Fredericton-based Energia Ventures, an accelerator program from the University of New Brunswick (UNB), is set to welcome its latest cohort this May.
Energia is looking for interested companies in cleantech, energy, smart grid, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity. Notable New Brunswick-based alumni include Stash Energy, Potential Motors, Beauceron Security, and Gray Wolf Analytics.
“We are definitely interested in companies at the early adopter stage,” notes Joe Allen, Managing Director for Accelerator Programs at UNB. “While we recognize that, especially in these verticals, things can take time, it’s the mature companies that have moved beyond the seed stage that are our ideal applicants.”
ONB spoke with Allen to learn more.
ONB: How has COVID-19 shifted Energia’s process?
Allen: Like our 2020 cohort, this session will be virtual. Fortunately, last year’s program went much more smoothly than anticipated. I worried a virtual program would lose some of the accelerator environment’s effectiveness – those water cooler conversations between companies that are so important. That wasn’t an issue last time, which was a pleasant surprise. We were happy enough with 2020 that we forged ahead with not one but two cohorts for 2021. Spring session happens from May 1 to July 20 and the fall session begins in September.
Why focus on these sectors?
It’s as simple as a desire to build on existing provincial strengths. We took inventory of the skillsets, assets, and research that the province is already doing well in and decided to keep going in those sectors.
Great things are already happening in New Brunswick. In Fredericton alone, we have IBM and their global centre for cybersecurity; Siemens with both cybersecurity and smart grid operations here; the Smart Grid Innovation Network (SGIN) with Siemens, UNB, and NB Power collaborating on innovation in that space; and the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity here at UNB.
We saw no need to recreate the wheel; focus on what the province is already excelling at.
Agreed, that’s why ONB is focused on several of your sectors. What can you tell us about Energia’s relationship with ONB?
ONB is another great partner in our ecosystem. We’ve had your team in to speak to companies from an investment attraction perspective. So, non-New Brunswick-based companies that may want to set up shop here, we tell them ONB is who they need to speak with. We’ve also had your Business Growth team in to present the many ways ONB can help existing businesses here. ONB is a great resource for these companies. I have also travelled with Martin and ACOA to the UK and France as part of a trade mission back in 2019. Those activities help immensely.
Once we are through the pandemic, I look forward to being able to showcase New Brunswick to the international companies that join us. Once they get here, can rub elbows with New Brunswickers and see what a beautiful place this is, they are much more likely to make the move. Tailwind, one of our 2019 alumni companies, did just that – the co-founders have moved here with their families.
What would you like prospective cohort companies to know?
One key thing I stress, particularly with those companies unfamiliar with the province, is how nimble we are here. If the world offers six degrees of separation, New Brunswick offers one and a half.
We had Gaëtan Thomas, former CEO of NB Power, as one of our mentors. Not every jurisdiction offers an accelerator in which the CEO of the largest utility is part of a mentor group. That’s just one example – I want companies to know nobody is out of reach in New Brunswick. Key decision-makers and incredible mentors are often just a phone call away. It’s an incredible advantage for our region that we don’t tout enough.
That’s a point ONB has made many times, we remain a humble region.
We need to brag more, quite frankly. We need more features like this one, explaining the value New Brunswick brings to the table. We need coverage in The Globe and Mail, Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. This is a great place to live and to do business, let’s not shy away from saying it. We want to grow the population, so let’s tell more people about New Brunswick and why it’s great.
Applications are still open until March 7 for Energia’s spring 2021 cohort.