Three young companies presented their “pitches” to a cohort of Northern Ontario Angel investors during the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre’s Venture Thunder Bay conference, on Thursday evening at the Delta Hotel.
Judy Sander, executive director of the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre, said one of their challenges is to increase the level of early-stage private sector investment into some of their companies. And that’s where angel investment plays a role.
“By holding an event like this we expose the community of potential investors to some of the cool things that are going on in the region,” she said. “(Businesses) have potential to scale up, create more jobs and do new things in the community and they’re going to hopefully get investors interested in talking further with them.”
The investors are essentially high net-worth individuals called “angels” that come in at an early stage and take on a fair amount of risk. They often believe in and support the business ideas and the entrepreneurs behind them and then put in their capital for it. The investors are a cohort under the Northern Ontario Angels umbrella which has been around for more than 15 years.
Physicist Alla Reznik and Sasha Bubon, chief technology officer, attended the event to present their “pitch” for their company Radialis Medical, which has developed cutting-edge cancer screening systems.
Bubon said they are asking for an investor to participate in a round of investment, which they are looking to close soon.
“We’re looking to raise $350,000 to close $1 million of investment, of which we already have $650,000 committed,” Bubon said.
“If we can have somebody from the community join us in this round, it will be a nice northern representation in this northern company.”
Derrick Legros presented a pitch for LBC Contracting, which expanded to manufacture ride suspensions.
“We need investors for up to $400,000 for our new product, an autonomous trailer designed for ice road deliveries for use in the forest industry and also mining,” Legros said.
Bill Boulton of Smart Modular Canada was the third pitch presenter whose company has grown out of its facility. He says the housing shortage and mining boom in the north has impacted his company, causing it to grow exponentially.
“We have a lot of orders and we need to automate,” he said. “In a 76,000 square-foot facility, we’re manufacturing as many as 14 (modular homes) at the same time that we ship all over Northwestern Ontario.”
Keynote speaker Shannon Ferguson is the co-founder and chief executive officer of FanSaves, a digital couponing platform that offers fans discounts and deals from the sponsors of their favourite teams and organizations.
“My keynote is really all about the non-linear journey and navigating those peaks and valleys not just in life, but also in business,” she said. “Life and business often mirror each other. When investors are looking at who to invest in or what startups to invest in, it’s so important to also take into account the journey that each startup founder has been on.”
Ferguson says her company did not receive investment from the Angel group and “bootstrapped” most of their company-received funding from a family office and the Comcast NBC Sports tech accelerator of which they are a part.
“That basically means that we found really creative ways to put money into our company, putting sales back into the company, but really growing our business using government grants, loans, winning pitch competitions early on, and putting that funding back into our company,” she said. “We found a non-conventional way to grow our business without giving away a lot of equity.
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