Volta Labs, the Halifax-based startup house, is launching a semi-annual accelerator program to complement its office facilities and incubation operations.
The three-month program will be operated by TheNextPhase, an existing mentorship program for startups operated by Toon Nagtegaal, a former venture capitalist from the Netherlands, and David Crow, the co-founder of StartupNorth and the Evangelist in Residence at OMERS Ventures.
Volta opened its doors in May to offer office space and some programing to tech startups in Nova Scotia. Eleven companies are now tenants, and three others have graduated. And Build Ventures, Atlantic Canada’s regional venture capital fund, also has its offices in Volta.
Though the startup house offers lectures and lunch and learn sessions, the missing piece has been a thorough program to teach entrepreneurs how to develop prosperous and permanent companies. The program will complement other accelerators in the region, such as Launch36 and Accelr8.
“We want to start a lot more companies and the reason we decided to do this with Toon is that his focus is on developing sustainable companies,” said Volta Executive Director Milan Vrekic, adding that Nagtegaal’s rigorous program does not coddle founders. ”Each time Toon does this program, a few companies disappear and that’s a good thing.”
Asked what the new accelerator will be called, Vrekic smiled and said: “The Volta Accelerator Program powered by TheNextPhase.”
After moving to Nova Scotia a decade ago, Nagtegaal teamed up with New Brunswick startup veteran Shawn Carver to develop TheNextPhase program. The foundation is an online tool they developed called PhaseMap, which forces the user to plot out the development of the business with a systematic focus on the pain solved by the business product. Carver left the training seminars in late 2011 to focus on his own startup, at which point Crow joined the team. In total, more than 100 companies have gone through the team’s four-day seminars.
Nagtegaal said in the interview he plans to hold one of these seminars May 22-25 with six ITC companies, which will then continue through the three-month accelerator program. “We’re going to do the accelerator with PhaseMap as the methodology,” he said.
He admitted that most startup curriculum these days favors the use of business canvases. Canvases help to shape a product to meet market demand, he said, but PhaseMap helps with the development of the entire business model.
He plans to offer one more cohort for tech companies in affiliation with Volta this year, and put on three to four additional one-weekend seminars for companies in a range of sectors.
Vrekic said that the companies going through the Volta Accelerator will use shared working space close to the Volta headquarters, which is now in downtown Halifax. Following the program, they can apply for an office in Volta.
One adjunct to the accelerator will be quarterly meetings at Volta between seed companies and angels from the Atlantic Angel network, with the aim of establishing relationships with potential investors.
The accelerator is open to any company (and preferably new companies) from Atlantic Canada, as long as the founders are prepared to live and work in Halifax for the duration of the accelerator program. Vrekic said there will be no effort made to recruit the companies to Nova Scotia once the program ends.
The Volta Accelerator will be financed by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Nova Scotia Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism and Volta.