Newfoundland has a rich history of independent thinking. It was the last province to join Confederation and for generations fishermen—the province’s original entrepreneurs—have been heading out to sea to make a living.
Of course, the area also has a reputation for producing great storytellers. These days, the story centres around the burgeoning tech scene. Spend any time in St. John’s and you’ll hear about Nasdaq Inc. acquiring Verafin for a cool $2.75 billion. Then there’s Silicon Valley’s Cadence Design snapping up inspectAR. You’ll also likely hear about the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship (MCE) and Genesis, an innovation hub dedicated to building “amazing companies.”
Lately, a new chapter has been added to the story. Experience Ventures is working with the MCE and Genesis to give students valuable experience while establishing a talent pipeline to help local startups find new employees.
Experience Ventures was founded by the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking at the University of Calgary. Memorial University and eight other Canadian post-secondary institutions have signed on to the program that offers students entrepreneurial thinking work opportunities. Students join startups and social ventures that are developing solutions to real-world problems. These are meaningful jobs, and students are also paid for their work by Experience Ventures. Companies get needed help and access to new talent at no cost. They need only supply their time and expertise.
There are also other benefits for students and the local tech scene. “We’re leveraging the Experience Venture program to inspire Memorial students to consider launching or working in a startup,” says Florian Villaume, director of the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship. “This compensated and low-barrier-to-entry opportunity is particularly useful to increase the gender diversity of our community.” Those features also work to increase participation from members of under-served communities.
As MCE’s program coordinator for Experience Ventures, Enaya AbdElGaber helps select the 55 students who will take advantage of Experience Ventures job opportunities each term. “Students are quite excited to be part of this, especially that it is paid real-world experience.” she says. “We’ve also had a great response from the companies we’ve contacted.” AbdElGaber says the companies are often just as excited as the students. As startups, they have no shortage of challenges and are eager to tap the talents and energy of Experience Venture students. And they get all of that without assuming any financial risk.
The 55 Memorial University students who take part each semester receive a variety of job opportunities. These range from weekend hackathons to multi-week challenges to student-in-residence roles. Whatever job they qualify for, students collaborate with their new colleagues. Through hands-on experience they solve problems, increase their resilience, and sharpen their abilities in opportunity recognition and risk management. In short, they strengthen their entrepreneurial thinking skills.
Experience Ventures is a win-win for everyone involved. Students get valuable experience that expands their entrepreneurial thinking, and tech startups get access to new talent. The biggest winner, however, might be the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. A burgeoning tech scene means new graduates don’t have to leave the province to find opportunities to put their talents to work. And that is a story the province has been demonstrating for years.