Niagarabuzz of WeChat Interviews BioLinc

Startup at BioLinc! Want to startup a business and immigrate to Canada? Niagara Region’s BioLinc might become your one-stop shopping center.

Interviewee:
Dan Lynch, Manager of BioLinc
Cassie Price, BioLinc Coordinator

Interviewer: Chris & Nancy from Niagarabuzz of WeChat

Introduction

It is our pleasure today to have Dan, manager of BioLinc, and Cassie, coordinator at BioLinc for a short interview. The purpose of this interview is to share some information about BioLinc to our both local and international Chinese entrepreneurs and investors, through our Niagarabuzz of WeChat media platform. We wish that this report could provide some useful information regarding startup businesses and related immigration policy in Canada.

Chris: Hi Dan and Cassie! It’s our pleasure to have a conversation with both of you about BioLinc. We’d like to know more details about BioLinc, later on we’ll write an article about what we’ve learnt and publish it through our Niagarabuzz of WeChat media platform. The main audience of this article would be the Chinese population residing in Niagara Region, and also those who’re interested in coming over.

Dan: That sounds good! We’re excited for such a platform that connects the Chinese community so that our messages can be delivered to them!

Chris: We’ll help you do that then.  Also, we’ll be recording the conversation in case we miss any important notes, so that we can recover from it later. Is that okay?

Dan: No problem.

Chris: All right. So let’s get started. Can you briefly explain to us what is the BioLinc incubator and its history?

Dan: Well.. BioLinc is part of Goodman School of Business at Brock University. It formally started operation in September 2013. Before that, it was more like a virtual incubator, which helped student entrepreneurs by providing mentorship and business connections. Now, it’s located at Cairns Complex. In real terms, it has 5,000 square feet, which consists of private offices, shared spaces, wet labs, laboratories, a design and prototyping lab, a kitchen and a conference room. Although BioLinc has a focus on Applied Health and Bioscience technologies, but we also encourage student entrepreneurs with other innovative business ideas.

Cassie: In addition to what Dan has said, we also host a program called Kickstarting Entrepreneur Program. The workshops range from marketing, finance, accounting, legal, business analytics and etc. It’s open to youth entrepreneurs between 18 to 29 years old in the Niagara Region. They don’t have to be a Brock students specifically, as long as they live in Niagara (or committed to Niagara, added by Dan), they’ll be qualified.

Dan: Informally, BioLinc can be considered as a “soft landing” place for international students or immigrants. Through BioLinc’s network, you’re able to learn about the culture and market of Niagara Region, Ontario, Canada, and even North America. Formally, Canadian Immigration Center has a specific immigration stream called Startup Visa. There are three sub-categories to that. 1. You have to get certain amount of funding for your project from a certified Canadian venture capital firm. 2. You have to get certain amount of funding for your project from a certified Canadian angel investment firm. 3. Your project has to be accepted and supported by one of certified Canadian business Incubators.

Chris: So BioLinc is already one of the certified business incubators for this immigration program?

Dan: Yes. We’re one of a few certified incubators. Under the umbrella of Innovate Niagara, we can assist international entrepreneur to startup their business while helping them to get their permanent residency to Canada.

Chris: That sounds great! We’ll dig deeper into the startup visa program next time. So are there any success stories that BioLinc has made?

Dan: BioLinc is still so called “starting up” itself, since September 2013, from a graduation point of view, it hasn’t graduated yet. So far, BioLinc has successfully incubated Trivium Industires, a biodegradable plastic bottle manufacturing company. It has a patent that uses PLA materials and will be biodegraded within six months. Besides, it also provides all sorts of packaging solutions. Other than that, there’s a beverage coffee grinding company spin out of BioLinc, Internet based startups Cross Border Housing and SmartPay, which aim to provide off-campus housing and currency exchange services to international students respectively. There are currently 150 student entrepreneurs, 12 researchers from Brock, 12 professors currently working with BioLinc; and the numbers are still growing.

Chris: I’m just curious, the founder of Trivium Industries, David, was a business graduate, how did he get into an industrial sector without relevant knowledge?

Dan: Again, it’s all about collaboration. BioLinc connects people of different talents. In David’s case, we connected him with a professor at Brock and co-patented the product. One knows the technology; one knows how to run a business, that’s how he founded the company.

Chris: Now I see. So how can BioLinc help our Chinese entrepreneurs or business owners?

