Category Archive New

Bysh77awn hopes to build ‘world-class business’ on P.E.I. co-founder says after launching only four

months ago, it already has 5,000 users is a content management tool for websites.

A Charlottetown tech start-up is aiming to be at the “leading edge” of website management. is a content management tool for websites. Once a website has been designed, can be used to keep it updated.

‘We’d like to hire some of the brightest minds in the region, and build really cool products and build a world-class business from here.’– Scott Gallant

Co-founder Scott Gallant says the service only launched four months ago, and it already has 5,000 users worldwide.

“We see this as the future of the web,” he said. “In a few years, we think, no developer will use a site like WordPress and, all developers will use the platforms that we support and we just want to be at the leading edge of that.”

The company was accepted into the accelerator program Tech Stars, which offered three months of mentoring and $125,000 US in financial support.

Hiring more staff

Six people are employed now with, Gallant said, and they’re looking to hire a programmer, a designer and some administrative help in the next few months.

Gallant hopes to eventually take the company public, like Ottawa-based Shopify did a couple of years ago.

“We’d like to hire some of the brightest minds in the region, and build really cool products and build a world-class business from here.”


Superfood in a Canadian bottle proves the right mix

Superfood in a Canadian bottle proves the right mix

A western PEI company is having great success sharing Prince Edward Island’s abundant wild blueberries with the rest of the world.

PEI Juice Works(link is external) General Manager Jackson Platts says they recognized the opportunity to juice in bulk with the explosion of the craft brew market along the eastern seaboard. About 75 per cent of PEI Juice Works’ 100 per cent blueberry juice is shipped to China, Taiwan, Japan, Barbados, the U.S. and Europe.

Blueberries, which are considered a superfruit high in antioxidants and believed to have restorative qualities, are in high demand worldwide.

 “We can juice anything and – with the demand for peach, nectarine, tart cherry, cranberry, strawberry with the growing production of radlers and fruit beers – we are now supplying breweries, wineries and cider companies.”

Each 375 ml bottle of juice contains just over one pound of wild blueberries. The addition of rhubarb, tart cherries and cranberries has created three unique blends that complement the natural essence of the wild blueberries.

The company doesn’t waste anything. They’re now using the skin of blueberries, dried and ground to a powder, for the commercial animal food market, and the nutraceutical industry. “You’ve got to find a way to pay the bills,” Platts joked.

“We continue to try to develop new products and new markets. Prince Edward Island is a great place to do business.”

Platts said the company has lots of supply from blueberry growers, along with a world-class cleaning, sorting and freezing facility with Wymans. “We have had very good support from Trade Team PEI, ACOA, the National Research Council, BioFoodTech and Innovation PEI. We received a lot of support to go on trade missions.”

Their biggest customer, China, sees the value in the PEI brand. A Canadian flag stamped on the bottle makes it even more desirable. “It’s a big niche to have that maple leaf on your bottle,” Platts said.


Monaghan Farms potatoes make great chips

Monaghan Farms potatoes make great chips

There’s a good chance that the next bag of Frito Lay potato chips you tear open will contain chips from Prince Edward Island-grown potatoes.

Historic Freetown-based Monaghan Farms collaborates with local growers to supply product to Frito Lay plants in Canada, the United States, Southeast Asia, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. It turns out they grow varieties of potatoes that are just what the chip giant is looking for; Monaghan Farms is now Frito Lay’s largest supplier of raw product for export and were their top Canadian supplier in 2007.

 “These potatoes are bred with certain characteristics which are ideal for making potato chips with a low sugar content, which is what gives them their lighter appearance, and high solid that limits oil waste and optimum round shape,” said seventh-generation potato farmer Derrick Curley.

Derrick’s family emigrated from Ireland during the 1840s potato famine and named Monaghan Farms after the Irish county of their homeland.  The Curley family still farms the original acreage where Thomas Curley established his original mixed-use farm.

