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The Start-up Visa: Appealing to Designated Organizations and Obtaining the Letter of Support

The Canada Start-up Visa (SUV) program might just be our favorite business immigration program this year! We have been getting many questions from our immigration consultant and lawyer partners about how to reach out to a designated organization, how to obtain the letter of support, and/or who to work with to learn more about the process.

In order to address these questions, we recently brought in a couple of experts for a webinar on the topic. Our guests were from independent companies that provide separate services from Joorney.

To clarify, at Joorney we do not provide any legal services or obtain the letter of support for applicants. What we do offer are business plans, pitch decks, and financial modeling for our clients and partners in order to help obtain the required letter of support and to accompany the Start-up Visa application. We also have packages in which we prepare the required documents for specific designated organizations, since their requirements will usually vary.

Our featured guest was Marshall Ring from Manitoba Technology Accelerator (MTA), a designated organization and leading participant of the Start-up Visa Program of Canada. MTA is known as the gold standard of designated organizations. Marshall himself has been involved in company formation and commercializing early-stage technologies since the late 90s.

Our second guest was Upasana Sharma, Founder & CEO of IQ Canada. IQ Canada is one of our current partner clients and they handle the Startup Visa Process from A-to-Z by bringing together all the service providers you or your clients could possibly need to be successful in your start-up visa venture from beginning to end.

Here are selected clips from our webinar along with questions addressed in the Q&A chat during the live session.

Q: What makes Manitoba Technology Accelerator the gold standard of designated organizations?

A: Three things: third-party transparency, speed, and 1-on-1 business advisory services.

  • Third Party Transparency – We have unbiased, third-party screening committees that review applicants and recommend who to accept.
  • Speed – From application to issue of the letter of support within 30 days
  • 1-on-1 Business Advisory Services – We don’t put people in a cohort. Instead every applicant is given a dedicated and highly-qualified business advisor selected specifically to match their needs.

Q: What is the success rate of the applicants that go through the MTA Start-up Visa program?

A: To our knowledge, none of our applicants have gone to what is called “peer review”. This means none of them have ever been flagged by IRCC for any reason.

Q: What does MTA’s SUV acceleration program entail?

A: We treat this as a sophisticated consulting firm when dealing with SUV clients. Our advisors actually bid on clients. In other words, they have to convince us why they are the best advisor for the particular business.

After the business is matched, we start with a comprehensive assessment of the business including a complete gap analysis. Then, the advisor works with the business to develop a customized development plan with actionable steps and monthly check-ins to ensure they are successfully moving down the technology commercialization pathway.

Q: Who is eligible to get the letter of support?

A: There are three primary qualifications per the Government of Canada website:

  • It must be innovative
  • It must create jobs in Canada
  • It must compete on a global scale

Q: What is the process to get the letter of support from MTA?

A: The MTA process is standardized. The first step is to apply, which includes completing the application, providing a minimum 10-slide presentation (similar to a pitch deck), and a mini 2-page business plan. This information is then given to one of our third-party screening committees for review and recommendation. If successful, we let the organizations know if they are approved. We then issue the contract. Once that is signed and the deposit is received, we get started.

Q: Is there an interview stage in the MTA process for the SUV program?

A: There is no formal interview process; however, there is a lot of back and forth as we ask questions and look for clarity. This is a natural part of our due diligence but there is no formal interview stage.

Q: Is the MTA SUV program meant just for people that want to settle in Manitoba?

A: This is a federal program so anyone is welcome to approach us regardless of where they want to settle. The only exception is Quebec as they have their own program. We are selective and mindful of the types of ideas and business we work with but, we’re open to people regardless of where they plan to establish their business.

Q: What is the main industry or profile required in order to align with MTA and receive the letter of support?

A: We don’t have a strict focus in terms of industry or sector, though we do look broadly for technology-based businesses. We really like medical devices but are hesitant to partner with companies that might need things like wet labs that would require billions in funding and take many years to fully develop. We tend to look at sectors in which angels are investing into as well. We do like software, advanced manufacturing, and clean tech. We are especially mindful if we’re going into a sector where there isn’t access to capital or market demand, as it limits our ability to help. There is no specific sector we would immediately say no to but, we are better served in med tech, software, and advanced engineering.

Q: Are there industries that are already saturated within MTA?

A: We try not to work with competing technologies. If that does happen, we create a distinct firewall between advisors with companies in competing spaces. We do, however, try to find complementary businesses that we can connect so they can work together. It really comes back to the type of technology, not sector.

Q: Is MTA looking for a specific profile of applicant?

A: We start with who we are not interested in. We are not interested in someone who doesn’t want to be involved in driving their business and are only doing this to gain permanent residency. We really look for people that are going to be active, and want to commercialize and grow their business.

Q: Does MTA work with companies that are only in the idea stage?

A: When people have an idea that they need to flush out, one of the things we do is recommend they talk to Joorney who can help with things like market research. If you have ideas, there are talented people around that can help you explore it and prepare to drive it forward. We’re always happy to take people at the idea stage and introduce them to our network that can help them further.

Q: How is Joorney involved throughout the process?

A: To be clear, Joorney does not get the letter of support. We focus on preparing the documents that you will need to be able to get the attention of a designated organization. We also provide the business plan that accompanies your startup visa application.

We have three primary products for this:

  • Start-up Visa Program Business Plan – This is meant to accompany the startup visa application but, can also be used to submit to a designated organization that does not have a specific format for application.
  • Pitch Deck – A document, typically 15-20 slides, that can be used to appeal to designated organizations in a different, more visual and abbreviated format than the full business plan.
  • MTA Start-up Visa Package – A complete package to prepare the specific documents required by MTA. We can customize a package to meet the application requirements of any designated organization.

