There’s no question that COVID-19 has made things harder for entrepreneurs looking to grow a business, but the pandemic didn’t get in the way of one of Canada’s biggest demo and pitch events from taking place during a virtual gathering.
NEXT Venture Day encourages NEXT Canada entrepreneurs to pitch their startup ideas to an audience of business leaders, partners, alumni and investors. The virtual event, which took place in early October, concluded this year’s NEXT 36, NEXT AI and NEXT Founders accelerator programs and showcased 12 out of 80 graduating ventures spanning AI, finance, security, mental health, cleantech, sustainable fashion, and diagnostics.
NEXT Canada was founded by entrepreneur and investor Reza Satchu, who has had success managing a fleet of businesses. Today, he runs Alignvest Management Corporation, a private investment firm based in Toronto.
Reza Satchu said he didn’t want COVID-19 to dampen the day, so he and his team improvised.
“Faced with a global pandemic, we turned to technology and we persevered. We chose to deliver our programs virtually, supporting and accelerating 80 of Canada’s most promising entrepreneurs.”
This year’s Venture Day tech startups included Furnishr, a furnishing software platform, and MinervaAI, an automated solution aimed to provide faster, smarter, and more compliant financial crime investigations.
As part of the event, NEXT Canada announced several award winners. Moment Technology, a company that is replacing diesel generators for remote communities by repurposing electric vehicle batteries into sustainable energy storage, was chosen by the audience as the RBC People’s Choice Award.
“NEXT Canada is on a mission to inspire more Canadians to focus on entrepreneurship, and the Venture Day event is just the tip of the iceberg of what we can be doing to facilitate that,” said Satchu.
The organization, which promotes and supports the success of Canada’s roughly 3.5 million entrepreneurs, is hoping to foster economic growth, competitiveness, and prosperity through entrepreneurship.
NEXT Canada, which Satchu founded in 2010, offers three programs: NEXT 36, NEXT Founders and NEXT AI. NEXT Canada’s programs provide entrepreneurs with access to capital, education, mentorship, and networking in order to build and scale a company.
As an educator, Satchu wants to help more young entrepreneurs achieve their dreams. In addition to his work with NEXT Canada, he is also a Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School, where he teaches two courses: Launching Technology Ventures and The Entrepreneurial Manager. Before founding NEXT Canada, Satchu taught at the University of Toronto for seven years.
“I am fortunate to be in a position where I can give back to Canada, a country that has helped me so much. That is why I created NEXT Canada and why I continue to focus my efforts on helping the next generation of entrepreneurs grow their businesses.”
Satchu’s hope is that over time he can help inspire more young, talented and promising Canadian entrepreneurs so that they will create businesses that are beneficial for the country, and hopefully make an impact globally, too.
“NEXT Canada wants to teach entrepreneurship as a way of living and my hope is to play a part in helping the next generation of innovators.”
One of the ways Canada can help entrepreneurs is by creating a more robust venture capital community.
“COVID has brought so many more uncertainties, especially when it comes to funding,” Satchu said. “Without funding support for entrepreneurs, people from around the world will fail to take notice of the innovation and creativity that’s been happening in Canada. We need larger venture capital sources. We need more investors who know what it takes to help an entrepreneur build a billion dollar plus business. If we can do that, people will start looking at Canada as a place where entrepreneurs can build substantial businesses.”