The deadline to enter the all-Alberta 2015 VenturePrize Business Plan Competition is just days away! Entries must be submitted by midnight, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, including a business plan for your company.

Up for grabs is over $200,000 in prizes, for any innovation-based start-up or early stage Alberta company – even for companies that are not yet incorporated.

VenturePrize is far more than a competition, though the $200,000 in prizes, publicity and immediate investor interest sweetens that pot.

VenturePrize is about answering your questions, helping you refine and develop your all-important business plan.

VenturePrize is about business plan feedback, media exposure, networking, mentorship and education.

All contestants are invited to attend a series of VenturePrize business planning educational seminars, pick and work with an experienced business mentor, and receive professional feedback from the jury on your plan.

Contestants can also attend a two-day TEC Edmonton’s Business Basics for Entrepreneurs (BBFI) workshop, custom-tailored to your needs. In Southern Alberta, the workshop is offered by Innovate Calgary’s Innovator’s Toolkit series.

It all culminates in the VenturePrize Awards and Dinner, April 29, 2015 at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton. The finalists in the two categories, and in the student competition, make their final pitches to the judges that evening, with the winners announced shortly thereafter that same evening.

Says VenturePrize 2006 winner Chris Laboissiere, with his then-fledgling company Leading Edge, now Yardstick Software. “We received forthright, blunt criticisms and assessments from mentors, juries and our peers. It was really good stuff. If you can’t accept scrutiny, don’t start a business.”

To learn more about VenturePrize, please visit www.
For particular information, don’t hesitate to call VenturePrize producer Kendel Ferrier at 780-492-8857 or email Kendel at

Who Can Participate
Entrants must be an individual, team, or company that has:
1. A viable, high-growth business concept.
2. At least one person living, working or attending school in Alberta.
3. If entering as a new company, the company must be operational within one year.
4. If entering as an existing company, the majority of operations must occur in Alberta, have fewer than 20 full-time employees, less than $1 million in annual revenue, less than $2 million in capitalization.
5. Previous winners are not eligible for re-entry. Student winners, however, may enter the non-student categories.

“My advice to startup companies?” says Meghan Dear, Founder and CEO of 2014 VenturePrize Winner Localize Your Food. “Do it! Enter VenturePrize! Even if you stumble and fall, you’ll learn so much. Then get up, and enter again!”

An Interesting story in the Calgary Herald, entitled “DataGardens grows corporate IT security in cloud” by technology startup business columnist Lloyed Lobo (published in the Dec. 5, 2014  online newspaper edition) about former TEC Edmonton client and 2008 TEC VenturePrize Fast Growth Competiton winner DataGardens.

Edmonton-based DataGardens has grown to the point where it provides IT cloud security to some of the best-known multinationals in the world, such as Coca-Cola, Dell and Hewlett Packard.

Thanks, DataGardens CEO Geoff Hayward,  for the mention of TEC Edmonton and Innovate Calgary as important support services that startup companies  should take advantage of.

DataGardens has since been sold to American cloud security company CenturyLink.

DataGardens grows corporate IT security in cloud

Save the date on your calendar: The 2015 TEC VenturePrize business plan competition and awards dinner will take place Wednesday, April 29, at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton.

Details about the 13th annual competition will be announced at the 2015 VenturePrize Launch and Celebration in Enterprise Square on Thursday, January 8 at 3 p.m. RSVP today for this launch event.

At that time, full details about the 13th annual competition will be announced.

The event promises to be bigger and better than ever. Most important, every startup company that enters one of the three prize categories will receive invaluable business coaching, mentoring, educational and networking opportunities.

VenturePrize has given a huge boost to dozens upon dozens of Alberta’s startup technology companies, most of whom continue to thrive.

See you January 8, and then April 29.

Alvin (Shaochen) Xu is the stuff entrepreneurs are made of.

Still in his ’20s, facing a multitude of challenges, he continues to grow his promising new technology-based company AltaCarbon Inc. step by step.

The young man, a University of Alberta graduate in 2012, is working several jobs, looking for investors, looking for lab space, doing whatever it takes to commercialize a patented process AltaCarbon has licensed from the University of Alberta. The laboratory-proven process turns coke, an oil-sands near-waste petroleum byproduct, into value-added activated carbon.

Alvin stumbled upon the project as a student.

“I was taking a U of A business course on writing business plans,” he says. “The assignment was for teams of students in the class to find an idea for a business, and write a business plan around it.”

One of Alvin’s team members was Heng Chen, a master’s student who, in the laboratory with Professor Zaher Hashisho, had invented a way of turning coke into activated carbon using microwaves.

“We went with Chen’s idea for our business plan. It was real, tangible. We came up with a name. Then our business professor suggested we enter the business plan in TEC Edmonton’s TEC Venture Prize student business plan competition.

“We won! Which wasn’t surprising because Heng had a viable process. We thought it could be competitive. We had a realistic business plan.”

Alvin had always been interested in business. “I attended a weekend Startup School taught by Michael Sikorsky,” he says. “It broadened my horizons and open me up to the world of entrepreneurship. I realized AltaCarbon could be a real business opportunity.”

The team negotiated with the University of Alberta, through TEC Edmonton, to acquire a license to use the patented technology. “It involved,” says Alvin, “a lot of negotiation.”

TEC Edmonton Technology Manager Darrell Petras says the AltaCarbon licensing deal was unique. “It’s an interesting technology. A student initiative has evolved into an Edmonton-based company, using made-in-Edmonton patented technology.”

