Entrepreneurship

MassChallenge Picks Ashored

Ashored co-founders and Saint Mary’s alumni Aaron Stevenson, Ross Arsenault and Maxwell Poole .

Ashored co-founders and Saint Mary’s alumni Aaron Stevenson, Ross Arsenault and Maxwell Poole.

After fielding 3,000 applications, MassChallenge this month accepted 100 startups into its international accelerator for 2019, and it included only one Canadian company – Ashored Innovations of Dartmouth.

In an interview after the announcement, Ashored CEO Aaron Stevenson said he was thrilled to be accepted into the Boston-based program and spoke about the doors it will open for the company. But he was more eager to discuss another aspect of his company’s experience – the opportunity to join the global discussion on protecting marine environments.

Ashored is developing commercial fishing equipment that aims to avoid harm to sea life and the marine environment. Stevenson said the company is still “firmly in research and development mode”, but as it develops the product Stevenson and his five colleagues have been involved in events around the world discussing how to better protect our oceans.

“In so much of the commercial fishery, there’s a gap between where they are today and . . . and where the public would like to see the wild fishery,” said Stevenson. “The whole idea of sustainably caught wild fish . . . that’s where people want to go. It’s clear that the old ways of doing things are not going to be tolerated for much longer.”

Read more about Ashored Innovations, the MassChallenge and more at Entrevestor.com.

New Saint Mary's space at Volta innovation hub

A new partnership between Saint Mary's University and Volta, an innovation hub in downtown Halifax, will see the university become the first post-secondary institution to provide its students and faculty direct access to Volta's community of innovators with a dedicated work space onsite.

Saint Mary’s will have a permanent office space at Volta, dubbed the Entrepreneurship Connector, that can house up to 6 people. The space allows SMU's community to build stronger relationships within Halifax's innovation district, while providing access to resources, help create new experiential learning opportunities, and enable Saint Mary’s faculty, researchers and programs to better reach and engage with the community and local businesses.

Volta, now in its sixth year of operation, tripled in size last year to 60,000 square feet. Spanning across three floors of the Maritime Centre, the innovation hub is creating a place for entrepreneurs and innovators to work, learn and connect with each other.

"Universities play an important role in driving innovation in Atlantic Canada, and they help attract the talent the region needs to thrive," said Jesse Rodgers, Volta's CEO. "This partnership will infuse Volta's community with the creativity, enthusiasm and innovative thinking that SMU students exemplify."

“We are passionate about helping our students, and our region succeed,” said Dr. Rob Summerby-Murray, President and Vice-Chancellor. “We know that it is by working together, with like-minded partners, that we will have the most impact and do the most good…where we will drive innovation and entrepreneurial thinking to the benefit of our province, and far beyond.”

“Saint Mary’s University is excited to have a permanent physical space at Volta,” said Michael Sanderson, Director of the Saint Mary’s University Entrepreneurship Centre. “At SMU, we believe entrepreneurship is for everyone, so this space and partnership creates a direct pathway for students, faculty and staff from across all disciplines within the university to engage in entrepreneurship and help grow and support the start-up ecosystem.”

See also:

Dr. Ellen Farrell releases research findings on Atlantic entrepreneurial ecosystem


Entrepreneurship for everyone: SMUEC annual report released

The Saint Mary’s University Entrepreneurship Centre (SMUEC) released it’s 2018-19 annual report, aptly named Entrepreneurship for Everyone.

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Since re-launching last year under a new name, SMUEC has been working toward its mandate of intergrating and supporting entrepreneurship across all faculties within the university.

The report covers the impressive array of entrepreneurial programming undertaken over the past year, all with a focus to ignite entrepreneurial mindsets and help student entrepreneurs and local businesses thrive.

Some highlights:

  • The new ENbassadors Program saw a team of 13 students working across faculties to encourage student involvement in entrepreneurial activities, reaching 3198 students!.

