The top 10 tech accelerators in Toronto
Tech accelerators in Toronto offer programs in which entrepreneurs develop their companies while receiving mentorship, guidance and often seed investment. These programs have grown in number rapidly over the past five years as the city's startup community has developed, and have played a significant role in the early stage growth of some of Canada's most buzzworthy startups.
Here, in no particular order, are my picks for the top tech accelerators in Toronto.
TheNext36, founded in 2010, is open to students under 30 and brands itself a "people accelerator." It's seven months in duration, and produces one cohort a year. The participants are supported by a network of over 300 mentors and all qualify for seed funding of up to $50,000 in return for 4% equity. Notable alumni include remote interviewing app Kira Talent.
Founded in 2011, INcubes is a highly customizable program in which the amount of investment differs between teams, as does the timeline. As an added benefit, the accelerator has created a global network of similar locations where participants can work abroad. Notable alumni include Hovr.it, an image recognition technology that made its exit to Calgary-based Slyce, and digital analytics company Qoints.
Housed at U of T, Creative Destruction is known for powerhouse mentors such as WIND Mobile founder Tony Lacavera and Kik founder Ted Livingston. The nine-month program was inaugurated three years ago, and its combined ventures total a reported $180M in equity value. Notable examples include heartbeat authenticator Nymi and medicine discovery tool Atomwise. The program does not provide investment.
The DMZ, run by Ryerson University, houses 450 individuals working for 80 companies. Founded in 2010, it's open for public application and has produced such notable alumni as medical photo sharing app Figure1 and receipt management platform Sensibill. Ryerson Futures has been set up by the university to provide seed funding to select startups of between $50,000 and $80,000.
Highline has a robust list of successful portfolio companies such as social media advertising platform FameBit and education tech startup Andela. Highline has raised over $88M in follow-up funding for the startups involved and created over $180M in equity value. The program offers investment of up to $200,000 and entrepreneurs have access to a network of over 100 mentors.
In 2012 Hacking Health hosted its first hackathons and has since become a global network that spans 28 cities, 12 countries and five continents. The organization's new accelerator program, launched this October, will consist of a five week bootcamp (held twice yearly), followed by a commercialization period of nine months. Hacking Health will offer up to $50,000 in funding in return for 7% equity.
UTest, a collaboration between U of T and MaRs Innovation, is in its fourth year of operation with 15 teams. The program is one year in length and is only available to current students, recent grads and university faculty. UTest invests $30,000 in its companies in return for 5% equity. Two notable alumni are scholarly content recommendation engine TrendMD and mobile keyboard creator Whirlscape.
The Impact Centre at U of T offers a yearly accelerator program called 'Techno,' which targets scientists and engineers. It offers a one-month intensive program followed by a long-term support period called 'Business a la Carte.' Founded in 2010, Techno's alumni include industrial automation maker Encedalus Imaging and wearable vision aid iMerciv. The program does not offer direct investment.
IdeaBOOST, founded in 2012 by the Canadian Film Centre, focuses on digital innovation in media. The acceleration process begins with a period of mentorship before moving on to a four-month bootcamp, after which they graduate to become a portfolio company. The amount of investment varies. Among the alumni are 360 degree camera maker Bubl and video advertising company SlimCut Media.
DCS Innovation Lab
This accelerator, created by U of T's department of computer science this March, has already guided startups like AI legal expert ROSS Intelligence and data analytics platform Kaypok. The program is class-driven and is open for public application. The length is 12 weeks, or a standard semester, and runs year-round, producing three cohorts. DCSIL does not invest in its companies.
Writing by Rose Behar. Photo of DMZ by Clifton Lee.
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