Life After The Den: Arlene Dickinson Finds Roots in Calgary with New Accelerator

For eight seasons Arlene Dickinson taped Dragons’ Den in Toronto but since giving up her chair she’s ready to spend more time in her home town: Calgary.

Some people might suggest that her timing isn’t great. The plunge in the price of oil has sparked mass layoffs and the province just elected its first NDP government.

Her fellow ex-dragon, Kevin O’Leary, called the NDP victory in Alberta “a horror movie unfolding. It’s a disaster.”

In typical Dragons Den fashion, Dickinson disagrees with everyone’s least favorite dragon. “It frightens me when Kevin says the things he’s saying,” Dickinson recently told the Financial Post.

“For him to say, ‘Shut the lights out,’ dismisses the entrepreneurial spirit of Alberta. We have been through hard times before.  And I don’t think we can dismiss the premier [Rachel Notley]. She ran a really tight, well run campaign.”

Dickinson is showing off that spirit with her return to Calgary.

In July, the inaugural tenants will move into District Ventures Accelerator, a space for startups in the health care and food sectors that she will open in Calgary’s Kensington and Inglewood neighbourhoods.

Dickinson has partnered with Calgary entrepreneur Pieter Boekhoff who will serve as Managing Director and run the shared spaces and accelerator program. The Inglewood space was previously run by Boekhoff under the AcceleratorYYC banner.

“Think about it as a space in a community where you get early-stage companies together and help them through mentoring and leadership, plus investment. It’s a combination of giving people investment and programming and sharing space,” Dickinson shared with the Financial Post. “Like pouring water on the seed.”

Boekhoff expanded on the vision for Techvibes, “This is the perfect time for Calgary to diversify and support our vast entrepreneurial community. Times of dramatic change (new government), and economic instability (oil prices) are when the true leaders and individuals with vision see opportunities and take risks that reinvent the way a city, province, and even country create innovative and sustainable businesses.”

“As Arlene says, we’re “building an #EntrepreneurialNation”, and District Ventures is a huge step towards this vision.”