UIT mak­ing changes

IT startup pi­lot pro­gram ses­sion ended on Thurs­day.

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHRIS SHAN­NON cshan­non@cb­post.com

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.

CHRIS SHAN­NON/CAPE BRE­TON POST

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.

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