Toronto law firm Cassels Brock has been named legal partner for Imagination Catalyst, a one-year business development guidance program and commercialization hub specializing in maker and design culture, run by OCAD University (formerly known as the Ontario College of Art and Design).
Cassels Brock will provide on-the-ground mentorship to entrepreneurs, start-ups and scale-ups enrolled in the incubator, as well as participate in demo days, fundraising events, and play an integral role in the annual Imagination Catalyst Pitch Competition, held each June, in which OCAD University graduates pitch to compete for $5,000 in start-up funding.
“As an entrepreneurial firm with strong relationships across the venture capital and private equity sector, we understand what it takes to grow a business and what investors are looking for,” says Jamie Firsten, partner and startup law expert at Cassels Brock. “Given the funding challenges start-ups face in Canada, we are positioned to provide the advice and support Imagination Catalyst participants will need to be successful.”
Firsten joins the Imagination Catalyst Advisory Board to advise on fundraising opportunities for design-focused innovators.
Nearly 60% of OCAD U alumni were either self-employed or entrepreneurs, according to a 2011 study, and nearly 90% will operate businesses or work as independent contractors at some point in their careers.
OCAD U students can also minor in Entrepreneurship & Social Innovation, a program within the curriculum that gives art and design students training in economics, management, socio-cultural and environmental issues, as well as social and technological trends.
Legal advice is an underestimated means of support, particularly when it comes to intellectual property, which entrepreneurs ignore at their peril.
The goal of Imagination Catalyst, funded by the province of Ontario and Relay Ventures and part of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE), is to apply design thinking to everyday life and to bring leading-edge innovations to market.
“More of our students are making plans to start their own companies, commercialize major research projects, and develop basic business skills to build successful careers here in Canada,” says Imagination executive director Catalyst Katherine Roos. “Jamie and his team can help young entrepreneurs structure their ventures effectively, help designers protect their intellectual property, and advise early-stage companies on partnerships, employment, and vendor contracts. This type of legal support is invaluable to emerging companies and innovators.”
The link between art schools and entrepreneurship has become more formalized in recent years, with the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver launching its own Entrepreneurship program, providing art students from a variety of disciplines with access to mentors from Vancouver’s entrepreneur, developer, and design communities.
The Imagination Catalyst incubator, a free one-year program that supports up to 25 start-ups, is open to OCAD U alumni and entrepreneurs working in the creative sector.