People work at NorthLight Innovation Centre in Whitehorse on Aug. 28. Yukonstruct’s Launchspace works with business owners to help access resources, connect them with the right programs and more. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Benefitting from a business bootcamp

Launchspace kicks off three-month program

For some it’s a dream come true — starting a business from the ground up, being their own boss, setting the course for how that business grows and delivering a product they’re passionate about.

It’s a lot of work to get there so it only seems fitting a bootcamp might be the right training ground for up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

Yukonstruct’s Launchspace will begin its first startup acceleration bootcamp Sept. 3, with 10 businesses taking part in the three-month program at NorthLight Innovation Centre.

Seven mentors, and possibly more to come, have volunteered to help guide the start-ups, Launchspace director William Lechuga said in an Aug. 28 interview.

As Lechuga explained, Launchspace works with business owners to help access resources and connects them with the right programs and more.

Part of its work is helping startups go through the validation process — that phase between an idea taking shape and a business potentially coming to fruition. It’s during that time, businesses will look at whether the funding is there to get things going, the chances of business growing, risks involved and other factors that determine its potential.

And that’s where the boot camp program comes in.

“The validation (phase) is really what this program is about,” Lechuga said.

The 12-week program, which has funding from the federal and territorial governments, is divided into three phases with the first looking at finding a product’s key market. The second part will build a sustainable business model around the idea looking at customer base, pitching the concept and business fundamentals required of every entrepreneur.

The final phase will focus on moving forward to creating a prototype or launching the business.

Sessions at NorthLight are scheduled for all day Saturdays and two hours on Tuesday evenings along with about an hour of work participants can expect to put in each day.

Participants will focus on a different topic each week under the three main areas. One week, for example, might zero–in on accounting; another week the topic might be co-founder agreements.

One-on-one mentoring will link, where possible, similar startups with businesses that have been in that field for years. A tourism startup, for instance, would ideally get one-on-one mentoring with someone who’s been in the sector for years.

“They know how to start a business,” Lechuga said of the mentors.

For the mentors volunteering their time for the boot camp, it’s a chance to share their expertise and stay connected with those coming into the field, Lechuga said.

McGarry Selbee, former CEO of the Chief Isaac Group of Companies, said the chance to share his experience and potentially help others maybe avoid some of the mistakes he made early in his career is exactly what made him look at getting involved as a mentor.

Before coming to the Yukon in 2017, Selbee’s career saw him in management roles in the oil and gas sector, electrical construction, water treatment and other industries in Alberta and British Columbia.

Selbee said he’s been following the initiatives happening at NorthLight and is pleased to see the opportunities happening for startups.

“It’s an exciting time right now,” he said.

While he helped both his daughter and nephew start their own businesses, this is his first time doing a more formal mentorship and he’s happy to share his experience with any startup he’s paired with.

“In the end business is business,” he said, highlighting the goal of all businesses to deliver a product or service people need or want. “The fundamentals of business are the same across the board.”

Ten businesses will make up the first cohort. That includes businesses in the clean tech, software, hardware, tourism, and nonprofit industries.

The team running SpinReg Technologies is looking to create technology that could contribute to promoting self-regulation and physical activity in students.

The company is working on software to connect to the yellow stationary bikes already in used in classrooms in the territory.

While CEO Scott Keesey along with cofounders Melissa Crosker and John Carson work through the Launchspace program to develop the business plan, prototype development will also be underway.

The software will deliver programs that are educational and/or promote self-regulation in the form of games connected to the bike.

“You’re pedalling to make the game happen,” Keesey said.

The idea came about from conversations between Keesey, Crosker and Carson, who’s been involved with the Sparks Fly program providing stationary bikes to schools throughout North America.

As Keesey explained, the trio are new to the tech sector and starting up a business and in short: “We want help.”

A member of the Cospace at NorthLight, Keesey saw an opportunity to get that help when he heard about the Launchspace program getting underway.

In particular, Keesey said he’s looking forward to being part of a cohort of startups and learning together what it takes to get a business off the ground.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity to learn together,” he said, adding he hopes to come out of the program more confident and with a clear path as SpinReg moves forward.

SpinReg is planning to launch a pilot project in late 2019 or early 2020 that will see the prototype tested on some of 80 bikes being used throughout classrooms in the territory.

Exactly how many bikes and what schools will be involved in the pilot are among the details that will be worked on in the months ahead.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified McGarry Selbee as the CEO of the Chief Isaac Group of Companies. He is no longer CEO for the company.

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