This Wednesday, August 31, I had the honour of being one of eleven young entrepreneurs to participate in an intimate roundtable discussion with Hon. Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development. Hosted by Startup Canada in partnership with Ladies Learning Code, this discussion was initiated to provide youth input into Canada’s Innovation Agenda, with a focus on how the government can better support young Canadians in entrepreneurial and innovative endeavours.
Though our businesses spanned industries – among us were a game developer, a healthy living not-for-profit founder, two healthcare technology companies, and YouTube star “Nerdy and Quirky” – some common themes arose through the discussion. One such theme was the need for more resources and support for entrepreneurs under 18 years of age. Youth entrepreneurs have a harder time being taken seriously than adult entrepreneurs, and an even harder time finding investors. Some of the entrepreneurs at the table have already succeeded in securing upwards of $1 million in capital, but that is far from the norm.
Another common theme was the importance of education in shaping a young innovator’s success. The consensus at the table was that most university education doesn’t adequately prepare the modern innovator for roles at startups because the curricula taught at schools – particularly in technology and computer science departments – have not yet caught up to what is needed in industry. Minister Bains was receptive to our suggestions to invest more in innovation programs for students that teach entrepreneurship skills and bridge the gap between the traditional conceptual education received at universities and the hands-on experience gained through college and work experience.
The final theme I will highlight here is the need for more resources for all Canadian youth, not just the youth who come from high-income families. This is the same point I raised in my discussion with Prime Minister Trudeau, who suggested that more free resources and complimentary programs should be created and made available to underprivileged Canadian youth so that they can learn the skills they need to make a competitive entrance to the workforce. Minister Bains agreed that this is an issue that must be addressed if we are to make Canada a truly entrepreneurial society and a world leader in innovation.
A huge thank you to Ladies Learning Code and Startup Canada for inviting me to be part of this discussion and giving me the opportunity to provide input to Canada’s Innovation Agenda. I am so honoured to be a voice for youth and women in tech, and to make sure our voices are heard in important discussions like these that shape the future of Canada.
Photography by Eden Beronio.
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