SFU mechatronics systems engineering student Gursher Sidhu was named to the 2015 cohort of The Next 36, a national initiative aimed at transforming Canada’s most promising post-secondary students into leading entrepreneurs. In this Q & A, he shares his experience on the program so far.
1. How has your experience been as part of The Next 36 so far? Please tell us about your team’s start-up.
My experience with The Next 36 has been phenomenal so far. It is a very demanding program and commitment required alongside with the school semester is that of a Varsity athlete! We have made significant progress in building our start-up, Coral (becoral.com), from an idea that my co-founders (Sagar Malhi and Michael Ip) and I came up with in late January.
Coral is online platform that connects businesses together, allowing them to collaborate seamlessly to increase online traffic. It gives retailers the ability to integrate other retailers’ products on their own online store, listing products as if they were their own.
2. What is your role on the team?
Being one of the co-founders, I have taken more of a business role in the start-up as chief business development officer. I have been responsible for laying down the business strategy in sync with the research and development of the Coral platform and driving business growth by bringing and maintaining sales prospects.
We have seen a lot of momentum from local retailers as well as online stores to use Coral to supercharge their online store revenue. We are in the process of rolling out a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) for the customers we have talked to within lower mainland so far. Seeing a lot of momentum, we have added another co-founder from the Next 36 program, Dharam Rakhra, and he will get things up and rolling by the time we go to Toronto for the phase II of the program.
Moving forward I will be taking on more responsibilities in finances and operations, as well as tech side once in Toronto.
3. What is your greatest achievement on the program so far?
My greatest achievement has been using the diverse skill set – technical, business and design – that is gained via the mechatronics systems engineering program and applying that to Coral.
Another achievement has been coming from more of a technical background but successfully adapting to a business role. In addition to my role as chief business development officer, I have also acted as treasurer for the venture, and am responsible for finances as well. I have been on the forefront of developing and implementing an MVP, including the business side for finding customers, and connecting them as well as the operational and technical side of how to implement it.
I have also developed other skills, like how to pitch and present a business for investors, along with team dynamics and strategies for optimal team performance.
4. How do you feel that the mechatronics program has prepared you for the future?
It is a great balance of getting technical skills via all the mandatory courses, and business courses to get you interested in that area and introduce you to some of the jargon. Moreover, doing the capstone project via the Tech-e program working alongside Beedie students on a market driven innovative product was very valuable. You gain a diverse skill set through the MSE program, as well as real world experience through co-op program that further enhances that skill set.
5. What do you want to say to aspiring student entrepreneurs?
I believe that in order to create your own luck and be a successful leader and entrepreneur, you have to be curious about the opportunities available, show persistence on your journey, take calculated risks, stay flexible and believe in realist optimism to reach your goals successfully. Your strong work ethic to make the most out of low resource situations should drives you as an entrepreneur.