A lot to squeeze in
It’s been an action-packed week for the crew at Toronto-based accelerator Extreme Startups, which chooses five primarily technology-oriented teams at a time to participate in a 12-week program, during which they are given access to the resources required to compete in today’s market.
Each startup receives $50,000 up front, and up to $150,000 from BDC at the end of the program. One cohort has concluded, and on Monday night Extreme held a private pre-Demo Day reception for investors, mentors and the startups, which attracted about 120 people. It was an opportunity for investors from places as far afield as New York, Boston, Silicon Valley, Montreal, Vancouver and India to meet with the entrepreneurs and the Canadian investment base.
Tuesday began with Extreme ringing the bell to open the Toronto Stock Exchange, followed by a lunch for CEOs of some of Canada's most exciting tech companies: Wattpad, Shopify, Wave Accounting, Uken Games and Freshbooks, as well as a group of venture capitalists. That lead into Demo Day at Toronto’s historic Berkeley Church. Four hundred people – a mix of investors, startups, corporate sponsors and media – watched a video featuring five Extreme investors (OMERS Ventures, Rho Canada Ventures, Relay Ventures, Extreme Venture Partners and BDC Venture Capital) describing their commitment to the program and their vision for tech investing in Canada.
After a pair of keynotes, each startup CEO was introduced by the mentors who had spent considerable time with them for the past three months. The pitches to potential investors were eight minutes long. The five companies and their respective Demo Day results were:
- Gijit: A “personal calendar assistant,” which helps schedule meetings quickly by co-ordinating and creating events based on the availability of all users. The company announced it is attempting to raise $500,000 and that it’s half-way there upon completion of the sale of the original company, Addin Social, abandoned in favour of Gijit in week two.
- Granify: Assists online stores by displaying offers, recommendations and messages personalized to each shopper to maximize the likelihood of a purchase and increase order sizes. It expects to announce some funding news later this week.
- Shoplocket: Allows anyone to start selling online in minutes by having them create a product, embed it in any website, Facebook page or blog post, and start collecting orders. It now has a signed term-sheet from Rho Canada Ventures for $500,000 and it hopes to raise an additional $500,000 from other venture capitalists.
- Simply Us: A private place to stay close and organized with your partner by sharing memories, messages, calendars, lists and more. SimplyUs plans to raise $750,000 with commitments so far totalling more than $400,000 from a group of high-profile angel investors.
- Verelo: A website monitoring service that focuses on providing large-scale web hosting providers with deep insight into their customer base. The company is currently in discussions with various venture capitalists and angel investors.
“We think that all five of our startups are on track to raise seed capital beyond the Extreme Startups initial investment and we are told that this is a highly remarkable outcome, particularly here in Canada,” Extreme Startups chief connector Sunil Sharma said in an e-mail. “For the ones that do not have signed term-sheets in place, we will help them get there. It’s part of our commitment to our startups with their participation in the accelerator.”
Once Demo Day concluded, Extreme hosted an event with the Canadian Innovation Exchange (CIX), which celebrates the best of the country’s tech firm achievements. It also announced a partnership with General Assemby from New York to start co-delivering tech courses to the Toronto community. Tuesday concluded with an evening event, the Startup Soiree, described as Extreme’s “attempt to give thanks to the overall startup ecosystem by inviting people from various networks across the city.”
Now it’s back to work. “We think it was (a big deal) for Toronto,” Mr. Sharma said, “and a great start to what we think will be an ongoing effort to help build early stage tech companies in this city.”
U.S. product launches in Canada
A privately held, U.S.-based women’s health company is launching in Canada after receiving Health Canada’s approval for its medical device. Viveve Inc. claims to have developed the first non-surgical procedure to restore vaginal tissue and improve sexual satisfaction after childbirth. “Canada is a very important market for Viveve and presents a significant opportunity,” Patricia Scheller, CEO of Viveve, said in a press release. “The Health Canada approval is a key milestone in our commercialization strategy.” The company says its radio-frequency device uses low levels of energy to restore collagen fibers that become overstretched and damaged during childbirth. It adds the procedure is performed in a doctor's office by a trained physician, without the need for anesthesia, in about 30 minutes. The product is currently not for sale in the United States.
Living the dream
Claire Hall quit her job as a sales manager for a fashion design company to earn a living as a full-time artist, after she posted pictures of some of her paintings on Facebook and got 20 orders in 24 hours. Her clients can send in pictures of their living space, and Ms. Hall produces artwork to fit with the room. She tries to keep prices affordable, with larger pieces starting at about $300. She is up to about three paintings a week, and expanding her offerings to incorporate photos. Some of her designs are sold at home products store UpCountry.
EVENTS AND KEY DATES
Off you go to Montreal
The International Startup Festival is a three-day event held in the historic Old Port of Montreal, and brings together industry veterans and fresh new faces, creative thinkers, experienced entrepreneurs and technologists from around the world. Click here for the list of speakers, and to find out how to register and show off your company’s product.
Start your app engines
Mobile App Camp aims to “provide exciting new business opportunities for start-up mobile ventures.” Over the course of a weekend, participants form a multi-disciplinary team on site or in advance to develop an app based on Rogers Media or Corus Entertainment properties on the Microsoft Windows platform. It’s an opportunity to network and work with major players in the industry. The event takes place in Toronto the weekend of Aug. 24.
EDITOR'S PICKS FROM REPORT ON SMALL BUSINESS
There’s a first time for everything
Hiring his inaugural employee wasn’t a task Scott Brookfield took on lightly or found easy to do. Where would the CEO and chairman of Blackline Management Group Ltd. in Halifax find the right person for the job? Someone with whom he would be compatible? And how would he pay for the salary and benefits, as the company was not yet generating enough income to cover such costs?
FROM THE ROSB ARCHIVES
The ins of outsourcing
A slew of websites, such as Elance.com, oDesk.com, Guru.com and Staff.com, have made hiring freelancers for small businesses easier than ever. And, it seems, more employers are giving it a try.
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