Roughly 1/3 of the companies going through PropelICT this year are from Cape Breton — and most of those are students or alumni of UIT Startup Immersion!

Co-founded by Gerry Pond, Propel is Atlantic Canada’s startup accelerator. Its mandate is to:

educate and mentor entrepreneurs with the goal of launching Atlantic Canada’s first billion dollar tech company

Same! — though we tend to be a little upstream in the pipeline (to mix metaphors). We train students to build apps and test business models. Many of our students and alumni then go on to pitch their ideas to Propel (and others) in pursuit of their entrepreneurial goals.

So we’re very encouraged by the fact that all but one of this year’s Propel Launch cohort are UIT students, alumni, or staff:

  • BidSquid (a stock-market-like platform for rural commodities) — cofounders David Hachey and Andrew MacDonald are UIT students.
  • MySong (an SMS/mobile app that connects DJ’s and partygoers) — cofounders Riley Boudreau and Freddie Willett are UIT students.
  • EspresSos (a rolodex for your friends/coworkers’ coffee preferences) — cofounders Rachael MacKeigan and George Johnston are UIT alumni.
  • Player Pack (a digital hockey card and social network for little leaguers) — founder Steven Rolls is a UIT alumni.
  • Click2Order (branded online ordering for restaurants) — cofounders Matt Stewart and Rob Myers are UIT staff.

(The sixth Sydney-based company is Perata, a retail analytics startup that won Innovacorp’s Spark funding in 2016… and keeps trying to hire UIT students before they’ve even completed our 10-month program! Hi Glenn 🙂 )

Why is UIT so well represented in Propel’s first Cape Breton cohort? Because — as per the ‘upstream-pipeline’ — we prepare students for exactly this kind of opportunity in an aspiring entrepreneur’s journey. But hey, don’t take our word for it: hear from some of the students themselves: uitstartup.org/at-uit-episode-2

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Propel’s 12-week Launch cohort in Sydney is hosted at Navigate Startup House, down the hall from UIT, in the New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation. For other details, see Entrevestor’s article: http://entrevestor.com/ac/blog/sydney-prominent-in-propel-cohort

Startup Stuff

A demonstration of what BidSquid’s layout looks like

After the Christmas break, I teamed up with Dave Hachey, a fellow UIT student, to work on the technical side of his startup idea. The idea is a two-sided market for locally produced commodities. Typical markets such as Kijiji only show you one side of the market: the sellers. This idea allows you to view and be a part of both the supply, and the demand. Think of it like a stock market, but totally relative to your location, and for local goods and services (for example apples, firewood, or plumbers for hire).

Submit a bid, asking for a good or service, and name your price. The higher you’re willing to pay, the more likely a potential seller will be willing to contact you. Submit an offer, offering up a good or service, and again, name your price. In this case, the lower you’re willing to sell for will be what attracts potential buyers to your listing.

I signed on as the technical co-founder, to help bring this idea to life. I’ve heard it before, that you need one person with the industry experience, and one person with the technical know-how to make this type of idea work. Dave has the many years of working in the stock market as well as operating a small farm, and I have the passion and drive to build a platform like this. Together, we’re building BidSquid – you can see the simple landing page I’ve put together, which is live today!

Communications Stuff

Another thing that’s gone on at UIT is the communication classes, taught by Ian McNeil. We’ve covered public speaking, dealing with the media, and interviews. There was a lot of really solid advice jam-packed into two months, and I’ve already had the chance to use what we learned in the real world.

Just the other day I was on CBC radio with Mike Targett, to talk about my experience at hackathons, to promote UIT’s hackathon they just had (which I unfortunately missed!). I had the chance to make use of some of the interview tactics I learned in Ian’s class, and there are definitely going to be a lot many more. From doing interviews on radio to just dealing with answering questions in everyday life, I feel like it will be a long-term improvement to how to better answer and ask questions.

Business Stuff

I was always a coder, and I always will be. I always pictured myself working at another company, writing code. But looking back, I think deep down I always wanted to do my own thing. In fact, you can actually still see the website for my ‘company’ I had when I was maybe 13 or 14 years old, called OxygenSoft.

I can’t see myself being some kind of business guru one day, and I know that my domain is in the technical side of things. But as a coder I always preferred to build something from the ground up, rather than starting off from something that’s already established. I always felt more acquainted with the code and the product itself by the time it was working. And I think it’s almost the same way for entrepreneurs – rather than starting off working at a company somewhere, it’s the want to build something from nothing.