New cash for school helps entrepreneurs make money, solve problems

By Jennifer Lewington, Reposted from The Globe and Mail

British Columbia is home to a breed of progressive entrepreneurs who use for-profit business models to solve social or environmental problems.

In a move to encourage more ventures by these innovators, Canada’s second-largest credit union has donated $1-million over five years to the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business for an “innovation hub.”

With the funding from Coast Capital Savings Credit Union, and led by Sauder’s S3i Research Centre, the accelerator initiative will provide early-stage ventures with working space, mentoring by business faculty and industry and internship support from Sauder students.

“There are lots of great people with great ideas and those ideas stall at the first stage because they don’t have the funding and don’t have the management system in place,” says James Tansey, director of Sauder S3i Research Centre, which got off the ground in 2009 as a link between the business school and social innovators. “We have a great pool of ventures to draw from out here,” he adds. “We want to see more of them making it through.”

Starting in January, between five and eight enterprises will receive mentoring for eight to 10 months. Prof. Tansey hopes that Sauder students, in their role as interns, will benefit, too, as they learn to apply what they are studying in class to a real-life enterprise.

By nurturing enterprises at their earliest stages, says Prof. Tansey, “We hope to prime the pump” for new ventures that will attract funding from investors and philanthropists.

“We want to put Vancouver on the map in the way that San Francisco is on the map for Silicon Valley,” he says. “We have an amazing community of innovators out here.”

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Contact Jennifer at jlewington@bell.net.