Two Innovation Cluster Startups, Alexander Optical & Electric Juice Factory, Take Home Bears’ Lair Grand Prizes

The winners for the “Innovation” and “Goods & Services Stream” were announced during the 9th Annual Bears’ Lair Entrepreneurial Competition on Tuesday, April 30th at The Venue in downtown Peterborough. The grand prize cash value for each winner was $8,350.

For the Innovation stream, innovative eye care company Alexander Optical took the grand prize. Alexander Optical is increasing access to eye care in the community through organized pop-up clinics that bring professionals on-site to perform comprehensive eye exams and find eyewear solutions. Pop-up clinics are facilitated at locations such as schools, seniors residences and local businesses to benefit patients.

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“I’m so proud to be a part of such a supportive community and have such incredible mentors that helped me get here,” says Alexander Optical founder Dylan Trepanier.

“I put my heart into the pitch and I’m feeling blessed that the audience and judges were receptive to the change we are trying to make in the community. I can’t wait to start working with more eye care professionals and employers in the area to bring services to them. I can hardly wait to see what the future holds.”

Innovation Specialist Braden Clark of ICPK (far left) and Electric Juice Factory team.jpg

In the Goods & Services stream, Innovation Cluster health food startup Electric Juice Factory took the top prize. Cheryl Gould went in front of the judges pitching the company’s innovative smoothie puck product, successfully impressing the panel. The company recently launched the product in five flavour options in addition to its array of raw plant-based juices.

Gould expressed her gratitude toward the community that has been a continued support over social media after winning, saying, “It’s time to get to work.”

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Why VentureNorth Hub Has Quickly Emerged As One Of The Most Innovative & Important Spaces In Peterborough

Startups are at the core of everything we do. An individual’s life is a startup that begins at birth. Every city was once a startup, as was every company, every institution, and every project. As humans, we are wired to start things.” —Brad Feld in “Startup Communities: Building An Entrepreneurial Ecosystem In Your City

Since opening in 2016, VentureNorth (270 George St. N.) has emerged as one of the most important buildings—”spaces” is perhaps a better word to describe it—in Peterborough, standing tall in the heart of downtown and symbolizing the city’s path as an innovative, entrepreneurial destination to encourage startups and existing businesses to grow and thrive.

VentureNorth building

VentureNorth building

Housing the likes of Innovation Cluster, Peterborough Economic Development, JA Peterborough, Community Futures Eastern Ontario, Peterborough & The Kawarthas Tourism and now Community Futures Peterborough, the VentureNorth hub has become a gateway to growth and networking for multiple startups and entrepreneurs, and those visiting or considering relocating to Peterborough. Not to mention it’s just a stone’s throw away from the business-growth, community-minded DBIA and Peterborough Chamber offices.

VentureNorth lobby

VentureNorth lobby

“We have been very excited about the success of the hub,” VentureNorth Co-Founder Paul Bennett tells PTBOCanada. “Now, Peterborough has a true one door location to start/expand/help a business grow and succeed. What we have seen in the last couple years has been amazing. The success of the Innovation Cluster, PED and JA has been inspiring. With Community Futures joining EOCFDC as part of the VentureNorth team, the sky is the limit for the future of entrepreneurship in our great community.”

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The hub—which overlooks both the downtown and Otonabee River—took inspiration from similar successful models in Waterloo (Communitech), Toronto (DMZ) and Oshawa (Spark). But it has now forged a unique identify itself, fuelling an ecosystem of local leaders and innovators with its own “all-inclusive” ethos of offerings and organizations—a concierge service, if you will, to experts with a wide range of subject experise in various areas with a want to help you succeed.

”When the concept of VentureNorth was first envisioned, the goal was to bring all these great organizations together to help entrepreneurs and showcase the competitive advantage that we believe Peterborough has—the people and the place,” Bennett tells PTBOCanada. “We have an overwhelming supportive community and a way of life that is truly second to none. Once people are able to experience living and working in this great community, the roots get planted very quickly.   

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Indeed, collaboration has been a key ingredient in building momentum in Peterborough for forward thinkers and progress. Breaking down silos (something that can prevent you from thinking outside the box, excecuting on ideas, and just getting stuff done) has shed the barriers to growth, innovation and beta testing.

Growth can be accelerated here as Peterborough—with all the amenities of a big city but a small town feel—is primed to become an entrepreneurial region. It has great support partners at the hub and beyond, and Trent University and Fleming College are absolutely key ingredients and partners in training students and talent, many of which will stay here (retention is key) and become entrepreneurs and leaders.

