When Private and Public Forces Align to Support Innovation

By: Saadia Muzaffar

Ontario is often quoted as one of the best places in the world for technology and innovation. We are recognized for a host of programs, funds and services geared towards supporting research and development, innovation and startups and we are seeing this reputation bear fruit as Ontario attracts top talent and fosters entrepreneurs who vow to build the next RIM.

Ontario benefits from active Government funding support for startups and agencies that support them through grants, contributions, subsidies, partnership networks, and loan guarantees. The Ontario Network of Excellence aims to do just that by providing coaching, mentoring, and training services for entrepreneurs across Ontario through its regional innovation centres.

A tailor-made suite of provincial support programs also attracts federal support, increasing the breadth of services entrepreneurs can access to assist them in their journey to market. FedDev Ontario’s investment of $5M to launch the VentureStart program in 2012 is a great example of bridging various levels of assistance. The range of ideas supported by VentureStart is truly fascinating:

–          Nmodes: a provider of semantically enriched data to businesses on social networks.

–          Zymewire: helps B2B sales teams turn unknown companies into clients and existing clients into repeat clients.

–          Mpowered: a cloud technology that allows corporations with corporate social responsibility programs to easily and inexpensively create instant charity fundraising campaigns to better engage customers and employees in corporate social good.

Over the last few years, the public programs have attracted the private sector through incentives to step into the arena and support startups through funding, being beta customers, validation and guidance in going to market. The culture of mentorship is starting to take roots and we are seeing the results in the quality and quantity of new business emerging as a result.

While local private firms have been offering entrepreneurial advisory services for a long time; they are now moving towards self-organized ‘altruistic’ innovation events that help Canadian startups gain exposure and grow to add value to their businesses. I recently attended Ernst and Young’s Digital Strategy breakfast and met:

–          Kira Talent: An online video feedback tool that allows hiring managers to interview candidates more efficiently.

–          PenyoPal: A startup that helps kids learn new languages while playing games and watching interactive stories for mobile and web.

–          Smartslips: Automates paperless receipt collection for shoppers and makes it easy to access and process receipts for proof of purchase.

What’s very interesting about these new companies is that all of them are headed by recent graduates – – young men and women who opted to be entrepreneurs and not work for anyone else. This confidence just shows the effect fertile startup grounds can have on talent.

This illustrates that the development of an entrepreneur-friendly innovation ecosystem, where public and private sectors align to encourage, guide and invest in business creates jobs and growth. Essential for a prosperous Ontario – ensuring a future that enriches all of us.

Saadia joins the RIC team as the Operations Coordinator responsible for building and execution of activities that fulfill RIC’s mandate. She brings several years of relationship management, corporate communications and operations experience mainly from the financial services industry.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal and professional experiences. Visit Altitude Accelerator for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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