VFC Fellows Next 36 Cohort

By Erica Ormiston

Venture for Canada is proud to congratulate Rayhan and Lily for their next step in their entrepreneurial journey, committing to the NEXT 36 full-time program laser-focused on founding a new venture. Venture for Canada partnered with NEXT Canada in the fall to encourage community members to identify if a full-time venture funding commitment was the right step for them. VFC Alumni who have participated in Next36 or Next Founders include Susie Pan, On Deck 2021 Fellow and Coach at Susie Pan Co. Michael Warshafsky Co-founder and CTO at Goodkind, Natasha Dhayagude, CEO at Chinova Bioworks. 

We recently connected with Lily and Rayhan to learn more about their aspirations, what motivates them and what advice they would give recent grads looking to dip their toes into entrepreneurship by working at a startup just like they did. Here is what they had to say:

What have been the most valuable lessons you’ve learned as a Fellow, from training camp to working for a startup for a year that you want to carry to the next step in your entrepreneurial journey?

Lily: I’ve learned to be proactive in my learning journey, to network with the intent of providing value to others more than just expanding my connections, and to take on new challenges knowing that I will always have a community of support.

Rayhan: I’ve learned that you always have more to learn, and apprenticing yourself to a capable mentor in a quality startup is perhaps the most expeditious way to accelerate your learning. You cannot reach ‘expert level’ in every area of competency required to make a business succeed — nor should you try. Your time is better spent learning how to galvanize talented people with complementary skill sets around a single mission. Lastly, building a startup is a rocky, winding road. You can expect to change a few flat tires along the way. There are months where no one gets paid; mornings, evenings, and weekends where you’ll need to cancel plans; and persistent challenges in recruiting a capable team. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

What makes someone want to apply to programs like Venture for Canada Fellowship and NEXT36?

Lily: My interests in leadership & entrepreneurship inspired me to apply to VFC. I loved that I joined and fostered a community of problem solvers who are actively contributing to the startup ecosystem in Canada and globally. In the next couple of years, I am committed to learn, relearn, and unlearn as much as I can while executing exciting ideas and implementing impactful projects. That is what drives me. Taking the time to understand what drives you and your values is an integral part of the decision-making process to participate in any community and leaders programs. Ultimately, you get out of it what you put into it. 

Rayhan: Prior to graduating, I had already dove head-first into the world of entrepreneurship: I directed my university’s incubator for several years; I spoke or hosted booths at local and international conferences; I even attempted to build a few of my ventures. Those experiences made it very clear that I had a lot more left to learn if I hoped to succeed in starting my own business. 

That’s why I applied to VFC. Because I knew through community and experience, I could learn more before starting my own thing. By getting your hands dirty working for an existing Canadian startup, you build a much clearer picture of what an entrepreneurial life will require of you and how you can chart a path to success. If you’re serious about starting your own company one day, I couldn’t recommend the VFC program more. 

What motivated you to take this step and found a full-time venture? 

Lily: I aspire to make a positive difference in the lives of people in my local community and all over the world; a way to do that is through entrepreneurship.  I just launched my first startup, BackPocket. BackPocket is a gifting platform that offers personalized gift recommendations, from high-quality products to curated experiences, right within your budget. We take the stress out of gifting and replace it with a seamless experience through our platform, guiding you through a  discovery process that culminates in a recommendation of select gifts. By working with small businesses across categories such as self-care, beauty, fashion, food, and many more, we have been able to help shoppers curate creative, personalized gifts for their recipients while considering the sizes of their pockets.

Rayhan: I didn’t go into consulting to launch a career as a consultant anymore than I went into engineering to work as an engineer. Each decision was made to create a personalized curriculum for me that shapes me into a highly capable technical founder — my choices to join Venture for Canada, and now NEXT36, were no different. I hope that by surrounding myself with the exceptionally ambitious and mission-driven people within these communities, I can continue to upgrade my business-building skillset and succeed in founding a revenue-generating technology startup of my own.

Lily Akagbosu is a 2020 Venture for Canada working at ventureLAB as a Programs Coordinator. A Carleton University grad with a degree in Psychology and Women & Gender Studies, and served as the 2019/2020 Student Body President. Lily is interested in leadership & entrepreneurship and can be reached via lilyakagbosu.com / linkedin.com/in/lilyakagbosu/.

Rayhan Memon is a 2019 Venture for Canada fellow, working at DG Volo & Company as a strategy consultant. A Carleton University grad with a degree in Biomedical & Electrical Engineering, Rayhan is interested in Artificial Intelligence, basketball, and reading epic fantasy. He can be reached via LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rayhan-memon/

Venture for Canada is a national charity that fosters entrepreneurial skills and mindset in young Canadians. To be entrepreneurial is to act upon opportunities to create value for others. We recruit, train, and support young people to work for innovative Canadian small businesses and startups. Through our programs, participants develop the network, knowledge, and entrepreneurial skills to have more impactful careers. Fellowship Applications are open until [month]

Nous recrutons, nous formons et nous appuyons des jeunes pour qu’ils travaillent au sein de petites entreprises et d’entreprises en démarrage novatrices au Canada. Grâce aux programmes de VFC, les jeunes Canadiens profitent d’occasions de développer les compétences, les connaissances et les réseaux dont ils ont besoin pour avoir une carrière plus enrichissante.

L’esprit d’initiative des Canadiens est essentiel pour surmonter les plus grands défis de notre pays. En encourageant les jeunes Canadiens et les entreprises en démarrage à développer une société plus prospère et inclusive, Venture for Canada est un catalyseur de changements sociaux systémiques. Les candidatures au programme de bourses se clôturent en [mois] 

Are you an entrepreneurial changemaker interested in a career of impact and innovation? Fellowship applications close February 28th, apply here.