New Ryerson Venture Zone launched in Brampton

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By Anna Wdowczyk

On Sept. 9, Ryerson partnered with the city of Brampton to launch its new startup incubator, The Ryerson Venture Zone (RVZ).

Based in Brampton’s Innovation District, an entrepreneurial hub in the city’s downtown core, this new zone will support Brampton-based startups by providing hopeful entrepreneurs with connections, mentoring and hands-on experiences.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm in the city about this. We’re excited that you’re joining us as we build our innovation district,” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown told the Ryerson community during the zone’s virtual launch.

“A game changer”

According to Brown, the city struggled with providing enough resources for their entrepreneurs and businesses a few years ago.

Last October, Premier Doug Ford’s government announced the cancellation of funding for Ryerson’s campus to expand to Brampton, a move that was previously approved by the Liberal government.

This is an area Brown said he hopes to see improvement in. He added that they “want to create support for Brampton’s entrepreneurs at every stage of their journey.”

“I truly think that this is going to be a game changer for our city,” said Prabmeet Sarkaria, the MPP of Brampton South.

Bailey Parnell, the founder and CEO of SkillsCamp, championed the RVZ for aspiring entrepreneurs who don’t come from business backgrounds and have a hard time with introducing themselves.

“If it’s not natural for you to reach out and say hi, this is the absolute perfect opportunity because Ryerson’s coming together with the city of Brampton to say we’re going to facilitate this for you,” said Parnell.

With 10 campus-based incubators launched in only a few years, Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi said he believes Ryerson has what it takes “to push boundaries.” 

In September 2018, Ryerson announced another project in Brampton: the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst (RCC), a centre that uses entrepreneurship and Ryerson’s resources to explore challenges in cybersecurity. 

Today, the RCC is offering an accelerated cybersecurity training program, support for Canadian scale-ups and support for applied research and development. 

They also launched a Catalyst Cyber Camp this summer to introduce 500 Brampton youth to the careerpath of cybersecurity through games, puzzles and other sorts of activity programming.

Zone learning incubators and spaces like the RCC or RVZ provide a working space for start-ups to access resources and equipment.

Sobi Walia, the co-founder and operations director of Cluep, said initiatives like this are important because “being able to tap into the networks can help you get your first paying customer.”

“We recognize that universities like ours have a role enforcing economic growth and prosperity for all Canadians. Our incubators and accelerators are making a difference,” said Lachemi.

What’s next for the RVZ?

The RVZ is currently accepting applications for the Zone Industry Challenge, a four-week program that will pair individuals with local co-founders for mentorship to create solutions for community health and wellness. 

Applicants who enroll in the program can expect to explore industry problems related to their startup, attend workshops and access various business resources. 

100 Steps 2 Startup, an online platform focused on venture creation is one of the highlighted resources offered to challenge participants, according to the zone’s website.

Additionally, participants will be able to tap into BoxOut Performance training, a Brampton-based startup that uses performance psychology to help early founders incorporate health and wellness into company culture.

The challenge is set to take place this year, from Oct. 30 to Dec. 4. The website states this year’s sector focus is Community Health and Wellness.

Individuals with an interest in the focus can apply if they’re capable of participating in all four weeks of programming, prepared to work as a full-time founder and are at least 21-years-old.

Existing startups may also apply if they’re interested in health and wellness, so long as they’re pre-revenue and have been operating for less than a year. 

The RVZ has partnered with four organizations “with a global reach” to make this experience possible. These organizations include Dynacare, Age-Well, SE Health and Golden Age Village for the Elderly. The zone website states these partnerships will “create meaningful relationships and bridge the gap between startups and corporate enterprises.”

However, operating during a pandemic will undoubtedly affect the delivery of future programs, like this upcoming challenge.

RVZ Director Usha Srinivasan told The Eyeopener that all programming will occur virtually “until it is safe for our staff and entrepreneurs to connect in person. We will use as many digital tools as possible to keep our entrepreneurs engaged and connected during the program.” 

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