Hitting the ground running

Hitting the ground running

July 4, 2016


Not long after the winter term comes to an end at Queen’s University, the third floor of Beamish Munro Hall takes on a new life.

Students are back but they aren’t attending lectures. Instead they are working together in small groups, hammering out a new product or service that will hopefully win them the top prize of the Queen’s Innovation Connector Summer Initiative (QICSI), and possibly carry them beyond into the world of entrepreneurship.

[Summer Initiative students working together]
Students taking part in the Queen's Innovation Connector Summer Initiative team up during the boot camp offered at the start of the 17-week paid internship program focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. (Supplied Photo)

Started in 2012, QICSI is a 17-week paid internship program that brings together students to build their own startups, from the initial creation stage to the final finished venture ready to hit the market. Each cohort brings a different mix of backgrounds and skills and that always results in a diverse array of projects. This year there are 38 students involved, including two from St. Lawrence College. Each student receives $7,000 as a cost of living stipend and each team receives $4,000 in seed funding.

“It’s a great cohort,” says Melanie Robb, QIC program administrator, adding that there are more students from the Faculty of Arts and Science taking part, along with the founding programs of engineering and commerce. “They seem to be hitting the ground running so we’re looking forward to seeing what they can do.”

So far [QICSI] has surpassed my expectations, especially the boot camp. It was well-organized with a number of good speakers. It was very professionally done and I’ve really enjoyed my time so far. I’m excited to start a business and a little scared too.
— Henry Dossett (Sc’17)

Earlier, the students took part in a two-week boot camp that is aimed at equipping them with the knowledge to launch their businesses. That was followed by a pitch competition that saw the students brainstorm potential startups and then present them to a panel of judges. These two events provide them with the tools they will need to compete.

Other key elements, that the competitors have to learn on their own, however, include teamwork and collaboration. No one can win on their own.

“I think one of the strengths I’ve found for this group is that we’re not seeing cliques forming. They’re doing a lot of outside activities, it’s not just that they see each other during the day and that’s it. They’ve set up a squash ladder, there are barbeques every other week. There’s a community,” says Stacy Nguyen (Artsci’18), QICSI coordinator. “I think they realize that the competition is a short-term goal but for a lot of them they just want success in their companies, or with their ventures, whatever they end up doing, because at the end of the day winning the competition is great but there are so many other possibilities or paths they can pursue.”

An example of the collaboration are the weekly “321” meetings – three slides, two minutes, one minute for questions –where teams provide updates on their project while other participants offer constructive feedback.

For the participants, it’s new, it’s challenging, and it’s exciting to see everything coming together.

“So far it has surpassed my expectations, especially the boot camp,” says Henry Dossett (Sc’17). “It was well-organized with a number of good speakers. It was very professionally done and I’ve really enjoyed my time so far. I’m excited to start a business and a little scared too.”

For Bella Kolcze (Artsci’17) being introduced to the startup culture has been interesting and she says she is gaining experience she would not have received through a more traditional summer job.

“(QICSI) is a lot more independent and collaborative,” she says. “I think we’ve allowed that startup vibe into our brainstorming and we’ve kind of gone about ideation and brainstorming in a really holistic way.”

As the teams continue to develop their ventures, they will hear from a number of experts in the field as well as receive advice from special mentors, including past QICSI participants.

The competition will conclude with a final pitch competition on Thursday, Aug. 18, where they will have a chance to win up to $30,000 to help grow their business.

To learn more about Queen’s Innovation Connector and QICSI, visit the QIC website.