The Canadian Entrepreneur's Guide to Startup Accelerators

The Canadian Entrepreneur's Guide to Startup Accelerators

Is Your Canadian Startup Ready for an Accelerator Program?

The United States’ startup scene may receive the bulk of the world’s attention, but Canada has a robust small business culture of its own. In fact, it’s a great time to start or grow a startup company in Canada, and you don’t have to do it alone.

Accelerator programs can help you take your company to the next level, and here’s what you need to know about finding the right program.

Are accelerators the same as incubators?

Before you begin applying for programs, make sure you know what type of support your business needs. It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to confuse incubators and accelerators, but the two are very different.

An incubator program is meant to help early-stage startups succeed. Participants receive mentorship and financial investments, and some programs also offer things like office space and access to resources and tools. 

Accelerators, on the other hand, are designed for companies that have moved beyond the early stages of doing business. Harvard Business Review shared an excellent summary of how accelerators can help a business grow: 

“Startup accelerators support early-stage, growth-driven companies through education, mentorship, and financing. Startups enter accelerators for a fixed-period of time, and as part of a cohort of companies. The accelerator experience is a process of intense, rapid, and immersive education aimed at accelerating the life cycle of young innovative companies, compressing years’ worth of learning-by-doing into just a few months.

Essentially, the goal of accelerators is to set mature startups up for long term, sustainable success.

How to find startup accelerators in Canada

Once you’ve decided that an accelerator is the ideal program for your company, it’s time to find the perfect program. Use the following guidelines to find one that fits your goals:

  • Check for university-sponsored programs. If you or someone on your team attended or are currently attending university, consider beginning your search there. McGill’s X-1 Accelerator is a good example of a university accelerator, and the 10-week program requires at least one participant to be affiliated with the school. 
  • Apply for grants and loans from the Canadian government. While grants and loans aren’t the same as an accelerator, they can complement your efforts and help accelerate your growth. To learn more about securing small business financing in Canada, read this helpful article: How to Secure Small Business Financing in Canada.
  • Choose the location of your startup strategically. Where you do business can matter just as much as what you’re selling. For example, some experts consider Toronto to be the Silicon Valley of Canada and Montreal is quickly earning a reputation as a hub for artificial intelligence.

With the right type of virtual office membership, you could even have offices in several Canadian cities. Intelligent Office makes it incredibly easy to do just that, with locations throughout Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. One of the biggest benefits of virtual offices is the ability to network with fellow entrepreneurs and startup founders. With any luck, you’ll even meet people who can suggest proven accelerator programs to help grow your business.