Federal government invests $2.5 million in Co.Labs to maintain Uniting the Prairies

The funding will help stage the Uniting the Prairies conference for the next three years.

Saskatoon-based technology hub Co.Labs has received just over $2.5 million from the federal government to keep its annual Prairies tech event alive.  

The funding was announced by the Minister for Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan), Dan Vandal, during this year’s Uniting the Prairies. The Co.Labs-established event brings together investors, startups, and community members from across Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba. 

The federal government said the funding is aimed at continuing the growth of Saskatchewan’s tech ecosystem, including staging the Uniting the Prairies conference over the next three years and establishing a new Expert in Residence (XiR) program to provide strategic advice to “high performing” founders and “high growth” companies. 

Co.Labs executive director Jonathan Lipoth said the support for the XiR program will unlock a level of expertise local startups need for growth. 

RELATED: Co.Labs hires Broad Street Bulls, Rhino Ventures alum Jonathan Lipoth as executive director

Lipoth himself is relatively fresh in his leadership role at the independent non-profit incubator, which is primarily funded through the provincial and federal governments via Innovation Saskatchewan and PrairiesCan.  

The Saskatchewan native was named executive director last October after Co.Labs had spent close to two years with an interim director. It was searching for a replacement for Matt Stefan, who departed the lead role in early 2022. Lipoth spent years working on the venture capital (VC) side of early-stage Canadian tech with Regina-based Broad Street Bulls and Vancouver’s Rhino Ventures. 

Since it launched in 2017, Co.Labs has incubated 201 Saskatchewan tech start-ups, raised over $37 million in private investment, generated over $60 million in revenue, and created over 800 jobs, according to the federal government.

The incubator currently offers four programs designed to take entrepreneurs from ideation, through Co.Learn and Co.Launch, to the Series A stage, with Co.Link and Co.Lead. 

RELATED: Conexus Venture Capital launches its second $30-million fund to back Saskatchewan tech startups

Saskatchewan’s tech sector has grown significantly since Co.Labs was founded. Conexus Credit Union founded its Regina-based Cultivator, while local firms like Coconut Software, 7shifts, and Vendasta raised significant funding.

In April, the Government of Saskatchewan doubled the annual cap for its early-stage tech investor tax credit, the Saskatchewan Technology Startup Incentive (STSI), from $3.5 million to $7 million and expanded it to include cleantech startups as eligible businesses. The STSI offers a 45 percent tax credit to individuals who invest in eligible tech startups in the province. 

This week, Conexus Venture Capital (CVC) also launched its second $30-million CAD VC fund with a plan to invest in more early-stage Saskatchewan-based technology startups.

“We feel like now is the time for us to double down and reaffirm our commitment and belief in this ecosystem, in the companies and the opportunity that exists here,” CVC managing director Jordan McFarlen told BetaKit in an exclusive interview. 

Feature image courtesy Co.Labs

Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl is a staff writer and newsletter curator at BetaKit with a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University. He's interested in tech, gaming, and sports. You can find out more about him at alexriehl.com or @RiehlAlex99 on Twitter.

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