explore more about NBIF, its companies and researchers in its 2013-2014 Annual Report (e-magazine version).

About NBIF

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation is an independent, not-for-profit organization that invests in new startup companies, research and development within existing businesses, and applied research at the province's colleges, universities and research institutes. The returns NBIF makes on its investments go back into the foundation to be re-invested in other new startups and research projects. With $120 million under management, NBIF has invested over $50 million to date, leveraging over $365 million more from other sources.

About CVCA

The CVCA is the voice of Canada’s venture capital and private equity industry, focused on improving the private capital ecosystem by broadening industry awareness and providing market research, networking, and professional development opportunities. The CVCA works alongside its members, who represent the vast majority of private capital firms in Canada, to improve the industry and drive innovation and growth.


Brightspark Targets Atlantic Canada

Brightspark Ventures, a Toronto-based organization that funds startups, is expanding its network into Atlantic Canada and will launch its collaboration in the region with an investment in Halifax-based social media martketing company InNetwork.

The Toronto investment organization said Wednesday it is working with East Valley Ventures, the Saint John-based network of startup investors and mentors, to help it expand into the region.  It’s a reunion of sorts as Brightspark and the founders of East Valley were all investors in Radian6, the Fredericton social media analysis company that sold out for $326 million in 2011.

Brightspark is positioned somewhere between a venture capital fund and an angel network. It is overseen by a professional fund management team comprising veterans Mark Skapinker, Sophie Forest, Mark Lahn and Tony Davis. Each time they identify a company they want to invest in, they create a new fund to invest just in that company. All the Brightspark members are then invited to invest in the company through the new fund, which will be managed by Brightspark.  It’s a funding model that’s already been used successfully by such groups as FundersClub in California and Ourcrowd in Israel.

“Brightspark has a very successful track record of funding early stage companies across Canada, including Radian6, and we’re excited to introduce their investment model to Atlantic Canada,” said East Valley Co-Founder Gerry Pond in a statement. “The goal is to accelerate the ecosystem here, introduce new investors to this asset class and to release new capital.”

In a recent interview, he said the Brightspark would fill the gap in the region between the seed funding (typically worth up to $500,000) that is available to companies, and the venture capital funding that usually starts at $1 million or more. 

Though the Toronto group already made its first Atlantic Canadian deal years ago in Radian6, the announcement is significant because East Valley will introduce a regular rotation of IT companies from the region to Brightspark. It is also a chance for Atlantic Canadian investors to join the Brightspark network – now 300 strong -- and get in on funding deals across Canada.

Now Brightspark wants its members to back InNetwork, which amplifies its clients’ social media messaging by connecting them with “influencers.” These are people such as bloggers, editors or experts with tremendous reach and influence within an identifiable group.

“Because they are a top tier national fund manager, they bring us credibility for this round of money,” said InNetwork CEO Chris Keevill in an interview Tuesday. “Second, because of their relationships and position, they bring us access to VCs in the U.S. for our next round.”

He added that Brightspark’s familiarity with Radian6 will help InNetwork because there is so much similarity in the two companies’ businesses.  InNetwork is now hoping to raise between $1.5 million and $2 million, about half of which it hopes will come from Brightspark.

With offices in Halifax and Toronto, InNetwork vets and approves influencers to ensure that they are bona fide opinion leaders. It beta-tested the product with about six Canadian customers last year and has been working with about a dozen paying customers.

In 2013, the company received seed funding of $250,000 from Innovacorp and $240,000 from a group of angels led by Pond, who became the InNetwork’s Board Chair.



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.

Martell Sells Clarity in 3rd Exit

Dan Martell, one of the most accomplished tech entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada, has sold his latest company Clarity to equity crowdfunding company Fundable to become one of the platforms in its new startup launch platform,

Moncton-based Clarity, which connects entrepreneurs and others with a network of mentors around the world, did not reveal the terms of the deal.

Clarity and Columbus, Ohio-based Fundable announced the deal in a joint press release, which also unveiled the creation of as a new launch platform for startups. The other components of are , , and

It is the third exit for the 36-year-old Martell and it is a reward for the investors who sank $1.6 million into the company two years ago.

“When you raise venture capital, there is a responsibility to reward your investors with a return,” said Martell in an interview Tuesday. “This opportunity with Fundable came along and they were trying to do what we were trying to do. I just felt it made sense to accept their offer.”

Martell is an obsessive networker and natural mentor, and Clarity embodied both traits. The company assembled a network of 50,000 mentors from around the world and allowed entrepreneurs to book calls with them at a certain price per hour. Martell himself took thousands of these calls. There were more than 150,000 such sessions last year alone.

Now Clarity will become part of, which is being billed at the largest platform for launching companies in the world. The platform now includes 825,00 registered startups, 13 million registered investors, backers, and followers and over $150 million in startup funding committed to the platform.

By adding Clarity, it now has a leading source of mentorship for the companies that use the platform.

 “The vision for is to help startups get customers, press, funding and mentors to overcome critical obstacles in the launch of their company,” said Founder and CEO Wil Schroter in a statement. “ provides the most well-respected platform for our startups to get critical advice they need from seasoned founders who have been there before.”

Martell will stay on as an adviser for about a year or so, and then he plans to spend time with his wife, Onboardly Co-Founder Renée Warren, and their two young sons. He said Clarity would remain in Moncton, and the staff will stay on with the company.

The investors in Clarity include: Baseline Ventures, Freestyle Capital, both of San Fransisco; Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks; Real Ventures of Montreal; Version One Ventures, a Vancouver fund headed by noted investor Boris Wertz; 500 Startups, of Mountainview, Ca.; Venture 51 of Phoenix, AZ; and several angels including Gerry Pond, the co-founder of East Valley Ventures of Saint John.

Martell sold his first venture Spheric Technologies in 2008. He then moved to California, where he co-founded Flowtown, a San Francisco online gift marketing enterprise, which raised $750,000 from angels in September 2010. Thirteen months later, Martell and his partners exited the company for an undisclosed price.


Peter Moreira is a principal of a new,s and data site for Atlantic Canadian startups. 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.


Dan Martell Sells Clarity to Fundable

Dan Martell has sold Moncton-based entrepreneurial advice platform Clarity to the business-funding site Fundable of Columbus, OH., for an undisclosed price.

Clarity, which connects entrepreneurs and others with a network of mentors around the world, will now become part of Fundable’s new launch platform for startups. The other components of are , , and

We’re now getting information on the deal, but here is the press release from Clarity: Acquired By Fundable, Joins Global Launch Platform now a part of, the largest global launch platform for startups

Columbus, OH, February 3 -- , the largest startup launch platform, announced today that they have acquired , the premier site for entrepreneurs looking for expert advice. Clarity will join business funding site along with , , and to form the new launch platform. connects startup founders with over 50,000 well known experts such as Mark Cuban, Brad Feld, and Eric Ries who can be contacted directly by phone on a cost-per-minute basis.

Since its inception in 2010, over 17,414 entrepreneurs have used Clarity, completing over 150,000 calls last year alone with experts helping to drive their business.

With many corporate options on the table, was selected by founder Dan Martell as the ideal acquirer because their mission aligned beautifully with his. According to Martell, “ has an incredible membership of passionate and dedicated experts and entrepreneurs. I believe that the best way to bring our advice to more people around the world is to tap into a larger community — and provides just that.”

The Clarity acquisition adds another important service — finding experts and mentors — to the launch platform. The platform now includes 825,00 registered startups, 13 million registered investors, backers, and followers and over $150 million in startup funding committed to the platform. Founder and CEO Wil Schroter commented, “The vision for is to help startups get customers, press, funding and mentors to overcome critical obstacles in the launch of their company. provides the most well-respected platform for our startups to get critical advice they need from seasoned founders who have been there before.”

Key Acquisition Details

● is a mentorship service that provides on-demand, expert advice for entrepreneurs. Clarity has a community of over 50,000 experts, with 250,000 mentorship calls completed, 20,000 questions answered, and a backlog of 50+ video courses.

● Clarity is a venture backed company whose investors include Baseline Ventures, Mark Cuban, Venture51, Howard Lindzon, Freestyle Capital, Real Ventures, and 500 Startups.

● is the largest launch platform for startups with over 825,000 registered startups, 13 million registered investors, backers, and followers, and $150 million in startup funding committed via the platform.

● is now the parent brand of,,, and

About is a global startup launch platform with tools to help startups and entrepreneurs at any stage of their business. Founded with a mission to help entrepreneurs thrive, includes,, and

Celtx Raises $3.3M from Build, Killick

Mark Kennedy:

Mark Kennedy: "This is a tremendous opportunity."

Celtx Inc. of St. John’s, has raised $3.3 million in a funding round led by Build Ventures, and plans to use the capital to accelerate the already-stellar growth of its pre-production software for the film and video industries.

Led by CEO Mark Kennedy, Celtx has been a pioneer in producing a range of software for film writers, designers, producers and others involved in “scripted media,” like film, video, theatre and the like. The company’s breakthrough came when it launched its software-as-a-service product in 2012. It now estimates it has about 4 million users, and this winter, its revenues are growing by about 10 per cent per month.

“This is a tremendous opportunity,” Kennedy said in a phone interview. “We’re reinventing how an industry does its work, and it’s a global business. We make 95 per cent of our money outside Canada.”

Build Ventures of Halifax, the Atlantic Canadian regional venture capital fund, invested $3 million in the round, marking its first investment in Celtx and in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Killick Capital, which previously had invested $1.5 million in Celtx, came in with $300,000. Killick president and CEO Mark Dobbin had previously said he would be interested in investing in the company again, although not as lead investor.

Kennedy said he has known Build Ventures principal Patrick Keefe for several years, and the fund manager has always been interested in Celtx. When Kennedy decided to raise money last May, he met with Keefe and his partner, Rob Barbara, and the talks eventually led to the investment.

Founded 15 years ago, Celtx set out to digitize the tasks that filmmakers used to do on paper — from writing scripts, to designing sets, to production notes. Its first offering was a desktop product and the product evolved creative personnel in the film industry moved to the cloud and to mobile devices.

It still offers desktop products, but its big move came with the software-as-a-service product on the cloud, which has allowed stronger recurring revenues. It has also allowed the company to measure its sales, and adjust its product fit to match market demand.

The company had always had a knack for gaining clients, but the software-as-a-service offering finally allowed it to monetize the product in a meaningful way. Revenues increased in every month in 2014, and last autumn, it hit what Kennedy calls “the magic number” of monthly recurring revenue of $100,000.

The film industry is seasonal, and Kennedy says the January-to-April period is the high point, with revenues increasing 10 per cent monthly.

“Mark and the Celtx team have built a great product and grown a significant user base organically,” said Keefe. “This investment will give the team the resources to expand on their impressive customer traction milestones and growth rates.”

Now Celtx wants to accelerate that growth. The staffing has increased about 60 per cent in the past year to 22 full-time people. Kennedy believes it will reach about 40 in a year’s time.

The company recently hired Jacquelyn Holden, a former sales exec with another St. John’s tech success, financial software company Verafin. She is now vice-president of sales and marketing, heading up the effort to increase sales further.

Although it originally set out to target the indie film market, it has found that its clientele includes ad agencies and video production companies that range in size from 30 to 5,000 employees. Celtx now sees an opportunity in targeting these groups, and the growing sales staff will help.

“We’ve always been a very engineering-focused company with almost no sales and marketing,” said Kennedy. “Now our staff is about 70-30 development-to-marketing, and we want to move toward a 50-50 split.”


Entrevestor receives financial support from government agencies that support startup 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.

How Important Is a $200K Prize?

Talking to a few of the teams entered in the Breakthru competition in New Brunswick, it was easy to understand the effect these contests have on the early development of companies.

There are now two big startup competitions in the region that take place on alternating years – Breakthru, organized by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, and the I-3 Technology Startup Competition, organized by Innovacorp in Nova Scotia.

Breakthru will climax March 19 with announcement of three winners that will divide $750,000 in prizes. I-3 wrapped up ab out a year ago when seven companies shared a total pot of $700,000.

Those amounts are significant because the companies entering these competition are at the level of development in which $100,000 or $200,000 can mean the difference between make and break.

Consider two teams of entrepreneurs I met at the Breakthru Bootcamp in Fredericton. They have these things in common: they both comprise University of New Brunswick students. They’re both developing a countertop appliance for the kitchen. And they could both use the $200K prize to get started.

Christian Grandmaison and Aaron Tabor, for example, are two engineering students who’ve noticed that modern people often dash to work without having a good breakfast.

“Our solution is that people like pancakes, but they’re not always an available option because it takes time and it’s too messy,” said Grandmaison. “So our product is an automatic pancake machine.”

Their company, On Your Plate, is developing a countertop device that takes a single shot of batter and makes a pancake the way a Keurig machine makes a single glass of coffee. It means any one can make a pancake in a few minutes. And people can individualize their pancakes, whether they want chocolate chip or banana or whatever. “Every kid can have what they want,” said Tabor.

It also means people can eat more healthily by making whole wheat pancakes or protein enriched pancakes.

Or consider Catarro, a new company headed by Mike Sherrar and Adam Noade. Catarro is developing a household product that instantly cools drinks – sort of the opposite of a microwave.

New technology known as thermo-electric plates is allowing for the instant cooling of products, and these two students envision using them for a consumer product that cools drink in a snap. So you can arrive home with a bottle of white wine minutes before guests arrive, and have chilled wine when they walk in the door.

So far, the team has a rough prototype and it needs to refine it into a true retail product.

I asked both these pairs a question I asked everyone I met at the bootcamp: what will it mean to your business to win more than $200,000? They all had similar answers. It would mean they’d have the capital or most of the capital they needed to get to the next step.

Two-hundred-thousand dollars is essentially a seed round. Even with some of the booty comprising in-kind services from lawyers, accountants and what have you, the top three teams will have the resources to move their companies forward. An IT company should get to market. A manufacturer should finish initial prototyping. NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury likes to call it a company in a box.

So winning Breakthru isn’t about bragging rights or financing a new car. It’s about having the resources to continue with your business for a year or two.


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.

Hamblin Leading Startup Halifax

John Hamblin

John Hamblin

It started with a brief email enquiry to Startup Canada in which John Hamblin asked about the process of creating a Startup Halifax.

Hamblin had been startled to learn that Halifax’s thriving startup community didn’t have its own chapter of the influential national organization.

Now, just a few months later, the retiree is surprised to find himself leading one from his home.

Hamblin retired as president of Clarke IT Solutions in March 2013 and runs a small consulting practice.

His Startup Halifax role will diminish the hours he can spend relaxing, but the grandfather of two tech-obsessed little girls doesn’t mind that. Hamblin has long been passionate about building entrepreneurship in this region.

“I believe entrepreneurship is the only hope for Atlantic Canada,” he said. “I’d like anyone with a viable business idea to get all possible help to make their business successful.”

Hamblin also mentors entrepreneurs and curates the Startup Digest newsletter.

“I contacted Startup Canada with a simple query, then found myself invited to a webinar on the application process. Soon, I was filling in the nine-page application. It was a lot of work, but now I have gathered together an impressive Startup Halifax team.”

It includes representatives of groups central to the local startup ecosystem. These include Springboard Atlantic, Innovacorp, academics from university entrepreneurship programs, professional groups and successful entrepreneurs like Saeed El-Darahali, president and CEO of SimplyCast, and Chris Cowper-Smith, CEO of Spring Loaded Technology.

Hamblin is pleased that Halifax will now benefit from Startup Canada’s supportive national network of entrepreneurs.

He said it has a catalyst fund for special projects and events. The national group also provides training and a free website for each startup community.

It also has a presence in Ottawa that allows it to speak on behalf of startup communities, Hamblin said.

Halifax already has some vigorous organizations that support the local startup community, and other regional centres, such as Fredericton, have already gained Startup Canada status.

Hamblin said Startup Halifax will work closely with the other groups.

“We want to be collaborative and mutually supportive. We’ll be a centralized funnel for startup information, and we’ll advocate for startup projects.

“We also hope to run regular events with presenters who can talk on topics vital to entrepreneurs like funding and sales.”

He said the region’s ever-growing web of startup-focused organizations makes this a promising time for local entrepreneurship.

“Now, we need a few really successful startups that result in both large employment and large revenue.”

The state of New York has declared startups as being crucial to the state’s future and has designated New York as startup-friendly, he said.

“They have policies in place to get startups to go to New York. We could do the same thing. In many ways, Halifax is an ideal place for startups.

“When (Research in Motion) was opening a new office, I spoke to senior RIM executives about Nova Scotia. Our list of benefits included quality of life, real estate prices, education and transportation links to Europe and major North American cities.”

Hamblin speaks with the passion of a local, although he is from Montreal and has been in Nova Scotia for the last 10 years.

Fluently bilingual, Hamblin holds a business degree from the University of Montreal and completed a post-graduate executive development program at McGill University.

He said he feels almost as fresh as the day he graduated.

“Just before I retired from Clarke, I went to a startup weekend at Dalhousie. I ended up joining a team and staying for the whole event.

“I felt younger than I had in years. It’s great to be around smart young people who are passionate about their ideas.”

Venture for Canada Seeking Grads

Venture for Canada, the non-profit that connects top Canadian university grads with Canadian startups requiring talent, has announced that it has now forged partnerships with 70 startups.

The group also calls on grads to apply before its final Fellow application deadline of March 1 this year. Selected Fellows will become members of a cohort that includes Next 36 alumni, a former Apple engineer, and a Top 20 Under 20 recipient.

Based on the highly successful Venture for America, which has been matching American grads with U.S. startups since 2011, Venture for Canada is establishing a fellowship program to place college graduates with startups in low-cost cities to generate jobs and educate young entrepreneurs.

Applicants to Venture for Canada have to get through a tough selection process. The initial training program lasts for six weeks and is followed by two years of on-the-job training that focuses on business development, with an emphasis on marketing and sales.

“The training gives the best of business schools without the debt,” Co-Founder Scott Stirrett told Entrevestor in an earlier interview. “Of Venture for America’s first two cohorts, 94 per cent have been ranked in the top 10 per cent of employees by their employers. The mean size of these companies is 19, so that’s remarkable.”

The group’s new partners include leading Canadians startups such as Shopify, Nymi, Kik, and Wattpad, as well as an array of Atlantic Canadian companies. The not-for-profit asks that readers contact them if they know of a startup that would be a good addition at

To see the full list of Venture for Canada startup partnerships, click here.

To apply for a Fellowship, click here.

Startup Capital Lunch Set for PEI

Members of the P.E.I. startup and business community will gather on Wednesday, Feb. 4, to discuss ways to encourage more investment in the province’s startups.

The Island Advance: Capital Formation Luncheon will take place at Dunes Room of the Holman Grand Hotel starting at 11 a.m. The tickets are $20 and available here.

The luncheon, presented by the Greater Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce, follows the format of the Entrevestor-Entrepreneurs’ Forum Luncheons and Dinners already held in Fredericton, Halifax and St. John’s.

Following the Entrevestor presentation on the metrics of the Atlantic Canadian startup community, there will be a discussion on channeling capital into Island startups.

The discussion will be led by Ron Keefe, the CEO of BioVectra and a pillar of the biotech community on Prince Edward Island.

The goal of the discussion is to educate both investors and entrepreneurs on what they need to do to improve the flow of capital from one to the other.

For entrepreneurs, it will be a chance to learn more about how to become “investment ready”. The discussion will touch on how to develop a business that would attract investment, and how to establish links with the individuals and institutions that could make an investment.

For investors, the discussion will look at best practices for investing in young companies – what to expect, how to meet leading entrepreneurs and what to avoid.

The discussion will be followed by a luncheon and networking session.

The luncheon is being held as part of the Island Advance initiative, which is designed to support progress and business growth on Prince Edward Island. 

Killick Closes Aerospace Unit Sale

Killick Aerospace Group, a Texas company controlled by Killick Capital of St. John’s, closed the sale Wednesday of four aviation repair businesses that could gross the company about US$229 million (C$286 million).

Killick said on New Year’s Eve that Alexandria, Va.-based transport support company VSE Corp. would buy four companies help by Carrollton, Texas-based Killick Aerospace: Prime Turbines, CT Aerospace, Kansas Aviation and Air Parts & Supply. Killick Aerospace in recent years had undergone a range of bolt-on acquisitions, and greatly increased the revenues of the acquired businesses by cross selling to its existing clients.

The aerospace deal is the second huge deal for Killick Capital in the past year. Last May, the investment firm founded by Mark Dobbin (whose father Craig Dobbin founded the helicopter company CHC Group) exited its investment in financial services software company Verafin after that company landed a $60 million private equity investment.

Dobbin said in an interview this morning that the latest deal includes the transfer of capital to the shareholders of the aerospace group, which means Killick will be looking for fresh investments, both in the aerospace segment and in its Atlantic Canadian venture capital business.

“This frees up a significant amount of capital,” said Dobbin. “We’re very pleased with the process.”

VSE agreed to pay an initial US$184 million at the close of the deal, and make deferred payments of as much as US$45 million plus working capital, depending on whether the acquired businesses meet certain milestones.

Dobbin said his group invested a total of US$33 million in investment capital in the four businesses since Killick Aerospace was formed in 2006. The Texas company buys and nurtures a range of aerospace repair and support businesses, catering to such customers as commercial airlines to equipment manufacturers. The outfit reported revenue in 2014 of about US$225 million, about half of which came from the operations that have been sold.

The remaining business comprises two units, its aircraft parts supply and engine field services operations. Dobbin will be looking for fresh acquisitions for Killick Aerospace, but the deal with VSE includes a non-compete clause. So any new acquisitions will not be in businesses that compete with the businesses VSE just bought.

