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Accelerating entrepreneurship

Growing the startup culture at Memorial University

By Annagray Campbell and Meaghan Whelan

Between the spark of an idea and the blaze of success, there are many points where a new business can simply fade away.

Memorial recognizes the challenges that entrepreneurs face and developed an extensive and growing support system to help fuel the entrepreneurial fire.

Over the last decade, existing entrepreneurial support entities were strengthened and new centres and funding opportunities created.


From left are Michelle Simms, CEO, Colin Corcocan, director of finance and administration and Angelo Casanas, director of programs and partnerships.

Since 1997 Genesis has been helping build technology-based businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Genesis supports entrepreneurs through all stages of idea development – from pre-incubation and business model development to investor readiness.

Since 2010 Genesis graduated 24 companies through its flagship Enterprise program. Collectively, these companies created more than 1,000 jobs, raised over half a billion dollars in private capital and generated over a half billion dollars in gross revenues.

Growing diversity

Genesis launched two programs to increase diversity among the startups it supports.

In 2014 the Women in Tech (WIT) program was introduced to address the lack of female representation in the technology and entrepreneurial sectors.

Since then Genesis client companies grew from zero female founders to 31 per cent with a female founder or co-founder.

From left, Bardish Chagger, minister, Small Business and Tourism, high fives HeyOrca founder Joe Teo at the Genesis Centre, March 2016.
From left, Bardish Chagger, minister, Small Business and Tourism, high fives HeyOrca founder Joe Teo at the Genesis Centre, March 2016.
Photo: Chris Hammond

After the success of WIT, Genesis went on to become a federally designated organization for the Startup Visa Program, which allowed immigrant entrepreneurs to live and work in the province as a means to attain their permanent residency.

Currently, Genesis companies have 35 per cent immigrant founders in their portfolio, with many looking to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador. Read more about Genesis’ efforts to grow diversity among the startups it supports.

Genesis rounded out the decade by being recognized as a Top Challenger in North America by University Business Incubators Global, which ranks every incubator across the world based on their performance.

Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship

From left are Darryl Day, Matt Noseworthy and Liam Cadigan in the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

In 2017 the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship (MCE) was created.

This campus-wide centre, led by a partnership between the Faculty of Business Administration and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, aims to promote entrepreneurship, support students, faculty and staff in developing their startup business ideas and contribute to developing an attractive entrepreneurial ecosystem in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Just two short years later, MCE was recognized as one of the top five emerging entrepreneurship centres in the world.

Centre for Social Enterprise

Dr. Gary Kachanoski and Nicole Helwig pose in front of banners at the launch of the Centre for Social Enterprise.s launch on May 25.
From left are Dr. Gary Kachanoski and Nicole Helwig, manager, Centre for Social Enterprise, during the centre’s launch on May 25, 2017.

Also in 2017, the Centre for Social Enterprise (CSE) was launched with the aim of building economic resilience through social enterprise.

Social enterprises are innovative businesses and organizations that are created to pursue social, cultural or environmental missions in a financially sustainable way. The CSE plays a key role in developing academic capacity to increase understanding of social entrepreneurship and social enterprise within the Memorial community.

It supports the development of curricula focused on social enterprise and social entrepreneurship; links faculty members across the university to work together to strengthen understanding of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship; and helps prospective social entrepreneurs convert their ideas into businesses that provide social, cultural and environmental benefits.

Navigate: Guiding entrepreneurs

The Navigate Entrepreneurship Centre is a partnership between Grenfell Campus and the Corner Brook campus of the College of the North Atlantic.

It helps entrepreneurs with business plan outlines, startup assistance, market research. It also works to foster a culture of entrepreneurship in the Western N.L. region.

The centre was initially established in 2004; services were expanded in 2016 with funding support from the federal and provincial government.

Funding from Emera

Emera Inc. made a significant investment in September to support student entrepreneurship and innovation programming.

A $7-million contribution from Emera Inc. to Memorial University in September 2018 is supporting innovation and entrepreneurship programming in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In recognition of this investment, the public engagement and innovation space at Memorial University’s Signal Hill Campus has been named the Emera Innovation Exchange.

The contribution from Emera will sustain and enhance student innovation and entrepreneurial programming through entities at Memorial University that include the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship, the Centre for Social Enterprise, Genesis and other innovation initiatives.

This story is part of Defining a Decade, a new feature in the Gazette for the winter 2020 semester. Stay tuned for stories on Tuesdays and Thursdays about the accomplishments, achievements and impacts that defined Memorial’s last 10 years. The full list of stories published to-date is available here

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