Here’s one thing to highlight about Atlantic Canadian startups in 2017: they’ll be accelerating their danged faces off.
Accelerators have become a cornerstone of the startup world, and they’re thick on the ground on Canada’s East Coast. The sheer number of accelerators or incubators is surprising, as is the number of companies they are fostering. And they speak to the startup community’s commitment to helping more and more entrepreneurs find their way to the market.
Just consider for a moment these groups that will be active in 2017:
Propel ICT – The best-known accelerator in the region, it will likely offer programs this year to new, growing and advanced IT companies in all provinces. It will also hold a cohort at the Navigate Startup House in Sydney for the first time.
Emergence, Charlottetown – The bioscience accelerator has been nurturing several startups since it opened two years ago.
CleanTech Accelerate Program, Halifax – Innovacorp’s new program for cleantech companies launched in 2016 with five companies enrolled.
Evolution, St. John’s – The Genesis Centre has been offering this eight-week program to nurture young companies in Newfoundland and Labrador. The centre now lists 12 graduates on its website.
Startup Zone, Charlottetown – The incubator that opened last summer in the P.E.I. capital graduated its first cohorts of five startups in December.
Innovacorp’s OceanTech Programs, Halifax – The Nova Scotia innovation agency is offering three programs for marine-related companies -- the Demo at Sea Program, Early Adopter Program and OceanTech Development Program. Six companies were enrolled in the Early Adopter Program last year.
Energia, Fredericton – The new University of New Brunswick accelerator for energy, cleantech and cybersecurity is already working with five companies.
JEDI Aboriginal Business Accelerator Program, Fredericton – JEDI was a pilot program last year and is now ramping up to a more permanent status. Eight teams of aboriginal entrepreneurs went through it in 2016.
B4 Change, Fredericton – The accelerator at UNB’s Pond-Deshpande Centre focuses on social entrepreneurship, or companies with a social mission. The accelerator is now two years old with 30 graduates to date.
Spark and Ignite – Andrew Button of Mashup Lab heads these two virtual accelerators, which aims to mentor entrepreneurs regardless of where they are based. The goal is to give founders in rural areas the opportunities that exist in the urban centres.
Natural Products Canada -- This Charlottetown-based organization has pods across the country, and will be working with Atlantic Canadian companies that commercialize natural products.
So that’s 11 programs in the region, and there have been several omissions. Most prominent are the startup houses in most Atlantic Canadian cities that offer programing as well as office space.
Then there are the post-secondary institution programs. UNB, Dalhousie, St. Mary’s and Cape Breton all have programs during the school year, and Dal and UNB both have summer accelerators. Nova Scotia has a range of “sandboxes” (places where entrepreneurs can meet and collaborate).
Then there are larger programs in other places that Atlantic Canadian startups will continue to tap, like the Canadian Technology Accelerator program offered at Canadian consulates in the U.S. and other countries. And let’s not forget the broader entrepreneurship programs – like the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development in Halifax and Futurpreneur – that target more than just innovation-based startups.
Once you sit down and count them, you can be astonished by how many organizations are offering mentorship to startups. I could see 150 companies going through these programs this year. Most will fail, but the overall result will be a few dozen notable survivors and an expansion of entrepreneurial talent.