Another investor that benefits from the VSE deal is Calgary’s Alaris Royalty Corp., which bought preferred units in Killick Aerospace in 2011. The sale of the four businesses removes the need for preferred capital so Killick Aerospace bought back these units from Alaris. The Calgary fund said earlier this month it would realize a 54 percent gain on its investment in Killick Aerospace.

Killick Aerospace President and CEO Russell Starr will remain with the Texas company.

Meanwhile, Dobbin said that he and Killick Capital Vice-President of Investments Tom Williams are considering one or two new VC investments in Atlantic Canada. The investment firm, which oversees capital for the Dobbin family, has been talking to a few companies, getting to know their business, and will make investment decisions in due course.

Killick Capital’s current holdings include film industry software provider Celtx and Max, a recreational facility operator in the St. John’s area.

“I think in the future we’ll be more limited by bandwidth with just Tom and me than by capital,” said Dobbin.


Daxonics Eyes Production in 2017

In about two years, a Halifax startup that grew out of Dalhousie University plans to open a production facility for cutting-edge ultrasound devices that allow sharper images of such organs as eyes and skin.

Daxsonics Ultrasound is designing and prototyping array-based, high-frequency ultrasound devices and plans to begin production in 2017.

 “We provide higher resolution and a sharper, deeper image than what’s on the market now,” said CEO and co-founder Rob Adamson during an interview in the company’s laboratory.

The company is a classic case of transforming university research into a viable business and making sales contacts through the academic world.

Daxsonics came about as a result of the research into high-frequency ultrasounds by Jeremy Brown, the other co-founder, at Dal’s biomedical engineering department.

Low-frequency ultrasounds penetrate deep into tissue and are used to view, for instance, fetuses in a womb. But they produce such blurred images it takes a trained eye to tell what sex the baby is.

 “Traditional ultrasounds work at anywhere from two to five megahertz, but we work at 30 to 50 megahertz,” said Adamson.

High-frequency ultrasounds produce far sharper images, but they are unable to penetrate deep into tissues. That means they are used to produce images of shallow tissue and for endoscopic procedures in which a catheter goes into the body to view internal organs. The Daxsonics device will make images sharper still.

Brown researched the use of several microphones and sensors at once, known as array-based ultrasound, in high-frequency ultrasounds and discovered ways of producing sharper images than single-point ultrasounds.

He and Adamson came together to form Daxsonics to commercialize the research. By presenting papers at academic conferences, they were able to meet industry representatives, leading to a contract with one major American medical device provider.

Adamson said Daxsonics has changed its business model a few times and only in the last year has found a path to the market. The founders set up a micro-fabrication facility at the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre in Halifax and have nine people working toward their first product.

It looks like a single ear bud for an iPod. It holds about eight concentric assemblies of microphones and sensors, and can move to scan over a surface. Adamson said the construction is so fine that the team has had to borrow manufacturing techniques from the semiconductor industry.

So far, they have done feasibility studies for their American client — who Adamson declined to name — and have begun the design of the first product they plan to bring to market. In 2017, they plan to open a 2,500-square-foot micro-fabrication facility, in which six or seven employees will build the devices.

What’s interesting about this project is that Adamson and Brown don’t think they’ll need to raise equity capital to establish their manufacturing facility. They believe they can finance it though existing public programs, bank loans and deposits from customers.

It means Daxsonics will likely be a closely held company as it grows.


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.     


Victor Chu Sets Up New VC Fund

Chinese investor Victor Chu is heading a new $50 million venture capital fund to be established in Nova Scotia, which will invest in growth-stage companies.

Premier Stephen McNeil announced the fund in a press release on Tuesday, saying it would be backed entirely by private investors led by Chu, the head of First Eastern Investment Group.

Little is known about the new fund, such as what segments it will target and whether there will be a manager based in the province. A spokesperson in Hong Kong was unable to provide more details.

"I am delighted to launch this investment and partnership initiative to support small and medium-sized enterprises in Nova Scotia to expand their businesses into the vast Asian markets," said Chu in a statement. "We have a wonderful track record in helping European SMEs to grow into Asia, and I am sure we will achieve similar 'win-win' successes with companies from Nova Scotia."

Hong Kong-based First Eastern has traditionally invested in manufacturing, construction, infrastructure, financial and real estate industries. But according to the Crunch Base databank, its investments in the past have included participation in the $5 million venture round of London-based Tamoco, a mobile proximity technology company.

Chu was introduced to Nova Scotia and its premier by John Risley, the chairman and founder of Clearwater Seafoods and the Founder of Ocean Nutrition Canada, which exited for $540 million two-and-a-half years ago.

Last May, Chu visited Nova Scotia, visiting the Dalhousie University ocean sciences facility and meeting regional business people, including representatives of the startup community.

Roger Taylor reported in the Chronicle Herald at the time that Risley gave Chu a list of about 20 companies that could be potential investment targets, and Chu trimmed the list to seven. He was to meet with those companies at the time.

McNeil said he met with Chu in China in September and the plans for the new fund were finalized at a meeting in London last weekend.

One of the tremendous benefits of the fund will be the help Chu will offer in introducing Nova Scotian companies to the Chinese market. The market is obviously vast and it’s always best to work with local partners when making sales in the Middle Kingdom.

The creation of Chu’s fund continues the growth of funding options for East Coast startups. In the past two years, Build Ventures has been established with commitments of more than $50 million. The Newfoundland and Labrador government is working with GrowthWorks Atlantic and BDC Capital on the establishment of Venture Newfoundland and Labrador for seed-stage companies. 



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.      

My Submission to the NS Tax Review

The following is my submission to the Nova Scotia Finance Minister on the province's tax review, which I sent yesterday:

Dear Ms. Whalen,

I’m writing you during your budget consultation process to encourage you to liberalize the Equity Tax Credits, which is essential for sustaining the fastest growing segment of the Nova Scotia economy.

I join Jevon MacDonald in his call for a minimum investment ceiling of $250,000 and that the credits be extended to trusts and businesses as well as individuals. I’d like to go beyond his call for a pan-Atlantic ETC by saying the credit should be awarded to investors in Nova Scotia companies regardless of where they reside.

A liberalized ETC rewards excellence in the Nova Scotian economy. The startup boom is a global phenomenon, and Nova Scotia competes with the best in the world in the creation of cutting edge, innovative companies. According to Entrevestor data, there were about 160 startups in Nova Scotia at the end of 2013. Startups (including exited startups) employed about 1600 Nova Scotians. Their staffing grew 43 percent in 2013, and their revenues 30 percent. In Atlantic Canada, the average wage at a startup is about $53,000. International startup specialists such as Colin Mason, Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Glasgow, are studying Nova Scotia as a burgeoning startup community developing in a challenging economy.

Governments around the world recognize the growth potential of startups, which is why most developed jurisdictions have some form of investment tax credit. My own research shows seven Canadian provinces and Yukon offer such credits. (The exceptions are Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan.) In the U.S., 30 states (or 71 percent of the 42 states with personal income tax) offer investment credits. Some states, such as Arkansas and Minnesota, offer tax credits that benefit investors living inside or outside their states. (You can find more information on the Minnesota program here.)

Here’s why ETC Improvements are a good idea:

1.       The ETC channels private capital into the fastest growing segment of the economy. Nova Scotia’s economy rarely grows by more than 1 percent annually, exacerbating pressures on the provincial treasury and the out-migration of productive citizens. The best way to grow the economy is to channel money into the segment that is growing the fastest.

2.       Almost two-thirds of the capital lured by ETCs comes from private investors. That means the government makes a minority contribution. The private investor, not the government, choses the investment target, increasing the chances of success, and the government doesn’t have to answer questions if an investment flops.

3.       ETCs encourage companies with headquarters in Nova Scotia. That means the provincial economy and society benefit immensely due to the growth of large businesses headquartered here, paying taxes here, donating to charities here. It’s a far, far stronger economic strategy than offering incentives for the attraction of foreign businesses.

4.       It’s relatively inexpensive (even before the resulting tax gains are calculated). The most recent figures I’ve seen (2010-11) show ETCs cost the Treasury $5.1 million a year. That could be quadrupled and the ETCs would still be a modest economic program.

5.       What’s more, it would probably increase tax revenue. A 2010 study, commissioned by British Columbia’s Ministry of Small Business, Technology and Economic Development, concluded that for every $1 of provincial tax credits issued under the province’s venture capital program, recipient companies generated $1.98 in provincial taxes.

6.       By increasing the maximum investment to $250,000, we can free up management time at startups. This is a huge factor. If a company needs $1 million in capital, it’s a lot easier to find four investors than 40 investors.  By cutting the time involved in raising capital, we’re allowing managers to focus on operations, increasing their chance for success.

7.       Finally, Nova Scotia has the opportunity to become the first province in Canada to offer investment tax credits to people outside the province. That would draw national attention to the province’s startups and attract private capital to create great jobs here. By being first, it would be easy to get the national media to highlight the investment opportunities here.

The arguments against ETC improvements can easily be proven weak:

1.       “The Treasury will lose money.” Point No. 5 above shows that the B.C. government has concluded the government doubles its revenue from investment tax credits. If the Nova Scotia Finance Department is worried about losing too much money, it could easily cap the program each year.

2.       “The government can’t choose the companies seeking investment.” This can be a benefit, because it means the government isn’t responsible for high profile failures. What’s more, the government can narrow the focus of the program to ensure the money is channeled into high profile companies.

3.       “Investors would make these investments regardless of the tax credit.” Individual investors may back some of these companies regardless of the ETC. But by increasing the ETC, the government will increase the overall amount that the investment community in total can sink into young businesses. There is a huge demand by these young companies for capital, and the expanded ETC would help them meet that demand.

4.       “The duty of the Finance Department is to raise government revenue, not nurture economic growth.” This statement is a fallacy. In the short- and the long-term ability of the government to raise revenue depends on the strength of the private sector. A plan to nurture high-growth companies is the best way to ensure that Nova Scotian-owned companies support the government today and in the future.

I hope your consultation process results in improvements to the tax system, and that these include a liberalized Equity Tax Credit. If you or your officials wish to discuss this issue further, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


Peter Moreira

NS Founders Want Better Tax Credit

A campaign is afoot to persuade the Nova Scotia government to increase its incentives for private investment in the fastest-growing segment of the economy.

The digital and startup communities in Nova Scotia want the Finance Department to liberalize Equity Tax Credits for high-growth companies, including startups.

Any column discussing both taxation and technology is bound to lose readers pronto, but this is why you should read on.

The biggest single problem facing the Nova Scotia economy is slow growth — our gross domestic product rarely grows by more than one per cent, which limits opportunity, social programs, you name it. There’s a dire need for stronger economic growth, and the best solution is the patient nurturing of high-growth businesses headquartered in the province.

The fastest-growing companies we have are startups, locally owned businesses that develop technology into products for the global market. According to data collected by Entrevestor, Atlantic Canadian startups in 2013 increased revenue by 30 per cent and employment by a whopping 43 per cent. No other segment of the economy can boast those types of metrics.

Startups need equity investment to bring a product to market. That’s why most states and provinces offer tax credits to private investors who back startups. It means government is channelling capital into the most productive part of the economy and letting private investors decide what companies deserve the money.

Nova Scotia grants a 35 per cent tax credit to individuals investing as much as $50,000. Both the investor and target company have to be based in Nova Scotia. People in the tech community, led by GoInstant co-founder Jevon MacDonald, are pushing for more liberal rules, arguing the move for better tax credits is in keeping with the ethos of the Ivany commission. They want all members of their communitites to push for ETC liberalization during the current consultation conducted by Finance Minister Diana Whalen.

“The Ivany report has given us a powerful and daunting call to action: Nova Scotia must double the number of startups we are producing in the next five years,” MacDonald said in an email to members of the startup community.

“To deliver on that, there is one key ingredient we need, and it’s in short supply: risk capital.”

MacDonald, a member of the OneNS Coalition, also said recent reports by economist Donald Savoie, Laurel Broten (now the CEO of Nova Scotia Business Inc.), and venture capital specialist Gilles Duruflé all called for a liberalization of equity tax credits.

MacDonald wants the ceiling on eligible investments to rise at least to $250,000, the level offered by New Brunswick. He also wants the tax credit to apply to companies and trusts, as well as individuals, and to be granted for investments in startups across Atlantic Canada, not just Nova Scotia companies. The hope, obviously, is the other Atlantic provinces will follow that lead and there would be a region-wide tax credit.

He is asking members of the startup community to contact the Finance Department during its current review of the tax system and push for liberalization of the equity tax credit. Others are joining his campaign.

Last week, Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, president and CEO of Digital Nova Scotia, put out a statement:

“We believe in the momentum of a collective voice with the startup community and call upon our industry members and stakeholders to add their support to the proposed revisions outlined by Jevon MacDonald.”

You can make submissions to the Finance Department at


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.     


East Coast Startup Week Set for March

East Coast Startup Week will be held once again this year in Fredericton spanning the week of the Breakthru Dinner.

Breakthru, the biennial competition organized by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, will hold its awards dinner March 19 at Fredericton Convention Centre. The highlight of the dinner – of the week, in fact –  will be the announcement of the three Breakthru winners, who will share $750,000 in development capital and in-kind services.

But the dinner is only one of eight major events, featuring more than 25 speakers, taking place in Fredericton between March 16 and 21.

Pond-Deshpande Centre Executive Director Karina LeBlanc, one of the organizers of East Coast Startup Week, said the events are now finalized though the speakers won’t be confirmed till mid-February.

The week begins Monday March 16 with a TedX Talk. A Social Impact Development Dialogue will begin on Monday and continue on to Tuesday.

On Wednesday, there will be a Speaker Series and a Startup Sleigh Ride.

In addition to the Breakthru Dinner, the events on Thursday, March 19, include Mentor Minutes and a FullSail Conference organized by the Financial and Consumer Services Commission of New Brunswick.

Two events will begin on Friday and continue through the weekend.

On Friday and Saturday, student ambassadors of the Pond-Deshpande Centre will host its second annual Youth Entrepreneurship Summit, YES Atlantic. The organizers are expecting a “few hundred millennials” at the conference, which will promote entrepreneurship among people under the age of 25.

And finally, a startup weekend will begin on Friday night and continue until Sunday evening. 

Press Release: Dal’s Rural SUW

Dalhousie University’s Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship has issued the following press release:


January 21, 2015 (Truro) - Last weekend, students and professionals from across Nova Scotia came together on Dalhousie University’s Agricultural Campus for Startup Weekend Truro. The event was co-hosted by Dalhousie University’s Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship (NNCE) and the agricultural campus’ new sandbox, Cultiv8.

Startup Weekend has been hosted in 300+ cities in 100 countries. Colin Conrad, a student entrepreneur and a participant in last weekend’s event, calls Startup Weekend: “The ultimate crash course in entrepreneurship”. In only 54 hours participants pitched ideas, formed teams, and launched startups. This year eight teams were formed, including students from Dalhousie University, St. Mary’s University, Acadia University, and the Nova Scotia Community College. Dr. Mary Kilfoil from Dalhousie University’s NNCE facilitated the experience.

This Startup Weekend had a focus on Agrifood. Dr. Ed Leach the director of the NNCE thinks the event was a huge success saying, “This year’s Agrifood Startup Weekend had 80+ participants, more than triple that of 2014. There’s a clear appetite for entrepreneurship and innovation in Nova Scotia’s more rural communities and the agriculture sector in particular, which is well known for its scientific and social innovations.”

In addition to learning how to launch a business, teams competed for a share of a $13,000 prize pool to advance their startup. First place Agri-Scene Cuisine will receive $6,500 in cash and in-kind services, second place The Golden Lobster will receive a $3,900 prize package, and third place Hop Station will receive a $2,600 prize package to advance their startup.

•             Agri-Scene Cuisine is a mobile app used to connect urbanites who don’t like to cook with home-cooked meals from urbanites who do like to cook.

•             The Golden Lobster is an export business to meet the demands for luxury seafood from foreign markets.

•             Hop Station is a hop yard that aims to supply pelletized hops to Atlantic Canadian breweries.

Last Friday also marked the kick-off of Cultiv8, an agricultural sandbox.

Truro’s Startup Weekend event was possible because of the support of the public, and private sectors, and community sponsors. Thank you to our sponsors: TD Canada, PwC Canada, McInnes Cooper, Innovacorp, CBDC Atlantic, Build Ventures, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Nova Scotia government.

Startup Weekend events are one of the ways the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship at Dalhousie University and their collaborators are supporting the creation and development of entrepreneurs and innovators to build a vibrant, resilient community.

A Champion of Our Booming IT Sector

Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia

Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia

Nova Scotia’s digital technologies industry is booming, but the workforce lacks diversity.

That’s something Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, president and CEO of Digital Nova Scotia, is working to change.

Incorporated in 1989, it is a non-profit that strives to promote Nova Scotia’s $2.5-billion digital industry; this figure includes the $1.5-billion industry itself and $1 billion in spinoff benefits.

Information and communications technology “is the fastest-growing sector in the province,” said Bahr-Gedalia.

“Nova Scotia has the highest number of … graduates per capita in Canada and a growing startup community. The province also has an ecosystem of support and advanced digital infrastructure. We want to help more Nova Scotia companies compete globally.”

Bahr-Gedalia is well-qualified to help Nova Scotians compete around the world.

Originally from Germany, she speaks six languages and has worked in diverse places, including South Africa, the Middle East and Asia. She moved with her family from Israel to Nova Scotia in 2002.

 “For the past 20 years, I’ve been working in the tech sector in organizations of all sizes, from startups to multinationals like Intel and Compaq-HP,” Bahr-Gedalia said.

 “It’s obvious to me that success comes to those who remove any concept of borders.”

Workplace diversity — including gender, ethnicity and age — is important, she said, because it has been shown to boost creativity and productivity.

The number of women employed in Canada’s tech sector stands at 24 per cent, according to the Information and Communications Technology Council. At executive levels, the number of women is just 16.5 per cent, according to figures from the Information Technology Association of Canada.

 “We broadened our recruitment efforts, and now 46 per cent of our board directors are women,” Bahr-Gedalia said.

 “In less than a year, our Women Leaders Fuelling the Digital Economy project (funded by Status of Women Canada) has provided … companies with actionable solutions on pay equity, promotional processes and communication.”

By linking with community groups, Digital Nova Scotia has boosted the number of youth from under-represented demographics interested in digital technology.

It has also partnered with the Discovery Centre in Halifax to create the Digital Discovery Camp.

 “We began working together last March on a pilot program to interest youth in digital technology,” Bahr-Gedalia said.

“Its success has made it a flagship program for both our organizations.”

Last July, it launched its Applied Leadership Training Program to provide business leaders with specific skill sets.

She said the Dartmouth organization works with research partners like the Information and Communications Technology Council to better understand trends and problems.

The sector needs many skill sets, and professionals work in diverse industries.

 “Our sector embeds nearly every other industry, and that number can only increase.”

She said the organization has been hearing a lot about the need for sales and marketing skills in tech companies, and plans to address this concern.

Hard work, optimism and a spirit of adventure have been Bahr-Gedalia’s own career guides.

 “I didn’t set out on a specific path. I followed one opportunity to the next, intending to excel, embrace change and adapt to new situations and environments quickly. I’ve also worked really hard and had a supportive peer network.”

In her 20s, she applied for a senior-level position with Compaq while working at McAfee in the United Kingdom. She eventually beat out several hundred candidates to win the job, based largely on her personality and attitude.

 “Experience was not an issue. I think that’s the point — it shouldn’t be.”

To be heard on the world stage, she said, Nova Scotians need to lose their customary reticence.

“The more visible we are as a sector and as a province, the more we’ll be able to attract global talent, investment and grow internationally competitive businesses.”


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: EOLIO’s New Partner

EOLIO, a Halifax company that helps people with their personal online branding, has issued the following press release:

Halifax Partnership and Local Start-up eOLIO Announce Partnership

HALIFAX, NS – January 22, 2015: The Halifax Partnership announced today a partnership with local start-up eOLIO, its first start-up partner and newest investor.

The Halifax Partnership works with more than 120 private and public sector leaders who are shaping the future of the economy through collaborations and connections that fuel business and economic growth. The Partnership’s Connector Program - a unique professional networking program for recent graduates, international students and immigrants - will now provide participants the opportunity to stand-out in their job search. Everyone involved in the Connector Program and all Partnership investors will receive a complimentary premium membership to the platform. This is a significant in-kind investment to the Halifax Partnership.

“We need to be retaining more talented people in Halifax in order to grow our population and our economy. This is what our Connector Program is all about” says Michele McKenzie, interim President and CEO at the Halifax Partnership. “We’re excited to support and work with an emerging start-up that is helping Halifax businesses and talent connect. This partnership is beneficial for everyone."

About Halifax Partnership

Halifax Partnership is Halifax’s economic development organization. We help keep, grow and get business, talent and investment in Halifax. We do this through leadership on economic issues, our core programs, our partnerships across all sectors, and by marketing Halifax to the world. More than 120 businesses and all three levels of government invest in the Partnership to support economic growth in Halifax.

About eOLIO

eOLIO is a new kind of online space. The web platform provides a suite of tools for individuals to control and enhance their online brand. The platform makes it easy for people to create professionally branded e-portfolios and for recruiters to locate, pre-screen and acquire talent. For more information, please visit



Matt’s Got Balls—And Great Margins

The greatest thing about Matt’s Got Balls is obviously the company’s name, but a close second may be its margins.

The Fredericton startupis the brainchild of Matt Vance, a University of New Brunswick engineering student with a blazing passion for golf. He has teamed up with his father, Kevin, and fellow student Josh Ogden to produce a business that retrieves golf balls from golf course water hazards and sell them online.

 “What we’re developing now is an e-commerce solution so if you’ve got golf balls, we’ll help you get the best price for them,” Ogden said during an interview in Fredericton.

