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Author: Kristen Hewlett

Songistry – using artificial intelligence to rock the music industry

“We’re solving some incredible problems within the global music industry,” says Curtis Serna, CEO of Songistry, “and we’re thrilled to be doing it right here in the Edmonton region.”

Songistry is using the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to unlock value across the entertainment industry. It’s run by the innovative minds of CEO Curtis Serna, two-time nominee for Entrepreneur of the Year in Canada and Justin Gray, Founder and Chief Creative Officer. Justin is a Canadian born producer and songwriter who has worked with top tier artists, Avril Lavigne, Mariah Carey, John Legend, Amy Winehouse, and international artists including J-Pop Super Stars Superjunior, Chinese Mega Star Chris Lee and most recently enjoyed twelve, #1 hits in China including a hit with TF Boys’ Roy Wang. Justin brings a combination of music credibility and a personal understanding of the challenges faced by artists and the entertainment industry related to digital copyright, publishing, and royalties.

In 2019, approximately 46 million music creators and corporations lost out on the opportunity to collect royalties due to a lack of copyright information (often referred to as “metadata”), resulting in a 2.5-billion-dollar loss (USD). Songistry’s premier product, MDIIO (Music Data Intelligence In/Out), solves this problem and more. MDIIO is a music asset/copyright management tool and marketplace that leverages the latest developments in AI to protect the work of music creatives worldwide. By using copyright and other metadata details, MDIIO helps artists and music corporations protect their hard work, assets, and livelihoods. MDIIO is driven to provide Canadian artists a scientific, competitive advantage in getting their music discovered and licensed in TV/ film and advertising.

Justin was first inspired to create the platform when he realized how vulnerable songwriters were to being taken advantage of.

“A system that hasn’t traditionally supported songwriters is ripe for disruption,” said Justin. “Having worked in music for 20 plus years, I was really saddened to see songwriters and creators getting the short end of the stick. Especially with the onset of digital music streaming. Songwriters were the slowest to adapt and therefore the most vulnerable. I wanted to make sure that songwriters were provided a platform that not only fostered their creativity and organized their assets, but also democratized monetization of their hard work.”

Justin Gray, Founder and Chief Creative Officer

When Justin was introduced to Curtis, who initially came on as an investor it quickly became evident that Curtis had the commercialization expertise that Songistry needed to help bring MDIIO to life and to help protect the interest of songwriters.

Curtis Serna, CEO

MDIIO is now being featured in Global Affairs Canada’s Spring 2020 Software and Technologies Dealbook. The Dealbook is “a tool formulated to increase exposure to some of Canada’s most promising technology companies,” says Chief Trade Commissioner of Canada, Aillish Campbell. MDIIO fits the bill and their placement in the Dealbook has helped Songistry increase its profile to international audiences. In the first day the Dealbook was launched, Songistry was approached by two venture capital groups from Silicon Valley, that are interested in leading the investment into the Edmonton-based company.

The MDIIO platform allows creatives, from songwriters to artists, to musicians, bands, DJ’s and composers, to upload their music, apply metadata to their copyright, and then register the song with SOCAN, Canada’s performance rights organization that collects royalties for members. SOCAN is comprised of 170,000 members, 86% of which are unaffiliated independent artists and songwriters. MDIIO represents and helps protect these artists and their copyrights, while getting their work in front of companies such as Netflix, Hallmark, and Sony to name just a few studio networks. MDIIO works as a marketplace where these companies can come to license music for various projects – allowing more artists to monetize their work and gain exposure by leveraging science as their competitive advantage.

MDIIO has multiple features specifically designed to help spotlight the work of indie creators while simultaneously helping music supervisors find new music for their tv/ film or advertising projects. These licensors that use MDIIO have access to features such as mood track analysis, and dynamic emotional analysis (visualizing the emotion of the song on a second by second basis), as well as several additional A.I. features in development – all designed to allow licensors to find that perfect song that evokes the right emotions and story alignment without the complexity and the higher price points often associated with more well-known songs. For example, a mainstream Bruno Mars song can be licensed on average for $500,000. MDIIO’s recommendation/ search engine can identify songs that sound similar to Bruno Mars for a fraction of the cost, making the value proposition very attractive to licensors and network studios.

