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Creative Destruction Lab selects new entrepreneurs

Jesse Rodgers, director of U of T's Creative Destruction Lab (photo by Dominic Ali)

Building on a successful inaugural year, 15 new ventures have been accepted into the Creative Destruction Lab at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

“We are really excited about the second cohort of ventures that applied to the Lab this year,” says Jesse Rodgers, director of the CD Lab. “We had an increase in both the overall quality and quantity of applications. It was a difficult decision to select only 15 ventures to start in the program.”

In its first year, the CD Lab helped eight successful ventures create more than $65 million in equity value, based on a valuation implied by the price at which investors purchased stakes in the companies. Participants receive mentorship from a team of experienced entrepreneurs who have successfully created, nurtured and harvested value from massively scalable, technology-based businesses, says Rodgers.

Dubbed The Group of Seven Fellows, or G7, this fellowship brings together some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country. Despite the name, the G7 this year includes nine leading entrepreneurs who met November 1 to select the ventures for the upcoming year.

Returning from last year are:

  • Dennis Bennie  – Co-founder of such companies as Mission Electronics, Aviva Software, Delrina Technology, and Delano Technology, Bennie is also one of the founders of the CD Lab.
  • Nick Koudas  – U of T computer science professor and cofounder of Sysomos.
  • Nigel Stokes  – Chair of the board of directors at AppZero and former chief executive officer and co-founder of DataMirror, Stokes is also one of the founders of the CD Lab.
  • Daniel Debow – Co-founder and co-chief executive officer of Rypple, a social performance management platform, alumnus DeBow is also a founder of the CD Lab.
  • Lee Lau – Managing director and co-founder of Alignvest Capital Management, this alumnus was also founder of ATI Technologies.

New members of the G7 include:

  • Ted Livingston – Co-founder and chief executive officer of Kik. Backed by Foundation Capital, RRE, Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures, Kik has raised $29.1M to date – $19.5M of that in a Series B funding round earlier this year.
  • Jevon MacDonald – Vice-president at Salesforce, which he joined through the $70M acquisition of his company GoInstant; co-founder of Startupnorth.ca; instigator of StartupCamp Toronto, the Founders and Funders dinner, StartupEmpire.ca, and most recently, Halifax-based incubator, Volta.
  • Geordie Rose – Founder and chief technical officer of the British Columbia-based quantum computing company, D-Wave. He has received several awards for his work with D-Wave, including the 2011 Canadian Innovation Exchange Innovator of the Year.
  • John Francis – Board member for the Hospital for Sick Children and founder and managing director of Fraser Kearney Capital Corp. Most recently, he was president and chief executive officer of Trader Media Corporation.

A second important part of the Creative Destruction Lab is a new MBA course that allows 24 of the Rotman School’s top MBA students to work closely with the ventures to help them tackle critical business problems.

The program is gruelling but worth it, say teams from the first year.

“Our participation in the CD Lab was very valuable,” says Bionym co-founder Karl Martin. “The wealth of experience they provided could point us to the mistakes we were making, which allowed us to pivot quickly and reach the point we're at now before running out of funds.”

Martin says Bionym, which won worldwide media attention for its biometric ID wristband, seeks to revolutionize personal security. Through assistance with the CD Lab and mentorship from the G7,  the company has already attracted more than $1.4 million in investment.

The Creative Destruction Lab’s 2013/14 cohort boasts innovation spread across a range of industries, including medicine, law, construction, information technology, retail and others, says Rodgers. Founding members of this year's cohort include alumni from the University of British Columbia, Carleton University, University of Waterloo, Western University, University of Toronto, University of Massachusetts, MIT, York University, OCAD, Queen’s University, University of Guelph, Dalhousie University, Institut National des Sciences Appliquées de Lyon, Harvard University, the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants and McMaster University.

“We’re thrilled with the success of our ventures that have already received national and international media exposure and investment capital,” says Rodgers. “And we’re just getting started.”

About the Creative Destruction Lab

Founded in 2012 by Professor Ajay Agrawal, co-founder of The Next 36 and Peter Munk Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Rotman School, the Creative Destruction Lab leverages Rotman’s leading faculty and industry network, inventions and talent from world-class, technology-oriented faculties at the University of Toronto and other Canadian universities, and its location in one of the world’s most culturally-diverse cities and North America’s largest financial centre, Toronto. The Creative Destruction Lab takes no equity and charges no fee for participation – the only tuition for founders to get into and stay in the program is performance.

For more on startups at U of T, check out the spotlight on startups series.

Ken McGuffin is a writer with the Rotman School of Management and Dominic Ali is a writer with University Relations at the University of Toronto.