Diverse Business Models

Explore different types of business models to determine what is the best fit for your venture.

Learn the difference between a for-profit, non-profit, cooperative, partnership, benefit corporation, and more models. Explore the pros and the cons of each, and start an action plan with next steps for pursuing the venture that will work best for you.

This workshop is presented by P.K Mutch, Entrepreneur in residence at the Canada Film Centre, and founder of Eve-volution. You can read some of her work here.

**This workshop is part of the ICUBE Start Up Series. Pizza will be provided.

Register HERE

ICUBE Pitch 2020 puts the Spotlight on Female Entrepreneurs

According to the experiment conducted by MIT, Wharton and Harvard, male entrepreneurs are 60% more likely to succeed at pitch competitions compared to female entrepreneurs, even when the content narrated is identical. 

The reason is that pitches narrated by males are considered to be more logical, credible and persuasive. Furthermore, voice pitch from low to high is shown to massively change the perceptions of leadership capability of an individual. 

According to Boston Consulting Group (BCG) analysis, “if women and men entrepreneurs were equal in number, the GDP would rise by 80 billion in Canada and 5 trillion in the whole world.” 

This is not only because diversity brings value to the company in terms of different perspectives on reaching the target audience but also the soft skills e.g empathy and effective communication that women can bring to the table. Even then, women face great obstacles in getting funding, capital and mentorship they need to succeed in their businesses. 

So, in an effort to break down barriers for women, ICUBE from University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) and Edge from Sheridan College have collaborated to bring pitch 2020 as a part of International Women’s Day 2020 campaign #EachforEqual.

About this Event

This pitch competition is specifically catered to female entrepreneurs with a panel of female identified judges to empower their skills and competencies. This event will provide the entrepreneurs and attendees the opportunity to learn from amazing mentors, network with industry professionals and last but not least win over $20,000 in prizes. So look out for exciting pitches from our amazing teams and enjoy great food! Book your tickets now! 

Applications for teams are open until 31st January, 2020.

Learn about our partners and sponsors here

Event Details

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

5:30 PM - 8:30 PM EDT

Event Location

Innovation Complex

University of Toronto Mississauga

3359 Mississauga Rd, Mississauga, ON, L5L1C6

Want to learn about previous year’s pitch competition, click here

           For more information and queries, contact kasey.dunn@utoronto.ca

Roll out the Red Carpet for RollScooters - E-Scooter Sharing Near You

Roll Scooters is Rolling Out 

University of Toronto startup Roll Scooters is racing toward its goal: to introduce electric scooters (e-scooters) in a way that is safe, legal and tailored to Canada. The E-scooters market has been around for a few years, but growing concerns about its safety and viability have kept Canadian governments from allowing them to be massively available in the public domain.  Cao says his company is trying to mitigate safety concerns by using a scooter design with bigger wheels, shock absorbers, a larger base, and speed limiting functions that lower speed for users in certain zones, like areas with schools.  


Roll Technologies Inc., whose CEO is U of T Scarborough alumni Richard Cao, has reached a deal with the city of Kelowna, B.C.  Kelowna's the first city to announce an e-scooter programme.  Because of demand, cities like Montreal have also joined the fray. Their startup deployed 200 e-scooters and 50 e-bikes in September.  The Toronto Zoo has also embraced e-scooters, and RollScooters began their pilot project back in August.  As a result, a fleet is currently available for patrons to rent when they visit.  


“E-scooters are a popular and effective form of shared mobility.  They provide a green solution to a common urban transportation problem,” says Cao.  Cao is from Shanghai and graduated from U of T Scarborough's management programme.

“I want to provide a reasonable product to the market that people actually need and can use in a safe way.”  Users will be able to find, unlock and rent the scooters via Roll’s app. Roll Scooters is here to provide a clean, convenient and affordable mobility solution. 


About Roll Scooters

In places like the downtown area, you'll often find yourself walking long distances or waiting for buses.  Roll Technologies provides better mobility solutions for cities and campuses. The electric scooters provide a viable alternative to cars, walking, or public transit.  This reduces traffic congestion.  The startup was formed out of The Hub, U of T Scarborough’s startup incubator.  Their dream is to eliminate the need for personal motorised vehicles.

