Apply for the next Business Incubator Cohort
Application Deadline: November 26, 2023
Apply today to take part in our next cohort, kicking off in January.
Please note, you will likely not receive an update on your application status until applications have closed.
About The Forge Business Incubator Program
The Forge Business Incubator is a limited-enrollment program for early-stage startups, creating customized plans for a small cohort of startups to help encourage growth. These entrepreneurs are past the business idea stage and have started gaining traction by launching their startup to the market or have developed a working prototype. The Forge accepts three Business Incubator cohorts per year.
The Business Incubator program is sector agnostic – program alumni include software, hardware, IoT, medical devices, healthcare IT, life sciences, advanced manufacturing, and consumer products companies. Full-time founders based in Hamilton are preferred but all applicants are welcome.
The Forge is wholly funded by McMaster University to contribute to and support the development of the entrepreneurship and innovation community in Hamilton and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). In order to best support these communities, The Forge and McMaster University do not take equity in the companies we work with.
Our selection criteria
The Business Incubator program can support a wide variety of startups across all industries. For each of our clients, we create customized plans to support and help you reach your goals. We have the tools and resources to support startups with:
Founders that are passionate about addressing important problems with innovative technology solutions
At least one full-time founder who is fully dedicated to the program, or is on track to take on the startup at a full-time capacity
Dynamic and collaborative team that is coachable and driven to succeed
A functional MVP and/or evidence of market traction (sales, pre-sales, pre-orders, significant partnership agreement, LOI to partner)
How we help you
- One-on-one mentorship from Entrepreneur-in-Residence and/or Incubator Manager
- Professional support for IP, legal, accounting, finance, tech advisory, marketing, talent recruitment, and more
- Funding opportunities through government funding programs, angel investors, and venture capital firms
- Makerspace with advanced prototyping equipment and makerspace technical lead for advisory
- 8 months of incubation with the opportunity to extend
- Workshops, seminars, and networking events
- PR/media exposure via newsletter and social media
The application process
- Submit your application.
Please note: You will not be able to save your application mid-way through. We recommend that you write out your answers on a separate document before beginning the application form.
- The Forge may contact you to schedule a phone interview.
- If selected, you will be invited for a follow-up interview to discuss your startup via Zoom. Applicants will have the opportunity to deliver a 5-minute pitch with 10 slides or less.
- Based on the results of the interview process, The Forge will select a maximum of 5 companies to join the new cohort.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you meet the following criteria, we strongly encourage you to apply:
- Founder(s) passionate about addressing important problems with scalable and innovative product or services
- At least one full-time founder who is fully dedicated to the program or on track to take on the startup full-time.
- A dynamic and collaborative team that is coachable and driven to succeed.
- A functional MVP and/or evidence of market traction (sales, pre-sales, pre-orders, significant partnership agreement, LOI to partner).
As the founder(s), you retain 100% ownership and equity of your business. This program is entirely free and generously funded by McMaster University. We’re here to support you, not take from you!
Our Business Incubator program typically involves an 8-month engagement, although exceptions can be made. If you’re continuously achieving milestones and there’s mutual agreement that your company would benefit from extended regular mentorship meetings, we’re committed to accommodating your needs.
We intentionally avoid labeling our clients as ‘graduates’ because it may imply that our services are no longer available to you. Rest assured, regardless of the status of regular mentorship meetings, our services will always remain accessible to our clients on an ad-hoc basis. If there’s a specific mentor, perk, or service provider you wish to connect with after your formal residency with us, our doors are always open. You’ll retain access to our diverse Slack network, keeping you updated on upcoming ecosystem events and providing a platform to connect with your peers. Rarely do we have offerings that are exclusive to clients within their mentorship period.
Our goal is to support you in securing the funding needed to advance your business.
We have a diverse network of over 60 investors (VC, Angel) that we’re happy to make warm introductions to when clients are ready to start raising. When the time comes, we have mentors that specialize in investor readiness and will help you prepare to pitch and go through the due diligence process.
When it comes to funding, we provide a modest reimbursement program to be used for non-capital expenses, such as conference tickets or equipment. We also maintain strong community connections, staying informed about various funding opportunities, grants, and competitions and bringing that news to you.
To access some opportunities through funding bodies like OCI, MITACS, and Futurpreneur, you are required to be part of a campus-linked accelerator or incubator. You’re in luck! Since The Forge is a campus-linked business incubator, being part of the Business Incubator will help you qualify for these opportunities.
The Forge is located in a brand new 10,000-square-foot space in a former McMaster Innovation Park garage built to expand space for entrepreneurs. We’re co-located with Innovation Factory, a not-for-profit Regional Innovation Centre, and The Centre for Integrated Transportation and Mobility (CITM), a division of Innovation Factory. There is always an abundance of visitors, mentors, and client guests visiting our space resulting in lots of opportunity for accidental useful collisions.
As a Forge Client, you have access to a desk whenever you need it! Feel free to pull up a chair, and get to work on whatever needs to get done. With ample workspaces available, feel free to bring your whole team! If you need a place to work, consider that settled.
We understand that legal and intellectual property (IP) matters are pivotal for startups, and we’ve taken proactive steps to ensure your protection. Within our ecosystem, we have a team of seasoned legal mentors who are readily available to provide you with expert legal guidance and assistance when you require it. Incubator clients are provided access to a limited amount of free, pen-to-paper legal services.
As a standard practice, all of our staff, mentors, service providers, and clients are required to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). This commitment to confidentiality ensures that your proprietary information remains secure and your ideas are protected throughout your engagement with our program.
Mentorship plays a crucial role in our programming. When you start, you’ll be given the option for 30-minute bi-weekly or 1-hour monthly mentorship meetings. In each meeting, you’ll meet with the Incubator Manager and an expert member of our mentorship team depending on your industry. After milestones have been established, we’ll discuss your progress and any areas where you may benefit from support or introductions from us. You’ll have access to a private mentorship channel on Slack where you can keep in touch with your mentors between regularly scheduled meetings.
While full-time founders based in Hamilton are preferred, all applicants are welcome. The program aims to contribute to the development of the entrepreneurship and innovation community not just in Hamilton, but also in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Definitely! We encourage you to collaborate with multiple incubators or accelerators while actively participating in our program. We recognize that different programs offer unique and complementary services that can enhance your entrepreneurial journey. We believe in fostering a diverse and extensive network for our participants, allowing you to tap into a wide range of resources and expertise from various sources. Your success is our priority, and we are dedicated to supporting your growth through a dynamic and well-rounded experience.
Of course! We’re glad you continued working on your startup.