The Hub’s Advisory Board includes leading scholars in various key disciplines of Management, Computer Science, and Environmental Science, and key individuals with a strong background in Entrepreneurship, broadly defined. The Hub’s Advisory Board meets semi-annually, and serves to advise The Hub and the Office of the VP, Research at University of Toronto Scarborough on the direction of The Hub, entrepreneurship in general, and how best for the University of Toronto Scarborough to engage in entrepreneurial activity.

Advisory Board, May 2 2017

Background

On May 2, 2017, The Hub at University of Toronto, Scarborough, held their first Advisory Board Meeting. The overall purpose of the meeting was to obtain input from the Advisors to help define the future direction and priorities of The Hub.

This report documents the results of that meeting.

Participants

The following people participated in the meeting,

  • Bernie Kraatz, VP, Research
  • Armin Fischer – Associate Director of Creative Destruction Lab, Rotman
  • Jeremy Laurin – President and CEO, ventureLAB
  • Jackie Csonka-Peeren – Lecturer, Entrepreneurship, Ryerson; also, MaRS representative
  • Birju Patel – Industrial Technology Advisor, National Research Council Canada
  • Keri Damen – Managing Director, U of T Entrepreneurship
  • April Franco – Associate Professor, Management, U of T Scarborough
  • Mary Silcox – Vice–Dean, Graduate, U of T Scarborough
  • Andrei Arkhanguelski – U of T Scarborough alum, Founder of Ecommerce Venture
  • Francisco (Paco) Estrada – Lecturer, Computer Science (on sabbatical leave)
  • George Arhonditsis – Chair, Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences (I only just asked)

Absent, with regrets

  • Glen Drummond – Adjunct Instructor, Business Innovation, University of Waterloo, Stratford Campus
  • Prateek Rao – Former Hub resident, Intern at Blackberry
  • Andrew Arifuzzaman – Chief Administrative Officer, U of T Scarborough
  • Moriah Linton – Vice President of BMO

Agenda

We worked our way through the following agenda.

  • Session Opening
  • Is a Research component necessary?
  • How should The Hub measure success?
  • How much outreach to the Scarborough Community?
  • Which is more important, the quality of the jobs created, or that the jobs are in Scarborough?
  • Session Close

Additional notes on each agenda item follows.

Session Opening

The session was opened by Gray Graffam, Director of The Hub at University of Toronto Scarborough, with a brief explanation as to why we were here and what we wanted to accomplish. This was followed by introductions of the participants and the facilitator.

Is a Research component necessary?

We started off this discussion initially with a question posed as being a continuum. The questions was;

Should The Hub be tightly focused on world class research from select programs, or open to all students across all programs with or without a research component?

The arguments for requiring research were;

  • Innovation and research are tightly linked
  • Creation of intellectual property increases the value of the investment and gives investor something  to invest in – Investors are looking for this
  • This is a way for researchers to capitalize on the research
  • This would be a way to focus what The Hub does – and focus is important when you don’t have unlimited resources. If we create boundaries and focus we then can develop core competencies to match
  • This allows us to differentiate from other incubators
  • It is about creating sustainable competitive advantage, and IP is one good way to do it (not sure about world class)

The arguments for being open to all students were;

  • If we look at our current success stories, they do not all have a research component and they come from many different fields of study
  • Our door should be open to any good ideas that will create sustainable advantage
  • We have good graduate programs and good undergraduates as well – we should be inclusive and support all of them
  • Many of our current success stories are from undergraduate programs
  • This should be a great place to fail at low cost, and learn. You should not restrict that.
  • The combination of ideas is very valuable and you want as much diversity as possible to support this. Not everyone is involved in the type or research that we are talking about, but there are a lot of people who still have good ideas and want to connect

Conclusion

  • It is way too limiting to require “world class research”.
  • We want companies that will have sustainable competitive advantage, and research is definitely one way to do this, but not the only way.
  • We want diversity, and to leverage all good ideas, whether graduate student or undergraduates, whether research based or not.
  • We want to connect diverse people from diverse backgrounds. It is not just for founders.

