Feb. 8, 2018

The pitch: De-ice wind turbine blades, monitor methane from space, and more

Six of 10 teams bring home cash from 5th Energy New Venture Competition

Over $100,000 in cash and in-kind prizes brought out some nerves, fist bumps and big grins for budding energy entrepreneurs at the Energy New Venture Competition (ENV) on Tuesday afternoon. Hosted by the University of Calgary’s Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, the event included companies who can de-ice wind turbine blades, create opportunities for energy companies to use less freshwater, and even monitor pipeline methane emissions from space.

Pictured above, from left are Joelle Foster, incoming executive director, Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking; Doug Hunter, president Bluesky Equities Ltd.; Daniela Roeper, founder and CEO of Borealis Wind and winner of the venture stream; Bob Brawn, Brawn Family Foundation.

Celebrating its fifth year, ENV added a few extra features to the day’s pitch competition. Guests heard from keynote speakers Jim Kim, founding member and partner of Builders VC, and Ian MacGregor, president, CEO and chairman of North West Refining. Competitors from previous years returned for a panel discussion with the Calgary Herald’s Deborah Yedlin on how their companies have developed since their time at ENV.

“ENV has supported over 30 early stage energy ventures over the past five years,” says Kim Neutens, interim executive director of the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking. “From enhanced technical solutions to equipment innovations in oil, gas and even nuclear to renewables and cleantech startups — ENV has injected close to $500K into these early stage ideas and perhaps most importantly, provided a forum for connections between investors, industry partners and these young innovators. We’ve also seen an incredible growth in the number of female founders or co-founders engaged in this space, with our winners in each stream being led by women entrepreneurs.”

The 10 teams, shortlisted from a pool of 100 applicants from 14 countries, competed in two categories — “concept” for early stage and “venture” for those further along. They received coaching and support from Innovate Calgary and Kinetica Ventures in developing the presentations and had 10 minutes each to present and four minutes to answer questions from the judges and the audience of investors, entrepreneurs, and sponsors. A giant red clock counted down the time, adding another level of excitement to the presentations on the 54th floor of The Bow.

The audience agreed with the judges and awarded an additional cash prize to both first-place teams. The ENV audience choice award is named Eric’s Choice after former ENV advisory board member Eric Schmadtke, who passed away in 2016. This award also comes with a call to support the conversation around mental health and how important taking time for wellness can be for those engaged in the entrepreneurial journey.

Concept stream winners

1. Crux Operations Control, Calgary, Victoria Knott, Matt Bosworth, $7,500 (and audience favourite winner, $1,000)

“It’s really about the connections and opportunity to meet people in this industry,” says first-place winner Victoria Knott, who co-founded Crux, a process control platform that uses artificial intelligence to manage flow and power for liquids in pipelines. “The experience [of ENV] has been really valuable to us.”

2. Bluefield, Palo Alto, California, Richard L. Lachance, John Atkinson, Yotam Ariel, $5,000

According to the judges, this “emotionally engaging storyteller absolutely owned the stage” with their pitch for their microsatellite-based sensor technology. With this technology Bluefield can get near real-time data on methane emissions around the world.

3. ReWatt Power, Calgary, Prageet Nibber, Alex Monegro, $2,500

“A brave entry into a complicated industry,” say the judges about this pitch to help independent electricity generators be more profitable using a blockchain and machine learning solution for asset optimization.

Venture stream winners

1. Borealis Wind, Daniela Roeper, Emma Chorlton, Kitchener, $25,000 (and audience favourite winner, $5,000)

“Being young founders, we’ve had to bootstrap our way through this more than some older founders who may have a more established network,” says first-place winner Daniela Roeper, founder and CEO of Borealis Wind, a company that has developed a wind turbine de-icing retrofit to increase uptime for wind farms. “This funding will help us get proof of the payback of our system and hopefully help us install 50 systems by the end of the year.”

2. Hub H20, Adam Martinson, Jill Viccars, Calgary, $15,000

A cleantech startup the judges say “solves a real pain point and [they are] definitely on to something.” Hub H20 has developed a cloud-based software platform for energy companies to reduce freshwater use and the costs associated with sourcing of and disposing of that water.

3. Akine Inc., Krzysztof Palka, Choon Teo, Calgary, $10,000

Developed with technical expertise, Akine has a technology and service package to maximize well production by minimizing downtime and equipment failures. Their experience combined with machine learning analytics and continually refining artificial intelligence are “capitalizing on a massive market opportunity,” say the judges.

As well as the cash prizes, the winning teams will share more than $30,000 of in-kind support from a number of sponsors including Bennett Jones, Collins Barrow, William Joseph Communications, SAIT, TSGI and VA Angels. Sponsor contributions, including those from the John Dobson Foundation and Brawn Family Foundation, made ENV 2018 fully philanthropically funded.

The Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking is the University of Calgary’s new multidisciplinary initiative to engage and immerse students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community in a culture of entrepreneurial thinking, challenging them with a new and bold approach to teaching, learning, discovery and knowledge-sharing.