BCcampus and BCIC are working together to strengthen BCIC’s network of talent, partners, and resources throughout the province, guiding technology entrepreneurs and innovators from start-up to success by way of a comprehensive virtual accelerator program.

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When the B.C. Innovation Council (BCIC) needed a vehicle to help drive economic development and job creation within the province, they felt a partnership with BCcampus would help bring opportunities to the bright minds beyond the current reach of their existing partners. BCIC approached BCcampus to facilitate the project due to our expertise in online learning and demonstrated ability to reach a rural audience, and our role was to increase access to learning resources by creating a virtual learning platform.

“We chose BCcampus to work with us on this program because of the confidence they demonstrated in delivering education through different channels of online instruction,” said Dean Prelazzi, Managing Director, B.C. Acceleration Network. “It was important to us to create a platform that was accessible to tech entrepreneurs and innovators everywhere in the province, particularly in regions currently underserved by support programs and resources.”

The Venture Acceleration Program (VAP) was designed to assist early-stage technology entrepreneurs fast-track the process of validating their business model based on industry best practices for effectively commercializing technology and innovation. The original program is delivered by the B.C. Acceleration Network, an alliance of organizations around the province. An essential component in the delivery of the program is providing mentorship and coaching through Executives in Residence (EIRs), as well as an intensive training regimen, known as the Market Validation Training (MVT) workshops. Through the efforts of BCcampus, this material is now available online.

BCIC selected New Ventures B.C. as the program sponsor and turned the project over to their team. From October 2014 until March 2015, New Ventures B.C. is piloting the blended learning, open access education and training program for early-stage entrepreneurs, and promotes development by delivering a structured approach to company growth, facilitated coaching through industry-experienced EIRs, and networking opportunities to encourage further development.

“This project isn’t something BCcampus would typically be involved in, but we can use this experience to enhance our knowledge as well as a revenue source to support other public educational technology endeavours,” said Denise Goudy, Manager, Collaborative Services, BCcampus. “We see this as an effective way to contribute to the B.C. Job plan and create opportunities within our community.”

The program is offered on the Venture Learning Platform created by Greg Smith and the team at Thinkific, a Vancouver-based company that specializes in creating online platforms and online delivery models.

“We have a variety of ways to deliver content, and BCcampus and New Ventures BC pushed our platform to the limits, using what we had available and creating their own unique solutions,” said Greg Smith, co-founder and CEO of Thinkific. “We’re constantly working to improve our platform, so it’s great to have someone push us to be better. “

Holly MacDonald of Spark + Co. brought a wealth of experience to the project by providing content and instructional design. She was tasked with converting a program that had significant face-to-face workshop components into a fully online format, where learners could work at their own pace and access the information according to their schedule.

“Creating the current iteration of this course was akin to adapting a novel into a screenplay,” said Holly MacDonald, of Spark +Co. “We modified an existing course to make it practical for online delivery, producing the experience we wanted our clients to have.”

The initial phase of this pilot project was conducted over the summer and provided the first module to participants. The second phase is now ready to launch, and by the end of November the complete selection of modules will be released. The first two modules of the program are free for technology entrepreneurs in B.C., and the remaining three modules are available through two different channels: self-directed without mentoring, or as-needed, with remote mentoring via Skype or other online collaboration tools.

A selection of students in the entrepreneurship program at the University of British Columbia are enrolled in the program and will be completing the five modules, and their mentorship will be completed as part of their program at UBC.

Notable Quotes

“One of the truly impressive aspects of this project was how collaborative and supportive the local entrepreneurs were. They are driven and eager to share their experience with the start-up community.” ~ Holly MacDonald, Spark + Co.

“The only qualifications for the program are that you must be in B.C., and working on technology. It doesn’t matter what stage you are with your company, you can get the first two modules for free.” Denise Goudy, BCcampus

“New Ventures B.C. has appreciated tapping into the expertise of BCcampus and leveraging their province-wide resources. Access is important for our program, and BCcampus has been a great partner to ensure we are considering the entire regions of the province as we build the program.” Angie Schick, Program Manager, New Ventures B.C.

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