City Centre Mirror
As the digital media sector continues to grow, so does the desire of young entrepreneurs trying to become the next big thing in the industry.
Ryerson's Digital Media Zone at 10 Dundas St. E. is breeding a new culture of entrepreneurs, offering free space and resources for visionaries to get their digital business off the ground.
"It's a collaborative place where we bring in multiple people with the same mentality and drive to create a business," said Valerie Fox, director of Ryerson's Digital Media Zone (DMZ).
Since opening its doors last April, it has been providing assistance beyond the idea stage: business advice, networking leads and the latest entrepreneurial and business trends in Canada.
If you're a young entrepreneur looking for resources to help construct a viable business, the DMZ is "invaluable to anyone starting their own business," said Dave Senior who recently started up a mobile application business through the program called Burstn (www.burstn.com).
Senior graduated from Ryerson's business management program in 2007 then began brainstorming with a friend and current business partner, Josh Davie, a mobile photo application. After pitching their idea to industry experts they were accepted into the DMZ program.
"They brought in a Microsoft researcher and provided us with the tools to build a prototype, space and a network of entrepreneurs (currently going through the program)," Senior said.
In just three months in the program, Burstn went to market in August 2010.
"It was a whirlwind because of all the connections we made and because we had our business set up properly, we were able to raise capital within a month of release," Senior said.
Burstn was one of the first ventures to come out of the DMZ, and since then it has housed 21 businesses that are either in the development stages or have grown too big, which Fox said is the program's intention.
"We want them here no longer than a year to give them a leg up to ensure a better chance of success," Fox said.
Although the DMZ serves mainly Ryerson students and alumni, Fox said the DMZ welcomes entrepreneurs not directly associated with the university, adding that if they want to be a part of the DMZ, the university expects them to create an association with Ryerson in some way.
"(People outside of Ryerson) apply the same way students would (through business pitches)," Fox said. "We have an open application process for two reasons; to offer an incredible learning experience and helping the Canadian economy," Fox said.
Senior recalls the various resources offered at the DMZ and said even after going out into the business world, he still consulted with the DMZ.
"We went back to ask for advice on who do accept capital from and how to structure our equity agreements so we didn't make rookie mistakes," he said,
What Fox and her team are striving for is a network of entrepreneurs where experiences are shared and guidance is ongoing.
"It's part of the criteria, when you come in you share your knowledge and you bring your network to others so when customers come in you introduce them to other businesses," Fox said.
Sharing knowledge is critical for the program's success.
"It's a time when you need the most support, you don't have a lot of money and you want to experiment," Fox said. "We're going to keep changing to continue to support entrepreneurs and be a catalyst for economic change in the country."