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Startups the stars of the show

Lots of capital at stake as young local firms go before the judges

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Fundica president Mike Lee (right) and Skip the Dishes president Joshua Simair at the Funding Roadshow on Thursday.

SARAH TAYLOR / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Fundica president Mike Lee (right) and Skip the Dishes president Joshua Simair at the Funding Roadshow on Thursday. Photo Store

Next Wednesday, six promising Manitoba startup companies will present to a panel of judges for the chance at $50,000 in cash and prizes in Innovate Manitoba's big Lift'Off event.

That is the grand finale in what is becoming a busy circuit of business-pitch events for startup companies seeking traction, profile and, most importantly, funding.

This week, a new entry into the growing number of opportunities for businesses to get their message in front of potential funders took place at the former NRC building on Ellice Avenue.

The Funding Roadshow, organized by a Montreal-based company called Fundica, was part of 10-city pitch-day road show in which the winner in each city gets a round trip to San Francisco to pitch to Silicon Valley venture capitalists, a cloud-infrastructure-services package valued at about $8,000 and an R & D tax-credit financing solution valued at about $4,000.

Seventeen companies were scheduled to make pitches on Thursday to a panel that included Brent Wennekes of Innovate Manitoba, Marshall Ring of Manitoba Technology Accelerator and the Manitoba Knights angel group, Sean Burns of VA Angels and Joelle Foster, the local director of Futurpreneur (formerly the Canada Youth Business Foundation).

Futurpreneur is a national partner of the Funding Roadshow and has representation on the panels at Fundica's events across the country.

Pitch events are typically deeply rooted in the local community, but the arrival of the Funding Roadshow has been warmly embraced by the local startup scene.

ICTAM (the Information and Communication Technologies Association of Manitoba) hosted the event this week.

Kathy Knight, the executive director of ICTAM, said, "There is no sense of competition. The community is supportive of what Fundica does. We have a link on our website to Fundica. "From our point of view, everyone does their own thing well. There is no reason for ICTAM to insert itself and overlap what others are already doing."

The Funding Roadshow is really an offshoot of Fundica's main activity, which is a website -- www.fundica.com -- that catalogues all available grants, tax credits, loans and equity funding offered by federal, provincial and municipal governments and private-sector funders.

Using proprietary searching, intelligent filtering and timely notifications, the site optimizes the match between funding programs and entrepreneurs. Funders pay for sponsored links and Google-type ads to get to the front of searches. There are also premium memberships to Fundica that let funders have access to the data to get a better idea of the kind of financing certain kinds of firms are looking for.

For entrepreneurs, it is a tool to find potential funders that are most appropriate for their type of business. And for funders, it becomes another avenue to source potential clients.

Fundica started the Funding Roadshow last year with five stops. It was expanded to 10 cities this year, including a stop in Winnipeg for the first time.

Mike Lee, president of Fundica, said, "The road show serves multiple purposes for us. We need to connect with the funders and with the entrepreneurs. There are two sides to the marketplace. We need both sides to make it work. You can't have one without the other."

For the companies pitching, it is generally seen as another welcome opportunity to hone their skills.

Some of them -- Exigence Technologies Inc., Kindoma Inc., Permission Click Inc. -- will be pitching at Innovate Manitoba Lift'Off event next week.

Some are more established businesses with customers and early revenue and some are still on the lab bench developing their technology.

James Schellenberg, the CEO of Cubresa Inc., already has a couple of paying customers for the company's hand-held gamma camera, the only one of its kind in the world. Smaller than fixed gamma cameras and larger than tiny probe devices that are in use now, the Winnipeg company is already receiving significant interest from the preclinical research world that spends about $200 million per year on this type of technology.

"We think the market looks pretty good," Schellenberg said. "But we have to keep beating the pavement for funding and connections."

Triple 3 Biotechnology has a customer for its powdered chicken collagen, but it is still in the process of finalizing a production process and supply chain.

Ab Frieg, a veteran senior business executive and CEO of Triple 3, said the Funding Roadshow is the first pitch he's done for Triple 3.

"It will be a chance to showcase the company," he said. "We are all startups and we're all looking for funding in the future. I'm looking forward to getting some feedback and advice. We all value the feedback."

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 13, 2014 B6

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