Although we’re facing a completely unique and challenging time right now, we couldn’t be prouder of Saskatchewan’s technology community. Navigating today's new normal hasn’t been easy, but our province has come together to help one another during COVID-19.

Jordan McFarlen from Cultivator powered by Conexus has some wise words about the importance of developing a tech community, especially during times of crisis:

What’s been happening in the community so far?

Since COVID-19 hit, everyone in the Cultivator community has been impacted in some way. We’ve seen some of the most rapid growth to date for certain companies while others are dealing with massive impacts to their customers and industry. There’s also been a lot of uncertainty with raising capital and some deals which either didn’t get done or have been put on hold. With such an unpredictable future ahead, staying connected in our community has been essential. Founder resiliency and prairie grit are the secret sauce to our province’s cohesive and tight-knit tech community, and we’ve been able to address concerns and alleviate some stresses together.

How has this crisis affected the mental health of those in our tech ecosystem right now?

Founders have been forced to make critical high-impact decisions in a short period of time amidst COVID-19. In a way it’s like the Founder Olympics, every leadership muscle and strategic skillset are being tested. By ensuring founders are closely connected to one another through our regular touchpoints, they can talk to others who are going through a similar experience and feel less alone. Having a sounding board and hearing voices of confidence is so important in a time like this. Additionally, we introduced our Mindfulness in Residence program in early 2020 which has continued to run throughout COVID-19.

What kind of community resources and supports have surfaced during this pandemic?

Noticing that there was a definite need for timely and specific supports, Cultivator has been able to offer resources almost immediately to teams and companies. When COVID hit, tech startups suddenly had a huge need for HR assistance, so Cultivator leveraged our teammates at Conexus Credit Union to provide an HR in Residence program. This program gives access to an HR professional while navigating situations such as hiring, firing, and other difficult decisions right away. Internally (and less formal), Cultivator has also been shaping a supportive virtual environment since working from home (WFH) has become the norm. One of the most successful campaigns has been creating WFH challenges through their Slack channels to keep up positivity, human interaction, and collaboration. They have their teams responding to fun prompts like introducing their new at-home coworkers, showing off their WFH setup, or sharing how they're getting active throughout the day. The human connection is as important as ever.

Saskatchewan has always had a unique and close community—has anything changed?

The Sask tech ecosystem has remained well connected – outside of our internal community we’ve been actively connected to our pals at Innovation Saskatchewan, IRAP (Industrial Research Assistance Program), SaskTech, Western Economic Diversification, Co.labs and more, as well as various investor groups and funds throughout the prairies. As we are all focused on advocating for founders, the connections have maintained and in some cases become stronger. The mentorship and sharing has also continued – just this past week we had Jordan Boesch, Co-Founder + CEO of 7shifts join us for our virtual founders retreat. We’ve also still been able to execute our monthly events virtually with CultivateYQR (in need of a new name now that we aren’t limited to a physical space) drawing in 150+ attendees via zoom in late April.

Why is it so important to keep developing new technologies right now?

There’s a massive digital adoption/transformation happening across many industries. Companies and sectors that were five years away from using technology on this scale are now on pace to make those changes in five months. As problems in these industries are being identified, there are many opportunities to create new solutions or pivot existing products that add value. The future holds a lot of potential in a world that has changed so quickly.

If people are interested in getting involved in our tech community right now, what should they do?

There’s a number of virtual communities and events that are happening regular to be sure to attend or join and stay in the loop. For Cultivator, we’re opening up a public call for startups to join our upcoming programming so be sure to reach out to or connect with us on social media if you’re working on something innovative or would like to explore ways to get involved!