Are You Prepared?

On October 16th, in the UTSC Library Makerspace (a free resource for staff, students, and faculty at the school), The Hub at UTSC held a start-up preparation event as part of its series of events leading up to the Pitch Competition!

Hub mentor, Luki Danu discussed different types of entrepreneurs (intrapreneur, side-preneur, freelancers), emphasizing that you should avoid becoming a “want-repreneur” – someone with a great idea that never takes action to make the dream happen. Luki gave tips on how to find a niche and make your product/service stand out from the competition. He really focused on the cultivation and refinement of entrepreneurial ideas and how to form those ideas into a concise business pitch.

The most important of these tips is that feedback is essential, so make sure you run it by as many people as possible! And don’t forget that mentors and peers at The Hub more than happy to listen to your ideas and give feedback on anything pertaining to your entrepreneurial ambitions!

Gray Graffam, The Hub’s Director, added that success is not an objective concept, as everyone has their own goals, and success is just a matter of reaching them. Gray also shared a great method for narrowing down a target market by imagining a person, giving them both physical and personal traits, and then finding out how many people like that are actually out there to buy your service – a research technique known as Persona Research.

A huge and somewhat tricky part of all this is research, fortunately the UofT Library is here to help. Sarah Shuja, the UTSC Entrepreneurial Resources Librarian, gave a brief explanation of what the library offers, including a seminar series which teaches how to access and evaluate industry reports, databases, and more, while adding to your co-curricular record.

Once again, food was provided and there was an excellent opportunity for mingling and networking! There was such a wide range of people and teams to collaborate with. Ideas ranged from the most useful and fashionable backpack to affordable cannabis oil to music therapy and anything in between!

Our next event is on Tuesday, October 30rd, and will include a makerspace orientation required to utilise the facilities! Be sure to check out our upcoming events and don’t forget to submit the required materials by November 1st to part-take in the main event, the Pitch Competition on November 10th!

                        — story by Amanda Taylor, Social Media Specialist, The Hub

Here’s What You Might Have Missed at Our Latest Workshop!

On Thursday, October 4th, The Hub at UTSC held an event all about social entrepreneurship. The event started off with the director of The Hub, Professor Gray Graffam, giving a presentation on what exactly a social entrepreneur does, followed by a quick Q and A with social entrepreneur and 1st year UTSC student, Sam Demma.

Sam became a social entrepreneur because he has a passion for keeping the environment healthy and inspiring others to make a change in the world. He is a co-founder of Pickwaste, a company that hosts events where people gather to make a difference by picking up waste in Pickering and Scarborough.

Shortly after the learning what it means to be a social entrepreneur, attendees were given a chance to come up with ideas of their own. They were encouraged to form groups based on a shared passion (such as healthcare) and given a large whiteboard to brainstorm ideas of their own. The groups then worked together, bouncing ideas off each other, to narrow down their more generalized topic to a specific concept for a potential business.
To help the groups come up with ideas, Business Advisor at The Hub, Donovan Dill gave a short explanation of some strategies for social enterprise. One participant commented that he enjoyed the challenge of coming up with solutions to new problems.

A favourite part of the event for multiple students was when we all took a short break for dinner. Not only was the food delicious (and free), but the opportunity for networking was really fun! Current members of The Hub were there to answer questions and get to know, potential members were sharing ideas with each other, and, of course, Gray and Donovan were there as well to get to know more about The Hub and the many opportunities it offers. At any given time during the meal, everyone was engaged in some kind of conversation, ranging from personal conversations about school to entrepreneurial ideas and anything in between!

If any of this speaks to you, be sure to sign up for our upcoming pitch contest for a chance to receive up to $7, 000 in seed money for your start-up, or check out our other amazing, FREE events at The Hub (click here!)

                        — story by Amanda Taylor, Social Media Specialist, The Hub

What Would You Do If This Were Your House?

