City of Champions 2.0: The Edmonton Champions Project

Last night we held a launch event for The Edmonton Champions Project in the wonderful Tucker Amphitheatre at the The Citadel downtown. Over 150 community & business leaders, entrepreneurs, creatives, and other friends attended to find out more about the project. Our goal is to invest in 500 creative entrepreneurs over the next 5 years, with a focus on amplifying creative innovation in Edmonton, to help our amazing young creatives, innovators and entrepreneurs connect, do, and win in the new economy.

Edmonton Champions LaunchEdmonton Champions Launch

The reaction to last night’s presentation was everything we could have hoped for. Inspiring, exciting, necessary, motivational – those were some of the words people used when I asked them what they thought. It was a great opportunity to share some of the things we’ve been working on. Here are a few of the things Ken Bautista talked about.

Creative Entrepreneurs: The Future of Edmonton

Edmonton needs entrepreneurs. Tech entrepreneurs. Creative entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs bring vision, create solutions to problems, and transform new ideas into bold new companies, new approaches in established organizations, new products, and new jobs in every industry, in every sector, profit and non-profit.

This is about building an ecosystem that attracts and empowers creative entrepreneurs. Edmonton has most of the pieces, but to date, our ecosystem has been fragmented. We need a bottom-up approach to cultivating this ecosystem, fueled by entrepreneurs who will create the kind of competitive deal flow that attracts investment and capital.

He showed a great diagram of some of the things this ecosystem needs to thrive:

Our initial strike is focused on four of those things: networks, spaces, accelerators, and seed funds.

Four Initial Strategies

  1. Networks: Connecting young creatives, innovators and entrepreneurs with experienced mentors.
  2. Accelerators: Intensive development programs where ideas are transformed into market-ready products.
  3. Spaces: Creative/entrepreneurial hubs where the collision between great ideas and people can happen.
  4. Seed Funds: Pooled, leveraged funding invested at the earliest seed stage of creative development.

There are some exciting things happening here. We have been very successful at cultivating networks, with Startup Edmonton and artsScene Edmonton, and that will continue. We’re close to securing our space downtown, a creative hub for Edmonton entrepreneurs that will enable the collision between great ideas and people. And later this year, Edmonton’s first startup accelerator will officially launch – we call it Flightpath. Created by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, Flightpath will invest in 30 startups in the software and digital media space over three years at a cost of $1 million. An important part of that funding will come from private investors.

Edmonton Champions Launch

Edmonton Champions Launch

We’re really excited to have Chris LaBossiere and Don Riep from Yardstick Software on board as our first vision sponsors and investors. Additionally, Mayor Stephen Mandel announced last night that he too will join us as an initial investor in Flightpath!

City of Champions 2.0

This is about mobilizing our best – a new community of champions who are visionary, relentless, and unstoppable, and who together, will define Edmonton’s place in the new global economy.

  • More entrepreneurs in Edmonton: Amplifying creative innovation and empowering more Edmontonians to create and build, anchored by a central creative/tech hub located in the downtown core.
  • Job creation across new industries: Startups generate job creation that will build the new industries of the 21st century and solve some of our toughest global challenges.
  • Improved deal flow: We collaborate with existing Angel/VC networks to ensure investor readiness for companies coming out of the accelerator. Private equity is then deployed more effectively into stronger startups in order to grow and scale.
  • Stronger entrepreneurial culture: The wider community is invited to participate in larger events, creating further opportunities for high-impact entrepreneurship education.

Another thing Ken said really resonated with me. One of the first slides he showed said: “Go. Win. And stay connected. Edmonton is homebase.” It’s important to see what’s out there, to get connected with other creative, entrepeneurial people. But let’s connect that back to Edmonton.

We Need Your Help!

Tegan Martin-Drysdale, the new community co-chair of Edmonton Next Gen, spoke for a few minutes in support of the initiative. It was important to have her there because obviously we’re not the only ones pushing this transformation forward. Next Gen, interVivos, JCI, and dozens of other organizations are helping to make our vision a reality. And that’s really important, because we need to work together. There are four key ways you can help us take The Edmonton Champions Project forward:

  1. Champion: Help us share this vision!
  2. Sponsor: We’re volunteers and we need resources to keep moving. Thanks to Yardstick and Capital Power for making the launch event a success.
  3. Invest: We’re seeking investors for our first Flightpath fund. Help us get in front of the right people and consider investing yourself.
  4. Start Something: Everything we’re doing will be for naught if you aren’t out there starting companies and acting on your ideas!

Edmonton Champions Launch

Thank you to everyone who attended the launch event last night. As I wrote back in November when we first introduced The Edmonton Champions Project, I’m very excited about the direction we’re heading and consider myself lucky to be a part of it! Stay tuned to our website for more information.

You can see more photos from the launch event here. We’ll have video up at some point too.

5 thoughts on “City of Champions 2.0: The Edmonton Champions Project

  1. Hey, Mack.

    Thanks for this post. I have to admit to being very skeptical about this entire project. All I see at this point is a bunch of adjectives and a vanity project for some of the people involved. I’m happy to be dissuaded, however. Can you explain to me how this is different than what an organization like TEC Edmonton already provides?

    1. Hi Andy…thanks for your interest! I’ve written at length about some of the problems I see with TEC Edmonton in the past, so I won’t dwell on that there. I will say they are supportive of what we’re doing. We fill a different need.

      I think first and foremost is the team. Both the Startup and artsScene teams have demonstrated they can drive an initiative forward and make things happen. We have the team to execute on this vision.

      Another important distinction is that we’re doing this as entrepreneurs. We’ve identifed a problem and have come up with a solution. We’re not interested in bureaucracy. We’re not doing it simply because the government has decided it needs to spend money in this space. Graham Hicks covered this aspect quite nicely here:

      Flightpath is similar to organizations that have been very successful elsewhere, such as YCombinator or Tech Stars. An important distinction from other incubators or investment programs is the way Flightpath is structured. There is some government funding, definitely, but including private investors and corporate partners is important. Our private investors will play a big role, not just by putting their money into the project, but by helping us select, mentor, and progress the best companies.

      If you’d like to sit down to chat about this further, I’d be more than happy to do so.

      I think it’s fair to be skeptical. All I can say is that actions speak louder than words – so when we execute on this vision and make it a reality, I hope we’ll have convinced you!

  2. Mack,

    I understand that this is focused on tech startups and tech entrepreneurs and that reflects the people that are already involved in the project. Is that the sole focus for this group, or will there be support for other types of entrepreneurs or creatives and building networks and spaces for them?

    Also, given that the tech industry continues to skew male, what kind of work with the Edmonton Champions Project do to encourage, mentor, and support female “creatives, innovators, and entrepreneurs”?

    1. Great questions Marilyn.

      Flightpath is focused on software and digital media, yes. The goal though is to prove out the concept here in Edmonton, and then apply it to other industries. If Flightpath is the accelerator for Startup Edmonton and that space, the idea is that we’d have an equivalent program in the future for artsScene Edmonton for the arts space. Who knows where it’ll go beyond that!

      We haven’t defined anything to specifically reach females, but maybe we need to give that some more thought. I would point out that most of our events are fairly evenly balanced however, and even the real technical events like DemoCamp are changing from mostly guys to a healthy mix. And of course, there are great initiatives already taking place in Edmonton to help bridge the gap – such as Girl Geek Dinners!

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