ACOA calling star searcher to Earth

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Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Feds say MyTelescope.com owes $1.3M on five loans

Aimed at educators and astronomy buffs, MyTelescope.com is a Newfoundland and Labrador tech company that reached for the stars, ending up with a handful of debt, according to a claim filed May 1 with the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.

MyTelescope.com’s website. The company received a number of government loans which have not been fully repaid. — Screen grab

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) says it is owed more than $1.3 million on five loans for which the company is responsible.

The total includes outstanding principal, plus interest charges and bank fees.

MyTelescope.com is named after its website, meant to bring in the revenue needed to cover costs and repay loans. The site is promoted as tool for bringing stargazers closer to the heavens — allowing them to remotely control small observatories and view deep-space objects.

Received series of government loans

As a business, MyTelescope.com has been helped through the years by a series of government loans.

According to ACOA’s civil suit, public funds paid from the federal level have not been repaid as per schedule.

After missed loan payments, all outstanding amounts were called due on June 25, 2013, “however the defendant has failed or refused to pay ... and has thus breached the provisions of the agreements by failing to make payments as they have become due and owing,” the filing states.

A spokeswoman for ACOA said no comment could be made while the case is before the courts.

“The Government of Canada is committed to the effective management of taxpayers’ dollars,” she stated, in an emailed response to questions. “The vast majority of repayable contributions made by ACOA to businesses are paid back in full.”

First loan in 1998

According to the documents filed with the court, the first loan was actually provided to a company called Thinkware Ltd., in 1998, listed with the same address as MyTelescope.com.

In 2004, MyTelescope.com became a co-obligant on that loan agreement. ACOA paid out more than $185,000 on the loan.

Four other loan agreements were signed off on by the federal agency for MyTelescope.com in the 2000s. The second loan saw ACOA pay out $500,000, a third ran $450,000, a fourth about $260,000 and a fifth $100,000.

In all cases, according to the standing claim, some but not all of the principal amount was paid back.

The ACOA claim states each of the loan agreements underwent alterations over time, changing the terms of payment and schedule. However, as of Monday morning, no statement of defence was filed with the court.

On top of the federal funding to MyTelescope.com, the company has received financial support from the provincial government. In 2008, the Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development provided the company with $315,000, trumpeted in a news release.

“MyTelescope.com is an example of the innovative enterprises that are emerging in the province,” said Trevor Taylor, then-minister of the department.

“The company is operating in a sector that holds tremendous growth potential in markets all over the world — to date, it has secured clients in Portugal, Germany, Brazil, India and Iran.”

At the time, company founder and CEO Glynn Burke said the plan was to pre-fabricate observatories in the province and then set them up at points around the globe, tied into the website.

He said an Arizona site would be developed, then Greece and Australia would be considered.

Today, the financial status of MyTelescope.com is unclear.

Contacted for comment, Burke said he would have to speak to his attorney. He later declined comment, with the matter now before the courts.

Organizations: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Thinkware, Department of Innovation Rural Development

Geographic location: Canada, Portugal, Germany Brazil India Iran Arizona Greece Australia

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Recent comments

  • Mr. Doubts
    May 27, 2014 - 14:14

    Take one look at the quality of that "tech company's" website and ask yourself: "How in heck does that company owe money let alone get money?" Website looks like it's done by a high school student circa 1997!

  • Steve
    May 27, 2014 - 07:12

    If professional investors, including banks, don't deem these projects worthy of investment, they should be invested in by ACOA. It's another Griffiths Guitar Works or Consilient. Leave investment to the pros.

  • Fred
    May 27, 2014 - 06:21

    I recently purchased a telescope and I would have been pleased to buy it locally but I was not aware of "MyTelescope.com". Note to companies - advertising is the key!