Portrait of Jeff Amerine with Start-Up junkie for AY Magazine's powerful men. Photo by Beth Hall

Portrait of Jeff Amerine with Start-Up junkie for AY Magazine’s powerful men.
Photo by Beth Hall

Well another week has come and gone. It seems each week is surpassed by its latter. I know that I continually praise that “this week” has been the best, and again I can’t argue that entrepreneur week is right up there with being one of the best.

When you have a whole week geared up for two people you kinda wonder what you’ll except for content in that week. Will there be enough substance seeing the same people. In my case 4 times, in the run of the week. I can honestly say it was a great week that honestly did leave you asking more.

The week started out at the lounge with some classmates giving presentations, and Jeff and his wife were very down to earth. After class we proceeded to the golf course, and that was my favourite time hearing Jeff speak. From there you really got a sense that he was just an average Joe American with a good sense of humour and a lay back demeanour. Don’t get me wrong I did enjoy the , the meeting in navigate, when Permjot did his own bit on WW2 allied airplane statistic digram. Or the one on three was great as well.

So much content!

Hearing all 3 entrepreneurs was great, especially when hearing about completely different fields. Like Chad’s who is on the other end of the spectrum of what we are used to. Or the Celtic Colours story and how it has become something internationally known, and the struggles of getting it off the grown. And even Jeff’s story of how things are in Arkansa, which in some ways to do have the same growing pains we have here in Nova Scotia.

All in all another great week here at U.I.T, (I know I say that ALOT). But when you go to a school, that you tell your friends back home, that while it is a challenging course, it’s still the most fun course, I’ve ever been apart of.


I had an amazing Global Entrepreneurship Week that started in Sydney and ended in Wolfville. We had some superb meetings and presentations here in Sydney with the likes of Jeff and Phyl Amerine from Startup Junkie Consulting, Permjot Valia, Bob Pelley, Darren Gallop and the usual luminaries here at Navigate and UIT. Sadly I had to cut the festivities short up here but happily it was to attend StartItUp, and RiseUp, hosted by Acadia’s Launchbox.


The first of the two connected events was the startup competition: StartItUp!. This was my first experience of the sort. Friday afternoon the 45 participants were given 18 problems and had 24 hours to create a 3 minute pitch proposing a business solution to the problem. Factoring in the need to back up all assumptions with research or, ideally, real-life validation meant that these complex problems would require some energetic effort over a compressed time. I was attending without a preconceived group so after thinking about which problem I might enjoy solving I met Hilde, Marjan and Estha from the Cultiv8 Sandbox at Dal AC.

They seemed like great partners and they didn’t disappoint! We were trying to figure out a way to increase rural tourism in NS and immediately hit the phones. We were so fortunate to catch Jennifer McKeane at Tourism NS who was a wealth of knowledge and went above and beyond in helping us understand the data, issues and opportunities. We worked our ideas through the LEAN canvas to identify the specific opportunities and challenges and went to sleep Friday with a solid idea of what we were doing. We divided the labour Saturday morning and canvassed the Farmer’s Market before it opened to speak with vendors, attended the big craft fair down the road to validate the other side of our idea, created a mockup of our phone app, styled and practiced our presentation and had everything submitted and ready to roll by 2pm.

I think we did a great job, primarily due to some spectacular teamwork and the efforts and skills of everyone at the table! There were 13 teams and I was honestly disappointed to not take any of the top 3 spots (which would have been a share of the $10k prize pool!). We walked away proud of what we accomplished and wiser for having experienced the intensity of the competition.


StartItUp! was a tough act to follow but RiseUp! was up to the challenge. Also put on by the Sandboxes (charged with supporting startups in post-secondary institutions), this saw 15 startup founders or hopeful prospective founders meeting, networking, and starting to work though understanding the LEAN business model canvas and charting their path forward. Jenelle Sobey from Norex in Halifax gave an inspiring presentation on Saturday night about the opportunities Atlantic Canada has to make real economic progress through its startup infrastructure. Sunday morning Alastair Jarvis from Lunenberg-based Woodscamp opened all our eyes to what the startup process could look like, in sharing the 13 revisions to their LEAN canvas they iterated through before launching.

