Queen’s University and Kanata startup accelerator L-Spark are forging ahead with a new program for women-led technology companies in the Kingston-Belleville-Brockville area.
“We know that women entrepreneurs have a harder time participating and growing in a tech business and we are trying to create an environment where they can gain experience from other entrepreneurs who have gone through that to increase their likelihood of success,” said Leo Lax, executive managing director of L-Spark.
The new accelerator program, Compass North, has kicked off its first cohort. Over the next five months, the 10 participating startups will benefit from mentoring, workshops and connections with a tight-knit community of entrepreneurs.
The program came about after the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) invited program proposals in support of women entrepreneurs. Queen’s responded with several concepts, including an accelerator based on the L-Spark model.
Kanata-based L-Spark is Canada’s largest accelerator for software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, but it’s not defined by its industry focus alone. Unlike other tech startup accelerators and incubators, the L-Spark model is more intense and emphasizes an individualized program for each participating startup to drive its growth and market development, Lax said.
Each company founder is paired with a mentor who has “been there, done that.” With Compass North, these mentors are all women who will work hand-in-hand with their mentees on a weekly basis.
To be eligible for Compass North, the 10 qualifying companies had to produce some kind of technology product or service and/or employ digital media capabilities to grow their businesses. They were evaluated on three key factors: their level of innovation, the calibre of the founder/entrepreneur and their commitment and passion to grow their business as well as the potential of the business to grow to serve larger markets.
Compass North is being offered as part of the Queen’s-led WE-CAN Project – Women Entrepreneurs Can.
“We are delighted to collaborate with L-Spark … and gratefully acknowledge the support for this program from the Government of Canada through the Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy Ecosystem Fund,” says Janice Mady, director of research and innovation partnerships at Queen’s.
The Ecosystem Fund was created by the federal government to advance gender equality, women’s economic empowerment and support women entrepreneurs.
Compass North will run one cohort a year over three years.
The first cohort includes:
- Anthony’s Natural Therapies, which develops and markets a therapeutic line of scalp and hair products;
- Cold Plasma Group, which is developing and commercializing a new, patent-pending process for the sterilization of dry cannabis based on the use of cold plasma treatments;
- CR Fixture Design, an outsource design solution for the fixture and gauge industry, providing shops with high-quality designs and helping them to keep up with demand;
- Cultivate Media, a multimedia platform that seeks to accurately and creatively reflect and engage readers through storytelling;
- HeroHub, a charitable ecosystem that creates a greater social impact by connecting individuals with charities, nonprofits and their opportunities;
- iKare.Med, which is commercializing a patent-pending medical device that helps women suffering from bladder leaks and provides reusable and insurable urinary incontinence devices for women;
- QC Integrated Solutions, which builds and distributes automated testers designed to perform the compliance testing required by manufacturers of disposable AED and ECG electrodes;
- StayBillety, an online home-sharing platform serving groups, organizations and their communities;
- The Power Collective, which designs, develops and manufactures renewable energy solutions, including the RidgeBlade Wind Turbine; and
- The Small Social Company, which supports small businesses and startups with their online advertising and social media presence.