"UP!" with summer: Dal initiative pilots entrepreneurship crash course

- August 26, 2014

Tyler Zemlak, one of the co-founders of Vantij, presents during the final day of Summ'er UP! (Provided photo)
Tyler Zemlak, one of the co-founders of Vantij, presents during the final day of Summ'er UP! (Provided photo)

Summer can be a time for rest and relaxation — or to get something started.

This summer, Dal’s Starting Lean initiative, which is “powered by” the Faculty of Management’s Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship, launched a new program called “Summ’er UP!” The program takes young start-up companies that show exceptional entrepreneurial promise and helps to fund them while providing them an intensive eight weeks of mentorship, classes, and support.

Amongst the teams who completed the program this year were Bootstrap Magazine, Salubian Health, Vantij and Peanut. Their members included students and graduates from fields as diverse as journalism, computer science, health care and business.

Thomas Battle, project manager with Starting Lean, says the focus was on innovation, “students that would go out and do something with their work.” Battle adds that Dalhousie really benefits from running hands-on programs like this, providing young people with the skills and experiences to identify key needs and build companies and organizations to meet them.

Bootstrap Magazine, for example, seeks to highlight local Nova Scotia businesses, acknowledging that while the province is full of amazing hidden gems, it’s hard to find them — particularly in the more rural communities. The magazine operates on a community supported publication model in which businesses become members which allows them to distribute copies, take out ads at a discounted price and affords them the opportunity to be featured in the magazine.

Projects getting off the ground

Two of the projects that took part in Summ’er Up are health related, seeking to improve the efficiency of health care through technology. Salubian Health provides a solution to wait times at doctors’ offices. For a small fee, individuals get airport-esque updates on appointment delays, allowing them to go do groceries or grab a coffee before their appointment. One clinic in town is already beta testing the program. Vantij is a harmonized health-care solution for emergency room efficiency. It simplifies communication between emergency room staff, and the QEII is already backing the project and assisting with funding and testing.

In the true spirit of diversity, the final project in this year’s contingent was a “social gaming sports app.” Peanut allows customers at sports bars to challenge one another over both a sport’s major events and small happenings — like, for example, whether a baseball player might hit for the cycle. The catch? Participants are not betting money, but instead competing over the game’s digital “peanuts.”

Battle says the program had a successful year but, in true entrepreneurial style, he’s always looking for ways to make improvements. Next year, thanks to a grant from the Dobson Foundation, teams will compete for one of 10 spots in the accelerator program, with each of the successful teams receiving $10,000 in funding. The hope is that they’ll be able to attract more participants from outside the university, increasing the program’s reach and impact.

Learn more about Starting Lean at its website.


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