Three Nova Scotian companies have booked more than $1 million in new sales already this year through the Scale-up Hub: Cambridge – enough that its organizers are looking at repeating the program in 2019.
Launched and overseen by Nova Scotia Business Inc., Scale-up Hub: Cambridge is a new program that establishes a sales base in the Boston area for a few Nova Scotian tech companies. The idea is that the companies will put down roots in the Boston area and use that base to increase revenues in the future.
The thinking is that companies need more than trade missions, which only last a few days and are too fleeting to generate real sales growth. Instead, NSBI chose to work with a handful of select high-growth companies and help them go through an entire sales cycle in a major market.
“We used to take companies in – and we still do – on trade missions, but for more mature companies that are looking to scale we needed to do something different,” said Lisa Dobson, NSBI’s Sector Lead for Information and Communications Technology, and the architect of the Scale-up Hub.
Last year, NSBI put out a call for high-growth companies to participate in the program, and it chose four companies, all based in the Halifax area. One (which has not been named publicly) left the program, and the other three are:
- 4Deep Inwater Imaging, which makes cutting-edge microscopes that can operate in the water in real-time;
- Mindsea, a specialist in mobile app design, as well as other web development services;
- And Aerotec Engines, one of Canada's leading aircraft piston engine overhaul shops.
NSBI spent $248,000 to develop the program – finding co-working space in Cambridge, Mass., hiring an account executive to work with the companies in the Boston area and launching the initiative. It also struck a few partnerships, two of which paid off big time. One partner was the MIT Enterprise Forum, which works with groups from around the world that want to benefit from the innovation hub around the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and the other is Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England, a group of Canadian expats in the northeastern states who help Canadian businesses.
The three participating companies all spent significant time in the Boston area, most flying down once a month. They attended functions, developed their networks and positioned themselves to further grow their client base in New England.
“This is not just a place where we send folks to look for money,” said NSBI Chief Executive Laurel Broten, referring to investment. “They’re there for sales.”
Added Mindsea CEO Bill Wilson: "The program has been super valuable in getting us into the networks in that market and we got some great deals out of it.”
Broten added that the expenditure to launch the program was worth it because the three current participants and future cohort members will bring money back into Nova Scotia. What’s more, it was impressive to see $1 million in sales after just eight months of a $248,000 pilot project.
NSBI is now evaluating the future of the program. Broten and Dobson said there will a second cohort, and that “others” may be interested in participating. But they are mum on how the program might grow.
Said Dobson: “It’s a legacy we’re building here now and those three founders somehow want to be involved in the next cohort, whether it’s as mentors or other roles.”
Disclosure: NSBI is a client of Entrevestor.