Venture for Canada plugging fresh talent into startups

A Canadian not-for-profit is steering recent graduates off the path towards a career in big business and on the road to entrepreneurship.

Venture for Canada partners with startups across the country to recruit, connect and train qualified grads to begin a career in entrepreneurship. Successful applicants to the fellowship program are put through a five-week training course in the basics of startup life: coding, marketing, sales and managing stress in startup environments.

Fellows are then connected with a startup in need of talent and take on entry-level roles in the companies for two years. Among Venture for Canada’s partners are local e-commerce giant Shopify and SaaS incubator L-Spark.

Patrick Farrar, founding team member and COO of Venture for Canada, says that the goal of the organization is to show talented graduates that there are more options than the traditional path of settling into an established corporation right out of school. He compares working at big firms to being a “cog in a wheel."

“It’s just a huge brain drain on some great people. We should be putting those great brains into some really challenging opportunities ... rather than just doing the status quo over and over again,” Mr. Farrar says.

Mark Dhillon, a 2016 Venture for Canada fellow, agrees. When it comes to making an impact, Mr. Dhillon sees startups as the right vehicle for the job.

“Your career is like your legacy, and I really want to create my own story. You go and work for a bigger company, you really can’t do that,” he says.

Mr. Dhillon graduated from Carleton University with an MBA, and runs his own sunglasses apparel firm, Shitty Shades. As a Venture for Canada fellow, he works withInvest Ottawa as the organization's entrepreneurship community manager.

Connecting with local startups and the other Venture for Canada fellows is one of the most productive parts of the program, Mr. Dhillon says.

“I get to meet like-minded people from across Canada, and these are some of the smartest people I’ve ever met.”

Mr. Farrar says that he doesn’t believe there’s a specific “type” of person who is right for Venture for Canada, noting that their fellows’ backgrounds range from business, STEM and arts. He is also proud that the gender ratio of fellows is more than 50 per cent female, a rare feat in the field.

“I think entrepreneurship is accessible to everyone, and it’s an opportunity for everyone,” Mr. Farrar says. “We pick great people, and that’s what it comes down to.”

“I just love building. I think that’s one of the common things throughout all the fellows,” Mr. Dhillon adds. “I think that type of mentality is really important for innovation in Canada, and also growing the economy.”

The application process has begun for the 2017 Venture for Canada cohort. The first deadline to apply is Oct. 28, and the final deadline is Feb. 28. If the following video interview goes well, applicants head to an intense selection day event where a series of group and individual interviews narrow the field to the selected cohort.

Training camp takes place from May to June, 2017.