Kevin Vance works with metal, and he and his son are on their fifth prototype of a machine that retrieves balls from water while the operator remains on dry land. That’s important because most retrieval outfits involve scuba divers, but the world’s water hazards can contain challenges to humans ranging from toxins to alligators.

Matt’s Got Balls has used its contraption at 18 golf courses around the Maritimes and is aiming to raise that to 45 this summer. But it is also developing a plan to sell the machine to other operators and work with them to sell balls at maximum profit on its e-commerce platform.

The eye-popping thing about the business plan is the margins they make on the sales of balls. Matt Vance said that on average they sell a golf ball at 500 per cent of the retrieval costs, and the margin can be high as 1,700 per cent.

Of course, golfers are particular about their equipment so the company only sells good balls on its site, and there is a rating system to ensure each vendor has been honest about the quality of the product. Vendors who routinely get bad ratings, or do not respect the rules of the golf courses they work with, will be denied access to the site.

Matt’s Got Balls has signed a deal with the national discount chain Giant Tiger, which will sell the lesser brands that are fished out of the ponds.

The Vances are working on the sixth iteration of the device, and the company is preparing to sell the machines to people interested in getting into the ball-retrieval business and selling on their site. It is also planning to give two per cent of its profits each year to the Canadian Cancer Society and (in keeping with the company name) to Testicular Cancer Canada.

As you can probably tell, this is a team of entrepreneurs bursting with personality. Matt Vance, pictured above, is a stocky, jockish character and born raconteur, whereas Ogden is more polished, a marketing type. They have the rare ability to entertain a listener with the story of how the business developed, from Vance’s days on the golf course as a teenager to the encouragement they received from a UNB professor.

When asked if they need funding, Ogden and Matt Vance were non-committal. They’ve thought about seeking about $250,000 in investment, but only from funders who can help them grow their business. In the meantime, they’re happy to sell golf balls at healthy margins.


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.


Mansa Capital Joins Accreon MBO

Accreon, one of the largest tech consultancies in Atlantic Canada, is restructuring its ownership and leadership through a leveraged management buyout involving the Boston-based private equity firm, Mansa Capital.

Fredericton-based Accreon, which specializes in information technology for the healthcare industry, issued a statement on Tuesday saying it is in the final stages of the buyout. It did not reveal the financial terms, nor say when the buyout will close.

The upshot of the restructuring is the company will now be led by a three-member management team, a smaller group than the current five-member team. The new triumvirate will comprise: Eric Demers, President of Accreon USA; Martin Ferguson, CEO of Corporate Shared Services and founding partner; and Michael Lavigne, Vice President of Business Development.

The current CEO of Global Services and Solutions Neil Russon will remain with the company through the transition, as part of a succession plan that has been in the works for some time, said company spokesperson Carey Smith.

“I have worked in tandem with Eric, Martin and Michael for many years now and recognize the tremendous contributions they have made in order for Accreon to be where it is today,” said Russon in a statement. “I trust them to take Accreon through the next stage of its growth.”

Started in 2008, Accreon provides IT systems and customized solutions across North America for healthcare provider organizations, government entities, medical device companies and electronic medical record vendors. The company has offices in Fredericton, Charlottetown, Toronto, and Boston.

Through the leverage buyout, the company will receive investment from a private equity firm that invests in growth companies in the healthcare services and healthcare technology sectors. Mansa typically invests in companies with enterprise value (total debt and equity) of up to $150 million.

The Accreon statement said the deal will accelerate the company’s growth in the U.S., and that in term will lead to more activity in Atlantic Canada, which is home to 113 of the company’s 123 employees.

“Accelerated growth in the U.S. market will have significant positive impacts on our business in Atlantic Canada,” said Smith. “That, combined with our current focus on Canada as a critical part of our business, will sustain and enhance the career opportunities for current and future Accreon employees.”

 The deal is the latest sign that the landscape is changing for Atlantic Canadian tech consultancies. In the past few weeks, Deloitte, one of the Big Four global accounting firms, bought Fredericton-based tech consultancy SwiftRadius. In May, Saint John-based Ambir Solutions said it would join EY Canada (formerly Ernest & Young) as part of its business consultancy division.


After Pivot, Swapskis Is Now Vendeve

To reflect the evolution of its business model, Swapskis is changing its name to Vendeve.

The Halifax startup began last year with the mission of helping women barter their skills with one another, so they could build up resumés and networks and eventually charge real cash for their services. Last summer, Founder and CEO Katelyn Bourgoin realized a better way to generate revenue for the business would be to be a cash-based market place for women’s services.

So she and her four colleagues changed the business model to allow more cash-based transactions. But the fact that the word “swap” was in the company name confused the business message to potential investors and the broader community.

Bourgoin has consulted a range of advisers, including Vicki Saunders, the Toronto-based founder of the entrepreneurial advice agency SheEO, and they recommended a rebranding and new business focus.

“They were all saying the same thing, which was that, ‘You are more than just skill swapping but the way you’re telling the story is holding you back,’ and they were right,” said Bourgoin in an interview.

The launch of Vendeve comes with a new focus for the business, as well as a geographic expansion.   

The company will still focus on women in the service industry, and there will still be a skill-swapping service available on the site. But the focus will place much more emphasis on allowing service providers to make sure that they fill every billable hour that they’re at work. It’s the best business strategy for the customer, and it allows Vendeve to generate greater revenue than the swapping model, said Bourgoin.

Up to now, Swapskis has launched only in its home market of Halifax, but this week it will launch in Sydney, N.S., Edmonton, Toronto and Calgary. Bourgoin has found a local champion in each city who will help the company to grow there.

“We've got 1,250 [users], which represents about 3 percent of the addressable market in Halifax,” said Bourgoin. “We're working with a number of ambassadors to help rapidly grow the community when the new app launches.”

The business has been growing, and Bourgoin recently brought on Calee Blanchart as COO. The company has been taking advantage of a range of mentoring opportunities, working in the Volta startup house, graduating from the Launch36 accelerator and attending Toon Nagtegaal’s NextPhase course.

Vendeve is now working on raising about $400,000 in equity financing, which it would combine with funding from government bodies for a total raise of about $750,000. Bourgoin has been in talks with Innovacorp, and will travel to Toronto on Thursday to meet with potential investors. 

Press Release: SageCrowd in Boston

SageCrowd, a Halifax startup that develops online networks for personal improvement authors, has issued the following press release:


Halifax, January 21, 2015 – Today sageCrowd announced it has agreed to join Boston’s influential edtech incubator LearnLaunch. In the agreement sageCrowd will become an advisor to companies incubated through LearnLaunch and locate its US operations within the LearnLaunch Campus.

The agreement brings sageCrowd’s learning science and its focus on competency based training to LearnLaunch.

 “We are excited to have sageCrowd and their Learning Science expertise”, said Hakan Satiroglu, Co-Founder and Partner of LearnLaunch.

LearnLaunch Boston's edtech Community, Campus and Accelerator is the center of Boston’s education technology ecosystem. Its’ objective is to drive innovation and transform learning. It offers a vibrant community, educational events, a collaborative co-working space, and a selective accelerator program to promote the growth of the education technology sector in greater Boston, a world education hub. It has the backing of the industry’s largest publishers including Cengage Learning, Pearson and McGraw-Hill.

 “LearnLaunch has become the heart of Boston’s community of over 350 edtech and learning-oriented start-ups,” said Sean Sears, CEO of sageCrowd. “We are excited to join the LearnLaunch ecosystem and believe in the importance of collaborating with peers and sharing ideas”.

SageCrowd uses modern learning science to deliver competency based skills training for large enterprises. The goal is to increase the efficiency and efficacy of training by using the brain's ‘natural’ process for creating permanent memory.

SageCrowd’s chief advantage is its focus on learning sciences, particularly the creation of the SageCrowd Way. This proprietary training methodology combines social learning capability with Insight-Scaffolding® sequencing to create a fundamentally different learning environment that can deliver a greater ROI on training and substantially improve enterprise performance.

For more information visit and

Contact is

2 New Products Driving Current Studios

Current Studios is enjoying its best quarter of business ever largely because of two digital games it’s developed.

One aids children’s health care, and the other ties in with new bedding on the market. If they have one common trait, it’s that they’re both a testament to the creativity of this Dartmouth company.

Current Studios began as Ad-Dispatch, a startup that specialized in augmented reality. That lets you view something through a camera on a portable device and see animated characters spring to life against a real-world backdrop.

As it grew to a 50-employee outfit, the company moved into a broad range of computer visuals and changed its name to reflect the product portfolio.

“It’s a wonderful feeling, knowing that your funnel is almost full for the year and we still have more business coming in,” said founder and CEO Nathan Kroll, sitting in the company’s new headquarters in Burnside Park.

The first gem in the current portfolio is MRI Child Evaluator, which helps children’s hospitals improve efficiency and reduce stress when using magnetic resonance imaging machinery on children. The second is Wildlandia, an augmented reality game for five- to 10-year-olds that uses bedding featuring jungle animals.

The MRI project came about when Donna Thompson, a longtime volunteer with the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, contacted Kroll to see if technology could reduce some of the hospital’s problems. They soon found a match.

Many children squirm when undergoing an MRI and need to reschedule the procedure with an anesthetist present to get a clear image. It’s a huge expense. Kroll proposed a digital game that tests whether a child lying on his or her back can remain still. The video game — played on an iPad held above a child — requires the child to be perfectly still, controlling the game only with his or her fingertips. If the child excels at the game, the hospital knows the child will not need anesthetics when it comes time for the MRI.

Current Studios has done its first version of the game and hopes to develop a second in which the game is built into an MRI machine. It has been holding discussions with microprocessor maker Intel, whose RealSense camera has become the industry standard in motion detection, about working together on the project. It’s also reached out to major medical technology producers, such as GE.

Wildlandia is a different beast altogether, a fun product that links a children’s video game with their sheets and bed covers. Current Studios and its partner, Northwest Bedding, have produced a line of Wildlandia bedding featuring illustrations of jungle animals. The linen, which is due any day for a chain-wide rollout at Toys R Us, is a key component for a video game produced by Current Studios.

A child can play Wildlandia anywhere, using a smartphone or tablet to manage a cartoon savannah and getting points to make sure the animals are fed and watered. To collect points, the child must point the device at the blanket or bed covering, bringing the animated animals to life on the screen.

The two projects are only two components of Current Studios’ business these days, but they’re big reasons Kroll expects 2015 will be his best year yet.



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.     


Diversity, Experience at Breakthru

Here are three adjectives to describe the 2015 cohort of the Breakthru startup competition in New Brunswick: diversified, experienced and keen.

Breakthru, the biennial competition organized by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, held its bootcamp on Saturday, which is the one time during the half-year-plus process that all the participants get together in one place.

NBIF this year received 62 entries, though six were deemed ineligible in the first vetting. The remaining 56 teams are all aiming for the top three positions, each of which will walk away with more than $200,000. To look at it another way, each team has a better than five percent chance of landing $200K in cash and in kind services by the time the snow melts. Better odds than the lottery, I’d say.

The 56 teams competing for a total of $750,000 comprise a total of 118 individuals, and every single one of them registered for the bootcamp this weekend.

They received a crash course in business fundamentals from former University of New Brunswick prof Barry Bisson, now the president of the nationwide youth entrepreneurship organization Shad. And they heard encouragement from one of New Brunswick’s most successful tech entrepreneurs.

“It’s the most exciting time ever to be an entrepreneur,” said Marcel LeBrun, the co-founder of Radian6, which was purchased four years ago by “And the opportunities extend right across every sector.”

All major sectors in the startup world are represented in the contest this year, and the entries come from across the province.  Many have already gone through one of the various mentoring organizations and some have bona fide businesses.

When Bisson asked if any of the attendants had used a business model canvas, about 90 percent of the hands rose into the air.

Talking with some of the entrants, it was obvious many been nurtured by such organizations as the Launch36 accelerator,  the Technology, Management & Entrepreneurship program at UNB or others.

Ongazah, which helps people organize, implement and publicize their projects, is a tenant at the Vennture Garage in Moncton. Two Breakthru competitors competed in the regional BioInnovation Challenge in the fall: NB-Biomatrix, a Saint John startup that uses nano-technology to fight water pollution, and Doctor’s Orders, which is developing a “smart cane” to help with the recovery from knee or hip replacements.

Given that this is New Brunswick, there are a lot of IT companies in the running. Take for example Tempo, a Fredericton outfit that is developing an app that automatically chooses music to suit the intensity of your workout. The four co-founders, all enrolled in the TME program, have developed algorithms that can assess the intensity of each song on your playlist. Using either a wearable monitor or sensors on a smart phone, the app will automatically find faster song if you’re running or slowing tunes if you’re walking.

But IT is not dominating the competition. Catarro of Fredericton is developing a household product that instantly cools drinks – sort of the opposite of a microwave. And another Fredericton startup, On Your Plate, is developing a single-serve pancake maker – doing for breakfast what Keurig has done for Coffee.

NBIF President and CEO Calvin Milbury was thrilled Saturday about the enthusiasm and the quality of the competition. He noted that the teams that finish in the top three will be guaranteed a spot in the next cohort of Launch36 (even though a few of the competitors are Launch36 Start grads). He also said the competition is strong enough that the organizers may have to select semi-finalists before announcing the five finalists in late February.



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.     


Qimple Accepted into 500 Startups

A month after revealing it’s attracted an impressive set of investors, Qimple has been accepted into one of the best-known accelerators in the world.

The Moncton online recruitment company is one of about 30 startups that will attend the coming cohort of 500 Startups in San Francisco.

Qimple CEO Yves Boudreau found out Monday that his company had been accepted, and he leaves Saturday to attend the 14-week program. He said it will be an experience that could alter the course of his company’s development.

 “I’m very level-headed in that I don’t get overly excited or down about things, but this is something I’m ecstatic about,” said Boudreau.

 “This is probably going to have the most impact for us of anything we’ve done, if we leverage it properly. It’s an amazing way to start the new year.”

Qimple, which graduated from the Launch36 accelerator in June, makes the hiring process easier for recruiters and applicants due to its applicant tracking system and proprietary candidate-scoring tool. Since making Qimple available to the private sector last year, it has seen more than 100 companies sign up and processed more than 4,000 job-seeker applications.

Last month, the company said it was on the verge of closing a $600,000 equity funding round from such investors as the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation; BDC Venture Capital; Dan Martell, founder of Clarity in Moncton; Patrick Hankinson, CEO of Halifax’s Compilr; and Sanjay Singhal, the CEO of Toronto’s

Qimple is the first Atlantic Canadian company to be accepted to 500 Startups, though there are generally five or six Canadian initiatives in each of its 30-team cohorts. Since its inception, more than 800 startups from 40 companies have passed through the accelerator.

Qimple is part of a growing movement of the region’s startups seeking mentorship in major accelerators outside the region. Brownie Points, a St. John’s, N.L., startup, just completed its training at FounderFuel of Montreal, and QRA Corp. of Halifax has just been accepted into Disruption Corp. (founded by former 500 Startups exec Paul Singh) in Washington, D.C.

Boudreau visited San Francisco in November and ended up touring the 500 Startups facility and working there for a few days. He then applied.

The company will receive a US$100,000 investment on joining the accelerator, and will be given work space in San Francisco for the 14-week duration of the course. In May, Boudreau will pitch his company at the 500 Startups DemoDay, which is attended entirely by potential funders.

On Tuesday, he sat his six colleagues down and explained to them what acceptance into the program means: in all their fundraising from here on, Qimple will be able to bill itself as a “500 Startups company,” which groups it with some firms that have raised tens of millions of dollars.

 “It’s a badge of honour to be a 500 Startup company,” said Boudreau.

 “I’ve made two investor calls since we found out we made it in, and just knowing that completely changes the tone.”


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: SimplyCast CRM

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

SimplyCast Introduces Free CRM Solution and Sales Pipeline Acceleration Tool

SimplyCast is launching its own powerful customer relationship management solution, SimplyCast CRM.

SimplyCast CRM enables businesses to track and manage customers and leads with detailed personal profiles that are dynamically updated based on interactions and behaviors.

SimplyCast CRM's sales pipeline tool accelerates the sales process using detailed tracking and highly targeted lead nurturing campaigns.

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, January 14, 2015 -, a global leader in multi-channel marketing Platform-as-a-Service solutions, is proud to launch SimplyCast CRM, a powerful customer

relationship management solution.

SimplyCast CRM enables businesses to accelerate their sales process using powerful sales pipeline functionality. The CRM tracks each contact starting from their first website visit, building a detailed

personal profile. This information enables businesses to move contacts through the sales pipeline much more quickly. A shortened sales cycle reduces the number of leads that will drop off and helps keep

leads engaged.

Personal customer profiles include detailed timelines. Profiles are updated both automatically, based on customer tracking, and manually, based on personal interaction with staff. SimplyCast CRM also

integrates with other leading CRM solutions to enable customers to seamlessly transfer data and maximize efficiency.

SimplyCast CRM works in combination with SimplyCast 360 to send highly targeted communications to each contact, based on personal preferences and individual needs. Leads and customers move

through automated sales pipelines based on their actions. Detailed pipelines and personally targeted content help nurture leads and increase conversions and sales. The CRM integrates seamlessly with

SimplyCast Sonar and the other communication tools in the suite so that all data is in one place. Campaign creation, therefore, is quick and easy.

“SimplyCast CRM is the ideal tool to enable businesses to create highly targeted nurturing campaigns for each of their contacts,” said Saeed El-Darahali, President and CEO of SimplyCast. “The CRM

allows for the seamless collection, storage and transfer of data and it accelerates the sales process considerably.”

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 is a leading provider of interactive and multi-channel communication software for organizations worldwide. The company’s 360 Customer Flow Communication Platform is a feature

rich 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.


Equals6’s New Mentorship Platform

With its core social network for students reaching a critical mass, Equals6 launched a new product this week that helps universities co-ordinate their mentoring networks.

The Halifax startup has just introduced Students2Mentors, a cloud-based platform that streamlines the creation and management of mentorship programs.

The company has set up, and universities and colleges can develop their own branded sites to use the technology.

The idea behind the product is to help universities with easier administration of their programs that link students with mentors throughout all faculties. It is also a tool that can help alumni organizations find and aid graduates who want to help active students.

 “Students2Mentors came out of work we’ve been doing with Dalhousie, and we had some ongoing discussions with their alumni,” said Equals6 CEO Andy Osburn.

 “They have a mentorship program that’s way ahead of the curve, but it’s across several different faculties throughout the university. The problem was that they couldn’t find a tool that would allow them to administer and manage all those programs in a manageable way.”

Osburn started Equals6 in 2011 with the goal of providing an online environment in which students could interact with one another and potential employers to discuss career opportunities. While Facebook was social and fun, and LinkedIn was for people with careers, Osburn wanted a site that could help students transitioning from school to the workplace.

For a few years, Equals6 has had the goal of having 100,000 students subscribing to the site, and they reached that in October.

There are now about 110,000 users, rising by about 40,000 to 50,000 per year, and the company is profitable.

The site includes scholarship programs and crowdfunding for students, and now Students2Mentors offers a new feature.

Mentorship, in which people working in a certain field help to train students preparing for that field, is growing at universities and colleges. It exposes students to people with actual experience in their chosen career, and it allows alumni and others to contribute to a younger generation.

Osburn said that most universities have tools for co-ordinating mentorship that are “pretty clunky and ineffective.” These platforms have trouble matching students and mentors, tracking how regularly they meet and measuring other components of the program. Students2Mentors aims to provide such functions.

About 18 months ago, Equals6 introduced a mentoring platform into its own site but realized it was a separate field.

So the company set up its own platform for the new product.

 “It’s easier to market and sell this way, and it reduces some of the clutter around the messaging around Equals6,” said Osburn.

 “Now we can communicate to alumni associations across North America.”

Equals6 charges $950 to a university or alumni association to set up a branded Students2Mentors site, and then charges a monthly subscription fee.

The Dalhousie site is live, and Equals6 is beginning to market it to other institutions. Osburn figures there is a total market of about 500 schools that could use the product, though there may also be applications for non-academic bodies.


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.     


Deloitte TMT Show Hits NB, NS

Deloitte, the international accountancy and business consultancy, has released its 2015 predictions on technology, media and telecommunications, and launched its Canadian roadshow to showcase them.

Ahead of the tour making two stops in Atlantic Canada next week, we’re publishing their predictions below.

Duncan Stewart, the Director of TMT Research at Deloitte Canada, will present the predictions Monday at 8:15 am at the Cineplex Cinemas in Saint John, and Tuesday at the McInnes Cooper offices in Halifax at 8:15 am. It’s free to register, and you can do so here.


Forgot your wallet? No problem. The tide will turn for in-store mobile payments

Print book sales will be at least four times higher than eBook sales, Deloitte predicts

Toronto, Ontario – January 13, 2015 –2015 will mark the tipping point for near-field communication (NFC)-enabled smartphone in-store payments, according to Deloitte’s 2015 Canadian Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) Predictions. In 2015, about five percent of the 600 million NFC-equipped smartphones worldwide will be used to make an in-store NFC payment at least once a month, more than a 1,000 percent increase from 2014, making its way to Canada at the end of 2015.

“Canadian smartphones are already being used to check balances, transfer funds and transact online, which indicates that consumers are comfortable with using their phones to handle money. But almost no one used their phones for contactless in-store payments at the register,” said Duncan Stewart, Director of TMT Research at Deloitte in Canada. “2015 will be the first year in which all of the requirements for mainstream mobile payments – satisfying financial institutions, merchants, consumers and device vendors – have been sufficiently addressed.”

Now in its 14th year, Deloitte’s TMT Predictions provide an outlook on the 10 most important trends for Canada in the technology, media and telecommunications industry over the next 12 to 18 months.

