Winnipeg heritage district an incubator for innovation

December 1, 2017
Every month, we ask different participants of our Leadership Winnipeg class to blog about their experience…​

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If you’re not in the tech industry, and you don’t consider yourself to be an entrepreneur, you may not be familiar with Winnipeg’s technological innovation sector, or be aware that our city has, at times, been referred to as “Chicago of the North.”

Our Leadership Winnipeg class had the privilege of spending the day touring Winnipeg’s business incubators and accelerators, starting at Manitoba Technology Accelerator (MTA). Marshall Ring, Chief Executive Officer, led a fast-paced and engaging lesson about the complete life-cycle of a start-up and the explained the ways MTA transforms ideas into viable businesses. To say I learned a little about finance, investors, technology and commercialization would be a serious understatement.

We were joined by SkiptheDishes co-founder Jeff Adamson, who gave us a glimpse into the life of an entrepreneur. He told the story of how Skip came to be, and the challenges he and his co-founders faced along the way. Jeff spoke passionately about his love for the Prairies, the respect he has for the talent that comes from these regions, as well as the company’s goals going forward. It was hard not to leave feeling excited about things to come.

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We were treated to lunch at the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce Monthly Member Luncheon, where we listened to Elyse Allan, Chief Executive Officer of GE Canada, speak about the automation of our workplaces and the global digital transformation. Coming from a corporate environment, what resonated with me was her view on relationships between co-workers. Elyse stressed the need for trust between colleagues, and pointed out that this emotional safety is a precursor to learning and risk-taking – and ultimately, collaboration and innovation.

Despite attending classes at Red River College (RRC), I was unaware Downtown Winnipeg’s West Exchange District has been dubbed Innovation Alley. After touring North Forge Fabrication Lab, Red River College ACE Project Space and Futurpreneur Canada, I came to the conclusion no other name would do.

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Our time at North Forge introduced me to equipment and technology I didn’t even know existed. This was in addition to the inspirational stories of individuals who’ve gained success through collaboration at the Fabrication Lab.

​Just as I started to wonder how these talented individuals do what they do, in comes Matthew Olson, North Forge’s “Jack of all trades”, offering mentoring and hands on assistance to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Down the street, we meet with Haider Al-Saidi, the Chair of Applied Computer Education for RRC at Red River’s ACE Project Space. This space allows business information technology and business technology management students and entrepreneurs-in-residence to come together.

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This was overlapped by our tour of Futurpreneur Canada, led by Jenn Lusby, Business Development Manager. If Jenn’s enthusiastic and encouraging personality wasn’t enough to motivate, the fact that the organization provides financing, mentoring and support tools to aspiring business owners aged 18-39 certainly would.

The day as a whole left me feeling inspired. Inspired by the camaraderie present within these industries. Inspired by a culture of healthy competition. Inspired by entrepreneurs helping entrepreneurs, or, on a larger scale, Winnipeggers helping Winnipeggers. Passion is contagious, and all of the talent, intelligence, enthusiasm and potential has me believing that Manitoba truly is the land of opportunity.


Leadership Winnipeg is grateful for the support of our Vision Partner
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Katerina Bletnitsky
Great-West Life
Leadership Winnipeg 2017-2018