Grants Ontario is a series of posts where I talk about grants specific to Ontario (Canada). I was quite happy to see that the well-known Ontario Smart Seed Program has expanded its eligibility and now includes “older” entrepreneurs – those over 30 years of age. Why was I happy? It’s quite simple. Let me explain.
Even though it seems like most entrepreneurs are around 25 years of age, you will find that most successful entrepreneurs are a bit older. That’s it. The difference I would like to highlight here is between being successful and unsuccessful. Of course, there are a number of big success stories of 20-something entrepreneurs. But if we look at the data and number of most successful stories, older entrepreneurs seem to prevail. There was a study done of 500 high-growth companies and the results were against all odds – 40-year-old entrepreneurs lead the pack. But by no means do I want to disregard the achievements of one or another, so here is a great article that talks, in more detail, about this topic.
Even though some small business grants in Canada and in Ontario, in particular, do not focus on the age of the key players (aka founders), some do. This makes available Canadian small business funding somewhat limited for some of the entrepreneurs. And because the scope of this post is not to elaborate on why life can be so unfair, I would like to give an overview of the new changes to the Smart Seed Program by OCE that opens more grant opportunities for small business funders over 30 years old.
The new changes to the Smart Seed Fund make Non-youth led investments eligible for the grant. The Smart Seed Fund for non-youth is up to $30,000 and requires a matching contribution of $30,000 in cash from a company-based source (an investor or company sales). This small business funding is for early-stage start-ups that are less than 3 years old and that are still on the stage of validation of the company’s technical, scientific, commercial sales and/or services. As I mentioned before, entrepreneurs older than 30 years are eligible for this funding (previously the funding was available only to those between 18 and 29 years of age).
To be eligible for the funding, the companies need to have less than $250,000 in revenue and no significant financial contribution by a private sector, as well as from some other government grants. My favorite part about this grant is that, among other things, the grant can be used to support the salaries of key personnel. In other words, the entrepreneur who runs the company can be compensated for his/her efforts (to express it in simpler words and in line with the harsh reality of starting a business, the entrepreneur can have some means to support his or leaving).
Now, there is an additional step towards this money. First, you need to get endorsed by one of the Regional Innovation Centres (RIC). What this means is that, as a small business owner, you need to go talk to them and convince them that your start-up is worth funding. Then, the RIC will place an endorsement for your company after which you can apply for the grant itself. As scary as it sounds, it is actually not. Although this is in some way a pre-screening step, it is also an opportunity for your small business to become aware of additional resources (mostly in-kind) available for your small business and get more people on board with you.
The application deadlines are every other month and at the moment scheduled as September 1, 2015, November 3, 2015, January 5, 2016 and March 1, 2016.
And finally, an inspiration quote: “I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.” –Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO Amazon. So, go get that grant!