TEC VenturePrize 2008

tec ventureprizeLike last year, I was once again lucky enough to attend the VenturePrize Awards Luncheon today with Dickson, and Chris, Don and their team from ProTraining. I hadn’t paid the competition much attention this year until recently, but it was good to see some familiar faces and meet new ones at today’s event. I’m also really happy it was once again in Hall D, easily one of our city’s nicest venues.

The grand prize winner for 2008 was DataGardens, a company that hopes to help companies manage their IT infrastructure more effectively. At first glance, they strike me as somewhat similar to one of last year’s finalists, Nirix. I wrote a bit more about the event (and the new TEC VenturePrize branding) at Techvibes, so check that out if you’re interested.

The event was once again hosted by Citytv’s Paul Mennier, and he did a great job. The guest speaker was Jim Carroll, a futurist and trends & innovation expert. He’s a great speaker and kept my attention throughout his presentation, but I have to say I didn’t enjoy him as much as Leonard Brody last year. Jim also got a few things wrong – he described Guitar Hero as a Nintendo innovation, and he claimed that we’re insulated from the rising energy prices here in Alberta. The latter remark was made off-the-cuff (“Hey, I’m in Alberta, let’s make it relevant”), and I think he probably feels pretty embarrassed about it now.

Lunch was similar to last year, though I don’t think I enjoyed it as much this time around. We started with Romaine Lettuce and Spinach Leaves with Grapefruit Dressing. The main course was Seared Thai Chicken Breast served with Tomato-Chili Jam, Coconut Rice, and Seasonal Vegetables. Dessert was Lime Meringue Pie with Fresh Berries and Raspberry Coulis.

The competitor videos this year all rocked, in my opinion, so kudos to whichever company helped to put those together. The music they played as the winners were announced was just a bit odd, though. Something to improve upon for next year!

Thanks again Chris & Don!

TEC Connector 2006

Post ImageThis afternoon was TEC Edmonton’s annual TEC Connector networking event, and for the second year in a row, Dickson and I decided to go. We were actually invited to setup a booth for Paramagnus, but we opted to just mingle instead. The TEC Connector is kind of an important event for me, because I consider it the start of our adventure with VenturePrize.

There seemed to be more people this year, and also unlike last year, we actually knew a few of them this time! It was nice to reconnect with some of the very smart and very interesting people we have met over the last year. These kinds of networking events are funny in a way, because you can meet some great people, but they also show just how small Edmonton can be. There are more familiar faces than unfamiliar ones.

There was some talk today about VenturePrize and the new student category that has been launched. I think it’s great that the program is expanding! Dickson and I will be one of the featured presenters in this year’s VenturePrize seminar series, an opportunity I am really looking forward to. We’ll be sharing our story with this year’s participants on November 1st.

Read: TEC Edmonton

Some details on Enterprise Square

Post ImageI attended an information session put on by TEC Edmonton today, where I learned some more details about the recently named Enterprise Square. TEC Edmonton will be the largest tenant in the new building, and while the session today was geared more towards their Research Transition Facility (RTF) clients, I still learned a lot. First and foremost, the name RTF will cease to exist when TEC Edmonton moves downtown in August of 2007. The new name will simply be “TEC Centre”.

One of the more interesting aspects of the presentation was that they shared artist drawings and some preliminary floorplans for the building. I unfortunately don’t have any pictures of the floorplans, but I do have scans of the drawings – here’s the outside of the building, and here’s part of the inside. If you look really closely, you might notice the following:

  • They have added a lot of windows to the second and third floors to try and bring in some more daylight.
  • A completely new fourth floor is currently being added. It will be constructed of steel on top of the existing concrete structure, and the sides will be completely covered in glass.
  • Instead of a skylight on the roof, they are building 13-foot high glass structures to allow daylight to flow into the building.
  • New elevators will be completely enclosed in glass, and existing escalators are being refurbished.

You’ll note the number of times I mentioned daylight. The existing Bay building was meant to be a department store, and so the focus was entirely retail. As a result, very few windows were built. Actually, I learned some interesting things about the building itself too. It is entirely built of concrete, and was constructed in two parts. The southern half was built in 1939, and the northern half was added in 1952. The familiar “coat of arms” on the southeast corner of the building will be preserved, along with a number of other features in order to meet the City of Edmonton’s restrictions for historic buildings.

Enterprise Square will offer about 350,000 square feet of space when complete, which should free up at least 150,000 square feet of space on the main university campus (which is good considering more academic space is badly needed). Here is the tenant list:

  • TEC Centre tenants & TEC Edmonton
  • U of A Faculty of Extension (completely moving downtown)
  • U of A School of Business Executive Education Program and the Alberta Business Family Institute
  • U of A Design Gallery, Arts Faculty
  • U of A Advancement Services
  • Art Gallery of Alberta (temporary, until the new Art Gallery is complete)
  • CHUM (Citytv and The Bounce, which already occupy space in the building)

As you can guess from the list, there will be at least some classroom space in Enterprise Square, used by the Faculty of Extension and the School of Business. Whether it will be available for use like space on the main campus remains to be seen.

