Are you a startup founder looking to rapidly scale both your Business and your Mindset?

Applications for the 2018 cohort are now closed. Discover more and stay connected through our newsletter.

Why Next Founders?

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Strategy and Innovation

Ajay Agrawal
Peter Munk Professor of Entrepreneurship, University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

This course provides an introduction to applied economics in the context of innovation and strategy that is relevant to entrepreneurship and early stage ventures. We workshop each venture and address questions such as: How can the 'lean' approach to startups be applied to your venture? Why might markets that are subject to increasing returns be likely to exhibit 'extreme competition' and what are the implications for your venture? How might your venture employ 'judo strategy' to exploit the normally advantageous size of large competitors? How might your venture be able to exploit the well-known 'innovator's dilemma' to compete with established competitors? To what extent are clever strategic tactics congruent with overall welfare for humankind? We will explore such questions through the lens of economic theory, apply the concepts in the context of case analyses, and discuss implications for corporate strategy.

Business, Government and the Global Economy

Marc Busch
Karl F. Landegger Professor of International Business Diplomacy at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

This course offers an introduction to the political economy of international business. The motivation for the course is to explore the nonmarket strategies employed by firms to compete in international trade. Nonmarket strategy involves political, legal and economic efforts by firms to reshape the rules of competition. With the 'visible hand' of governments very much evident in today's global economy, nonmarket strategy plays a key role in supporting a firm's market strategy. The course surveys topics in international trade with an eye to the nonmarket challenges that firms confront in 'going global.' The course looks at issues ranging from protectionism to obligations under the World Trade Organization and the growing number of preferential trade agreements that often extend more stringent rules than the multilateral system.

Strategic Experimentation, Crowdfunding and the Blockchain

Christian Catalini
Assistant Professor of Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Management, Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The objective of this course is to accelerate your progress in the program and expose you to the process of experimentation at the business, strategic and ecosystem level. We will start by taking the perspective of your potential early-adopters: is their current behaviour consistent with your assumptions about how your product or service can deliver value to them? Will your offering be compelling enough for them to change their behaviour? We will learn how to formulate testable and precise hypotheses, and experiments to test them. Next, we will discuss how different types of experimentation can ultimately help you scale your venture, and how you can develop a robust entrepreneurial strategy to maximize learning. From the theory we will then turn to the phenomena, and focus on two technologies that lower the cost of experimentation in the economy, opening new opportunities and challenges for entrepreneurs: crowdfunding and the Bitcoin blockchain.

Digital Market Strategy

Joshua Gans
Professor of Strategic Management, Jeffrey S. Skoll Chair of Technical Innovation and Entrepreneurship, University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

This course will examine the elements of digital strategy for entrepreneurs. Its focus will be on how to understand your competition, how to build on network effects, what the differences between a platform, disruptive, competitive and collaborative strategy are and when they should be used. It will also present the economics of app pricing; how to price an app, pricing options and innovations, freemium and two-sided markets.

Market Research: Data Collection and Analysis

Avi Goldfarb
Professor of Marketing, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

This course explores how to collect, analyze, and present market intelligence.  The purpose of the course is to prepare you to conduct proof-of-concept studies and to undertake effective experiments. We will cover five topics: (1) study design, (2) segmentation, (3) experiments, (4) interpreting correlations, and (5) communicating data. The underlying objective is to understand your target customers and assess whether their interests and behaviour are consistent with assumptions behind your business model.

Entrepreneurial Finance

Ramana Nanda
Associate Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

This class examines the elements of financing a startup, focusing on technology-based startup ventures, and the early stages of company development. It addresses key questions which challenge all entrepreneurs: how much money can and should be raised; when should it be raised and from whom; what is a reasonable valuation of the company; and how funding should be structured. The course is primarily aimed to prepare students for these decisions as entrepreneurs but also examines issues from the perspective of venture capitalists, so that students can learn to effectively pitch their financing strategy to VC and Angel investors.

