On March 20, knowledge-based ICT firms and relevant business support organizations from across the region came together for a roundtable discussion at Acadia University, made possible by the Valley REN, in partnership with Innovacorp.

Permjot Valia, founder of MentorCamp Inc. and a respected player in Cape Breton’s start-up community, was the guest speaker and facilitator. Permjot shared his feedback on experiences and best practices/lessons learned in developing start-up ecosystems.

The roundtable discussions resulted in valuable feedback. Some of the key points we learned about developing a strong start-up ecosystem in our region are listed below.

1.  A strong ecosystem for start-ups in rural areas requires leveraging the momentum that urban cores experience/possess. The right ingredients and the pillars needed for a strong ecosystem include financial tools and resources, programs, enhanced networking opportunities, post-secondary institutions, and attracting and retaining world-class talent.

2.  It is important for a strong start-up ecosystem to embody continued education and training. The feasibility for a start-up to access training on specific topics is less viable, whereas if training for a cluster of companies were available, start-ups would be in a better position to take advantage of skills development programs. 

3.  A high-trust environment is needed where key players work and grow together, accepting when initiatives and efforts are unsuccessful and celebrating each others’ success. 

4.  Networking and mentoring are critical pieces in developing a strong start-up ecosystem and are essential to highlighting the talent and resources available. Mentors and start-up personnel assist in strengthening the quality of start-ups and the long-term success/viability of a business.

5.  Unique, local content is another critical piece in developing an ecosystem. Rather than creating spin-off events from those in urban areas, a rural ecosystem must host events that draw interest from outside regions to attend, creating two-way traffic. 

From this session, the Valley REN will be working with our partners to develop entrepreneurial programming support via training and educational sessions, as well as facilitating local content that draws attention to the region.

What are your thoughts? How can we strengthen the start-up ecosystem in the region? Where do you see gaps and how can the Valley REN best support you? Please let us know in the comments section.