Over the summer, the McGill Office of Innovation began working on realizing a new McGill Startup Space, a physical place for student entrepreneur groups to come together and develop ideas and initiatives. The Office is launching the space through their partnership with the Notman House, a non-profit organization that offers office, event, and conference space to a large number of entrepreneurial startups in the Montreal community.
The motivation to establish the startup space came from research conducted by the Office of Innovation in the summer of 2016. According to Associate Vice Principal of Innovation Angelique Mannella, an important finding was the need for a startup space on or near campus; a place where McGill-based entrepreneurs could discuss ideas, work on logistics, and network within the greater Montreal community.
“The idea to launch the initiative came from feedback I received from many students and researchers that highlighted the desire for a startup space on campus […],” Mannella wrote in an email to The Tribune. “While there are some great initiatives [at McGill], such as [the McGill] Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, we definitely need to take things to the next level.”
Campus Director at the Notman House, Emma Williams, discussed the role of the organization in assisting entrepreneurs in the local community, particularly through the numerous services it has to offer.
“The Notman House was created to offer the startup community a physical place to assemble,” Williams said. “It houses offices, event spaces, [and] eight ‘services for startups,’ such as Investors, Accelerators, [as well as] a public café. Its goal is to remove barriers to entry to entrepreneurship by providing startups with an open and collaborative environment where everyone feels welcome.”
Williams also mentioned the value that universities such as McGill bring to the Notman House and to the greater Montreal community, outlining her appreciation for student initiatives in the area.
“We wanted to work with McGill because it’s important for us to have strong partnerships with local universities,” Williams said. “Our main mission is to help develop and promote entrepreneurship in Montreal and we recognize that the next generation of founders and builders are coming out of institutions like McGill.”
A student and entrepreneur, Zoey Li, U4 Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, applauded McGill’s efforts at creating spaces dedicated to entrepreneurs, outlining the importance of a guaranteed physical space for entrepreneurs juggling the challenges of school and running a business. Li is the founder of YUMiBOX, a startup that provides the delivery of whole grain products to customers in order to motivate consumers to base their diets on healthier carbohydrate choices. The foundation of Li’s startup came from her participation in McGill’s Dobson Cup.
“Entrepreneurial initiatives at McGill like the Dobson Cup gave my team the confidence to move forward with our startup,” Li said. “The Notman House space is an amazing idea. Ultimately, every startup needs a place to start and grow, and having a designated place for your business takes off a lot of pressure for student entrepreneurs trying to balance between their initiatives and their schoolwork.”
The McGill Startup Space initiative launched on Saturday, Oct. 1 and will support three to four entrepreneurial groups as a pilot initiative until Jan. 2017.