On Thursday, May 26, the first ever “RBC-NOA SSM Bear Pit” pitch event was held in Sault Ste. Marie at the Delta Waterfront Hotel. The event, similar to Dragon’s Den on television, was a pilot event which invited local technology startup companies to pitch their products and/or services to local angel investors as well as business, finance and community partners.
Four local companies pitched their businesses at the Bear Pit on May 26, including: Digital Grounds Inc. (Gentroo), Heuristext Inc., North Origin Games Inc., and Veracity Asset Management Group Inc.. Each company was selected based on their unique business ventures, business development achievements to date, and ability to execute on plans for future growth and business expansion. All four companies were established in Sault Ste. Marie and are clients of the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre.
“We were pleased to be invited to participate in the recent Bear Pit event,” said Graham Nelson, Veracity CEO. “It was a unique opportunity to introduce our company and present our business plan to a key group of local investors.”
RBC Royal Bank and Northern Ontario Angels (NOA), a northern based organization that helps entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground, were primary sponsors of the event, in partnership with Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (SSMIC), FedNor, Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation – Millworks, and Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation.
“These home-grown companies have made tremendous strides towards becoming significant contributors to the future prosperity Sault Ste. Marie and the Northern Ontario economy,” said Gerry Bugyra, Business Development Manager, Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre. “At the Innovation Centre, we work directly with over 70 new companies that have the potential to create new jobs in the Sault and generate wealth in the community; we are so proud of these four and the many other exceptional clients we get to work with.”
Over 65 guests attended the event and feedback has been very positive. “The Sault Ste. Marie Bear Pit event outcome was a great success with a strong investor, funding partner and local business turn-out. Several local NOA Investors expressed interest in future ‘one on one’ meetings with the business presenters,” says Mary Long-Irwin, Executive Director NOA. “We will continue to promote, help grow and support Northern Ontario businesses.”
The Bear Pit event was created to help raise the profile of exceptional startup companies in Sault Ste. Marie, and allow them the opportunity to network and share their products and services with the local business and investment community. By presenting their business pitches to these individuals, they are provided with an alternate option for funding to grow their business, beyond grants and personal investment.
“We at RBC are inspired by the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit that defines Northern Ontario,” shared Bill Bray, RBC Commercial Financial Services Vice President. “Through our active support of the Bear Pit, we are honored to rally around our dynamic business community while providing these companies with the tools and advice to thrive and prosper.”
Based on attendee and presenter feedback, Bear Pit organizers are encouraged that there is an appetite for this type of event in Sault Ste. Marie. As a result, NOA has determined that the Bear Pit event will continue in the future in some capacity, and is hopeful that there can be greater community engagement and new business participation. Consideration must be made in respect of legal and confidential matters for new businesses owners, who often conduct pitches and engage investors in a confidential manner to protect the intellectual property rights of their business and proprietary information. Investors, such as members of the Northern Ontario Angels, may also wish to remain anonymous.