Five engineering students are among six U of T undergrads selected as part of The Next 36, an annual program aimed at promoting Canadian entrepreneurship among undergraduate youth.
“I got in, and I was shocked,” said Simon Bromberg. “I thought there’d be no way I was going to get in, that I’d do my best and that’ll be the end of it.” Bromberg, an engineering science student majoring in biomedical engineering, said competition for a spot in the program is stiff and the selection process is rigorous.
The other winning candidates from U of T Engineering are Engineering Science students Philip Chen (EngSci 1T3), Aditya Dhoot (EngSci 1T3), Mo Yu (Lara) Fu (EngSci 1T3), and Nikita Tarakanov (CompE 1T3). Also selected was U of T Medicine student Joshua Liu.
“We had well over 500 people complete applications this year,” said Claudia Hepburn, executive director, The Next 36. “But all the University of Toronto candidates have incredibly strong academic backgrounds which made them stand out.”
“The Next 36 is a great platform to refine my thoughts, accelerate my growth, and allow my entrepreneurial career to take off,” said Fu. “It is an incredible opportunity to gain hands-on mentorship from CEOs at top and successful industries, to work with all the other young individuals who come from different backgrounds but share the same passion about entrepreneurship.”
The program aims to transform the country’s most promising undergraduates into Canada’s top entrepreneurs through a mix of team work, business planning, mentoring, and intensive entrepreneurship instruction. Participants work in multidisciplinary teams of four to invent, launch and sell a product or service for the mobile or tablet market.
The Next 36 is based on ‘Economics of Entrepreneurship,’ a popular undergraduate course taught at U of T. Entrepreneurship education doesn’t stop there however – especially at U of T Engineering, where budding engineers build their business acumen through The Entrepreneurship Hatchery and the extremely popular Engineering Business minor, as well as the Entrepreneurship and Engineering Business certificates.
“What we look for are people with really strong entrepreneurship and innovative backgrounds, and also who have strong intellectual horsepower,” Hepburn said. “They need to have the ability to learn and synthesize and process information and apply what they’re learning to their ventures really quickly. Nikita and Simon and Aditya are all really strong programmers which is important because each of our ventures needs a strong programmer. And Lara has a very impressive research background and extraordinary academic credentials.”
Along with mentorship from some of Canada’s top business leaders, the eight-month program provides up to $80,000 cash from top venture capitalists, a comprehensive offering of in-kind resources and academic instruction from some of the world’s top faculty.
“This program is about moving out of your comfort zone,” Bromberg said. “Challenges are now opportunities; burdens are now chances for valuable experience.”
Engineering Science Chair Mark Kortschot said he was delighted that four Engineering Science students were chosen for the Next 36. “Engineering Science has always stressed a deep and fundamental education, and we strive to prepare our students for a wide range of things, including entrepreneurial ventures. In fact, there is a real emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the Faculty, and this recent success suggests we are on the right track.”
“On behalf of the Faculty, I congratulate our outstanding engineering students on being chosen nation-wide as one of the Next 36,” said Dean Cristina Amon. “Since the program’s launch in 2010, our students have represented U of T Engineering every year – a testament to their entrepreneurial drive and the quality of our forward-thinking curriculum.”
Participants are selected from a variety of academic disciplines and from across Canada, based on their entrepreneurial, academic and other accomplishments and for their outstanding promise as high impact entrepreneurs. Several celebrated U of T Engineering alumni are involved in the initiative, including board members Anthony Lacavera (CompE 9T7), entrepreneur and telecommunications executive, and Francis Shen (EngSci 8T1, AeroE MASc 8T3), Chairman and Co-CEO of Aastra Technologies Ltd.