On January 7, 2017 the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship hosted its annual Startup Bootcamp, one of many entrepreneurship events and workshops organized to help prepare potential teams to compete in the annual McGill Dobson Cup 2017. The McGill Dobson Cup is McGill’s premier startup competition where over $100,000 are awarded as seed funding to early-stage McGill startups.
Bright and early at 9:30 AM on a Saturday morning, more than 150 students, recent graduates, and budding entrepreneurs gathered in a large lecture room in the Bronfman Building at McGill. The room was immediately lit with chatter, energy, excitement, and anticipation for the long day ahead. The Startup Bootcamp was divided into six sections of workshops and talks to help cultivate new ideas and further develop established ones.
These sections included an introduction and overview; a talk by guest speaker Isaac Souweine, previously with notable Montreal startups Sonder (formerly known as Flatbook) and Frank & Oak, and now Entrepreneur In Residence at Real Ventures; two workshops for inspiration and pitching; a walkthrough of the business model canvas and how to create a great value proposition statement; a second round of pitching; and a concluding ‘surprise’.
Introduction and Overview
The first talk was given by Prof. Gregory Vit, Director of the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, who gave an introduction to the different roles that comprise a functional team and the motivating factors behind a great idea.
The Three Hs: Hacker, Hustler, and Hipster were used to describe the varied roles that are necessary for a successful team. The Hacker provides scientific knowledge and technical skills which creates a foundation for the business savvy Hustler who can easily make connections and establish partnerships. The Hipster then creates a design for the project focused on user interaction.
Similarly, the three key motivators for developing a great idea were described as the Three Ps: Passion, Problem, and Piercing Tech-Science. Therefore, ideas can be motivated by an individual’s passion for a particular cause or issue, by a problem that needs to be resolved, or the emergence of new technologies.
— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) January 7, 2017
Guest Speaker: Isaac Souweine
Isaac Souweine, an entrepreneur who has extensive experience working with various startups, was then called to present his professional journey and advice for the attendants. He shared a few general tips for not only starting a business but achieving individual success. He spoke frankly about his failures, successes, and his experiences working with small startups as well as global giants like Yahoo!
The key take away from his talk was to always take an opportunity because even major short-term failures can become long-term successes. After his enlightening talk, attendants were then split into two groups for the workshop section.
Workshop: Team Building and Finding Inspiration
The first group of attendants were individuals who had not developed a set idea and were instead seeking inspiration and connections. This group was prompted to identify themselves as one or two of the three Hs, Hacker, Hustler, or Hipster. They were then given an opportunity to form a balanced team by joining with others who identified with a different H. These new teams were challenged to establish a new venture based on a model from Uber, Airbnb, and other sources of inspiration. The result was varying kinds of platforms for delivery and location matching services.
Workshop: The Pitching Pit
The second group of attendants were individuals who already had project ideas or were currently working on early-stage startups. They were asked to join one of five classroom where they were provided the opportunity to briefly pitch their ideas to McGill Dobson Centre mentors. They received feedback including ways they could improve their applications and general business plan development. This was an opportunity for the attendants, many of which were first time pitchers, to improve their skills.
The Business Model Canvas
After being refuelled at lunch, the two groups were reunited for further discussion with Maher Ayari, President of the Dobson Student Executive Team, on the application format for the McGill Dobson Cup 2017 and tips on developing a solid business plan and accompanying pitch.
Attendants were then introduced to the Business Model Canvas by Renjie Butalid, Marketing & Operations Advisor at the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, and the 9 steps that would need to be considered when developing your business model.
One of the most important components discussed was determining the value proposition, which is not only important for your target users, but also for your team and potential investors. The other steps include determining the beachhead market—the initial targeted user base, a channel for connecting the customers to the proposed value proposition, a distribution channel, revenue streams, means to relationship development through marketing, key partners, key activities, and a cost structure.
Pitching Round Two
Following the tips for business plan development, everyone was given the opportunity to pitch their ideas to all attendants and mentors on the main stage. Attendants prepared to either pitch again or for the first time, and eagerly waited to hear the ideas of the other teams. There was a long line of individuals and teams that signed up with varied levels of ideas.
Some pitched very rough plans that were only a few hours in the making while others were being developed over a year or two; others were established startups, and some were individuals with a simple concept calling for potential team members. One that I found particularly interesting was a bold idea to provide a universal and secured wireless network throughout the city, wifi for all!
Finally, two representatives from MTL NewTech ended the day by speaking briefly about how their organization helps to fuel local startups. MTL NewTech is a non-profit organization that positively contributes to the success of startups in Montreal by facilitating connections and community building within the startup ecosystem, and providing a platform for them to share their ideas, services, and products with interested groups.
— Paul Cuciureanu (@pcuci) January 7, 2017
Applications for the McGill Dobson Cup 2017 are being accepted until Wednesday, January 18, 2017 at 11:59PM. It is a great opportunity that has helped to launch over 125 active startups to date!
I encourage all budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage. Upcoming events hosted by the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship include Women in Entrepreneurship on January 26 and How to Pitch Your Startup Workshop February 2.