Funding Innovation in Cape Breton

Friday was the end of RRSP season, and the last day to invest in New Dawn’s CEDIF offering for 2013.

CEDIF stands for Community Economic Development Investment Fund. It’s a way for people to invest their RRSP savings in local economic development projects, rather than stocks and bonds elsewhere.

After all, what happens to the average RRSP dollar after it gets sent to a bank on Toronto’s Bay Street? It travels around the world — from Texas oil to Alberta tar sands, from pharmaceuticals to tobacco to weapons manufacturers — more or less leaving a path of environmental, social and world economic destruction.

Anyway, where was I.

This year New Dawn launched the New Dawn Innovation Fund. It gives RRSP-investors in Nova Scotia the opportunity to invest in local, export-oriented, innovation companies. The goal is $1.6 million. The money raised is being invested in three companies:

  • MediaSparkaward-winning educational software development and publishing company. Their soon-to-be-released “GoVenture World” educational global business game was recently selected as one of the 50 brightest new startups in the world.
  • Advanced Glazings: designer and manufacturer of state-of-the-art daylighting glass, including a product line which offers R18 insulation value — the best insulating commercially-available glass product in the world.
  • Marcato Digital: developer of web-based planning and logistics software for music festivals. Their products are currently in use by world-renowned events such as the Celtic Colours International Festival locally, JunoFest in Canada, Berlin Music Week in Germany, and the Life is Good Festival in the United States.

(In 2012, $1.5 million was raised through the New Dawn Community Investment Fund CEDIF. Those monies were invested in Protocase, a manufacturer of custom enclosures for electronic prototypes.)

All four tech companies are Cape Breton success stories. Their founders and CEO’s — Mathew Georghiou of MediaSpark, Doug Milburn of Advanced Glazings, Darren Gallop and Morgan Currie of Marcato, Steve Lilley of Protocase — choose to live and work in Cape Breton because of the quality of life. And while starting a business here is hard, they’ve managed, at times against all odds, to create stable incomes for themselves, and pay good wages to staffs of highly skilled workers. And now they’re growing.

Cheers and congrats to all!

Tech Community in Sydney

Moore’s law predicts that the performance of microchips will increase exponentially over time. A variation seems to be governing the life-cycle of Atlantic Canada tech startups:

  • March 2011 — Salesforce (San Francisco, California) buys social media monitoring company Radian6 (New Brunswick).
  • July 2012 — Salesforce buys co-browsing innovators GoInstant (Halifax/Cape Breton).
  • January 2013 (???) — Salesforce buys LeadSift (Halifax), which mines social media data to generate sales for companies.

One of LeadSift’s angel investors is Jevon MacDonald, CEO of GoInstant. This is how it’s supposed to be. See the full story: natpo.st/UbigQl via @innovacorp

Is the rate at which Atlantic Canada startups are moving from innovation to acquisition accelerating? And if so, is it a bubble? Or a positive trend? ‘Entrevestor Intelligence’ thinks it’s just the beginning.

The Tech Community in Greater Sydney

From Entrevestor Intelligence [pdf], sponsored by NSBI.

When co-browsing startup GoInstant sold out for more than $70 million this year, one detail that was lost in the hoopla was the fact that its technology was conceived and pioneered in Sydney, Cape Breton.

The company came together in late 2010 when Sydney-based programmers Gavin Uhma, Kirk MacPhee and David Kim showed up at one of the TecSocials organized by Robert Pelley, the Innovacorp Investment Manager based in Cape Breton.

The featured speaker that night was the agency’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence Jevon MacDonald, who was amazed when Uhma, MacPhee and Kim told him about the project they were working on – a co-browsing system that would allow people at different computers to work on the same screen…

The fact is that there is a community of tech talent in the former industrial hub that is exceeded in the province only by Halifax.MeConsider the case of eLearning company MediaSpark, which is developing GoVenture World, a massive multi-player online game that will train budding entrepreneurs in what it’s really like to start and grow your own business. The company has 17 employees, of whom 16 are in Sydney, including its entire development team.

As well as talent, Sydney-based companies have found capital needed for their businesses. Techlink Entertainment, which develops responsible gambling systems and products, has raised $5.5 million in VC investment and $6 million in loans from Nova Scotia Business Inc. World Health Outcomes and Marcato Digital Solutions have also raised VC funding, while MediaSpark received investment from what CEO Mathew Georghiou calls ‘quasi-venture capitalists’.

The tech community in industrial Cape Breton is as varied as you’d find in other centres, ranging from the healthcare systems developed by Corrine McIsaac at Health Outcomes Worldwide to the geological samples analysis software of Celtic Coring Systems.

One area of strength is developing technical applications for cultural industries – no doubt a happy byproduct of the rich artistic tradition of the area.

MediaSpark is a publisher of eBooks used around the world, while Marcato Digital has developed administrative systems for musicians and festivals. A newcomer to the space, TixCamp, is now developing software that can help concert organizers assess demand for specific acts.