It is hard to put into words what has collectively been accomplished in the first year of Co.Labs’ operations. What started as an idea over the course of many years has become an integral part of Saskatoon and Saskatchewan’s economic future and the impact that Co.Labs and all of its stakeholders have had on the community in just over 12 months is unprecedented. So, let’s recap on what exactly took place:
Prairie Investment Forum – Launch of the largest investment conference the the Province’s history, bringing together 4 expats and over 10 investors who in aggregate have over $10 Billion Dollars under management.
Canadian Digital Media Network – Admitted into the exclusive CDMN as the first Saskatchewan Hub.
Western Economic Diversification – Successfully received $1.126 Million Dollars of funding from WED to support Co.Labs’ growth.
Banff Venture Forum – Took 8 startups to the BVF along with community partners, resulting in Saskatchewan's first tech startup investment/trade mission.
Funding – Attracted sponsorship and support from 15+ corporate partners including PwC, RBC, Westcap Management, and PFM Capital.
Events - 15 co.mmunity events, 13 Fresh Founders events, 30+ Mentorship sessions, 1st ever Ladies in Tech Event, and 3 major events with over 400+ attendees.
Co.Launch – Launch of Saskatchewan’s first early stage accelerator, assisting idea and prototype stage ventures and in turn building a pipeline of future founders.
Accelerators – Co.Labs startups were admitted into 7 Accelerator Programs: Alchemist Accelerator, Boost Accelerator, Tech Stars Kansas, Zone Startups, Fierce Founders, Telus Accelerator, NVIDIA Inception AI Accelerator.
StartupFest – Took 10 startups and 5 community partners to StartupFest in Montreal, representing the second tech startup investment/trade mission in the Province’s history.
Partnerships – Signed Partnership Agreements with 6 organizations: Innovation Enterprise, Futurprenuer, I-INC, Lead Generators International, RBC, and PwC.
Media – Co.Labs attracted significant media attention with articles written by distinguished outlets such as the Financial Post, created a following of nearly 1700 people on social media which resulted in 500,000 impressions and 40,000 engagements, grew a mailing list to over 1000+ subscribers, and hosted over 3500 people at events throughout the year.
The Tech Trip – Co.Labs partnered with SREDA to take 5 fast-scaling startups to Silicon Valley to meet investors, partners, and customers.
Co.Launch 2.0 – As a direct result of the success of the 1st Co.Launch Cohort, Co.Labs signed an agreement with both Innovation Enterprise and Innovation Saskatchewan to host Co.Launch twice a year to double the pipeline of up-and-coming tech startups.
Expansion – Co.Labs will be expanding its physical presence with another 5,000+ square feet in order to accommodate growth and launch the Province’s first ‘Scaleup’ and ‘Corporate Incubation’ Programs.
The fascinating part is that this was all accomplished in 15 months with less than 4 employees. Further, these outcomes are what are defined as the ‘soft metrics’ of a non-profit, as they are often qualitative measurements akin to building a community however, Co.Labs’ core key performance indicators are equally as impressive:
52 - Startups incubated
800+ - Mentorship hours accessed by startups
50+ - Mentors recruited
$4.6 Million - The amount of private sector investment made into Co.Labs startups
70+ - Jobs created by Co.Labs startups
$948,000 - Government grants accessed by Co.Labs startups
That said, the total impact that Co.Labs has had on Saskatchewan cannot be measured by any mathematical model. Anyone who was in the Saskatchewan tech sector 15 months ago will likely tell you that there has been a seismic shift in the Province when it comes to technology startups and entrepreneurship. It seems as though every faction of our community has embraced this new economy and new way of thinking; from academia to the mining sector, government procurement to environmental organizations, and readily everything in between.
In the last year, we have witnessed the creation of new organizations such as SaskTech and legislation such as the STSI which are a testament to this growth and its velocity. In 15 months, we have gone from being a Province that was never thought of as having been known for tech, to being one of the fastest growing tech sectors in Canada with interested investors and founders spanning from across the country all the way into the heart of Silicon Valley.
That said, all of this macro-level impact is made possible entirely as a result of the micro-level interactions made each day in Co.Labs’ physical location and the community it creates. Some people may not be able to trace the impact that a conversation in the hallway between two founders can have, but when you witness it over the course of months (which is years in startup time) you begin to see the bigger picture and the web of connections that creates a community. Before Co.Labs was launched, there were a number of committees and policy papers put together describing how Saskatoon can and should become the Waterloo of the West, Silicone Prairie, or Canada’s version of Israel’s immense tech sector. However, Saskatoon and Saskatchewan’s tech community need not try to emulate what others have. We have something special in this Province, a certain work ethic and conviction for change that the founders of Skip the Dishes often speak of and will tell you is the very reason they are building their next tech company in the Prairies.
Any time you get a chance to converse with a expat working in tech and living in Bay Area you will almost ubiquitously hear the same thing,
“Saskatchewan founders and startups are unlike anything in The Valley. They work hard, get to revenue quickly, and build companies that create real value.”
This is not something to be taken lightly. In today’s VC-fixated world of startups where every founder demands a cheque for $250k before they even start building their prototype, our founders stand out and now, with the tech community we have built over this last year, have the tools to compete globally and win.
What our community was able to collectively accomplish in this last year was not luck but a perfect macro-level parallel for precisely what we are describing about the Saskatchewan founder. With the support of our partners; Innovation Place, Innovation Saskatchewan, Western Economic Diversification Canada, Board Members, Mentors, and Startups, we have built an organization and community that directly reflects our advertisement to all interested founders and investors around the world;
“Saskatchewan’s Tech Community: a place where scrappy, no-bullshit, and humble founders create meaningful technology.”
That is our impact, and we cannot wait for what comes next :)