Dan: Well, I feel the collaboration model would be the most beneficial to Chinese entrepreneurs and business owners too! From the concept of “soft landing”, BioLinc can provide Chinese entrepreneurs access to people, location, equipment, marketing information, capital, and all other sorts of resources. For business owners, BioLinc could provide relevant connections, for example, one company has a product and needs a packaging service, and BioLinc could help find one.

Chris: So BioLinc is working as a platform connecting different resources right?

Dan: Yes, our mission is three Cs – “Connect, Collaborate, Commercialize”. In addition to that, we wish to add another “C”, which is China to make it four Cs.

Chris: That’s what we want too! You know, sometime people feel like communication is a barrier to starting up a business, how do you see this?

Dan: Yes, it is a challenge. There’re two sides of it. First is culture. You have to find a way to translate the content from the culture aspect. Second is technology, which is universal. Beginning with language barrier, access to personnel for language assistance would be a great way to solve it. And Chinese students at Brock University would make it a good talent pool for such needs; just have to make sure the right team is in place.

Chris: “If I don’t have money to start up a company”, can BioLinc give me some money?

Dan: Technically, we are a networking organization, not a funding organization. However, if money is critical to move the project forward, we’ll connect with different levels of funding resources including government, angel investment, venture capitalist, and individual investor to assist in the fundraising process. What we normally do is to use leverage. Say you have x amount of investment, we’ll try to match you with another x or 2x to move the project forward, all depends on what’s needed at that phase.

Chris: I understand, so money isn’t a big problem. “I don’t have lots of connections, it’s hard for me to startup a business”, how do you solve this issue?

Dan: BioLinc has very strong network connections. We’re partnering with many researchers, regulators, private sectors, and manufacturers. You can work through our connections to find solutions to your problem. Moreover, at BioLinc, we host networking events such as our annual BioLincUp where you can meet many professionals across different industries. Also, Innovate Niagara hosts many networking events. Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce has “Business after five” which serves the same purpose. There are a lot of opportunities for mingling and mixing and you can slightly build up your connections through these great events. And you can keep an eye on the updates from Niagarabuzz of WeChat for networking events we’re going to host.

Chris: That sounds interesting. We’re approaching the end of our interview. Can you leave a welcome message for our Chinese community in Niagara Region at the end?

Dan: BioLinc is not limited to bioscience, but focusing on all innovative opportunities. We welcome all Chinese students, entrepreneurs, and investors come and have a tour at BioLinc. With Goodman School of Business doing so much in China, we’re all part of that.

Chris: Thank you for your time.

http://mp.weixin.qq.com/s?__biz=MzIwMDA1MTExNA==&mid=206793231&idx=1&sn=7c01d4775c5146fdc3810b15970a509d#rd

采访嘉宾:

总经理Dan Lynch
日常负责人Cassie Price

前言:今天有幸约到尼亚加拉地区创业孵化器BioLinc的总经理和负责人做一个简单的采访,这次的采访目的也是希望分享更多信息给当地有想法创业的朋友们,还有国内有意向通过投资(创业)移民加拿大的朋友们。希望这次的采访可以给大家带来一些有用的信息,如果有感兴趣的朋友可以通过直接微信蜜蜂快讯公号(niagarabuzz)或发邮件至chrisjia@hotmail.com进行进一步了解。

小编:嗨Dan,Cassie你们好!很有幸今天可以坐下来和你们做一个关于BioLinc的采访。我们今天的采访内容主要是关于这个创业孵化器的介绍,之后我们会写一篇报道通过Niagara蜜蜂快讯的微信平台发布出去,这些信息会主要分享给居住在我们尼亚加拉地区,还有在国内有兴趣移民过来加拿大的华人朋友们。

丹:听起来非常好,我们一直苦于没有这样一个连接华人群体的信息平台可以宣传我们(下笑)。

小编:我们等下会进行录音,采访期间没有记下的要点我们会稍后从录音中补充上。

丹:没问题。

小编:那我们准备好了就开始吧。首先可以简单和我们大家介绍一下这个创业孵化器BioLinc是做什么的及它的历史吗?

