Spotlight on Startups: U of T students prep Canada’s largest startup career expo
Group aims to connect students with 80 startups, including 10 from U of T
A student group at the University of Toronto is on track to double the size of its startup career expo this month – which would make it the largest event of its kind in Canada.
Organizers say it's in response to a growing demand for startup and entrepreneurial-style career opportunities among undergraduates.
“We run a survey every year to get a sense of how students are going about their career development and where they feel there are gaps,” said Kazem Kutob, fourth-year Industrial Engineering student and senior vice-president of the student-run You’re Next Career Network at U of T.
“We found that a huge percentage of students are interested in working at startups, and around 88 per cent of them said they didn’t know where to find startup jobs.” (Read about the You're Next Career Network)
And so plans began to take shape for what Kutob says he hopes will be the country’s largest student-organized startup career expo, held at the MaRS Discovery District on Feb 25.
“Recruiting at the Startup Expo offers us a unique opportunity to focus on people who already know they want to dedicate themselves to the startup life,” said Karl Martin, chief executive officer of Bionym, one of the startups planning to attend. “Getting the right people is always priority number one for a startup, and this Expo allows us to get the greatest return on our effort.”
The Spotlight on Startups series profiles the many entrepreneurial efforts growing from the hundreds of companies spun out from research and connections sparking every day at the University of Toronto:
U of T hosts more than 50 enterprise-fostering courses, programs, labs, clubs, contests and speaker series across its faculties, departments and campuses — and then there are all the innovations developing in informal settings. U of T ranks No. 1 in North America for number of startups launched. And its roster of spinoff companies driving innovation in Toronto and around the world continues to grow.
The Startup Career Expo run by Kutob’s group is one of the university’s organically-bred entrepreneurial opportunities. He says the You’re Next Career Network formed five years ago when a team of Engineering students sought to connect their student body with potential employers. Since then, the group has expanded into multiple branches and produced several initiatives and events throughout the years.
Its entrepreneurship-focused branch, The Startup Hub, is the force behind a program of networking and recruitment opportunities for U of T students and the startup businesses looking to engage their talent.
“We hope that a student coming to the expo will walk away saying, ‘I know which companies I found interesting, which companies I want to chat with afterwards and what things I’d be interested in doing there,’” he said.
Kutob explained that while the expo hosted 37 companies and around 700 students last year, this year the organizers wanted to raise the stakes.
“We were already in the midst of planning the expo in November, when we said, ‘Let’s go bigger and do something that hasn’t been done before: double the number of companies, exceed doubling the number of students who attended, expand it to an Ontario- or even Canada-wide event.’”
You’re Next has opened up the Startup Expo to students across all disciplines, as Kutob says recruiters at last year’s event were keen to meet with students not just from engineering, but also with students interested in marketing, computer science and more.
While the event is open to students from any university, one cool feature of this year’s program is that 10 startups formed by the U of T community will be on site looking to make connections and recruit. The alumni and students behind these companies come from a range of backgrounds including Engineering, Computer Science and Law:
Startups and students wishing to get involved with the event should visit http://yourenext.ca/startup/expo.
Brianna Goldberg is a writer with University Relations at the University of Toronto.