The Importance of Languages in Business

Posted on February 25 2015 | Author: Natalya Smardon

If you’re thinking about broadening your spectrum by engaging in international business, it’s important to consider which languages will be most frequently used for interactions with other businesses, clients and customers. Of course, most places around the world have large English-speaking communities and for the most part, English is used by professionals from all over the globe. You may be considering the idea that, knowledge of another language is not needed or not worth the time and effort it takes to learn. After all, why should you bother having multi-lingual employees when English is commonly the default language for communication? There are considerably large benefits to second language use that are invariably overlooked.

The foremost reason is respect. Believe it or not, even if your skills are a little rusty, people appreciate the effort. Showing a willingness to use another language even if you make mistakes demonstrates your confidence, dedication and willingness to connect – traits that are important for all entrepreneurs. Speaking another language not only helps with first impressions, but eases communication with business partners. Having both parties able to communicate in more than one language is ideal, as it can lead to a deeper understanding and thereby aid in a smooth transition from a national to international market. In this fashion, languages help with foreign affairs, correspondence with governments and institutions, and essentially any and all international exchanges. There is a growing demand for multi-lingual individuals as the global market expands, and the world becomes smaller.

If you or your business can be officially labeled as multi-lingual, you will find that more doors are open to you. With increased means of communication, you become more accessible to overseas markets that may have previously been unavailable to you, and can signal boost to reach a more extensive range of markets. Furthermore, you have the potential to access new sources of funding and sponsorship and can provide better services to clients.

Translators / communication platforms
One who is not already convinced on the importance of multi-lingualism, might say they have the use of electronic translators. These devices may be available at every turn in today’s society—apps on smartphones, computers and laptops, tablets and iPads, but unfortunately they are incorrect most of the time. Sure they can get the general idea across, but can you afford to blur the lines in your meetings and discussions? Electronic translators are inconveniently slow, do not understand acronyms, slang, jokes, and most importantly dialects. Having a real person translating and interpreting for you is much more personal, and accurate, and even better if you can do it yourself!

Blog Entry NatCross-cultural communication
Cross-cultural communication is an important aspect of international business that should not be looked upon lightly. There are many customs, gestures and signals that elude the less-traveled individual, which can lead to inconvenient and embarrassing misunderstandings. The last thing you want to do is strain relationships based on cultural miscommunications, but fear not! When you can speak a mutual language or two, it is much easier to explain your actions, discuss foreign customs and clear any confusion and misinterpretations. Here are a few gestures that may be unknown to you:

Eye Contact
In some African countries, it is considered insulting to make eye contact with your superiors. In contrast, Arab cultures see eye contact as very important and it is often constant. The same can be said for Brazil, where people look into one another’s eyes much longer than in North America, as they view the eyes as mirrors of the soul and see this as a way to get to know a person.

Finger beckoning
In North America, beckoning your finger at someone means ‘come here’, but in Malaysia it has an effect of ‘come here animal’. In Indonesia and Australia, it is used to call inferiors, and is an insult. Additionally, in North America the “okay” hand sign means everything is alright. Do that gesture in France, Australia or Islamic countries and it’s a great insult meaning zero, or worthless. Another commonly unknown gesture is the North American ‘halt’. In Iraq, putting your hand out in front of you with your palm facing outwards means hello.

Handing out Business Cards
In Hong-Kong, Singapore or Japan, when someone hands you his/her business card, they will do so with both hands. You have to receive it in both hands, look at it, acknowledge it and then put it into your pocket. Otherwise, it is considered quite rude. Whatever you do, don’t write on a business card in front of the person that gave it to you!

Yes and no
In many countries the nod forward is the symbol for ‘yes’. In Bulgaria, Pakistan and India you shake your head back and forth to say ‘yes’, the way North Americans and many Europeans say ‘No’. In Greece, ‘No’ is represented by shaking your head briefly backward and a mild tongue-clicking.

There are hundred of customs that could get you into trouble, be it manners, body language, verbal queues, forms of politeness, or attire. Do plenty of research before traveling!

Fun Facts

  • Canada's French-speaking population ranks second only to that of France worldwide. It is larger than the Francophone populations of Switzerland and Belgium combined.

  • The number of French-speaking Canadians living outside of Quebec is equivalent to that of entire provinces such as Saskatchewan, New Brunswick or Nova Scotia.

  • Almost one Canadian in four has French as a mother tongue and close to one Canadian in three speaks French.

  • 1.6 million of Canada's French-speaking population have an ancestry other than French or English.

  • According to the Linguistic society of America, there are between 6900 – 7000 languages spoken worldwide.

  • Not surprisingly, Mandarin Chinese is the most useful language for business after English, spoken by 845 million people in the world's second-largest economy, China. French is no. 2 and Arabic No. 3.

  • Studies from Rosetta Stone have shown that bilingual employees earn on average 10% more in their salary than those that are monolingual.

It is no question that business and language compliment each other. More and more, businesses are beginning to require language to be successful. The end result is that you can only benefit from learning and using a second, third or fourth language. Convinced? Read more from the Government of Canada on Making your Organization Bilingual.

“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” - Ludwig Wittgenstein


Natalya Smardon
Junior Marketing & Projects Coordinator

ABC News
The Linguistic Society of America

Photo Credit: Glasbergen

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The Evolving Food Landscape

Posted on February 11 2015 | Author: Jessica Taylor

Jess 2015 blogWhen reflecting on 2014’s major trends such as the local food movement, transparency and the clean label, it is undeniable that consumer demand is driving innovation and change in the food sector. The Information Age has created a generation of consumers who are used to having answers at their fingertips and they expect the same from the food they are buying. Today’s consumer wants to know what they are eating, where it’s from and how it travelled through the supply chain.

So what should you keep your eyes open for this year? According to Innova Database here are a few of the trends we can expect in 2015:

Protein: Old Trend, New Sources
Consumers are still looking to increase their protein intake and we will continue to see more high-protein products enter the market but the difference this year will be the source. New sources of protein such as pea and milk will be introduced and novel sources like algae and insects will also hit the market. That’s right, last year’s “bug trend” is expected to continue! However, as we saw in 2014 insect-based products will be picked up quicker in Europe than here in North America. Keep your eyes open for products like Chirps, cricket chips, and Chocolate Chirp Cookies by Six Foods.

Gearing Up for a New Generation
Millennials, the biggest generation since the Baby Boomers, are now becoming the primary customers of food products. These individuals are 15 to 35 years old and are very different than any consumer the food industry has seen before. Unlike their parents, and generations before them, Millennials are very concerned about the story behind the products they are consuming; brand loyalty is a thing of the past. In 2015, we expect to see the food industry respond with marketing geared towards Millennials – more storytelling, more information.

From Clean to Clear: Changing Labels
With the consumer growing increasingly interested in their diet, food labels have evolved to provide appropriate information. In recent years food labels have become “clean” with statements such as: no additives; no preservatives; nutritious, wholesome ingredients; and claims about consumer health benefits. This year we will see another evolution of the food label, from clean to clear. The clear label will boost simple claims and hone in on the transparency trend providing consumers with a better idea of what they are eating.

Today’s consumer is all about the DIY. They want to Instagram a photo of their Tuscan Tortellini Vegetable Soup, Berry Green Smoothie and the incredible breakfast burrito they made this morning, but they want it to be as convenient as possible. These same Foodies who are looking to make gourmet meals at home are also in a rush and convenience is of utmost importance. We are a society that has come to expect instant gratification, even when it comes to food preparation. This year we should expect to see the food industry cater to this demand with pre-cut fruits and veggies and other products to speed up meal prep time.

The Rise of the Snack
Finally, more and more consumers are eating meals on their own and on-the-go. Many people have shied away from large family-style meals due to their increasingly busy lifestyles and the difficulty of finding a time where everyone can sit down. In 2015 the food industry should pick up on this trend and launch more “snack foods” to replace traditional meals. Breakfast is no stranger to this movement, but products this year will aim to replace lunch and dinner options with snacks as well!

Through a snap shot of the food industry we can see that many changes are on the horizon. As society evolves, so too must the food industry in order to meet the needs of the ever-changing consumer. It looks like innovation is the name of the 2015 food game – who is up to the challenge?

Jessica Taylor
Business Analyst, Food, Nutrition & Health

PR News Wire
Food Navigator

Photo Credit: iStock

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Conference Common Sense

Posted on January 21 2015 | Author: Jennifer Kalanda

Conference blogAttending the right conferences can be an important element to the success, expansion or survival of your business. Once you’ve established your conference schedule however many, it’s important to make sure you show up with a plan and some common sense!

Get connected.
Many conferences have mailing lists that you can sign up for and receive updates about the upcoming event.  You can also follow their social media accounts.  Using their event related hashtags in your social media communications might even garner you a “retweet” or “like”, giving you exposure to others followers of the event (or even potentially new customers).  The event will use their electronic communications to promote things like, when registration opens, when early bird discounts expire or when they have booked an exciting keynote or sponsor.

Schedule meetings in advance.
Review the schedule in advance of the event and determine what panels, keynotes or workshops are going to be of greatest interest to you.  Armed with your event related agenda, try to schedule a few meetings with people in your network who are from the area or are attending the event as well.  Having a few key meetings already set up, will help ensure you are able to get the most out of your time away from the office.

Follow the dress code.
This seems pretty obvious, but you would be surprised!  It’s important for you to be comfortable and you have a long day ahead you, but following the event suggested dress code will ensure you present yourself as the well prepared professional you are.  If you are unable to determine the dress code, by the type of event, or pictures from the previous events, just be sure to dress for success!

Bring a lot of business cards.
Again, obvious but important enough it bares mentioning.  Make sure you have more than enough business cards with you at all times.   After you have had a conversation with someone and have swapped cards, take a few seconds and jot down some notes about your chat.  You don’t want to miss an opportunity when you are sorting through your contacts and following up.  You stand to meet a lot of people and have a lot of conversations to remember.

Network! Talk to people!
Understandably this, for some, is easier said than done.  But that’s why you are there; don’t miss out on the opportunity to make a valuable connection.  If you’re a little new to attending industry events, a good conversation starter to ask a fellow attendee is what brings them to that event.  This question is great because it encourages them to identify their goals and objectives to you right away.  Their answer should set you up to ask more relevant or engaging questions.  Another easy icebreaker is asking what they thought of the most recent speaker/panel/workshop.
Practice your elevator pitch, you are going to have to say it a lot — and if you haven’t already, read up on the latest industry news prior to the conference.

Position yourself as an expert.
Becoming and staying active in your industry could help you to develop a reputation as an expert to your industry peers and clients.  Those who are able to separate themselves as a leader could be asked to speak at events or write articles for related industry publications.  Your existing and new clients will feel good about doing business with someone who is celebrated by their industry.

Try to have fun.
Being in business should be rewarding and fun.  Industry conferences can add a layer of enjoyment to managing your company’s growth.  Conferences and networking events add a valuable social aspect to your business development and branding efforts.  Some events have fun activities such as group exercise, golf, or tours of the host city.  If time and budget permit, it’s worth taking an extra day at the beginning or end of the trip to explore a new city.  Attending an event and maximizing your meeting opportunities can be tiring, especially if you went to a great city and only saw the inside of a hotel!

But most importantly, follow up!
After the conference, send a quick message to those you connected with the most.  Don’t send out a generic email – make sure you personalize it.

Jennifer Kalanda
Marketing & Events Coordinator

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Funding Your Start-up

Posted on December 11 2014 | Author: Kelly Laidlaw

Being your own boss and following your true passion are among the many factors that entice thousands of Canadians each year to start their own businesses. In fact, a study by the Wharton School of Business found that grads who started their own businesses reported the highest levels of career satisfaction, regardless of how much money they earned. However, no one said that starting a company would be easy. Entrepreneurs often report that the hardest part of starting a new business is raising the initial start-up money. Luckily there are several ways to do this.

Kelly blog funding

The Three Fs:
The first people that many entrepreneurs pitch to are the proverbial three Fs- friends, family and fools. This can be a fast way to get interest-free loans. However, mixing business with your personal life can get messy. To avoid ruining close relationships you may want to show them your business plan, let them know how much you’ve already invested into the business, and establish clear time lines as to when you’ll pay them back. If you find that your loved ones are weary of loaning money (perhaps they’re jaded from an annoying uncle’s get rich-quick-schemes) then take a look at the following options.

Personal Savings:
Many entrepreneurs start their businesses from their own savings. This is a good strategy since it allows you to maintain control over your company. It also shows investors and lenders that you have risked something of your own. This is a requirement to get many business loans. After all, if you aren’t willing to invest in your own company, how can you expect others to?

Some businesses can be built up quickly enough to make a profit without getting investors involved. This can be done in some sectors such as the service industry, where there isn’t much initial capital needed for start-up expenses like employees or rent. Entrepreneurs can use their savings to get the business up and running, and then use the profits from each sale to continue to grow the company.

Debt Financing:
There are several types of debt financing, which are essentially loans that are paid back with interest. This is a good approach to getting funds relatively fast. Lenders want to make sure you have the following:

  • Personal collateral
  • A sound business plan
  • Realistic projected cash flow
  • A strong management team
  • Good credit rating
  • Commitment of your own money to the business

For more information on debt financing, click here.

Government Funding:
There are many options for government financing to either start or to expand your business. These include grants, contributions, loan guarantees and subsidies. The Canada Business Network site allows you to browse different government financing. The most desirable type of government funding is grants because they provide you with free money that you don’t need to pay back. It can take anywhere from 2 to 18 months to receive this funding. Understandably, you will need to be prepared to outline in great detail every aspect of your business and what the grant money will go toward.

Private Investors:
Angel investors are wealthy individuals who invest their own money in the hopes of getting a return from a business opportunity. Their investments usually range from $25,000 to $100,000.  Some angel investors act very quickly, while others take their time before investing. If you are comfortable giving up equity for financing, this can be a smart solution to raise capital. Though angel investors’ involvement levels vary, they can serve as a valuable mentor since many are entrepreneurs themselves who have successfully built and sold companies. Since they are risking their own money, it is in the angel investor’s best interest to coach you and to help your company thrive. 

Venture capital is money provided to start-ups from a fund, which is a pool of money that was raised through individuals or companies who have money to invest.  Venture capitalists usually invest larger amounts of capital than angel investors, and typically invest after the first round of seed funding.  They are looking to invest in innovative technologies with high-growth potential. Venture capital can be an excellent option for companies who are too small to ether raise money in the public markets or to complete a debt offering.

Harnessing the Crowd:
Crowdfunding is a valuable tool for entrepreneurs and businesses looking to bypass traditional sources of funding. Crowdfunding usually raises money through collecting funds from a large amount of people, or the ‘crowd’.  This is done via the Internet on sites such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter.  Project creators document their ideas on the website in hopes of getting donations and pre-selling their products. Crowdfunding can be a fast way to raise money, but even if your venture doesn’t get funded, at least you’ll get to test your business idea and get exposure. Keep in mind that you will need to carefully consider your company structure to ensure that you can maintain control of your business, since the number of shareholders could dramatically increase after crowdfunding. Recently, some provinces have been considering crowdfunding. In December 2013 Saskatchewan became the only Canadian province to have a crowdfunding specific prospectus exemption. Currently, there are no websites offering equity crowdfunding in Saskatchewan. Once equity crowdfunding websites are launched, the Government of Saskachewan’s Financial and Consumer and Affairs website will post them here, so stay tuned!

Kelly Laidlaw
Project Coordinator

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Due Diligence - An exercise in organization and presentation

Posted on December 04 2014 | Author: Ingrid Fung

Ingrid DD blogAt one point or another every company will require financing. While some may be able to access capital through founders, and personal networks, most will need to raise money externally.  Potential investors of every kind are likely to require a comprehensive analysis of the business to evaluate commercial potential prior to investing in a company.

Bioenterprise offers due diligence services to companies that are looking for investment. The goal of the process is to evaluate whether the claims made by a company are supported by the information provided.  While every project has it’s own challenges, invariably the key to a smooth due diligence process is providing well-organized, comprehensive information to evaluators.  

Organization of the information you provide is key to helping your evaluators understand your argument, and analyze your business. When providing this information, it is important to approach the process much like a presentation.  Organize your information by:

  1. Telling your reviewers what you are going to tell them. You can do this in the form of a pitch deck, business plan, or executive summary.
  2. Tell them.  Provide the information.
  3. Tell them what you have told them by summarizing the conclusions they should draw from each set of information provided.

Below are several tips that can help you better organize the information you provide:

  • Organize your documents in a similar order to the way information is provided in your business plan, pitch deck, or executive summary. This will make it easier for your evaluators to follow your lines of thought, and more likely to come to the same conclusions as you. It’s much easier to agree with someone when you are presented with support for their argument each step of the way.
  • For each section or type of information you provide (e.g. Intellectual property, Financials, etc.) Include an overview document that provides some kind of narrative as to how the information or documents came to be.
  • Take time to write out brief summaries or summarize complex data into easily referencable charts and figures. Basically, what you are doing here is providing a guideline for your evaluators, and then what they should be seeing in the information you provided and how they should be seeing it.
  • Take advantage of online file sharing services to organize your documents in easily sharable ways. This way when your evaluators look at the information, they will see it in the relative order, groupings etc. designated by you. Besides climbing into your brain, this is the next best thing.
  • Take the time to rename your files, giving them easy to understand, self-explanatory names. There is nothing more frustrating than to having to open dozens of cryptically named documents to decipher their contents.

There are a number of checklists and guidelines online that give a good overview of the information a company should provide (see end of document for some suggested resources).  However the organization, and presentation of information is just as important as the documentation provided.  Providing good written summaries of the information you provide will give evaluators and analysts a road map to refer to throughout the process. Well-organized information and data will make it as easy as possible for those evaluating your company to come to the same conclusions as you!

Ingrid Fung
Senior Business Analyst, Planting & Animal Science

Sample due diligence checklists:

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“Your Office in your Pocket”

Posted on November 25 2014 | Author: Laura Millson

Benefits of having an Exchange Server

Many of us work on the run, -- no I will rephrase that – we all work on the run whether we admit to it or not.  With Internet access just a touch away we all love to be able to check “the status” of projects or just catch up with the office emails.   

Laura exchange blogThen there are those of us that are required to be in meetings; attend conferences and speaking engagements; to be travelling and away from the office for extended periods or have the opportunity to work from home and still need to be connected to the daily office “activity”. 

Email is a tool of today’s working society.  We all use it.  It gives us the satisfaction of making contact, a contribution and sense of productivity.  However in order to achieve that seamless automatic response we seek, you need to have access to an Exchange server to experience having what I refer to as your  “office in your pocket”.

Exchange can accommodate both PC and Mac platforms with the ability to synchronize with mobile devices to access email contacts and calendars from blackberry, iphone and android.  It allows you to access email anywhere  (in the world) with security and backup features that are seamless. It gives you massive amounts of storage space, control of your email client  (Outlook) with access to sharing features (like folders, notes and calendars), adding and deleting accounts, size of attachments and the comfort of backup.  Yes, backup!  So when your hard drive fails (and they do!), or your email account is corrupted, restoring your information is as simple as connecting to the Exchange server.  An administrators dream!

You can also access your mailbox using OWA (Outlook Web App) a browser based email client, which allows you to access your Microsoft Exchange Server mailbox from almost any web browser.

So What Exactly is an Exchange Server?
The Microsoft Exchange server application feeds data to a client application (in most cases Microsoft Outlook) which then allows you to use the features of  email, contact management and calendars simple and trouble-free.

Primarily designed for businesses Exchange is also suited for individuals who want flexibility from their mail platform that is not provided by other webmail clients or POP3 email accounts are capable of providing.

So what are the benefits of using Microsoft Exchange Server?

  • Security – confidentiality without compromise by outside sources
  • Backup – knowing that an email account is never lost and can always be retrieved
  • Accessibility – anywhere in the world with access to all the features of MS Outlook
  • Efficiency – easy to find and fix issues with monitoring capabilities to detect issues quickly before it disrupts business. 

Many tasks required to keep MS Exchange operating properly are automated allowing administrators more time to deal with more pressing issues.

There are many benefits to using Microsoft Exchange Server and many businesses are discovering that this is a program that they cannot do without.  Its worth looking into.

Laura Millson
Entrepreneur Services and Office Operations Coordinator


Microsoft Exchange Top Features


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Marketing in a Browsing Society (3 of 4)

Posted on October 27 2014 | Author: Carol Culhane

The 4 p's of marketing
This third edition of Food Fax 2014 delves into the effect of the Internet on “price”, one of the four p’s of the Marketing Mix, which collectively are place, product, price, promotion.

Three Big Hits on the Pocketbook
Consistent with previous findings, Statistics Canada’s most recent Survey of Household Spending (2012 data, released 2014) identifies the major costs effecting Canadian households: shelter (28.1%), transportation (19.9%) and food (13.8%).

Shelter and Real Estate Data Gaps
The Internet has not exerted any downward pressure on housing costs in Canada. The International Monetary Fund warns that Canada has the most overvalued housing market in the world. Low mortgage rates since 2008, which have spurred demand and inflated prices, is only one factor. Real estate boards closely hold critical, raw, property data, such that banks, governments and consumers have access only to the data the boards choose to release. In 2013, the Competition Bureau sued the TREB (Toronto Real Estate Board) as to this anti- competitive behaviour, and lost on a technicality. The court ruled that TREB was inaptly cited under section 79 of the Competition Act, rather than section 90 which deals with trade associations (even though they do not have competitors per se). The issue continues to simmer; the Huffington Post recently published a series on real estate data gaps.

Transportation and Transparency
At 2 people per sq. km, Canada has one of the lowest population densities on the planet, resulting in hefty long-distance phone bills and disproportionate transportation expenses. Transparency of dealer costs is on call at sites such as and However, a prospective buyer may need to adjust their expectations. As Cars.Cost Helper in the USA forewarns, demand can outstrip supply in specific regions - such as Toyota’s Prius® in the States of California and Massachusetts - allowing the dealer to close at the MSRP or higher.

Food: Small Ticket, Big Purchase
While the ticket price may be small, the collective impact is significant. In its most recent estimate (May 2013), the USDA estimated the monthly moderate-cost food budget for a family of four to be US$750 (excluding foodservice). The same family unit in Canada has a monthly expenditure of C$680 (Statistics Canada, 2012 data published 2014) on grocery food and C$240 on foodservice purchases.

In Canada, all the major grocers publish their flyers online, allowing the same compare-and-shop as the hardcopy version. Loblaw's Weekly Flyer can be matched to your neighbourhood store; Sobey's aggressively blocks entry to their website until a drop-down registration form to receive an electronic weekly flyer is either completed or declined. While there are currently no formal studies which confirm that the Internet has resulted in lower food prices, in the USA, has made an attempt to achieve just that. The upstart lists the prices of select foods as sold at Aldi’s®, Trader Joe’s®, Kroger® and Publix®, and encourages users to suggest new products and additional stores.

Big Mac Index & Interactive Currency
Burgernomics was created by The Economist in 1986 as a lighthearted way to quickly determine if exchange currencies are correct, and to make exchange-rate theory “more digestible”.
“... the Big Mac Index has become a global standard, included in several economic textbooks and the subject of at least 20 academic studies. For those who take their fast food more seriously, we have also calculated a gourmet version of the index.”

As of July 2014, against the Euro, the C$ was over- valued by 6.0%, and the US$ was under-valued by 3.2%. While The Big Mac Index has many critics, its supporters maintain it some legitimacy. When the Euro was first launched in 1999, its over-valuation was correctly reported by The Big Mac Index. Regardless, Burgernomics continues to entertain professional and armchair economists, online.

Carol T. Culhane, PHEc, MBA
President, International Food Focus Ltd.
Bioenterprise Regulatory Advisor


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Ontario Biomass Producer Cooperative Field Event

Posted on October 08 2014 | Author: Doug Knox

DK switchgrassOn September 5, 2014, biomass growers and interested farm producers gathered to exchange information and views on the potential for purpose grown biomass crops. The event was hosted by Don Nott at his farm facility near Clinton, Ontario. The event attracted close to a hundred participants from near and far.  Some notable experts from Quebec and Pennsylvania were in attendance, and brought valuable insights into the specifics of switchgrass — in particular, for new genetics that exhibit better yields, quality and early vigor among other traits. While the crop is showing great promise from an agronomic perspective, there is still a great deal to be done to develop a market for the harvest.

The current information on the business case for purpose grown biomass can be found in the 2012 assessment study and available from the OFA at the following link.

Anyone interested in acquiring more information on the association can contact Urs Eggimann,

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Marketing in a Browsing Society (2 of 4)

Posted on September 25 2014 | Author: Carol Culhane

The 4 p’s of marketing
This second edition of Food Fax 2014 delves into the effect of the Internet on “product”, one of the four p’s of the Marketing Mix, which collectively are place, product, price, promotion. The review begins with a commentary on the Internet itself as a product and a service.