That was the question foremost on Aver Bayon-on’s mind after Cyclone Winston tore through Fiji, and also laid devastation to all of his year’s work in helping local Fiji communities. Aver’s answer? To give back by building a startup called Workbox, and fundraise through gofundme!

Come to The Host Show to meet with UTSC grad Aver Bayon-on and learn about social entrepreneurship.
The Host Show
The Hub
July 19, 2018
6:00 to 9:30 pm
Food and refreshment provided
* There is also a second speaker
Free tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/host-show-tickets-47523983514

Artist Sylvia Chan, July 19

Sylvia Chan will be hosted by The Hub at the Host Show, where she speaks about her company, Sylvia Chan Art and the importance of entrepreneurship to sustain the arts. Sylvia is an Award Winning Artist and Ontario Certified Teacher who creates opportunities for people to get in touch with their inner ‘artist’ and inspires youth to make a difference in the community.

Come to The Hub’s Host Show to learn how UTSC grad Sylvia Chan got started and where she is taking her art next.

The Host Show
The Hub
July 19, 2018
6:00 to 9:30 pm
Food and refreshment provided
* There is also a second speaker
Free tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/host-show-tickets-47523983514

QwikCommerce

QwikCommerce

Sebastian Alvarado and Varun Sharma – two software engineering students at UTSC – formed QwikCommerce in 2017. QwikCommerce is a tech platform designed to evolve and simplify the international trading process between South American suppliers and North American merchants. The idea for this company was generated when Varun and Sebastian compared notes on supply and demand issues in South America; Sebastian offered considerable insight from his business and family connections in Ecuador and Colombia. Together, they brainstormed QwikCommerce as a business that leverages their insight, along with their profound capabilities in ecommerce and software development.

Varun and Sebastian have worked hard for the past couple of months to maintain the success of their start-up. One of their early accomplishments as owners of QwikCommerce was earning a space in The Hub in 2017 with seed funding of $7,000. This has provided them with the exceptional opportunity of building their business, as well as a chance to further develop their essential core entrepreneurial skills.

Currently, as an ambassador for more than 20 South American suppliers, Varun and Sebastian are focused on building strong business relationships interested in this import/export sector. Their goal is to expand QwikCommerce to assist 50 suppliers overseas and link them with North American merchants.

QwikCommerce provides merchants with on-site inspections in South America to ensure everything is on track, with fast shipment times. It also provides suppliers with an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system to manage resources and enhance their online presence.

The Hub has assisted Varun and Sebastian in several ways to establish the success of their start-up. Their company has received funding, workspace, and continuous support through mentorship and coaching sessions. As Varun and Sebastian expand their business, The Hub will continue to provide them with the tools and resources to develop their business further.

Article by Praveena Vivegananthan

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/QwikCommerce/

Facebook: https://facebook.com/QwikCommerce/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/qwikcommerce

Eastbound Comedy Theatre

In 2017, Tiegh Fitzgerald and Jazmine Scott formed Eastbound Comedy Theatre – a company that specializes in improvisational comedy. Improvisational (improv) comedy is a form of unscripted theatre where performers deliver new and spontaneous content every time. After years of experience in improv, Tiegh and Jazmine decided it was time to combine their interests together to build a creative business.

Eastbound Comedy’s main purpose is to put on improv performances in the Eastern GTA (Scarborough and Durham region). Their dream is to someday have their own venue – a theatre where live performances can be presented, along with food and refreshment, similar to a Yuk Yuk’s or Second City.

Aside from their core objective as performers, Tiegh and Jazmine intend to offer workshops and training sessions at schools, businesses, and private events to teach people the essential skills of improv such as cooperation, quick thinking, creative problem solving, confidence and public speaking.

Tiegh and Jazmine’s initiative has been a successful, thus far. Their hard work and resilience throughout the years have been acknowledged through multiple accomplishments. In 2017, Eastbound Comedy was awarded a coveted placement in The Hub at U of T Scarborough – along with $7,000 of seed funding made available by the Ontario Centres of Excellence and U of T’s Provost’s Office. They have also performed at UofT’s Comedy Festival, taught improv at Seen X Scene Entertainment, and headlined at Open Mic Night hosted by UTSC’s Drama Society.

