The Secret to the Ryerson Entrepreneurship Program's Success

Posted by Louis Rheaume

Dr. Steven Gedeon is the director of the Ryerson Entrepreneurship program, a university-based startup incubator.  This program is having great success with the involvement of the students, who are becoming entrepreneurs.  In a recent presentation in Montreal for a Capital Innovation conference, Dr. Gedeon explained some of the key factors helping in the growth of the program.

So far, the program has had 82 projects, which have created 86 startups and 200 new jobs.  Angel investors invested around $500,000 in Ryerson Entrepreneurship projects thus far.

Dr. Gedeon suggests that the energy of the students choosing projects they want and getting passionate is at the project’s core.  They have similar interests than angel investors, who are deciding with whom they want to invest and support, or they can get back to travel, sailing or golf, if they don’t find it.

Business students who are becoming entrepreneurs can use critical resources to reach their startup's goals: top facilities, human resources support in marketing, events, funding, mentors, and angels investors offering advices and/or money. As Dr. Gedeon suggests, “students entrepreneurs are not afraid of failures and trying new projects.  What are you going to say to a student? Bad idea? Just pick another one. They are the real 'customers” of this program.'"

Ryerson Ted Rogers Business School is the largest business school in Canada. The entrepreneurship program has 14 full-time teachers and about 500 students are taking entrepreneurship courses.  The program has 25 people dedicated to marketing and 40 people organizing over 80 events each year. They also have a videography team with a YouTube channel and a business development team. The last Demo Day brought around 500 people: angel investors, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and media. They are also doing some Startup Weekend events.

A key element for students who want to create a startup is the advice from the program. It filters the bad ideas, while it is supporting the whole process of business creation, from legal advices, business models assessment, marketing, events promotion and funding.

Dr. Gedeon had an interesting point with start-up business valuations: “According to the VC, I should not tell it, but you know, in doing a valuation of an emerging startup we are making that up!” Thus, valuation negotiations between entrepreneurs, angel investors or VC are very subjective, and are more an art than a science.

The program is also implementing a $7 million fund for clean energy projects and has also a $25,000 business plan competition, a $25,000 contest for social entrepreneurship.  It offers as well grants and micro-loans for its students, and for some international cooperation projects like implementing a credit union in Kenya.

The program is associated with a network of 42 angel investors, who supported around 300 students/entrepreneurs.

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Louis Rheaume

Louis Rheaume

Mr. Rhéaume has the scholarity of a doctorate in business administration, concentration in strategic management, innovation management and corporate finance. He holds a Master’s degree in finance. He has numerous years of experience in consulting, strategy, financial analysis and business intelligence, mainly in the telecommunications and computing industries. He has also been a researcher in... more




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