  • The Runway kiosk allowed selected entrepreneurs to showcase products, conduct market research and engage with consumers at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport

  • The New Product Competition awarded $10,000 in prize money to student teams who developed products to solve a specific retail pain point and presents an opportunity for commercialization.

See an interactive version of the report online: https://en.calameo.com/read/005904302a31615ca1823

Preparing students for the workforce, supporting entrepreneurship focus of new RBC-SMU partnership

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A new partnership between Saint Mary’s University and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) will create new co-operative education positions and expand entrepreneurial coaching, skill building and mentoring for Saint Mary’s students.

On Thursday, Feb.14, 2019, Saint Mary’s University and the RBC Future Launch Program announced the establishment of the RBC Talent Hub at the Saint Mary’s University Entrepreneurship Centre. The partnership is supported by a gift of $695,000 over three years from the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch. The new RBC Talent Hub will encompass four initiatives designed to expand cooperative education and entrepreneurship opportunities for Saint Mary’s students.

“As a national leader in business education, Saint Mary’s has a history of driving entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Saint Mary’s University President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray. “Through this new partnership, we are looking to bridge the gap between the needs of our changing economy and what students are learning. Together with RBC, we can better prepare our students for the workforce and support the growth of Saint Mary’s as a key driver of entrepreneurial culture and success in our region.”

Chris Ronald, RBC Regional President, Atlantic provinces and Saint Mary’s University President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray

Chris Ronald, RBC Regional President, Atlantic provinces and Saint Mary’s University President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray

RBC Future Launch is a 10-year, $500 million commitment to empowering Canadian youth for the jobs of tomorrow. With a focus on networking, skills development, practical work experience and mental wellbeing supports and services, the initiative aims to help break down the barriers facing young people.

“Canada is at a transition point, economically, socially and technologically, and universities play an important role in positioning our country for tomorrow,” said Chris Ronald, RBC Regional President, Atlantic provinces.  “Our country’s future prosperity will depend on our young people and their ability to lead us forward, which is why we are so proud to help bring students high quality experiential learning opportunities through the RBC Talent Hub.”

The RBC Talent Hub Program will consist of:

•      Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) program: rotating, nationally recognized EIRs who will coach and mentor students and help connect local entrepreneur-led businesses with co-operative education opportunities.

•      Entrepreneurial Mindset Success Certificate: multi-level skilled entrepreneurship training workshops for Saint Mary’s students.

•      Student Consultant Team: co-operative education students will run this self-led student consulting practice focused on the needs of entrepreneur-led businesses.

•      Talent Fund: fund student co-op placements in the region and support opportunities for students to grow their own business as part of a co-op term.

Gregg Curwin (BComm’90), the inaugural RBC Entrepreneur in Residence

Gregg Curwin (BComm’90), the inaugural RBC Entrepreneur in Residence

Chris Ronald also announced the inaugural RBC Entrepreneur in Residence.  An innovative alumnus and industry disruptor with decades of business experience, Gregg Curwin (BComm’90) is the director, and former president & CEO, of TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture, a company that has created an indoor farming system to grow fresh plants for food and medicines. In his advisory role as EIR, Curwin will work within Saint Mary’s University Entrepreneurship Centre to coach and mentor students and help to build relationships with regional entrepreneurs.

“I am thrilled to be a part of this partnership between Saint Mary’s and RBC,” said Curwin. “This type of forward-thinking approach is exactly what is needed to prepare students for the demands of the workforce and the opportunities they have before them as business leaders and entrepreneurs. Some of the most important things I learned about being an entrepreneur came from my mentors. Being able to share my knowledge with the next generation, and pay it forward, is an incredibly rewarding experience.”

Saint Mary’s University to participate in Halifax and eBay partnership on retail program

Saint Mary’s University and The David Sobey Centre for Innovation in Retailing and Services are proud to be a part of a new partnership between eBay Canada and the Halifax Regional Municipality. The partnership is for Retail Revival, an eBay program designed to help small and medium-sized retailers harness the power of e-commerce and global trade.

