TORONTO — “It’s not an incubator!” That is how Andrew Maxwell, the manager of Exceler@tor, defined the latest initiative from the University of Toronto’s Innovations Foundation.
Exceler@tor was formed by the University as a not-for-profit venture to help Canadian companies bring their technology products to market. It will provide both business development expertise and technology infrastructure support.
Maxwell said that he understands the concerns about failed incubators and that Innovations Foundations has learned from them.
“We are building the Exceler@tor program as a catalyst to make the university an entrepreneur and also to stop the brain drain in this country. We work to accelerate Canadian technology entrepreneurs with resources they could not afford. They can locate here or elsewhere on a pay-per-use model,” Maxwell said.
Compaq Canada Ltd. of Richmond Hill, Ont., is the first company to provide some of those resources. Compaq Canada, as part of a $300,000 investment, will supply the program with Ipaq pocket PCs up to high-end servers and services to kick-start the program to the next level.
“Compaq wants to accelerate Canadian business so they can compete in the IT economy on a global scale,” said David Booth, Compaq Canada president.
“Today’s economy is about adding value to the market and technology is here to stay and we are going to see more technological innovation,” Booth added.
The Innovations Foundation will also be appointing a Compaq Canada executive to its board.
So far Compaq is the only company to invest in Exceler@tor. However, Microsoft Canada Co., who was brought into the program by Compaq Canada, and Nortel Networks Inc., who Maxwell said has an interest in incubators are members of the Exceler@tor advisory board. Microsoft and Nortel are only providing their advice and expertise, he said.
Currently, the Exceler@tor facility in Toronto is under construction and has only one member: Neteka, a Toronto-based ISV that has developed multi-lingual software for the Internet.
Neteka became a member of Innovations Foundation in 1999 and has since been working on research and development of their product, said Edmon Chong, the president and chief creator officer of the company.
“Now that our product has been introduced we are looking at marketing the product and we are getting that marketing advice from the (Exceler@tor program),” Chong said.
When completed the Exceler@tor facility can house up to 10 companies.
“Fundamentally, we are looking at disruptive technology. The requirements (for membership) will be strict and we are not looking at ‘me too’ companies. We are looking at companies who will make an impact globally,” Maxwell said.
As for the University of Toronto, the Innovations Foundation’s Exceler@tor program is one aspect of its ongoing research effort.
According to Peter Munsche, assistant vice-president, technology transfer for the university as well as an Exceler@tor advisory board member, this program is a research endeavor.
“The U of T is a research engine. We spend $2 million a day on research. We are a great creator of companies. We created 70 in the last decade out of our research endeavors and the pace will increase in the next decade,” he said.