-Already operating at full capacity with room for new startups soon
By Margaret Magner
The Startup Zone, P.E.I.’s new entrepreneurship incubator located at Queen and Water streets in downtown Charlottetown, launched on June 24, 2016. One month later, it was already operating at full capacity with early-stage startups in a variety of sectors. Inspired by prototypes such as the DMZ at Ryerson University (Toronto), Venn Innovation (Moncton) and Volta (Halifax), the Zone provides incubator services including mentoring and advising; business model counseling; networking and industry events; investor introductions; and pro bono legal and accounting support. With prominent street visibility, expansive windows, innovative technology and open-concept design, its flexible workspace encourages participants with diverse backgrounds and in various stages of development to collaborate and learn from one another.
“People in Toronto and Montreal were amazed we have an incubator here,” says Christina MacLeod, Startup Zone CEO. “We’re actively seeking entrepreneurs of all ages, genders, ethnicities, backgrounds and sectors, including P.E.I. newcomers and expatriates. Local startups like Airbly, with its flight-data recorder for general-aviation aircraft, and Forestry.io, the world’s first user interface for static websites, demonstrate the growing need for incubation services in P.E.I. Our business community is supportive, with offers of in-kind assistance and mentoring from Arsenault Best Cameron Ellis; Carr, Stevenson & MacKay, Cox & Palmer, and others.”
P.E.I. has an established reputation for entrepreneurship rooted in the hard work and initiative of generations of Islanders. A world-class entrepreneurship incubator strengthens the pathway to prosperity with increased R&D and its commercialization, broader access to national and international markets, and entrepreneurs exceling at job creation and wealth generation. There are promising signs already. Propel ICT, Atlantic Canada’s preeminent startup accelerator, is working on its second-ever cohort of P.E.I. entrepreneurs and launching it at the Zone. IT Garage, which provides paid internships, studio space and industry mentors to help recent P.E.I. graduates develop a business app or video game, is currently being hosted at the Startup Zone, as well.
“It’s hard sometimes to get entry-level experience in an IT company,” says Scott Humes, manager and graduate of IT Garage where he cultivated his company Rabbit Hole Studios. “At the Zone, our program improves IT skills while developing a product and experience working as a team. Other companies at the Zone – not in our program –become mentors, too. If you’re looking for an opportunity to advance yourself, this is it.”
Risk taking, bold ideas and creative collision are intrinsic to an entrepreneurship incubator. “We offer support for startups adapted to their current state of development. They’re here for the short term, work on an idea, experience an atmosphere of professional growth, then graduate out,” says MacLeod. “Failure is not a negative. Companies are fast to succeed or fast to fail. We provide the hard truths through an honest professional opinion. It gives them a boost or gets them on to a new and better idea.”
Margaret Magner, Ph.D., is a freelance journalist in Charlottetown (www.magnerink.com).