Archive for May, 2010

More than 140 Angel investors from across North America are expected to attend the Spring 2010 Co-Investment Summit, June 8 at the exclusive and historic Toronto Golf Club in southeastern Mississauga, Ontario.

The afternoon event will feature carefully chosen and prepared Angel-backed companies from Ontario pitching for investment.  It is being organized by the National Angel Organization – Ontario in partnership with the RIC Centre of Mississauga.

A presenter at a previous Co-Investment Summit, Sue Abu-Hakima, CEO of Amika Mobile, has said, “The Co-Investment Summit gave us good exposure with the Angel community and the possibility of future investment.”

“NAO-Ontario’s success at organizing business Angels in Ontario is due in no small part to enabling events like these,” said Patricia Lorenz, NAO-Ontario Chair.  “Co-Investment Summits are a meeting place for Angel groups and unaffiliated investors, as well as for entrepreneurs and those with the capital they need to grow.  Ontario is leading the world in developing early-stage investment and all the benefits there from.”

Ms. Lorenz says previous Co-Investment Summits helped existing Angel-backed companies reach the next level by fostering additional capital raises.

“Over $20 million in early-stage capital has been leveraged into Ontario companies by Angel group members and others since 2007,” she said, “Many of those deals took place in the context of these exciting Co-Investment Summits, which showcase not just commercial innovation but the secret sauce of Angels’ stakeholder-based mentorship and support.”

The National Angel Organization – Ontario (NAO-Ontario) – www.angelinvestor.ca is the industry association representing Angel capital in all of its forms throughout Ontario. NAO-Ontario operates the Angel Network Program on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, which funded it over four years to create and grow organized Angel investor groups for various Ontario regions and industrial sectors. Their mission is to build membership, early-stage investments and best practices of these groups and thus create a greater pool of capital for innovative start-up companies in the province.

The Research Innovation Commercialization (RIC) Centre www.riccentre.com helps new entrepreneurs and seasoned business people take the next great idea to market in the fields of aerospace, advanced manufacturing, life sciences and emerging technology sectors.  The RIC Centre’s vision is to build and maintain an organization that is an inspiration to clusters world-wide for convergence in advance manufacturing, aerospace and life sciences for commercialization success.  Through defined strategic actions, the RIC Centre pro-actively connects industry, academia and investment to gain meaningful results that support commercialization.

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By Stephen Rhodes

Twitter is hard to explain to someone who still thinks marketing is about running ads in the local newspaper. Over the past year, when I have spoken about social networking, I have noticed an evolution of sorts from blank stares to outright engagement.

It’s a little like  the newspaper industry, and many others for that matter, when they first launched websites in the 1990s. They knew they had to participate but they didn’t know why. For many in business today, that’s the challenge with Twitter and other social media tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr.

Of all the new marketing tools available Twitter is the one that is least understood and potentially the most effective.

Brian Solis has an excellent post I Tweet therefore I am.  He talks about a “community of passionate short-form content creators and consumers.”

Keywords here are community and content, and  the focus on sharing in a way unheard of just a few years ago. It’s like having thousands of people to talk to and thousands to bounce an idea off. Focus groups? Twitter provides a whole community.

Solis says “Twitter’s simplicity is part of its brilliance. The ability to interpret, analyze and in turn, predict behavior, currently sets it apart from most other social networks. Twitter has become a human seismograph, measuring and broadcasting the pulse of not just the Web, but also world and local events.”

Social networking tools are not one size fits all. Like most marketing strategies, you need to establish what outcome you expect and what is the best tool to deliver the results.

Too often people jump aboard because it’s the latest fad, without first considering why. Twitter can open a world of possibilities but kick the tires first. If you are just getting started, Solis provides lots of information on his blog, and Mashable provides a great Twitter Guide Book.

Let me know about your journey.

Reposted from The Marketing Pad

Stephen Rhodes is President of The Marketing PAD, a full-service strategic communications and marketing company. Read Blogpad or visit  The Marketing Pad online.

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By Reem Aziz

One of the fastest growing trends for businesses today is the sweeping growth of strategic alliances. Three key speakers addressed this issue at the last Keep Growing Your Business Event: Strategic Alliances, held on May 19th, at the University of Toronto Mississauga faculty club.

