Two new initiatives were unveiled at the Innovate Atlantic conference on Thursday that are designed to further enrich the startup ecosystem in Atlantic Canada.  

Allen Nizi, Partnerships Lead at Microsoft for Startups, announced a new partnership with Volta. The Microsoft for Startups-Volta partnership will provide resident companies with access to technology, experts, events and resources that the organization has to offer.

And the launch of ONSIDE – the Organization for Nova Scotia Innovation-Driven Entrepreneurship – was announced by Chere Chapman, Board Chair, and Alexandra McCann, Executive Director.

Now in its second year, Innovate Atlantic is a one-day conference presented by Halifax-based innovation hub Volta. It is designed to help set Atlantic Canada’s innovation agenda, and a strong theme of the discussion was inclusion in the innovation community.

“Bringing together our community of thought leaders, experts and innovators to discuss and explore Atlantic Canada’s potential for growth and development is important to help build a broader understanding of what we are capable of achieving,” said Jesse Rodgers, Volta CEO. “Ultimately, it comes down to individuals and organizations adopting innovative mindsets, fostering community collaboration, putting a greater emphasis on place-making, and creating exciting employment opportunities that will attract and retain youth and newcomers.”

Volta’s new partnership with Microsoft for Startups will allow the two organizations to work together to nurture the startup ecosystem in Atlantic Canada with specific events and programming. Microsoft for Startups will also offer to eligible Volta Residents certain benefits, including up to $120,000 in free Azure credits, as well as enterprise-grade technical support and development tools.

 “Volta is a pillar of support for startups in eastern Canada, helping local companies connect with the resources they need to scale,” said Adam Nanjee, Managing Director of Microsoft for Startups Canada.

The second new initiative presented at the conference is ONSIDE, a Halifax-based non-profit focused on strengthening the Nova Scotia ecosystem for inclusive, innovation-driven entrepreneurship.

“We’re looking to convene, connect and catalyze,” said McCann in an interview. “We’re looking to work with stakeholders  . . . .to identify strategies that can galvanize and push the innovation agenda forward.”

Several of the speakers at Innovate Atlantic detailed the need for inclusion within the startup community, both to grow more diversified workforces and to improve business prospects. Bernd Christmas, CEO of Gitpo Storms and one of the architects of the business success of Membertou First Nation, encouraged the audience to work with the 60,000 to 70,000 Canadian businesses owned by natives.

And Kris Braun, Vice-President of Engineering at Waterloo, Ont.-based Bonfire, encouraged founders to ease their talent shortages by seeking qualified people within refugee communities overseas. Bonfire has worked with the group Talent Beyond Boundaries to hire a Syrian-born programmer who was living in a refugee camp in Lebanon. The company is now planning to hire more refugees.