It’s a case of “business as virtual” as the University of Toronto prepares for its fifth annual Entrepreneurship Week, a four-day showcase of U of T’s vast and vibrant entrepreneurship and startup ecosystem.
Running from March 8 to 11, this year’s U of T Entrepreneurship Week features a full slate of programming – startup showcases, pitch competitions, keynote talks, workshops, networking events, panel discussions and more – in a safe and easily accessible online setting.
Among the most keenly anticipated events is Derrick Rossi’s appearance as part of the RBC Innovation and Entrepreneurship Speaker Series. Rossi, a stem cell biologist and entrepreneur, co-founded biotechnology firm Moderna, which was among the first companies in the world to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.
“I’m especially excited to welcome the participation of Derrick Rossi, a U of T alumnus, at this year’s event,” says Jon French, director of U of T Entrepreneurship.
“His contributions to the science behind Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine and track record as a scientist-entrepreneur promise to make him a truly inspirational keynote speaker, particularly given the way the pandemic has underscored the critical importance of innovation – in the life sciences, but in many other areas as well – to all of our lives.”
Other familiar events include: the RBC Prize for Innovation and Entrepreneurship pitch competition, which offers $50,000 in prizes; Pitch with a Twist, a competition featuring an all-woman lineup of contestants and judges to celebrate International Women’s Day; and the True Blue Expo, which will see dozens of startups showcase their innovations via virtual booths.
There are also several new additions to this year’s calendar. They include: the Scaleup Showcase, which will spotlight 10 of U of T’s fastest-growing companies; “Celebrating Leaders, Black Women in Business,” a panel event that will explore the experiences of Black women in business; an interactive session that looks at issues around reconciliation and building ethical relationships with Indigenous communities; and a session focused on mental health awareness for entrepreneurs.
“Just as successful startup founders are able to pivot to identify opportunity out of crises, the entire entrepreneurial community at U of T has adapted to the circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s inspiring and engaging set of events is proof that participation and engagement in entrepreneurship has never been higher.” French says.
“While it is difficult to replace the energy and buzz of an in-person celebration – and the serendipitous conversations and meetings that come with that – the virtual nature of this year’s Entrepreneurship Week allows us the opportunity to open up our programming to a broader audience and involve participants in a manner that wouldn’t have been otherwise possible.
“I look forward to welcoming students, entrepreneurs, alumni, mentors, business leaders, investors and anyone who is looking to be inspired by our startups and ready to engage with one of the most dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystems in the world, during the fifth annual U of T Entrepreneurship Week.”
Here’s a quick rundown of some key numbers ahead of this year’s U of T Entrepreneurship Week:
0 – cost to attend U of T Entrepreneurship Week in dollars
1 – U of T’s rank in research-based startups among Canadian universities
10 – Startups vying for the RBC Prize for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
10 – High-growth U of T companies sharing their journey at the first-ever Scaleup Showcase
12 – Events making up Entrepreneurship Week
60 – Startups, accelerators and partners participating in the True Blue Expo
200 - Entrepreneurship-related courses offered at U of T
500 – Startups created by U of T entrepreneurs over the past decade
15,000 – Size in square feet of ONRamp, U of T’s collaboration and co-working space for startups
20,000 – Total prizes, in dollars, at Pitch with a Twist to celebrate International Women’s Day
50,000 – Total prizes, in dollars, at the RBC Prize for Innovation and Entrepreneurship pitch competition
1.5 billion – Investment, in dollars, raised by U of T startups over the past decade