Eight companies from the first cohort of L-Spark, the Kanata-based incubator and accelerator program, walked across the stage at the SaaS Showcase on Thursday night.
They came to pitch their businesses to the community of investors and entrepreneurs as well as celebrate the variety of experiences that had brought them there.
The event, held at the Canadian Museum of Nature, was reminiscent of a graduation (minus cap and gown). L-Spark managing director Leo Lax played up that imagery as he addressed the audience.
“It’s the graduation for our entrepreneurs. It’s the place where their journey has taken them over the past 12 months while they were at L-Spark,” Mr. Lax said.
After brief introductions from their L-Spark mentors, the enterprise software startups each took 10 minutes to show their idea, their growth and the potential for their future.
Some, such as Better Software Company founder Steve Cody, took the opportunity to reflect on just how far they had come with L-Spark. Mr. Cody, who had never managed a tech firm before, said L-Spark was there to mentor him through every step along the way.
“I didn’t know what the heck SaaS was, but it sounded pretty cool! It was perfect,” said Mr. Cody.
The conclusion of L-Spark’s inaugural year proved to be as much of a learning experience for the program as it was for the participants. Mr. Lax described one trip down to Silicon Valley to pitch to venture capitalists, only to have the companies “decimated” by the feedback they received.
“But we learned,” Mr. Lax said. “We went there in order to know what it is like to compete in a global environment.”
Sarah Daniele, co-founder of Mydoma Studio, said she was looking forward to her presentation not only to attract investors, but also to share her journey.
“I’m excited to share with the community how far we’ve grown and what our plans are for the future,” she said.
Anthony Mar, CEO of Cliniconex, agreed the SaaS Showcase was about more than just a pitch. He said it was also about recognizing the value of the entrepreneur community in Ottawa.
“You can’t have a community without celebration … So we need these focal points during the year to keep going and to recognize that we are being successful,” said Mr. Mar.
After a long night of pitches and partying, Target Fuel founder Chris Corman wanted to point the spotlight back to L-Spark for its efforts.
“At the end of the day, I hope L-Spark gets some recognition for it. They’ve done some great work with some of Ottawa’s top talent,” he said.
As much as the night was about reflecting on the new firms' success, L-Spark was also keen to look to the future. Mr. Lax noted that graduation does not mean the end of the program’s connections.
“They will continue to be our alumni. We will continue to provide them advice. We will continue to connect them to their potential customers,” he said.
A new wave of startups is about to descend on L-Spark. The second accelerator cohort will be chosen on Sept. 29, while applications for the incubator will open on Oct. 5.