Currently, Tiegh and Jazmine are working on developing Eastbound Comedy’s online presence through its website and social media. They have their hearts set on creating their own space as the go-to place for comedy in the Eastern GTA.

The Hub has been a great source of support for Eastbound Comedy. From helping create a business plan to one-on-one mentorship sessions, the staff at The Hub have provided Tiegh and Jazmine with the required resources to help them succeed in forming their business. The Hub continues to assist Tiegh and Jazmine to further develop their business and accomplish their long-term goals.

We look forward to seeing what’s in store for Eastbound Comedy in the near future.

Instagram: @eastboundcomedytheatre

Article by Praveena Vivegananthan

UTSC Startup Competition

Startups came out in force on Saturday, November 18, to compete in the UTSC Startup Competition, vying for a share of the $20,000 up for grabs. Each of the startups presented a 4-minute pitch (publicly) and a 12-minute pitch (behind closed doors).

A wide variety of disciplines and interests were represented, including Drama, Management, Computer Science, Philosophy, and Neuroscience.

The top three winners were:

1. JungleRocket – a company that drops ships based on a secret sauce of analytics to leverage online sales via Amazon; $4,000.

2. Eastbound Comedy Theatre – a company that provides improv theatre to high schools and corporations, and is looking for a happy home in the eastern GTA for its venue; $4,000.

3. QwikCommerce – an import/export business focusing on Canada and South America with a particular specialty in high end leather fashion; $4,000.

We are very proud of this round of winners and applaud them in their efforts to create profitable, thriving startups. Please join me in celebrating their efforts.

KorsAll – Disruptive Startup in Ethical Fashion Receives $1.4 m Investment

A disruptive U of T Scarborough startup has recently gained traction in Toronto, already attracting over $1.4 million in investment within just weeks of its initial launch.

KorsAll, a multi-dimensional e-commerce platform operating in the ethical fashion industry, launched from U of T Scarborough’s entrepreneurial incubator, The Hub, this past June. It has since rocketed into position as one of Toronto’s most innovative companies of 2017, and one to keep an eye on.

Dikshant Batra (BBA, 2016) began KorsAll, two years ago, having won the U of T Scarborough Startup Competition that year, earning him a place at The Hub, access to its mentors and coaches, plus $7,000 in much needed initial startup seed capital from Ontario Centres of Excellence and the University. In subsequent months, Dikshant was also able to attract $10,000 in additional funds from the Provost’s Office at the University. At every step of the way, his idea of forming a disruptive startup in ethical fashion met tremendous positive review.

Dikshant credits this in great part to the help he received along the way, especially from the faculty of the University and The Hub – a combination that he sees offering tremendous advantage over other business schools in Canada. Moreover, he credits how the University’s overall ecosystem, known as U of T Entrepreneurship is prepared to help promising disruptive startups.

But to tell the full story of KorsAll requires one to go back several years. Batra recognizes that the inspiration for his company stems from his upbringing in Delhi, India. Growing up in Delhi, he was surrounded by many entrepreneurs and small businesses – each with a unique story to tell. This experience is what gave Batra the foundational inspiration for his business venture, tying stories and entrepreneurial inspirations to individual products. Then in his early twenties, Batra set out on a month-long quest across nine countries on several continents, in essence to validate his idea that stories and products together form a most fascinating backdrop for ethical fashion, sufficient to captivate a global audience. He met tremendously talented people, “whose stories needed to reach the world” says Batra. It was then that he came upon the idea of how to help such small businesses thrive in the digital era, and the concept of KorsAll was born. Carrying his idea back to U of T, the desire to build KorsAll took hold. Batra tells of one professor who brought focus to one of its core concepts, helping him recognize that it each of story was grounded in a wealth of data analytics. Korsall truly was born.

