Their goal was to help 26 small- and medium-sized businesses transition into a new strategic location, and they did it.
“We see good opportunity and I’m going to see if we can squeeze more budget to land more [companies] next year,” said Tuer.
The Soft Landing program officially began last September to offer qualified, mature startups and SMEs exposure to an economy-of-interest by providing them the opportunity to take residence in a partnered facility. Those facilities can offer the regional support required to help them grow their business for up to three months. Both domestic and foreign companies can participate and improve on their international business goals.
“We launched our program for that purpose in that we always tell our companies that you need to think international right out of the gate,” said Tuer. “Going international is not an easy thing to do and in the end it takes a lot of hard work but we’re trying to lower the barriers, make it a little easier for them to do that and its turned out some great results.”
The Soft Landing Program offers three types of landings for startups and SMEs. The “Inbound” program provides international companies with an incubator or an accelerator as well as resources from any of CDMN’s 21 innovation hubs. International startups from the US and Brazil have benefitted from the three month stay in Canada.
Tuer sees “tremendous opportunity” to expand the Inbound program and said that the tangible benefits that Canada has been able to leverage from companies deciding to stay here has been extremely encouraging.
The “Domestic” program offers Canadian startups and SME’s the chance to relocate to one of the 21 hubs within Canada. Like the Inbound program CDMN will work with companies to help identify the best facility in the network for them to connect with.
Jayesh Parmar and his startup Picatic were able to significantly accelerate their business through a three-month trip to New York City, via the “Outbound” program. The only portion of the Soft Landing program that offers financial incentives, the Outbound program is for Canadian startups and SME’s looking to land in a foreign destination. CDMN provides the companies up to $4,000 in reimbursed travel expenses and connects them with a business accelerator and other resources.
Picatic, the Saskatoon-based crowdfunding platform for events, entered the program because they wanted exposure to US investors and increased traction. Prior to their soft landing they had already secured $500,000 in venture capital funding in Canada. Upon returning to Saskatoon they had not only secured US investors, but also initiated talks for a future round. “It’s been good for not just the funding aspect but the deal flow that has came to us,” said Parmar.
Tuer admits that “certainly they’re not going to get rich off $4,000,” but that it will help startups cover some of their costs so they can achieve their outcomes. Parmar too said that the $4,000 was a small fraction in terms of the over all costs but that in the end it helped bring in a lot more investment.
“The rents are expensive, you need money for development and it’s a decision that is a lot easier when you have the Soft Landing program,” said Parmar. “It took investment of our own to make sure that we could stay for the whole three month program but alternatively it ended up bringing in a lot more investment.”
Parmar firmly believes that Canadian entrepreneurs are just as strong, fast and gritty as any entrepreneur, “and when we understand how that game is played, we can go out there and make those inroads and partnerships.”
Starting out in Saskatoon though, he said they weren’t exposed to many of the fundamental things that make a successful startup. “So these organizations and programs like Soft Landing help entrepreneurs like us.”
The CDMN was founded in 2009 and receives the majority of its funding from the federal government as a Network of Centres of Excellence or “NCE”. Their mandate is to ensure Canada’s place at the forefront of the digital economy in bringing together industry, government and academia. CDMN works as a catalyst for commercialization.