The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation invested about $4.35 million in equity funding rounds for the province's startups in its 2020-21 fiscal year, as it focused on inking deals to stabilize its existing portfolio companies during the pandemic.

In its 2020-21 annual report, NBIF said the venture capital investments accounted for just under a third of its $13.64 million total spending. Another $7.5 million went towards the foundation’s Applied Research funding, which includes a basket of programs meant to buttress the academic and research pipeline for New Brunswick's deep-tech companies, such as via startup awards and a “Lab-to-Market Fund” (which is not affiliated with Dalhousie University’s Lab2Market accelerator).

The remaining $1.8 million went towards NBIF’s Innovation Voucher program, which offers private companies grants to work with approved researchers on R&D projects.

“Due to the pandemic, we participated in more strategic rounds of follow-on investments than ever before,” said the foundation in its report. "We were able to strengthen our existing relationships while providing further support to established companies."

NBIF has dual functions: it invests in and nurtures early-stage innovation companies, and it helps finance research that can help New Brunswick ventures. The early-stage investments partly fill a gap in the province’s innovation ecosystem left by a dearth of angel investors, who uaually write checks of a similar size to NBIF’s typical six-figure deals.

The $4.35 million of venture capital in the 2021 fiscal year, which ended on March 31, spending continued a slight decline from the $5.2 million NBIF recorded in its 2019 annual report.

“Tangibly, we led the way with BDC, ACOA and the Province to ensure our innovators accessed the investment and funding needed to pivot through the pandemic,” said NBIF Chief Executive Jeff White in the report. “In addition, we expanded the reach of our Breakthru competitions through geographic and sector partnerships to find NB’s emerging companies.”

NBIF’s Breakthru events are its pitch competitions for new startups. In June, the Breakthru Newcomer competitions awarded two companies $25,000 each.

The two companies, HomeSchoolToGo and Brain Tumor Segmentation, beat out 34 other ventures. HomeSchoolToGo won in the Newcomer category for founders who have recently moved to New Brunswick, and Brain Tumor Segmentation won in the International Student category.

The foundation also invested $500,000 via a partnership with Halifax-based early-stage VC fund Concrete Ventures.

NBIF now has 60 companies in its portfolio, according to the report, split between its Venture Capital Fund and its Startup Investment Fund for smaller deals.

Here’s a look at NBIF’s Venture Capital Fund investments in the 2020-21 fiscal year:

Introhive $1 million
Kognitiv Spark $500,000
3D Planeta $400,000
Eigen Innovations $300,000
MESH Diversity $300,000
TurboPlay $250,000
Smartpods $250,000
ProcedureFlow $250,000
SomaDetect $200,000
Anessa $200,000
Total $3.65 million


The Introhive investment was the largest single check NBIF has ever written, Director of Investment Raymond Fitzpatrick said during the Entrevestor Live virtual conference on Oct 6.

“When you’re going to basically assume 25, 30 percent of your annual budget in one check, it is a little uncomfortable,” he said. “But it’s definitely something that we were very happy to do.”

The Startup Investment Fund, meanwhile, came in significantly under budget at $700,000 of spending, compared to its $1.2 million goal. It also only found six companies to back, instead of its planned seven:

TrojAI $200,000
Gray Wolf Analytics $150,000
RIDDL $125,000
Brunvalley $100,000
The Black Arcs $100,000
NumeriiQ $25,000
Total $700,000