With Bermuda incubator launch, DMZ aims to gain foothold in blockchain

DMZ’s newest location features plenty of sun, sand, and surf – and hopefully startups. The DMZ at Ryerson University is opening a new innovation incubator in Bermuda, and at the same time looking to become more involved in blockchain technology.

The new startup incubator, dubbed i3 powered by the DMZ, is in partnership with InnoFund Limited. Operating from its base in Hamilton, Bermuda, InnoFund is an innovation hub that offers its own incubator and venture programming.

DMZ highlighted how Bermuda is becoming known for its growing specialization in blockchain technology, as well as InsurTech and FinTech. “The new Bermudian innovation hub will act as a one-stop-shop to help founders build cutting-edge technology and scale their start-up growth,” noted DMZ.

“The government prioritizes the innovation economy, making Bermuda an ideal ‘pink’ sandbox for tech.”

“Bermuda’s collaborative market and wide industry reach has helped companies develop cutting-edge technology suited for global expansion,” DMZ’s satellite programs manager, Katlynn Sverko explained to BetaKit as to why DMZ chose Bermuda.

“The government prioritizes the innovation economy, making Bermuda an ideal ‘pink’ sandbox for tech. Networking is prevalent on the ground and our partners are extremely connected to the industry and the pulse of the island,” said Sverko.

Sverko also confirmed that DMZ is interested in Bermuda given that the island is a haven for blockchain technologies, something DMZ would like to explore further.

“We hope there are more opportunities for blockchain companies to access startup support, including coaching, customers, and capital. Bermuda is the perfect landscape to do this while enabling a close knit community to develop further in stable economic and political environments,” she said.

It comes as no surprise that DMZ would look to Bermuda and blockchain, as Canada has been slow to accept cryptocurrencies into the financial and regulatory landscape.

While Canadian entrepreneurs have been early innovators in the space, regulators are only slowly making changes to allow for trading and access to cryptocurrency and blockchain products. For example, a limited number of crypto asset management funds are able to operate within Canada, with just a handful having been authorized through CSA Regulatory Sandbox program.

Many companies in the cryptocurrency and blockchain space have opted to operate outside of Canada and the United States in favour of lighter restrictions. One such company is Mike Silagadze‘s new asset management firm-slash-crypto fund. The former Top Hat founder and CEO launched a decentralized finance crypto fund with an initial $25 million USD under management and moved to the Cayman Islands to operate it there.

According to the technology intelligence service Mondaq, “in 2018 Bermuda introduced new legal and regulatory frameworks designed to govern and regulate initial coin offerings, digital asset business and InsurTech. The new legislation sets out expected standards of disclosure for initial coin offerings, a dual licensing system (including a sandbox) for anyone seeking to provide digital asset business services to the sector and both a sandbox regime and innovation hub for those in InsureTech.”

The Bermuda Business Development Agency claims the island has “pioneered a robust regulatory and legislative framework governing initial coin offerings and digital asset businesses. The agency claims it offers a quality environment and ecosystem in which to test company ideas, develop products, and grow internationally.

DMZ’s new incubator will give participants access to mentors, an investor network, expert-led workshops and the startup support offered at the DMZ’s headquarters in Toronto. Programming is designed to support global tech founders who are pursuing new business opportunities and who are committed to living in Bermuda.

The incubator will accept five companies into the first cohort.

Gayle Gorman is an InnoFund director and will head the Bermuda program. As of October 22, i3 powered by the DMZ is accepting applications and welcoming startups to apply that have a technology solution with a minimum viable product and customer validation.

“This partnership presents significant growth opportunities for both tech founders and for Bermuda’s economy,” said Abdullah Snobar, the DMZ’s executive director.

“Between its ideal location, breadth of niche industries and desirable lifestyle, Bermuda has got it all,” Snobar said. “By virtue of these appealing offerings, the region has attracted an abundance of startups and top tech talent. i3 powered by the DMZ will help companies foster innovation, make profitable business connections and drive job creation in Bermuda.”

DMZ has partnered globally with a number of accelerators and incubators. In addition to its Toronto location it has a presence in Innisfil (Ontario), Niagara Falls, the Caribbean, Tokyo, Cairo, Ho Chi Minh City, Mumbai, Amman, South Korea, and New York City.

RELATED: DMZ returns to early-stage focus as hub eliminates “crown jewel” accelerator program

DMZ’s newest accelerator follows the 11-year-old innovation hub’s recent elimination of its core accelerator program in favour of a new incubator for early-stage startups.

In June, DMZ officially revealed its redesigned 18-month incubator program for early-stage companies, as the Toronto tech hub continues to refine its approach to startup support. The new model will see DMZ take up to 2.5 percent equity from selected seed and pre-seed startups in return for in-kind services.

The innovation hub also recently expanded its programming for women entrepreneurs with the launch of a new networking platform, Launchpad.

DMZ alumni and current portfolio companies recently hit $1 billion CAD in collective funding. The milestone is the product of 424 investments raised by 194 of the incubator’s startups and graduates.

DMZ also offers the Black Innovation Programs (BIP), which received $1.2 million from the Ontario government in March. These programs, now in their second year, are aimed at supporting Black entrepreneurs and Black-owned tech startups.

BIP offers a number of resources, including skills development workshops, sales and marketing training, mentorship, and dedicated workspaces. The government’s investment will be spread out over three years, providing $400,000 to the program each year.

DMZ also announced on LinkedIn that it is teaming up with relief and development organization Penny Appeal Canada to launch a national competition it’s calling Hack Against Hate. The innovation hub said it launched the program in the wake of the rising number of hate crimes taking place in society.

The four-day competition invites young Canadians to build a prototype for a digital solution that will fight hate crimes “in an effort to make our world a more safe, inclusive, and happy place to live.” At the end of the hackathon, the top three teams will each receive $5,000 in cash prizes. Registration is open, and teams must register before November 14.

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in Wired.com, Canadian Business, Report on Business Magazine, Canada's National Observer, The Globe and Mail, and the National Post, among many others. He lives off-grid in Nova Scotia.