Creators who use MDIIO don’t have to compromise between gaining exposure and a paycheck. MDIIO receives a 20% commission on licensing transactions facilitated through the MDIIO platform, which is far less than agents who charge 50 to 75% in commission.

With so many innovative features and incentives, it is no surprise that there are more than 3,600+ creators from 19 different countries using MDIIO, representing 15,000 songs being hosted on the platform today. Not all users are indie creators; in fact, some of these users include high profile songwriters that have collaborated with the world’s biggest artists such as Beyonce, Rihanna, Shawn Mendes, and Madonna (to name a few).

As MDIIO continues to grow on the home stage, Songistry is simultaneously striving to expand the platform farther into Asia, where Justin Gray continues to leverage his extensive success and relationships. Songistry has already begun preliminary conversations with labels, publishers, and management companies in Greater China and Asia.

“China is an important emerging market for us,” says Justin. “As copyright protection becomes more critical and major players such as Tencent and Youkou move into royalty-based payment systems, the necessity to track all of the pertinent and important data associated with copyright is more important than ever. Over the next 5 years, royalties and copyrights via China alone will amount to billions and billions of dollars. Someone needs to help provide the infrastructure and ability to shepherd these revenues and create new business models. Songistry/MDIIO is technologically prepared to do exactly that.”

“Despite the impacts of COVID, we continue to grow,” says Curtis, “but no amount of success will ever change the fact that we are an Alberta corporation with access to tremendous support and resources. Edmonton provides us the competitive advantage we would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.”

You can read more about what the Songistry team is up to here.

RJ Maclean – Disrupting the status quo to bring innovation to the energy industry

Kiely Maclean, President and CEO of RJ Maclean.

RJ Maclean is working to modernize the energy industry, using innovative technology to do some of its dirtiest – and most dangerous – work.

Storage tank cleaning is an essential process in the oil sector and is required to be performed in any facility where oil is stored. Traditionally, this process involves removing as much of the product or sludge within the tank as possible, then people climb into the tanks to finish the job by hand. Despite rigorous safety precautions, this is some of the most dangerous work being done in the industry.

After completing her degree, Kiely chose to take a job working at the field level for a tank cleaning company. Working on the front lines of these projects, Kiely was able to see first-hand an opportunity for technological and environmental innovation. Both Kiely and her father, Greg Maclean, a long advocate for innovation in energy, were convinced that these archaic cleaning methods could be modernized. The father-daughter team initiated a consultation company called Maclean Tank Services, a global consulting company that taught people in the industry how to use robotics for tank cleaning.

Challenging the status quo

In 2015, Kiely and Greg then partnered with RJ Oil Sands (now RJ Enterprises), headed up by Jack Seguin, another award-winning innovator in the energy sector.

One of the biggest challenges RJ Maclean faced early on was the high degree of difficulty in gaining entry in this sector. The energy industry is generally well established, meaning it can be difficult to change the status quo. However, RJ Maclean had an innovative way of scaling these barriers.

“When we walked through the technology with potential clients, we would start by cleaning a tank using the traditional methods, to prove that we were familiar with the process and the standards,” says Kiely Maclean, CEO and Co-Founder of RJ Maclean. “From there, we could introduce one robot at a time to demonstrate how the process worked and the opportunities for efficiency.”

RJ Maclean went through this process with several Canadian clients. Eventually word of RJ Maclean’s unique methods and technology spread throughout the industry, challenging competition to also star to adopt automation. Soon, a leading international energy corporation recognized the value in the innovation and bought into it wholeheartedly. “We’ve been given the opportunity to work for them across North America. It shows what we have been able to accomplish as a relatively new company in the last five years.”