Over the years the potato acreage grew, and in 1982 Monaghan Farms started selling potatoes in the processing market.  Monaghan Farms’ relationship with Frito Lay – the largest player in the potato chip market – began in 1987 when Derrick’s father, Terry Curley, took a potato sample to Frito Lay’s Kentville, Nova Scotia plant to see if it met their standards.

It did. They have supplied the Kentville plant ever since.  

“Frito Lay’s high standards for quality and sustainability make them a great company to work with,” Derrick said.

Although throughout the years, Monaghan Farms has grown potatoes for Frito Lay, McCains, Cavendish Farms and Humpty Dumpty, today it grows only chip potatoes for Frito Lay.

Derrick says Monaghan Farms has succeeded because of the partners, growers, and employees they are fortunate enough to work with.

“Within the potato agriculture business there are always many variables at play that result in a successful year,” Derrick said. “A lot of it is out of our control, so it is necessary to be flexible and be able to adjust, which keeps this lifestyle exciting and nerve racking at the same time.”


Keeping boats afloat

Keeping boats afloat

Their stock may be getting low as boating weather comes to a close for the year, but Mermaid Marine(link is external) will be ready to supply North American boaters for the 2017 season.

Staff at the successful wholesale marine distributor in Charlottetown are busy packing orders to ship to 1,000 boat dealers across the continent. The company supplies everything from engine parts to lifejackets for commercial and pleasure boats.

Having technicians on staff to answer dealers’ questions also sets Mermaid Marine apart. 

“Customer service is our number 1 priority,” said General Manager Ron Savidant. “That’s how we have done so well.”

Owner Patrick Villeneuve oversees the staff of 25 at their 21,000-square-foot location in the Charlottetown Industrial Park. The company was founded by Villeneuve’s father Pierre in 1973 in Montreal, and is a perfect example of an Island enterprise that started out small and became big. 

The elder Villeneuve often traveled across the Island en route to deliver diesel engines to his clients in the Magdalene Islands. He saw the need for marine products in Prince Edward Island, so in 1983 he packed up and moved to the Island to set up shop.

The company began with just five employees in 1983, and has grown. Now, Mermaid Marine is in the market for even more staff. They’ll need the additional help, since the company offers more than 18,000 items that can be ordered from its 700-page annual catalogue.

And business – just like the wind that any mariner will find this time of year in the Northumberland Strait – is brisk. 


PEI Success Stories

PEI is fortunate to have a vibrant and growing business community

Esther Dockendorff, PEI Mussel KingPrince Edward Island businesses continue to deliver the highest quality service to the marketplace.

“For the small population we have PEI does wonderful things, we must have more geniuses per capita than anywhere else. We need to do a better job of advertising all we can do.” – Esther Dockendorff, president of PEI Mussel King

Exporting around the world

Prince Edward Island is an exciting place to do business! Islanders like Dockendorff are helping PEI’s business community grow every day. PEI Mussel King is a family owned and operated business that has continuously operated since 1978. PEI Mussel King exports their product throughout the world to countries in Asia, the Middle East and across the USA. PEI Mussel King – proving that Island businesses continue to deliver highest quality products and services to the marketplace.

The soft-spoken Island entrepreneur and 2015 Exporter of the Year would rather be behind the scenes of her successful Mussel growing and shipping business in Morell, PEI. Unfortunately she has been getting a lot of requests lately to step forward and share the secrets to her family business’s huge success.

Business is booming for Mussel King, the Island business her late father Russell Dockendorff started in 1978. While Russell Dockendorff helped make PEI the largest producer of North America’s cultured mussels, Esther and her team took it a step further. Dockendorff, who remembers the first shipment of mussels that left the island for Calgary, her Dad getting the kids to help get the 180 kg shipment to the airport on time, and help stop a leaking container, is now overseeing the growing and shipping of the premium fresh and frozen Prince Edward Island Blue mussels in shell to far flung growing markets in the Persian Gulf, Japan, Europe, Israel, Egypt and China.

