By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The Spark Centre’s biggest competition of the year is about to open for applications and it could mean big things for the entrepreneurs in Durham Region.
The Ignite accelerator program, now entering its fifth year, aims to help young start-ups get the support, resources and cash they need to get their innovative ideas off the ground, hopefully right here in Durham.
“It’s a huge driving force in the entrepreneurs that we support as an organization,” says Amanda Reynolds, the director of marketing for the Spark Centre. “Ideally, the point of Ignite is to build businesses in Durham Region.”
In previous years, the competition has received as many as 75 applications from different start-ups looking to take their idea to the next level. Previous winners include IFTech, the local company behind ARAIG, a fully-immersive gaming suit, and DashMD, a mobile app aimed at helping patients who leave the hospital with different aspects of their post-care.
And while the cash prizes are a definite boost for the young companies, including $5,000 for the student category, and a trio of $25,000 prizes, the most recent addition being a prize sponsored by Ontario Power Generation looking for ideas in automation, robotics and software solutions.
As part of Ignite, all businesses get lessons in pitching their ideas and receive one of the most important things in the business world, exposure
“The competitors get a lot out of it, not just the people who win,” Reynolds says. “We have a lot of investors and people interested in these ideas coming to our events.”
The Spark Centre is one of the many incubators across the province, and is one of the 18 Regional Innovation Centres that form the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs. However, operating out of Core 21 in downtown Oshawa, Reynolds says the space facilitates a good relationship with the businesses who operate their and the start-ups who move in
“The good thing about this is we’re still kind of small enough that we offer so much, one-on-one advice and mentoring for these entrepreneurs,” she says.