Launched in 2012, Launch Academy plays a huge role in helping the growth and sustenance of Vancouver’s startup community and enable start-ups themselves become accelerator ready. Located in Gastown and sharing space with Highline Accelerator and Lighthouse Labs coding academy, Launch Academy is the epicentre of Vancouver’s startup scene. Roger Patterson, one of Launch Academy’s founders shares with us the tale of the incubator’s orgin, what Launch Academy is focusing on in the near future, and the factors he sees in start-ups achieving success.
Launch Academy had its origins rooted back in the days when Bootup Labs, an accelerator incubator hybrid founded by Danny Robinson and Maura Rogers was winding down and being converted into Bootup Garage. Bootup Garage was to be an accommodating environment for startup founders to work and share ideas. Although coworking office spaces for startup founders to intermingle and exchange ideas seem simple now, back in 2010 and 2011 it was a novel concept.
Bootup Garage’s existence was cut short however, because of funding shortages; it would close its doors within 6 months time. Jesse Heaslip, who was at the time a member of Bootup Garage, emailed others within the space looking to create a bigger coworking office geared towards startup cofounders. He along with Ray Walia and Roger Patterson saw how such space benefitted startup founders and thus Launch Academy was born.
Utilizing a lean development methodology, Jesse, Roger, and Ray created startup and tech oriented meet-up groups for the process of customer development. The trio were able to estimate demand, running costs, calculate pricing models and figure out the traction of Launch Academy through asking meetup attendees.
With the concept of Launch Academy validated after months of work, they approached Mike Edwards, the recently appointed executive director of Grow Lab at the time, and proposed a test run within its office. In between cohorts, Grow Lab had sufficient space for such an experiment and while the trio intended to pay for office space, Mike offered them two months use rent free.
Launch Academy opened its doors on Apirl 1st and within 4 months took over the space. With over 20 companies working out of the space, they quickly realized they needed a bigger estate. With the 3rd floor of 128 West Hastings, available for lease, the trio, along with Mike Edwards who became Launch Academy’s director, quickly seized the opportunity and secured what is now their current office.
Having seen over 200 companies come and go from Launch Academy’s office, Roger has noticed several controllable factors that contribute to a startup’s success. Successful startups have cofounders that work well together and dedicate a significant amount of time to ensure their ideas get off the ground. Furthermore, in order to maximize the idea’s potential, cofounders need to validate their idea with its market. Whether that means letting potential customer play with the MVP or inspect the wire frame, founders need to know if they have eliminated the barriers to adoption or accidentally added to it.
Launch Academy now focuses on further developing its educational programs: The Lean Entrepreneur Program and the Launch Academy Education Program. The Lean Entrepreneur Program has been positively received by the startup community having just graduated their third cohort. It is an eight week course designed to give individuals the business side of the entrepreneurship experience and take them through the process of ideation to market validation.
The Launch Academy Education Program consists of a la carte one day workshops designed to tackle specific issues such as software development, user experience and design as well as business development. With these programs, Launch Academy will be providing aspiring entrepreneurs with both co-working space as well as education and guidance in order to further bolster Vancouver’s startup scene.