Woodscamp is quickly becoming my favourite Nova Scotian startup. I love that they are addressing a market inefficiency in a way that supports both sides of the market and will hopefully result in rural development and more efficient resource use. I followed up with Alastair after his presentation and he was kind enough to share some of the resources he found helpful in designing a startup that created a marketplace. I am working through them now.

RiseUp! is part one of a three part series. The second part will be on building a team and the third on funding a startup. I am excited about the relevance of the material and the opportunity to network with other startups at a similar stage of development. While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Sydney and haven’t come close to exhausting the learning and networking opportunities there, it was great to get some exposure to the larger Nova Scotian startup scene and meet some new peers and mentors.

I couldn’t have been happier with my experiences at Global Entrepreneurship week. Not only did I learn a ton but I have followed up with at least a half dozen solid connections and hope to count these people as advisors and friends as the process of launching my startup continues.

Global Entrepreneurship Week at UIT is quite the time. All sorts of exciting activities for the UIT cohort this week. I attended two events during school hours, and one in the evening. Each event was a great experience, and in hindsight, I wish I had gone to more.

The week started with a visit in the lounge from Jeff and Phyl Amerine during class hours. They started by watching a couple brave volunteers who pitched their projects to them, which they seemed to like. Then we all went to Flavour 19 for the afternoon and had a workshop about being coachable with Jeff and Permjot.

I had planned on attending the UIT monthly mixer on Tuesday, but work said no.

On Wednesday we had another event during class, but this time it was in Navigate. Darren Gallop and Jeff put on a workshop about creating good company culture. Permjot also made an appearance and somewhat blew our minds with how a Sigmoid curve can relate to the success of a company.

global entrepreneurship week sigmoid curve ride thingy

click the image for a longer blog about this theory!

He went on to explain that there are measurable peaks and declines in the success of your business, and to be aware of when you’re possibly nearing a peak. When you realize this, you should begin thinking of ways to branch off or better your business. (i hope i remembered that right)

The last event I went to was the panel with Jeff, Darren, Joella Foulds, co-founder of Celtic Colours International Festival, and Chad Munro, founder and CEO of Halifax Biomedical. This event took place at seven in the lounge, and about 20-30 people showed up (five UIT nerds). The panel talked about their businesses and how they came to be.

I didn’t go to the other three or so events, and as of writing this I don’t have the schedule anymore. However, the ones I did end up going to were certainly excellent learning and networking opportunities. The mentors are definitely one of the biggest things that sets UIT apart from any other tech program I’ve seen.

I vote Global Entrepreneurship Week should be monthly.

Global Entrepreneurship week was very interesting. I might have not really known it was happening on account of usually living under a rock (unless I’m going out or going to school). All I knew was that events were happening, but I was unaware they were a connected thing.

Firstly I’m impressed that such a thing even happens. I am constantly impressed with how much goes on in Sydney and with the Tech community that I was totally unaware of until I joined UIT. Even things outside of entrepreneurship week that happen on a regular basis and go under most peoples radars.

Aside from the week over all, the individual activities were all amazing (the ones that I went to at least).

Mentorship Talk at Flavor

First we had the mentorship talk out at Flavor 19. That one was probably my favorite, and not just because of the food. At UIT we talk about mentors all the time, and its always very exciting to meet them. But they always seem a little distant.  Not as in they are spaced out while talking but just that none of us have made very personal connections. We know we can always message them and we get to meet them to learn about things they specialize in, but its just because they know the people teaching us or other UIT mentors.  Because of this I liked the first session for two reasons:

  • we got to see them talk some more, and in a somewhat more casual setting (after the talks)
  • we learned about the mentors of mentors

That second point is important to me. Because learning about mentors having mentors, and how to meet your own mentors (and how they met their mentors) broke a wall I was finding myself at. I just feel generally more connected to the mentors we met and have met already, even if I never got to know them myself. (That’s a bit weird or sappy or something, but I think I made my point). It probably helped that with this group of mentors we saw them quite a bit in a one week.