Economics of Entrepreneurship

Reza Satchu
Managing Partner, Alignvest Capital Management, Serial entrepreneur

This course focuses on the challenging and important economic issues associated with recognizing, growing and valuing new ventures. The course explores the analytical techniques needed to recognize emerging business opportunities; understand the various financing choices; apply valuation methodologies; develop a marketable business plan; manage growth in a rapidly evolving environment; and successfully monetize the value of a business. Students will develop a framework within which to analyze whether a business idea is worth pursuing and a methodology to enable them to apply financial economic principles in ways that add to the value of an entrepreneurial undertaking.

Machine Learning

Machine learning (ML) is a paradigm shift across many sectors because it proposes the automatic construction of artificially intelligent systems that are human-like in ability to perform and adapt. It has already made well-publicized breakthroughs in transforming massive amounts of unstructured data into commercially-relevant products and services. Accordingly, the major internet giants have made recent acquisitions and investments in this space as they expand their capacity in AI. A recent study by Bloomberg Beta estimated over 2,500 startup companies also working in AI and ML. 

This course will begin by introducing the core principles of machine learning. It will then focus on Deep Learning: techniques that learn multiple layers of representation. It will review core approaches for supervised learning: deep neural networks, backpropagation, and optimization methods. It will also review unsupervised learning techniques, including recent advances in deep generative models.

Computer Vision

A central challenge in automated visual reasoning is that of untangling the many factors of variation that explain an image or video: both nuisance factors (e.g. lighting, scale, camera angle) and variables of interest (e.g. person or object identity). Historically, practitioners relied on an engineered feature extraction pipeline, usually containing multiple stages of processing combined with simple machine learning techniques. Recently, Deep Learning methods have transformed the field producing winning entries to myriad competitions as well as industrial applications. 

This course will review the foundations of Deep Learning applied to vision including contemporary convolutional network architectures. Leading experts in the field will discuss the most relevant application areas, including object detection, structured prediction, large-scale classification and hardware acceleration, video, multi-modal and multi-task learning, and regression methods for localization. The course will also highlight the most frequently used practical development libraries and tools.

Natural Language Processing

Applications of Natural Language Processing (NLP) systems are everywhere: web search, translation services, and recommender systems, are only a few examples. Understanding language is not just the core to so many products and services, it is a critical component of building strong AI systems. NLP is one area which has been deeply affected by the recent advances in Deep Learning. This course will review NLP fundamentals as well as cutting-edge models fueled by DL. Topics include word embeddings, recurrent neural network models, encoder-decoder architectures, attention models, architectures with external memories, and multimodal learning, including image and video captioning systems.

Intelligence in Practice

This course explores practical aspects of Machine Learning in industrial settings. It will explore the interaction between software and hardware, specifically Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) and other hardware accelerators which have been critical to scaling up ML. It will cover best practices for ML developers, such as model search, debugging, and visualization. Short and long-term ethics and implications of strong AI will form a key discussion point. Machine Learning Systems have a larger system-level complexity than traditional software-based systems and thus have the potential to incur massive ongoing maintenance costs. The course will also explore the challenges and best practices of building and deploying large-scale ML systems.

Data Driven Decision Making

Mara Lederman
Director, Research Resources and Centres Associate Professor of Strategic Management

Mara does empirical research in the areas of Industrial Organization and Organizational Economics. At a broad level, Mara studies how companies compete and how they organize themselves for competitive advantage.  She is best known for her research on loyalty programs and vertical integration. Much of her work has been focused on the airline industry and she is recognized as an expert in this area. Her work has been published in the American Economic Review, the RAND Journal of Economics and the Review of Economics and Statistics, among others.  On the teaching side, Mara delivers courses on strategy, data analytics, and business problem-solving in Rotman’s MBA and Executive Education programs. 

Reinforcement Learning

Joelle Pineau
Associate Professor, School of Computer Science, McGill University

Joelle Pineau is a William Dawson Scholar and Associate Professor in the School of Computer Science at McGill University. Dr. Pineau’s research focuses on developing new models and algorithms that allow computers to learn to make good decisions in complex real-world domains, even in circumstances where there is incomplete or incorrect information. She also works on applying these algorithms to problems in robotics and health care. Dr. Pineau is a Senior Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and a Member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists in the Royal Society of Canada.