The event, which was sponsored by the FRED GROUP, OCETA and the RIC Centre included presentations from industry professionals Hairdoss Sarma, Andrew Horsman and Ali Asaria.

Hairidoss Sarma, who is the sole proprietor of KRIYA Consulting and affiliated with the University of Guelph, emphasized the benefits of industry-academia alliances. Sarma says that a true alliance provides both parties with a win-win only scenario. For instance, in a research alliance between an industry and an educational institution, both organizations can work collaboratively on a project to achieve the best possible results.

Sarma admits that critical issues may arise due to the differences in the structure, mission and values of university institutions and industries. One way around this is for the two parties to collaborate on an outline of the problem definition and the methods to solve the problem.

Andrew Horsman, who is the Executive Director of Ontario Tire Stewardship (OTS) spoke of the Ontario Used Tires Program – a solution for Ontario’s scrap tires. Horsman says that the OTS board is composed of tire manufacturers, tire retailers, mass merchants and vehicle manufacturers who act as a unified central body between organizations that deal with tires.

OTS is working to further its strategic alliances with key companies in the industry as well as the government sector for technology upgrades, equipment purchases, investment and R&D. Horsman says “you want to make sure that the company is able to sustain itself in the current market place.”

Ali Asaria, started his career as a RIM employee but decided to branch out on his own to become the founder and CEO of Well.ca – an online health and beauty supply store that offers free shipping across Canada. Well.ca focuses on providing the highest quality service for its customers.

Asaria was offered funding from Venture Capitalists but instead turned to the Maple Leaf Angels and does not regret it. His main advice is, “say no if it won’t solve your problem.”

Asaria emphasized the importance of personalizing relationships and has formed alliances with Jordan Banks, CEO of Facebook Canada, Colin Webster of Truition and Dave Ceolin of Digital Cement. Asaria says that one of the most important aspects of forming a strategic alliance is to “be clear about your weakness, needs and offerings.”

As emphasized by the speakers, strategic alliances has become an important tool for entrepreneurs who wish to expand the reach of their company without losing individuality or committing to expensive internal expansions.

Join us for our next Growing Your Business session, Innovator Idol, where four emerging companies will pitch to an expert panel for a chance to win big! Feedback will be given by the panellists but the winner will be chosen by the audience.  Details.

Reem Aziz is a University of Toronto student in the Digital Enterprise Management Specialist stream of the Communications, Culture and Information Technology program. She is currently a Writing and Communications intern at the RIC Centre where she is putting her academic knowledge to the test. She has an interest in marketing and event planning and has background experience in creating posters, banners and web ads.

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By David Crow

Is there any questions that the Canadian venture capital industry is in turmoil? There is a change that is happening, it might just not be happening as fast as it could. Mark McQueen talks about  the creative destruction of the VC industry in Canada.

“There’s no robust “new class” of VC firms coming in behind the current oligarchy, with a similar amount of capital to deploy as those they are planning to replace. We are witnessing the destruction piece of the equation, for sure, but not the rebirth that is the essence of “creative destruction” if it is to succeed.” – Mark McQueen, Wellington Fund

While there are a few new players entering the market (I’m looking at you ExtremeVP and Mantella VP), we’re seeing a lot of roadkill. There are firms that are not able to raise their next fund, partners that are on life support, startups that are left to wonder what happened to their partners in raising additional capital. However, many that remain are digging in and fighting for their way of life. They are lobbying for support to “manufacture an environment that is hospitable to their investment style”. Adam Adamou at Caseridge Capital Corporation argues that the existing venture players, the Canadian VC oligarchy, have successfully lobbied for restrictions that have kept out new players including the public/private venture capital that was used to fund RIM.

“The traditional venture capitalists see themselves as the founders of a “Silicon Valley North” and they follow the US trends, which unfortunately do not apply to our Canadian market. They seem to see themselves as avant-garde investors in tomorrow’s technology companies, however, they behave more like bankers[sic] – preferring security and downside protection over opportunity”

Yikes, that’s a damning review of the Canadian venture industry. However, I’m not sure that the suggested alternatives including Capital Pool Companies and the TSX-V are really better choices for Canadian entrepreneurs (or investors). (I’m not an expert on CPCs or TSX-V but when my friends and trusted advisors like Mark McLeod provide commentary, I listen). What I took away from The Adamou Rant is that many of the funds have a vested interest in the maintaining something akin to the current system. Governments should look critically at the numbers being presented and who is presenting them.

