Dartmouth-based body scan company Unique Solutions has closed down after burning through tens of millions of dollars in capital, including $5.6 million it raised from the Nova Scotian government.
A spokesman on Wednesday said that the company had ceased operations and that the secured creditors would appoint a receiver or agent to auction off the company’s assets.
[Full disclosure: Entrevestor founder Peter Moreira invested in Unique Solutions and did some freelance work for the company, all in 2010.]
The termination is the final chapter in a corporate story that began in 1997 when entrepreneur Tanya Shaw began an online clothing enterprise. Eventually, she secured the intellectual property for scanning equipment that could capture the human body while the subject was fully clothed.
That led to an ambitious plan to establish scanning booths in shopping malls throughout the U.S. The scans, which only took a minute, would tell shoppers where to find clothes that fit them precisely, and the retailers or brands would pay Unique Solutions for the referral.
The company began to install the booths in major malls, reaching about 40 by early 2012. But the strategy proved too expensive for the revenue it generated and the booths were all removed that year. Shaw tried again with a different strategy – using a handheld scanner and going after enterprise clients, especially those with uniforms. But that too fell short.
It’s difficult to say how much money Unique Solutions raised in its history. The company raised $30 million from Northwater Capital Management of Toronto in 2011. In 2015, it announced it had raised a further $15 million from Northwater and investor Skip Battle.
Before these investors came in, the company had raised money in Nova Scotia, including funding from Nova Scotia Business Inc., which has an exposure of $5.6 million. It also raised money from the First Angel Network, or FAN.
Unique is the latest in a wave of companies from the NSBI venture capital portfolio that have shut down in the past 18 months. The others include TechLink Entertainment (which NSBI had invested $13 million in), Origin Biomed ($7.9 million) and Intellivote ($2.8 million). Members of FAN had also backed Origin and Intellivote.
The Nova Scotia government in 2014 announced that NSBI would no longer make new investments. All VC investments by the government are now carried out by Innovacorp.
The Unique Solutions auction will be interesting because the company’s assets do have considerable value. As well as the IP for the scanning devices, the assets include the world’s largest databank of body scans. These scans each comprise 200,000 points of the human body and are a trove of information on the human body.