Ontario’s small business community is booming, yet few of these companies effectively scale their solutions into global markets. In December 2015, there were 48.3 times more small businesses (1-99 employees) than medium-sized (100-499 employees) companies in Ontario. This trend is especially prevalent in the technology startup community where entrepreneurs are developing world-class intellectual property (IP) but have difficulty securing customers – in Canada and across the world.
Since business expansion is critical to long-term success of companies, measures need to be taken to ensure firms have the resources to scale effectively. This is the concept behind the Ontario Scale-Up Vouchers Program, a government funding initiative that connects high-growth technology businesses to mentors and project-oriented vouchers to reduce the cost of business expansion. This injection of expertise and capital will help innovation-intensive small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) increase global revenues.
Ontario Scale-Up Vouchers Program participants will gain access to a business innovation ‘growth coach’ in addition to vouchers offsetting between $150,000 and $250,000 of project costs.
To apply, eligible Ontario-based SMEs must complete an online application outlining the business’ unique growth challenges. Vouchers are awarded after working with an assigned growth coach who can recommend activities for the business to perform.
Ontario Scale-Up Vouchers Program – Business Expansion Funding
The Ontario Scale-Up Vouchers Program is a unique approach to help early-stage, high-growth, innovation and technology-based businesses grow and access international markets. During the program, participants may receive two forms of support:
- Growth Coach Insights: Growth coaches are senior business leaders who’ve proven their expertise in one of four key business development areas, including talent management, sales and revenue growth, protection of IP, and access to capital. These technology and innovation leaders will provide actionable insights for businesses to effectively enter the next stage of growth.
- Business Development Vouchers: Recommendations from growth coaches will create new priorities for program participants to achieve. The activities become the basis for non-repayable vouchers which companies can use to directly offset project costs. Funding is available to reduce project expenses by $150,000 to up to $250,000.
Please Note: Working with a Growth Coach does not guarantee vouchers will be provided. Businesses must follow the recommendations outlined by their mentor to receive funding.
Participants start the program by being matched to a qualified coach who identifies ways to accelerate growth. Assigned Growth Coaches then begin working with the business to understand its challenges/barriers to success. Once a mentor understands the business’ situation, they will provide recommendations to fuel growth.
Businesses may choose what they do with these recommendations; if companies decide to immediately implement the growth plan, a second phase of the program may be used to receive government vouchers. Vouchers are a redeemable form of government funding where companies perform certain actions (those outlined in a growth plan) and offset a portion of costs. Ontario Scale-Up Vouchers Program participants may receive between $150k to $250k in vouchers to improve their project’s outcomes.
How Voucher Funding Amounts are Determined
Vouchers are awarded to businesses who demonstrate – through a growth plan – that they are ready to scale-up. The amount of funding awarded through these vouchers, however, is largely based on the applicant’s annual revenue:
- $150,000 Vouchers: Companies with annual revenues between $1-5 million may qualify for vouchers carrying a $150,000 value. Recipients must contribute 33% of the voucher’s value through the program, or $49,500 towards the project’s deliverables.
- Up to $250,000 Vouchers: Companies with annual revenues over 5 million may qualify for vouchers carrying up to $250,000 in value. Recipients must contribute 50% of the voucher’s value towards the project, or up to $125,000 towards the project’s deliverables.
Please Note: Vouchers expire 24 months after being granted and can only be used once for eligible project activities.
Applicants Eligible for the Ontario Scale-Up Vouchers Program
To be eligible for the Ontario Scale-Up Vouchers Program, applicants must:
- Be based in Ontario (at least 50% of wages, full-time employees, and senior executives must be Ontario-based);
- Be a member of a technology or innovation-focused industry (including information and communications technology, advanced materials/manufacturing, clean technology, and life sciences);
- Maintain annual revenues of $1 million to $50 million; and
- Have an annual growth rate of 20% (revenue, sales, or employment) and/or secured at least $2 million in private investment over the last two years.
How to Apply for the Ontario Scale-Up Vouchers Program
Eligible Ontario-based businesses may submit an online application to be considered for the Ontario Scale-Up Vouchers Program. The application is extensive and takes upwards of ten hours or longer to complete, however, businesses may save the online form and return to it until complete. Preliminary applications require audited financial statements and should provide international performance metrics to demonstrate growth opportunities.
Applicants typically receive application feedback within one month. At this time, companies may be approved or referred to other Ontario government funding programs.
To discuss your business’ eligibility for the Ontario Scale-Up Vouchers Program and receive application support, please contact Mentor Works.
This post originally appeared on Mentor Works. Mentor Works helps established for-profit companies find and leverage Canadian business grants and loans.