This post is written by current BioLinc resident and former Kick-Starting Entrepreneurship participant Evan Sitler. He talks about his experiences at BioLinc and how they have moulded who he is today…
Since I was a kid I was always roping my friends into helping with starting my next venture or crazy money making idea. Whether it was running lemonade stands or shovelling driveways I have always been entrepreneurial. But until I came into BioLinc during my 3rd year at Brock University I never knew how to channel that entrepreneurial passion into a “real” company. The second I walked into BioLinc I met the ambassador at the time (Drew MacNeil). Drew gave me a tour of BioLinc and helped me get connected with the available mentors.
From there I started attending all of the BioLinc events I could. Through the BioLinc events I gained the skills I need to build a company and met the people I could do it with. I then started a 360 marketing agency and have since pivoted multiple times into the VR company we are today, XpertVR. Because of BioLinc I have met some of my best friends (Drew: my co-founder, Dalton: Huvr media, Harrison Olajos: Up360, Oliver: a great friend and personal trainer, Bailey: Stocked Cellars, Ethan: LifePoints, Shane: scary bouncer/future worldwide event planner and many more), travelled to Las Vegas, Toronto and Montreal for business conferences and been able to work on projects beyond my imagination. Today, we are excited to continue to work with BioLinc and build our company into a recognizable brand that one day will be able to give back to Brock and its future entrepreneurs!
For the past three years, Smart Open Lisbon (SOL), has brought promising start-ups from around the world to Portugal’s capital in an attempt to foster innovation. The program brings together all the important Lisbon mobility players (Grow Mobility, Carris, Emel, Ferrovial Services, Metro) in an open innovation program. These major mobility companies will get a chance to work with up and coming entrepreneurs from around the world. This year SOL selected 14 start-up companies to join the program, including one of BioLinc’s own Ethan Foy.
Ethan is the founder of LifePoint’s, an app that rewards it’s users for living an active life style by giving them discounts to their favourite store’s. Ethan has had an exciting 2018, as he started the year with a big victory for his company, winning the annual Monster Pitch competition and has now spent one week in Lisbon. From July 9th to the 13th Ethan participated in the SOL boot camp. He was able to experience workshops, networking, and mentoring in the heart of Portugal alongside the other 13 participants. It is notable that the program guarantees a partnership opportunity for its participants in the near or distant future. Simply put, this was a huge opportunity for Ethan and his company. We here at BioLinc are incredibly proud of Ethan’s accomplishments over the past year. He exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit we try to foster at BioLinc every day. To read more on the SOL program or the other start-up companies participating click here.
Last Thursday, June 14, the grade four class of Cardinal Newman Elementary School stormed Brock University’s Jubilee Court. Their mission: to sell lemonade. The grade four class was divided into six groups as they competed in Brocks annual Goodman Lemonade. The atmosphere was electric as the kids filled the air with energy. It was great to see the joy that entrepreneurship brought to so many of them. With cups in hand and a smile on their face the children used their newly gained knowledge of marketing and sales to compete against one another in an attempt to be the team who brought home the most profit.
BioLinc had been working with this group of kids for over a month teaching them the basics of being an entrepreneur. Together we helped them make budget decision, posters and a business pitch. It was a lot of fun to get to know the kids and see their personalities blossom as they were thrown into an a-typical learning environment. A little friendly competition seemed to work well as the kids learned how to pitch their business, handle their product with care, and calculate change all while being bombarded with customers.
It was without a doubt a successful year because the class as a whole brought in more than $100 more than the previous year. The team which brought in the most profit (team Blue), decided that the $335 the class raised will be split between a pizza party and a charity of their choosing.
This past Tuesday May 8, 2018 at the Greg Frewin Theatre was the final round of the Ignite Pitch Competition. A pitch competition sponsored by Meridian Credit Union, Innovate Niagara, St. Catharines Enterprise Centre, Niagara College and the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce (GNCC). The competition is a great opportunity for new businesses to gain attention as well as some cash prizes. The competition has a total of $10, 000 of prizes available to winners with $7,500 going to the winner and $2,500 given to The People’s Choice Award winner.
