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A new accelerator program focused on addressing the financial needs of Canadians is kicking off its inaugural cohort this week, and two of the four attendees are Calgary-based companies.

Innovate Financial Health (IFH) is a non-profit founded in 2018 by Elvis Wong following a fellowship at urban innovation hub MaRS Discovery District. The goal of IFH is to support Canadian startups that are improving the financial health of Canadians, particularly those who are financially vulnerable.

“Canadians definitely deal with a lot of financial health challenges, but there aren’t many tech-based solutions to help,” says Wong. “IFH will provide ‘mission-based’ fintech startups with more time, space and resources to find models that can solve some of the financial issues Canadians face.

The two Calgary companies participating in the program, ZayZoon and altruWisdom, offer an innovative solution to different financial setbacks that can impact Canadians.

ZayZoon is a platform that partners with employers and payroll companies to allow employees access to their wages on-demand, something co-founder Tate Hackert says reduces the financial burden on employees, which is positive for the employee as well as the employer. 

“We know that a financially stressed employee is probably not a productive employee and probably not a happy employee, which can be a detriment to their employer,” says Hackert. “ZayZoon is part of a growing number of financial wellness solutions to help individuals become not only more financially healthy, but also healthier in general.”

Calgary-based altruWisdom was created after co-founders Alisha Mawji and Zakir Kanji, who both work in the financial industry, noticed a gap between who could afford solid, independent financial guidance and who could not.

“Our goal is to make all Canadians financially resilient,” says Kanji. “The ultimate intention of altruWisdom is to give equal access – to all Canadians – to financial and life guidance from professionals that they may not otherwise be able to afford.”

Calgary is one of Canada’s financial centres and a catalyst for innovation and growth in fintech. With 50 per cent of the accelerator cohort from Calgary, local contributions to fintech are being noticed on a national and international stage. 

Here are three things you should know about Calgary’s fintech ecosystem:

1)      Entrepreneurial mindset

“The city is really supportive of new ideas and new technology,” says Mawji. “Calgary has a lot of talent and a resilient spirit – almost everyone who starts something up here has been through quite a journey in their lives and is usually focused on building solutions that will help others through those same kinds of challenges. Calgary’s cyclical nature means financial ups and downs are part of our DNA, making our city the perfect breeding ground for financial health solutions that work.”

2)      Solution focused

“I was very positively surprised by the quality of applications we received from Calgary-based startups. That’s because they were all very mindful of the purpose of their venture and the financial health challenges people face. They have a strong understanding of the problem they’re trying to solve,” says Wong. 

3)      Successful foundation

“Having inspirations and big successes in the city, like Benevity and Solium – which is now known as Shareworks after being bought by Morgan Stanley for $1B, is great for Calgary technology, specifically Calgary fintech,” says Hackert. “It shows there is money to be made here with technology and the individuals who do make money will hopefully want to reinvest in other Calgary technology startups. It all makes for a perfect situation for a financial technology expansion here in Calgary.”

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