“If you want to get into business you really have to want to get into business because it’s your life – it’s not an 80 per cent life, you have to have a fire in your belly.” she said.
Their customers have grown, but so have their products. A key to their ongoing success is innovation and adaptability.

With the support of the provincial government, Mussel King has stepped from the low-margin commodity market to the production of more lucrative value-added products like “Mussels in Minutes.”
Dockendorff has some advice for aspiring Island entrepreneurs before you approach government with an idea – make sure it is well hatched and be prepared to work hard.

“Government is not a cash cow, you’ve got to have ideas that make sense and you’ve got to be able to make money. Don’t go to government if it doesn’t make sense,” she said.  “It’s Islanders’ money and we’re putting it to work for Islanders. This government is very supportive and Premier MacLauchlan is “very driven for business success,” she said.

We approached government with our ideas and a solid business plan and we were very happy they supported us.”

When PEI businesses succeed, we all succeed


The Urgent Need for a Regional ICT Strategy (1)

The Urgent Need for a Regional ICT Strategy (1)

December 15, 2016

By Gerry Pond, Chairman and Co-Founder, Mariner Partners Inc.

Reposted, Original Source: Link

I have spent a lifetime pursuing business growth in the region. It is often an elusive target in all sectors of our economy.

In researching economic development plans in other parts of the world, I was stuck by the sheer number of them and perhaps more importantly the fact that cities or regions that are at the very top of the performance measures are engaging their communities to do better. This should create a sense of urgency here in Atlantic Canada. Yet the regional conversations on economic development seem to meander without too much concern for how far behind we are in the Canadian context, let alone the developed world.

If we are going to grow the region’s economy, we have to imbed a sense of urgency and an understanding that there is some risk associated with a quest for growth on the east coast. Establishing some fairly difficult or stretch set of goals would likely derive a sense of urgency.

A Two-Pronged Strategy

I’m recommending that the leaders of Atlantic Canada adopt a two-pronged strategy across the entire region, which I have referred to as “Two Diamonds in the Rough.”

The first strategy is to stimulate the Atlantic Canadian Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector by focusing on enhancing talent, capital and acceleration services. This initiative would be overseen by a new partnership that I am proposing between Propel ICT (the regional industry accelerator), the Council of Atlantic Premiers (representing the four provinces) and ACOA (representing the federal government).

The second strategy is to stimulate the development of “social enterprises,” focused on mining the silver economy (2) (often described as the demographic tsunami) and other critical social issues. This initiative would be overseen by the Pond-Deshpande Centre (PDC) in affiliation with the Atlantic Universities, the Council of Atlantic Premiers, and ACOA. Much of this effort will leverage ICT solutions and will strengthen the first strategy.

The timeframe for these two strategies would cover 2017 2027, a 10-year span to ensure efforts could take hold. A seven-year time horizon is common with venture capital-backed efforts and a cultural shift can take up to 20 years, so a 10-year planning period is an appropriate timeframe to see significant outcomes. 

I am not prescribing what these two partnerships should do. There would be sufficient knowledge and expertise at each table, and other resources that they can draw upon. What is critical is that they come together as regional partners and develop an effective strategy.

And to be clear, this regional focus on ICT and social enterprise does not mean that other sector strategies should stop. Tourism, shipbuilding, electricity grids and aquaculture are a few of the well-developed regional industry strategies already approved and in place. 

Why Focus on ICT?

The case for ICT is compelling:

  1. Strong growth historically on a global level
  2. North American leadership is dominant globally
  3. Flourishing in all cities in Atlantic Canada
  4. Environmentally friendly
  5. Very low stress on public transportation infrastructure such as highways and ports
  6. Young, non-unionized and flexible workforce
  7. Non-regulated (globally)
  8. High compensation levels
  9. Internationally integrated (standards, languages, etc.)
  10. Small business friendly
  11. Free trade friendly
  12. Proof of global best in class performance in region (e.g., NBTel, Star Choice TV, iMagicTV, Xplornet, Radian6, Q1 Labs)

But the final and biggest reason is that the ICT industry, as a rule, promotes development for the common good, even among competitors. This is a most unusual characteristic and applies throughout the world community. This augers well for a sustainable, long-term growth strategy in Atlantic Canada.

