Anne Toner Fung surveyed the bustling room at the Hanlon Convention Centre Thursday afternoon like a proud mom.
The executive director of Innovation Guelph was looking at 86 of her babies — companies that have used Innovation Guelph, or its partner Bioenterprise Corporation, to help create or elevate their business.
Everything from probiotic nutritional bars to alcoholic beverages and social enterprises like Lucky Iron Fish had booths at the first ever Innovation Expo.
“This is a very proud moment,” said Toner Fung of the six-hour event that included guest speakers and an announcement by Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield that Bioenterprise was getting an additional $2.28 million from the federal government to help in its work helping agri-tech businesses get off the ground.
Innovation Guelph has been around for seven years and in that time has seen over 1,000 people use their programs that help with everything from marketing and government grants to how to sell overseas.
“We’ve got from the ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ kind of company right through some quite substantial companies whose sales are substantial but might have flattened,” Toner Fung said.
It might be a successful Canadian company looking to expand overseas or a small company wondering what accounting system to use.
Three years ago they started collaborating with Bioenterprise.
“We collaborated on this project because we want to support a lot more companies. Together we’re able to support a lot more companies than we ever could alone,” Toner Fung said.
Bioenterprise focuses on startups in the agriculture technology space, plus the food and beverage sector.
Dave Smardon, president and CEO of Bioenterprise, said there a wide range of ways they help companies get off the ground.
“There’s all kinds of stuff that’s required, from patenting the technology in the early days to piloting it and getting a demonstration to make sure it works appropriately, and then you start looking at the business plans, the marketing, how you’re going to fund it, the hiring … all those things,” Smardon said.
Innovation Guelph supports a number of verticals: advanced manufacturing, info and technology, clean tech and sustainable technologies as well as ag companies.
Innovation also focuses on companies that are past the idea stage as well as putting a focus on women’s businesses.
“We have other partners in the community that focus on ideation … we typically step in when they’ve identified an idea, have a preliminary business plan in place, and we help them take it to market,” Toner Fung said.
Gary Pundsack’s company Stratodynamics Aviation benefited in several ways from coming to Innovation Guelph.
Stratodynamics uses unmanned gliders to gather high altitude environmental information for things such as climate change studies.
The glider is raised via a weather balloon and then released for data collection.
“We came to Innovation Guelph when we had a concept, essentially,” Pundsack said. “Rhey helped us get it from a concept to an actual working prototype.”
“We now have a product in hand that works that we can go out and show customers.’
He said Innovation helped them with technical expertise, mentoring, marketing and corporate structuring.
“It was very helpful in terms of developing from a concept to a product in such a short time frame,” he said.
Funding is through federal and provincial government for the most part, although some programs are co-funded by Innovation and the company being helped.
“For startups, most of the services we provide are free to the company,” Toner Fung said.