NET Neutrality
Recently, several stakeholders have united to ensure equal access to the Internet by every person with an online hookup, so as to maintain the ‘Net as the information gateway, data pool and socio- economic leveler it has become. The basic premise holds that the WWW must not be deliberately filtered or withheld by any one government, corporation, NGO or individual. In April, Brazil hosted an internet governance conference, NETMundial, attended by 1200+ delegates from a cross-section of the globe, to achieve two goals: assessment of the equality of the Internet’s accessibility, and, delineated action to either return to a state of universal fairness or secure it for the future. The general consensus reveals that stakeholders are satisfied with the current level of global access, however, intervention is needed to retain neutrality from this point forward. One journalist summed up the concluding sentiment with a quote from di Lampedusa’s classic novel The Leopard “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change”.

Food E-vangelists
Corporations have had to relinquish a degree of brand ownership and control to consumers, who through social media, can dictate product composition. Ingredient statements come under scrutiny at the site Teenager-cum-food critic Sarah Kavanagh has mounted successful online campaigns to remove – to name a few – brominated vegetable oil from PoweradeTM (Coca-Cola) and GatoradeTM (Pepsico) as well as the dough proofer azodicarbonamide from Subway’sTM buns.

For every cloud...
It’s not all downside. Both local and global mandate products can now profitably penetrate niche markets, owing to an online presence and IT.

...there is a silver lining
Any recall of clouds’ illusions is quickly resolved in the Financial Times’ instructive Understanding Cloud Computing, the forerunner to an article specific to product development Power to the People on Product Design [©The Financial Times Limited 2014].

FT concludes that today’s winning and innovative manufacturer will use cloud technology to locate, validate and define niche markets, then, create an infrastructure to service heretofore economically- prohibitive or remote segments, chiefly through R&D cost reduction and flexible manufacturing.

“chocolate made with cloud” ©Lindt Ltd.
The Economist is not where one would expect to find a full-page ad for chocolates, claiming “now Lindt can deliver custom chocolates to consumers anywhere in the [UK, US, etc.]”. This new LindtTM- IBMTM joint venture, more commonly promoted through you tube videos and business commentary, features customization and scale as a dynamic duo, and credits the cloud for tripled chocolate sales volume from mobile devices alone. In another application, cloud technology can enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of food safety programs. Cloud-based food safety management systems integrates several platforms (HACCP, BRC, FSMA, etc.) and can instantly produce traceability records.

“On cloud nine” has taken on a new meaning in the 21st Century.

Carol T. Culhane, PHEc, MBA
President, International Food Focus Ltd.
Bioenterprise Regulatory Advisor

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The Changing Face of Canadian Food Labels

Posted on September 10 2014 | Author: Jessica Taylor

Today’s food labels provide a wealth of information from nutrient and caloric content to third-party certifications, from health claims to environmental impact. As with most food trends, food labels have evolved over time based on consumer demand. Canadian consumers are becoming more and more health conscious and demanding to know what is in their food, especially pre-packaged foods.

Many of us take for granted being able to flip over a box at the grocery to figure out how many calories are in our favourite snack food or how much sodium is in a can of chicken noodle soup, but mandatory nutrition labeling hasn’t been around for that long. Some of you may be surprised to learn that it wasn’t until January 1st of 2003 that ingredient lists and Nutrition Facts tables became mandatory on most foods - and it was as recent as December 12, 2007, that all pre-packaged foods required both to appear on their labels.

While they do provide a lot of helpful information, Canadian food labels can be misleading and difficult for parents and consumers of all ages to understand. In order to arm consumers with the information necessary to make healthier food choices, a consultation process involving a number of stakeholder groups across Canada has taken place and proposed changes have been Nutrition Facts proposaldeveloped based on this feedback. The proposed changes include:

  • Serving sizes will be changed to more accurately reflect the average consumer’s intake.
  • Nutrients that consumers should limit their intake of will be listed in the top portion of the table while those, which need to be consumed more frequently, will be in the bottom portion.
  • The caloric content will still be included at the top of the table, but in bolder, larger font.

A consultation on the proposed changes will come to a close on September 11th and be reviewed in the coming weeks. However, even after a decision is made it will take some time before the current labels are phased out.

 So next time your visit your local grocery store or grab a snack from the kitchen cupboard take note of what you see – there is a lot more to a food label than meets the eye.

Jessica Taylor
Business Analyst, Food, Nutrition & Health


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Commercialization from Coast to Coast

Posted on August 21 2014 | Author: Dave Smardon

Dave Blog map picOn June 20, 2014, the Office of the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, announced the fifteen organizations selected to receive funding from Industry Canada’s Canadian Accelerator and Incubator Program (CAIP). Under the program, selected incubators and accelerators can receive up to five million dollars per year.  The CAIP funding is part of the $400 million that the Federal Government had allocated to their Venture Capital Action Plan.

The Prime Minister’s Office provided the following quote at the announcement. “ It is critical for Canada’s small and medium-sized businesses to harness innovation and get their ideas to the marketplace so that they can grow, create jobs, and contribute to the economy. Accelerators and incubators have the experience, tools and know-how to help get small Canadian start-up businesses up and running. Our Government is pleased to be supporting private sector-led initiatives that further strengthen our venture capital market.”

Such support has been a long time coming. Over and over again we are reminded of the report from the 2012 Conference Board of Canada that listed Canada as a leader in research and innovation, but scored a “D” in commercialization of innovation. Canada was ranked 24th in the western world countries and was last of the G13 countries. While other countries have been plowing large sums of money into the support of incubators and accelerators, countries like The Netherlands, France, UK and Switzerland, Canada has been lagging behind. So, the news of the Canadian Accelerator and Incubator Program investment is most needed and therefore most welcomed.

Here at Bioenterprise, we are keenly interested in the agriculture, food and related sectors. In Canada, there has been very little support for agricultural commercialization on a national basis. In certain provinces like Ontario and Saskatchewan, efforts have been made to change this, but these are primarily provincially focused endeavours.  The new funding from the CAIP initiative ensures that this is about to change. (Bioenterprise is indeed, one of the fifteen organizations approved to receive such funding.) The importance of helping start-ups cannot be understated. They truly represent the future leaders of our economy. And, the importance of start-ups within the agriculture / food sectors are critical to Canada’s future prosperity. Why?

In Canada, agriculture and food represent 8% of GDP. That is 50% higher than in the United States and significantly higher than the European Union. The sector employs 2.1 million people, representing 1 in 8 jobs in the country.  It is THE largest sector in Canada. Furthermore, Canada is the sixth largest exporter of ag/food products in the world.  What makes this even more compelling is the fact that, globally, over the past ten years, the Food & Agribusiness category has delivered both the highest and the most consistent Compound Annual Growth Rate (8.7%) of any industry, outranking Financial Services (6.1%), Construction (6.8%), Telecommunications (3.1%), Energy (8.1%) and Healthcare (5.8%).

The importance of the CAIP investment to Canada’s agriculture sector is critical. This new funding will enable agriculture/ food based entrepreneurs and those engaged in the bioeconomy to capitalize on commercialization services that in the past might only have been available in Ontario and Saskatchewan. Now we will have a National commercialization engine that will assist companies from coast to coast.

It took time, but the future is certainly looking brighter for entrepreneurs!

Dave Smardon
President & CEO

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Sustainable Growth

Posted on August 16 2014 | Author: Paulo Mendes

High Growth. Record Sales. Revenue Upswing. All of these terms have high appeal to the average investor and are indicative of successful business execution. Yet, there is a downfall to the excess, especially for companies with significant production restraints. The sustainable growth ratio helps paint an accurate picture of financial health through the inclusion of the following components:

Equation Equation Composition Ideal Level
The Dividend Payout Ratio (Dividends/Net Income) Low
The Profit Margin (Net Income/Total Sales) High
The Leverage Ratio (Total Liabilities/Total Equity) Low
The Asset Turnover Ratio (Total Sales/Total Assets) High


The asset turnover ratio displays the efficiency of a company. This highlights sustainable growth since abnormal levels of sales could lead to additional investments in assets leading to a reduction in the turnover ratio.

The profit margin is the self explanatory, standard indicator for financial health by displaying the amount generated after net revenues and costs have been accounted for.

The dividend payout ratio displays the amount of profits reinvested in the company. Reinvested cash will lead to more sustainable growth due to the enhanced ability to finance asset purchases internally therefore cutting cost

Paulo blogThe leverage ratio displays the level of risk regarding the company’s financial structure. The greater the liabilities (debt) will lead to more interest that will be paid annually. Yet with equity, there is no associated expenses therefore being a more attractive commodity for investors and company growth

In conclusion, the sustainable growth ratio is intrinsically related with a company’s investment in future projects and its ability to manage debt and interest effectively while increasing profitability. It is an important tool that can prove beneficial for any company analysis.

Paulo Mendes
Junior Financial Analyst Intern

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Become a “Regulatory Tactician”: Integrating a Regulatory Strategy

Posted on July 23 2014 | Author: Mary Dimou

Whether a start-up or a high-profile brand, regulatory considerations often fall short to the glamour of product development, packaging, and marketing techniques. Regardless of the industry, these considerations are often deferred to the end of projects, potentially leading to compromised standards, which in severe cases, may lead to monetary penalties.Mary Regulatory blog

Entrepreneurs are frequently required to adopt a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ persona, ultimately increasing their susceptibility of overlooking certain critical regulatory requirements. Implementing a strategic regulatory plan can save entrepreneurs’ money and time, facilitate the integration of short-term tactical decision points, and enhance communication with their business team.

Elements of a Regulatory Strategy for Entrepreneurs

A strategic regulatory plan can transform the productivity of a business by simply aligning regulatory considerations with business objectives from the beginning to the end of a project. From the Food and Natural Health Product regulatory perspective, irrespective of whether you are releasing your first or tenth product into the market, reviewing regulatory requirements is essential.

The regulatory affairs’ domain is constantly in flux and a regulatory strategy should be considered a “living document” that can be referenced at every NO/GO decision point of your process from initial prototype to advertising strategy. Defining this process as a “living document” suggests foreseeing deviations to your regulatory strategy regularly and adopting a pragmatic approach to dealing with them.

At various stages of the project, entrepreneurs will encounter both internal and external factors that may alter the regulatory strategy including (but not limited to):

  • Regulations evolving – changes in guidelines, flux of regulatory authorities and standards, consideration of new requirements and legislations available versus those projected
  • Competitive products on the market – viewing the competitive landscape, analyzing the potential players and their location, new intelligence of similar products, recent patents on the market, defining your market position
  • Product development - changes in target label or markets, applying for food safety certifications (Halal, Kosher, Organic, Gluten-Free and GMO-Free) that are most effective in the market and changing manufacturing and distribution practices accordingly
  • Exportation potential – considering international requirements for releasing your product, considering the compliance of particular ingredients – their uses and approval status, updating claims, relevance of certain certifications

Despite these variables, it is imperative to maintain focus on your end goal – using regulations as the catalyst for developing the synergy between clinical, product quality, and business elements.

How You Can Start Developing a Regulatory Strategy

More often than not, entrepreneurs are not aware of the serious time constraint necessary for following the regulatory framework nor the complexity involved in this process. The number of forms, length of applications, and allocation of own time learning regulatory processes can be reduced through an integrated regulatory overlay. This technique will also assist in identifying issues at an early-stage and reduce your workload in the future. Although an expense, connecting with appropriate regulatory consultants throughout the project timeline can also help guide your application with minimal errors and expedite the process of your product launch. Outreaching to pre-market approval and post-market surveillance legislation experts from governmental bodies including Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are also valuable tools in your regulatory strategy and their guidance documents should be visited regularly throughout your process.

Mary Dimou
Bioenterprise Intern
M.Sc. Candidate, University of Guelph

Health Canada

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Conferences a plenty!

Posted on July 09 2014 | Author: Jennifer Kalanda

Jen blog list pictureSmall business owners are so busy, so the thought of taking a few days away from the office to participate in a conference, trade show or convention can seem like a low priority.  But it’s important to consider all the benefits of getting out there, getting to know your industry and even finding new ways to grow your business.  The trick to ensuring your experience is a prosperous one comes down to finding the right events!

With the list of conferences growing each year, the decision to attend one can require its own due diligence process.  Attending the right conferences can be an important element to the success, expansion or survival of your business.  But where do you even start?

First, determine your goals.
At the end of the day, what do you need to accomplish by attending an event of interest?

Make a short list.
Consider compiling a succinct list of top contenders.  If geography and finances are big factors then this won’t be a long list to put together.  However, don’t be to quick to dismiss an event just because it’s on the other side of the country.  If it meets all the criteria it could be worth your time and investment to attend. 

If you need help determining which conferences should be at the top of your list, try reaching out to your network.  See who has attended what conference, where and why.  Sometimes collecting someone else’s first hand experience can help differentiate a good conference from a bad one. 

Who will be attending?
What kind of people do you need to connect with and are they at the conference?  The demographic of the delegates will often be the deciding factor.  Sometimes sending a quick email to the conference organizers can help answer this question.  While conference organizers won’t go around giving out names and phone numbers, they are usually open to sharing their demographic charts or even a list of the position titles and company names of who attended the previous year.  A list rich in senior titles and quality firms is a good sign!

Another way to determine the conference audience is to look at the list of sponsors.  Sponsors spend even more time evaluating whether a conference is a good fit.  If you are familiar with the sponsors, then you should be able to wrap your head around why they have chosen to be a sponsor.

Are the topics relevant to your sector or business?
Don’t overlook the agenda.  If you are going to make time to attend a conference, try to make sure you will be able to learn a thing or two!  Conferences host panels and keynote speakers who discuss industry trends, challenges or hurdles and forward thinking ideas.  

Also be sure to consider how much time the organizers have allotted to networking.   Making a couple of strong contacts or leads can make any conference worth it, but you want to make sure there is enough time provided to do so.

And of course, how far do you have to go?
Travelling, flights and accommodations all add up and can be a pretty big expense, but if the conference is a must, find ways to make the cost of travel more justifiable.  Review your network and see who is near by, or even attending the conference themselves.  You can take advantage of the travel by setting up meetings with your contacts or even get in front of new ones.  Get into town a day early booked with meetings; if nothing else that day alone should merit your time away.

The decision on what conference to attend can be a bit of work, but the right conference will likely be worth it!

Happy conferencing!

Jennifer Kalanda
Events Coordinator

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Agricultural Technology in the Spotlight

Posted on June 11 2014 | Author: Kelly Laidlaw

9 Common MythsThe increasing demand for sustainable agriculture, food, water, bioproducts, and energy is driving innovation in the agricultural technology space - and investors are taking notice.

Michael S. Fischer explains in the article Agriculture Tech The New Facebook? that agriculture technology, or agri-tech, is one of the investing world’s best-kept secrets. Agri-tech has become a hot area for investors given the current poor rates of return in traditional sectors, as well as the global, long-term demand for increased amounts of food.  With the UN predicting that the world population will reach nine billion by 2050, agri-tech appears poised to become the ‘New Wave’ sector. As the world’s population rises, agriculture is struggling to find ways to keep up with the increasing demand for food. The good news is there are many exciting companies surfacing with technologies that offer solutions to these critical global issues. For example, here at Bioenterprise, we have seen companies that have developed biological solutions for weed controls that replace toxic chemicals; innovative ‘Big Data’ technologies; and advanced technologies in animals health and welfare, to name a few.

“Just as technology has transformed other industries, from hotel reservations to finance to medical record management, the technology developed at these firms is transforming agriculture,” says Fischer (2011).

These were the very sentiments reflected at the Global Corporate Venturing Symposium in London, England on May 20-21, 2014.


Fischer, Michael S. (2014). Agriculture Tech: The New Facebook
Fischetti, Mark. (2011). World Population Set to Hit 9.1 Billion in 2050
Mawsonia. (2014). Global Corporate Venturing
Volans. (2014). Investing in Breakthrough: Corporate Venture Capital

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Office Administration Start up 101: “Quick and Dirty”

Posted on June 05 2014 | Author: Laura Millson

Laura admin blogAdministration responsibilities tend to be viewed as boring or monotonous, but without the effective completion of administrative tasks, any business would struggle to succeed.  There are various business administration roles you may need to take on as an entrepreneur.

When you are starting up it is very possible that you, as the business owner, will need to take on the responsibilities of;

  • finances – tracking financial records and transactions, taxes, expenses, payroll, and other money-related tasks
  • business paperwork - registering your business, opening a business bank account, business insurance, personnel related reviews/assessments (if any), general record keeping of meetings, deadlines, projects, and client/customer service.
  • sourcing and purchasing resources from office equipment, supplies, computer hardware, software, office space and ultimately personnel.

Now these do not need daily attention but they are part of startup tasks that become routine once a business starts. Routine tasks need routine procedures to stay organized and keep things running smoothly.  Set up routines for handling paperwork and office systems.

Depending on the size of your business it may be possible for you as the owner to take on these responsibilities, but as your business grows you may need to take on an administrative assistant to help deal with them and any day-to-day responsibilities that come up and expand with your business.

Day-to-day functions of any business can include:

  • responding to email inquiries, telephone contacts, handling mail/courier, shipping and receiving
  • managing marketing and communications, newsletters, social media presence, a customer/client database
  • scheduling meetings, organizing travel and keeping track of appointments; and
  • maintaining office records.

As your start up grows the admin duties can become overwhelming and can often hinder business growth if not handled effectively.  Being aware of when an administrative assistant is needed could be the difference between your company’s success and demise. 

Don’t let administrative duties take up time that should be spent refining business vision and leading your company to success.

Laura Millson
Entrepreneur Services and Office Operations Coordinator

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Biological Crop Input Products

Posted on May 28 2014 | Author: Ingrid Fung

Ingrig Blog CropsBiologically based crop input products are substances that are derived from non-synthetic, naturally occurring sources such as microbes, biochemicals, and minerals. Like their synthetic counterparts, biological crop input products are designed to either limit plant stress (crop protection products) or maximize plant health (yield enhancement products). Rising regulatory scrutiny of novel synthetic crop inputs, and increasing weed and pest resistance to long-standing, often over-used chemicals has resulted in soaring interest in developing biologically-derived options.

Although biologically derived products have been around for over 20 years, previous iterations have achieved limited uptake.  In the past, over-marketing of biologicals, lack of performance consistency, and over-optimistic product claims have led to a negative perception of biological products among growers. 

Currently an expansion interest in biological crop input products is occurring, driven by new research tools, novel synergies with synthetic chemical inputs, and major corporate investments.  New research tools have enabled the elucidation of biological modes of action, as well as the development of regional application practices to mitigate environmental affects on performance.  This has greatly increased the performance consistency of many biological crop input products. The development of biological products that can be used with synthetic chemistries has changed the way in which biological products are used.  Today most successful biological products are marketed as part of a crop input package, to be applied in concert with synthetic crop chemistries.   For example Poncho Votivo™, a crop protection product produced by Bayer Crop Science, is a combination of a traditional fungicide product with a biological product.  As a part of an overall crop input strategy, biological products have the potential to incrementally increase crop performance and yield above those achieved by existing crop treatment packages.

Many companies now look to biological crop input products, not only as a means of accessing niche markets, but as a means of improving current product offerings by adding biologicals to existing crop input products and product packages. This increasing corporate interest towards biological products is exemplified by a series of high-profile acquisitions of leading biological firms, such as the acquisition of AgraQuest (biological crop protection and yield enhancement) by Bayer CropScience, Becker Underwood (inoculants) by BASF Crop Protection and Pasteuria Bioscience (nematode control) and Devgen (biological disease inhibitor technology) by Syngenta Crop Protection.

Biological products show a great deal of promise to not only improve upon synthetic crop chemistries, but also provide greener alternatives. As investment and corporate interest in biological crop input products continues to grow, it will be very interesting to see the innovative products that will be developed. 

Ingrid Fung
Business Analyst, Plant & Animal Science

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Minor Use Pesticides

Posted on May 07 2014 | Author: Tom Dowler

Tom blog cropThe cost of generating sufficient field data, as well as the time required to move through the Pest Management Agency (PMRA) regulatory system can be prohibitive if a significant return on investment is expected from registering pesticide products for use on small acreage specialty crops. As a result, many pesticide suppliers choose to focus on trialing new products only on crop types with large acreages, allowing them to access relatively large markets upon gaining regulatory approval and launching the product. This has led to the availability of a large number of solutions for producers growing major row crops, but has left producers of small acreage specialty crops with limited options to combat pest issues prevalent in their fields. Some of these under-served specialty crops include ginseng, quinoa and hemp, as well as many fruit and vegetable crops. Many of these crop types are generating significant interest in natural health product and functional food markets providing a long-term opportunities for Canadian producers. Before acreages of some new, low acreage specialty crops can expand, effective pest solutions must be provided to lower risk to producers.

The Canadian Biopesticides and Minor Use Workshop, held in the spring each year (this year March 25-27th), has been developed to address major pesticide solutions required for specialty crops.  Attending this meeting are producers, government crop specialists, regulators, and pesticide suppliers.  These groups come together each year to identify major pest issues prevalent in smaller acreage crops in Canada, identify products on the market or moving through the regulatory system that have not been labeled for minor use areas of need, match the potential solutions to the issues, and prioritize several development projects targeting registration of new solutions. This is a valuable process that allows for producers to be better equipped to deal with pests by the next growing season. The meeting is a proactive dialogue between the participants, and has led to many positive outcomes over the 10+ years it has been running.

Some takeaways from this year’s meeting include:

  • Spotted Wing Drosophola remains a significant problem for many specialty crops including tender fruits, berries, and grapes. There is no near term solution available.
  • Wire worm, present in soil, is currently leading to losses in potatoes and several other crop types. There are limited solutions.
  • Bioenterprise client, Anatis Bioprotection ranked high as a potential solution for several significant minor use issues of outdoor food crops and ornamentals.
  • Nematodes have persisted as an issue across a number of crop types including berries and apples

Tom Dowler
Senior Business Analytst

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Medical Marijuana Program Regulations

Posted on April 24 2014 | Author: Doug Knox

Doug Blog Med MJThe recent change in the Medical Marijuana regulations has resulted in a flurry of activity in attempts by many entrepreneurs to establish a licensed growing facility. With the exit of the government’s involvement with the growing operations and the discontinuing of the licenses to grow for personal use by individuals, the new government regulations for commercial production growing is an attempt to mitigate the growing need for the prescribed products.

To date, there are twelve licensed operators in or very near production of their first crop. There are locations in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. However, there are a huge number of applicants in the license queue.

License seekers face several hurdles in their quest.

  • Applicants must present Health Canada with a comprehensive plan for the proposed site including an acceptable security implementation for the proposed site.
  • Depending on the location facility, the security build-out requirements could require implementation costs upward of $1 million or more. The plan must be executed before production begins.
  • There will be no direct marketing to prescribed patients.
  • Producers must ship directly to prescribed patients by secure courier.
  • Current financing options are limited since none of the major banks are willing to enter into the risk associated with the projects.
  • Private investment is the most likely course. At least one of the companies has secured financing from US capital sources.

The Tweed facility in the decommissioned Hershey building in Smith’s Falls is the first to become a public company. Trading for the company commenced April 4,2014.

“Tweed rose to $2.52 at 2:07 p.m. in Toronto Friday, up 183% from the issue price of 89 cents based on a private placement on March 7. The shares sank from an opening price of $5.10 at the start of public trading and were the third-most traded in Canada with 9.64 million shares changing hands.” (Financial Post 2014-04-04)

It will be interesting to follow the list of licensees as the industry establishes itself!

Check out the list at:

Doug Knox
VP Technology

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Marketing in a Browsing Society (Part 1 of 4)

Posted on March 28 2014 | Author: Carol Culhane

The 4 p’s of marketing
The four p’s of marketing are as fundamental to the practice as are basic accounting principles to the discipline of finance. Also known as the “marketing mix”, the 4 p’s of marketing are familiar to those with formal marketing training, yet tend to be relatively unknown amongst practitioners in other fields of business.

Place Product Price Promotion

First conceived in the 1960’s by academic Jerome E. McCarthy, the 4 p's of the marketing mix have been known to swell to eight in number and more, with suggested candidates such as people, policy, processes, programs, patrons, performance and even politics. However, after scrutiny, debate and evaluation, the academicians and more skilled practitioners concur that any additional p’s are truly subsets of one of the original “fab four”. The experts further conclude that the addition of more p’s to the marketing mix would obscure the four-way dynamic and interconnected synergy that is the aim and prospect of a well-designed marketing mix. Similar to the four essentials of a shelter - foundation, roof, side and entrance – each of the 4 p’s has a distinct composition, requiring quality material and skilled workmanship to function at full potential.

Composition of the four cornerstones
A detailed look reveals the independence as well as interconnectedness of each p, as follows: Place: location (region or nation? urban or rural? concrete or virtual? a retail lease on main street or in a mall?); competitors; regulations; distribution; customers; consumers; population density; climate. Product: composition; brand name; quality; after-sales service; packaging; site or country of manufacture. Price: costs; revenue; profit margin; breakeven; taxes. Promotion: personal selling: in-store salesperson, commercial sales representative, online sales; sales promotion: trial offer; introductory or competitive price discounts; public relations: press coverage, social media, community involvement; advertising: website; commercials; brochures.

Which p is the hardest to change?
The 4 p’s and the marketing mix are not exclusive to business. Public sector entities, educational institutions, healthcare facilities, associations and NGO’s all have the 4 p’s, knowingly or not. When refined, the marketing mix works like a four-sided, multi-pronged tool, modified and fine-tuned to suit the needs at hand.

