The Founder Project is expanding to Toronto according to founder Ilan Saks.
The fund began as a simple idea while Saks was working for Montreal-based venture capital (VC) firm Real Ventures. Now The Founder Project has grown to 30 ‘student VCs’ throughout Montreal, Toronto and Halifax.
Toronto’s launch is set for June 20th at Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ).
“We are coming to Toronto to set the student startup ecosystem on fire,” Saks told Techvibes. “Students can and will build the next game changing tech companies.”
The launch will feature The Founder Project’s new Toronto team, so far comprised of 10 members, as well as appearances from prominent Canadian entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. These include Wind Mobile’s Brice Scheschuk, Trend Hunter’s Marcus Daniels, Eugene Bomba of PwC LLP as well as representatives from OMERS Ventures and other firms.
The group is currently raising a fund of $500,000 to make micro, seed-stage investments of $10,000- $15,000 in student startups across Canada.
In five months The Founder Project has influenced the creation of 85 startups. One of those companies was invited to join the current cohort at InCubes while two others have received term sheets. Saks has been pleased with the initiative’s progress thus far. “It’s absolutely remarkable and it’s been an incredible roller coaster ride,” said the 24-year-old. “I think were going to make a significant difference not only in the startup ecosystem in Canada but in driving innovation and growth in Canada’s economy.”
The former McGill student said he wanted to create The Founder Project so that students would be encouraged to start their own companies rather than immediately working for a large firm following graduation. At several speaking engagements Saks explained that had he known that Montreal’s startup centre, Notman House, was just a ten-minute walk away from his school, he would have jumped at the chance to immerse himself. Why then, he reasoned, shouldn’t today’s students be given those opportunities?
Along with the group’s quick growth has been the appointment of two general managers in Montreal and Toronto, in Yasmina Soussi and Emily Luk, respectively. Luk said that students in Toronto have the passion and dedication, and The Founder Project will support them. “We want to help these students by being there every step of the way and to help remove barriers and increase the probability of success,” she said.
Ideally Saks wants to see The Founder Project prevalent in every major Canadian city. With a handful of willing students Halifax is the next city to be announced as a new chapter. Calgary and Vancouver are also in the pipeline but no definitive date has been set for launches.
Of course, this all depends on raising the $500,000 fund, which has yet to be completed. The organization has secured sponsorship dollars from several big names including Google, Microsoft, Fasken Martineau, Real Ventures, and FounderFuel.
The team has little doubt that they’ll accomplish their goals though. According to Saks, every week serves as more encouragement. “There’s one specific instance that comes back every time and it’s at our weekly student meetings where I can see it in the faces of each student,” said Saks. “It’s the passion they have for this thing, being part of a team and driving innovation and growth across Canada that gets me every single time.”