With Canada looking more attractive than ever for investment, 500 Startups is conducting a national trip in cities across the country.
Touching down in Canada on March 14, 500 Startups will be stopping by events in Montreal (March 15), Ottawa (March 23), Toronto (April 3 at TechTO), and Vancouver (Date TBD) to meet with local startups at events organized in partnership with entrepreneur hubs. The accelerator is scouting companies for its next batch, and connecting with early stage investors and players within each city’s ecosystem.
While 500 Startups partner Elizabeth Yin says they haven’t made this many Canadian trips in the past, there’s been an increasing amount of Canadian companies participating in the 500 Startups program, partly thanks to the grassroots 500 Canada team.
“We’re investing in more Canadian startups. And of those, depending on how it goes with the program, we decide to follow on. We learn a lot when companies come in not just about the teams, but also about the markets and scaling in those markets,” Yin said.
“There’s a lot of talent in places like Waterloo, and we could help out there, but it wouldn’t help with funding.”
Recently, 500 Startups changed its accelerator program into a seed program focused on companies with early traction. While the old accelerator invested $50,000 in companies that had limited usage and sometimes lacked an MVP, the new seed program accepts companies that mostly have a functional product, user adoption and revenue, and at least $1 million in financing. The 500 Seed Program provides $150,000 USD in funding in exchange for six percent equity.
Yin said that it’s a model that works well for Canadian companies.
“At this stage, it’s easier for us to help Canadian startups secure funding in the Valley, and generally, we’ve been investing in Canadian startups even prior to the [500 Canada] fund. And one thing we noticed is that many startups we’ve invested in have already been at a greater traction level just because they bootstrap longer and achieve results,” said Yin.
The US accelerator has a goal of having 25 percent Canadian companies in its next batch, and has been slowly inching towards that goal with its past batch 19 and batch 20. But with growing political instability in the US, immigration issues are a concern for many people in the startup community. When asked about it, Yin said that it’s too early to tell how the US political climate will affect its startups directly, though she noted that’s being watched closely.
“Will they get legal paperwork to come here? Will they be able to stay here and build their businesses? For 500 Startups, we don’t actually care if startups stay here after the program or not, and I think that’s something that allows us to get into deals because we know great companies can be built anywhere,” said Yin. “But we realize that’s a factor for investors, like can they stay here? Even if it’s just to build a sales branch. It’s a question on everyone’s minds.”
While Yin says they could build a program in Canada where there is strong talent, she says the best way that 500 Startups can help companies grow is by bringing them to the Valley and helping them secure funding.
“A model that works well for us is if we can bring great companies here and they go back, we think it’s a big help to whatever local startup ecosystem they’re from,” said Yin. “We’re not trying to steal talent, we hope to bring them back. That’s why we do our program here. There’s a lot of talent in places like Waterloo, and we could help out there, but it wouldn’t help with funding.”
Want to request a meeting in your city? 500 Startups has an online form here.