Not to be outdone by its southern neighbor, Canada has been hard at work on its own fleet of tech startup accelerators. Back in June, Montreal became the home to FounderFuel, Vancouver has GrowLab, and Toronto had Extreme University. Well, let’s clarify that: Back in November, Extreme Venture Partners announced the launch of a new-and-improved version of its accelerator program, ExtremeU.
Today, ExtremeU has officially gotten a makeover, as it has been rebranded and expanded under the name Extreme Startups. The accelerator program (re)launches today with $7 million in committed funding, backed by a group of Canada’s leading venture capital firms. Extreme Venture Partners, OMERS Ventures, RHO Canada Ventures, BlackBerry Partners Fund, and Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) have collectively put up the funds for Extreme Startups program, which will incubate two cohorts of five companies per year (ten total), in two, 12-week sessions to be based in Toronto.
Each company will receive one mentor who will oversee them — being Dan Debow of Workbrain and Rypple (which recently sold to Salesforce.com), who joins the Extreme Startups team as the “Entrepreneur Link” — with an additional 29 other mentors to boot. On top of that, each company will receive an initial investment of $50,000, with up to $150,000 in convertible notes provided by BDC upon graduation — for 10 percent equity. Like other accelerators before it, Extreme Startups will be looking to offer its teams deep industry collaborations, so that they can build the required tools with the best engineering talent and APIs accessible from the ground up.
ExtremeU announced in November that Facebook would be providing product strategy and design mentorship to its founding teams, and the accelerator is now in the process of finalizing agreements with companies like Google, Salesforce.com, RIM, Microsoft, AutoDesk, Twitter and others.
The accelerator was initially founded by Amar Varma and Sundeep Madra of Extreme Venture Partners, and has since added members like Sunil Sharma, who will be Extreme Startups’ “Chief Connector”. Also joining the team as Chief Innovation Hunter is Andy Yang of BlackBerry Partners Fund, and formerly of Chegg and Netflix. (More about the team here.)
When I asked the team if the current glut of incubator/accelerators looks somewhat familiar, like the early 2000s, when there were incubators incubating incubators, Yang had this to say:
“There is definitely a saturation point in particular verticals for startups. But those markets that are ripe for disruption — like media, education, health, and publishing — still have tremendous amounts of upside and will likely continue to attract talent. Plus, newly created products and industries like self-quantification and monitoring will also be big in attracting a critical mass of talent.”
Of course, while a flurry of business accelerators could eventually dilute that talent pool and succeed in creating too many clones — or similar looking companies — in the big picture, accelerators can be great for the ecosystem. And the situation is different in Canada than it is in Silicon Valley. Yang continued, saying that, it’s a double-edged sword for Canada, “the serendipity of meeting other entrepreneurs just isn’t there; there has to be much more deliberate of an effort to network and meet other like-minded people. Plus, it takes a while to create the ecosystem of investment and reinvestment of dividends from successful companies that fosters a Valley-like environment. But the talent is here in the same proportion, the scene is pretty vibrant.”
Yang offered the likes of Freshbooks, Shopify, Hootsuite, BumpTop, J2Play and Rypple as successful Canadian startups that are tackling problems that mostly weren’t being solved, and that’s what the team wants to do with Extreme Startups.
“My belief is that there is a gap in the market for a world class accelerator operation in Toronto … and the vision a few years out is for Extreme Startups to become the de facto physical hub for entrepreneurial collaboration and innovation in Canada,” added BlackBerry Partners Fund Partner (and Extreme Startups board member) Marc Faucher.
And just for good measure, to commemorate the official launch of Extreme Startups, the team solicited the advice of everyone’s favorite robot dinosaur, tweeter extraordinaire, and startup mentor, FakeGrimlock. The robot dinosaur offers his wisdom to Extreme Startups applicants in a blog post that is definitely worth your time. Check it out here.
Applications for Extreme Startups’ first, spring round open today and close March 1st, with the program beginning on March 19. Apply here.