This has been a goal of mine for a while: to conduct research building from my areas of expertise but in a new geographical area, namely Africa. Nothing like a sabbatical to action such goals! I received a small grant from Carleton University to initiate this new international research collaboration.

Specifically, the purpose of the project is to initiate an international, interdisciplinary research partnership on experiential learning abroad to address global challenges in the Global South.

Now this is somewhat grandiose at the moment… So the initial operationalization capitalizes on a project initiated and led by Sprott in partnership with Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Industrial Design. In this initiative, multidisciplinary student teams aim to address issues facing the people of the predominantly Maasai Longido District in Tanzania. The projects include water issues, youth recreation, waste management, smallholder agriculture, and microfinance opportunities. My overall goal is to explore the outcomes and impacts of projects and social innovation developed and led by these multi-disciplinary student teams for the Longido community, as well as the learning outcomes and impacts of this international experiential learning on student experience and careers.

The longer-term outcomes are the development of a conceptual framework along with tools and guidelines to expand on such international student initiatives that will serve Carleton University in its mandate, and to contribute to the academic literature on international service-learning projects.

I spent nearly 2 weeks in Arusha and Longido last month, traveling with Onita Basu and staying at the Tembo Guesthouse (which is also on AirBnB!) where not only did I get to kickstart this research project, but. I also got the opportunity to better understand the Maasai community of Longido, tour micro-businesses supported by TEMBO. I also helped out with TEMBO but also got increased awareness of TEMBO initiatives, such as PASS, an academic enrichment program to bolster Longido girls’ language and academic skills before entering secondary school. I had great fun too! These girls are extremely fortunate to be able to be in this program given the prevalence of early marriage in the region. Virginia Taylor is an enthusiastic, no-nonsense, committed and energetic TEMBO’s Educational Director and Board member. I’ve known Virginia under different roles at Carleton University’ Sprott School of Business. It has been great getting to know her in that role with TEMBO. Very impressive lady.

I learned a lot, enjoyed staying at the TEMBO Guesthouse, experience the day-to-day activities of the Program, the camaraderie of the individuals working there (staff, and volunteer teachers etc) and getting a better understanding of the context, the community and the TEMBO initiatives.

I visited places where water filters, a project developed by Onita Basu and her PhD student, Robbie Venis under WatER project, are set up.

Hey, I even hiked (a small part of) the Mount Longido with a patient guide…. and went on a quick safari at the Arusha National Park!

Mont Longido
Mont Longido
Arusha National Park
Arusha National Park

There is really exciting research taking place elsewhere. It was great connecting with key researchers while at Aalto University (in Espoo, close to Helsinki, Finland) – and initiate a new research using topic modelling (machine learning with Orange3 software) on a corpus off top academic journals on the term ‘ecosystem’. Work in progress at this point, involving my research collaborators at Carleton University and Aalto University. Topic modelling is relatively new in social sciences but is picking up. It can achieve very insightful results quickly, that humans cannot given the sheer and increasing size of ‘corpus’ (set of documents used in topic modelling).

Aalto university is a relatively new campus and the facilities are simply amazing: so ‘design’ and inviting to students. Subway station right on the campus, everything is walking distance. I stayed in an AirBnB in Helsinki and travel by subway. I thank Mika Westerlund for setting up the visit, Risto Rajala for welcoming me, showing me the beautiful campus,, and Maria Tikko for making sure everything was there and ready (and mailing me back my forgotten stuff…)

Enjoying some free time at the botanical garden

Two weeks in Finland (Vaasa IB conference and Aalto) followed by 2 weeks at the Southern Denmark University (SDU) , Odense, and Copenhagen. A big thank you to Soren Jensen for inviting me to lecture to his master students, spending several hours on a Sunday to do a walking tour of Odense, and organizing several visits and meetings. SDU is a charming campus. Facilities and processes to help entrepreneurship are also impressive.

