Innovation lives in Calgary. As new ideas pave the way to a resilient future, the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF) continues to invest in organizations that scale unique solutions to global challenges.
Established by the City of Calgary in 2018, the $100 million fund finds and invests in organizations that multiply opportunities to enhance Calgary’s economic resiliency.
In 2021, OCIF invested in SVG Ventures | THRIVE, a leading global agrifood investment and innovation accelerator. The investment, when combined with provincial and federal funding, enabled the firm to open its Canadian headquarters in Calgary through the launch of its THRIVE Canada Accelerator Program.
"Calgary's remarkable potential often goes unnoticed. When we evaluated expansion options, Calgary stood out as the clear choice. It possesses the trifecta that companies need for success - access to customers, capital, and talent," said John Cassidy, Managing Director Canada, SVG Ventures | THRIVE.
OCIF fuels Calgary’s innovation scene
SVG Ventures | Thrive enables startups to scale in Calgary's agtech space, one of the six subsectors identified in the Alberta Energy Transition Study to contribute $61 billion to GDP by 2050.
“Financial support from OCIF was the catalyst for SVG | THRIVE to realize the potential in Calgary, and across Alberta, when combined with investments from other funding partners” said Cassidy.
"We're grateful to OCIF and all of the funders in the consortium led by Alberta Innovates who committed to the Alberta Scaleup and Growth Accelerator Program, who share our vision for accelerating agtech development in the city and province."
OCIF investments are targeted to support the creation and retention of jobs and companies to create economic prosperity for Calgarians today and generations to come. To date, more than 2,900 jobs, 2,700 training opportunities, and the start up or scaling of over 500 companies have been enabled by $76.5 million in investments.
“We were blown away by the opportunities to reach entrepreneurs, post-secondaries and organizations in the agriculture space in Calgary compared to other jurisdictions we were considering,” said Cassidy.
Accessible to eligible Canadian Seed to Series A stage startups, the THRIVE Canada Accelerator Program equips entrepreneurs with the resources, mentorship and network needed to commercialize their ventures. For a national intake, Calgary-based agtech firms represent a quarter of the 17 Canadian graduates of the program to date.
“THRIVE Canada put together a program that covered all aspects of the startup cycle and addressed the complex challenges we face,” said Jeff Ivan, the Founder, President and CEO of Soilgenic Technologies LLC, a recent graduate of THRIVE Canada’s Accelerator Program.
“Through the THRIVE program, we were connected to a great team of leading experts, food and agricultural companies that assist each participating company in their various stages of development.”
Unique collaboration possible in Calgary
Tapping into local resources, the accelerator has developed strong relationships with the United Farmers of Alberta co-operative (UFA) and Olds College of Agriculture and Technology.
“When we initially met the likes of Olds College and the University of Calgary, we realized the phenomenal quality of talent and startups that are in Calgary, particularly in the agtech space,” said Cassidy.
To enhance its accelerator program, THRIVE Canada has partnered with the Olds College Smart Farm and other post-secondaries to validate the cohort’s agtech solutions before graduation.
Its relationship with the UFA is another unique aspect of operating in the Calgary region. By partnering with the association that represents over 100,000 Albertan farmers, participants of THRIVE Canada can pitch their innovations to local farmers through UFA – which closes the gap between ideation and market access for entrepreneurs.
"Calgary excels in the art of collaboration,” said Cassidy. “It's a city where innovation players unite. The networking opportunities here allow startups, accelerators, and funds like ours to seamlessly tap into an expansive and powerful ecosystem."
THRIVE Canada expands footprint in Calgary
Due to high demand for the Accelerator Program, SVG Ventures | THRIVE launched THRIVE Academy, a pre-accelerator program, in August of 2022, fully supported by Alberta Innovates. The immersive 12-week program supports entrepreneurs and researchers earlier in their journey.
"As the demand for early-stage support became evident, we recognized the necessity for a pre-accelerator program, catering to startups not yet poised for our full-fledged Accelerator Program. We observed a surge in remarkable tech and innovative concepts, but many of these startups, both nationally and globally, had yet to reach the investment-ready stage," explained Cassidy.
Originally slated for launch in the United States, SVG Ventures | Thrive made a strategic decision to establish the pre-accelerator program in Calgary. As a national initiative, startups from across Canada journey to Calgary to participate in THRIVE's cohorts.
"With the burgeoning momentum we experienced in Calgary and Alberta, both in the context of THRIVE Canada's initiatives and the city's broader innovation landscape, it became increasingly apparent that Calgary was the ideal home for THRIVE Academy,” elaborates Cassidy,
“While pre-accelerators worldwide typically adopt a classroom-based approach, Calgary – and Alberta's – unique advantage lies in providing access to real field sites, offering an unparalleled opportunity for agtech entrepreneurs."
Calgary grows as an international agtech hub
Further compounding its investment in Calgary, SVG Ventures | THRIVE set up the VENTURES Pioneer Fund in January 2023, with the goal of raising $75 million to support global agrifood startups.
The firm joins investors in Calgary’s startup ecosystem, valued in 2023 at $5.2 billion by Startup Genome. Ripe with opportunities to fund big ideas in agtech and beyond, Calgary continues to break venture capital investment records, with 64 deals totaling $647 million closed in 2022.
The opportunity to cement Calgary as an international agtech destination lies in continued industry collaboration among accelerators, post-secondary institutions, fund managers and industry.
“OCIF has helped Calgary scale local companies and land global companies, which encourages skilled talent to stay,” said Cassidy.
“In order for Calgary to reach the next level, this needs to continue. THRIVE Canada saw the opportunity here, so we continued to invest in Calgary through new programming, funds and partnerships.”
As a key tool to advance the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy, OCIF investments help build a thriving innovation ecosystem where companies can scale to global heights.
Visit the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund page for more information on the City’s investments to drive innovation and spur transformative economic development in Calgary.
ABOUT THRIVE CANADA: THRIVE Canada operates through the Alberta Scaleup and Growth Accelerator Program, which is run by a consortium led by Alberta Innovates. The consortium also includes the Government of Alberta, Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan), The City of Edmonton, through Edmonton Unlimited, and the City of Calgary’s Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund allocated $35 million over three years to retain business accelerators. It’s part of the Alberta government’s goal to help create 20,000 jobs and increase technology firm revenue to $5 billion by 2030.