Flightpath Ventures relaunches as members-only network

· The Pulse

An organization that started in 2012 as a venture capital fund is rebranding as a community for growth-focused innovators.

The new version of Flightpath Ventures is a private club focused on leadership, mentorship, and apprenticeship, where "members come together to build and scale companies, while impacting the communities they're based in." It is still becoming its new iteration, co-founder Ken Bautista told Taproot.

"Right now we're in early access, which is also bringing some of our brain-trust members in, so we're actually creating content with some of our members," he said. The idea is to "co-create content that we can distribute wider, so it doesn't just require in-person or a one-to-one type of engagement," he added, "because with all these people, time is always a limiting factor."

Bautista wants to provide an alternative to open-to-all tech meetups that already exist in the ecosystem, such as Edmonton Unlimited's Community Coffee or the many options collected by Technology Alberta. Flightpath should be a "curated" environment, he said, where entrepreneurs with traction can meet peers at their level, as well as more established mentors — and even investors.

"The first development of Flightpath is: Can we bring together 100 awesome brains and builders? Some are founders, some are investors, some don't identify with either one of those things, but they want to make something happen," Bautista said. "You have to build relationships with them, so then they can all become allies, and then want to invest in each other. … It's a two-way street."

Memberships in Flightpath go for $49.99 per month at the "Community" level and $299.99 per month at the "Builders" level. The distinction between the two is a matter of accountability rather than hierarchy, Bautista said.

"If you're a Builders member, you can either be an early-stage company or emerging or a growth one. And then you have access to things like our core groups, which are small accountability groups. I kind of think of them as therapy groups," he said. "They're very peer-minded, with this idea that you have someone that is at the same stage as you in a small group that you keep working with."

Between 30 and 35 members have signed on for the early-access version of Flightpath, Bautista said, though he declined to name any. "Their names will start popping up," he said.

Flightpath's original incarnation was co-founded by Bautista and Cam Linke (now CEO of the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute) in 2012 as a venture capital fund connected to Startup Edmonton. It seeded Edmonton success stories such as DrugBank, Poppy Barley, and Samdesk.

A panel of five people sit on stools behind a small audience in front of a blue screen with text reading "How I Got Started in Community."

(From left) Ken Bautista of Flightpath Ventures moderated a discussion about community-building with Justin Weleschuk of Work Nicer, Robert Tyndale of Version Me Media, Alli Harrison of Makespace, and Warren Johnston of Amii during Edmonton Startup Week on Oct. 11. (Supplied)

Startup Edmonton was acquired by what was then known as Edmonton Economic Development, and its functions were absorbed into what is now called Edmonton Unlimited. Bautista went on to co-found Makespace, which started in 2017 as an "integrated brand, design, and experience studio" and now builds "innovation spaces and communities for modern creators and consumers."

One such innovation hub was The Public Food Hub, which he started with Kirsta Franke and Tim Hengel. The project, initially conceived as an incubator for food innovators, was approved for $600,000 in funding from the city in 2019. It pivoted through the pandemic, was accepted into the Alberta Accelerator by 500, and was one of the companies that pitched at Launch Party 13.

Bautista wouldn't comment on where things are at with The Public. Franke said the venture is "at a standstill," but wouldn't comment further. The organization does appear to be putting on a Christmas market from Nov. 30 to Dec. 17.

Next steps

Bautista wants the next chapter of Flightpath to reflect the growth of Edmonton's ecosystem over the past 11 years, but in a way that captures an active segment rather than a generalized population.

"I think in communities, you're sort of focusing a lot on the people, and then with ecosystems, we're often talking about the system," he said. "I think cities and communities should reflect who's there right now … and I don't think there's one big blanket."

While a "members-only" designation could connote exclusivity, Bautista rejected terms like "elitism" or "secret society" to describe what he wants to build. It's more a question of the intentionality of collaboration, he said, and that could include more than just innovators in the Edmonton region.

"You can build something really amazing from Edmonton, but have access to customers, expertise, capital from anywhere," he said. "With Flightpath, we wanted to take that approach from the start. I don't see this being 10,000 members. It's not about volume. I would rather we have 100 really great companies from coast to coast, that are in some of these different centres, who are connected with each other."