NextAI is a Toronto-based accelerator for early or idea stage AI-enabled startups.

NextAI is for exceptional teams and individuals from around the world who are commercializing AI research and want to build global companies.

Applications for the 2018 cohort are now closed. Discover more and stay connected through our newsletter.

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NEXT Canada brings together industry, academia, government and entrepreneurs to celebrate the inaugural NextAI cohort at the first annual NextAI Venture Day.

​Why NextAI?

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The ultimate network.

You can't build a great business without the support of a community of other entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and advisors. The Next 36 is backed by over 300 of Canada's top business leaders, who are committed to making Canada more prosperous by supporting promising entrepreneurs like you. Throughout the program, you will have opportunities to meet people who could become clients, investors and connectors for your venture.

The relationships you build during the program last a lifetime. The Next 36 alumni stay in touch with their mentors, start new ventures with their peers, raise new rounds from investors, and develop lasting friendships. Our alumni community will become an important place to go for advice, support and feedback for new ideas.

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​​Complimentary Services from Our Partners

Legal Advice from Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP on topics including: intellectual property, term sheets, human resources and privacy law.

Cloud Hosting from Amazon Web Services (up to $15,000).

Professional services from EY, including help with accounting, finance, media and funding needs.

Work Space during the summer for select ventures, provided by the DMZ.

Software from Mathworks.

Cloud computing from Microsoft BizSpark (up to $10,000 monthly for 12 months).

Why Canada? Why Toronto?

Not only does Canada’s tech ecosystem consistently punch above its weight, we have government support from all levels and pioneering research funders to back up our efforts. 

Toronto provides a hot spring of local talent, global experts, and top-tier researchers paired with a dedication to civic values that makes it the ideal city to live in while building your AI-enabled business. Discover more

​What We Do

NextAI is a global innovation hub for artificial intelligence related venture creation and technology commercialization. We identify talented teams and individuals with ambitious ideas and leverage Canada’s leadership position in AI to provide them with the capital, mentorship, education and network to disrupt industries.

NextAI teams have access to up to $200,000 in capital, world-renowned faculty and scientists, a network of Canada’s top business leaders and entrepreneurs, and access to cutting edge AI tools

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​Academic Partners

Frequently asked questions about…





Who should apply to the program?

Anyone who is passionate about solving a problem using AI should apply.  We welcome applicants of all ages, from all countries, from any educational background.  Impress us with your idea, your passion and your skills.  During your application you select either the technical or business stream depending on your background and domain expertise.

Applicants apply individually and are connected with other finalists to form teams and create their AI-based business idea.  You don’t need a team or an idea. Bring us your industry expertise or technical proficiency and choose who you want to work with to move your idea to reality.

We are already a team and have a big idea. How do we participate in NextAI?

Each member of your team must first apply as an Individual.  Once all of you have progressed to the Finalist stage, you can complete your Team Application for consideration. You will be accepted to the program as a team.

I have a great idea but no team. Can I apply?

Yes, everyone will apply as an individual. As a Finalist, you will virtually meet other individual applicants and will create a team out of that pool. Each team must include at least one technical stream member.

I have a great idea, but I'm not technical. Can I apply?

Yes. If you have a big idea that can be solved with AI and industry expertise, you can get to know other Finalists and match up with someone technical who is equally passionate about turning your idea in to reality.

Can I continue to work at my job while I participate in the program?

No, all participants must be 100% committed to the program and their idea / venture from February to September 2018.

Do I have to be in Toronto to participate?

Yes, you must live and work in the Toronto area for the duration of the program from February to September 2018.

My venture already has equity funding. Am I eligible for NextAI?

Each application will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.  Generally speaking, ventures that have secured private investment will need to amend their shareholders agreements to be consistent with all NextAI ventures. Groups that have received non-equity based funding in the form of grants, pitch competitions, etc., are eligible.

Can I participate in another accelerator at the same time as NextAI?

Participation in NextAI is a full time commitment and it is generally not possible to participate in another program at the same time.  In rare instances, there may be an opportunity to participate concurrently in elite programs with minimal formal time commitments such as the Creative Destruction Lab. This must be discussed with the NextAI Program Manager prior to acceptance.

Should I apply for the technical or business stream?

Each team must have at least one technical stream founder with deep knowledge or experience with an AI-related field through education or work.  Evidence of this knowledge is submitted as part of the application through your resume, github, publications, etc.

