Communitech launched its HYPERDRIVE incubator with a bang today, unveiling the first cohort of startups the new program aims to build into world-class companies.

“This is what all the excitement has been about – the applications have been evaluated, the prospects have been interviewed and the companies have been selected,” said Iain Klugman, CEO of Communitech. “Now it’s time to show the tech world HYPERDRIVE in action.”

Backed by more than $30 million from an array of top investors, HYPERDRIVE is Waterloo Region’s response to the need for a home-grown support system for high-potential startups from around the world.

"We did it to provide financing and access to expert mentors to help grow startups into world-class companies, and to give them an edge over the competition they're facing,” said Steve Currie, Communitech’s Vice-President, Venture Services.

"It's in response to the growing availability of (accelerator) programs in the U.S. and around the world,” Currie said. “We want to foster success stories here in Canada."

HYPERDRIVE starts with a now-familiar component of these other programs – an initial three-month sprint in which companies must validate their concept before pitching for further capital – and adds 21 months of in-house mentorship and services aimed at preparing companies to scale up with a Series-A investment round.

This “lifecycle” approach to startup development, Currie said, recognizes the fact that it takes longer than three months to build a sustainable company, and meshes with the all-in approach to startup support for which Communitech has become known in Waterloo Region.

"We're focusing on the companies really acting and behaving like businesses from the beginning, so we're involving third parties all the way through the program and having the companies make business decisions all along the path,” Currie said.

The seven companies in HYPERDRIVE’s first cohort, introduced today before a crowd of dignitaries at the Communitech Hub, are:

- Buildcircle, a cloud-based software service that streamlines bid management for construction contractors;

- Coachd, a mobile app that allows sports fans and amateur athletes to be coached through workouts by professional athletes;

- Killer Giveaways, a marketing service that enables small businesses to offer expensive giveaways at low cost;

- SimplicityVMS, a software service to help companies better manage their use of temporary and contract employees;

- StampMee Inc., a mobile customer-loyalty app that replaces paper stamp cards; and

- Will Pwn 4 Food, a gaming-for-money platform that pays players with actual cash and prizes.

- A numbered company, founded by Brett Shellhammer and Eric Apps, that will remain in stealth mode until later this summer.

Ivan Lukianchuk, founder of Will Pwn 4 Food, said HYPERDRIVE will give him a chance to build his company while helping to raise the profile of Waterloo Region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Long known for its pool of engineering talent emanating from Lukianchuk’s alma mater, the University of Waterloo, the region has until recently been lesser known for its thriving startup scene, which now includes more than 400 active early-stage companies.

“HYPERDRIVE was the perfect opportunity for me make a big impact for both the region and my startup without having to heed the siren call of [Silicon] Valley,” he said.

HYPERDRIVE participants will be housed in the Communitech Hub in the former Lang Tannery in Kitchener. Each will receive $55,000 on entry, and those who successfully complete the three-month sprint are eligible for a $150,000 convertible note. When ready to scale, companies can then pitch for up to $500,000 from a slate of VCs.

Funding partners include the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund, OMERS Ventures, iNovia Capital, Rho Canada Ventures, BDC Venture Capital, Canrock Ventures, Research In Motion, Canadian Youth Business Foundation and Ontario Centres of Excellence.

HYPERDRIVE companies can also receive up to $100,000 worth of in-kind services, such as legal advice and help with accounting.

A network of more than 100 world-class mentors, led by head coaches Ted Hastings and Steven Woods, will advise HYPERDRIVE entrepreneurs. Companies will also have access to soft-landing opportunities in New York City and other markets through Communitech’s links abroad.

The program is open to applicants anywhere in the world, and has capacity to admit up to 30 companies per year for the next three years, spread over three intakes per year. Further details can be found on the HYPERDRIVE site.