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ENTREVESTOR: Halifax’s Proof wins Canadian leg of Duke of York's entrepreneurship competition


Luke DeCoste, co-founder of Halifax Software-as-a-Service startup Proof. It and another company won the Canadian leg of Pitch@Palace, an international competition and will now travel to St. James’s Palace in London in December for the finals of Pitch@Palace. - Contributed
Luke DeCoste, co-founder of Halifax Software-as-a-Service startup Proof. It and another company won the Canadian leg of [email protected], an international competition and will now travel to St. James’s Palace in London in December for the finals of [email protected] - Contributed

Proof, whose Software-as-a-Service platform helps governments make better decisions, can add another trophy to the cabinet, having won the [email protected] event in Toronto last month.

The company, which is a resident of Volta in Halifax, has quietly been building a list of national programs that it has entered and excelled in. The latest was the Canadian leg of [email protected], an international competition championed by Prince Andrew.

Proof and another company were chosen the winners from 24 competitors from across the country last month, and will now travel to St. James’s Palace in London, U.K. in December for the international finals of [email protected]

That’s in addition to other recent achievements like going through the Creative Destruction Lab and Techstars Toronto, closing a significant funding round and landing several sales.

The reason for the early success of this company is Proof solves a huge societal problem: the challenges governments face in making decisions.

“Governments make the most important decisions in the world but they don’t get access to the best software,” said co-founder Luke DeCoste in an interview Tuesday. “The fundamental thing that government does is make decisions, and many people are involved in every decision. That means there are hundreds of documents floating around every department so things get lost.”

Founded in 2016 and based in Halifax and Yukon, Proof set out to digitize the decision process for governments to remove paper and pens from the decision-making process. The company has developed a Software-as-a-Service platform that helps government officials track and route documents digitally.

The dashboard allows officials to highlight matters that need urgent approval, follow the timeline of a specific issue, and track who has signed off on a matter.

“Proof empowers public servants and government officials with technology designed specifically for the approval process of government,” said the company’s website. “We drastically lower friction, empower team members throughout the review process, and collect data to better understand operations and constituent issues.”

DeCoste said Proof has signed up 15 public-sector clients in Canada and aims to double that in the near future, then make inroads into the U.S.

And it has closed an equity funding round, led by the national early-stage venture capital fund Panache Ventures. The 15 investors included the new Halifax-based VC fund Concrete Ventures. DeCoste, whose title is Chief Governance Officer, wouldn’t say how much Proof had raised in the round, but did say it’s enough to hire 15 people in the next 18 months. By that time, the company hopes to be cash-flow positive.

The six-member Proof team — which includes co-founders DeCoste, Ben Sanders and Wes George — is steeped in government processes and have used their contacts and background to sell to government departments at all levels. Governments are notoriously difficult to sell to, so Proof began with indigenous governments and municipalities, then provinces and recently landed its first federal departments.

To make the sales easy, they have designed a product that’s easy to install, is priced below government procurement thresholds, and has the certifications required by governments. DeCoste added that once government departments begin using the technology, they keep using it.

Proof will be one of 22 companies presenting at the Atlantic Venture Forum in Halifax on June 26 and 27.

Peter Moreira is a principal of Entrevestor, which provides news and data on Atlantic Canadian startups.

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