BCIC-New Ventures Competition Winners Share $300,000

Money talks. BS walks. And for the 146 different BC technology startups vying for a share of the prize in the 2013 BCIC-New Ventures Competition, $300,000 is an alluring prospect.

This is not your typical pitch competition. For the top ten companies making it to this year’s awards ceremony, their $200 investment translates into a six month odyssey where their collective business acumen and resolve is put to the test by mentors and judges. Ultimately the mandate for the competition is to support commercially viable businesses.

The competition has just wrapped up it’s 13th year with a track record that speaks to the success of the program. To date, more than 1,400 B.C. entrepreneurs have entered the competition, with 36 winning major prize packages. Many of winners have continued growing, by raising more than $100 million in financing and creating more than 600 jobs in the province.

For executive director Bob de Wit, even after 13 years, “it never gets old, it’s fresh every year.” In fact de Wit offered that “the calibre of entrepreneurs on average in this years top ten was just phenomenal; the best ever. “

Here are the winners for 2013.

$107,000 BCIC first prize package: Vonigo

Vonigo is a cloud-based business management system that addresses the operational challenges faced by multi-location service companies, such as cleaners, painters, movers, and maid services. Vonigo’s unified suite of configurable modules include CRM, internal and online scheduling, work order management, estimating, dispatching, invoicing, payments and reporting – all accessible over the Internet from any mobile or desktop device.

Cofounder John Carter shares that “this funding will help us hire more people helping further their careers, while also building out our product”. Beyond the win, Carter thinks the process of going through helped the team, “distill what they were doing down to it’s core elements, and combined with the deadlines really sharpens the mind.”

$62,000 BCIC second prize package: AbCellera

AbCellera is a biotechnology company that works with pharmaceutical industry partners to accelerate the discovery of monoclonal antibody therapeutics (mAbs) – molecules that are naturally produced by the immune system to fight off infections and diseases.

CEO Carl L. Hansen, PhD acknowledges “this helps manage some upcoming legal expenses.” Through the 6 months there’s so much to learn, but for Hansen the big ah-ha moment was “almost getting booted out of the competition in the first round, and realizing we had the simplify our proposal an order of magnitude from where we started.”

$42,000 BCIC third prize package: SmartPager Systems

Developed in response to the massive volume of phone calls and messages doctors, medical practices and hospitals receive every day, Victoria-based SmartPager Systems unifies pager systems, answering services, and texting into a secure multimedia cloud-based communications platform.

$40,000 Wavefront Wireless prize package: MetaOptima

MetaOptima is a Burnaby-based digital health technology company that offers Molescope, a user-friendly smartphone app that helps monitor, record and assess potentially cancerous skin lesions.

$20,000 BC Bioenergy Network prize: Industrial Plankton

Industrial Plankton Inc. is developing a series of cost effective, highly automated bioreactors for aquaculture hatcheries, the industrial biotech sector, and biofuels research.

$15,000 Vancity Social Venture prize:  Two Hat Security Research Corp.

Kelowna-based Two Hat Security is making the world a safer place for online kids. Its latest product, PottyMouth Chat Tools helps block cyber-bullying and child predators by instantly mining and measuring children’s chat for risk before it even goes on the screen.

Recently a team of researchers at SFU’s Beedie School of Business released an economic impact study about the  BCIC-New Ventures Competition. While the many startups use the competition to validate their business ideas, this study validates the impact it’s having as an economic driver in the province. These are some numbers to take note of –

Phase I of the study identified 295 unique companies that advanced to the 3rd round of competition from 2001 to 2011. An investigation of these companies found that:

  • 56% are still active in some form and collectively have created 3,170 jobs and generated an estimated $194 million in revenue.

  • These ventures are also estimated to have filed 854 patents and generated 1,294 unique product offerings.

Phase II of the same study involved sending a survey to the competitions’ 295 Round 3 companies. With response from founders or senior leaders at 84 or 29% of these companies, the following findings emerged:

  • 85% of participants said they had significantly benefitted from the BCIC-New Ventures Competition and would highly recommend it to other entrepreneurs.

  • About 80% of respondents found the mentorship highly valuable to their ventures.

  • Approximately one-third of all participants maintained a relationship with their mentors post- competition. And many found collaborators and board members through competition events.

  • Surveyed firms have filed 227 patents and generated 344 unique product offerings.

  • Surveyed firms have created 843 jobs in BC and generated estimated annual revenues of $51.5 million.

For entrepreneurs all over BC, they should be tightening up the stories, honing their pitches and focusing on go-to market and customer acquisition strategies. A successful run to the money in the 2014 BCIC-New Ventures Competition will be a difference maker.


John Gray

John Gray is the co-founder and CEO of Mentionmapp. As a writer, John cares about keeping the humanity in our stories and conversations about technology. He has a B.Ap.Sc. in Communications and a B.A. in English, both from Simon Fraser University.

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