Beyond the skyscrapers and freeways of the Toronto region, entrepreneurs in Eastern Ontario are gearing up for a new initiative in local business.
The Northumberland Community Futures Development Corporation has just announced a new entrepreneurship competition called N100, which is accepting applications now until March 31. The prize is up to $100,000 in private equity and the chance to connect with some of the top business experts in Ontario.
“Our assumption is that innovation can happen anywhere and not just in the established centres of innovation,” John Hayden, the Manager of Enterprise Programs at the CFDC told Techvibes.
The competition process resembles Dragon’s Den and includes three different rounds, beginning with a pitch contest. This spring and summer, participants who make it to the second round will attend an intensive boot camp to transform their ideas into investment-ready opportunities. One lucky startup will be selected to negotiate for private equity with an investing committee.
The organizers of N100 stress that mentorship is extremely important to entrepreneurs, which is why they are partnering with Spark Centre, Northumberland's regional innovation centre.
The competition will also feature a Power Panel of six professionals who will interact directly with participants and serve as a source of inspiration during the competition. The Panel includes experts in technology and entrepreneurial finance, like Shirley Speakman, Director of Investments at the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund.
Hayden hopes that N100 will encourage a collaborative dialogue between entrepreneurs and experts. Since business plans typically go through several iterations, getting feedback from insiders is a good way to ensure a project remains competitive.
N100 is giving businesses in Eastern Ontario a jump start, but it's also blazing trails for opportunities in other smaller urban centres. Though Northumberland County is home to over eighty thousand residents, it's vastly different from Toronto or other major urban areas like Kitchener-Waterloo.
This, says Hayden, is part of its charm.
“We know that there are capable, technically knowledgable people out there that don't necessarily want to live downtown or in the suburbs,” he said.
His comments echo a recent study by Indiana State University which suggests that many entrepreneurs starting a business are drawn to a place, rather than a particular industry. And while there may be more risk involved, there are payoffs to working in smaller cities.
“By launching new initiatives and broadcasting opportunities like N100 and Scientists and Engineers in Business we are confirming that these people are out there. They might be a smaller segment of the population but they exist. Maybe they enjoy cycling to work, an unhurried commute, hiking in the rolling hills, eating locally produced food, benefiting from community engagement, or living in the community where they grew up."
For now, N100 is exploring more opportunities to develop the province's startup ecosystem and the "Silicon Valley of Eastern Ontario."
"There is a terrain of incredible investment opportunities East of the city - gaming startups, hackers, digital entrepreneurs, advanced manufacturers, cleantech, health informatics and beyond. N100 is part of telling that story."