Southern Ontario’s startup community got a boost today from the federal government with the release of nearly $5 million earmarked to help some 450 graduates in the science and technology fields develop their ideas into viable businesses.
Gary Goodyear, minister of state for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) today announced a contribution of $5 million for the Research Innovation Commercialization Center (RIC Centre), a not-for-profit business coaching and accelerator organization. Goodyear made the announcement at the Xerox Research Centre in Mississauga, Ont. Applications for the program are being accepted, for more information go to the RIC Centre site.
The funding will be provided over a period of three years to help 450 graduates in the so called STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) develop and market their services and products. The RIC Centre will disburse the funds and provide training and mentorship through its VentureStart program.
The RIC Centre hopes the program will be able to provide mentoring and support for 160 new startup businesses in Southern Ontario.
Calling the initiative a “minds to market” program, Goodyear said the funding is part of the Conservative government’s push to help local businesses innovate, adapt, and grow in a competitive market. “We recognize that entrepreneurs and students need the tools, skills and funding to build competitive startups,” he said.
At least 30 entrepreneurs from Ottawa, Toronto, and Waterloo have already been deemed eligible for support under the program, according to Pam Banks, executive director of RIC Centre. To qualify for the seed funding, entrepreneurs must complete the business training program provided by VentureStart.
She said these businesses may be eligible for up to $30,000 seed financing to launch their new venture. “The startups will have to source their own matching funds for any seed financing they will ultimately receive, up to a maximum of $30,000,” said Banks.
Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion welcomed the program, saying that it will boost small and medium sized business development in the Southern Ontario region. “It’s no longer natural resources that will help us grow the economy. We need to invest in our students, innovation and entrepreneurs,” she said.
Some of startup operators taking the business training and considered eligible for the funding said the money would be critical in helping them move their ventures forward.
Andrew White, president of Char Technologies, who developed a biogas desulfurization process, hopes the money can help his one-man company expand and get to a stage where he can exhibit his technology to potential clients. Char Technologies is just over a year old and White believes his technology, which filters out hydrogen sulphite from biogas and develops fertilizer from the by product, can corner an un-served segment of the market.
“With the funding, I can get out of the lab and go to potential customers and prove my technology works,” White said.
Monica Goyal, a Toronto-based lawyer, says the money will be useful in marketing her company My Legal Briefcase, and online site which provides legal and small claims court advice and assistance to individuals and SMBs.
“This can help pay for various expenses associated with promoting and advertising my business,” according to Goyal, who is also a regular blog contributor at ITBusiness.ca.
Game developer Ivan Lukianchuk said the training and funding will help him grow the adoption rate for his online 3D games. Lukianchuk’s Will Pwn 4 Food is a competitive online gaming startup that grew out of Communitech Digital Media Hub in Kitchener, Ont. Communitech is one of the two startup incubators of the University of Waterloo.
Lukianchuk’s business model is simple. “There are lots of people who play online games for fun all day. Why not help them earn some money while doing it?” he said.
Will Pwn 4 Food, offers these gamers a site where they can put down money to play interactive online games. The winner of the game gets to collect the pot.
The game developer’s reason for coveting the funding seems to summarize the need of many startups.
“We have many players now, but we need operating capital to keep us going until the business has achieved critical mass,” Lukianchuk said.