Halifax startup hub Volta is launching a new program headed by venture capital veteran Toon Nagtegaal to help Atlantic Canadian companies prepare for accelerators – even the best in the world.

The organization said last week it had received a $663,750 grant from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to support Volta LEAP, the program beginning this autumn. It aims to help about 15 to 20 companies decide whether they are suitable for accelerators and venture capital, and if so to help them thrive in these programs.

Volta is partnering with Genesis in St. John’s, Venn Innovation in Moncton, and Startup Zone in Charlottetown to offer Volta Leap.

“In order to grow and further develop the startup ecosystem here in Atlantic Canada, it is integral that our founders have access to capital and skill sets that can only be acquired through competitive accelerator programs,” said Volta CEO Jesse Rodgers in a statement. “We are thrilled to be partnering with ACOA to launch Volta LEAP, as it will fill a significant gap in the ecosystem and better prepare founders for rapid growth and success.”

The thinking behind the LEAP program is that successful companies need to bring in capital from outside the region, and the best way for them to link up with venture capital funds is through a leading accelerator. Yet a blog on the Volta webside stresses that not every company is suited to enter accelerators, nor to receive VC funding. Volta LEAP will aim to weed out those that are not.

Nagtegaal, best known as the founder of the training program TheNextPhase, will head the new offering that will prepare companies for such programs as the Creative Destruction Lab, Techstars and Y Combinator.

“You should only go to an accelerator program if you are prepared and ready to get venture capital investment within the next year,” Nagtegaal said in the blog.

Volta LEAP will take early- and growth-stage startups through various training sessions and workshops to assess first whether they are suitable for accelerators and second to prepare the best companies for success.

“There are two elements in what makes a candidate unsuitable for Volta LEAP: the business is not at all aimed at quick growth, and the other is that the person trying to do it is not or not yet capable of doing it,” Nagtegaal said in the blog. “After working with more than 300 companies [in TheNextPhase], and thousands before that, I’ve become pretty good at weeding out companies.”

Following an initial information session, 15 to 20 founders will be invited to participate in a two-day accelerator-readiness workshop.

“Some people will – after two days – realize they don’t want venture capital investment at all, ever because they didn’t know what it meant to have a venture capitalist on board,” Nagtegaal said.

Participants will be further divided into two streams: The accelerator stream will meet with Nagtegaal to become ready for rapid growth; and the non-accelerator stream will plot the path they may take to thrive in an accelerator in the future.

ACOA said Volta will also launch other programs to help founders outside of Halifax, including those in rural areas, and will track individuals from the region who are currently working in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.


Disclosure: Volta and ACOA are clients of Entrevestor.