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Duo open new facility to boost Edmonton's entrepreneurs

Over the last couple of years, Ken Bautista and Cam Linke have been actively involved in nurturing and promoting Edmonton's startup and entrepreneurial communities.

Mr. Bautista began Startup Edmonton, which hosts events that bring together developers, designers, entrepreneurs and investors.

Meanwhile, Mr. Linke started DemoCamp, which gives startups the opportunity to publicly showcase their products and get feedback from their peers and the community.

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As Mr. Bautista and Mr. Linke worked to grow Startup Edmonton and DemoCamp, they realized it made sense to join forces so they could have a more significant effect on growing the startup community and, in the process, make Edmonton a more compelling place to support and attract startups and entrepreneurs.

Their collective efforts culminated in a recent announcement that will see Startup Edmonton, a non-profit, entrepreneur-led social enterprise, move into a new 14,000-square-foot facility in downtown Edmonton. Located on the third floor of the Mercer Warehouse, Startup Edmonton will use the facility to host events, workshops and co-working space.

"We had this vision to make Edmonton a place for creativity and entrepreneurship, and growing it from within, rather than attract it from other places," Mr. Bautista said. "We have found the university has produced a lot of good people who have started companies in other places. The challenge is we need a bigger pool of people to go into a startup or build something here, instead of going off and getting a job."

The facility will also be home to a new accelerator called Flightpath Ventures, which is supported by private investors and a grant from the city of Edmonton. Entrepreneurs will spend four months to create and develop their products. Each startup will receive $15,000 in seed capital in return for a 6-per-cent equity stake.

Mr. Bautista said the ability to create the facility, which will open in April, happened with the support of the building's owner, Kelly Pope, who was enthusiastic about helping Startup Edmonton carve out a bigger role. The city of Edmonton and corporate sponsors have also helped financially.

"We have combined the co-working, education and accelerator into one thing," Mr.. Bautista said. "That is how we are building sustainability. We will also generate revenue from the workspace from companies that want space in the building. Our goal is to have less than 30 per cent of government funding."

Mr. Bautista said Flightpath, which will be managed by Mr. Linke, received $450,000 from a group of nine local business owners and entrepreneurs. He said an interesting angle is that while the accelerator will support first-time entrepreneurs, it will also support people making their first investments in software or technology.

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The first group of startups brought into Flightpath will be there from May to August. In addition to the space and the opportunity to collaborate with fellow entrepreneurs, Mr. Bautista said they will also have access to mentors.

"We will intake up to 10 startups per year," he said. "We will go for the top prospects of the pool. We are not mandated to hit a quota. We are not seeing it as an accelerator that will attract someone to come [to Edmonton] If we do a program like this, it needs to be fuelled by what we are doing in the community."

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, a communications and marketing strategic consultancy that works with startups and fast-growing companies to create compelling and effective messaging to drive their sales and marketing activities. Mark has worked with four startups – Blanketware, b5Media, PlanetEye and Sysomos. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshmarketing and meshwest conferences.

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