The federal government has pledged another $264,000 to extend Communitech’s Fierce Founders Accelerator program for women entrepreneurs into 2019.
The funding, from the government’s FedDev Ontario regional agency, builds on a previous FedDev investment of $880,000 in 2016, which aimed to help about 20 women-led companies over two years.
Fierce Founders has delivered on that support, helping 19 startups find their footing with seed funding, training and mentorship. Those companies have created more than 60 new full-time jobs and appear to have inspired other women to start companies, with women now occupying leadership roles at more than 27 per cent of Communitech member startups, up from nine per cent three years ago.
Raj Saini, MP for Kitchener Centre, announces $264,000 in new funding
for Communitech’s Fierce Founders Accelerator. (Communitech photo:
“Here at Communitech, the Fierce Founders Accelerator is playing an important role in helping to increase the representation of women in business,” said Raj Saini, MP for Kitchener Centre, who made Friday’s announcement on behalf of Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. “The support women-led startups are receiving from this program is impressive.”
The announcement followed on from last February’s federal budget, in which the government highlighted the success of Fierce Founders in establishing its first Women Entrepreneurship Strategy. At that time, substantial new support was announced for women entrepreneurs, including:
- An increase in the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) Women in Tech Fund to $200 million from $70 million, and increased financing for women entrepreneurs overall, with $1.4 billion over three years to be offered through BDC’s lending programs
- $105 million over five years to support the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy through Canada’s Regional Development agencies such as FedDev Ontario
- $10 million over five years to provide expanded export services to scaling companies led by women
- Increased efforts to improve diversity in private venture capital firms, including through an ongoing focus on diversity at firms that want to participate in the government’s Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative announced in the 2017 budget
Amanie Ismail, Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of Meya.ai, spoke to the value of the accelerator at Friday’s announcement.
“I just went through the last cohort of Fierce Founders, and I found it to be a very, very enriching experience,” Ismail said, citing the connections her company was able to make with the local tech community, mentors with practical expertise and other women-led companies.
“I’m really excited for this next cohort,” she said. “I think it’s going to be amazing, and I hope they find it as helpful and as useful as we did.”
In thanking the government for its ongoing support, Communitech’s Chief Strategy Officer, Avvey Peters, cited the value of boosting the numbers of women and other underrepresented groups in business.
“We know at Communitech that companies that are led by diverse teams are smarter and stronger and they grow more quickly than others,” Peters said. “So it makes sense to us to make sure that every entrepreneur in Waterloo Region has the opportunity to participate, not just in this ecosystem, but to contribute to the economy.”