Incubators are a bit like ducks.
Where ducks provide optimal warmth to hatch eggs into ducklings, incubators offer vital resources to hatch innovative ideas into booming businesses.
Choosing an incubator
At the RIC Centre, entrepreneurs can enter one of two incubator programs—the Incubator or the Incubator Plus.
Both the Incubator and Incubator Plus programs offer you guidance from over 100 advisors including Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, volunteer advisors, and industry experts — providing strategic support tailored for your startup needs.
Both programs also invite you to RIC Centre events. We host many events each month—from workshops to networking opportunities. Regular workshops comprise practice pitches for investors, sales and marketing workshops, and monthly Peer2Peer sessions.
Our biggest networking events include the First Look Angel Investor Meeting and the Champion Series Pitch Panels. Here, entrepreneurs gain connections with government funding as well as private investors.
We also host events like Driving Dreams—which gives startups the opportunity to stay up to date with emerging technologies.
But what’s unique about the Incubator Plus?
It’s in the Incubator Plus program where RIC Centre’s golden eggs are laid.
Here, startups become full-time tenants at the RIC Centre. Entrepreneurs are here every day, so they get more attention from advisors. They also gain private office spaces, conference rooms, and last but not least, lab spaces to develop and commercialize their tech innovations. Prices for dedicated office space and 100+ person conference rooms are lower than an average industry fee per co-working desk. The RIC Centre has these luxuries given its partnership with the Xerox Research Centre of Canada (XRCC).
So, you have an idea… where do you go from here?
At RIC Centre, startups grow over five stages: Idea, Discovery, Validation, Efficiency, and Scale.
In the last five years, RIC Centre has helped over forty startups achieve their business dreams via the incubator program. Below, we highlight two of those startups.
Working alongside RIC Centre advisors, Expancio and Justwealth matured their startups. Now, they’re venturing into the heart of the market and are becoming model franchises in their respective industries.
Peter Zheng founded his startup Expancio in late 2017. Expancio designs and develops Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) for businesses that want to engage modern consumers. PWAs are the newest generation of mobile apps. They are minimal-space, cost-efficient, and easy-to-use.
Most of Zheng’s clients are retailers and restaurant owners. But, wholesale, real estate, and education companies also express serious interest.
Zheng and Expancio joined the RIC Centre Incubator in February 2018.
In a few months, Expancio established a business pipeline grounded in solid content marketing. The startup accomplished this while working alongside Entrepreneurs-in-Residence like Paul Barter — whose extensive strategic marketing background elevated the Expancio brand.
The RIC Centre also drove more traffic and attention to Zheng’s brand by publishing company profiles, entrepreneur spotlights, and other blog posts. One recent blog post detailed the rise and function of PWAs.
Tenants get regular exposure through RIC Centre’s marketing channels, which Zheng admits was “important for Expancio.”
Since being spotlighted, Expancio immediately gained six new interested leads and one committed investor. And as more content gets published, Zheng believes the exposure will turn interested customers into committed ones.
Expancio also met with angel investors and industry experts through various RIC Centre events. They’ve now gained noteworthy interest from private investors. But with surging PWA enthusiasm, more interest will come sooner rather than later.
For the future, Expancio will scale their technology to businesses across Canada and around the globe. The company also projects to expand their client base tenfold by 2019.
After finishing product development, Expancio came with a finished product but needed help marketing their business. Since February, the company completed their system and market validation, finalized their commercial product, and established their clientele network. These are remarkable feats for Expancio — ones Zheng prefers not to claim without acknowledging the RIC Centre…
“RIC Centre is a great service for us…their Incubator program was, and still is, very helpful in marketing ourselves and planning resources.”
Justwealth is an online investment management platform — robo-advisor — that makes low-cost, professional investment advice available to the under-served and overcharged Canadian consumer.
Founded in 2015, Justwealth uses an intelligent algorithm to match each customer to a professionally-managed portfolio of ETFs (exchange-traded funds). Justwealth is differentiated from other robo-advisors by having the industry’s most comprehensive offering of portfolios, with 65 portfolios in five “families” (Canadian Growth, Global Growth, Income, US Growth, and RESPs). Many other robo-advisors only offer 5 or 10 portfolios to service all of their clients. Justwealth believes that is inadequate given the range of potential clients, their varied demographics, the different investment accounts available to them, their different investment horizons, as well as the diverse range of investment objectives that each client may have.
But the algorithm wouldn’t work without the team of financial experts behind it. Justwealth experts like Richard Burton-Williams, Head of Strategy and Partnerships, who brings 15+ years of finance industry experience in top firms across Canada and the US.
Ten years ago, we drove to video stores to rent movies. Now, people use the internet because it’s more efficient than manual methods. More and more services are transitioning to online mediums — and robo-advisors are proving exactly why.
As Mr. Burton-Williams says, “Robo-advisors leverage technology to effectively lower the barriers that previously prevented all Canadians from accessing professional investment management.”
Being a startup, Justwealth faced big challenges. Despite having industry-leading investment and finance experience, the team didn’t have the marketing and PR background to get their message out.
So, in the summer of 2017, Justwealth joined the Incubator Plus program.
Within a few months, Justwealth launched a new business line. They also gained critical exposure to consumers through profiles, articles, and networking events.
“Marketing exposure is a necessary aspect of business growth, and the RIC Centre executes…”
Justwealth’s growth far outpaced the robo-advisor industry last year and it is doing much of the same this year. In June 2018, the startup celebrated its biggest month ever.
Justwealth progressed through the Incubator milestones. They started from a single business line until entering Stage 3 (Efficiency). Now, Mr. Burton-Williams and Justwealth want to keep the ball rolling by expanding their B2B services and adding strategic investors.
While some development is still needed, Mr. Burton-Williams believes his company has surmounted these obstacles. Justwealth is now reaping the rewards, and the team labels the RIC Centre amongst the biggest reasons…
“To be honest, we have a great relationship with the RIC Centre… The ability to work together affordably is fantastic.”
The RIC Centre team is encouraged by Expancio, Justwealth, and all the other startups that advanced through the Incubator programs. We support startups with a team of over 100 business advisors and experts, access to funding & world-class advanced manufacturing facilities, and a network of industry partners. Above all else, we’re proud ducks who get to see young startups spread their wings.
The RIC Centre is currently welcoming new startup applicants for the Incubator Program, with 2018 summer submission deadline set for July 4. If you’ve got an innovative idea you wish to grow, submit your application here.