President Samarasekera fast-tracked the project a while ago, and has made a number of her own requests (such as open spaces for lots of “hustle and bustle” on the main floor). The construction schedule really is aggresive, with blueprints for the interior to be completed in November and construction to begin in January (Stantec is handling the project). Tenants will start moving in over the summer. Dr. Samarasekera sure knows how to crack the whip it seems!

At this stage of the game, nothing is perfectly set in stone, but it’s getting closer. I expect in January you’ll really start to notice a difference if you pass by the building. And hopefully by August we’ll be able to take a good look at one of the newest additions to the University of Alberta!

University of Alberta unveils Enterprise Square

Post ImageJust over a year ago, I posted that the University of Alberta had officially purchased the Hudson’s Bay building in downtown Edmonton. At the time, officials said the first tenants would be able to move in within 12 to 18 months. It appears things are more or less on track:

At a downtown ceremony Thursday, the University of Alberta unveiled the new name for its downtown building with a flourish.

A large sign was lowered from the second level of Commerce Place above the rotunda, bearing the name “Enterprise Square.”

The name was chosen to reflect a bunch of things, including academic enterprise working alongside the private, and the enterprising spirit of Edmonton.

Renovations at the historic site continue, and are expected to be complete in the summer of 2007 with tenants moving in shortly thereafter. Once finished, roughly 430,000 square feet of space will have been renovated and made available in just 24 months. The project is definitely impressive.

On October 11th, TEC Edmonton (which will be the building’s largest tenant) is hosting an information session at their current location on the university campus. I am registered and planning to attend. For more information or to register for the event, click here.

Read: ExpressNews

VenturePrize Mentor Breakfast

Post ImageI just got back from the VenturePrize Mentor Breakfast presented by MacEwan, which I mentioned we were attending in my previous post. Fortunately, we called one of our mentors this morning to find out where it was, so we made it on time, and everything worked out okay. Dickson and I were invited to speak at this event by the MacEwan organizers, to share our experience with and thoughts on the mentorship program that comes as part of VenturePrize. To sum up our presentation:

A mentor’s only obligation is to provide honest, altruistic advice regarding the business plan to the business team they work with during the competition. In our experience, the business team ends up receiving much more than just advice in the mentorship program – they essentially gain another team member – making it a truly invaluable resource. As far as we’re concerned, VenturePrize simply wouldn’t be the same without the mentorship process that comes from the business plan screening, judging, and presenting, the seminar series, and of course, the mentors themselves. We’re truly grateful we were able to take part!

The breakfast this morning was quite good, both the food and the people! We sat with and spoke after Grant MacEwan College CEO and President Dr. Paul Byrne, as well as TEC Edmonton CEO Dr. David Cox. Talk about some tough acts to follow! Both of them are excellent speakers, extremely well-versed in what they do. It probably sounds kind of corny, but events like the breakfast today are all part of that mentorship process we talked about, and we keep learning more and more with each event.

TEC Connector

Post ImageI attended TEC Edmonton’s TEC Connector event this afternoon with Dickson. TEC Edmonton is a joint venture of the University of Alberta and the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation. Here’s what the event was all about:

This TEC Connector event will showcase companies created from the results of University of Alberta inventions and technologies. In addition, the event is an active connector which will provide networking tools and tips, plus generate opportunities to connect with useful representatives in our community, including: university researchers, start-up company leaders, professional service firms, financial support organizations, government agency representatives, media representatives, inventors and entrepreneurs.

Obviously Paramagnus is not a spin-off company, nor we do use any University research or innovations, but we though the event might be a great opportunity to do some networking anyway. We met some interesting people and found out more about many of the local companies we had only just heard of in the past. I also learned some interesting statistics about University of Alberta spin-off companies:

  • As of March 31st, 2005 there were 69 active UofA spin-off companies
  • There have been 84 such companies formed since 1963, including those that have merged, been acquired, or discontinued
  • These companies employ more than 1000 high-skilled workers
  • More than 80% of the spin-offs are based in Alberta
  • Seven are publicly traded

One of the speakers at the event also mentioned the pending offer to purchase to the Hudson’s Bay building downtown, which if approved is where TEC Edmonton’s new headquarters would be. University administration presents the proposal to the Board of Governors on Friday, so we should know either this week or next whether or not the deal will go through.

Networking events are always lots of fun! This one was especially good because there was free food and drinks 🙂

Read: TEC Connector