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Campus Startups 101

A starting point for University of Toronto students looking for entrepreneurship opportunities and resources on campus

What's an accelerator?

You'll find a variety of definitions, but simply put, an accelerator helps fledging or early-stage companies to get off the ground faster than they might on their own, by providing mentorship, training, and often work space to successful applicants. They're common at universities like U of T, which has all of these things in large supply. These are referred to in Ontario as campus-linked accelerators or CLAs.

They typically (but not always) offer some combination of:
-formal and informal education program on basic aspects of establishing and running a business
-networking with other startups
-office space and/or access to a shared lab or equipment
-connections with potential investors or employers
-opportunities for seed funding, generally in exchange for equity (shares in the company)

Some take on entrepreneurs who are searching for an idea while others look for companies with validated business models or modest sales. Choose the accelerator that meets your current needs and future goals.

Skip to:
U of T accelerators
Alternatives in Toronto and beyond
 

Read more:
Cohen, S. (2013). What Do Accelerators Do? Insights from Incubators and Angels Innovations: Technology, Governance, Globalization 8:3-4, 19-25

How can I join a U of T accelerator?

There are currently nine official campus-linked accelerators across the three U of T campuses, each with its own focus, application schedule, and requirements. Do your research to find the one that's right for you, and get in touch to find out how you can apply. 

Some are open only to U of T students and faculty, some are connected to a specific department or professional school curriculum, and all require considerable time commitment outside of coursework.

Note that most accelerators are interdisciplinary; you do not have to be e.g. a Rotman student to apply to Creative Destruction Lab.

For more information, visit the U of T Entrepreneurship website.

And there's more...

Focused on social entrepreneurship, The Agency is a new hub for social innovation at U of T. They ran a successful conference at Hart House in Fall 2016.

The university recently announced a new project, ONRamp, to provide space for campus startups at the Banting and Best complex.

The angel lab is a new initiative for students at the University of St. Mike's College, focusing on social justice.

Read more:
Gasca, P. (2014). Thinking of Joining an Incubator? Check Off These 5 Things First. Entrepreneur Magazine.

Image adapted from U of T Entrepreneurship Office website

What alternatives are available?

In Toronto

U of T is a founding member of The Next 36, a Canada-wide accelerator program for students and recent grads.

MaRS Innovation is an early-stage incubator supporting commercialization of research from member institutions primarily in the health sector, including hospitals, universities and research institutes.

JLABS is an incubator for early-stage pharmaceutical, medical device, consumer and digital health companies, located at MaRS Discovery District.

OneEleven is a Toronto-based incubator supporting high-growth, seed-stage technology startups.

Toronto-based DRIVEN Accelerator Group trains and supports underrepresented individuals to become innovators and creators in digital technology.

Enterprise Toronto is a City of Toronto office that provides advice and support for small businesses.

BlogTO 2015 article: Top 10 Tech Accelerators in Toronto (includes four U of T accelerators)

Canada and international

Infographic of accelerators in Canada (2013) by MaRS Data Catalyst

Backbone Mag list of Canadian Accelerators and Incubators (last updated 2015)

Many Toronto startups have joined larger Silicon Valley-based startup accelerators like Y Combinator, 500 Startups or Techstars.

Read more:
Kaley, E. and Kula, H. (2013). Seeding Success: Canada's Startup Accelerators. MaRS Data Catalyst.
Stross, R. (2013). The Launch Pad: Inside Silicon Valley's most exclusive school for startups. New York : Portfolio/Penguin