It might come across as hyperbole to some, but there is assuredly a start-up renaissance happening in Newfoundland and Labrador these days and it hasn’t gone unnoticed outside the province.
One need only ask Bob Williamson of the Jameson Group and founder of the annual Invest Atlantic conference about the reputation of local companies. Just last week, he took seven Atlantic Canadian companies to Toronto to meet with investors at the 2018 World Angel Investment Summit, two of them from this province.
Both companies came away with funding.
“They've heard about the magic sauce that we have in Atlantic Canada and it's led by the Newfoundland group of companies that we've taken up,” Williamson says.
“The investors in Ontario and West, who hear all of the companies pitch, say the Newfoundland companies have a true sense of valuation — so it's not high, it's not overblown — and they have realistic ideas.
“Simply put, per capita you have more successful start-ups than I've seen in the other three provinces.”
Williamson and Nancy Andrews, NATI’s senior director of business and communications, reason that part of it comes from within, that Newfoundlanders find a way to make things work and solve our own problems.
But Andrews says it’s also due to an open-armed and open-minded community.
“It is a really special place and the more that we can promote that and encourage the people that are in the ecosystem, the better we all are for it.”
In early November, the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries (NATI) and Invest Atlantic are partnering to hold Invest NL, a two-day conference that will follow a similar model to the regional conference that started in 2009.
The province played host to its first Invest Atlantic in 2017, attracting 150 start-ups and 36 attendees with a total combined capital pool of over $500 million.
“I can't wait to see what comes from all the brilliant young people that will be part of this with their new companies looking to take things to the next stage,” says Andrews.
“This is all about putting Newfoundland and Labrador start-ups on centre stage.”
Invest Atlantic evolved in response to an emerging ecosystem of start-ups in Atlantic Canada. Many of the companies knew their product inside and out, but didn’t possess the skills to communicate that to investors.
“Seventy-five per cent of the companies that were pitching us were terrible and we had to ask them the question at the end of a 10- or 15-minute pitch, 'What is it you do?'”
In response, Williamson contacted his network of investors throughout North America and eventually came up with seven key points they believe should be part of every start-up’s pitch, all of which is taught to companies during pitch camp sessions.
To date, 1,100 companies have come through the conference’s pitch program — all of them at no cost — and over 200 have been funded as a result.
Other partners for the conference include the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Springboard and the provincial government’s Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation.
The full conference agenda — which includes pitch camps, interactive panel sessions and keynote speakers — is still being finalized, but Karen Grant, executive director of Ontario’s Angel One Investor Network Inc. has been confirmed as a keynote speaker.
To find out more or to register your start-up, visit investnl.ca.