Calgary – and Alberta – is a hot spot for new ventures. Designed to support entrepreneurs, the Trade Accelerators Program (TAP)-Alberta helps businesses push industry-disrupting goods and services to international markets.
Modelled from the Canada’s Trade Accelerator Program, TAP-Alberta is accessible to eligible Alberta-based startups. The four-session program is designed to accelerate the strategic development of businesses and prepare them for global expansion.
“Bright minds with big ideas are developing solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges in Calgary and Alberta. We have some forward-thinking businesses here that deserve to be on the global stage,” said Shona Reilly, Senior Manager, Trade, Calgary Economic Development.
“TAP is designed to provide local businesses with the tools they need to scale their game-changing solutions and creative products to markets around the world.”
Program alumni join the mass of Alberta businesses pushing to global markets. In 2022, Alberta exported $206.42 billion worth of all products to all markets, an increase of 49 per cent from the year prior.
Tapping into new markets with TAP
Graduates of TAP-Alberta cohorts are ultimately prepared with the international business acumen needed to compete globally, which aligns with the priority to advance innovation in the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy.
With hands-on support from Canadian export advisors through one-on-one mentoring sessions, program participants build foundational knowledge on international trade and develop a Global Expansion Plan (GEP).
Just as each business has a unique value proposition, expansion plans may include a variety of market entry points. The plans highlight opportunities for companies to export goods or services, purchase real estate, hire staff or license their product or service in new markets.
Partake Brewing, an agrifood TAP graduate that produces non-alcoholic beer, recently ranked 14th on the Globe and Mail’s Top Growing Companies in Canada list.
“The team at Calgary Economic Development and the TAP team were instrumental in helping me develop our first export plan,” said Ted Fleming, Founder and CEO, Partake Brewing.
“The process of planning and adjusting our plan has become a key contributor to our success.”
The world needs more Albertan goods and services
Companies that sell goods or services are welcome to apply to participate in TAP. Across sectors, over 300 companies have graduated from TAP since 2018, and over 100 global expansion deals have been signed by TAP alumni.
While many TAP cohorts are sector agnostic, the program also offers sector-specific cohorts to address common industry challenges in global expansion. Several service firms including GoodLawyer and Communo participated in the Technology cohort.
“Participating in TAP was a transformative experience for Goodlawyer. The hands-on approach and insightful mentorship were invaluable and gave us the tools and knowledge we needed to expand our horizons,” said Brett Colvin, Co-Founder & CEO, Goodlawyer.
“Since TAP, we have seen remarkable growth across Canada and plan to soon expand internationally. We're excited about Goodlawyer’s future and to help more businesses build their in-house legal team.”
The legal service scaleup was named by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce as the ATB Small Business of the year in 2022.
Beyond sectors, TAP-Alberta partners with Export Development Canada, Rise Consulting and the Trade Commissioner Service to offer an Indigenous cohort for Indigenous-owned or led businesses. Thirteen businesses graduated from the inaugural cohort in 2022, with more expected graduate in the fall 2023 cohort.
TAP grads access government funding
AltaML, a multi-sector cohort alumna, builds and operationalizes AI-enabled solutions and ranked 18th on the Globe and Mail’s list of Top Growing Companies in Canada in 2022.
Following graduation from TAP, the firm received funding from the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF) to support the creation of hands-on data science internships which help build the skill capacity of tech talent in the Calgary community.
With a mandate to help local early-stage companies scale, OCIF is a catalyst to position Calgary as an opportunity-rich global innovation destination. The $100 million fund saw AltaML as an example of a Calgary company prepared to share AI solutions globally and develop the local talent pool, in part due to its participation in TAP.
Most TAP graduates are eligible for funding through Export Development Canada and the Government of Alberta once they've completed market research and their Global Expansion Plan.
At the provincial level, alumni can apply for grant funding to attend trade missions through the Alberta Export Expansion Program, led by the Trade Export Development Branch. For applicants with a GEP, the program promotes Alberta exports by reimbursing up to 50 per cent of outbound international business travel up to a maximum of $25,000 per year.
Trade delegations provide opportunities for companies to explore new markets in-person and make in-market connections with industry leaders and potential clients.
“TAP is a building block for businesses starting their journey to international expansion. In addition to developing hardskills and plans through the program, new doors open for alumni as they look at global expansion proactively vs reactively," said Reilly.
“Our team continues to support TAP alumni by creating opportunities for companies to continue making valuable connections locally and abroad. TAP has an extensive, engaged alumni network that come together for sector meet-ups and networking sessions, and join international trade delegations.”
As one step towards expansion, TAP helps Alberta businesses scale to the size of their ambitions.
Register for free to connect with industry experts and hear from local entrepreneurs who have attended trade missions at Calgary Economic Development’s Trade Talk series on Wednesday, Aug. 30.
For more information on the Trade Accelerator Program, visit the TAP website or reach out to the TAP team directly via email. Learn more about the priority to advance innovation in the economic strategy, CalgaryInTheNewEconomy.com.