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Button Prepares To Launch Ignite

Button, who is based in Wileville on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, began the Spark program, part of the Mashup Lab Virtual Incubation Program, in September last year to assist entrepreneurs who don’t have easy physical access to programs and mentors.

Registrations are now being accepted for Ignite, the follow-on program, which launches in August. Ignite is for people who have validated their ideas and are in the early stages of launching and looking for their first clients. Both programs feature two three-hour online seminars per week for six weeks.

Button said the first three cohorts of the Spark program have been very diverse, both in the age and backgrounds of the entrepreneurs and the kinds of venture they want to establish.

“We’ve had about 30 participants. Most have been from Nova Scotia. We’ve also had someone who was working in Bermuda…and two from Quebec. We’ve had a 15-year-old from Kentville with a home energy product, and people in their 50s and 60s.

“The ideas range from a craft beer micro-brewery, financial tech and education tech software, Internet of Things, SaaS (software as a service), as well as consumer products, bricks and mortar and service-based companies.”

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Button believes the more diversity and variety of viewpoints the better at the early stage of idea validation.

Button co-facilitates sessions and brings in guest entrepreneurs who share their experiences. He’s also able to connect participants with outside mentors.

To deliver his programming, he has partnered with Spring, a group based in Vancouver that provides mentorship to startups via online seminars.

“The Spring programming is for everyone, from high-growth tech companies to bricks and mortar ventures, for-profit and not-for-profit. I thought that was really important,” he said.

“All our participants get plugged into the Spring online community, which includes 143 entrepreneurs and alumni in 12 countries,” he said.

The partnership also allows Mashup Lab participants to access, via live-stream, the guest speakers and mentors that Spring brings in to their cohorts in Vancouver.

Speakers include Stefan Krepaikevich, co-founder of Brightkit, which was acquired by Hootsuit, and Annalea Krebs, CEO of @ Social Nature and former CEO of @ethicalDeal.

Button, who is originally from Newfoundland and has an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Consulting from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, previously worked with businesses and economic development organizations.

He founded Mashup Lab in 2014 to help establish more entrepreneurs in rural communities. He has since launched CO3, a co-working space for freelancers and entrepreneurs located in Bridgewater.

“I’ve worked with over 1,000 entrepreneurs in rural communities across the region, and I know great ideas can come from anywhere,” he said.

He would like to work with other Atlantic Canadian groups to offer his programming in tandem with theirs, both as a pre-incubator opportunity and as a follow-on for winners of the region’s many startup contests.

He partnered with the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre to offer registration to the Spark program as part of the prize package for their Start It Up! Competition. Four participants in the latest Spark cohort were winners of that contest.

Button said his programming aims to nurture small companies that can contribute to economic growth.

“There’s a lot of talk around the idea of building the first billion-dollar company from Atlantic Canada,” he said.

“Tech is the dominant narrative. It’s easy to get excited about and think about the tech company’s home run. . . .To get there we need a pipeline of companies. They won’t all be tech companies. In that mix, we will have a variety of companies. I believe I can have an impact in building the pipeline. We need all types of entrepreneurship in Atlantic Canada.”