Lots of amazingly nice looking copper in that campus building
I’m sure we all recognize some old tech in there…
3D printers and other equipment for students
Exceptionally beautiful Tivoli gardens (Copenhagen)

On sabbatical!

Posted: July 3, 2019 in Uncategorized

It has been a while since I last blogged…. time does fly…  in fact, I managed to get tenured and promoted since my last entry (and two beautiful grandsons)….

BUT I now have a firm resolution to blog about my 1st sabbatical. As much to keep me on track with my (overly ambitious no doubt) sabbatical plan as to share my thoughts, research, pics of field trips etc.  and get comments and feedback.

So far: presenting a paper at Vaasa International Business Conference, then visiting professorship at Aalto University School of Business, working with Mika Westerlund from my school and Risto Rajala from Aalto University, in Finland.  Quite looking forward to it! Our research will most likely involve topic modelling, more on that later.

Then off to Opense, Denmark, to the University of Southern Denmark to visit and lecture in Søren Jensen’s class, followed by a side trip to beautiful Copenhagen.

I am initiating a new research stream at the nexus of international experiential learning and social entrepreneurship in Africa – Tanzania and will be presenting a paper (once formally accepted) at the Biennial Conference of the Africa Academy of Management in January 2020, in Lagos, Nigeria.

Aside from these planned activities, some research grants, a bunch of papers to write/finalize and… enjoy life too!

There… it’s in writing and I must now deliver 🙂

Follow me on this exciting year!

As I mentioned in my last post, I was determined to provide students with a real-life entrepreneurship experience. Sprott’s BUSI2800 is an intro to entrepreneurship course open to all; therefore there is quite a diversity of programs and expertise in the classroom. Searching for an online gamified platform, I came across the concept of the VentureChallenge this past summer and decided to pilot it this fall. Developed by Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia and in partnership with Shopify, the online Venture Challenge takes students through the entire entrepreneurial process, from the idea stage to launching and running the business, with the help of built-in learning resources and a gamified platform that includes a class leaderboard. Students learn about ideation, product development, marketing, sales, cash management, e-commerce, social media and more.

In this experiential approach, student teams conceive of a new business idea for a NFP mission-driven e-commerce venture that runs for 30 days to raise money for a selected charity organization. This is not a simulation but rather an online approach to support the creation of a non-profit mission-driven online business.  Students are running real businesses, selling real products and services to real customers through an online store. With Shopify, student teams can set up their business very efficiently since a streamlined process guides them through launching their online store with no technical skills required.

At Sprott, our philosophy for our entrepreneurship offerings is for our students to ‘Live entrepreneurship, not just learn about it’. This project is a low risk experiential learning experience that provides concrete knowledge and skills in new venture creation. This specific project also emphasizes aspects of social entrepreneurship given its mission-driven goal. An additional innovative aspect is the extensive online learning resources and tasks so that students can acquire crucial skills in the business management of popular social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google Adwords and Google Analytics, Facebook Ads, and social metrics to promote, sell and monitor effectiveness of marketing campaigns and offerings. These skills are in high demand with employers. Carleton University is currently the only Ontario university using this experiential learning approach to entrepreneurship.

In all, the class created 22 venture teams who ran a wide range of businesses. The businesses were active for the month of November and together served nearly 700 customers, raising $18,700 in revenues with $4,700 in profits going to local charities. The results surpassed all expectations. I was very impressed with the creativity and dedication of the students to this exercise. They experienced every aspect of conceiving and running a small business. They also developed an awareness of social entrepreneurship.

2800A F15 OVC PIC Kekoa Tang giving cheque to OHS 151211

Kekoa Tang giving his team’s profits of $1,400 to the Ottawa Humane Society

The top team VESI Bottle, sold nearly $2,500 worth of glass water bottles sandblasted with custom messages, predominantly targeted at the millennials market, and pulled in about $1,400 in profits that were donated to the Ottawa Humane Society.

