Forty-two students from Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM) in Mexico spent the month of July immersed in the Waterloo entrepreneurship ecosystem during the Conrad Centre's annual summer entrepreneurship bootcamp. The bootcamp, now in its fourth year, is one of many Conrad outreach programs that share Waterloo's unique model of entrepreneurship education with international audiences.
Students take part in one month of intensive workshops, hands-on activities, and visits to start-ups and innovation sites, then team up to develop and pitch their own ventures. The hands-on nature of the program is the key to its value, according to ITESM professor Hector Arellano.
"At the Conrad Centre, they not only learn about entrepreneurship, they live it."
The program instills an entrepreneurial mindset in students, which they take back to the 29 ITESM campuses across Mexico from which they hail. Professor Arellano, who is the director of the mechatronics engineering department at ITESM campus Leon, sees the difference in his students.
"Students approach the time they spend in Waterloo with the intent of making the most out of it. After the program, they see entrepreneurship differently."
Building a social venture to tackle water shortages
For Agustín Perez Hermosìllo, the summer entrepreneurship bootcamp at Conrad provided a perfect launching pad for his social venture. His idea, an artificial tree to collect, filter, and store rainwater for non-drinking purposes, was originally conceived during a course on climate change he took last year. If installed on boulevards and in city parks, the trees could form an alternative water source for cities like Mexico City who currently pipe in their water. Ultimately, Agustín hopes this venture will help to alleviate severe water shortages facing Mexico as early as 2030.
The workshops have given him a solid framework to build his venture on. "I've developed a more open mind to solving problems in a different way," he explains. "I've learned to develop a plan, get feedback, and iterate."
Meeting successful entrepreneurs and watching ambitious Waterloo startup teams pitch at the Velocity Fund Finals was also a source of inspiration.
"After this program, I am more confident in my belief that with a great idea, the right team, and the right focus, I can achieve what I set out to do."
Building skills for the future
Industrial engineering student Citlalli Santamaria also developed confidence in pitching her ideas and expressing herself in English throughout the program.
"I've learned a lot about how to sell your idea and connect your idea to what the customer needs," she says. She will apply this knowledge while developing her business idea for a dehydrated fruit company that intends to reduce food waste and popularize dried fruit as a snacking option in Mexico.
In addition to new venture creation, the program also gave students a firsthand look at how entrepreneurial principles are put into practice in large companies. One highlight was a session with Enrique Nunez, Quality Engineering Manager at Toyota Canada. Following an in-class workshop on process (which involved some hands-on experiments using Lego), students toured the Toyota plant where they saw lean manufacturing processes in action and experienced how entrepreneurship is connected to the company philosophy.
Citlalli notes that the skills she has learned in the program will also transfer to her engineering job. "I will use the presentation skills I've developed when sharing results and analysis with clients."
The program concluded with a pitch competition judged by Rodrigo Contreras of ProMexico, Catherine Bischoff, Associate Director of Outreach and International Programs, Jhotisha Mugon, Program Coordinator, and MBET alumni Daniel Seara and Horacio Moreno Arevelo. Ideas ranged from an app to connect tourists with the best nightlife in town, to a new leather alternative made from agave by-products, to a sugar-free food franchise to tackle the number one cause of death in Mexico, diabetes.
Upon their return to their respective campuses, these forty-two students will bring 'the Waterloo way' with them as they go forward with ambition and energy to develop solutions to big problems through entrepreneurship.
It’s wonderful to see how the students acquired the confidence in their English, business skills, and pitching within a short time frame. This program empowers students with multifaceted backgrounds to think differently and build a more global perspective.
- Catherine Bischoff, Associate Director, Outreach and International Programs
Learn more about Outreach programs at the Conrad Centre.