In the Spring of 2010 the University Students’ Council adopted a proposal to create a “student business incubator”.
Sacha Kumar, outgoing USC VP Finance, made the announcement, collected names of students, faculty, and volunteers who expressed interest — and passed the file to incoming VP Finance Ely Rygier. Rygier and a small team of early volunteers: Eric Janssen, Jonathan Buccella, Michael Hofweller and John Pollock, began a process of establishing the incubator, finding office space, furniture, financing and community support. The project was named BizInc.
A website and basic logo helped establish a brand, and campus advertising began to draw a steady flow of student projects. BizInc began an organized effort to connect with the community beyond the University property.
The London Economic Development Corporation was an early contributor.
The USC offered operating funds. The London Small Business Center
provided advice, support, contacts and access to ongoing programs like
Summer Company, business seminars, and networking nights.
BizInc opened office space in the University community Centre in March of 2011. In February of 2011 BizInc presented a business plan to Western University and was awarded $20,000 to move forward with proof of concept. With the support of the LEDC, a funding application was made to the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation: Communities in Transition program and in June of 2011 BizInc was awarded an operating grant that could be renewed over three years.
BizInc, with the support of the Small Business Center, began discussions with Fanshawe College about cooperative opportunities to support student entrepreneurship.
In April, 14 student entrepreneurs from Western and Fanshawe applied for Summer Company support through the Small Business Center.
In September of 2011 BizInc was working with more than 15 start-up projects. One project, eProf, had relocated to Dailan, China to participate in the Chinaccelerator program. Other projects were emerging in eBusiness, Social Media, App development event planning, branded marketing and even Cupcakes. Community mentors began to step forward.
Good projects were beginning to find outside funding and support from organizations like Ontario Network of Excellence, MaRs, and the National Research Council. In October, Fanshawe Student Union set aside space to open a BizInc office on campus and the school of Business assigned Dan Ninclaus to support student entrepreneurs on that campus.
By January 2012 BizInc had seen more than 60 student ventures. 8 startups entered the Venture London Business Competition and BizInc students represented 1/3 of all ventures at the TechAlliance Founders and Funders dinner. Student entrepreneurs were beginning to draw attention in London.
Palmpass was a finalist in the 2012 Venture London competition and received significant publicity in local media.
ShoreUp launched their app in the Apple store, showcased their product at CUTC and received a $5000 RASF Grant.
DrawSplash recruited 10 employees and secured contracts to integrate their service into Huron University-College starting September 2012.
BizInc continued to develop operations and formalized a Board of Advisers including representatives from Western University, Fanshawe College, student council executives, the London Economic Development Corporation, Small Business Centre and local investors. The first meeting took place in February 2012.
Regular networking events designed to bring together like-minded student entrepreneurs for possible collaboration and skill sharing across campuses has emerged. The first event, Entrepreneur’s Night, drew a crowd of over 100 (including Mayor Joe Fontana!) and featured a local VC from SW Angels Association who spoke on early stage financing.
In April 2012, BizInc worked with the Student Success Centre to pilot ‘Seed Your Startup’, a business pitch competition for students at Western and Fanshawe. This event attracted over 60 applications and awarded $5500 in community sponsorship. The winning venture was Sky Eye Media.
Throughout summer 2012, BizInc continued to gain momentum including regular features in Business London and surprise recognition in the Maclean’s 2012 University Report Card. BizInc also had an opportunity to present to the City of London’s Investment and Economic Prosperity Committee in request of budget line support.
Starting September 2012, BizInc is excited to open a popup storefront for BizInc entrepreneurs to showcase their products/services and engage students. The store will be located on the campus of Western University and supported by the University Students’ Council.
BizInc is now a reality and working hard to Engage, Equip and Support student entrepreneurs in London Ontario.