The deck is stacked against technology startups. Success is an uncertain gamble. To increase their chances of success, some startups are joining incubators and accelerators, programs that can accelerate the pace of growth and overcome common hurdles. In this episode of Techopia Live, OBJ publisher Michael Curran talks to Leo Lax and Stef Reid of L-SPARK, the SaaS accelerator in Kanata. Lax talks about how business accelerator programs have become increasingly central to his mission, particularly with companies like BlackBerry and Calian Group.
This is an edited transcript of the beginning of that conversation. Watch the full video or podcast for the full episode.
OBJ: If you think about it, any technology ecosystem really needs a lot of different players. You need universities and colleges. You need people to fund people. You need economic development officers, and for those entrepreneurs with real potential, you need programs that take them to the next level. So today we are talking about a very successful technology accelerator in Kanata called L-SPARK. Let’s welcome the Executive Director of L-SPARK, a man who has devoted 40 years of his career to advancing Ottawa’s technology sector, the one and only Leo Lax. Our second guest is responsible for telling the story, and is a great guest from L-SPARK, and responsible for all other marketing responsibilities, Stef Reid. Welcome both. I look forward to this discussion, and, Leo, we’ll start with you. We could probably make 10 episodes, Leo, about your career and all you have accomplished, but I hope everyone watching and listening has heard of you and is aware of your amazing achievements, but give us the bio of one minute, if you don’t’ don’t mind, Leo.
A: Thank you, Michael. Yes, I have been in the Ottawa area for a while and participated in a number of activities here. I started my career as an engineer at McGill University, became a signal officer in the Canadian Army, and when I left the Army I started my own company, eventually joined Mitel, later Newbridge, worked with Terry Matthews for many, many Over the years, and one of the elements of working with Newbridge, we’ve created an ecosystem of smaller businesses around Newbridge, which is really part of the foundation of what we later did in the same way at L-SPARK with a business accelerator. Then I started Skypoint Capital, and once that was over, I decided I was still excited to help companies grow and become more successful, and together with Pat and Terry, we launched L-SPARK.
OBJ: That’s really neat by the way, Leo, of you kind of bringing this back from L-SPARK to the Newbridge Affiliates, right? Just forming the connection that brings some of the talents, experience and knowledge you gained there to L-SPARK. That’s very cool.
EN: Thank you. Yeah, that connection was really one of the ways we started L-SPARK, because we thought that was missing from the ecosystem today.
OBJ: I don’t think I put together one on one there, so thanks for saying that, Leo. Stef, we want to give you the opportunity to introduce yourself. You play a big, important role, as I said before. You are responsible for the marketing. Tell us what you’re working on at L-SPARK.
SR: Absolutely, so I’m the director of marketing at L-SPARK. I am not only responsible for marketing the programs L-SPARK offers to the tech ecosystem in Canada, but also work closely with the startups in our accelerator programs to help them refine and execute their marketing strategies .
OBJ: That’s a good point. So not only are you working on L-SPARK, but you’re also working on some of the companies participating, and let’s stick with you here for a moment, Stef. For those people who are not aware of L-SPARK, give us an idea of the goal and what you are trying to achieve.
SR: So L-SPARK is a boot accelerator. We offer startups across Canada four accelerator programs, and that’s something I’m happy to repeat because we’re based in Ottawa, but we work with startups from coast to coast. The accelerator we are most known for is our SaaS Accelerator. We are currently recruiting for our ninth cohort, and after that we introduced a number of other accelerators, corporate accelerators. So we have an autonomous vehicle accelerator in partnership with BlackBerry IVY. We’re also working with Ottawa-based Calian on a med tech accelerator, and we’ve partnered with Queens University for women-led tech companies in the Kingston, Bellville, and Brockville regions. So, you know, it’s so much fun working with companies in all these different industries from all over the country.
This is an edited transcript of the beginning of the episode. Watch the full video or podcast for the full episode.