Techopia Live: University of Ottawa unveils new startup program, MakerLaunch

The University of Ottawa is putting its new STEM Complex and alumni network to work to serve student startup needs with a new program aimed at priming the city’s entrepreneurship pipeline.

Techopia Live was on-scene at uOttawa’s STEM facilities Tuesday evening for the announcement of MakerLaunch, a nine-month program for students and startup founders looking to bring their ideas to market.

MakerLaunch gives participants access to the school’s network of alumni and industry professionals, co-working space and various equipment to bring their prototypes to life. The new initiative, with its focus on tech companies, does not replace the university’s Startup Garage accelerator program.

Jacques Beauvais, the dean of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Engineering, prefaced the announcement by noting that the post-secondary institution has gone through a “change in DNA” in recent years, and that it’s now “solidly anchored in a maker culture.”

Jacques Beauvais
University of Ottawa Dean of the Faculty of Engineering Jacques Beauvais announces the launch of MakerLaunch. Photo by Mark Holleron.

In addition to the STEM building’s on-site facilities, startups will receive a chance at up to $50,000 in grant money. Participants will meet with coaches on a regular basis who will ensure that the companies are on the right track to hit their milestones.

“That’s huge,” said Kyle Bournes, who’s been spearheading the initiative for the University of Ottawa. “If you have seed funding to help you get going, that’s massive.”

The university is looking for students, recent alumni or founders who already have a startup with an early product or revenue. Bournes said that by the time students are finished the program, the goal is to have them set up to enter an accelerator program in the city such as Invest Ottawa, L-Spark or OneEleven.

“We want to use this as an opportunity to complement the ecosystem to make it that much better five, 10, 15 years down the road,” he said.

Applications are open now for the MakerLaunch program, with participants expected to begin in early 2019.