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Partners collaborate to create startup incubation space
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City of North Bay

A North Bay software company and Innovation Initiatives Ontario North (IION) are partnering up on an incubation space geared toward technology-based startup companies.

Launched in July, the Northern TechHub is a combination of available office space at MetricAid’s offices in downtown North Bay, along with access to mentors and the support services offered to new businesses by IION.

Lora Webb, CAO at MetricAid, said the company approached IION about collaborating on the initiative because it saw a need for space in the city. It had some office space sitting unused and knew firsthand of the types of valuable resources IION could provide likeminded startups.

“From the beginning of MetricAid, IION has been an incredible resource for us,” Webb said.

“We have benefitted year after year from various grants and advice. We’ve benefitted a lot from IION, so we know what kinds of services they can offer new startups, and we just thought it would be a great fit.”

Available for use are two 12-foot by 12-foot offices, which Webb said could each accommodate up to four entrepreneurs, depending on the configuration.

Along with that, tenants would have access to amenities like high-speed internet for business and use of the boardroom.

Criteria haven’t been established for vetting potential tenants; Webb said they would likely evaluate candidates on a case-by-case basis.

But they’re open to welcoming entrepreneurs whose businesses are at various stages of implementation.

“They can be just when they’re starting up with R&D, trying to think about concepts, all the way up to early commercialization,” she said, although there isn’t space for manufacturing equipment or storage, so ideal candidates would just need a computer and a desk.

“At any stage of development, we’ll welcome a company.”

Matthew Doherty, economic and operations manager at IION, noted that much of North Bay’s private sector development remains focused on the mining and mining manufacturing fields.

But there is an appetite for growing the information technology industry.

“There are lots of private sector companies here, but I would say the IT field is growing,” he said.

“Is it where we would like it to be now? Probably not. But initiatives like this are going to help change that.”

As a regional innovation centre, IION can offer eligible clients funding between $5,000 and $10,000 to help with startup costs. It also provides access to a suite of practical workshops and programs, along with mentors and advisors who provide guidance.

Doherty said the organization is currently working on a partnership with a firm that will be able to provide legal advice to clients.

“We’re here to hold their hand when needed, but also to back off when not needed as well,” he said.

Webb is equally enthusiastic about growing the tech sector in North Bay, and said MetricAid is happy to use its five years of experiences to guide other, upcoming tech startups.

“There are so many things that we’ve learned along the way, that if we could share those experiences with a new company, it might help them avoid mistakes that we’ve made, for example,” she said.

“We would love for the tech industry to grow in North Bay.”

To help get the word out about the Northern TechHub, MetricAid planned to co-host a Ladies Learning Code workshop in September. Ladies Learning Code is a national effort to introduce coding to women and girls.

There are typically workshops held annually on Sept. 23, which is National Learn to Code Day.