$2 million donation from John Dobson Foundation ensures longevity of McGill X-1 Accelerator


The John Dobson Foundation has donated $2 million dollars to fund the McGill X-1 Accelerator program, its largest gift to McGill yet. The donation will support the program, run by the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, for the next ten years.

McGill X-1 Accelerator, now in its third year, is an intensive 10-week summer program designed to accelerate the growth of later-stage McGill startups toward investment readiness and launch in the fall. The program is open to teams, of which at least one must have a McGill affiliation, as a current student, recent alumni, faculty or staff. It runs from June to August, and concludes with demo days in the fall. In 2016, the program successfully tested demo days in Boston and San Francisco as well as Montreal.

“Part of our approach when we first talked to the John Dobson Foundation was we told them we had been running this accelerator program for the past two years,” Renjie Butalid, Marketing and Operations Advisor for the Dobson Centre told MTLinTECH. “The first one was very much a pilot built off of MIT’s Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator program, now called delta v, where we learned practices from MIT. We had sent a startup in 2013 and 2014 to be part of their program, and we wanted to pilot our own program here at McGill.

Last year we ran it again to see if it was something that would stick. And then when we were done with the second program we realized this was something that was really useful to the McGill community. The John Dobson Foundation thought that it was worthwhile to put some funding to make sure that this program would continue to happen. So we have guaranteed funding for the McGill X-1 for the next ten years.

More importantly, this is a way to leverage the $2 million that they’re giving to get additional support from other funders as well.”

The overall curriculum builds upon the MIT startup methodology of Disciplined Entrepreneurship, an integrated and proven framework for developing an innovation-driven product towards launch.

The donation also signals a time of crucial development for the Dobson Centre, which resides in the Desautels Faculty of Management. Since its founding in 1988 under the late John Dobson, a known advocate for free enterprise and entrepreneurship, the Centre has played a central role in advancing entrepreneurial innovation and discovery at McGill. Through its flagship annual startup competition, the McGill Dobson Cup, and other subsequent initiatives, such as X-1, the Centre has offered mentorship to more than 2,200 McGill entrepreneurs and launched more than 125 successful startups that today employ over 1,200 people and have raised over $100 million in venture funding.

“The McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship has played a central role in creating young McGill entrepreneurs,” said Professor Gregory Vit, Director of the McGill Dobson Centre. “Many recent McGill startups have had an important impact on the economies of Montreal and Quebec. This significant gift made by the John Dobson Foundation will ensure that we continue to serve the vibrant entrepreneurship culture at McGill University. I’m highly confident that our entrepreneurs, in the not too distant future, will have a major positive impact on the planet.”

And the donation has already had an immediate impact on the size and funding of this year’s program.

“This year was we were able to actually accept more teams into the program,” said Butalid. “We did so knowing that the funding was going to be announced partway through the summer, so for us it was an opportunity to grow from five teams in 2015, six teams in 2016, to eight teams this year. We also increased the stipends that we gave to each of the participants in X-1 from $2,000 to $5,000. Some of the funding will also go towards supporting these demo day events, not just in Montreal, but because of the funding we’ve been able to grow from Montreal, Boston, San Francisco last year, to adding Toronto and New York City to this year’s roster of events.”

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