Incoming $3.3 million to boost local startup incubators

Ontario’s minister of research and innovation, Reza Moridi, announced a $3.3 million grant to be shared between the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University in partnership with Communitech, who will be playing a supporting role in the venture.

“We’re [Communitech] proud to host both the launchpad accelerator and the Velocity Garage at the Communitech hub. So we wanted to make sure that the money was used in a coordinated way between all the players in the entrepreneurship,” director of media relations, Chris Plunkett said. “The key from our perspective for the campus accelerators as it pertains to the youth employment strategy is building entrepreneurship as a viable career path.”

The funding will be shared between UW’s Conrad Business Entrepreneurship and Technology Centre, VeloCity, St. Paul’s Greenhouse, and the Accelerator Centre. Laurier’s share of the funding will go to their Launchpad programs on their Brantford, Toronto, and Waterloo campuses.

University of Waterloo President and Vice-Chancellor Feridun Hamdullahpur said, “This additional support from the government of Ontario adds significant horsepower to the University of Waterloo as we seek to drive Ontario to the next level of excellence in innovation. We will use this essential new funding to grow our leading entrepreneurship and incubator programs.”

Moridi delivered the announcement  at 11 a.m. Sept.18 in downtown Kitchener’s Communitech building.

The minister spoke about the importance of programs that help students apply and transfer their skills and ideas to the jobs in demand in the marketplace.

“By partnering with colleges and universities to support entrepreneurship, we are ensuring our province’s business leaders of tomorrow are getting the support they need to succeed today,” Moridi said in a press release.

Plunkett expressed confidence that the government will continue to invest in both startups and youth employment in the region because of the results seen from past investments.

“You can look at the number of startups that have been created within the last number of years. The region has grown from five years ago, there might have been 100 startups created in a year, where we saw 175 new startups created,” Plunkett said.

When asked if there is a role government can play in preventing successful companies or startups from selling out to larger companies, Plunkett said he doesn’t see that being a prominent problem in the region, and doesn’t see a situation in which the government is going to get involved.

“I think what the government needs to do is create an ecosystem that encourages entrepreneurship, that creates a lot of these companies. The more you can create for the funnel, the better the chance you are of creating that $1 billion company,” Plunkett said. “I think in a healthy ecosystem, a healthy tech ecosystem, where you have a lot of these companies, some companies will sell out early to larger companies and I think that’s success.”

This phase of funding is part of the $20 million the government of Ontario has allocated to its campus-linked accelerators programs as part of their youth jobs strategy.

The majority Liberal government at Queens Park is promising to invest $295 million over the next two years in their youth employment strategy, which they say has created more than 20,000 jobs for students and youth across the province. They hope to create 30,000 more job opportunities over the next two years.

Feds VPED Stephane Hamade said,“This program will give students access to additional resources to fund their entrepreneurial goals. The Federation of Students is a supporter of entrepreneurship, as can be shown by our new entrepreneurship committee.”


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