Cool and Relevant

When start-ups graduate from the Accelerator Centre or the Communitech Hub, they are deemed "ready" for the commercial marketplace. But when it comes to setting up office space in the outside world, graduates are never "quite ready" for the harsh realities facing them.

"Start-ups in residence with the Accelerator Program love the turn-key nature of our facilities - it is a major attraction for young companies as they can simply move in and get right to business without the daily distractions of setting up an office space," says Tim Ellis, CEO, Waterloo Accelerator Centre. "It is show up, plug in, and get to work."

But it's a very different scenario when companies graduate and move out, explains Ellis.

One of the things that graduating CEO's immediately experience is the inflexibility of the commercial leasing world. Where at the Accelerator Centre they can make changes with just 60 days' notice, in the outside commercial world, they must enter into multi-year lease deals, requiring a significant upfront financial commitment. They also face additional capital costs, installing phone systems, office furniture, photocopiers, and often have to add administrative staff to manage day-to-day office needs. For a start-up that has only begun generating revenue, the costs of moving out and growing up can mount quickly.

"We looked everywhere in the tri-cities for a stepping stone location after leaving the AC, but there was nothing. Instead of a soft landing, we had to start from scratch and fend for ourselves. I don't doubt that we'd be a larger company if a soft landing had existed." Matthew Rendall, CEO, Clearpath Robotics.

To stretch their dollar, start-ups often end up moving outside of the technology corridor into industrial condos and offbeat office locations, says Ellis. As a result, they end up losing touch with the Accelerator Program team and their fellow start-ups. "Early stage companies residing under the same roof become an incredibly close-knit community of colleagues and friends," says Ellis. "A new Accelerator Program graduate still needs that support network. We don't want to lose touch or see those bonds broken."

But life is about to change for the better for the graduating technology start-ups in Waterloo Region.

In 2013, Cora Developments will break ground on a new three-story, 110,000 square foot "International Business Centre" in the David Johnston Research + Technology Park. Designed by local architecture firm Robertson Simmons Architects Inc., the building will be purpose-built to offer haven and home to graduating start-ups, and provide a soft-landing for international companies seeking to establish a presence in Waterloo.

Like the Accelerator Centre and the Communitech Hub, the new facility will offer the flexibility and turnkey office and administration services young companies need, coupled with private, dedicated office suites for companies ranging from 1,500 to 7,500 square feet. Within the building, CEOs and their staff can take advantage of shared spaces designed to encourage innovative design thinking, radical collaboration and continuous networking with additional space allocated for prototyping & assembly, hoteling, fitness, games room and pub. And there are no restrictive lease agreements. Companies will be able to make changes or upgrade to bigger office surroundings with just 60 days' notice.

"This building promises to be the coolest and most relevant building in Waterloo," says Adrian Conrad, President of Cora Developments. "We want no barriers to entry with respect to this new facility, and are developing a building to offer premium space at a very attractive price point. The decision to graduate from the Accelerator Centre or Communitech Hub into the International Business Centre is going to be a complete no brainer."

Ellis says word on the street is already spreading about the imminent arrival of this cool new facility. "Folks are coming up to me saying, 'where do I sign?'".

The International Business Centre is expected to open its doors to graduating technology start-ups in 2015.