Dare to Venture: Fostering the Entrepreneurial Spirit at McGill

Photo/Image courtesy of Creative Commons

On March 31, 2022, the McGill Entrepreneurs’ Society, in collaboration with Montreal-based startup Nab Design, hosted “Dare To Venture”, a speaker-series event with the aim to inspire students to explore entrepreneurship as a plausible career path. Held in-person at the Centre Mont-Royal, attendees listened to a panel of six entrepreneurs spanning across several industries, including fintech, robotics and cinema. The panellists talked about their entrepreneurial journey and shared valuable insights with students on how to be successful when starting your own business. 

Vincenzo Guzzo – CEO of Cinémas Guzzo, and ‘dragon’ on Dragon’s Den

“Mr. Sunshine” Vincenzo Guzzo kicked off the night with an inspiring story about resilience and adversity. After witnessing his father struggle for years in the cinema business, Guzzo was never keen on becoming an entrepreneur. The young Italian Montrealer had his eyes set on  pursuing a law degree in New York City. However, all that changed when one day, his father sought his help to take on the large American theatre companies that were restraining competition to smaller theatres. Guzzo loved the fight, so much so that he eventually decided to become an entrepreneur and take over Cinémas Guzzo, growing it into the ten locations operation that it is today. Guzzo describes an entrepreneur as someone who is willing not to fit in the “rules & regulations”. He stressed the importance of asking questions, and challenging others. Finally, “Mr Sunshine” talked about his experience on Dragon’s Den, saying that the entrepreneur’s character and fighting spirit is even more important to him than the product that they are pitching.

Dardan Isufi and Raphaël Gaudreault – Co-founders at Eva

Dardan and Raphaël are the co-founders of Eva, the first delivery and ride-share platform built on blockchain technology. When Uber announced its plans to leave Quebec in 2017, Eva’s co-founders decided to create their own alternative to the ride-share giant. Facing hurdles and delays in obtaining the necessary licences to operate in Quebec, the 22 year olds turned to the media to decry the government’s lack of support towards entrepreneurship , speaking on major outlets including TVA and CBC. This strategy proved to be successful at garnering the public’s attention and eventually obtaining the paperwork that the company desperately needed.  The co-founders saw blockchain technology as an opportunity to engage drivers and make them feel like they are truly part of the company. For example, Eva uses smart contracts to reward drivers with shares of the company. The company is expanding internationally, with its blockchain-based software as a service segment aimed at allowing smaller players to compete with the likes of Uber and Lyft in the ride-share and delivery markets.

Lucas Béland Founder at Goloot

Creating your own company is not easy, let alone at eighteen years old. In 2019, Lucas founded Goloot, a technology startup that allows brands to reward the digital behaviour of users. Lucas fought hard to obtain financing for his startup, and after networking with people in his entourage, he finally managed to get funding for his idea and turn it into a business. During his speech, the entrepreneur stressed the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people, talking about his strategic investors who have been crucial to the success of Goloot by constantly providing support and advice. 

Chloë Ryan Co-founder at Acrylic Robotics

In 2020, McGill BEng student Chloë Ryan launched Acrylic Robotics, a technology startup which allows artists to sell collections of art. The company leverages camera-based systems and machine learning methods to recreate paintings and other forms of art. The founder talked about how she developed valuable skills while running her business such as doing things faster, which benefited her academic performance as well. While it is not easy to juggle university and running a start-up, Chloë believes that it is worth the struggle, especially if you find the right people to accompany you along the way.

Nabil Anouti Founder at Nab Design and president at the MES

McGill BCom student Nabil Anouti wrapped up the speaker series by talking about his experience with creating and managing his own company, Nab Design. Nab Design provides a wide range of creative services to companies, ranging from media production to web design. The idea behind Nab Design was born when Nabil was only thirteen years old, after his mother asked him to help her design a website for her business. The student entrepreneur has since become an advocate for student entrepreneurship, becoming the president of the McGill Entrepreneurs Society.

However, with enough determination, the right people by your side, and a little luck, the entrepreneurial journey can truly be rewarding.

One common theme echoed by all six speakers is the struggle that comes with entrepreneurship. Whether it is the struggle to obtain permits, to get financing or to manage school and a startup simultaneously, being an entrepreneur is by no means easy. However, with enough determination, the right people by your side, and a little luck, the entrepreneurial journey can truly be rewarding. “Dare To Venture” challenges students to write their own story, by leveraging their unique skills to create something special.

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