Many successful companies have emerged from Queen’s. From Iris Technologies, which made an LCD computer for people with concussions, to Red Gold of Afghanistan, which sold saffron to help women in Afghanistan, Queen’s has founded and supported many student entrepreneurs.
The journal spoke to students and staff about their entrepreneurial paths and the lessons learned.
“Controlling our destinies is a really important part of an entrepreneurial mindset,” said Greg Bavington, executive director of Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Center (DDQIC), in an interview with The Journal.
“It encourages you to achieve what you can do with what you have and what you can easily get your hands on.”
Entrepreneurs need to be resourceful and start using what is available to them to make the change they want to see in the world.
“I didn’t have to put up with or tolerate what I was born into,” said Bavington. “I could change the circumstances around me for my own benefit and for the benefit of others.”
Wealthy entrepreneurs are more likely to make the world a better place than to create something that makes them rich.
“You have to have a passion beyond just trying to amass wealth for yourself,” said Bavington.
The benefits of entrepreneurship can be enormous, but it’s almost impossible to know if a business is booming or failing when it’s just getting started. For this reason, entrepreneurs have to feel very comfortable with uncertainty. This uncertainty stands in stark contrast to university programs, which can promise students a more stable and secure life after graduation.
“This mess of insecurity is very different from what we spend most of our time with in school,” said Bavington.
“When you think of STEM disciplines in science, there is usually an examination. There is just the right amount of data that has to be manipulated to get one correct answer, while all the other answers are completely wrong. “
“This is how entrepreneurship or the world doesn’t work,” he said.
“There are all kinds of decisions that have different degrees of right and wrong […] You have to feel comfortable with insecurity. “
Being comfortable with uncertainty helps students do better at their job after graduation, regardless of whether or not they end up aspiring to be an entrepreneur.
“I acquired all of the technical knowledge through my studies, but I definitely gained the practical application of confronting a problem and then trying to find the best solution through my studies [Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI)] Entrepreneurship program, ”said Jessica Dassanayake, PME ’23, in an interview with The Journal.
“I currently work in the government on national defense and I work a lot with the military, so the solutions I need to develop are fast moving. When something comes up for the military […] I have a really vague problem and have to get these requirements. “
In addition, participating in an innovation program helped Dassanayake find new ways to do things that brought a new perspective to their workplace.
“I was able to bring in a new perspective: ‘Maybe we should take a step back and write down the requirements or have another conversation with the client and fully understand what is going on,'” she said.
“Bringing in these new perspectives and expressing my opinion – even a different opinion – at the table is something that entrepreneurship has really prepared me for, because I enjoy having these conversations instead of leaning back and letting the status quo happen.”
The media may portray most highly successful entrepreneurs as loners building their businesses on their own. The reality is that the most successful companies are supported by exceptional teams.
“There is no company in the world that would not admit that […] If they didn’t have good people working well together, they’d be in big trouble, ”said Bavington.
One of the most important skills employers look for in applicants is teamwork. However, since the semesters at the university only last 12 weeks, the students do not gain the experience of working in teams over the long term.
“In the academic world, by the time you move on to graduate school, everything is so short-term when it comes to teams,” Henry Lee, M.Sc. Computing ’22 said in an interview with The Journal.
“It takes time to create really good teamwork.”
Lee worked with two co-founders from QICSI on a company called Viriene. Viriene aims to help women find bras that fit properly.
“It took us a month or two to have little disagreements here and there and understand each other’s operations,” he said. “Then adjust to set the team up so that everything runs smoothly.”
Working with and long-term relationships with people means that a team inevitably experiences disappointment. It is important for entrepreneurs to have empathy for their teammates through ups and downs.
“Life happens – especially when you start a business,” said Dassanayake. “People are sometimes not always available to do things that they may have promised […] Always be empathetic for everyone around you. “
While it’s hard to pin down for those watching from afar, the experience of being a successful entrepreneur requires humility and cooperation.
“Often times, people who are very good at something take a certain amount of pride in the achievement that it is exclusive,” said Bavington. “A lot of the pride in an Olympic medal comes from the fact that very few people have an Olympic medal and you beat a lot of people in a competition who wanted the same medal.”
“Entrepreneurship isn’t like that,” he said. “It’s a team sport.”
“Regardless of the outcome of your first company or your second, third or fourth, if you have the [entrepreneurial] Your mindset and skills will serve you regardless of the outcome of your endeavor, ”said Bavington.
Working with many students since the DDQIC was founded in 2012, Bavington found that the most successful students were engaged, coachable, and curious.
“Commitment because it is difficult […] Trainer skill because you are not an expert on a lot or nothing. Curiosity creates this broader understanding of what problems society is facing, ”he said. “There’s nothing there [entrepreneurs] see, that not only fascinates her. “
Bavington believes that “[entrepreneurship] is available to everyone. “
Entrepreneurship requires integrity and doing your best every day.
“If you’re an entrepreneur, the market doesn’t give a shit. Either you succeed and get together or you disappear, ”Lee said.
Entrepreneurship pushes students to their limits and motivates them to do everything today to make tomorrow’s world a better place.
“Time is limited,” said Lee. “If you really understand that, you will be so hungry for something tomorrow, as opposed to ‘Well, I can put it off’.”