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Been there, done that – how past experience helps Canada StartHub build brighter futures

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

Raquel de Castro Boechat had done her homework.

From her home in Porto Alegre/RS, Brazil, she had started building a network in Canada. She and her growing company knew their market sector well. She planned as much as she could for her business and her finances. She even visited the country three times before making her decision.

But even with 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship and strategic communications under her belt, she knew she had a tough road ahead. After all, she was moving to an entirely new country – one where she didn’t have an established support network – and bringing her nine-year-old daughter with her.

“We moved just the two of us,” she says. “It was a lot of paperwork, family issues, challenges for business and marketing, cultural differences, and our home. It was everything together. So, for me, it was important to be very well organized before I came.”

Having experienced the transition herself three years ago, Raquel is now determined to make sure that entrepreneurs coming to Canada have an easier time, both professionally and personally.

And that’s why she co-founded Canada StartHub, a program designed for international entrepreneurs expanding a business into Canada, to prepare them both with a strong business strategy and the cultural knowledge they need to succeed in a new country.

“Everything is possible if we have an innovative business that fits with the global market, if our emotional side is ready and also the rational side for planning, finances and networking. With the right preparation, we can expand our businesses into what we want to build.”

Transition and scale on the global stage

Canada StartHub connects entrepreneurs looking to grow internationally with resources designed to help their businesses succeed in Canada. From understanding the market to understanding the culture, their programming has one goal in mind: to help businesses and the people behind them make the transition smoothly.

“We decided to create Canada StartHub to connect with startups when they are still in their home country. We guide and help them prepare to apply for a Canadian business accelerator that already has credentials and experience to connect them with possible investors, market influencers, decision-makers and potential clients,” says Raquel.

“We want to make startups’ leaders more prepared to be successful here.” Ultimately, Canada StartHub wants to see innovation extending beyond borders, first by connecting Brazilian businesses with an ecosystem in Canada designed to help great ideas flourish. “I think if we can bring more innovation and outstanding entrepreneurs, we can build a better future and create a more sustainable environment, with better solutions,” she adds.

Video by: Eric Silveira - LDM

The program is built for startups that are already established to a degree – they own intellectual property, have some traction in their home country, are bringing innovation or technology forward, and have funding saved up to help transition to an international business model.

Those who sign up for their program go through two weeks of immersion training with a business accelerator in Canada, 60 hours of mentorship, workshops, networking and one-to-one guidance, with the possibility to apply for the Startup Visa Program at the end of the training process.

This process helps them picture what it looks like to start their business in the country, Raquel says. Based on the first assessment for the initiative, the companies' founders already know that they have the chance to apply for a Startup Visa Program-designated business accelerator that assists innovative leaders with a pathway to immigrate to Canada.

“If you have mentors and leaders that had gone through that experience before, at least you know that you have the guidance to reduce your learning curve on the same challenges,” she adds. “With assertive preparation, you can focus on your company and your personal goals ... and your international business launch is more secure to be successful.”

The perfect place to call home-away-from-home

For Brazilian-born entrepreneur Luis Barrionuevo, co-founder of Canada StartHub, immersion was an important part of his journey to Canada.

“When I arrived in Canada, the first thing that I did was breathe the air, drink the water and start meeting people,” he says. “I spent eight days in immersion, with a group of entrepreneurs visiting different places here in Canada. And when I did that, I had a chance to confirm that what was in my mind, in my view, in my vision, was real here.”

Luis, like Raquel, moved to Canada with his family in tow – so it was critical that he came prepared for success when he crossed the border for the long term. “What I saw here were a lot of opportunities, not just for myself but for my wife and my kids,” he says.

Through Canada StartHub, he hopes to help other entrepreneurs find the same kinds of opportunities he found – and overcome the same kinds of challenges he faced, from a language barrier to building an international network.

“I wake up in the morning and think, what's the thing that I want to do today that will really bring some value to support other entrepreneurs, support other companies behind-the-scenes?” he says.

“Canada StartHub has a mission that is truly connected with my personal values: how you can give something not only to your neighborhood, but also to an international society.”

He says that the Toronto-Waterloo Region Corridor, in particular, is one of the best places in the world for that to happen – and not just because he lives and works there himself. Nicknamed “Silicon Valley of the North,” the area in Ontario has earned a reputation as an innovation hub where top talent from around the world congregates, at a lower cost of living than its California namesake.

And thanks to a welcoming community, he feels like he’s found a home not just for his family, but also for his own entrepreneurial ventures. Canada StartHub included.

“This corridor is amazing,” he says. “I see there are opportunities for people like myself, coming from the South of Brazil, thousands of kilometers from here, to be embraced by our community.”

In other words: for both Luis and Raquel, their homework paid off.

Ready to grow beyond borders? Apply today for Canada Starthub next cohort in March 2022!

Author: Jackelyn Gill

Video by: Eric Silveira - LDM

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