Also in 2015, the smartphone upgrade market will see sustained, but slower growth. 1.4 billion smartphones will sell worldwide in 2015, up 12 percent from 2014’s 1.2 billion units. More than a billion smartphone sales worldwide will be upgrades, countering ideas that the device has matured and cannot be improved.

“Although the smartphone refresh cycle is lengthening, existing smartphone owners are continuing to buy new phones. About 5 million smartphone upgrades in Canada will occur in 2015,” said Robert Nardi, Partner and National TMT Leader for Deloitte in Canada. “PC growth has been on a decline as consumers and enterprises started to buy new ones at longer intervals, but it would be premature to expect the same to occur for smartphones. Pride, pixel count, durability and storage needs will continue to drive growth for smartphone refreshes.”

Consumers don’t always lead the way: The pendulum swings back to enterprise adoption

Historically, new technologies, like PCs and cellular phones, were adopted by the enterprise and then by the mass consumer market years later. In the last decade, it’s been the opposite. Tablets and smartphones with large screens were adopted widely by consumers first, but the pendulum will start to swing back. In 2014, consumer uptake of wearable technology like smart glasses was modest, signaling a shift away from the consumerization of IT. Enterprise adoption of wearables, 3D printing, drones and the Internet of Things (IoT) will have a bigger impact generating more economic value in goods and addressing business needs than the consumer market for those technologies.

10 TMT Predictions most relevant in Canada (All dollar amounts are USD):

1. In-store mobile payments will (finally) gain momentum – The end of 2015 will mark the tipping point for the use of mobile phones for NFC-enabled in-store payments in Canada. It will be the first year in which the multiple prerequisites for mainstream adoption – satisfying financial institutions, merchants, consumers and device vendors – have been sufficiently addressed. In 2015, about five percent of the base of 600 million NFC equipped smartphones worldwide will be used to make an in-store NFC payment at least once a month, compared to less than half a percent of about 450 million NFC phones in mid-2014. In-store mobile payments in the Canadian market are likely to be slower than the US, depending on when various payment services are introduced, but 56 percent of Canadians are not interested in paying with a smartphonei. It remains to be seen if they will change their minds.

2. For the first time, the smartphone upgrade market will exceed one billion. 1.4 billion smartphones will sell worldwide in 2015, but over a billion of them will be upgrades – new phones for those who already have one. The refresh cycle may be lengthening, but screen size, speed, storage, software and design will drive growth for smartphone refreshes. In Canada, more than 5 million smartphone sold will likely be upgrades

3. Print is not dead, at least for print books – Sales from print books will be at least four times the sales of eBooks globally. eBooks have not substituted print books in the same way that sales of CDs, print newspapers and magazines have declined. Young people (age 18-34) are as attached to print books as their elders and read at about the same rate than older demographics, and they are willing to pay for them.

4. The ‘generation that won’t spend’ is spending on TMT – Millennials who are 18-34 years old in Canada will spend an average of $750 for content, both traditional and digital. With 9 million millennials, that’s nearly $7 billion in sales for the Canadian media industry. What are millennials spending on? Pay TV, music, computer games, books, live sports, streaming video, and even print newspapers. In an Ipsos survey, commissioned by Deloitte, more Canadians aged 18-32 increased or spent the same amount of money this year than last on books (84 percent), live music (83 percent) or live sports (92 percent) relative to GenX-ers (78 percent, 76 percent, 82 percent respectively) or Boomers (78 percent, 73 percent, 76 percent respectively).

5. Click and collect booms: a boon for the consumer, a challenge for retailers. The number of click and collect locations in Europe will reach half a million in 2015, a 20 percent increase on the previous year. Click and collect provides shoppers with the option to pick up items purchased online from locations such as a special section in a store, or a secure locker located in a transit station or a shopping mall. It is prevalent in Europe, but just starting to be trialed in Canada, even though the concept was pioneered by a Canadian company back in the Dotcom era.

6. The connectivity chasm deepens as gigabit Internet adoption rockets – Globally, the number of homes with broadband Internet will grow by about two percent to 715 million, and average broadband speeds in most countries will increase by 20 percent. But variations in broadband speed in homes will be significant. The top decile of homes in some markets will have five times the average speed of those in the bottom decile. Factors unique to each home from the thickness of walls, age of a router, time of day and browsing habits of neighbours will determine the actual speeds attained at each broadband-connected device. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians get broadband speeds of more than 50 Mbps, but even more have realized ‘broadband’ speeds of less than 5 Mbps.

7. The end of the consumerization of IT? In 2015, the pendulum of technology adoption will begin to swing back to the enterprise market, reversing a decade long trend that went the other way - when mass adoption of technologies like large screen smartphones and tablets started with consumer adoption first.

8. The Internet of things really is things, not people – In 2015, over 60 percent of the one billion global wireless IoT devices will be bought, paid for and used by enterprises - despite media focus on consumers controlling their thermostats, lights, and appliances (ranging from washing machines to tea kettles). The IoT-specific hardware will be worth $10 billion, but the services enabled by the devices will be worth about $70 billion.

9. 3D printing is a revolution: Just not the revolution you think - In 2015 nearly 220,000 3D printers will be sold worldwide, with a dollar value of $1.6 billion, but it is unlikely that there will be a “factory in every home.” Deloitte estimates about 80 percent of the value of all 3D printers will be for companies instead of consumers, meaning the real revolution will be in the enterprise market.

10. Short form video: a future, but not the future, of television - The total time spent watching online short-form video clips and programming of less than 20 minutes in length will represent less than three percent of all video seen in the year, both in Canada and globally. However, viewers of short form video may be more engaged and less passive than viewers of traditional long form video, meaning that ads for short form video may generate higher sales with a more-engaged audience.


Deloitte’s TMT Predictions are based on worldwide research supported by in-depth interviews with clients, industry analysts, global leaders and more than 8,000 Deloitte member firm TMT practitioners. Over the last five years, Deloitte was more than 79 percent accurate with its TMT predictions.

Deloitte’s TMT predictions will be showcased in a 12-stop Canadian road show with events starting on January 13. Sign up to attend an event here.

About Deloitte

Deloitte, one of Canada's leading professional services firms, provides audit, tax, consulting, and financial advisory services. Deloitte LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership, is the Canadian member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and its member firms. 

SONA Eyes Nano Production in 2015

By this summer, a new startup based in Sydney hopes to be producing gold nano particles to be used in the diagnosis and treatment of soft tissue cancers.

SONA Nano Tech recently won $50,000 in Innovacorp’s Spark competition and is using the money to establish itself in the Sydney startup community. The company is now working at raising $300,000 to $500,000 with which it plans to begin producing nano particles for medical treatment.

“Current radiation therapy techniques are limited in their effectiveness because they damage healthy bone and tissue,” said Gerrard Marangoni, a St. Francis Xavier University professor and Co-Founder of SONA Nano. “It has been proven that you can use gold nanorods – tiny gold particles - to destroy the cancer cells from inside with no harmful side effects to the patient. In the near future, we will be able to treat soft tissue cancers far more aggressively without the pain, discomfort, and sickness that is normally associated with radiation therapy.”

Marangoni and fellow St. F.X. prof Kulbir Singh have been in the entrepreneurship racket for years. They are the principals of GMS Surface Tech of Antigonish, which develops environmentally friendly cleaning products and has just signed a distribution agreement with ACCO Brands of Lake Zurich, IL. The deal covers about four products, and Marangoni said GMS has about 20 new products that it is hoping to get into the market soon.

They have also spent years dabbling in the study and commercial application of nano particles, or sub-microscopic particles. A year or two ago they discovered healthcare applications of their research, and began to form SONA.

What they have discovered is a cost-effective method of producing gold nano particles that requires no toxins, and thereby reduces the health concerns associated with toxins. What’s more, their methodology has greater control over the size and shape of the nanoparticles than others on the market.

“Our stuff is different because we have a different process of making it,” said Marangoni. “We can do it more inexpensively and we can make sizes that our competitors can’t make.”

Marangoni said in an interview that universities in the region have the equipment needed to begin producing these nano particles. The company, which now employs five people, is developing partnerships with companies in the U.S. that are now treating soft tissue cancers with nanoparticles. These partners would be responsible for the regulatory approvals and SONA would simply produce the particles themselves.

There is already a massive and growing market for gold nanoparticles worldwide and the company expects to capitalize on existing markets immediately, said Michael McAlduff, a Co-Founder of SONA.

The equipment now on hand in the region would allow SONA to produce enough material to get started, but eventually the company hopes to establish its own production facility. With that in mind, Maragoni said that in two to four years it would aim for a funding round worth a few million dollars. For now, the regional infrastructure can produce all that the end-users need.

“If you look at what our competitors are offering, it’s really just one- to ten-litre litre vials and the concentration is small,” said Marangoni. “The beautiful thing is you don’t need a lot for the applications the end-user will need them for. We can produce that in a typical lab setting.”


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.



Acadia to Host Data Seminar for SMEs

The Acadia Institute for Data Analytics will host a symposium next Tuesday on the use of data analysis for small and medium-sized businesses.

Cathy Simpson, the Vice-President of Marketing at T4G, will be the keynote speaker at the Productivity & Competitiveness for SMEs through Data Analytics Seminar, which will be held from noon to 4:30 pm at the Clark Common at Acadia University.

Simpson was one of the founding members 12 years ago of Propel Saint John, which has grown into Propel ICT, the regional tech accelerator. She is also one of the founders and organizers of the Big Data Congress, which will hold its third major event in 2015.

AIDA aims to bring the benefits of data analytics to groups that are often overlooked in the stampede to create a digital economy – such as agriculture, rural industries and small businesses.

It held a symposium last year for data analytics and agriculture and is now holding a similar event for SMEs.

The other speakers at the event Tuesday will include Daryl Fraser, of Livelenz, Matt Cooper of Clean Simple and Wesley Booth of AIDA.

The event is free and you can register here

UIT Starts to Showcase Its Progress

The UIT program at Cape Breton University reached a milestone Monday when its dozen students were to present their best ideas to the members of the One Nova Scotia Coalition.

UIT is a new technology and entrepreneurship program championed by Gavin Uhma, the CBU graduate who went on to co-found GoInstant, one of Nova Scotia’s most successful startups. The program offers free tuition to 12 students, divided evenly between men and women.

While two or three students are focusing on developing real companies, most are being encouraged to come up with ideas in various forms of technology and investigate whether they could be developed into businesses.

“The idea of the program is that throughout the course of the year they’ll be exposed to different forms of technology,” said Uhma in an interview.

He said that once the students are exposed to a form of technology, they’re encouraged to come up with their own ideas on how it could be the basis for a startup. Uhma said that as the program wraps up in the summer, organizers hope more students will develop businesses they can pursue. But, for now, it’s interesting to see the ideas they are coming up with.

On Monday, the members of the One Nova Scotia Coalition, which was established by the provincial government to help implement the recommendations of the Ivany commission, were to meet in Sydney. To highlight the city’s burgeoning tech community, the students were to pitch some of their ideas to coalition members.

Organizers said the session would be a hallmark for the program because it was the first opportunity for students to showcase the work they’d done since September.

After GoInstant sold out to in the summer of 2012, Uhma began to talk about working with his alma mater to set up an entrepreneurship program that would use online courses. People in the tech community began to talk about “the University of Gavin” being established.

Uhma has become the senior mentor in the program, and he reviews all the students’ weekly presentations. But the startup community in Sydney has gotten behind the program, providing mentorship and other resources.

The program is one of several around the region in which the goal is not just to educate students but also to produce successful businesses. Other examples includethe Starting Lean initiative at Dalhousie University, the MTEI program at Saint Mary’s and the TME program at the University of New Brunswick.

Uhma is working with Cape Breton University on plans to continue UIT next year and even enlarge the enrolment. And he said he hopes that again half the students will be female, as there is a broad movement to encourage more women to enter technological businesses and entrepreneurship.

 “For me, it’s just about looking at some of the opportunities I had growing up and making sure that some of the other people growing up in Cape Breton have those same opportunities.”

Founders Still Irked by SR&ED Issue

Since we reported on the federal government’s Scientific Research and Experimental Development program two months ago, we’ve heard a strong message from several Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs. They’re angry at that their claims under the program are either being denied or held up in an appeal process that is taking too long to settle. The word “anger” may understate the sentiment. There’s a certain fury around this issue that is unlike anything I’ve witnessed in the three-and-a-half years I’ve been covering Atlantic Canadian startups.

To recap, we reported on Nov. 27 that several Atlantic Canadian startups had their SR&ED claims rejected completely, even though they received at least part of their claim in previous years. These claims often amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The program administered by the Canadian Revenue Agency has long been used by small and large Canadian companies to finance research and development. However, several entrepreneurs said they have been denied funding in 2014, even though their applications were successful in previous years.

The program allows Canadian businesses — from startups to multinationals — to claim back money for their research and development spending when they file corporate income taxes. In other words, if a company spends a certain amount on scientific research, it can claim for that on tax returns with the hope to receive some money back from CRA. Companies can make claims even if they don’t yet have sales, and therefore don’t pay corporate taxes.

In reporting the SR&ED controversy, we aimed to be as balanced as possible, seeking the views from a range of players and getting a response from CRA. The article drew a strong reaction. By far the strongest were from people outraged that their claims had been denied or ensnared in the review process.

One New Brunswick entrepreneur said that his company had to wait 542 days for the successful completion of its appeal for SR&ED funding.

Another startup from Nova Scotia has been going through the process for 18 months and still has not yet had the matter resolved. The CEO of the company pointed out that lower SR&ED claims affect startups’ ability to tap provincial programs, so the effects are amplified by not receiving provincial funding.

A lot of entrepreneurs told us they are convinced CRA is applying far more stringent criteria to applications from Atlantic Canadian businesses than from those in other parts of the country. Some founders even said they are making SR&ED claims wherever possible through units or partners in other parts of the country to increase their chances of approval. When asked about this, a CRA spokesperson said the agency always strives for consistency in assessing claims from across the country and has actually strengthened its consistency.

Finally, it’s difficult to say whether the situation will improve in 2014. People familiar with the matter say representatives of the East Coast startup community have met with senior CRA officials. The concerns have been spelled out clearly. The result probably won’t be known until companies begin to make their claims for the 2014-15 tax year.


NY Startup’s NS Development Team

Libbe Englander’s voice mail was a sign that fresh opportunities are brewing in the tech segment in Atlantic Canada.

On Tuesday, Englander called Entrevestor and left a message asking if we have a job board. She wanted to know because her company, Pharm3r (pronounced farmer) is hiring developers in the Halifax area.

Nothing unusual in that. Most companies I speak to are looking for programmers. What caught my interest is the fact that Pharm3r is based in New York City.

The company, which conducts data analysis in the pharmaceutical industry, will remain headquartered in Manhattan. But it has one developer in Halifax, is hiring one more and may hire three people in the next year.

 “I’m extraordinarily impressed with your talent pool,” said Englander by phone when we connected.

 “I like the type of work you do, the way you think, the quality of talent, the sense of community. I think it’s a huge resource.”

Whereas Englander wanted to get across the message that she’s hiring, there is something more at play here. This is an entrepreneur with no historic ties to Halifax, yet she believes it helps her business set up a development team in the city.

She calls the story of how she stumbled on Halifax a “historical accident.”

In 2011, she set up Pharm3r as a means to help companies that provide services to the pharmaceutical segment, such as insurers or health-care providers, assess the risks associated with drugs or other medical products.

Pharm3r has developed software that draws information from a range of sources, from medical literature and social media to corporate databases, to present clients with a cogent analysis of the risks associated with a drug. So if an insurer is considering underwriting the insurance on a new drug, it could commission Pharm3r to analyze the risks involved.

Englander declined to detail the growth or customer base of her company, but she did say it’s been profitable from Day 1 and has remained profitable ever since.

About a year ago, she was talking to fellow New York entrepreneur Charles Benaiah about the difficulty in finding development talent. He asked her if she’d considered Halifax. Benaiah’s company, Watzan, which enhances searches in e-commerce and media websites, had recently built up a satellite development team in Nova Scotia, and he recommended she look into the city.

Her husband is from Montreal so the thought of a Canadian office didn’t seem out of line. She flew to Halifax and was impressed with the people she met at Dalhousie University and in the community. She’s returning next month to meet prospective hires and deliver a talk at Acadia University.

Pharm3r and Watzan are small companies, and there’s no parade on Main Street because they’re setting up offices here. But the fact that New York startups are building teams here helps get the word out about what’s happening in Atlantic Canada. It helps to develop the local talent pool, will help with mentorship and strengthens the region’s networks. It’s all part and parcel of developing a bona fide tech community on the East Coast of Canada.



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.      

Email Opened Lures Capital, New CEO

After the sale of one of his companies, Dartmouth entrepreneur Keith Gallant is focusing on the growth of his startup, Email Opened,  by bringing in more capital and a new CEO.

Gallant recently sold his website hosting service,, for more than $100,000 to VivosWeb Inc. of Hamilton, Ont. The sale will allow Gallant to focus more on Email Opened, which helps organizations analyze and improve their email campaigns.

With 1,500 customers, Email Opened is bringing on Rob Gowans as CEO, allowing Gallant to return to his first love of product development. Gowans has worked with Fortune 500 companies so Gallant believes he can help the company fund further growth by raising capital, with a target of $500,000.

 “I’ve had to wear all of the hats,” Gallant said.

 “That’s part of the reason why two years into the company we’re not where most startups are after two years. We should be bigger, we should grow faster.”

In November, Email Opened was the first Canadian company to pitch to the Maine Angels, the principal network of angel investors in the closest state to the Maritimes. If talks are successful, Email Opened will become the first Atlantic Canadian startup to raise capital from the group.

Atlantic Venture Capital is the only Email Opened investor, but the company has also received funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

The money Gallant raises will go toward hiring developers and a sales team.

Gallant started Email Opened in 2012 after creating an in-house email campaign service at Just Hosting. He said it increased the opening of his clients’ emails by seven to nine per cent.

On average, workers spend a quarter of their day on email, receiving approximately 80 messages. Email Opened, which recently moved from Volta Labs in Halifax to its own office in Dartmouth, gathers and interprets analytics about the emails its clients sends. By analyzing how many people are opening them, where they’re opening them from and at what time, businesses can change their patterns to ensure their messages are opened by the target audience.

 “We allow people to change how they send,” Gallant said.

 “Their messages are better as a result of what happened in the past. If you send better email, you can better target your customer, and you can get more return based on who you’re actually targeting.”

Signing up for Email Opened is free. If a business has fewer than 500 contacts, it continues to be free. The fee of the basic package — meaning a business has 500 contacts or more — starts at $15 per month. The premium service isn’t yet available, but when it’s ready, it will cost about $45 per month.

 “Just like we give our users ways to improve their emails, our product itself will always improve and morph and change and grow with email,” Gallant said.

 “Email needs to continue to change. It will always be used.”



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.

Planet Hatch’s Startup Crash Course

Planet Hatch, the Fredericton-based startup hub, is hosting a three-day “pre-accelerator” to give novice entrepreneurs an introduction to the field.

The Startup Crash Course will take place on Jan. 31, Feb. 14 and Feb. 15 at Planet Hatch in Knowledge Park in Fredericton. Applications, which must be submitted by Jan. 20, are available here.

“The Startup Crash Course is an intense 3 day program that will give a select group of committed founders a unique opportunity to take their startup the next level,” said a notice from the organizers. “It is designed to give teams valuable training, tools, and mentorship to get them one step closer to building their startup and potentially gaining access to the Planet Hatch core accelerator program.”

Launching Our Latest Survey

Entrevestor today is launching its second annual campaign to collect data from startups across Atlantic Canada, with the goal of again publishing metrics that are vital to the development of the startup community.

Last year, Entrevestor surveyed about 300 startups, promising confidentiality to all the respondents. We published the aggregated data free for everyone in our Entrevestor Intelligence reports and produced a premium analysis for paying customers.

We’re hoping startup founders will again take a few minutes – literally – to complete and submit the forms and in doing so help the development of the Atlantic Canadian startup community. Your submission helps in two ways:

Our survey provides metrics for the community

Entrevestor’s data is the most tangible evidence of what’s happening in the Atlantic Canadian startup community, and it is being studied by policymakers across the region. Last year, our survey showed that employment in Atlantic Canadian startups increased 43 percent and revenues 30 percent in 2013. We re-enforced those findings with a brilliant infographic prepared by Bonfire Stories of Saint John. As a result, the findings were reported in the National Post as well as regional media outlets. Founders should invest three minutes in completing the survey because it showcases the community and helps in developing better programs.

This survey helps to perpetuate Entrevestor

We provide free daily news to and about Atlantic Canadian startups – which is a huge benefit for the entire community. One way we finance our business is through the sale of our premium reports. At a time of declining news organizations, your simple contribution to our databank helps to ensure our startup community has a daily publication. If you value Entrevestor, the best way to show it is by completing our survey.

This year, we have refined the survey to make it more convenient and beneficial. The survey this year is a single-page form, which most people will complete in less than three minutes. We have a greater emphasis on revenue and employment than last year, so we can better assess these important metrics. But it’s only 25 quick questions and we guarantee that we will treat your data with complete confidentiality.

We have three criteria to be included in our data bank: each company must be based in Atlantic Canada; it must be commercializing proprietary technology (its own or licenced from someone else); and it must be developing a product for the global market.

Today, we’ll send out the questionnaire to about 300 startups in the region. (If you want to beat us to the punch, the Wufoo form is available here. You can complete it and submit it now.) There will also be an option to complete it by email if that`s easier for you. 

Please just take a few minutes to complete it. Be as accurate as possible, even it is shows a decline in your business. We want the best information possible. By contributing, you’ll be doing a huge favour for Entrevestor and benefiting the startup community. 

