University of Calgary

Pair selected for entrepreneurial boot camp

UToday HomeJanuary 11, 2013

Nigel Gutzmann (L) and Chris Bowel were selected for the The Next 36 mentoring program. Photo by Riley Brandt(L to R) Nigel Gutzmann and Chris Bowel were selected for the The Next 36 mentoring program. Photo by Riley BrandtChris Bowal and Nigel Gutzmann take all their third-year engineering classes together and now they’re going to share in another experience—an intense eight-month mentoring program to help them become entrepreneurs.

The Next 36 program aims to turn 36 promising undergraduates students into successful entrepreneurs through mentorship from some of Canada’s top business leaders, up to $80,000 from venture capitalists and guidance from business faculty from around the world.

Bowal and Gutzmann were selected along with 34 other students after a rigorous process that included a series of online interviews, in-person interviews and a national selection weekend in Toronto that started with 70 finalists representing 19 universities and ended with the list of 36.

“On the weekend we had 10 hours to come up with an idea and then we had to pitch it to everybody at The Next 36 and all their investors,” says Bowal. “We got our teams and then we only had the rest of the night to figure everything out and come up with a good idea and a business plan.”

Bowal and his two teammates, one in Vancouver and the other in Montreal, are overcoming their “adventures in time zones” to develop their product, a tool meant to help recruit creative professionals by automating the process of examining portfolios.

Gutzmann and his team are “working like mad” developing an online tool to help knowledge workers communicate.

“It’s just a great experience,” says Gutzmann. “I have the opportunity to do something that I’ve always really wanted to do, start up my own company and especially something web based, which is something I am really excited about. It’s an opportunity to try with the support of an awesome network, mentors and amazing partners.”

Bowal says the process of selecting the teams included the students interviewing each other and “some kind of secret sauce algorithm” that The Next 36 uses to match up different skill sets and different personalities.

The teams each have two mentors assigned to them. They will work together remotely until May, when all the students go to Toronto to work full time on their projects and take classes over the summer, and hopefully get venture capital funding through The Next 36 to make their business a reality.