Why one entrepreneur thinks Calgary is the place to grow

From across the country, Jonah Chininga heard about the momentum building around tech in Calgary. As the founder of a fintech (financial technology) startup, he saw the opportunity to grow here after attending a session hosted by Calgary Economic Development and made the move from Prince Edward Island just a few months ago. 

“Hearing about success stories like Neo Financial, the talent pool, the availability of investments and investors, as well as organizations such as Platform Calgary, really was a huge highlight in terms of what the Calgary ecosystem was offering and what we were looking for as a business,” explains Jonah.

Jonah is the co-founder and CEO of Miq (Money IQ), a community banking platform that enables newcomers to get access to affordable credit. The platform is designed for the nine million credit-invisible people in Canada who are often shut out of traditional banking and lending systems. 

The idea for the startup came from his own experience navigating financial challenges after moving to Canada from Zimbabwe in 2014. It’s a long process to build credit history in a new country, and new immigrants are often considered high risk within the financial services sector because they aren’t permanent residents. 

Because of this reality, Miq has been working primarily on small business financing with immigrant communities. 

“Whether they want to cover emergency expenses, or if they're interested in business, they have limited options,” Jonah says. “Providing that alternative and a way for people to economically empower themselves has been huge for us.”

In addition to securing partnerships with Visa and Equifax, another highlight for Miq came on October 14 when Jonah pitched his business at the inaugural Digital Commerce Bank Calgary Fintech Award showcase – and took home second place with a $60,000 non-dilutive cash prize. Led by Platform Calgary, the award was a culmination of three months of programming, fintech-specific workshops, mentoring sessions with world-class advisors, pitch coaching, and business evaluation. 

It was a couple of months into this program that Jonah came to Calgary in a move he calls a “no-brainer”. 

As part of the program, Jonah was welcomed into Calgary’s tech and innovation community, and has been working out of the Platform Innovation Centre most days. The building is designed to facilitate collisions, with chances to learn from and collaborate with other entrepreneurs, investors, and tech-curious people every day.  

“Being able to communicate and share experiences with other founders who've had similar experiences gives a kind of encouragement to keep going,” he says. 

Most importantly, Jonah’s gained the one thing every entrepreneur needs most: community. Being able to navigate the highs and lows of entrepreneurship is easier with people who are going through – or have already gone through – a similar journey.   

“If you're going into the ecosystem, you need to have a community, whether it's mentorship, resources, or other companies,” he says. “I think that's a huge need for any startup company. For us, that was an enabler to take us to the next stage.”

Since January 1, 2022, the Platform Calgary team has:

  • held 935 coaching calls, 260 workshop hours, and 40 office hours with partners through the Catalyzer program for early-stage startups.
  • supported 1,031 entrepreneurs and their early-stage companies

Since opening the Platform Innovation Centre on June 1, 2022 there have been:

  • 1,050 external bookings of Platform Innovation Centre spaces and facilities (including meeting rooms, classrooms, event space and the KPMG Pitch Stage).
  • Over 15,000 people have attended a meeting, program, or event at the Innovation Centre

Categories: Business, Digital, Information technology