By Kristen Connolly
The Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship (MCE) has recently been recognised as one of the top emerging entrepreneurship centres in the world. Just last week, MCE was named as a top 5 finalist in the outstanding entrepreneurship centre category of annual awards, presented by Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centres (GCEC). MCE and director Florian Villaumé are very excited about this title and honoured to be the only entrepreneurship centre in Canada to be named a finalist, as well as only one of four centres outside of the United States to be named, across eight award categories.
But what is it that contributes to MCE’s world-class status? The overall mission for the centre is “to inspire and enable aspiring entrepreneurs” and according to Villaumé, they have been achieving just that. From an initial intake of just 20 students, MCE now proudly provides programming to over 300 talented and driven Memorial University students. The centre delivers the tools to make their entrepreneurial ideas a reality, such as foundational training, encouragement, access to funding and external connections to aid in growing their businesses and ideas. According to Villaumé, MCE attracted significant funding very quickly:
“In just over three years the centre secured $4.7 million from local businesses and entrepreneurs, the provincial government, the federal government and a private foundation”.
The centre has been essential in growing impactful start-ups for Newfoundland and Labrador, including names such as Mysa, CoLab Software and BreatheSuite. Mysa builds smart thermostats for baseboard heaters and now employs over 40 people, meanwhile CoLab Software has developed a cloud-based design review and issue-tracking platform specifically for manufacturing teams. CoLab, in particular, was the first company in the four Atlantic Canadian provinces to be accepted in Y-Combinator, a prestigious accelerator that has an acceptance rate of 1.5 percent. These three well-known names in the start-up community have attracted over $5.5 million in investment, says Villaumé and they all have started right here at Memorial University.
We had the opportunity to speak with the CEO and Founder of BreatheSuite – Brett Vokey. BreatheSuite is set out to help asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients breathe better. Their first product is an inhaler add-on paired with a mobile app, meant to track and train patients in proper inhaler usage to self-manage their disease. Founded in 2018, BreatheSuite has grown substantially in the past year, the company now has 5 employees and have just secured $550,000 in private investment funding. BreatheSuite plans to double its team in the near future.
Vokey, being a former member of MCE, explains that they have been a huge part of his success with BreatheSuite. “MCE has been supportive right from the beginning, providing early mentorship, connections in the start-up community, office space as well as weekly objective setting, helping set and achieve goals. They’ve played a huge role in our success.”