Photo: Charles Mire, Co-Founder and President of Structur3D Printing takes Centre Stage Thursday night. The event showcased the Communitech HYPERDRIVE Cohort 4 startups graduating the accelerator program. For more photos of the event, see our Facebook gallery. (Communitech photo: Meghan Kreller) Communitech HYPERDRIVE Cohort 4 startups celebrated graduating from the accelerator program last Thursday at Centre Stage. The sold-out event at the Tannery Event Centre provided a different take on the traditional “demo day” that accompanies an accelerator grad. The event, much like its name suggests, focused on the companies spotlighted on stage in the middle of the room, surrounded by a diverse audience of co-workers, community members and potential investors. “We get to have a little bit more fun this way,” said Shrad Rao, CEO of Wagepoint, a Cohort 4 company. With traditional demo days, “people get bored by the seventh one, but this way we get to move around a little bit,” Rao said, joking that he felt a little like a rapper. “I might drop the microphone for a bit of a dramatic exit.” The payroll software company is the first of its kind in Canada and, much like its fellow Cohort 4 startups, has reached multiple milestones during its six-month residency. Rao credits much of the success to the HYPERDRIVE program and the many months of hard work leading up to the graduation. The final sendoff was another way to get in front of an audience. “I’m excited that HYPERDRIVE has come together to support us and bring all these cool startups to different kinds of audience members,” Rao said. That excitement could be felt from all the support for the grads in the packed room. Not only was there a difference in the format of the graduation, but a difference in the calibre of companies. Taylor Jones, co-founder of HYPERDRIVE Cohort 2 company Dandy and creator of Dear Photograph, introduced Clipter – whose product is a collaborative video sharing app – by taking an eight-second video of the event from the centre of the stage. Jones noticed a difference between his cohort a year and a half ago and the graduating cohort, in how quickly the companies are progressing. “Not only the pitches were really good, but just the difference in technology and how far HYPERDRIVE has come in developing the companies from Cohort 4,” Jones said. The new Centre Stage format included HYPERDRIVE alumni as well as startups from four high profile Canadian accelerators. Vancouver-based Food.ee, a modern spin-off of food-to-office delivery services, travelled the farthest. Ryan Spong, CEO and co-founder of Food.ee, said there were benefits in coming to Waterloo Region and taking part in Centre Stage, including promoting the service’s Toronto launch in Toronto in October, and closing a funding round to expand locally and internationally. That means they’re looking to hire, and are looking at talent in Waterloo Region. “We’re new to the scene here but its reputation precedes it for being a real tech hub, so we’re just trying to meet everybody – developers, designers, young people who want to be in a fast-paced, growing company like ours.” The HYPERDRIVE accelerator program is now accepting applications for Cohort 5, which begins Feb. 6, 2015.