Halifax’s Coloursmith Labs, which is developing advanced optical  filters for contact lenses and eyeglasses, has closed a $2 million equity round, led by the female-focused investment fund, Sandpiper Ventures.

Sandpiper on Tuesday issued a press release saying its investment in Coloursmith is its second investment and the first investment round in which it was the leader. The other investors in this round were veterans of the company’s first $600,000 round from 2019: Brigus Capital Inc., the investment fund headed by Halifax businessman Wade Dawe; Charlottetown-based Island Capital Partners LP, St. John's-based Killick Venture Fund LP; and Southern Florida-based Beresford Ventures.

“This raise was completely oversubscribed,” said Coloursmith Founder and CEO Gabrielle Masone in an interview. “We had a record – for us – level of interest and we wanted to prioritize our existing investors.”

Coloursmith is developing special filters for contact lenses and eye glasses that can improve a viewer's’ experience with their eyewear. The company set out in 2018 to make contact lenses that could reduce the effects of colour blindness, and the statement Tuesday said it is also targeting “hazardous light protection.”

Few optical filtering materials are compatible with ophthalmic lenses, which limits the options available for new product development, said the statement. It added that this scarcity is constraining the growth of the global eyewear market, which is valued at US$147.60 billion by Grand View Research.

Read our Report on Sandpiper's Investment in DeNova. 

Coloursmith has been working at the Labs at Innovacorp in downtown Halifax for the past two years. Its team now comprises 11 people, including its recently hired Chief Technology Officer Morrgan Payne. Masone said the team will add two more employees in the coming months.

Though she declined to discuss the specifics of its products, Masone said the company will use the funds to bring these products to market. “We’re getting the technology to the point where we’re ready to commercialize it with our partners,” she said.

She said the company is especially excited about the potential for eye glasses, because that market is about 10 times the size of contact lenses.

Said Sandpiper Managing Partner and Co-Founder Cathy Bennett: “Coloursmith is leading change in an industry by working with global partners and creating technology to meet industry needs and standards. Gabrielle and her team have taken an idea from the lab, turned it into proprietary technology, and are growing a company the world needs for improved eyecare.”

Sandpiper is a new fund based in Atlantic Canada, established by female investors to back female entrepreneurs. Research by Entrevestor found that in 2020, about 14 percent of startups in Atlantic Canada had female founders or CEOs, and these companies raised only 3 percent of the capital in the region.

While startups generally are elated when they raise funds, Masone said it has special meaning for her to be backed by a fund set up to support women.

“I really have to call out our lead investors,” she said. “This one is really special to me and I have always found the Sandpiper team inspirational. In record time, they pulled together this fund that Coloursmith fits into so well.”