Starting a business and keeping it going is tough. Starting a business and keeping it going during a pandemic is even more challenging. Alberta Innovates, Alberta's innovation engine is working to solve today's challenges, create new opportunities and build a healthy, sustainable and prosperous future for Albertans today and for generations to come. Support for Alberta SMEs Funding from the federal government via the Western Economic Diversification fund, has allowed Alberta Innovates to provide much needed support and resources for small-to-medium sized tech businesses (SMEs) impacted by Covid-19. Some of that funding was focused on 26 Alberta SMEs who were immersed in a pilot, the Alberta Innovation Network GrowthX Program (AIN GrowthX). A unique opportunity to intentionally build a framework to grow their business during a time of increased stress and vulnerability. The AIN GrowthX Program stemmed from the internationally recognized GrowthX Market Acceleration Program, originally built and operated by GrowthX Capital for its portfolio companies and later expanded globally to help all founders go to market and find product-market fit. There was a lack of real programming and any framework for helping entrepreneurs go to market. Too many programs focus on helping founders raise money, rather than helping them make money and train local coaches to build a self-sustaining ecosystem. This is how the pilot program came to fruition within the Alberta tech ecosystem. In years past, launching start-ups to the next level hinged on the cost for product development, technology support and product talent. Today, those factors are significantly diminished with plenty of talent and the cost of product development and technology greatly reduced. So, what's the next step to success for these entrepreneurs? Market development. The founders GrowthX founders Andrew Goldner and Max Menke built the Market Acceleration Program (MXP) in 2015 to help them identify, qualify and earn investment opportunities for their Venture Capital fund and to de-risk those investments. "As Innovation investors in this Age of Applied Technology, it made no sense to us that people who know how to build products and start a company are called 'founders' but people who know how to market and sell products and start a company are relegated to a second-class status of 'non-technical founder'. In our view, it's not dog food until we see a dog eating it!", said Goldner who started his career as a lawyer with the tech industry back in 1998. The AIN GrowthX Program is currently running from December to the end of March. The four-month plus intensive online program combines live coaching with on-demand instruction and pairs each entrepreneur with local business coaches from the eight Regional Innovation Networks, supported by Alberta Innovates, who themselves are being trained up to become go-to-market experts. Early success in the program has already resulted in participating companies connecting with relevant top investors. "Early-stage investor readiness is the natural byproduct of customers and revenue, and we are already seeing promising investment opportunities that we are evaluating and who we have introduced to other financial and strategic investors." The entrepreneurs The program was open to Alberta technology companies which had a product or service for sale and a team willing to learn how to grow their business further. Entrepreneurs were asked to complete an Ideal Customer Profile and a Market Readiness Assessment which became the basis for selection by the GrowthX team. With a total of 26 companies, 11 originated from Edmonton, 11 from Calgary, and four came from rural areas. "In any economic environment, the GrowthX Market Acceleration Program cuts through the clutter and focuses entrepreneurial attention on what matters most early in the lifecycle of a start-up: product-market fit. Consider yourself fortunate if you have the opportunity to be a GrowthX participant." - J.F. (Jake) Burlet, DVM, MBA, ICD.D (CEO, CanBiocin) "The knowledge we have acquired through this program has not only made an immediate impact in our business but will continue to make a lasting impact as we grow. I highly recommend the GrowthX Program as it brings together expertise, experience and insight that can be difficult to come across." - Umair Tazeem (Founder, Embold Inc. ) The coaches Early success in the program wouldn't have taken place without the direction and expertise of the coaches who are instrumental in the mentoring of the entrepreneurs. Coaches are selected based on their ability to listen, inspire and provide seasoned advice. It's why Alberta Innovates relied heavily on their already built-in leadership with the Regional Innovation Networks. "The combination of Alberta-based coaches and the GrowthX team working side by side allows Alberta to grow its knowledge and coaching capacity while also growing companies." - Carla Otto, Director Regional Innovation, Alberta Innovates "Having coached over 250 founders in the past two years, I've seen that poor product-market fit is often at the root of their problems. The GrowthX Market Acceleration Program provides practical tools and processes to guide founders toward optimal product-market fit. I highly recommend this invaluable accelerator for any and all start-ups." - Brian Donaldson, Technology Leader, Entrepreneur, Mentor. "Max and Andrew clearly know what they're doing and their passion around this program is evident. What I like about it, running an accelerator myself, is the focus on going super deep on market traction. It's a no-holds-barred deep dive into who you sell to, getting proof from that specific buyer, tailoring materials, meetings, and your team." - Colin Christensen, CEO Fuse42 Accelerator Live coaching, on-demand instruction and interactive tools teach entrepreneurs to move up to product-market fit. Meet the companies on March 31st As a wrap-up to the four-month AIN GrowthX Program, a free online event is scheduled on March 31st . All entrepreneurs, coaches and potential investors will be on hand for a two-hour event. It's an opportunity to hear from some of Alberta's best, brightest and up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Information on the upcoming event will be available through Eventbrite on March 1st . Visit the web page for more information on the AIN GrowthX Program.