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By Carol Moreira

March saw developments in the nascent oceans sector, alongside a fresh focus on addressing the shortfall in trained IT talent and boosting research with commercial potential. Diverse companies dug into their niches and a new network got behind BIPOC founders.

Funds Emerging for Oceans

Organizations supporting the region’s ocean economy are encouraged by the growth of international funds targeting maritime innovation.

To date, the region’s ocean tech ventures have attracted little equity capital, but Malcolm Fraser, CEO of Innovacorp,said growth is occurring.

“There’s no question from a global point of view there is a significant amount of capital that really likes the blue challenge,” Fraser told Entrevestor. “There’s an understanding that we have to make sure our oceans and the companies in them are cleaner, safer, and better.”

At the end of 2020, Entrevestor recorded 101 ocean tech ventures, about two-thirds of them younger than two years.

Local people and groups like Innovacorp are also backing ocean startups.

“In the past year, Innovacorp has made over $3 million in ocean investments,” Fraser said. “And in two years we have gone from 17 companies in our potential pipeline to over 80.”

The Creative Destruction Lab program, which links young companies with mentors and investors, is also channeling capital into ocean tech.

CDL-Atlantic is currently running its first Oceans stream and has attracted members from California to Norway.

Jeff Larsen, the regional Site Lead, said relationships often become investment opportunities, and several financings are already completed with others in progress.

Canada's Ocean Supercluster, which works to modernize Canada’s ocean economy, named three Nova Scotian projects with a value of about $10 million.

The projects include enhancing data analytics in ports, a project led by BlueNode, and creating a nutritious oil made from algae, led by Mara Renewables Corp. An underwater acoustic monitoring system is being developed by Ontario-based Sensor Technology, working with 3D Wave Design and Kraken Robotics.

Meanwhile, Planetary Hydrogen won the annual pitching event and $2,000 prize at Start-Up Yard at COVE.

Planetary Hydrogen’s dual-functioning system produces hydrogen, which is increasingly popular as a clean fuel and injects bicarbonate into oceans to reduce water’s acidity and capture carbon.

Andrew Ray, Innovacorp Vice-President of Investment, said the company’s solution “really connects with two of the big challenges in the world – clean energy and clean oceans, and it does it in a way that is financially attractive.”

The contest’s $1,000-second prize went to Glas Ocean Electric, a maker of boats that use electric propulsion.

The third place of $1,000 went to Sedna Technologies, which helps automate the seafood supply chain away from reliance on paper records.

Also, the Ocean Startup Project is seeking applicants for the second cohort of the Ocean Startup Challenge accelerator which will provide prize money of up to $1.4 million.

Last year, the Challenge's pilot year, the project put up $350,000 in prize money and educated 14 companies, most of them from Atlantic Canada.

"This year's Ocean Startup Challenge will build on the momentum we are seeing in Canada's ocean sector by drawing out innovative ideas and accelerating the development of new ocean tech companies," said Ocean Startup Project Executive Director Don Grant.

The new cohort features special awards for women entrepreneurs, Indigenous founders, and for startups that make technology for ocean sustainability.

Tribe Focuses on BIPOC Founders

A network called Tribe has been established as a national entrepreneurship and innovation hub for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) innovators.

Created by social entrepreneur Alfred Burgesson, the network has already built partnerships with major incubators and accelerators in the region, including Halifax innovation hub Volta, Dalhousieand Saint Mary’s universities, Nova Scotia Community College, and ONSIDE.

Audioptics Device in Use
Audioptics device in use

“Our mission [is] to apply cutting-edge imaging technology to solve the clinical challenges of conductive hearing loss, a disorder that affects more than 100 million people worldwide,” said company CEO Dan MacDougall. The raise helps the company move toward commercial development.

ValidCert Verifies Credentials

ValidCert, a blockchain- and SaaS-based venture working on the problem of fake credentials, has finished a soft launch of its technology with the Research Innovation and Commercialization Centre in Ontario.

The ValidCert system prevents individuals from using fraudulent diplomas and certificates by allowing institutions to host digital credentials for graduates. The graduates can allow chosen people, including HR execs, to access their records.

“Our objective is to protect the data and accomplishments of educational institutions and students to share and store information in a simple and secure way that will streamline processes to increase trust and engagement while reducing costs and workload,” CEO and co-founder Sanjay Khanna told Entrevestor.

Fake certification is a common problem. According to ValidCert, there were 2 million phony certificates in circulation last year and 300 unauthorized universities in operation.

Modest Tree Heightens Reality for professionals

Immersive technology specialist Modest Tree launched Xplorer 2.0, the latest iteration of its extended reality enterprise software that places users in virtual worlds designed to enhance training, sales, and demonstrations.

“We wanted to open up the world of XR to those who aren't virtual reality experts so we could support organizations who needed a rapid and accessible means to develop, adapt, and scale their own AR, VR, and XR content,” said Modest Tree CEO Sam Sannandeji.

German company Renk, a member of the Volkswagen group, purchased a stake in Modest Tree in September, 2019.