Venture Spotlight Series: CORE x Mentors edition
Company building doesn’t happen in isolation: it takes drive, dedication and a lot of hustle...and a huge part of any venture's success depends on the mentorship received along the way. We are privileged to work with a pool of 200 extraordinary mentors across Vancouver’s ecosystem who share countless hours of their time and expertise to coach venture teams from the outset of their venture building journeys. Coming from a range of industries and entrepreneurial endeavours, our mentors are the bedrock of our program, helping to develop UBC entrepreneurs into the next generation of leaders shaping society. With applications for our CORE (formerly known as Core Technology) and Lab2Launch venture building streams open, we wanted to introduce some of our current ventures and mentors who are helping to drive discoveries and ideas to impact.
This is part 2 in a 2 part series. Did you miss our Lab2Launch x Mentors edition? Check it out, here.
Skylab is developing the next generation of adaptive computational photography tools designed for portrait photography. Founded by UBC Sauder grad, TJ Rak and Ph.D candidate in Machine Learning in Computer Science, CTO Alireza Shafaei, the two founders met after TJ returned from setting up a retouching studio in Asia as part of his post-grad travels. He discovered he had (without intention) effectively built a database of before/after photos that could be used perfectly for algorithms. Upon recommendation, TJ introduced himself to UBC’s Computer Science department where he met Alireza who was already thinking about this himself.
Fast forward to now, the team has delivered their MVP to a pilot user who they contacted throughout Phase 1 and 2 of customer discovery of the CORE stream. Imperative to early-stage company building and long term success, TJ cites their biggest accomplishment as part of the program has been:
“Establishing a strong common language between our team and maintaining a cadence to execute during uncertain times”.
Find out more about Skylab, here
Cyberspline Games Inc. is creating an immersive game experience that melds active gameplay with music, building our dreams into virtual reality.
Cyberspline was founded by Luca Cresciullo after he won the Unity Award 2019 for Best Student Project with "The Cluckening" while at Vancouver Film School. He then paired up with Ekaterina Nosova, Adjunct Professor at UBC in the Department of Medicine, and Associate Director, Research Analytics, at the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use, who works tirelessly behind the scenes as CEO.
At the recommendation of their IRAP advisor, Cyberspline came into the CORE stream with a business idea and the prototype, going on to create a validated business and actuarial VR game. Recently, Cyberspline was approved to receive a large amount of funding from the Canada Media Fund and is planning to launch their Kickstarter campaign at the end of July. Early access (beta testing) of the game estimated to be ready for the fall with a full release towards the end of the year.
On their experience in CORE, Ekaterina says:
“Without this program, we would not be able to be at such an advanced stage in our progression. We learned how to listen to our consumer base, understanding that even if we are gamers ourselves, we should still constantly be evaluating other players for a large sampling of unbiased market data.”
Find out more about Cyberspline, here
RiskMetrics provides a digital risk tolerance toolkit to Financial Advisors allowing them to better understand their clients’ risk profiles by quantifying risk tolerance through market simulations and behavioural analysis. Co-founders Tanner Geary and Arsh Ganda are both graduates of UBC, Tanner having recently received his BComm from Sauder in Finance and Real Estate this past April and Arsh having graduated in 2019 with a Bachelors of Science in Computer Science & Microbiology and Immunology.
Both Co-founders knew alumni of entrepreneurship@UBC through UBC connections and joined the CORE stream to launch the next stage of their venture building journey. The team was able to benefit from weekly meetings with industry mentors, leveraging the structure of the program to focus on which activities could increase their chance of success.
Tanner says the program helped the team pull off a major pivot in the venture’s early days, sharing:
“Without the support of entrepreneurship@UBC we most likely wouldn’t be where we are today...not to mention the fact that being able to say that we were a part of entrepreneurship@UBC gave us some credibility as we went out to talk with potential users”.
Find out more about RiskMetrics, here RiskMetrics is formerly known as OpenAdvisor
Kyle has held numerous leadership positions with global brands throughout his career, including Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, The Walt Disney Company, United Airlines and Rakuten. He was also the founding Managing Director in Japan for Arista Networks, co-founded by his older brother David. Kyle joined the mentor network in 2016 and has participated in every cohort since. He looks for coachable teams exploring products and technology, leveraging his expertise and passions for business development, customer relationships, marketing and strategic planning. Kyle is an advisor for several of his teams including Hubly, BarrelWise, Susgrainable, GUD and Skylab.
On his mentorship philosophy, Kyle doesn't believe in “teaching” someone to be an entrepreneur, rather, stresses the importance of finding individuals and teams with clear potential for success, and supporting them throughout their journey of discovery, curiosity, courage, and sometimes failure. Capturing the 360° experience of mentorship, he says: “I am willing to share my career and life experiences but equally willing to be part of the learning and discovery process with my mentees.”
Find out more about Kyle, here
Maria has an MBA from UBC Sauder and a Masters in Finance, with corporate experience that varies from business development and marketing to corporate development and investment readiness. Currently, Maria is a strategy consultant for small and medium-sized businesses, and helps technology companies from other countries launch in the North American market.
As part of entrepreneurship@UBC’s mentor network, Maria leverages her core skills of sales processes, financial modelling, understanding of corporate decision-making processes and corporate stakeholders’ motivations and needs. These skills are crucial for early stage companies, lending her experience to help build the next generation of entrepreneurs coming out of entrepreneurship@UBC. Working with venture Collaborative Learning Notes, Maria was able to utilize her experience to help further their venture building journey. Being a part of the mentor network since February, Maria says: “entrepreneurship@UBC is an amazing community, people that are fun to work with and well organized and thought-out processes that enable you to take all the best out of yourself and help the ventures.”
Find our more about Maria, here
Mariana’s first entrepreneurial shot was at the age of twenty, diving into the real estate business in Punta del Este, Uruguay where she developed an exclusive clientele of wealthy investors. After becoming a mom, she identified the lack of baby supplies in Uruguay leading to the creation of Baby & Co, an importer and retailer of high-end baby clothing and nursery essentials. The business transformed into a community of new moms, something Mariana says was a distinct competitive advantage to her company’s success. In 1999, Mariana moved to Canada and built a successful fashion accessories company which sponsored dozens of immigrants and created a loyal community of women and businesses. She sold the company in 2015 to travel the world.
Mariana is propelled by her passion for customer excellence (something she believes to be the backbone of every successful business), lending her robust entrepreneurial experience to ventures at entrepreneurship@UBC. Working with venture CrosGen, she understands the importance of having great mentors, saying:
“I believe my success as an entrepreneur wouldn’t be the same without the incredible mentors I met during my journey. Now is my time to give back and share my learnings with others.”
Do you have an idea or innovation based in disruption?
We have many amazing mentors in our ecosystem: keep a look out for our next Mentor Spotlight after this series to meet some more!
Thank you to all of our mentors who dedicate countless hours of their time and energy to furthering our ecosystems' venture building journeys. We couldn't do this without you.
Interested in becoming a part of our Mentor Network? Join here
This content was originally shared through our June 2020 Venture Spotlight, a monthly series sharing the latest news coming out of the entrepreneurship@UBC community. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay in the loop for all things entrepreneurship@UBC, from upcoming events and announcements to venture success stories and ways to get involved, here