A One-Up for Start-Ups

District3 to Foster Innovation at ConU

  • Graphic Vivien Leung

Start-ups around school are about to get a little extra help.

District3, a new Concordia initiative slated to launch this January, aims to use the university’s multidisciplinary potential and leverage cross-faculty interaction in hopes of giving student start-ups a push to get off the ground.

The project promises to provide those interested in tech entrepreneurship with access to mentors, investors and business development support.

Just as it seeks to reach out to diverse portions of Concordia’s population, the idea behind District3 is the product of various parties coming together.

For the past year, Xavier Hervé, a Concordia engineering alum, honorary doctor and holder of an MBA from the prestigious INSEAD business school, has been in talks with Robin Drew Dean of the Engineering and Computer Science program about starting a student-driven “innovation centre” at Concordia.

Serendipitously, the Commerce and Administration Student Association’s Adam Castonguay and Charles Gedeon, along with Engineering and Computer Science Association’s Ali Tahouni and Sydney Swaine had been contemplating a similar idea.

They were inspired after reading about Concordia President Alan Shepard’s time as provost at Ryerson University and his important role there in facilitating the Digital Media Zone, a start-up incubator geared towards students.

So far, outreach for District3 has catered to business, engineering and computation arts students—programs the organizers believe are most closely “associated with entrepreneurship.”

However, Hervé emphasized that all students should feel welcome to participate in the project in any capacity, regardless of their background. Swaine added that more outreach will be done towards a broader scope of faculties once the initiative has passed its initial implementation phase.

There are currently four or five experienced CEOs signed on to work alongside students with District3, and Gedeon hopes the initiative will be able to offer more support for students who have less well-rounded business plans.

“Unlike regular incubators, we are much more open. If a team doesn’t have an idea we might be open to helping them find one,” he said. “Whereas real incubators with venture capitalists, they require that you have a business plan.”

Gedeon envisions District3 as a stepping-stone between the classroom and the business world.

“A company grows with us to an extent where we don’t have the facilities for them, so they exit and join a bigger incubator like Founder Fuel.”

He emphasized that these are just ideas, until the details are finitely decided on.

The inclusiveness of the project hinges on the development of the admissions process. District3 will have to walk the line between supporting inexperienced talent and being selective about dispersing its resources.

Many facets of the project remain to be determined, but for now the team is aiming to be as receptive and open as possible to the needs of the Concordia start-up community.

“We want to see what the reaction to it will be,” said Gedeon. “[District3] is very reliant on the environment; we want to adapt to changes around us.”

Codename iLab Information Session / Nov. 29 / Codename iLab in the EV Building (1515 St. Catherine St. W., 007.715) / 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. / Free

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