Extreme Startups looks to connect top tech firms with investor cash

A new Toronto-based technology firm accelerator program offering residents $200,000 in funding and direct exposure to several top investment capital firms is now accepting applications, according to Extreme Venture Partners.

From Jan. 31 until March 1, Extreme Startups will be taking applications for technology firms looking to set up shop in the downtown offices of Extreme Venture Partners and work alongside a cohort of four other businesses for 12 weeks. Firms will receive $50,000 funding up front in exchange for 10 per cent of equity in common shares, and be given the option of a $150,000 loan upon graduation. Other investors involved in the project include OMERS Ventures, BlackBerry Partners Fund, Rho Canada, and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC).

The new accelerator will also be collaborating with top tech brands including Google, Twitter, Salesforce.com, Autodesk, Research in Motion, Microsoft and possibly Facebook. It will accept two cohorts of five companies each every year.

“There’s a lot of great accelerators out there already, but we wanted to take the best of breed in terms of investors,” says Andy Yang, the program director for Extreme Startups. “We’re trying to look for the best and brightest entrepreneurs, and the most innovative.”

Extreme Startups will select companies based on team dynamics and experience, he says. Previous examples of having built a successful product will be a big plus. The new accelerator is also on the lookout for ideas with the potential to disrupt existing markets, and good technical skills mixed with business savvy.

The aim of the accelerator is not to pump companies up quickly and then sell them to the highest bidder, says Peter Carrescia, managing director of OMERS Ventures. Extreme Startups instead offers a way for investors to get involved with companies at an earlier startup stage, and possibly lead to larger sums of cash being invested at later stages of growth.

“Founders can sell a company whenever they want to, but we want to make sure the reason is not a lack of capital to continue growing the business,” he says. “They’re selling because they want to sell and are maximizing their potential. If they want to continue growing their business, we are there for the long term.”

Extreme Startups is providing more cash than most incubators or accelerators so residents will have a “longer runway” and more chance to succeed, Yang says. “A lot of accelerators offer $25 to 50 K. We feel the extra $100 K will give them some extra runway, and relieve some of the pressure of fundraising.”

Companies will have the option of accepting a $150,000 loan in the form of a convertible note with a two-year maturity from BDC.

Extreme Startups is carrying on from the Extreme University program run in 2009, 2010 and 2011. That program also provided mentorship, demo opportunities, and a workspace for 12 weeks over the summer. Alumni from that program include BumpTop, a user interface firm that sold to Google in April 201, and Rypple, a performance management software provider acquired by Salesforce.com on Dec. 15, 2011.

Rypple founder Dan Debow will help with mentoring the first Extreme Startups cohort as the “entrepreneur link.” Other experienced entrepreneurs will also be on hand to provide guidance, as well as advisors from the investment firms involved. Yang, also a member of the BlackBerry Partners Fund investment management team, will coordinate the program.

“I’m there to facilitate whatever they need, whether it’s introductions to customers, or if it’s to organize cohort dinners and build camaraderie,” he says. “Also, to keep them on a certain cadence and make sure they’re hitting milestones.”

Companies will also have access to developer resources from the industry partners. Facebook was involved in Extreme University, but Extreme Startups is still ironing out the details of the company’s involvement in the accelerator. Though Yang says they are interested in being involved.

“They want to be involved from the beginning for companies that are social,” he says. Resident firms have the opportunity to participate in Facebook’s Studio Live events.

The first cohort will commence its semester March 15. Firms may apply until March 1 at http://extremestartups.com/apply. The next cohort will follow in roughly six months.

Brian JacksonBrian Jackson is the Associate Editor at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and check out the IT Business Facebook Page.

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