Q and A with Dave Smardon

President and CEO, Bioenterprise

By Alexander McCleave

In October, Bioenterprise Corporation, a national, non-profit agri-technology business accelerator was the recipient of BIOTECanada’s Gold Leaf Award for Ecosystem Builder for its demonstrated leadership, showing significant contributions to the Canadian biotech ecosystem through its engagement and responsibility.

How does a company receive such a highly prized award? “Well, internal mandate,” says Dave Smardon, President and CEO. “We have taken what has been a successful commercialization model for a business accelerator and expanded it across Canada.”

Tell me about Bioenterprise.

I would describe us in two ways. Firstly, we are a business accelerator but we are a virtual one. This means we don’t actually incubate companies but we work with companies from coast to coast to accelerate their products in the marketplace and build sustainable organizations.

The second way is to say that we are a commercialization engine. There a lot of different components that are acquired to start successful companies and we try to harness all of these components for companies into a single process or engine.

Your company has 13 listed services on its website. Which are the most used?

I think the number one service that we offer is our global network. Most of these organizations that reach out to us are looking for potential sales, potential partners and most of them are ill-equipped. They simply don’t have the network and connections that we do. In terms of connections, our organization does not stop at Canada, we have access to multinationals all over the world.

We are able to help better portray organizations in the early stages. We help them realize and correct their faults and then connect them to the right people. This way the organization has a better chance of getting funding.

Explain the Seed Fund.

The Seed Fund is a delivery vehicle or delivery organization for the government. It is designed to provide small amounts of capital in the early stages of an organizations birth. It helps start-ups facilitate the completion of certain tasks. The government money can be used to do things like assess distribution networks, competitive analysis, doing a pilot project, demonstration of their technology, and it can even be used to help with your intellectual property strategy.

Our organization helps companies manage the money they receive from the government so it is not wasted and properly put to use. This government money also needs to be matched by private sector investors and we help facilitate with private investors and get them that extra funding.

What parts of the application do you look for when companies apply?

It is very important for us to pick companies that we believe in, ones that have the potential to be leaders in the Canadian market. We look for technologies that are unique, disruptive, and most importantly, we look for innovations. We are very keen on innovation; it is why our organization was created: to inspire innovation and originality into a sector that had been very conservative.

The agriculture industry can often be a very conservative area. For this reason, we want to look into new technologies and innovations that can be applied all across the industry; to create technologies that reduce costs, increase productivity, and build a leadership position for Canadian companies and the industry as a whole.

What are some negatives that stand out on an application?

The first thing that would stand out on an application is a lack of business experience. During the early stages of a company, there is often a lack of a true business sense. Generally, when a company has just developed a certain technology aspect and just invented their product; the company doesn’t have any business leadership. The company is still being run by technology people and inventors. Companies need to find someone who has some experience on the business side and is comfortable building up an organization.

The second thing that stands out is the common phrase, “there is nobody else out there that does what we do.” The truth of the matter is, however, that there is almost always competition in one way or another.

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