Bringing mentors, incubators, angel investors, universities and accelerators together in a holistic ecosystem was started by Propel in Saint John in 2003 and this phenomenon is now alive and well throughout Atlantic Canada. Propel ICT began in New Brunswick, spread to the Maritimes and now reaches all four Atlantic provinces. Incubators have also been established in all major Atlantic Canadian cities, including Planet Hatch(Fredericton), Venn Garage (Moncton/Saint John)), ConnexionWorks (Saint John), Common Ground (St. John’s), Volta (Halifax), Navigate (Sydney) and Startup Zone (Charlottetown).

ICT also embodies the broad economic initiatives that are already underway, including cybersecurity, smart grid, e-government or digital government, big data and the Internet of Things.

Simply put, the ICT sector is reaching a critical mass in Atlantic Canada for the first time in its relatively young life. 

Why a Regional ICT Cluster?

We need a critical mass for talent, capital and big commercial ideas. But without aggregating our collective resources, we do not have critical mass.

A minimum two million population base provides such a critical mass in the North American context. This is the size needed to produce “Centres of Excellence” and then clusters with their own momentum. It is in this environment that high growth companies (gazelles and unicorns) flourish, perpetuating still more R&D in a virtuous circle. 

The achievements of the last 15-20 years suggest a growth nucleus around an ICT cluster is emerging in the region. (3)

For example, Mariner Partners and its affiliates have invested some $15 million in its core business and another $10 million in 35 start-ups throughout Atlantic Canada and $3 million in three accelerators (PDC, Propel, East Valley Ventures) over the past 13 years. Mariner has leveraged an additional $5 million in grants from federal and provincial governments for its core business. We didn’t do this alone, but we were leaders. We were not always successful, but we have succeeded with Mariner and have three substantial “exits”: two national award-winning exits — Q1 Labs and Radian6 — and one substantial exit in 2015 — Brovada. 

These are all ICT companies and they represent some $1.1 billion of value created in just 13 years, not to mention that Mariner Partners continues to scale-up.

There is a significant common thread in Atlantic Canada over the last 10 years:

  • About 70% of start-ups are in the ICT sector
  • The biggest exits include R6, Q1Labs, Whitehill, Spielo, Brovada, GoInstant in ICT (4)
  • The biggest ICT scale-ups include Innovatia, Mariner and T4G. These three companies all based in Saint John, New Brunswick are the three largest independent ICT companies in Atlantic Canada. Collectively, their export focused revenues exceed $100 million, growing at approximately 15% per year, and their employment level currently exceeds 900. This is definitely an early cluster in big data/analytics. 
  • Bluedrop Performance Learning Inc. a publicly traded company out of St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador is another high growth ICT company in the region.
  • Xplornet, now a large national rural internet service provider, has strong New Brunswick roots with the founders being Barrett Diversified out of Woodstock, New Brunswick.

The availability of risk or venture capital, while still wanting, has increased dramatically in the last five years. The four provincial governments deserve praise for establishing what is now “Build Ventures“, a regional venture capital fund. Furthermore, provincial funds have added early stage investment funds in all four provinces and a new fund is about to be established in Nova Scotia to supplement Innovacorp, as well as a new fund in Prince Edward Island. Investment tax credits have been introduced in all four provinces with New Brunswick leading the way with the most aggressive credits. Now we need an Investment Tax Credit that is applicable among all four provinces to allow a regional approach for angel capital.

Why Social Entrepreneurship? 

