A lot of money and a little cloak and dagger were on the agenda for more than two dozen young companies at the recent Banff Venture Forum.
And while it’s still too early to confirm actual deals, several Alberta entrepreneurs among the 240 delegates who attended believe this year’s event (Sept. 5-6) helped them place some strategic irons in the fire with about 35 potential investors.
“There are definitely leads, both domestically and internationally,” says Steven Slupsky, founder and CTO at Scan- imetrics, an Edmonton-based startup that is developing a way to test semi-conductors wirelessly.
Slupsky’s company, which is seeking about $2 million in financing, was recognized at the fourth annual forum for best presentation and most viable investment opportunity in the early-stage division. Earlier this year, the firm became the first winner in the Venture Prize competition sponsored by Economic Development Edmonton (EDE), taking home $50,000 in cash and in-kind services for having the best-developed business plan.
“It gives us credibility,” Slupsky says of his Banff win. “It’s yet another measure of external validation of our business plan.”
Synodon Inc., an Edmonton company that is developing an airborne gas leak detector, took home the best-in-class award in the growth-stage category. It, too, is a graduate of an EDE program called the Deal Generator, which helps companies polish their pitch to investors.
“Judging from these two companies and how well they’ve done for themselves, we’d say these programs are having an effect, for sure,” says EDE spokesman Jim Rudolph.
“I think what this kind of exposure does is to make people aware there are some great young companies coming up here and developing in Edmonton, and just the fact these two did so well shows the kind of talent we have up here.”
Other presenting companies, which came from Alberta, British Columbia, California and even Finland, included AMC Technologies Corp., Celeres Systems Inc., Optinetrics, Sonic Mobility Inc. and Trakware Systems Inc.
Susan Miller, president of Inno-Centre Alberta and chair of the Banff Venture Forum’s steering committee, says this year’s record attendance – and the mix of both angel and venture capitalists – helped create an upbeat atmosphere. Investors who have in the past stuck close to their established portfolio of companies seem to be coming out of the woodwork to look at some early-stage opportunities, she says.
But there were also a few faces trying to blend into the crowd.
Miller says there was a spot of intrigue at this year’s forum over the identities of a few mysterious potential investors.
“We had several major angels there who were undercover,” she says.
“Not all of them had ‘investor’ on their badges, because they didn’t want to be known. . . . They didn’t want to be contacted themselves, they just wanted to contact the companies.”