$500,000 Breakthru Startup Competition will bring three new entrepreneurial companies to life

Posted on October 01, 2014 | Atlantic Business Magazine | 0 Comments

Grand Prizewinner Drew Cameron, co-founder of Total Pave, pitches at Breakthru Live 2013. The new start-up received $172,000 in investments and services. Photo: Stephen MacGillvray

Imagine it’s the night before Breakthru 2015’s live event. For five teams, owning their own innovative company remains a dream. But for three, it will become a $500,000 plus reality overnight. A new life…

Do you or someone you know have an innovative idea for a new product, service or technology, but just can’t figure out how to get it out? Breakthru—a start-up competition for over $500,000 in investments and professional services is now underway for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start a new innovation-based company from scratch. A daydream turned to reality overnight.

Created by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) and presented with Cox & Palmer and Deloitte, Breakthru is the largest competition of its kind in Canada and the only time NBIF invests in an idea.

“Entrepreneurs who come to us seeking venture capital are typically ‘investment-ready,’ which means they have a fully-developed business plan, some form of prototype, and a management team in place,” says NBIF CEO Calvin Milbury. “To enter Breakthru, all you need is an innovative idea for a new or better product, service or technology and a desire to turn it into a business.”

Breakthru starts with a short application, a two-page summary and a one-minute video pitch. Participants who meet the eligibility criteria are required to attend NBIF’s mandatory Breakthru Boot Camp in January 2015 where they will learn the critical aspects of business plan development and pitching to investors. Participants then have two weeks to submit their final business plans to NBIF.

“Starting an innovative and entrepreneurial company is rife with risks, and as a result, some of the best innovative ideas simply get pushed aside to hide in the shadows of someone’s dream,” Milbury says. “The purpose of Breakthru is to take away some of those risks so aspiring entrepreneurs have the best chance to turn their innovative idea into a real business opportunity for themselves, their community and the province at large.”

After NBIF reviews all of the business plans, five finalists are chosen to make a formal presentation in front of the Breakthru Selection Committee. Three winners are chosen and announced at a live gala event at the Fredericton Convention Centre on March 19th, 2015. Over 400 people are expected to attend.

Many past Breakthru winners have experienced great successes, like Smart Skin Technologies, who won second prize and a $50,000 investment at Breakthru 2009. Since then, the company has raised millions more from other capital providers including $450,000 in follow-on investments from NBIF. Maker of a touch-sensitive fabric, the company has developed an electronic bottle drone covered in Smart Skin that senses and identifies troublesome pressure points along bottling systems. The company is now working with four of the world’s largest brewers, not to mention other applications for sports equipment applications.

“It’s interesting, because that’s not where Smart Skin started,” says Milbury. “Their Breakthru win was for the technology itself, and the multiple applications it could be developed for. The company tried and tested a number of product applications before they found their niche, which is what ‘innovation-based entrepreneurship’ is all about.”

Smart Skin is just one example. 2011 winner ZapTap, maker of a near-field chip technology that allows consumers to obtain important, branded content about a product simply by waving their smart phone near it. ZapTap has also raised millions more since Breakthru, and is working with large companies like Volkswagen and Dyson on the next generation of their product knowledge experiences.

“So many people leave their best ideas to sit and simmer on the backburner until it’s too late,” Milbury says, “to take action, people need to know that it’s possible, and Breakthru does exactly that.”

To qualify for Breakthru, participants must be at least 19 years of age, and at least one team member must be a permanent resident of New Brunswick with a pre-investment shareholding of 51 per cent or more. Other terms and conditions apply, which can be found on the NBIF web site. The deadline for Breakthru entries is December 9th, 2014.

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