The Big Idea: Business Incubator produces standout startups in Whistler

Whistler has a knack for attracting top talent in the sports world, but serial entrepreneur, Paul Girodo, director of Empowered Startups, goes to work with his sights set on a different kind of leader — he’s focused on bringing the best in the business world to the resort.

Combining a passion for business strategy with immigration and intercultural communication, Empowered Startups aims to attract the brightest entrepreneurial minds from around the world to grow startup businesses in Whistler.

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As one of only a small number of private for-profit business incubators authorized by the Government of Canada, Empowered Startups specializes in commercializing innovative ideas coming out of Canada’s universities by partnering with entrepreneurial driven foreign nationals.

“We match international demand to come to Canada with limited supply of immigration programs for entrepreneurs and business people,” explained Girodo.  “Never before has Canada had such an effective business immigration program to bring talented high net-worth business people to Canada.”

High-potential partnerships

Girodo’s program creates partnerships with entrepreneurs to invest seed capital into scalable startups.

“We search Whistler and the world for high-potential business people who have the international connections and money to scale innovation internationally with headquarters in Whistler.”

Being authorized by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to issue commitment certificates to fast-track permanent residency, Girodo can bring business minds from across the globe to Canada. Like every element of Empowered Startups’ program, the process is structured for prompt progress.

“Generally permanent residency visas are being issued two and a half to five and a half months from when we issue the commitment certificate,” said Girodo, so the speed at which his team can generate results for clients propels success at an accelerated pace.

Incubation for innovation

A key priority is aligning with Canadian university labs, which have students that have created innovative products or ideas in their field and are now at that seed stage where they require investment and mentorship to grow through early stages of development to a global scale.

The program nurtures these startups, providing infrastructure or office space and mentorship. An impressive group of mentors and advisors at the top of their game in their respective industries help the startups soar through early stages and connect with international customers.

As the Canadian seed businesses are nurtured through growth with headquarters in Whistler, dollars are reinvested into the local economy because Empowered Startups both buys and hires locally.  

“One of our Whistler startups just hired three engineering graduates through Simon Fraser University as well as a local Whistler designer,” said Girodo.

Acceleration and elevation

Startups fostered by the program are meticulously selected.

“We are launching high-potential ventures that have a high likelihood of scaling internationally with headquarters in Whistler,” explained Girodo. “Our startups will export Canadian innovation.”

Girodo is driven to see startups generate global sales, so his formula is based on connecting with international customers, product development, and aggressive revenue goals. Lean Startup methodology drives sales while constantly measuring and learning from results.

Girodo believes this rigorous method to track and demonstrate progress is essential in the uncertain startup environment. The program really sets itself apart when it leverages the discipline of working smarter to maximize the lifestyle benefits of basing a business in Whistler.  

“Dispel of the theory that working super hard will always result in success. It won’t. Find ways to work easier and smarter, not harder. It helps to be a little addicted to mountains and water.”

In fact, Girodo has a message for business leaders around the world.

“Change your life and your kids’ lives for the better by joining us in Whistler to prove you can scale a startup internationally while skiing in the morning, building your startup venture in the afternoon and building Whistler’s social fabric,” he said. “Only the best entrepreneurs with innate leadership capabilities can make it happen. We’re looking for the best.”

Make business easy — tune in to The Big Idea, a bi-weekly column from the Whistler Chamber of Commerce showcasing a Whistler business innovating in their sector.

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