Fuelling entrepreneurs for success at Enterprise Co-op Ignition Week

E Co-op students in Conrad shirtsIn the Enterprise Co-op (E Co-op) program, students dedicate their co-op term to building their companies full-time.

To make sure these student entrepreneurs are well-equipped to take on the challenge, the Conrad Centre hosts Ignition Week, an entire week of workshops, tours, and networking opportunities within the local entrepreneurial community.

A few of the E Co-op students share the highlights of the week.

Day 1: Pitching to win $5,000

The fall 2015 E Co-op Ignition Week journey began at the Tatham Centre. Instead of the usual crowd of students in suits and ties prepping for interviews, the building was buzzing with student entrepreneurs ready to deliver five-minute pitches of their startups, with $5,000 each on the line for the top five pitches.

David Qian and team with cheque

The ideas for these startups ranged from defusing mines in Cambodia using robotics, to upgrading the pork industry of Ontario, to reinventing the energy grid. Rapid fire pitches were delivered by each startup, and the judges had an array of highly prepped pitches to choose from.

-David Qin, Electrical Engineering 

Day 2: Connecting with the local ecosystem

The second day of Ignition week began at the Tannery. Right away, we were given the task of creating a short value proposition for our company which would pique investors' interests. With that in mind, we started the morning with Margaret Cichosz (Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology alumna) who delivered a pitch for her company, Apartmint.

Margaret explained the difference between VCs and Angel investors, and used her presentation to show what investors are looking for in a pitch. 

After that, we toured the Tannery and learned about the resources that Velocity and Communitech offer. 

-Mandy Gu, Math and Business Double Degree

Day 3: Delving into the details of UX design

Students chatting at Stratford campusFirst thing in the morning, the E Co-ops took the bus all the way to the University of Waterloo's Stratford campus.

We started the morning with a session by Karin Schmidlin, UW Stratford professor and manager of Conrad's Virtual Incubation Program. Karin explained that user experience (UX) isn't just about a product's interface but also encompasses how users feel and their overall experience with our products and services.

Later, we had to actually implement the lessons we learned from Karin in a small workshop where we made wallets for each other!

-Sankarshan Mudkavi, Mathematical Physics

Day 4: Tapping into local expertise 

Day Four began with a presentation by Todd Bissett, a Senior Partner at Miller Thomson law firm. Todd spoke about his experiences representing many startups in the Waterloo region and answered questions about legal issues.

The second session consisted of a detailed presentation by Kevin Hood, a marketing and sales specialist in the Accelerator Centre. Finally, the last session, presented by Joani Gerber, outlined the several programs offered by the Accelerator Centre, including the Jump Start and Momentum programs.

All in all, we got an idea of the different services offered within the Conrad building and learned about our options for the future of our startups.

-Motaz Al-Ashhab, Management Engineering

Day 5: Learning the art of the cold call

Day Five kicked off with a session by Maralyn from FuturesFound. She provided a lot of help with identifying my strengths and weaknesses as an entrepreneur. She also helped us to understand that there can be very different metrics for success in the world of entrepreneurship.

Our second workshop of the day was sales research. Joe from Steward flew in to Toronto just for us, and we were all very glad that he did. We developed strategies for writing an effective value proposition, cold emailing potential customers, and effectively searching LinkedIn for people who might be interesting to us. He even went so far as to show us how we can get contact information for these people with near 100% accuracy, which was a huge plus.

This was an awesome week, and I can’t wait to see what the term brings.

-Andrew Leest, Kinesiology 

Ready to pursue YOUR venture idea full-time? Come out to one of our E Co-op information sessions to learn more. 

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