Five years, 25 graduates, 130 new products and services to market, $22 million in generated revenue, nine million users engaged, and 168 jobs created. These remarkable tallies, as of July 2022, speak to the success of WEtech Alliance’s award-winning ScaleUP Tech Accelerator Program.
Powered by Libro Credit Union, the ScaleUP Tech Accelerator Program takes five selected tech or tech-related businesses from the Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent areas and puts them through a four-month sprint that provides growth coaching, expert insight, strategic planning, and financial assistance to help them scale.
With market data pointing to uncertain economic conditions for 2023 and 2024, ScaleUP cohort six, in partnership with Invest WindsorEssex, will shift the delivery of the program’s resources to provide critical insights and tools for preparedness.
“Thinking back to the early days of our business, starting a business is an uphill battle and a journey, many don’t realize what is involved,” explains MobiStream Solutions CEO and co-founder Nick Scozzaro. “Aside from having a few customers, a proven technology, and the opportunity to scale, there were a lot of gaps in our evolving business. We simply didn’t know what we didn’t know.”
MobiStream Solutions is a team of global software development professionals who specialize in the mobile sector. They have the distinction of participating in the first ever ScaleUP cohort. At the culmination of each cohort, the soon-to-be ScaleUP graduates participate in a final pitch session before members of the Windsor Essex Capital Angel Network (WECAN) and the Regional Alliance of Windsor-Essex for a chance to receive a capital injection to benefit their future forward strategy.
“Being a part of and winning the first ScaleUP cohort truly was the starting point of our business,” praises Scozzaro. “ScaleUP helped us understand all aspects of our operations. Many technologists who start a company with an idea or product often lack some of the most important understandings of building a business. We learned the fundamentals of sales, marketing, finance, customer success, legal, and insurance. To be honest, it was a bit overwhelming, but the WEtech team and mentors were with us every step of the way. Regardless of their workload, we always felt supported. They had an amazing network of experts we could tap into for any topic, including several organizations within the community we were introduced to for sales opportunities and other businesses that could support our growth.”
Scozzaro praises the benefits of the ScaleUP program. “As CEO and co-founder of a Canadian technology company, I have seen many ideas and products disappear because the business around that product did not exist. The ScaleUP program is designed specifically to position a business to scale by building the foundation on which the company will grow.”
Over the course of their four month sprint, the selected participants of ScaleUP’s upcoming sixth cohort will have the opportunity to leverage WEtech Alliance’s business acceleration resources and global network of growth coaches, experts and collaborators.
“As a start-up, we thoroughly enjoyed getting the opportunity to first work with the amazing team at WEtech through their ScaleUP Tech Accelerator Program back in 2019,” states Cedar Valley Selections founder and president Ameen Fadel. “Although we weren’t awarded the top prize, we found a ton of value from completing the program, and have been able to continuously work with the WEtech team in many different ways since then.”
Cedar Valley Selections, founded by Fadel at 16 years old as a high school project, is a food processor and manufacturer, and graduate of ScaleUP’s second cohort.
“Through the ScaleUP program, we were able to take a deep dive into every aspect of our business at the very early stages of our company. WEtech brought in and connected us with specific industry advisors and experts who were able to help us further identify key opportunity areas for success, and specific tactics we could implement and utilize to really scale our business in an effective and feasible manner. We also had the opportunity to meet and pitch to multiple potential investors and get incredible feedback on our overall business strategy.”
Fadel’s products are now available in a wide variety of Canadian grocery stores for all to taste and enjoy.
“The folks at WEtech are extremely knowledgeable and truly eager to help start-ups in our community,” states Fadel. “We would highly recommend the ScaleUP Tech Accelerator Program to any start-ups looking to take their business to the next level and unlock incredibly valuable resources, money, and experts, for free!”
The success of the ScaleUP Tech Accelerator Program is undeniable. More than two dozen local businesses have benefited from its resources and expertise. In 2020, Libro Credit Union received the Concentra’s Empower Your Community Award on behalf of ScaleUP, which secured a $10,000 grant for the program.
