‘Tech ecosystem’: Alberta Innovates to fund four new tech accelerators



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A program announced Thursday by Alberta Innovates is bringing global business accelerators to Alberta to revolutionize the province’s tech startup sector.

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The business accelerators and pre-accelerator will support local entrepreneurs and startups at whatever stage of development they are at, said Terry Rachwalski, executive director of accelerators with Alberta Innovates.

“Alberta’s on the big stage now,” Rachwalski said Thursday. “This is a game-changer. It takes us from a lot of little programs that we do our best and vaults us into the research and innovation networks around the world . . . We will now be recognized as a burgeoning tech ecosystem.”

Accelerators are a tool to efficiently grow companies through prescribed programming, mentorship, networking, access to capital and other opportunities. They help startups with the activities that get them to first sale.

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“If you have a piece of tech and I have a piece of tech, we may have never known each other existed until we got together through this, and then we can create something new,” said Rachwalski.

“And with global accelerators, Alberta companies have visibility into the world of capital and the world has visibility into us.”

Four accelerators were chosen from 64 total proposals. Rachwalski said it’ll take about three months for the accelerators to get off the ground in Alberta, but some are already hiring local staff.

Alberta Pre-Accelerator is the newest of the four accelerators, founded by Platform Calgary and Innovate Edmonton in an unprecedented pan-provincial partnership. Their collaboration will boost promising tech startups in the early stages across the province with a specific focus on underrepresented communities, said Platform Calgary CEO Terry Rock.

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“The Alberta pre-accelerator is a powerful tool to help us diversify our economy, create new and meaningful jobs of the future and increase prosperity for all Albertans,” Rock said in a news release.

The free program is expected to launch later this fall and will be open to Alberta applicants as well as eligible global companies.

The other accelerators selected for the program include Alberta Accelerator by 500, Plug and Play Alberta, and Community Safety and Wellness powered by Alchemist Accelerator — all three with roots in Silicon Valley.

In Alberta, venture capital firm 500 Global is launching an accelerator that supports seed-stage tech companies. It will alternate operations between hubs in Edmonton and Calgary.

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Plug and Play Alberta is an accelerator that connects startups with international corporations to send the tech to market more efficiently. Their main Alberta office will be in Calgary with a satellite office in Edmonton.

Community Safety and Wellness powered by Alchemist Accelerator is focused on providing services to ventures using artificial intelligence in the social sector at an office in Edmonton.

Doug Holt, associate vice-president of investments, said Alberta Innovates brought in experienced tech companies that could benefit local entrepreneurs.

“This will go a long way to achieve goals outlined by the Alberta government — hitting 900 new junior tech startups, 20,000 jobs and $5 billion in tech firm revenue by 2030,” said Holt.

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“Nobody rings a bell when the world changes, it just does. But there are times we can look back and say, that might have been a turning point, and I think this might be exactly that.”

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.

Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer said the accelerators fill a gap in Alberta’s tech sector.

“They’ll create new companies that will generate investment and hundreds of jobs across Alberta, in sectors ranging from agriculture, energy, health care, finance and beyond,” Schweitzer said in a news release.

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Twitter: @BabychStephanie

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