BlackBerry QNX and Kanata’s L-Spark launch new startup accelerator

BlackBerry QNX

BlackBerry QNX and L-Spark, with the support of the National Research Council, are teaming up to launch a new accelerator program focused on early-stage technology companies.

The six-month program, for which applications close Oct. 1, will see six small- and medium-sized technology companies paired with mentors from BlackBerry QNX, which will provide training and guide companies through the development of product plans and demonstrations.

The initiative is targeting companies in specific fields, namely Internet of Things and cybersecurity, as well as embedded software in various markets including autonomous transport, medical devices, avionics and defence.

BlackBerry QNX’s software is already used in these areas, which means the companies chosen for the program will have access to the tech giant’s connections and expertise.

“This will actually create a mechanism by which the global capabilities and reach of BlackBerry and the innovation and enthusiasm and passion of early-stage companies can come together,” L-Spark executive managing director Leo Lax said a press conference Wednesday. “Corporate accelerators are a new way of bringing innovation to the market.”

Unlike many accelerator programs, startups accepted into the BlackBerry-L-Spark program do not give up any equity in their company – just six months of hard work, said Lax.

The program’s home base will be in Ottawa, and entrepreneurs are encouraged to complete part of the program in the nation’s capital, but companies can also be mentored from afar using teleconferencing, meaning the opportunity is open to applicants from across Canada.

The six companies will graduate in April with a product demonstration or plan and can then move on to new partnerships or programs, including an accelerator program such as the one at L-Spark.

BlackBerry QNX and L-Spark will leverage the reach of the NRC to spread the word among possible applicants, which will be narrowed down and chosen in a multi-step process.

“These are companies who understand what the value proposition is on an embedded software technology,” Lax said. “This is all about passion.”

Grant Courville, vice-president of QNX engineering at BlackBerry, said he thinks there’s a fundamental need in Canada for innovative companies in markets the new accelerator is focusing on. By being a part of the process of fostering some of tomorrow’s great ideas, he hopes BlackBerry QNX can help bridge the gap between bright entrepreneurs and the global companies that can benefit from those ideas.

“I think that we have the talent. It’s a matter of exposing them to the possibilities that are available,” he said. With autonomous vehicle technology in development, Courville said BlackBerry QNX has the opportunity to support the growth of an ecosystem in Canada dedicated toward innovation in the key areas necessary for that sector.

“We know our embedded markets very well, we’re very successful in those markets, so that’s what we’re bringing to the table,” he said. “There’s a tremendous opportunity to introduce people to connected devices.”