BDC, NBIF in $750K Smartpods Deal

Smartpods has raised $750,000 in equity financing to help it battle one of society’s great health problems: sitting.

The Dieppe, N.B., company makes tables that have work areas that automatically rise, fall and move from side to side to get users off their butts.

Its technology controls the movement of the working space, and it is finding customers among corporations and government.

Having graduated in November from the Launch36 tech accelerator, the company late last month closed $250,000 in funding from BDC Venture Capital, part of the Business Development Bank of Canada, and $500,000 from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

BDC Venture Capital customarily gives $150,000 convertible notes to the best graduates of Canadian accelerators.

But it is now giving larger amounts to hardware companies, and Smartpods is the first to qualify.

“Hardware companies need more money (than software companies),” said Nicole LeBlanc, associate director of strategic investments and partnerships at BDC Venture Capital.

She added that a prerequisite of receiving the $250,000 allotment is to “have another funding partner who can help them along.”

Smartpods is the brainchild of Leon DesRoches, the company’s CEO and founder.

Having worked for more than a decade as a physiotherapist, DesRoches understands that one of the greatest health issues in the world is that too many of us sit at our desks at 9 a.m. each day and remain there until 5 p.m.

“We truly lose people from nine to five,” said DesRoches in an interview.

“It’s not just health that’s being affected. It’s affecting productivity. That’s why businesses today are paying attention to health and wellness. It’s affecting people’s productivity.”

About four years ago, DesRoches decided he had to come up with a solution.

People ignore devices that ping them every 20 minutes or so, reminding them to move. Other techniques tended to fail as well.

So he devised a table with a work area that automatically moved to encourage mobility among desk-bound staff.

The company partnered with another from the Moncton area, MotionFab, to design the desks and develop a prototype.

Their desks, which are manufactured in Moncton, are attractive, can be customized to users and hide unsightly wires.

Two years ago, they developed their first prototype. They tested the product on 22 Blue Cross employees and analyzed their biomechanics and work output.

They learned employees were more productive, happier and suffered less pain than those sitting at traditional desks.

They got similar results when they tested the product at Moncton’s 911 call centre.

“When they work on Smartpods, they don’t hit that three o’clock wall that is very common with desk users,” said DesRoches.

His timing has been good because large organizations are realizing the problems created by a sedentary workforce.

For example, the federal government has launched its Office 2.0 program, which demands all workers should have a desk with standing and sitting positions.

At $2,500 each, the Smartpod desks are designed to meet the needs of high-end employees and professionals who are desk-bound much of the day.

The target market would be architects and accountants.

DesRoches has previously raised about $1.5 million, including financing from government programs.



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.

Fundmetric Lands BDC Investment

Continuing to gain momentum, Fundmetric of Halifax last week received a $150,000 convertible note from BDC Venture Capital.

The startup actually became the 100th startup in Canada to receive convertible notes from the VC arm of the Business Development Bank of Canada after graduating from a Canadian accelerator. Fundmetric, which helps charities to organize and carry out their fundraising campaigns, qualified for the program because it successfully graduated from the Launch36 tech accelerator.

“Fundmetric was a great fit for our program,” said Dominique Bélanger, BDC Vice President of Venture Capital Strategic Investments and Partnerships. “They already had a product and during Launch36 added customers, early revenue and hired sales expertise to grow into a venture grade company.”

Founded by Mark Hobbs and Chris Kolmatycki, Fundmetric has developed a software-as-a-service tool that lets charity workers communicate with their donors and plot fundraising campaigns. It presents lists of donors and their contact details, highlighting how they like to be contacted. It can stream the donors into groups. And, through a drag-and-drop mechanism, lay out the timeline of a fundraising campaign, plotting when and how to contact donors.

The VC funding is the most recent nugget of good news from a company that is galloping ahead.

As well as graduating from Launch36, Fundmetric also completed its one-year tenancy at Volta Labs in Halifax now has its own office.

The company was recently accepted into the prestigious Google for Entrepreneurs program, so Hobbs and Kolmatycki have been spending time at the Google Canada headquarters in Waterloo, ON.

The six-month program includes pitching to Google management, mentorship from key Google individuals and acceptance to the Communitech Startup Services Group’s Fundamentals Program.

Hobbs said the BDC funding will help the company build up its team, including more developers and a sales rep to help tap the U.S. market.

The company said in November that it was hoping to raise $550,000 in its current funding round, and Hobbs said that since that time it has added another angel investor.



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.




Here’s What We’re Looking for in 2015

To understand what to watch in the Atlantic Canadian startup community in 2015, take a look at Avigilon Corp.

It’s not an Atlantic Canadian company. It’s a maker of high-resolution surveillance systems based in Vancouver. But Avigilon is the type of company that the startup cognoscenti are trying to develop on the East Coast, which makes it an interesting starting point for our outlook for 2015.

Basically, the regional startup community will grow in 2015 as it has in recent years – with startup weekends, competitions, conferences, new student entrepreneurs and seed funding. There will be more funding rounds in the $1 million to $5 million range than we’ve seen before, but essentially there will be a continued evolution. 

What will really differentiate 2015, I believe, is that a select few companies will start looking, thinking and acting more like Avigilon. Gerry Pond, the guiding force behind the Launch36 tech accelerator, has publicly stated his group is committed to developing billion-dollar tech companies (note the plural) in Atlantic Canada. He expects the first to reach that mark in 2019.

To understand what it means to develop a billion-dollar Canadian tech company, I set out to find one, look under the hood and see how it runs. The closest I could find was Avigilon. Listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (AVO:TSX), the company has a market capitalization (the total value of its shares) of about $800 million. The shares sagged in 2014, so Avigilon recently was in the billion-dollar camp.

Founded in 2004, Avigilon launched its first commercial project in 2007. Since then, it has on average more than doubled revenue each year and now has clients in 113 countries. It posted revenue of $191.9 million in the first nine months of 2014, which easily topped the full-year revenue of $178.3 million in 2013. Its most dramatic growth was in 2005 to 2009 when revenues increased a total of 33,664 percent. It now employs about 550 people, and last year earned a profit of $34.5 million.

The company has had problems in 2014, mainly in management and its relations with investors, but its history of growth shows how billion-dollar companies perform. If the Atlantic Canadian startup grouping is going to really change the economic plight of the region, it will have to produce a few companies like Avigilon. And they’ll need to start acting like Avigilon soon.

Naturally, they will have to set and meet astronomical sales targets, but some will also have to begin planning to list on a stock exchange.

Why? Because if we’re serious about growing a group of billion-dollar tech companies in the region, we’ll need the capital that can only be provided by public markets. Avigilon, for example, raised $100 million in an issue of stock in March.

So this year I’ll be looking for signs of companies that want to join the likes of such publicly listed companies as St. John’s-based Bluedrop Performance Learning and Halifax-based Immunovaccine Inc. They should be preparing for quarterly financial statements and strengthening their governance. They’ll have to start looking beyond venture capital investors to court investors and analysts in public tech and small-capitalization stocks. This should be the most notable trend of the regional tech community in 2015.



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.

Happy New Year to #Startupeast

Happy 2015 to the Atlantic Canadian startup community. 

We hope all of you have had a relaxing and happy holiday season and are ready to do and witness incredible things in 2015. 

We're pumped about what lies ahead of us in 2015. Entrevestor will continue to chronicle the development of the East Coast startup community, starting with our outlook for 2015 today. While it focuses on a single Atlantic Canadian issue, the big change for Entrevestor in the next few months will be a broadening of our focus. We're going to start covering a few deals from across the country. We'll still be an Atlantic Canadian news service, but with a bit of an eye for what's going on elsewhere. Stay tuned for the details. 

The next few weeks will be busy as we know there will be some news from the end of last year that will finally emerge. We're looking forward to writing and analyzing it for you. And as ever, we're thrilled to be getting out across the region and meeting with as many of you as possible. 

Happy New Year, everyone, and all the best for 2015. 



Happy Holidays to our Readers

Our greatest hope today is that your holidays are happy and that your undertakings in 2015 will be fruitful and fun.

For many of us in the Atlantic Canadian startup family, 2014 was great year. The biggest achievement was probably PropelICT crushing its target for Launch36, but it was not alone. There was the $60 million funding by Verafin, and exits by UserEvents, Compilr, Newpace and G2 Research. There was CAIP funding for PropelICT and the PEI BioAlliance. There was the inaugural Startup Empire.

There were setbacks, a few companies that hit the wall, and the ongoing angst over the SR&ED program.

But more than anything, there were thousands of founders and employees booting up their computers each and every morning and fighting endlessly to push their projects uphill. They do so diligently, creatively and above all joyfully. It’s remarkable to be part of such a happy and productive community of people.

The image above embodies our own feelings at this time of the year. It shows our Entrevestor Christmas tree ornament that our daughter Cat made for us last year. She was then just beginning her career in entrepreneurship with her 3D Design and Printing company, Adalay 3D. That ornament makes up 100 percent of the swag we’ve produced for Entrevestor, and we’re really fond of it.

Entrevestor itself has had a tremendous year in 2014, and we’re getting ready for a thoroughly splendid 2015. We’ll have some announcements about new initiatives that we hope you’ll be excited about.

This is our last post of 2014, so we’d like to close by thanking all of you for following us this year and wishing you and your family a happy holidays.

See you in the new year. 

Enactus Memorial Takes on the World

At the Enactus world championships in Beijing in October, Jonathan King and his team came tantalizingly close to once again bringing home the trophy as the world’s top social entrepreneurship program for university students.

King is the head of Enactus Memorial, the student-run organization at Memorial University of Newfoundland that runs projects to improve the standard of living and quality of life of ordinary people. It is one of 60 Enactus teams in Canada and one of 1,800 worldwide. And it has a really, really full trophy case.

In fact, in 2014 it was judged to be better than all but seven of its international peers. It won the Canadian national competition in Calgary in April and proceeded to the global championships in the Chinese capital. 

“We came in the top eight in the world, which was good,” said King in an interview after he returned to St. John’s. “In the quarter-finals, we ended up against the Morocco team and they won and ended up coming second overall after China.”

Memorial’s program began as Launchpad in 2002 and became Enactus Memorial in 2012 – the year the name Enactus was taken by the international organization formerly known as Students in Free Enterprise, or SIFE. In that time, it has won seven national championships and one world title, which it captured in 2008 in Singapore.

The silver-medal Moroccan team in Beijing had interesting technology: it made clay pots that clean water to people can drink it. But the MUN team – which was after its second world title in seven years – had three projects that were pretty cool as well.

-  Project Bottlepreneur is a program that helps people who push carts around streets collecting cans and bottles for recycling. The project volunteers go door-to-door through neighbourhoods asking residents to make their recyclables available to these people, and then they organize routes for the collectors. It helps the individuals develop bona fide businesses. It is now working with 14 such individuals across Canada.

-  Project Stitch helps Haitians who have been injured, especially those who have lost limbs, develop a livelihood by sewing articles of clothing. The project is starting with neckties. At the outset, Enactus volunteers are acting as marketing agents to get the ties into the U.S. market, but that role will be taken over by Haitians as the project develops.

-  Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur helps members of the Canadian Armed Forces integrate into society after their military service by becoming entrepreneurs. The program, which has been recognized by Prince Charles, is offered in both official languages and has helped more than 200 soldiers transition out of the forces.

“One real goal is to create real value,” said Diana Flemming, Vice-President of Enactus Memorial. “We try to improve the quality of life of the people we work with.”

The results are seen across Newfoundland and Labrador and beyond, and have helped countless community groups. They range from international projects like Project Stitch to community endeavors like Hustle NL, which arranges specialty sports programs in rural communities that otherwise wouldn’t have such programs.

At any given time, Enactus Memorial has 10 projects on the go. After a couple of years, the more mature projects spin off to form their own businesses or not-for-profit organizations. The organizers aim to bring three projects forward each year to present at the national (and hopefully international) events.

King, a fifth year commerce student who will graduate this year, said the group is preparing to bring on a new executive and that it already has an eye on the next world championship, which will be held in Johannesburg next autumn.

“We always have three main projects going on that are strong and we’re getting ready,” he said. “And of course we always have new ideas as well.”


This article first appeared in our most recent Entrevestor Intelligence report, which appears here.


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.

Brownie Points Pivots at FounderFuel

Matthew Stenback and Adam Puddicombe returned to St. John’s this month from three months of intense mentorship at the FounderFuel accelerator with a new target market for their company Brownie Points.

The two former business students from Memorial University in Newfoundland were among the first Atlantic Canadians to attend the Montreal-based accelerator. During the intense course, they learned the best market for their customer-loyalty platform would be neighbourhood business associations. They’re now preparing to launch a new product for these groups in January and already have signed up two customers.

“All the VC guys we spoke to [in Montreal] saw a good market for us in these retail associations,” said Stenback in an interview last week. “The fact that we already had traction in places like Halifax and St. John’s was good, but they wanted us to double down on the retail associations.”

The two founders established a company last year that created loyalty programs for small retailers. They started out with coffee shops and spread to other outlets, finding customers in a few East Coast cities and even Alberta.

In the summer, they were one of eight companies from Canada, New York and San Francisco accepted into FounderFuel, one of the country’s leading accelerators. They completed the course earlier this month when Stenback delivered their pitch before a packed house at the Rialto Theatre in Montreal.

“I didn’t know what to expect going into it,” said Stenback of the accelerator. “Day to day, you feel the pressure. We now know how to go faster than we ever have gone before.”

He and Puddicombe had to adapt to doing their day-to-day work and fitting in the programing arranged by FounderFuel, but they got used to it. Stenback said they got excellent advice from a range of advisers, and gained credibility because they can say they now work with advisers who are recognized as international experts in retailing.

Though the company has changed direction slightly, the Brownie Points platform is largely unchanged. It’s a digital loyalty program that rewards customers, helps retailers track client traffic, and incentivizes customers to return to an establishment if they’ve been away for a while.

What they learned in Montreal is the product is a powerful tool for neighbourhood business associations, such as the Spring Garden Area Business Association in Halifax. It can reward shoppers not only at individual stores or cafes, but also those who shop at a number of shops in a single district. Stenback said there are about 2000 associations in North America dedicated to improving local areas, and about 5,000 to 10,000 local retail associations.

The duo plans to launch the neighbourhood product in February, and already has two customers lined up – Downtown Charlottetown Inc., and Brunswick Square in Saint John. Brownie Points is in discussions with about eight other possible clients for the product.

The company received an investment of $55,000 on entering FounderFuel and is now raising an equity round of about $600,000, which it hopes to close by the end of March.  It has spoken with a few potential investors, including GrowthWorks Atlantic, which is administering Venture Newfoundland and Labrador, a new private-public fund that will provide seed financing for young startups in the province.


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.

Deloitte To Buy SwiftRadius

Deloitte, one of the Big Four global accounting firms, has agreed to buy Fredericton-based tech consultancy SwiftRadius, marking the second time this year an accounting practice has bought an Atlantic Canadian tech company.

The companies did not reveal the value of the deal, only saying it will close in January. In May, Saint John-based Ambir Solutions, one of Atlantic Canada’s leading technology consultancies, said it would join EY Canada (formerly Ernest & Young) as part of its business consultancy division.

In a statement last week, Deloitte said the transaction will enhance its Atlantic presence. It will open a new Deloitte office in Fredericton and add IT professionals in Saint John, Moncton and Charlottetown. The consulting practice will benefit from SwiftRadius’s expertise in the health care, energy and public sector segments.

“SwiftRadius is one of the most innovative and well-recognized IT and business consulting firms in this part of the country,” Mathew Harris, Deloitte’s Managing Partner for the Atlantic region, said in the statement. “The team’s client service approach and technical expertise are second to none, and we’re proud to be bringing them on board. With this acquisition, we’re making a strategic investment in supporting the continued growth of businesses in Atlantic Canada.”

The union of Deloitte and SwiftRadius brings together two outfits with special positions in the Atlantic Canadian startup community.

Deloitte has been a sponsor of several startup events and facilities in the region, and its annual Canadian TMT Predictions are accompanied by a thought-provoking roadshow led by Duncan Stewart, director of research at Deloitte Canada. (TMT stands for technology, media and telecommunications.)

In bringing aboard SwiftRadius, Deloitte is acquiring a consultancy that has a special interest in the startup world. In 2012, it spun off Adeptio, a Charlottetown startup that went through the Launch36 accelerator and received funding from the BDC Venture Capital.

In April, SwiftRadius launched a new partnership with Forth Innovation, a Dutch business consultancy, to roll out the European firm’s innovation program in the North American market.

“We created SwiftRadius to help companies and government organizations transform their business processes through innovative uses of technology, and this transaction amplifies our ability to do that,” said company founder and CEO Scott MacIntosh. “With the combined strengths of our two teams and the assets of Deloitte behind us, we’ll be able to offer clients a remarkable level of service. It’s a case of one plus one equals three.”


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.


Mark Brand Headlines Starting Point

Mark Brand, one of the leading social entrepreneurs in Vancouver, will be the keynote speaker at the Starting Point conference to be held at St. Mary’s University from Feb. 18 to 20.

The Starting Point conference is designed to bring together student entrepreneurs and educate them in fundraising, developing ideas, social entrepreneurship, and other facets of starting their own businesses. The organizers expect about 150 student entrepreneurs from across Canada.

The highlight of the three-day event will be a keynote address by Mark Brand to an audience of as many as 600 people.

“Successfully operating eight businesses in the downtown area, he has become a prominent example of a new generation of leadership,” said promotional material from SMU, which is a client of Entrevestor. “A fighter for Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, this enigmatic social entrepreneur is determined to breathe new life into the struggling and disjointed community.”

The other sessions at the Starting Point conference include master classes on various facets of entrepreneurship, an ideation tournament and a funder speed dating session.

Tickets for the conference are available here

Kay Thrilled by Memogain’s Prospects

Denis Kay has been a scientist for a long time, but he’s most thrilled by his current role working on a promising drug for Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s is an escalating problem in aging societies. It’s estimated that the worldwide annual market for Alzheimer’s drugs is already $3.8 billion, although the cost to society is far greater.

“Sometimes I can’t sleep at night because of my excitement over the drug and working for a small biotech venture,” said Kay, who is a founder and chief scientific officer of Charlottetown’s Neurodyn Life Sciences.

Kay is energized because Neurodyn’s Alzheimer’s drug, Memogain, has obtained test results that show it boosts cognition.

In recent clinical trials, Neurodyn tested Memogain on both young and elderly healthy volunteers.

Both groups showed improved working memory.

Memogain is an improved version of a drug called Galantamine. Galamantine is also a substance derived from snowdrop plants and daffodils, and has historically been used as a memory aid in northern Europe.

Memogain’s original developer, Dr. Alfred Maelicke, working in Germany, was a leader in the clinical development of Galantamine as a prescription medicine for the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Neurodyn bought Memogain from Maelicke’s company, Galantos Pharma, last year after the 2008 financial crash left his group unable to raise the funds needed to continue developing the drug.

Maelicke had recognized that an improved version of Galantamine could be developed by adding a simple acid to the original drug. This is what Neurodyn has in clinical development.

The addition of the acid increases the drug’s ability to pass through the blood-brain barrier and decreases its gastrointestinal side effects.

The blood-brain barrier protects the brain from dangerous substances in the blood. It’s so effective that it presents an enormous problem when drugs need to be delivered directly to the brain.

Kay said pre-clinical development suggests the new drug is at least 10 to 15 times better at penetrating the blood-brain barrier than the parent drug.

He said most Alzheimer’s drugs ameliorate the disease for just one year, but he thinks the improved Memogain may work longer.

“(It) allows dosing to much higher levels. We will be able to dose with at least 10 times as much drug, possibly as much as 50 times more.

“Also, our tests on rats, whose brains function very similarly to humans, suggest that at sufficiently high concentrations, the drug increases the creation of new brain cells, leading to increased cognition and memory.”

He said that other, independent pre-clinical tests have shown that Memogain decreases the amount of damaging amyloid plaques found within diseased brains.

Now, plans are underway to test the drug in a patient population.

The company will soon be talking to the European Medicines Agency, the Food and Drug Administration in the United States and Health Canada about the time frame through which the drug may be brought to market.

“The most optimistic estimate is three years for market approval,” Kay said. “Europe will probably be the first to approve it.”

He added that it may be possible to obtain up to 10 per cent of the Galantamine required to make Memogain for the worldwide market from daffodils grown in Atlantic Canada.

Kay published his first peer-reviewed work in 1976 as an undergraduate science student at Dalhousie University. Working on Memogain is the highlight of a career that has seen him tackling other diseases that affect the brain and nervous system, such as AIDS and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

“Around 96 to 98 per cent of the burden of Alzheimer’s lies in patient care,” he said. “We believe we’re going to improve the lives of patients and their families in an affordable way.”


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.   

Caetum Planning 2015 Launch

Caetum, a Halifax company that emerged from St. Mary’s University’s graduate program for startups, is preparing to launch an online product next year aimed at solving a huge pain for clinical researchers.

The company is producing a digital platform that helps clinical research sites budget for their projects, something that can be a surprisingly large challenge.

Though there is software on the market that helps with such tasks, it is expensive and includes lots of features that researchers don’t need, said co-founder Mandy Woodland in an interview.

The three founders of Ceatum — the others declined to be named — attended the first cohort of the Master’s of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at the Halifax university.

The founders, all of whom have experience in a range of fields, entered the program in the autumn of 2013 and worked on a few ideas until they learned of the problems plaguing clinical researchers.

When they began to interview researchers, they were astonished by what they heard.

“I was shocked, shocked, shocked,” said Woodland, a lawyer from St. John’s, N.L.

“Every single person we talked to said they used pencil and paper, or they made up their own Microsoft Excel spreadsheets (to do their budgeting).”

