Building a Tech Startup

Sask Startup Summit 2021

Why Choose Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan’s tech ecosystem is flourishing. However, this was not always the case and it wasn’t until the last few years that it has become the vibrant ecosystem that it is today. Why? Because Saskatchewan didn’t always have the incentives and resources founders needed to take their companies to the next level. Funding was also almost nonexistent—in 2017, Saskatchewan only saw $14 million (or 0.4 per cent) of all venture capital (VC) investment across Canada. As a result, founders looking to scale their companies started to leave the province to grow their companies elsewhere.

Fast forward to today and Saskatchewan’s tech ecosystem is growing at an astronomical rate. Saskatchewan is seeing more distribution of high-growth companies, founders staying in the province to launch and grow their companies, and an increase in capital investment. In just the first six months of 2021, VC investment has hit an all-time high in the province, with Saskatchewan startups receiving $171 million or 2.06 per cent of all Canadian VC investment.

So, what changed? What is the driving force behind this growth? It’s a combination of people, community, and innovation supporting the growing momentum in Saskatchewan tech.

Our Get Er’ Done Attitude

Saskatchewan entrepreneurs have a roll up your sleeves, ‘fix it with duct tape’ attitude that makes them incredible product builders. Everyone likes to say they work hard, but there’s something special about Saskatchewan’s work ethic that flows from generation to generation. Saskatchewan people are passionate about what they believe in, move quickly, and have an underdog culture that thrives in a startup environment.

Saskatchewan Initiatives + Supports

Saskatchewan offers several initiatives and supports aimed to support and grow Saskatchewan startups including, but not limited to, the Saskatchewan Technology Startup Incentive (STSI), the Made in Saskatchewan Technology Program (MIST), and the Saskatchewan Advantage Innovation Fund (SAIF).

  • STSI encourages investment in early-stage tech startups in the province, offering a 45 per cent tax credit to Saskatchewan-based investors. Since it began, the program has generated over $40 million in private investment, which has resulted in nearly 150 jobs created.
  • MIST connects the provincial government to local technology-based companies whose products may improve government service delivery. Companies that are successful in the program are awarded a contract of up to $10,000 to have their technology piloted by the government.
  • SAIF is a research and development funding program designed to accelerate the commercialization of game-changing technological innovations in Saskatchewan’s core sectors. Through this program, Innovation Saskatchewan provides non-repayable grants to projects that address a specific industry challenge in areas related to mining, energy, manufacturing, education, and healthcare.

Beyond the physical supports and programs, Saskatchewan also has a cohesive ecosystem. It has a common goal across all the stakeholders, showing that Saskatchewan will be a globally successful tech hub which allows everyone to grow in the same direction. Whether it’s founders, investors, government supporters, or key enterprise ecosystem contributors, Saskatchewan’s ecosystem is constantly looking at ways it can help each other be successful.

Community Innovation

Sask Startup Summit 2021

Contributing to the growth of Saskatchewan’s tech ecosystem is the innovative work being done by Conexus Credit Union (Conexus). After seeing many founders leave the province due to a lack of space, resources, and funding, Conexus looked for ways it could support founders and build Saskatchewan into an innovation hub. In 2019, Conexus launched both Cultivator powered by Conexus (Cultivator) and Conexus Venture Capital Inc. (CVC).

Cultivator is Canada’s first credit-union-led business incubator, providing the space, resources, mentors, and programming founders need to launch, grow, and scale their companies from right here at home. To date, it’s incubated over 60 companies which have resulted in over $19.4 million in private capital raised, $20.1 million in public funding obtained, and 245 jobs created. Conexus was also recently recognized for this work by the Canadian Credit Union Association and was awarded the 2021 Innovation Award.

CVC invests time, knowledge, and capital in Saskatchewan and Canadian high-growth startups via the two funds it manages and operates—the Conexus Venture Capital Fund #1 and Emmertech (a new venture capital fund focused on agtech). CVC has invested in over 10 companies, including two of the four Saskatchewan companies on the Globe & Mail’s 2021 Canada’s Top Growing Companies List, 7shifts and Coconut Software.

Taking an innovative approach to solidify Saskatchewan as a global hub for agtech investment, commercialization, and job creation, Cultivator, Emmertech and Economic Development Regina recently announced the launch of a national, venture-backed Agtech Accelerator. Through this accelerator, world-leading agtech and food tech companies will receive the mentorship, resources, programming, and funding needed to help them take their startup to the next level.

More than just the land of the living skies

On top of the beautiful skies and scenery that Saskatchewan provides, its cost of living compared to other provinces is low and the commutes are quick. Saskatchewan is a mid-sized market and the connectivity, collaboration and home team support provide unmatched value for its founders. Whether you’re a founder, an investor, or support, there’s never been a better time than now or a better place than Saskatchewan to start, grow or scale a tech company.

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