The State of a Nation

Is the sky falling? What is the state of venture capital in Canada? Is it really this bad? And why does it matter to early-stage entrepreneurs? Should we all just move to Silicon Valley, New York City, Boston or somewhere else?

The Canadian VC environment has been challenging for a lot of entrepreneurs. As entrepreneurs, you need to understand the environment that you will start, fund, and grow your company. Canada has a strong track record of access to capital, a stable economic policy and should be a great spot for entrepreneurs. It’s also unique. Canadian companies tend to be at a later stage of corporate development and raise less money than their US counterparts. I’ve written about the impact of the state of the funding environment has on startups. And what entrepreneurs can continue to expect to see, includes:

  • The number of investors will continue to decrease
  • Valuations will continue to decrease
  • Customer uptake will be slower
  • Need to become cash flow positive
  • Acquiring entities will favour profitable companies

Mark McQueen provides the best summary of state of the Canadian Venture Capital landscape I’ve seen in a while:

  • VC investments in Canadian firms hit a 14 year low in 2009
  • US venture market saw US$18 billion invested in 2009, Canada saw only $1 billion (5.5%) our economy is approximately 12.5% the size of the US economy
  • Up to half of current Canadian VC funds will not be able to raise their next fund
  • Ontario government has sunset the $1 billion Retail Venture Capital Industry
  • “Section 116″ was fixed in the 2010 Federal Budget, however, this is not a silver bullet
  • 117 disclosed cross board investments since January 2008 (this includes Canadian investments in US companies)
  • Canadian Fund of Funds have lots of capital to invest in foreign led funds: EDC ($1.2 billion); Teralys ($700 million); OVCF ($205 million)

A New Hope

We need to hope that from out of the ashes will emerge a better funding environment for Canadian entrepreneurs. Whether this is led by new funds, angel investors, US funds, or the existing players learning from their mistakes, it doesn’t matter.

We’re starting to see a strong set of the big players making acquisitions across Canada:

Our startups need real capital to continue to compete on the world stage. But they can’t survive on SR&ED credits alone. We need to hope that this creative destruction happens quickly, so that something can rise from the ashes and we can witness the rebirth of the Canadian tech startup.

Reposted from StartUp North

David Crow is an emerging technology and start-up advocate/evangelist. At Microsoft Canada, he is responsible for helping Canadian start-ups gain access to software, support and visibility in the Microsoft ecosystem through programs like BizSpark (details at microsoft.com/bizspark). David blogs at http://davidcrow.ca/ and http://startupnorth.ca/ or follow him on Twitter @davidcrow

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By James Burchill

Many marketing experts agree the future of marketing, especially local and regionally based marketing, will be on the mobile Web.  Now that phones outnumber computers accessing the Internet, they are the new frontier of advertising.

The mobile market is growing quickly and many companies are already taking advantage of the onslaught of mobile users.  Especially those businesses that can profit from regionally based or location-based advertising.

The Wynn Resort Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas, for instance, has a robust and continually evolving advertising campaign aimed directly at mobile users and geo-location gamers in and around their premises.  By targeting these plugged-in users with ads specific to their mobile device, with offers only they can receive,  the hotel is finding its customer retention and feedback are higher and better.

Small businesses around the world are finding by tapping into mobile users, they can increase both word-of-mouth and online social networking advertising using the ‘cloud model.’  Simply put, they are giving great service to their customers and encouraging mobile users to ‘reach out’ via their devices to tell others about it.  This viral marketing strategy pays off well for many businesses and chains.

Types of mobile advertising

There are several types of mobile advertising taking place, of course.  Most are just mobilized versions of counterparts on the Web already, such as banner ads and links.  Text message (SMS) marketing has hit its stride as well, being the largest segment of mobile advertising today, but it requires users to sign on and has many of the same drawbacks email marketing does with spam accusations and potentially bad publicity.

