Hit the accelerator: L-SPARK's role in startup success
Since 2014, our founder-first philosophy has allowed us to accelerate startups across a range of verticals, connecting them to a network of inspiring mentors, collaborative partners, and potential customers. Creating value for startups is at the core of what we aim to accomplish at L-SPARK.
Since its inception, L-SPARK has fuelled 7 exits, generating over $250 million in acquisitions.
The dynamic entrepreneurs at the helm of these 7 companies are building tomorrow through technologies that are transforming the hospitality, education, cybersecurity, and AI industry.
Hangry was built to serve the specific needs of the student-campus ecosystem. The platform enables students to access a range of services including mobile meal ordering, dining hall reservations, and meal plan integration.
Hangry joined the L-SPARK SaaS accelerator in 2016 as a consumer-facing solution spinning its wheels with a transaction model. By the end of the program, they were repositioned as a white-labeled, enterprise SaaS player in the post-secondary education space.
“With the guidance and mentorship of L-SPARK, we were able to craft our market positioning and reseller sales strategy. Hangry was able to enter the US market with initial launch customers.” – Fabian Raso, Founder & CEO
Despite many of the challenges brought on by the pandemic, Hangry carried a solid foundation and turned that momentum into growth, seeing 10x growth over the course of 18 months. Throughout this expansion and following completion of the L-SPARK SaaS accelerator program, they continued to rely on support and mentorship from L-SPARK mentors.
This past academic year, Hangry processed $125 million in transactions at over 180 campuses across North America.
In July 2022, Hangry was acquired by Transact Campus, a leader in post-secondary education software.
EssayJack joined L-SPARK’s second ever SaaS Accelerator cohort back in 2016 when they were developing their beta product as a proof of concept to test whether the world was interested in the academic writing software they had built.
EssayJack began as a web-based writing tool that helps students structure written documents and reduce writing anxiety. Educators can customize it, create assignments, use templates, allow peer review and upload resources.
Shortly after joining the L-SPARK SaaS Accelerator, EssayJack formed a nation-wide distribution partnership with Nelson Education to sell their product in Canada from 2017 to 2019. They signed with them at the end of 2016, but got the MOU signed during their time at L-SPARK (May 2016).
“L-SPARK gave us some of the business knowhow and terminology, and we secured our first nation-wide partner shortly thereafter.” – Lindy Ledohowski
As the company continued to expand, they began to focus on direct-to-consumer subscriptions with a content-led growth strategy, building their domain authority and SEO rankings organically. When the pandemic hit, EssayJack pivoted its strategy by providing six months of free access to EssayJack due to COVID-19 and still saw year-over-year revenue growth in 2020 in comparison to 2021, topping 20k organic web traffic per month for the first time.
It was this approach that led EssayJack to get acquired by another EdTech company, Wizeprep, in 2021.
“From startup to acquisition in 5 years is a pretty good trajectory for us, and we’re thankful to L-SPARK for the community, mentorship, support, and guidance at every step of the way, both when we were in the program and now that we are happy alumni and that EssayJack has a new life as the Wize Writer!”
One of the largest cybersecurity trends as of late is the rise of cyber threats and ransomware attacks.
The Cybeats product suite offers intelligent security applications for software supply chains and IoT connected devices, autonomously detecting and eliminating cyber threats in real-time.
Cybeats was a part of the L-SPARK SaaS accelerator in 2018 when they joined as an early stage company.
In the years following their completion of the program, Cybeats went on to expand its product suite which eventually led to being acquired by Scryb – a cloud-based platform designed to
power businesses and technologies with applied intelligence, real-time analytics, and actionable insights. The acquisition resulted in enhanced functionality, broadening the addressable market and value proposition for Cybeats.
While L-SPARK has mentors for every startup, we’re focussed on providing guidance that’s custom-fit and tailored to suit your business. For Cybeats, their acquisition came at the right time, yet was no overnight success. Co-Founder and CTO, Dmitry Raidman cites L-SPARK’s network of mentors as fundamental in helping the company overcome challenges, refine their concept, and succeed.
“The program delivered a powerful network of mentors, curated introductions to investors and a strong community of peers to lean on. It also provided the resources and support we needed to succeed” – Dmitry Raidman, CTO
Toronto-based product data management and lifecycle system, Upchain, allows engineers, designers, sales, and other stakeholders to collaborate on a single platform by giving them real-time access to data. The Upchain platform was designed to address a number of issues that have long hindered communication and collaboration between all stakeholders involved in the product life cycle.
Upchain joined the L-SPARK SaaS accelerator in 2016, with a goal to improve existing life cycle management solutions. They set their sights on small to medium sized companies with a goal to keep its solution affordable and more user friendly.
Since beginning their journey with L-SPARK, Upchain was able to raise $7.4 million in funding. In 2021, it was announced that Autodesk, a publicly traded software company best known for its 3D modeling tools, had acquired Upchain. The deal only furthered Upchain’s vision: simplify how information is shared in order to easily connect your data, people, and processes and enable a faster market solution.
A recent study found that nearly half of all of customers expect companies to respond in 4 hours or less. While 12% expect a response within 15 minutes.
Addressing these challenges was Heyday’s mission when they joined the L-SPARK SaaS Accelerator back in 2020.
Heyday offers customer service automation support that answers frequent questions or helps customers track orders. The platform enables seamless integration with e-commerce platforms while working with leading brands to deliver more personalized and rewarding customer experiences.
As first-time founders, Steve Desjarlais and David Bordeleau were both new to the ecosystem, and the basic dynamics of running a startup.
“We had a lot to learn but L-SPARK welcomed us at the earliest stage with empathy and care, and really gave us a crash course of all things SaaS – from business modeling to pitching to financing and beyond.”
Our team at L-SPARK immediately saw the potential in Heyday when they applied. Heyday joined L-SPARK as a bootstrapped tech company with a service model, and came out with a much stronger sense of direction and a true SaaS mindset.
“The quality of L-SPARK’s mentors is second to none and amongst Canada’s finest. But beyond their expertise, what stands out is really their relentless passion, dedication and commitment to making each startup a success.”
The L-SPARK team continued to follow Heyday’s journey and contributed to its success years after graduating from the program. In 2021, Heyday was acquired by Hootsuite Inc. – a social media marketing platform in a mission to expand the company’s use of social media beyond marketing to include commerce and one-on-one messaging.
“They coached us at every inflection point of the business, from the early stages of fundraising all the way to our acquisition by Hootsuite. L-SPARK is not just an accelerator. They are acceleration partners. They care just like a co-founder would.”