A former biological researcher, Woodland explained that the budget process for medical research is complicated.

For example, some medicines may need to be tested on a certain number of people to complete the clinical trial, but some patients may drop out during the course of the test.

There are also varying costs for procedures like MRIs and CT scans or nurse visits, so it’s difficult to estimate at the outset what the final costs will be.

Caetum is developing software that will be flexible and easy enough to use that it will save researchers time doing budgeting.

The flexibility will allow them to alter the tabulations to reflect changes as tests progress.

The software package will also aim to provide data on the costs in specific research sites or geographic locations.

This would help to address the problem research institutions have negotiating with the sponsors of their research.

Researchers may budget a certain amount for a clinical procedure, but the sponsors frequently argue that the estimates are too high.

By providing data on the costs in different locations, Caetum will give research institutes more negotiating power.

For the last six months, Woodland and her co-founders interviewed representatives of 65 research sites and have signed up five to undergo tests with the new product starting in April.

They’ve also hired two people.

The trio has not raised any external financing and intends to grow the company through revenue rather than 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.   

Grammer on Investing in #Startupeast

A few years ago, my partners and I at Rho Canada Ventures began to notice the opportunities occurring in Atlantic Canada, and I started spending more time here.

Today, we feel really lucky I did.

We’ve found a rich vein of tech companies on the East Coast, and we were able to invest in them before many of our competitors had heard of them.

We set up Rho Canada in Montreal in 2006 with the vision of establishing a truly national fund. Though half our investor base was in Montreal, we wanted our coverage to extend from Vancouver to Halifax. So I began to make scouting missions to the East Coast and was pleased with what I found. By 2013 we invested in our first Atlantic Canadian company and there are now four in our portfolio.

When I first arrived in Atlantic Canada, I spent a lot of time understanding what was happening on the ground. I visited the universities and talked a lot with Gerry Pond, the chair of East Valley Ventures. I looked at the different accelerators, at investors like New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and Innovacorp.

What we saw was a lot of interest in pure technology, especially what was coming out of the universities. And it was supported by a strong ecosystem that features superb mentorship.

We wanted a presence, but we had learned that it was always easiest in venture capital if you have more than one investment in a geographic location. It means your visits to the area (and I now visit Atlantic Canada twice a month) are more productive because you’re meeting with more than one portfolio company. 

Our first investment in the region came in September 2013 when we were lead investor in the A Round for Halifax-based Karma Gaming, which develops video games for regulated lotteries. Our co-investors were Innovacorp and Vanedge Capital of Vancouver.

What I like about Karma is it was dealing in an international market place and its founders, Paul LeBlanc and Jay Aird, are experienced executives.

After we closed the Karma deal, I spent more time in New Brunswick. After about seven months, we joined Build Ventures, GrowthWorks Atlantic Venture Fund and NBIF in a $3.9 million funding round for Smart Skin Technologies of Fredericton. I was impressed with the technology, which can detect pressure on a surface and chart it in real time on a computer or device. The management team’s been able to sell it into multiple verticals. The fact that Gerry Pond had been instrumental in developing the company didn’t hurt either.

Next, we invested in another Halifax company, Analyze Re, which was developing administrative and risk analysis software for the reinsurance industry. Innovacorp and BDC Venture Capital also invested in the company, which had just graduated from the Launch36  accelerator.

And, just in November, we invested in Resson Aerospace of Fredericton, a precision agriculture outfit that had also graduated from the Propel accelerator.

It’s worth noting that two of our investments came out of the Propel accelerator program, where they received great mentorship. It’s also notable that we were in the seed round or A round on each of these companies.

The fact that not a lot of venture capitalists operate in Atlantic Canada meant that we were able to find gems other VCs weren’t aware of. But it’s more significant than that. It also means that Atlantic Canadian startups are used to launching with little more than technology and determination. They’re used to solving a problem and getting going without a lot of backing.

So what we’re doing here is good old-fashioned venture capital.  I’m meeting regularly with these companies and helping them through the growth stage of their business. It’s what VCs should do, and I hope more venture capitalists discover what is happening here.

What the Atlantic Canada startup community needs now is longevity. You don’t wake up one day to discover you’ve got a thriving startup community. There will be highs and lows and we have to work through all of them.

We need to support the angel groups, accelerators and mentors that are supporting this community. We need to work with the universities to encourage more technology to get out in the entrepreneurship community. It’s an exciting time. I’m glad to be part of it.


Jeff Grammer is a Partner with Rho Ventures Canada, the Canadian arm of Rho Capital Partners, which has offices in Palo Alto, Calif., New York and Montreal. This column first appeared in the most recent Entrevestor Intelligence report.


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.     


Disruption Hosts QRA, Innovacorp

QRA, a Halifax startup that helps manufacturers detect design problems, has become the first Canadian company accepted into the headquarters of Disruption Corp., a support facility based in Washington, D.C.

Disruption, founded eight months ago by globetrotting startup backer Paul Singh, announced Monday night it has struck an agreement with Innovacorp to “set up shop” in the Disruption headquarters and help recruit Canadian tenants. QRA, which will still be based in Halifax, will be the first of these tenants.

“Disruption is not investing in us, but their deal with Innovacorp will have us treated essentially as one of their portfolio companies while we are down here,” said CEO Jordan Kyriakidis in an email Monday night.

QRA (which stands for Quantum Research Analytics) grew out of a research project at Dalhousie University commissioned by Lockheed-Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, which is based in the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Md.  Kyriakidis headed the project, which aimed to identify design flaws in complicated machines in the early stages of development – before the company had spent a lot of money building out the product.

QRA’s tools can analyze and validate how system components are put together and work together. It can detect any faults before the machine is actually built. These tools are based on rigorous mathematical approaches and can detect errors that conventional testing cannot, said Kyriakidis.

The announcement is obviously great news for QRA because it will position the company in one of the fastest-growing startup and investment communities in the U.S. What’s more, the District of Columbia is home to a massive aerospace industry, including companies like Lockheed-Martin, which would be perfect customers for QRA.

But the announcement also signals a leadership role that Innovacorp is assuming in corralling Canadian companies into the Disruption facility. The agency is acting as a conduit for startups from across Canada, not just Nova Scotia, that hope to access the Disruption facility. It will help in Innovacorp’s mission to increase its international network, with the end goal of heightening the exposure of Nova Scotian startups to international investors and customers. (Innovacorp sponsors and advertises in Entrevestor.) 

Singh developed an international reputation as an authority on tech development when he was a partner in the early stage venture capital firm 500 Startups. He traveled around the world looking for early stage investments, and visited Atlantic Canada several times, including stops at MentorCamp and the Atlantic Venture Forum.

Earlier this year, he formed Disruption Corp., which manages Crystal Tech Fund, to provide education, access and insight to maturing startups. On Monday, the group announced it would double the square footage of its headquarters and expand its partnerships. As well as Innovacorp, the Disruption headquarters will welcome the Iron Yard, a coding academy that already has outposts in Charleston, Atlanta, Austin, and other locations in the Southeast. 

“The original vision was to build a magnet for the best tech companies and the resources and investors who can help them grow,” said Singh in a statement.  “What we have is a place and people that are curated, aspirational and inspirational.”

QRA has been working on closing a $4 million funding round, and Kyriakidis said Monday that the deal hasn’t quite closed yet.



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.     


Eight Winners in Spark Cape Breton

A diverse group of entrepreneurs — from a 15-year-old to a group of nursing students to a pair of St. Francis Xavier University professors —have been named winners of the second annual Spark Cape Breton entrepreneurship competition.

Innovacorp, the provincial innovation agency, has announced eight winners will divide the total prize money of $200,000, up from six winners in the first competition last year.

Innovacorp, the Atlantic Provinces Opportunities Agency and the Nova Scotia Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Department — all clients of Entrevestor — organize the competition to encourage entrepreneurship in Cape Breton and the Mulgrave area.

Bob Pelley, the Innovacorp director in Sydney, said he saw a huge difference in the pitches this year, with 28 entrants competing at a higher level than before.

 “The level of preparedness just seemed to skyrocket,” Pelley said in an interview.  “The pitches were fantastic and the willingness of the participants to accept mentoring and (change their business plan) on the spot was evident.”

The winners, and the amounts won, are:, $50,000

Richard Lorway and Mathew Georghiou formed this company to develop a platform for local news and information websites for communities around the world.

• Sona Nanotech, $50,000

A regional finalist in last year’s I-3 competition, Sona was formed by St. F.X. profs Gerrard Marangoni and Kulbir Singh to commercialize their research in nanotechnology, which include health-care applications such as cancer treatment.

• Chatsubo Heavy Industries, $45,000

Founded by Kaleb DeLeskie, 15, the company is developing the Chatsubo Packet Monster, an Internet security device that will allow real-time collection and storage of Internet traffic.

• TACKK Mobile Health Solutions, $25,000

TACKK grew out of a project in a community nursing course at Cape Breton University. Christopher Walker, Athanasius Sylliboy and a team of classmates developed an app called FootChek, a real-time foot-monitoring device intended to reduce diabetic foot ulcers.

• Social Response Marketing, $10,000

The company founded by Joe Ward is developing an automated web tool that helps small businesses create, schedule and publish updates for Facebook and Twitter.

• Prevail Innovations, $10,000

The company established by Robert MacKenzie is developing an app for mobile devices that enhances the efficiency and accuracy of dictation.

• Rent Buddy, $5,000

Founded by Matthew McKay of Sydney Forks, Rent Buddy’s website helps property managers create profiles of their properties to speed up the listing process. It also makes it easier for prospective tenants to search for properties.

UpTime.Management, $5,000

D. Darren MacDonald’s UpTime.Management helps organizations enhance the health of their employees though real-time knowledge of work-absence trends, analytics, coaching and performance management.

The winners have to use the money to complete prototypes or prepare for taking their product to the market. The organizers will also continue to work with them by having veteran entrepreneurs mentor winners.

Pelley said mentorship played a larger role in this competition than in the first year.

“It actually felt like Spark was more of an accelerator than just a competition. That is what we will be moving toward next time around.”


EDITOR’S NOTE: 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.

Searching the Globe for Talent

When he was working as a chemist in Iran, Mostafa Aghaei developed a solution from natural polymers that successfully combatted the erosion and movement of sand dunes – a huge problem in the desert nation.

When he came to Canada three years ago, he became an entrepreneur and began looking for local applications for his unique nanocoil product; a natural solution that becomes a fixative when it hardens.

And now he’s on the right track. Aghaei’s company, Biopolynet of Fredericton, has recently struck a partnership with Iron Ore Company (IOC) of Canada, to use the nanocoils to prepare iron pellets(the form in which iron is shipped.)

Aghaei has discovered a way to create natural polymers (strings of molecules) that form into coils, so they lock together when they harden. That means that his solution can stabilize sand dunes in the Iranian desert or help to shape iron into pellets. In fact, as Aghaei explained during a pitch at the BioInnovation Challenge competition at BioPort Atlantic, tests with IOC have shown that it can reduce the production costs of forming iron into pellets by 70 percent.

The fact that Biopolynet is working with one of the world’s largest iron producers shows what immigration can mean to the Atlantic Canadian startup community and economy. Mostafa Aghaei came to Atlantic Canada as an academic and now his company is developing products that could find markets around the world. The fact is Atlantic Canada needs more people like him.

And the startup community in particular can benefit from more immigration. Some of the finest entrepreneurs in the region were born in other countries, and the federal government has introduced a program to encourage more immigrants to come to the region.

“We shouldn’t feel bad that we need talent,” said Rob Barbara, a partner at Build Ventures in Halifax. “Everyone needs talent. More than half the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies weren’t born in the United States.”

The plain fact is Atlantic Canada needs immigration to replace the baby-boomers who are leaving the workforce and the younger people who are leaving the region. Another truth – a somewhat inconvenient one -- is the region thus far has had difficulty attracting immigrants.

For example, in 2012, the four Atlantic Provinces welcomed a total of 6,434 immigrants; a number that didn’t even equal Nova Scotia’s self-proclaimed target of 7,200 immigrants a year. Nova Scotia’s total rose 11 percent to 2,370 in 2012. If that pace of growth continues, Nova Scotia won’t reach the 7,200 annual intake goal until 2023.

One program that could help attract immigrants to the region is Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s new Startup Visa program, which has been rolled out this year. Under the program, Canada will issue as many as 2,700 visas annually to entrepreneurs, and efforts are already being made to ensure some come to Atlantic Canada.

The first successful Atlantic Canadian applicants are, like Aghaei, Iranians. Ehsan Mokhtari and Hadi Shiravi Khozani are co-founders of Ara Labs Security Solutions of Fredericton. They were sponsored by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

The Startup Visa program allows entrepreneurial immigrants to get permanent residency status within six months. They must make their application with the collaboration of an investment or angel group or incubator.

So far, the federal government has approved five organizations to work with the program, including Halifax-based Innovacorp.  As of mid-November, Innovacorp had received 305 expressions of interest and 89 submissions from entrepreneurs in at least 30 countries. It has written four letters of support.

“The Startup Visa Program is exciting because it’s an opportunity to attract the world’s best and brightest entrepreneurs and their technologies to Nova Scotia,” said Stephen Duff, President and CEO of Innovacorp. “These entrepreneurs will create jobs and wealth, propel innovation, and entice more much-needed immigrants to our province.”

The hope is that more Atlantic Canadian organizations will also qualify to participate in the program. The goal is to expand and enrich the pool of entrepreneurs in the region. But Barbara of Build Ventures said Atlantic Canadians overall must still do more to welcome people to the region.

“We’re the friendliest people in the world,” he said. “But we’re a little skeptical of people from away and that’s not good for our economy.”


This article originally appeared in the December 2014 Entrevestor Intelligence report.


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.  

Dinn Brings Propel New Perspective

After a career spent proving his adaptability, Gary Dinn is now focused on preparing Atlantic Canadian companies for the global market through his role at a regional mentoring group.

Dinn has recently taken over as CEO of Propel-ICT, the group that runs Launch36, the biggest business accelerator east of Montreal.

Under the banner Propel 2.0, Dinn and his team are aiming to launch 420 startups over the next five years. Some of these will come from outside Atlantic Canada.

They will be assisted by the federal government, which recently committed to contributing up to $2.9 million to Propel over five years.

Previously, Dinn worked on developing subsea acoustics and other marine technologies. He co-founded the St. John’s, N.L., defence and nautical equipment maker Rutter Technologies, which is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

His work around the world makes him confident that Atlantic Canada’s entrepreneurs can compete globally.

 “This region’s companies can produce the quality and quantity to meet the world market,” said Dinn, now back at his home base in St. John’s.

 “But we need a greater concentration of the ideas that create businesses. Venture capitalists don’t think there is enough going on here. We need to create critical mass.”

Propel ICT began in Saint John, N.B., 10 years ago. The group works with partner groups such as Planet Hatch in Fredericton and Volta Labs in Halifax to deliver programs that help startups access venture capital.

 “Propel programs make people talk about their businesses in a way venture capitalists want to hear,” Dinn said.

 “They are much more likely to land investment.”

His own career has taught him the importance of flexibility in business.

He began studying engineering at Memorial University in St. John’s. His electrical engineering professor started a company called Ice Engineering, where Dinn worked between 1982 and 1985, learning about managing the problems ice causes for the oil and gas industries.

In 1985, he was a co-founder of Consolidated Technologies. At the time, the Soviets were deploying nuclear submarines in the Arctic. It was decided to place sonar buoys in the Arctic to monitor them, but the ice cover was a problem. Consolidated Technologies partnered with Spartan Electronics of London, Ont., to find a solution, gaining the Office of Naval Research in the United States as an early client.

 “We came up with our solution in 1990 and produced the first 50 units, but the Gulf War broke out and took all the funding and the project was cancelled,” Dinn said.

He and his colleagues then tackled the problem of aircraft de-icing fluid at airports that was seeping into ground water. The company figured out a way to recycle the fluid by reconcentrating it.

In 1994, the Estonia ferry sank in the Baltic Sea, with the loss of 852 lives.

Dinn and his partners had already been working on introducing electronic charting systems to ships. So when the International Maritime Organization decided to create a nautical black box, they were well placed to assist. Dinn was one of those who helped write the specifications for the box.

 “The International Electrotechnical Commission wrote the technical details and we in St. John’s contributed the standard,” Dinn said.

 “We decided to create the product ourselves and were working on it while helping to write the specifications for the IEC.”

By the time the standard was issued, they were almost ready to go to market, founding Rutter Technologies in 1997. At one point, they had 20 per cent of the world market.

Dinn has also been a director of the World Ocean Council, the international business alliance for corporate ocean responsibility. He is a past chairman of OceansAdvance, Newfoundland’s OceanTech cluster.

He will be travelling around Atlantic Canada to help better integrate the startup ecosystem.

 “We need to work together, to be pan-Atlantic, in order to get enough venture capital to make entrepreneurship a driver of the economy.”


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.      

Breakthru Prizes Reach $750,000

The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s current Breakthru competition will be dramatically bigger than the 2013 edition, both in terms of number of participants and total prizes.

The New Brunswick innovation agency announced this morning that it received applications for the biennial startup competition from 62 teams representing 108 entrepreneurs from all over New Brunswick. In the 2013 event, there were 47 entries.

The total prizes will almost double to $750,000 in cash and in-kind services. That’s up from $406,000 last time out.  

“This is the highest number of Breakthru entries we've received to date, telling us that innovation-based entrepreneurship is something New Brunswickers want to use to create a better future for themselves and their communities,” said NBIF Chair Robert Hatheway in a statement. “The success of Breakthru and its growth year-over-year tells me that, as a means for economic growth in the province, innovation and entrepreneurship is building itself on solid ground.”

NBIF – which sponsors and advertises in Entrevestor – holds its Breakthru competition every second year with the goals of drawing out latent entrepreneurs with good ideas and helping to launch the best candidates.  

While the grand prize for first place has risen from $192,000 in 2013 to $287,250 in the current competition, the biggest increase has been in the second- and third-place prizes. They are now both worth $222,250, up respectively from $137,000 and $77,000 last time. What that means is the competition should give sufficient resources to three companies to launch.

Milbury said the aim is to come up with a “company in a box” to present to the winners. That means that in addition to an investment by NBIF, they will have legal and accounting services, as well as banking, insurance, web design and the like.

Cox & Palmer and Deloitte, NBIF’s corporate partners in the event, contributed a total of $323,000 in support. Of that support, $234,000 was contributed in the form of prizes with the remainder reserved for the administration, production and promotion of the competition.

The prizes include: IT services from Blue Spurs; executive coaching services from Vision Coaching; branding and digital design services from Orange Sprocket; web and video production from Outreach Productions; branding and design services from Ginger Design; and company launch event at a Cineplex.

The Department of Economic Development will provide NB Growth Cash incentives of up to $45,000 per Breakthru winner, subject to NB Growth program eligibility requirements.

NBIF said there may be more prizes announced.

The teams will gather for the Breakthru Bootcamp on January 17 and the winners will be announced at a gala dinner in Fredericton on March 19.



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.



Expanding Bungalo Moves Into PEI

Bungalo may be the only company working out of the Volta startup hub in Halifax that can legitimately claim expansion into Prince Edward Island is part of an international growth strategy.

The online cottage rental platform did just that this week, and the “international” part is convincing because the company began life in Iceland.

The tech startup, which is in the process of raising $1 million, has dual headquarters in Reykjavik and Halifax and believes the Canadian market is perfect for its product, which connects cottage owners and vacationers.

Having signed up 500 cottage owners in Iceland, the company established a beachhead in Nova Scotia in the summer and is following through on founder and CEO Haukur Gudjonsson’s plan to spread across Canada. On Monday, it announced its expansion into P.E.I.

 “Right now, we have 12 listings from P.E.I. live on our site and 10 pending listings,” said spokeswoman Nina Nedic.  “We also have three properties in New Brunswick, four properties in Newfoundland and five properties in Ontario. Our next area of focus will be New Brunswick, followed by Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Nedic said the company hopes to focus extensively on New Brunswick by mid-February and Newfoundland and Labrador later.

Gudjonsson has said that the Canadian cottage market is about 100 times that of Iceland’s, and he is especially excited about the massive market in Ontario.

Bungalo was born in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to help Icelanders in financial straits earn income by renting their cottages to tourists from around the world. The enterprise was so successful it expanded into Sweden and then Canada.

After visiting Halifax last year, Gudjonsson set up shop in Volta and hired a sales staff comprising Nedic and Autumn Fiske.

Their office is dominated by a map of the Maritimes marking every cottage in their portfolio. The number of markers has increased rapidly in the last few months.

Fiske said the expansion into P.E.I. works well because the island has a vibrant tourism industry.

There is also a good stock of cottages, and consumers benefit from strong competition.

 “With fierce competition on the Island, cottage owners can gain a competitive edge by using Bungalo, a service with international partnerships and users,” she said.

It has placed one North Rustico property — a round, ocean-side cottage that rotates once every 45 minutes — among its featured listings.

To date, Bungalo boasts over 18,000 users and more than 600 cabins, cottages and summer homes that the company says are close to oceans, lakes, volcanoes, mountains and breathtaking skylines.

In September, Bungalo was accepted into the Launch36 accelerator. At the graduation presentation, Gudjonsson said the company has done $2.3 million in cottage rentals and has a growing revenue stream.

It is raising $1 million and is one of four recent Launch36 graduates eligible to receive a $150,000 convertible note from BDC Capital, part of the Business Development Bank of Canada. BDC has not yet announced which companies are receiving the funding.


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.


Our New Report on the Global Market

Though it was a holiday, Pablo Asiron felt distinctly un-festive.

It was -40 Celsius outside.  He was in a land where he didn’t understand the language, or even the lettering on the street signs. And his dinner that night consisted of a Snickers bar he found in his suitcase.