Culture talk at Navigate 

The next event we had was the morning thing at Navigate. The culture talks have stuck with me quite well. I was thinking about company culture in relation to lots of different things over the week. The culture of a D&D group, the culture of a LARP group, or even the people running a LARP. I was thinking about culture at big and small businesses and, of course, at UIT. I very much plan to keep it in mind because I can see in many situations where things go poorly because a group, or company ignore the culture and the whole thing falls apart.

Business in Cape Breton

The last event I went to was the big talk on Thursday of Entrepreneurship week, that one blew my mind. It was a fantastic talk overall, but I could not believe everything about Halifax Biomedical. I mean, wow! But it brings up a sad point. That is clearly a fantastic and really neat business and I just could not believe that it existed here in Nova Scotia. But its something I have never heard of outside of that talk. I consider myself a decently informed individual so I always find it disappointing when I discover something cool is happening near me and I haven’t heard about it.


Closing thoughts

I consider it a major falling that so much cool stuff falls out of the public radar, however it is a major win that UIT makes us so connected.

Overall, Global Entrepreneurship week was a solid 8/10



jeff amerine & permjot valia

Jeff Amerine & Permjot Valia

Last week was Global Entrepreneurship Week and as apart of the UIT 2016 cohort I had the opportunity to attend various discussions and panels featuring successful entrepreneurs like Jeff Amerine, who is the founder of Startup Junkie.

On Monday the UIT students went to Flavor 19 to have a group meal while listening to Jeff Amerine and Permjot Valia (Founder of Mentor Camp) talk about mentorship and how very helpful it can be. I enjoyed this as Jeff and Permjot were very open to being a helpful mentor to the UIT students. They stressed how crucial it is to learn from someone who is more experienced than you and how even the mentor can benefit from helping others. On Wednesday, Jeff Amerine and Darren Gallop (Founder of Marcato) talked about company culture and how it plays a key role in a startups success. Darren discussed the company culture and environment at his company, Marcato. Even Permjot came in and gave great examples of how to prepare for certain startup situations and how to change your way of thinking to improve productivity.


Darren Gallop of Marcato

On Thursday Jeff Amerine hosted a panel with Darren Gallop, Joella Foulds (Co-Founder of Celtic Colours), and Chad Munro (Founder of Halifax Biomedical). Each entrepreneur talked about their experiences in startups and how the started their own company.

It’s important to stress that mentors play a huge role for the UIT students. Any student learning to program can ask any specific question to the many UIT alumni and mentors while anyone looking to create their own startup can receive advice from people who have many years of experience in the startup business world. Every mentor is reachable through the Slack messaging app to help the student in whatever they have trouble during almost any hour of the day. Global Entrepreneurship Week highlighted that entrepreneurial mentors can give you a big head start in having a successful startup.

Mentor week should be a mentor month. I feel like this has been one of the highlights of the course. Pitching an app to a guy that started where we have is certainly a motivating moment to say the least.

It was great to hear about the other mentors, and how they came to be U.I.T. it was especially great to hear Mike’s story and how we got to where we are now. That the startup even with Mike and Gavin still had the same issues that us as possible young entrepreneurs may undoubtedly encounter in our not so distant future.

I got to say I was certainly the most nervous I have been in a long time pitching to Gavin. But that being said I was very much impressed how down to earth guy he is. It’s hard not to be a little star struck and the fact that he even encourages us to reach out to him speaks volumes.