Meanwhile Alvin’s team lost members. The original six were down to four when AltaCarbon won the TEC Student VenturePrize Competition. Two more members disengaged from AltaCarbon upon graduation. “It was down to Heng and I,” says Alvin. “When we both graduated, Heng decided to pursue his career.”

AltaCarbon was down to one. But Alvin’s middle name is persistence. “I brought on a business advisor. I was working full-time but I doing market research and financial projections for AltaCarbon.”

AltaCarbon, still not ramped up, kept winning business prizes, like Entrepreneurship@UAlberta’s inaugural Triffo Prize in Innovation in March of 2014, and, more recently, a $7,500 prize from the Energy New Venture Competition held in early 2015 at the University of Calgary.

So where is Xu at now? He has a new partner, third year University of Alberta engineering student Geoffrey Bekavac. His market research is positive. He’s hanging in with this project.

Xu is now looking for a laboratory with the equipment and the interest to scale up AltaCarbon’s manufacturing process. “Our goal is to scale up from making grams of activated carbon at a time, to kilograms.

“As we go along, I’m more and more of a believer. We can produce good activated carbon at a lower price point than the competition. And there are other possible applications for this technology.”

A kid full of dreams, or a determined entrepreneur who’ll climb Mount Everest, if need be, to make those dreams comes true?

“Certainly I didn’t anticipate all this waiting time,” says Alvin. “Even if it doesn’t work out, the learning experience has been enormous. What I’ve mostly learned is you often have to do things not by the book … if you want to get things done.”

[fullwidth backgroundcolor=”” backgroundimage=”” backgroundrepeat=”no-repeat” backgroundposition=”left top” backgroundattachment=”scroll” video_webm=”” video_mp4=”” video_ogv=”” video_preview_image=”” overlay_color=”” overlay_opacity=”0.5″ video_mute=”yes” video_loop=”yes” fade=”no” bordersize=”0px” bordercolor=”” borderstyle=”” paddingtop=”20px” paddingbottom=”20px” paddingleft=”0px” paddingright=”0px” menu_anchor=”” equal_height_columns=”no” hundred_percent=”no” class=”” id=””]If you’re thinking about entering your startup company in TEC Edmonton’s 2015 TEC VenturePrize Business Plan Competition, read on.

Chris LaBoissiere and Don Riep had barely started what is now one of Edmonton’s most successful IT companies, testing and training expert Yardstick Software.

But in 2006, then known as Leading Edge Technologies, Yardstick was one year old. Its three employees (including the two co-founders) worked around the clock just to keep the wolf from the door.

VenturePrize, LaBoissiere says, was pivotal to Yardstick’s post VenturePrize success.

“We only found out and entered the competition 12 days before the deadline for submitting a business plan,”s says LaBoissiere. “Being forced to write that business plan changed our lives.

“The three of us – it was only us back then – stayed up to midnight every night before the deadline. We were forced to wrestle with all those questions you need to answer if your company is going to be successful. Without that deadline we’d have been too busy just keeping the company alive. You don’t think about markets or business models.

Once the Yardstick business plan was submitted, along came another unexpected benefit from the business contest. “We received forthright, blunt criticisms and assessments from mentors, juries and our peers. It was really good stuff. If you can’t accept scrutiny, don’t start a business.”

Third unexpected benefit: LaBoissiere and Riep’s eyes were opened to the power of networking. “All the finalists were of a high calibre. We had a great time with each other. Today we are still friends. Some are employees. Others have given us opportunities to invest in their businesses. Together, we realized what it would take to make our companies successful.”

Winning – which Yardstick did in 2006 – was almost secondary. Almost. Being a VenturePrize winner gave the company the “stamp of validity,” says Chris. “We gained credibility and exposure. Winning the prize opened a lot of doors.” The healthy prize, in both cash and services, didn’t hurt!

At the 2015 TEC VenturePrize launch last week, TEC CEO Chris Lumb was proud to back LaBoissiere and Reap’s words with impressive statistics.

An informal survey of the 33 winners before VenturePrize 2014 was held showed only three had ceased doing business.

Collectively, $60 million in investment capital had been raised. Annual revenues ranged from $1 million to $12 million a year, and the companies were employing from 10 to 35 knowledge-based employees.

To learn more about entering the VenturePrize Competition , with its Fast Growth, TELUS IT, and post-secondary student streams, plus its entire educational component, please visit

The entrance fee, including all educational components, mentoring and events is $500.

The deadline for entering a business plan is midnight, Feb. 24, however the educational component starts as of Jan. 22.

For particular questions please do not hesitate to call or e-mail TEC VenturePrize manager Kendel Ferrier at 780 492 8857,

Thursday lunchtime seminar series led by TEC Edmonton CEO Chris Lumb and TEC Edmonton’s team of Executives-In-Residence from Jan. 22 to Feb. 26, are included in competition entry fee. Those wishing to attend the lunchtime seminar series may do so for a fee of $100.

Topics include:

Why Do You Need a Business Plan? Jan 23
Your Product – Industry & Market Analysis / Opportunities & Risk / Operational 5 Year Plan. Jan. 29
What Entrepreneurs Need to Know on the Legal Front, Feb. 5
Your Financial Statements and the Management Team Responsible, Feb. 12
Protecting Your Technology, Feb. 19
Selling Your Plan, Feb. 26

Entrants to the TEC VenturePrize Competition are also welcome to attend, at no extra charge, TEC Edmonton’s two-day Business Basics for Innovators (BBFI) workshop series.[/fullwidth]

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