New business accelerators in Alberta aimed at helping fast-growing tech startup sector

Mark Lowey
September 29, 2021

Four new business accelerators are setting up shop in Alberta in a multiple government-supported initiative aimed at helping entrepreneurs and innovators in the province’s burgeoning tech startup sector.

The accelerators, including three international operations rooted in Silicon Valley, were chosen from 64 proposals submitted to Alberta Innovates this March.

The provincial and federal governments, along with municipal governments in Alberta, are together contributing about $35 million to the new initiative.

This includes funding from the Alberta Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Innovation to Alberta Innovates to lead and manage the initiative through its Scaleup and Growth Accelerator Program (Scaleup GAP).

The federal government has invested to expand the funds available to not-for-profit business accelerators through the Prairies Economic Development Canada regional agency.

At the municipal level, the initiative will include Innovate Edmonton and the City of Calgary’s Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund.

“This level of accelerator scaleup and growth has never before been undertaken in Alberta with this quality and scope of global programming,” Laura Kilcrease, CEO of Alberta Innovates, said in a statement.

Along with helping Alberta-based tech companies scale and grow faster, the new accelerators will highlight Alberta’s capability to the world and attract international firms and investment, she said. “Bringing these top-of-class accelerators with their proven expertise, capital and connections will help Alberta become a choice destination for innovation, entrepreneurship and technology investment.”

The four accelerators are also aimed at addressing Alberta’s “scaleup gap.” While half of all start-ups survive over five years, only 0.1 per cent of small firms become mid-sized, and only two per cent of mid-sized firms become large.

Goals include economic growth and diversification

“These accelerators will increase the pace of scaling and success for our next generation of companies that will drive both economic growth and diversification,” said Mark Blackwell, executive chair of the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund.

The selected accelerators are:

  • Alberta Accelerator by 500: 500 Global, one of the world’s most active venture capital firms, is launching an accelerator to nurture seed-stage tech companies in Alberta. The goal is to support Alberta Innovates in strengthening an Alberta innovation corridor which encompasses Edmonton, Calgary and rural Alberta. Alberta Accelerator by 500 will alternate their operations between the hubs of Edmonton and Calgary.
  • Plug and Play Alberta: Plug and Play connects startups with international corporations to bring technology to market faster. They will offer sector-agnostic and sector-based accelerator programs in digital health and sustainable clean resources across the province, with their main Alberta office in Calgary and a satellite office in Edmonton.
  • Community Safety and Wellness powered by Alchemist: A public/private consortium from Edmonton has partnered with Alchemist Accelerator to provide services to ventures using artificial intelligence in the social sector. This accelerator will be based in Edmonton and intends to export digital solutions globally.
  • Alberta Pre-Accelerator: To be launched later this year, the Alberta pre-accelerator is an unprecedented realignment, harmonization and expansion of startup supports for founders anywhere in Alberta with a focus on equity, diversity and inclusion. In partnership with Alberta Innovates, this merit-based pre-accelerator is being developed and delivered by Platform Calgary and Innovate Edmonton, with support from partners and organizations across the Alberta Innovation Network.

500 Global, Plug and Play and Alchemist Accelerator are based in Silicon Valley but have multinational operations, corporate and government customers, investments and alumni around the world.

The new accelerators are expected to contribute to 900 new junior tech firms, 20,000 jobs and $5 billion in technology firm revenue in the province by 2030, according to Alberta Innovates.

In addition, Alberta Innovates announced a separate accelerator in June to scale high-potential startups in the agri-food sector.

The Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund, Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Olds College and Alberta Innovates are providing up to $2.5 million dollars to support the establishment of Silicon Valley-based SVG Ventures | THRIVE’S Canadian subsidiary, with its headquarters located in Calgary.


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