Personally I believe that’s what makes this course and province the best. All of our mentors and affiliates have a strong passion for tech, business and the maritimes. That just like the students, they want the tech industry to grow locally, they really go hand in hand. At the end of each week I find my self more and more looking at things around me and thinking: “why is that a thing” and “how can this be made easier”. And this course gives you the tools and abilities to point you in the right direction.

I especially enjoyed the visit by Gab. It was very interesting to see how a web page could be laid out before you even begin the code to get an idea of where you needed to go. She was very informative and I know that all she taught will come in handy on future projects, I’ve already used what she’s taught on our next one and played around with it on my own personal projects. All in all a great mentor week and I can’t wait to meet our next mentor on Monday!

This week was Global Entrepreneurship Week, and because of that, there were tons of super cool workshops and events happening. Visitors came all the way from Arkansas to meet the UIT class: Jeff and Phyl Amerine, of Startup Junkie Consulting. Everyone got to hear some very valuable advice from Jeff, Permjot Valia, as well as the co-founder of local startup Marcato, Darren Gallop. We all learned a lot of valuable information on subjects such as mentors and company culture. There’s a particular experience I’ve been wanting to write out: why I’m glad I put myself in an awkward situation.


We started off the week on Monday by being introduced to Jeff and Phyl, and a few of us students (Ben, Dave and myself) pitched our projects and ideas to them. Ben pitched his chat app: “Text and Paper Chat“. Dave, his company idea: “Invisible Hand”. I pitched my SaaS (Software as a Service) app I’ve just started working on. It’s a visual-based task/project management app called Vennio. It relies more on motions and gestures and visual representations than other projects in the market. Everyone did a really solid presentation, with tons of noticeable improvement. Everyone presented their idea in a way that sounded clear and natural, and it’s awesome to be able to see the progress as it’s happening!

I’m hoping my pitch seemed that way as well to others. But at the same time, I knew going into this that I would be taking my chances. This was the first time I’d pitched the idea to anyone, so it was like an experiment. I wanted to challenge myself to see how they would take to my idea. There would be nothing to really lose from giving it a shot anyway. If my idea got ripped up, so be it. It’s the early stages and I know it might not seem like an idea that’s completely solid.

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take - Wayne Gretzky" - Michael Scott

Some solid advice from Mr Scott

Starting off strong…ish

While I was presenting, I felt pretty good – probably a 6 or 7 on the confidence meter. The only thing that bugged me was that I felt like I couldn’t get the point of my idea across in a way that represented how I felt about it, and what my goals were. 

I’ve spent a lot of time working on the programming side of things, but I didn’t really spend much time thinking about what the real incentive is for others to use the product. I mean, I have a general idea – The project is meant to be targeted towards creative and visual learners. But, I haven’t truly gravitated towards a distinct aspect of that area. I think that’s just because of how new the idea is to me. That should improve as I spend more time getting to know the project, so I’m not too worried about it.

Questions I have no idea how to answer

After the presentation however, I was asked a lot of questions which I didn’t have the answers to yet. I know for a fact that I stammered my words more than once. I have to admit the confidence level dropped to maybe a 3. When I was finished answering questions, I sat down and shook it off, because that’s what I expected to happen anyway, and being put in that awkward position will just help me in the long run.

It’s not over… ever

Anyway, going back to what I was saying, it was hard to get across what my app is, just because of how new it is to me. The experience of being put on the spot and asked difficult questions was what I was kind of hoping would happen. I knew if I were to get asked any detailed questions, it would make me uncomfortable, but I’ve heard time and time again that the only way to become comfortable is to put yourself in uncomfortable situations.

To anyone else who feels awkward stepping out of their comfort zone: Don’t even think about it. Just get it over with. It’s worth it. It won’t feel easier right away, but over time you can learn how to manage your awkwardness. That’s what I’m in the process of right now.

And so, I feel pretty proud of myself that I went up to do that.  But it’s not a one time thing, that I can just sit back and never have to think about again. I’m going to have to do this lots of times. And if I want to improve and minimise the awkward factor, I better start getting used to it…