Edmonton Champions & Flightpath Accelerator

Last week my company Yardstick Software became a major sponsor of an initiative called Edmonton Champions. Beyond that, myself, my business partner Don Riep, and our Mayor Stephen Mandel became the first three of what will be ten seed investors in an Accelerator Investment Fund called Flightpath. I am not writing simply to congratulate ourselves, although we are very proud of our investment; but more to demonstrate our commitment to a privately-led startup, arts and culture, and entrepreneur ecosystem in Edmonton.

Edmonton Champions is basically an umbrella organization which has two key event driven silos:

artScene Edmonton
Startup Edmonton
Behind the Scenes (Exclusive arts awareness events) DemoCamp (Tech product demo’s & networking)
TedX Edmonton (Idea event) StartUp Series (Workshops & networking)
BoardLink Live (Volunteer connector event) LaunchParty (Flagship networking, awareness event)
artScene Parties (Recurring networking events) StartUp Weekend (Camp/product build event)
Founders & Funders (Connector event)
Pitch Night (Funding events)

What I have always found fascinating, is that the organizations above, and the people behind them, have largely been created by a small group of passionate Edmontonians. They do not have third party funding, they do not have staff, and they do not have complicated structures, boards of directors, etc. These are citizen driven initiatives focused on connecting Quality of Life with our Emerging Knowledge Economy Industry.

Simply put, Edmonton Champions is building an Entrepreneur Ecosystem:

Entrepreneur Ecosystem Diagram - Edmonton Champions

The organizers behind Edmonton Champions understands the value of innovative events, and not boring or tedious “meetings”. These organizations deliver two very strong advantages, over traditional “Economic Diversification” organizations:

  • They focus on building databases mailing lists of “Next Gen” community members by offering fun and cool events worth attending
  • They are actually building a more livable City by holding events that make Edmonton more attractive to “Emerging Economy” professionals.

It’s not that we don’t need traditional economic diversification organizations, we need that type of infrastructure now more than ever. But in Edmonton, where we spend a purported $1 Billion a year on research at our University alone, those organizations like TEC Edmonton, EEDC, the Edmonton research Park and Alberta Innovates are focused on the larger, usually “patentable” innovation in the areas of bio-tech, pharma, nano, alternative energy, etc.

The beauty of Edmonton Champions, and the Flightpath accelerator fund, is the focus on emerging entrepreneurs in areas of software development, design and the arts, where large Venture Capital and Edmonton’s traditional Angel Investors are reticent to fund. Flightpath will actually makes those communities stronger by providing better deal-flow up the investment food chain. Also important to this food-chain is knowing that 10 new companies a year have received the mentor-ship an vetting necessary to qualify them for that next round of funding if necessary.

Edmonton is an exciting place for entrepreneurs, and Edmonton Champions is doing some amazing work to make Edmonton the City of Champions 2.0. Accelerators are not a new model, and best of breed examples like Y Combinator and Techstars are setting the pace. In my opinion there is no reason why Edmonton can’t be as successful in a Canadian context.

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