WLU’s Lazaridis institute chooses participants for Canadian Scale-Up program

Graphic by Fani Hsieh
Graphic by Fani Hsieh

Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis Institute recently unveiled the ten technology ventures chosen to participate in its launch of the Canadian Scale-Up Program.

The program began over the summer with a cross-Canada roadshow, where presentations were given in major cities to the respective regions’ most promising technology companies.

When applications closed on Sept. 16, the program had approximately 70 completed applications, which the program’s judging panel of professionals from New York and Silicon Valley, as well as Lazaridis Institute CEO Carlo Chiarello, then able to narrow down to 20 and then the final winning ten companies.

“Because we had different people on the panel that had different ways of looking at companies, it allowed us to take what otherwise could have been a very myopic view of a company and take sort of a broader view of things into account,” said Chiarello.

“Of course we looked at their revenue line. We looked at how fast they were growing or accelerating in any one area, but we also looked at other qualitative elements, such as the team size, how the team came to be, the actual focus of the CEO, the energy level, how they presented themselves, the passion that we saw in the videos. We needed to see the energy level of people that wanted to genuinely grow their companies and really try and go for that moonshot and hit it out of the park.”

The winning companies hail from Waterloo, Chatham, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax. While all are technology firms, they also represent an array of industries, from cybersecurity to hospital management.

All have demonstrated the ability to grow from the new venture stage into full-fledged firms, but have thus far not been able to grow further into globally competitive companies, a problem that is pervasive across Canada.

“We have great numbers of start-ups and we’ve been able to, I’ll say crack the code of generating start-ups, but we’re still not seeing companies grow into global players at a rate we really need to see in Canada,” said Chiarello.

“So while there’s a lot to be said in the start-up community and about accelerators and so on, there had to be an additional focus in terms of the next stages of these companies.”

The program kicked off its inaugural session in Toronto on Nov. 3 and will continue on to Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa before concluding in Silicon Valley.

Throughout their inaugural session, the companies will be guided and instructed by leading industry experts and chosen to help the companies push past borders and expand into the global field.

Though the program is certain that they will be able to offer the instrumental help that firms need to push past the start-up and venture phase to gain an international presence, Chiarello concedes that the move is not a simple one and that it will take dedication from everyone involved.

“If anyone thinks starting a start-up is hard, or getting off the ground there, becoming a global player is a whole other level of pain and focus that’s required.”

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