Media Release

Saint Mary’s students make their first venture capital investment in international travel start-up

Saint Mary’s University’s Venture Grade Fund, a student-raised and led venture capital fund, is making its first investment, $15,000 to travel start-up Trip Ninja.

Trip Ninja is a travel-planning software for use by online travel retailers such as Expedia or Priceline. When retail customers are booking plane trips to several different places, Trip Ninja helps online travel retailers find the best price. This multi-destination platform finds the best way to book the trip, whether travellers are flexible in their route or if they need to visit destinations in a particular order.

“It has been great working with Saint Mary’s University’s Venture Grade Fund, and seeing the confidence they have in our product,” said Trip Ninja Co-Founder, Andres Collart. “Saint Mary’s has helped us through reviewing aspects of our business with their MBA students who have a firm grasp on entrepreneurship and innovation. It’s been great working with an organization who is committed to helping start-ups and entrepreneurs have success.” 

The Saint Mary’s University Venture Grade Fund is a student-raised and run venture capital fund and the first student-raised venture capital investment fund in Canada in which the students raise the capital. Their fund is operating at about $200,000 currently.

The team seems to have chosen well as the fledgling travel tech company has attracted notable local, national and international investors, including East Valley Ventures, Innovacorp and other investors experienced in the travel industry. Innovacorp is also a supporter of Saint Mary’s University’s Venture Grade Fund’s assessment of Trip Ninja, and provided Venture Grade with half the capital required for their investment.

The team’s faculty advisor and mentor is venture capital expert and SMU professor, Dr. Ellen Farrell.

“This is a win-win-win situation,” said Farrell. “Venture Grade’s donors and partners like Innovacorp get to offer students an unparalleled experiential education experience, the students get the benefit of raising the capital and conducting due diligence, and the start-up spends the investment thus supporting their business.”

Should the company experience a successful exit, meaning if they are purchased for a large sum, the investors, including Venture Grade, will receive a payout scaled to the purchase. Any returns made on Venture Grade’s investments are returned to Venture Grade, the student fund.

The fund was started by students of Dr. Ellen Farrell at the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University in fall 2016, with a connection to Silicon Valley’s C100 group, Boston’s Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England, and initial support from Innovacorp. It has expanded to include members at other Atlantic universities including Acadia University, Dalhousie University, and Memorial University.

“Sobey School of Business and Saint Mary’s University are proud to offer students the opportunity to experience the risks and rewards of investing,” said Dr. Harjeet Bhabra, dean of the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University.

“With the School’s strengths in finance and entrepreneurship, the Venture Grade Fund could only have been created here. We’re proud to continue making an impact on our region and on the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Award-winning Square Roots food bundle program partners with Hellmann’s

  Square Roots bundles. 

Square Roots bundles. 

The award-winning Square Roots food bundle program is partnering with Hellmann’s to help combat food insecurity across Nova Scotia.

At Hellmann’s, we believe that food is too good to be wasted,” said Andria Prada, Senior Assistant Brand Manager at Hellmann’s. “Square Roots fights issues of food waste and food insecurity at both farms and restaurants. They redirect perfectly good food that would be thrown away, into the hands of communities. Hellmann’s is proud to support Square Roots.”

Launched in November 2016, Square Roots fights food insecurity, food deserts and food waste in Nova Scotia through a monthly, affordable and healthy food bundle service. The food bundles cost $5 and $10 each and feature 10 pounds of fruits and vegetables sourced locally from the Annapolis Valley. There is also a $60, three-month bundle where members can purchase a bundle for themselves and a family in need.

“For two years in a row, the Square Roots bundle program has won the Hellmann’s Food Security Challenge, which opened the door to this partnership,” said Becca Watts, Square Roots bundle program manager. “We are proud to announce that all future bundles will feature a recipe book and coupon for a free Hellmann’s product. We want to thank them for their support as we fight food insecurity in Nova Scotia.”

The August bundle includes corn, cucumbers, apples, potatoes, carrots and a recipe book and free product coupon.

There are currently ten franchises throughout Nova Scotia, and the program continues to look towards expansion by finding community champions to bring Square Roots to their community.

Square Roots is an Enactus Saint Mary’s social enterprise. With over 100 students, Enactus Saint Mary’s currently operates eight projects and social enterprises and one process. These range from consulting with entrepreneurs on the autism spectrum, to forming food-based social enterprises, to operating a computer literacy program for young people. Enactus Saint Mary’s is proud to partner with the Saint Mary's University Entrepreneurship Centre to offer its programs.

For more information about Square Roots, pick-up locations or to order a bundle, visit

Saint Mary’s enhances entrepreneurship and innovation through new centre

To celebrate more than 25 years of cultivating entrepreneurship at Saint Mary’s, the school is today introducing the Saint Mary’s University Entrepreneurship Centre.

 Meet the disruptive entrepreneurs from Saint Mary's

Meet the disruptive entrepreneurs from Saint Mary's

“Although Saint Mary’s has always aimed to instill an entrepreneurial mindset within our students across all academic disciplines, we’re now taking our focus on entrepreneurship to the next level,” says Saint Mary’s University President Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray.To launch the new entrepreneurship centre, more than 200 Saint Mary’s alumni, business partners, and government representatives are gathering tonight at a special venture showcase. In conjunction with the centre’s launch, the university is also kicking off a creative campaign celebrating graduates’ entrepreneurial successes.