MMS advertising is also taking flight as advertisers begin ‘product placements’ within games and videos meant for the mobile Web.  These take many different forms, such as splash screens before an application starts or specific in-game items with the brand’s name featured.  Energy drink and soda companies have been especially fast to adopt this form of advertising.

Upon the emergence of the mobile market, it didn’t take long for marketing companies to realize the Seventh Mass Media Channel (SMS) and begin devising ways to capitalize on it.  It’s largest advantage over other types of media is that it’s two-way and semi-personal.  It can also become viral as users forward messages and content to their friends and family through their phones.

The mobile media advertising boom

In 2007, mobile media was worth $2.2 billion of the $450 billion global advertising industry (about 0.5%).  In 2009, that number jumped to $8 billion of a $430 billion global advertising industry.  That’s a nearly four-fold increase in only two years.  Many believe that it will continue to grow at a similar rate for the next several years.

The types of mobile media advertising will change rapidly as the technology changes.  With the introduction this year of larger-screened devices such as the Apple iPad and other tablet computers slated to hit the market this year, other marketing options will merge.  With the popularity of the Amazon Kindle and other book reader devices, many publishers are considering embedding ads into electronic books as a way of lowering their costs to consumers while boosting revenues.

This and other new forms of advertising leveraging mobile are the future of marketing through technology.  Are you a part of that?

JAMES BURCHILL shows individuals and companies how to profit from the innovative use of Internet technologies, strategic content and social media marketing. You can find out more at James’ website and you can subscribe to his J-List and get over 40 articles, reports and advice on Internet Marketing today.

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Four emerging companies in need of financing will have the opportunity to pitch their business to a panel of industry experts including investors at Innovator Idol II. The presenters will provide feedback from the panel and winner will be chosen by the audience.

The winner will receive more than  $30,000 in prizes from participating sponsors. Innovator-Idol-II-Prizes

Date: June 16th, 2010 Time: 7:30am – 10:00am

Location: Novotel Hotel, 3670 Hurontario Street. Mississauga

Applicants must complete the application form and submit to Shantanu Mittal at shantanu@riccentre.com before 31st May, 2010.

Do you know an emerging company that has the next great idea? Send them this link to Innovator Idol II.

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By Sheldon Leiba

Businesses in Ontario today have a tremendous burden dealing with business regulations and red tape.

Business regulations are intended to serve Ontario citizens by ensuring fair business practices, consumer and public safety, community welfare and care of the natural environment.

While Ontario’s business supports and demonstrates leadership in advancing these objectives, business regulations in Ontario are extensive and unduly heavy, covering every aspect of business.  Included are: government imposed legislation, taxation, regulations, registrations, licenses, permits, approvals, restrictions, standards, guidelines, procedures, reporting,  certification requirements, paperwork, investigations, inspection and enforcement practices, that truly are not needed to the extent that exists to protect public health, safety and the environment.

Dealing with business regulations is a huge cost to business, and in many circumstances the regulation itself, its application, or enforcement, is unnecessary and unjustifiably crude and inflexible.  The result is a strong hindrance on job creation, investment opportunities and weakened competitiveness.  This regulatory environment is extremely detrimental to long-term economic sustainability and growth, and is particularly threatening to business and jobs coming out of a deep economic recession.

In 2008, the Ontario Government announced its “Open for Business” vision to better serve and support business and economic development in the province.

“Open for Business” was intended to be an ambitious three-year initiative, through the Ministry of Economic Development, to reduce the regulatory burden on business while protecting the public interest.

In order for the Provincial Government to be truly serious about its vision for Ontario to be “Open for Business”, the current business regulatory framework that threatens business every day must be shifted significantly, and a stronger commitment is needed at all levels within government, to better support business, economic sustainability, competitiveness and growth.

Sheldon Leiba is the President & CEO of Mississauga Board of Trade, Mississauga’s leading business association. Mississauga Board of Trade represents businesses in all industry sectors. Visit www.mbot.com.

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By David Crow

It has been crazy lately for Canadian startup acquisitions.

