Carleton accelerator celebrates weekend opening

Carleton University officially opened its business accelerator this weekend by playing host to a program designed to interest young girls in a career in technology entrepreneurship.

Associate professor Tony Bailetti, who runs the accelerator, said of all the ways the school considered launching the facility, this was the one about which he felt most strongly.

Mr. Bailetti supervised Carleton’s Lead to Win startup training program for women. He said that experience taught him the key was to not wait until women are in their thirties to attract them to the business side of high tech.

“It would be absolutely wonderful if we had a lot more young women involved with technology entrepreneurship,” he said. “If you take a look at females in entrepreneurial roles or in technology roles in this city, they’re really under-represented.”

Carleton president Roseann Runte officially opened the accelerator on Saturday at 9 a.m. After that, 45 girls between 12 and 18 years of age dove into the 12-week program called “Technovation.”

The program was started by a not-for-profit group in California. The Ottawa chapter of Women Powering Technology is running the local version.

The girls will not spend the entire 12 weeks at Carleton; the program will be hosted by other local partner companies as well. The girls will compete against each other, with the best teams getting a shot at a trip to California to face other opponents from 45 countries around the world.

As for the accelerator, the process has been underway at various locations, including Invest Ottawa and The Code Factory, since 2002. But now the students will all be under one roof on the first floor of the St. Patrick’s Building on the Carleton campus.

“So when I yell at them, I can do it once, not 10 times,” said Mr. Bailetti.

The accelerator is open to all Carleton students of any discipline, he said.

“There’s this idea that you could create a company and graduate with a company in one hand and your degree in the other,” he added.

The idea is to get students to the point where they can launch a business that can generate $1 million a year within three years.

Once a month, students are invited to pitch their ideas to a board of three or four business experts. The program selects the board members from a pool of 137 volunteers.

After the 30-minute pitch, the students get a colour designation of green, yellow or red.

Mr. Bailetti said green means the student is in, while yellow means the student is close to getting in but might still have to work on a problem with their pitch before coming back and trying again. Red means the student might not be meant for the program.

Mr. Bailetti said there were 360 green designations last year alone.