For the sake of a sale, the CEO of Riverview, N.B.-based RtTech Software had come to a small mining town in Kazakhstan in December 2012 to view the facility. After spending more than a day just catching the train to the site, he arrived to learn all restaurants were closed and the only thing he could eat the first night was the chocolate bar he’d brought with him.

But there was a silver lining: he made the sale.

“Yes, I made the sale,” he said, laughing about the experience a few months later. “And it was the largest sale we had ever had to date.”

See Our Tapping the Global Market Report

As much as any company in the region, RtTech embodies the international nature of the Atlantic Canadian startup community. Today, we are releasing our fourth Entrevestor Intelligence supplement of 2014 -- an issue dedicated to the global ambitions of the region’s startup community. This report showcases and discusses how Atlantic Canadian startups are tapping the global market for three facets they can’t live without: talent, customers, and capital. It looks at a group of Memorial University students competing in Beijing, our links to Boston, and immigration. And we learn from one venture capitalist, Jeff Grammer of Rho Canada Ventures, what he likes about Atlantic Canada. We'd like to thank to our tremendous designer Roxanna Boers for the great work on the supplements' layout all year long.

For example, RtTech, which was spun out of ADM Systems Engineering, helps industrial companies reduce energy in major plants. Its main products are: RtEMIS, which can pinpoint when and where part of a system is using excess energy; and RtDUET, which allows companies to examine specific processes to find the cause of downtime and poor utilization issues.

The international sweep of RtTech begins with its CEO, for Asiron is a native of Pamplona, Spain, where his family runs a hotel next to the bull ring immortalized by Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises.

The company has worked closely with its major international partners: San Leandro, Calif.-based OSIsoft and Austin, Texas-based Emerson Process Management.

Its clients are global, and Asiron’s sales calls in the past year have included not only Kazakhstan but also such places as Australia, the Philippines, the Middle East and various parts of Europe. The company has clients on five continents.

By their nature, startups are global beasts. By definition, they have to develop a product for the global market. They compete with other enterprises for global finance. And given the aging or declining population in much of Atlantic Canada, they often have to attract talent from around the world.

Though RtTech exemplifies the global outlook of startups, it is by no means alone in its worldview. Consider these other companies excelling in these three categories:


TopLog of Halifax is the product of immigrants gathering at one of the region’s great universities. Tokunbo Makanju, a native of Nigeria, wrote a doctoral thesis for his PhD in Computer Science at Dalhousie University on a method of helping network administrators to detect and correct system downtime. He teamed up with two other PhD candidates – Turkish immigrant Ozge Yeloglu and Canadian Patrick LaRoche— to develop the idea into a company, topLog. It has just released its first product.


Discoverygarden of Charlottetown oversees Islandora, one of the world’s leading digital repositories for libraries, museums and archives around the world. Developed at the University of Prince Edward Island, Islandora is an open-source databank that protects and stores digital assets permanently. It includes such features as a powerful search function and flexible installation. The Islandora website now lists 86 installations on four continents and the number is growing.


The Atlantic Canadian funding story of 2014 will be dominated by a single deal: Spectrum Equity’s $60 million private equity financing of St. John’s-based Verafin. Previously backed by Killick Capital of St, John’s and RBC Venture Partners, Verafin is a global leader in software that helps financial institutions prevent money laundering and fraud. With more than 1,000 corporate customers, the company looked for refinancing in the past year or two and eventually selected one backer: Spectrum, a private equity investor based in Boston and Silicon Valley. Spectrum has raised $4.7 billion for investment in IT and media companies.

This is a narrow selection of the Atlantic Canadian startups whose tentacles are stretching around the world. The plain truth is that no startup in the region or elsewhere is taken seriously unless they’re playing in the global sandbox. To be frank, it you’re not developing a company that is targeting the global market place it’s difficult – no, impossible -- to compete for serious attention given what other companies in the region are doing.

“Every entrepreneur should have a vision to conquer the globe from the start because in doing that you figure out what you need to do to be a successful company,” said Calvin Milbury, the CEO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. “In practice, of course, you have to start with bite-sized pieces, but you need that global vision.”

And companies are finding global customers. Leah Skerry, the CEO of Halifax-based EyeRead, traveled to the AdTech conference in Japan this year to present her technology, which follows young readers’ eyes as they read to discover where they are having difficulty. “By having customers around the world, we have been able to learn quickly and it’s opened our products up for new opportunities,” she said.

Atlantic Canada’s universities are also aiding this trend. First, they set an example because all the universities are looking overseas for customers given the demographic situation in their home market. And second, they bring in people from around the world who often become entrepreneurs. At the Dalhousie University Starting Lean course this semester, there are participants from at least seven countries. And of course the universities produce research and development that leads to products with an international appeal. It’s not a coincidence that topLog (Dalhousie), discoverygarden (UPEI) and Verafin (Memorial University of Newfoundland) all grew out of regional post-secondary institutions.

The excellence of Atlantic Canadian startups is leading to a surprising number of global awards. Just in the past month or two, Island Water Technologies of Montague, P.E.I., was named to the GEW 50, a list of 50 promising startups from around the world compiled by Global Entrepreneurship Week of Washington D.C. And Lamda Guard of Halifax was awarded the 2014 Product Leadership Award in the aerospace industry by Frost & Sullivan of San Antonio, Texas.

Finally, the global flavor of the startup community deepens each time an international company buys a local startup. San Francisco-based Salesforce, the world’s leader in cloud-based software, has an impressive presence in the region because of its purchases of Radian6 of Fredericton and GoInstant of Halifax.

And this year, the trend has continued. Another San Francisco company, LiveOps, has bought UserEvents of Fredericton, while Bedford-based NewPace Technology Development Inc. has been purchased by NewNet Communications Technologies of Arlington Heights, Ill.  Compilr, a Halifax startup that teaches people how to code, was acquired by, a Carpinteria, Calif.-based online education company.

RtTech certainly ranks with the best of them. And Asiron said there are three key reasons why his company has gone global. First, the company has designed products that will meet demand in the global market place. Second, as RtTech developed a network of clients, those customers introduced the company to others so word spread about the company’s products. And third, RtTech has formed strong international partnerships, whose sales teams complement the efforts of the Moncton company’s own sales force.



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: Wagepoint Gets $2M

Wagepoint, which has developed a SaaS payroll product,  has issued the following press release. The company is a former Volta member, and still has a development team in Nova Scotia.

Wagepoint Announces $2 Million in Seed Funding to Expand US Small Business Market Presence and Product Lines

Led by Extreme Venture Partners, with Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agencies (ACOA), and Canadian and US angel investors

Waterloo ON and New York, NY, December 09, 2014 – Wagepoint, an HR tech company specializing in online payroll, today announced $2 million USD in seed funding led by venture capital firm Extreme Venture Partners, with Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agencies (ACOA) as well as Canadian and US angel investors. Wagepoint will use the funding to accelerate its penetration into the US market, and enhance its product portfolio to make the online payroll experience even better.

According to US Census Bureau, in 2011 there were 5.6 million employer firms, and 99.7 percent of those firms were operating with fewer than 500 employees. There are an additional 1.1 million small businesses operating in Canada.  Since launching in 2013, Wagepoint has been on a mission to help make payroll simple, fast and friendly for small business owners, specifically targeting companies with less than 100 employees.

“Very simply, we’re redefining payroll for small business, making it as easy for a small business owner to use as Facebook,” said Shrad Rao, CEO of Wagepoint. “Over the last eighteen months, we have built an amazing product that dramatically simplifies life for small business owners, with a customer base of nearly 700 companies that we love and who love us back.  One of our core beliefs as a company is to surround ourselves with individuals who can help us achieve our business goals and who we genuinely like to be around. This group of investors was carefully handpicked as they meet these criteria perfectly. We are excited about 2015, as we roll out further products to automate workflows surrounding payroll and compensation as a whole.”

Wagepoint’s online payroll solution helps small business owners automate and simplify processing payroll with direct deposit; payroll calculations; federal, state and local taxes; 1099s, W2s and W3s; wage detail reports; new hire reporting; additional deductions; payments to contractors; additional incomes and online paystubs. The company today operates throughout Canada and all fifty US states and territories, serving nearly 700 customers in a wide range of industries from technology startups, to retailers, to consultants and service providers.

“The Human Capital Management (HCM) tech startup market has been an exciting space over the last couple of years, as employers seek to simplify and streamline aspects of workforce management,” said Sunil Sharma, Managing Partner, Extreme Venture Partners. “Within this HCM space, Wagepoint has carved out its niche, creating a simple, intuitive payroll solution that small business owners and HR managers actually want to use. This kind of disruptive thinking, aimed at a small business market that has literally millions of potential customers, presents huge potential for success. We look forward to helping the Wagepoint team realize their vision for small business payroll simplicity.”

“As a fellow technology entrepreneur, I was immediately attracted to Wagepoint’s vision to simplify and streamline small business payroll. Plus the team is so fun and friendly,” said Jerry Kestenbaum, founder of BuildingLink and a US Wagepoint angel investor.  “The US small business market represents a huge market opportunity, and I truly believe Wagepoint and its products can transform the way small business works.” 

About Wagepoint

Wagepoint is a simple, fast and friendly online payroll software for small businesses across North America. Payroll is mission critical to small and mid-sized businesses, and Wagepoint gets the job done quickly, easily and without the drama. Trusted by hundreds of businesses across North America, Wagepoint can handle direct deposits, government reporting and all year-end reporting for either salaried or hourly employees and contractors. For more information and a free 30-day trial, visit


About Extreme Venture Partners

Extreme Venture Partners (EVP) is one of Canada’s most successful venture capital funds over the past decade. With its focus on mobile, EVP (launched in 2007) achieved superior investment returns while helping to launch and help grow more than 20 companies which ultimately lead to over 1000 well-paying technology jobs in Canada. Now having launched its second fund, EVP has broadened its focus to include many of the exciting software and hardware companies in the vibrant Toronto-Waterloo technology corridor.

Orpheus Debuts Sons of Anarchy Game

Halifax mobile game producer Orpheus Interactive will soon release the game version of the wildly popular Sons of Anarchy television series, having reached a deal with Fox Digital Entertainment last year.

Orpheus and Fox issued a statement Monday announcing the new game, Sons of Anarchy: The Prospect, which will be available on phones and tablets in 2015.

The announcement is essentially the debut of Orpheus, which has raised more than $1 million in equity financing and has already assembled a team of 16 veteran game producers in Nova Scotia. It has quickly and quietly become a major addition to the gaming community in the region.

“We’re building an experience for the rabid fans of Sons of Anarchy,” Alastair Jarvis, Executive Producer of the series, said in an interview. “The entertainment landscape is shifting, so people are unplugging cable [TV] and they’re looking for entertainment . . . from the tablet in the palm of their hand. There are a lot of people who have a hunger for it and not that many people who are scratching that itch.”

Orpheus Interactive is an interesting marriage of talent and capital that came together last year. Jarvis, a veteran of HB Studios in Lunenburg, N.S., connected with the Halifax venture capitalist James Drage. They learned of Fox Digital Entertainment’s plans for the Sons of Anarchy games. So they put a team together (which included Drage’s son Christian, who’d been working as a game developer in British Columbia), pitched Fox and landed the licence. 

“The things that’s different about this model is we’re not doing this as work for hire for Fox,” said Jarvis. “We own the IP. If we do well the profit, stays in Nova Scotia.”

Just finishing its seventh and final season, Sons of Anarchy is a drama with darkly comedic undertones about an outlaw motorcycle club in the sheltered fictional town of Charming, California. Jarvis said that the series of games produced by Orpheus will allow the fans of the show to get fresh content on the brand even though the TV show is ending.

About 20 people worked on the production of the first game, 16 of them in Nova Scotia. Jarvis said the project has included collaboration with Halifax-based Silverback Games, headed by gaming veteran Willie Stevenson. The voice-overs were done by VoiceWorks Productions, a Los Angeles-area studio headed by Nova Scotian Douglas Carrigan.

Orpheus has raised more than $1 million so far and its first funding round is still open. The current investors include a range of angel investors and Atlantic Venture Capital, the VC fund operated by James Drage.

The initial Sons of Anarchy: The Prospect game will come out next year, and will be followed by a succession of follow-on games in the SoA series.

“Our slate is pretty full with episodes of Sons of Anarchy,” said Jarvis. “But the value is not just in these games but in our capacity to build other games.”



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.


What’s Next in Startup Education?

There have been a flood of reminders in the past week of how the region’s universities are developing entrepreneurship programs, each staking out a distinct turf.  

Dalhousie and St. Mary’s both held demo-days for student startup teams last week. The Genesis Centre at Memorial University of Newfoundland held a graduation party for SubC Imaging, a tenant company that makes imaging products for underwater remotely operated vehicles.  There was a seminar on Big Data at Acadia and a business idea competition winner was announced at University of New Brunswick.

Most of the startup-related programs are only a few years old, and they will continue to evolve in coming years. How they evolve is a matter of huge importance for the whole startup community, because universities boast the most fertile soil for growing startups in the region.  (Disclaimer: several universities advertise in and/or sponsor Entrevestor.)

So here are three thoughts on how the academic side of entrepreneurship can, may or should develop in the next few years:

1. Quality will count in the future.

The Atlantic Canadian startup community is becoming divided into two tiers. Startups in the first tier are producing innovative products that are finding market demand; those in the second are receiving well-intentioned encouragement, but not the sales or funding they’re hoping for.

The universities that gain attention in the future will be those that produce the greatest number of startups in the top tier. They will undoubtedly be the institutions that do the best job of marrying the skills of researchers (in engineering, computer science, medicine, etc.) with entrepreneurship students. The thing that is distinguishing the A-teams these days is the originality and adaptability of their technology.

2. There’s a huge opportunity in technology sales.

Virtually every startup – especially IT companies, but others as well – needs computer programmers. Luckily, universities are producing them. But the need for sales talent is almost as acute, yet there are no dedicated programs for technology sales.

There are marketing courses, but a tech sales program would be more focused. It would teach students a fundamental understanding about modern technology, and the skill set needed to sell it. These would include developing sales leads, engaging clients, understanding client pain and learning how to close a deal. Such a course would also deal with sales strategy and business development.

Any university offering a tech sales program would draw immediate interest from Atlantic Canada and beyond. 

3. There’s a market for computer science for non-geeks.

Computer science enrollment is rising -- but not enough to meet the massive demand for developers. There’s a need for an institution – and it could be a community college – that can attract people into computer science, and nurture them through the steep learning curve at the outset.

In particular, some institution -- possibly a community college -- should do a marketing assessment of what female students interested in tech would like to see in a course, and structure a program accordingly. One of the difficulties in getting started in computer science is that rookies find themselves in a class with die-hard tech aficionados who have already taught themselves first-year university material in their spare time.

It’s difficult for someone new to technology to make the initial first steps. It’s doubly difficult for female students in a male-dominated world like 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.      

Feds To Give up to $2.9M to Propel

The federal government on Friday placed the dollar amount on its contribution to Propel ICT at as much as $2.9 million over five years.

The government previously said the New Brunswick-based operator of the Launch36 accelerator would receive funding under the National Research Council’s Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program, or CAIP. However, it had never said how much the accelerator would receive.

Under its government’s Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy, the government is aiming to strengthen Canada’s position in scientific research while promoting the commercialization of Canadian innovations.

“The financial support provided by the Government of Canada through the Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program will allow us to work toward our aggressive goal of helping launch 420 new companies over the next five years,” Trevor MacAusland, Propel’s Vice President of Business Development, said in a statement.

In June, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the federal government would devote $100 million to funding several organizations across the country, including PropelICT and the PEI BioAlliance.

The BioAlliance said in October the CAIP funding would be the cornerstone of a five-year program called Emergence, which could receive more than $7 million. The NRC will contribute up to $3.8 million, while Innovation P.E.I. will kick in $500,000. The companies participating in the program will put up a total of $1.3 million, and the remainder will come from the P.E.I. Agri-Alliance and farm community.

PropelICT was formed in Saint John 11 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. It ended up launching about 50.

In recent months, senior people within Propel ICT 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.

Propel ICT offers two programming options: Start and Build. “Start” helps guide entrepreneurs through the early stages of validating, developing and launching a startup. “Build” focuses on later stage startups, those who have progressed beyond the idea phase with initial market traction.



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.     


NBIF’s Breakthru Deadline Tomorrow

New Brunswickers at the earliest stages of forming a startup have a day left to get their entry into the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition.

The deadline to get your entry in for the biennial startup competition is 11:59 pm on Tuesday, Dec. 9.

The Breakthru contestants will be competing for a total pool of prizes worth more than $500,000 in cash and in-kind services. It’s a significant increase over the total prizes of $406,000 in the 2013 event.

NBIF has already secured two primary sponsors for the event, Cox & Palmer and Deloitte, and is hoping to bring in more sponsors to contribute in-kind services for the prizes.  The foundation hopes to bring in more organizations as sponsors partly because it wants more groups participating in the ecosystem for startups.

NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury has said previously the aim is to come up with a “company in a box” to present to the winners. That means that in addition to an investment by NBIF, they will have legal and accounting services, as well as banking, insurance, web design and the like.

You can find the details on entering the contest here

New Platform Boosts Leadsift

Building a new business is a multi-faceted challenge, something Tukan Das and Sreejata Chatterjee, co-founders of social media analytics company Leadsift, have learned the hard way.

During its first 18 months, Leadsift struggled to hit its milestones for gaining clients and revenue. But since repositioning itself in December 2013, the company is seeing revenue growth of about 70 per cent a year.

The Halifax-based founders have refined the software they created to scan social media posts and identify people who want to buy a certain product. The scanning allows businesses to reach those people and generate sales.

The team has recently created a new platform called Audience Intent Miner that can gather the buying intentions and insights of whole groups of consumers.

“Every day, we can use Twitter to identify 30,000 people in the U.S. who are talking about buying a new car,” said Das as he and Chatterjee sat in a Halifax coffee shop.

“Eleven per cent of them are mothers with young children and a job. You can assume they think safety is important. If a car company’s vehicle has won a top safety rating, the company can target that news at those working mothers.”

Das claimed Leadsift has an advantage over its competitors because it is the only company in the ecosystem of social listening that can group consumers based on where they are in the buying journey.

Leadsift can extract more than 100 attributes of each consumer, such as gender, age and occupation. Das said gathering the information is not intrusive as it is all in the public domain and does not include personal details, such as phone or email contacts.

The extra information is sought after, and Leadsift numbers eight Fortune 500 companies among its clients.

Although Twitter is and will remain the company’s main source of data, Leadsift also mines information from Instagram, a photo-sharing site popular among young adults. Next year, the company will start mining Facebook and public forums like and

Both Das and Chatterjee appear weary but relieved at the growth achieved by repositioning the company.

 “Running a startup is insanely stressful,” said Das.

 “There are emotional swings when you don’t hit your milestones. You feel the weight of expectation because investors have put their faith and their money in you.

“We’ve learned that it’s all about execution. You have to build a product clients want. You have to get the pricing right. You have to get the marketing strategy right. You have to line up all the steps and be as prepared as possible.”

Two years ago, the founders might have expected their path to success to be smoother after they received development money from investors and bodies such as the National Research Council and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Das also received $500,000 in investment from OMERS Ventures of Toronto when he used Leadsift to identify business leads for OMERS’ portfolio companies.

He said the founding team has stayed intact because they have learned to prioritize communication. The management team also includes co-founders Hatem Nassrat from Egypt and Daniel Allen from the Bahamas.

The four founders met after they all came to Nova Scotia to study computer science. They started their company in typical student style, with the server under Nassrat’s bed in his university dorm.

Das and Chatterjee, both in their early30s, first met while at kindergarten in Calcutta.

Chatterjee said working with someone she has known most of her life has benefits.

 “I know I can trust him,” she said of Das.

But having four founders can lead to lively discussions.

“We’re all alpha characters, but we’re also loyal and passionate,” she said.

“We know our roles now and work well together.”

Das said the biggest boost from turning the company around has been impressing Leadsift’s early supporters.

“Recently, a few investors have told us, ‘You’re making me proud.’ That means so much.”

Qimple Lures Dream Team of Backers

The big news about Qimple isn’t merely that it’s closing a $600,000 funding round when it’s barely a year old. It’s the dream team of investors and advisers that the online recruitment company has assembled.

Moncton’s Qimple, which graduated from the Launch36 accelerator in June, makes the hiring process easier for both recruiters and applicants due to its applicant tracking system and proprietary candidate-scoring tool. It spent the autumn beta-testing the system with more than 30 companies and 1,500 applicants, and has now launched the product to the public.

 “Ever since we gained our momentum by going through Launch36, people have been getting what we’re doing and we’re just seizing every opportunity,” co-founder and CEO Yves Boudreau said in an interview.

Boudreau formed the company about a year ago with lead developer Benoit Bourque, with the goal of helping employers find the best candidate for open positions among the roughly 1,000 job boards in the market. They brought on product manager Aaron Lewis early this year and set out to launch the product and raise equity financing.

The company has landed funding commitments of $150,000 from BDC Capital, the venture capital arm of the Business Development Bank of Canada, and $100,000 from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. And there is an impressive roster of angel investors who have placed money into the funding round.

They include Dan Martell, founder of Clarity in Moncton and an internationally recognized expert in startup methodology; Patrick Hankinson, CEO of Compilr, a Halifax startup that exited last spring; and Sanjay Singhal, the CEO of Toronto’s, the world’s second-largest provider of audio books.

As if that’s not enough expertise, Ben Yoskovitz, the vice-president of product at the Toronto startup VarageSale and co-author of the book Lean Analytics, has joined Qimple’s board of advisers.