RJ Maclean has been able to cultivate a team of young professionals who are engaged in a modern approach to establish the foundation of their business. “Competition doesn’t scare me,” says Kiely. “It’s the people on our team that give us an edge, they are the ones driving the innovation. Ultimately, its the method our team uses to execute the work that makes it hard for our competitors to keep up.”

The Edmonton metro region advantage

The Edmonton Metropolitan Region is one of the largest energy manufacturing hubs in North America. The region’s manufacturing capabilities and access to global markets make it the perfect place for RJ Maclean to be based.

“The Edmonton region is very focused on research and development,” says Kiely. “It’s very innovative here. There are not a lot of communities that are as focused on putting their heads down and challenging the status quo the way Edmonton is doing. There’s a collective willingness for innovation that translates into a global scale.”

Another global ranking for Edmonton region

The Edmonton Metropolitan Region was featured in Startup Genome’s 2020 Global Startup Ecosystem Report (GSER).  

The report’s coverage of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region paints an accurate picture of a region bursting with talent and primed for opportunity. The region was recognized as ranking amongst the Top 10 North American Ecosystems for Affordable Talent in 2020. 

Earlier this year, the Edmonton region climbed 4 spots in StartupBlink’s global ranking of cities by startup ecosystem, placing it firmly in the top 100 at 91 out of a total of 1,000 cities ranked.  

“Within the last month we’ve been in two global rankings – Startup Genome’s 2020 report and cracking the top 100 with StartupBlink growing evidence that we’re being noticed internationally,” said Edmonton Global’s vice president innovation and strategy, Lynette Tremblay. As part of her role, Lynette tracks the Edmonton region’s global competitiveness compared to regions around the world. “Our region climbed 34 spots in the last two years in StartupBlink’s global ranking – demonstrating the growing awareness and competitiveness of what’s happening here.”   

Startup Genome highlighted AI, big data, analytics, and life science sectors as Edmonton’s sub-sector strengths. The success of companies in the region such as MEDO.ai, an Edmonton-based startup recently granted FDA approval for the world’s first tool using artificial intelligence to detect hip dysplasia, are a testament to those strengths. According to Lynette, “we are aggressively trending in the right direction and that’s largely thanks to our many entrepreneurs, our universities and colleges, and the incredible talent that calls our region home.” 

The lack of a provincial sales tax, as well as the regions 7 post-secondary institutions and “exceptionally affordable quality of life” were recognized as some of the top reasons to move startups to the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.  

Startup Genome is the world-leading policy advisory and research organization for governments and public-private partnerships committed to accelerating the success of their startup ecosystem. Their mission is to accelerate startup success and ecosystem performance, working with global thought leaders to define and execute robust policies and programs that drive lasting change. 

Read Startup Genomes full report. The region is featured on pages 84-85.  

Read StartupBlink’s Global Rankings.  

Entos Pharmaceuticals Announces Selection of Lead DNA Vaccine Candidates for COVID-19 and a $4.2M Award to Move Forward with Phase I/II Human Trials

In preclinical studies, two lead Fusogenix DNA vaccine (Covigenix) candidates demonstrated high immunogenicity and efficacy. Lead candidates to be evaluated in SARS-CoV-2 animal challenge studies and advanced to human clinical trials during summer 2020.