ICUBE - UTM Startups win at Sheridan’s Philanthropitch Competition - Solutions with Impact

UTM Startups attended the Philanthropitch Competition hosted Sheridan College’s EDGE Network startup incubator.  This event provides exposure and money for NFPs that are ready to scale sustainable business models or programs.

Philanthropitch Winners

The Oakville Community Foundation generously presented a $25,000 cheque for the four event prizes. “There’s a lot that can be achieved by investing in people,” said Wendy Rinella, CEO of the OCF. “Supporting initiatives like The EDGE Philanthropitch is one way for our Foundation to inspire grassroots change.”  

Hosted at Sheridan’s Trafalgar Campus, 8 contestants made their pitches, each highlighting a pressing social or environmental challenge.  They plan on how to help solve them with their own venture, often leaving the crowd inspired.

Philanthropitch WinnersPhilanthropitch

Congratulations to: 

  • 1st ($10,000): Joint App – a digital platform that aids in digitizing and centralizing aspects of the immigration process for international students.
  • 2nd ($7,500): Circular Toys  – an environmentally-conscious subscription service for quality and developmentally-appropriate children’s toys
  • 3rd ($5,000) and Crowd Favourite ($2,500): LinkMentalHealth – a website that connects people with mental health services


The mission is to scale impact and innovation wherever it lives. Where for-profit and nonprofit worlds collide for good, social impact ecosystems are giving rise to more purposeful and profitable outcomes.


Philanthropitch Philanthropitch

About EDGE

The Entrepreneurship Discovery and Growth Engine (EDGE) is the place where entrepreneurship and innovation thrive at Sheridan. If you want to learn how to develop a social enterprise, EDGE has the resources to get you started.  Dedicated to building community through philanthropy, EDGE and The Oakville Community Foundation are committed to helping those in Oakville improve the quality of life for each and every person. "The EDGE Philanthropitch is a fantastic opportunity for us to combine efforts with Sheridan, pool our resources, knowledge and expertise, to make a lasting impact," says Wendy Rinella, CEO of the foundation. "By investing in an individual with a promising social enterprise, we believe we'll see the positive ripple effects on many members of our communities”.


Startup Spotlight: Tenatch

While walking up and down Queen Street in Downtown Toronto, David Fu noticed that there were a lot of empty storefronts.  Even though he was in the heart of downtown Toronto, the businesses were not.  His startup Tenatch is here to provide a solution.

Tenatch is a startup currently being incubated at ICUBE UTM.  They are a retail solutions company, offering consultation on location optimisation.  They hope to see a return to form, with small businesses being able to thrive downtown once more.  Small businesses make the city more vibrant, while also creating jobs.  Over the summer they hired 3 interns to make some videos! Their first video details the 'Retail Apocalypse' in Toronto:

Promotional Videos


In their second video, they interviewed Cynthia (a U of T alumni) and founder of Cynthia's Bath Lab at the CNE.  Small businesses like hers are an example of the type of retail ventures that Tenatch is looking to help:



Tenatch and the team are planning to release upcoming videos covering the various summer festivals in Toronto.  Stay tuned as Tenatch explores what makes the retail market at festivals such a thriving industry. 


SEO Tips for Startups

Is SEO truly dead? For years the death of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has been a point of speculation. As social media implodes, many believe traditional SEO and content marketing is no longer as  efficient as it once was in helping businesses compete for higher rankings on search engines.

According to Axel Kuhn, Principal and Co-founder of ePath eCommerce Consulting Firm, traditional SEO is indeed dead to startups and small businesses. As a mentor to over 100 Canadian online startups since the mid-90’s, Axel, the expert speaker at RIC Centre’s bi-weekly Expert Speaker Series Seminar shared on the topic of "eCommerce for Startups." ICUBE’s partnership with the RIC Centre allows startups who are current and alumni members of ICUBE to attend RIC events for free and gain first-hand entrepreneurial knowledge from industry experts.


Key SEO Tips for Startups:

  • Understand your conversion goal, and orient your website design around it
  • The goal of any online website is to increase conversion rates
  • Use long-tail keywords that targets your audience
  • Traditional SEO doesn’t get you very far
  • Use pay-per-clicks smartly


What is Traditional SEO?

SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization” and it is one of the most important marketing concepts for anyone associated with an online business. The goal of SEO is to grow the visibility of a website organically (non-paid) on search engines. This means encompassing both technical and creative elements to improve rankings, drive traffic and increase awareness in search engines.


Why some people think SEO is dead?

Traditional SEO methods such as building backlinks and optimizing keyword density are no longer the most effective ways of attracting customers in today’s digital environment. As organic reach weakens and mobile apps and social networks become much more capable at targeting niche markets, traditional SEO methods can no longer grow and sustain the online presence of smaller and newer businesses.

Missing opportunities: What can you do to win?

According to Axel, the end goal of any online platform should be improving conversion rates, which involves the act of converting site visitors into paying customers. This requires you to understand your conversion goals whether they are macro business goals (i.e. transaction, sales leads, demo sign-ups) or micro business goals (i.e. eNewsletter signups, social shares & likes).

The next step is to carry out a goal-oriented web design. Design your site backwards step-by-step from your end conversion goal. Scale your site effectively and gauge your competitors. Don’t be afraid of using tools such as WordPress to quickly build your site (ICUBEUTM.ca is a Wordpress site!). Functionality is much more important than creativity for a startup that has limited budget.

If you know what you are selling and who you are selling to, try targeting long-tail keywords. The majority of search volume, around 70-75%, is in the long tail (low # of searches per month for each keyword query, but high search engine keyword queries).


Now, after you have found your long-tail keywords and figured out your conversion rates, use Google AdWords and Microsoft Bing Ads to invest in pay-per-clicks that gives you the highest conversion for the lowest costs. Then calculate the cost per acquisition which will tell you how much money you need to spend to turn one site visitor into a paying customer.

Additional Tips for Startups:

  • Avoid developing a customized website unless it is extremely necessary.
  • If you must develop a customized platform, do it in-house.

Want to learn more? Become an ICUBE member and attend upcoming events!

Just for fun, check out this infographic that shows why different people argue SEO is dead!


Working the way to the top – 2016 Rio Olympics

"We do not get anything unless we work for it. My success is just a continuation of the great traditions left behind by past athletes. My faith teaches me to believe in my ability and trust that hard work and determination will make me successful. It gives me confidence in my God-given talent and so I never set limits on what a human can do whether it is running, jumping or something else"

It’s been 4 years since London had the honors of hosting the Olympics. And this time, the torch has been passed on to the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, 2016.

The world gathers in support for their favorite athlete. And the stakes are unspeakably high for everyone. Each Olympic is a huge investment of time and money to its success.

Yet, merely two months before the opening day on August 5th, Rio hit a peril on their ticket sales.

The organizing committee is at their defense to the ticketing policies. Apparently, the issue stands that South Americans are notoriously late buyers. According to an interview with Donovan Ferreti (via The Daily Mail), Rio 2016's ticketing director, 78 per cent of the 7.5 million tickets available for the Games have now been sold. Despite the claims, swathes of empty seats remain plummeted across the stadium. Unfortunately, the evidence fell visible to audiences on television from across the world.

So digging deeper, what is the problem?

[Whilst some may choose to look at the Olympics as a festive event, the production is very much business centered, right down to the athletes.

Brazil was awarded host to the summer games seven years ago. Back then, the country was still thriving on booming economy and political stability. However, in light of the current recession, political chaos, high crime rate and the proliferating Zika virus, the turmoil is enough to prevent ticket buyers. On a more unfavorable note, even investors and sponsors of the Rio Olympics are hesitant at the underwhelming response.

In an interview with Fortune online, Ricardo Leyser, the Minister of Sport, said, “the brazilian population is not yet awake for the games. It’s the first time we are hosting the Olympics so it's still not in people's heads. We need to sound an alert so that people remember this event and go and buy tickets. The ministry is extremely busy with day-to-day activities.”

The economic instability, coupled with Rio's inexperience as the host, has made the 2016 Olympics a risky investment. Regardless of the athletes competing and their preparation up to the event, Rio's biggest challenge still stands: tickets need to sell.