What is the difference between NextAI and other NEXT programs?

NextAI - is an accelerator program for early-stage AI-enabled ventures or individuals and teams looking to commercialize research and launch something new. It is for students, grads, researchers and industry professionals.  Each team must have at least one founder with deep expertise in an AI-related field. 

Next 36 - is for founders of existing ventures or anyone who wants to build a new company with global impact.  Existing ventures should be idea/early stage and pre-seed investment.  It is focused on students and recent grads.

Next Founders - is for founders of seed/growth stage ventures with significant traction who are looking to scale.

What does the program offer?

NextAI is a global leader in accelerating AI ventures and ideas.  We provide all teams with:

- $50,000 CAD initial funding

- Up to an additional $150,000 CAD throughout the program for top performing teams incorporating a venture

- Technical training from leading AI experts

- Work with leading scientists and academics who will challenge your assumptions

- Resources from leading AI technical partners such as IBM, Google, and Microsoft

- Business training from award winning global faculty

- Resources from corporate sponsors including advisors with subject matter expertise relevant to the industry of your venture/idea

- Legal resources to incorporate your venture, help with Intellectual Property

- Work space as needed for the duration of the program

What is the commitment?

All teams must commit to moving to the Greater Toronto Area in February 2018 and complete the programming through September 2018 (exact date TBD). 

You will participate in technical curriculum and/or business and founder development curriculum throughout the entire program term. Intensive academic programming for both the technical and business streams will be scheduled from February through September.

When you are not participating in NextAI training and development you will be working full-time on your AI idea/venture.

Where will I live during the AI program?

Participants must live in the Greater Toronto Area for the duration of the program from February until September. We recommend teams live together to save costs and facilitate full time work on their idea.

What are the costs to participate in the program?

There is no cost to participate. However, Toronto is a metropolitan city. Expect $2500-3000/month per team for 8 months plus living expenses for the duration of the program.

Who are the faculty providing the technical and business training?

Ajay Agrawal – Academic Director, NEXT Canada - Peter Munk Professor of Entrepreneurship, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto 

Kyunghyun Cho - Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, New York University

Sanja Fidler - Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto

Mara Lederman - Director, Research Resources and Centres Associate Professor of Strategic Management, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

Joelle Pineau - Head of Facebook AI Facebook Research Lab William Dawson Scholar and Co-Director, Reasoning and Learning Lab, McGill University

Graham Taylor – Academic Director, NextAI, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering, University of Guelph and Azrieli Global Scholar, Learning in Machines & Brains (CIFAR)

Raquel Urtasun - Head of Uber ATG, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto, Canada Research Chair in Machine Learning and Computer Vision

How is this different from Next 36 and Next Founders?

NextAI was created for entrepreneurs and innovators interested in building ventures and commercializing ideas specific to the field of Artificial Intelligence.  We focus on ideas that are pre-investment stage.  We are similar to a traditional accelerator model in that we invest in teams and ideas.

Our other programs are focused on individual entrepreneurs.  The Next 36 is primarily focused on undergraduate students with enormous potential.  Next Founders focuses on developing founders of businesses that already have significant traction – revenue, funding, employees, etc

What happens after the program is over?

Our goal is to see you continue to build your business in Toronto and be an active participant in the NextAI network. We will continue to provide you with development and networking opportunities.

Do you take any equity for the funding? What are the terms?

$50,000 for a SAFE with a $2mm CAP.

Up to an additional $150,000 no CAP, 20% discount to next round

How can we get funded after the program ends?

Industry-specific funding awards will be granted with values of up to $150,000. Top VCs and investors from across North America are involved with NEXT Canada. There will be opportunities to secure funding from them as ventures develop throughout the program, and afterwards, as part of the NextAI network.

Who owns the IP developed within the AI program?

IP created during the NextAI belongs to the company that was created at the beginning of the program.

My university owns part of my IP through my PhD research. Am I eligible to apply to Next AI?

All IP used by the team within their venture has to either be owned by the venture or the company needs a license to use it.

I am an international applicant. What must I do to participate?

Participation in the program by non-Canadian citizens and permanent residents of Canada is contingent on the applicant securing and maintaining appropriate valid legal immigration status in Canada at all times.

Options to consider to help with this process include:

1. Start-up Visa Program

2. International Experience Canada (IEC) programs may be an option for citizens of countries with bilateral agreements with Canada.

