UIT making changes
IT startup pilot program session ended on Thursday.
The laptops are now closed and PowerPoint presentations turned off on the 10-month UIT startup immersion pilot program at the New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation in Sydney.
Introduced last fall to students interested in becoming an IT startup entrepreneur, the UIT program, in partnership with Cape Breton University, offered 12 students a combination of self-directed and structured learning as they applied the technical and business skills used by some of the world's most successful startups.
In preparation for the next student cohort in September, Mike Targett, UIT’s executive director, said the program must become more flexible to meet the needs of its students.
With a larger group of 20 students, a 10-month program will transition in to two, threemonth blocks.
The structure of the pilot kept some students and working professionals from applying to the program, he said.
Still, UIT had gender parity with six men and six women of various ages, different backgrounds and skill levels enrolled.
“We had amazing diversity this year,” Targett said.
“We had people who had experience running their own business and we had people who never had any real exposure to business in their life.
“We had people who were already pretty good computer programmers and people who had never written a line of code in their life. Those kinds of disparities created an amazing diversity in the class so we’re trying to recreate that again this year.”
He said students would only be expected to be in class for full days on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays this fall.
It will include a one-month break between semesters in December to early January. Following graduation in April, students will still be able to access UIT’s resources if they’re preparing to launch their startup.
The program provides 45 credits toward a degree at CBU’s Shannon School of Business.
“They’ll be able to use that time to apply for any, perhaps venture capital funding, that they might be looking for,” said Targett.
“Or they can apply to get into an incubator the following year, or use that time to seek employment with an existing company.”
Colin MacInnis and Brian Best are on their way to launching their first tech startup, Phased.io.
The two created the web browser extension to aid small businesses as they grow by keeping the knowledge base in the company even with the turnover of valued employees. The software is also meant to encourage succession planning.
MacInnis, who is from Glace Bay, and Best, a native of Toronto, have been working on their startup throughout the course of the UIT pilot.
The idea took off following a presentation to the One Nova Scotia coalition in January. The coalition is developing a 10-year plan to turn around the province’s dismal economy where entrepreneurship is at the forefront.
Phased.io is now at a point where the men are preparing to launch the small business tool. They’ve already secured office space in downtown Sydney.
For Best it marked a major life change since he wasn’t planning on staying in Cape Breton beyond August.
The overhead cost in operating a company was key to staying here.
“It totally makes more sense to keep this business here,” Best said.
“There’s so much more of a focus (on entrepreneurship), especially with the new MLA elected, Derek Mombourquette, a very good focus on starting new businesses here on the island and that’s huge.”
Mombourquette was the coordinator of the Island Sandbox, which is a partnership of Cape Breton University and the Nova Scotia Community College Marconi Campus to cultivate and support entrepreneurship in the province.
The community support is another benefit to staying in Sydney, MacInnis said.
“The resources here in Cape Breton surpass any we would get elsewhere.”
Best said they’re aiming to launch Phased.io sometime in the fall for a national audience, with the potential to take it to the international stage as the product catches on.
The other 10 students in the class have also seen success.
Colin MacInnis, left, and Brian Best make their final presentation of the school year Wednesday at UIT, located in the New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation in Sydney. The UIT 2014-15 pilot cohort, comprised of 12 students, closed out the year on Thursday. The next larger student cohort of 20 students will begin classes in September in two, three-month blocks to offer participants more flexibility than the just completed 10-month program.