First there was Bumptop announced their acquisition by Google. There is StandOutJobs.com being acquired by an unnamed company. Now Ottawa-based dna13 has been acquired by CNW Group. Read the Social Media Release for more details

“This acquisition reinvents the newswire and we’re terribly excited about it. It’s of benefit to our clients because we’re taking dna13’s technology platform, which is best-in-class, and marrying it with CNW’s suite of offerings. For the first time we’ll be providing an end-to-end solution that will really allow communicators to manage every facet of the communications process. Everything from creating content; targeting your message; distributing your news and information; understanding how that information is being received by your audience to further refining your message and developing metrics. That will all be available to CNW clients in one, single platform.”
Carolyn McGill-Davidson, President and CEO, CNW Group

This makes a lot of sense since CNW Group is a reseller of the dna13 platform under the MediaVantage brand. No details about the purchase price have been disclosed.

Looking at the cached Board of Directors page we find:

We can hope that this was another 10 banger for a Canadian startup.

Reposted from StartUp North

David Crow is an emerging technology and start-up advocate/evangelist. At Microsoft Canada, he is responsible for helping Canadian start-ups gain access to software, support and visibility in the Microsoft ecosystem through programs like BizSpark (details at microsoft.com/bizspark). David blogs at http://davidcrow.ca/ and http://startupnorth.ca/ or follow him on Twitter @davidcrow

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By Jeremy Grushcow

A new nonprofit organization called Grand Challenges Canada has been formed to deploy the Canadian government’s $225 million Development Innovation Fund. In a fabulous marriage of theory and practice, Grand Challenges will be run by Peter Singer, who is also the Director of the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health. It also draws on an impressive international scientific advisory board.

The program will identify and launch five “grand challenges” over a 5-year period. The first is

“to create a new class of point-of-care (POC) diagnostics that will be easy to use, low-cost, multiplexed and able to assess disease stage and provide information on prognosis.”

Information on the RFP, policies and forms to apply for funding are here, and the deadline for this round of applications is July 12, 2010 at 11:59 pm EST.

Grand Challenges Canada is independent, but is being run in partnership with International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health and with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Re-posted from the Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Jeremy Grushcow  is a Foreign Legal Consultant practising corporate law at Ogilvy Renault LLP. He has a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology. His practice focuses on life science and technology companies.

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By Sarah O’Neill

Is your business new to R&D partnerships with post-secondary researchers? The NSERC Ontario Regional Office can help!

Partnering with post-secondary researchers begins by connecting with the right people—getting to know scientists and engineers with the right mix of expertise to solve your problems. NSERC Ontario has begun to host Connector events that help you do just that. These unique events provide a ‘designed’ opportunity for companies to meet with selected researchers. To assist you, staff specialists from NSERC’s Ontario Regional Office are present at all Connector events to describe how the Engage Grant, $25,000 of support for new research collaborations, works.

There are two different types of Connector events. In one format, the event is sector specific, so the companies and researchers are all from the same general sector; for example,  information and communications technology. We begin with a “show and tell” session where each attendee introduces either their research expertise, or provides a background on their company, and what its current research needs are. Following the presentations the floor is open for networking, or impromptu one-on-one meetings.

Alternatively, the other format matches up industry representatives and professors to have 10-15 minute conversations about themselves and their research projects. This “speed-dating” portion of the event gives people the opportunity to network as well as sign up for one-on-one sessions with each other.

“The NSERC Connector event provides a great informal forum to meet professors and hear about what they do,” says Gerard Campeau from Thermal Electronics Corp. “We were able to find someone whose research can help us to correct some of the issues we’re looking to fix.”

“The speed dating event presented a great opportunity for academic researchers and industry to meet and network on a one-on-one basis,” says Dr. Goldie Nejat from the University of Toronto. “I found the event to be very helpful in kick starting new academia-industry collaborations.”

Bottom line for your company? You bring the research problem, we’ll bring the talent and facilities that can help solve it, and NSERC will provide the money to make it happen through our Engage Grants Program.

To find out when the next connector event is happening in your area, give Sarah at the NSERC Ontario Regional office a call at 905-403-0301.

Sarah O’Neill is the Communications and Promotions Officer at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s Ontario regional office.  Sarah can connect you with the information you need to know regarding NSERC’s partnership opportunities.

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