丹:嗯,BioLinc创业孵化器是布鲁克大学古德曼商学院的一部分。它正式开始运作是从2013的9月份,在那之前,它更像是一个虚拟孵化器,主要帮助有创业想法的学生们为他们提供关于创新产品和服务的方向性指导以及必要的关系介绍。现在,我们的孵化器位于布鲁克大学凯恩斯楼,占地面积为5千平方英尺,包括多个独立办公室,可共享办公室,设计和打样室(包括一台3D打印机),实验室,增/降压舱,小厨房,和一个多媒体会议室。虽然BioLinc孵化器主要侧重于生物科技和健康技术的支持,但也会辅助其他各种科技创新方面的创业想法,尤其是对于学生创业我们会给予最大的支持。

凯茜补充:在此基础上,我们还有一套针对于青年创业者的培训课程(Kickstarting Entrepreneur Program),这套培训课程主要是鼓励和培养青年创业者,只要你是18-29岁之间的尼亚加拉住民(不需要是加拿大国籍或永久居民,只要居住在这边并愿意在这边创业的)都可以申请这套免费的培训课程。课程一般从每年的9月开始持续到下年的3月。其中包括实用的财务,市场,产品设计,法律,数据分析等多方面创业必备知识的教程。对于没有太多经验来讲的学生想要创业是非常有帮助的。

丹:从非正式的角度来看,BioLinc对于国际生/移民来说可以是一个“软着陆”点,通过BioLinc可以了解尼亚加拉地区,安大略省,加拿大,以致北美的文化和市场。从正式的角度来讲,有兴趣的中国的朋友也可以通过加拿大政府新推出的创业移民项目(Startup Visa)来申请加拿大的永久居留权。这个创业移民分成三种:第一种是项目获得加拿大官方认可的风险投资机构注资;第二种是项目获得加拿大官方认可的天使投资机构注资;第三种就是通过项目被加拿大指定创业孵化器接受并提供扶持,这个时候BioLinc作为其中被认可的创业孵化机构之一便可以成为创业移民的一个渠道。

小编:所以BioLinc孵化器现在是官方指定认可的创业移民项目合作创业孵化机构了吗?

丹:是的,我们是为数不多的几个官方认定的创业孵化机构。在隶属于Innovate Niagara的分支中,我们可以协助通过国际性投资创业性质的人们获得加拿大的永久居留权。

小编:嗯,具体在创业签证的问题上我们可以下次继续深入了解下。那么BioLinc孵化器从2013年9月到现在有哪些典型的成功案例呢?

丹:说起来BioLinc也在自己的“创业期”,从2013年9月开始,算是离本科毕业也还有两年时间呢(笑)。不过目前来说,BioLinc比较成功的案例有Trivium Industries,是一家由BioLinc孵化出的一家有发明专利权的可降解塑料瓶生产商,这种塑料瓶采用PLA原料,完全可以在6个月内自动分解,除此以外,这家公司还提供其他各种产品包装服务。其他的成果还有一家生产咖啡饮料的公司,互联网类的公司有Cross Border Housing主要为国际留学生提供寻找住宿的平台,SmartPay为国际留学生提供团购换汇服务,还有其他10几家正在创业的团队。

小编:有个问题想额外问一下,为什么Trivium Industries的创始人David是个商科毕业生,最后却进入了化工产业呢

丹:其实这就是BioLinc孵化器的魅力了。BioLinc会连通有不同才能的人才。在他的案例里,BioLinc为他介绍了一个布鲁克的教授,一个有技术,一个懂生意,所以最后两个人合作共同申请了专利创建了这个公司。

小编:哦,原来是这样的啊。那BioLinc可以给我们华人创业者或者企业主带来哪些帮助呢?

丹:同样的,我觉得BioLinc的共享合作模式是对华人创业者和企业主最有帮助的。从这个“软着陆”的概念讲,BioLinc可以给华人带来尽可能当地及北美地区的人脉,工作地点,设备,市场信息,资金,以及各个方面的资源。对于已有企业来讲,BioLinc可以提供上下游合作伙伴的牵线搭桥,如一个公司有产品,BioLinc可以为你介绍包装公司等等。

小编:所以BioLinc是一个平台形式的通过帮创业公司打通各方资源成功的孵化器是吧?

丹:是的,我们的宗旨就是“Connect,Collaborate,Commercialize(连接,协作,商业化)”,我们希望在3个C的基础上再加一个C代表China(笑)。

小编:哈哈,我也希望这样。其实你知道,有些时候华人会觉得语言障碍对于创业来讲是一种困扰,你怎么看这个问题?

