Executive Director, Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking
The University of Calgary’s vision is to be Canada’s most entrepreneurial university, and it’s well on the way.
Entrepreneurship programs at post-secondary institutions are often housed in one or more faculties. However, the University of Calgary (UCalgary) is approaching entrepreneurship differently. Its Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking is a unique central innovation hub that builds on entrepreneurial programs in faculties across campus and the university’s innovation organizations, creating a connected community that’s embedding entrepreneurial thinking in the university’s culture and cultivating the innovators of the future. By engaging students, researchers, faculty, and the larger community in entrepreneurial thinking and innovation in new and unique ways, the Hunter Hub and UCalgary are at the forefront of teaching and innovation discovery in entrepreneurship in Canada.
Embedding entrepreneurial thinking as a core skill
The Hunter Hub supports game-changing innovators across campus, helping to accelerate their ideas from conception to impact. Hunter Hub events and programs are available to all, fostering the development of an interdisciplinary community of innovators who think entrepreneurially no matter where their careers take them. The genesis for the Hunter Hub came from the UCalgary’s Haskayne School of Business’ unique idea to have all business students learn and experience entrepreneurial thinking as part of their degree.
Houston Peschl, a senior instructor at the Haskayne School of Business who created the Entrepreneurial Thinking course that impacts hundreds of business students every year, believes entrepreneurial thinking is essential in today’s world. “Whatever challenge you pick in society — for example, climate change, suicide prevention, or energy — you need this mindset,” he says. “Entrepreneurial thinking skills prepare students to problem-solve, tolerate ambiguity, fail forward, be empathetic, create with limited resources, respond to critical feedback, and understand how to work in and with teams. These are the hallmarks of great leaders.”
Building on the success of teaching entrepreneurial thinking to all business school students, Haskayne, in partnership with the Hunter Hub, recently launched an Embedded Certificate in Entrepreneurial Thinking available to undergraduate students in any faculty.
A top startup creator
Of course, entrepreneurial thinking, alongside a strong research community and commercialization programs and support, also fosters literal entrepreneurs, and UCalgary placed first amongst research universities in Canada for startup creation in the most recent Association of University Technology Managers’ 2020 Canadian Licensing Activity Survey.
An essential pillar in UCalgary’s growing innovation ecosystem is the Creative Destruction Lab – Rockies (CDL-Rockies). “A key strength of UCalgary’s innovation ecosystem is that there are supports and programs for startups at any stage,” says Heather Marshall, Head of Engagement at CDL-Rockies at UCalgary’s Haskayne School of Business. “The Hunter Hub works with students in terms of early-stage ideation and getting them thinking about entrepreneurship, and then we at CDL are later-stage, once there’s an idea and the inventors have decided to commercialize it.” To date, CDL-Rockies’ alumni ventures have created $1.7 billion in equity value creation.
Growing cutting-edge ventures
UCalgary also supports innovators and startups with UCeed, a unique group of early-stage investment funds that complete the link between discovery, entrepreneurship, and impact. “In the first two years of UCeed, we’ve made around 20 investments with a total value of $2.5 million, and this has led to over 80 new high-tech jobs and seen a further $20 million being invested by other investors,” says John Wilson, President and CEO of Innovate Calgary, UCalgary’s innovation transfer and incubation hub. “UCeed’s objectives are cultural as much as financial. Having our own investment funds makes it easier for our students and professors to translate their research and for outside investors to make early-stage investments. All this supports the growth of UCalgary and the diversification of our city.”
Launching national talent programs
Yet not everyone needs to be an entrepreneur to be a key participant in the innovation economy. The Hunter Hub is also focused on creating a talent bridge from post-secondaries to local innovation ecosystems hungry for top talent. To that end, the Hunter Hub launched Experience Ventures, an innovative work-integrated learning program that pairs students with startups and growing companies from coast to coast. “Experience Ventures is enabling over 6,000 college and university students to make an impact alongside real-world innovators through entrepreneurial thinking placements,” says Anica Vasic, Hunter Hub’s Director of Talent. “Students are paid to hone entrepreneurial thinking skills and work on projects with new companies and technologies that are shaping the future. Experience Ventures offers a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between school and the new world of work, helping to ensure that early talent is building their future, today.”