Invest Ottawa and the Accelerator Centre Put Two Decades of Collective Scale-up Success to Work and Launch Accelerator Program in Canada’s Capital

September 20, 2018 – Waterloo, Ontario: Invest Ottawa, lead economic development agency for Canada’s Capital, together with the Waterloo Accelerator Centre (AC), strategic partner and award-winning accelerator founded by His Excellency The Right David Johnston in 2006, today announced the official launch of The IO Accelerator, a new Invest Ottawa Accelerator program that leverages best practices from both organizations to rapidly accelerate the development, scale-up and commercial success of high-growth technology firms.

Employing a model of pan-Ontario collaboration and co-creation, Invest Ottawa and the AC have established a rigorous, milestone-based acceleration program that combines key elements of:

  • The AC’s award-winning business acceleration methodology which was ranked the #4 University-Linked Accelerator Program in the world by UBI Global following the assessment of more than 1,300 incubators and accelerators worldwide
  • Invest Ottawa’s venture development, market insight and analysis services, including its novel client lead generation offering which helps firms identify high potential prospects, create a targeted customer acquisition strategy; and accelerate time to revenue; and
  • Invest Ottawa’s global expansion and trade services that help companies go global, and gain traction in target international markets in the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific. As assessed by KPMG in 2018, the global expansion activities undertaken by Invest Ottawa over the last five years have contributed $684 Million to the provincial GDP and helped to create 3,030 direct jobs and 2,054 additional jobs.

Since the launch of the competitive application process in May 2018, Invest Ottawa has received more than 100 applications for this new accelerator program. Leveraging a robust adjudication process, a panel of expert evaluators assessed each submission based on criteria including: the value proposition of the firm; technology and product readiness level; product validation to date; and commitment of the founding team.

Following the model and methodologies from the AC’s signature offering, The Accelerator Program, the IO Accelerator addresses all key areas of business, including: product development and design; sales and marketing; accounting and finance; human resources and culture; public relations and communications; and legal frameworks (including IP).  In addition to collaborating on the creation of this program, Invest Ottawa and the AC have worked together on implementation, enabling the integration of dynamic ideas from both teams and participating founders.

The creation of the IO Accelerator represents the first step in a broader pan-Ontario strategic partnership with the AC.  Building on Invest Ottawa’s five-year strategic plan, the organizations are now exploring opportunities to help high-growth technology firms capitalize on the $3 trillion global govtech market.

“It is a pleasure to collaborate with the AC and bring our complementary expertise to bear on the entrepreneurs and firms we serve through The IO Accelerator,” said Michael Tremblay, President and CEO of Invest Ottawa and Bayview Yards. “By combining our strengths and resources, we can help firms scale faster and more sustainably, and achieve greater economic outcomes for each region and our province.  Our cooperation will enable more technology firms to get to revenue faster; create more high-value jobs; and generate greater wealth.  We are far more competitive together in the global economy.”

“We are delighted with the strategic collaboration established with Invest Ottawa, and the outcomes we have achieved to date,” said Paul Salvini, President and CEO of the AC.  “Since 2006, the AC has worked with more than 400 startups and produced 59 graduates. These include Canadian-grown, global powerhouse firms such as Kik, Axonify, Magnet Forensics, SSIMWAVE, Sortable, Clearpath Robotics, Alert Labs, and Intellijoint. These firms have created 2,500 jobs and have a combined valuation of more than $3 billion.  We are honoured to combine our award-winning methodology with the venture development and global expansion services of Invest Ottawa and increase our collective impact on the provincial economy.”

“I am delighted to see such a diverse mix of technology startups benefitting from the new IO Accelerator,” said Susan Richards, Chair of the Boards of Invest Ottawa and Bayview Yards, and Co-Founder Numbercrunch and Givopoly.  “These founders are bringing disruptive technology innovations to market, and charting our economic future. I am thrilled to see eight women-led businesses among the initial firms selected. Inclusivity and diversity are proven multipliers to performance and economic growth.  As reinforced in our Gender Diversity and Inclusion Guideline, we are committed to making Ottawa the best city in the world to launch, grow and scale successful, globally-oriented and sustainable women-led firms.”

