Acadia to host 'Launchbox' to boost entrepreneurs

Wendy Elliott
Published on September 3, 2014

John Frost and Heather Lunan speak to Rob Moore at the Launchbox event.

©Wendy Elliott -

John Frost of Frostbyte Interactive came up with the name for the new LaunchBox – an incubator for entrepreneurs - which was unveiled on Aug. 27 at Acadia University.

He and Heather Lunan, the owner-operator of Wolfville business Pie r Squared, explained to Rob Moore, Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, how the funding he announced will help fledgling entrepreneurs.

Frost and his wife Elisabeth develop and commercialize unique software. Lunan has a home-based bakery that focuses on local products. Both businesses have had the support of the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre.

The recent $350,000 funding announcement means that other Nova Scotians with good ideas and an interest in starting their own businesses will have a chance to connect with mentors, investors, and other supports, Moore said.

Acadia University, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and the provincial government are helping to create a setting where students, innovators, and industry can develop and test new ideas that could become businesses in the region's fastest growing sectors, he said.

Kelly Regan, Nova Scotia’s minister of labour and advanced education, and Moore, expressed interest in the focus on developing ideas in areas connected to tidal energy, wine, agri-food, and information communication technology with a focus on data analytics.

“Ray Ivany’s One Nova Scotia report highlighted the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship in moving the province forward,” Regan said. “This region, along with Acadia University, has a long history and successful record when it comes to innovation. The launch of an Entrepreneur Sandbox at Acadia will help Nova Scotians, and more specifically Nova Scotian youth, to create even more successes.

"Government knows the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship to move the province forward," said Regan. "This region has a long history and successful record when it comes to innovation. The launch of the Entrepreneur Sandbox at Acadia will help Nova Scotians, and more specifically young Nova Scotians, to create even more successes."

Moore said the new initiative will play a key role in the promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship in the region by giving young entrepreneurs an opportunity to create the essential link between research investment and industrial benefit."

“We are excited to be able to deliver additional programming through the Sandbox Initiative and provide targeted programs that will help inspire our entrepreneurs of tomorrow,” said Findlay MacRae, executive director of the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre. The centre began more than 25 years ago.

 “Rather than students graduating and looking for a job, it will be students graduating and creating a job,” Acadia president Ray Ivany said of the LaunchBox’s goals.

Money, nurturing

At the LaunchBox, a release noted, students and community-based entrepreneurs will have access to business advisory services, mentoring for start-up companies, Acadia research institute staff and an Innovacorp business development consultant.

Acadia spokesman Scott Roberts says that ACOA will provide $100,000 for the LaunchBox itself, while the remainder goes to the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre, which oversees the Rural Innovation Centre, home of the LaunchBox. The province is providing $150,000 for the LaunchBox.

Planned LaunchBox activities include: a youth entrepreneurship camp, pitch competitions, a speaker series, and a summer accelerator program for high school and university students. Its purpose is to create a rural-based entrepreneurial ecosystem for students throughout southwest Nova Scotia.

The first Sandbox program at Acadia was initiated in 1996 and was focused on mobile computing technology.