Launching a Startup Travel Program with Volta in Halifax

San Francisco

In April I wrote a blog post titled Governments Should Fund Startup Travel Programs. It’s a message I’ve shared with a number of folks in different government agencies and amongst entrepreneurs.

The premise is simple:

We need to get more early stage founders visiting Silicon Valley and New York to experience what a startup ecosystem is really like. Then we need those founders to go back to their hometowns and “infect” the community with the enthusiasm, intensity and networks that big startup ecosystems provide.

Getting people to San Francisco and New York may lead to fundraising, partnerships or customer acquisition, but in my mind, the primary goal of a Startup Travel Program is to have entrepreneurs experience an amazing startup ecosystem and bring some of that back with them. That’s what I did in 2007 when I first visited San Francisco (as CEO/co-founder of Standout Jobs). I remember going back to Montreal after my visit and saying, “Turns out the world moves a lot faster than we do.” I met people on that trip that I’m still connected with today; it was an amazing experience.

And now I’m super excited to say that with the help of Volta Labs and the financial support of the department of Economic Rural Development and Tourism in Nova Scotia, we’re offering a Startup Travel Program!


The program is being run through Volta, which is a great accelerator / co-working space for entrepreneurs based in Halifax (where I now live). I’ll be actively involved as well, picking the entrepreneurs that go, working with them on their plans and helping them out. I have to thank Milan Vrekic (who runs Volta) for his continued effort to see the Travel Program realized. He put in a ton of work, and it’s awesome.

If you’re a startup based in Nova Scotia, and you meet the criteria for the Travel Program, I hope you’ll apply!

One thing I do want to make clear: If you’re accepted into the program you should not expect us (myself, Milan, and others involved) to open up our networks instantly to you. The goal of the program is to cover some of the basic expenses of getting you there; it’s up to you when you’re there to make it all happen!

It’s also important to note that we’re looking for people interested in going for 2+ weeks. I don’t think you can capture the essence of San Francisco or New York in a few days or with a few meetings–you have to go, setup shop and dive right in. I’d love to see people go for a month (and stretch the dollars we provide!) to really get a feel for what it’s like.

Finally, when you come back from the Travel Program, you’ll be required to share your story with others. I expect a lot of entrepreneurs (and others) will be interested in hearing about what it’s like. Maybe you’ll blog while you’re there, maybe you’ll share via Twitter, but we also want to get you in front of people that haven’t gone to “infect” them with the spirit. I’d love to see some folks go into high schools and universities as well to do the same.

I don’t think you can replicate Silicon Valley. I don’t think you can replicate any startup ecosystem, there are just too many variables and the circumstances are so radically different. Nova Scotia / Halifax is not the “Silicon Valley of the North” — that’s not the goal whatsoever. But I do think we can take some of the culture, intensity, drive, speed and excitement from a place like Silicon Valley and bring it back. And I know people that go will also bring back networks that help others, and may even bring back capital, customers or partners.

I’m incredibly excited to see the Startup Travel Program launch in Nova Scotia, and look forward to sharing the results with everyone.

Photo courtesy of momentsforzen.

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