“The calibre of applications for our new accelerator program exceeded our expectations,” said Nick Quain, Vice-President of Venture Development at Invest Ottawa. “The combination of some of our brightest stars (previously incubated at Invest Ottawa), and a wave of new entrepreneurs has created an amazing first roster of companies.  We have 45 of the best scaling firms in the city.  And with targeted programming, top mentors and access to specialized entrepreneurship resources, we are really going to turn up the heat and show the world that Ottawa’s tech ecosystem is at the forefront of innovation”.

The Growcer is among the first companies selected for the IO Accelerator.  Lauded by Fast Company as one of the top 12 world changing ideas in food in 2018, the firm empowers communities to take control of their food systems by enabling local food production. By manufacturing modular plug-and-play hydroponic systems in retrofitted shipping containers, each unit can produce more than four tonnes of produce annually in temperatures as cold as -52°C.

“Our team has worked closely with Invest Ottawa for the last two years on business development, customer and investment acquisition,” said Alida Burke, Co-Founder and COO of The Growcer. “We are excited to build on the business results we have achieved to date in North America, and leverage The IO Accelerator program to develop and implement new global strategies in target markets such as China.  The opportunity to leverage the expertise of top mentors and Invest Ottawa teams, is invaluable for us as we scale and strive to establish the next $100 million company in Ottawa.

About Invest Ottawa

Invest Ottawa is the lead economic development agency for Canada’s Capital, facilitating economic growth and job creation in the City of Ottawa. Guided by a vision to help realize Ottawa’s full potential as a globally-recognized, innovative and future-ready city, and the best place to learn, work, live, and play, Invest Ottawa delivers venture development and global expansion programs and services that catalyze the growth and success of entrepreneurs and firms. These include: small business training; mentorship; acceleration for technology firms; foreign business and investment attraction; local business retention and expansion in targeted sectors; commercialization; and marketing Ottawa’s diversified economy and high quality of life.  Since 2012, Invest Ottawa has worked with thousands of startups, scale-ups and SMEs; helped firms to attract $322 million in capital; contributed to the creation of more than 6,350 jobs; and attracted $293 million in Foreign Direct Investment. For additional information, please visit: www.investottawa.ca

About the Accelerator Centre

The Accelerator Centre, an award-winning startup accelerator headquartered at Waterloo’s David Johnston Research + Technology Park, is dedicated to building and scaling sustainable, globally competitive companies.Through a suite of evidence-based programs, service offerings, and unique one-to-one mentorship model, the WAC gives startups the highest probability of long-term success. For additional information, please visit: http://acceleratorcentre.com/

For more information contact:
Tabatha Laverty
Accelerator Centre
Manager, Marketing and Communications
tlaverty@acceleratorcentre.com

ApplyBoard CEO, Martin Basiri, Grows Canadian Startup Powerhouse with International Roots

Martin Basiri was a student in Iran when he came upon the inspiration for what would become an incredibly successful startup venture. Martin knew he wanted to study in Canada and was looking for the best possible place to advance his education.

There were many obstacles Martin had to overcome before being able to study in Canada, and the process wasn’t always easy. Not only did he need to apply for a visa, but he also needed to search for the best school and chose the program that best fit his career goals. Information on academic programming is sometimes fragmented, making it very challenging for prospective students to find the information they need.

With a firm belief that students everywhere have a right to the best possible education, Martin had high standards. Eventually, he chose the University of Waterloo based on its reputation for excellence and inclusive programming. Martin soon graduated with a Master’s in Mechatronics Engineering and began looking towards the next phase in his life – entrepreneurship.

Inspired by a passion for innovation and his experience immigrating to Canada, he set out to help his brothers get visas as well so they could join him in Canada to pursue his business idea. “It’s in my nature to build cool things”, says Martin. “I wanted to help my brothers with their visas. Using what I had learned, I was able to get their process down to only a few months.”

In 2011, the brothers got their visas and by 2015 they had used their combined experiences to create ApplyBoard, an artificial intelligence-enabled educational marketplace designed to help match international students with the best universities and programs that meet their unique needs.

“Our mission is to give people the power to access the best educational opportunities from around the world,” says Martin. “Students have a huge impact on the economy and we know students, particularly ones from diverse backgrounds, create a positive impact for a brighter future by combining their knowledge and skills with their cultural experiences. Canada is a welcoming community and it was the perfect place to launch ApplyBoard.”

