'Innovation accelerator' to support, mentor Calgary entrepreneurs

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'Innovation accelerator' to support, mentor Calgary entrepreneurs

Calgary is now home to a new innovation accelerator to help solve some of Canada's biggest business challenges with a goal of providing entrepreneurs access to the technology they need and then help deliver them to the marketplace.

District Ventures and IBM Innovation Space was launched this week in Calgary.

Dino Trevisani, president of IBM Canada, says the project is about nurturing the future business leaders of Canada.

"We are going to depend on our entrepreneurs to build the jobs and the future of our economies," he said.

"And when you look at Calgary, I saw an economy and a culture that was entrepreneurial, risk taking, and we needed to harness that."

Entrepreneurs will receive mentorship, exposure to clients, and the support of new technologies.

District Ventures CEO Arlene Dickinson says the program gives entrepreneurs the resources they need to make their business solutions a reality.

"The organization is structured to be necessarily a problem-solving, entrepreneurial initiative. So this lets them do that and have access to the technology and the information and the support that District Ventures will give without having to disrupt their day to day operations," she explained.

Dickinson says this kind of initiative is a first for Canada. She expects it will facilitate 20 entrepreneur and business collaborations each year.

Dickinson says this new model takes solutions all the way to real world application.

"We're focused on trying to make sure that it's practical at solving real problems, that they're getting access to the resources and technology they need, and giving entrepreneurs their first customer."

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said this is an example of Dickinson's initiative.

"What I love about it, is that Arlene Dickinson didn't wait around to ask permission to do this, or to find someone else who was going to do it," Nenshi said.

"She just found IBM and she did it."

IBM senior executive Allen Lalonde says ideas don't often get past the research stage.

"We actually think about this engagement, think about these ideas and these projects all the way through from research and early-stage development to the incubation of companies and startups and ultimately to the commercialization, and importantly the scalability," he said.

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Correction : An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the man in the second photograph as IBM senior executive Allen Lalonde. It is IBM Canada president Dino Trevisani. (Mar 09, 2017 11:27 AM)