Accelerator Program

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Is it French? Does it somehow involve weddings? Not quite. see more

    Source: Gustavson School of Business
    Author: Eve Olynyk

    I actually really struggled to write this “day in the life post,” because there are incredibly few “standard” days in my work at VIATEC!

    So to break the rules, in true VIATEC fashion, I welcome you to join me in “a week in the life” of an Engagement Concierge.

    But first, just what the heck is an Engagement Concierge anyways? Is it French? Does it somehow involve weddings? Not quite. In essence, the Engagement Concierge’s role is to make VIATEC’s Accelerator Programs (think bootcamp for tech startups) run smoothly and carry out the vision of the Program Director.


    Mondays are almost always free from meetings, as if there is some kind of unspoken rule between the four Executives in Residence (past-CEOs of multiple successful companies who now mentor companies in the Accelerator). After our team stand-up, I’ll use this day to plan out the rest of the week’s meetings and events, and catch up with emails. If there’s time I’ll work on side projects such as redoing the Accelerator website or updating our resources folder.


    Intake Presentation days mean an early 8am start. After making sure agendas are printed, the conference room is ready, and AV is working, I’ll see that the Executives in Residence (EiRs), and external mentors (CEOs, Investors, IRAP reps) are set up with coffee before welcoming the first candidate. Following a pitch and Q&A, the panel considers: whether the company is viable, the founder is coachable, and whether we have the relevant skills to truly help them. One thing I love about Intakes, or Quarterly Reviews (which follow a similar format but are used to assess the progress of companies already in the program), is our tradition of Tacofino for lunch!


    Once new companies are onboarded into the program, I’ll schedule their first EiR meetings. In the afternoon I’ll head to our bunker boardrooms where existing companies and their EiRs will tackle unique issues; everything from getting their first customers, creating financial projections, preparing pitch decks for investors, and firing underperforming employees. I have never learned so much about business strategy in all my schooling combined as I do in these meetings. In addition to note-taking, I bring up relevant bits of advice from other EiRs and see if there are any good introductions we can make between companies. Startups fail notoriously frequently, but strong connections and the sharing of talent allows the community to quickly adjust.


    Back to back EiR meetings all day can be exhausting, but the networking events, fortside chats, or patio parties that Thursdays often bring make it all worthwhile! I’ve moved chairs from the Bengal Lounge, bartended, and even acted as a bouncer (at 5’1 this was more for show than anything). Beer is a must at VIATEC’s events, so I’ll finish off the night with a cold Phillips in my hand while watching a B2B company’s pitch or learning about a prominent local investor’s favourite spot to go running.


    As if working at the VIATEC Awards earlier in the year wasn’t exciting enough, nothing could prepare me for the sheer joy of manning the VIATEC VIP Cabana with the rest of my team at Rock the Shores (shout out to our amazing server Erin; I don’t think I can ever wait in a food or beer lineup again). When I originally mentioned the idea as a joke to my marketing director, I never thought she would make it happen with just a few phone calls but… by the end of the weekend I was throwing several dozen whales off of a crane during Cat Empire! The crowd was screaming, the sun was setting, it was magical.

    To conclude, this all sounds pretty freaking amazing right? And it is. However, what I didn’t highlight as much are the slower days without much to do, the lack of sleep that comes with lots of evening and weekend events, or the ambiguity and confusion that comes with such a dynamic company. And here’s why: this role is utterly and completely what you make of it. Good ideas are welcomed and encouraged, and being self-directed isn’t only expected… it’s an absolute must.

    Sound like you? Then apply via LIM for Fall 2016!

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    There have certainly been a lot of firsts for Rob in the last 5 years of working with VIATEC! see more

    Source: Gustavson School of Business
    Author: Rob Bennett

    I’ve had a lot of roles over the years from co-founding Municipal Software and Datamat Services, angel investing in Teampages, Oprius and Simation, to my role as a BCIC accredited mentor and my participation in the Gustavson School of Business mentor program. The two common themes in my varied roles has been coaching and working with a wide variety of stakeholders – two things that have prepared me well for my work at VIATEC. And speaking of my work at VIATEC…

    One day, the then Chair of VIATEC, Art Aylesworth, stopped by the office and saw me hanging a disco ball from the ceiling. He asked me how I was doing. I responded, “Really well, Art”, which I think Art took as a pat response. So he pulled in closer to me and said, “Rob, no, really – how’s it going?” I said, “Art, every day I do something I’ve never done before, and will never do again!”

    Whether it’s dressing up in a foam finger at a golf tournament declaring that “Tech is #1”, or as Darth Vader welcoming guests at VIATEC’s Tech Awards and leading the World’s Largest Indoor Light Sabre Battle, or as Jolly Old St. Nick during VIATEC’s Member Christmas Party, there have certainly been a lot of firsts in the last 5 years of working with VIATEC!

    But here’s the amazing part – even the serious days are truly remarkable. I get to work with a number of very successful, insightful and generous people in our community who are interested in seeing entrepreneurs and their companies grow. Through programs like ICE at UVic, or working with the faculty and staff at the business school or the Faculty of Engineering, or our own Accelerator Programs, there are some incredible people who offer sage words of advice for entrepreneurs that are dedicated to their dreams. These people have “been there, done that;” they get involved because it is the right thing to do, and also sometimes because they’re willing to place a financial bet on the entrepreneur and their team. It’s quite humbling and mind-blowing all at the same time, and I continue to learn from these very accomplished people on a daily basis.

    And then there’s the entrepreneurs – from every walk of life. Their passion is inspirational, and the energy they put towards their ventures is awesome. These people want to change the world, and we have a community of others that wish to help them. Is there anything better than that?

    Oh yeah, one more thing that just has to be said. Events. VIATEC EVENTS. There’s a bit of a reputation that VIATEC has built over the years about having kick-ass events. From the VIATEC Technology Awards to Discover Tectoria, from multi-day events held annually like Experience Tectoria to one-evening events like the monthly VIAfest meetings, or the many festivals that we support around the community. There is always something happening – an excuse to meet people, get caught up and learn from each other. Although there is always a serious thread to every event, fun is the priority. A tremendous amount of work is done by the very accomplished team at VIATEC and our events typically go off without a hitch. To be part of Team VIATEC is an amazing experience unto itself – it’s truly remarkable what such a proficient – and prolific – team accomplishes.

    Today I’m preparing for five companies to come and interview with our crack Executive-In-Residence team to get access to our Accelerator Program. We’ve met with all five already, and I’m quite excited about what each of these companies has to offer. The mere thought that one of these companies, or one of the alumni from the program, could grow to become the next Hootsuite or Shopify makes one pause to think a bit. And to be someone that has perhaps said something or done something to help along the way makes this one of the most fulfilling roles I’ve ever had!

    Rob Bennett is the Chief Operating Officer and Program Director for VIATEC (Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council), and it’s the best “job” he’s ever had!