A new partnership between Wilfrid Laurier University and a financial data startup is aiming to create a single, standardized data set about Canada's startup ecosystem.
The deal, between WLU's Lazaridis Institute, an accelerator program focused on "scale-up" companies, and Toronto-based software company Hockeystick will give every startup incubator and accelerator in Canada free access to this "national scale-up data platform" for five years.
"By tracking data across every incubator and accelerator, this nationwide platform will give us a normalized data over the longer term," says Steve Bailey, the director of operations at the Lazaridis Institute. "So, for the first time, we will have comprehensive data that allows us to better understand why startups succeed and fail."
The seven-figure deal, announced on April 27, is being supported by the federal government through FedDev Ontario. While the dollar value of the deal between Hockeystick and Lazaridis Institute isn't being disclosed, the federal funding is part of a larger grant, also announced on Thursday, that will allow the Lazaridis Institute do more analysis on the data and support other program activities.
The lack of data on Canada's startup ecosystem is a major problem, says Dan Breznitz, the co-director of the Innovation Policy Lab and the Munk Chair of Innovation Studies at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs. "On anything that has to do with innovation policy, and I would actually say a lot of other growth policies, we have horrible data in Canada," Mr. Breznitz says.
Gathering more data on accelerators and incubators is a good step, he says.
"We do, in Canada, have an extremely large number of those various kinds of incubation and acceleration programs and it is very unclear what happens there, so more data about that would be extremely helpful," he says.
Still, Mr. Breznitz says he has some caveats – if a data set on Canada's innovation system is going to be valuable it should be complete; publicly available; and it needs to be regularly updated, instead of consisting of snapshots.
While it's too early to say if Hockeystick will meet those conditions, the platform is intended to be as complete and up to date as possible. While it will be freely available to some stakeholders, like startup accelerators and incubators, others will have to pay to access the data.
Canada needs "real data, instead of myths, on those issues when we are making policy decision in the hundreds of millions of dollars," Mr. Breznitz says.
Hockeystick's platform acts as a tool for private companies to store data and share it with investors and potential investors. That data ranges from investments and sales numbers, to the number of employees and the names of the company's founders.
Over 10,000 companies are currently using the platform. The new partnership will help the company reach its goal of having data on the majority of private companies in Canada instead of just a fraction, according to Raymond Luk, Hockeystick's founder and CEO.
"Private companies have really strong incentives to share data, and they always have," says Mr. Luk. "Sometimes the incentive is raising money, sometimes the incentive is that there's bad copies of data about them already out there."
The data shared through the platform is, essentially, being "self-reported" to Hockeystick. Companies maintain ownership of their data and can decide how it's shared and disclosed. Hockeystick also gathers anonymized data, which is then aggregated and analyzed.
"It's really the first common data platform for startups, and basically all private companies, their funders, accelerators and angels," Mr. Luk says.
He sees Hockeystick, which also gathers data from investors, startup support programs and public sources, becoming something like a Bloomberg for private companies.
"If you're a public company, you compare yourself with all the benchmarks," Mr. Luk says. "In the private space, you're kind of flying blind, and I think that's not a situation that people like."
He says the platform can also help give investors more information.
"Imagine that you're a fund looking for deal flow and, instead of going out and knocking on doors and hosting events, you're actually using data to find those needles in a haystack that fit your fund thesis," he says.
The Lazaridis Institute's Mr. Bailey sees the platform giving accelerators and incubators a similar advantage – allowing them to easily identify companies that match the criteria for their programs and for the platform to be used by startups that are applying to those programs.
He expects that to be a strong incentive to get more startups using the program.
"This deal is really the beginning of the end of having incomplete data," Mr. Luk says.
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