Entrepreneurs learn the key to good business at Conference

Karel Vredenburg, a director at IBM Design, prepares young entrepreneurs for the challenges facing most businesses with some important advice.

Karel Vredenburg, a director at IBM Design, prepares young entrepreneurs for the challenges facing most businesses with some important advice.


With a 90 per cent failure rate, start-up businesses are a big challenge, students learned during the Young Entrepreneurs Conference at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) campus on Saturday, Jan. 24.

“Everybody thinks they’re going to be successful at doing this, but the reality is that 90 per cent of all start-ups fail,” said Karel Vredenburg, a director at IBM Design. “Fourty-two per cent of them failed because they didn’t really understand the market. Twenty-three per cent didn’t have the right skills on their team to realize the ideas that they had.”

The Digital Enterprise Management Society organized the conference. It is one of the four undergraduate programs offered by the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology (ICCIT) at UTM.

It offered a full day of informational sessions, keynote speeches, a marketing panel and networking opportunities. The sessions had multiple speakers covering business strategy, innovation and technology, and media and design.

Corey Eastman, the head of digital consulting at Climax Media, said delegates needed to know three points in order to create a business plan. First, entrepreneurs must find their unique position, and then balance deliberate (planned) and emergent (not planned) strategies, and finally manage their resource allocation.

“At the beginning of any process entrepreneurs need to be open to learning and discovering new things,” said Eastman. “However, as you go along this path you can then start forming and executing a deliberate strategy.”

“We all have a finite amount of time, energy and money,” said Eastman. “So watch where you’re spending your time and where you’re spending your life and make sure it aligns to your business strategy.”

According to Vredenburg, young entrepreneurs can improve their odds if they understand their target market users in depth, assemble the right mix of skills on their team and design for simplicity and elegance.

The best way to understand customers is to avoid focussing on creating a single specific product. Instead, the aspiring business students were told that they should concentrate more on the type of experiences they want to create for their desired audience.

In business, great teams are made up of people with business operation skills, technical skills and importantly design skills.

“Sheridan College has an outstanding reputation in visualization, animation, which is why we focussed on working with digital media,” said Anthony Wensley, the director and a professor at the ICCIT.

“The University of Toronto Mississauga has a very good reputation in terms of the research and theory perspective and we’re a natural pair of institutions put together.”

The Sheridan College Office of Undergraduate Research has sponsored this event for two years in a row because many of the students in the joint Sheridan-UTM Communication, Culture, Information and Technology program have attended this event.

“We believe that this is a great opportunity for more students to become entrepreneurial in an environment that will require them to be more and more innovative,” said Dianna Dinevski, Industrial Liaison Manager of Undergraduate Research.