When COVID-related shutdowns forced Kanata-based startup accelerator L-Spark to transform its annual public SaaS Showcase into a virtual event last March, the organization showed entrepreneurial-like resilience in pulling off the pivot in a matter of days.
And like every successful entrepreneur, L-Spark learned from experience.
On Monday, the accelerator announced its annual “graduation ceremony” for up-and-coming software-as-a-service startups will once again be held virtually this April – but with a few twists.
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Unlike last year, when the founders’ pre-recorded pitches to investors and peers were all aired on YouTube the day of the event, L-Spark will be releasing this year’s pitches in mid-April, a week ahead of the official showcase. The accelerator also plans to invite promising startups from other organizations such as Invest Ottawa and Kingston-based entrepreneurship hub Launch Lab to take part.
Registrants will be able to watch the five-minute presentations from each startup leader at their leisure. Pitches will be time-stamped to allow viewers to quickly jump to whichever segments they want to watch.
Then, on April 22, the founders will gather virtually with other participants, including mentors and potential investors, for a 90-minute live networking session on graduation day.
The online meet-and-greet will be staged via Remo, a videoconferencing platform where users gather at virtual “tables” in small groups and can easily circulate from one meeting to another at the click of a mouse.
“We realized that the key piece that’s missing here is literally just human interaction and face time with members of the community,” said L-Spark director of marketing Stef Reid. “We just really want to give your founders the opportunity to connect with people and get exposure for the products that they’re building.”
In another change from previous years, there will be no keynote speaker. Organizers said they felt founders would benefit more from extra time to interact with business contacts during the networking portion of the event.
Reid said the idea stemmed from L-Spark’s happy hour, an invitation-only gathering for founders, investors and accelerator partners held earlier in the pandemic.
“The feedback that we received from that event was (amazing),” she said.
Already, response to the revamped SaaS Showcase has been enthusiastic. Just a few hours after the event was announced on Monday morning, more than 100 people had signed up to attend.
‘It’s always a risk when you try something new,” Reid said. “We’re really looking forward to testing out this new format.”
The five L-Spark startups in this year’s SaaS Showcase are:
- Croo Gloo
- Factually Health
- Nexxt Intelligence
Registration for the SaaS Showcase is now open here.