The mantra of “location, location, location” is an expression of this fact. Get it right, and the overall mandate is easier to deliver. If out of sync, the other 3 p’s are compromised; disproportionate resources and efforts are expended to balance the mix.

The hardest p to change, is that which continues to change most rapidly
In a browsing society, by necessity, each p of the marketing mix has a virtual online presence, either with or without a concrete, bricks-and-mortar equivalent. While place is the hardest p to change, every organization faces a virtual place in either a state of flux or perpetual re-creation. Prices can be quickly compared – and changed; product manuals are posted or downloadable; websites are, as has come to be expected, a 24/7 salesforce; online point-of-sale is becoming increasingly commonplace.

Some food industry virtual statistics
Stats Canada reports that 18% of internet users regularly buy groceries online, twice the 2010 statistic.  Online wine and beer sales in Canada and liquor sales in the USA are thriving. A UK online grocery guru predicts the tipping point – online versus store – will occur when online prices are discount to those in-store. If so, convenience stores are anticipated to boom as the source of mid-cycle replenishment while conventional grocer outlets will diminish.

Carol T. Culhane, PHEc, MBA
President, International Food Focus Ltd.
Bioenterprise Regulatory Advisor

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Scaling-up a Food Processing Business – What do You Need to Consider?

Posted on March 12 2014 | Author: Jessica Taylor

Starting a new business can be a daunting, and difficult, process. Food processing companies in particular are faced with many regulatory requirements and potential barriers that must be considered in order to be successful – but what happens once your company becomes successful? How do you expand? How do you scale-up your production and sales? What is required to export your product to other areas of the world?

These are just a few of the many considerations that entrepreneurs need to keep in mind as their food processing business begins to grow. While many of the answers to these questions are dependent on the specific company and their product(s), there are some general guidelines that companies can follow as a starting point for successful expansion.

Getting Started

Funding is often a major obstacle for small companies looking to expand their business; however, there are a number of funding programs that exist to help companies in this position. There are a variety of funding programs available through both the federal and provincial governments to help these business grow and to improve the Canadian economy.

The Canadian government, in conjunction with the government of Ontario, offers guidance thro a website called AGPAL that enables individuals and companies to find programs and services provided by both levels of government, specifically within the agriculture sector.  AGPAL is an online search portal where companies can enter their funding needs (i.e. “Business growth, planning & start-up”) and the sector their company falls under (i.e. “Agri-businesses or food processors”) to find a list of possible funding opportunities.

AdditionGrowing Forward 2ally, Growing Forward 2 (GF2) was launched April 1, 2013 and is a three billion dollar investment into agricultural programs and services for the next five years, funded by federal, provincial and territorial governments. GF2 has both federal components offered through Agriculture Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and a host of programs through the provincial government.

Finally the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF) website includes a list of funding sources that may be applicable to many food processors that can be found here.

Obtaining insurance for a food processing business is very important. The Insurance Bureau of Canada provides helpful information regarding insurance for businesses of all sizes (

Manufacturing the Product

Facility Requirements
As your business begins to expand, the where and how the product is manufactured may also need to change. Food processing facilities must meet a variety of requirements; within Ontario these include Food Premises Regulation 562 and the Food and Drug Act if the goal is to sell the product nationally or internationally. These regulations must be met regardless of whether the company chooses to build a facility, lease a facility or employ a co-packer.

Food Safety and Quality Control
Food safety and quality control programs are usually put in place to meet market demand (i.e. many retailers won’t sell a product unless the company can guarantee a certain level of food safety). The levels of food safety are: (1) Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP); (2) Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points; (3) Traceability Plan; (4) Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).  Being aware of the requirements of your specific distributor and/or vendors is critical in the development of these plans.

Labelling Your Product

Health Claims
Health claims are an excellent marketing tool for your product regardless of what development stage the company is in; however, it is important to understand all of the regulatory considerations prior to using a claim.

The Food Directorate of Health Canada is responsible for creating standards, policies and regulations surrounding the use of health claims on foods. They also conduct both mandatory and voluntary pre-market approval of health claims to assess if these claims are both truthful and not misleading.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency provides an outline of the requirements for health claims on Canadian food products in the Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising, Chapter 8.

There are a number of different certifications that food processors can get for their product. A certification can give a food product a competitive edge by opening the product up to more markets and/or improving the consumer’s perception of the product. Gluten-free, halal, kosher, organic, vegan and vegetarian are just a few of many certifications that can be considered. Connecting with the appropriate certification body as early on in the product development stage as possible can make the certification process much easier.

Distributing Your Product

Once your product(s) is market-ready you must be able to distribute it to vendors and consumers. This can be achieved through use of a broker, distributor or wholesaler. Additionally, as your food processing company continues to grow you may consider exporting your product(s) to new markets. In order to do so your product(s) must meet requirements of the country to which it is being exported (i.e. if exporting to the US the product must follow all labelling regulations set out by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)). If you are interested in exporting your product(s) it is recommended that you connect with an importer or distributor in the country that you wish to export to. For assistance in connecting to an importer or distributor contact Ontario Food Export (a division of the Business Development branch of OMAF).  

Next steps…

Exploring these general guidelines is a great start on the road to growing your food processing company. From here, making connections to experts in each of these areas will help to guide your decisions from the very start, allowing the process to run more smoothly. Bioenterprise has created a document outlining these regulatory considerations in greater detail, along with providing additional contacts in this space. Should you wish to acquire a copy of these documents please do not hesitate to contact us.

Jessica Taylor
Junior Business Analyst, Food Nutrition & Health

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Five Steps to Crafting Your Value Proposition

Posted on February 26 2014 | Author: Braden Kemp

The term Value Proposition (VP) is commonly used, and commonly misunderstood. The common definition you will come across sounds something like this one from MaRS Discovery District’s “Value Proposition” article:

“A product’s value proposition is a statement of the functional, emotional and self-expressive benefits delivered by the brand that provide value to the target customer.”

While that certainly explains the components of a VP, it fails to capture the real essence of the term. I like to cut to the chase, which means small, simple words – and as few of them as possible! The VP definition I use:

“A VP is a statement that identifies; a market problem, the person (or business) that has that problem, and your unique solution to that problem.”

When crafting a value proposition there are many things to consider – the following list should help you better define your unique VP:

1. Know your customer!
You can’t be all things to all people. Who is your customer – they need to be clearly identified in your VP. Some products have several separate market segments or stakeholders, defining your VP for each is important.

2. Clearly understand the problem your customer has.
For the most part, people buy products and services to save time, save money, or make their lives easier. All of these motivations have a “problem” that can be identified.

3. Connect your unique solution directly to the problem.
You might have created the widget to rule all widgets, but if you can’t articulate the problem it solves then it’s going to be hard to sell, and even harder to get anyone to invest in it! Tell the reader how your solution makes their life easier/better/faster/cheaper.

4. Tell your customer why your solution is better.
In the world of technology there are often a bunch of startups vying for the same space in the market. This makes it exceedingly important to showcase the benefits of your product/service. Now that you’ve told us what you do, tell us why that’s the best way to do it!

Remember, even if you’re the first to market you have one big, hairy, competitor: the status quo. Your customers are used to doing something the way they have always done it, and you can’t expect them buy something just because you built it.

5. Keep it simple.
Your VP is NOT a technical description. It’s also not a vision statement, mission statement, or witty tag line.  

Keep it simple, tell us who you are, what you do, why you do it, and how you do it better. Nothing less, nothing more.

In closing, here’s an example of a VP that I believe is effective. It comes from 360 Incentives, a rapidly growing SaaS company based out of Whitby, ON.  It’s clear, concise, and to the point. It outlines what 360 does, who they do it for, how they do it, and why they do it better. Check it out below, then see how your VP stacks up!

Braden blog
Click to enlarge

Braden Kemp
Manager, Business Acceleration Services
Spark Centre

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Making the Agri-Technology Investment Connection

Posted on February 18 2014 | Author: Dave Smardon

Dave Blog family offiveHaving just returned from the European Family Office Conference in London, I am sometimes stricken by the lack of understanding and therefore interest that investors show in the agricultural sector.  For those of you not familiar with the term Family Office, it refers to the people or organizations that manage personal wealth on behalf of wealthy families. Most of the time, family offices represent substantial wealth in the hundreds of millions of dollars or more. Managing such wealth requires a great deal of investment experience and most often involves a rather conservative approach. Investment decisions are driven by opportunities that first and foremost, will preserve family wealth and then if the risks are acceptable, they will attempt to grow the wealth.  The most common investment targeted by family offices is real estate. It certainly meets the criteria of wealth preservation and growth with acceptable risk. Sometimes there is an almost philanthropic approach to certain investments, particularly recently surrounding food and water security, clean energy and health and welfare of the planet.  The media have helped to drive this interest, however, the links to agriculture, while clear, have not been made by these people.

Getting back to the agricultural sector, I remember that while growing up that as a normal everyday Canadian, I never questioned how my food got to the table. Oh, I knew about farms and farm animals like most people but I had no knowledge of the value chain or the technologies being used within the industry. In fact, what stands out in my mind was the TV commercial that espoused, “nothing runs like a Deere” (John Deere actually). So, I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised by the lack of interest from these investors. If you don’t work within the agricultural sector, or are not exposed to it on a regular basis, then in all likelihood you are just not aware of it as a credible investment sector.

Several years ago, investors began looking seriously at acquiring farmland. As a form real estate investment, it met the family office criteria and it also delivered a “comfort factor” to the investors in that they were investing in food security. While it may have given the investors some philanthropic comfort, it really did little to help the planet. Then the farmland values went crazy, making farmland investment impractical in North America, Australia and parts of Europe.

I was a presenter at this conference in London. My topic was Investing in Agricultural Technology. My objective was to educate the audience.  The good news, what satisfied me the most, was the keen interest shown by so many investors after I had made my presentation. In fact, the interest continued over the next two days. It really highlighted the lack of education amongst the investment community regarding the agriculture sector, agricultural innovation, and how we can impact the planet and human health so dramatically.  We have to continue to build awareness of the issues, focus on the opportunities, and educate the investment community. If we do this, they WILL invest.

Dave Smardon
President & CEO

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Food Trends 2014

Posted on January 28 2014 | Author: Jessica Bowes

JessB BlogThere was more to 2013 than quinoa and Greek yogurt. Consumers around the world voiced their opinions on GMO labeling; the US Food and Drug Administration banned use of trans fats from the American food supply, and; Europe dealt with a horsemeat scandal that left consumers lacking trust in the food industry.  As a result, 2014 will bring more attention to controversial labeling and regulatory debates; new superfoods will breakthrough to mainstream manufacturing and retail, and; a stronger effort will be made to reduce waste across the supply chain. In no particular order, here are a few other trends to watch for this year.

Origin labeling and traceability
Scares like the horsemeat scandal have consumers demanding to know where their food is coming from, so companies will have to work to gain/re-gain consumer trust through origin labeling and traceability programs. According to Innova, this is a major trend to watch for as manufactures actively market this to consumers and as there are more global products launched featuring the word ‘origin’ for claim purposes.

Look out for the small guy
Being connected isn’t just for the consumer. The rapid rise in popularity of social media platforms continues to offer small-scale innovators the chance to realize new business opportunities in both domestic and export markets. This trend speaks to the big-trend potential small manufacturers have through the development of high quality and distinct products for niche markets. 

Nothing beats breakfast
Breakfast remains the most important meal of the day. In 2014, consumers will continue to look for more protein in their diets, especially at breakfast. The convenient, protein-rich breakfast food category, which includes products such as breakfast biscuits and ready-to-drink shakes, will continue to grow. Examples of products that are already making a big marketing push include Belvita and Milk2Go Sport.

Bugs, anyone?
As protein remains a strong trend, alternative sources are a targeted need for food manufacturers. Though the US, Canada and Europe have long been adverse to the idea of consuming bugs as a source of nutrition, the rest of the world has been eating insects as a source of unconventional protein. Bugs have a much less of an environmental impact than other animals, they require little to no land, and many species consume waste products therefore eliminating the reliance on feed.  Consuming insects is gaining some interest in the West in forward-thinking countries such as Denmark, but the biggest opportunity involves food security for the impoverished and malnourished communities of the world. Late last year, a team of MBA students from McGill University won the $1M Hult Prize for a project that aims to improve the availability of nutritious food to underprivileged communities around the world by providing them with insect protein infused flour. For more information on this project, click here.

Other trends to watch for:

  • Naturally functional whole food – despite the regulatory minefield that is “natural”, the success of this product category will continue to increase. Maple water has been predicted as the next coconut water in this category by a number of online sources, and experts believe that marketing will be a key component to the success of these products.
  • Weight wellness – Rather than addressing weight management with a specific category of food products, companies will be more successful with a holistic approach to products that touch on trends such as gluten free, high protein, less sugar, and using natural ingredients.
  • Slow energy – Although we tend to think of glycemic index in reference to diabetes, slow or ‘sustained’ energy appeals to the mass market. Product developers are turning to complex carbohydrates such as oats, barley and millet as ingredients, as well as dairy protein’s ability to slow down digestibility, delivering slow energy.
  • Better-for-you snacking – finding the right balance of health and taste will be key for food manufacturers addressing this trend.
  • Interactive packaging – allowing manufacturers to provide more information to the consumer. This could include touch-sensitive elements or more technology.

Jessica Bowes
Senior Business Analyst, Food Nutrition & Health

Food Trend Links:
Phil Lempert, Supermarket Guru
Canadian Food Insights

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The “Opt-Out” Button is no Longer Enough

Posted on January 15 2014 | Author: Jennifer Kalanda

Spam BlogAs 2014 gets well underway I wanted to write about the new and toughest anti-spam law in Canada.  If you or your organization sends tweets, texts, facebook posts, emails or any other form of electronic communications in connection to ‘commercial activity’, then you may already be aware of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL).  If you haven’t heard of CASL yet, then you better keep reading!

CASL is the new anti-spam law that requires all commercial electronic messages (CEMs) within, from or to Canada to have consent from the recipients before sending the message.  This means that just providing the option to Opt-Out or Unsubscribe is no longer an acceptable compliance of anti-spam regulations. 

Consent has been defined by the legislation in two forms.  The best route to obtain consent is directly or referred to by CASL as ‘Express’.  This express consent is best collected in writing, which does include a (unchecked) check box option, but storing the date and time will also be required. 

The other form of consent is defined as ‘Implied’ and considered given under these circumstances:

  • if your organization sends out CEMs in the context of an existing business or non-business relationship
  • if the recipient conspicuously publish their electronic contact information without indicating they don’t want to receive communications
  • if the recipients voluntarily disclose their electronic contact information to the sender without indicating they don’t want to receive communications

Now, assuming that your contact lists have given express consent or you have implied consent, your CEMs must provide recipients with:

  • the name of the person or organization seeking consent
  • a mailing address and either a phone number, voice message system, email address or website where recipients can access an agent for more information, and which remains valid for at least 60 days after the CEM is sent
  • a statement identifying the person on whose behalf consent is being sought
  • the identity and contact information of any third party or affiliate used to obtain the recipient’s consent
  • a free unsubscribe mechanism that takes effect within 10 days maximum giving recipients two ways to electronically opt-out of communications, such as by email or hyperlink
  • the ability to opt-out of all types of communications sent by either your organization or a third-party partner

CASL will take effect on July 1st, 2014 and the penalties for violating the legislation are steep.  Get started and be proactive about obtaining consent.  Once CASL takes effect you will not be able to send CEMs that request consent.  Ensure your communications meet CASL requirements and collect your approved lists now.  Review your database and determine which contacts are CASL-friendly and who will need to be re-confirmed.  And don’t forget that written consent is the most effective way to protect you or your organization from penalty.

For more information about CASL and to ensure you and your organization avoid any violations, please read the documentation below.

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation
Industry Canada, Digital Branch, Bill C-28: Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Jennifer Kalanda
Events Coordinator

Image credit: Canadian Boxing Beaver Flag from the
Disclaimer: This blog is intended to act as a summary and does not outline all elements of Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation and should not be treated as the formal guidelines.

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Innovation and Commercialization Part 4 of 4

Posted on December 17 2013 | Author: Carol Culhane

Regulations - a Trajectory
Addressing a Life Sciences Ontario audience recently, Cameron Piron, CEO, Synaptive Medical (2nd start-up venture for this 30-something Canadian, having sold his first company for $85M+) summed up the regulatory barriers which impact on his solution-focused medical devices (used by 18/20 of the top US Cancer Centers):

  • Bar constantly changing as technology and market changes
  • No world-wide synchronization
  • Regulatory environment moves opposite to innovation - understandable

He gets it – understandably. All life science legislation must be scientifically sound.  Regulations lag behind the laboratory, leveling the playing field.

The Anomaly of Organic Food
UK organic food regulations became law in 1987, a decade before the dormant sector erupted.  The basis of all organic food trade today, the UK organic food regs stem from guidelines and standards set in 1967 by an NGO, the UK Soil Association.  Two major forces in the 1990’s dramatically reduced UK consumer confidence in conventional farming:  the launch of genetically-modified food, closely followed by an unrelated outbreak of BSE disease in UK cattle. The organic food sector thrived due to pre-existent regs.  Two supply factors curtailed growth: inadequate volume, due to a mandatory 3-5 year washout period of conventionally-fertilized soil, and, no federal organic food regs in other nations – required to claim imported food as organic in UK/EU markets.  The current Cda and USA organic regs pleaded for by North American stakeholders has facilitated exports and spurred domestic demand. 

The Canadian Organic Food Sector totaled $3.5B in 2012, triple the 2006 value. The American Organic Food Sector grew 11% Y/Y in 2012 to US$28B.  A life science? Innovation? A life science sector kept unto itself, organic food lacks the distinctive mark – industry turmoil without new market creation – of disruptive innovation.  It is part radical innovation in that only a portion of conventional food has been displaced.  However, worth watching, one study claims organic agriculture can indeed feed the world.

Water Quality, Fracking, Due Diligence
Some methods of extracting gas from the earth’s crust significantly contribute to the carbon footprint.  Separately, farmers are concerned about water supply, quality and cost. An innovation, hydraulic fracturing (fracking), accesses subterranean gas with much less carbon generation but may contaminate the water table. Accordingly, at least two fracking proposals in Canada’s eastern provinces have been stalled, due to citizen resistance and East Coast wit.

Younger concedes that the US approach has been one of trial and error. It remains to be seen if fracking can meet his description, and if regulatory control can render fracking economically feasible and environmentally safe, inclusive of water quality.

Motor Power Enters the Streets of London - Call for Regulations  23 August 1913, The Tablet
The application of motor power to vehicles has revolutionized the traffic of London, and with the growth of it the danger to life and limb has also shown a proportionate increase. […] a Select Committee was appointed to inquire into the problem and recommend means for ensuring the safety, especially, of foot passengers in the streets. […]  in 1907 there were 3, 866 horse cabs and 5, 952 hansoms licensed.  There are now only 2, 385 of the two together.  In 1907 there were 2, 961 horse omnibuses and tramcars and 2, 973 electric trams and motor omnibuses.  The last horse bus has now run its last journey through the City.  

In 1912, there were 5, 767 electric trams and motor omnibuses, and the smaller powered vehicles included 8,000 motor cabs…Among the minor recommendations or suggestions are the following:  Tramcars and omnibuses alike should have speed registers; all driving offences should be endorsed on the license; motor horns should be of a standard type; dazzling head-lamps in lighted streets should be prohibited; all slow vehicles should keep to the kerb; unsound vehicles should be prohibited in the streets.  Upon one point the recommendations have been keenly criticized, that which gives the control of traffic, routes, time-tables, and the number of stage carriages to be used, to the County Councils.

Carol T. Culhane, PHEc, MBA
President, International Food Focus Ltd.
Bioenterprise Regulatory Advisor

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Honest Networking

Posted on November 28 2013 | Author: Ingrid Fung

Regardless of how great your product or team, if your organization wants to achieve its goals, you will need to be good at what you do, and good at building relationships with people who matter.  Success depends on what you know AND who you know.

Whether you’re starting a company or starting your career, it is important to take time to build helpful connections in your space. The caveat is that networking events can seem awkward and interactions can feel forced.  No one wants to feel like Pete Campbell from Mad Men, a sniveling, butt-kissing person of little character willing to do anything to get ahead!  So how do you build a solid network without coming off as a smarmy jerk?

While you should always be polite and never disparaging to anyone you interact with, the key is to be selective about who you add to your network.  This means applying some criteria to decide whom you want to follow up with.  These criteria aren’t meant to exclude people that won’t be “useful” to you (that’s impossible to determine from a quick meeting).  They are meant to help you determine if you’re likely to maintain a relationship with this person.  There’s no point in having contacts that you dread interacting with.  

Three criteria I use when ‘filtering’ my network are:

  • Do I like this person?
    • Do I enjoy their company? Would I be happy seated next this person on a long-haul flight?
  • Do I admire this person?
    • I like to make sure that I admire something about this person.It could be their achievements, skills, or some other intangible about them.But I like to know that I could learn from them.
  • Do I trust this person?
    • You’ll likely have to meet someone several times to decide, but it’s usually a gut feeling.

If the answer is “yes” to at least one of the above criteria, I make sure to follow up with the person.  Applying criteria to decide whom you add to your network will allow you to build connections with people you genuinely want to interact with outside of work.  Whatever criteria you decide on applying, choose ones that make your interactions feel more honest and less forced.  Maintaining relationships with your connections takes a significant amount of time and effort, you are much more likely to put in the effort if you actually like your contact. 

There are many resources online that give details on the nuts and bolts of how to network − you will find a couple of those links below.  In a day and age when it’s easy to amass an immense collection of online contacts that won’t respond to your calls and e-mails, making a face-to-face connection is still the best way to get people to respond to your communications.  So go out, and meet people!  Be thoughtful, be personal, and remember building a network is about getting to know other people and helping them.

Ingrid Fung
Business Analyst, Plant & Animal Science


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25 Quintillion Reasons

Posted on October 09 2013 | Author: Tom Dowler

25 Quintillion – 25 followed by 18 zeros. This is the number of bytes of data that are generated in our world every single day!

tom blog ag dataUbiquitous use of mobile devices and internet, as well as improvements in sensor technologies, machine data, GPS and other means of data production, have drastically expanded the volume of available information over recent years. Now that we know just how much data is out there, how do we distill significant value from data set after data set that are seemingly unrelated? This is where the term “Big Data” comes in.

A term that has been thrown around frequently, Big Data is a collection of complex data sets so large that until recently, could not be processed using traditional database management tools or data processing applications. Thanks to recent developments in data storage such as “The Cloud”, low cost data processing technology, and improved data mining and analytics, we now have the tools to apply these vast amounts of data to every day decisions made across industries.

The flow of Big Data platforms generally moves from data collection to integration of data sets. This data integration, often through customized algorithms, provides outputs that support decision making, business and operational actions. The overall goal of using data integration is to more efficiently accomplish the task or problem it is being applied to.

In the world of agriculture, the use of Big Data platforms to increase efficiencies, often in agricultural production, is called Precision Agriculture. This term is becoming increasingly popular in ag-industry and ag-investment circles.

As the 2009 IPhone 3G commercial stated “there’s an app for that”. This refers to the user-friendly platforms that can be set up to provide useful decision support means to customers and it is becoming increasingly more common in agriculture.

So how is Big Data being applied in agriculture? Well…
How do I link my field data to my farm equipment to ensure efficient variable rate seeding and spraying?… There’s an app for that!
How can I integrate weather data, information from soil sensors, and irrigation unit sensors to manage my water use?... There’s an app for that!
How do I manage real-time disease risks to my livestock operation? get the point.

Just like any other industry, a major driver of the agriculture industry is profit margins, and any means of increasing efficiencies in terms of inputs-in to yield-out is welcomed by producers. Coupled with the well documented issue of limited acres of agricultural land and increasing global population, demand for advanced methods of squeezing out greater yields per acre have set the table for Big Data to play a huge role in agriculture for years to come.

Tom Dowler
Senior Business Analyst

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Innovation and Commercialization Part 3 of 4

Posted on September 27 2013 | Author: Carol Culhane

Game-Changers... Same Market or New?
Innovation may be classified as radical, disruptive or incremental.  Radical innovation is invasive. It establishes its own new market and sends incumbent markets into history books.  The automobile displaced the horse and carriage.  Disruptive innovation is one which causes turmoil in an industry, but does not create new markets. As to if smartphones are a disruptive innovation over cellphones depends on whether a new market for hand-held communication devices was created with the smartphone launch.  Both radical and disruptive innovations are game-changers. On-line shopping has certainly been a game-changer in the retail sector.  Has it created new markets (radical) or simply caused turmoil (disruptive)?