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The ultimate network.

You can't build a great business without the support of a community of other entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and advisors. The Next 36 is backed by over 300 of Canada's top business leaders, who are committed to making Canada more prosperous by supporting promising entrepreneurs like you. Throughout the program, you will have opportunities to meet people who could become clients, investors and connectors for your venture.

The relationships you build during the program last a lifetime. The Next 36 alumni stay in touch with their mentors, start new ventures with their peers, raise new rounds from investors, and develop lasting friendships. Our alumni community will become an important place to go for advice, support and feedback for new ideas.

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​​Complimentary Services from Our Partners

Legal Advice from Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP on topics including: intellectual property, term sheets, human resources and privacy law.

Cloud Hosting from Amazon Web Services (up to $15,000).

Professional services from EY, including help with accounting, finance, media and funding needs.

Work Space during the summer for select ventures, provided by the DMZ.

Software from Mathworks.

Cloud computing from Microsoft BizSpark (up to $10,000 monthly for 12 months).

What We Do

Next Founders is a program that accelerates the growth of Canada’s most promising entrepreneurs by providing mentorship, access to capital, and unparalleled founder development. We want to help scale both the founder and their business.  It is one of three programs delivered by NEXT Canada, which launched in 2010 and is now supported nationally by over 300 entrepreneurs and business leaders.

We believe in a founder development model.  After an intense Immersion Block, optional programming is delivered throughout the summer.  This is customized education taught by Canada's most successful entrepreneurs and award-winning global faculty. You will also be exposed to an extraordinary community of investors and peers.

Our Vision

At Next Founders, we believe that by fast-tracking the development of Canada's most talented innovators, we will help create industry changing businesses and grow Canada's long-term prosperity.

Frequently asked questions about…

  • Program Costs and Financing

  • Program

  • Eligibility

What is the cost of the program?

There is no cost to participate in Next Founders, which is delivered by NEXT Canada, a charity supported through the generosity of Canadian business leaders, entrepreneurs and government partners.

Are there funding opportunities for my venture?

Yes. Next Founders ventures are eligible for up to 30K in non-dilutive grant funding.  To be considered, ventures must have primary operations in Southern Ontario and raised private, matching funding between September 1, 2016 and September 1, 2018.

Do you take equity in my venture?

No. Next Founders takes no equity in your venture.

Is financial support available for founders travelling from a distance?

Financial support to assist with transportation to Toronto for classes and in some instances accommodation is available for eligible founders travelling from outside Ontario. Financial need will be assessed on a case-by-case basis – to learn more, contact Alexandra at

Do you provide workspace for my ventures?

Yes. In most cases, Next Founders is able to provide you with workspace in downtown Toronto for the duration of the program through one of our community partners.

What is the difference between Next Founders and other NEXT programs?

Next Founders - is for founders of seed/growth stage ventures with significant traction who are looking to scale.

Next 36 - is for founders of existing ventures or anyone who wants to build a new company with global impact.  Existing ventures should be idea/early stage and pre-seed investment.  It is focused on students and recent grads.

NextAI - is an accelerator program for early-stage AI-enabled ventures or individuals and teams looking to commercialize research and launch something new. It is for students, grads, researchers and industry professionals.  Each team must have at least one founder with deep expertise in an AI-related field. 

How is the program structured?

The program runs from early May to mid-August and consists of a Founder Immersion Week in mid to late May which includes foundational courses tailored to your business, plus events and optional workshops. Additional programming is spread out over the remainder of the summer and you are encouraged to attend as much as you are able. Next Founders charges no tuition and takes no equity in your venture.  

When you apply, we will ask you what you and your venture needs most.  We have a vast network and are often able to customize content to the needs of our founders.

Is there any formalized mentorship provided?

While no formal mentorship is provided, you will have plenty of opportunity to build relationships with the business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors you meet at Next Founders events. You will also be provided direct access to dozens of advisors and subject matter experts in areas ranging from branding to intellectual property to venture finance.

Can I complete any of the educational components remotely?

No. This program is not designed for remote participation. Direct contact with faculty, guest speakers and interaction with other participants is a key part of the program.

Do I apply as an individual or as a venture?

As an individual. We want your venture to succeed but our focus is on accelerating the entrepreneur. Multiple co-founders from the same venture may apply if they will benefit from the program and can add value. All applicants will be evaluated individually.

I am an ambitious entrepreneur but I don't come from a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) background. Am I eligible to apply?

Yes. You will have to demonstrate in your application that you are an entrepreneur with a high growth / high margin venture who will be a valuable addition to Next Founders community.

I already have a business degree. Am I eligible?

Yes. While Next Founders is designed for those without formal business education, the right founder with a business degree will find the tailored curriculum invaluable.

Can I do Next Founders if I am participating in another accelerator or incubator?

Generally, yes.  Next Founders is designed to be customizable, flexible and complementary to other accelerators and incubators.  You should expect to spend a full-time Immersion Week in Toronto in mid May plus 3-4 other blocks over the course of the summer.  So long as you can make all required programming, you can also participate in a second program.  Just remember, the more you put into Next Founders, the more you will get out of it.

I am not a Canadian citizen. Am I eligible?

The program is open to Canadian citizens, permanent residents and those in the process of immigrating to Canada. If you are in the process of applying for Permanent Resident status, we will accept a notarized statement to this effect. If you intend to provide a notarized statement, please email Alexandra at in advance of completing the first stage of the application.

Can you help international applicants through the Canadian Start-up Visa Program (SUP)?

No.  Next Founders is only for Canadians citizens or founders with businesses already incorporated in Canada.  If you are the founder of an early stage AI-enabled business, you may want to apply for NextAI.  Successful NextAI applicants are eligible for assistance through the SUP

Are there any investment or revenue thresholds for my venture in order to be eligible?

No. All applicants will be assessed based on the potential of the applicant and his or her venture. In previous years, many of the participants had raised a significant seed round, completed a crowdfunding campaign or were earning revenue.

Next Founders Timeline

February 5
Applications Open

Answer a few short questions about yourself, your venture and what makes you tick. The application also includes a short video interview. Apply to the 2018 cohort today

February - March 2018
Learn more at Next Founders Meetups

Introduce your startup and learn about Next Founders from alumni entrepreneurs and NEXT Canada staff. View the full events listing here

March 20
Application Deadline

Early April 2018
Final Interviews and Selection

Finalists may be invited to an interview (online, or in-person in Toronto).

Late April
Welcome and Onboarding Event

Meet the Next Founders leadership, mentors, advisors and your peers in the cohort. Make connections that will last a lifetime with peers facing similar challenges.

Early May 2018
Entrepreneurship Institute Begins

The summer schedule in Toronto includes a Founder Immersion Block in early-May and optional programming and events that will be instrumental in helping your business scale rapidly. Guest faculty and entrepreneurs come in from across North America to work with you.

Starting May 2018, throughout the summer

You will attend masters-level classes from our award winning faculty and successful entrepreneurs and investors. To help you manage your calendar, an Immersion Block of 15 hours of programming will be scheduled, after which it is up to you to decide what classes, workshops and events add the most value to you and your venture.  Sessions will be held at the University of Toronto campus, and typically run Thursdays and Fridays. The more you put into this opportunity the more you will get out of it! 

Throughout Summer 2018
Exclusive Events

You'll be invited to multiple networking events, where you will have the opportunity to meet investors, entrepreneurs and business leaders with the potential to make a big impact on your venture.

Venture Preview Night

Select ventures will pitch in front of investors and business leaders who get a sneak peak of your startup before Venture Day. This is a great chance to get feedback and start a relationship with investors interested in helping grow your company.

August 14
Venture Day

The program culminates with a showcase of Next Founders and Next 36 ventures. Hundreds of investors and business leaders attend, and hundreds more watch online. 

Alumni Events

Although the program has finished, you are forever part of the alumni community and NEXT Canada family. We hold special events for alumni, where you can network with your peers and entrepreneurs from other years.

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Founder, Blue J Legal

    Next Founders Alumni Benjamin Alarie

As artificial intelligence increasingly embeds itself into our day-to-day lives, Benjamin Alarie realized he faced two choices: he could clutch his chalk as a law professor for the next 30 years, or he could embrace change and commercialize a product or service using this exciting tech. He chose the latter, founding Blue J Legal using technology spun out of the University of Toronto. Blue J Legal is a legal testing company that uses machine learning to provide answers for professionals in the grey areas of tax law. Their flagship product, Tax Foresight, predicts trial outcomes by sifting through all case files, legal documents and decisions to create a mock judgement and a more accurate assessment of cases. 

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    Next Founders Alumni Bryan Gold

People don’t like being sold to, but #paid is striving to change the way brands interact with consumers. As the world’s leading marketing and influencer collaboration platform, #paid connects brands to social media content creators to help brands gain customers through online organic recommendations. #paid’s automated marketplace helps marketers find influencers, collaborate easily, approve content and track analytics, while influencers get paid to do what they love: share great content with their engaged followers. Since founding in 2013, #paid has worked with brand giants including AirBnB, adidas, Pepsi, Microsoft, and Corona to create engaging, honest, and authentic influencer content. 

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    Next Founders Alumni Tyler Handley

Fed up with the permanence of tattoos, brothers Tyler and Braden Handley set out to develop a tattoo that wouldn't leave them regretting the decision 30 years later. The result is inkbox: a temporary tattoo that’s applied by customers at home in just 15 minutes. The 100% organic fruit-based formula dyes the top layer of skin, giving the look and feel of a real tattoo and fades naturally as the skin exfoliates. Customers can choose from 300+ pre-made designs and order from anywhere in the world. Inkbox brings the beauty and artistry of tattooing to those who fear the price, pain and commitment of a permanent tattoo.  

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Co-Founder SmartHalo

    Next Founders Alumni Xavier Peich

Co-founded by Xavier Peich, SmartHalo turns any bike into a smart bike with a minimalist interface that lets users focus on what matters most: the road. SmartHalo installs on the handlebar and pairs with a smartphone to provide turn-by-turn navigation, automatic fitness tracking and protection against thieves with its integrated alarm system. After an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter campaign, SmartHalo has grown to become a team of 15+ and has been featured in TIME Magazine, Fortune Magazine, Wired, Gizmodo and more. 

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    Next Founders Alumni Marie Chevrier

Marie Chevrier is the Founder of Sampler, a Software as a Service that helps Consumer Package Good companies manage and measure the digital distribution of promotional offers like product samples and coupons. Sampler's clients include brands like Living Proof, CocoaVia and Hyland's Homeopathy. With a marketing degree from the University of Ottawa Marie started her career in advertising at J. Walter Thompson here in Toronto where she focused on the Tim Hortons business. While marketing was always a passion of hers It will have been her interest in technology that landed her a role as an Entrepreneur In Residence for Rocket Internet. There she had the opportunity to consult on two New York City based startups and eventually become a co-founder of DropGifts. Since its launch in October 2013, Sampler has helped Marie combine her love for marketing and technology and she'll say that it's been quite the ride. Sampler just recently closed a seed round of one Million dollars and has already worked with over 60 CPG brands across North America.

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Eve Medical

    Next Founders Alumni Jessica Ching

Jessica Ching is the co-founder and CEO of Eve Medical. Jessica is passionate about improving healthcare by bridging the gap between medical technology and patient experience. She invented HerSwab, a device to improve access to cervical cancer screening, and has taken it successfully from an early research concept to commercial launch. Jessica is a recipient of the Martin Walmsley Fellowship for Technological Entrepreneurship, and is focused on making great products with impact for their users. Prior to founding Eve, she designed health and consumer products for Herman Miller, Umbra, and Telus. She is a graduate of the industrial design program at OCADU and studied Political Science and International Development at McGill University.

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