YSpace participates in federal program supporting prospective immigrant entrepreneurs


By Elaine Smith

This month, as one of the designated organizations in the Government of Canada’s Start-up Visa Program, YSpace – York University’s entrepreneurship and innovation hub – is welcoming a group of entrepreneurs from 10 startup companies based outside of Canada who are seeking to expand their businesses here. Advancing global entrepreneurship through initiatives like this one, in both Canada and overseas, is a priority of York U’s Global Engagement Strategy.

The federal government’s Start-up Visa Program targets immigrant entrepreneurs with the skills and potential to build innovative businesses in Canada that will create jobs. As one of the program’s selected partners, YSpace, which has a long history of assisting startups seeking to enter the North American market, works with these potential immigrant entrepreneurs to familiarize them with the Canadian business landscape.

“There are a limited number of designated organizations and it’s a highly coveted label,” said David Kwok, director of entrepreneurship and innovation at YSpace. “We are one of the few at the university level.”

YSpace received its formal designation last August and has since shepherded a pilot cohort and a full cohort of entrepreneurs through the program – 15 companies in total, primarily originating from South America and Asia. The team is planning to promote the program to European entrepreneurs next.

YSpace's Jason Muloongo (right) with John Beluca, a participant in the Start-up Visa Program and founder of Gipo.
YSpace’s Jason Muloongo (right) with John Beluca, a participant in the Start-up Visa Program and founder of Gipo.

Each Government of Canada-designated organization creates its own process for the program and chooses its own entrepreneurs to mentor. YSpace’s Start-up Visa Program focuses on innovative technology companies across all sectors but has gained the most traction with artificial intelligence (AI) ventures. It accepts applications throughout the year and invites a selection of companies to participate.

YSpace’s process begins with Blueprint, a six-week boot camp where entrepreneurs assess the Canadian market and do a feasibility study for their business. Upon successful completion of Blueprint, participants become eligible for the Launchpad program, a year-long coaching and mentorship experience designed to provide strategic advice while ensuring consistent progress. YSpace works with the startups – up to five people from each company – to create and execute their business plans and facilitate opportunities to meet potential customers and buyers.

The businesses the Start-up Visa Program assists are not new ventures, but ones that are already operational in their home countries.

“We help them adapt their existing strategy to new markets,” said Ellen Kim, Start-up Visa Program officer. “It’s a new way to support industry looking to come to Canada and seeking a way to explore the market.”

For instance, the Korean company Kloser recently launched its AI-powered referral marketing tool in Canada after working with YSpace. The innovation hub is also working with Brazilian entrepreneur Milo Andreo to help him launch an English version of his successful piano learning app.

“These companies want to tap into the AI talent here in Canada and leverage the English-speaking local talent to adapt their products to the North American market,” said Jason Muloongo, Start-up Visa Program advisor.

The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), based at the Korean Consulate in Toronto, has placed a company in each of YSpace’s Start-up Visa Program cohorts to date and encourages its startups to work with YSpace.

“The partnership between YSpace and KOTRA Toronto has been beneficial for us,” said Miki Cho, deputy general manager of KOTRA Toronto. “Our collaborative efforts have provided invaluable resources and support, enabling Korean entrepreneurs to thrive in the Canadian market.”

When it comes to assisting startups, YSpace has a proven track record. Through its wide array of programs, it has supported 985 ventures to date, which have collectively generated $277 million in revenue, raised $143 million in funding and created 1,493 jobs. This federal program involvement will allow YSpace to further solidify its reputation as an industry-leading incubator for entrepreneurs and innovators alike.

“The growing interest in YSpace’s Start-up Visa Program is an indication of YSpace’s success in moving towards the goal of building York University into a global brand for entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Kwok. “The recent success has led to an increased interest in our soft-landing and market discovery programs from trade agencies across the world.”