In preclinical studies, two lead Fusogenix DNA vaccine (Covigenix) candidates demonstrated high immunogenicity and efficacy

Lead candidates to be evaluated in SARS-CoV-2 animal challenge studies and advanced to human clinical trials during summer 2020

Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) awards $4.2M grant to John Lewis, PhD., to be used for development of COVID-19 DNA vaccine 

EDMONTON, Alberta–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Entos Pharmaceuticals (Entos), a healthcare biotechnology company developing nucleic acid medicines with its Fusogenix drug delivery platform, today announced the selection of two lead candidates for a pan-coronavirus Fusogenix DNA vaccine (Covigenix) from its prototyping program launched at the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The selection of two lead candidates is based on strong preclinical results demonstrating high immunogenicity, high levels of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies, and the potential for no antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE)

“Based on the preclinical in vivo safety and efficacy data, we believe our Fusogenix DNA vaccine candidates have the potential to be safe and highly potent vaccines that will provide protection against COVID-19 as well as future coronavirus threats”

DNA vaccine approaches are advantageous over traditional and mRNA vaccines because they can be developed to express multiple epitopes, which may be essential for generating protection from pan-coronavirus infection. In collaboration with academic and industrial partners, Entos rapidly developed a panel of recombinant plasmid DNA vaccine candidates encoding in silico-optimized and conserved regions of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

The two lead Covigenix candidates showed robust preclinical in vivo results, achieving all vaccine profile targets, including potency, ADE safety assessment, high immunogenicity, and efficacy. Lead Covigenix candidates stimulated neutralizing antibody levels and balanced T helper cell immunity in mouse models. In addition, no weight loss was observed at multiple doses of vaccine candidates.

“Based on the preclinical in vivo safety and efficacy data, we believe our Fusogenix DNA vaccine candidates have the potential to be safe and highly potent vaccines that will provide protection against COVID-19 as well as future coronavirus threats,” said John Lewis, CEO of Entos Pharmaceuticals. “These results reflect the potential of our Fusogenix drug delivery platform which has allowed us to quickly advance lead vaccine candidates to animal challenge studies. We look forward to continue working closely with our collaborators to initiate Phase I/II human clinical trials this summer.”

A $4.2M grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Research Nova Scotia (RNS), and the Institute for Ageing (IA) will be used to further develop the Covigenix vaccine candidates through animal challenge studies and human clinical trials. Entos will partner with the Clinical Trials Research Center at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology (CCfV) in Nova Scotia, Canada to initiate Phase I/II human clinical trials which will evaluate the safety, tolerability, immunogenicity and efficacy of the Covigenix vaccine candidates in late July.

Entos aims to develop a safe and effective Covigenix DNA vaccine for COVID-19 in one year. Its Fusogenix drug delivery technology provides the ability to rapidly develop and scale up production of the optimal Covigenix vaccine candidate. Partnering with other institutions and companies will allow Entos to scale GMP-manufacturing capacity with the goal of providing millions of doses of the vaccine.

About the Canadian Institutes of Health Research
At the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) we know that research has the power to change lives. As Canada’s health research investment agency, we collaborate with partners and researchers to support the discoveries and innovations that improve our health and strengthen our health care system.

About the Canadian Center for Vaccinology
CCfV, a Dalhousie University Center affiliated with the IWK Health Centre and the Nova Scotia Health Authority, is an integrated, collaborative, interdisciplinary research group that spans the full spectrum of vaccine research from basic vaccine discovery to evaluation to policy, programs, and implementation.

About Entos Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Entos develops next generation nucleic acid-based therapies using their proprietary Fusogenix drug delivery system. Fusogenix is a proteo-lipid vehicle (PLV) formulation that uses a novel mechanism of action to deliver molecules, intact and unmodified, directly into the cytosol of target cells. The technology is applicable to a wide range of therapeutic types including gene therapy, mRNA, miRNA, RNAi, CRISPR and small molecule drugs. For more information www.entospharma.com.


Contacts

For more information contact:
John D. Lewis, Ph.D.
CEO, Entos Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Phone: (780) 862-7445
Email: john.lewis@entospharma.com

Edmonton’s startup ecosystem in global 100

Edmonton climbed 4 spots in StartupBlink’s global ranking of cities by startup ecosystem, placing it firmly in the top 100 at 91 out of a total of 1000 cities ranked.

