Two Algonquin grads hope to make a world of difference for entrepreneurs with World Jams

World Jams director Gavin Gervais (pictured) spoke to OBJ about bringing the conference and software to life with CEO Federico Arellano.
World Jams director Gavin Gervais (pictured) spoke to OBJ about bringing the conference and software to life with CEO Federico Arellano. (Supplied)

Two recent Algonquin College graduates are taking a class assignment one step further as they prepare to host a conference and launch a new platform next month to help students transition into the business world. 

Created by director Gavin Gervais and CEO Federico Arellano — who met in the college’s business management and entrepreneurship program — World Jams is a software that allows aspiring entrepreneurs to upload business pitches and potentially draw the eyes of interested companies and investors. 

“(Individuals) can upload their pitches and work with possible investors and make possible professional connections to help them grow their business idea, with the hope of making it real,” Gervais told OBJ in an interview last week. “It’s going to work in the same way that Reddit works, where you can upvote and downvote ideas through popularity. If you’re looking to invest in the next big idea or if companies are looking for something to help them spice things up … all those ideas will come together on this platform.”

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Both Gervais and Arellano just graduated in April, but in June they will be hosting the first World Jams Conference to launch their platform. 

“We’ve been carrying this on for the last two years,” said Gervais. “Then (Arellano) approached me with the idea to do the event, World Jams, where we can bring all these people together, where people can pitch their ideas to a live audience, and where you can connect with business professionals and investors.”

The conference will take place June 25 to 27 at the Canadian History Museum and Canadian War Museum. 

It’s been a short timeline to bring the conference to life, but Gervais said they’ve garnered good interest and hope to attract 500 people throughout the three-day event. That includes up to 60 pitch teams, which could include students from local post-secondary institutions or other entrepreneurs of any age.

“That’s what our goal is, to bring people from across the country and across the globe together,” he said. “We have individuals and pitch teams coming from Mexico with the help of some of our Mexico investors. We’re also working with the United States and we’re also in contact with different embassies, like Italy and others … We have been working very closely with Ottawa Tourism, Invest Ottawa, the Ottawa Board of Trade, and Startup Canada. We’ve really been in contact with as many people as possible.”

Compared to larger cities like Toronto, Ottawa isn’t often thought of as a good place to incubate a business, he said. 

So in addition to pitching ideas, attending workshops and networking, Gervais said the conference is a chance to promote Ottawa’s business sector and discuss ways to attract more young businesses to the city. 

“There is a very large potential here in Ottawa,” said Gervais. “Ottawa is often overlooked as a business centre. It is our nation’s capital and that’s something we should take advantage of. Let’s grow. Not only will this event support that and help innovate those ideas and help people start their businesses here … In the long-term, it will also benefit the city and you’ll have more industry starting here and new business trends. We would love to be part of that journey.”

One big challenge that he hopes the event — and the World Jams platform — can help new businesses with is finding financing. 

“(For) new businesses, it’s very difficult to make those connections with possible investors or venture capitalists. But it’s also very difficult to find that initial funding,” he said. “We can’t promise any results. We cannot promise business success. But we can promise that we will do our very best to bring people together to have conversations.”

Gervais said he and Arellano understand what entrepreneurs are going through. They themselves have been going through the same experience pitching World Jams to potential partners to make both the conference and the software a reality. 

“It was difficult at first, because our biggest thing is time; we only have two months. We’ve had a lot of corporations say, ‘This sounds like a great idea, however, it’s such short notice, it’s hard for us to support you,’” said Gervais. 

But in the end, he said their partners have been convinced to support World Jams through reminders of their own career beginnings.

“When you started off as a young entrepreneur, did you wish you had something like this? Do you wish you were able to engage in more networking activities? Do you wish you had this opportunity?” said Gervais. “A lot of (investors) have said yes. We’re showing them we can build this community that will not only inspire future entrepreneurs, but also help those that have already started.”

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