丹:是的,语言确实是一个挑战。其实语言有两层含义。一是文化上的,所以最好的办法就是找一个渠道有效地翻译文化层面上的信息。另一点是技术上的,其实是通用的,在这一点上布鲁克的很多华人学生群体是一个很好的人才库,可以保证中文英文翻译沟通的顺畅。只要保证有合适的团队,我觉得语言不会成为创业的障碍。

小编:嗯,也对。那假如我没钱创业呢?BioLinc会不会给我些创业资金?

丹:严格来讲我们是一个关系网络机构,并不是能算是一个基金机构。但是当融资成了项目发展的一个必备阶段,我们会通过各级融资渠道去帮助创业公司融资,这些渠道包括政府,银行,天使基金和风投,还有个人投资者。我们的方式一般是你有1千万的投资,我们帮你利用杠杆匹配到额外1千万或者2千万,这个通过我们的渠道是完全可以做到的。

小编:看来钱不是一个问题了。那如果在加拿大也没什么人脉,那BioLinc能怎么帮助我们建立一些人脉呢?

丹:BioLinc的关系网还是很强大的,可以完全通过接通我们的人脉网络,包括很多研究机构,监管机构,各级生产商都是我们的合作伙伴。除此以外我们每年还会组织多个社交活动(Networking Event),比如BioLincUp,同时也与Innovate Niagara孵化中心合作举办社交活动,商会也会有“傍晚生意”(Business After Five)这样的酒会,所以可以给你带来很多的人脉交流机会。这些信息可以在BioLinc的官网上获得,或者回头也可以从你们的蜜蜂快讯平台发布让大家第一时间获悉这些活动消息。

小编:哈哈,没问题的。我们的采访差不多就结束了,最后给我们的华人群体致几句欢迎词吧?

丹:嗯,大家经常误解BioLinc只是开放给学生或做生物研究的,其实不是的,我们会支持各种角度出发的商业点子。我们欢迎更多华人有空来我们这(布鲁克大学凯恩斯楼207)参观了解甚至从此创业发家。随着古德曼商学院与中国的合作交流愈加密切,我们也希望和来自中国的朋友们更多交流和往来。

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Guest Blog from Alex Mohr on how Cross Border Housing Inc. started!

Once I had returned from a life changing experience studying abroad in my third year at Brock, I was back in Canada constantly reflecting on how amazing my journey was. As I became increasingly reminiscent of my time abroad, I wanted to get myself back into the international student realm and eager to give other students an experience that I found myself becoming close with many of the international students at Brock and while doing so found a major pain point in the transition to Canadian society.

Seven months have passed since I discovered this problem. Too many students are forced to place their faith in unreliable methods of finding off campus housing. While this problem may seem manageable to students who are familiar with the area, it is magnified in scale and importance when it comes to international students and their journey to Canada. My solution to this problem was to build an international student housing service that made the student’s transition seamless, so that every student who studied abroad could have the amazing experience that I did.

Once I had the idea developed enough I was guided to BioLinc by a couple friends who loved the idea, one of which even became very involved in it. After speaking with Dan Lynch who is the manager of BioLinc, I was granted full access to BioLinc and was also able to attend the networking events that they hosted. The first major event that I attended was the Kick-Starting Entrepreneurship (KSE) Start-Up Weekend. This event gave its participants a weekend to create a team, develop a business idea, and pitch the idea to a panel of judges for a grand prize package worth $10 000. As I was lucky enough to find a dream team to develop and pitch my idea with, we won the first place prize. Winning the KSE Start Up weekend effectively ignited a spark that would to propel my idea into a business.

The first place award package gave our team the resources to begin to take the idea and begin to make it a reality. We began working on the idea tirelessly and by December of 2014 (one month after winning the KSE Start Up Weekend), we became federally incorporated. We began to gain the support of various student organizations such as BUSU, the Graduate Student Association, and even international recruitment. As we gained this much needed support, we also set out sites on the next big pitch competition… Monster Pitch. As the judges for Monster Pitch are known to be high profile CEO’s and investors, we knew how high the stakes were. After our team faced some stiff competition, we were ecstatic when the four judges revealed CBH as the winners. Not only was the recognition from winning amazing, but was amplified when we were told that we were the only company to win both the KSE Start Up Weekend and Monster Pitch.

Now the winners of KSE Start Up Weekend and Monster Pitch, we aimed to expand its awareness to the University of Waterloo. As a late addition to the team, Cody Murdoch represented CBH at his own university’s Enterprise Co-op pitch competition. Cody displayed a stellar performance and ended up winning a first place, $5000 E-Launch Award. This win signifies that the spirit of innovation runs strong in not only the Waterloo region, but also Niagara.

