Time to accelerate

Thursday September 15, 2016

By Andrew Carroll, Gazette Editor

With the aim of taking their companies to the next step, nine local startups have been selected to participate in the GrindSpaceXL-Kingston program, including three graduates from the recently-concluded Queen’s Innovation Connector Summer Initiative (QICSI).

Now in its fourth cohort, GrindSpaceXL-Kingston is a 12-week accelerator program that brings together early-stage, high-potential ventures at Innovation Park and provides them an active environment, including access to advisors and mentors.

The ventures gathered for the first time on Monday, Sept. 12 for an orientation day where they were introduced to the program and the resources that are available.

For Andrew Jackson, co-developer of GrindSpaceXL along with Elza Seregelyi, it is exciting to meet the ventures at such an early stage and to watch them as they move through the program and build upon the foundations they have already created.

“It’s very interesting to meet them where they are at,” he says. “We designed this program in a way that there are experiences that are done as a cohort together but for every experience that is done together there is a mirrored activity that is independent where we can then translate, ‘What does this mean for you in terms of where you’re at with your company?’”

The competition to join the program was tough with a record number of applications this year. The field was reduced for the pitch stage and then the final nine were selected.

Mr. Jackson says this cohort has great potential. That includes three teams that participated in QICSI – Cognitiva; Paperweight Technologies; and overall winner RockMass Technologies.

The team members of RockMass – Matas Sriubiskis (Artsci’17); Shelby Yee (Sc’16); Matt Gubasta (Artsci’17); Rigers Rukaj (Sc’17) and Nichola Trinh (Sc’17) – are looking forward to collaborating with the other ventures as well as the GrindSpace team and mentors, but also feel that they will benefit from working within a structured environment as they did in QICSI.

“Being here at GrindSpace is a great opportunity for us,” Ms. Trinh says. “We were part of QICSI over the summer, so being part of an incubator where we can draw on networks of alumni and mentors and other students who are also starting their own businesses, it’s a really good opportunity to draw on the feedback and get advice from them. Being part of Grindspace we can continue that in a new setting. It’s still Kingston but we’ll be able to talk to new people. There are a lot of interesting startups that we hadn’t heard of before and now we’re going to get that opportunity to work with them.”

Participants will have access to numerous resources through their interactions with Queen’s University, including shared lab, office, collaboration and meeting room space at Innovation Park, services through Queen’s Industry Partnerships to facilitate research and customer development and access to legal counsel through the Queen’s Business Law Clinic. They will also be able to access intellectual property, commercialization and financial expertise through PARTEQ Innovations and mentoring and coaching services provided by Launch Lab.

“Queen’s University is delighted to continue providing leadership of the GrindSpaceXL program in Kingston, which will accelerate the development of innovative startups on campus and across the region,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “The many quality applicants to this year’s GrindSpaceXL program are indicative of the entrepreneurial drive and momentum that is building in the area. We look forward to helping these startups, including student-run companies, advance the commercialization of their technologies.”

New this year, Secker Ross and Perry LLP will meet with each company to identify opportunities to strengthen corporate governance and provide feedback and recommendations regarding tax structuring and compliance matters.

GrindSpaceXL-Kingston is part of InnovationXL, a collaboration among Queen’s University, PARTEQ Innovations, and Launch Lab which provides programs and services to accelerate the growth and retention of high potential startups and SMEs. InnovationXL forms part of a broader collaboration with Invest Ottawa and L-SPARK, a B2B SaaS incubator and accelerator, to strengthen the regional innovation ecosystem in Eastern Ontario.