The Technology

ApplyBoard is a solution-focused tech company revolutionizing the international student application process. Their product and expert staff connects with students worldwide, helping them find the best educational opportunities available to them, curated to fit their goals and preferences

ApplyBoard constructed its platform as a service (PaaS) with students and educational partners in mind. Its AI aligns the interests of students and partner schools by matching each student with their most suitable program. The platform is intuitive, personalized and designed to help everyone succeed.

ApplyBoard has partnered with over 800 institutions and is rapidly expanding their global presence.

The process starts with a screening with ApplyBoard experts to ensure the students are serious about looking to continue their education and helping them start to identify what they are looking for in an institution or an academic program. From there, students can submit their profile and information to the platform, and the AI will consider those inputs and suggest a list of highly correlated schools and programs.

The ApplyBoard team walks the student all the way through the process, including helping with visas and post grad work permits. The company has a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant on staff who is an expert on partnerships with universities and governments. This ensures ApplyBoard’s recommendations are up to date with any changes in legislation.

The platform has a 95% success rate attaching students to academic institutions.

The International Student Education Industry is impressive. In fact, it is the fourth largest export in the Canadian economy and ApplyBoard is responsible for contributing over $100 million to the Canadian economy so far. “In 2016, international students contributed $15.5 billion to the economy in tuition, books and accommodations.” says their PR Specialist Adrianna Dyczkowsky.

Early Support from Innovation Ecosystem

Along the way, the innovation ecosystem in Waterloo gave ApplyBoard a tremendous amount of support. “Velocity gave us a home and the Accelerator Centre helped us with our visas and gave us funding.” Martin recalls. 

“With the help of Clinton Ball, [Director of Client Programs and Initiatives] and the staff in the AC’s Startup Visa Program, we were able to get Canadian permanent residency status in six months and through AC JumpStart we were able to get the critical funding to get us started.” Martin says.

“It would have been impossible to build ApplyBoard without the support of the AC to obtain permanent residency.”

“I met many times with Martin and the founding team,” recalls Clinton. “They showed real commitment to growing their company, and every time we would have a coffee they had more business traction. We are happy to see the team and business growing, and this is a great example of how the Startup Visa program is helping build Canadian technology companies.”

A Growing Team with Their Eye on the Future

From the initial team of brothers: Martin Basiri, CEO; Meti Basiri, Co-Founder and CMO; and Massi Basiri, COO, the team has grown to 75 people and continues on a growth trajectory.

Diversity is a key pillar of their talent strategy. In an industry where typically only 22% of women are represented in the tech workforce, 50% of ApplyBoard’s team are women.

In the coming months, ApplyBoard will be moving into a new, larger office in Kitchener-Waterloo and growing its existing international presence in India, China, Vietnam and Nepal. The company will also be attending various global industry conferences and local events in the near future with the goal of sharing its story and expanding its customer base. Martin sums up ApplyBoard’s goals well, “Students are the future, and the journey begins now. Student by student we are helping thousands of people realize their dreams: attending the best schools while building a better future for the world.”

We’re Hiring: Accountant

JOB DESCRIPTION – Accountant

The Accelerator Centre requires a qualified, energetic and organized person to fill an exciting position in a fast paced and dynamic entrepreneurial workspace. The ideal candidate must have a critical financial eye, be a master of multi-tasking, enjoys owning their role and loves Excel!

Reporting to the Director, Finance, the Accountant will be responsible for performing all daily accounting functions, payroll, HR & benefits administration, forecasting, budget and Board report preparation.  The duties described below are for Waterloo Accelerator Centre and Waterloo Accelerator Program Inc.

