Entrepreneurial education helps duo shape tomorrow's cities
By Emma Keeler-Dugas and Diane Luckow
Baker Al-Nakib and Thamer Matar, who are each graduating with a bachelor of general studies from the Faculty of Applied Sciences, have reaped far more than a degree from their SFU education. The two new alumni have also developed a product, co-founded a company, incubated it and sold it in a partnership agreement that will see Matar continue as chief operating officer and Al-Nakib as chief technology officer.
The duo, co-founders of OpenSpot Parking Inc., have created a data company to market their roadbed parking sensor and accompanying software. Their product and software track the real-time status of parking spots to provide cities and parking companies with automated, detailed historical analytics concerning parking efficiency, compliancy monitoring and dynamic pricing. They have also developed a free app that uses their real-time data to help drivers find open parking spaces.
The pair says OpenSpot will help shape tomorrow’s cities. They have already completed a successful pilot project with the City of Surrey, which has now purchased an initial 105 parking sensors to deploy across the city. They are also launching a pilot project with the City of Vancouver to deploy sensors in the downtown core.
The two credit their SFU education, participation in SFU’s Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection business incubator, and Al-Nakib’s certificates in Innovation and Entrepreneurship and in computing science, with helping them set their business on the road to success.
“SFU gave us the confidence to face the boardrooms,” says Al-Nakib. “We had the expertise from the business and academic communities, including Beedie business professors Sarah Lubik and Andrew Harries, and Venture Connection mentor Doug Fast, who all guided us in the right direction. Doug helped us realize what our true product and service should be.”
Says Matar, “The applied science courses, and most importantly the co-op semesters I spent working, truly helped me gain insightful experiences into the business world. They taught me people skills, how to handle tough situations, and that there is a solution to every problem.”
Al-Nakib says his involvement in the Charles Chang Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship program was the best decision he made at SFU.
“I highly recommend it to anyone with a technical background,” he says. “The two disciplines complement each other, and the program went above and beyond to support Thamer and I.”
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