How Next Happens
Incremental innovation is how ‘next’ happens. Defined as “an improvement in the cost or functionality of an existing product in an existing market”, a BI Norwegian School of Management Thesis  concluded that “most progress in society is achieved through incremental innovation, which is far more frequent and economically predictable than radical innovation”.  Two car-based examples are the GPS and IPAS (Intelligent Parking Assist System), standard new features on several car brands.  Both were first launched as a personal-car feature 10 years ago, yet only recently matured to a technologically-dependable and cost-effective proposition.  Neither feature is radical (no expansion or displacement in the personal car market).  Are these features disruptive to the automotive sector?  Would a driver examiner permit use of an IPAS during the parallel-parking portion of a driver’s test? If so, is this fair to those without access to an IPAS? The topic would become a moot point should all cars eventually include an IPAS, in which case correct operation could be an evaluation point.  Is a GPS a hazardous distraction from a driver’s attention?  Or, will GPS-equipped cars net on the upside? - due to less time being lost, ability to schedule travel time, less need to frantically confirm the name of a street, more timely arrivals, etc.  As society decides these matters, any market upheaval is a consequence.

Getting to Next
“I don’t see much new here” sighed the trade-show attendee, an IT expert on the fringe of the food industry.  On the surface, an accurate observation.  However, the IFT Innovation Awards Committee evaluated 62 entries, many of which could be described as incremental:  a more soluble, true-salt-flavour sodium replacement; a sanitization system which greatly reduces water and energy usage; an edible gold glitter. Incremental innovation moves in increments (if at all) and is a timely process.  In addition to taxing the patience and resources of the entrepreneur, a willing and engaged consumer is mandatory, to shed a bit of the customary methods so as to make way for, and embrace, the new.

A Course for Improvers
The 1000-year old Buckfast Abbey in Devon, England offers bee-keeping courses to serve three levels of apiarists, or honey farmers: beginners, one-day workshops and… improvers! There is no mention of ‘advanced’ courses here or a place for those who may describe themselves as such.  The Buckfast history provides clues to this choice of words, as the pages are peppered with “drastic change” “immediate and fundamental transformation” and “rebuild” interspersed with long periods of calm and civil livelihood.  Centuries of experience has allowed the apiarists to recognize and value the counterpoint activity of continuous improvement, and the factors which foster it.

An Enduring Example
One of the world’s leading companies in the frozen food sector is “Newlyweds”.  In 1932, a founder created a smash success when he layered ice cream onto a sheet cake and rolled the two into a frozen pinwheel.  The company was re-named “newlywed”, having newly married cake and ice cream. Today, the company owes its success to having “consistently invested in infrastructure, human resources and capacity”.

Carol T. Culhane, PHEc, MBA
President, International Food Focus Ltd.
Bioenterprise Regulatory Advisor

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The Future of Agri-Technologies

Posted on September 11 2013 | Author: Dave Smardon

Dave blog coinsThe World Bank is predicting that our global population will top 9 billion by the year 2050 and these estimates have gone as high as 10.6 billion. We all know that there is only so much arable land on the planet and productivity gains per hector are dropping off, albeit gradually, but is this a harbinger of things to come?  So, how are we going to feed this growing population?

Of course, the issue is far more complex that just feeding a growing planet.  As the population grows, there is an increased migration from rural existence to urban life, particularly in the emerging markets, like India, China and Africa. This migration helps drive greater economic wealth within the urban areas and with this increased income comes a dietary change that is more focused on the consumption of protein. Yes, it seems that everyone wants to adopt a more North American diet. Just to make a point, currently, India’s middle class population is estimated to be 450 million people and growing, larger than the entire population of the United States and Canada combined.  The International Food Policy Research Institute predicts that protein consumption will nearly double across Africa and Asia by 2050.  Another way to state this problem is that there will be 40% more mouths to feed and 70% more calories required. Regardless of how you interpret the numbers, it seems likely that our world is going to experience very significant challenges to food production, competition for protein and affordability. 

While the “food driver’ is most obvious, one cannot ignore other underlying factors such as anticipated future water scarcity, climate change, human health drivers (diet related) and the dramatic affect that petroleum prices exert on agricultural input costs.  We cannot address each of these in this blog, but that in no way diminishes the critical impact that these factors will have on the human population. All of these typically result in producing even greater adverse affects on what is already considered a huge global problem.

But, there is a trend that is looming large within the agriculture community.  It is called agricultural technology or agri-tech and it is the most likely solution to drive greater efficiencies and production increases across the globe.

Take for example, crop inputs, which include the likes of fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. Today, the research, development and commercialization have fallen into the hands of young entrepreneurial firms. With patents in hand and field trials completed, these upstarts are ready to make their mark in the world. From, naturally derived pesticides, organic fungicides and non-petroleum-based fertilizers, these companies have become the “gold” that is being sought by venture capital firms and corporates alike.

Similarly, crop genetics and plant breeding have experienced the same evolution. Crops that are resistant to viruses, fungi and bacteria and those that have built in tolerances for temperature, drought and salinity have sprouted from university research centers, where new companies have been formed. Corporate investors are gobbling them up to expand their product platforms and build sustainable product lines for the future.

This conversation is not complete without the mention of precision agriculture or precision farming. Today, precision agriculture is about whole farm management with the objective to optimize returns on inputs while preserving resources. It relies on new technologies like satellite imagery, state-of-the-art sensors, information technology, and geospatial tools. It is also aided by farmers’ ability to locate their precise position in a field by using satellite-positioning systems like the GPS.

Precision agriculture also provides farmers and suppliers with a wealth of information to build up farm records / historical data, improve traceability, improve decision-making and it is the leading trend driving new investments in “big data”.

All of these are examples of innovations in agri-tech and they will play an integral role in driving global increases in agricultural production.  Who knows, the future Microsofts and Apple Computers may actually be agricultural firms designing innovative technologies that will help feed the planet.

Dave Smardon
President & CEO

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Less is More When it comes to Front-of-Pack (FoP) Nutrition Labelling

Posted on August 21 2013 | Author: Jessica Taylor

With an abundance of food products on the market, trying to select the healthiest options can be overwhelming even for the most health conscious of consumers. As the market becomes more saturated and the trend toward healthy eating continues, food manufacturers are feeling pressure to make their products stand out on the crowded supermarket shelves, but how is this accomplished? Front of Pack (FoP) nutrition labelling has been a hot topic recently as researchers, industry and policy makers alike look to determine the most appropriate and effective design of food labels.

JT label blog2FoP labelling was introduced in the late 1980, first with American Heart Association’s Heart Guide in 1987, followed by the Swedish National Food Administration’s Green Keyhole in 1989. Unlike back of pack labelling, FoP has remained voluntary; however, as industry organizations, retailers, government agencies and not-for-profits continually introduce new FoP symbols there has been a push for a standardized symbol both within in countries and internationally.

Currently each symbol is subject to its own criteria as defined by its creator. However, research has demonstrated that consumers wrongly assume consistency between labels and make inappropriate comparisons between products.

So is a standardized FoP the way to go? And, if so, what should this standardized label look like?

It has become evident that information clutter and density on a label may play a significant role in the information consumers are able to gather from a food label. A recent study examining the effects of information clutter on consumer attention to FoP nutrition labelling found that as the number of design elements increased attention to the label decreases.1 Similarly attention to the label also decreased when the FoP symbol was in an information dense area versus a non-dense area. Interestingly the study also found that clutter was detrimental in single symbol FoP labels but not those that were combined– for example, included both Guideline Daily Amounts and a health logo.  Although numerous studies have been conducted no single FoP has been consistently seen as the most effective. However, these results indicate that the fewer design elements on the label, the more nutrition information the consumer will gather.

Where do we go from here?

While these results are interesting, food processors and policy makers need to understand how to best apply this knowledge. From the prospective of food processors, for example, nutritional information may not be their main concern. They may want to also emphasize, or at least include, information about the taste, origin and/or convenience of their product. Policy makers, however, are primarily focused on improving the food choices of the consumer.JT label blog

Earlier this summer the UK introduced a standardized FoP nutrition label, which is still voluntary, but now covers approximately 60% of products sold within these countries. The process by which this came into effect was lengthy as both industry leaders and government agencies had to agree upon the most appropriate and effective label. The final FoP nutrition label is a combination of colour-coding and nutritional information including fat, sugar, salt and number of calories.

The United States has also discussed a standardized system but there are currently no federal regulations in place. However, the FDA has reviewed a program, Facts Up Front, which many US food processors incorporated into their labels. As shown here it is very similar to the UK standardized label, but does include the colour-coding system.

Canada has yet to adopt a standardized symbol and the question remains - what should Canadian food processors do?

As with most labelling issues it is recommended that food processors contact a regulatory consultant prior to, and during the creation of, their label to ensure it is compliant and grabs the attention of the consumers. Health Canada also offers a voluntary pre-market label approval program allowing processors to confidently put their product to market. If a company is looking to export their product to the UK, the US or any other area of the world it would be important to consider the country’s stance on FoP. Creating an effective product label can be challenging so make sure to connect with a regulatory consultant or a business analyst here at Bioenterprise if you have any questions.  

Jessica Taylor
Junior Business Analyst, Food Nutrition & Health

Image Credits:

Department of Health – United Kingdom

Grocery Manufacturers Association – Facts Up Front-of-Pack Nutrition Labelling Initiative

World Health Organization. What is Front-of-Pack Workshop. May 11, 2013


1 Bialkova, S., Klaus, G. G., van Trijp, H. (2013). Standing out in the crowd: The effect of information clutter on consumer attention for front-of-pack nutrition labels. Food Policy, 41: 65 - 74.

BBC. Food labelling: Consistent system to be rolled out. June 18, 2013

Food Navigator – Label clutter means consumers don’t pay attention to nutrition information say researchers

Grocery Manufacturers Association – Facts Up Front-of-Pack Nutrition Labelling Initiative

nufoods international – Front-of-Package Rating Systems – A Review

World Health Organization. What is Front-of-Pack Workshop. May 11, 2013

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What does “all-natural” mean?

Posted on August 09 2013 | Author: Jessica Bowes experts and manufacturers alike understand that consumers are increasingly looking for foods that are “natural”, but few can really articulate what that means.

Naturally ambiguous

Unfortunately, regulators and manufacturers around the world are in the same confused state. There are no universal standards in place to guide the use of the term “natural”. Many jurisdictions don’t even have a definition to go by. Here are a few examples of how different the criteria, or lack thereof, can be.

In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes that no food could ever be natural and has yet to define the term. However, the FDA does not object to a claim appearing if a food does not contain added colour, artificial flavours, or synthetic substances.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that most foods labeled as “natural” are not subject to government controls beyond the regulations and health codes that apply to all foods, but has a very limited definition that applies only to meat and poultry stating that “those products carrying the “natural” claim must not contain artificial flavouring, colour ingredients, chemical preservatives, or artificial/synthetic ingredients, and are only minimally processed.”

In the European Union, “natural” is only clearly defined in EU regulations related to flavourings. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) states that where a food naturally meets the conditions laid down by the Nutrition Claims Annex for use of a nutritional claim (e.g. low energy, low fat, high fibre), the term “naturally/natural” may only be used as a prefix to the claim.

The United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency has published criteria for several terms in food labeling, but the guidance restricts the use of “natural” to foods that have “ingredients produced in nature”. Separate laws define natural flavourings. To make it even more confusing, there are different standards for various types of food, such as dairy products, and different types of food processing techniques, such as fermentation and pasteurization.

Canadian criteria

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has some of the best standards in the world, including a definition of “natural” for labeling purposes. CFIA’s Guide to Food Labeling and Advertising states that ads should not convey the impression that Nature has created foods that are nutritionally superior to others or has engineered some foods specifically to take care of human needs. Foods or ingredients of foods that have been processed to alter their original physical, chemical or biological state should not be described as “natural,” including changes such as the removal of a constituent, and/or addition of micronutrients, flavourings or additives.

Since some food additives, vitamins and mineral nutrients are derived from natural sources, and they can be regarded as natural ingredients. In this case, the acceptable claim would be that the food “contains natural ingredients”. The food isn’t “natural” though, because it contains added components.

Carol Culhane, President of International Food Focus Ltd, has found that the CFIA criteria to assess the naturalness of a food ingredient is the best in the world and that “manufacturers who operate in many countries around the world have applied it to their products with the rationale that it is, at least, an objective, science-based criteria.”

Clear as mud

“All-natural” and “natural” are widely used terms in food labeling and marketing with a variety of definitions, which are mostly vague. The term implies that foods are minimally processed and do not contain manufactured ingredients, but the lack of standards in many jurisdictions suggests it is actually a loaded term with little meaning globally. In most countries, it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to not mislead the consumer, so as long as standard regulations and Good Manufacturing Processes (GMPs) are followed, and the company is claiming something that is true, they can make the claim if desired.

The term “organic” has similar implications to “natural”, yet has an established legal definition in many countries and is internationally standardized. A good example of this difference refers to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Codex Alimentarius, which does not recognize the term natural, yet has organic food standards.

Until there is a universal definition of “all-natural” there will be confusion in the marketplace for both manufacturers and consumers. In the meantime, if you are a food manufacturer looking for clarification on marketing a product in such a way, it is best to consult with a professional regulatory consultant, an officer from CFIA, a food lawyer or one of the business analysts here at Bioenterprise.

Jessica Bowes
Senior Business Analyst, Food Nutrition & Health

Image credit: Three Dog Bakery


US Food & Drug Administration – Food Labeling Guide

US Department of Health & Human Services - Consumer Updates – Food Label Helps Consumers Make Healthier Choices

European Commission - EUROPA – Food Safety – Labelling & Nutrition – Health & Nutrition Claims

Canadian Food Inspection Agency – Chapter 4 – Composition, Quality, Quantity and Origin Claims

The Food Journal - Natural?

Food Navigator – Elaine Watson – Are all-natural claims losing their luster?

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Dissecting Storytelling

Posted on July 25 2013 | Author: Admin

A smile is never just a smile. And a story never just tells us something. It’s loaded...

Giving lessons
Storytelling is certainly used to tell us about events, but it’s mostly used to give “do this/don’t do this” lessons: Do not book the maiden voyage of anything. Do have an exit strategy – whether from a job you dislike or from your part in a foreign invasion.

Providing distraction
Storytelling can take you somewhere else: It was not just a power outage on a cold day. It was when the family curled up in front of the fireplace and bonded over their most embarrassing moments.

Storytelling increases the likelihood of information retention (in the pre-iPad days anyway). Four minus three is one; it’s also how many cupcakes Jane has left if Dick ate three on the way to the store after a particularly fun stop at grandma’s house.

Controlling behaviour
Storytelling can easily and subtly let it be known what is/is not acceptable: Most religions have very heavy doctrines that are hard for followers to understand. Storytelling helps clearly depict what will happen when you err.

Gettin’ respect
Telling stories with a quiet, rolling drawl is generally the purview of weathered grandparents imparting wisdom. But it can be used to great effect by others to puff themselves up.

Have you ever whipped out your awesome hiking trip story during the awkward, “five-minute break” at a corporate meeting? High five! Hope it lightened the mood.

It’s not a razor – it’s a lifestyle choice. And it’s not pre-made chicken casserole. It’s love.

The art of storytelling is a valuable talent for those that have it, as it can influence all the above and ultimately affect and direct changes in both thought and behaviour.

By Stacey McCarthy at

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The Kosher Trend: A Growing Segment of the Food Industry

Posted on July 10 2013 | Author: Jessica Taylor

Although the term kosher carries an inherent religious connotation, it has been estimated that Jewish consumers account for a mere 15% of kosher consumers in North America. There has been a steady increase in the number of non-Jewish, non-kosher individuals in North America who are gravitating towards kosher products. The evidence is clear as kosher product sales have increased by 15% per year and has become a $200 billion dollar industry.

With statistics like those kosher is definitely a market that we need to take a closer look at. Some of the questions I immediately asked were: who is buying these products, how does a product become kosher certified and what exactly is a kosher product?

First things first – who are these new kosher consumers?

As the general population becomes more health conscious they look for safer, cleaner foods and the kosher certified trademark seems to give consumers a feeling of comfort. Others are moving towards kosher products because of food allergies or dietary restrictions, both religious and otherwise. For example, kosher foods are shellfish free as per the Kashruth allowing consumers with this type of allergy to consume them without any fear of an allergic reaction. Additionally, these foods are safe to consume during Passover and contain no gluten or wheat, meaning gluten-free consumers can safely select these products as well.

And what exactly is a kosher product?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the governing body for food regulations within Canada, states the following in the Guide to Labeling and Advertising:

Kosher, which means “fit” or “proper”, describes foods and practices that are specifically permitted by Jewish dietary laws. Certification that a food is processed in accordance with the requirements of the Kashruth is made by a Rabbi or Rabbinical organization and identified by the appropriate Rabbi or Rabbinical organization symbol.

Finally, how does a product become kosher certified and who regulates this process?

The CFIA provides a list of statements and symbols that manufacturers must not include on their label if they do not have the proper certification; however, they do not govern the certification themselves. Instead, there are a variety of certification agencies around the world that are able to certify products, establishments and caterers as kosher. These agencies employ Rabbis and individuals who are highly trained in modern food processing technology as well as how to uphold the rules of the Kashruth.

To simplify, the kosher certification process includes the following five steps:

  1. Application – Companies fill out an online application form specific to their chosen agency detailing their product, ingredients and suppliers.
  2. Application Review – Experts within the agency review applications to ensure they meet all initial requirements.
  3. Rabbinic Inspection – The agency visits the site and inspects the product and production process.
  4. Contract – If the company meets all requirements a contract between the agency and the company will be signed allowing the company to use the kosher symbol of said agency. (If a company does not meet all the requirements initially but is able to fix any issues identified during the initial inspection they may still be considered for certification).
  5. Letter of Kosher Certification – The kosher certification agency will provide the company with a letter of kosher certification stating that they meet all requirements.

JT blog KosherOngoing inspections occur over time to ensure that the company continues to meet all standards and regulations necessary for a kosher certification.

The largest of all kosher certification agencies in Canada is the Kashruth Council of Canada which is represented by the COR trademark. Their trademark symbol (shown top, right) is widely recognized and trusted both nationally and internationally. Globally however, Orthodox Union is the world leader in kosher certification (trademark shown bottom, right).JT blog Kosher2

As kosher certification demand continues to grow, these agencies are creating more efficient and effective electronic applications and databases for companies. Consumers are now able to visit any one of these sites and have access to a database of all products that are kosher certified – the Orthodox Union has even created a mobile App that consumers can use while on the go.

So should your company become kosher certified?

Phyllis Koegel, Marketing Director, Orthodox Union told attendees at her “Kosher 101” talk at SIAL in 2011 that “kosher certification can give a company a competitive edge in the marketplace” and “cost of kosher certification is minimal when compared to return on investment”. However, even with a growing market, food manufacturers both old and new should carefully consider the pros and cons of kosher certification as it pertains to their company. It’s definitely food for thought.

If you are a food company interested in learning more about kosher certification please contact COR – Kashruth Council of Canada at or feel free to give us here, at Bioenterprise anytime.

Jessica Taylor
Bioenterprise Intern
M.Sc. Candidate, University of Guelph

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Fundraising Is A Means Not An End

Posted on July 05 2013 | Author: Admin

“All that glisters is not gold.” William Shakespeare, The Merchant Of Venice

For many entrepreneurs “raising money” has replaced “building a sustainable business” as their goal. That’s a big mistake. When you take money from investors their business model becomes yours.

One of my ex students came out to the ranch to give me an update on his startup. When I asked, “What are you working on?” the first words out of his mouth was his fund raising progress. Sigh… What I should have been hearing is the search for the business model, specifically the progress on product/market fit, but I hear the fund raising story first at least 90% of the time. It never makes me happy.

Entrepreneurs need to think about 1) when to raise money, 2) why to raise money and 3) who to take money from, 4) the consequences of raising money.

It all starts with understanding what a startup is.

What’s a Startup? Just as a reminder, a startup is a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. It’s worth parsing this sentence:

  • Temporary Organization: The goal of a startup is not to remain a startup. The goal is to scale. (If you don’t have scale as a goal then you shouldn’t be raising money from angel or venture investors, you should be getting a commercial or government small business loan.)
  • Search. Although you believe your idea is the most brilliant innovation ever thought of, the odds are that you are wrong. If you raise millions of dollars on day one, simply executing the idea means you’re going to waste all those dollars attempting to scale a bad idea.
  • Repeatable: Startups may get orders that come from board members’ customer relationships or heroic, single-shot efforts of the CEO. These are great, but they are not repeatable by a sales organization. What you are searching for is not the one-off revenue hits but rather a repeatable pattern that can be replicated by a sales organization selling off a pricelist or by customers coming to your web site.
  • Scalable: The goal is not to get one customer but many – and to get those customers so each additional customer adds incremental revenue and profit. The test is: If you add one more sales person or spend more marketing dollars, does your sales revenue go up by more than your expenses?
  • Business model: A business model answers the basic questions about your entire business: Who are the customers? What problems do they want solved? Does our product or service solve a customer problem (product-market fit)? How do we attract, keep and grow customers? What are revenue strategy and pricing tactics? Who are the partners? What are the resources and activities needed to make this business happen? And what are its costs?

Who to take money from?
First, decide what type of startup you are. If you’re a lifestyle entrepreneur or a small business, odds are the return you can provide is not what traditional angel or venture investors are looking for. These types of startups are better suited to raising money from friends, family, commercial and government small business loans, etc.

If you’re a scalable startup, you want to spend small amounts of money (seed capital) as you run experiments testing your hypotheses. Why small amounts? No startup ever spends less then it raises. And at this early stage you’ll be giving up a larger percentage of your firm to investors. A seed round can come from friends, family, Kickstarter, angels – and most importantly, early customers.

These sources are a lot more forgiving of iterations and pivots than later-stage venture-capital funds.

When to raise money
In a Lean Startup, the goal is to preserve your cash until you find a repeatable and scalable business model. In times of unlimited cash (internet bubbles, frothy venture climates) you can fix your mistakes by burning more dollars. In normal times, when there aren’t dollars to undo mistakes, you use Customer Development to find product-market fit. It’s only after you have found product-market fit (value proposition – customer segment in the language of the business model canvas) that you spend like there is no tomorrow.

Don’t confuse “raising money” with “building a sustainable business.” In a perfect world, you would never need investors and would fund the company from customer revenue. But to achieve scale, startups need risk capital.

Raise as much money as you can after you have tangible evidence you have product/market fit, not before.

The consequences of raising venture money
The day you raise money from a venture investor, you’ve also just agreed to their business model.

Here’s a simple test: If you’re the founder of a startup, go to a whiteboard and diagram how a VC fund works. How do the fund and the partners make money? What is an IRR? How long is a fund’s life? How much will they invest in the life of your company? How much do they need to own at a liquidity event? What’s a win for them? Why?

There are two reasons to take venture money. The first is to scale like there is no tomorrow. You invest the dollars to create end-user demand and drive those customers into your sales channel.

The second is the experience, pattern recognition and contacts that great investors bring to the table.

Just make sure it’s the right time.

Lessons Learned

  • Fund raising is a means not an end
  • Preserve your cash until you find a repeatable and scalable business model
  • Focus on product – market fit
  • Run small experiments testing your hypotheses
  • Raise as much money as you can after you have tangible evidence you have product/market fit

By Steve Blank from

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Innovation and Commercialization Part 2 of 4

Posted on June 27 2013 | Author: Carol Culhane

Create, Adopt or Adapt
Cultures evolve and are transformed by the curiosity and dedication of only a few individuals. Game-changing inventions – the type that alter lives and life-patterns forever – can be attributed to a finite number of people. The remaining members of society are either early adopters or adapters. An essential part of every product life cycle, early adopters are those who are first to use a new technology, buy the latest fashions, try a new flavour. Adapters emerge later, coerced into aligning with forces around them, either because adherence to methods of the past is awkward or obsolete.

The Psychology of Creativity
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – a “less well-known but probably one of the most serious management scholars of recent times” – in his widely-quoted thesis Creativity - Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention¹ describes creativity as “the attempt to expand the boundaries of a domain”. Mihaly has identified four major internal, yet surmountable obstacles to the creative process: too many demands; too many distractions from psychic energy; laziness, or lack of discipline; and, not knowing how to channel one’s creative energy.
Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein dealt with the first two obstacles in a similar manner: Einstein wore the same old sweater and baggy trousers every day; Jobs stocked his wardrobe with one colour-black. Each iconic inventor found the decision of what to wear each day - an example of what Mihaly calls “the wear and tear of existence” - a taxing drain on their creative reserves.
Laziness or lack of discipline can be overcome through increasing complexity of the task, keeping the mind engaged and curious. Creative energy can be harnessed by taking up a hobby: learn to draw; play a musical instrument, bridge or chess; or, cook like a gourmand. Mihaly claims that by internalizing and mastering the “system” – rules, rewards and rationale – of a non-essential domain, the human mind experiences a freedom within which to explore various pathways to stated goals, and transfers this skill set to other tasks.

Fascination with the Everyday
A recently-released BBC documentary, Isaac Newton: The Last Magician reveals a curious, systematic mind and disciplined nature exemplary of the requirements observed and advocated by Mihaly. Newton was interested in practical problems (alleviation of flatulence: steep horse dung in ale, express juices, drink), kept meticulous notes (confessed to the sins of “making pies on a Sunday night” or “punching my sister”) and like many over- achievers, never felt that he had finished anything, nor had solved a problem for all time. Lastly, no apple fell on his head.

