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Calgary-area accelerators the latest to reap OCIF cash

The Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF) is contributing up to $3.33 million between the next two to five years for two regional business accelerators.

It was the latest announcements from the group tasked with doling out $100 million in City of Calgary business stimulus cash.

The two organizations, Movement51 and Creative Destruction Lab – Rockies (CDLR), foster growth and development of start-ups.  CDLR can earn up to $3 million over the next three years. Movement 51 can earn up to $330,000 over the next two years.

“We have talked a lot about momentum in Calgary’s economy this year, and both of today’s announcements will support that trend,” said Nancy Laird, OCIF vice-chair.

The CDLR money will go towards programs in agri-tech, energy and its sector-agnostic prime program. A fourth stream will be added in 2022. They’re hoping to accelerate 320 other businesses in the area.

Movement51 Financial Feminism Lab is part of The51. They are a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing financial feminism and inequalities for women and the gender diverse.

“There’s a clear gap in funding and support for women-led startups and investments,” said Laird.

Shelley Kuipers, the co-founder, co-CEO and Chief Growth Officer for The51 said they were thrilled to be involved in Wednesday’s announcement.

“The51 is creating a new critical mass of women-identifying and gender-diverse investors making Calgary the center for women-powered capital,” she said.

Kuipers said partnerships like this are necessary to accelerate progress and innovation for female entrepreneurs.

Why invest in accelerators?

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek has been a proponent of unlocking more capital for female investors. On Wednesday, she once again stated that women get a fraction of available investment capital. Yet, they outperform men by 63 per cent with the same amount of cash.

“This bold move will make sure that more women with great ideas will be able to perform well not only in our economy but also showcase on a global stage,” Mayor Gondek said.

Many of the prior OCIF investments have been directed to companies with employees, products and scale. This cash has been diverted to accelerators, who then provide support for fledgling start-ups.

Brad Parry, interim president and CEO of Calgary Economic Development, said they examined Calgary’s business landscape and roughly 50 per cent of OCIF applicants didn’t qualify under their minimum threshold.

Parry said to reach their goal of getting to 1,000 core tech companies, they had to help local companies.

“What it showed us is we have to go back and understand the marketplace,” he said.

“I think we’ve heard a lot of this in Calgary before where we don’t necessarily have a start-up problem, we have a scale-up problem.”

These are the 19th and 20th organizations to receive OCIF funding and the fifth and sixth in 2021.

About $59 million of the $100 million fund has been allocated. They expect an additional $11 million to be doled out in the first quarter of 2021.