Tim Ellis sees it every time a startup packs its bags and leaves the business incubator he runs in Waterloo.
The dreaded M-word — moving — keeps him awake at night and messes with his mandate.
His job is to remove barriers for young companies. But at the point when they’re just starting to take off, moving can be a real momentum-buster, said the chief executive officer of the Accelerator Centre.
Headaches such as finding a new office, setting the terms of the lease and securing enough parking slow down startups at the worst possible time, said Ellis.
“It delays the companies,” he said. “When they leave here, there is a blip, like a stock chart where things drop. We want to eliminate that.”
Ellis hopes he found the solution to this dilemma in a new building planned for the David Johnston Research & Technology Park, where the Accelerator Centre is located.
The three-storey, 115,000-square-foot building will welcome graduates of the Accelerator Centre program and a mix of other selected tenants, including foreign companies looking to dip a toe in the waters of Waterloo Region.
Many of the graduating companies of the Accelerator Centre, and its offshoots at the Communitech Hub in Kitchener and the Stratford Accelerator Centre, want to replicate the shared environment offered by the program, said Ellis.
The new building will attempt to recreate that ambience of collaboration without most of the mentoring, coaching and other formal programming offered by the Accelerator Centre itself, he said.
Instead of removing grads from the entire tree, “We want to push them out of the nest into a branch of the tree,” Ellis said.
A date has not been set for the start of construction because stakeholders are still deliberating about the right mix of occupants.
The aim is not just to fill up the building with tenants, said Carol Stewart, manager of the research park.
“You can’t just go out and be straight real estate. You have to be laser-focused” on finding the right tenants, she said.
The plan is to have the $30-million building ready for occupancy in 2015, said Adrian Conrad, president of Cora Developments, which will construct the facility.
“We want to make sure we get the right package (of occupants) before we start,” he said.
It will be located at 435 Wes Graham Way on the same roundabout occupied by Sybase and a Cora-owned building housing Agfa Healthcare, Enflick and Cisco Systems.
The new building has tentatively been dubbed the International Business Centre because it will offer Accelerator Centre programming that focuses on helping tenants scale globally, said Ellis.
Current tenants of the Accelerator Centre are too young to expand internationally, but once they leave the nest they could use some assistance and coaching in that regard, he said.
As well, the park occasionally gets inquiries from international companies looking to establish a small presence in the region in the kind of collaborative and flexible setting offered by the Accelerator Centre, said Stewart.
Another tenant in the new building likely will be Capacity Waterloo Region, which helps non-profit organizations find new ways to raise funding and create social enterprises.
Capacity Waterloo Region is housed in the Accelerator Centre building, but is looking to expand as it works on a new concept to support social innovators, said Ellis.
“They love being with the entrepreneurs and they don’t want to change that.”
The innovative “collision” between the profit and non-profit sectors is one of the things that work well in the Accelerator Centre, he said.
The units in the International Building Centre will be larger than those in the Accelerator Centre, but still compact in size at about 1,500 to 7,500 square feet, and will lease for three years or less to give tenants more flexibility, said Ellis.
Leases in privately owned buildings in the region typically start at three years. The norm is at least five years for an existing building and 10 to 15 years for a new building, said Conrad.
The International Business Centre will be the 10th building to go up in the research park since it was launched 10 years ago as a joint venture by the University of Waterloo, government and the private sector.
Located north of Columbia Street on the north part of the UW campus, the purpose of the 40-hectare park was to attract private tenants looking to capitalize on the university’s top-flight graduates in math, computer science and engineering and to build this area’s knowledge economy.
Other buildings in the park include Sybase, two OpenText facilities, the InnoTech building which is leased to BlackBerry, the Accelerator Building, the TechTown service centre, two research advancement centres owned by UW and a Cora-owned building that houses Agfa and other tenants.
UW owns the land and leases it to private-sector developers such as Cora, which has already erected three buildings in the park.
Besides the International Business Centre, the technology park has room for three more buildings in the first phase of its development, said Stewart.
The smaller phase-two section consists of about 28 hectares between Sybase and Bearinger Road. The number of buildings to be established there hasn’t been determined yet.
“There’s a whole lot of planning we have to do yet for that,” said Stewart.
One of the objectives of the International Business Centre is to nurture the kind of larger enterprise that will want to occupy future buildings in Johnston Park, said Ellis.
“If we build the right culture in the park, they will want to stay in the park.”
Jun 08, 2013