Q: Beyond immigration, what other services does Joorney provide for start-ups?

A: Since 2016, our Advisory division has taken a comprehensive approach to building the documents that are needed to successfully capture investor funding for an early or growth stage venture. We do this by advising our clients and building three key deliverables that will help them achieve their goals. Namely, these are financial models, investor business plans, and pitch decks. We also put together executive summaries and teaser documents as well. These are things needed for what we call the “pre-transaction” phase, when creating the marketing solicitation documents that are needed to be able to successfully enter into the transaction (e.g., receiving funding) and entice the investors that they are looking to get funding from.

Q: Are there resources available that help through the entire process?

A: Joorney’s focus is preparing the documents to apply to the designated organization, like MTA.  Or, to create the business plan to accompany the Start-up visa application itself.  However, we do have partners like IQ Canada that help with the process from beginning to end.  

IQ Canada brings together all the service providers a start-up could need throughout the entire process, whatever the needs may be.  This includes immigration lawyers, international property lawyers, corporate lawyers, and, of course, professional document preparers like Joorney.  In essence, they allow the immigration consultant or lawyer to focus on the immigration strategy while they source any of the business needs.  Every start-up’s needs are different, and every designated organization operates differently.  

So, a service like IQ Canada helps you make sense of it all, walks you through the entire process, and connects you to any of the resources you might need along the way.  It includes everything from concept validation, getting the documents prepared, pitch coaching, and go-to-market strategy, among others.

Q: How much does MTA charge for their services?

A: It varies depending on the number of people on the application.
1-person: $2,100/month
For every additional person that applies (up to 5), add $500/person to the monthly fee.
Maximum term is 18 months.

Q: If somebody has an innovative idea already executed or ready to be executed, does Joorney guide them to which third party designated organization to approach?

A: We only prepare the documents, such as the business plan or the pitch deck, that you will need to apply to the designated organization to get a letter of support. We do not help you reach out to them but, you can work with a company like IQ Canada, apply on your own, or through an immigration consultant or lawyer.

Q: If an applicant has an innovative idea but hasn’t formed a company yet will MTA accept them?

A: We want applicants to incorporate in Canada within 90 days of being accepted to the program but they don’t need to be incorporated in their home country or have anything registered.

Q: Can you explain how you can have up to 5 people on one start-up project?

A: You can have up to 5 people on the application and each applicant can bring their dependents and spouse. However, every person on the application needs to have a critical and essential role in the business. These could be roles such as CEO, Director of Marketing, Financial Director, etc.

Q: Does MTA also help start-ups get capital funding?

A: To an extent. There are instances where we can help with that but, it is outside of the scope of the regular SUV program contract.

Q: If a start-up has a minimum viable product (MVP) that is similar to something else in the market but has been enhanced by new technology to surpass the existing product on the market, what is the chance that will be accepted?

A: That’s exactly the kind of project MTA looks for! Disruptive technology that makes something better, faster, cheaper, etc. is our wheelhouse.

Q: Does Joorney help come up with an innovative idea that will be acceptable for the SUV program?

A: No. At Joorney, we do not come up with the unique idea for the startup visa program. We have a service of business idea selection for other immigration programs that functions for a different purpose but, for the Start-up Visa we don’t come up with the idea. The innovative idea has to already be established when you come to us to prepare your documents or for other services.

Below are some additional questions that were addressed in the Q&A chat feature.

Q: Does the candidate require relevant knowledge in the proposed business? For example, can a mechanical engineer start a software business? How much does that background limit/affect the business plan?

A: I think founders can come from any background. E.g., an engineer who invented / built some software seems perfectly fine.

Q: Is it possible to add partners onto the application once the idea receives the letter of support, rather than listing them on the initial application?

A: If you change the names on the application, the application starts at the beginning again. But yes, you can change.

Q: Do you require the start-up to have developed a minimum viable product (MVP) already? Or do you accept seed stage businesses?

A: MTA can accept idea-stage applications.

Q: Do clients need to pay an application fee for the initial review of their documents?

A: MTA does not charge application fees.

Q: I don’t see MTA in the list of designated organizations, please advise.

A: Our legal name is Biomedical Commercialization Canada. We are doing business as MTA. You can find us there under Biomedical and see the MTA name alongside it.

Q: Can you give us examples of businesses who were successful in obtaining a start up visa or tech ideas that have succeeded?

A: Please visit MTA’s website and look at the Showcase page.

Q: What is MTA’s acceptance rate?

A: We accept about 60% of the people who apply to our program.

Q: How many applicants have been through the program? How long does it take applicants to get WP and PR recently and pre-covid?

A: We have about 5 clients who have received PR. We currently have about 215 SUV clients under contract. WP and PR varies based on country of origin and sector.

Q: How much investment does the client need in general?

A: We want to see clients have sufficient capital to reach key milestones in their business plan.

If you have clients in need of business documents in order to facilitate the application process for a designated organization or to submit the startup visa application, our team is here to help! If you’re ready for our services or have additional questions, please feel free to contact us.

Guest Bios:

Marshall Ring

Marshall is the CEO of Manitoba Technology Accelerator. Marshall has been involved in company formation and commercializing early-stage technologies since the late 90s. He is committed to providing executive mentoring and building a strong network for Start-up Visa members. He has great reach into many national markets, service providers, and investors.

Upasana Sharma

Upasana Sharma is the founder and CEO of IQ Canada. She is an expert in the Canadian Start-up Visa Program, and has successfully launched several global start-up companies in Canada.

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