How should The Hub measure success?

We began this discussion with another question as a continuum.

Should the success of The Hub be measured solely on the success of the companies that come out of The Hub (revenue and employment), or based on the participation of students and the amount they learn about entrepreneurship through their successes and their failures?

The arguments for measuring the success of The Hub based on Company Successes were;

  • This is a clear way of measuring … people understand revenue and jobs … We can also add into this other positive effects to the community
  • These will be widely shared success stories, understandable and attractive. They will help promote The Hub to a variety of stakeholders.
  • Government stakeholders tend to care about revenues and jobs

The arguments for measuring the success of The Hub based on measures of student learning were;

  • Who are the metrics going to, I am part of a university and I care about students, but other stakeholders care about other things
  • It is a new initiative and we need to demonstrate utilization
  • This is a fabulous environment for making what we teach in school real
  • Students are not just looking at this as a place to make money, instead it is great place to learn without as much concern about failure
  • We are a university so we care about learning, it is easy to measure the companies, and although it is hard to measure learning we need to do this, even if this means having to follow students after they leave
  • Employers are constantly asking for students with entrepreneurial thinking as a skill. This is a great way to develop that and we should develop it in as many people as we can

Conclusion

  • Different stakeholders will care about different things and we need to have multiple measures that include both company success and student success.
  • We need to measure the success of the companies, and of the students as well. Both matter.
  • To have the business success we likely need as wide a base as possible of student learning success
  • A safe place to learn, and to fail at low cost is essential.
  • This is a very valuable experiential learning environment and we do not want to lose that opportunity.
  • We should expect a funnel, with people dropping out at different stages. This is normal and healthy. It is about moving entrepreneurs on their journey. We do not want to lose an innovator and have them leave our community because they could not get support.
  • It is an opportunity for students from many other faculties to participate and to learn, even if they are not directly involved in the startup (English students writing up case studies, business students helping with taxes.) It takes a village to raise a child.

How much outreach to the Scarborough Community?

In the interests of time, and clarity, we shortened this question and did not use a continuum. The question was:

How much outreach should be done?

Conclusions

  • At the end of the day it needs to be of value to the students and graduates of the university
  • This could be a good opportunity for students to connect with others. Someone else has a good idea in the community and the students learn by helping them.  (We should not however allow students to become “underpaid labour”. Safety, and working conditions are also a concern)
  • Do we really want to turn away a great idea, if our students can be involved? No…
  • However we don’t really want to become a cross country road show.
  • Once again diversity and amount of connections matters

Which is more important, the quality of the jobs created, or that the jobs are in Scarborough?

Once again the initial question was framed as a continuum.

Should The Hub be focused on ventures that will create high quality jobs regardless of where they will eventually be located (e.g. it is immaterial whether they eventually set up in Waterloo or Ottawa), or focused on jobs of any type that will locate in Scarborough?

Conclusions

  • The Hub is one of many stepping stones, we may not be their last stepping stone and we do not own them forever. It is not about keeping companies in our fold so that we can “claim them for us”
  • Our primary responsibility is to our students and we should support them regardless of where they and their companies move.
  • We need to keep our alumni connected
  • The whole point of an incubator is that things hatch and move on
  • Can we get funding by focusing on Scarborough?  And can we use this to help create opportunities for our students. We should look for opportunities…
  • We do want to be good corporate citizens, and we should be planning to leverage what is being planned in Scarborough in terms of infrastructure and priority neighborhoods
  • If we build it will they come? (low rent living space, low rent work space and car share?) It will take investment and we need to leverage the endowments of Scarborough

Session Close

The session was closed by Gray Graffam, Director of The Hub at University of Toronto Scarborough; Gray thanked everyone for their participation and their guidance.