MBET Ignition Week 2015: An experience like no other

When discussing the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, many people point out that “there’s something in the water in Waterloo.” During MBET Ignition Week, the incoming MBET class was invited to take a sip. Driven by their curiosity, ambition, and passion, the class had the chance to really explore for themselves what that statement is all about.

Rayan and team at workWhat I have seen at the Conrad Centre in this past week is nothing short of extraordinary. From the moment the business day starts, the faculty and staff at Conrad devote themselves to the pursuit of inspiring, educating, and leading a group of students who have made the commitment to learn about business, entrepreneurship, and technology using a pragmatic and structured approach that only the MBET program can deliver.

A spirit of collaboration

Students working on creativity challengeI am sure that the incoming MBET class (myself included) arrived at the Conrad Centre very eager to build on their business ideas as soon as possible. What I didn’t realize going into the program, however, was that the MBET faculty and staff were also building something: not a product or service, but a certain type of person.

What I mean to say is that everyone I met at MBET this past week left a lasting impression on me. They eagerly gave me practical advice from their professional lives and work experiences that contributed to my understanding of what the characteristics of a great entrepreneur really are.

MBET students and faculty at BBQThe day before Ignition Week began I was reflecting on why the University of Waterloo and the Kitchener-Waterloo region as a whole are such a hotbed for entrepreneurial spirit and overall technological innovation.

I began to find the answer to this question as Prof. Mark Weber and Prof. Howard Armitage addressed our incoming class by emphasizing that the culture at the University of Waterloo is one that is eager to help those in need and make time for those who are passionate about getting their ideas off the ground. They went on to state that the opposite is also true; if someone is not willing to help others, then they will very quickly find that others will not be willing to help them.

This concept of collaboration and teamwork is written into the DNA of all individuals in the Waterloo Region (beginning from the area's Mennonite roots!), and it is one of the many secrets behind the tech success stories found in this magical place that I will call home over the next year.

Re-defining what makes an entrepreneur

As the week progressed, I found that my concept of what makes an entrepreneur was constantly being challenged. I confronted my weaknesses and embraced my strengths through the results of a FourSight Model survey that seemed to know me a little too well.

Collaborating on an Ignition Week challengeFurthermore, I discovered that simply having a bright idea and compelling value proposition isn’t enough to help me reach an audience. This is because the business model is just as important as the idea itself. Tools such as the business model canvas really help to fine-tune an idea and give it a concise focus. The result is an idea that is structurally sound and easily understandable.

We put the business model canvas into action during the Ignition Week Challenge, in which teams were given the task of devising a venture which would contribute to a future free of carbon emissions. This actually resulted in many laughable moments during our Ignition Week Challenge video presentations, which I don't think anybody in the class will ever forget!

I find myself more eager to begin the first week of classes after experiencing Ignition Week. I’m ready to tackle business problems with a more informed perspective and a fantastic team of faculty, staff and fellow students behind me.

About Rayan Yousif

Photo of Rayan YousifRayan Yousif is a recent graduate from the B.Comm Program at the University of Toronto (Accounting Specialist, Economics Major) who came to MBET because of his desire to focus on business problems from an entrepreneurial and team-based perspective.

After graduation, he worked in an accounting firm setting but was inspired to pursue the business ideas he had worked on in undergraduate studies, and decided that MBET was the perfect place to make that happen. 

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