In a deal that will triple its capacity, Volta Labs has signed a lease to take out 60,000 square feet of space in the Maritime Centre in Halifax.
The startup house this winter will take over the ground, mezzanine and second floors of the 19-storey office tower on Barrington Street. It has signed a new lease with Slate Office REIT, which owns the building, to establish Volta as a cornerstone of the “innovation district” being planned for Halifax.
By occupying a flagship location, including highly visible street-level space, Volta’s presence in the central business district will amplify the message of the importance of tech and innovation in the business community.
"These new headquarters will allow Volta to be the growth catalyst for Halifax's technology community, establishing a home base inside the city's ‘Innovation District’ and attracting new interest from entrepreneurs," said Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers in a statement. "For many reasons, Halifax is a great place to build a technology-focused company and we are looking forward to providing more resources to these businesses. Ultimately, this growth will result in new jobs and a massive economic impact for Nova Scotia."
The statement said the larger space will allow Volta to offer more space for resident startups, corporate innovation outposts, and network members. It will also offer a large multi-purpose space, private meeting rooms, and larger co-working spaces.
The expansion is the latest chapter in the project first mooted by entrepreneur Jevon MacDonald when his company GoInstant received $1.7 million in funding in 2011. At the time, MacDonald talked about getting more office space than GoInstant needed so other entrepreneurs could share the company’s space and learn from its team.
That sparked the creation of Volta Labs in 2013 in two floors above a mattress shop on Spring Garden Road. It was not an accelerator or incubator but a “startup house”, where new companies could set up offices and the tech community could hold events.
In 2014, the organization moved to the Maritime Centre, occupying 20,000 square feet on two floors. There had been plans for it to eventually settle in the former Halifax Memorial Library building on Spring Garden Road, but those plans never materialized.
Volta now hosts a range of companies and spaces. Its website lists 14 current resident startups, most of which have been formed in the last year or two. It is also the home of Build Ventures, the regional venture capital fund.
Volta has opened its corporate innovation outpost – a place where established businesses can plant a few staff members to develop innovation. These outposts help the corporations, and also establish links between startups and traditional businesses. Atlantic Lottery Corp. set up the first outpost in Volta last year, and Rodgers is known to be interested in attracting more corporate participants.
The enlarged Volta is expected to be a cornerstone for the new “Innovation District” which will extend from the Dalhousie University campus to the new Centre for Ocean Ventures & Entrepreneurship in Dartmouth.
"Slate Office REIT has a long-term commitment to revitalizing Halifax's iconic Maritime Centre and we are proud that the building has become an integral part of Halifax's ‘Innovation District’, with Volta as a marquee tenant," said Slate CEO Scott Antoniak in the statement. "We recognize the importance of the Maritime Centre's location, design, amenities and function and its role in bringing together collaborative endeavours and ideas in the technology space."