When our worlds were flipped upside down at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jordan McFarlen and the team from Cultivator powered by Conexus talked about the importance of developing a technology community during the time of crisis.
After more than a year of navigating this environment, Saskatchewan has shown the true resilience of our tech sector, and Cultivator has continued to support the founders in our province. “Cultivator believes in Saskatchewan—more importantly, they believe in Saskatchewan founders,” Jordan McFarlen shares.
Upholding the idea that “success breeds success,” Cultivator is committed to finding early wins, connecting with them, and creating cyclical success within our tech ecosystem. “With the right programming, support, mentorship, and community, the incubator accelerates the success of Saskatchewan startups and decreases failures along the way,” McFarlen adds.
Having celebrated their second birthday in January 2021, Cultivator has been evolving and strengthening their signature programs and perks since they’ve started. Companies involved with Cultivator receive support in many areas like legal advice, access to financial experts, mindfulness training, HR support, and marketing—all in residence. They also offer discounts for business tools and access to mentors and investors.
The three levels of programming are called Start, Grow, and Scale. Early-stage companies in the Start program are offered mentoring while they’re at the pre-revenue or early revenue step. “With two cohorts a year of 10–15 companies, we work with founders to ensure they have a proper solution fit, discuss if companies should fail fast or fail forward and pivot, and further validate what they are doing,” explains McFarlen.
The Grow program is built for committed companies who have an established market and are actively looking to grow. They are generating revenue, have early customers, seeking product-market fit, and raising capital. Cultivator’s goal for companies in the Grow program is to get them to the next stage and pass $250k ARR.
The Scale program provides 1:1 support for companies past $250k ARR or who have had a major funding milestone. McFarlen shares, “Cultivator is focused on helping these companies grow with sustainable success, whether that leads to securing series A financing or hitting another major milestone.”
Along with their programming and support, Cultivator has been instrumental in hosting community events to bring the tech ecosystem together. Innovation Saskatchewan has been able to partner and support community building events like the 24 Hour Startup, Sask Startup Summit, Women in Tech nights, along with various other networking events. “There are some events where you attend and learn, and others that involve participating,” says McFarlen. The 24 Hour Startup challenges help founders gain experience in startup environments where founders can mentor people, be mentored, or get advice on ideas that they’ve been sitting on.
There have been many companies that have been a part of the Cultivator programs that have experienced explosive success. myComply is a Saskatoon-based construction safety and compliance tech company that’s recently experienced explosive growth. “Typically, groups default to get traction at home, but myComply targeted the New York market and successfully broke into that stream,” McFarlen smiles. “The team has secured major deals that have added to their revenue growth and overall traction.”
Another great example is StoreToDoor, who graduated from the Start cohort as the 10k prize winner. Their same-day delivery platform for local businesses seamlessly integrates with e-commerce systems such as Shopify, allowing for huge partnerships. “With their mid-size market approach, StoreToDoor has aggressively captured Regina and Saskatoon, and they will be entering Calgary soon,” shares McFarlen.
Prairie Robotics is developing artificial intelligence that helps with waste management and streamlining the efficiency of detecting, sorting, and collecting. “They’ve got a lot of big announcements coming up,” McFarlen says. Prairie Robotics will largely be working with municipalities and big groups, and they’ve experienced rapid growth within the waste industry.
As Cultivator supports more companies to grow and reach their goals, their vision continues to be improving the ability to support Saskatchewan founders. “When companies hit major traction milestones, some will become mentors, which contributes to the cyclical flow of success,” explains McFarlen. “Building companies where you are is often overlooked, so Cultivator's goal is to ensure reach is accessible across the province, and especially to underserved rural communities.”
“A huge opportunity for Saskatchewan is to be a global agtech hub,” adds McFarlen. “We have unique advantages, and when the proper resources are accessible and available, we can really succeed.”
Business Incubator Manager: Jordan McFarlen