Skip to main content
guest column: dave wilkin

Jeff Golden

It's happened to all of us.

We come up with an idea so revolutionary it's sure to be the next big thing. It seems so obvious we can't believe no one has thought of it. Bursting with enthusiasm, we imagine the great entrepreneurial success that's sure to follow. Then we gradually become discouraged, wondering where to begin and what the first steps should be.

So we put the idea aside, hoping we'll be ready to take the world by storm with the next big one.

How are today's entrepreneurs finding their niche and preparing for tomorrow's big idea? Working for a start-up company, surrounding yourself with innovative business founders, and engaging in one of the many entrepreneurship programs in Canada are three ways to set the foundation.

Working for a start-up provides interns, new grads, and those in mid-career an opportunity that goes far beyond what the average day job can do for your burgeoning entrepreneurial drive. Start-ups foster a unique environment that allows you to explore entrepreneurship in a tangible, hands-on way to help you seize your big idea.

"Working in a start-up lets you stretch yourself beyond what you would ever be close to qualified to do in a large corporate setting," says Ted Livingston, CEO of Kik Interactive. "You're dealing with customers, making strategic decisions, and architecting new systems. Nowhere will you be as stretched to learn and mature as quickly as in a start-up."

Kik is an example of a growing start-up that employs interns, new grads and mid careers. Finding a position with the right start-up may be difficult at first. Most of them avoid traditional hiring methods and look to Twitter, blogs and events to seek out their all-star recruits.

"A great way to be found is to work on relevant projects, and then e-mail the company and say 'look what I did, what do you think?'" Mr. Livingston suggests.

Working for a start-up is one way to find your niche, but for many, meeting founders and others in the entrepreneurial space may be the tipping point for navigating the launch of an idea. Networking events hosted by organizations such as DemoCamp and Sprouter happen regularly all across Canada and even globally. These events provide the perfect opportunity to build an entrepreneurial network to help you chase your idea.

"Entrepreneurial meet ups and events are a great way for founders to network within the greater start-up community and establish relationships that they can continue online," says Sprouter CEO Sarah Prevette. "Start-up founders can build supportive relationships with each other based on a shared appreciation of the difficulties faced in building a business. Sprouter offers entrepreneurs a chance to discover other innovators, learn about upcoming events in their local area and get immediate answers from vetted experts."

As I discussed in my last column on entrepreneurship programs, Canadians shouldn't overlook the leading programs available in our backyards such as CYBF, ACE and Velocity, which help Gen-Y's start amazing new companies every day. Organizations including BDC and OCE also offer programs for all Canadians trying to find their niche and pursue their big idea. These programs offer up-and-coming entrepreneurs the opportunity for seed financing, access to mentorship networks, and even a number of conferences and pitch competitions.

All the good ideas have not been taken. Look at career opportunities in start-ups, attend start-up events to build your entrepreneurial network, and seek guidance from leading entrepreneurship programs while you prepare for your next big idea. By building your entrepreneurial foundation today, you'll be ready to launch your next big idea when it strikes.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Dave Wilkin, a Gen-Y entrepreneur, works in the digital and experiential marketing space. Mr. Wilkin has combined the latest technologies and new marketing approaches to build the "social technology" behind Redwood Strategic, an integrated marketing company. Mr. Wilkin previously started a number of non-profit initiatives, mentored young leaders across the country, and continues to work with emerging entrepreneurs. You can follow him on Twitter @dwilkin. This is the fourth of a 10-part summer series Mr. Wilkin is writing for Your Business. The columns appear every Wednesday.