“We created this campaign to highlight the immense number of inspiring stories that started in the hallways of Saint Mary’s University,” says Dr. Patricia Bradshaw, Dean of the Sobey School of Business. “Today, and over the coming months, we’re celebrating the success of our alumni by showcasing the great entrepreneurial careers launched by graduates in Arts, Business, and Science.”

The Saint Mary’s University Entrepreneurship Centre, formerly known as the Sobey School Business Development Centre (BDC), has played a key role in building workforce skills, creating employment, supporting start-ups, and growing companies. It has also offered undergraduate and graduate students hands-on business research and consulting experience.

“Approaching the BDC’s 30-year mark, we’ve helped thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of graduates,” says Michael Sanderson, the Saint Mary’s University Entrepreneur Centre’s Acting Director. “As a bridge to the community, we’re pleased to see the repositioning of our role through the launch of the Saint Mary’s Entrepreneurship Centre; we’re ready for growth.”

“Saint Mary’s has been developing and mentoring entrepreneurs for decades,” says
Dr. Summerby-Murray. “We’re proud to play a key part in the ongoing growth of Atlantic Canada. And I hope that when our federal, provincial, and industry partners look to Saint Mary’s, they see eager learners and doers who spark innovation within our region, across Canada, and around the world.”

The Saint Mary's Entrepreneurship Centre

Saint Mary’s archaeological expedition to share the story of people enslaved at coffee plantation in Cuba

 Students unearthing artificacts at the Angerona Plantation archaeology site. 

Students unearthing artificacts at the Angerona Plantation archaeology site. 

A group of Canadian university students are about to depart on an archeological expedition to Cuba, spearheaded by Saint Mary’s University. The students will be excavating historical artifacts and investigating the cemetery at Angerona, a Cuban national historic site and former slave plantation, 80 kilometres east of Havana.

Interested in applying to join the expedition or looking for more information?

Email Professor Taylor at The fee to join the expedition is $1600 (this includes accommodations, meals and transportation within Cuba) plus airfare and tuition (2 credits). The deadline to apply is May 4th.

“This expedition offers an opportunity to work with our partners in Cuba to uncover more of the lost history of the Angerona Coffee Plantation,” said Aaron Taylor, a Professor of Archaeology at Saint Mary’s and the program’s instructor.  “This plantation has a big historical significance in Cuba, and we want to help tell the stories of the people who were enslaved there.”

During the 19th century, Angerona was one of the largest slave plantations in the Americas—yet little is known about the day-to-day lives of the people who lived there.

 A collection of some of the artifacts found in the first year of the excavation.

A collection of some of the artifacts found in the first year of the excavation.

From June 10 to July 1, students from Canada and Cuba will be working together on excavating, identifying and interpreting the artifacts they find.

In addition to continued exploration of the site’s barracks, this expedition will include an investigation of the plantation's cemetery and the recovery of skeletal remains. This will provide a clearer story of life on the plantation. The team will be able to learn more about the people on the plantation, such as their general health, diet, age of death, and burial customs. This will include further research into the possibility that Nova Scotia supplied large quantities of codfish to Cuba during the period of the plantation system.

This trip marks the second year of what will be at least a five-year partnership between Saint Mary’s University, Havana’s Cabinet of Archeology and the College of San Geronimo.

 For more information about the expedition and to apply to join the team, visit

Saint Mary’s biologists receive federal funding for Fish Behaviour and Physiology (FiBP) Lab

  Dr. Laura Weir and Dr. Anne Dalziel

Dr. Laura Weir and Dr. Anne Dalziel

Two Saint Mary’s biologists have received funding to investigate how environmental variation influences fish populations in Atlantic Canada, which should help predict how fish will fare with continued changes in climate. Drs. Laura Weir and Anne Dalziel will use their $200,000 John R. Evans Leaders Fund award from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to develop a Fish Behaviour and Physiology (FiBP) Lab at Saint Mary’s University.

 “Saint Mary’s is delighted that Drs. Weir and Dalziel have received a prestigious CFI research award,” says Dr. Malcolm Butler, Vice-President Academic and Research. “This investment supports not only the world-class research taking place at Saint Mary’s, but also our students access to state-of-the-art infrastructure and technologies.”

Integrative studies that combine the genetic, biochemical, physiological, and behavioural mechanisms are needed to understand how fish populations adapt to environmental change. The FiBP Lab will investigate how these mechanisms contribute to differences in environmental tolerance, physiological performance, and reproductive behaviour among populations and species of fish common to Atlantic Canada, including salmon, trout, stickleback, killifish, alewife, and herring.

“Fish are a valuable natural resource,” says Dr. Laura Weir, assistant professor in the Department of Biology. “Our research will provide important baseline knowledge and inform policy and conservation efforts for our local fish populations.”

Research in the FiBP Lab will also help scientists and the public understand how biodiversity in aquatic environments is affected by coastal development.

“Canada has the longest coastline in the world, and understanding how changes to coastal waters will impact the animals living there is essential,” says Dr. Anne Dalziel, assistant professor in the Department of Biology.

The FiBP Lab formalizes an existing research collaboration between Dr. Anne Dalziel, an expert in fish physiology and evolutionary biology, and Dr. Laura Weir, whose expertise lies in behavioural and evolutionary ecology. Currently, the pair are working together to discover the physiological and behavioural mechanisms that lead to the unique breeding coloration of the white stickleback, an endemic Nova Scotian fish.

About the John R. Evans Leaders Fund

The John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) supports Canadian researchers by providing them with the research tools and infrastructure required to become leaders in their field. It also helps Canadian institutions attract and retain world-class researchers by remaining internationally competitive in areas of research and technology development aligned with their strategic priorities.