We acknowledge that we live and work on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. The University of Waterloo is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land promised to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River.
In February we attended the National Business and Technology Conference (NBTC), a two-day conference in Toronto that is described as “a meeting place for tomorrow’s influencers and today’s changemakers who operate at the intersection of business and technology.” NBTC is well known for its balanced mixture of keynotes, workshops, and the chance to meet the right people and explore new opportunities during the ongoing Career Expo.
An EPIC opening with Andy Yang of 500px
The conference began with an opening keynote by Andy Yang from 500px, who introduced the “EPIC Judgement Framework.” Throughout various stages of his personal career, he described the importance of Experience & Education, the underlying value for Principles & Philosophy, the importance of trusting your Instincts & Intuition, and the necessity of relying on Community & Colleagues.
As an entrepreneur, one is faced with situations in which it is extremely important to value judgment, whether it is your own or that of experts within your organization. Thus, part of the philosophy or principle of an entrepreneur should always be working with high character people. Yang also stressed that every entrepreneur should internalize and trust his or her own intuition to read people; what people think is not necessarily always what they say.
In perfect alignment with our own experiences within the Waterloo and Toronto tech community, Yang stressed that being part of a strong community is essential to every startup and also to every organization.
Students take the stage for pitch competition
The conference hosts business competitions in Big Data, Health Tech, Financial Tech, as well as an entrepreneurship challenge. In past years, entrepreneurship challenge participants have gone on to be acquired by Google (BufferBox), win TechCrunch Disrupt (Voltera), and be listed in Forbes 30 Under 30 (Tunezy).
Pitching in the entrepreneurship challenge gave us the opportunity to gain valuable pitch prep experience, public speaking practice, increased public recognition for the project, and the chance to win money for further project development. Overall, we were able to take away valuable feedback from independent judges with diverse tech expertise, while also improving our pitches through real-time competition.
The Future of E-Commerce, Built by YOU
Amin Bashi, Product Manager from Shopify, opened up an interesting and engaging discussion about the future of e-commerce, and shopping in general. Surprisingly, a large amount of shoppers are doing their errands during regular work hours. The question arises, why are people not working, but shopping? How does shopping blend into their daily lives?
Catching myself in class during a moment when I should be paying attention to the lecturer rather than my Amazon shopping list, I realize that we as humans just love to shop, anytime, anywhere. Messengers and social platforms like Facebook, Whatsapp, Kik, and WeChat are starting to enhance the messaging experience with e-commerce and content delivery. Technology trends like virtual and augmented reality are lifting the overall retail experience and customer engagement to a completely new level.
Bringing the spirit of MBET to NBTC
Another pitch opportunity came in the form of the Conrad Innovation Challenge. This competition helped not only to increase awareness about the Conrad Centre in general and the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) program in particular, but it also helped participants to interact with each other and try to collectively devise creative solution to a challenging global problem: pre-consumption food waste.
The winning team reached out to an industry expert in Pakistan, verifying that about 35% of food production is being wasted. Through a distribution network, the team proposed that they would purchase the produce that couldn't be sold due to aesthetic defects, then process these foods into alternative products to sell locally. A portion of the revenue generated would be transferred back to the farmers to provide an additional income source.
This workshop helped to incite interaction between NBTC participants and the Conrad Centre, highlight a pressing world problem, and introduce the spirit of the MBET program to the NBTC community.
Alexandru Gogan is a full stack-developer who loves technology, travelling, and photography. He completed his undergraduate degree in Information Management Systems in Germany, as well as a postgraduate degree in Advanced Computing in Scotland. After working as a consultant and developer for four years, Alexandru joined the MBET program to transfer his skills and bring innovation to large organizations.
Misha Kopyl holds a Master in International Economics and Business from Conrad University of Budapest and has worked for the last three years as a business consultant and investment analyst. At the same time, in 2013 Misha established his own venture, BrainClass, which provides entertaining educational courses for students. Misha joined the MBET program to accelerate his venture and gain competitive knowledge about developing tech startups.