Indigenous Digital Accelerator arrives at CapU

CapU receives funding for new Indigenous Digital Accelerator project 

Sheila Arellano // News Editor 

Capilano University has signed an agreement with Western Economic Diversification Canada to develop an Indigenous Digital Accelerator (IDA) project at CapU. The IDA was launched in January, 2020, with the purpose of providing Indigenous students with the opportunity to accelerate their own businesses and to allow existing Indigenous entrepreneurs to expand their businesses. The IDA will offer resources to promote Indigenous business growth in BC’s tech, digital-creative and cultural sectors while also emphasizing community development and low environmental impact. 

“We did some outreach to about 20 First Nations business professionals and business owners and we surveyed them about the value of this project to their communities,” Dean of Fine and Applied Arts Ted Gervan said. “On April 6, 2019 we got the call from Western Economic Diversification, they told us they were going to come and support the project. And that was just the first part.” 

The project’s cost is closer to $4.2 million. From April 2019 to date, the IDA team has been in the process of raising the additional funds. Storyhive and Telus have committed to help CapU broker deals with Indigenous media companies to co-fund the project. “Storyhive already supports Indigenous Media in production companies and help distribute and mentor and they give cash in kind for these companies to get their exposure with the project,” said Gervan. “The first year or two we will take in three to four businesses, so there could be anywhere from five to 20 positions depending on the scope of work.”  

The first step involves interviewing the businesses that will be adopted in order to find out what their needs are. Once the needs are known, the programs that have that expertise will be approached. “The great thing is that students will actually get paid as a part of the work in the accelerator. Faculty can also benefit, it’s a new type of work. They can actually get buyouts for teaching time to mentor and supervise students on these projects,” Gervan said. The IDA will be business-driven and faculty supervised, but it will be independent students who lead the actual work. With CapU as a third party, the university has control of the project in order to protect students. 

Co-founder of Indigenext Shane Kennedy explained the various stages to accelerate a company. “In an Indigenous company there is no exit strategy. Ultimately, if it’s an Indigenous controlled company, it has to remain Indigenous. The end goal has to be longevity within Indigenous control. This is a fundamental difference from any other accelerator out there,” he said.  

The IDA will play a big role in reconciliation. Indigenous students will be integrating into the mainstream Bachelor of Motion Picture Arts which will be one of the first times where non-indigenous students will be truly learning about and having awareness around Indigenous culture. “I think what this project gives us is a chance for our non-indigenous students to work alongside Indigenous students on real world projects and supporting truth and reconciliation through Indigenous company growth. You can’t get a more tangible and relevant opportunity to make a difference,” Gervan said.  

To keep up to date on updates regarding the Indigenous Digital Accelerator project at CapU follow @ted_esg.  

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