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BlackBerry is combining its wisdom and tech to help accelerate small businesses

blackberry accelerate startups
BlackBerry's Grant Courville (L) and L-Spark's Leo Lax (R)
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Having once captured 51 percent of the North American smartphone market in 2009, BlackBerry is a pioneer in the mobile industry, and it is now taking that vast experience to help accelerate small businesses.

While BlackBerry is getting back to its roots in the hardware department, with the recent release of the BlackBerry KEY2 LE mobile phone, at the same time the Waterloo, Ontario-based firm is branching into new collaborations that help small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) grow their businesses.

blackberry accelerate startups
L-Spark Executive Managing Director Leo Lax

Announcing last week that it would partner with L-SPARK, Canada’s largest Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) accelerator, BlackBerry will focus its decades of experience and knowledge towards helping to accelerate Canadian startups.

“Partnering with BlackBerry to accelerate the growth of high-potential Canadian SMEs is the most effective way to grow the next great, global, technology company,” said Leo Lax, executive managing director at L-SPARK.

“But more importantly, it is a great way to elevate the entire Canadian technology community to reach and thrive within the global marketplace,” he added.

As part of the program, BlackBerry will help participating companies research and develop product prototypes in areas such as robotics, device security, sensor fusion (e.g. lidar, radar, cameras and GPS), functional safety, analytics, medical devices and autonomous vehicles.

The accelerator program will select six companies to join an intensive, six-month program, which will provide one-on-one training aimed to grow and scale each company according to its individual needs, as well as developing new products to bring to the market.

“BlackBerry is proud to play an integral role in the growth of Canada’s innovation economy,” said Grant Courville, VP, Product Management and Strategy, BlackBerry QNX, BlackBerry.

“The new accelerator program is a great opportunity for us to better interact and collaborate with Canadian software companies and help bring to market innovative products that will shape the way we’ll live, work and play in the future,” he added.

This optimism for the company’s future is a sign of greater things to come, a world away from what we might have expected a number of years ago when BlackBerry’s mobile sales were on the decline.

blackberry accelerate startups
Grant Courville (L) and Leo Lax (R)

BlackBerry is very much the “black” sheep of the mobile world, but over the past 35 years, BlackBerry QNX software has become a big part of everyday life, even if you may not know it. According to its website, “people encounter QNX-controlled systems whenever they drive, shop, watch TV, use the Internet, or even turn on a light.” BlackBerry technology appears in life-critical systems such as air traffic control systems, surgical equipment, and nuclear power plants as well as multimedia like in-dash radios and infotainment systems.

The move to partner with L-SPARK is a positive one to spur startup growth in Canada, but also a calculated one for BlackBerry, as it helps encourage Canada’s next crop of successful startup companies to be closely linked with the mobile and software giant.

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Tim Hinchliffe
Tim Hinchliffe is the editor of The Sociable. His passions include writing about how technology impacts society and the parallels between Artificial Intelligence and Mythology. Previously, he was a reporter for the Ghanaian Chronicle in West Africa and an editor at Colombia Reports in South America. tim@sociable.co