Innovation Factory (IF) helps innovative companies get started and grow and builds an innovation ecosystem in Hamilton, says executive director David Carter.
Staff at IF has met with more than 1,600 companies, racking up more than 20,000 hours in client meetings. And, in turn, its clients have earned more than $160 million in investment.
When IF launched at McMaster Innovation Park in 2011, there were few start-ups and little in terms of resources or funding in Hamilton to support them, says Carter.
“It used to be once in a blue moon that our clients would get investments in the millions but now that’s happening regularly.”
Forty-one per cent of IF clients are in the ICT field, 25 per cent in life sciences, and 17 per cent in advanced manufacturing.
Those deemed high-potential are paired with an IF executive-in-residence for one-on-one guidance. Those in earlier stages are guided to learning activities in finance, sales, customer acquisition, business modelling, and entrepreneurial skills building.
IF is well connected and trusted by Hamilton’s key institutions and lenders. “If we call for a meeting for a client, they are granted. It’s important to be a trusted partner because we can link our clients to people they need to speak to.”
IF helped develop entrepreneurial hubs for both Mohawk College and McMaster University, and was a key player in creating the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster in southern Ontario.
Carter describes Hamilton as a “city- builder city” where everyone works together to build the community.
Here is what some Innovation Factory clients had to say:
Fotaflo’s software application makes it easy for experiential businesses to capture and deliver photos and videos to visitors and to use them as referral and marketing assets. “Innovation Factory has helped Fotaflo immensely throughout key phases of our growth and development by providing mentoring through the executive-in-residence program to our sales and marketing teams, connecting us with funding and grant programs, and providing us with guidance and resources we would not otherwise have ac- cess to,” said president Ryan O’Grady.
Flyte Studios develops education technology solutions for the K-12 sector. Its four founders had the knowledge and skills to build their product “but none of us understood how to build or run a business. Innovation Factory provided us with business training, professional mentors, and opportunities to pitch our idea and receive feedback,” said president and CEO Shaun Iles. “Essentially, Innovation Factory made it possible for us to grow into the company we are today. Without IF I am not sure where Flyte Studios would be.”
Mariner Endosurgery develops and commercializes innovative computer-assisted medical devices for laparoscopic surgeries, including LaparoGuard, a soft-tissue surgical navigation platform that augments visualization.“Mariner Endosurgery leveraged Innovation Factory’s expertise in market intelligence and connections to the company’s early investors and advisory board members,” said Mitch Wilson, president and COO. “Mariner continues to work closely with Innovation Factory, Hamilton Health Sciences and local surgeons from their head office in McMaster Innovation Park.”
Westhill Innovation designs and manufacturers composite materials for the transportation industry. Innovation Factory has helped with securing funding and linking with engineering students at McMaster University on a research project. “David Carter got to know our company and our potential. He was very instrumental in assisting us to get over some roadblocks,” said president and CEO Emil Radoslav. “I think IF has a really good model,” said executive vice- president Gina Succi. “David was always thinking of us. I’m sure everyone who is in contact with him feels exactly the same way.”
Weever Apps’ cloud-based platform helps companies build and manage data collection, manage work flows, and gain real-time visibility into operations. It is used around the world by customers including Irving Oil, Suez, Viessmann, Xerox and Georgia-Paci c. “Innovation Factory helped Weever Apps get our start back in 2011,” said co-founder and CEO Steve McBride. “Since that time we have received ongoing support from the team at IF, headed up by Dave Carter. Dave has introduced us to many great contacts, helping us and quality board members, our accountants KPMG, our lawyers at Gowling WLG and several investors.”