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Writer:Kapil Lakhotia

The Founders’ Network: A new program to enhance London INC.

Entrepreneurial activities are increasingly being recognized for significant job creation throughout Canada. In our city, more than 20,000 entrepreneurs fuel our economy through the wealth they generate, the talent they hire, and the innovative technologies and services they offer. Entrepreneurial companies are key to building our economy and attracting and retaining people. London has a strong entrepreneurship support network that includes organizations such as the Small Business Centre, London Economic Development Corp., Leap Junction, Propel, TechAlliance, UnLondon and Innovation Works. This network aims to strengthen our entrepreneurial climate and improve collaboration among service providers. Several network initiatives are underway as part of London’s Economic Road Map. Knowing what services and resources are available can affect entrepreneurship growth. The London INC portal (www.londoninc.ca) was created to serve as a hub for all things entrepreneurial in the city. London INC supports high-growth entrepreneurs to scale up, develop talent, raise capital and create opportunities. Through this initiative, we aim to create an environment and community that fosters entrepreneurs and supports their success. During the last year, London INC has connected entrepreneurs with available spaces for incubation or expansion, organized major networking events to foster collaboration and created programs for development and training opportunities. Several workshops and seminars have helped companies at various stages of growth find capital, talent and support. We also asked entrepreneurs what they needed to grow in London. Many wanted more opportunities to meet and learn from other successful businesses. To address this, the new Founders’ Network program is being set up to bring entrepreneurs and like-minded peers together to share best practices and experiences. Often, founders face similar chal - lenges when starting or growing a business and feel isolated in their leadership roles. The Founders’ Network will encourage camaraderie and let founders define and build London’s entrepreneurial culture. Each event will assemble 20 or 30 founders at one of their companies to discuss a business topic of their choice. We also found seasoned entrepre - neurs want to give back and share their knowledge and experience with the next generation of businesspeople. So a mentorship program is being launched on the London INC website that will match established founders with less experienced company lead - ers seeking guidance. The Founders’ Network will actively engage with early-stage companies through events and private, curated introductions. A number of regular mentorship events are being planned to facilitate such discussions. No matter what stage a company is at, whether it’s raising capital or expanding into new markets, the Founders’ Network will help entrepre - neurs tap local expertise and acceler - ate business growth. Over the next two years, the pro - gram will be accessible through www. londoninc.ca, where entrepreneurs can find more information. Steps like making connections, building trust, opening networks and creating pathways to needed resources are the building blocks to an entrepreneurial culture that will propel London in the right direction and offer everything an entrepreneur needs to succeed.