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Winnipeg boasts friendly people, a lively arts scene, and plenty of noteworthy places to visit. However, in terms of young businesses, the province is experiencing what its leaders call a ‘startup drought.’ According to Manitoba Premier Heather Stephenson, previous administrations ignored the lack of venture capital in Manitoba over nearly two decades. As a result, it has forced local startups to take their ideas elsewhere.
“A generation of young Manitoba entrepreneurs were faced with a terrible choice,” she explains. “Give up your dreams, or move to another province or country to pursue them. The result was a lost generation of gifted Manitobans who left the province.”
Even among established companies, the age of businesses in the city skews high. The average Winnipeg business was founded in 1987, while the same metric in cities like Vancouver, Halifax, or Calgary sits around 2001-2004. As a result, Manitoba’s administration recently announced a commitment of $50M to a Manitoba Venture Capital Fund. The fund will act as a “fund of funds,” partnering with other investors to inject much-needed capital into Winnipeg’s startups.
This is good news for investors. Entrepreneurs in Winnipeg have big ideas and historically limited access to capital, and there’s never been a better time to get involved. The province recently made the Small Business Venture Capital Tax Credit permanent, giving investors up to 45% in tax credits for putting equity capital into a Manitoba firm.
Year founded: 2020
Founded in June 2020 by serial entrepreneur Scott Russell, Winnipeg-based FeedFlo offers the agriculture industry real-time data on how it moves animal feed. Using an IoT sensor, FeedFlo’s device monitors the amount of hog or chicken feed flowing through a pipe. Along the way, FeedFlo provides the farmer with information on the effectiveness of each feed line, offers real-time alerts for empty pipes, and provides data-rich summaries of how the system is working overall. The patented sensor technology can be installed within hours, used with any type of feed, and generates usage data with 95% accuracy.
FeedFlo’s data provides insight into each barn and feed line and helps optimize delivery costs and logistics. Real-time alerts on inactive lines reduce the chance of animal health events and improve the farm’s Feed Conversion Rate, which the company uses as a metric for how effective (and profitable) its animals are.
Overfeeding livestock can be costly, but poorly maintained feed lines also cause waste. FeedFlo’s technology sends alerts only when an interruption occurs, helping farmers stay on top of line maintenance while saving on labour costs as a whole. This technology has the potential to make a splash in Manitoba’s animal agriculture scene, which makes up 2.4% of the province’s GDP.
Year founded: 2021
In an increasingly remote world, Winnipeg startup Memi wants to make sure you know who’s really behind the screen. With a centralized platform designed to keep personal information safe, Memi lets users authenticate businesses and individuals across the globe. Authentication is done on a secure platform via a government-issued ID, ensuring verification and trust.
Canadians lost $332M to fraud this year. Although not all of these fraud cases are related to stolen or misrepresented identity, there’s an increasingly large market for technology to ward off theft. Avoiding a social media scam, sending money safely via an online marketplace, or vetting a potential date are all safer when you’re confident about who is on the other end. Unlike social networks, which only verify celebrities or other public figures, Memi lets you claim your own email addresses, social media profiles, and contact information.
Although the company’s app is still in its beta stage, the company was invited to join the Tampa Bay Wave as part of its 2022 Cybersecurity Accelerator cohort. In addition, Memi is part of the founder’s program in the North Forge Angel Network. Memi CEO Kevin Gordon says the program is an “absolutely instrumental and much needed” resource for the province.
Year founded: 2020
The brainchild of co-founders Ateih Nowrouzi, Mohammad Izadseta, Reza Jabbari, and Amin Saffar, Tooth Secret View (TSV) designes technology with dentists in mind. This Winnipeg startup uses artificial intelligence (AI) to highlight dental decay on a scan automatically. With a quick, accurate diagnosis of oral health deficiencies, TSV allows dentists to spend more time seeing patients and less time looking at scans.
Dentists themselves, the TSV co-founders, use machine learning to catch oral problems fast. The process of going through dental scans manually can be time-consuming, and reducing the time it takes to label and annotate a patient’s record helps dentists to see more patients per day.
TSV’s SaaS platform also offers dentists improved accuracy, image enhancement, automatic labelling, and annotations for their scans. With its AI-backed software, TSV’s product couldn’t come at a better time. Dentists are becoming increasingly tech-savvy, and this year’s American Dental Association conference was the first to feature a ‘Tech Zone’ that introduced AI-powered dentistry to the industry.
The TSV team acquired a US patent on their technology in 2021. In addition, tooth Secret View is also part of the Manitoba Technology Accelerator. Above all, this accelerator connects Manitoba’s startups with the investors who can help them access much needed capital.
“Access to capital for ‘good idea’ companies hasn’t always been one of Winnipeg’s strengths when it comes to our business climate,” according to the Manitoba Technology Accelerator’s CEO. “Our [investing capital] goal is to make sure the company builds roots here in the province, and they stay here.”
With so much support behind the province’s entrepreneurs and the venture capital tax credit here to stay, Winnipeg is one city investors should watch.