Experienced businesses linked with newcomers

NANAIMO – New tech companies can plug into business advice and development cash under new program.

Entrepreneurs who have techno-smarts, but aren’t so savvy when it comes to building a business can get hooked up with mentors offering business advice and links to development cash through the Venture Acceleration Program.

Andrew Wilkinson, minister of technology, innovation and citizens’ services for B.C., toured Innovation Island, formerly known as Mid-Island Science, Technology and Innovation Council, while touting the benefits the program offers for technology entrepreneurs during a visit to Nanaimo last week. He said his ministry is seeing movement in the technology sectors where Venture Accelerator programs operate on the Island, Kamloops, the Okanagan and the Kootenays.

“We have multiple accelerators here on the Island,” Wilkinson said. “We’re seeing a lot of successful companies come out of these things. We now have a good number of companies that have developed products and sold them or they’re continuing to run their own enterprise.”

The idea is to help startup companies speed up the commercialization of their products and ideas by helping new technology entrepreneurs learn through coaching by executives in residence – entrepreneurs with years of business experience.

Through the program, business owners network with peers with similar goals and challenges. It also helps small companies become investment-ready and to find ways to safely access startup capital.

Wilkinson said young companies are usually run by young people uncertain where they sit in the scheme of things and don’t know if they have a truly viable idea, if they’re wasting their time or if they could get eaten up by stronger competitors. Faced with such uncertainties entrepreneurs often sell out at an early stage to claim what revenue they can.

“Getting access to capital usually means you have to give up a degree of control, so what we don’t like to see is a promising young company essentially give away its future because it’s so hungry for the first $200,000,” Wilkinson said.

That pitfall can be sidestepped by matching entrepreneurs with mentors who can be trusted not try to take over the companies and ideas. Mentors can help decide what is the right level of financing for a young company, or they might choose to become “angel” investors.

“What we do is provide them with advice from executives in residence, from mentors who will tell them how to get capital, how to protect the ideas that they’ve developed and take them to the next level so that they can get a second level of financing and build up a company that has employees and starts to prosper,” Wilkinson said.

For more information, please visit www.bcacceleration.ca.