Ot­tawa ac­cel­er­a­tors

LO­CAL IN­CU­BA­TORS FO­CUS ON SELF-FUND­ING

Ottawa Business Journal - Techopia - - Contents - BY JA­COB SERE­BRIN

The Ot­tawa startup com­mu­nity is pulling it­self up by its boot­straps.

Many of the city’s busi­ness in­cu­ba­tors – typ­i­cally of­fice space where early stage star­tups can build busi­nesses while sur­rounded by fel­low en­trepreneurs and ex­pe­ri­enced men­tors who can pro­vide ad­vice and fa­cil­i­tate in­tro­duc­tions to in­vestors and clients – are grow­ing in size and en­cour­ag­ing en­trepreneurs to launch their busi­nesses with­out out­side fund­ing.

“We want star­tups to self-cap­i­tal­ize,” says Bruce Fire­stone, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Ex­plo­riem, an in­cu­ba­tor for early stage firms. Mr. Fire­stone says he wants star­tups to de­velop a vi­able prod­uct and find cus­tomers be­fore they start look­ing for fund­ing from an­gel in­vestors or ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists.

It’s a mes­sage he’s drilled into the heads of en­trepreneurs for more than 10 years and some­thing he’s tried to build into the lo­cal startup cul­ture through Ex­plo­riem’s an­nual Boot­strap Awards. Nom­i­na­tions are open to com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing for fewer than seven years that have re­ceived less than $650,000 in out­side fund­ing.

Mr. Fire­stone isn’t alone. Boot­strap­ping is also a fo­cus at The Code Fac­tory, a down­town busi­ness in­cu­ba­tor and co-work­ing space.

“That’s def­i­nitely what we fo­cus on,” says The Code Fac­tory founder Ian Gra­ham. “Our phi­los­o­phy is build your busi­ness be­fore you go look­ing for money.”

Blair Beck­with is the app store man­ager at lo­cal soft­ware firm Shopify and an or­ga­nizer of Startup Week­end Ot­tawa, the lo­cal chap­ter of an in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion that puts on 54-hour com­pe­ti­tions where teams de­velop new startup ideas. He says he sees two fac­tors driv­ing the self-fund­ing push in Ot­tawa.

“We don’t have a lot of big in­vestors; there are not many ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists in Ot­tawa,” he says. Fur­ther­more, he adds, the city cur­rently lacks a crit­i­cal mass of star­tups that are of the size or at the stage that typ­i­cally at­tracts ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists.

Scott An­nan, who has founded sev­eral Ot­tawa-based star­tups and has been a men­tor and in­vestor in oth­ers, tells a sim­i­lar story.

“There isn’t a larger fund in the city,” he says. “You have to leave or look ex­ter­nally.”

But he says he’s see­ing other changes.

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