Next-Gen Start-Ups


Many students don’t wait until graduation to launch their new ventures. They juggle budding businesses with their studies, which many continue to build upon after graduating. The Centre for Business Venturing supports these enterprising students and recent alumni by running business plan competitions that award prize money, and providing funding and critical resources through the Dare to Dream program, to help increase the odds of success for these start-ups. Some recent winners, and their innovative ventures, are profiled below.

Paul and Tom Kinnear Business Plan Competition

Hyla Nayeri (left) and Adrien Bettio

Established in 2008 by Dr. Tom Kinnear, BCom’66, LLD’02, this competition awards the winning team $5,000 to launch or further the ongoing operations of its venture. Each year, teams that include at least one Commerce student submit their business plans. After a preliminary round, the final four teams present to a panel of judges, which selects the winner.

This year’s winning team of Hyla Nayeri and Adrien Bettio, both BCom’17s, impressed the judges at the March 30 finals by showcasing their venture, 437 SWIMWEAR, an e-commerce retailer specializing in women’s swimwear. 

Dare to Dream Internships

Five Dare to Dream internships were awarded in March to students and recent graduates. Thanks to financial support from several alumni and corporate donors, each of these interns received up to $15,000 in funding, office space and access to mentoring to help get their new ventures up and running.

Mark Balovnev, BCom’17, received the Battat-Steffensen Dare to Dream Internship for EduChain, a decentralized platform for the issuance and sharing of digital academic credentials such as transcripts and diplomas. Donors Dany Battat and Gia Steffensen are BCom’78 classmates. (An update: Mark nabbed second place at the Global Blockchain Summit in Dubai in April.)

Colin Harding, BCom’17, was named the Valerie Mann Dare to Dream Intern for Iris Technologies. The company produces an e-paper screen for LCD screens that reduces the negative health repercussions for those suffering from minor brain injuries, migraines or eyestrain. The award is funded by Smith Advisory Board member Valerie Mann, BCom’86.

Altair Ioffe, GDB’15, MBA’17, was chosen the RLS Foundation Dare to Dream Intern for Ioffe Biotechnologies. Its first product is Indezone, a non-prescription remedy that enhances cognitive performance. 

Manny Kandola, EMBA’15, was awarded the Cogeco Dare to Dream Internship for InterestPiggy, an online marketplace that helps consumers find the most competitive interest rates for mortgages, loans, savings and guaranteed investment accounts. 

Lisa Orr, BCom’01, AMBA’16, received the CIBC Dare to Dream Internship for LaBroga, which produces vintage-inspired luxury shoe bags.