Platform Calgary and Innovate Edmonton launch new pre-accelerator, Alberta Catalyzer

Platform Calgary hopes to open new Innovation Centre in 2022.

Alberta Catalyzer is the name for the Alberta-based pre-accelerator that Platform Calgary and Innovate Edmonton are running together and have just launched. The pre-accelerator welcomed its first cohort of 35 startups on January 11.

About 150 startup founders submitted name ideas for the pre-accelerator, with $1,000 going to the individual whose name was selected. Nancy Mandaher, CFO and co-founder of Sarcomere Dynamics, a robotics startup based in St. Albert, won the money for her suggestion.

“The name, Alberta Catalyzer, speaks to the power of this program to supercharge our innovation ecosystem throughout our province.”

“The name, Alberta Catalyzer, speaks to the power of this program to supercharge our innovation ecosystem throughout our province – it is a catalyst for the economic diversification and job creation that comes with strengthening our tech-focused economy,” said Innovate Edmonton CEO Catherine Warren.

The free program is open to applicants from anywhere in Alberta, as well as eligible global companies, and provides online programming to those unable to travel.

The founders in the pre-accelerator’s first cohort represent food and beverage, solar energy, FinTech, and AI startups from urban and rural communities across the province.

Terry Rock, the CEO of Platform Calgary, told BetaKit that the first cohort is larger than they originally expected, but that all the founders met the standard they were looking for at an early stage.

“It’s a detailed vetting process the teams go through, but at the end of the day the most important thing at this stage is the coachability of the founder,” Rock said. “The biggest thing we want is people who are willing to go in, take advantage of the resources we put in front of them, and do the work, because at an early, early stage it’s really hard to assess the viability of the idea.”

In addition to the Alberta startups, one from Vancouver is also in the inaugural cohort. Rock said an out-of-province startup was accepted because Platform Calgary and Innovate Edmonton hope over time founders will choose to relocate their startups to Alberta.

“We believe our founders need to be thinking global from the start, so the more we can bring in the better it will be to build their connections,” Rock said.

Over the course of the year, Alberta Catalyzer intends to support a target of 180 qualified founders with a program focused on prototyping, ideal customer profiling, creating a minimum viable product, and validating business models.

The province of Alberta is in the midst of a plan to grow its tech sector. That plan includes global accelerators landing in Edmonton and Calgary.

The Alberta Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, and Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan) have provided funding to Alberta Innovates to lead and manage the accelerator initiative. Municipal funding comes from Innovate Edmonton.

Alberta Innovates is a Government of Alberta crown corporation tasked with supporting innovation in the province.

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The Scaleup and Growth Accelerator Program (Scaleup GAP) aims to support the growth of more early-stage Alberta tech startups by providing mentoring, networking, access to capital and other services. It also seeks to draw more companies from around the world to Alberta. Governments have committed to invest as much as $35 million CAD in the Scaleup GAP program.

Alberta Innovates has been tasked with creating 900 new companies, 20,000 new jobs, and $5 billion in technology firm revenue in the province by 2030.

With a growing tech ecosystem, Alberta is already home to a number of accelerator and innovation organizations, including Creative Destruction Labs’ (CDL) Rockies.

In 2021, the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF), backed by the City of Calgary, also brought Prairie venture builder program Harvest Builders (created by SkipTheDishes founder Chris Simair) to the province with a $4 million investment.

Besides getting the pre-accelerator off the ground, Platform Calgary is fresh off of raising $5 million towards the $7 million it hopes to contribute to the cost of its $80 million innovation centre.

In late December, Platform Calgary said that thanks to the $5 million from prominent members of Calgary’s tech sector and investment community it will be ready to open the doors of the 9th Avenue Parkade & Platform Innovation Centre in early 2022.

Platform Calgary is an independently operated hub for startups and innovation that emerged from Calgary Technologies Inc. It serves as a community where entrepreneurs and startups can work together, and it officially became Platform Calgary in March 2019.

The Platform Innovation Centre will be a hub dedicated to supporting startups and entrepreneurs, and will act as a single point of access to resources, supports, programming and events to help startups launch and grow their businesses.

Located in Calgary’s East Village neighbourhood, the building is being constructed in partnership with the Calgary Parking Authority and Calgary Municipal Land Corporation. While the building will contain the innovation centre it is being built around a 510-stall, seven-level parkade.

Originally scheduled to open in 2021, the 50,000 square foot centre has been in development for a number of years. Twenty-eight community organizations have already agreed to be part of the Platform Innovation Centre, including the Canadian seed accelerator The Accelerator, Alberta Enterprise Corporation, InternGen, Thin Air Labs, BDC, and Lighthouse Labs.

Image courtesy Calgary Municipal Land Corporation

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in, 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.

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