A few years had passed and I was nearing my graduation from Niagara College. As I reflected on my degree I found myself dreaming of being an entrepreneur.
This is when I was fortunate enough to have one of my best experiences of my post-secondary career. Niagara College's ncTakeOff gave me the opportunity to sponsor my attendance, as well as 5 others, to the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Discovery Conference at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
A two day event on April 27 to 28, the conference drew Canada's leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship.
I must say, I was astounded to see examples from every industry; advanced manufacturing, communications, medical technologies and media of all varieties.
Attila Hajzer, owner of the web design start-up HWD and also sponsored to attend by ncTakeOff said, "I find that even with the diversity of the different kinds of organizations and collaborative thinkers here, I guess we can all in some way relate. Whether it's our entrepreneurial instinct or business skills, we can each learn from one-another."
As Hajzer attributes, the event was fueled by driven individuals all with the common goal of self-fulfillment and the resounding support of the Government of Ontario only solidified that.
Attila Hajzer at OCE Discovery Opening Ceremony
The opening ceremony was hosted by Dr. Tom Corr and Michael Nobrega, President and CEO of OCE alongside the Chair of the board for OCE. Following this was the Honorable Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario.
Wynne's approach to her speech was incredible. Opening with the recognition of the Native American land that the Metro Toronto Convention Centre was built, her peaceful and inspirational tone resonated through the room. She continued her speech by inspiring residents of her province to not only create, but to innovate in the modern market.
After came knowledge from the speakers of Singularity University, which in case you didn't know is NASA's university, on complex subjects such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality presented by David Roberts and Neil Jacobstein.
Filled with motivation we, the ncTakeOff team, proceeded to the showroom floor. After taking a look around, I was amazed by the size of the Niagara Zone and its foot traffic.
The entire section, not just a single booth, was sponsored by Niagara College, Innovate Niagara, the Niagara Region and Brock University all with the intent to showcase Niagara College as an entrepreneurship hub.
As for free swag, everything came from the region. Lavender water from the Niagara-on-the-Lake based Neob, a client of the college's Research and Innovation division. Premium custom bottles produced by Trivium Industries, manufactured out of Welland and a resident of Brock University's BioLinc incubator and finally of the signage was sponsored by The Niagara Region.
It all stood as a humble reminder to the virtue the college displays towards developing innovation both in the school and throughout the Niagara Region.
As I and my fellow Niagara College attendees took to the floor, I can say for all of us, we were all pleasantly shocked by the vast amount of opportunities and products that were displayed in front of us.
Vineet Bhatia, another sponsored student from Niagara College, said "I found out so much about solar powered products that can help developing countries around the world to prosper, that's what my aim is . . . And I am definitely going to do something with it."
Vineet Bhatia posing a question to Chad Hurley, YouTube Founder
As searching the floor, I even ran into a BioLinc resident, Cross Border Housing (CBH).
Brock University's incubator had directly paid for the space to give CBH the opportunity of both growth and investment.
In another life, I was a student of Brock University myself, and when I ran into one of the founders, Alex Mohr, it was more than inspiring to see that my entrepreneurial dreams weren't so far-fetched.
ncTakeOff allowed me to see my potential, both inside and outside of the region, and it seems the BioLinc is able to do the same for its residents.
Mohr said "Attending OCE Discovery provided CBH with an abundance of new, important, contacts and information on the future of innovation in Ontario and the world. Just as BioLinc provided us with this amazing opportunity, any success-hungry start-up company would see this as an amazing and invaluable experience that they would benefit them immensely."
After having all of the amenities graciously supplied by the college, I can honestly say that it was an amazing gift for Niagara College to bring me to the OCE Discovery conference.
More importantly, it's a great thing that our college in our region was able to support its students and entrepreneurs in such an effective and influential manner.
The ceremonies were closed off by an innovator that changed the game; the founder of YouTube, Chad Hurley. He gave incredible advice on pursuing your passions and drove a primary focus on developing the key concept behind your business. For example, when YouTube started, it was simply to create a platform for him and his coworkers to share videos with ease [if you remember, this was during a time where there was a variety of competing video file platforms]. He, nor his team, anticipated it to be a service that would be so severely influential.
Hurley acted as a great closing speaker for the ceremony. His down-to-earth nature rounded off OCE Discovery in a way that made it seem that any one of us in the room could be next in line to create something as innovative and revolutionary as YouTube.
I could rant for hours about minute details as to why this conference was incredible to me, but rather, I will leave it to a quote from Bhatia to best outline the opinion of Niagara College’s attendees. "Don't miss the next conference!"
Bayley Nargang is a recent graduate of Niagara College and owner of Narley Media (@NarleyMedia, NarleyMedia.com)