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Welcome to the Alberta Central Big Future Innovation Grant.

Congratulations to our two $20,000 grant winners!

Innovation can
be rewarding.

Alberta Central, alongside our member credit unions, knows the value of small businesses. That’s why we created the Big Future Innovation Grant, awarding two Alberta-based businesses $20,000 each to propel innovation, power growth and scale up their business.

Congratulations to the first-ever Big Future Grant winners, Curiocity and Clinical Trial Hero!

Curiocity

Curiocity is an Alberta-founded, digital-only publication providing hyper-local news, things to do and bookable experiences and adventures to its growing audience of nearly three million people across Canada.

Recognizing the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic had on mental and emotional health, Curiocity shifted its ‘Local’ content verticals to be focused on uncovering positive stories about businesses, people and communities across the country. Curiocity also offered and continues to offer businesses free advertising on their platform, to help relieve some of the marketing challenges posed by the pandemic.

Clinical Trial Hero

Clinical Trial Hero is an Alberta-born mobile app and web offering that helps people find clinical trials near them. The app is among the first of its kind in the world, with the potential to disrupt clinical trial recruitment.

COVID-19 has hampered clinical research as many clinics have shut down or operated at reduced capacity for months. As a result, clinical trials have suffered. The Clinical Trial Hero app has flourished, empowering patients with a digital solution, removing the necessity for personal contact during clinical trial patient recruitment. Patients have access to Clinical Trial Hero for free, an inclusive innovation that aims to help patients no matter their gender, race, or financial status.

Shortlisted Applications

Big Future Shortlist

Wedge Networks

Cybersecurity software and solutions company
Big Future Shortlist

Mountain Rhino

Gluten-free and nut-free bakery
Big Future Shortlist

Curiocity

Localized digital content platform
Big Future Shortlist

Clinical Trial Hero

Mobile app service for clinical trials
Big Future Shortlist

Alberta Food Tours

Tour service for provincial food producers

Wedge Networks

Wedge Networks is a disruptive cyber security software and solutions company based in Calgary. A leader in real-time threat detection and prevention, the company has patented a series of innovations that form the basis for its Wedge Absolute Real Time Protection (WARP) solution/product line. Its Orchestrated Threat Detection & Management (OTM) Platform is embedded with AI and machine learning capabilities to detect malware in real-time, under 100 milliseconds, before it can gain access to networks. Designed with the cloud in mind almost 10 years ago, WARP is a 100 per cent software defined solution.

COVID-19 and Business Innovation

The acceleration of work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizations to adapt how they do business, requiring a flexible cloud-based approach. Wedge quickly launched Wedge Secure Home Office and Wedge Secure Remote Office, both based on its WARP platform. These products are 100 per cent cloud based and provide protection to remote workers and distributed corporate environments. Online delivery and one-click installation facilitate the ease of deployment. Not only is the solution cloud enabled, but portable deployment eliminates the need for travel and on-site presence. On the business side, Wedge has adapted to the business model of its channel partners, selling to them how they sell, charge and support its customers to offer a seamless exchange.

Mountain Rhino

Mountain Rhino is a Calgary-based company dedicated to gluten-free, peanut- and tree-nut free and vegan baking.  All the items are made in house, without pre-mixes, including marshmallows, graham crackers and caramels – to name a few. To be able to provide goodies that are as good or better than the regular counterparts, Mountain Rhino has developed custom flour blends including pastry flour, donut flour, cinnamon bun flour and cookie flour. Mountain Rhino uses locally sourced ingredients whenever possible and strives to collaborate with other small businesses.

COVID-19 and Business Innovation

At the onset of COVID-19, grocery store orders almost came to a full stop. To continue driving the business forward, Mountain Rhino partnered with local coffee roasters to offer packages of donuts and cinnamon buns as an add-on to coffee bean orders. A wildly popular offering, Mountain Rhino continued to build on this opportunity, working with gluten-free restaurants to add items to its menus and pre-made treats that could be frozen to reduce waste. Pre-mixes have been another crucial part of Mountain Rhino’s strategy, providing people with the opportunity to bake their own gluten-free goods at home. Most recently, the bakery has created a line of premixes which all donate $1.00/mix to different charities ranging from a variety of important causes.

