Program seeking experts and real-world business challenges

Mar 3rd, 2023

By Susan White

A new program at Memorial University is seeking industry professionals across North America to help develop Newfoundland and Labrador’s next high-growth startup.

The Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship (MCE) is piloting a new program called Solvers to connect industry professionals with entrepreneurial students to find technological solutions to real-world business problems.

Searching for solutions

“We’re looking for experts with at least five years of industry experience who may have noticed a problem in their industry that requires an innovative solution,” said Florian Villaumé, MCE director. “Our goal is to connect these experts with creative, entrepreneurial students, and together they will form a founding startup team to develop a solution that could have industry-wide impacts.”

It’s not the first time this approach has been successful in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Successful precedent

In 2003 entrepreneur David Kelly (B.Comm.’68) connected with a group of 12 Memorial students, including Jamie King, Brendan Brothers and Raymond Pretty, and together they explored ways to combat financial crime over the course of a six-month project.

Soon after, Verafin was born with Mr. King, Mr. Brothers and Mr. Pretty as its co-founders.

Verafin is now the industry’s leading financial crime management platform. It was acquired by Nasdaq for US$2.75 billion in 2020, and its software is used in more than 3,000 banks and credit unions across North America.

“We believe we can create more startups using a similar approach,” said Mr. Villaumé. “We have creative and talented students at Memorial. We know there are many people out there with ideas who perhaps don’t have the time or support to develop new products or solutions. Solvers aims to bring them together and let the magic happen.”

Investing in future tech

Interested industry participants must invest $5,000 in the project.

MCE will contribute up to $23,000 in student entrepreneurial work term or internship bursaries and support for project expenses. Participants can also avail of guidance from MCE staff as well as its co-working space.

The project is supported by a $20,000 donation from the Fry Family Foundation.

“The success of Verafin, and other tech companies that have emerged from Memorial like Mysa and CoLab, means there are a lot of eyes on Newfoundland and Labrador, especially from investors,” said Mr. Villaumé. “It’s the perfect climate to develop more high-potential startups. We want to see the next Verafin — or many Verafins — emerge from this program.”