Axem's Chris Friesen, left, and Tony Ingram at the HAX Accelerator in China.

Axem's Chris Friesen, left, and Tony Ingram at the HAX Accelerator in China.

One trend that quietly emerged in the Atlantic Canadian innovation space in 2018 was the participation of our companies in accelerators outside the region.

It may be the story of the year in the startup community – certainly the most over-looked story of 2018.

The two other big stories are the growing influence of corporations in the startup space (we’ll have more on that later this week) and the record levels of equity investment in Atlantic Canadian startups. These have been covered before, but the wave of our entrepreneurs attending accelerators elsewhere is something new.

I’ve counted more than a dozen startups that participated in accelerators outside the region this year, often moving to the host cities for several months. They are:

Affinio, Halifax                                             Microsoft for Startups

Acoustic Zoom, Paradise, NL                      #DisruptMining, Toronto

Axem Neurotechnology, Halifax                  Hax, Shenzhen, China

Beauceron Security, Fredericton                 CyLon, London

B-Line Analytics, Halifax                             Flywheel New Ventures Challenge, North Carolina

Chinova Bioworks, Fredericton                   Plug and Play, Silicon Valley

EyesOver, Fredericton                                L-Spark, Ottawa

Groundhog Network,* Halifax                     Techstars Anywhere, and 

                                                                   Tachyon,  San Francisco                        

Island Water, Charlottetown                       Imagine H2O, San Francisco

Itavio, Moncton                                           HearstLabs, New York

Kognitiv Spark, Fredericton                        Plug and Play, Silicon Valley

Orenda Software, Sydney                          FinTech Sandbox, Boston

RetailDeep, Halifax                                     XRC Labs, New York

Securicy, Sydney                                         Techstars Boston

Squiggle Park, Halifax                                 Rev, Kitchener, Ont.

*Groundhog is now the trade name for Blockcrushr Labs.

We’ve reported on all these companies in Entrevestor this year, but seeing them all listed at once shows how strong this movement is.

There are grey areas. I’m not sure Microsoft for Startups is an “accelerator” so much as a sales program. But Affinio first linked up with Microsoft by entering the tech giant’s accelerator in Seattle, so I decided to add it to the list. #DisruptMining is more a competition than accelerator, but Acoustic Zoom won it and therefore received intense mentorship and an early adopter program.

That list does not include the six Atlantic Canadian companies that attended Fierce Founders bootcamps in 2018 at Communitech in Kitchener, Ont. This accelerator for female-led companies has been notable in the past five years for the support it’s given Atlantic Canadian founders.

Nor does the list include the startups that attended Canadian Technology Accelerators, a program offered by the Canadian government’s trade offices in several cities. In 2018, Halifax’s Covina Biomedical attended the CTA in Boston, Fredericton’s Stash Energy went to Denver, and Halifax’s LifeRaft joined the CTA in New York.

Attending these accelerators is important because they expose Atlantic Canadian business people to global experts in their fields, as well as potential customers and investors. It’s an opportunity to compare their technology with their global peers, and to develop sales leads. The whole startup thing only works if young companies export, and these extended trips are opportunities to sell internationally.

One final point to consider is that more Atlantic Canadian accelerators are opening their doors to startups from other parts of the world. I recently wrote about European oceans companies that are attending Creative Destruction Labs-Atlantic, and the University of New Brunswick has been actively engaging international companies through its two accelerators, Energia and the Summer Institute. Emergence, the Charlottetown-based life sciences incubator, works extensively with companies from outside the region.  

One of the enduring problems with the Atlantic Canadian economy is that we look inward too much. These are important developments in solving that issue.

 

Editor's note: we were contacted by a few startups after we posted this story and have made a few additions to the list of companies.