Startup Canada today debuted a $100,000 Indiegogo crowdfunding effort to try and raise money for building an online resource to help entrepreneurs across Canada gain access to crucial support and resources as they build their businesses. The platform, called Startup Canada Connect, will offer resources, access to mentors, and events and associations, as well as generally provide a centralized place where entrepreneurs can rate and compare local community startup services.
Startup Canada, a non-profit organization founded by Victoria Lennox and Cyprian Szalankiewicz, is itself a startup, having been funded in May 2012 around the idea that, while Canada’s startup community is vibrant and growing, it lacks a unified network, which leads to poorer access to resources for a startup in, say, Prince Edward Island versus in Toronto or Vancouver. Connect is meant to address some of those gaps via the development of a strong online community. It is being designed around lessons learned from a six-month cross-country tour, during which Startup Canada sought the opinions of around 20,000 Canadian entrepreneurs spread across 200 events.
Startup Canada is looking for a lot of funding to help with building this platform, but it is a volunteer-run organization and the goals it has set for itself are ambitious. There are also arguably other organizations out there that already strive to help the entrepreneur community in similar ways, including Toronto-based Sprouter and, to some degree, Clarity, the mobile mentor network I wrote about earlier today. But Startup Canada’s aims aren’t profit-based. Also, both Sprouter and Clarity target a more global entrepreneur community, while Startup Canada wants to focus more narrowly on the Canadian community.
“We definitely know that we wanted to provide a personalized dashboard for Canadian entrepreneurs to access the services available to them in their community and nationally,” co-founder and CEO Lennox explained in an interview. “But what we really wanted to do is to give the community an opportunity not just to rank support but to access the support, so they can actually comment on the level of services that were provided so that we can provide that feedback back to service providers.”
The goal is to build an effective feedback loop that helps local service providers better understand the needs of startup businesses, so that entrepreneurs get access to more services they actually need, rather than just the ones people think they need. That’s especially important for communities outside of the major Canadian city centers, Lennox said, where support infrastructure for startups and entrepreneurs doesn’t tend to be as mature.
Startup Canada’s $100,000 funding goal may seem lofty, but the organization is seeking to be self-sustaining, independent of government funding, through multiple crowdfunding efforts and select support from private business. Lennox says that while this is the first time her group is dipping its toes in the crowdfunding pool, and Indiegogo was a logical place to do so at the time, Startup Canada wants to eat its own dog food and will be working with some Canadian crowdfunding platforms currently in development in the new year to help finance further initiatives.