Innovators are facing incredibly tough market conditions: record inflation, an economic downturn, a competitive talent market and shrinking venture capital dollars — not to mention Silicon Valley Bank making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Entrepreneurs need every morsel of support they can get.
For companies that have moved past the seed and series-A funding stages, success can be likened to reaching base camp. The technology is proven and customers are on board, but there’s still a long, uphill journey to the entrepreneurial summit. Sollum Technologies is a perfect example. The Montreal-based company creates smart lighting systems that help greenhouse growers optimize their crops, no matter the cloud cover. Sollum’s dynamic lighting solution is up-and-running in roughly 20 greenhouses in Ontario and Quebec, and it’s now looking to scale.
“Business headlines make it seem as if startups everywhere are raising money, when in reality it’s only a few — fundraising is always a challenge,” says CEO and co-founder Louis Brun. “For Sollum, we need to accelerate the adoption of our technology, develop traction outside Ontario and Quebec and keep improving.”
To help ventures navigate this treacherous terrain, MaRS is launching a new program. The Growth Acceleration Program — a multi-sector initiative — is designed to support the executives of scaling, high-growth companies on their way to reaching $20 million in revenue within two years.
“Most growth acceleration programs are usually designed for pre-series A or for companies at a much later stage,” says Krista Jones, chief delivery officer, ventures and ecosystems at MaRS. “We’re seeing the need to double down for successful, scaling companies at this in-between stage.”
Funded by FedDev Ontario, eligible ventures will receive access to one-on-one experts who advise on strategies for revenue and growth, talent acquisition and retention, international expansion as well as marketing and branding. In addition, executives are given data-driven diagnostic and insight tools, access to a peer community as well as PR and media opportunities.
Through her work with hundreds of ventures, Jones has seen the urgent need for this kind of tailored support for Canada’s innovation economy. “This is essential for the long-term survival of our companies,” she says. “What we’re seeing now in the market underscores that necessity. This program will allow ventures to maximize valuation and revenue in current conditions.”
Sollum’s CEO says that with the help of MaRS, the company is positioned to become a market leader. “We’ve secured a $30-million round, so we have the money, the market is there and we have the customer reference — everything is aligned,” says Brun. “This is our moonshot, now it’s time to stick the landing.”
Zak Lefevre agrees. The CEO and co-founder of ChargeLab spearheads a successful software venture that helps streamline EV charging platforms. Faced with the challenge of ensuring his small company keeps pace with a booming market, Lefevre says the advisors at MaRS and its Growth Acceleration Program are critical in helping him prepare for what’s next.
“They’ve pushed us to think about scalability — it’s like growing into the next size of shoes as it were,” says Lefevre. “They are pushing us toward bigger opportunities and to capitalize on revenue streams and partnerships, which has been really important.”
Growth Acceleration Program offers ventures an opportunity to learn how to prepare — not react — to an unpredictable market, says Jones. “At this point, the next crisis could very well be around the corner,” she says. “We give startups the business fundamentals to optimize their growth in whatever market condition happens.”
Learn more and apply to the Growth Acceleration Program.
Photo illustration: Monica Guan, Photo credit: Kelvin Li