Start-up Visa program to help immigrant entrepreneurs create Niagara businesses

Start-up Visa program to help immigrant entrepreneurs create Niagara businesses

Source: The Standard

Niagara Falls Innovation Hub is partnering with Niagara Business and Innovation Fund to help immigrant entrepreneurs with the skills and potential to build companies in the region.

Niagara Business and Innovation Fund has been approved as an official designated organization by the federal government under the Start-up Visa program administered by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

The program allows immigrant entrepreneurs with promising business ideas to obtain Canadian permanent residency by partnering with designated organizations that guide and support them through the process.

Niagara Business and Innovation Fund president Fred Davies said the designation will enable it to offer “invaluable guidance and expertise.”

“Our partnership with the Niagara Falls Innovation Hub also gives us the space, support services and a highly professional team of people to help us build new Canadian companies,” he said.

Dan Bordenave, chief executive officer of Niagara Falls Innovation Hub, highlighted the importance of the partnerships being developed at the downtown hub.

“This designation and addition to the suite of products we offer in Niagara Falls Innovation Hub means that we can attract, mentor and commercialize new start-ups in Canada to contribute to our local and national economy,” he said.

“We have an impressive team of people in place here in Niagara Falls, and across Canada, with world-class experience to help us build the start-up ecosystem.”

Davies said he believes the program will “attract an influx of talented and ambitious” immigrant entrepreneurs.

“This designation is a testament to the region’s potential and our collective commitment to fostering an inclusive and innovative business environment,” he said.

“By working alongside these driven team members, we will create a thriving network that showcases the immense opportunities available within our community, in Niagara and across Canada.”

Davies said the fund’s role as a designated organization enhances its capacity to provide a broad range of support services to immigrant entrepreneurs, including business planning, market analysis, mentorship, networking events and important access to funding and investment sources.

“Combined with the extensive space and talent at the innovation hub, Niagara’s entrepreneurial ecosystem will be further fortified, leading to increased job creation and economic prosperity,” he said.

Mayor Jim Diodati described the designation and partnership as a “pivotal moment for our city and region and demonstrates our dedication to cultivating a vibrant start-up ecosystem here.”

Located on Zimmerman Avenue, Niagara Falls Innovation Hub provides accessible and modern co-working spaces with various amenities, acting as an accelerator for start-ups and programs open to the community.

Davies said Niagara Business and Innovation Fund has been around since 1986.

Prior to being Niagara Business and Innovation Fund, however, the organization was part of South Niagara Community Futures Development Corp., he said.

“We left the program about a decade ago and pivoted to investing in start-up companies in Niagara, so that’s where we sort of refocused and as a result, changed our name,” said Davies.

“We have an investment fund that was capitalized in 1986 and our existence is based on our return on investment. We invest in companies throughout Niagara and sometimes beyond — start-up companies that can help diversify our local economy.”

Davies said Niagara Business and Innovation Fund is also “heavily” involved as an “angel investor.” Angel investors invest money in companies — usually start-ups — that are in the early stages of development.

He said the Start Start-up Visa program does not provide a blank cheque to immigrants, but rather allows them to “prove to us that they’ve got the capital to survive the development phase of their companies.”

“The SUV program provides a temporary work visa for several years as they commercialize their products. They have to demonstrate that they’ve got a great idea. It can lead to permanent residency, but that is all part of the beauty of this program, it brings what the world has to offer right to Niagara and gives people an opportunity to build a company in Canada that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to have access to.”

Davies said while Niagara Business and Innovation Fund is based out of Port Colborne, he spends a couple of days a week at Niagara Falls Innovation Hub.

“My role at the hub is I help mentor young companies there as the executive in residence,” he said.

“We complement each other’s business assets and talents, and we bring experience to the table. It’s not unusual to have alliances like this. There are other innovation centres across Ontario that link to investors and angel groups. We’ve committed to investing in the best companies that come to the hub. It’s an added value to Niagara.”

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