Being a Leader in Building a Community

by Arushi Kothari

3 min read

Since its launch in 2009, Startup Edmonton has become a Canadian model for what a Startup Community could and should be. A thriving entrepreneurial campus and community hub, it is a place where developers, designers, makers, founders, investors and mentors gather to transform ideas into companies.

We dug a little deeper into the history of this influential organization to learn more about how it was built from the ground up and what’s in store for the team over the next five years.

Volunteers With a Vision

Startup Edmonton was initially a volunteer-run society that supported the development of tech startups through hosting largely tech-focused community events like DemoCamp and Startup Weekend.

Grassroots to the core, many of Startup Edmonton’s events were funded with the volunteers’ own cash and resources. Each event provided people with a venue to network, share what they were working on, and get feedback from peers in an informal setting.

One successful event after another fed into a wave of momentum. With barely a year of operations under its belt, Startup Edmonton was bringing in crowds of 200-300 people for its DemoCamps. New startups were coming out of the woodwork, and community and business leaders were taking notice.

It quickly became clear that in order to evolve, Startup Edmonton would require full-time commitment from its founders and a physical space to drive the kind of impact its organizers envisioned.

Riding the Wave

By 2013, Startup Edmonton had evolved and grown to a team of five full-time staff, 77 members and counting, and nearly 18,000 square feet of startup space. More than 5,000 people had attended a Startup Edmonton event or program.

Major business and community leaders were now actively supporting and championing the organization’s efforts. Even the federal government took notice. The Honourable Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board, visited Startup Edmonton’s downtown campus last year to announce the government’s support for business innovation and entrepreneurship.

“High-impact, fast-growing startup companies are crucial to job creation and Canada’s long-term prosperity,” said Clement in an article by Techvibes. “Organizations like Startup Edmonton are dynamic hubs for unleashing Canada’s entrepreneurial potential. Our Government is a strong supporter of the startup community. Investing in startups is an investment in our future.”

“Canadian entrepreneurs have amazing potential,” said Ken Bautista, CEO of Startup Edmonton. “Our role is to help them see not only the opportunities that are out there, but also show our support in actively seeing ideas become realities.”

The Next Five Years

Earlier this year, under Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) CEO Brad Ferguson and Mayor Don Iveson’s leadership, Startup Edmonton was acquired by the EEDC.

“It was clear to everyone that we had built something that was a key driver in the continued growth of entrepreneurship in our community. It was also clear that we needed to increase our horsepower to scale our growth and impact,” said Bautista in a blog post announcing the acquisition.

Alongside that move, Bautista himself has a new role as the new Director of Entrepreneurship at EEDC. He’ll continue to be the CEO of Startup Edmonton, but will be taking the opportunity to leverage Startup Edmonton’s leadership and culture, and apply it to the broader picture.

Edmonton hosted its first Startup Week from Oct 20 – 24, and used that event to launch a teaser site for a new brand/platform called Ignite Edmonton, which unites the high-growth entrepreneurship initiatives at EEDC, including Startup Edmonton, TEC Edmonton, Advanced Technology Centre, and the Edmonton Research Park.

“It’s the success of these elements together (along with some new ones) that will drive the long-term growth of entrepreneurship in Edmonton as a whole,” said Bautista.

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