New Alberta pre-accelerator announces first cohort


Alberta's new pre-accelerator for tech-focused startups has announced its first cohort and its official name.

Alberta Catalyzer, a collaboration between Innovate Edmonton and Platform Calgary, has identified 35 early-stage companies to take part, spanning across a variety of industries: food and beverage, solar energy, fintech, and artificial intelligence. The participating entrepreneurs will be offered education, mentorship, programming, and resources to build their businesses and prepare for future growth.

"This kind of innovation corridor is essential to our economy," said Catherine Warren, CEO of Innovate Edmonton.

AFRO FACTS, Akose, Allyze.io, AltaSPS, Budsee Inc, Constructschon Sustainable Urban Development Inc., Edging AI, Printing Manufacturing Solution, and Ur Transporter will take part from the Edmonton region.

Two companies from outside of Alberta are also participating: Vancouver's Wire Financial and a startup out of Lagos called Goldbridge Foods Limited, which is in the process of relocating to Canada.

Warren said the pre-accelerator is an opportunity for all of the entrepreneurs to build connections that will be valuable for problem-solving, networking, market research, and more.

"We're trying to cross-pollinate international with local, for the benefit of all," she said, adding that she's hoping companies who participate from outside of Alberta will consider Calgary or Edmonton as places to set up and build their businesses.

The first cohort of the Alberta Catalyzer will graduate on Feb. 15 with a demo day.

Innovate Edmonton CEO Catherine Warren shares highlights of 2021, including "Alberta is home to a new province-led accelerator fund that's attracted four global accelerators to our city."

Innovate Edmonton CEO Catherine Warren celebrated the creation of four global accelerators in her year-end address. (Innovate Edmonton/YouTube)

This group will be participating in the program virtually due to COVID-19, but Warren is keen for future cohorts to join in person when it's safe to do so.

"I think it's a much more powerful presentation for them when they're here to experience the city and all it has to offer. That will make them more likely to want to establish and set up here."

The free program will be split into three phases:

  • Spark (Phase 1) will help entrepreneurs with solution prototyping, ideal customer profiling, minimum-viable-product creation, and validating business models. The six-week program will have 12 cohorts per year, and aims to have 180 companies take part in 2022.
  • Traction (Phase 2) is a five-week program focused on pitch development for the first sale, and forming teams to execute. Six cohorts per year will participate.
  • Velocity (Phase 3) is an eight-week program with four cohorts with the goal of establishing test methodology for product-market fit, polishing pitches, preparing for investment, developing intellectual property strategy, and qualifying for scale-up accelerators.

Startups will be accepted to the phase that best fits where their company is currently. While some of the companies will progress through all three phases, others will only take part in the second or third components.

"If they succeed through our three phases, they will be ready to then present themselves to one of the other world-class accelerators that we have also brought to town," Warren said. "So it's really a staged, possibly even multi-year offering for them to stay engaged with this community, to continue to learn skills, to continue to build their business from Edmonton."

Another new Alberta accelerator, Plug and Play, has named its first Alberta director. Kevin Dahl, former advisor with Platform Calgary, announced the news on LinkedIn on Jan. 11. Dahl said Plug and Play will initially launch programs focused on cleantech, sustainability, and digital health, with an "agnostic stream" focusing on AI and machine learning.

"It is like an explosion of innovation, and Edmonton is really riding high. We are now North America's fastest growing tech capital," Warren said of the recent announcements, including 500 Global launching its new accelerator on Jan. 10.

"I'm expecting to see tremendous impacts coming out of the launch year of all of these programs. My hope is that the world will be opening up for travel and these local companies that we're catalyzing will find customers, investors, and new market opportunities around the globe."