Innovation Bootcamp at Acadia teaches hands-on entrepreneurship

Published on May 16, 2017

John Robertson instructs students in the Innovation Bootcamp at Acadia University in entrepreneurship.

©Wendy Elliott

WOLFVILLE NS – John Robertson, who is the strategy and sales lead at InspiredEggs, speaks a language his audience comprehends.

New handmade charcuterie boards. These Creative Urban Timber products are one-of-a-kind.
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He talks about a curated retail experience, running in the red and the start-up environment. InspiredEggs is termed an innovation shop.
Robertson’s experience, especially with safety sensors for seniors – a business entitled homeEXCEPT, he shares freely.
“There will be red,” he warns the students at Innovation Bootcamp at Acadia University.
Robertson noted that manufacturing sensors in China would cost 75 per cent less, but his firm opted for a Lockport firm. He’s also been part of hiring four highly trained immigrants from Israel and India that have settled in Nova Scotia.
Innovation Bootcamp is a pilot that has been developed since last August under the Nova Scotia Sandboxes, says Leanne Strathdee, manager of Innovation and Incubation Services at the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre.
Custom designed, she says the bootcamp was built for early stage innovators, based on collective experience in the province-wide sandboxes on what would define best practices.
There are 31 students taking part from five universities and the Nova Scotia Community College. Thirteen signed up from Dalhousie’s computer science program and six are Acadia students.
The 16-week Innovation Bootcamp included a two-week intensive residency on the Acadia campus.

Students concentrated on design thinking, business models, prepare pitches and presentations. The goal of this phase, Strathdee says, was to teach students how to find and evaluate a problem worth solving, learn fundamental ideation skills to create a potential solution to the problem, and communicate ideas effectively to others.
Nassim Klayme, an Acadia student, called the bootcamp mentorship awesome.
He brought a concept for a musician-focused web site that could equalize the profile of artists across the country regardless of their urban or rural roots.
We hope to connect musicians and showcase performers, he said. Klayme called Strathdee’s guiding input motivational.
Halifax-based student Jake Arsenault, owner and operator of Creative Urban Timber (CUT) developed his business out of a class project at Saint Mary’s University.
He manufactures custom furniture and home accessories from reclaimed wood. Arsenault says the eco-friendly attitude of today’s modern homeowner appreciates his craft.
Uniquely he’s been able to make furniture with pieces of walnut that his late grandfather, King Butler of Wolfville, had preserved. The wood was once used for dining room tables in an Acadia setting.
Arsenault said he appreciated the bootcamp mentorship for teaching him to think outside the box while still a student.
In week three, students returned to their originating sandbox to apply concepts learned in the first two weeks. Mentors are available to support teams with additional advising from each Sandbox manager.
In the last week of the program, all the student teams will come together for a final project presentation and demo in front of stakeholders, which include potential investors. A team of experienced judges will determine the three winning teams. Some $60,000 is at stake.
Did you know?
The Nova Scotia Sandbox Project is a joint project hosted by the province’s universities and the Nova Scotia Community College, which brings together students, mentors and advisers to take business and social concepts from idea to execution.