In the immortal words of the Bugs Bunny theme song, June 26 at the Dieppe Arts & Cultural Centre will be the “night of nights.”
Beginning at 5 p.m. at the suburban Moncton theatre, Propel ICT will raise the curtain on the 11 start-ups that have been toiling in the Launch36 accelerator since January, knocking their businesses into shape, taking on clients, and planning to raise capital.
Having spoken with few of them, I know that they’re looking at June 26 as the deadline to have everything in order to present to the rarefied crowd. No more rehearsing or nursing the part, you might say.
The guests that evening will include such venture capitalists as Mark MacLeod from Real Ventures and Dominique Belanger from BDC Venture Capital, and such independent investors as Permjot Valia, Jeff White, and Dan Martell.
It will undoubtedly be a huge night for these 11 digital debutantes, but it’s also significant for innovation in Atlantic Canada, in particular the Maritime provinces. Trevor MacAusland, the Moncton-based executive director of Propel ICT, wants the accelerator to be a regional initiative, to nurture entrepreneurs and draw on mentors throughout the region, which would mean a broader range of mentors. And though it might not mean more entrepreneurs entering the accelerator (11 companies twice a year is a lot), it would make the program more sustainable and raise standards by increasing the number of people applying to get in.
There are two things we should highlight about Launch36’s evolution to a more regional accelerator. First, in sheer numbers of tech companies, Launch36 can make a difference pretty quickly. The databank I’m developing reveals 55 tech (software, social media, Saas, games, etc.) companies in Nova Scotia that could seek investment at some point. And for argument’s sake, let’s say there are the same number in New Brunswick and P.E.I. So we have 110 tech start-ups in the Maritimes.
Let’s also assume that MacAusland is able to maintain 11 companies in each cohort and that he has two cohorts a year; Launch36 would churn out about 22 market-ready and investment-ready companies a year. That means in the first year alone, we would increase the number of high-growth, export-oriented tech companies by about 20%. And the gains are even more pronounced if you add in the companies that proceed through the McKenzie College accelerator.
The second thing to bear in mind is that Launch36 is 100% a private sector initiative. This is important because all start-up gurus maintain that the best leadership comes from entrepreneurs themselves, and Launch36 embodies that theory. That’s not a criticism of government agencies but a recognition that entrepreneurs best understand the demands of business development and engineer the best programs.
MacAusland is very much the guy who’s making it work, but the amount of guidance provided by experienced business hands in Launch36 has been phenomenal. The acceleratees gush about the people who have come out to help them. Tapajyoti Das of LeadSift, one of the 11 companies in Launch36, was wowed by the collaborative spirit in New Brunswick. “I know there’s only one Silicon Valley, but it had that sort of buzz,” he says.
The tech community in New Brunswick is providing excellent leadership for these companies, and it will be wonderful if the spirit of Launch36 spreads throughout the region. It isn’t up to the rest of the Maritimes to highjack New Brunswick’s project but rather to fall in line behind its leadership and offer to help MacAusland make this a truly regional venture.
One thing that is impressive is the number of people from outside Moncton who plan to attend Demo Day on June 26. The Angels’ Den for the McKenzie Accelerator (whose companies are generally earlier stage) was damned impressive, and from what I hear the Launch36 extravaganza will be even more so.
On with the show this is it!