Startup accelerators (also called business accelerators) are programs that provide startups with mentorship, resources, and networking opportunities to help them grow and succeed. These programs have become increasingly popular in Ontario, with hundreds of accelerators and incubators available to entrepreneurs across Canada.
In this article, we explain what business accelerators are, their pros and cons, and highlight some of the best accelerators in Ontario to help you make an informed decision about which program to join.
What are Startup Accelerators?
A startup accelerator is a program designed to help early-stage businesses grow and succeed by providing them with mentorship, resources, and access to investors. It is a time-limited program that typically lasts between three to six months, during which time the participating companies receive intensive support to help them achieve specific goals and milestones.
Business accelerators are usually run by organizations such as universities, venture capital firms, or government agencies. They are often sector-specific, focusing on industries such as technology, healthcare, or clean energy.
Startup Accelerator vs Business Incubator: Key Differences
How Do Startup Accelerators Work?
Accelerators provide startups with a range of resources and support services, typically including:
Participating companies are typically required to give up a small equity stake in their business in exchange for the support and resources provided by the accelerator. This helps to align the interests of the accelerator with those of the startups it supports, as the accelerator has a vested interest in helping its portfolio companies succeed.
Overall, business accelerators can be a valuable resource for early-stage startups looking to grow and scale their businesses. By providing access to mentorship, resources, and funding opportunities, accelerators can help startups overcome common challenges and achieve success more quickly and efficiently than they might be able to on their own.
Best Accelerators for Ontario Start-Ups
We have comprehensive information on dozens of Ontario-based startup accelerators in our funding database. We’ve combed through all of them and picked out the ten best (click the link in each summary to go to a fuller description of the accelerator):
1. The Accelerator Centre – AC: Studio
The AC: Studio is a hybrid accelerator/venture studio program combining the best of their award-winning AC:Incubate program with a venture studio model that funds high-impact startups, and matches great ideas with talented founders.
2. Techstars – Techstars Toronto Accelerator
Techstars accelerators have one goal: to help entrepreneurs succeed. During each three-month program, they surround companies with the best mentors and an unrivaled network of corporate partners, investors, and alumni. They provide funding and fundraising opportunities, workshops and curated resources, not to mention countless moments where participants can learn from their peers. It’s a proven model that’s helped build thousands of successful companies, all over the world.
Join the Techstars Toronto Accelerator for a unique experience. Applications for its summer 2023 accelerator program are now open and the deadline to apply is May 10th, 2023.
3. Access Community Capital Fund – Small Business Accelerator (SBA)
The Small Business Accelerator (SBA) is a workshop series that will equip you with the tools you need to develop your business idea and plan.
5. Global Affairs Canada – Canadian Technology Accelerators
The Canadian Technology Accelerators (CTA) are designed to explore opportunities to grow business in 12 global tech hubs worldwide. This global business development program successfully supports high-growth Canadian companies in:
6. Innovation Guelph – Innovation Guelph (IG) Startup Program
The Innovation Guelph (IG) Startup Program is specially designed for selected Southern Ontario entrepreneurs and startups that want to accelerate their business to revenue and investment.
7. Western Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship (Western University) – Western Accelerator
Launched in January 2017, the Western Accelerator, a four-month program, is an immersive education in entrepreneurship for new high-potential ventures. It is a critical component of the entrepreneurship ecosystem at Western University. It provides an intense, rapid and immersive education for prospective entrepreneurs. Its goal is to accelerate the life cycle of high potential ventures and to compress a year’s worth of learning into a few months for their entrepreneurs.
Applications are now open for Fall 2023 and Winter 2024 cohorts. Not just anyone can participate. though. At least one founder must have a connection to Western (alumni, faculty, staff and student) and the program requires a full-time commitment. As such, if you’re a Western student and you’re accepted, you’ll have to reduce your class load or defer the semester to be able to participate.
8. League of Innovators (LOI) – Ready To Accelerate
The Ready to Accelerate program is provided through the League of Innovators (LOI) Labs, a national virtual accelerator that offers 12 weeks of support, community, resources, skills, and everything eligible applicants need to accelerate their growth.
If you are a Canadian young founder aged 25 or under and dedicated to building your business, join the program’s wait list for Labs Batch 11 which will be starting in September 2023.
9. The Accelerator – A2X Cross-border Accelerator
The Accelerator is this region’s premier cross-border accelerator. Through their extensive partnerships throughout the United States with a particular focus on their neighbours in Detroit, they’ve developed a roadmap to streamline business globalization. This allows Canadian startups the opportunity to go to market in the US faster, as well as for US startups to begin their global growth journey in Canada.
