Propel, BioAlliance Win CAIP Funding to Bolster Atlantic Canada’s Startup Ecosystem

PropelICT and the P.E.I. BioAlliance have been awarded five years of funding under the National Research Council’s Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program, or CAIP, which will allow them to expand their programing.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in Waterloo, Ont., today that the federal government will devote $100 million to funding several organizations across the country, including PropelICT and the BioAlliance. Though the government did not announce the size of funding, it said no accelerator would receive more than $5 million over the five-year period and all recipients must come up with matching funds.

People familiar with PropelICT, the New Brunswick-based tech mentoring group that operates the Launch36 accelerator, say it will be sufficient to pay for a meaningful increase in the group’s work.

“It means we can finally scale our operations regionally in each of the Atlantic Provinces,” said PropelICT Executive Director Trevor MacAusland in an interview. “We’ll be taking the program and tweaking it a bit and developing programs based on various categories [of businesses].”

PropelICT was formed in Saint John 10 years ago to foster growth in the technology industry. In the winter of 2012, it launched its own accelerator, Launch36, with the goal of putting 36 startups through its program within three years. With the graduation of five companies on Monday, PropelICT has now graduated about 30 startups from across the three Maritime Provinces.


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Headed by Executive Director Rory Francis, the P.E.I. BioAlliance is a not-for-profit organization that has brought together government, academics and private companies to nurture the life sciences industry on the Island. Its growth has accelerated during the last 10 years as the members of the alliance — including Nautilus Biosciences, Island Abbey Foods and Neurodyn – have increased their activity and are now coming into their own.

In recent months, senior people within PropelICT have been talking internally about “Propel 2.0”, in which the increased funding will produce a richer program offering that extends across Atlantic Canada.  The plan involves working with various partners – including Planet Hatch in Fredericton, Volta Labs in Halifax and StartupNL in St. John’s — to develop more and better tech companies. The ultimate goal is to establish at least one billion-dollar company in the region.

MacAusland said Propel 2.0 will feature 12-week programs offered in specific locations so companies can go through the course without having to travel between provinces. The group is planning to offer cohorts at both PlanetHatch in Fredericton and Volta Labs in Halifax this autumn. Propel plans to have a program director who can travel to the various cities to conduct the programs.

In the future, Propel may offer sector-specific accelerators if it determines there is a critical mass of one type of company in one location that could benefit from the course.

“It’s incredible to have this opportunity to work organizations across Atlantic Canada and align our resources,” said Sally Ng, Executive Director of PlanetHatch. She added it is an “exciting next step in the evolution of our region and Planet Hatch.”

One of the strengths of the Propel programming has been its stable of mentors, many of whom are in New Brunswick. In the future, the accelerator will develop networks of mentors across the region, including Launch36 graduates who can help to coach a new generation of entrepreneurs.

Propel will also use the services of Moncton-based Clarity to link its entrepreneurs with thousands of international mentors. Founded by serial entrepreneur Dan Martell, Clarity links entrepreneurs and business people with the best advisers in different fields from around the world.

MacAusland said Propel, which now has two staff members, will likely expand to a staff of five this year with the goal of eventually increasing to seven people.

Propel has no plans to own a working space for its member companies as some accelerators do, largely because its mission is to mentor startups across a broad geographic area. Similarly, the group will continue to be a not-for-profit organization and will not be affiliated with a fund that invests in the companies it mentors.

The government announcement had been expected for several months, and follows an intense effort in October by a number of groups in the region to land the CAIP funding.

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