- Calgary Citizen
- Startup TNT Investment Summit gives a platform to the city’s diverse entrepreneurs
Startup TNT Investment Summit gives a platform to the city’s diverse entrepreneurs
What started as a happy hour get-together to discuss the startup climate in Alberta has blossomed into a process that spans weeks in search of promising ventures that will make a difference.
Startup TNT, founded in 2019, has invested in a multitude of startups and has showcased Alberta’s diverse pool of entrepreneurs.
“The TNT in our name stands for ‘Thursday night tradition,’” explains Neil Vande Bunte, the Calgary lead for Startup TNT.
“One of our founders was in Edmonton at the time and recognized that there were no good ways for the startup ecosystem to get together… So we started with the happy hour and have sort of grown from there.”
After noticing a need for a platform to allow entrepreneurs to showcase their work and ideas to potential investors, Startup TNT began investment summits.
“We’re on our two-year anniversary of being in Calgary, and we raised about $7.7 million for 50 companies across Alberta and Saskatchewan, all from local investors,” Vande Bunte says.
Tapping into the city’s investors
Before the summit begins, Startup TNT finds local angel investors who are interested in taking part.
Angel investors are individuals who meet a wealth or income threshold and are looking to provide financial support for startups, says Vande Bunte.
“We go out to the community, and we find plus or minus 30 accredited angel investors. They each pre-commit some capital together before they see any companies. They’re excited about the space and want to learn more about and invest in a local company.”
For this year’s summit, 130 applications from across the Canadian Prairies have been vetted and narrowed down to begin the investment process.
On Oct. 6, the top 20 applicants from Calgary pitched their ideas live to investors. Now, the competition has been whittled down to the top five: 4pi Lab, Evora, Goodlawyer, Nimble Science, and SpikeFli Analytics.
4pi Lab is dedicated to reshaping how wildfires are managed through satellite imagery for faster detection and reporting.
“I think everybody’s very aware of the wildfire challenges that we’re seeing in Alberta, BC, California, and New South Wales in Australia…With climate change happening, wildfires are becoming more prevalent and costly,” Vande Bunte says.
“A technology that can intercept and provide earlier warning than conventional technologies is a really attractive business.”
Evora is an enterprise resource planning (EPR) organization for cannabis businesses.
“The expert knowledge of the cannabis cultivation space that they bring to the table in terms of satisfying regulatory requirements that an external non-cannabis ERP could provide to these cultivators is a really compelling business case,” Vande Bunte says.
“What they’ve built is something that’s going to be necessary for these folks to maximize profits and to maintain the QA [quality assurance] and the regulatory status.”
Keeping with the theme of startups, Goodlawyer offers founders an online platform for legal services to help start their businesses on the right track.
“Lawyers [tend to] leave the profession within the first few years because they find it unsatisfying…Goodlawyer is working as a two-sided marketplace to try to provide more satisfaction for customers and lawyers,” Vande Bunte says.
“[They have around] 125 lawyers under their belt already. They’re well-regarded in the legal profession.”
Nimble Science works on the medical side of entrepreneurship and has created an effective and comfortable method for individuals to assess their gut health.
“Nimble science… has a pill that you can swallow to do a biopsy of your small intestine or upper gut,” Vande Bunte says.
“From a patient comfort aspect, instead of an endoscopy or some of the other more invasive procedures, it’s a really attractive proposition for clinicians and patients.”
SpikeFli Analytics works with companies to reduce wasteful spending and resources that are no longer needed by analyzing data and tracking resource usage.
“If you’re a large- or medium-sized enterprise company that has a bunch of telecom assets, like cell phones and cell phone plans spread across your employees… it’s hard to keep track of all those,” Vande Bunte says.
“What SpikFli is doing is analyzing all that data, checking all the incoming invoices, tracking where the assets are with the employees, and then allowing you to manage your telecom assets more appropriately.”
A win no matter who wins
By applying for the summit through Startup TNT, entrepreneurs are automatically benefiting from the experience by having their ideas put in front of potential investors and being seen by the community at large.
However, as the list becomes narrower, the chances of locking in an investor become better.
“Once you get to the final stages, there’s a very real chance that they’re going to get funding because we typically fund, on average, between two and six of the top 10,” Vande Brunte says, adding there have been 15 summit winners but 50 companies have received investments.
As an angel investor that’s invested in many of these summits, Vande Bunte finds it impactful to invest in local companies.
“If we look at the use of funds, they’re going to be hiring developers, hiring salespeople, hiring people within our communities,” he says. “These companies are going to add to the whole value chain of the Calgary community.”
The Investment Summit is a place for both entrepreneurs and investors to experience the variety of ideas throughout the community and become inspired by the endless possibilities, Vande Bunte says.
“It’s great to see the diversity of ideas that are popping out of our universities and dorm rooms and basements and garages and all these cool places in Calgary that are gonna go out there and make an impact in the world.”
The top five finalists from Calgary and Edmonton will be giving their final pitches on Nov. 17 during the Summit Finale at Platform Calgary where the winner will be announced.