Alberta’s tech sector is growing so fast that the number of participants in the province’s new pre-acceleration program will be twice the initial target, Platform Calgary’s CEO predicted.
“We’ll be working with over 300 companies at various stages in a pre-accelerator, so that when they come out of that, they’ll be ready to go, maybe talk to investors.” terry rockCEO of Platform Calgary, said ASC Connect 2022.
rock is referencing Alberta Catalysta program developed and delivered by Calgary Platform Y Unlimited Edmontonand funded by Alberta Innovates.
Launched in January with an inaugural cohort of 35 entrants, the expected target for Alberta Catalyzer was 180 startups for the year.
Rock, part of a panel discussion on innovation in capital markets, also announced the launch of platform incubatora new platform incubator that can host up to 45 companies at a time, in an 18-month incubation program.
“We’re really looking for organizations that have traction, that need a bit of seasoning, and we think 18 months is the sweet spot,” he said.
The goal of the incubator program is to help companies solve specific challenges to grow to the next stage. The Pre-Accelerator Program is for entrepreneurs looking to develop their ideas into plausible business plans.
“Most of the participants in the pre-accelerator have no income and may not even be aware of the business,” Rock said. “We really want to save people time, get off that horse and get on a new one if the business idea isn’t going to work.”
Discussion of Alberta’s burgeoning tech industry took place in October at this year’s ASC Connect conference, hosted by the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC).
Now in its sixth year, ASC Connect brings together capital market participants to discuss critical issues and evolving trends affecting Alberta’s economy and capital market. Approximately 700 people registered for this year’s conference, including high-level executives, small business owners, entrepreneurs, corporate attorneys, brokers, advisors, investors and other industry experts.
Along with Rock on the panel were the businessmen nicole jansenthe co-founder and co-CEO of HighML, and Tonya Fleming Y yanny youngboth responsible for the Innovation in Finance (InnoFin) team at ASC (Fleming in Corporate Finance and Young in Market Regulation).
Calgary has been a hotbed of record capital investment in each of the last five years as it diversifies its industries. The burgeoning tech sector has attracted global companies like Mphasis, Infosys and Unity, which have opened offices in the city, and local unicorns, companies that are valued at more than a billion dollars, including Neo Financial and Benevity.
Panelists spoke about the tech traction in the province, but also about some of the challenges facing the sector, such as education and awareness of the tech space and awareness of it as an asset class among investors and even brokers.
And, like other sectors, raising money in the women’s tech space is a challenge, the panel heard.
“As a woman, I can definitely say that the rumors are very true,” said Janssen, winner of the prestigious Alberta Women Entrepreneurs Award. “It is more difficult to raise capital as a woman. That said, I’ve always gone with the ‘please underestimate me’ mentality. I will sneak up behind you and run past you.
Janssen’s company, AltaML, is an artificial intelligence company that “elevates human potential with applied AI,” he said.
The company, with 130 employees and offices in Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and soon Houston, has partnered with the province to create GovLab.ai, a public sector accelerator for artificial intelligence and machine learning.
“That means that any ministry, municipality or public body can participate in this,” he said. All learnings are shared and any innovation in using machine learning to improve processes will be commercialized globally. This will help establish Alberta as a leader in using AI to find solutions for the public sector.
Other key points about innovation in finance:
- There is no shortage of items that can be improved through applied technology, Young said. She seeks to help connect innovators and entrepreneurs with the right resources, “to help them find technical solutions and minimize their regulatory burden challenges.”
- The prospectus exemption for self-certified investors was recently amended in response to market feedback. “What people are looking for is a balance between regulatory burden and investor protection,” Fleming said. The amendment removes investment limits if certain criteria are met.
To view this session, or any of the other discussion boards, ASC Connect 2022 is available to stream on the ASC website.