N1M gets a million-dollar boost

By Cecilia Nasmith

Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP Kim Rudd represented the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development in Cobourg Tuesday to announce an additional FedDev Ontario investment of $1.1-million in the Northumberland Community Futures Development Corporation's N1M initiative.

This announcement builds on a previous FedDev Ontario contribution of $1.1-million to launch N1M, a program that has supported more than 30 start-ups and helped to create more than 70 new full-time job. The newly announced boost should support another 25 innovative start-ups and create perhaps 17 additional jobs.

“I think our riding is pretty well at the epicentre, if you will, of Ground Zero of the Rural Renaissance. We coined that phrase a little while ago, and it has been gaining steam throughout Eastern Ontario,” Rudd said.

She cited the site of the announcement – Cobourg's innovation-and-entrepreneurship centre, Venture 13 – as a leader in this movement.

“It's not just that we are changing how business is done, but how it's being created. The Maker Lab and other uses in this building really speak to that.

“We know that these innovations and these businesses are really the businesses of tomorrow, and that's what's happening here,” Rudd said.

“FedDev, as we lovingly call it, is really about creating opportunity, creating business, creating innovation within our rural community, We know that it's doable.”

CFDC executive director Wendy Curtis said her agency takes pride in the work it does here, and with colleagues in Southeastern Ontario.

“We are looking forward to seeing the momentum of N1M – it stands for Northumberland One Million. It began in 2013 as a FedDev pilot project to provide seed funding and support STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] projects across southern Ontario. It gave rise to many, many start-ups.”

Curtis said she had been amazed at the variety of initiatives that resulted locally – from green building materials and cryocooling technology for manufacturing to a personal aerial vehicle that has become the first approved by Transport Canada (and that has been acquired by a Google cofounder).

“All this work is being done here in Canada, here in Ontario, here in Southern Ontario, here in rural Ontario – and a lot of it is close to home.”

Brighton entrepreneur Spencer Selhi appeared as one of the entrepreneurs who benefited from N1M. Chief executive officer and founder of RueBel Ltd., which is developing innovative luggage systems, he wanted to expand upon efficiencies he found to make a dent in the travel market. However, he found that his Royal Canadian Air Force career offered little preparation for the skills and entrepreneur needs – design, engineering, law, logistics, negotiation, sales and marketing, he listed.

“Wendy and her team immediately grasped where I was in my journey and connected me with the resources I needed,” Selhi said.

“Now I'm at the final steps of preparation before launching my new business. I am confident in the direction we are going, thanks to the funding and strategy support from N1M and my contacts through Venture 13.”

Curtis took a moment to share some thoughts on how the Venture 13 innovation-and-entrepreneurship centre has taken off since its launch in May. It has hosted 130 events and activities, seen 3,500 people come through the door, is home to 21 businesses (and 62 individuals work there every day), has hosted six competitions and untold demonstrations and meetings.

“I can barely keep up,” she said.

As for the success of N1M, she added, “N1M start-ups have already won multiple awards, raised considerable funding and established solid business momentum in early commercialization. Building on this track record, with the support of FedDev Ontario, we look forward to launching the next N1M cohort on a comparable trajectory of success.”