How to build dynamic and equitable ecosystems by leveraging data, creating stronger value propositions, and leaning into collective impact

In April 2022, Venture for Canada attended the Canadian Accelerator + Incubator Network (CAIN) Summit. Gathering over 140 national organizations, CAIN’s network includes:

  • leading business incubators (organizations that nurture entrepreneurs by refining their business ideas);
  • business accelerators (programs that expedite the growth of early-stage start-ups in preparation for initial funding);
  • for-profit business service providers;
  • community associations and registered charities. 

Systems change is achieved by growing impact through institutional, cultural, and community lenses while working collaboratively across sectors. Venture for Canada’s impact is strengthened through community engagement that supports national innovation ecosystems, regional communities, unique employers, and young Canadian changemakers.

We’re proud of the dynamic and multi-faceted ecosystem relationships, like the one we share with CAIN, that have enabled us to support over 1,000 innovative start-ups in 2021 and collectively deliver systems change.

To open the Summit, Stacey Wallin, CAIN’s Executive Director, said, “I anchor what I offer here today in love” and reflecting on Wallin’s words, our takeaways have also been anchored in a framework of L-O-V-E:

L - Learnings

O - Outcome-Driven Program Design

V - Value Propositions 

E - Ecosystem Dynamics 


Using data collected through conversations with members, startups, industry associations, and government, together with public sources and reports, Chris Diaper and Stacey Wallin highlighted some of the most pressing challenges Business Accelerators and Incubators (BAIs) are facing in 2022.

Undeniably, COVID-19 has drastically shifted the BAI landscape. 

Most notably, knowledge and service delivery are extending beyond local to national and, in some cases, global levels. Savvy founders are accessing resources from global sources directly, bypassing local and regional providers. With an increase in international BAI programming entering the Canadian market and competition rates on the rise, Doug Holt, VP of Investments at Alberta Innovates shared their model that mixes local infrastructure with international organizations, showing how it has enabled companies to compete globally. 

Together, these findings revealed the critical need to evolve our understandings of relevancy and positioning in the ecosystem by leveraging data and outcome measurement in our program design, creating stronger value propositions, and pivoting priorities to meet these emerging challenges. 

To support Canadian BAIs in better understanding their positioning, CAIN has launched new dashboard products. Chris Diaper showcased how the new products aim to use existing data to track BAI graduates, understand program impact, and identify high-potential startups. Free dashboards on the national community will be available for all members and stakeholders, and CAIN members will be able to access private dashboards as a service – if you’re interested in learning more, contact Chris Diaper.

On a national level, CAIN’s Matt Mayer is leading a project with the goal of defining what measures and indicators are most effective for evaluating BAIs. This year-long project sponsored by MITACS will work closely with CAIN’s members and stakeholders. The project kicks off in the fall, and is sure to provide value for all players in the Canadian BAI ecosystem. If you’re not a CAIN member, sign up now and stay connected with upcoming opportunities to get involved with this project!

Jennie Wedd is the Senior Lead, Strategic Relations & Marketing at Venture for Canada. Guided by...