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Halifax: Accelerator program hosts startup cohorts for unique initiative

Halifax: Accelerator program hosts startup cohorts for unique initiative

Posted by PanamericanWorld on March 08, 2016

As a well-publicized accelerator program welcomes its latest cohort of aspiring entrepreneurs, a couple of unique initiatives aim to help the province increase the number of successful business startups.

“We need building blocks to support them, such as professional development support and funding opportunities to ensure that Nova Scotians with entrepreneurial passion become viable business owners,” says Melody Pardoe, executive director of Volta Labs. “Volta has resident companies as well as potential and early-stage entrepreneurs working in our co-working space every day with the necessary drive, dedication and vision. In addition to this, there is a shared responsibility between the community and academia to keep graduates in the province.”

Halifax-based Volta Labs is one of four locations in Atlantic Canada that hosts cohorts in the Propel ICT business accelerator program. The initiative seeks to help start 420 new companies over the next five years in Atlantic Canada. The latest cohort started on March 1.

“Volta works to connect our resident companies with broader networks of investors and corporate companies, and offers as diverse a range as possible of program opportunities for the community,” says Pardoe. “We want to funnel as many resources as possible to the people that need it: Early-stage and growth-stage entrepreneurs in the Atlantic region. We need big companies to support the community by opening their doors for partnership opportunities, and to be customers for startups. It’s about working together to make connections for these founders, who are building amazing products right here in Nova Scotia.”

Volta Labs started in 2013 as a startup house. It offers select entrepreneurs everything they require to create a startup: Subsidized office space, Internet access, and pro bono legal and accounting advice. Jevon MacDonald, a co-founder of Halifax-based GoInstant, which San Francisco-based Salesforce bought in 2012 for a reported $50-million, was one of the people behind the project.

“Starting a business is difficult,” says Pardoe. “Our role is to make it easier for entrepreneurs to build successful businesses. There are 1,001 things to worry about and 1,001 things that can go wrong. We help founders by removing some of the early stress by giving them resources, training, mentorship and a community to rely on. Volta helps remove barriers and reduce waste for anyone looking to start their tech business. The resources we provide can help build their products and get sales with consistent, knowledgeable support.”

Successes for Volta Labs include the fact that 87 per cent of residents and alumni are still in business and companies have raised over $25 million dollars in equity financing, she added.

“We consider our resident companies and alumni’s successes to be our biggest success,” says Pardoe. “They are the reason we exist. There are also successes happening every day at Volta, whether it’s a resident company winning a contract, or a new founder receiving the mentorship they need through our network. We celebrate the small wins that can eventually become world-changing.”

Encouraging more new business startups is a central recommendation of the 2014 Ivany commission Now or Never report. The document, which contains several recommendations and goals for charting a new course for the Nova Scotia’s future, recommends a 50-per-cent increase in new business startups.

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