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The concept of VentureNorth from the get-go was to create an ecosystem where entrepreneurs and business people can connect and work alongside each other in open concept spaces to drive success and thrive. Startups and organizations can grow and succeed when they work side-by-side—learn from each other, motivate each other, push each other.

That is happening at VentureNorth, and indeed this hub—itself a startup still in its infancy—has been so successful that it is encountering a problem many startups face: running out of space. “Our struggle moving forward is that we don’t have any more space to offer,” Bennett tells PTBOCanada. “We have had many private businesses (local and from outside town) show interest in being part of this exciting ecosystem, but we don’t have anything to offer them.”

Rendering of what Phase 2 of VentureNorth Building could look like

Rendering of what Phase 2 of VentureNorth Building could look like

In response to this, the VentureNorth founders have begun planning a second phase to their vision for the building (see renderings above and below), which would bring much needed expanded space along with further aesthetic exterior and interior upgrades to a hub that has a contemporary design and feel.

“The idea would be to extend the same overall concept that was started with VentureNorth but expand to include some exciting private businesses and a banking partner,” Bennett tells PTBOCanada. “Much the way that Communitech in Waterloo expanded, we want to see VentureNorth expand and bring a great deal of life to our business sector downtown. This will hopefully spur more residential demand and supply in our core to see a new level of vibrancy in our downtown.”

Night rendering of what Phase 2 of VentureNorth Building could look like

Night rendering of what Phase 2 of VentureNorth Building could look like

These are exciting times for VentureNorth, which is helping put Peterborough on the map right up there with other Canadian cities like Waterloo that have fully embraced the innovation and tech economy. They are willing to play the long game to execute on their vision for building our innovation economy.

To further engage the community about VentureNorth and its promising future, there will be an Open House and Christmas Party on December 4th that the public is welcome to attend, where they can check out the building and see some of the exciting new businesses showcased in the Innovation Cluster showcase. More details will be coming on that soon.

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4th Annual Cubs' Lair Competition Launches For Youth Entrepreneurs To Find Next Best Startup

FastStart Peterborough, Innovation Cluster and the Trent Youth Entrepreneurship Society have launched the 4th Annual Cubs’ Lair Entrepreneurial Competition.

Aspiring youth entrepreneurs between the ages of 18-29 will have the opportunity to pitch their startup to a panel of established judges for a chance of up to $10,000 in prizes at the Gordon Best Theatre on November 22nd at 6 p.m.

Cubs' Lair at Gordon Best.jpg

HOW TO APPLY

Those who are interested in the competition can apply online here, followed by attending a series of three mandatory workshops inside the Innovation Cluster to help them build skills in creating a business model canvas, financing, marketing, and pitching to prepare for the Lair.

During the event, finalists will be pitching to a judging panel of established business professionals that will test competitors knowledge of how they will grow the business.

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The prize package of up to $10,000 includes incubator space at the Innovation Cluster, a social media package by PTBOCanada (that’s us!), two-year cash flow budgeting support by Gauvreau & Associates, with more to be announced.

The deadline to apply is October 27th. The final pitch competition will take place at the Gordon Best Theatre on November 22nd at 6 p.m.

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PTBOCanada Featured Post: Peterborough Economic Development Launches Redefining Success Video Series

PTBOCanada Featured Post: Peterborough Economic Development Launches Redefining Success Video Series

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Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre Launches Free Business Start-Up Program For Aboriginal Community Members

The Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre—a Peterborough-based non-profit culture and community organization providing programs and services to urban Aboriginal people—has announced a new business start-up training program geared at supporting and growing entrepreneurship within the city's urban Aboriginal community.

The objective of the program is to increase the participation of urban Aboriginal people in the economy. Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre is offering the program in partnership with Peterborough Economic Development’s Business Advisory Centre, who will be providing the training in order to support program participants in creating a viable business plan.

“In our recent community assessment, a high percentage of our urban Aboriginal community members responded favourably to becoming an entrepreneur,” says Lori Flynn, Executive Director of the Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre. “Owning your own business can be challenging, but a rewarding way to participate in the economy.”

“We are pleased to partner with the Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre on this new business start-up training program geared at supporting our local Aboriginal community,” adds Sandy Greenberg, Peterborough Economic Development’s Business Advisory Centre Lead. “The programming that we are delivering will support participants in navigating the path to a successful business start."

The team at Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre

The team at Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre

The business start-up training program will consist of six training workshops starting in late November. Participants will receive one-on-one support from local business leaders and explore practical solutions to get their business ideas off the ground. Workshops will offer topics such as sales, marketing, operations and budgeting.

Each participant will work towards putting together a professional business plan to connect with potential funding sources. The deadline to apply is November 18th, 2016. Child care and transportation may be provided to successful applicants based on need. Interested applicants can visit nogofc.ca for more information or contact the Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre at 705.775.0387.

