After a two year, wildly popular trial-run in Calgary, the ATB X business accelerator program is making its debut in Edmonton and online. This is a big deal for Albertan entrepreneurs—during the 2 year trial, ATB X saw more than 568 applicants and could only accept a total of 100 business owners. But we might be getting ahead of ourselves—what’s ATB X in the first place? And why is it so popular with Albertan entrepreneurs?
We sat down with Hannah Cree—ATB’s Senior Manager of Entrepreneur Education —to get an inside look at ATB X and how it can help Alberta businesses grow.
What’s ATB X?
Simply put, ATB X is a toolbox for Albertan entrepreneurs, Hannah explained. “We’re opening our toolbox—our resources and local expertise—to entrepreneurs so they can come and learn about anything, from culture to cash flow,” she said.
Working collaboratively is a huge value of ATB X, and is woven throughout how the program operates. Even the location is a partnership—ATB X is based out of Work Nicer in Edmonton and Calgary, a coworking community that boasts more than 500 members in both cities. Perk alert—if you’re accepted into either the Edmonton or Calgary cohort, you can take advantage of all that Work Nicer has to offer, such as working at any of their four locations.
The secret sauce for business success
This passion for partnership leads us to one of the reasons ATB X is so popular—community.
“The beauty of this is that there are all of these entrepreneurs working alongside one another,” Hannah said. “We see people connecting and talking and sharing what they’re working on—so there’s a community built into ATB X that you get to tap into for mentorship, and accountability.”
You probably don’t need us to tell you how important it is to be in community in an age where digital connection, along with loneliness, are at their height. “A lot of times we hear people say that entrepreneurship is lonely, and the truth of the matter is that when we’re building businesses, no one succeeds alone.” Hannah said. In fact, the idea that “no one succeeds alone” is Work Nicer’s motto—another reason why it made so much sense for ATB X to partner with Work Nicer.
“ATB X is really a community, and we have a whole bunch of tools in our toolbox that we want to share with people—from curriculum, education and workshops to experts, mentorship and collaboration.” said Hannah.
Business advice from the people who’ve been there
Another reason that people kept flocking to ATB X is that they were getting advice directly from other entrepreneurs who understood the excitement and the struggle.
“We had entrepreneurs who owned and were actively involved in their businesses teaching the program, who are hands-on with managing customer service, or marketing, or being the CEO, or CFO, or all of the above,” Hannah explained. “Whatever their 'superpower' in their business, they were teaching it to ATB Xers.”
Hannah knew they were onto something when she read the reviews from past participants. “We saw from the evaluations that people were raving!" she recalls. "They said things like, ‘this person understood what I’m going through, they had real examples,’ and, ‘they’ve suffered, they’ve shared their failures.’” That feedback solidified what needed to stay as the program expanded.
You choose your curriculum
There’s no point in being taught a bunch of business concepts you already know, while missing out on material you want. That’s why ATB X uses a crowdsourcing model to create its curriculum.
“That means for every cohort, the accepted entrepreneurs tell us what they need to learn to best grow their business,” Hannah said. “Then we’ll look at the aggregated data we’ve received, and we provide that education from other business owners to the ATB Xers.”
Not to worry if you’re the only one in your cohort who wants to learn about a topic. The ATB X team makes sure they get an expert in to help even one person. “We’re really customizing so that every single cohort gets the education that they need to help them grow,” Hannah said. “The curriculum will always be changing, but more importantly it will always be giving entrepreneurs what they need, because they’re choosing their program!”
So why Edmonton?
After a successful first two years, it’s a no-brainer for ATB X to expand its offerings so more Albertans can benefit from the program—and so no one has to be turned away completely.
Not only is ATB X expanding to Edmonton, increasing the total number of cohorts from 2 per year in one city to 6 in two cities—they’re also expanding virtually to allow for an unlimited amount of Albertan entrepreneurs to access education digitally.
Who is ATB X for?
You’re in the tech industry? Dog grooming? Children’s clothing? Doughnut making? Whatever your industry, ATB X is for you and your business.
What’s changing going forward is a shift in the focus of the program from the startup phase to the growth phase. ATB has curated lots of support for startups through the Entrepreneur Centres and online resources, so if you want to grow your business, have revenue, customers or are ready to pivot - ATB X is the place for you.
“ATB is here for Alberta entrepreneurs,” Hannah said. "And I'm so excited that this type of programming is being provided for free and led by Albertan business and entrepreneur communities!"
If you want to apply for the ATB X cohorts starting in September, or if you want to come to our Level Up Summer Series—with 10 weeks of entrepreneurs education from companies like Uber, Pogo and eCommerce Canada check out atb.com/atbx.