SME Growth | Accelerators: to take a step forward

Your business is off to a good start, but you need a helping hand to propel it to its full potential. Being part of an accelerator can be the solution to better advance in the next steps of your business plan.

Posted at 2:00 p.m.

Caroline Rodgers
special collaboration

What is an accelerator?

It is a support structure for companies by different methods, by specialists, with the aim of bringing them into a phase of development or growth. Generally, accelerators operate in the form of cohorts which follow a program of a predetermined duration. “Traditionally, they can be used to drive marketing, business development and sales to accelerate business growth,” says Richard Chénier, CEO of Centech.


Richard Chénier, CEO of Centech

What is the difference between an incubator and an accelerator?

“The incubator is the gateway for those who have an idea and want to turn it into a project. These are fairly long programs, which can last up to three years, and are often associated with a physical presence on site,” explains Florence Gauthier, support program manager at L’Esplanade. “To enter an accelerator, you must already be in a development phase, for example validation, commercialization or growth, and it is shorter, i.e. three to eight months, with the objective of accelerating the company. »

Who are the accelerators for?

“To be part of a cohort, you must already have a team, be experts in the problem you want to work on, and have started working on a prototype or a solution,” says Florence Gauthier.

What are the advantages ?

“Companies that integrate an accelerator save time, because they work to better prioritize the actions that will have an impact on their development. The external point of view of specialists helps entrepreneurs put their energy in the right place,” says Florence Gauthier.

“The survival rate of businesses that have been supported by teams is higher,” says Solenne Savoia, program manager at L’Esplanade. It’s important to have a framework and tools, and to be accompanied helps to avoid mistakes. We have a 95% survival rate. »

Are they open to any type of business?

In Montreal, most accelerators have specific missions and are aimed at companies in one or more sectors of activity. For example, L’Esplanade supports organizations that have a social and environmental impact in the priority sectors of the environment and climate change, health and food systems. At Centech, we are targeting innovative manufacturing, transport logistics, energy and the environment, telecommunications and medical devices. However, in the regions, the accelerators are more generalist because the pool of entrepreneurs is weaker.

Does the accelerator provide capital?

Some accelerators offer scholarships and other one-off funding, but their role is more to support companies to obtain funding with the help of their experts and financial analysts. “We are connected to the entire innovation funding ecosystem in Quebec,” says Solenne Savoia. We are constantly sent funding opportunities that we can redirect to the projects concerned, and also help them in submitting their applications. »

Criteria for being admitted by an accelerator?

“The first criterion is the team of entrepreneurs,” says Richard Chénier. Are they committed to the project? Are they able to execute their game plan? In technology, we also look at the export potential of the product, if it really meets a need and if we think it will have traction on the market. »

“The innovative aspect and the growth potential are important,” says Solenne Savoia. The expertise of the teams too, but another important point is the ability of these entrepreneurs to be accompanied by being attentive and open to the advice given to them. »

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