After seven months and three pitch competition wins later, CBH has grown from a fragment of my imagination to a business that will be live by the end of May 2015. The prosperous environment, connections and information that Brock University’s BioLinc has provided -along with the amazing entrepreneurs that I am lucky enough to call team members- have allowed this business to grow as much as it has.

Alex Mohr

Chief Executive Officer
Cross Border Housing Inc.

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Have Your Questions Answered!

Have you ever wondered why we have two stages of teeth? Why are the biggest dinosaurs herbivores? Why are we still afraid to talk about mental health? And of course, why do we get chocolate cravings?

University researchers from all across Ontario are answering these and other questions. Find the answers and ask your own questions at http://yourontarioresearch.ca/curiosity-shop/.

Stay curious!

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The Canadian Business Model Competition

Every year, Dalhousie University in Halifax chooses thirty student teams to compete in the Canadian Business Model Competition. The focus most business competitions is to pitch your business and the judges attempt to determine its profitability and likelihood of success – a method that is becoming recognized as ineffective. The Canadian business model competition is different. The competition focuses less on the venture’s outcomes and more on the process the entrepreneur is taking to ensure these outcomes are a success.

This year we were lucky enough to become the first team from Brock to compete at the competition. In early March I was surprised with an email saying we had made it to the finals in Halifax and in just one week, Sultana and were boarding a plane and heading east.

The first day at Dalhousie was spent becoming familiar with the competition outline and meeting the rest of the student entrepreneurs from all across Canada. After that it was back to the hotel to polish our presentation for the day to come.

After just a few short hours of sleep, the big day had arrived. We ate a quick breakfast and called a cab to get us from the hotel to the school. As soon as we arrived, we found a corner to go over our presentation one last time before heading in to a class room where five judges sat awaiting us. Fifteen minutes later we stepped out relieved to be done and happy with ourselves for what we thought was a great presentation.

In the end, we didn’t place in the top five but we received some good feedback and made great connections with mentors and some awesome student entrepreneurs from all over the country. The competition as a whole was successful for us and we were happy to be considered among such impressive entrepreneurs.

Ian Farr – Incounter

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The Trade Show

Pens? Check. Printer? Check. Extension Cords? Check. I must have done this with about 50 other things before the show, twice… The Toronto International Boat Show was the biggest and most important thing I have done for my business to this date. The exposure, the networking, and the motivation are all things that I saw as huge positives. This show is quite a bit longer than most, with a total of 9 days. It was held at the Direct Energy Centre and received about 80,000 visitors. It was great exposure for someone just starting out, such as myself. I can’t even count the amount of times I was asked who the owner was and where I was sent from. Although a little disheartening, I took it as a compliment and explained that the owners had no idea I was running their booth and that I was only here for some good entertainment and free food samples. I’m just kidding, I didn’t say that, but sometimes I wanted to. I explained to them that I was the owner and that I was just starting out, and they seemed to like the ambition of beginning my own venture.

Setup was hard and time consuming, and I underestimated it. One of my brand-new televisions wouldn’t turn on, and that was quite the disappointment. I was scrambling with 5 minutes left before show time, trying to make sure everything was working properly. About an hour into the show I was still trying to set up my Vista Print banners, and local celebrity Mike Holmes from Holmes on Homes, an HGTV television show, walked passed me and looked down at me. The only thing I thought of was how bad he probably wanted to tell me to get my act together. If anyone has seen the show, Mike’s number one goal is to criticise other contractors on poor workmanship. Anyways, shortly after that I was ready to chat, deal, and network with other industry professionals.

Midweek started to feel like I was singing the same old song, and I was beginning to lose my voice, so I started to venture around the show. I went to seminars, spoke with other brokers, checked out some inventory, familiarized myself with all of the big players, and got some ideas for next year. To be honest, my booth was a little bush league compared to some of the big guns, but I saw it as it was more important that I showed up with what I had and what I could afford.

By the end of the show, I felt like I had really accomplished a lot. I had made many connections, learned many important things about brokerage, learned about key players, learned about what the current market is offering, learned about pricing, and most importantly I learned that there are 98,864 little squares in the carpet that I purchased from Home Depot. Let’s just say it’s amazing how much time you really spend in your booth.