Tenacity and Famous Failures
One particular trait of most of the world’s most famous creators, inventors and leaders was pig-headedness, as they trudged and trail-blazed to the success(es) for which they are known. Michael Michalko – an acclaimed creativity expert with an approach different than that of the academic Mihaly – refers to the 10 famous failures - 10 dreams fulfilled. Among them, Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling and from the food industry, Colonel Sanders:

The failure: Despite having the now-famous fried chicken recipe, he was rejected 1008 times before a restaurant took it in. 1008! Oh and he also went to all 1009 restaurants on his own by driving his van and sleeping in it.
The success: You see it yourself today. KFC is a worldwide brand in the fast food industry and the finger-licking good chicken is here to stay.

The Creative, Tenacious Entrepreneur
Entrepreneurs “expand the boundaries of a domain”. As creative as artists, they develop something new and tenaciously overcome and resist doubting dissenters. Moreover, they believe in the ability of their undertakings to change part of the present into a positive, promising future.

¹ISBN 0-06-017133-2

Carol T. Culhane, PHEc, MBA
President, International Food Focus Ltd.
Bioenterprise Regulatory Advisor

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A Brand is the Consumer’s Reaction

Posted on June 12 2013 | Author: Jennifer Kalanda

Understanding your company’s brand can seem daunting, but it’s very important and can mean a greater competitive advantage.

Defining your business and your customer is crucial.
If your company has entered the market, branding has already begun whether it is intended or not. How so? Simply that your company’s brand is the perception received by its market. It’s your promise to the customer and it is crucial that those promises are kept. Ensure you are confident about why you’re in business and that your message is loud and clear. Your passion for what you do will help to define your brand and your relationships. Similar to any relationship in life, the relationship with your customer is no different; it’s built on the foundation of trust. Trust helps create and reinforce a positive perception and it must be earned through the ability to successfully meet expectations with every interaction.

A brand is the consumer’s reaction to the products and promises.
The brand of a company is only as strong as the community that supports it. As Wayne Roberts, President of Blade Creative Branding explained at a RIC Centre workshop, those relationships become the community around your brand and ultimately create brand ambassadors. Your ambassadors, the satisfied customers may or may not refer future business right to your company’s front door, but their positive perception of the company is accessible.

Customers are unforgiving if the trust is broken.
Positive perceptions and satisfied customers are imperative in today’s world where social media is at everyone’s fingertips. That rule where 'the average unhappy customer tells 10 people about a bad experience and only tells 1 person about a good experience' is archaic. Between Facebook, YouTube and Twitter alone, an irate customer can now tell hundreds or even millions of people about their bad experience in just 140 characters. Dave Caroll wrote a song and created a video about United Airlines breaking his guitar. To date, the video has been viewed more that 13 millions times. The chorus of his song summarized his experience and communicated his perception of a United Airlines brand. Manage your brand and media reputation through social media monitoring and Google Alerts; be sure to respond quickly.

Promote your accomplishments.
Create trust and confidence in your brand by aligning with other established entities. Canada Brand for example, was designed specifically to promote trust in Canadian products in both domestic and international markets. Canada Brand gives Canadian products a competitive edge by forming an emotional bond with consumers and provides a strong identity that is readily recognized.
Watch out for the opportunity to apply for awards. Winning an award is a positive way to establish credibility and a great opportunity to identify your brand with that of the award.

It’s important to remember that to the consumer, a brand is both tangible and intangible. The intangible aspects of branding are arguably more important. The good news is this doesn’t cost millions, but your customer is ultimately the one who decides what your brand is.

Jennifer Kalanda
Events Coordinator

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Comment - Innovation and Food Safety

Posted on June 07 2013 | Author: Admin

Innovation and Food Safety – as Good Together as Peanut Butter and Chocolate

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of meeting with John Russell, a representative for an innovative company, AquaLab. John talked to us at thefoodlawyer about some really interesting technology the company has developed for use in (among others) the food space.

Chatting with John served as an important reminder: We tend to think about food in the context of the people who make it (farmers, producers, etc.), people who sell it (supermarkets, restaurants, etc.) and people who regulate it (Health Canada). When it comes to innovation in the food industry (a favourite of ours!), it’s often companies outside the traditional food space that really move the needle.

AquaLab is one such company.

Regular readers of thefoodlawyer know that we are especially keen on developments in food safety and food stability. So it shouldn’t surprise you that we were very excited to meet with John and learn about AquaLab’s impressive technology, which can be used to improve both food safety and food quality.

AquaLab has several products which are able to accurately measure the water activity of various foods. If you don’t know what water activity is, don’t worry – neither did we until we met with John!

As John described it, water activity is a measure of the energy status of water in a system. Among other things, water activity can tell us whether a powder will cake or clump, whether water will flow from one ingredient to another, and whether bacteria are able to survive and thrive in a particular environment. In the food space it is predominantly useful in connection with:

Product Safety: For over a half century we’ve known that bacterial growth in food is correlated with water activity. By measuring the water activity of products, industry can learn what sort of bacteria, molds, or fungi will grow in any given product. Better yet, by reducing the water activity of a product, you can rule out the growth of certain (or all) classes of microbes. It shouldn’t be too surprising, then, that Health Canada relies on water activity as a standard for categorizing and evaluating many different types of food products.

Product Quality: Since water activity determines whether water will flow from one ingredient to another, recipes can be fine-tuned in order to ensure that each component of a product maintains its most desirable moistness. For example, suppose you make a cupcake: one part cake and the other icing. Big concern for the cupcake industry: how can it ensure that the tiny, delicious tidbit of sweetness maintains its moistness as it sits on the shelf waiting to be eaten? If the manufacturer formulates its product with water activity in mind, it will know how to limit the transfer of moisture from the delicious cake to the sugary, sweet icing.

Thus, being aware of water activity measurement can significantly improve industry’s ability to keep moist foods moist, and crunchy foods crunchy (who wants soggy cereal?!?) In addition, water activity measuring instruments are friends to industry because they can assist in reducing costs (and who doesn’t love that??).

Lower Risk: Since water activity testing can be used to limit bacterial growth, companies can reduce the possibility that their products are contaminated either during production or once they are sitting on the shelves. Anything that helps a company avoid a product recall is good news in our books!

Reduced Costs: Testing water activity can have a direct impact on a food company’s bottom line too. For instance, it can be used during production processes to avoid wastage: suppose a recipe requires a certain moisture level for the finished product. Think dog food – it needs to be crunchy. By testing the water activity of the ingredients at intermediate stages in the processing, a dog food manufacturer may discover that it doesn’t need to dry its food for as long as it may have thought, therefore savings costs associated with potential ‘over drying’ while still getting the pooch’s food just right. Second, water activity testing at intermediate stages can ensure that a finished product will have the desired moisture content, avoiding the costly expense of making mistakes (read: throwing out imperfect product).

Greater Market Share: Better tasting food sells more, right? So if a company can ensure that its cupcake stays the freshest the longest, it can frost the competition (sorry, we couldn’t resist!). Another way to drive sales is to feed into the “natural food” movement du jour, and limit the amount of additives and/or preservatives in foods. Water activity testing helps companies limit the need for extra ingredients in foods.

Isn’t this all really cool?

Our meeting with John reinforced just how important and interesting innovation in the food space is. The ability to leverage new technology to stay competitive as a food producer or manufacturer is integral to continued success and anything that can boost food safety can only be a good thing.

Thanks John for spending some time with us at thefoodlawyer. We look forward to hearing about more innovation from AquaLab in the years to come!

By Sara Zborovski at

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TEAM = Together Everyone Achieves More!

Posted on May 07 2013 | Author: Laura Millson

It is one thing to create a team, but quite another to create teamwork.
Although there are several ways to define teamwork I prefer the French term “esprit de corps” which means “a sense of unity, of enthusiasm for common interests and responsibilities.”  It captures not only the idea of working together, but doing so in a way that everyone is inspired and supported by those around them.

Laura Blog“A team, it’s not just a group of individuals who work at the same location or have the same logo on their business card. A real team is made up of people who may be unequal in experience, talent or education, but who are equal in their commitment to working together to achieve the goals and good of the organization, each other and their customers.” (Or in the case of Bioenterprise our “entrepreneurs)                 ~Patricia Fripp, The Genius of Teamwork

This motivated me to focus my blog on complimenting the creative and insightful team that surround and inspire me on a daily basis here at Bioenterprise.

I have had the pleasure to contribute in various business environments where teamwork is a proven and essential part of the company’s success. In each case a team comes together when individual strengths and skills are combined focusing on a common goal or direction. It has been said that teamwork is the “glue” that keeps employees together by promoting strength, reliability and support. It is also the “oil” that allows a team to work smoothly towards targets, maintain momentum and overcome obstacles.
At Bioenterprise, we thrive to support entrepreneurs to excel as they commercialize their agri-tech innovations and take pride in the work we do providing counsel and support, guiding them towards successful beginnings and working collaboratively with them.

Through our experience ideas are better implemented with a support team in place. It should include people to help you engineer your idea, a mentor to coach you along the way and a business partner with complimentary skill sets.

I read a brilliant book we recommend to entrepreneurs “The Art of the Start”, by Guy Kawasaki.

Kawasaki says, “Successful companies are started and made successful by at least two, and usually more “soul mates”. After the fact, one person may be recognized as the innovator, but it always takes a team of good people to make any venture work.”

To help a team be effective here are some suggested guidelines:

  • Set and communicate goals - this gets everyone on the same page and provides a guide of what is to be done.
  • Measure progress - goals only work if the progress is measured.
  • Establish a single point of accountability - good people accept accountability; great people ask for it, so establish it a person held accountable is motivated to succeed.
  • Reward achievers - they are the ones that deliver.

But there is more -- teamwork suggests that people work in an atmosphere of mutual support and trust.   It should also foster an increasing maturity of relationship, where people are free to disagree constructively, and where both support and challenge are a part of helping teams work.

When teamwork is in place you tend to see:

  • everybody pulling their weight;
  • everyone pulling in the same direction;
  • depending on your colleagues to deliver what they said;
  • getting help when it’s needed;
  • sharing an exciting vision of the future; and
  • co-operation and blending of each others strengths.

So I think it is safe to say that teamwork is a group of people working together, creating a great spirit and working atmosphere, and supporting each other so that their strengths combine to enhance what they do. That is what I enjoy everyday!

Laura Millson
Entrepreneur Services and Office Operations Coordinator

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Due Diligence: Checking for Your Entrepreneurial Blind Spots

Posted on April 10 2013 | Author: Doug Knox

The term “due diligence” conjures up images of bankers, investment analysts, regulatory and tax investigators who dig through volumes of documents in order to “discover” the good, the bad, and potentially the ugly or illegal “truth” about the workings of a company. In fact, for the Entrepreneur, the term should be a guidepost for what needs to be researched and confirmed before attempting to bring a new product or service to a consuming public.

There are some common assumptions made by entrepreneurs that become “blind spots” that can disrupt the plan and progress of a new or evolving company. Some indicators of potential blind spots are in statements made by the Entrepreneur. These are starting points for due diligence on the validity of the statement. Here are a few representations with some of the actions the entrepreneur should cover to validate the assumption.

“Nothing like it in the market”:
This immediately raises the questions – “What is it?” and “Why is there nothing like it?”
If it is truly innovative, the discovery activity should focus on:

  • How does it work? What makes it so unique?
  • Does it address a market need?
  • What is similar in the market segment or some other market?
  • What will it replace that is serving the market currently?
  • Are there similar products in other parts of a global market?

“There are no competitors”
This assertion typically follows the assumption above. Believing the product or service is absolutely unique puts the blinders on when looking at the market to be entered. In general, a skilled analyst will find a perceived competitor in as little as 5 and 15 minutes. The entrepreneur then has to attempt to justify the statement or concede an error in perception.
In fact, identifying competitors does a number of things for the program:

  • It validates the perception that there is a market.
  • It assists in establishing the market size and market value.
  • It assists in identifying market niches and targets.
  • It provides a measure of the scope and breadth of the market beyond the local region.

“Everybody will see the benefits of this product”
The perception of value in all aspects of an individual’s life is formed by understanding, experience and education. Perception cannot be negotiated. As a result, a product or service entering the market needs to take advantage of the “prior art” in the commercial space.
To that end, the product should be perceived as:

  • An enhanced market offering to sustain a market edge
  • A replacement of existing products to take a market lead
  • A novel offering in an existing market to “push the envelope”

On the other hand, there may be a requirement for significant effort in educating the potential market if the offering is perceived as:

  • A market disrupter making an advancement that could not have been foreseen
  • A paradigm shift that creates an entirely new market definition

Regardless, education takes time and money!

“This premium product will get a premium price”
An understanding of the pricing strategies in the target market is critical to a successful market entry. There are a couple of comparisons that could be made among the competitors in the market.

  • Price / performance
  • Price / benefit
  • Price / durability or product life

If the differentiation between the existing offerings and the new offering is strong, perhaps a premium price can be achieved.

“There’s a huge global market”
Identification of markets for a product around the globe involves a considerable effort. The research must first decide how to define the global regions. This partitioning can be different for various products or services. Here are some of the possible regional definitions:

  • Canada East / West
  • USA East / West
  • North America including Mexico
  • South America
  • Europe Western / Eastern
  • Middle East
  • Africa
  • Australasia
  • Southeast Asia
  • India
  • China
  • Pacific Rim

Once identified, the research should attempt to size the market in each region. Sizing should be in terms of volume and revenue.The real issue is the strategy to address a global market or any market beyond the local market.
Market access in each region and its ability to support the pricing and cost structure will be the limiting factors. The cost of entry and the time to develop the sales base often eliminate regions from a plan.

“We have proven it in the lab”
This is a deadly assumption where processing technologies are required to produce the product. The controlled environment of the lab and the very precise application of weights and measures to the development can mask the pitfalls of scaling a process to commercial levels. Typical of the issues are:

  • The precision of the weights and measures when increased to several hundred or thousand times the lab input
  • The control of the quality and consistency of the input
  • The monitoring and control of the processing technology as the volumes increase
  • The impact of the cost of the commercial scale equipment on the pricing of the product.

Mitigating these issues is the role played by organizations that specialize in providing “pilot plant and process” facilities and services to optimize the scale up.

Due diligence is a vital activity in the development of a company’s strategic plan. It is worth the effort and the time to seek the resources that are available to assist in providing information to complete your research. Look to your local innovation and business development centres for early advice.

Doug Knox
VP Technology

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Innovation & Commercialization Part 1 of 4

Posted on March 27 2013 | Author: Carol Culhane

“To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” Theologian John Henry Newman (1801-1890); a similar variation is widely attributed to Winston Churchill (1874-1953).

The Ubiquity of the Word “Innovation”
It’s everywhere. Publicly-funded agencies are dedicated to it. Newly-formed businesses spin it into a corporate name. Training seminars and university courses are mandated to teach it. Organizations of every description are warned to do it or die. The word “innovation” is bandied around much like the word ‘strategy’ was treated during the 1980’s - with hefty investment of scarce resources dedicated to the concept, yet, without definition, established criteria, and, objective means of measurement.

…What is it?
An objective, comprehensive, tested-and-true characterization hails from the authoritative OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, author of Oslo Manual for measuring innovation), which defines four types of innovation - product, process, marketing and organizational:

Carol Blog pic1

Lessons from the Past; Examples for the Future
“Best is the enemy of Good Enough”
The first model need not be perfect, or complete.
The Blackberry® has undergone several improvements since first launched as a wireless email pager in 1999. Blackberry Inc. (formerly RIM) took a page from the tin can. The steel can patent of 1810 preceded the first canning factory of 1813. Filling rate was automated and increased 10 fold, to 60 cans per hour, in 1846. The first can opener was patented in 1858, almost 50 years after the tin can patent. The Arctic was explored by men carrying cans of food to be opened with a hammer and chisel.
“Necessity is the Mother of Invention”
Fulfillment of consumer need and marketing pull will sustain and perpetuate commercialization.
In 1863, London England was a global political, financial and trading centre, with 3 million citizens and limited transportation options. The automobile had not yet been invented. The Underground aka “the tube” - a network of tunnels, tracks and trains - was developed “to keep the congested city moving”, forever changing public transportation in every major metropolis of the world. In fulfillment of consumer requirements, Summer Olympics’ demands, and to mark the tube’s 150th anniversary, wifi coverage is available at selected stations as of June 2012.

Safety of Tradition; Risk of Innovation
Who is cradling tradition? Who is not threatened by the complexity of the modern world but rather, invigorated and enriched by it? Which organizations have the necessary degree of self-appraisal to thrive? What is required to operate in a context of challenging uncertainty? Where is the talent to anticipate consumer needs and identify solutions?

Subsequent Editions of Food Fax®
Over the course of the year Food Fax® will report on the defining characteristics of successful and game-changing innovations, such as: the daily rituals, mindset and tenacity of classic inventors, and, the role of technology in commercializing ideas.

Carol T. Culhane, PHEc, MBA
President, International Food Focus Ltd.
Bioenterprise Regulatory Advisor

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Business Planning

Posted on March 13 2013 | Author: Tom Dowler

Image in Toms BlogBusiness planning…this can be an all-consuming undertaking for any company. It can take up significant time and resources, both of which are scarce commodities for small companies. Your company already expends maximum effort to managing critical functions for its business activities, such as sales & marketing, manufacturing, and business development.

However, a functioning business plan is critical for charting the direction of a company, activities the aforementioned “scarce commodities” will be directed towards and of course, raising money from public and private sources.

Here are some tips and guides to getting started.

  • Determine who the business plan will be written for. Is the intended use for internal strategic direction or will it explain to potential investors or funders the direction of the company and why it is worthy of investment?
  • Understand how each section will be approached. There are plenty of templates out there, the general sections included in each focusing on (i) how your business came to be and the commercial purpose it will serve, (ii) the products or services you will be selling, as well as further development required to bring product to market, (iii) the technology platform that makes your company unique (iv) the state and trends of the markets your product may be directed towards, (v) the model by which you will moving your product to customers, and of course, (vi) corporate and financial sections. A strong knowledge of each of these focuses helps shape and articulate your value proposition, important in moving your business in the right direction and finding that “low-hanging fruit” you keep hearing about.
  • Supplement your knowledge in sections of weakness. When contemplating your approach, it will be apparent which sections are areas of strength and which are areas of weakness for your company. Areas of weakness should be more difficult to frame, so determine how your knowledge may be supplemented through research, advice from partners or other sources of assistance you identify.
  • Dig in and get writing! There will likely be numerous drafts and iterations over the course of business plan development but getting started is often the toughest part.

Be aware that writing a business plan requires a great deal of time but will uncover new opportunities and strategies not yet considered and in the long-term, will be one of the more valuable activities you undertake as a business.

Tom Dowler
Senior Business Analyst

Image credit: David Castillo Dominici /

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2nd Generation Bio-products in Real Life

Posted on February 27 2013 | Author: Braden Kemp

Think second generation bio-products are only found in the lab? Think again.

Here’s a list of five ways you might have used bio-products before you even get to work in the morning:

1. Roofing
The roof that’s keeping the rain & snow out of the living room just might be made from a mix of cellulosic fibre and recycled materials like the products offered by Enviroshake. These products replace petroleum and tar based traditional roofing materials.

2. Insulation
It’s February in Canada, but nice and warm inside. That’s because your house is insulated – did you know that companies like Biobased Insulation offer GREENGAURD certified spray foam insulation?

3. Consumer Packaging
Time to get ready for work – shower, brush your teeth, etc. Even these daily tasks can involve bio-products! Companies in the Health and Beauty industry such as Colgate-Palmolive, Lush, and others are utilizing plant-based and post-consumer recycled materials in their products & packaging in an effort to reduce the global reliance on petroleum-based plastics.

4. Flooring
That new floor you recently had installed might be just as good for the environment as it looks in your kitchen. Companies such as Armstrong Tile are introducing flooring products that are manufactured using bio-based polymers from plant material.

5. Automobiles
If you’re anything like much of the Canadian workforce you commute to work in a car. What you might not know is that several integral components of your car are in fact bio-based! Seats, dashboards, and door panels are only some of the applications for bio-based composites in the automotive market.

These are some of the many ways that second generation bio-products are beginning to become mainstream – keep an eye out for bio-based materials next time you’re at the shopping centre.

Braden Kemp
Bioenterprise Corporation

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Kudos to the Harper Government's Position on Venture Capital

Posted on February 13 2013 | Author: Dave Smardon

Back in the spring of 2012, Harper’s announced budget included a provision of up to $400 million in funding; funding that was to bolster the Canadian venture capital community. Since that announcement, things went terribly quiet over the summer and fall. Many of us were left anxiously awaiting the federal government’s follow on announcement as to exactly how this money was to be allocated. It turns out that the government did its homework over the summer. They contracted Mr. Sam Duboc, a well respected venture capitalist in Toronto and the founder of Edgestone Capital, to review thImage in Daves Bloge state-of-the-nation within the investment community and to subsequently make recommendations on how to best utilize the $400 million.

Mr. Duboc presided over numerous “think tanks” that were held across the country. In attendance were venture capitalists, fund-of-fund investors, private equity players and financial institutions. While the process has taken much longer than any of us expected, the recommendations were recently announced.

Without going into too much detail, the $400 million is to be dispersed across four basic areas. They are:

  1. Support for two National Fund-of–Funds organizations that will ultimately support both the creation of new and capitalization of existing, venture capital firms.
  2. Support for existing provincial fund-of-funds organizations provided they become national in scope. This in effect removes many of the strings that provinces typically require of investors, such as investing capital only in their provinces.
  3. Direct investment in a small number of leading venture capital firms to help attract new investment to these firms and to Canada
  4. Support for the venture infrastructure industry, which would include organizations such as incubators, accelerators and angel groups.

To build a sustainable venture industry will take time and much more than $400 million. But as a catalyst, this capital should help attract at least three to five times that amount into the Canadian investment sector. To build a sustainable venture industry, will take time and this is a great start.

While devil is always in the details, congratulations to Sam Duboc for keeping the implementation of these new programs under the management of the private sector and kudos to the Harper government for doing this right, allowing industry to fix the problem?

Click here for more infomation about the Prime Minister's announcement regarding the plan to strengthen venture capital investment in Canada.

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Food Trends 2013: What’s in, what’s out, what’s next?

Posted on January 22 2013 | Author: Jessica Bowes

Food industry experts have weighed in on what foods are growing in popularity, what items have been moved to the back burner, and what the next big thing is for 2013.

Here is a brief forecast based on online reports/articles from food processing, food service, and culinary sectors.

What’s in?

Who, what, where: The local food movement is still going strong, as consumers continue to look to farmers markets and street vendors for seasonal goodies. Consumers are also still looking for transparency with the foods they eat.

Golden grain of the Incas: The United Nations officially announced 2013 the International Year of the Quinoa, a designation that’s meant to “focus world attention on the role that quinoa’s biodiversity and nutritional value plays in providing food security and nutrition,” - as noted on the UN’s website.

Dairy alternatives: According to The Test Kitchen Inc., we will see a greater variety of cheese, yogurt and cream products made from dairy other than cow’s milk. Companies like Woolwich Dairy are already producing products like goat milk-based gelato and goat cheese-based salad dressings.

Fruit hybrids: Growers continue to look for new fruit genetic crosses that provide specific flavour and texture characteristics of our favourite nutritious snacks. Recently developed examples include, the Papple (an apple-pear cross), the Pleurry (a plum-cherry cross), and the Nectoplum (a nectarine-plum cross).

What’s out?

Food wasting: According to Sylvain Charlebois, economics professor at the University of Guelph, Canadian households waste 38% of their food purchased in stores and restaurants. Consumers need to adopt better shopping practices and use leftovers in creative ways. suggests that this is an excellent opportunity for companies to help consumers better manage their food purchases and cooking habits.

What’s next?

Meatless proteins: As food prices for protein commodities increase and our population shifts to a more diverse ethnic mix, we can expect to see meatless proteins gain popularity. Thanks to increased awareness and consumption of vegetarian and vegan meals, eggs, nut butters, tofu, beans, and legumes will all be of interest.

Greek yogurt beyond the fridge: Building on last year’s popularity of Greek yogurt, consumers can expect to see new products using it as a base for dressings, dips, sauces, and smoothies.

Sea veggies: Popular in Japanese diets, highly nutritious sea vegetables are making waves as new food ingredients, particularly in snacks and side dishes. Kelp, kombu, hijiki and nori are all examples.

Tech savvy shoppers: According to The Food Marketing Institute, 52% of consumers are using technology while grocery shopping and 32% are using mobile technology to make shopping lists, find recipes or research and review products. Consumers will continue to use social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest to categorize and share their food-related experiences with the world. Apps are being developed that utilize sensors, which attach to the mobile device, to test whether foods are actually organic, have specific allergens or ingredients, and can be used as glucose monitors for diabetics. Phil Lempert, the US’s “Supermarket Guru”, predicts that this next generation of apps will expand to include apps that can determine if fruits and vegetables are ripe, if refrigerated and frozen foods have been kept at the correct temperature throughout the supply chain, and even test for foodborne bacteria.

The trends listed here are merely a sampling of items from the ongoing discussion.

