Archives for posts with tag: Radius

When I completed my MBA at UBC just two years ago, the entrepreneurship program looked different than it does today. The courses focused on the classic elements of entrepreneurship, like identifying a target customer segment and writing a business plan. The project work typically culminated in a mock presentation to a panel of Venture Capitalists. Classmates told tales of crushing embarrassment and humiliation before the VC judges.

Now, just two years later and the entrepreneurship program at UBC has changed. A lot. More impressive still is the pace of change at other schools and accelerator programs in the Lower Mainland. Almost everywhere I turn these days, I see the influence of Lean Startup, Lean Launchpad and Design Thinking on entrepreneurship education.

Paul Cubbon

UBC marketing professor Paul Cubbon likes to challenge the status quo. Upon reading Eric Ries and Steve Blank, Cubbon set out to implement their ideas in the new Sauder School of Business MBA ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ track. The focus on lean practices in this entrepreneurship program adds significant rigor to the curriculum.

But Cubbon did not stop there. He took his enthusiasm out to the full university and joined up with the folks over at e@UBC, or Entrepreneurship at UBC. Their Lean LaunchPad Accelerator Program aims to teach alumni, faculty, and students how to commercialize their ideas using a crash course on lean. Participants learn lean entrepreneurship with regular ready-or-not presentations on what they have learned over the previous two weeks.

Their site explains what a typical week will look like: “you and your team will spend 20-30 hours/week between seminars conducting 20-30+ interviews as you progress through business hypothesis testing and customer discovery, mapping out the web of relationships in your industry ecosystem.” Clearly, this is not your grandmother’s entrepreneurship program, with such an emphasis on ‘getting out of the building’ and regular iteration of your ideas.

Meanwhile, over at Simon Fraser University, Design Thinking and Lean Startup are the cutting edge management practice that every participant must master when they sign up for the Radius Ventures programs (four- and six-month options available). Professors David Dunn and Shawn Smith use Design Thinking and Lean Startup practices as a core part of their curricula for social entrepreneurs.

And it is more than just the public universities that are making the shift to lean. The folks over at the Launch Academy have taken their best practices and guest speakers and compiled a new Lean Entrepreneur Program. Beginning next week, this eight week crash course has two tracks—business and technical—with a third design track in the works.

Spiced throughout their curriculum is an overarching emphasis on lean principals. Right in week 1 of the program, aspiring entrepreneurs are introduced to Lean practices, such as how to build a minimum viable product and how to measure their progress using innovation accounting.

These programs represent an exciting and welcome shift in the way that entrepreneurship is taught in Vancouver. My hope is that these new programs and curricula will start to generate the valuable and scalable enterprises that they are designed to help foment.

SFU’s Radius had a sold-out crowd at the Portside Pub in Gastown for their first ever Social Entrepreneur Failure Wake last night. When I first heard about it, I thought that the idea of sharing stories about failed social ventures would be a good source of leads for the blog. I had no idea how educational and inspiring it would be. It was also a lot of fun.

The idea was simple. They would take over a pub, sell tickets, get brand name sponsorship from Vancity, and find some entrepreneurs to tell their stories about how their social ventures had reached their untimely ends.

At the heart of the event was the idea to embrace failure and with it, the rich learning and practical experience that will bring later success. I felt that this mindset aligns well with the practices of Design Thinking and Lean Startup that I have been chronicling in this blog.

Everyone loves a good story and perhaps more than success, a story about failure makes a compelling tale. Tragedy, it seems, captures our attention, but also serves a larger point. The stories contained salient, often emotional, messages about wrong turns and missed opportunities.

First up was a story about Ecotrust Canada’s efforts to build the local economy on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Satnam Manhas told the story of how there was no shellfish processing facilities in the Clayoquot Sound area when Ecotrust began their project to get local processing of shellfish for area residents and resorts. New federal food safety rules resulted in additional expenses for the recently up and running facility, yet the original equity owners were not able to pitch in to cover the unforeseen costs. Other problems mounted and the plant had to close soon thereafter.

Chantelle Buffie and Sonam Swarup

Young entrepreneurs Chantelle Buffie and Sonam Swarup of Fusion Kitchen traded the microphone back and forth as they told their touching story of a classroom project turned social venture. Their idea was to create community and connections for recent immigrants through cooking classes. The cooking classes were a platform for immigrant women to gain work experience, develop their transferable skillsets, and build their self-confidence to increase their employment opportunities in Canada. They had a great series of lessons learned that I only wish I had a pen to note down.

Finally, Grace Sai, founder of Hub Singapore gave a talk about an early mistake she made in her choice of who to partner with. She also spoke movingly of the challenge of balancing vulnerability with showing strength in leadership. I had to laugh when she confessed to the audience that her therapist had asked her, ‘don’t you think that Obama cries sometimes?’

At the conclusion of each presentation, Mike Rowlands of Junxion Strategy threw an Irish accent and delivered elegant toasts as the speakers were offered Jameson Irish Whiskey. It was a playful, yet thoughtful, way to show appreciation to the entrepreneurs for their courage, passion, and reflection.

As I rode my bike home, surprisingly I felt full of inspiration—not despair. Here was a community that would support you, in both your successes and in your failures. What more could you ask for as a social entrepreneur?