If the Rio Olympic is reminiscent of anything, it is the backlog every start up will face. The thrust of doing something for the first time can be overwhelming, especially when there are no guiding points. How will you sell your product or service? Why should investors and sponsors be interested in what you do? These are the challenges that every entrepreneur tackles, as much as a big production such as the Rio Olympic is currently facing. Although there is a ‘feel-good-effect’ to everything you’re doing for the first time, it’s short. And in the long run, it’s hard to measure.

Despite all the challenges, it is important to remember that success is built on time, sacrifices, patience and trial and error. The preparation that goes behind every venture is an arduous journey. But it is also key.

Even though ticket sales for Rio have been disappointing, it has not stopped athletes from pursuing their goals. In an interview taken from Athletes Illustrated, Columbian Caterine Ibarguen, hopes to put the crown on all her hard work on the third day of the Olympics. She is the double world champion, Olympic silver medalist of London and the world leader in the triple jump.

“Since London 2012 I have been working very hard for Rio de Janeiro. This is where it all should happen and I hope to win the only gold medal that I am missing. I hope to make Colombia proud again!”

We all want to make a mark for ourselves, be it the first to start a business of our kind, or host the Olympics for the first time. But it is also vital to keep track of where we are and what we need to do. More importantly, we need to learn to work our way around challenges and not let it suppress what we set out to do. And we can do this with a little help. So if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur and would like to gain some amazing experience in learning the fundamentals of a start up, check out the ICE program. It is an intensive boot camp held by ICUBEUTM, aimed and promoting innovation and entrepreneurial ship. You may read more about it here, or check out the list of programs and services offered.

How to Entrepreneur: Succeeding Your Business

“The glass is not half-empty. It is really four-fifths full. I’m grateful when I have one drop in the glass because I know exactly what to do with it”

Catching onto the antics of entrepreneurship is not an easy task. There are very few businessmen who are self-made billionaires. So if you want to start your own business but don’t know where to begin—don’t worry. You are not the only one driving into a roadblock.

Entrepreneurs are risk-takers. And if you choose to join them, you will submerge yourself in a highly competitive industry where the only way to seemingly survive is to continuously cough out avant-garde ideas.

Oh, and guts. It takes a lot of guts.

Although success does grow with experience, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you shouldn’t consider before heading into your own business. And if you can spare yourself the trouble of repeating mistakes already made by others, then why shouldn't you?

So if you’ve ever wondered how to entrepreneur, here are some tips:


Growing up and entering the working world, I found myself being thrown mercilessly into a crowd hungry for success. The more I gave myself permission to explore, the more I realized that my ideal “job” never existed. Other times, I was battered with the idea of creating the work I loved, constructed around my own life goals.

When you decide to set up your own business, it should not spawn only from something you are passionate about. A business is not a hobby, as much as you’d like to treat it as one. Instead, think about your budding business like planting a tree. You cannot plant a seed in any type of soil and expect it to grow—the environment needs to be fertile, and the climate needs to be accommodating.

There needs to be an opportunity to succeed. Just like the market opportunity you seek within the industry.

In all cases, starting your own business involves a heavy investment of time, money and energy. This should also include some foresight of success as the business takes off—ideally through well thought out SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-sensitive) goals on how to reach it.

The bottom line is, if you have no reason to set up your own business, do not do it for the sake of it.


I am always convinced that the greatest lesson you learn is that of when you fail.

But don’t expect a life lesson out of every mistake you make. Sometimes, we come out of a failing business without ever having the slightest clue as to why. Other times, we soak up all our understanding of our mistakes as if we are convinced our next venture will be a billion-dollar hit.

In either case, it always becomes clearer on what you should or should not do. Focusing on creating better and more meaningful products for your consumers is as or if not more important, than just continuously trying to innovate. This does not sound spectacular, but as an entrepreneur, you would soon realize that ‘spectacular’ isn’t always what you aim for. It is true that creative, cohesive and realistic ideas are key, but one of the biggest questions that you should ask yourself when considering starting your own company is: am I in this to earn or learn?

