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Waterloo's Communitech pitches new 'Hyperdrive' start-up fund

Inside The Tannery, on April 11, 2011, clients, mentors, students, etc. meet in the various areas of Communitech to share ideas and help develop new and established businesses. Buttons from The University of Waterloo are in the foreground, while a meeting is held by Wilfred Laurier's on-site space to discuss a news start-up business.

Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Canadian technology start-ups are set to get a boost from a new $30-million program in Waterloo, Ont. that will help fund, commercialize and mentor the next-generation of innovative entrepreneurs.

Run out of Communitech, a regional hub that serves the hundreds of tech start-ups that have sprung up around global giant Research In Motion Ltd. , the new Hyperdrive program offers up to $700,000 to individual companies – drawing on a pool of money funded by investment firms, venture capitalists and strategic partners.

Communitech, and such local organizations as the government-funded Accelerator Centre, already offer a mix of pick-me-ups for small businesses here, such as commercial space, strategic advice, mentorship and exposure to executives-in-residence and business analysts.

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This program is yet more evidence that the community here, which has benefited greatly from RIM's international success and the phenomenal reputation of the University of Waterloo's engineering department, is trying to cement its reputation as the best place to start and grow high-tech businesses in Canada.

But the new Hyperdrive program, which says it builds off the success of incubators such as Silicon Valley's Y Combinator, will take high potential companies through a multi-year process, providing funding, a "soft landing" in international markets, 24 months of "expert mentorship," and help the company flog its high-tech wares in demo days and foreign trips.

"We're revving up the opportunity for tech start-ups to get traction in the industry sooner, with more support from investors," Iain Klugman, Communitech's chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Communitech said that in the three years leading up to 2011, the region nurtured the launch of more than 500 start-up companies, creating around 1,500 jobs in small firms and around 1,000 additional jobs in medium-to-large tech companies.

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