York Region giving $1.08M boost to international, women-led businesses

York Region plans to fund York University and a Newmarket-based company $1.08 million to help accelerate international and women entrepreneurs in the region.

The university’s innovation hub YSpace, alongside Treefrog Inc., plans to create a new business accelerator program focused on the northern six York Region municipalities. Titled Project JumpSTART, the initiative would look to drive foreign investment and support women in technology sectors to support economic development.

Council committee of the whole gave tentative approval to the funding Jan. 11.

Newmarket Mayor John Taylor said it is an exciting proposal, with both Treefrog and York University already having good track records.

“We’re expanding in something that’s already operating, already successful, already producing results, and the return for investment is exceptional,” he said.

The funding proposed would be over three years and would come from the region’s Innovation Investment Fund, which the region includes in its budget to support innovative projects on an application basis.

Both YSpace and Treefrog have a history of helping accelerate and boost startup businesses. YSpace highlighted its recent stats, with 370 ventures supported since 2021 and a 20 to 1 return on investment.

Project JumpSTART would create an International Entrepreneurs Accelerator, with an expected 50 entrepreneurs welcomed in the first year. Over the three years of funding, the program would allow 50 people in and create more than 210 jobs. The program is meant to build on Newmarket’s existing Accelerate Newmarket program.

York University Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship executive director Chris Carder said they will aim to attract international businesses to the region.

“We’ll be preparing market readiness reports for those international businesses, businesses looking to come to the region, so they’re arriving with a clearer plan, set of contacts,” York University entrepreneurship associate director David Kwok said.

The second portion of the project focuses on women entrepreneurs, with 20 participants per year invited to participate in a women-focused business incubator. Citing Statistics Canada, Kwok noted that only 17 per cent of Canadian businesses are led by women.

They will also host six different networking events for women entrepreneurs.

“It’s really about creating a safe space for women entrepreneurs to come together,” Kwok said. “So you have a support system and ecosystem that can help you scale and launch your business.”

The proposal has three program hubs: Treefrog’s location in Newmarket, YSpace Georgina and YSpace Markham.

Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti complimented the track record of the partners involved.

“I support it, and let me just say, I don’t think we can have better partners coming to the table,” he said.

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