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Global ambitions

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. And your business. 

Greg Bavington speaks to an alumni audience in New York City about Queen’s Innovation programs including Principal Daniel Woolf, Julie Gordon-Woolf, and Julia Reid, President of the NY Branch of the Queen’s University Alumni Association. Over 50 alumni gathered to learn about Innovation at Queen’s and launch the New York Alumni node in the Innovation Alumni Network. (Supplied photo - credit: Dayvid Wolf Garcia)

That’s the concept behind the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre’s (DDQIC’s) Global Network program. The Global Network connects Queen’s graduates who are launching a business with a group of advisors and valuable connections in several large cities. The rapidly growing Global Network currently includes nodes in London, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Each node is guided by at least three volunteers who are well established in industries ranging from financial, regulatory, information technology, and other critical sectors.

“Knowing that the Canadian market makes up just 10 per cent of the overall North American market, we advise our student entrepreneurs to go international very quickly once their businesses are up and running,” says Greg Bavington, Executive Director, Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre. “In doing this, we recognized it would be helpful to support our student entrepreneurs with a soft landing wherever they go as they launch their businesses and transition out of the university. So, we have been working with our colleagues in Advancement and the International Office to establish these virtual nodes, comprised of alumni and influencers in key markets.”

Mr. Bavington believes the network could be expanded to a dozen nodes if the right contacts can be found in major markets, and he is currently seeking volunteers to be a part of the network’s inaugural Asia nodes. Oftentimes, these volunteers are Queen’s alumni.

“The Queen’s University Comprehensive International plan is premised on international collaboration, and our alumni base around the world is a key strength and differentiator,” says Kathy O’Brien, Associate Vice-Principal (International). “The combination of student innovators and experienced alumni working together in different parts of the world in a global network is exciting, unique, and directly contributes to a transformative student learning experience.”

Ultimately, it is the volunteers who made the Global Network tick. Heather Christie (Artsci'09), CFA, is a Vice President with BlackRock's U.K. Retail London Discretionary Team, and chairs the London node. Ms. Christie says she was delighted to have the opportunity to spearhead the Global Network initiative in the U.K.

"It gives me the opportunity to stay connected to some of the absolutely brilliant businesses our students are cultivating at Queen's, but equally it gives me the opportunity to stay connected to Queen's alumni in the U.K. who have an interest in critiquing and helping to cultivate our next generation of Queen's grads to build enterprises that will truly make a difference in our global, social economy," says Ms. Christie.

"The 20 members of our hub in the U.K. have been really impressed with the quality of enterprises that have come through the Innovation Centre at Queen’s and we are all really excited to see the next developments in all of them," adds Ms. Christie. "The level of passion and ingenuity from our students coming from all sorts of backgrounds has genuinely provided all of us with such inspiration and excitement about this next generation of talent coming out of Queen's."

As for the entrepreneurs, the value is immediately obvious. Esther Jiang, co-founder of alternative protein business Gryllies, noted many of the company's early customers have had some connection to Queen's. "It has been great for our business to connect with the different international nodes of the network," says Ms. Jiang. "Queen’s alumni are very keen to support each other and I have seen that firsthand. As we launched our product, it was important to have reach outside of our local area and the Queen’s network has let us do that effectively."

The Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre team is currently seeking alumni and other influencers who might wish to participate in future Global Network nodes. If you are interested in this opportunity, or if you know of someone who might be, contact Greg Bavington at bavingtg@queensu.ca.

For more information on the Global Network program, visit the DDQIC’s website.