Giorgio Delgado

What Happened to the Laurier Entrepreneur

March 2, 2015

I'm beyond the halfway point of my self development challenge and through my experience as a covert Laurier student taking a University of Waterloo class, I've noticed some big differences that may contribute to the two institutions' large chasm in entrepreneurial ability.

University of Waterloo is a highly technical school. UW students have an advantage in that they can immediately create a prototype for a product. But if rapid prototyping were the golden rule to success we'd be talking about Steve Jobs a hell of a lot less. Conversely, Laurier students understand businesses and on average they're much better communicators.

So given that both groups of students have their pros and cons it seems really odd that UW is constantly spitting out startup after startup while Laurier wallows in utter despair [0].

Being a Laurier student myself, I can tell you personally that my university does not lack creativity - simply go to the first year new venture competitions that we host, or the renown Ice-Week competitions. We are a group of driven individuals who have an equal ability to find needs and meet them.

So where do things go sour? A supportive culture.

I can't think of a single New Venture project [1] that actually ended up becoming a successful company, which blows my mind considering that the ideas are actually amazing and that THEY ALREADY HAVE A BUSINESS PLAN. I can tell you right now that most of the UW companies don't have a business plan until after they have a functional product - I mean half the time it's just a side project that the hackers don't even realize meets an unmet need for a large customer segment (enter PG aficionados).

The thing is, UW students are constantly reminded that there's no limit to what they can achieve. This belief, alongside the seemingly inexhaustible pools of capital that UW students have, creates ideas such as the Thalmic Myo, or Majik Systems, or Chalk, or BufferBox. The list is endless.

I understand Laurier doesn't have the same capital that UW does, but in order to get a functional product you don't need a lot of money anyways (unless you're in the medical field or some research-intensive industry). So my biggest issue is the attitude and dry atmosphere at Laurier that sucks the passion out of entrepreneurs. There's an adversarial feel to it all at my university, no one wants to help one another and if we can squash another person's attempt at greatness then so be it. Professors never encourage students to push beyond the classroom and actually attempt to create something. Entrepreneurship is something really foreign in these parts of town.

Right off the top of my head I recall stories of Laurier TA's telling first year students how idiotic an idea was for a startup and then having a similar product come to market a year later. Here's one of the products which suffered for years and was scrutinized day in and day out ... until, well, it actually became a thing (the CEO is a Laurier grad and the ironic part is that it was UW that helped him the most to get it off the ground and running).

I really am thankful for attending Laurier. Perhaps I'm not thankful enough. One thing I know for sure is that this institution is doing the creatives a disservice.

Or perhaps I'm a naive fool who thinks entrepreneurs require support. If entrepreneurship drives GDP growth more than a career at a big institution with nice benefits, shouldn't we be catering to the former rather than the latter?

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[0] - This claim is my own opinion and perhaps a bit naive and exaggerated. Nonetheless, I stand by my belief that it's much easier to start a company as a UW student.

[1] - Part of the first year business classes are a set of projects that culminate in groups of students pitching venture ideas, which include a business plan that has been graded based on viability and other measures.

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