Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (SSMIC) Executive Director Tom Vair, speaking to SooToday.com, is eager to remind young people in the Sault and area with tech-savvy minds and entrepreneurial spirits that the Innovation Centre is there to help them realize their dreams of starting up their own information-technology businesses.
Vair spoke to us after the Ontario government, earlier this week, announced the first recipients of funding from the Youth Investment Accelerator Fund Program (Youth IAF).
The Youth IAF was launched last year as one component of the provincial government’s Youth Job Strategy ($295 million overall, over two years), designed to invest in technology-based businesses started up by entrepreneurs under the age of 30.
The fund awards financial help of up to $250,000 per eligible company.
The first recipients of funding are PUSH, a technology that helps optimize athletic training, Rubikloud, which is an e-commerce application, Soapbox, an interactive management tool, and Greengage Mobile, a technology designed to help businesses decrease their environmental footprint.
While none of these first recipients of funding are local, Vair said: “The Youth Investment Accelerator Fund the province has rolled out is open to entrepreneurs across Ontario, so youth in Sault Ste. Marie are absolutely eligible to apply to that program, and we will help them apply if they are working with us as a client company at the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre.”
Vair added: “Those four companies the province supported through that fund are just the first four…there’s a rolling application, the government still has money available, and they’re still accepting applications from people under 30 with a technology idea.”
Vair was not aware of an application deadline for the Youth Investment Accelerator Fund Program, but said: “The sooner people apply, the better.”
Vair said: “$250,000 is absolutely a great thing, a great opportunity…there are a number of programs out there to help young entrepreneurs.”
Vair pointed out the SSMIC is there to help young entrepreneurs with an information technology idea conduct “market intelligence” and develop a business plan for their product, along with “a few quick and easy funding programs to help them get up and running.”
“There are larger programs too, like this one (the Youth Investment Accelerator Fund Program) and NOHFC.”
Anyone under the age of 30 with a hi-tech idea may approach the SSMIC for help.
Vair told us the SSMIC is currently working with about 70 businesses in the Sault and Algoma region.
“It’s quite a range…we’re working with people who are developing mobile applications, software solutions, online platforms, as well as people who are developing new physical objects, products that can be used in peoples homes.”
“It’s a great time for youth wanting to go into a technological business,” Vair said.