Professional headshot of MBET student
Thursday, May 23, 2024

Cultivating collaboration: the key to unlocking the entrepreneurial ecosystem

by Kailimi Li

Beginning a journey that commenced in the realms of healthcare research and academia, I found myself drawn to the dynamic world of entrepreneurship—a path that would lead me to new challenges, opportunities, and ultimately, to the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) program.

My name is Kailimi Li, and I invite you to join me as I recount my transformational experiences and the pivotal role of collaboration in navigating the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

After completing my PhD at UMass-Amherst, I ventured into presenting papers at conferences and conducting workshops within my field. However, a growing desire to expand my impact pushed me towards new horizons. Transitioning to a role in Shanghai, China, I secured funding and cultivated networks to translate my research into tangible solutions. It was amidst these challenges that the spark of entrepreneurship ignited within me. This pivotal moment spurred me to explore fresh avenues, leading me to the discovery of the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) program.

The MBET program offers an interdisciplinary curriculum that blends business, entrepreneurship, and technology. Through a combination of coursework and hands-on projects, students gain practical experience and develop a comprehensive skill set to thrive in the dynamic world of entrepreneurship. The program emphasizes experiential learning while providing students with opportunities to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world challenges.

Professional headshot of MBET student

One of the key successes of collaboration is how MBET offers extensive networking opportunities, connecting students with industry leaders, mentors, and potential collaborators, fostering a supportive and collaborative environment for personal and professional growth.

As part of the MBET program, I had the opportunity to intern with Amber French, the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Catalyst Commons. Catalyst Commons is a major incubator in the Kitchener-Waterloo region built by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. This was a valuable experience that allowed me to gain practical insights into entrepreneurship and connect with professionals in the field.

For a span of four months, I fully immersed myself in the vibrant atmosphere of this dynamic incubator, where I not only acquired practical experience but also received invaluable mentorship from seasoned entrepreneurs and industry experts. This internship offered me the opportunity to engage closely with startup teams, provide strategic guidance, conduct comprehensive market research, and actively contribute to various business development initiatives. Moreover, the incubator's rich ecosystem facilitated extensive networking prospects, enabling me to forge connections with fellow entrepreneurs, potential investors, and collaborative partners.

Undoubtedly, this incubator internship proved to be a transformative journey, significantly enhancing my entrepreneurial acumen while expanding my professional network.

During a networking event hosted at Catalyst Commons, serendipity struck as I connected with a promising startup. Teaming up with my classmate Mahima Ghotra, we assumed roles as part-time project managers and marketing coordinators for this venture. Together, we delved into market research, crafted innovative marketing strategies, curated engaging content for social media platforms, and orchestrated impactful promotional events to bolster brand recognition and drive customer engagement.

students pitching venture at competition

Fuelled by our shared passion for innovation, we embarked on our own entrepreneurial endeavour, birthing SafeRest—an innovative health tech venture dedicated to preventing Alzheimer's patients from wandering away from their beds. With great joy and pride, we recently clinched a spot among the top 20 finalists in the StartUp Lab competition.

Throughout this period, I've had the privilege of serving as the Entrepreneurship Advisor to students enrolled in Professor Wayne Chang’s BET 300 course and the Enterprise Co-op program. In this capacity, I've had the rewarding opportunity to mentor and guide students as they navigate their entrepreneurial journeys. What's more, interacting with these aspiring entrepreneurs has not only allowed me to impart knowledge and support but has also provided me with a platform to learn from their innovative ideas and confront their unique challenges.

Our initiatives have extended beyond the classroom, as we've organized numerous field trips to prominent incubators in our vicinity, including GreenHouse and the Accelerator Centre, as well as ventures farther afield like OneEleven in Toronto. These excursions have proven to be invaluable, offering firsthand exposure to the intricacies of the startup ecosystem. By immersing ourselves in these environments, we've gained practical insights that have deepened our understanding of entrepreneurship and fortified our capacity to cultivate a collaborative and nurturing environment for budding entrepreneurs.

As I conclude my journey in the MBET program, I am filled with gratitude for the invaluable experiences and connections that have shaped my entrepreneurial path. Through collaboration and support, I have witnessed firsthand the power of community in propelling innovative ideas forward. As I step into the next chapter of my venture, I am excited to continue fostering collaboration and contributing to the vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem that has become my home.

Together we can unlock new possibilities and create a future filled with innovation and growth!