Jessica Bowes
Senior Business Analyst, Food Nutrition & Health

Image credit: Thinkstock

Related articles:

Food Navigator Trend Spotting Gallery: What’s Hot and What’s Not as we Head Into 2013.
Phil Lempert The Top 10 Food Trend Predictions for 2013
Innova Market Insights Top Trends for 2013
NPR On Your Plate in 2013: Expect Kimchi and Good-for-you Greens
Chicago Tribune 2013 Food Trends: What’s the Buzz in Food
The Test Kitchen Inc. Topline Trends

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Posted on 2013.02.25 | Author: Jessica posted an interesting article on food wasting back in January. The statistics suggest there is a market for a product/technology/service to significantly reduce the amount of food wasted each year or use it as a feedstock for something else; ultimately reducing the environmental consequences of letting food go to waste. You can read the article at the link below.

Conference Review: Agri Innovation Forum

Posted on January 03 2013 | Author: Jennifer Kalanda

In December, Bioenterprise represented the Agri-Technology Commercialization Centre at the Agri Innovation Forum in Calgary, AB. The Agri Innovation Forum is dedicated to showcasing the highest potential emerging, growth stage, and established agri-businesses. The event was well attended and brought together corporate strategics and active institutional and private investors with entrepreneurs and commercialization professionals.

The conference hosted several panel discussions from venture capitals, corporations and industry leaders as well as allocating ample networking opportunities for the very outgoing audience of delegates. The two-day event also showcased 13 quality company presentations who were prime for investment.

The conference opened with an introduction to the investors who identified what they look for in investment opportunities as well what entrepreneurs need to be aware of when seeking funding. Patrick Morand, President of Open Prairie Ventures followed this panel with a keynote presentation about investing in agri-businesses from the venture capital’s perspective. The session titled “Selling to Bunge Ltd” was very interesting as it provided insight into what can be a lengthy and difficult process. Miguel Angelo Oliveira, Executive Director, Global Innovations from Bunge Ltd. offered valuable recommendations for companies looking to sell to a large corporate strategic. He explained to the delegates that you have to find YOUR champion within the corporation; your champion of the change and the innovative technology. Reaching out to the right person will ensure you have someone committed to seeing the deal through the complicated processes of the large corporation.

The second day of the conference began with an industry and investor panel, which addressed industry trends and how they navigate through the growing landscape of opportunities. An insightful discussion held by corporate strategics followed, who elaborated on the venture capital market and how they develop strong portfolios of investments. Finally Dion Madsen, Co-Founder & Partner of Physic Ventures closed the conference with his keynote address about the future of food, the innovation that needs to happen and why failure is not an option.

Please visit our Events Page for a list of upcoming industry related conferences.

Jennifer Kalanda
Events Coordinator

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3 Critical Elements of an Investor Pitch

Posted on December 17 2012 | Author: Admin

The 10 minutes or so an entrepreneur has to pitch an investor can often make or break the future of the startup. When the encounter goes well, millions of dollars in financing can propel an idea into a successful reality. But, more often than not, entrepreneurs don't nail the pitch.3 Critical Elements of an Investor Pitch

The investors at New York City-based venture capital firm FirstMark Capital, for example, receive more than 1,000 inquiries from entrepreneurs each year. They meet with only a couple hundred hopefuls, and it can be clear within the first few minutes if an investment is worthwhile or not.

FirstMark founder and managing director Lawrence Lenihan and his team have seeded star companies such as the social-sharing site Pinterest, online ticket marketplace StubHub, and e-commerce platform Shopify. We sat down with Lenihan to find out what he finds most important in a pitch. Beyond having a strong business model, here are the three elements he considers most crucial:

1. Know the investment firm.
If you want to get on the radar of an investor, you'll want to know something about the person and what his or her interests are. "Because if you don't … I lose interest immediately," Lenihan says.

Venture capital firms, and sometimes angel investors, have areas of expertise or a theme in their investment patterns. Making sure your company fits that theme is key to your pitch.

2. Know your numbers, and listen carefully.
Aspiring entrepreneurs must know the key financial drivers of their business. If a founder has to "get back to you" on revenue figures, it's a red flag, Lenihan says.

But they must also listen carefully when an investor challenges those numbers. "If I tell you I don't buy your model, I wouldn't expect you to say 'Oh, OK, you're right, let me go start over,' but I do expect a conversation," he says. Oftentimes, founders answer questions by repeating parts of their prepared presentation, unable to adapt or admit any areas for improvement.

3. Show why are you excited.
In other words, why is your company the greatest thing you could be spending your time on? "It's amazing how many people come in presenting their business in an almost clinical way," Lenihan says. "You don't want to be bouncing off the walls, but you want to be able to explain why this is an enormous opportunity you actually care about, with real concrete and tangible reasons."

It's about creating a personal connection with the investor. While it's important to identify a market poised for growth, to solve a pain point and articulate a customer acquisition strategy, investors want to work with people they like. The human side of a pitch meeting can be as important as the idea and the supporting data, Lenihan says.

By Julie Cohn from
Image credit: Shutterstock

The Agri-Technology Commercialization Centre receives funding under the Growing Forward suite of programming, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. However, the comments or opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Government of Canada or the Province of Ontario.

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Posted on 2013.04.06 | Author: patrik

Wow! I am impressed!!

Conference Review: AgReturn Global Investments

Posted on November 29 2012 | Author: Jennifer Kalanda

Earlier this month, Bioenterprise attended the AgReturn Global Investments conference in Chicago, Il. The conference was attended by delegates from agriculture and investment communities, who gathered to discuss investment opportunities and provide a deepened knowledge of the sector.

The conference allocated ample networking opportunities for the intimate attendance, which included 50 speakers from top multinationals, private equity, venture capital firms and entrepreneurs.

Over the course of two days the delegates witnessed a variety of credible presentations that provided a comprehensive look at agriculture as an asset class with opportunities ranging from farmland to food and technology.

Solera Capital who purchased Annie’s Inc. in 2002 opened the conference with a discussion about taking the company public earlier this year; sharing strategies and obstacles. This panel was followed with informative discussions on the soft commodities market, innovations in seed and crop protections and strategies on agriculture investing by investors from institutions, family offices and endowments. Policy related issues and scarcity-driven opportunities in farmland and water were also discussed. The second day of the conference opened with a keynote from Bill Buckner, President & CEO of the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation who addressed the importance and demand for investment in agriculture. Buckner was followed by a panel of investors who looked at the key drivers for investment in ag. Panelist, Dan Broderick, President of Global AgTech Investors Network acknowledged the innovation and opportunities taking place here in Canada, as well as mentioning Bioenterprise as a driver of such. Other panels and discussions reviewed the role M&A has played in the sector, strategies for responsible investing, as well as opportunities for investment in Asia and Africa.

Bioenterprise is proud to attend the Agri Innovation Forum in Calgary as sponsor with the Agri Technology Commercialization Centre.  See you there!

Jennifer Kalanda
Events Coordinator

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Tips About Access to Government Funding

Posted on November 19 2012 | Author: Admin

Tips about access to government funding with Dan Mathers (MaRS IAF), Stuart McKeen (FedDev Ontario) and Alex Hodgson (1DegreeBio)

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Jim Rogers on Investing in Agriculture Commodities

Posted on October 18 2012 | Author: Admin

Jim Rogers talks about investing in agriculture commodities with CNBC and says "We should all become farmers".

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Keep it Lean

Posted on September 28 2012 | Author: Braden Kemp

Make sure your solution has a problem

Entrepreneurs are often the most intelligent, creative, and gutsy individuals out there – but even the best and brightest have a hard time guessing what the market wants.

Case-in-point: Segway. The founding team at Segway was made up of incredibly brilliant individuals and was backed by some heavy hitters in the venture capital space. They truly believed that their idea would revolutionize urban transportation. So, after collecting over $100 million in funding they set about the stealth development of the next big thing.

What happened? Well, not much. We still drive cars to work, or take the bus, train, subway, or bicycle. The original vision flopped – and it cost a lot of money. They’ve found their market now, but was it a lesson that was really worth a hundred million?

Today’s startups are becoming highly successful very quickly, and with less money than ever before. How?

Among (many) other things, the lean concepts of people like E. Ries, A.Osterwalder, S.Blank and A. Maurya are creating a movement of small, agile, and intelligent startup teams. These teams understand a key concept: don’t build it until you are as certain as possible that people actually want it, and are willing to pay you for it.

Here is a list of tips that have been synthesized from a variety of authorities on agile/lean development:

  1. Start with a market need
    • What is the problem? Who has it? Why do they have it? How many of these people are there? Remember, you are making assumptions here.
  2. Develop an initial business model based on your assumptions
  3. Test your assumptions
    • You have made a bunch of guesses – now it’s time to see how wrong you are.
    • Get out of the building! Talk to 10 (or 20, even 100) real people about the problem you think they have. Is it truly a problem? What are they doing now to solve it?
  4. Develop a product vision
    • Now you understand the problem – how will you solve it?
    • Test your vision “If I could solve your problem with this…”
    • Learn from the customer’s feedback – be ready to pivot

Once your product vision has positive traction in your market, along with commitments (or enthusiasm, at the very least) to purchase it’s time to build out the Minimum Viable Product.

The road is still fraught with risk – but at least you know you don’t have a solution without a problem.

Braden Kemp
Bioenterprise Corporation

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Innovation Fridays: AgDay: Monsanto's New FieldScripts Product

Posted on September 07 2012 | Author: Admin

Monsanto is taking precision planting to the next level with its new FieldScripts integrated farming system.

Monsanto’s recent purchase of Precision Planting is leading to a system that will produce the perfect planting environment for today’s high-value seed, according to Gregg Sauder, CEO of Precision Planting. The first product being launched in the system is FieldScripts.

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Would your company still operate if you fired yourself?

Posted on August 30 2012 | Author: Admin

fire yourself

Take a look at your business. If you fired yourself right now, would your company still operate as normal? Have you created systems in your company that allow you to remove yourself from the equation and still have a fully functional business?

Notice that the key word here is operate.

A business that operates on its own not only gives you more free time to do what you want (lifestyle business), but it also allows you to focus on growing the company.

Furthermore, a self-operating business positions an entrepreneur to grow the company intelligently - instead of hiring more people because there’s too much work to do, an entrepreneur can hire more people when it’s time to scale.

These are the steps I take to remove myself from the equation.

Step 1: Dive in head first

Do not build systems until you’ve done the work yourself. Managing a project is completely different from executing on the project as there are always unexpected obstacles along the way of completing a task. It’s therefore important to dive head first into the task before you build systems. While you do the work, make sure to write down the mistakes you make and the shortcuts you find along the way. I just use a simple Text Editor to write down all my notes as I complete a task.

Step 2: Create the training manual

There are two types of training manuals that I create depending on the situation:

Written training manual delivered via Google Docs
Video training guide hosted on my company FTP

Written training manual

I utilize Google Docs to create a written training manual. I make sure to go into extreme detail with every step needed to accomplish the task. I organize the training by colors:

Red-highlighted section: warning, there is a common mistake here that you should pay attention to avoid
Green-highlighted section: shortcut to accomplish a task
Blue-highlighted section: immediate next steps for the reader

I utilized Jing to take screen captures of my screen and make the training manual idiot-proof. That’s actually a very important part of building a training manual:

Create a training manual as if you were creating it for a child. Be completely thorough in your training and never leave room for different interpretations.

Video training guide

I utilize Camtasia to video record my screen for a training guide. Similar to a written training manual, I make sure that the video is idiot-proof. Furthermore, my goal is to minimize the length of the training manual as much as possible. I delete unnecessarily long pauses while I’m waiting for a web page to load so that the viewer doesn’t have to sit their idly during training. My video training is fast-paced and forces the viewer to keep engaged or else they’ll miss something important.
Centralized location for the training manuals and guides

I utilize a simple Google Group to host all of my training manuals. A Google Group has a Welcome Page that allows you to write any text to welcome a member. I use the Welcome Page to organize all of the training manuals and make it easily accessible for all employees.

Step 3: Test and revise the training manual

Test the training manual with the team member that will spearhead this project. Watch as they accomplish the task using the training manual WITHOUT any of your help. Take notes and see where they have questions, where they slow down, and where they make mistakes. These are areas in the training manual that need clarification.

Step 4: Observe closely then forget about it

I hate to micromanage, but that’s what it takes during the first few times the team member accomplishes the new task. If the results are not 100% to your liking, then you need to figure out how you can improve your training manual so that you can get the results you need. Often times it’s as simple as speaking with the team member and asking why they made a mistake.

Once the results are 100% to your liking, then it’s time to forget about it and move on to growing your company.

By Jun Loayza from

The Agri-Technology Commercialization Centre receives funding under the Growing Forward suite of programming, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. However, the comments or opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Government of Canada or the Province of Ontario.

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How to Sell Your Ideas

Posted on July 23 2012 | Author: Admin

You've got all your employees excited about your vision. Now, it's time to convince the rest of the world.

To make a difference in your company and your market, you have to get others to accept and promote your ideas. You’re already a leader in your company. The next step is to become a leader in your niche--to use your ideas to influence an entire market, and to help your vision of the future take hold.

Subscribe to the VRE formula for success: Begin with a well-tested and honed Vision, accumulate a track record of Executing successfully, and then get out of the office to build the right Relationships and share your ideas. Here’s how to begin.

Vision: Getting Out There

Just as you test products before bringing them to market, you need to test your ideas before trying to become an evangelist for them. So try explaining the kernel of your big idea to appropriate stakeholders to get their input. Once you’re confident that you can get others to understand and accept your basic idea, try reframing it so that it tells a bigger story that engages others.

The next step is to find speaking opportunities that will let you champion your vision. There is an aura of trust around the person on the dais or behind the microphone. That’s earned by having something meaningful and memorable to say. Without that invitation to speak outside of our organization, we often don’t take the time to gather the evidence and anecdotes that give us credibility and help convert others to our point of view.

Relationships: Why Conferences and Boards Matter

Identifying and nurturing relationships--with investors, advisers, and potential employees--will allow you to spread your ideas much more quickly.

Attending conferences and serving on boards are great ways to test and refine your vision, and to meet the people who can make it happen. Start by thinking about the people you want to learn from or influence. Then split them into A and B lists, and identify the people on the A list whom you most need to meet within the next three years. Which events do the A players attend, and which boards are they a part of? Who can help you get the right invitations to those opportunities?

Execution: Your Track Record

People will remember you and come to rely on you if you do what you say you will do. That’s enough to put you ahead of the pack in pretty much every situation.

That does not mean you have to do everything yourself or work 24/7. Sure, it’s easy to think, "Oh, I can do this faster (or better) than anyone else." Before you know it, it’s 1 a.m. Again. So make the most of virtual assistants, crowdsourcing, online cloud services, and the creation of a "do not do" list.

Deadline: One Year

Create a one-page plan, now, that will help you stay focused on the right opportunities to build visibility, credibility, and reputation this year.

By Denise Brosseau via

The Agri-Technology Commercialization Centre receives funding under the Growing Forward suite of programming, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. However, the comments or opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Government of Canada or the Province of Ontario.

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Start a Green Business

Posted on June 18 2012 | Author: Admin

Make money and be earth-friendly with a green products business.

Even Wal-Mart sells organic cotton T-shirts these days, but you definitely don't have to be a retailing behemoth to take your business in a green or organic direction. In fact, entrepreneurs have an advantage when it comes to reaching customers who care about the cause as well as the products.
Go Green
"It's a highly underrated opportunity for small business," says Dr. Karel J. Samsom, a specialist in environmental and sustainable entrepreneurship and author of Spirit of Entrepreneurship. A study by the Organic Trade Association shows that nonfood organic product sales reached $744 million in U.S. consumer sales in 2005, with supplements, personal care and household products leading the charge. For green entrepreneurs, passion is key, says Samsom: "People who are imbued with this kind of spirit have an incredible imagination to rebuild the value chain and inspire their customers in the process."
That passion is evident when talking to Jonelle Raffino, 41, of South West Trading Co. Inc., a Tempe, Arizona, business that specializes in earth-friendly, alternative fibers and textiles such as yarns made from bamboo, corn and even recycled crab shells. "This country is seeing that we need to challenge the idea of products that use fossil fuels," says Raffino, who co-founded the company in 2001 with her mother, Jonette Beck. Business is booming so much, they've expanded into ready-to-wear items, and they can barely keep up with demand for their line of plush Soy-Silk Pals toys.
Getting Started
If you dream of starting your own green products business, consider the following tips:
  • Seek your niche. There are enough areas of open opportunity in green products that, chances are, you can find one that both fits your skills and a needed niche. "Find a way to express your own passion to others," says Dr. Samsom. Areas like cleaning supplies and cosmetics are natural fits for green products, but don't be afraid to look past the obvious.
  • Be an example. "Show you believe in your product by changing other aspects of your life and business to support your own commitment to the earth-friendly lifestyle," says Raffino. This can include making green decisions when it comes to your suppliers and even your personal life. Make a point to recycle and check into using solar or wind power for your business. A green attitude overall will reflect well on your business.
  • Educate. Green products customers are just as hungry for knowledge as they are for organic foods. "Understand the significance of your product and how it benefits the earth or conserves resources, know everything about it," says Raffino. If you've done your research, you can more effectively communicate the value of your product to your customers.
  • Your customers are your best marketers. Green products is an area that can be heavily driven by word-of-mouth and by happy customers passing on their experiences to other people. "Get your customers to be your best promoters," says Samsom.
  • Find colleagues who are on the same page. When it comes to employees, management staff and investors, you need to find people who share your passion. Colleagues that share your cause will be more invested in helping your business to blossom. It's not just about making money, it's also about making a difference in the world around you, one green product at a time.
Image: Flickr user Tilak Bisht

The Agri-Technology Commercialization Centre receives funding under the Growing Forward suite of programming, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. However, the comments or opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Government of Canada or the Province of Ontario.

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The 6 Huge Hiring Mistakes Everyone Makes

Posted on May 24 2012 | Author: Admin

You need a top-notch team to do your best work--but you need to hire them first. Here's half a dozen common ways managers shoot themselves in the human-resources foot.



If you can recruit people who are talented, brilliant, natural leaders, it can make all the difference to your organization’s success--and your sanity as a leader. There is nothing that improves your chance of success more than having a strong, trusted team.

But even with the best intentions, you can choose badly. Particularly if you get really excited about a candidate and hire for the wrong reasons.

Here are six mistakes--some of which I've also made myself--that executives make when their misplaced enthusiasm for a candidate causes a superficial, rushed, and ultimately bad hiring decision.

1. Admire a past accomplishment too much
Very often a candidate will have an accomplishment in their past that is truly extraordinary. It’s more impressive than anything you’ve ever done and vastly overshadows the accomplishments of the other candidates. Wow! You’re Hired!

Don’t: Hire the candidate based on this one grand accomplishment alone.
Don’t: Assume this breakthrough will be repeated for you!
Do: Make sure they are ahead of the pack on many of the other hiring needs too.
Do: Make sure to get them to talk about how they will think, learn about, and do the specific things you need now--don’t assume brilliant success on the prior thing will automatically translate to brilliant success on what you need done.

Make sure you will love them just as much for other reasons---for the mainstream work they will do and for their personal contribution to your team. Don’t just hope for a repeat home run.

2. Put too much stock in advanced degrees
I know plenty of people with advanced degrees who are highly effective business leaders, but I know as many who are not. Advanced degrees alone are not proof of future business success. They are only proof that the person is capable of getting advanced degrees.

Don’t: Say “Wow, look at all those masters and PhDs--you must (by definition) be better than all the other candidates that don’t have all those impressive degrees”.
Do: Get them to talk about examples of what and how they have done the kind of things you need done.
Do: Get them to give examples of how they personally conceived of and led business change, growth, or transformation.

3. Too much experience
One of my first hires was a telemarketing guy who had 22 years of experience being a telemarketing guy. I was so impressed! Oops.

Don’t: Hire someone only because they have a huge amount of experience in the thing you need done. Remember, they might have so much experience in that job because they were never talented enough to get promoted. If you are hiring a deep expert you may be okay, but if you are hiring a leader be suspicious. You are always better off judging and hiring for smarts and future capability than past experience--because the problems and opportunities are always changing.
Do: Look for advancement on a resume over experience. Judge the person’s ability to solve problems, learn, grow, and lead others, not just how much experience they have.

4. Fall in love with the person
Okay, when after the interview you want to go out for drinks with the person even more than you want to work with them, make sure you are not mistaking how much you like the person as a potential friend, with making the right hiring decision.

Don’t: Make this decision by yourself. You’re in love. You are not thinking clearly.
Do: Get others’ help validating the person’s capabilities and fit for the job.

5. A great talker
Particularly in the case of sales and marketing people, remember these people are experts in selling. So they are selling themselves in their interview.

Don’t: Get so mesmerized by a great pitch that you think the person is a star.
Do: Press extra hard on examples of their success. Look for proof points that were unambiguously accomplishments of theirs alone, and check their ability to explain them at a significant level of depth.
Do: Ask them to describe a mistake or a failure they have overcome. A truly great candidate will always be enthusiastic to share a big lesson. A big talker will always resist showing any chip in the armor--or will give you an overly polished answer.

6. Failure to check references
This seems so obvious, but for all the rose-colored reasons listed above, I have seen executives not bother, or get too busy, or need to move too fast to check references. Then they get surprised and burned. In all the cases above, add to the DO list: check references!

A reference check adds a reality check to balance the things you fell in love with during the interviewprocess.

Don’t: Ever not check references. If you skip this, don’t be surprised if you get surprised!
Do: Always also check back channel references, not just the ones they give you.

The tricky part is that when you get a star sitting across the table from you, you indeed get pretty excited. And you get the feeling that it is a competitive situation so you will need to move quickly. Just remember, there are people who are not true stars who can get you as excited as the ones who are. Move quickly, but always dig deeper, and always check references.

Source: Patty Azzarello via Fast Company: Expert Perspective

Image: Flickr user Jes

The Agri-Technology Commercialization Centre receives funding under the Growing Forward suite of programming, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. However, the comments or opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Government of Canada or the Province of Ontario.

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Biomimicry, an interesting tool to add to the innovation tool kit!

Posted on May 09 2012 | Author: Tom Dowler

Given the dearth of bio-based companies we work with, and the goal of many to utilize more sustainable feedstocks, create more efficient methods for farming, processing, and manufacturing, and develop products often from organic sources, it brings up the question, what about biomimicry?

Biomimicry is defined as emulating nature to solve human problems sustainably.

After all, encountering 3.8 billion years of “product development” (life) and countless improvements to the compositions and processes within each “product”, Mother Nature may have figured out a few answers that even our best and brightest cannot efficiently determine without a guide.

How do we reduce our energy consumption? How do we reduce our material usage? short, can emulating nature help to reduce costs and make products and processes more efficient?

Some great examples of Biomimicry in use are:

  • Toronto-based WhalePower, who has developed their Tubercle Technology utilizing the fluid dynamic and biomechanic design of a humpback whales flipper to produce a quieter and more efficient wind turbine.
  • Columbia Forest Products, who has taken into account the natural adhesive abilities of the blue mussel to create a soy-based formaldehyde free technology used for construction of hardwood plywood products.

For more information on Biomimicry, there is a growing list of expertise in this area including:

Biomimicry, an interesting tool to add to the innovation tool kit!

Tom Dowler
Senior Business Analyst

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Posted on 2012.06.03 | Author: Jeni

It's good to get a fresh way of looking at it.

Crossing the Death Valley

Posted on April 25 2012 | Author: Tom Dowler


A previous blog by John Pickard gave a great summary of options, or lack thereof at times, for public funding into the Commercialization phase of development. That is the phase at the end of R&D, “Phase C”, which is traditionally known as the death valley many companies must cross prior to bringing their products to market.

At this time it may not be easy to find public funding programs to share some cost with you and your partners in the de-risking of your business. However, there are some steps during R&D before Commercialization (“C”) that are absolutely critical to give your company a good shot at achieving funding for pilot, demonstration, or market test phases. These are generally the phases which prove to investors, funders or customers that your product does in fact work in a commercial setting, and that it can generate revenues. The steps that you can take now should be directed towards being able to demonstrate the following:

1. Is the product unique or does it work equal to, or better than, current competitive products?

This seems like an obvious question but it is one that often is not contemplated soon enough. What targets in terms of efficacy, properties, or specifications are paramount in the industry you are entering with your product? These targets need to be achieved for the product to succeed. There are times when it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new technology and lose sight of the specifications that are essential to entering the market.

2. Price/Cost - Can the product be sold at a final price point that is competitive with existing products and/or the perceived advantage generated by your product?

If you are not able to demonstrate the ability to eventually produce at a reasonable cost and earn a margin, it will be challenging to reach the end of the “death valley” stage to the point where you can attract investors. If you can’t sell the product, you can’t generate an ROI for potential investors, and we all know where that leaves you - another great idea orphaned.