So, with his experience and training firmly in mind, Batra began the arduous process of obtaining vital data through extensive, exhaustive research. He found that traditional retail sales in the apparel, clothing, and fashion in general are materially impacted by a growing industry trend that is shifting consumers’from brick-and-mortar transactions to on-line E-commerce trade. This dynamic is further intensified by a counterproductive increase in boutique brick-and-mortar establishments, or supply, in an ever-decreasing market share, or demand. This supply/demand gap is being filled by E-commerce sales in response to changing consumer expectations. Batra’s research pointed him to a Global 1000 report with a “Spotlight: The Future of Global Fashion E-commerce” which concluded, “It’s a category particularly ripe for innovation and growth on-line – from $105 billion in revenue in 2015 to $168 billion in expected revenues by 2021”.

Confident he had obtained supporting data on the market, heeding his U of T professor’s advice Batra proceeded to analyze the data to derive a solution. Although a McKinsey Company report proffered pronouncements such as “digitize or die” many designers, boutiques and growing brands in the fashion industry are not getting their share of the E-commerce surge in sales. For Batra it became apparent that setting up and executing E-commerce is expensive and complex, requires significant capital expenditure, technical knowledge and training to install and maintain, and typically takes a long time to design and deploy. Furthermore, after initial set up, ongoing marketing, return policies, procedures and logistics can be onerous. The result can be a system that lacks full integration with E’commerce market dynamics and may only be as good as its weakest component. This is especially challenging for small to medium sized business as on-line consumers expect an experience on par with that provided by the most innovative or dominant on-line retailors such as Amazon, Etsy and Ebay.

In response with initial grants of $17,000, the inspiration from his upbringing, international travel and the call to action with business skills from his schooling at U of T, Batra created KorsAll Corp. which is comprised of 2 separate but integrated components:

Korsall.com is a multi-dimensional E-commerce technology platform specifically designed for merchants such as designers, boutiques, and brands in the apparel, fashion, jewelry, and accessories industry to create or expand their business through E-commerce and global trade. Such merchants can use Korsall.com to create a unique virtual store, and fulfill orders. This virtual shop acts as a completely new sales channel (market penetration with existing product mix) to either complement existing offline and online presence or to help aspiring merchants to kick-start businesses. Such merchants will have immediate access to web, tablet, and mobile storefronts accessible around the world with no upfront costs or set up fee. We provide a platform for merchants around the world to showcase their wares, create virtual experiences, transact, and grow their business globally.

KorsAll In-Site is a set of solutions built around the merchant ecosystem with the objective of easing challenges for aspiring and existing merchants in the industry. KorsAll In-Site resides on the KorsAll.com platform and encompasses logistics, customer service, marketing and promotions, and analytical support mechanisms that enable merchants to manage and grow their businesses with streamlined operations and distribution. KorsAll In-Site solutions will enable merchants to benefit on all fronts in their ecosystem with a single view of their business, and customers. It will enable them to showcase their products, manage inventory, process, ship, receive orders and payments, engage in social media and build customer relationships, expand their market and customer audience, and leverage analytics and reporting and maximize their marketing expenditures.

Batra says KorsAll not only helps merchants sell their products, but shares the stories behind how and why those products came to exist.

“A growing number of people don’t just buy a product anymore – why, where and how its made, is often a driving component of the purchase decision – especially in the Millennial mindset,” says Batra “where acquiring a product is more experiential than perfunctory. We want to be a marketplace that sells the experience and the stories behind the products.”

Merchants are able to tailor their stores and provide information on each product. Batra says this aspect of the site aims to capture the experience of traditional shopping – walking into a traditional brick-and-mortar store, being greeted by an owner or employee, and hearing detailed information and stories about why each product is unique.

“We didn’t want to be another mini-Amazon,” says Batra. “We looked at how and what these businesses need and how they operate on a day-to-day basis in their ecosystem.”

“The idea was very rooted towards these merchants and helping them grow on a holistic standpoint,” he says.

