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Ryerson’s DMZ, Desjardins partner to expand entrepreneurial growth in Canada

By Charlize Alcaraz

Ryerson’s DMZ and financial services company Desjardins have partnered to offer Launchpad for Entrepreneurs, a free learning platform for people looking to get into entrepreneurship. 

With funding support from Desjardins, the DMZ’s Launchpad offers users unlimited access to videos and course content in both English and French. The course material provides members with personal and professional skills to build the foundation for their businesses. 

It also includes training on topics related to scaling a business, such as startup idea formation, leadership development, market research, leveraging SMART goals, pitching and presenting to investors. 

Launchpad is also designed to eliminate barriers for aspiring founders. The online program is free of cost, meaning anyone located outside of a major geographic location or those who have financial restraints are still able to access the platform. This method also enables users to learn the content in a self-paced environment.

Launched under the name Digital Media Zone in April 2010, the DMZ is a global tech incubator that connects businesses with customers, experts and a community of entrepreneurs and influencers. Through its customized approach to supporting startups, the DMZ said it has helped more than 650 startups raise $1.53 billion and create over 4,500 jobs. 

“At the DMZ, we see firsthand how important mastering foundational entrepreneurial skills is to building strong tech businesses,” said Abdullah Snobar, the executive director of the DMZ. “These are learnings that aren’t always taught in the traditional classroom, yet they help young entrepreneurs build an aptitude for leadership that will last a lifetime—regardless of profession.”

The Business Development Bank of Canada surveyed over 1,000 Canadians in 2019 and found that close to half of the students that participated (47 per cent) dreamt of starting their own business.

A number of Ryerson’s current students and recent grads have taken the entrepreneurial path and built their own businesses. Some of these ventures include Sniffly, CrissCross, LocalStudent, Sōmi, Node and Charmy Pet

Shane Flynn, director of talent development at the DMZ, said over 800 users have signed up for its Launchpad platforms that cater specifically to women and Black founders.

With younger entrepreneurs, Flynn said the DMZ has seen a “tremendous increase” in students looking to pursue a career in the startup ecosystem in a number of ways: developing their own business and leveraging support from Ryerson’s Zone learning network; working at a startup as an early employee; or participating in programs such as Startup Certified, which gives students the opportunity to work at an early-stage company through a paid internship. 

“Mastering foundational entrepreneurial skills is essential in building budding tech businesses,” said Flynn. “Foundational entrepreneurial skills and founder development is not something you’ll see taught in traditional classroom settings.”

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