Curiocity

Curiocity Group Inc. (Curiocity) is an Alberta-based, social-first digital publisher that provides hyper-local good news, things to do, experiences, and adventures to its growing audience of nearly three million people. A lifestyle brand with a pulse of the cities in which it operates (Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver Toronto, Seattle), Curiocity delivers appealing digital content that results in top-notch engagement for clients. Despite repeated advice to relocate operations to Toronto or Vancouver to get its business to the next level, Curiocity has remained committed to proving that Albertan companies within digital media can still compete.

COVID-19 Impact and Business Innovation

Recognizing the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental and emotional health, Curiocity shifted its content to be exclusively focused on uncovering positive, local stories about businesses, people, and communities across. Curiocity also made the decision to offer businesses free advertising on the Curiocity platform to relieve some of the marketing challenges posed by the pandemic. From a community perspective, Curiocity shifted its business focus and launched Motor Nights in Calgary, a series of drive-in movie experiences which sold out every weekend. The ways in which Curiocity shifted were intended to address the real-life, human emotions and experiences Canadians have been facing during this time of stressful uncertainty.

Clinical Trial Hero

Clinical Trial Hero is an Alberta-born mobile app for iPhone and Android and web offering that helps people find clinical trials near them. The app is among the first of its kind in the world, with the potential to disrupt clinical trial recruitment. In addition to clinical trial matching, Clinical Trial Hero offers over 25 mindfulness sessions to help patients reduce the stress associated with chronic illnesses like diabetes, multiple sclerosis and cancer. This business is proud to help patients, be on the cutting edge of healthcare, and contribute to the innovation landscape of Alberta.

COVID-19 and Business Innovation

COVID-19 has hampered clinical research as many clinics have shut down or operated at reduced capacity for months. As a result, clinical trials have suffered. The Clinical Trial Hero app however has flourished. By empowering patients with a digital solution, it has removed the necessity for personal contact during clinical trial patient recruitment. Patients have access to Clinical Trial Hero for free, a model that allows for compensation from clinical research organizations while not costing patients anything. This is especially important as many patients for clinical trials do not have access to insurance. By providing services for free, Clinical Trial Hero is an inclusive innovation that aims to help patients no matter their gender, race or financial status.

Clinical Trial Hero is also optimistic that the app has the potential to speed up COVID-19 clinical trials in Alberta, helping find new therapeutics to aid in the fight against the pandemic.

Alberta Food Tours

Alberta Food Tours, Inc (AFT) creates experiences for guests to eat, engage and explore Alberta through signature foods, food artisans and a variety of tours in Calgary, Canmore, Banff and Edmonton. It has two Canadian signature experiences designations from Destination Canada, partners with over 85 Alberta businesses and supports many regenerative farms and farmers throughout the province. Soil, food, and people— that’s what AFT is all about.

COVID-19 Impact and Business Innovation

Since COVID-19 devastated the inbound tourism industry in March 2020, AFT responded by innovating two new product lines. One innovation is called the Alberta Food Finder, a self-guided food tour game played on a mobile device while walking around a neighbourhood. Each version of the game sees players interact with dozens of local businesses, while discovering local culture, art, and history. Most importantly, it is COVID-19 safe. AFT's second innovation is Alberta Cares Packages, allowing shoppers to purchase curated self-care boxes, delivered to someone they care about. With AFT's knowledge of the best Alberta food artisans, it curates high quality products for its community. Care package purchases support local businesses as well as Alberta mental and food health organizations.

Timelines

Applications open
Applications closed - application limit reached
Shortlist announced
Shortlist presentations
Winners announced
Applications Submitted100 of 100
100 of 100

Meet the Judges

Big Future Judges

Jill Belland

Co-Owner

Barre Belle and The Belle Bod online fitness program
Big Future Judges

Brett Oland

CEO

Bow Valley Credit Union
Big Future Judges

Loree Gray

Chief Strategy, Transformation and People Officer

Alberta Central
Big Future Judges

Nathan Charrois

Senior Relationship Manager

Servus Credit Union

Jill Belland

Co-Owner

Jill Belland is an award winning entrepreneur and co-founder of Barre Belle Inc. and The Belle Bod online workouts. Prior to Barre Belle Inc., Jill Belland spent 16 years as an acclaimed television host and broadcaster for MTV Canada, A-Channel, and CityTV.  She won numerous awards during her broadcasting career and was named “Best TV Host” by the Alberta Motion Picture Industry 3 times.

