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Brightspark East Launches On AVF Eve

On the eve of the Atlantic Venture Forum, Brightspark Ventures of Toronto held a reception Tuesday night to outline its plans for Brightspark East, a collaboration with East Valley Ventures of Saint John.

The AVF begins today at the Nova Scotia Westin Hotel, and will allow more than 20 Atlantic Canadian startups to present their companies before investors from across Canada and the U.S.

One of those investors is Sophie Forest, Managing Partner of Brightspark Ventures, who introduced the group’s funding model Tuesday night.

Brightspark is positioned somewhere between a venture capital fund and an angel network. It is overseen by a professional fund management team. Each time they identify a company they want to invest in, they create a new fund to invest just in that company. All the Brightspark members are then invited to invest in the company through the new fund, which will be managed by Brightspark.  It’s a funding model that’s already been used successfully by such groups as FundersClub in California and Ourcrowd in Israel.

Brightspark has done four deals in Ontario in the past year, raising between $500,000 to $2 million in each.

The funding group is now raising money for Halifax-based social media marketing company InNetwork, which is expected to raise about $1 million. The funding will likely close in September.

Forest and East Valley Venture Chair Gerry Pond made it clear they plan for more deals in the region. Bright Spark East has hired Barrie Black, the former President and CEO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, as its Vice President of Business Development and its person on the ground in the region.

Brightspark has had success investing in Atlantic Canada as the fund, like the founders of East Valley, invested in Radian6, the Fredericton social media analysis company that sold out for $326 million in 2011.

“The reason we are here in Atlantic Canada is we were investors in Radian6,” said Forest. “We know the culture. There’s a great entrepreneurial spirit and a great work ethic in the companies we’ve seen here.”

With offices in Halifax and Toronto, InNetwork vets and approves influencers to ensure that they are bona fide opinion leaders. It beta-tested the product with about six Canadian customers last year and has been working with many more paying customers. Founder and CEO Chris Keevill was not at the reception Tuesday because he was at sales meetings in New York.

In 2013, the company received seed funding of $250,000 from Innovacorp and $240,000 from a group of angels led by Pond, who became the InNetwork’s Board Chair.

InNetwork presented at the AVF last year. This year the presenting companies include 12 seed-stage companies and nine in their growth phase.