3. International Mobility Program. There are several other circumstances that might be relevant, including family and education.  Applicants should consult an immigration professional for assistance.

What is the Start-up Visa Program (SUV)?

Canada’s Start-up Visa (SUV) Program is intended to attract foreign entrepreneurs who wish to establish new, high-growth businesses in Canada which will support innovation and job-creation. To be eligible for the Start-up Visa Program, entrepreneurs must be accepted into a program offered by a designated Canadian business incubator or accelerator. 

Is NextAI (NEXT Canada) a designated entity of the SUV?

Yes. NEXT Canada is a designated entity of the SUV program and will be considering international applicants to the NextAI 2018 cohort. You must be offered and accept placement in NextAI before the Start-up Visa application process can begin, however, there are several independent steps we recommend you commence prior to applying to NextAI (see below).

Which steps do you recommend I start with immediately to expedite my SUV application?

The biggest hurdles are often the language tests (scheduling and completing) and establishing required settlement funds. Potential applicants should check out these requirements before even applying to NextAI.  If you do not meet the standard, we do not recommend applying. Those who do meet the requirements should begin collecting these pieces as soon as possible – even prior to NextAI application.

Each individual applicant to the startup visa program must complete individual requirements for approval by Canadian Immigration & Citizenship.  Review the necessary requirements, and tips on how to get started on each, at the links below:

The eligibility requirements, including settlement funds and language proficiency:

Medical exams, police clearance, travel history and processing times:

I am not applying to NextAI. Can you still help me with my visa?

No.  At this time, NEXT Canada is processing applications through the Start-up Visa program exclusively for NextAI program participants. This is not available to applicants or participants of the Next 36 or Next Founders programs, which remain open strictly to Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

What are the other SUV eligibility criteria for individuals?

Applicants must: 

- Intend to reside in a province/territory other than Quebec. 

- Have the support of a Canadian business entity, in the form of a Commitment Certificate (successful NextAI applicants will receive this.

- Meet/exceed the minimum language proficiency threshold set by the Minister for each of the four language skill areas.

- Have completed at least one year of post-secondary education. 

- Have sufficient funds to economically establish themselves in Canada. Applicant must demonstrate that they have funds that are available, transferable and unencumbered by debts or other obligations. Amount of required funds is assessed according to the applicant’s family size.

What are the other SUV eligibility criteria for companies?

Companies must:

- Have no more than five essential persons per business proposal.

    • “Essential person”: foreign national considered by the designated entity to be essential to the business being established under the program.  
    • If the application for an essential person is refused for any reason, all other applications related to that commitment must also be refused.

- Applicant must hold 10% or more of the voting rights attached to all the shares of the corporation outstanding at the time the commitment is made.

- No persons or entities, other than qualified participants, hold 50% or more of the total amount of the voting rights attached to all the shares of the corporation outstanding at the time the commitment is made.

As an immigrant, what can I expect when I move to Toronto, Ontario?

If you are new to the country, you can find answers to common questions about moving to and living in Ontario here.

NextAI Program Timeline

September 20
Applications Open

Complete a short online Individual application highlighting your technical or business/academic skills and experience. Individual Finalists will proceed to form co-founding teams and submit a Team Application detailing their venture or idea, including a Kira video interview.

November 11
Individual Applications Close

All applicants must submit individual applications either in the Technical or Business stream. 

December 2
Team Applications Close

Note: All team members must first apply as an individual before moving on to complete the team application. 

January 3-4

Program Begins

Participants arrive in Toronto, teams incorporate and initial funding of $50K per team is distributed.

Immersion Week

NextAI participants gain first exposure to faculty and NEXT Network through an intense onboarding week in Toronto.

February to September
NextAI Program Delivery

Technical and business programming delivered, including platform training and access (NVIDIA, IBM etc.) Mentors and scientists matched with teams. All participants are required to live and work in the Toronto area.

Prototype Day

Ventures present their progress to key stakeholders and prospective pilot customers. 

Throughout the Summer
Exclusive Events

You’ll be invited to multiple networking events, where you will have the opportunity to meet investors, entrepreneurs and business leaders with the potential to transform your idea into a viable business.

AI Venture Day

Present your idea in front of investors, corporate stakeholders and AI domain experts. Additional funding of up to $150,000 is available to top performing ventures. Read more about the 2017 Venture Day

Alumni Involvement

Join the growing NEXT Canada Alumni Community, attend events and pursue follow-on Funding Opportunities

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