Alberta entrepreneurs and innovators accelerate at North America’s largest tech and innovation conference
In March 2023, 50 high potential Alberta ventures will travel to SXSW in Austin, TX with a shared mission to accelerate their growth trajectory by connecting with investors, customers and strategic partners. The companies are graduates of Alberta Innovates’ Scale-up and Growth Accelerator Program and represent the province’s strength in agri-food, sustainability, health, and digital technologies sectors. These Alberta entrepreneurs are both ready and interested in expanding in the U.S. market, and in bringing investment back to the province.
The Alberta Scaleup and Growth Accelerator Program attracts home-grown entrepreneurs and others around the world with the twin aims of growing international collaborations and attracting capital to Alberta’s ecosystem. The program involves a consortium led by Alberta Innovates and includes all three orders of government – federal, provincial, and municipal. Together these partners have allocated $35 million over the three-year program to retain five business accelerators to train and grow companies. The accelerators have just completed their first year of programming.
Alberta Innovates also supports the alumni network which offers business development, networking, and growth connection opportunities at local and global events, such as SXSW. This year’s conference was targeted as North America’s premier gathering of people and platforms that are driving the world’s next wave of tech innovation.
Prepared for success
Considerable effort has gone into preparing the companies going to SXSW to take full advantage of the opportunity. “From sharpening their pitches, attending workshops, and receiving one-on-one coaching, they’ve all put in the work,” said Laura Kilcrease, CEO of Alberta Innovates. “During their six days in Austin, the companies will attend curated one-on-one meetings, participate in invitation-only networking events with potential U.S. investors, customers and partners, and take in workshops and events at SXSW. Building global business networks will help these Alberta companies scale up much faster.”
The Alberta-Austin connection
Prior to her appointment as CEO of Alberta Innovates, Laura Kilcrease was a driving force in Austin’s technology and innovation community. She founded the Austin Technology Incubator, co-founded the Austin Technology Council, and served as executive director of the University of Texas IC2 Institute’s Center for Commercialization and Enterprise, along with her venture capital prowess. Her support of innovation and entrepreneurship played a key role in changing Austin’s economy from oil dependency to high-tech prosperity, helping Austin become the number-one city for entrepreneurs to live and work in the U.S.
“There are many similarities between Austin and Alberta,” Kilcrease notes. “Both grew up based on natural resources and have continued to pivot into innovation and technology at all levels and stages. They both have highly educated populations and phenomenal research universities that can support tech growth.”
She has high hopes for the entrepreneurs participating. “Everyone will benefit – ideally it will be through a new customer, a new investor, a new learning, or a new node to their network that will be important to their future growth. We’re creating successful entrepreneurs, but we really want them to be serial entrepreneurs who mentor others in the future.”
Here are just a few of the companies that will be showcasing the innovation coming out of Alberta.
Alto — “We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from Alberta Innovates. They’re making sure we have the tools and the know-how to do this the right way,” said Hadi Taherian, co-founder and CEO of Alto. The health tech startup helps families find trusted, vetted home care providers faster, cheaper, and safer, making it easier for seniors and individuals with disabilities to receive care at home. Taherian is eager to participate in the one-on-one meetings with potential investors or partners, and to get more familiar with the market in the U.S. “It’s not something you can just read about—spending some time there and meeting in person is so valuable.”
Digital Carbon — The Calgary-based sustainability technology company promotes itself as the world’s first joint venture enabled emissions management platform. Their carbon+ platform manages and validates clients’ emissions and reductions to generate high-quality offsets. They then facilitate the allocation of emission reductions between joint venture partners and provides a platform to sell those offsets. “SXSW is a big deal for a startup to go to,” said Brian Mellor, co-founder of Digital Carbon Bank, whose company has offered to donate carbon credits to make the delegation carbon neutral. “The networking opportunities for mobilizing our product in a new U.S. market are exciting. To have Alberta Innovates help in setting up meetings with project developers, offset buyers, and investors over a short period of time can help us grow.”
Propra — “Alberta Innovates has provided us with valuable training, resources, and guidance, helping us navigate the challenges of starting and growing a company and connecting us with important industry contacts and investors,” said Al-Karim Khimji, co-founder and CEO of Propra. The company automates residential property management, creating end-to-end software built for landlords and tenants, and is looking to grow across Canada and expand into the U.S. “SXSW is a premier event and launching point for many successful household names,” said Khimji. “Attending with a peer group and the support of Alberta Innovates gives us the special and unique opportunity to showcase Propra to a global audience, increasing our visibility and helping us build valuable relationships with potential customers, investors and partners.”
OneCup AI Livestock ID — Inspired by CEO Mokah Shmigelsky’s family background in ranching and farming, OneCup AI is using computer vision and artificial intelligence to help farmers and ranchers manage the health of their herds. The Bovine Expert Tracking and Surveillance (BETSY) application uses facial recognition cameras and creates individual IDs for each animal and tracks health, growth, nutrition, activity, and phenotypes. BETSY will also send notifications when an emergency arises—such as when a calf is in breech, or a predator is in the yard. “I’m looking forward to the networking opportunities as well as getting to know the industry in the Texas market a bit better as we plan to scale into the U.S. market,” says Shmigelsky. “I would love to see all the delegate companies achieve successful outcomes from their attendance and put Alberta on the map as an innovative province to create technology from.”