Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes announces young entrepreneurs to watch

The 2016 class of young business leaders will receive mentorship and support from Vancouver's tech heavyweights

Credit: Britney Gill Photography 

The 2016 class of young business leaders will receive mentorship and support from Vancouver’s tech heavyweights

There was no shortage of creativity nor big ideas among this year’s class of tech startups chosen by The Next Big Thing—an entrepreneur-led charity co-founded by Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, and serial entrepreneur Meredith Powell that connects entrepreneurs under 25 with training, resources and mentorship.

The businesses that the Vancouver accelerator program have fostered include Soular Backpack, a one-for-one business that will donate a backpack that stores solar energy to light up reading lamps after dark designed for children in East Africa whenever a conventional backpack from the company is sold. Another past winner was SmartSweets, which sells a line of low-sugar alternative to gummy bear candy popular among people with diabetes and children with dietary restrictions.

For Tara Bosch, CEO of SmartSweets, the peer support from staff and senior entrepreneurs has been the most valuable resource while going through the emotional rollercoaster that comes with the job. But mentorship wasn’t the only advantage for Bosch. It accelerated quickly how she brought SmartSweets to life, she says. “Their ongoing support has also helped give me the confidence that I can do it, that my vision is not too crazy, it’s not too big—it’s something I can actually create in the world.”

Shortening the time it takes to launch a business was what Holmes had in mind when he envisioned The Next Big Thing. It took him roughly 20 years from starting his first business running a paintball field at 16 to starting Hootsuite at 35. He wanted to lessen that period of discovery for young entrepreneurs so they could be building “something that had gravity and impact” sooner.

“The really cool thing for me about this is that the legacy isn’t just stopping with the entrepreneurs that are paying it forward,” said Holmes. “As we’ve had two classes graduate right now and a third going, we’ve already seen entrepreneurs in class one and two start to lean in and pay it forward.”

One of this year’s winners Saba Mohebpour, founder of an e-commerce app that allows anyone to sell online quickly from their phone, was surprised at how much he’s learned in the four weeks since training started. “Before I joined TNBT, I wasn’t very comfortable with doing customer discovery and talking to other people about the business. But now I feel very comfortable. In the past four weeks, I’ve been out talking to 100 people.”