When you think entrepreneurial ecosystems, you probably think Silicon Valley (and the Bay Area), New York, and London. But Canada has something to say about that. In Startup Genome’s list, one finds three Canadian cities in the top 25. Naturally, startup accelerators have been taking off in Canada of late, with FounderFuel and Year One Labs opening their doors in Montreal, Extreme Startups off and running in Toronto, and last year, Vancouver got its very own accelerator in GrowLab.
GrowLab, which officially launched last May, has been off to a good start, launching 5 companies since its program began. And, today, the accelerator is ready to announce the five companies chosen to participate in its spring 2012 program, its second cohort, which kicks off tomorrow.
For those unfamiliar, GrowLab was founded by Boris Wertz (W media ventures), Lenonard Brody (Clarity Digital), Debbie Landa (DealMaker Media), Jason Bailey (East Side Games), and offers up to $25K in equity investment for its portfolio companies (in exchange for a 5 to 9 percent stake), plus a $150K convertible loan (backed by the Business Development Bank of Canada) upon completion of its 12 week program.
Startups spend 10 weeks at the accelerator’s headquarters in Vancouver, where the accelerator hosts its “Demo Day,” after which the startups travel to San Francisco, where they are led through two weeks of targeted introductions to Bay Area investors. According to co-founder Boris Wertz, the team founded GrowLab to give growing Canadian tech companies a mechanism an opportunity to leverage their extensive network and to help them secure follow-on funding to execute as they grow.
Wertz tells us that the GrowLab founders are each successful entrepreneurs in their own right (Jason Bailey sold SuperRewards to Adknowledge, Len Brody’s NowPublic was acquired by The Examiner, and Wertz sold AbeBooks to Amazon, for example) and are all actively involved in the program as mentors.
The accelerator is also announcing today that it has hired Canadian super angel Mike Edwards as executive director. Since 2010, Edwards has invested in more than 40 technology startups, including Punch’d (sold to Google), Summify (acquired by Twitter), as well as LaunchRock, Wander, and 500 Startups VC fund, to name a few.
But what is the accelerator looking for in its participating startups? Wertz tells us that the accelerator had hundreds of companies from all over the world apply (as far flung as Eastern Europe), but when it came down to it, GrowLab chose four Canadian startups (all of which are from Vancouver) and one San Francisco-based team.
As one might guess, GrowLab gives preference to strong Canadian companies, but is open to startups from all over the map. The accelerator primarily focuses on mobile, social gaming, eCommerce, SaaS, and enabling technologies companies, though, again, there are no set boundaries. Teams can be at any stage of development, but the program centers on agile development processes and building and developing MVPs.
With that in mind, here are the five companies chosen as members of GrowLab’s second cohort:
- BlueBat Games, the team behind BlueBox, an engine that allows game developers to easily build on social platforms
- Cinecoup aims to disrupt how feature films have been created, financed and distributed
- Food.ee, a new product from Invoke Media, the maker of HootSuite, Food.ee simplifies group ordering of delivery food for offices
- Skyscrpr makes it easy for bloggers to sell ads directly to advertisers with a user friendly interface and automated media kits
- Wantering, lets you visually browse, find and buy the latest trends from fashion blogs and curation networks
GrowLab’s program concludes with its invitation-only Demo Day, which kicks off Vancouver’s third annual Grow Conference on August 22nd. That same weekend Edwards will host an Accelerator Symposium, bringing together Executive Directors at accelerators and incubators from all over the globe to discuss best practices and challenges these organizations face in the ever-changing landscape of scaling companies.
For more, find GrowLab at home here.