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Sunil Sharma, chief connector at Extreme Startups, introduces one of the five companies pitching at his accelerator’s demo day in Toronto, Nov. 28, 2012.Sean Stanleigh/The Globe and Mail

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Five big ideas

Toronto-based accelerator Extreme Startups held its fall demo day Wednesday, where the five tech companies that make up the latest cohort presented their concepts to a packed room of hundreds of friends, mentors, investors, and media representatives. Here's a snapshot of each one, in order of appearance:

  • Picatic: Jayesh Parmar represented the crowdfunding and ticketing platform for events. The company helps mitigate risk by giving organizers a chance to raise funds well in advance to gauge interest in their ideas. It launched nine weeks ago and it’s already delivering revenue.
  • Shifthub: Jeremy Potvin outlined how his company’s software organizes the schedules of shift-based workers and tracks the cost of employees in real-time. Schedules are posted online for all to see, mobile and web are integrated, and there’s even a geolocation check-in function. Four hundred companies and 2,200 workers are already using the service.
  • Venio: Jon Carr-Harris discussed the benefits of healthy eating and how his company is making it simple with an app that gathers data, and generates meal plans and even recommends restaurants for a balanced diet. It launched a month ago and 10,000 users have signed up for the service, which uses a freemium model.
  • Kera: Max Cameron is all about Customer Success. Specifically, how his company's platform helps software-as-a-service businesses hold on to clients for life by providing voice tutorials on live websites. It’s a more hands-on user experience than, say, a webinar. A thousand business have already signed up to use the service.
  • MyShoebox: Steve Cosman started his pitch by talking about the hardware he’s bought over the years, all of which stored photos, but added he never had a proper unifying storage area. His company’s platform automatic backs up photos and provides unlimited storage, and they are apparently “stored with the same encryption used by banks.” Users have already uploaded more than 13 million photos.

Extreme Startups is now taking applications for the next cohort. Five teams will be chosen, and the program will runs for 12 weeks, starting in March. Each team selected receives $50,000, and they are eligible for up to another $150,000 from BDC upon completion.

Start us up, part one

Non-profit network Startup Canada this week released its three-part Action Plan to drive economic development, job creation and innovation across the country. The concept was born out of the organization's 2012 national tour to meet with members of Canada's entrepreneurial community. Members of the team discovered a need for Canada to embrace an entrepreneurial culture, that the country requires more "visionary" startups with global aspirations, and that local small-business communities led by founders (not bureaucrats) must be nurtured. "We need to act with urgency," Adam Chowaniec, chairman of Startup Canada, says in a press release. "These problems and some solutions have been discussed for decades, but we are running out of time." The Action plan's three initiatives are as follows:

  • Startup Canada Connect: A free online meeting place to provide entrepreneurs with tools and resources.
  • Startup Canada Communities: Encouraging development of strong local networks dedicated to growth and success, locally and nationally.
  • Startup Canada Campaign: Leveraging mainstream media, social media and key national institutions to the stories of Canadian entrepreneurs as a mentoring exercise.

Start us up, part two

Upside Foundation of Canada has launched into the country's start-up community to support charitable activity. Its "new model of corporate philanthropy" is affiliated with Tmura in Israel and a similar foundation in California, which have distributed millions of dollars to charities. Early stage, high-growth businesses can use the service to donate stock options – instead of cash – that are convertible at exit into a small portion of equity. When the Upside Foundation sells its options, it donates the proceeds to charities. Nearly 10 companies are already on board.


Money and prizes at stake

TiEQuest 2013 business venture competition is accepting applications. More than $150,000 in prizes is at stake, as well as an opportunity to win up to $1-million investment from sponsoring funds. Contestants receive mentoring and a chance to present to, network with and be judged by fund managers, angel investors and venture capitalists. The entry deadline is Jan. 31, at 11:55 p.m. EST, and the competition is open to applicants from Canada and the United States.

Pinterest for business

Join Pinterest industry experts and authors of the book Pinterest for Business Jess Loren and Edward Swiderski (of Bachelorette and Bachelor Pad fame) and yours truly as we lead a discussion about how small companies can benefit from the popular social-media network. Enjoy an evening of appetizers, wine and conversation with branding and media experts. Leave with a parting gift, including a copy of the book, a gift from Grand & Toy, and Purdy's chocolates. Event is in Toronto, and begins at 6:30 p.m. Register by clicking the RSVP button.


On the hunt for help

Lonny Thiessen needs advice about getting advice. Mr. Thiessen is the president and chief executive officer of Western Manufacturing Ltd., the Grande Prairie, Alta.-based business he founded in 2008. The company, which specializes in steel fabrication and manufacturing for the oilfields, is growing tremendously, generating $32.8-million in revenue in 2011, a figure Mr. Thiessen expects to break $60-million for 2012. But he's only 26, so he's on the hunt for help. He wants to assemble an advisory board that might bring additional business experience to his young leadership team. But he doesn't know where and how to start.


Baby plus business

Some entrepreneurs have decided to forgo day care, babysitters or nannies, and instead raise both under the same workplace roof so that they can be together in those early years.

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