The second team, Groceries2Go, created a grocery shopping and delivery service for Carleton Students. They generated $3,300 in revenues, the highest among the teams.  Their profits went to the Carleton University Food Center.  Feedback from the students has been very positive, even though the challenge required an intense and sustained effort from the teams. The School is quite happy with the results and we will be offering it in future BUSI2800 classes.

A research project is also in the works to assess the impact of this entrepreneurship education approach on entrepreneurial intentions and behaviors, and also link to research on social entrepreneurship.  Although it required commitment and effort on my part to learn and use it, the outcomes are really worth it. I received appreciation letters from some of the charities that brought tears to my eyes…. Never expected such outcomes and impacts.   I should add that the support from the OVC team has been simply phenomenal.  In conclusion, I highly recommend the Venture Challenge.

Image  —  Posted: December 11, 2015 in BUSI 2800, Entrepreneurship
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I am teaching a course new to me this term.  The course is an entry level, 2nd year course on entrepreneurship, and the first in our suite of entrepreneurship courses for our  Sprott School of Business B. Comm concentration in Entrepreneurship and minor in Entrepreneurship. This course is open to all, therefore students in the class are exposed to a great variety of educational programs, backgrounds and experiences.

I have decided to pilot a new initiative in this course this term.  Teams of four students launch a real online business, supported by Online Venture Challenge, an online gamified learning platform partnered with Shopify and developed by Prof. Geoff Archer from Royal Roads University in Victoria, BC, Canada.

This is a unique experiential approach: each team selects a charity organization to give their profits to. Teams brainstorm potential business ideas for products or services and launch their online stores on Shopify.  There is a competition among teams as well as a pitching event.  At the end of the term, profits will go to the selected charity organizations.

At  Sprott School of Business, we believe that students  learn best about entrepreneurship by doing entrepreneurship…  As such, they will learn valuable marketable skills such as ideation, feasibility assessment, business models, minimal viable products, social media tools and an integrated communication strategy, team work, role of a CFO and much more.

I will update on the progress!

I’m glad to report that overall, our pedagogical approach to teaching entrepreneurship at Sprott School of Business (Carleton University) is working well and bearing fruit.  Students are excited and engaged.  They are creative, resilient, collaborative and motivated to work hard and succeed. Lots of enthusiasm and energy too!

I have to admit that I was a bit weary of introducing a lot of new business approaches to teaching entrepreneurship but it turned out to be a very good move.  We want our students to ‘live’ an entrepreneurship experience, not only ‘learn’ about it.  We obviously do not expect all students to start their own company while still in school (but some do and are quite successful at it!). Essentially, the expected end game of our entrepreneurship offering is for students to either own a high-growth startup within three years after completing their bachelor degree, or to work for a startup or an organization that fosters entrepreneurship.

I’ve been teaching three entrepreneurship courses this academic year, all essentially revamped from previous years or new.  Within our entrepreneurship programs, we have ensured a logical path and have aligned content across our entrepreneurship offering so that students can progress from ideation to business creation and implementation.  We have capitalized on new business thinking and methods –  ideation, business model generation, value proposition, early validation –  using material from Steve Blank, Bob Dorf, Eric Ries, Osterwalder & Pigneur and many others. We are using a blended learning environment, making learning an individual as well as a collaborative learning experience.  Our assignments are part and parcel of the development and implementation of their business opportunities.  We have also offered high quality workshops from people in the trenches, and have mobilized our entrepreneurship ecosystem, within and outside of Carleton University, to support our student entrepreneurs.  Our brand new Carleton Accelerator is now up and running and we are celebrating successes!

Peer-to-peer learning is an important aspect of our entrepreneurship pedagogy. That last aspect in fact never ceases to amaze me…. students are really willing to help each other out and share their best practices, insights and lessons learned. So on this last note, I’ve asked my students to share their reflection on successes and setbacks in developing their business opportunity.  This is not a superficial reflection but rather an in-depth coverage of the challenges and successes in applying what they have learned in this course (and previous entrepreneurship courses) to their business opportunity.  Essentially a ‘memoir’ of sort for the next generation of student entrepreneurs.

