With this week’s announcement of new collaborations with regional partners Planet Hatch and Volta Labs, East Coast startup accelerator Launch36 is moving one step closer to its goal of being a truly regional organization.

On Wednesday, the group’s friendly-and-frank leader Trevor MacAusland announced the group will hold its Launch36 Start program for new companies at Volta in Halifax and Planet Hatch in Fredericton. Launch36 Build, for growth-stage companies, will continue to be held in Moncton.

“The collaborative nature of the program will allow us to focus on building scalable startups together,” said MacAusland, executive director of Propel ICT, the group that runs the accelerator.

“We’re aiming to be geographically agnostic and to become the world’s first federated accelerator model.”

Propel ICT began in Saint John 10 years ago, but MacAusland lives in Moncton and travels to boost regional links.

The group’s virtual programming will be improved with funds it has been awarded by the National Research Council’s Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program (amount yet to be announced).

Virtual programming will allow Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs to participate in accelerator programs, events and workshops.

There is a lot of untapped entrepreneurial potential in rural communities, MacAusland said.

“In the digital world, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, only where you’re going. We want to overcome the challenges entrepreneurs face in accessing the right people at the right time.”

The NRC funds will also allow the group to diversify away from pure tech to serve companies in other segments, and it will help with building better bridges to startup hubs in Silicon Valley, New York and Europe.

Propel ICT began Launch36 early in 2012, with the goal of putting 36 startups through its program within three years.

Launch36 has now graduated 32 startups from across the Maritime provinces and is known for the quality of the support it offers graduating companies. These include well-known names such as Eigen Innovations, which is developing an Internet of Things application for the food industry, and topLog, which helps to prevent network failures.

In May, the accelerator won Incubator/Accelerator of the Year in the Startup Canada Atlantic Awards.

When he became executive director in February 2011, MacAusland vowed to boost mentorship, believing it essential to entrepreneurial success.

Now, he gives credit to the couple of dozen regular volunteers on whom the non-profit relies.

“Our mentors strive to get entrepreneurs the answers they need,” he said. “They work tirelessly and open up their networks. If not for them, we wouldn’t have accomplished what we have.”

MacAusland said the group will “never have real estate” but will continue to keep costs down by working with community partners and relying on the generosity of sponsors, who provide free office space when required.

He describes himself as, “not the smartest or most talented person, but I am the hardest working.”

“I believe it’s my responsibility to future generations to foster entrepreneurship as much as I can.”

MacAusland is a francophone and fully bilingual. He grew up just outside Moncton, where his dad, Gerald, was an entrepreneur, owning a successful fire protection company.

The junior MacAusland worked for two decades in sales and marketing in the ICT sector, for T4G Limited and Whitehill Technologies.

MacAusland is the father of six-year-old Emma, and he says parenthood increases his commitment to local entrepreneurship.

“I want Emma to be able to stay in this region, if she chooses,” he said. “I feel a cultural shift is needed if Atlantic Canadian youngsters are to have that choice.

“If you see a problem, don’t say ‘Someone should fix that.’ Say ‘I can fix that, or if not, how do I find someone who can fix that?’”