Propel ICT Retools Program to Help Companies Become Global Success Stories

Barry Bisson. Image: @bgbisson, Twitter

MONCTON – Propel ICT, Atlantic Canada’s tech accelerator, announced Monday that it will be changing its direction in 2018 with a new program.

While it finalizes the new program, the organization says it will not be running the existing Launch and Build programs during Spring 2018.

Propel ICT’s CEO Barry Bisson says the decision to create a new program came after he took the position last fall. He held more than 100 stakeholder meetings with the organization’s alumni, partners, funders, sponsors and the board and realized it was time for a complete redesign.

“We identified what we thought were the most compelling opportunities for our organization and that shaped a plan which is basically a major change in our programming going forward,” said Bisson in an interview with Huddle.

Bisson says the biggest issues people identified with Propel’s two current 12-week standalone programs, Launch and Build, was lack of continuity and integration.

“In each case, you come in, we work with you for 12 weeks, we wish you well and we may never see you again. If you think about the journey from having the eureka moment where you think you got a big idea all the way to the day where you have a very successful company, that’s a long journey and your needs are changing as you move down that path,” says Bisson.

“We feel that we needed better continuity in our programming and work with the founders and ventures over a longer period of time to get them to the point where they are in the position to raise some serious money to accelerate their growth and scale.”

Though specific details of the new program are still being finalized, Bisson says it will more virtual for participants.

“We are going to have some face-to-face programming. You need that to create the cohesiveness of a group and a peer-to-peer network,” he says.

“But we make our founders travel a lot. We take them away from their businesses. It’s expensive to travel and I think that we need to make our program more accessible by serving them where they are as opposed to making them come to us all the time.’

The new program will also be more customized to each founder and company. Bisson says much like teaching students in school, one approach doesn’t fit all.

The way they plan to do this is by making the program a year-long and separating it into three phases. The first is a pre-accelerator phase where Propel will assess the founder and the venture to see if they have potential to become  what Bisson calls a “very successful global company with a headquarters in Atlantic Canada.”

“Then if they graduate from that phase, they’ll enter a nine-month accelerator phase,” he says. “During that phase, the first thing we’ll do is sit down with the founder and we’ll do a personalized plan for both the founder and the founder’s venture, assessing where they are now, what their needs are.”

After the accelerator phase, Bisson says Propel will help participants land partnerships with large companies.

“In the third phase, we’ll see if we can broker a partnership between the early-stage company that we’ve been working with that has a compelling solution that could be adopted by a large established company that’s engaged in corporate innovation,” said Bisson.

“As the companies move through our nine-month accelerator, we’ll identify the companies that we think have what it takes to enter into a partnership with a large established company that’s looking for solutions in their own innovation programs and we’ll try to broker that partnership and prepare both sides of the partnership before they enter into it.”

Its new program will roll out in September 2018 and a call for applications will be announced in the spring. Bisson says building the new program has been an interesting process and is hopeful it will help more startups in Atlantic Canada become global players.

“It’s very interesting work and it’s so exciting in terms of the potential outcomes,” he said. “I hope when I retire from this job I’ll be able to pick up newspapers and read about companies that are very successful in the region that we had a role in helping them grow.”