Having our startup accepted into the inaugural cohort of the Toronto NEXT pre-accelerator program, powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, was an exhilarating moment for me and my co-founder Hussam Ayyad.
Our experience: Ohzone at Toronto NEXT
This was my first experience at an accelerator program of any sort. Compared to my background in engineering and working in the corporate sector, the startup space is a different ball game altogether. Startups require you to develop a process and structure conducive to your business, rather than follow an established process or structure as you do in the corporate world. The Toronto NEXT program provided great support as it guided me through the necessary processes for validating our business idea.
The program is the only one of its kind; it sets up startups for participation in renowned business incubators. Throughout the program, we were provided with valuable feedback from mentors and encouraged to follow Steve Blank's methodology, to “get out of the building and get customer validation.”
Since Ohzone is a concept stage startup, we utilized the NEXT program to focus our efforts on customer and market validation and gain key insights on improving our value proposition.
The mentors were extremely valuable. They critically discussed each aspect of our business and made us confirm our assumptions by talking directly to our customers and end users. The program was also a great networking opportunity as I could connect with University of Waterloo alumni and became more familiar with the startup environment in Toronto and the support systems offered there.
Impact of MBET
The value we've gained from our coursework in the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) program was reinforced during our journey in the NEXT program. I think our knowledge from MBET provided me and Hussam with a unique edge as participants throughout the program's five weeks in Toronto.
MBET courses such as New Technology-based Venture Creation (BET 604) help you improve your pitch delivery. And the frameworks learned in the Strategically Managing the Entrepreneurial Organization (BET 601) course played a vital role in team Ohzone being noticed for its presentation skills and knowledge.
The learning-by-doing experience that MBET facilitates certainly provided me with the confidence and diligence I needed to handle the mentors' questions and complete the deliverables required for this intensive program.
About the NEXT pre-accelerator program
The NEXT pre-accelerator program is designed to help startup companies validate their business ideas and build a minimum viable product (MVP) that best exemplifies the potential value of a startup to its customers and end users. The program is held in major cities globally and is unique in its purpose to help groom startups to compete for space in renowned business incubators such as TechStars and Y Combinator.
Mrinay Nair has lived and worked in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and North America, gaining diverse work experience in computer engineering, consulting, and information technology.
Before coming to MBET, Mrinay worked for companies such as McKinsey, Intel, and a summer university program hosted by IBM in Germany. Mrinay envisions himself using his entrepreneurial skills to solve global issues.
He co-founded Ohzone with fellow MBET student Hussam Ayyad.
Ohzone is a platform that offers instant, highly secure payment method alternatives for both banked and unbanked customers worldwide.