If you’re part of a Canadian startup team and developing amazing new ideas and technology, there is an accelerator program that you just have to be aware of. INcubes, is holding applications for its second INtake and the deadline is tomorrow (May 15, 2012). So if you haven’t applied yet, head over to their website and get yourself applied into what could be the best 3 month curriculum your startup could ever face.
INcubes is a Toronto based incubator and accelerator for Canada’s most innovative internet entrepreneurs. Through hands on experience, teams are taken from a place of high-risk to a low-risk investment for their first round of funding. Startups graduate on Demo Day with an investor package, qualifications for seed capital, and Series A Funding.
We were delighted and fortunate to meet up with INcubes founder and CEO Ben Zlotnick to discuss the state of incubators in Canada, INcubes itself and what it takes to win an opportunity to join an accelerator of your choice.
Q&A with Ben Zlotnick
Where did you get the idea to start INcubes in Toronto?
I have been on both sides of the table, as an investor and as a business founder. I was running another company and also incubating and investing in an experimental startup at the time when incubators and accelerators first caught my interest. In looking at what resources were really available for startups in Toronto, I realized that Toronto was without the type of accelerator that would help companies like what I was incubating. Luckily I was working with A. Traviss Corry who has practical experience in all this. One day I said to him, “I think I want to start an incubator.” He just about jumped out of his seat and we’ve been pushing it forward ever since. I then started to rally what I found to be incredible support from the investment and startup community. In just one INtake of graduates, INcubes has been ranked among the best incubators and acceleration programs in Canada.
Why are there not as many incubators in Canada let alone Toronto as compared to the US or even San Francisco?
Well, I think it’s a cultural thing. American’s are risk takers, and so are their investors. It’s much easier for a Startup with an out-of-the-box idea to get private funding in the US. That’s been our biggest challenge at INcubes and that’s also why we have been successful in creating this particular type of acceleration program in Canada’s business centre. Canadian investors are more conservative, and our challenge has been to really seek out the most innovative thinkers across the globe and then use our success to implement what we need done.. We’re at the place where we’re offering a real alternative to the brain-drain of early tech entrepreneurs needing to move south. We think we’re giving something very important to Canada.
How did INcubes get started and what successes have come about from those that have been accepted into its program?
From my previous business I was in a position from a network perspective to rally the support needed. As for the success’ that have come from our program, we just graduated our first INtake this winter and all are showing great success and moving forward with their plans. Stay tuned.
What benefit would a startup get from being a part of INcubes?
INcubation gives your Startup private offices in the heart of Canada’s business district downtown Toronto during a 3 month INtensive Acceleration Curriculum, in an optimum collaborative work environment, and complete business development advisement by mentors and experts, all leading to Demo Day and INvestment. Our strict curriculum of Road mapping, Research, Planning, Mentoring, and Qualifying, leads even the most out-side-the-box models from a status of high-risk to a status of low-risk for our INvestors. We are very selective, and INcubes assists some of the most extraordinary talent in Canada.
How does INcubes work?
It starts with an application process. We receive hundreds of applications for each INtake. This INtake we are choosing 6 to 8 companies. Those startups then go through a 3 month acceleration program, that ends with a graduation on Demo Day, which presents their investment offerings on stage to a room of some of North Americas most important tech investors. The incubation program then continues as an alumni program, which is essentially, ongoing checkINs, investor relations, advisement, legal and financial support.
Who and what goes into deciding what projects get accepted?
Applications are panel reviewed. Some we decide on ourselves, and some we shop around for due diligence, using our extensive network of over 60 mentors and advisors who are the utmost experts in their specialties. Our sector focus crosses many vertical markets, but we’re very strict in our criteria that we only accept business that is based around a valuable online technology ip, with an integrated revenue model, a fantastic team, and one that can demonstrate some proof points of successful traction in their chosen market.
What should an entrepreneur know before applying for an incubator and/or what should they make sure they do when applying?
There is never any harm in applying. In fact, we’ve helped a lot of people with great ideas just from talking with the during the application process, even though they were not ready for our program. Before applying they should know, that they will need to show their long-term plan and that they must show some kind of traction in reaching some of the earliest goals of that plan.
The deadline is May 15 for this round, when will the next one begin?
This program starts June 11th 2012, with a demo day on September 12th 2012.
Whats the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from running your own startup(s)? And what startups have you been apart of?
Never give up. Be ready to pivot. Surround yourself with the best people. Keep in touch with everyone you have networked, because you don’t know who will best help you achieve your goals.