Contract pilot plants across Canada with expertise working with agricultural feedstocks can help you identify production issues, scale up risks, and help predict future costs. Some of these centres include:

Foodtech Canada (member locations across Canada including POS, FDC, BioFoodTech and GFTC)
Composites Innovation Centre (Winnipeg)
• Agriculture and Agrifood Canada sites including Laval, Qc, and Leduc, Alberta
• Local universities and colleges

3. Will you be able to protect the market you achieve once you have commercialized?

This includes protection of intellectual property, control of an important feedstock required to produce your product, or the strength of your brand. From the idea phase, all the way through to the commercialization phase, it is important that you understand how you will protect the market advantage you have created with your product. Appropriate timing for protection is also an important concept to understand over the course of your company’s R&D&C cycle. Demonstrating the ability to maintain the market advantage you have carved out will quell the concerns of public funders, and eventually investors, who are considering backing a small entity with limited resources. Sometimes, partnering with a large industry player you may currently view as a threat, may be the best way to protect your market, brand and IP.

Ag-oriented public funding programs are becoming increasingly competitive, as the number of programs has recently been shrinking, despite the growing number of innovative new companies entering this space. It will be important that you have considered and can explain the numerous risks involved in “Phase C” to funders, and how your R&D plan has mitigated these risks from day one.

Here at Bioenterprise, we can help you with identifying and addressing many of these areas. Why not give us a call?

Tom Dowler
Senior Business Analyst


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Posted on 2012.06.03 | Author: Jesse

Knowledge wants to be free, just like these articles!

Guelph- The City that Makes a Difference

Posted on April 13 2012 | Author: Admin

Guelph has consistently been ranked as one of Canada's Top 10 Most Desirable Places to live, and with its constant engagement in sustainability throughout the community it is no wonder why!

In a profile of the city, covered by Terry Bradshaw, Guelph is deservingly classified as a city that truly makes a difference. Bioenterprise is very proud to be a Guelph-based business, contributing to its overall economic and sustainable development.

Watch the video to learn more.

The Agri-Technology Commercialization Centre receives funding under the Growing Forward suite of programming, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. However, the comments or opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Government of Canada or the Province of Ontario.

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Posted on 2012.06.03 | Author: Gary

This forum needed shaking up and you've just done that. Great post!

9th Annual World Congress

Posted on March 21 2012 | Author: Admin

Bioenterprise, along with OAFT and Soy 20/20 will be sponsoring the World Congress on Biotechnology and Bioprocessing in Orlando, Florida this year!

This is the largest industrial biotechnology event gathering together business leaders, investors and policy makers in biofuels, biobased products, and renewable chemicals.

If you missed it last year, check out the video below. Hope to see you there!


The Agri-Technology Commercialization Centre receives funding under the Growing Forward suite of programming, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. However, the comments or opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Government of Canada or the Province of Ontario.

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Do YOU Exist in the Google-sphere?

Posted on March 12 2012 | Author: Braden Kemp

Why Your Start-up Needs an Online Presence

Critical mass –The minimum required to start or maintain a venture: "a critical mass of users".

Generating critical mass is an integral part of launching a business venture. You want people talking about your start-up before it even starts up. This will increase awareness and ensure you stay afloat during that key period when you transition from an idea to a bona fide business. At this point you likely can’t afford that witty Super Bowl ad, but modern marketing tools allow you to reach an incredibly large and diverse audience at a very low cost. There are a million reasons why existing on the Internet is a must, but here are just a few:

1. Start a conversation with your target market – don’t guess what they want, ask them!

Social networks like Twitter and Facebook are providing companies with a very unique opportunity, and the best part is it’s free. By building a presence on Twitter and Facebook you can develop a relationship with your customer base, and engage them in conversation.

Let your audience know what you’re doing; keep your idea in their minds as you engage in the commercialization process and you might find that they provide valuable input on key features or services they would like to see. This is the one of the biggest advantages of today’s marketing tools; rather than blasting a message to the masses in hopes they understand, you can actually interact with your target market and be sure they understand.

2. Important people need to know what you do.

Like most ventures you will probably need some extra cash to get off the ground, and unless you happen to have a rich uncle (read: John Pickard’s "6 Things Every Entrepreneur Should Know") you are going to have to ask potential investors for a large sum of their money.

Here’s the thing – investors like their money and they don’t give it away without performing some serious due-diligence on your operation. Here at Bioenterprise, we perform a ton of due-diligence on prospect companies and if your investor is anything like us, Moneybags is going straight to Google to search your company name. Give it a try – do you exist on Google? No? You should.

I’m not suggesting you hire an IT firm to design a $50K webpage, in fact even a simple landing page that describes who you are and what problem you are solving can do the trick. If key individuals who can influence the success of your organization see that you are actively developing a brand and engaging your target market, they just might be more likely to dedicate time, and perhaps money, to help you get started.

Whether a venture capital firm is considering a $10 million investment or a potential customer heard about you through the grapevine, they will inevitably turn to the web to check you out. When they do, you better be there or you could be missing out on some great opportunities. Make use of the free platforms that are available and get out there and start a conversation!

Remember – this is free marketing, and when was the last time you got something for free? Taking advantage of the options available to you online will help to build and define your brand, and that’s an important part of any business small or large. Speaking of branding, I have some thoughts on that too – stay tuned.

Braden Kemp
Junior Business Analyst, Bioenterprise

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10 Employee Engagement Actions for Managers

Posted on March 05 2012 | Author: Admin

The Employee Engagement Pyramid

Recently on his blog, Winnipeg consultant David Zinger has been detailing 10 steps to employee engagement, which he has shaped into what he calls the employee engagement pyramid, explaining the building blocks for success:

Pyramid of Employee Egagement 1. Achieve results

At the top of the pyramid is the main target: getting employees involved in formulating the results that the company should be seeking, and then having them be intent on achieving those agreed-to results. “Powerful results matter to managers, organizations, employees, and customers,” Mr. Zinger notes.

2. Mark progress

The Progress Principle by Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer, published last year, presented fascinating research that indicated the key to motivation and engagement for knowledge work is making progress each day at work. Managers therefore need to structure work so that progress is visible (and do their best to prevent setbacks).

3. Maximize performance

Managers need to figure out how to make top performance worthy of employees’ attention and provide feedback that is heard and heeded by those employees.

4. Foster recognition

Management needs to show employees that their accomplishments are appreciated. “Authentic recognition is so much more than an annual gala or occasional gift card for good behaviour. Recognition is social, strategic, and powerful,” Mr. Zinger says.

5. Build relationships

Work is social. Research by Harvard Business School professor emeritus John Kotter found that one of the factors that distinguished general managers with consistently outstanding performance records from their counterparts was their ability to develop and maintain a strong network of relationships. Gallup’s famed questionnaire on engagement has several questions about the strength of relationships at work with colleagues and supervisors.

6. Enliven energy

Energy drives us. It comes in many forms including physical, emotional, and mental. Mr. Zinger also cites the importance of spiritual energy; that is, being caught up in a mission that is greater than ourselves.

7. Leverage strengths

Research is consistently showing the importance of bringing out the strengths of employees to energize them, rather than harping on weaknesses.

8. Make meaning

If managers can make the work meaningful, it will engage, sustain and enrich people.

9. Master moments

Doug Conant, former chief executive officer of Campbell Soup Co., used what he called TouchPoints to transform the dismal engagement scores at his company, and to make the most of the times that managers interact with employees.
“Engagement resides in the moments,” Mr. Zinger observes. “Each of the many connections you make has the potential to become a high point or a low point in someone’s day.”

10. Enhance well-being

As a manager, you must eliminate the toxic aspects of your workplace. Employees must be allowed to find a sense of well-being at their work so they leave each day enlivened, rather than depleted.

Source: David Zinger Employee Engagement via The Globe & Mail: Report on Business

The Agri-Technology Commercialization Centre receives funding under the Growing Forward suite of programming, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. However, the comments or opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Government of Canada or the Province of Ontario.

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CarbonCure Technologies Inc. - Block System

Posted on March 01 2012 | Author: Admin

Robert Niven, CEO and founder of CarbonCure Technologies Inc. discusses their newly discovered technology designed to use carbon dioxide as a value-added input in the production of concrete, an abundant commodity product.

The CarbonCure Block System introduces CO2 into the actual manufacturing process of concrete, making it green and creating far stronger products at an early stage.This higher strength can then be converted to less waste and defects, new and better products, less cement and less energy.

With their partners, CarbonCure is helping to solve today's economic and carbon challenges by improving the production of concrete, which is all around us.

To learn more about this company and its products visit:

Watch our Innovation Video of the Week:

Source: CarbonCure Technologies Inc.

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Public funding: R&D is not the end game

Posted on February 27 2012 | Author: John Pickard

Had I only known when I was planning my last entrepreneurial venture about the extent of public funding that was available for start-ups. God bless the federal, provincial and municipal governments that have dug deep and provided grants and loans to enable companies to clear some technology hurdles or develop a prototype to test their technology in the real world.

There is no end to the programs offered by IRAP, SR&ED, or NRC, most of which are geared toward early stages of technology. These programs seek to answer the unanswered questions about how something might work…or how it might not. All very much needed, I would say. However, the real sweat comes when the innovator knows that the technology does work and has application to solve real world problems. That is when the public funding dries up.

Acme Inc. has already spent 4 years validating their technology, developing a brand, and courting customers. Maybe they already have a production facility, are revenue positive, and are looking to expand their market. That is precisely where the dollar crunch comes. The government funds don’t apply, angel money is not enough, venture capital is non-existent, and it’s too early for private equity. Oh, and need I mention, banks are not in the risk business by the way. The company dies on the vine because no one wants to fund that emerging stage.

It’s time for government funding programs to trim their funding of “wish-list” concepts, technologies and companies and devote some of that trimming to invest in ventures that have made the grade.

A great example is Ontario’s Emerging Technology Fund (OEFT) that “matches” private investment on a dollar for dollar basis. The government enters and exits on the same terms as the private investor. Canadian business needs more of this kind of thinking… government dollars following private investors, dollars following technologies and businesses that are beyond R&D and into real business.

Promoting R&D is great, but investing in real companies with real technology and real customers is the end game.

John Pickard
Entrepreneur in Residence, Bioenterprise

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Receive Money Back when You Apply for the CETC tax!

Posted on February 06 2012 | Author: Christina Lippa

Oh the joys of the hiring process! I’m sure managers must jump at the opportunity to hire a new employee, because who wouldn’t want to read piles and piles of cover letters and resumes, or sit through endless hours of interviews, sounds appealing doesn’t it?

If you are one of these managers who dislike the burden of recruiting new employees, you should definitely consider hiring a co-op. University or college institutions typically set up the hiring process, which means your work is cut in half. All you need to do is provide a concise job description and decide what degree programs you feel will adequately qualify for the demands of the position. This will help to filter out the types, and amount, of students who apply to the jobs, ultimately simplifying the hiring process. Now just sit back, and wait for the applications! Institutions will also assist in securing time slots for the interview process, according to your convenience.

Seems pretty simple now, right?

‘CHA CHINGGGG!,’ there goes that sound in the back of your mind…will you be able to afford the costs of hiring a new employee? Have no fear, the Co-operative Education Tax Credit (CETC) is here... if you a hire a co-op student, that is.

The Ontario Ministry of Revenue has introduced the CETC, which benefits employers who hire students enrolled in a co-operative education program at post-secondary institutions across Ontario. Simply put, you can receive up to $3000 in tax credits!

Is hiring a co-op student sounding better to you yet?... Still not convinced?

In addition to our eagerness to learn and apply our academics to the real world, co-op students may choose to recognize your company as an ‘outstanding employer.’ This could grant you the opportunity to win awards such as “Co-op Employer of the Year” (depending on the institution). I’m sure Bioenterprise Corporation can definitely vouch for truth in this statement, as recipient of this award in 2010 from the University of Guelph.

Start contacting post-secondary institutions near you, to see if your organization can benefit from this great opportunity, and be amazed by our student potential!

Christina Lippa
Marketing and Communications Assistant, Bioenterprise


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Novel Businesses Require Novel Funding

Posted on January 30 2012 | Author: John Pickard

Noted below is a link to an IndieGoGo site for Nicole’s Farm. IndieGoGo is a social capital and "crowdfunding" site for novel, start-up companies. Bioenterprise is currently working with Nicole Huska, founder of Nicole’s Farm, to assist her in proving the business model.

Nicole’s Farm is a pioneer in the development of Small Plot Intensive farms (SPIN) in the Sunshine Coast of BC. Nicole’s plan is to identify 1 acre plots that are currently un-used by landowners and to negotiate a lease of the land for the farming of produce. This land could be a homeowner's back yard or a hydro right-of-way, etc. Nicole's Farm would negotiate the land lease, and prepare the property (fencing, ground prep, irrigation, etc.). Furthermore, they would identify and contract farming staff to tend to the seeding, nurturing, and harvesting of the produce (this staff may be the land owner, but not necessarily). Nicole's Farm would make arrangements with local retailers, restaurants, markets, and food service agencies for the purchase of the produce. Nicole sees this as a franchise model. Each 1-acre farm is forecast to produce $100K in revenue per year through deep bed, no till, multiple crops, and sustainable agriculture practices. $50K is margin after the 1st year costs set-up are absorbed. The proceeds go to the landowner, the farming staff, and to Nicole’s Farm to recover the costs of set-up and management. This is a novel way for Canadians to grow, sell and eat local.

Beyond Nicole’s concept, I think the funding model is intriguing. Much like making charitable contributions to micro-businesses in the 3rd world aimed at getting entrepreneurs their start, IndiGoGo introduces a similar strategy….many “random” partners supporting a business concept that they identify with.

Now, for clarity……I’m not soliciting funds for Nicole. I just find her concept and the IndiGoGo model novel and worth chatting about. A new model for farming combined with grass roots Venture Capital.

I encourage you to visit the Nicole’s Farm and to educate yourself on “crowdfunding”.

John Pickard
Entrepreneur in Residence, Bioenterprise

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Importance of having a registered office address

Posted on November 28 2011 | Author: Emily Prange

Business success is largely about building consumer loyalty; and consumer loyalty lies in the ability to identify with a company that communicates trust and confidence. Having a physical office space for your company defines your company image, and helps establish a stronger corporate brand.

Most start-ups don't have the funds available to rent or purchase commercial real estate. Being cost effective is important, but compromising quality to save a buck will only hurt your bottom line in the long run. Here's why...

In today's world, working from a home office is often stigmatized. Consumers often get the idea that a home-based business isn't a substantial one.

While starting out in a home office is one thing, consider that having a registered office address gives a persona of professionalism and success before tossing the idea of obtaining an office space on the backburner. Working in a community environment also increases drive and creativity, which often lacks in a home office.

So what can you do if you can't afford an office rental but want to give your business a more professional approach?

Co-working is typically less expensive than traditional office space. It can be a good first step out of a home office for many. Wikipedia defines co-working as a “social gathering of a group of people, who are still working independently, but who share values, and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with talented people in the same space.” Do an online search of "co-working in xxxx", xxxx being your city, and you'll find websites that list various co-working facilities, such as Co-Working Toronto.

Office space by the hour:
The concept of renting a meeting room for an hour or a day is catching on with start-ups and entrepreneurs. The services usually provide a business address, mail service and 24/7 access to office space on a pay-per-use basis. It's a variable cost as opposed to a fixed cost of thousands a month on a lease.

There are solutions out there to give your start-up or home-based business a professional edge, and taking full advantage of them will help your business reach new potentials.

Emily Prange
Marketing and Events Assistant, Bioenterprise


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Posted on 2012.01.05 | Author: Kevrel

How neat! Is it really this simple? You make it look easy.

Pondering Intellectual Property

Posted on November 24 2011 | Author: Tom Dowler

Intellectual property (IP) often forms a strong foundation for technology companies. And that it should, given the millions of dollars of R&D that build the foundation behind technology and product development for bio-economy based companies. However, along with the value that patent filings and trade secrets may bring to your company, you must also be aware of the inherent risks and expenses brought about by your IP protection strategy.

Patenting is by far the strongest method of protecting your technology from being legally duplicated on the market in the countries you file. In short, a patent is an exchange between an inventor or their legal representation and the public. The owner of the patent exchanges the knowledge of the valuable intellectual property they have conceived and reduced to practice in exchange for the right to solely manufacture and sell it in that country for the term of the patent.

The competitive advantage that your patent provides may be the most valuable edge you have in the market over your competitors.  However, with this strong statutory protection for your IP comes unavoidable cost.

When asked in the past, I’ve estimated the MINIMUM cost of having a patent issued in the US alone at $20-30K. However, depending on the complexity of the technology and pre-existing knowledge in the area, you may be looking at much higher costs when all is said and done. Based on a quick scan of the opinions of others with experience in IP protection, the cost of filing to issuance of a patent could be anything from $10K-100K. That is quite the range to prepare for.

So, the take home is that patent filing may be integral to your business strategy, but it is not cheap, and these costs need to be accounted for when forecasting costs your business will face.

A patent may be a strong mechanism of protection, but a trade secret may get you to where you want to go without giving up knowledge of your intellectual property to your competitors. Foregoing the need to file a patent also allows you to direct your business dollars to other activities. However, this means your “special sauce” must be kept a secret through non-disclosure agreements and management of information, which comes at a cost as well. The question that needs to be asked when considering whether IP should be kept a trade secret is “Can my idea or product be reverse engineered?”… that is, will the competition be able to understand the intellectual property from the product you sell and use it for their commercial benefit?

When deciding on your IP protection strategy, you also need to take into account other factors such as barriers to market entry, whether the benefits to your company are worth the costs of patenting, and regions the IP may be useful for either manufacture or sale of product.

To determine the best IP strategy for your company, it is certainly worth working out the pros and cons of each with a trained professional. Having an introductory conversation with a patent agent with a strong knowledge in the technology and market your products will enter into is a very good investment.

Tom Dowler
Senior Business Analyst, Bioenterprise

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Posted on 2012.01.04 | Author: Chianna

Very valid, pithy, succinct, and on point. WD.

The Importance of Communication

Posted on November 22 2011 | Author: Laura Millson

"Keep in Touch"...

It’s a phrase we use loosely but an important invitation in both our business and personal relationships.

Communication can bring opportunity, connection and success to entrepreneurs who stay connected to sources such as Bioenterprise, which has a vast and varied network of resources.

I have come in contact with many entrepreneurs here. Some have sent a brief email inquiry or arrived in person for establishing meetings. Others are contracted clients who have moved on.

“Keep in Touch” is just that: an open invitation to communicate with us and stay connected to Bioenterprise by sharing updates, changes and developments, media coverage, product development, or design changes or just letting us know how you are doing. This is news we like to hear and would like to promote.

We have recently redesigned our website ( and incorporated social networking tools that will allow us to tell your story to a greater network. The benefit to you, of course, is the greater awareness of your innovative company. So stay in touch. Your success is our success, and we are here to help you.

Stay in touch. Stay networked.

Laura Millson
Entrepreneur Services and Office Operations Coordinator

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Posted on 2012.01.05 | Author: Klondike

This info is the cat's pajamas!

Cash Flow

Posted on November 09 2011 | Author: John Pickard

...the only thing that counts.

I learned about cash flow the hard way, as most do. The good news is that it wasn’t by writing cheques on my business account and then realizing that there wasn’t any money there. I wrote my first business plan completely and on my own using an online template. The template walked me through revenue calculations, expense calculations and forced me to research employee benefit costs and payroll taxes. When all was inputted into the template, the magic happened and out came a ream of documents including the P&L, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow statement. The beauty of the template was that it gave monthly cash flows for 3 years out based on my projections.

As a non-financial manager, I was glad to have all of this data, but I really only understood the P&L as I had created all of the inputs myself. However, biz plan in hand, I marched off to BDC to see what they thought about lending me some money for my venture. The meeting was short. The first question that I was asked was “how much money do you need”. After an awkward pause, I said that I didn’t really know. Within minutes I was back on the highway headed for home. That meeting became my wake-up call. It forced me to come to terms with my financial data. Back I went to the template and began to play with it. I soon learned that if I tweaked revenues and expenses, then my cash flow situation improved or declined with each tweak. I also realized that my biz plan showed months where cash flow was negative and I’d effectively be out of business without ready access to loans or investment at the right time. A bit more figuring helped me realize the exact month(s) that my business would need a cash injection and how much that injection needed to be for me to stay solvent. Furthermore, I was able to calculate the cost of the projected cash injections in terms of interest, etc. Low and behold this all affected the Balance Sheet. I was seeing how it all came together.

Having seen a few hundred entrepreneurs in the past 3 years, I find the component most often missing is financial awareness. If the entrepreneur is not trained as a financial manager, then the financial piece of their business plan is usually a few paragraphs of text and a basic Excel spreadsheet showing “hockey stick” revenue coming right out of the gate. As I so directly learned, this is a sign of a failure in the making.

If you need help with your financials invest in good business plan software (make sure it is relevant to the Canadian market) or check these links out:


My key learning was that nothing is more important than cash flow. I said NOTHING! Learn how your revenues and expenses relate to one another and how they drive the financial documents necessary for your business. If that task is beyond you, invest in a professional who can produce, understand and explain the financials to you. Make that person a part of your team. Treat that person well.

John Pickard
Entrepreneur in Residence, Bioenterprise

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Posted on 2011.11.24 | Author: Chynna

Gosh, I wish I would have had that information earlier!

Solar Trash Bins

Posted on November 08 2011 | Author: Admin

High-tech Trash.

In our cities, waste collection can be pretty wasteful itself. Garbage trucks have to make near constant trips to keep public trash bins from overflowing—contributing to traffic and pollution. To keep our cities in harmony, we'll have to figure out a better system for urban waste collection. The people at BigBelly Solar already have one solution.

Watch our Innovation Video of the Week:

Produced by Eve Marson and Max Joseph

Source: GOOD Magazine

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Posted on 2011.11.24 | Author: Audel

Hey, kliler job on that one you guys!

Networking 101 ? Building Relationships for Growth

Posted on October 28 2011 | Author: Victoria Lennox

Networking is the key to success in business according to Keith Ferrazzi, business coach and author of Never Eat Alone, a book about the power of relationship building and networking. Networking helps you find jobs, recruit talent, win new customers and discover investors who will support your ideas. With the right approach, you can build lasting relationships. Here are some tips to become a master networker:

  1. Do your homework – If possible, get your hands on the attendee list before the event and identify a handful of people you want to meet. Look up their profiles on Google and LinkedIn and learn about their background to determine the best way to approach them.
  2. Prepare your pitch – Create a 15-second verbal business card that you can use when you are introducing yourself to people. It should be clear and concise. Who are you? What is your company? What are your goals? What is it that you want from these new relationships that you are developing?
  3. Set goals – How many people do you want to talk to and who in particular?
  4. Be yourself – Keep in mind that networking is about being genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships, and seeing how you can help others.
  5. Use body language – A firm handshake with eye contact is crucial because people intuit a great deal from that first brief exchange. Maintaining open body language by never crossing your arms is important.
  6. Be an ambassador – Act as a host, not a guest. Introduce yourself to those standing alone and ask if they would like to meet others.
  7. Listen and ask questions – We have two ears and one mouth, so use them proportionally. When you listen, really listen. Have meaningful conversations with the people that you meet and ask open-ended questions.
  8. Be generous – Networkers believe in “givers’ gain” — that by helping someone, you both benefit. Your approach to networking should be completely selfless. Give referrals wherever possible. In doing so, you will become a helpful resource for others and people will remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas and information. This keeps you visible to them. Always be thinking how you can help the person you are talking to. Your network isn’t about what you can gain from it, but what you have to offer it. So make yourself available, approachable and knowledgeable.
  9. Trade business cards – Be sure to exchange business cards and write notes on the backs of cards you collect to remind yourself of what you discussed and any commitments that you made that you will need to follow up on.
  10. Manage your time effectively – Spend no more than 10 minutes with each person, and don’t linger with friends and associates.
  11. Follow up, quickly! – You will have wasted your time if you do not follow up right away. Follow up by email and refer to something of significance from your conversation. Be sure to also deliver on any referrals or connections that you have committed to. 
  12. Connect via social media – After meeting, also add your new contacts to your LinkedIn community and follow them on Twitter.
  13. Meet one-on-one – To further build the relationship, you may ask to arrange a call or to meet in person one-on-one.
  14. Keep in touch – Once you have a new relationship, you have to nurture and cultivate it. Keep in touch so that it can grow.

What not to do

  1. No selling! Networking events are not meant to be a vehicle to get people to buy your products or services; they are about connecting and building relationships – a beginning, not an end. You are looking to develop a long-term relationship, not a short-term sale.
  2. No spamming

Every person you meet has the potential to drastically change your life, so when networking, lay it all out and see what comes of it. Networking is not about exchanging business cards; it is about building relationships. As a network builder, network building is to me like developing new friendships. I listen, offer help, care about their goals and enjoy their company, and everything else falls into place.

The Agri-Technology Commercialization Centre receives funding under the Growing Forward suite of programming, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. However, the comments or opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Government of Canada or the Province of Ontario.

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Posted on 2011.11.24 | Author: Bryson

YMMD with that answer! TX


Posted on October 17 2011 | Author: Admin

Lowering your impact is no sweat.

