CDL, which began at University of Toronto in 2012, is possibly Canada’s most demanding tech accelerator. It opened a Vancouver pod last year, and on Thursday it announced three other locations for its 2017-18 cohort – Calgary, Montreal and Halifax. The Halifax cohort will be offered in collaboration with Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business.
Rodgers, who was the founding director of the CDL program in Toronto, came to Halifax last year to oversee Volta Labs. Now he will also head a group of CDL mentors that will include Clearwater Fine Foods Founder John Risley and serial entrepreneur Jevon MacDonald, as well as mentors in Toronto, Boston and New York.
"We are thrilled to join such a strong network of universities and business schools,” Sylvain Charlebois, dean of Dal’s Faculty of Management, said in a statement that appeared in Dal News. “Knowledge-sharing is so critical to an innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. Our economy will reap significant benefits from this partnership.”
The nine-month CDL program is not for the faint of heart as many participating companies are asked to leave before completing it. The CDL starts each cohort with a few dozen teams, who attend a one- or two-day mentoring session to receive a set of milestones from mentors. They’re then sent away to work on these tasks. When the cohort convenes again about two months later, teams who missed their milestones are asked to leave. CDL repeats the process several times, so each cohort ends up with a handful of graduates.
“We were able to get a group of mentors who could see patterns before we could and put us on the trajectory to make us more successful,” said Mark Hobbs, the CEO of Halifax-based Fundmetric, which is now finishing up the program in Toronto. “We were able to find answer to certain questions, which has allowed us to put together some projections, and that has allowed us to approach venture capital firms and get some offers on the table.”
The Dal announcement on Thursday gives a few more details on what CDL-Atlantic will look like. The program will feature a general stream, which will comprise startups from a range of sectors. It’s assumed most of these will be from Atlantic Canada. It will also have a specialty program for oceantech, cleantech and agri-food companies. It’s believed this stream will draw participants from across the country.
“By collaborating with Dal and other partners in the region such as the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship, CDL-Atlantic will help leverage the unique strengths in the region and spur the commercialization of more ocean, clean technology and agriculture research,” said the statement.
CDL has proven effective in helping to strengthen and expand young companies through exposure to expert guidance and pivotal investment opportunities. CDL-Atlantic will also include provisions for Dal MBA students to participate in its programs. Rodgers said Dal is a natural partner for the program.
“It’s the top research school in Atlantic Canada, and throw in the massive investments into oceans research happening there and it makes so much sense,” he said. “It’s seems like the timing is right and the location is right.”
MacDonald has helped catalyze the startup ecosystem in the Atlantic region over the years, co-founding Volta Labs, investing in and mentoring local entrepreneurs and supporting key initiatives in schools.
“I’m passionate about building our startup community in Atlantic Canada, which is greatly out-performing on a per capita basis,” said MacDonald, whose latest company is Manifold. “This new partnership is an exciting step towards showing the world what we have to offer, namely, the talent and ambition to build global scale technology companies.”