Start-up financing is most often the main headache of anyone who started or plans to start a business. Here, I’d like to give a short summary of where to look for cash for start-ups.

More often than not I get asked one question over and over again. Is there are any free money for my start-up? Although there might not be many grants available, there are some good resources that may help to inject cash into a start-up.

1. The entrepreneur’s centres

These are the centres in which operation is supported by the government and which have dedicated people on staff. These people’s roles are to help entrepreneurs.

For example, in Ontario they are called Small Business Enterprise Centres; in Alberta, it is Business Link. The centres typically get overlooked by a lot of entrepreneurs for one reason or another. I strongly encourage you to connect with them early on.

2. VentureLab

Venture Lab is similar to the above but somewhat different at the same time. Although they do provide similar services, they mainly focus on creating investment-ready companies. For example, the BUILD program is perfect for companies that would like to get some private sector investment and are not sure where to start.

3. Grants

This one is not easy mainly because the government typically supports these companies that are able to generate some cash. (And start-ups very often do not fall in this category.) This is one of the ways to prove that the taxpayers money will be able to generate return on investment (and here I am referring to both financial and economic return on investment). One example of what is available here is the SMART START SEED program through OCE. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t work for most entrepreneurs who are, statistically speaking, between 30 and 45 years old. This program is for people under 30. (BTW, since I published this post, the program has been modified and funds now those over 30, more on this here.)

There is another grant program which I personally really like. It is the Self Employment Program which is a federal program and each province manages it independently. Surprisingly, it was just cancelled last week in Ontario. However, other provinces are still worth considering (if you live in other provinces, e.g in AB). In order to be eligible you need to be on Employment Insurance right now or you have been on it within last 3 (or in some case 5) years.

4. Private Investors

These are VCs, angel investors, family, crowdfunding campaigns and bank loans. I know many small businesses run away from bank loans. I would say – do not before considering it carefully. Typically you will need a business plan and many of the resources that I mentioned above might be able to help you with this.

5. Competitions

These could be really fun and worth trying. At the end of the day, all it is going to cost you is your time. This might be the one thing that you, as an early stage entrepreneur, are able to invest. For example, check the Telus 100K for small business grant (deadline, June 5, 2015), explore VenturePrize in Alberta or be sure to remember about OCE Discovery.

6. Tax Credits

Do not forget about SRED and/or Ontario Interactive Media Tax Credit. You may not be eligible for these right now, but knowing how to run your operations and how to track your eligible expense so you can benefit from these later on is important in the early days of the company development.

And last but not least – Good Luck! As we all know: Good Luck is the result of good planning!


ConnexFund is a Canadian management consulting firm in business financing specializing in government grants with focus on organizations in technology and innovation. Feel free to check our FAQs or contact us with any question you may have about our business model, available for you grants or anything else around finding money for your small business to grow!

This post was first published on Pulse, LinkedIn on May 27, 2015 and today I am publishing it here with some slight modifications.