Scale Without Borders, an initiative targeted toward entrepreneurs who are newcomers to Canada, has opened applications for its 10-day masterclass, aimed at bridging gaps for newcomers looking to join Canada’s tech ecosystem.
“There was a gap in terms of when it came to newcomer tech entrepreneurs.”
– Nouhaila Chelkhaoui, Scale Without Borders
The masterclass, starting on March 23, will focus on barriers that are faced specifically by newcomers to Canada. Focus areas include the legalities of starting a business and the Canadian tax system, as well as programs, incubators, accelerators, and networks. Other intended outcomes for the masterclass include connecting with a network, overcoming potential cultural barriers, breaking down immigration programs, and providing support for non-residents.
“There have been a lot of initiatives for underrepresented entrepreneurs that came out of the tech ecosystem, incredible initiatives, some of which I’ve helped run myself,” Nouhaila Chelkhaoui, founder of Scale Without Borders, told BetaKit. “But there was a gap in terms of when it came to newcomer tech entrepreneurs.”
In a study from North York Community House, 78 percent of newcomer entrepreneurs surveyed said that they needed help starting a business, yet formal assistance, like city-run entrepreneur programs, were used by less than 10 percent of the same entrepreneurs. Scale Without Borders’ masterclass will also focus on introducing participants to venture capitalists, angels, government funding, and non-dilutive grants.
The masterclass is backed by the Newcomer Entrepreneur Success Team at BDC, led by Sharon Connolly. Other partners include Bondy Immigration, which represents clients exclusively in the areas of immigration and refugee law, and Aisling Bondy.
“A strong understanding of the Canadian business context and how business is done in Canada is a key to success,” Connolly told BetaKit. “The SWB Masterclass provides startups with access to professionals and support that will help them launch and scale a successful business in Canada.”
The masterclass will accept about 15 companies and is currently scheduled to run twice this year.
Participants will be selected by Scale Without Borders’ evaluation committee. Chelkhaoui said the committee will be looking for entrepreneurs with high potential tech entrepreneurs who identify as newcomers. She said the class will be led by experts in their respective fields, and are designed to be interactive and virtual for newcomers who have not yet arrived in Canada. A number of large and smaller in-person events will also be held during the program.
Scale Without Borders is a partner of Dream Legacy Foundation’s Diversity Program Partnership, which also consists of VentureOut, Jumpstart – Refugee Talent, Centre of Indigenous Innovation and Technology, and Access to Success. Isaac Olowolafe, Dream Maker Inc., sits on Scale Without Borders’ board.
“We’re very proud partners with the other diversity initiatives that are happening within [Dream’s] partnership,” Chelkhaoui said. “It really aligns with our values and while we’re focused on newcomers, we want to make sure that other underrepresented entrepreneurs are not left out.”
The masterclass, which includes 10 sessions, networking opportunities, and a one-year membership to Scale Without Borders, starts at $500. Limited scholarships (covering up to 100 percent of the costs) are available to underrepresented newcomer tech entrepreneurs.
Current research suggests that language and culture are among the greatest barriers to entrepreneurial success among immigrant entrepreneurs preventing them from accessing services.
A number of studies have suggested that not understanding the ‘lay of the land’ in the Canadian business ecosystem can be detrimental to newcomers trying to start a business. Other research suggests that Canadian business practices can be exclusionary and that systemic and unconscious bias also presents barriers for these entrepreneurs.
“There are two things that I think we’re looking to solve with the masterclasses, specifically to address barriers that are particularly restricted to newcomers,” Chelkhaoui said.
“The other thing that I think is really unique about what we’re doing is, we’ve taken the network that we’ve been building for years within the tech ecosystem, and we’re essentially providing open access to high potential newcomer tech entrepreneurs,” she added.
Chelkhaoui arrived in Canada as an international student from Morocco at the age of 17. She worked with tech startups, such as a healthtech startup iamsick.ca (now Empower Health), where she led an initiative to help refugees navigate Canada’s health care system. She then worked at the University of Toronto before moving into a full-time role at Ryerson’s DMZ. She officially launched Scale Without Borders in September.
Scale Without Borders’ next event will take place in the spring and will focus on immigrant founders fundraising. The deadline for applications for the masterclass is March 16.
Image source Scale Without Borders via Facebook.