AC Expansion Plans

Accelerator Centre`s Reactor Creates New Potent Mix of Startup Chemistry.

Whether you are a student dreaming of entrepreneurship in the back of the class, a newly minted grad looking to forge your own path, or a mature member of the workforce looking to break out of the corporate grind, more people than ever before are choosing to build their own business.

If only it were that easy. Growing a business from a concept idea is tough work. It requires significant market validation, careful business planning, and ongoing guidance and mentorship.

The Accelerator Centre (AC), located in the David Johnston Research + Technology Park has played an instrumental role in helping entrepreneurs build strong viable businesses since 2006. World recognizedfor its unique programming, the incubator has produced such growing startup success stories as Axonify, Clearpath Robotics, Magnet Forensics, Miovision, Kik and Top Hat Monocle - just to name a few.

Now, under the leadership of CEO Paul Salvini, the AC is expanding its program offerings and its capacity to take even more young companies under its wing. In June 2015, the AC opened a second facility in the R+T Park called Reactor, the new home for the AC Momentum program which serves founders and startups at the earliest stage of their startup journey.

"The AC Momentum program opened its doors in the fall of 2014, as we recognized that not every company is ready to enter our Accelerator Program directly," explains Salvini. "We were seeing a lot of individuals coming to us, inspired by the work we are doing with other startups, but their idea still needed some shaping and market research. Rather than turn them away, we created AC Momentum, which is designed to serve businesses in the earliest phase where an idea is validated."

Companies in the AC Momentum program typically spend 9 to 12 months going through a market validation process called AC PathfinderTM - backed by a curriculum and programming grounded in incubation best practices and licensed and recognized around the world. Every AC Momentum client is assigned a lead mentor from the AC's team of in-house mentors, and put on a custom plan that moves the business up to the point where it is ready for the full Accelerator Program and for growth.

"By the time a company is ready for the Accelerator Program they are tuned into the right station and ready to turn up the volume for the next level of growth," says Salvini. He notes that companies who successfully complete the AC Momentum program are also fast tracked to the end of the Accelerator Program intake process. "We are familiar with the company and know they've done the necessary legwork to prove out and mature their business idea."

Originally AC Momentum started with 20 desks, carved out of the incubator's existing space. Those spots filled very quickly, confirming that there is strong demand for this kind of structured program for companies at the conceptual stage.

Now, with the creation of Reactor, AC Momentum's capacity is growing -- expanding to a new 8,000 sq. ft. location in the innoTECH building across Hagey Drive in the R+T Park, ready to house 50 individuals, or approximately 30 companies per year.

Salvini notes the move wouldn't have been possible without the generosity of Cora Developments and funding from the City of Waterloo, CAIP, CLA and the Cowan Foundation. "Our funding partners as well as the Conrad family have exhibited tremendous enthusiasm for our vision and for what we are trying to create with Reactor. It means so much to these early stage entrepreneurs to have a supportive, creative environment where they can be inspired, encouraged and helped as they build great businesses. The Conrads were amazing to work with and were a tremendous source of creative ideas for how we could make the best use of the facility."

Just like its name, Salvini is positive the energy produced by Reactor will be something to behold. With an interior space created by Elemental Interior Design, the Reactor workspace is open and collaborative and includes a client networking lounge for startups to connect as well as six breakout rooms for those intensive brainstorming meetings.

"It is simply amazing to see the diversity of ideasand background of individuals participating in the AC Momentum program. Some of our clients are coming from local industry; others are researchers from universities and colleges who are commercializing their life's work; and of course, we have a number of graduates of our local institutions. Every company admitted to AC Momentum becomes an integral part of the AC family and culture - a really magical combination of networking, events, collaboration and collegial knowledge sharing. So much of the richness of what happens in the incubation ecosystem is about community created here. That spirit pervades our facilities."