Cole Ritchie – North American Yacht Sales

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The Pitch is Everything

When it comes to entrepreneurship, many of us seem to believe that success is based on the innovative idea. Obviously the idea has a great deal to do with it, but an idea is really only worth something if an entrepreneur can pitch it. Whether you’re presenting to potential clients, users, or investors, nobody is going to want what you’re offering if you can’t convince them they do: the pitch is everything.

This was the focus of BioLinc’s last kickstarting entrepreneurship event which took place this past weekend. Our student entrepreneurs had just three minutes on Saturday to pitch their ideas to an esteemed group of professional mentors. After these presentations, the students sat down for one-on-one meetings with the mentors to hear what they did right and what they could improve on (or if we’re being blunt, what they did wrong) in their pitch.

The next day, we saw the advice pay off. Each entrepreneur stood up and gave another three minute pitch. The difference was tremendous, every student made great strides with their presentation’s, making those watching believe in their ideas and maybe more importantly – in them.

Sign up for the next KSE event here.

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The BioLinc Ambassador Experience

As a student who’s family has always pushed towards corporate Canada, getting accepted into the co-op  program at Brock University was a huge accomplishment.  It would allow me to try my hand at working for some the Canada’s largest organizations to gain valuable work related experience.  So when the time came to apply for my very first work term, I naturally did what I anticipate many of us did while applying for our first placement.  Applied to anything that sounded interesting or was with a large firm.  I mean, the logic checks out. If you want to be the best, why not learn from the best?

So I submitted applications to all the major banks, sales positions and potential marketing jobs that interested me over the course of the summer. Thankfully, one of those potential marketing jobs I applied to was at the University for BioLinc as a Student Ambassador.  In all honesty I hadn’t thought much of a university job because as far as I was concerned I wanted to work for corporate Canada. Brock University didn’t exactly fall into that category.

Thankfully the stars aligned and I was able to secure an interview with Dan Lynch, Manager at BioLinc and Cassie Price, BioLinc Coordinator. After completing a mock interview with the co-op department I felt confident enough to give it my best shot.  Thankfully they decided to take a chance on me and I was offered the position alongside my fellow ambassador Ian Farr.

The first week was so fast it felt like a blur. Table top displays, networking events and presentations followed in quick concession for the first month.  Not only did I have the opportunity to speak in front of hundreds of my peers many a times informing them of BioLinc, I was able to also give guided tours of not only our establishment (End of the Cairns Complex, feel free to stop by for a tour), I had to give tours of our campus to alumni during homecoming. Considering I had never taken one myself it was quite the experience. I was quickly learning that this University had so much more to offer than just an education. It is the passionate people who work and volunteer at Brock that make it such an amazing place to attend.

That was something I had never thought of before this amazing opportunity, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it changed my life for the better. The connections you establish with the students and faculty within our institution is invaluable.  The corporate culture was amazing. Being surrounded by students from all faculties of Brock, each more driven than the last and everyone working together is something you truly must experience to understand. No where else I can think of has Not-for-profits working beside start-ups working beside scientists developing new technology. To make it even more pleasurable, imagine every morning walking in to smiling faces and loving people who truly care about your success and well being. Being a BioLinc Ambassador allowed me to help out my peers reach their goals and dreams, while also expanding peoples knowledge and awareness of BioLinc within Brock. I was invited to events with guest speakers who have walked in our shoes and having the opportunity to mine little tidbits of knowledge from them is something I will forever be grateful for.

Coming from someone who quickly overlooked a position on campus when I came across it on the job board, I feel almost naive admitting it. Understandably hindsight is 20/20, but the skills and values I obtained while working within our institution far surpass anything I could have obtained from a giant conglomerate. These are connections I can continue to grow on a daily basis. I am able to continuously help out entrepreneurs reach their dreams, volunteer in all facets of the university and more importantly, I am able to still see those amazing smiling faces on a daily basis. Anything I had hoped to obtain from a job placement, I learned from this placement. The unexpected part was how much it made me grow as a person, and for that I will forever be grateful. So fellow students, as you read this, please don’t make the same mistake I did. Give school positions a serious thought, because the payoff is more than you or I could have ever imagined prior to the work term.

Mitchell Cowan,

Former BioLinc Ambassador signing off.

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“You Gotta Get a Gimmick!”

Anyone seen the old movie or Broadway musical called Gypsy – all about old time burlesque – here are some lyrics from one of its songs …

Do something special
Anything special
And you’ll get better because…
You’re more than just a mimic
When you gotta gimmick
Take a look how different we are!
If you wanna make it,
Twinkle while you shake it.
If you wanna grind it,
Wait till you’ve refined it.
If you wanna stump it,
Bump it with a trumpet!
So get yourself a gimmick and you, too,
Can be a star!

