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One-stop shop for tech start-up ‘hypergrowth’

A privately owned incubator for the development of international and local technology-based start-ups has been set up in Bermuda.

InnoFund Limited has launched the InnoFund Innovation Incubator (i3) in partnership with the acclaimed DMZ tech accelerator at Toronto’s Ryerson University to help technology start-ups achieve “hypergrowth” while supporting economic development in Bermuda.

InnoFund said that the new incubator will act as a one-stop shop to help founders to build and develop cutting-edge technology while scaling their start-up growth.

Known for its growing tech scene and specialisation in industries such as fintech and insurtech, the nature of Bermuda’s business landscape and jurisdiction makes it an ideal environment for a global incubator, it added.

The incubator delivers DMZ’s proven programme model, including access to mentors, an investor network, expert-led workshops and the award-winning start-up support offered at DMZ’s headquarters.

i3 is also supported by the Bermuda office of Penrose Partners, the tech advisory firm.

Entrepreneur Aaron Smith is the chief executive officer and a co-founder of InnoFund. He is president of the Igility Group of autonomous tech-related businesses.

Gayle Gorman is the i3 executive director and also a co-founder. She is an experienced executive with a background in re/insurance, tech-based start-ups, new ventures and higher education.

Mr Smith said: “InnoFund is proud to have launched this incubator that ensures international start-ups benefit from everything that the Bermuda market has to offer.

“This partnership with the DMZ represents a golden opportunity to accelerate entrepreneurship growth in Bermuda.

“By plugging into the DMZ’s model and establishing an associated ecosystem for venture capital and investment, we’re closer to realising our jurisdiction’s strategic goal of becoming a hub to host major technology companies for years to come.”

Ms Gorman added: “Our partnership with the DMZ ensures start-ups accepted into i3 will have a first-class arrival in Bermuda.

“We are excited to welcome start-up technology companies and to provide them with locally-provided tools and support, in conjunction with our associates from Penrose Partners.”

As is standard practice with private incubators, tech founders participate in the programme in exchange for a percentage of the equity in their companies.

Participants in i3 take part in a 12-month structured programme before a six-month customised curriculum begins.

Programming has been designed to support both Bermudian start-ups as well as international founders who are pursuing new business opportunities and looking for an additional place to call home.

The first cohort is four months into the inaugural pilot programme of i3, having completed a “Bermuda immersion programme” that was developed in partnership with Penrose.

Tech founders have been introduced to “angel investors” here as well.

Mr Smith said that the i3 is based on the “four Cs” — coaching, capital, community and customers.

He said that tech founders “can use Bermuda as proof of concept, their sandbox, and try their product on smaller numbers before they take it to the greater market”.

The first cohort includes one Bermuda-based start-up and five originally from overseas.

They are: James Robinson, Bermuda — Cactus, a suite of efficiency and pricing tools for underwriters; Eric Kryski and Cory Smith, Calgary — Bidali, a blockchain agnostic digital assets payment platform; Darren Wolfberg, New York — Blockchain Triangle, a digital platform for ESG and renewable infrastructure financing; Alex Daskalov, Montreal — Knox, a secure custody solution for digital assets; Pascal Leblanc, Montreal — Mantle, a plug-and-play solution for enterprises to adopt blockchain technologies; and Nina Kilbride, Raleigh, North Carolina — Mothership, an automated and scalable captive insurance platform utilising blockchain and regulatory innovation.

The first cohort arrived at i3 via referrals, including from Penrose Partners and Ignite Bermuda, via the DMZ network and word of mouth.

Some participants in the recent Bermuda Virtual Tech Summit have expressed interest in the programme.

Sherif El Tawil, DMZ’s senior director of programmes and partnerships, said: “i3 powered by DMZ will help companies foster innovation, make profitable business connections and drive job creation in Bermuda.

“This partnership presents significant growth opportunities for both tech founders and Bermuda’s economy.”

The programme was about 18 months in the making.

Entrepreneurs Jamie Thain and Jack Benaim participated in the DMZ programme in Toronto before recommending that a similar programme be developed in Bermuda.

A meeting with Government took place in January last year that included David Burt, the Premier, before a trip to Ryerson in March, just days before the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic began to be felt on the island, delaying the project.

InnoFund said that DMZ Toronto alumni and InnoFund Limited co-founders Mr Benaim and Mr Thain are eager to continue their work of helping to kick-start Bermuda’s third pillar.

Mr Benaim, also a director of InnoFund, said: “By continuing to bring globally acclaimed programmes, personnel and partnerships to an island ripe with endless possibilities, our plan is to continue delivering for the people of Bermuda.

“Since joining the DMZ, we’ve come to recognise the impact entrepreneurship can create while discovering and developing innovative technologies in very trying times.

“With the establishment of our new programme and the opening of i3 powered by DMZ, we have demonstrated that Bermuda is a start-up-friendly jurisdiction that incentivises the exploration of innovation while offering an initial growth strategy that spans the trans-Atlantic. Everybody wins.”

Mr Smith added: “There would be nothing better than the next rising star in tech coming out of Bermuda.”

The organisation said that it will soon be expanding its model to meaningfully engage the robust re/insurance sector in Bermuda to partner with global start-ups in insurtech and adjacent sectors such as climate tech and blockchain/fintech.

Devon Sherman, who formerly launched MassChallenge fintech — a global accelerator programme based in Boston — will lead this initiative, it said.

The incubator’s second cohort is expected to begin in February.

Applications from start-ups who have a technology solution with a minimum viable product and customer validation are invited to apply.

www.innofund.bm

Gayle Gorman and Aaron Smith of InnoFund Innovation Incubator (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published October 25, 2021 at 8:13 am (Updated October 25, 2021 at 10:56 am)

One-stop shop for tech start-up ‘hypergrowth’

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