As a city of innovators with a long history of serving large industrial sectors, Calgary is perfectly positioned to take advantage of accomplished local business talent and the opportunities arising from the increasing prevalence of digitalization.
One recent example is Calgary’s InterGen, a not-for-profit company that has developed an online platform to connect experienced business professionals with later-stage Alberta-based startups. The platform focuses on intergenerational entrepreneurship, with seasoned professionals and retirees volunteering their time and leveraging their knowledge and years of experience to support the next generation of entrepreneurs and scale-ups.
A recipient of the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF) in 2019, InterGen is helping startups scale, having facilitated to date over 6,400 matches and 1,000 direct connections between its network of experienced business leaders and growing companies on the platform.
InterGen has well exceeded the initial target of 140 companies registered over a three-year period, further supporting the demand for and value of this initiative. Like a dating app for knowledge transfer, experienced leaders with years of business and technical acumen and new entrepreneurs looking to expand their businesses are connecting for mutual long-term benefit.
“At our core, we are about building business here in Alberta. Our focus is on how to create a nurturing environment for founders to stay here, grow their business here and raise their children here,” said Sandi Gilbert, Chief Executive Officer of InterGen Canada.
According to InterGen, support from OCIF not only helped financially but also provided further validation to the community and drove awareness for its platform and vision. OCIF is a City of Calgary initiative launched in 2018 to spur economic growth and act as a powerful tool to activate innovation in our community. To help Calgary reach its economic potential, a key focus of OCIF funding is on ecosystem-building investments, positioning Calgary as a destination of choice for innovators and enabling more local companies to scale across their life cycles.
“To cultivate innovation, cities need to create the right conditions for growth,” said Brad Parry, President and CEO, Calgary Economic Development and CEO, Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund. “As we embrace technology and innovative thinking to create solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges, with OCIF’s investments, Calgary has become a magnet for problem solvers and creative thinkers.”
Calgary strives to nurture a collaborative spirit in its business community, creating a place where entrepreneurs and founders are encouraged to share knowledge, test new technologies, and start new companies that grow and thrive.
“InterGen has been an integral part of Galatea's growth,” said Chad Hayden, CEO, Galatea Technologies, a client of InterGen. “The support from InterGen’s network brought diversity of thought, opinion and experience to our team, helping us build a durable and sustainable business. InterGen's program has been mutually beneficial to our team and the individuals we were matched with, as we're able to help them stay plugged in at the forefront of technology and business while we received guidance on hard learned lessons.”
“The unique thing about Calgary is that everybody wants to help,” said Gilbert. “It’s a palatable, passionate world we have in Calgary; it’s because we started as an entrepreneurial community, it’s in our DNA to help each other.”
To date, OCIF has made 25 strategic investments to increase the capacity of innovation in the city. The Fund fosters collaborative partnerships and community essential to creating a strong economic hub through leveraged investments that accelerate the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy.
Investments in Calgary’s innovative ecosystem have been on the rise, and our city is an increasingly popular location for startups and scaleups.
In 2022, Calgary attracted its fifth consecutive year of record venture capital investment, with $647 million across 64 deals – an increase of 29.4 per cent more dollars than the year prior. Nationally, Calgary ranked the fourth highest city for venture-capital investment.
InterGen fosters support for local companies in multiple ways. The organization also launched InterGen Capital, a venture fund designed to enable high potential local companies to seize global opportunities. The fund aims to fill the gap in funding for later stage companies ready to take their business to the next level. InterGen has raised capital for the fund from prominent business leaders in the city and has deployed seven million of capital into 11 Calgary based companies that have collectively raised more than $140 million.
Calgary continues to build an environment where local companies can scale to global heights and serve as a magnet for innovative thinkers. By weaving innovation into every facet of life and business, Calgary is becoming a creative destination for all.
Visit the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund page for more information on the City’s investments to drive innovation and spur transformative economic development in Calgary.
Quotes on InterGen’s impact in the Calgary ecosystem:
One of the challenges many technology companies have in Calgary is their ability to let potential clients know about the wonderful work they are doing. This is why InterGen’s support was so important, as it allowed us to engage with Dalyce Semko of Open2America and put together a public relations campaign to spread the word about the quality of advanced software work we do with our clients and partners, and the positive impact it has on their business success. The resulting media interest and public awareness of our company has already opened doors to several new client opportunities for us.
Jeff LaFrenz, CEO, VizworX
Working with InterGen led us to Paul Sullivan, who has worked with us closely on our strategic planning initiatives over the past 12 months. We’re a stronger and more organized leadership team because of Paul, and we wouldn’t have met Paul but for InterGen.
Brett Colvin, CEO, Goodlawyer
InterGen has been a great partner and trusted advisor to Virtuo throughout our growth. The team at InterGen have matched us with business leaders who have been able to guide us through challenges and help capitalize on big opportunities. In addition, they’ve made valuable intros to key customers and investors, and they invested capital in us via their fund; they’ve been able to check every important box for me as a founder. If you’re running a growing company, I highly recommend connecting with the InterGen team.
Casey Kachur, Co-Founder & CEO, Virtuo
Sandi and the InterGen team have been instrumental in ZayZoon’s success by way of early capital and access to seasoned executives. The team has always been there to support us as a connector and has helped level up Calgary’s tech ecosystem. There’s a critical gap between angel capital and scaling-up capital that InterGen is bridging for companies that will contribute meaningfully to our local economy.
Darcy Tuer, CEO, ZayZoon