StartupBlink is “the world’s most comprehensive startup ecosystem map and research center.” The company releases its Startup Ecosystem Rankings Report once per year, ranking 1,000 cities and 100 countries based on their startup ecosystem activity levels. StartupBlink’s ranking algorithm analyses data points on registered startups, coworking spaces, and accelerators on StartupBlink’s global startup ecosystem map, with supporting data from partners such as SimilarWeb and Crunchbase.

In a recent article, Crunchbase highlighted how Alberta’s 2019 growth is rolling over into new opportunities for 2020, despite what the COVID-19 pandemic has done to business ecosystems around the world.

“Several startups [in Alberta] are well-positioned to meet the current challenges head-on,” wrote Christiana Mazocco following the release of this year’s rankings. “[O]thers are recalibrating to new metrics and constraints by pivoting to different models. We can find opportunities in crisis and see encouraging support through the establishment of new government programs and the emergence of new resources from all sides of Canadian tech.”

Edmonton metro region company Showbie, an education app that aims to combine all the tools teachers need for assignments, feedback, and communication, saw exponential growth as a result of the pandemic as more students shifted from learning in the classroom to learning at home.

“Talent and innovation are key components of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s value proposition,” according to Malcolm Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global. “International investors are looking to cities and regions that are attractive to young people, produce top talent from universities and colleges, are welcoming to immigrants and workers, and are on a clear path to growth. Our region doesn’t just check those boxes, these are our core strengths. I’m pleased to see us moving upwards in the rankings and expect that trend to continue thanks to our education system, our innovation ecosystem, and the increasingly sophisticated startups that are scaling up here.”

Learn more about StartupBlink’s Startup Ecosystem Rankings Report here: https://www.startupblink.com/blog/startup-ecosystem-rankings-report-2020-by-startupblink/

Edmonton Global welcomes Mustafa Sahin as VP of Investment and Trade

Edmonton, June 1, 2020 – Mustafa Sahin joins Edmonton Global as Vice President of Investment and Trade.  

Mustafa Sahin is a senior international business and economic development leader with 28 years of experience in trade and investment, sales, and marketing. His career in economic development has taken him to the United States, Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, before finally returning home to Canada in 2014. Mustafa has supported 28 trade and investment inbound and outbound missions since 2014, with 16 of those involving the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, or Alberta. His most recent position was President and Executive Director with the Canada-UAE Business Council. 

“Mustafa is passionate about the Edmonton Metropolitan Region and its potential. He has significant international experience in economic development and investment attraction” said Edmonton Global CEO, Malcolm Bruce. “His knowledge and global perspective will be a huge asset. We’re excited to welcome Mustafa to the team.”  

Sought after for his investment and trade knowledge, Mustafa is a Canadian thought leader who attracts interest to Canada while also bringing Canadian brands to international markets.  

In Dubai, Mustafa was known as Mr. Blackberry, a moniker he was gifted for bringing Blackberry to the region, leading to the employment of 100 employees and annual revenues in excess of $1 billion in a short 6 years.   

“Over the years, I’ve supported countless Edmonton-based companies in learning more about different markets, while also matching them with prospective buyers, investors, distributors, or partners,” says Mustafa. “The Edmonton region’s talent, innovation, and opportunities make it prime for investment. I’m eager to connect investors to the strong opportunities here.”  

Mustafa’s family values are his guiding force as he strives to uphold his family legacy of tolerance, inclusiveness, and the promotion of Canadian values for the betterment of society. These values are reflected in Mustafa’s commitment to advancing the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.   

About Edmonton Global: 

The purpose of Edmonton Global is to radically transform and grow the economy of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. We are a not-for-profit corporation founded by 15 municipalities that make up the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. Our focus is attracting foreign direct investment, helping regional businesses export with the world, enhancing our region’s global competitiveness, and bringing our region together with a unified voice to attract the attention and interest of investors the world over. 

Contact and to arrange interviews:
Chris McLeod
Marketing & Communications Director
+1 780 499 4517
cmcleod@edmontonglobal.ca

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