Retail Revival is a free 12-month training, support and educational program that empowers 60 – 70 local small and medium-sized retailers to thrive by leveraging eBay's global marketplace to reach new customers around the world. The program will also include a dedicated customer service support team, digital tools and subscriptions, promotional marketing from eBay, as well as additional education and resources from participating partners focused on small business and exporting.  

The David Sobey Centre for Innovation in Retailing and Services will participate in the eBay Retail Revival program in Halifax as a research partner.  Dr. Ramesh Venkat, Director of the David Sobey Centre, along with Dr. Rahman Khokhar and Dr. Mark Raymond will form a research team to study the performance of the companies participating in the program as well as the overall economic impact on this region.

“This partnership represents a great opportunity for both our region and university,” said Saint Mary’s University president Robert Summerby-Murray. “It is a recognition of the important role that we play as a national leader in business education, entrepreneurship and retail across Canada. We look forward to bringing the expertise of our business faculty and the David Sobey Centre to this partnership.”

This program is a partnership between eBay Canada and the Halifax Regional Municipality. It is supported by the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia. As part of the program, eBay is partnering with Halifax Partnership, Nova Scotia Business Inc., and Saint Mary’s University.

Photo credits: Stoo Metz, Click Productions.

Saint Mary’s venture capital students invest in haircut house calls

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House calls for haircuts proved to be to be a cut above the competition and too good an investment to pass up for Saint Mary’s University’s Venture Grade Fund. They are investing $15,000 in Cribcut, an online booking service that connects consumers with top hair stylists that bring the salon to them.

“Cribcut has a novel business model that we are proud to support,” said Saint Mary’s student and Venture Grade Associate Emma Scott. “We are confident in David’s lean startup methodology and experience as a serial entrepreneur who’s exited three past ventures and one in Silicon Valley. Cribcut is positioned to be a major disruptor in the beauty industry.

Cribcut was co-founded by serial entrepreneur David Howe, who has built and deployed a software-enabled marketplace for hairstylists. Cribcut's solution helps stylists become travelling hairdressers - providing clients with haircuts, colors, and styles at their homes and offices. Cribcut's software solution helps stylists with bookings, travel optimization, payments and ratings. Cribcut also facilitates new client introductions for stylists. Bookings can be made through their online booking app with on-demand appointments available.

 "We're happy to welcome Venture Grade as one of our investors,” said David Howe, the Chief Executive Officer with Cribcut. “We're confident that this investment will help us continue growth and product development and set us up for further funding over the coming months. We look forward to a mutually beneficial partnership with Venture Grade and welcome them with open arms to our growing team."

Should the company experience a successful exit, meaning if they are purchased for a large sum, the investors, including Venture Grade, will receive a payout scaled to the purchase. Any returns made on Venture Grade’s investments are returned to Venture Grade, the student fund.

The Saint Mary’s University Venture Grade Fund is a student-raised and run venture capital fund and the first student-raised venture capital investment fund in Canada in which the students raise the capital.

The fund was started by students of Dr. Ellen Farrell at the Sobey School of Business in fall 2016, with a connection to Silicon Valley’s C100 group, Boston’s Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England, and initial support from Innovacorp. It has expanded to include members at other Atlantic universities including Acadia University, Dalhousie University, and Memorial University.

Another successful South Shore Tour for the Sobey School of Business

Top business students from Saint Mary’s University recently met with business leaders from Nova Scotia’s South Shore to discuss opportunities for collaboration and employment.

Thirty-nine students from Sobey School’s graduate business programs toured Lunenburg and Bridgewater on Friday, Sept. 28, visiting 22 companies and attending information sessions. The businesses met with students and had the opportunity to see how an innovative intern or new graduate could help their bottom line or grow their business. 

“This tour is a direct expression of our commitment to making an impact on the prosperity of this province,” said Dr. Harjeet Bhabra, dean of the Sobey School of Business. “At the same time, it helps our students build the ability to recognize opportunities that they otherwise might miss. And it helps connect the work of the university with more of the province.”