“I was brought up in a culture that taught me to help as many people as I can over the course of my life,” says Batra. “We really want to make a big difference. It was important to me that our business model enable merchants to join KorsAll and create a unique virtual store, and fulfill orders on a global basis with no upfront cost or set up fee charged by KorsAll.”

“Its debatable whether I am the architect of the KorsAll.com platform or if it’s just being responsive to E-commerce dynamics that designs the platform but either way there is a lot of research and very complex and painstaking technology supporting KorsAll,” said Batra. “The first $1.2 million we raised covered over 12,000 hours of highly skilled software engineers writing very sophisticated code to create the technical core of the platform. We are now just finishing the “Merchant” end of the technology and based on my research in the industry its second to none. We are now floating a Friends & Family round to fund the final touches on the Customer side of the technology and expect to have a soft launch of KorsAll.com in the fall.” So, let the fun begin” exclaims Batra.

Over $1 Million Made by Student Startups Out of The Hub

Student startups launched from The Hub, the entrepreneurial incubator at U of T Scarborough, have made over $1.1 million in combined revenues over the past two years.

“When I totaled (revenues) up and it went over a million, it was like, ‘Yeah this is cartwheel time,’” says Gray Graffam, director of The Hub. “It’s absolutely incredible to be part of the success story of these young companies.”

It has been four years since The Hub opened to provide workshops, training, mentorship and a workspace for students looking to start their businesses.

“This is where you discover your idea, and where you put the pieces together,” Graffam says. “This is where you understand how you’re going to tackle the business you want to create.”

— by Alexa Battler

Read the full article here.

Mapian Wins $100,000

December 5, 2015. Ravi Ravindran, CEO and Founder of Mapian, wins $100,000 1st prize at the Launchpad TV Show.

The prize comes as an investment – a 10% equity stake – in Mapian, Inc., a mobile map-based social networking platform. LaunchPad is a TV program not unlike Dragons’ Den, where entrepreneurs compete for a cash prize and investment into their company. LaunchPad is a Toronto-based TV program, specifically geared towards helping Tamil entrepreneurs across North America, as they pitch their ideas and launch their businesses.

Mapian is a unique social networking platform that uses digital maps to orient its users to events going on around them. And with the iOS platform completed and Android just around the corner, Ravi plans for a launch this early Summer that will see the social platform take flight.

In Celebration of Entrepreneurship

“What kind of dent do you want to make in the universe?” This was the question that Andrei Arkhanguelski, founder of Crowdlinker and U of T alum, pressed home at The Hub’s event, In Celebration of Entrepreneurship on November 9th.

The Hub is University of Toronto Scarborough’s incubator for innovation and entrepreneurship, and the event was held to celebrate the 18 students who passed the gauntlet of The Hub’s Dragons’ Den.

Principal Bruce Kidd kicked off the celebration, congratulating the winners and bringing to attention the University’s long-standing commitment to experiential education, and the considerable efforts now underway at UTSC in entrepreneurship. Also present were Vice Dean Mark Schmuckler, Professor David Zweig, Chair of Management and Economics, and Professor David Fleet, Chair of Computer and Mathematical Sciences. They spoke about the University of Toronto Scarborough’s emerging academic programs in entrepreneurship, and the importance of working with The Hub, government, and industry to create a vibrant pool of outstanding talent that will lead the way for tomorrow’s business – particularly as that may benefit the eastern GTA.

Following these inspiring words, the nine winning teams – Flipd, Willow, Connect 4.0, VIS, Discover, Stacksity, Frrand, Envoi and Minds Matter Magazine – were invited to introduce their projects to the audience. The team at Willow noted that the Dragon’s Den has been a “critical stepping stone” to help them start “the beginning of an entrepreneur’s journey.” Funding for the teams was made possible by a grant from the Ontario Centres of Excellence and the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs, plus a match from the UTSC’s Office of the Dean and Vice Principal (Academic). In total, $45,000 will be distributed to the winners in support of their efforts.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @UTSCTheHub

By Lily Li