Trent alumna Alesia Blackwood ‘96 has high praise for the support her fledgling tech company, Unlock Math, has received from The Cube, the business incubator located in the DNA Building on Trent University’s Peterborough campus.
The Cube is a technology-focused initiative of the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster (GPIC) that puts early stage and start-up companies in a nurturing environment where they have ready access to the expertise, mentorship, coaching, and networking they need to grow their businesses. Trent is a core partner of the Innovation Cluster, along with Fleming College, the Ontario Centre of Excellence (OCE), and the Peterborough Region Angel Network (PRAN).
Giving start-ups the support they need, when they need it
“You don’t know what you need when you’re starting out,” says Ms. Blackwood, a graduate of the Trent-Queens concurrent education program, who, with her husband, Matthew, had the idea of developing an online integrated math curriculum for struggling students. They were one of the first clients to be accepted into The Cube.
“At The Cube, you’re surrounded by people with experience who can look at your business from an outside perspective,” Ms. Blackwood explains. “You’re connected to experts who can give you legal advice, access funding sources, and help with marketing or developing your website.”
Launched in late 2013, The Cube’s current clients are all high-growth, high-potential technology enterprises, ranging from bio-filtration and water management to cancer research, app development, and sustainable agriculture. They are assisted by GPIC’s “knowledge partners,” local professionals who support the growth of these aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators with advice, guidance, and mentorship.
“We work with high-risk early stage companies who face failure if they aren’t given the support they need,” says Martin Yuill, president and CEO of GPIC. “Our goal is to get entrepreneurs out of the basement, the bedroom, and the garage, and into an empowering, collaborative space, because great ideas are not born and developed in isolation. The Cube offers a supportive environment where entrepreneurs also benefit from peer mentoring.”
As the only business incubator for technology companies in the Peterborough region, The Cube fills a gap in the local job creation spectrum. “We focus on growing globally-scalable companies who will employ people with science, technology, engineering, or math backgrounds,” Mr. Yuill says. “These companies require a very particular skill set and specific support.”
Partnership benefits both students and clients
Mr. Yuill underlines the value of The Cube’s relationship with Trent, emphasizing that it goes beyond the provision of office space. “Trent gives our clients ready access to academic and intellectual skills, which is important,” he says, noting that Unlock Math employs graduate students from Trent’s Mathematics department. “Other clients benefit from access to Trent facilities like research labs and advanced equipment.”
He says that Trent’s emphasis on interdisciplinarity, along with its growing focus on entrepreneurship, makes it an ideal breeding ground for future clients of The Cube. “Great ideas come from anywhere and especially from interdepartmental, interdisciplinary collaboration,” Mr. Yuill says. “You put an art student together with a computer science student and suddenly you’ve got something new. That’s a strength for Trent.”
“Having a facility like The Cube on campus reinforces Trent’s s commitment to helping their students, by providing a link between student entrepreneurs and the academic world and by having a positive impact on the community in which they are rooted,” Mr. Yuill adds.