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Innovate BC How Great Ideas Get Noticed

The New Ventures BC competition offers invaluable funding as well as advice and connections to startups around the province

As entrepreneurs who have participated in the event can attest, this year’s New Ventures BC Competition, presented by Innovate BC, is more than a chance to win $250,000 in cash and prizes. It, along with New Ventures’ Distance Venture Acceleration Program and Innovator Skills Initiative, encourages and supports entrepreneurship in B.C.’s technology sector through mentorship, coaching and recognition.

The combination of the competition and mentorship has resulted in many success stories from all over the province. For example, three years after winning first prize in the 2012 competition, MediaCore Technologies of Victoria, a cloud-based educational video platform company, raised $4.5 million in funding and was acquired by Silicon Valley-based WorkDay, with the provision it continue to grow in B.C.’s capital (WorkDay has 10,000 employees worldwide).

Another example is Cyberdontics. The Nelson-based company placed second in last year’s competition, won the Top Regional Startup Prize, and secured over $100,000 to help achieve its goal of developing dental technology that automates shaping teeth to accept crowns in a fraction of the time required.

Cyberdontics’ founder and CEO, Dr. Christopher Ciriello, points out that the fact his technology can reduce patients’ time under the drill from an hour to three minutes is of significant benefit to the dental profession. “New Ventures worked with me to develop the skills to discuss my idea in the business language that is necessary to attract investors.

“So although winning the second-place prize money was exciting, also taking advantage of the organization’s mentorship program was a game-changer for me because not only did I get feedback on how to optimize my business model, I learned how to communicate in ways that allow me to operate efficiently in business circles.”

Ciriello is currently fine-tuning a prototype with a partner; human testing will commence within 24 months, and Ciriello aims to launch his product in three years, with dissemination into 1,000 dental offices two years after that.

Angie Schick, executive director of New Ventures BC, notes that her non-profit organization’s competition continues to grow in prominence. “We had 180 companies apply last year and over 200 this year, with the winners to be announced on September 19,” she says. “Chris Ciriello typifies the ingenuity and passion of the participants, and it’s so fulfilling for us to provide them with coaching and education.”

Innovate BC, the Crown agency whose ongoing goal is to fund, support and build connections for the province’s innovators, became the title sponsor of the New Ventures competition in 2008. Tomica Divic, vice-president of operations, echoes Schick’s sentiment that the event and Acceleration Program have become indispensible to B.C.’s budding tech innovators.

“Being able to say you undertook the New Ventures Competition and mentorship has become a validation, a stamp of approval in the investment community,” she says. “So we’ll continue to work together to broaden the reach of these programs and encourage even more people to take advantage of them.”

Created by BCBusiness in partnership with Innovate BC