10. TechAlliance of Southwestern Ontario – GROW Accelerator
The GROW Accelerator is designed to supercharge businesses’ acceleration from startup to scale-up. It follows a cohort model, with each group of companies meeting weekly with their growth coaches, and gathering monthly for honest and informative conversations with business leaders and high-growth entrepreneurs, as well sharing the opportunities and challenges that each participating company has faced.
Should I Join a Startup Accelerator?
Joining an accelerator makes sense for your business depending on a variety of pros and cons. Below we outline the benefits of joining an accelerator, things you should consider before joining one, and how to choose the best accelerator for your startup.
Benefits of Joining a Startup Accelerator
Joining a startup accelerator can be a great way to give your business a boost. Here are some of the benefits:
One of the biggest benefits of joining a startup accelerator is access to funding. Most accelerators have relationships with a wide network of investors and are designed to end in a demo day where startups pitch their business ideas to many investors. This can be a great opportunity to secure funding for your business.
Another benefit of joining a startup accelerator is mentorship and guidance. Many accelerators provide mentorship programs where experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts work with startups to help them grow and succeed. This can be invaluable for new businesses that are still learning the ropes.
Joining a startup accelerator can also provide networking opportunities. Accelerators often come with additional support systems such as law firms, patent attorneys, and other service providers that can help startups get off the ground. This can be a great way to meet other entrepreneurs and industry experts, and to build relationships that can help your business succeed.
Finally, joining a startup accelerator can give you access to a wide range of resources. Many accelerators provide office space, equipment, and other resources that can help startups get started. This can be a great way to save money on overhead costs and focus on growing your business.
Overall, joining a startup accelerator can be a great way to give your business a boost. With access to funding, mentorship, networking opportunities, and resources, you can get the support you need to take your business to the next level.
Considerations Before Joining a Startup Accelerator
The stage of your business is an important factor to consider before joining a startup accelerator. Most accelerators are designed for early-stage startups that have a prototype, a minimum viable product (MVP), or early traction.
If your business is already generating significant revenue or has raised a substantial amount of funding, joining an accelerator may not be the best fit for you.
Additionally, some accelerators specialize in certain industries or verticals. It’s important to research and find an accelerator that aligns with your business’s industry or niche.
Before joining an accelerator, it’s important to set clear goals and objectives for what you hope to achieve. This can include gaining access to mentorship, networking opportunities, and funding. Make sure the accelerator you choose aligns with your goals and can provide the resources you need to achieve them.
Joining an accelerator requires a significant time commitment. Accelerator programs typically last between three to six months and require full-time participation. Before applying, consider whether you and your team can commit to the program’s timeline and expectations.
Additionally, some accelerators require a certain level of participation, such as attending weekly meetings or completing specific milestones. Make sure you understand the accelerator’s expectations and requirements before applying.
Most accelerators require equity in exchange for participation in the program. The amount of equity varies by accelerator, so it’s important to understand the terms before applying. Additionally, some accelerators provide funding as part of the program. Make sure you understand the funding terms and any additional requirements, such as a demo day pitch or specific milestones, before accepting funding.
It’s also important to consider the long-term implications of giving up equity in your business. Make sure you understand the potential impact on your business’s growth and future funding rounds.
Overall, joining a startup accelerator can provide valuable resources and support for early-stage startups. However, it’s important to carefully consider your business’s stage, goals, time commitment, and equity and funding terms before applying.
How to Choose the Right Startup Accelerator
Choose a startup accelerator that aligns with your business goals and values. Check if the accelerator’s program and curriculum can help you achieve your specific business objectives. For example, if you’re looking to expand your network and gain more exposure, choose an accelerator with a strong alumni network and demo day. If you’re looking for mentorship and guidance, choose an accelerator with experienced mentors in your industry.
Look into the program structure and curriculum of the accelerator. Check if the program is tailored to your specific needs and if it provides the necessary resources and support for your business. For example, some accelerators offer workshops, mentorship, and networking events, while others may focus more on fundraising and pitching. It’s important to choose an accelerator that provides the support and resources that you need to succeed.
Choose an accelerator with a good reputation and track record. Look into the accelerator’s success stories and alumni network to see if they have a history of producing successful startups. Check if the accelerator has relationships with reputable investors and if they have a strong brand in the startup community. It’s important to choose an accelerator that has a proven track record of success.
List of Startup Accelerators in Canada
We’ve covered some of the best accelerators for Ontario-based businesses in this article. If you’re looking for a complete list of startup accelerators in Canada, check out these lists: