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Bringing business home

Innovacorp is an early-stage venture capital organization that helps new Nova Scotian entrepreneurs launch their technology start-ups. The company is a designated organization with Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) Start-up Visa program pilot project, which runs until 2018.

The program allows angel investors, venture capital firms, and business incubators to recommend foreign entrepreneurs for permanent residency.

“Entrepreneurship doesn’t see any boundaries globally,” says Stephen Duff, president and CEO of Innovacorp. “We want to work with and attract the best. This isn’t just a mass call for people. We’re trying to hand-select great entrepreneurs.”

To be eligible, the entrepreneur must create a new knowledge-based service or product, headquarter the business in Nova Scotia, and meet CIC requirements for economic class immigrants.

The application process is lengthy: eight to 12 weeks to get a recommendation to CIC before starting the immigration application. But it’s worth the effort for those who make it to Canada, says Duff. Out of the hundreds of applications Innovacorp received since 2013, dozens of entrepreneurs passed Innovacorp’s screening process, and CIC approved five to immigrate.

One of those companies is already working with customers. Aga Bio Sciences, founded by American entrepreneur Eric Hoffman, does pre-clinical trial testing for orphan drugs, or drugs that treat rare diseases.

“We’re proud to be a welcoming partner for these entrepreneurs when they arrive,” says Duff. “Once they’re here on the ground in Halifax we’re able to quickly network them to likeminded entrepreneurs, investors, the National Research Council, the Industrial Research Assistance Program, and others.”

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