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Mount Royal University and UCalgary Support Early-Stage Student Founders From Across the Province To Take Their Ideas To The Next Level

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Hundreds of students have ideas for businesses, social enterprises, and non-profits in Alberta every year. Eleven Albertan post-secondaries, including Mount Royal University, have teamed up with Platform Calgary to help more of those ideas move forward!

By Emily Knight

After doing an informal audit of the post-secondary entrepreneurship programming offered at Alberta’s universities, the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (the Institute) at Mount Royal University (MRU) identified that there was a gap in extra-curricular programming for students with very-early stage ideas. For example, here at MRU, the Institute runs a suite of programs to support student entrepreneurs including over 700 personal mentorship hours per year and over $100,000 in funding awarded to student founders to help grow their ventures. However, many of the students who take advantage of this programming have achieved some traction with their idea already. This leaves a large untapped pool of students with brand new ideas without specific extra-curricular programming designed for their stage of development.

 

Once recognizing this need, instead of designing a new program from scratch, the Institute looked to the community to see if any existing programming could be leveraged to support these students. The answer was yes; Platform Calgary’s existing Discover Program focuses on the exact skills new founders need to take their idea forward; articulating the problem they solve, identifying target customers and learning how to talk to those customers, also known as customer discovery. Once this opportunity was identified, Platform Calgary was thrilled to pull expertise from the Discover Program to create an opportunity specifically designed for early-stage students. Platform Calgary also shares the Institute’s person centered approach, which focuses on the founder first, versus the idea first, which is integral to the Institute’s mission of supporting student entrepreneurs by-way of work-integrated learning experiences.

 

“I can’t think of a more challenging and fulfilling thing to do than trying to start your own business. By wrapping formal programming around students with business ideas, we can provide entrepreneurial work-integrated learning experiences which are a way for students to really accelerate their learning. At the Institute and Platform Calgary, we focus on equipping people with the skills, networks and resources to be successful entrepreneurs, whether or not the idea they are currently working on succeeds.” 

- Ray DePaul, Director of the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship & Board Member of Platform Calgary

 

In October, 2020, the first cohort of the Platform Calgary Student Entrepreneurship Sprint was launched with a group of 33 post-secondary students from across Alberta. The digital necessity of this program due to the pandemic resulted in a huge advantage; students from anywhere in the province could take part without the burden of travel. In addition, students taking part in the program are paid a $500 honorarium, funded by Alberta Innovate's Institutional Support of Entrepreneurial Education Grant, to reduce the pressures of balancing classes, building their business and a part-time job.

 

The Student Entrepreneurship Sprint has now been confirmed for two future cohorts, supported by MRU’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and UCalgary’s Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking. The Winter cohort kicks off on February 16, 2021 with a group of post-secondary student founders from across Alberta.

 

For more information about the program, visit: https://bit.ly/platformsprint_w2021