The Accelerator Centre (AC) has a new CEO that the organization is hoping will bring a more global lens to the accelerator’s mission.
As of March 1, Jay Krishnan, the former head of India-based incubator T-Hub, is taking over as AC’s CEO, after Paul Salvini stepped down from the role in the fall.
“2020 presented us with new opportunities to pivot to an even more global mindset.”
AC’s decision to bring on Krishnan, who has more than 20 years of experience as an investor, founder and innovation leader, is part of what AC called “the beginning of a new chapter,” where the accelerator plans to operate with a more global mindset.
The accelerator was founded in Waterloo in 2006, and has since grown to be an award winning organization, having been named a top private business accelerator globally by UBI Global. AC has played an integral part in growing Kitchener-Waterloo’s tech ecosystem over the past 15 years, alongside other innovation hubs like Communitech and Velocity. It has worked with more than 500 startups, created over 3,650 jobs, and helped attract $600 million in investments for its companies. Some of its alumni include Axonify, Clearpath Robotics, Kik, and Top Hat.
Salvini was AC’s longest serving CEO, having led the startup accelerator through a number of changes, including tripling the program’s capacity – increasing the number of startups the AC can support from an average of 35 companies to over 120 companies per year.
Now, with COVID-19 having created a shift to virtual formats that is opening doors for many organizations to traverse borders, AC is looking to take advantage of that opportunity to further AC’s global impact.
“The AC has made an incredible impact to startups here in Waterloo and around the world for over 15 years,” said John Stevens, AC’s VP of strategy and external relations, who also stepped in as interim CEO. “2020 presented us with new opportunities to pivot to an even more global mindset. The appointment of Jay as CEO is the beginning of a new chapter for the organization. We have our eyes on what’s next and we’re ready to start working with Jay to leverage the organization’s 15 years of success to increase the AC’s impact on the world stage.”
Krishnan is currently based in Hyderabad, India (with plans to move to Waterloo) where he has worked as a general partner of venture firm Mantra Capital since 2019. Prior to that he created and served as CEO of T-Hub Hyderabad, working to establish the incubator as a thriving innovation ecosystem. Krishnan grew the T-Hub to more than 40 internationally-based staff, with programs that supported more than 300 companies.
“I am excited to be part of the next story that gets written out of Waterloo Region.”
“When the opportunity presented itself at the AC I really put my hand up and said, ‘I’m your guy,’” Krishnan said in an interview. He specifically pointed to Canadian tech talent, policy work around AI, and the amount of capital being invested as key reasons he was attracted to Canadian and Waterloo more generally.
“The Waterloo innovation ecosystem is known globally for excellence,” the new CEO said. “We are witnessing a unique time in history where technology and startups are reshaping our future. I’ve seen first-hand the global impact this community has made, and I am excited to be part of the next story that gets written out of Waterloo Region.”
Speaking to the advantages the Kitchener-Waterloo region has, Krishnan pointed to the strong supply of talent and academic research from the nearby universities, support for IP from post-secondary institutions and diversity of talent – something he called important to any successful tech ecosystem.
When it comes to AC taking a more global approach to its thesis, Krishnan said it was too early to say how exactly that will occur as he is set to join AC officially as of March 1, but pointed to the possibility of structured programs that help Canadian startups reach international markets.
He stated AC’s focus will continue to be on supporting Canadian startups first and helping increase their global reach, with the potential to bring international startups into the picture at some point in future.
“In our extensive, global search for the next leader of the AC, Jay stood out as a visionary leader with a deep understanding of what it takes to be successful entrepreneur and build a thriving community,” said AC board chair Julie Barker-Merz. “His depth of experience and global perspective will help propel the AC to the front of the world stage and showcase our impressive portfolio of alumni companies as not only the best-of-the best in Canadian tech, but the best-of-the-best world-wide.”
Image courtesy The Accelerator Centre