Keep these lyrics in mind when you’re developing  a presentation about your  your innovative entrepreneurial ideas and opportunities. And to help you, check out our next Kick-Starting Entrepreneurship Weekend – Jan 17/18 – all about Improving your Pitch.

Sign up for the event here.

Communication skills are important to develop to get your message across. And, as the renowned musician once said when asked by visitors on the streets of New York “how do you get to Carnegie Hall?”, he replied “practice, practice, practice”!! So sign up to

Attend and present your BIO, your Big Ideas and Opportunities, at our KSE Weekend.

Gotta get a gimmick? – here’s a recent article about a recent event at U of Toronto that demonstrates how communication skills can help deliver hard to understand topics … http://www.signalsblog.ca/stem-cells-in-60-seconds-quick-lessons-in-communicating-science/

See you on the 17th!

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Kick-Start Weekend

The first weekend of November at BioLinc, we held an event titled ‘Start-Up Weekend’.  Going into it, I must admit I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  The premise of the weekend is for students to form teams and collaborate on a business idea. The culmination of this event is a presentation in front of judges pitching their developed business plan.

The opening ceremony went off without a hitch, with an inspiring speech from Stephen Amoah from My Career City.

Once groups had formed, they wasted no time in beginning the collaboration process. To my surprise, multiple groups stayed well into Friday night talking and deliberating, trying to solidify their idea.  When we all reconvened in the morning for breakfast, innovation and entrepreneurship was in the air.  Every group had a quality idea that solved problems people face on a daily basis.  Not being a serial entrepreneur myself, I was left astonished by some of the ideas. They were all vastly different yet genius in their own respect.

What was interesting to observe from an outside perspective, was the plan of attack each group took when starting to develop their respective business.  Some went straight to market research to validate that there was a need for their product.  Others felt it there was more value in focusing on designing a prototype.   No matter how teams began, every team followed the same formula over the course of the weekend.  Through 3 seminars, gallons of coffee and pizza to fuel everyone’s productive minds, Saturday flew by with some teams leaving at the end of dinner for some much deserved rest, whilst others stayed until what felt like Sunday morning.

To my delight, when Sunday morning arrived, all 6 teams were right on schedule for their presentation. With the order randomly selected, and the K-Cup Cup constructed, teams took turns presenting in front of an esteemed panel of judges.  Between Dr. Camille Rutherford, David D’Angelo from Trivium Industries, Glenn Stevens, manager of GSB Consultants and Geordan Robertson, a senior manager from Meridian Credit Union, teams had the privilege to hear valuable insight.

Through careful deliberation; Nancy Lan, Rebecca Morkunas, John Raimondo, Abbey Stansfield and Cherry Kuai of ‘As Time Goes By’ finished runner up to Alex Mohr, Madi Fuller, Chris Jia, Preston Engstrom and Harrison Olagos of Int-House.
Those two companies, in addition to the other four, are further detailed below.

To conclude, the depth in which these entrepreneurs had developed their respective business plans astonished me. It is truly amazing so see what can be achieved through hard work, dedication and collaboration.  Coming into this weekend, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of business ideas.  After seeing such ingenious ideas come to fruition first-hand, it gives me hope that anybody is one small step away from a large idea.

Order of presentation;

Avail-a-space (Vijayita Bhardwaj, Carlin Jessop, Melane Dabah, Arvinder Singh, Joshua Giancola)

Avail-a-space collaborated well as a group. During group discussions, their dialogue was incredibly immersive. The culmination being a thorough and informative presentation about an app that would show students which locations on campus were available to study. Their idea was well thought out and incredibly useful as a student constantly looking for available space within the school to study.  It was a passionate presentation due to the evident nature that this was a problem every presenter had faced.

Int-House (Alex Mohr, Madi Fuller, Chris Jia, Preston Engstrom, Harrison Olagos)

Immediately after breaking away from the dinner, this team bunkered down in the BioLinc conference room.  If I hadn’t witnessed myself, to the contrary, I would have believed it if someone had told me they did not leave until Sunday morning.  Their hard work and dedication paid off though, through their dynamic presentation, market research, a functional web page, and legitimate contracts secured all over the course of the weekend. Their idea was to bridge the gap between international students and local landlords.  As the winning team, they have continued to collaborate, but under the name ‘Cross Border Housing’.

