Carleton Students Present their Startups to Philanthropist and Entrepreneur Wes Nicol

By Catherine Kitts

For student entrepreneurs at Carleton University, there are few people who serve as a greater inspiration than successful businessman and generous philanthropist Wes Nicol.

“At Carleton, entrepreneurship is supported in all academic disciplines,” said Carleton University President and Vice-Chancellor Roseann O’Reilly Runte. “Through the Nicol Entrepreneurial Institute and his contributions to the university, Wes Nicol has been one of the school’s greatest champions and is helping students to realize their dreams.”

On Thursday, December 18, 27 Carleton undergraduate and graduate students had a chance to present their 16 startups to Mr. Wes Nicol and President Roseann Runte.

“I don’t know of anywhere else in Canada where students are performing at this level,” said Nicol as he addressed the group of student entrepreneurs and guests. “I’m very proud to see all that you are accomplishing.”

The Nicol Entrepreneurial Institute at Carleton University offers funding each year to support 12 – 13 student ventures as the young entrepreneurs work to launch and grow their businesses

Some of the student entrepreneurs also receive support from the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) through the Carleton-led Accelerator program, which is part of Capital Entrepreneurs, a joint initiative with the University of Ottawa and Algonquin College.

OCE’s mandate is to connect industry with universities, with a focus on entrepreneurship. OCE partners with campus-led accelerators at Ontario universities to provide funding for startups that have reached a certain stage of customer engagement. OCE funds are matched by a number of supporters including the Wesley and Mary Nicol Charitable Foundation, Carleton’s Technology Innovation Management program and Carleton University.

“The reality is that the quality of the applicants coming into the Carleton-led Accelerator program is a lot stronger and the program itself is very strong,” said John Fielding, OCE regional director for business development. “The most amazing part is the people who have stepped up to support it, like the Wes Nicols of the world. Because they don’t just happen; you have to have something solid.”

At the event Nicol Interns had the unique opportunity of saying “thank you” to their benefactor in person.

“I don’t think we’d be here without him,” said Greg Dillon, a Bachelor of Arts student with a Major in Communication Studies “Before I received the Nicol Internship grant, our startup was more of a hobby. This money gave it life. Suddenly, we knew we could do serious things and it also gave us the confidence to go to other investors and say, ‘Look, people are backing us’.”

Fellow business partner Kyle Smendziuk, who graduated from Carleton with a Bachelor of Engineering in 2013, joined Dillon to present their startup Props: a mobile application that effortlessly connects people over multiple networks.

Other businesses that were showcased included: software for drone-based solutions; a one-stop marketplace where conscious consumers can readily buy organic, fair-trade, vegetarian and eco-friendly products; and a web-based application that allows consumers to request and receive quotes on car repairs; among others.

In order to present, students needed to have developed a plan to generate $1 million in annual revenue after three years.

The next important step is aiming to globalize their ventures easily and rapidly. The infant companies already have ties to Australia, Bulgaria, China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United States and more.

Vignesh Sundaresan, a Nicol Intern and a TIM student, has already seen success. His company, BitAccess, is a manufacturer of bitcoin teller machines (BTMs) and allows users to buy and sell virtual currency. The company has already sold 70 BTMs in 12 countries around the world.

Other companies are still getting off the ground. Jehovah Reuben Victor Dass’ company, Tapevire, has made the TIM program its very first customer. Tapevire is a service that broadcasts live video events worldwide and has already partnered with IBM.

“From here I will go up,” he said. “To build a building, you need to start with a single brick. Mr. Nicol has been that brick in my company.”