This will mark the 10th cohort of the Montreal program, which has accelerated 73 companies over the past five years and is backed by Real Ventures, the most active seed stage venture capital firm in Canada. FounderFuel alumni have raised over $50 million in financing from top firms such as Spark, Accomplice, Accel, and Y Combinator and include companies Crew, Sonder, and Oohlala.
Much has changed in the world of accelerators in the past five years. Y Combinator, TechStars, and 500 Startups have all grown considerably and now regularly take in Canadian startups. Corporates have taken a more active role, incubators and non-dilutive funding sources have exploded, and the sheer number of programs has multiplied to the extent that there are now more numerous and more stable support structures for early stage companies.
But amidst all this change, FounderFuel has retained the format it started with five years ago.
“Even though the world is changing, and a lot of different things are coming and going and theres a lot of evolution in early stage financing, we took a break and looked at it, and the answer is we still want to do that form. We still think it works and it’s a good way to invest in companies in the very early stages, really accelerate them and push them forward very quickly,” Isaac Souweine, the current Entrepreneur in Residence of FounderFuel told MTLinTECH.
A big part of the reason the skeletal structure of FounderFuel has continued to work so well is the support from Real Ventures.
“Good people on a project like this make it happen. And it’s backed by a venture firm that’s committed to keeping it going for the long term. A lot of other projects have run a similar model, but haven’t necessarily had the capital and the long-term commitment.”
When you see the success stories, it takes a long time to get success stories. You can’t run one or two cohorts, you have to run nine or ten and keep going, because the venture cycle is like ten years long.
Which isn’t to say nothing has changed. While the core structure of FounderFuel has remained the same, there are some key differences from when the program started.
“We used to write $25,000 cheques, now we write $100,000 cheques. That’s a huge difference.”
For the Spring 2017 cohort, there is an especial interest in artificial intelligence (AI), which reflects a larger Real Ventures investment thesis, which sees AI as a deeply transformative set of technologies that Canadian startup ecosystems can play a leading role in developing.
But while AI will be a focus, other types of companies should not be deterred.
“It has to be a company that’s ready to get the most out of the program and fit with what we’re doing. This way we can still angle for those companies and prioritize that recruiting and prioritize building stuff around them when they get into the program, but remain open to great companies we see that aren’t working on AI right now because that’s not in their core business.”
And with a stronger ecosystem and support systems in place, the calibre of applicants has increased noticeably from when the program started.
“We have better options to fund companies that are further along and have proved more by the time they get to the accelerator stage. And that’s great for us as investors, but it’s also especially great because the accelerator is a very short period of time. So companies that are already making something happen and are ready to accelerate their pace, they get the most out of it.”
Along with Souweine, the FounderFuel team will be joined by Adelaide Andriot, who worked extensively with the Spring 2016 cohort, as program manager. She will be supported by Thibaud Marechal as Platform Manager and Sylvain Carle will reprise the role of General Manager.
The Spring 2017 Cohort will run from early April to early July, with Demo Day scheduled to coincide with StartupFest. Recruiting starts immediately and acceptance will be given on a rolling basis. For more information, visit FounderFuel’s FAQ. If you think you could be a good fit for the program, apply here.
“Think about applying. If you have a company that’s at the stage where it could really benefit from an accelerator program, and if you’re in Montreal or are willing to come to Montreal, apply and know that we’ll be reading every application and we’re eager to connect with all sorts of companies to see who might be a good fit.”