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2017 Energy New Venture Competition

Six Calgary entrepreneurs win big

Left to right: University of Calgary president Elizabeth Cannon; Brett Chell, managing director of Cold Bore Technology and winner of the venture stream; Doug Hunter, president of Bluesky Equities Ltd.; and Jim Dewald, dean of the Haskayne School of Business. Photo by Kelly Hofer.

On February 28, 2017, aspiring energy sector entrepreneurs and emerging energy tech companies from Canada and the United States competed for almost $140,000 in cash and in-kind prizes at the 2017 Energy New Venture Competition held in downtown Calgary. Dedicated to advancing early-stage emerging technology companies and concepts to the next level, the fourth-annual competition was hosted by the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Haskayne School of Business and supported by Innovate Calgary.

Twelve teams (shortlisted from 69 applicants from around the world) competed in one of two categories – the “concept” stream for very early-stage businesses and the “venture” stream for those further along – and made 10-minute presentations to judging panels and a crowd of 250 investors, other entrepreneurs and sponsors. Each stream had a first-, second- and third-place winner.

“This competition is focused on energy but because the industry is so broad we get to see incredible diversity in the entrepreneur’s pitches,” says Kimberley Neutens, director of the Hunter Centre at the Haskayne School of Business. “Some focus on equipment innovations and process innovations, others on enhanced technology to support decision-making, and of course innovative solutions to problems that positively impact the environment. All of our competitors showcased their concepts or businesses well and showed us, the audience, some real opportunities for innovation in the energy space.

The six winners included an environmental sciences student who developed a natural remediation method that uses fungi; veteran oilpatch engineers who developed a downhole evaluation tool to report the “health of the well” to the client; University of Calgary students who developed a safe solid-state sodium-ion battery to store renewable energy; a developer of a suite of software to streamline and audit pipeline asset data; and a company that developed a modular system to provide solar power for remote industrial operations and communities.

Cold Bore Technology, which provides digital downhole acoustic monitoring, took first prize in the Venture stream, walking away with $25,000 and the chance to present at the PROPEL Energy Tech Forum. “It was really great,” says Brett Chell, the company’s managing director who quit art school to work in the oilpatch. “Very well run with a lot of really reputable people involved.” Winning $25,000 and the chance to speak at PROPEL were great rewards, he says, but so too were the contacts he made. “Getting to stand up in front of the right people disseminates back to the big oil companies. It offered a lot of credibility and translates into real business opportunities.” As a result of his pitch, Chell says he was contacted by a number of large oil and gas companies interested in Cold Bore.

As well as cash prizes, the Venture stream winners will share $40,000 of in-kind support from a number of sponsors including Bennett Jones Kickstart, Collins Barrow, GLJ Petroleum Consultants, William Joseph Communications and VA Angels.