The businesses taking part in the tour include:

  • Aqualitas

  • ABCO

  • CO3 & Mashup Labs

  • Freemans Lumber

  • Hawboldt Industries

  • Heart to Hand

  • Lunenburg Industrial Foundry and Engineering (LIFE)

  • Michelin

  • Ocean Gear

  • Old Town Boat Works

  • Petite Riviere Winery

  • Port Mersey Commercial Park

  • Pro-Oceanus

  • RPS Composites

  • Sattlers Stained Glass

  • South Shore Tourism Co-op

  • Stelia

  • Terra Beata

  • Van Dyk’s Health Juice Products Ltd.

  • Westcote Pottery

“The South Shore Corporate Tour reveals the opportunities available in Queens County and along the South Shore through our innovative businesses and the superb lifestyle we enjoy,” said David Dagley, Mayor of Region of Queens Municipality. “We are pleased to welcome them to the South Shore, and proud to showcase our community.”

The Saint Mary’s students involved come from Sobey School graduate programs including the Master of Business Administration (MBA); the Master of Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation; and the Master of Finance.

The South Shore Tour is an initiative between South Shore businesses and Saint Mary’s University. The tour is coordinated by the Graduate Career Services office of the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s, and is in its second year.

Saint Mary’s students make their first venture capital investment in international travel start-up

Saint Mary’s University’s Venture Grade Fund, a student-raised and led venture capital fund, is making its first investment, $15,000 to travel start-up Trip Ninja.

Trip Ninja is a travel-planning software for use by online travel retailers such as Expedia or Priceline. When retail customers are booking plane trips to several different places, Trip Ninja helps online travel retailers find the best price. This multi-destination platform finds the best way to book the trip, whether travellers are flexible in their route or if they need to visit destinations in a particular order.

“It has been great working with Saint Mary’s University’s Venture Grade Fund, and seeing the confidence they have in our product,” said Trip Ninja Co-Founder, Andres Collart. “Saint Mary’s has helped us through reviewing aspects of our business with their MBA students who have a firm grasp on entrepreneurship and innovation. It’s been great working with an organization who is committed to helping start-ups and entrepreneurs have success.” 

The Saint Mary’s University Venture Grade Fund is a student-raised and run venture capital fund and the first student-raised venture capital investment fund in Canada in which the students raise the capital. Their fund is operating at about $200,000 currently.

The team seems to have chosen well as the fledgling travel tech company has attracted notable local, national and international investors, including East Valley Ventures, Innovacorp and other investors experienced in the travel industry. Innovacorp is also a supporter of Saint Mary’s University’s Venture Grade Fund’s assessment of Trip Ninja, and provided Venture Grade with half the capital required for their investment.

The team’s faculty advisor and mentor is venture capital expert and SMU professor, Dr. Ellen Farrell.

“This is a win-win-win situation,” said Farrell. “Venture Grade’s donors and partners like Innovacorp get to offer students an unparalleled experiential education experience, the students get the benefit of raising the capital and conducting due diligence, and the start-up spends the investment thus supporting their business.”

Should the company experience a successful exit, meaning if they are purchased for a large sum, the investors, including Venture Grade, will receive a payout scaled to the purchase. Any returns made on Venture Grade’s investments are returned to Venture Grade, the student fund.

The fund was started by students of Dr. Ellen Farrell at the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University in fall 2016, with a connection to Silicon Valley’s C100 group, Boston’s Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England, and initial support from Innovacorp. It has expanded to include members at other Atlantic universities including Acadia University, Dalhousie University, and Memorial University.

“Sobey School of Business and Saint Mary’s University are proud to offer students the opportunity to experience the risks and rewards of investing,” said Dr. Harjeet Bhabra, dean of the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University.

“With the School’s strengths in finance and entrepreneurship, the Venture Grade Fund could only have been created here. We’re proud to continue making an impact on our region and on the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”