How Accelerators Can Help Founders Scale Their Companies

Scaling your startup is an exciting process that can bring you, the founder, and your business significant success.

But scaling a company is a complex endeavour that can derail even successful entrepreneurs.

It is because of these challenges that Toronto-based scale-up innovation hub, OneEleven, was founded. OneEleven exists to help high-growth tech companies successfully scale their operations by providing them with a community, infrastructure and programming. More specifically, they provide a highly curated selection of startups with office space, shared resources, a strong network and a community of innovative leaders.

In less than five years, OneEleven has supported over 50 Canadian companies including tech heavy hitters Wealthsimple, Tulip Retail, Jobber and 


Hockeystick team at OneEleven space playing ping pong


As one of the companies that currently benefits from OneEleven’s mission, we wanted to take a deeper dive into how they help companies like Hockeystick scale. So we sat down with Lori Smith, OneEleven’s Community Manager, to talk about just that.

What role does OneEleven play in the startup community?

"Organizations like OneEleven have an integral part to play in the future of the startup community. As the community develops and matures, so must the incubators, accelerators and innovation hubs that help foster its growth.

It’s important for us to set high standards when accepting scale-ups because resources should be focused on those who will have a meaningful social and economic impact. Once a company has been accepted, it’s important to provide the resources that will not only develop the hard skills needed to help the company scale into a world-class business but also the soft skills that will create successful entrepreneurs.

We have over 50 portfolio companies that all have the potential to be global leaders in their industries, and we are actively adding new ones. As we head into our fifth year in the startup ecosystem, our scale-ups have raised more than $350 million in follow-on financing, created hundreds of jobs, and four have been acquired.


OneEleven Scale-up Hub Office


Our team believes strongly in 'cross-pollination' — it’s all about curating and bringing the right people into a shared space."

OneEleven is very selective when it comes to choosing portfolio companies.

"Yes, we are. Only 25% of applicants make it through our selection process.

OneEleven was founded to help companies scale and to assist founders during this crucial phase of their entrepreneurial journey by providing access to infrastructure, talent, capital and client opportunities. Our resources are built for that specific purpose and we want companies in our space who can make the most of it.

We evaluate applicants on the grounds of their growth potential. Completing a seed round or being VC-backed are good indicators of a company at scale. But the best indicator is, of course, revenue potential — that hockey stick growth curve."

What about company culture? Does that play a role in the selection process?

"Company culture is a big part of our selection process. We select founders and companies who want to grow as part of a community, who will give back and participate in our Peer Groups and events. It's all about learning and supporting one another as we grow and contributing value where one can."

Are there any other similarities between your portfolio companies?

"They all feel the need to do something of their own and are driven by a strong desire to solve a pressing problem. This desire keeps them relentlessly focused, passionate and optimistic.

The OneEleven team has commented that our founders, and their teams, are very good at staying sane during the inevitable craziness of startup life. They know to take time for breaks, to spend time with friends and family, and to get enough sleep and exercise in between bouts of intense, focused work.


Hockeystick Team


Approximately 70% of our founders are repeat founders — meaning they've been through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship before. This helps them get through the tough times and do things a little 'smarter'."

Do you think that the strength of the team can be an indicator of its ability to effectively scale?

"Most certainly. Usually when we think of startups, we think of the driven and inspiring individuals that create new ventures. However, as crucial as these founders are, the success of the startup often rests as much on the team as it does on its founder.

A founder’s individual characteristics are important but what’s more important is their ability to bring together a highly motivated and experienced team.

A study from the Rotman School of Management found that the talents of the founder were far less important than those of the team that they assembled. Therefore, if you have experienced employees who have worked together for a long time, they will boost your startup’s ability to move quickly and scale effectively.

To put it simply, individuals don’t win in business, teams do."


Luminari Group


OneEleven’s motto is to help entrepreneurs build billion-dollar companies. Tell us more about how you help your portfolio companies scale.

"First, and foremost, we facilitate introductions within our network.

It really does take a village to make a startup successful and OneEleven is an important part of that village. For us, it’s all about bringing the right companies into the space and making connections. We believe that having organizations with similar interests, and that are willing to work together on common issues, is advantageous for our entrepreneurs.

We help our community to stay connected and learn from each other by hosting Founder Forums, Lunch and Learns, Speaker Series, Demo and Collision days and encourage people to participate in their respective Peer Groups."

Has your approach to helping companies scale changed in the past five years?

"In the past, our focus was a lot more capital heavy. Tapping into the network of VCs can be challenging without warm introductions and we helped our alumni get the rounds of funding they needed. Today, we also help our startups expand into new markets and secure big deals or partnerships by utilizing our extensive network of corporate partners, such as RBC, Deloitte, Bennett Jones, Rogers, Fasken and more." 

If you could give a piece of advice to someone in a similar position at an accelerator, incubator, or a scale-up hub on how to better help their startups, what would it be?

"If it had to be just one piece of advice, I’d say that helping founders get through the ups and downs of their entrepreneurial journey should be your number one priority. At OneEleven, you’re surrounded by other amazing founders and teams that are facing a similar set of challenges. We encourage everyone in the space to tap into the expertise that exists within our community.

For example, one of the programs we run that’s proven to be very valuable is the Founders Forum. It’s a place for founders to learn from each other about work, relationships, and challenges in a judgment-free, fully confidential environment.

Due to the scarcity of time that founders have on their hands, spending it on cultivating relationship within a community might seem counterproductive at first. But, as Victor Hwang and Greg Horowitt said, 'innovation, for all the huge ripple effects it can have on the world, can always be boiled down to its most basic element: human relationships'."


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