Entrepreneurship: The next generation
Jamie Freeman - October 11, 2012
Speaking at the Rowe School of Business recently, Claudia Hepburn, the executive director and co-founder of a national entrepreneurial leadership initiative called The Next 36, described how the program was born out of recognition of a crisis facing Canadians.
“The problem we identified was that in Canada, we didn’t have enough high-impact entrepreneurs,” she said. “We didn’t have enough of the Sam Waltons, Mark Zuckerbergs or Bill Gates that were building great, industry changing, internationally competitive businesses.”
Hepburn pointed to a growing prosperity gap between the United States and Canada and detailed how this gap was largely because Canada has proportionally “fewer of those extraordinary individuals that are building great businesses.”
That’s why the goal of The Next 36 is to help close this prosperity gap “by involving the next generation,” said Hepburn.
Putting business learning to the test
For three years running, The Next 36 has welcomed applications from students across Canada. Once selected, the 36 finalists are put into teams that compete to build a web- or mobile-based app business.
Mitchell Lesbriel, a Dal management alumnus, took part in the program in its first year, describing it as an experience that “will change the way you fundamentally think.” Lesbirel touted the many benefits that await successful applicants to the program including excellent academic instruction, private sector mentorships and a powerful network of new contacts.
“The Next 36 will give you a network that you would never be able to get on your own. Maybe if you were a maven in networking and spent decades at it, you might be able to grow a [similar] network. But this network they give you is phenomenal,” he said.
As a demonstration of how this network has benefitted him, Lesbirel spoke of how partners at Ernst & Young contacted him, “saying come in for an hour in the boardroom and lets talk about your business. That would never ever happen unless you do this program.”
Each team within The Next 36 is provided up to $80,000 in capital and professional services. Over the course of the nine-month program, the participants also spend a summer residency at the University of Toronto where they attend short courses in entrepreneurship by leading academics from MIT, Harvard and Rotman School of Business. Finally, the participants build relationships with high-profile executives from the private sector.
Dal management students Molly Connor and Ranae Bean attended the information session and expressed their interest in applying.
Connor, who has a history in creating and running her own business ventures, said that entrepreneurship “is something that keeps me going when I would otherwise get lost in the everyday run of the mill stuff.” Bean said that she is interested in a challenging program and that, while at The Next 36, there would be excellent “opportunities to network with people.”
Rising to the challenge
Ed Leach, assistant professor of Management at Dal, was eager to stress the growing importance of fostering a new generation of bright, successful Canadian entrepreneurs. Leach said that the rising average age of Canadians combined with the growing cost of health care would “eat our lunch [unless] we have more entrepreneurial culture in place.”
The Next 36 is a relatively new initiative but, according to Leach, Dal’s partnership with such initiatives is nothing new. Entrepreneurial spirit is “woven into the fabric of this institution,” he said. While Leach expressed concern over the economic road ahead for all Canadians, he paired such concern with a strong optimism that Dal students and Canadians could rise to meet the challenge. “We are on the cusp of an enormous opportunity,” he said. “All we have to do is step up and seize it.”
The program’s deadline is October 22. To learn more visit, thenext36.ca