Coast Capital Savings invests $1 million to further innovation support at SFU
A $1 million gift from Coast Capital Savings will help to further the success of SFU’s Venture Connection program, advancing innovation across the University. To acknowledge Coast Capital’s history with the program and its continued support, the program has been re-named the Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection program.
Established in 2008, with Coast Capital Savings as its first corporate sponsor, the university-wide program—Western Canada's first university business incubator—offers entrepreneurship training services and opportunities for students, faculty, staff and alumni. It is supported by professional staff, including Mentors-in-Residence hired from industry and who bring direct entrepreneurial experience.
The support, mentorship and industry connections available for SFU entrepreneurs wanting to take their ideas to the next level has led to more than 170 start-up ventures.
As part of Coast Capital Savings’ promise to build a richer future for youth, the latest investment will support the program over five years. It follows the company's 2008 seed investment of $125,000 to fund the pilot program and a further support of $750,000 in 2011.
Together, this funding has enabled the program to provide its entrepreneurial services to more than 6,000 participants and over 500 student teams.
These early investments also helped move Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection out of its pilot phase, expand across all three campuses, grow its incubator and programs significantly, and leverage other sponsors and donors.
“Thanks to the outstanding contributions from Coast Capital Savings, to date, over 6,000 participants have received inspiration and support,” says SFU President Andrew Petter. “As Canada’s engaged university, SFU is committed to advancing a vibrant innovation sector that generates new economic opportunities and social benefits for British Columbia and beyond.”
Adds Coast Capital Savings President and CEO Don Coulter: “Coast Capital Savings’ community activities support youth, and the leadership shown by SFU in supporting youth entrepreneurship and innovation makes this partnership a natural fit for us. We are delighted to invest $1 million to support the Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection program over the next five years, and follow the success of the enterprises that flourish with the support of the program.”
What began as an initiative focusing primarily on students and recent alumni in the Surrey area, is now attracting many students, faculty and staff from across SFU. The program is part of SFU Innovates’ network of innovation initiatives and partnerships that are positioning SFU as a leader in developing talent, technology and transformative ideas.
"Coast Capital Savings helps make it possible for SFU to provide our future innovation leaders with the tools and training they need to move their ideas into action,” says Joy Johnson, SFU’s VP Research and International. “This invaluable partnership supports the SFU Innovates strategy of Entrepreneurship, to develop a mindset for students that applies creativity, adaptability and collaboration to solve problems that matter."
Sarah Lubik, SFU’s director of entrepreneurship, says the program was ahead of its time from the start. “To compete in a rapidly changing world, it is critical that innovators from all disciplines have the opportunity to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset and skills,” she says. “They also benefit from cross-pollination of economic and socially valuable ideas, and have a friendly entry point to engage with the university and the community. Thanks to this generous support, it will continue to be very entrepreneurial in its support of innovators.”
[Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection clients like Ophthalight's Eshan Danish welcome the news that will help future SFU innovators to develop their ideas.]
• Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection incubator clients and alumni have been recognized broadly, including BC Business Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 awards, the annual Ready to Rocket List, top honours at the BCTech Association’s Technology Impact Awards and New Ventures BC, and the Hong Kong Canada Investment Pitch competition.
They have also been accepted into later-stage programs such as VentureLabs, Innovation Boulevard, Wavefront, the Canadian Technology Accelerator (Boston) and The Next 36 (Toronto).
• The program is currently home to eight mentors and two experts-in-residence—all of them, entrepreneurs and business leaders—who are helping clients achieve their business goals and build relationships with the broader community.
• In addition to the incubator, other program activities include two annual competitions, the Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize and a ‘Top Product’ competition, #madeatsfu, with SFU’s bookstores. Speaker and workshop events and year-round mentor drop-ins at all campuses round out the activities.
• The program offers co-ops and graduate internship programs, partners with middle- and high-school entrepreneurship programs and has partnerships with later-stage accelerators in the region.
Some examples of companies to receive Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection support and mentorship that have found success include:
• Ionomr, which bridges materials science and business, bringing the credibility and delivery needed to establish Aemion as a platform for the next generation clean tech solutions in energy and water treatment;
• Buyatab Media Inc, a leading supplier of advanced online gift card infrastructure, technology and marketing services for leading brands. With clients in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia, Buyatab provides online services to clients in a wide variety of sectors, including retail, hospitality, restaurant, shopping, hotels and others;
• MetroLeap Media Inc, whose flagship product, MetroLyrics.com—acquired by CBS Interactive in 2011—was the first lyrics-dedicated site to provide users with the largest database of licensed, complete and accurate song lyrics through its partnership with Gracenote;
• CKM Sports Management Ltd., an athlete management firm that serves clients playing and entering hockey markets in Canada, the U.S. and around the world. It is a resource for both amateur and professional hockey players, with specialized recruitment and development services to help players reach the next level of competition;
• MetaOptima Technology Inc, which brings digital healthcare and mobile technology together, providing patients with access to medical information, more control over their health needs, and more importantly, peace of mind. MetaOptima is focused on empowering high-risk patients with mobile health technologies, and providing tools for regular skin screening and the early detection of cancer;
• VeloMetro, which provides people with human-powered vehicles that parallel automobile functionality for urban use. Velometro builds modern, lightweight and thoughtfully-designed electric-assist personal transportation that takes the best features from both bicycles and automobiles.
[Ora Scents founder Kevin Cruz (with student Dolapo Toki) is among clients who continue to further their ventures. His product is an app-controlled scent diffuser that enables users to create and share scents in real-time.]