In an post written Mark Suster, a two-time successful entrepreneur, he said, “if you’re thinking about joining as the director of marketing, product management manager, senior architect, international business development lead, etc. at a startup that has already raised $5 million the chances of you making your retirement money on that company is extremely small. That’s Ok. Not every job you have is supposed to be your big break. It’s Ok for that to be your job to learn. […] However, if you really want to earn you need to be in the top 3–4 in the company. Best to be a founder. Very few people can do this. It’s a rare skill. Be realistic about your skills, background and ideas."

You don’t have to be an entrepreneur at the get go. If you’re 20 and you have time to spare, get out and work for companies. Discover what you really like to do and where you best thrive in. This is the learning process. You might not earn every dime you’ve ever dreamt of, but at least you are starting somewhere with some savings in your pocket. Then, when you have a clearer line up of what you want to bring to the table, make your investment and start your own company. This will be your earning process.


One of the first steps in having a successful business is to know which direction you’re taking it into. Be certain about your goals and where you envision your company to be in 10 years.

In part with starting any business, you will need to find your target audience. It is a mass or niche market? What do these people want out of your product? Does your product appeal to your consumers? Will it satisfy them? The moment you recognize what the market is missing, you derive a competitive advantage by understanding the needs of your consumers. This is an important step if you want your products or services to be desired.

So, who are you looking for?

According to Tamara Monosoff, author of Your Million Dollar Dream, it is imperative to recognize one’s target audience before investing anything.

“Before you spend money, find out if people will actually buy your products or services. This may be the most important thing you do. You can do this by validating your market. In other words, who, exactly, will buy your products or services other than your family or friends? (And don't say. "Everyone […] will want my product." Trust me--they won't). What is the size of your target market? Who are your customers? Is your product or service relevant to their everyday life? Why do they need it?”

It is impossible to sell something to someone who has absolutely no interest or need in your product. So make sure that what you are investing in is something people are willing to entertain.

It is never easy when it comes to starting your own business. On top of tangible assets that are needed to make it work, entrepreneurship comes with tenacity, determination, trial and error, and a lot, a lot of faith to succeed. You might not always get what you want becoming an entrepreneur. But even if you have one drop left in your glass, you must know exactly what to do with it, to make the best out of it.

Engaging the Future - Welcoming Students from the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education

On July 7th, ICUBE UTM welcomed over 30 visitors from the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education. As part of the recruitment initiatives at UTM, ICUBE along with the department of Institute for Management & Innovation (IMI) presented the importance of engaging entrepreneurial thinking and experiential learning. The goal of our presentation was to showcase how ICUBE can add diversity to students’ academic experience and help them succeed in today's jobs, and jobs that don't exist yet!


Engaging in an open discussion on the benefits of having an entrepreneurial mindset, students were invited to complete a survey on how programs like ICUBE can influence the students’ decision on choosing which university to study abroad.

Looking at the results:

  • 82.1% were interested in starting their own business
  • The top three industries students interested in were:
    • Cleantech
    • Entertainment and Recreation
    • Health
  • The top three ICUBE services students interested in were:
    • Free workspace
    • Working with other entrepreneurs
    • Mentor support

After going through individual responses, we happily discovered that out of all the students that were interested in starting a business, 100% of those respondents were interested in studying at UTM and said “Yes” when asked whether a program like ICUBE would add diversity to their education.

We are very glad to learn that ICUBE was able to add appeal to UTM’s already outstanding academic reputation. As the only ideation stage incubator in GTA, ICUBE will continue to work with the university on building an innovative culture by focusing on entrepreneur training and education.

ICUBE in the News: Butiik

On a mission to create an easier shopping experience for the digital world with their smooth and seamless app, ICUBE team Butiik was featured on the University of Toronto Mississauga home page! In the article titled, “How can we make online shopping easier?” Syed Fakrul Arefin, CEO and co-founder of Butiik, shares his success story of what inspired him to be an entrepreneur and how his involvement with ICUBE has helped him build the confidence needed to launch a business.

“We got legal help and graphic design help,” says Arefin. “We use their (ICUBE) office space; they gave us direction on how to improve our business model. And they helped us out of difficulties.”

Read Butiik’s story by UofT News here.
Find out more about Butiik and other ICUBE start-ups on our teams page.
Have a great business idea? Tell us about it here, we’d love to help you out!