Wesley Clover L-SPARK Launches New Corporate Accelerators

L-SPARK, the leading SaaS Accelerator in Canada, has been busy developing new partnerships to build upon their legacy of helping innovative companies spring onto the Canadian and global technology stage. And the scope for the next start-ups they are working with is impressive.

Before we look forward, let’s look at some of the recent accomplishments. The portfolio of companies who have passed through L-SPARK programs, plus the four in the current program, has now reached 47. Just under half of those companies have now accomplished the primary mandate of the program, which is to secure external funding. A total of $30.1M of new investment has been raised to date. This time one year ago, that number was $16.8M, which means almost half the new total was raised during the last 12 months. This suggests the investment community is paying ever closer attention.

To ensure the start-ups are well supported, L-SPARK struck new partnerships with both Stripe and Intercom late in 2018, and also strengthened existing relationships with Microsoft, Amazon, Google and others. These partners and the value-added services they provide are key to better enabling the start-ups for success.

While a couple months have passed already, it is worth noting the 2018 version of the flagship L-SPARK industry event, SAAS NORTH, attracted more than 1,200 delegates to Ottawa to hear from industry experts, network with some of the fastest growing SaaS companies, and learn how to scale their businesses in a globally competitive way. The event continues to grow each year, and planning for the 2019 show is well underway.

Sticking with events, January saw the team conduct SaaS Showcase Toronto once again, bringing the current cohort and other invited companies to the key Toronto investment and start-up scene. Attendance exceeded expectations and several of the companies who presented continue to have follow-on discussions with those important audiences.

That event was replicated in Ottawa, with the biggest showcase to-date. More than 500 guests came out to support the family of start-ups, and expectations remain high for some attractive outcomes from the pitches.

So what next? We can guess how transformative the emerging autonomous vehicles industry will be. We can sense the importance of next generation wireless networks and IoT devices. We know how critical cybersecurity will be in these developments. In addition to the ongoing SaaS Accelerator, L-SPARK has recently established key new partnerships that enable the team to participate actively in these emerging industries.

The first of the new relationships to be unveiled publicly is the launch of the BlackBerry/L-SPARK Corporate Accelerator. This partnership is focused on creating innovative new solutions that leverage the Blackberry QNX software platform. Among the applications, BlackBerry QNX is the most successful platform for building secure software solutions in the connected and autonomous vehicle market. Under the new partnership, BlackBerry will help start-ups research and develop product prototypes in not just autonomous vehicle applications, but also in the areas of robotics, device security, sensor fusion (e.g. LiDAR, radar, cameras and GPS), functional safety, analytics and medical devices.

This represents a shift in Accelerator mission, emphasizing first products over revenue and sales, but it is an approach both partners want given the early state of these application markets. L-SPARK and BlackBerry announced the first seven companies to join the new six-month Accelerator program recently. The first cohort includes portfolio company Martello, cybersecurity firm Bluink and automotive software developer Evolved Vehicles Environments, plus four other companies from across Canada. The hard work is already underway.

Another program L-SPARK is committed to for 2019 is turning their Female Founders and Funders event into an annual occurrence. This year, they are looking to partner with others in the Ottawa ecosystem to make it more inclusive and robust. 2018 was a strong year for L-SPARK and for the Canadian tech and start-up ecosystem. And there are plenty of reasons for even more optimism as 2019 rolls on. l-spark.com