“With the resources WEtech Alliance and ScaleUP gave us we were able to build our MVP (minimum viable product) CapacityM platform and connect with hundreds of manufacturing companies around the region and further,” explains Minds On Fire CEO Marcus Gaughan, who participated in ScaleUP’s third cohort. Joining the ScaleUP program and building this relationship with WEtech and their network has been an incredible experience.”
In all, the in-kind resources made available to businesses that participate in ScaleUP are valued at up to $78,000 per participant, but, additionally, another $500,000 of available software and technology discounts are available through WEtech Alliance’s exclusive Client Perks program.
StrongerU Senior Fitness founder Emily Johnson says that the hands-on help she received through the program from WEtech Alliance made the experience enjoyable.
“As a founder, you’re always in the thick of it, so ScaleUP was a great opportunity to have someone else take a strategic look at the business and suggest areas where we can make improvements and try new things,” explains Johnson, who participated in the latest cohort. “It was also really great to connect with the other founders and learn from what others were going through and work together as well.”
StrongerU Senior Fitness is a “training as a service” model business that virtually educates recreation instructors from all over the world on senior fitness routines.
Johnson says that ScaleUP helped her find ways to operate her business faster and better.
“One way was adopting HubSpot for our CRM (customer relationship management). Prior to ScaleUP, I was just using an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of customers and people in my pipeline. Through the program, they showed me how to use HubSpot and that was one of the biggest game-changers for our sales process.”
Johnson explains that HubSpot, combined with the work they did on the customer and sales journey, has had a continuous effect on the performance of her company.
“We saw continued sales coming in from that, from keeping track of the customer journey better, and pushing them through the pipeline. Now, because our business has grown, we’re able to make hires in our customer engagement and sales departments and we continue to see those sales grow, and people using HubSpot, as well as the other processes we developed through that time.”
“I would highly recommend the ScaleUP program. It was a really great use of time. That’s something else that founders struggle with—is the program going to be a good use of my time? It was definitely a really, really good program.”
“It was a fun activity to get the company back out there and meet other entrepreneurs and to hear their stories,” says iDream Interactive founder and CEO Jacob Duhaime. “The biggest takeaway for us was to go through a process—getting back to those roots of looking at your business and understanding it from the standpoint of ‘Is this something that could be successful?'”
Duhaime explains that part of the allure during the fourth cohort of ScaleUP was meeting other entrepreneurs, after 15 years of hard work and focus, and seeing what the business community is up to.
“It was inspiring to me, just to get back out there and meet new people that I may not have necessarily met,” states Duhaime. “It was about sparking that excitement for what you’re doing and being inspired by our peers. By the end of it, I really liked everybody’s proposals—their ideas and concepts—I was just going to give everybody the money if I won. I would have split it evenly among everybody, because they inspired me. I thought it would be a good way to pay that back.”
If your business is ready for a ScaleUP, there is still time to apply to be considered for the sixth cohort of the program.
“Before planning the ScaleUP cohort every year, our team sits down to look at the data from our portfolio, our client roundtables, our annual survey, and at the micro and macro economic trends affecting business in our region. We use that information to identify the business needs we’re best suited to assist with, and we build our plan accordingly,” says Adam Castle, Director of Venture Services at WEtech Alliance.
“This year’s theme is all about resilience. The strongest and most innovative companies find ways to thrive during times of economic uncertainty because they plan for it,” Castle adds. “We want to give this year’s cohort all of the tools necessary to chart a sustainable course through even the most turbulent of waters.”
Learn more about the ScaleUP Tech Accelerator program at www.wetech-alliance.com/scaleup.
Devan Mighton grew up north in Grey County but has called Windsor home for almost two decades. A dedicated father and sports coach, he has worked as a writer and sports photographer for over five years. Currently a freelance writer with WEtech Alliance and The Drive Magazine, he has worked as a regular contributor with TorStar Local online publications, the LaSalle Post, Tecumseh Shoreline Week, and the Lakeshore News, among a number of other publications.