Here at BioLinc we were lucky enough to watch two of our start up companies compete in the finals. Ethan Foy, the creator of LifePoints and Dalton Steele the owner of Huvr Media competed as two of the six finalists to the Ignite Competition. Both Dalton and Ethan have had experience in large pitch competitions similar to Ignite. They both have competed in Monster Pitch, a competition similar to Ignite, held by Brock University’s Brock Innovation Group (BIG) and BioLinc. Dalton was a finalist during the 2017 Monster Pitch Competition, and Ethan was the winner of the 2018 Monster Pitch Competition.
When asked about his experience at Ignite, Dalton said that “Ignite was a good learning experience. I have done pitches before but never for my current business, Huvr Media. It really was great to organize my thoughts, analyze my progress, and layout goals in pitch format. It was a great opportunity to speak about my passion for this business in front of family and friends, the members of the GNCC, and business-minded people of the Niagara region.”
Although neither one of the two won the competition we here at BioLinc are so proud of what these two young entrepreneurs have accomplished. It has been a pleasure working alongside the two entrepreneurs and watching them grow over the years. BioLinc would also like to give a big shout out to the winners of the competition. Firstly, The Foster Festival won the grand prize for their festival which celebrates the work of Canadian Playwright Norm Foster. Secondly, Underdogs Boxing Club won the people’s choice award. Underdogs Boxing Club is a non-profit organization that uses boxing to help people realize their strength both physically and spiritually while still being inclusive to people of various sexualities and cisgender.
Over the past week BioLinc and a few of its entrepreneurs made their way over to the annual CONNECT conference. CONNECT is Canada’s largest educational technology conference. The conference aims at connecting new and emerging technology and incorporating it into classrooms across Canada. One of the biggest spectacles offered at the conference is a row of booths dedicated to start-up companies, appropriately named Start-up Alley. Every year a few BioLinc entrepreneurs are show cased in Star-up Alley. This year we had three companies represent start-ups around BioLinc. XpertVR, DGapps, and HoloEducate all did a great job throughout the week in representing start up companies around Brock. I am sure the conference was a success on their part as well. Our entrepreneurs made many new connections and gained experience. Whether the entrepreneurs were leading presentations, meeting new people or pitching their ideas to those who were interested, Start-up Alley was always one of the busiest parts of the CONNECT conference and I am sure it helped to move their business forward.
BioLinc itself had a booth set up outside of Start-up Alley. There were a few people I met who were genuinely interested in some of the innovation that was going on at BioLinc. I had the pleasure of walking a few of these people down to meet with our entrepreneurs in Start-up Alley. The amount of interest shown in our entrepreneurs was very promising. I’d like to give a special congratulation to HoloEducate who gathered a lot of attention. They were named the CONNECT conference’s most promising start-up company. It was a great way to end the week, with one of our companies getting rewarded for the hard work they put in.
As someone who talks to young entrepreneurs everyday I have realized that there is a lot of potential in southern Niagara, and last week I went to an event that aimed at showcasing the future of business around the Niagara region. Last Friday I made my way down to the Falls View Casino for the Afternoon to participate in the Niagara Industrial Association’s (NIA) Trade Show. The tradeshow showcased some of the Niagara regions finest home grown businesses, companies and schools. There were so many great people there with the intention fostering business around the Niagara region. Overall the event gave a bright perspective to the future of the Niagara region.
The Tradeshow came with a few perks. On of them being a fantastic lunch provided by the Falls View Casino. During this lunch there were 2 keynote speakers who gave an interesting talk on the state of the Canadian Market, while relating it to markets across the world. The first speaker at the luncheon was Elyse Allan, CEO of General Electric. She gave an informative speech on how markets in Canada and across the world are changing. She gave great advice to the business owners on how to evolve in the workplace with adapting technology to stay competitive as a business. The second keynote speaker was Peter Hall. Peter is the Vice President and Chief Economist of Export Development Canada. In his speech he talked about the future of the Canadian economy and based his predictions largely on the economies of other countries and the state of growth in the past while taking the great recession into account for his predictions. The way it was all presented was very interesting. I have to give credit to both presenters because they were both very entertaining and relevant regarding topics that are not usually seen as entertaining.
Some People Think That New Ideas Are What’s Needed to be Successful
Some people think that new ideas are what’s needed to be successful and to drive the economy forward. This thinking is similar to the media that glorifies big-name deal makers … witness Donald Trump and his The Art if the Deal as one example – but the reality is that an “idea” or a “deal” is not the end destination, it’s only the beginning! Implementation is the key and may require your team to develop a new mind-set. Check out the article below and, coupled with the following approaches borrowed from Danny Ertel (HBR, November 2004, Getting Past Yes), here’s how to help your team become implementation focused …
– Start with the end in mind … what will it look like 12 months from now; how is Success to be measured;
– Help the “other side” prepare too … remember that innovation is a transaction;
– It’s a shared responsibility … their problem, your solution – but, if their interests don’t align, it’s Your Problem, too!