KEY RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Perform all daily accounting functions, including, but not limited to, payables/receivables, invoicing, employee expenses, inter-company and bank reconciliations, as well as CRA remittances.
  • Manage the corporate credit card system.
  • Work closely with the Director, Finance to compile monthly, quarterly and annual financial reporting and variance analyses (for both internal & external sources).
  • Support the annual audit, including compilation of working papers, liaising with auditors, and preparation of financial statements and audit committee presentation.
  • Assist in the preparation of annual budget that is aligned to objectives in the Annual Plan.
  • Set-up all accounts as necessary for special projects and Government funded programs.
  • Prepare all monthly, quarterly and/or annual financial reporting.
  • Support the financial portion of applications for government grants.
  • Support government program audits.
  • Work with the Community Manager (AC metrics), Program Manager & Client Experience team (client metrics) to coordinate metric collection (monthly, annually, quarterly) and preparation of related Government reporting & requests.
  • Bi-weekly input of staff payroll ensuring any changes are compliant with legislation and internal policies
  • Administer the employee benefit program. Support & set-up new team members (employee files, TribeHR, Ceridian, Manulife, HR Downloads, etc).
  • Maintain finance and HR related process documentation.
  • Be the Chief Everything Officer (CEO), find opportunity in every task and support the entire Accelerator Centre/Waterloo Accelerator Program Inc. teams as necessary (“other duties as assigned”).

DESIRED SKILLS & EXPERIENCE 

  • You have a post-secondary education in accounting and/or financial management, are a designated accounting professional (or working towards) and have 3+ years related workplace experience.
  • Previous payroll experience is considered an asset
  • You are proficient in Microsoft Office, QuickBooks Premier and are eager to learn new things. You have the capacity to work full-time.
  • Previous experience with Federal/Provincial/Municipal Government programming is a definite asset.
  • You take initiative and can manage multiple tasks and multiple directions. You demonstrate strong written and verbal communication skills.
  • You can function with ease in a team environment and are ready/willing/able to help in all areas of the business.

HOW TO APPLY

Please submit your resume and cover letter to careers@acceleratorcentre.com before 5pm on September 19th. We thank all interested candidates for their applications, however, only those selected for an interview will be contacted.

COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
The Accelerator Centre is committed to fostering a diverse community that is dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs from all backgrounds.

A full range of perspectives, lifestyles, and passions are key to creating the inclusive, entrepreneurial environment that is necessary to help our clients build and scale globally competitive companies. Diversity and inclusion at the Accelerator Centre means we are dedicated to the elimination of discrimination, in all its forms, at all levels of our organization and in our programming.

We welcome applications from qualified candidates of all backgrounds regardless of age, physical ability, gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation. We will provide any requested accommodation to candidates with disabilities throughout the recruitment process. If you require assistance, please contact careers@acceleratorcentre.com noting the job title in the subject line of the email.

Waterloo Region Startups Find Success Focusing on Seniors and Patient Centered Design

With 5.8M Canadians aged 65+, seniors now outnumber children in this country. It is estimated that by 2041, 25% of Canadians will be over the age of 65.

An aging population presents new challenges for an already struggling healthcare and social service system. Healthcare providers must work even harder and smarter to deliver care and additional resources to a swelling population of seniors without increasing their staff or budgets.

Waterloo Region’s startups are working hard to solve this dilemma, in partnership with healthcare providers, seniors, and their families. Inspired by personal experience with the challenges surrounding senior care, these entrepreneurs are tackling everything from dressing, to medication delivery, to dementia care  – offering innovative solutions that improve care and the quality of life for seniors.

Innovation that improves care and quality of life

“Seniors don’t see themselves as tech users,” says Mary Pat Hinton, founder of Emmetros, a startup focused on streamlining care for people living with dementia. “But then, you ask them if they use the internet, and they say that they do. Then you ask them if they have a smartphone or tablet, and they’ll respond that they do. Then when you ask them if they have apps on their tablets, they’ll say that they do.  By the end of the conversation, we will both be laughing about how they’re just as “techie” as I am!”

Driven by her own personal experience with her grandmother’s dementia, Hinton is fueled by a unquenchable passion to make things better for others afflicted by memory loss. She and her team have built a mobile app, MemorySparx One, that allows people with dementia to organize their days with the support of family members and their care teams. The solution, which will be provided through healthcare partners such as home care service providers and residential retirement homes, will allow people to live more independently.

Sharing Hinton’s passion to help people with dementia, Rachel Thompson a University of Waterloo grad, is bringing the gift of reading back to people living with dementia. After watching her book-loving grandmother lose her ability to read, Rachel set out to solve the problem, founding Marlena Books, a company dedicated to creating simple and accessible reading material tailored for individuals experiencing memory loss. With a mobile-based version of her books now in development, Thompson is gaining traction within long-term care facilities, healthcare enterprises and public libraries.  She also has the pleasure of seeing her tools at work, while watching her grandfather read to his wife. “It’s a true love story,” she says. “He visits and reads to her every day.”

