The Big Winner in NBIF’s Breakthru
On the 23rd of March, close to 600 entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders converged at the Fredericton Convention Centre to watch more than $1.1 million in prize money be awarded to four exciting new start-ups at the Breakthru Live Awards Dinner. The biennial national startup competition is hosted by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and its co-presenting partners Deloitte and Cox & Palmer.
Breakthru encourages the creation and development of entrepreneurial, innovative business ventures in New Brunswick. It provides participants with a unique opportunity to access the start-up capital, mentoring, and support they need to successfully turn their ideas into reality.
2017 marked the tenth anniversary of Breakthru, and it was the biggest and best competition yet.
“We had 61 qualified entries, 141 participants attended our boot camp with some traveling from as far away as Nunavut, and we also had 23 organizations partner with NBIF to boost our prize pot to a record $1.1 million,” says Milbury. “We couldn’t have pulled it off without the generous support of our partners.”
Breakthru prizes take the form of a “company-in-box” and combine startup capital with in-kind professional support. Prize winning companies have access to a network of professionals from day one to help them launch their business on a proper footing.
“To have the entire startup ecosystem represented at Breakthru demonstrates the tremendous support that exists for entrepreneurship and innovation in New Brunswick,” says Milbury. “We continue to be amazed by the support our business community provides. Their support makes a big difference for our entrepreneurs.”
The national grand prize winner was Newpy, a social app designed to make product photography more engaging for users and more valuable for brands. Newpy is the brainchild of Erin O’Halloran, who will graduate from UPEI this Spring, and set up her business, working alongside her sister, in Saint John. Newpy took home $301,250 in cash investments and professional services.
“We were absolutely thrilled,” says O’Halloran. “This changes everything for us, and I can’t wait to get started.”
The provincial grand prize winner was Pfera, a digital milk strip analysis tool designed to improve birth date predictions for horses. Pfera’s technology is based on the research and commercialization efforts of Lisa Pfister, a student in UNB’s Master of Technology Management & Entrepreneurship program. Pfera walked away with $374,250 in cash investments and professional services.
“I am really humbled that so many people see the value in what I’m doing,” says Pfister. “We are getting requests from around the world, and these investments will help us meet that demand. We have a lot of work to do!”
The two runners up in the provincial category were SomaDetect, a milk analysis system that uses light scattering technology to evaluate the quality of the milk and the health of the cow producing it; and WEnTech Solutions, a software system that allows project engineers to evaluate and recommend effective scenarios for waste-to-energy projects. These two companies were awarded close to $180,000 each in cash investments and professional services.
“The awards gala was the culmination of many months of effort for our finalists,” says Calvin Milbury. “We had a great group of entrepreneurs this year, and I can’t say enough about the potential of each of their business ventures. New Brunswick is the real winner.”
In the coming months, each successful company will set up their businesses in New Brunswick, using their winnings to ramp up growth, to hire, and to finalize their product offerings.