Implemented any good ideas lately??
This one trait will make you more creative
At BioLinc we’re all about experiential entrepreneurship and it turns out there’s great evidence to show that having openness to experience is a great trait to possess to enhance your creativity.
A current project underway at BioLinc is to determine what characteristics are important for being successful as a BioLinc Entrepreneur – we’re using an HR Assessment tool from Plum of Waterloo to identify these characteristics and how important they are to the success of our current cohort of Kick-Start Entrepreneurs. This information is not being used to “pick winners” but, instead, is shared with our young entrepreneurs to enhance their self-awareness of their own characteristics as a means to improve their capabilities during and after their time in our program. The 6 characteristics that we’ve set to watch/measure include Stability, Assertiveness, Industriousness, Problem Solving, Intellectual Disposition and, of particular interest, Experiential Disposition.
Being creative and entrepreneurial fit well together- check out the article for more … as it notes “The aspect of our personality that appears to drive our creativity is called openness to experience, or openness… it is openness that best predicts performance on divergent thinking tasks. Openness also predicts real-world creative achievements, as well as engagement in everyday creative pursuits.
Imagine having the opportunity to spend a Co-op term as a high school student working on your own business. For most 17 year olds this seems out of reach, an impossibly daunting task. However, over the past week I had the opportunity to meet a high school student who spent the past 5 months doing just that. Meet Michelle Kim, a senior at AN Myer Secondary Students with aspirations larger than most adults. Michelle has had the opportunity to work on her own business for the past 5 months due to a program that is run in combination with the District School Board of Niagara, BioLinc and ihub. This high school entrepreneurship co-op gives students with an entrepreneurial idea the opportunity to spend their internship working at BioLinc and ihub on their business venture. Michelle worked on a business she labelled Destaynation, which is a theoretical spot where travellers can stay short term while they get some rest before heading back out on the road. Her business was designed to partner with the already popular On Routes, which are settled across freeways in Ontario. Destaynation would offer its customers a lounging area, showers, and a place to do laundry. It would also give travellers a secure place to rest in their cars, due to security being available 24/7. A perfect spot for travellers to stay short term, for cheap, at the expense of a little comfort.
Michelle’s entire idea came together on Monday, January 22 when she pitched her business idea in front of a grade 11 entrepreneur class. I had the opportunity to see her final project. Over the past few weeks I have witnessed many business pitches. Michelle’s could compete with some of the better ones. She seemed to include all details and seemed to have thought of just about every factor regarding her business. This included start up costs, possible income, seasonal issues and more.
Unfortunately, for all travellers excited about this business, with the Co-op coming to a close so did the aspirations of Michelle’s business. She explained that between the start up costs being too high and her not having the same time to work on the business, Destaynation would have to stay on the back burner for now.
Every year BioLinc, hosts a weekend dedicated to improving the business pitch of various entrepreneurs. This Improve Your Pitch weekend took place last weekend, January 20-21, 2018 and hosted a variety of both student and young entrepreneurs, and experts there to give mentoring to these entrepreneurs. The weekend is set out in such a way thatparticipants have the opportunity to participate in a variety of seminars aimed at improving their pitch as well as improving their self awareness. The participants also get to pitch their business idea to a panel of judges twice. At the end of the competition the judges give out an award to both the best pitch and the most improved pitched over the weekend.
Personally seeing the difference in pitches from day one to day two, I can say that a mere one day of improvement showed that these entrepreneurs were ready to take on the business world. During the second round of pitches it was clear that the participants were much more confident in both their business idea and their public speaking. They were much more liberal with their time and communicated their ideas more clearly. All entrepreneurs might have improved but there were still two groups that seemed to outshine the rest. Domenic Alfieri took home the honour of the most improved pitch, displaying his passion for custom designed interior doors. While Mel Gencer and Sage Gervais combined to take home the weekends best overall pitch for their company HoloEducate, an app designed to assist in the learning experience of youth. Overall the weekend was a huge success and a lot of fun, I am sure that all participants left feeling as though they are a better entrepreneur.