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
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
During reading week, I attended the Propel ICT selection camp to pitch a company Riley and I are working on, and I managed to get a spot in the 2017 cohort. Our software allows the crowd of an event to send song requests to the DJ from their phones. Going to selection camp alone was an interesting but somewhat stressful experience.
What is Propel?
Propel is a startup accelerator in Atlantic Canada. They offer three different programs depending on how far along your company is. We applied for Launch, which guides entrepreneurs through the early stages of validating, developing and launching a startup.
It all started in UIT when everyone in the class had to make a mock application to Propel, we were all also encouraged to send them in but it was optional. We didn’t expect a response when we sent our one minute, poorly-edited video to them.
They must have liked it because after about a week Riley received an email saying we were in. That was exciting.
We had come across a problem. In October, Riley booked a trip to England for two weeks in February. Selection camp was during that time. It was too late to cancel his trip, and they couldn’t change the day obviously, so the only option was for me to go alone. That was spooky.
When selection camp rolled around, I was pretty nervous. I wasn’t really sure what I was doing, but I figured I’d try my best. Selection camp starts with all the companies delivering an elevator pitch to the whole room (the spooky part), followed with interviews by eight different groups of two mentors for eight minutes each. For those keeping track at home, that’s sixty-four minutes of interviewing and only one of pitching.
February 22nd, 2017 – Dawn of the final day
I’m pretty sure time was moving a little slower while I was waiting to pitch, but when that time came, it went better than I expected. I didn’t think I’d remember the whole thing, but I managed to get it all out and it was under a minute too. It went perfectly. The interviewing was next which I was no problem for me.
Interviewing for over an hour doesn’t sound fun, but that wasn’t the case. All the mentors/judges were super nice and offered a ton of ideas for our company. Everyone seemed to like our idea from what I could tell. Even if we didn’t get into Propel, just getting a chance talking to all these established business(wo)men was incredibly valuable for the ideas they offered. They did all ask pretty well the same questions, but that was to be expected. How many questions could they really ask a kid who doesn’t know much about business other than he has an idea for one?
After being interviewed by all the groups, we were done and people started clearing out. I said my goodbyes and went on my way. Two days later Riley got an email saying that we were in. We were both super happy, and it is definitely an accomplishment that I’m quite proud of.
All in all, selection camp was a fun experience that I would absolutely recommend stays in the UIT curriculum for future years, even if it did seem a little overwhelming/scary at first. Hopefully we make millions (or just one million, I guess we could settle for that) and get the chance to come be judges in the future.