The Communitech Hub: Digital Media & Mobile Accelerator

The Province of Ontario is supporting a new commercialization centre that will help digital media entrepreneurs build new companies and create jobs. The province plans to invest more than $26 million in The Communitech Hub: Digital Media & Mobile Accelerator, a new centre that will help emerging digital media companies grow and succeed in the global market. In particular, The Hub will look beyond the entertainment sector to focus on companies creating hardware and software for industries, including advanced manufacturing, healthcare and finance. Based in Waterloo Region, The Hub expects thousands of jobs could be created over the first five years by serving entrepreneurs across the province.

It seems to me that these types of incubators can be successful but in the case of New Brunswick if I were recommending something like this I would target entrepreneurs in New Brunswick and beyond.  Waterloo is teeming with talented software types that have built their careers inside larger firms and may now be ready to move out of RIM, Google, Adobe, Siebel, Sybase, McAfee and others* into their own venture.  I’m not sure targeting kids right out of school for this type of activity is the best move.

*According to Communitech there are 30 publicly traded IT firms in the Waterloo area.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if New Brunswick had five or six?

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8 Responses to The Communitech Hub: Digital Media & Mobile Accelerator

  1. We’re only 740,000 people and have too many government agencies and quasi-govt economic development agencies that get in the way.

    What’s the USP for New Brunswick? Until that’s clear, we won’t attract these types of entrepreneurs.

  2. mikel says:

    As David says, the entrepreneurs will come out of these companies, although SOME will come out of the university. NB doesn’t have the companies OR the university calibre hardware engineers with the knowledge OR connections to make a go. However, every little bit can help. Any kind of ‘incubation centre’ that can reach out to the public and offer a REAL service would be welcome. When I was in NB and had no hope of a job, I routinely scanned the “Small business Opportunities” magazines to find something worth making a go. Had even SOME consulting been available I wouldn’t have picked an industry that, as David says, only services the local economy.

    Keep in mind though that SOME of this is simply the government trying to look like its doing something in the face of recession. Waterloo already built a ‘commercialization centre’ in a brand new building that could not be filled and is now rented to already established companies who rent for a song because no NEW entrepreneurs could be found to fill it.

  3. anonymoose says:

    @mikel

    Waterloo already built a ‘commercialization centre’ in a brand new building that could not be filled and is now rented to already established companies who rent for a song because no NEW entrepreneurs could be found to fill it.

    The great thing about the internet is there’s always someone local to the story who can tell you what’s happening behind the curtain.

  4. Samonymous says:

    How ’bout trying to break the ice and get just one new one before the end of 2010. Without dangling out gov’t cash.

    Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? 😉

  5. Gary Will says:

    @anonymoose
    Actually, I think it’s a safe bet that you’ll never see any local “behind the curtains” stories on this topic. There is no commercialization centre in Waterloo “rented to already established companies who rent for a song.” The only correct part of that comment is that there is indeed an existing commercialization facility in Waterloo and this project will create a second one (in Kitchener, which is a meaningful difference locally, but not something likely to be of interest of anyone else) managed by a different government-backed organization. The current centre is full of over 25 real startups who actually pay a pretty high premium per sq ft to be in the building. When it first opened, 3-4 years ago, that definitely wasn’t the case, and maybe that’s what Mikel’s thinking of. But things have changed. It’s been at capacity for at least two years and has been looking to expand.

  6. Anon says:

    Nova Scotia seems to have a good approach. Though they don’t have an incubation complex, I have seen them helping the small companies while trying to attract the larger ones like they just landed. You do what you can I guess?

  7. mikel says:

    Gary is HALF right, it is true that its been two years since I was in the building, and it was true then, but he’s right, its now full and its worth taking a detailed look at.

    For funding, about half of them are funded through the ‘Ontario Centres of Excellence’, that means public funding, that means government. I’m aware of no similar type project in New Brunswick. Another active supporting group is the Angel Investors, thats private investment in new startups that MAY succeed but may not-‘sober steering’ is definitely the kind of company you can imagine being on ‘dragons den’.

    Only a couple appear to be from people who have left other companies, most are (or were) heavily tied to the University. That means training the students who will start up these companies-as David says, wouldn’t it be nice if there were a few in NB. Many are ironically in the medical field, and as I’ve said before, Ontario is definitely moving into the privatization model of health care delivery. This is interesting because there aren’t actually any medical schools in the Waterloo Region. However, this is high tech stuff coming from the engineering dept at the university of waterloo.

    It should be noted that these are ‘high technology’ but not always high brow, meaning, they are not intrinsically difficult to train for. Some are simple game designers like Frozen North Productions who we can lump in with FatKat as hit or miss. One is heavily tied to RIM, a member of the RIM alliance. IF there were going to be an accelerator centre in Moncton or Fredericton, these are areas where it needs to specialize-software engineering, game design, product design. If you go through this list of companies many require programming experience, but thats all. The problem is the ‘support’ mechanism, the guy who will stand behind the entrepreneur and say “ok, here’s how to market your idea’. In some cases though an idea will sell itself, like Enflick. Applications for mobiles is definitely where money can be made, but there needs to be an emphasis on develpment.

  8. mikel says:

    By the way, as a note for David, if there’s anybody from Waterloo whose brain you want to pick about technology startups, Gary Will above is definitely the guy.

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