Kristine Goulet, co-founder of Monarch Clothing was both heartbroken and frustrated. Her proud mother, who lived in long-term care, was often dressed in a way that left her looking undignified. The dressing process was painful for her and even once dressed she would continue to seem uncomfortable. Determined to make this daily ritual easier on everyone and bring dignity and fashion back to seniors like her mother, Goulet, a chiropractor, set out to create a new and vastly improved adaptive clothing line. “I knew there had to be a better way. I was determined that no one else should have to experience these same dressing challenges that my mother had”, says Goulet.

Goulet was soon joined in her mission by Pat Quinn, a close friend and experienced business professional who, herself, has an aging mother living with dementia. Together, the two have created Monarch’s unique system of dressing that is much easier to put on and is a time saver for caregivers. Fabrics are chosen specifically to make dressing comfortable and pain-free for wearers while providing the added bonus of being bright, cheerful and fashionable. Monarch recently partnered with long-term care provider Revera’s, Innovation in Aging team, to pilot their adaptive clothing line with some of their residents by organizing a truly memorable fashion event at a Revera home.

Spencer Waugh, CEO and founder of AceAge, is tackling the challenging issue of medication delivery. Sharing a similar story to his fellow entrepreneurs, he watched first hand as his grandfather struggled to stay organized with daily medications. Blister packs and other vehicles used by pharmacies are simply insufficient especially for seniors struggling with cognitive impairment.

AceAge has created Karie, a personal health companion to organize, schedule and dispense life-saving medications, ensuring seniors take the right medication at the right time. The company has partnered with pharmaceutical provider Centric Health as its fulfillment partner in an i2p2 study led by the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI). The program will help accelerate the testing and evaluation of products and services designed for aging populations.

“Centric Health was not only a natural choice as they are our strategic partner, but they are a great addition to the team in a clinical research setting, where we will be validating our product,” says Waugh. “We are thrilled to be working with one of the top Canadian pharmacies for safe, secure and high-quality medication dispensing.”

Innovation focused on our aging population takes many forms, but the startups and founders involved share a common inspiration – to engage in patient and caregiver centred design to improve quality of life. They also firmly believe that innovation does not necessarily have to come in the form of a low-tech solution in order to be adopted by seniors. Family members, often middle-aged children, are the ones who will make the purchasing and care decisions, for their parents, and these tech-savvy individuals welcome tech-based solutions. They are also tomorrow’s senior population.  Rachel Thompson explains, “We’re creating solutions that suit the current needs of today’s seniors, but we’re also designing with an eye for future needs.”

The biggest barrier: adoption and scale

Like most startups, companies focused on building solutions for an aging population face challenges of adoption and scale. The health system in Canada is notoriously slow to innovate, which can drive Canadian innovators south of the border into the US in order to gain early market traction. An overcapacity, cash strapped healthcare system has to somehow carve out time and money for innovation. With patient needs rightfully pulling to the forefront, much needed innovation can get left behind. The paradox lies in the fact that investment into innovation can fuel new products, processes, and technologies, that allow our healthcare system to do more with less. More compliance with prescriptions means less visits to the hospital. Better quality of life while living at home rather than in long-term care means shorter wait times for a long-term care bed. Easier dressing and a lower occurrence of pressure sores means personal support workers have more time in their day to assist more patients with quality care.

Supported by the Accelerator Center and its partners including Velocity, Communitech, the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network, the University of Waterloo and local clinicians, startups such as Emmetros, Monarch Clothing, Marlena Books and Ace Age are creating better supports for seniors and gaining important market traction.

“At the heart of our support system for startups is collaboration,” says Paul Salvini, CEO of the Accelerator Centre.  “Our innovation ecosystem needs clinicians willing to give their time to advise startups and provide access to the problems at hand. We need investors willing to play the long game and provide the capital required for inventory and product development. And we need more champions within service providers and government that actively look for opportunities to connect entrepreneurs, innovative ideas and patient care.  If we are successful, not only will we support entrepreneurs to keep their innovations here in Canada. We’ll create a better quality of life for our grandparents, parents, and a better health system for future generations.

 

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