Posts Tagged ‘Entrepreneurship’

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.


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….

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:://

Technology entrepreneurship rarely succeeds in isolation; increasingly, it occurs in interconnected networks of business partners and other organizations. For entrepreneurs lacking access to an established business ecosystem, incubators and accelerators provide a possible support mechanism for access to partners and resources. Yet, these relatively recent approaches to supporting entrepreneurship are still evolving. Therefore, it can be challenging for entrepreneurs to assess these mechanisms and to make insightful decisions on whether or not to join an incubator or accelerator, and which incubator or accelerator best meets their needs.

In a recent article in Technology and Innovation Management Review, I discuss five key factors that entrepreneurs should take into consideration about incubators and accelerators are offered. Insights are drawn from two surveys of managers and users of incubators and accelerators. An understanding of these five key success factors (stage of venture, fit with incubator’s mission, selection and graduation policies, services provided, and network of partners) and potential pitfalls will help entrepreneurs confidently enter into a relationship with an incubator or accelerator.

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