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Invest NS Backs Navigate, Propel ICT

The fund — which aims to invest in the ecosystem rather than in individual companies — issued a statement saying it would provide $1.2 million in funding to Propel ICT, the regional tech accelerator. It also said it would give $346,000 to the Navigate Startup House in Sydney.

Though the funding will be used to provide programming for entrepreneurs across the region, the impact will be felt most strongly in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. The funding will help the nine-month-old Navigate Startup House expand both its physical space and programming. And it will also help Propel offer its first cohort in Cape Breton Island, which is planned for the fall of 2017.

“I’m proud of the way we started up as a community-driven project, with very much grass-roots support,” Navigate executive director Ardelle Reynolds said in an interview. “But the timing of this is perfect for us because it helps us to move into Phase II.”

Reynolds and co-founder Lindsay Uhma set up Navigate last year as a base for the growing tech community in the second-largest metro area in Nova Scotia. It offers co-working space, subsidized offices for as many as four startups and a range of mentoring sessions.

The outfit has now outgrown its space, said Reynolds, and it is in the process of raising $1.19 million to expand. As well as the Invest Nova Scotia grant, Navigate received $326,000 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and is progressing with the remainder. The expansion will allow the organization to offer office space to as many as seven companies, and the physical expansion will be accompanied by an enhancement of programming.

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Reynolds said Navigate has signed a one-year agreement with Jeff Amerine, the founder of Startup Junkies Consulting in Arkansas, to work on programming for Navigate. Amerine, a close collaborator with Cape Breton University Entrepreneur-in- Residence Permjot Valia, will provide one-on-one mentorship to the Navigate tenants and work with the organization itself to develop the ecosystem.

Meanwhile, the Invest Nova Scotia grant to Propel represents the Nova Scotia’s government contribution to Propel’s $2.56 million plan to enhance its programming.

“Propel exists for the purpose of accelerating entrepreneurial growth in Atlantic Canada, and we’re excited that support from Invest Nova Scotia will enable us to reach more entrepreneurs,” Propel ICT Chair Dave Grebenc said in the statement. “This aligns with Propel’s approach, and our mission of facilitating economic growth through entrepreneurship in the region.”

The grants announced Tuesday are the first offered by the Invest Nova Scotia fund, whose decisions are government by an independent board of directors.

“This is a different kind of fund that supports organizations with innovative ideas that demonstrate co-operation and long-term, broad-based benefits for Nova Scotians,” Invest Nova Scotia chair Kenneth Deveau said in the statement.

“These first two investments align with our principles and vision supporting job growth in Nova Scotia’s economy.”