According to the Canadian Social Entrepreneurship Foundation, “Social enterprises are social mission driven organizations which apply market-based strategies to achieve a social purpose. The movement includes both non-profits that use business models to pursue their mission and for-profits whose primary purposes are social. Their aim is to accomplish targets that are social and/or environmental as well as financial.” (5) A social entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change (a social venture)

Stimulating social entrepreneurs of high impact enterprises is in a much earlier stage of development in Atlantic Canada and, in fact, in Canada too. The regional (and Canadian) leader in this regard is the Pond-Deshpande Centre (or PDC) based at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in Fredericton but serving all of universities and colleges, and in time, all Atlantic Canadian universities. (6) It is at about the same state that Propel was at 10 years ago when it started out serving only New Brunswick. Today, Propel ICT serves all of Atlantic Canada and graduates 70 companies per year, mostly in ICT.

The PDC accelerator called B4 Change is now two years old with 30 graduates to date. Its most successful graduate has been Resson. What is important to recognized about PDC is the “D”. Mr. Deshpande, a Masters graduate of UNB, is an immensely successful entrepreneur (in ICT). He has made a fortune (in the billions) and he has created both economic and social enterprise acceleration at MIT and the University of Massachusetts in Boston and Hubli, India. (7) He provides a well-connected conduit into the Boston entrepreneurial community, one of the planet’s most successful hubs. This personal connectivity is why I made social entrepreneurship my second Atlantic Canadian priority. While MaRS in Toronto remains a valuable partner, our strong connections to Boston are more powerful for Atlantic Canada.

We need to jumpstart this form of entrepreneurism and further engage our millennials as we create new direction for the Atlantic Economy.

The Need for Talent 

Governments, universities and colleges, and established businesses need to play a strong supporting role in creating necessary talent to execute these two key strategies. They need to step up and enhance degree programs in:

  • Entrepreneurial studies
  • International business to business sales
  • Computer science
  • Software engineering
  • Programming (coding)

I have been on a personal campaign for the last 18 months attempting to encourage Atlantic university business schools to offer a degree program in “international sales”. I have raised $1 million seed capital to jumpstart it. All to no avail, so far. But 68% of Canadian export companies define sales as the most difficult resource to find.

Moving forward with entrepreneurship education is simply not enough to support the rapid growth in these new sectors I’ve described. The region’s established business community also needs to play a much stronger role in providing early adoption environments for the growth in new productivity and marketing tools, provided by the start-ups. The “Internet of Things Living Lab” being proposed by Tech Impact Group is one of the better initiatives being proposed to formalize the structures required to achieve this important link between traditional and new business in Atlantic Canada. 


We need to co-ordinate and collaborate in the Greater Atlantic Area over the next 10 years to:

  1. Stimulate ICT sector growth
  2. Stimulate social enterprise growth

We need to establish a critical mass of ICT and social enterprise development in our quest for growth. And we need to establish a much stronger sense of urgency and be willing to accept the risks of some failures.

If you want to see a region in Canada that is fully engaged in this approach, look to British Columbia, where despite extremely high cost of living, their technology sector is now greater than the GDP from utilities, forestry and oil and gas combined. And they are not resting on their laurels. They want to create an international innovation or tech corridor with the state of Washington (a.k.a. Bill Gates) called the Cascadia Corridor. 

It’s time for us to get serious about these two diamonds in the rough.

Gerry Pond is Chairman and Co-Founder, Mariner Partners Inc. 

1 – This Commentary is based upon a keynote address, entitles “Two-Diamonds in the Rough” delivered to APEC’s business Outlook conference in Fredericton on November 3, 2016. The theme for APEC’s conference was “The Quest for Growth: New Directions for Atlantic Canada”.

2 – The “silver economy” refers to market opportunities arising from public and consumer expenditure related to the needs and demands of the growing senior population. (Adapted from ageing&pg=silvereconomy.) 

3 – I am focusing on ICT. There are also clusters in Bioscience in Halifax, and aerospace in Prince Edward Island.

4 – Ocean Nutrition was a large bioscience exit in Nova Scotia.