 “I’m really, really excited about the people we’ve brought in as investors because they’re really high calibre,” said Boudreau.  “They’re not just bringing money.”

Qimple now has $400,000 in committed investors and may close its $600,000 round soon. Boudreau added that the company is in discussions with a leading Canadian venture capital company.

The Canadian technology publication Techvibes recently named Qimple one of the 20 most promising startups in the country, and Boudreau just spent two weeks in San Francisco to try to gauge how his company stacks up against the best tech companies in the world.

It was a tall order because there are a lot of tech startups targeting the recruitment market, and it’s hard to get noticed.

But some of the leaders in Silicon Valley took the time to meet Boudreau.

He said he learned two things: people are impressed with the simplicity of Qimple’s user interface, and his three-member team has developed a product that can compete with much larger operations.

 “Every move has paid off for us for the most part,” said Boudreau, looking back at the last year.

 “The fact that we’re in a space that is considered crowded, it’s just (motivating us to) continue to turn cynics into believers.”



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.      

Robin Hood, Holla! Seek GSB Votes

A couple of Atlantic Canadian startups are looking for your vote in their quest for a global startup award.  

Robin Hood and Holla! are winners of recent Startup Weekend events and now they are competing in the Global Startup Battle, in which the public chooses the best SUW winner in the world. Voting closes today at 11:59 pm PST (which technically is tomorrow at about 4 am AST).

Startup Weekend is an international organization that sanctions local events around the world bringing together people to form a business in a single weekend. In the past couple of months, Startup Weekends have been held in Fredericton, Halifax and St. John’s.  Winners of local Startup Weekends have the right to go on to the Global Startup Battle, an annual event in which the general public chooses the best startup from Startup Weekends around the world.

Robin Hood is a New Brunswick company that produces web-based purchasing software that helps small businesses come together to bid as effectively as large organizations. The company, which won Startup Weekend Fredericton last month, helps them to get better deals from distributors and suppliers and compete more effectively.

“We are a small team of dedicated and passionate individuals with the right skill set to kick-start Robin Hood,” said team member Mahsa Kiani. “We're designers, developers, and business people with a "get it done" attitude.”

The Startup Weekend in St. John’s last month was won by Holla!, which is an anonymous social app that allows users to share and discover anonymous thoughts around them. “Think Twitter meets Snapchat with location and without the profiles,” said the company’s official description.

You can vote for Robin Hood here and Holla! here.

The winner at the event in Halifax in October was UNIfy, which helps university alumni connect with events are their alma maters. 

The Year of Modest Exits

Tom Gilgan laughed and shook his head. “Oh no,” said the co-founder and CEO of G2 Research of Dartmouth. “We’re not a Radian6. But what we’re happy about is we did this with a company we started from nothing.”

The “this” Gilgan referred to was his geo-location software company’s successful sale to Track Group of Salt Lake City for $4.6 million in November.

The G2 Research sale exemplified a trend that developed in 2014, which could be called the Year of the Modest Exit.

There was nothing like Radian6’s $326-million sale to Salesforce in 2011, or the $540-million sale of Ocean Nutrition Canada to Royal DSM of the Netherlands in 2012. But there was a steady stream of modest and profitable exits that are benefiting the region by companies that, for the most part, bootstrapped throughout their existence.

What it means is that these Atlantic Canadian startup teams have become divisions of larger companies, and the resources of the larger firms have allowed them to keep growing here. It means the region is linked to the global tech community through these companies and their investors.

Meanwhile, the founders of these exited companies have become resources for the community. They have various levels of visibility, but these are now entrepreneurs who have been through one or more exits and can help younger people.

Finally, it means capital is flowing quietly into the region. How much isn’t known because most of the deals didn’t reveal prices. However, the total is probably in the tens of millions of dollars and could approach $100 million. It means the people benefiting from this — including the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation — have more money to reinvest in other startups.

G2 Research’s $4.6-million cash and stock deal certainly fits into this trend, but it is not alone.

In January, UserEvents, a Fredericton startup whose technology alerts corporations when customers are having trouble with online transactions, said it would be bought by LiveOps. The buyer is a Redwood City, Calif., provider of cloud contact centre and customer service solutions.

Neither buyer or seller or the foundation, an investor in the New Brunswick company, revealed the details of the deal.

UserEvent’s CEO Jeff Thompson has since taken the role as chairman of the regional accelerator group Propel ICT.

Compilr, a Halifax startup that teaches people how to code, said two months later that it had been acquired by, a Carpinteria, Calif., online education company. Again, no details were revealed.

CEO Patrick Hankinson and his chief technology officer Tim Speed have continued to develop the product, but they’re also involved as funders and/or developers in other startups.

Bedford’s NewPace Technology Development Inc. was bought in June by NewNet Communications Technologies of Arlington Heights, Ill., greatly expanding the sales power of the mobile technology developer.

NewPace, headed by founder and CEO Brent Newsome, became a subsidiary of the NewNet messaging division, based in Amsterdam, and changed its name to NewNet Canada. NewNet, which is a portfolio company of Los Angeles private equity firm Skyview Capital, did not reveal financial details.

Finally, ClinicServer, a Saint John company that helps health clinics digitize their operations and records, was taken over by Biosign Technologies Inc., a publicly traded Toronto company with complementary businesses.

The buyer paid $1.96 million — all in stock, except for $75,000 in cash. The deal allowed ClinicServer to retain its brand and New Brunswick headquarters and to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Biosign.

It’s interesting that virtually none of the companies had taken on outside investors. The most notable investment was $250,000 in UserEvents from the New Brunswick foundation, less than a year before it sold out.


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.

G2 Research Bought by Track Group

When the three founders of G2 Research began to look for funding this past summer, they had no idea it would lead to a $4.6 million sale of the company by late November.

Yet Salt Lake City-based Track Group announced today that it paid that amount last week to buy the five-year-old Dartmouth company and gain access to its geo-location software used by law enforcement agencies.

G2 will now lead development for the Track Group, and G2 CEO Tom Gilgan has been named the company’s CTO. One of his first jobs will be to find a larger office because he will have to add several more members to the 10-member team in Dartmouth.

See also: Details of the Track-G2 Deal

The acquisition will enable Track to deliver sophisticated analysis and detailed interpretation of data to improve performance to its customer base, which includes national security, law enforcement, corrections, and health research. It will also help the company to enter related markets more easily.

Track Group, a profitable company that had US$2.6 million in revenue last year, provides customizable tracking solutions to customers around the world. Its shares trade over the counter in the U.S., meaning there is a market for its stock though it is not listed on any stock exchange.

Gilgan said that he and co-founders Ron Stewart and Bruce Annand realized last summer they needed more capital to grow the company, so they decided to look for their first round of funding with a target of about $1.5 million. Working with Jim Lutes, Partner at the financial services consultancy EY, they began to get offers for the whole company and they realized a sale would be the best way to ensure growth.

“This is an opportunity for us to ensure the growth of our technology, our company and our employees, and we’re going to take it,” said Gilgan in an interview.

He was initially surprised that the search for capital produced one inquiry about a sale, and then another. While he was having dinner with one suitor in Denver, he received a call from a California company expressing interest in a purchase.

What the larger companies wanted to buy was G2 Research’s software that can help law enforcement agencies track suspects, convicts and parolees. By analyzing data from the Global Positioning System, a space-based satellite location system, G2 can tell suspects’ daily routines, notice when they stray from that routine, tell who they are meeting with and do predictive analytics on what they may be planning.

“Today, our customers are faced with substantial challenges as it relates to extracting meaningful information from the mass of data accumulated,” Track Group Chairman Guy Dubois said in a statement. “With G2 Research onboard, Track Group will address these challenges holistically by offering advanced capabilities in managing big data to improve decision-making and efficiency.”

G2 Research began by tracking vehicles and more recently added the ability to track high-risk offenders who are wearing ankle bracelets. Gilgan said potential users of the product tend to purchase from existing large companies, so the bracelet technology has not produced a lot of revenue yet.

What the new product has done is convince larger competitors that the G2 Research technology is something they have to have in the next few years, and that led to offers to buy the company.

G2 Research has never taken on outside investment, so the three founders, until this purchase, owned 100 percent of the company. Having grown the company through revenues, Gilgan now said the tight ownership structure (and the fact there were no institutions demanding a return of 10 times) helped G2 make speedy decisions through the exit process.  Gilgan emphasized repeatedly in an interview the company had received great support from J. Curry at the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Halifax office.

The company never reveals its clients, but Gilgan did say it was profitable in 2013. This year there was a late delivery to one installation, which ate into profits so far this year. He said the company is expecting a really strong fourth quarter.

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.      

Details of Track’s Purchase of G2

The following chart shows the details of Track Group's purchase of G2 Research announced today:

Target Company

G2 Research


Dartmouth, N.S.


Track Group


Salt Lake City      

Deal Value

$4.6 million

G2’s Financial Adviser

Jim Lutes, EY

G2’s Legal Adviser

Jim Cruickshank, Stewart McKelvey

Details of G2 Research




Year Founded



Tom Gilgan, Ron Stewart, Ron Annand           


Location-based surveillance data analysis

Previous Investment


Support Programs

ACOA, MentorCamp

Previous Articles

G2 Research Enters New Segments


Springleap, LeadSift win MentorCamp


Propel’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence

Propel ICT is looking for a couple of experienced entrepreneurs to serve as entrepreneurs-in-residence in two centres in Atlantic Canada.

The organization that oversees the Launch36 accelerator hopes to have two entrepreneurs-in-residence in place in the near future to help work with startup founders on developing their businesses.

Propel began 11 years ago as a Saint John-based IT group, and has progressively spread across Atlantic Canada.  Startups from all four Atlantic Provinces have gone through the Launch36 programs. And with the hiring of St. John’s-based CEO Gary Dinn last month, the group now has full-time staff in Moncton and St. John’s. The group has not said where the EiRs will be based, but it hopes they will be able to help Propel support entrepreneurs regardless of where they’re based in the region.  

“The Entrepreneur-in-Residence is responsible for coaching start-up founders to build their idea into an innovative venture that has extensive growth potential,” said Propel in a job posting. It added that he or she “will effectively identify significant growth strategies for start-ups, teach and apply lean start-up principles, help develop the case for investment, define MVPs, help companies pivot/iterate to establish product/market fit, and move clients agilely toward commercialization.”

Dinn and Chair Jeff Thompson said they are looking for experienced entrepreneurs who have started companies and brought products to market. They should be driven by lean startup methodology.

The statement added the successful applicant s will be based in one of the four Atlantic Provinces but Propel is accepting applications from people outside the region.  

Interested parties can apply here

Press Release: Volta Adds Klugman

Halifax, Nova Scotia, November 27, 2014 - Volta is pleased to announce that Iain Klugman, the President & CEO of Communitech has joined their Board of Directors. As the Halifax startup house prepares to move into the old Library, expanding the Board of Directors is a key element of the strategic plan. Iain’s experience in growing Communitech and the Waterloo Region startup community will bring valuable benefits to Volta, as will his connections with startup communities across the country and internationally.

Iain joins Jevon MacDonald, GoInstant co-Founder, and Patrick Keefe, Partner at Build Ventures, on the board of the Halifax based startup house. Iain hopes to make Volta an anchor in Atlantic Canada tech community. “I’m pleased to become a part of Volta and to help the startup community grow, not only in Nova Scotia but nationwide.” said Iain about his new role. Iain will be working to build national and international relationships and developing strategies to make Volta a world-class entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Under Iain’s leadership Communitech has become one of North America’s leading tech enabling organizations, supporting the growth of more than 1,000 small, mid-sized and large technology companies in Waterloo Region. Adding this experience to the Board of Directors will help Volta to continue growing the startup community in Halifax and turn the new home in the old Library into an important landmark in the city. Iain will begin his new role as a member of the board in the New Year.


At Volta our vision is to create a place where entrepreneurship is celebrated and taking over the world is expected. We develop the best founders in the world, who in turn create world class companies. Volta is located in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia and is the residence for up to 13 high-potential technology companies who benefit from the Volta community of mentors, advisors and both angel and institutional investors.


Gauvin’s Mission to Teach Code

Fuelled by a desire to boost the number of people who can write computer code, Simon Gauvin has created, a social platform that allows anyone to learn computer coding for free and to create and sell apps that work on any mobile phone browser.

Gauvin, 50, is CEO and co-founder of Moncton startup Agora Mobile. He said his cloud-based method of teaching coding uses graphical code, making it more accessible than competing products that use textual code.

Vizwik has already launched in New Brunswick, where Gauvin has signed up about 300 high school teachers to use his system, as well as 1,000 individuals. The North America launch will occur at the Florida EdTech Conference in Orlando in January.

Vizwik is ideal for high school students but can be used by anyone, Gauvin said. One early user created an app that allows clients to contact his plowing company via GPS when their driveways need work.

“The Vizwik social platform will also allow users to sell their apps and learn about entrepreneurship,” Gauvin said.

Both coding and entrepreneurship are vital to the future of this region, in his view.

“Coding is the language of the 21st century. It has become part of nearly every career path, but teachers don’t have the time to learn the complex programming tools to teach coding. We created Vizwik so teachers can fill this gap.”

Fewer than 10 per cent of high schools in North America teach coding, even though more than one million positions are expected to be left unfilled over the next five years due to the lack of qualified people, Gauvin said.

Only about 0.1 per cent of the human population can create software, he said.

“That means that 99.9 per cent of humans are dependent on the software made by this tiny minority. It’s similar to the Dark Ages, when priests were the only ones who could read the Bible in Latin.

“It’s a dangerous situation. We all need to be literate in the language of the 21st century.”

The company is working with Brilliant Labs, an initiative that aims to encourage teachers in the Maritimes to teach coding to students.

Gauvin has been involved in software development for 30 years, although he started out studying architecture at Concordia University in Montreal in the mid-1980s.

He founded Agora Mobile in 2009 while lecturing and working toward his PhD in computer science at Dalhousie University.

He still loves the challenge of creating software.

“The structures we build in computers are some of the most complex ever created by human beings,” he said.

“For example, the Linux operating system took 20 years and over 12 million lines of code to build.”

Gauvin created the coding language used in Vizwik after starting with a grant from the Industrial Research Assistance Program.

It took him five years of PhD graduate research and two years of development to create Vizwik. He partnered with Vodafone two years ago after beginning development work alongside a six-person team.

“This has been an exercise in commercializing academic research. It took a long time to build.”

Recently, Agora was invited to the annual Canadian Ed Tech Leadership Summit in Toronto and won the pitch competition by being voted Best Ed Tech Startup by more than 200 expert delegates.

To date, the company has raised $1 million in equity funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, East Valley Ventures and several angel investors.

But raising capital has proven challenging, especially as the company progresses, and Gauvin is often on the road, seeking money in larger centres.

He is excited that his product is finally launched.

“Allowing people to express their creativity in the form of software is one of the most powerful things we can do.”

The Rounds Adds to Seed Funding

The Rounds, the Halifax startup that operates a social network for medical professionals, has added $565,000 in equity investment to its seed round, which it will use to accelerate its rapid growth.

Having launched its closed network for physicians in February, the company now says it is targeting having 26,000 doctors enrolled on the site by the end of 2014.

“This funding isn’t meant to extend our runway; it will be used to grow faster, right now,” said Co-Founder and CEO Blair Ryan in a statement. “The decision to raise a seed extension came down to our desire to capitalize on the early traction and momentum we were experiencing. Canadian healthcare needs us to grow faster.”

The Rounds – formerly known as Boondoc – said in April that its seed round had amounted to $1 million, including a $250,000 investment from Innovacorp and contributions from several angels. At that time, the network was being used by about 1,500 physicians from across the country.

The new funding comes from five investors based in Calgary and raised to total seed round to about $1.6 million. The company said it is preparing to raise a Series A funding round in the coming months.

“Contributing to The Rounds wasn’t something I could pass on,” said one of the new investors, Gordon Stewart, in a statement. “After hearing the company’s story and believing in their mission to improve healthcare globally, I was eager to come on board.”

Founded in 2012 by Ryan, Will Harris and Michael Clory, The Rounds aims to provide doctors with a private, secure network in which they can consult with one another and find advice on how to solve vexing medical problems. Ryan has found that The Round is especially valuable to rural doctors, who don’t have the benefit of consulting with nearby colleagues. 

The Rounds allows pharmaceutical companies, medical associations or other groups to pay to engage on the site in a non-intrusive manner. This means there are no pop-up ads, but the network does have sponsored pages in which doctors can seek out more information.

The Rounds now has 13 employees and intends to use the new money to double its staff, focusing on its engineering team.  And in the short term, it aims to have about 35 percent of the 75,000 doctors in Canada signed up to the site by year end.

“We have a number of partnerships coming together shortly that will help us realize this goal,” said Marketing and Communications Manager Becky Richter. “Right now, we have the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians and The Society of Rural Physicians of Canada using The Rounds to engage with their member bases.”

She added the company is bringing together other partnerships to help meet the goal.

The co-founders used to say they wanted to establish a Canadian network then look for expansion in other countries. The company is now more definitive that it wants to expand beyond Canada in the new year – not just by targeting other countries but also with disciplines other than physicians.

It is now running a medical student beta test, which will be launching from private beta early in 2015, and it is looking to other healthcare providers in Canada such as naturopaths.



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.


A Difficult Year in SR&ED Claims

One subject that has cropped up increasingly in recent conversations about Atlantic Canada startups is the difficulty many have had this year with the federal government’s Scientific Research and Experimental Development program.

Known as SR&ED and pronounced “sred,” the program administered by the Canadian Revenue Agency has long been used by small and large Canadian companies to finance research and development. However, several entrepreneurs said they have been denied funding — sometimes amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars — in 2014, even though their applications were successful in previous years.

See also: Should You Bother with SR&ED?

“According to the Canada Revenue Agency, the law for determining scientific eligibility is the same,” said a recent report from the accountancy BDO.

“What has changed is the CRA’s interpretation of this law, along with the introduction of new policies with respect to administering the SR&ED program.”

The program allows Canadian businesses — from startups to multinationals — to claim back money for their research and development spending when they file corporate income taxes. In other words, if a company spends a certain amount on scientific research, it can claim for that on tax returns with the hope to receive some money back from CRA. Companies can make claims even if they don’t yet have sales, and therefore don’t pay corporate taxes.

However, five Atlantic Canada startup entrepreneurs or their advisers said in interviews that their claims were rejected this year. The companies received payments in the past, and therefore included the funding in their annual budgets. When the money did not come, a few of these companies laid off employees.

One company interviewed said it had received its funding as it had in past years. All spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“This is a very serious and unnecessary burden that these startups have to deal with,” said Gerry Pond, chairman of East Valley Ventures in New Brunswick, when asked about the funding.

One startup veteran said the difficulties arise from CRA applying a stringent definition of scientific research. In its purest form, research begins with a hypothesis, proceeds with experimentation and clinical trials, and ends with a conclusion.

The problem with applying such rules to startups is that information technology developers, for example, tend to experiment loosely, coming up with ideas, trying them and pursuing things that work. It’s effective for developing businesses but doesn’t meet the precise definition of scientific research.

CRA spokeswoman Nathalie Poirier-Schofield said the rules haven’t changed, though they have been reviewed in the last two years. She said the agency has a responsibility to ensure awards are granted only when merited.

“Consequently, in order to qualify for SR&ED tax incentives, work must satisfy the eligibility criteria set out in the (Income Tax) Act,” she said.

Craig Mulcahy, a BDO specialist in the program, said he has seen a “stabilization” in funding under the initiative in recent months as entrepreneurs grow more accustomed to current filing procedures.

“In the first three to six months of the year, we were going into audits with our clients, and what we had handed CRA was prepared on the old understanding,” said Mulcahy.

“We didn’t always have crystal clear documentation. Industry in general had a few rough months, but we’re probably back now at historic acceptance levels.”


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.

Should You Bother with SR&ED?

Several startups this year have had trouble with the Scientific Research and Experimental Development program, walking away empty-handed from reviews with the Canada Revenue Agency.

So should startup founders even try to tap the program?

Yes, most definitely, say accountants and experts in financing startups.

But they quickly add two provisos. Founders should only apply if they’re in a business conducting bona fide research. And they have to take a few steps to make avoid the problems that have plagued many startups this year.

“Startups should investigate SR&ED because it is a good Year 2 cash flow tool for them,” said Craig Mulcahy, a Partner at BDO. “But they need to go in with their eyes open – especially in software. Just because you make an app, it doesn’t mean you have SR&ED eligibility. You really have to be able to look at the technology.”

So here is what experts advise founders do to avoid problems:

1.       Plan Ahead. The first step is not to waste time applying for SR&ED if you obviously don’t deserve it. First of all, go through the CRA assessment tool and talk to CRA to get a quick assessment of whether you should apply. Finally, ask an accountant or SR&ED specialist for a free consultation to see if it’s worth proceeding.

2.       Be Realistic. Even if you’re clearly conducting scientific research in your startup, don’t budget for hundreds of thousands of SR&ED dollars with no fall-back plan. Be modest in your expectations and have a solid Plan B. If your budget requires SR&ED funding to pay full-time staff, you may have problems.

3.       Remember Your Documentation. Learn about the documentation CRA requires and make sure you produce it throughout the year.  Find out NOW what CRA will require and keep the documents current throughout the year.

That third point may be the most important. For a software development venture especially, documenting research may seem like a tedious exercise. But Deloitte Partner Steven Carr said it could pay huge dividends beyond the SR&ED claim.

“Documentation also creates corporate knowledge,” said Carr. If a key developer leaves the company, the documentation should allow others to pick up where the former employee left off and continue with the project. It also can increase the value of the company in an exit because there is a record of developing the intellectual property. “It’s transformative knowledge once it’s written down,” said Carr. 


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.