 

"Now more than ever innovation is imperative to the future of small businesses. Many of us have had to show resilience and creativity with complete reinventions in how we deliver our products and services. The ability to quickly pivot to remain relevant is what will ensure future success and sustainability of many small businesses, including ours."

 

Brett Oland

CEO

Brett Oland is the CEO of Bow Valley Credit Union that operates in the trade areas of Banff, Canmore, Calgary, Airdrie and Cochrane.

Brett was elected to Alberta Central’s board of directors in April 2014 and was chair of Alberta Central’s board from 2016-2019 and is currently serving as vice-chair. He brings a wealth of knowledge from his days in a senior management role at Canadian Western Bank and working with other financial institutions in Alberta and in the Cayman Islands.

 

"Small business is essential to the progression of Alberta. Innovation is a necessity in today’s economic and political environment, to get ahead of global competition. By supporting innovation, it may just give small business the grassroots funding required to drive success for the future generations of Alberta. "

 

Brett holds an ICD.D designation for the Institute of Corporate Directors, is a Chartered Professional Accountant and gained extensive experience working with many industries while articling with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Calgary. Brett also holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Calgary.

Brett is an avid outdoor enthusiast and takes advantage of the being in the mountains with his family at every opportunity.

Loree Gray

Chief Strategy, Transformation and People Officer

Loree is passionate about driving transformational change: building highly engaged and productive teams, partnerships and networks are some of her favourite things. As Chief Strategy, Transformation and People Officer, Loree leads transformation at Alberta Central by implementing the methodologies, programs and processes needed to help achieve our vision.

Loree has 30 years of experience in financial services, spanning a wide range of roles including retail banking, wealth management, insurance and operations. Most recently, as President and CEO of the Vehicle Sales Authority of B.C., Loree was responsible for the regulatory body that administers and enforces the legislation governing personal vehicle sales in the province. Her leadership experience across industries and provinces provides value to the credit union system, something she is enthusiastic about supporting.

 

“To me, innovation is all about creating value for customers and value is something customers will pay for.  This is critical to any small business model:  identifying a need and producing a solution that customers will see as value added.  And its not a one time event -  it requires constant focus in order to remain relevant. ”

 

Loree has a BA from the University of British Columbia and has since done certifications with the Institute of Canadian Bankers, the Canadian Institute of Financial Planning, Canadian Securities institute and Lean Sensei International. She has served as BC Chair for the Loran Scholarship Foundation since 2012 and as assessor/interviewer since 2006. She currently sits as Director on the Coast Mental Health Society Board and is chair of the Operational Performance committee.

Nathan Charrois

Senior Relationship Manager

Nathan is a Senior Relationship Manager with Servus Credit Union. Nathan has been actively managing business banking portfolios for over 8 years and has been a part of the Credit Union System for 13. Nathan is active in employee groups and is the current Chairperson of the Emerging Leaders of Alberta program which fosters leadership development of Credit Union employees from across the province.

Nathan is also passionate about Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging and is an active member of his Credit Unions Diversity & Inclusion Council.

 

"Innovation allows businesses to adapt and pivot in different environments. In today's ever-changing and demanding economic and social markets, a business has to be able to think and move quickly. If a business is truly innovative, they should and would handle challenges better than their competition, allowing them to be more desirable by investors and customers alike. "

 

In his free time during the summer, Nathan enjoys running, playing fast ball, and spending time with friends and family outdoors. In the winter months, Nathan enjoys curling and skiing in the mountains

Alberta Central is the central banking facility, service bureau and trade association for Alberta’s credit unions. Alberta Central’s culture of innovation supports a long history of credit union innovation including being the first financial institutions to offer a loan based on a person’s character, lending to women in their own names and the first to offer online banking, amongst many others.

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