The inaugural Canadian Scale-Up program, run by the Lazaridis Institute out of Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, has announced its initial cohort of 10 companies, with nine based in either Ontario and Quebec, and only one, Halifax’s QRA Corp., based outside the central Canadian region.
The Lazaridis Institute Canadian Scale-Up Program is built to support companies capable of scaling and compete on a global stage, bringing together high-potential firms with a group of experts with experience in scaling globally competitive enterprises.
“The QRA team is at a critical point for growth; we need to scale now in order to operationally handle the many incoming clients, countries, and industries,” said QRA CEO & co-founder Jordan Kyriakidis. “We’re really very happy, honoured, and excited to have been chosen to pilot the Lazaridis Institute Canadian Scale-Up program.”
The Lazaridis Institute Canadian Scale-Up Program is part of a broader effort to create conditions in Canada that will enable tech startups to thrive and grow without being acquired, winding down prematurely or moving elsewhere.
The six-month program begins on November 3 in Toronto, instructing participating companies’ leadership in subject areas including leadership, product fit, customer acquisition, finance and operations, and funding.
The course will end in April, with an intensive week spent in Silicon Valley, where cohort participants will meet with and learn from successful executives and prominent VCs on the subject of funding.
The process of selecting the 10 companies fell to a panel of experts consisting of venture capitalists and leading Canadian and American technology executives, who considered over 100 applications and video submissions to assess each firm’s potential for growth, from which a short list of applicants was invited to take part in video interviews with the selection panel, from which the top 10 companies were chosen.
“The quality of technology companies in Canada is extraordinary, and that was reflected in the many compelling applications we received,” said Lazaridis Institute CEO Carlo Chiarello. “Our collective challenge is to continue to keep more companies growing in Canada by helping them as they transition into the scale-up phase. We can’t wait to start working with the 10 firms we’ve chosen for our first year, companies who are at that critical inflection point in their evolution. We’re confident that members of this cohort will take their places among the next generation of globally recognized Canadian companies.”
Nine of the 10 selected firms, all of which are creating innovative, made-in-Canada technologies solving critical problems, ranging from managing hospital operations and optimizing complex system development to creating better customer experiences, cybersecurity, and sourcing heavy construction equipment on an on-demand basis, are based in either Ontario or Quebec, hailing from Montreal, Halifax, Waterloo, Toronto, Chatham and Ottawa, with only QRA Corp. representing the Maritime region.
While there’s a lot of fizzy PR and effervescent seeming events surrounding Canada’s start-up scene, a recent survey from the Business Development Bank of Canada found that only one in 1,000 Canadian small businesses grew beyond the 100-employee mark in 2013, representing a 40% drop from the same figure in 2001.
The hype around Canada’s start-up scene also papers over a disappointingly weak funnel for companies graduating to the public markets, with only four Canadian technology companies, including Shopify, deciding to IPO in 2015, all figures which don’t bode particularly well for the long-term development of a rich and diversified tech ecosystem in Canada.
The 10 technology scale-ups in the first cohort of the Canadian Scale-Up Program are: