Key players of a new tech accelerator partnership spoke about fast-tracking Alberta’s tech sector during a provincial news conference Wednesday.
Four tech accelerators were chosen out of 64 proposals in September to be part of the Alberta Innovates Scaleup and Growth Accelerator Program. Accelerators provide small startups with programming, mentorship, networking, access to capital and other opportunities to help entrepreneurs get to a first sale.
One of the four accelerators is the Alberta Pre Accelerator program, a pan-provincial collaboration between Platform Calgary and Innovate Edmonton. Joining them is 500 Global, Plug and Play Alberta, and Community Safety and Wellness powered by Alchemist Accelerator, all with roots in Silicon Valley.
“This is about investing in talent development, whereas historically a lot of this would have been done through a conventional post-secondary program or through the labour ministry,” Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer said during a news conference in Edmonton.
“The scaling speed and velocity that can happen here is just different than any other industry that we’ve historically had in Alberta. (Entrepreneurs) need that support to help them scale and grow faster and compete globally.”
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The four accelerators will receive a collective total of about $35 million in federal, provincial and municipal funding under the Alberta Innovates Scaleup and Growth Accelerator Program to work with local startups over three years.
This was done to offset the cost to the accelerators to invest in startups and participate in the program, according to the province. As these entrepreneurs scale up, the partnered accelerators could also receive part of that profit and growth in return.
“I think you’ll find that the return on investment that will come out here will make that $35 million seem like a drop in the ocean,” said Laura Kilcrease, Alberta Innovates CEO. “These are powerful organizations not just because of what they do, but because of the opportunities they will bring to the participants in their progress.”
Though the four accelerators were announced on Sept. 23, Schweitzer said Wednesday’s news conference was organized because the province wasn’t able to hold one at the time.
“That was just an announcement so we could actually get the wheels of funding flowing, (and) get these vehicles going,” he said.
This program was created to help the provincial government realize its goals of generating 900 new technology firms, 20,000 jobs and $5 billion in technology firm revenue by 2030.
According to Alberta Innovates, half of all startups in the province survive more than five years but only 0.1 per cent of small firms become mid-sized. Only two per cent of mid-sized firms grow to become large companies.
Deron Bilous, NDP economic development and innovation critic, said while it’s good to see these accelerators coming to Alberta, the UCP should reverse previous cuts made to programs and post-secondary funding that help attract investments for startups.
In a news release, Bilous said by eliminating the Alberta Investor Tax Credit and Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit, and cutting funding to post-secondary institutions by more than $700 million, the province has made it harder for these companies to find the skilled labour they need to grow.
“Although these re-announcements are positive news, the UCP needs to reverse their cuts and support these companies that will diversify our economy and create jobs.”