Immigrant founders and veteran entrepreneurs are making a strong showing among remote startup accelerator Propel’s resident companies, as the organization mobilizes to meet spiking demand for its services.

Founders over the age of 40 will make up about 40 percent of the entrepreneurs Propel works with during the fiscal year ending in March, and second-time founders have increased from 41 percent of clients last year to 46 percent this year. Fifty-nine percent of companies now have new Canadians on their founding teams, up from 47 percent the year prior.

This year, Lockhart expects to add 115 new companies to Propel’s portfolio, up from 92 last year and 76 the year before.

“We're at a point where we've had a discussion this week saying, 'Oh, my gosh, we don't have capacity to serve all of the founders applying to Propel right now,'" said Lockhart in an interview. "This is a good problem to have. It's a problem, and we need to solve it, but let's be very clear, this is a good problem to have.”

Lockhart said many of the more mature founders joining Propel have worked in their chosen industry for years and accumulated domain expertise that informs their companies.

For immigrant founders, meanwhile, Lockhart said Atlantic Canadian universities have played an important role in increasing diversity in the ecosystem, since many immigrants first arrive in Canada as students.

“Our many post-secondary institutions in Atlantic Canada are often the front door for new Canadians," said Lockhart. "They've done an incredible job at welcoming folks to our region. And that's a hard job.

"To me, the important job is to make sure that those individuals feel like this is their home going forward.”

Lockhart was cautious about inferring a direct correlation between headline-making layoffs sweeping the technology sector internationally and the local spike in founders with more industry experience. In recent months, major tech companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google, with employees across North America, have laid off tens of thousands of highly skilled workers.

But she said letting air out of the labour market, as major tech employers have been in recent months, could take some cost and operational pressure off of startups, which generally struggle more during labour shortages than larger, better-funded operations.

“Our hope is that … the large companies who are downsizing will help actually feed some of the more struggling small- and medium-sized companies,” said Lockhart. 

“The tech talent is still in very high demand, and I’m anticipating seeing a shift in where those jobs land, and many of them hopefully will be with smaller tech companies.”

And in some cases, Lockhart said, layoffs in the technology sector could foster entrepreneurship more directly as freshly unemployed technocrats look for new opportunities.

“The world is shifting," said Lockhart. "When things are difficult, innovation and entrepreneurship seems to bubble up — and we hope we're going to continue to see that in Atlantic Canada.”