Nothing kills that post-workout buzz like contemplating the environmental impact of traditional gyms—the air conditioning, the cardio machines, the thousands of tiny towels that are washed daily. But Manuel de Arriba Ares, a retired Spanish gym teacher, has come up with an alternative: all the exercise equipment in his gimnasio ecológico requires no electricity and is made entirely of recycled materials. 

Watch our Innovation Video of the Week:

Source: GOOD Magazine

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Posted on 2011.11.25 | Author: Jeanette

Ah, i see. Well that's not too tricky at all!"

10 Reasons to Start Up in Canada, eh?

Posted on October 12 2011 | Author: Victoria Lennox

Here are some reasons to Start Up in Canada:

Whether you are looking to start a business or have already turned a profit, as entrepreneurs, you are always looking for new opportunities. Sometimes the grass may seem greener on the other side. But why venture south when Canada is the place to be?

  1. We Are Home to the World. Not only are Canadians diverse global citizens that come from all parts of the world, but we also attract the brightest newcomers. In a world where connectivity is king, Canada’s diversity lends itself to global business opportunities of all sorts – from importing, exporting and leveraging global business models to discovering new innovations and working with others from different cultures to give life to new ideas – our diversity is our strength.
  2. We’re Connected. Nearly 27 million Canadians are connected to the Internet. Of those, nearly 60% are actively using social networks. This means that we work with global teams and run global businesses at our fingertips. You don’t need to be based in Silicon Valley to be a successful entrepreneur. Success is not a place, and it is a small world.
  3. We’ve Got Smarts. Canada is one of the world’s best-educated nations in the world with exceptional talent ready for you to hire. New programs pop up all the time to encourage academic-industry relations, which can give your company a competitive edge by working with the best and brightest.
  4. Canada Loves Its Entrepreneurs. Canadian entrepreneurs are well respected for the impact that they make in creating jobs, strengthening communities and fuelling the economy. Increasingly, they are being celebrated and recognized for their contribution.
  5. Lots of Support! There are thousands of small business associations, networks and organizations that provide networking, learning and support across the country that are just itching to help you start and grow your business – so you need not be alone.
  6. Government Gets It. All levels of government in Canada understand that small businesses are the engines of Canada’s economy, so they provide programs, services and tax incentives to ensure that Canada’s entrepreneurs have a running start. While there will forever be new ways to improve government support for entrepreneurs, Canada remains one of the easiest countries in the world in which to start up and do business.
  7. Talent and Innovators Galore. Great Canadian entrepreneurs give life to remarkable companies – e.g. RIM, Bombardier, LuluLemon, Holt Renfrew, Chapters, McCain Foods and Tim Horton’s. We develop world-class technologies, produce inspiring creative works, and create scientific solutions to global problems – and that’s just with 34 million of us floating around.
  8. The Beautiful Land. From Niagara Falls, Banff and the Prairies to the Atlantic Coast and the Territories, we’ve got natural beauty and space to spread out. You need only drive out of the city to see untouched sites and do the unwinding that all entrepreneurs need.
  9. Standard of Living. For eight years in a row, the United Nations has ranked Canada as one of the best places to live in the world. Canada enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world, a safe environment and a modern health care system.
  10. And of course, our sense of humour, our beer and our bacon – to get us through the rollercoaster we go through as entrepreneurs. 

The Agri-Technology Commercialization Centre receives funding under the Growing Forward suite of programming, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. However, the comments or opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Government of Canada or the Province of Ontario.

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Posted on 2011.10.19 | Author: Finch

That's not just logic. That's really sensible.

ONE Network

Posted on October 03 2011 | Author: John Pickard

Ok….so one of my previous blogs was on the theme of “One”….the One Man Band in the business world. This post is also on the theme of “ONE”. A bit different though.

Bioenterprise is a newly minted member of ONE (The Ontario Network of Excellence). This is the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation’s effort to bring new technologies to the forefront faster, and with better success rates than in the past.

So what is ONE? Essentially it is a number of agencies (about 25) scattered across the province that are set up specifically to assist entrepreneurs in getting their businesses up and running. Staffed by those who have “been there, done that”, the member agencies in ONE assist entrepreneurs as they pull the pieces of the business together and get their product or service into the marketplace.

You might assume our offices are populated with knowledgeable, government employees; the employees who work here (while knowledgeable) are in fact commercialization experts. These are real, live, business people who have the battle scars to prove it. Many have been wildly successful and some have crashed and burned. All bring valuable experience to your business.

The member agencies of ONE are fairly diverse, not just geographically (from Windsor to Thunder Bay and many stops in between) but rather, in terms of their expertise. First, there are the RICs (I wouldn’t be a new program without an easy to remember acronym) otherwise known as Regional Innovation Centres. These are one-stop locations for entrepreneurs of all stripes: Hi-tech, Pharma, Medical Devices, Cleantech, Bioeconomy, Food, Social Enterprise, Media, and so on. Whatever your business passion, the RICs can assist. Most are staffed with experienced entrepreneurs and bolstered by tech nerds, researchers, academics, and business mentors from all over. They combine to help build business strategies, business plans, financial models, IP, legal, marketing, HR, operations ….all the parts of a functioning business. The entrepreneur does most of the heavy lifting, but the advisors and mentors are there to steer the project and to help the entrepreneur avoid the pitfalls of starting and ramping up a new business.

And then of course there are the SIC’s. Sector Innovation Centres. Bioenterprise is a SIC covering the Agriculture and Ag-Bio space. Others include: Ontario BioAuto Council (Bio based Materials and Manufacturing), Bloom (formerly OCETA/ a.k.a. the cleantech gurus), Green Centre Canada (Green Chemistry), Coral-CEA (Software Technology), HTX (Health Tech Exchange) and a few others that concentrate on sector specific issues.

For the most part, there is no charge to access these resources. If there are costs, they are modest - affordable for a business in start-up mode. I suggest that if you are thinking about starting a business or are already underway in an early stage venture that you look up ONE and engage. The network can speed up your progress, help you avoid mistakes, and bring a powerful bunch of resources and expertise to your endeavour. Check ONE out.

If you have any experience with ONE, let me know how it’s going. 


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Posted on 2011.10.19 | Author: Jalia

Stellar work there everyone. I'll keep on reading.

Innovation Fridays: Electric Bicycles

Posted on September 26 2011 | Author: Admin

In much of the world, biking is the main mode of transportation. In China or Denmark for example, it's not unusual to see more bicycles than cars on the road. However, in North America, this is not the case.

Thanks to electric bikes, getting around via bicycle has become more practical and efficient than ever. Your own energy and an electrical motor combine to make cycling up hill or long distance much faster and easier. Needless to say, if electrical biking catches on, city traffic can be minimized and carbon emissions drastically reduced. 

Watch our Innovation Video of the Week.

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6 Things Every Entrepreneur Should Know

Posted on September 26 2011 | Author: John Pickard

Every once in a while an entrepreneur will ask me, “What is the most important thing I need to know?”. My stock answer is always the same. “Your rich Uncle’s phone number.” Yes, I know, I’m the Chris Rock of the business world.

Over the years, I’ve assembled a bit of a list of “The Most Important Things” you need to know to succeed with your business. The entire Wikipedia of my learning. Usually the hard way. Here goes:

  1. Business Plan. This is boring, I know. But it’s essential to take the time to write one. My first one took me about 3 months. I used a software template and this worked great because every page of it spawned a new question that I hadn’t really thought about in the context of my business. The Plan gets ideas out of our head. It lets you share your vision with the rest of your team. Investors will want demand to see it. Write it yourself.
  2. Bankroll. At Bioenterprise we see about 100 entrepreneurs each year. A good percentage of them are broke. They may have lost their job and decide that starting a business is the way out. This is not the time to start a business. It costs money to do a start up. Many entrepreneurs think that the government will fund their start-up. Not so. Government funding can help with certain aspects (usually the R&D), but they won’t pay for your equipment, rent and other assets. Banks are not in the risk business. They loan money against some hard assets that you are willing to put up…like your house. They don’t lend unsecured money to a business with no revenue. Set a limit as to how much of your own money you can put into a business. Once it’s gone, you should re-evaluate your plan.
  3. Cash Flow is the lifeblood of your company. If you are a non-financial manager, find someone who can teach you about cash flow and how to recognize when your company needs more cash (loan or investment). Projecting your cash flow as a start up will tell you how much money you will need to get your company to profitability, and when you will need it.
  4. Find a first customer. You can do this early in your planning stages. Talking to a potential First Customer can help you see what is important to them. It teaches you how to serve them. It focuses your business…FAST. A customer forces you to complete all the parts of your business. You need to figure out customer service, accounting, legal, and distribution in order to write and ship that first order. Oh, and by the way, the best way to finance your start up is through revenue from sales. A customer is the key trigger for investors.
  5. Find a critic. No, I don’t mean your spouse. I mean someone who’s been there. Successfully. Someone who is independent. A good critic (aka Mentor) will network you to partners, help you avoid the potholes and tell you when to quit or not to quit.
  6. Don’t do it alone. This is a lesson I noted in my One Man Band blog of a while back. Build a team. Add the expertise you don’t bring. Find Strategic Partners who might be customers, suppliers, or distributors. Somebody with interests that parallel yours. Lastly, a financial partner is the best partner to bring along for the ride.

So there you have it. The contents of the best seller I was going to write…all in one page. Consider yourself advised.

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Why There Are No Successful One Man Bands

Posted on September 20 2011 | Author: John Pickard

As a child, I can remember watching the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday night. It was what you did on Sunday night back in the day. About once a month they would have a One Man Band take the stage and play some contraption consisting of a large drum, cymbals, a harmonica, and a xylophone…..all at once. The “musician” would play the drum using a series of levers attached to a drum stick that he controlled with his foot. The cymbals would be strapped between his knees and he “clapped” his knees together to….well…. make a noise. All the while his right hand flailed at the xylophone. Of course his mouth was busy with the harmonica. It was more comedy than music and that was the intention. A novelty act.

I sometimes wonder what happened to the One Man Bands. Well, they died. And to be blunt, they died because they sucked. One person couldn’t do what four or five accomplished musicians could do… each a master of his or her own instrument.

I learned the lesson of the One Man Band during my first adventure as an entrepreneur in the telecom world. Having had a successful experience as the #2 guy in a very similar business, I thought that I had all of the parts to reproduce the start-up, early stage and exit surrounding my proposed venture. I wrote the business plan, cobbled all of the pieces of my technology together, arranged production of prototypes and sample product, secured telecom network access, worked on package design, and started the search for real money to take the venture forward.

However, I had no team around me. Despite the fact that I had most of the pieces assembled, no investor was going to take a chance on a “One Man Band”. Experienced investors realize that no individual can play all of the instruments (at the same time) well enough to be successful. What happens if the One Man Band falls off the stage and breaks a leg? …No more cymbals and no more drums. And in business? …Well, no more business.

The logic applies to having a management team around you. They might not be full-time, or even on the payroll. However, they are people that can play a role in Marketing or Finance or Operations once the company “takes the stage”. Get professionals who you trust, and work well with, involved in your venture. This support team will play the roles that you can’t, or shouldn’t. You will get better ideas and better quality of execution with specialists on the team.

The “team” might also consist of strategic partners as well. Customers, suppliers or distributors that know something about a piece of your business and are willing to support you (likely because they can see what’s in it for them down the road). They bring stability, experience and resources to the enterprise and will re-assure everyone that you are serious and that someone other than you believes in the success of your endeavour.

Once you have a strong team, take them with you to those investor meetings or sales calls to assure those who you are selling to that you are not a One Man Band, in fact, you have an entourage.

Got your own One Man Band comment? Let’s hear it.

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Posted on 2011.10.19 | Author: Diandra

Free info like this is an apple from the tree of knowledge. Sinful?

Consumer Research on a Dime

Posted on September 13 2011 | Author: Crystal Sarantoulias

What you need to know.

Knowing who it is you are targeting in terms of their age, gender, household income, and education can be a starting point to understanding who your customers are. There is, however, other practical consumer information that can be collected that can be invaluable in making business decisions.
So how do you go about getting this type of information?
The simple answer is … ask your customers!

The key to conducting effective consumer research is to keep track of your customers. With their name and phone number or email address, one way to carry out consumer research is to conduct a survey to get at some key insight that can only come from your consumers themselves. This contact information can be collected at the point of checkout or by online product registration.

Surveys can be conducted in person, over the phone or via mail or email, each of which requires a different amount of effort, time and money. Survey host sites such as are often inexpensive and easy to use.

Telephone interviews are more time-consuming and resource-intensive. However, there is benefit to speaking to someone, as there is opportunity to deviate from the interview guide and get at some insight that would not have otherwise been uncovered in an electronic survey. Hiring summer or cooperative education students is a great, inexpensive way to get some of this type of research done.

The first step in designing a survey is listing everything you would love to know or your objectives for engaging in consumer research. These objectives can relate to the strengths/ weaknesses of the product or service itself, effective marketing outlets, price points … the list goes on. From here, it is best to design questions that are open-ended in nature, where your customers are required to respond with more than “yes” or “no” answers. Next, it is important to test your questions on a few customers to ensure that you are getting the type of information you are looking for.
Now what? You’ve collected this information, but what’s next?

Once the surveys have been completed, the information can be reviewed for common responses and suggestions for improvement. As a new company, you may be trying to figure out what your selling proposition, or “secret sauce,” is with your consumers. Research can provide insight into the perceived value of your product or service and allow you to better develop and execute effective marketing strategies with this in mind.
It is important to remember:

  • Not every customer will be willing to take the time to provide you with feedback on your product or service – and that’s okay!
  • Both negative and positive feedback is valuable as it can be used as the basis for moving forward in your business.
  • Think about what it is you want to learn before jumping into consumer research and avoid these common mistakes.

Crystal Sarantoulias
Market Research Analyst and Independant Consultant

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Why Knowing Your Consumer is an Investment Worth Making

Posted on September 12 2011 | Author: Crystal Sarantoulias

As we’ve learned from my last post, getting to know your customers is one of the greatest challenges facing business owners, especially when starting out with a product or service that consumers are not familiar with.

Collecting information about your consumers, or conducting consumer research, can however be one of the single most effective uses of your time and marketing resources.

So what is consumer research?

Consumer research is a look into what is really driving consumer behaviour and decision making (

Why is consumer research so important?

As a business owner, knowing your consumer saves you money, helps you make informed business decisions, equips you to identify new opportunities before the competition, and minimizes your business risks. Here’s how you go about conducting your own research:

  1. Identify your demographic. Understand who it is that is using your product or service. It can help you get feedback on your product. Both positive and negative insight is critical to further product or service development. True intelligence is most valuable when coming from the end user themselves.
  2. Invest your marketing dollars strategically. Marketing is only effective if it is reaching the right audience – by understanding which outlets are popular among your target consumer group, your marketing dollars can be strategically invested in targeted messaging that your customers can relate to.
  3. Determine how to best communicate with your customers directly. For example, if your customers are mainly using email and online networks as a primary form of communication – spending money on a mail out campaign is not the most effective way to reach your audience. On the other hand, it may be an effective way to get new customers.

Knowing your consumers can shed light on the real value proposition or benefit of your product or service. This gives you strong insight when targeting your marketing efforts. For example, if your product or service helps your customers save time and money, then perhaps you could showcase an online testimonial section on your website where consumers can share their experiences.

Without understanding the value in your product from a consumer perspective, marketing strategies are a shot in the dark.

Crystal Sarantoulias
Market Research Analyst and Independent Consultant


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Posted on 2011.10.18 | Author: Torie

Furrealz? That's marvelously good to know.

The Greenest Building in the World

Posted on September 09 2011 | Author: Admin

Ready for another Innovation Friday Video?

The Port of Portland is a large quasi-state agency in Oregon, which operates 3 airports, and several marine terminals along the mighty Columbia River, and sees thousands of tons of cargo come through its facilities every week.  When they recently decided to relocate their headquarters from a downtown highrise to the airport, they had a prime opportunity to go green.

Check out this weeks video featuring one of the greenest buildings in the world (according to Forbes).

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Trying to Stretch your Marketing Dollars?

Posted on September 07 2011 | Author: Crystal Sarantoulias

Why your consumers can be your best marketing investment.

Gaining consumer trust can be a difficult task for brand managers. With loads of deception and washed out marketing techniques, consumers today are second-guessing everything they read and see.

So how do you gain their trust?

You need marketing strategies and tactics that really hit home for your consumers. You want your consumers or prospective consumers to feel comfortable and relate to the problem, or unmet need, that your product or service is addressing in the market.

An effective way to do this is to use “champions” or testimonials that will tell your story for you.

A testimonial is essentially a hyped-up reference or recommendation given by a real customer. They give this reference by sharing their personal experience with your product or service. This is important because consumers can relate to other consumers, well, better than they can relate to the perceived, profit-oriented business owner or paid actor/actress.

If your product or service really does provide a benefit to consumers (one should hope!), then have your champion tell their story about their experience with the product.

For example, if your product or service helps consumers save money, then the most effective way to demonstrate to prospective customers that it works is to have them share exactly how much money it helped them save over a period of time or season.

Now, should you offer your champion some sort of incentive? That is up to you. In the case of a subscription product for example – you could offer them a 6 month or 12 month subscription for free. The idea here is that the champion is freely giving their testimonial, and is speaking from personal experience. In other words, they should not be convinced to participate by way of an incentive.

So how do you go about putting together a testimonial?

First, you need to identify that champion. This could be a customer that often compliments your product or service or someone that has taken the time to personally discuss their experience with you.

Secondly, you need to have them agree to share their experience with you. Testimonials can be written or verbal. Either way is effective, as you can easily offer to write the piece from an interview with the champion or record a video of the testimonial. The key to credibility is to always include a picture in the written pieces to make it more personable as well as have the customer sign the piece with their first name.

Finally, post your testimonial where ever you can, including: on your website, in your retail space, on your business cards – anywhere your customers will see it.

For more tips and tricks to getting and using testimonials effectively, check out:

Crystal Sarantoulias
Market Research Analyst and Independent Consultant


Other References:


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The Perceived Link Between Price and Quality...

Posted on September 06 2011 | Author: Crystal Sarantoulias

What’s really going on in your consumers’ minds?

From a functionality perspective, there is a clear difference between the quality of one product versus another. What’s not so straight forward is how consumers perceive the quality of a product and more specifically, the relationship between price and quality.
So, how do consumers relate price and quality to value in their decision regarding a product and service? This notion is actually far more complicated than you would initially think.

Although it is common for consumers to assume that the most expensive version of a product is the best quality, there are other factors that are influencing this perception.

While quality can be broadly defined as excellence or superiority, perceived quality has a significantly different meaning. It can be fairly abstract as opposed to focused on a particular attribute, and it can be related to the consumers’ attitude or judgement.
Essentially, the perceived value of a product or service really depends on what the consumer expects to receive in terms of benefits versus what they are going to pay. It’s a trade-off. 

What consumers are willing to pay for your product and what they expect in terms of features is ultimately what entrepreneurs and business owners should try and understand in order to effectively meet their consumers’ needs.

The first step is understanding that there is a perceived relationship between price and quality. The second step is trying to determine the product or service features that consumers value – this will shed light on what’s going on in the minds of consumers and can be very beneficial in determining an appropriate price point. Pricing too high and not delivering quality, as well as pricing too low and leaving an impression of poor quality, can both be detrimental to sales. 

As you can see in this article from the Globe and Mail, perceived consumer value can also help to determine when and if it is appropriate to raise your prices. 

It is important to keep in mind that there’re always going to be customers who think your product quality is terrible, but there will also be those that are extremely happy with the quality of your product. It’s about finding a balance between these two groups – this is your target consumer group. Your marketing campaigns, sales and promotions should be targeting these individuals, the features they value and a level of quality that is worth the price you are charging. 

When making these business decisions, remember to always think as a consumer. Recall a time when you are contemplating between 3 products that essentially do the same thing – a shower head for example – are you more likely to select the $29, $59 or $99 dollar product? What do you look for? What features indicate quality to you? Your customers are thinking the same way when contemplating the purchase of your product.

Crystal Sarantoulias
Market Research Analyst and Independent Consultant

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Innovation Fridays: Plastic from Corn

Posted on September 02 2011 | Author: Admin

The majority of plastics today are oil-based. Not only does plastic consume 10% of the world's oil supply, but it also increases global warming, and can take over 1000 year to degrade. Plastic made from corn is biodegradable, carbon neutral, renewable and even edible.

The long chains of carbon molecules in corn starch are remarkably similar to the chains of carbon in oil-based plastic. The pellets of corn polymer can be melted down and formed into any shape and size of biodegradable plastic. Find out how it's made...

Watch our Innovation Video of the Week:

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Posted on 2011.10.19 | Author: Donte

IJWTS wow! Why can't I think of things like that?

How to Explain Your Idea to a VC

Posted on September 01 2011 | Author: Admin

Written by Brad Feld, re-posted from

Allen Morgan at Mayfield has a nice series up on his blog about the ten commandments for entrepreneurs. His post today is Commandment #6: Explain Your New Ideas by Analogy To, or Contrast With, Old Ideas.

He’s right. Mostly. At the end of his post, he asks for ways to “categorize the new ‘It’” (if they are VCs). My constructive addition to his post is the notion of the analog analog (also known as the “analog analogue”, but I like my version better).

In the mid 1990’s, I met Jerry Colonna, we invested in a few companies together, and became very close friends. I love Jerry and – while I rarely see him since he’s in NY and I’m in Boulder – I feel connected to him in a way that’s unique. Maybe it was our joint experiences together, maybe it was something we drank one night, or maybe it was merely a cosmic connection – in any case, I smile whenever I think of the things I’ve learned from him and the experiences we have had together.

One day, when we were talking about a deal, Jerry knocked me on my ass by saying “what’s the analog analog?” In true Feld fashion, I responded with a “huh?” Jerry went on to explain his theory of the analog analog (which I’ve written about before) – specifically that every great technology innovation (or technology business) has a real world, non-digital analogy. It’s not the “nothing new is ever invented” paradigm – rather it’s the “learn from the past” paradigm.

I’ve found this to be a much more powerful lens to look through when evaluating a new business than the “technology analog” lens (which is the one Allen is describing in his post). While “Tivo for the Web” or “eBay meets CNN” are useful analogies, I recommend entrepreneurs take a giant step back – out of the technology domain (or at least our current technology domain) – and get to the core analogy – optimally a non-digital one. Then – walk forward from the analog analog through other analogies to the current idea.

Throughout my life, I’ve heard the cliche “history repeats itself” over and over again. This is never more true then in the computer industry. Earlier this morning, I wrote about Ryan’s post on Mr. Moore in the Datacenter and alluded to the migration from mainframe to web to ASP to SaaS (aren’t they all different versions of the same thing?).

All hail the analog analog – the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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The State of Angel Investing

Posted on August 02 2011 | Author: Dave Smardon

I was talking to an entrepreneur (let's call him Bob) the other day about the challenges of starting up a technology business in Canada. Bob raised a number of issues from the Canadian tax system to the difficulty of finding good experienced people. However, it wasn’t long before the subject of venture capital took the spotlight. He said that raising capital was the greatest challenge facing entrepreneurs today. It is hard to argue this point. I remember the crazy Internet period from 1996 through 2000, when Canada had nearly 200 venture capital companies, and the vast majority were competing for early stage investments. They all had surpluses of capital and were anxious to invest it. Today, it’s hard to find any venture capital firm that actually has money to invest, and those that do have gravitated towards more mature companies and management buy-outs. So, who fills the investment space vacated by our once thriving venture capital sector? Well, regrettably the answer must be angels!

Angel investment groups have been around for many years, particularly in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver. For a long time, the criticism was that they rarely “pull the trigger” on an investment, spending more time in networking and schmoozing than reviewing investment opportunities. Furthermore, many of the angel groups were comprised of what we called “angel wannabees”, individuals who wanted to be perceived as angel investors, and professionals such a lawyers, accountants, bankers and real estate agents, all looking for future business. Of course, the poor entrepreneur who was presenting to these groups would be unaware that 75% of the room had no interest in investing at all, and in fact they had no capital to invest.

Within the last couple of years, Canada’s angel community seems to have grown and matured. Thanks to government support programs, formal angel groups are springing up all across the country. Many of these angel organizations are still learning how to manage and coordinate their angel investors, not an easy task. However, one would think that the increased angel activity would be good news for entrepreneurs like Bob. I asked Bob if he had approached angel groups. His response was a rather flippant “been there”, “done that” as he had presented to five separate angel organizations in the past six months. Bob described his experience as unfruitful, time consuming and frustrating. In some groups, Bob was able to have private conversations with angel members only to find that several of them were professionals looking to get business from Bob’s company. He also suggested that Canadian angel groups really don’t cooperate or co-invest very often, but rather, they tend to be somewhat self-centred as they invest only within their local geographies. 

Talking to Bob, it sounds like the more things change; the more they stay the same. Perhaps the angel investor community cannot fill the gap left by past venture capital firms. While we wait for our angel community to mature, the lack of investment capital for early stage technology companies continues with no apparent solution on the horizon.

Bob did get the capital for his company. He raised $2 million from investors in the United States.

For your further reading, you might find the NACO’s recent report Investment Activity by Canadian Angel Groups: 2010 Report of interest.

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