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Creative Destruction Lab takes a bite out of Big Apple

University of Toronto's Creative Destruction Lab in Toronto on Thursday, March 9, 2017.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

The Creative Destruction Lab is opening its first program outside Canada in partnership with New York University's Stern School of Business.

The New York program, an offshoot of the tech startup assistance program based at University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, will begin next September, admitting 25 ventures for its first nine-month program.

"Our model for developing massively scalable science-based ventures has proved successful in Canada … and we anticipate it will be similarly successful for our partners at NYU," said CDL founder Ajay Agrawal, an entrepreneurship professor at Rotman.

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Read more: How a U of T professor is creating high-tech superstars (for subscribers)

Read more: Creative Destruction Lab expands startup program nationally (for subscribers)

CDL has been on an expansion tear this year, opening satellite programs in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Halifax in partnership with business schools in each centre. It has also launched a University of Toronto-based offshoot focused on creating firms that specialize in artificial intelligence "machine learning," using powerful Canadian-made quantum computers.

CDL differs from incubators and accelerator programs that typically offer home and mentoring to startups in exchange for equity. Companies that have gone through the CDL, including Waterloo's Thalmic Labs, San Francisco-based Atomwise and Toronto's Deep Genomics, have been valued in subsequent financings from venture investors at more than $1-billion in total.

Instead, cohorts of 25 companies start the CDL program by meeting with accomplished entrepreneurs and investors who assign each firm three objectives that they must meet within eight weeks. If startups don't meet their objectives or fail to convince mentors that they can scale into giants, they are voted out. If they make it, they get three more objectives. Fewer than half finish. Those that do, often raise funds from the mentors – and from Silicon Valley investors who attend CDL sessions.

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