5 –

6 – For a brief, but powerful video about the PDC see:

7 – Mr. Despande recently announced a second Canadian hub at Queen’s University – The Dunin-Despande Centre – a twin to our PDC. 


Island invention solves worldwide trucking problem

Trout River Industries founder Harvey Stewart solved a worldwide problem in the heavy trucking industry with an innovation developed right here in Prince Edward Island.

Getting a load out of a dump truck trailer used to mean raising the trailer to a severe angle so the contents could tumble out the back. That is, until the people at Trout River, which is located in Coleman PEI, invented a live bottom conveyor trailer that can be backed in anywhere — including onto uneven ground and near power lines – eliminating the need for a backhoe to pick up the dumped load and transport it.

Stewart’s trailer can now be found in virtually every corner of the world. It’s a safer, more efficient and versatile way to do all kinds of work – but it might not have happened if he had listened to some who told him it didn’t make financial sense.

“Entrepreneurs who really believe in their idea should jump in and take a risk rather than wait for circumstances to be perfect,” Stewart said.

“If you do something badly enough long enough and you make enough mistakes, you will surprise yourself; there’s always a better way.”

Stewart and his business partner Darrin Mitchell built their first trailer in 1999 and have kept the company privately held ever since. They are now Canada’s largest live bottom trailer manufacturer and have done business in the Middle East, South Africa, Jordan and Australia.

“It’s unbelievable how small the world is,” he said. “You can be anywhere, from PEI, within 24 hours.”

Stewart credits his success to his dogged determination from an early age. Raised on a farm in western PEI as one of 12 children, he was always fixing things and studied welding in college.

“When we were growing up and would get 40 inches of snow, my father would say somebody’s got to get out and start plowing the road,” he said. “The first pass was never perfect, but then the second plow would widen the road and people could get out and shovel and drive comfortably. Nothing ever happened until somebody got out there and did something.”




Island company helps California town manage historic drought

From his brick walled office in Charlottetown’s historic Connolly Building, Keir Pollard is helping a small town on the opposite end of the continent save water during one of the worst droughts in its history.

Pollard, who hails from Murray Harbour and runs SpryPoint Solutions, made a water-saving pitch to the town of Walnut Valley, California. The town, which is east of Los Angeles (with a population about the size of Charlottetown), wanted to help its residents monitor their own water usage as well as the usage of neighbouring towns. Now, Walnut Valley residents are using Island-made software to conserve water when they need it the most. 

“The droughts in California have led to statewide regulations for water users,” Pollard said. “They have a 25 per cent reduction in sight, and our software is helping them achieve that.”

Pollard oversees nine full-time staff at locations in PEI and Halifax as well as several co-op students and interns. He’s brought his company a long way since its founding in 2011, with just one employee building software.

The key to their burgeoning success is a great product, he said.

“We built really great software for utilities such as electric and water companies. Our products help utilities excel in providing for their customers through cutting-edge field service, improved communications, and better financial accountability and decision-making.”

SpryPoint has partnered locally with the City of Summerside to develop distributed energy storage strategies and customer information portals. They have several other exciting products in the hopper, and their field service products are now in use in over 10 states and provinces. 

“We built really tight partnerships with our customers all over North America,” he said. “Our team is strong, which enables us to have the confidence that we can provide the best service possible to our customers as we continue to grow.”

Pollard travelled 30 to 40 weeks a year in his previous job. All that time on the road made him realize there really was no place like home.

“I appreciate the pace of life, the quiet, the short commute and good quality of life on PEI,” he said. “I am able to live in the country but five minutes from 100-bit Internet in the office.”

Government support has been invaluable to building his business.

“The people at Innovation PEI, from Minister Heath MacDonald right on down, they’re all very interested in seeing Island businesses succeed,” Pollard said. 

“We are extremely proud of our team of Islanders, and we are thrilled to be able to export our products across Canada and the United States from our base right here in PEI.