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Why Peterborough Could Emerge As One Of The Tech Cities In Canada

Peterborough has always been known as a city of innovation. It's in our DNA. The city now has the opportunity to emerge as one of the tech cities in Canada—or anywhere. Here are 15 reasons why... 

1. Peterborough has always been ahead of the curve, from being the first city in Canada with electric street lighting (1884) to constructing the highest hydraulic lock in the world (1904)—see more examples here.

2. Peterborough has tremendous talent from Trent University and Fleming College to feed from—students (aka digital natives) from all over the world who were raised with mobile devices and apps as a part of their lives, and some of whom are now starting tech-based businesses.

3. Peterborough is known for being tech-savvy, an early adopter that engages with new tech, digital media and social media platforms. Ideas get incubated and shared here in the "creative economy" by global citizens (digital natives and digital immigrants) sharing on mobile in real-time. (Our media company began as a Twitter handle.)

4. The spirit of innovation, adapting and evolving has emerged from manufacturing giants in Peterborough like Quaker Oats, the old Outboard Marine, and of course GE (whose "Electric City” moniker comes from GE's long association with the city).

5. Peterborough organizations have really begun to embrace the collaborative approach to city-, community-, business-, tech-building, allowing for start-up ideas to be incubated and get off the ground sooner—and from right here in Peterborough rather than another city. Less red tape, more Let's Just Do This.

6. High schools and elementary schools are adding to their curriculum exciting new ways of exploring and using technology in the classroom setting to teach, adapting to the real tech world children are raised in and inspired by. Some school boards are creating hashtags to share their findings. These students, and their ideas, are the future of this city.

7. The city's history is rooted in creative people who experiment and push the envelope, from Sir Sandford Fleming (who lived here as a young engineer), to Erica Cherney, to Jim Balsillie (born and raised in Peterborough)—co-founder and former co-CEO of Research in Motion ("BlackBerry").

8. The likes of Peterborough Economic Development, Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, Peterborough Angels, DBIA, City of Peterborough, Bears' Lair and Startup Peterborough are exploring (and rewarding) how technology, digital and innovation can develop our city in the modern era—and most importantly, retain young, bright, innovative minds.

9. Peterborough—long known as a hub for beta testing products and ideas, many of which eventually hit national and international markets—is emerging as one of the "start-up" communities in Canada, fostering and mentoring young entrepreneurs at a grassroots level, giving them autonomy to build, learn, make mistakes, grow.

10. Peterborough is realizing the value of experimentation and testing out ideas on social media platforms and elsewhere to explore possibilities and kickstart businesses that could change the city—and world. The "Why the hell not?" attitude has caught on. 

11. Technology could be a game changer for Peterborough, and young entrepreneurs see that. In fact, the most powerful testimonials come from startups themselves: "This city is becoming a fast adapter of technology," startup Ribbet co-founder Sana Virji tells PTBOCanada. "With numerous startups growing in the region, we know Peterborough is the place to be."

12. If you look around you and see how people are consuming and sharing information, it's on mobile devices, iPads and laptops. It's not so much newspapers, magazines, phone and TV sets anymore. The world has changed. Gen Z, millennials, Gen Xers and, more and more, Baby Boomers, are staring at their iPhones screens because that's where they are reading, watching video, sharing info and fostering ideas. Leisure, play and work are there now. It's a new, exciting world.  

13. From seasoned local digital companies like OutdoorSmart (the successful company behind BoatSmart!) to start-ups like Noble Purification, the future of Peterborough is emerging as much on technology and startups as manufacturing and other traditional industries (which they themselves are re-thinking approaches in the modern era).

14. Hubs, think tanks, digital networking, pods, incubators, clusters, re-thinking work spaces are all being re-imagined in Peterborough, as "traditional" work—and its office notion of "9 to 5" in a cubicle—undergoes a transformative era. Nowadays, you can build a company from your dining room table. Or the café. Or wherever.  

15. Look at it this way, too: The more Peterborough becomes known as a tech city surrounded by beautiful water, restaurants, stores and people—with all the amenities of urban and rural—the more we'll see talented people drawn to study here, intern here, start up businesses here, be hired by tech companies here in need, and stay here. And raise families here.

Basically, all the ingredients and momentum are here to create an amazing tech ecosystem that becomes the talk of the town—and Canada. Hashtag that.

Neil Morton

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Local Illustrator Draws The Start-Up Ecosystem In Peterborough Area

Local Illustrator Draws The Start-Up Ecosystem In Peterborough Area

Start Me Up..

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