I am looking forward to reading their reports!

stay tuned….

An excellent use of 2 minutes of your time to understand a multi-sided markets – using Google and its business model.

Steve Blank

If you can’t see the video click here

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I am quite excited about my new function as Assistant Professor, Global Entrepreneurship at Carleton University – Sprott School of Business and teaching entrepreneurship courses using new pedagogical approaches.  In particular, I’ll be using the Startup Owner’s Manual from Blank and Dorf (2012) and the Business Model Generation text from Pigneur and Osterwalder (2010).  Several colleagues teaching at Sprott and elsewhere have adopted such approaches to teaching entrepreneurship and are quite enthusiastic about their early successes.  In addition, with all online resources available from Blank and others, it becomes a great opportunity to go with a blended learning approach.  At Sprott, we really believe in having students experience entrepreneurship rather than only learning about it.  Along with our ecosystem and support mechanisms, we are confident that we can help students develop their entrepreneurial minds.

I’ll report on our progress in future blogs!

Innovative and high-growth firms need access to capital to ensure success.   In addition to the typical start-up sources of capital – love money, crowdsourcing, angels and the maze of public sector  support,  such firms – early – and late-stages, need access to venture capital (VC) funds.  In Canada, as in most other OECD countries, equity provided in the form of venture capital decreased between 2007 and 2009 and rose slightly in 2010 (OECD 2012). Canada’s venture capital industry has been challenged on a number of fronts in recent years, including persistent poor returns that have led to low fundraising and have limited the amount of capital available to fuel the growth off Canadian start-up businesses (Canada’s Economic Action Plan). In the technology sector, venture capital declined steadily following the tech bubble burst of the early 2000, and returns on investments have been dismal since.   Consequently many high-tech firms are often forced to go south of the border to access US venture capital, leading to a lost of Canadian tech talent to places like Silicon Valley.

Canadian VC investment activity remained at a steady state in 2012 compared to 2011: $1.47 billion in 2012 vs. $1.51 billion in 2011, in about 458 firms each year. Total deal sizes under $1 million represented nearly half of all deals completed in 2012, a continuation of a trend that has become more pronounced in recent years. Software and Internet-focused firms captured about half of VC investments in 2012 (Industry Canada).  Some predicts that 2013 will see  the VC landscape in Canada shifting.  Of note, the federal government’s announced last January  the Venture Capital Action plan, a comprehensive strategy for deploying the $400 Million in new capital over the next 7 to 10 years, which is expected to attract close to $1 billion in new private sector investments in funds of funds (Canada’s Economic Action Plan).

Questions to ponder:

1) What are the overall goals and mechanisms of the Government of Canada’s Venture Capital Action Plan announced in its Economic Action Plan 2012 ?

2) What are the key VC funds in Canada?

3) What are the key VC funds in the US?

4) How would you characterize the Canadian VC funds versus the US VC funds?

5) What are some of the trends happening on the Canadian VC scene?


Canada’s Economic Action Plan – Venture Capital Action Plan

Industry Canada, Venture Capital Monitor

OECD 2012, ‘Canada’, in Financing SMEs and Entrepreneurs 2012: An OECD Scoreboard, OECD Publishing. http:://

The transformation of the book publishing industry.  

Traditional publishers are most interested in books they can print in quantity for sale to large audiences.  However, like in so many other industries, the business model of the traditional book publishing industry has really evolved recently. Take for instance, a company launched in 2002 and  offering self-publishing, printing, and distribution services, and headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Its business model has enabled anyone to publish. has a unique business model.  Innovation in business models does create value, and is generally cheaper than product and technology innovations.   Countless companies  such as IKEA, Dell and Zipcar are highly successful due to innovative business models.

Questions (2nd individual reflection for my 3810 students but open to all to comment):

  1. What is unique about’s business model compared to more traditional book publishers?
  2. How does create value to customers?
  3. What do you consider’s competitive advantages to be?