PlanBook (Mohamad Hamade, Matt Peskett, Colin Hardy, Steve Hann, Karim Hamasni)

PlanBook had their idea well thought through from the beginning with key features meticulously chosen. The incredible feat was that they had a working prototype, which was unveiled during their presentation to the audience, coded in its entirety over the course of the weekend.  It was a multipurpose calendar app with a unique and very intriguing import method for group meetings or tests. Having the working prototype ensured that their value added was clearly visible through demonstration. This was incredibly helpful in understand all the unique features that PlanBook would offer consumers that differentiates them from their competition.

Hot Spot (Scott Bossy, Kevin Oliver, Huzaifa Faizan, Reece Fisher)

Hot Spot was an idea that came to be due to recent experiences by a few of the group members. It was something I can imagine we’ve all been through.  Arriving at a new city on a random night, wanting to paint the town but not having the slightest clues where to go. With the app Hot Spot, you can see real time capacity of local bars in addition to a wealth of other information. Through their informative and dynamic presentation, it was made evidently clear that this would be an incredibly beneficial app, not just for the consumer, but for the bar owners as well.

LastMinuteVids.ca (Matthew Chong, Sachin Kaulshal, Omar Khan)

LastMinuteVids.ca tried to bridge the gap between students who procrastinate and those who proactively prepare for exams.  Those who have already learned the knowledge are compensated monetarily for essentially teaching the students who need some last minute aid. Their presentation clarified many of the questions I had about this business, and honestly, I thought it could extremely beneficial to every student if it became operational.

As Time Goes By (Nancy Lan, Rebecca Morkunas, John Raimondo, Abbey Stansfield, Cherry Kuai)

As Time Goes By is a service that digitally catalogs heirlooms for families through a specific process clearly outlined in their informative presentation.  It wasn’t clear until part way through said presentation how scalable and realistic this idea was.  They managed to completely convince me that not only was this an amazing idea, but made me wonder how no one had thought of this idea yet.  All it took was one group member having to go through the experience to realize that it could be a very lucrative business.

Check out pictures from our event here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/89128525@N03/sets/72157649179107970/

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Say Yes to Yes Yes Marsha

After 2 months on the job as the BioLinc Ambassador, I’ve had more than my fair share of forced social networking experiences. Being an outgoing person, I’ve welcomed these opportunities with open arms. So I must admit, when I heard I’d be attending a workshop on networking, I wasn’t exactly elated at the idea. Going into the seminar, I was doing my best to stay positive and focused on learning a new tactic to remember names figuring it was all I stood to gain from this presentation.

Then the talk began and within the first minute Marsha told the audience ‘Everyone in this room, even those who believe they themselves are perfect at networking will stand to gain something from this seminar’. It was as if she was speaking directly to me, and honestly, Marsha could not have been more correct. What followed was three hours of fluid conversation and forced awkward social interactions that were some of the most amusing experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure of partaking in during a seminar. Has anyone ever had to stare into a stranger’s eyes for a full minute without being able to look away, speak or move? It is a strangely enlightening experience, in a ‘Nothing will ever be as awkward as this, ever’ kind of way.

From a calming meditation technique to implement in times of stress and peril, to templates for those dreaded follow-up emails and a cool new way to remember people’s names, Marsha was dynamic in her teaching and super approachable during breaks and afterwards. I even had the pleasure of learning some funny British phrases throughout. Never has something so familiar to me like networking felt so foreign, yet by the end of the seminar, everything seemed to obvious, easy and fluid.

In the days since, I’ve had the opportunity to implement these new strategies and they are more effective than anything I had ever tried before. The devil is in the details, so don’t be embarrassed if you require people to repeat their name multiple times in order for you to correctly pronounce it (and remember it!). I always felt it was important to add value to a conversation with people you are networking with in order for them to feel like talking to you is worthwhile. Yet the Marsha taught and Mitchell tested technique of listening more and allowing that person to open up about themselves while asking key questions will leave not only them feeling pleased to have met you, but you in turn will learn more about someone than you could have ever imagined. Trust me, the stories I learned from implementing this technique of networking are incredible. So thank you, Marsha, for truly revolutionizing my daily interactions with people, it was a pleasure to attend your seminar. If anyone is interested in learning more about Marsha and her amazing networking tips you can visit her website at www.yesyesmarsha.com.

Mitchell Cowan
BioLinc Ambassador

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