The University of Winnipeg is dipping its toes into the entrepreneurship game through a partnership with the Manitoba Technology Accelerator.
The 10-month pilot project will determine the level of demand and the right kinds of services needed to establish an entrepreneurship and technology accelerator on the university’s campus.
The not-for-profit organization will set up an office on campus for would-be entrepreneurs to come for guidance and support.
"We have always wanted to be more involved in the entrepreneurship side of our business degree," said Sylvie Albert, the dean of the faculty of business and economics. "In the past, we have offered courses, but we are seeing more students coming and saying they want to start a business. Some of them need a little support in terms of understanding what they need to do. Others are needing access to a network in order to find sources of financing or get their first contracts."
Both University of Manitoba and Red River College have had growing entrepreneurship programs for several years. The U of W’s business faculty does have entrepreneurship courses, and Albert said she figured this would be a good time to venture into developing acceleration and incubation services on campus.
"So we went and got the experts," she said. "The people at MTA have been doing this for a long time."
Among other success stories, the business accelerator helped nurture the growth of Skip the Dishes, which was recently sold to a U.K. company for what will likely be about $200 million.
Marshall Ring, the chief executive officer of MTA, said it’s main focus is typically in commercializing technology.
"But what we expect to find at the U of W is that there is going to be more of a focus on entrepreneurship," he said.
"Some might want to start a social enterprise or a charity. It might be around a great cause, but there might not be disruptive technology to commercialize. But the skills set is the same — understanding the business, understanding the resource, making the proper business plan. It’s a slightly different focus from MTA’s core principles."
The business accelerator’s presence at the U of W will be assisted by the presence of the U of W business faculty’s executive in residence, Ab Freig, who has been associated with the accelerator for about four years, working with a company called Triple 3 Biotechnology.
"We will do our usual crawl, walk, run... not a lot of fanfare," Ring said. "We will be there maybe an afternoon a week. It will be open door. We’ll circulate out (at the U of W) where we think some technology may be residing — in the computer science and physics groups — and communicate what we are trying to do."