Dobson Cup receives $4-million contribution from National Bank

Contribution will support McGill’s flagship startup competition and provide additional seed funding for student entrepreneurs
Principal Suzanne Fortier and Louis Vachon, president and CEO, National Bank.Owen Egan

The Dobson Cup, McGill’s flagship startup competition and fertile training ground for students and professors with bold business dreams, has received a significant financial injection on its 10th anniversary in the form of a $4-million contribution from National Bank, one of its long-time supporters.

The donation, the largest ever to McGill from a financial institution, will enhance efforts to train and support the next generation of innovative entrepreneurs through the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, the University’s hub of entrepreneurial activity and home to the Dobson Cup startup competition since 2009.

This investment builds on National Bank’s support for the Dobson Cup since 2011 and its ongoing partnership with the Dobson Centre.

Bold ideas, brilliant people

“We are very grateful to National Bank for its ongoing support and for its latest investment in entrepreneurship on our campuses,” said Professor Suzanne Fortier, McGill’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “Building a culture of innovation is one of the pillars of McGill’s vision for its future, as it looks towards its third century. We have all the resources to become a greater hub of entrepreneurship and creativity – bold new ideas, brilliant people who embrace challenge, and engaged partners on board to support us.”

Professor Fortier and Christopher Manfredi, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), also announced today that McGill would provide additional support to the Dobson Centre, further cementing its position as one of the world’s leading university-based entrepreneurship centres.

“National Bank is deeply committed to supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs and contributing to future economic development,” said Louis Vachon, president and CEO, National Bank. “The Bank was originally created by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, and supporting businesses is still central to our mission. This partnership with the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship is another strong step to help startups achieve their ambitions.”

Unique learning experience for fledgling startups

The rigorous Dobson Cup competition spans three months and provides fledgling McGill startup teams with a unique learning experience. In addition to academic instruction, teams receive guidance and feedback from accomplished entrepreneurs – many of them McGill alumni from near and far – and executives who serve as Dobson Cup mentors, judges and guest lecturers, sharing their real-world expertise with students.

The Dobson Cup competition is open to students, professors and recent graduates from any faculty at McGill with a budding idea. This interdisciplinary approach helps promote and support entrepreneurship across the University, noted Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou, dean of McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management and professor of finance.

“The Dobson Cup is a rich, outside-the-classroom learning experience that complements students’ academic studies by exposing them to real-world situations and insights from successful entrepreneurs,” said Professor Bajeux-Besnainou.

Collective effort pays huge dividends

Each year, the competition awards more than $100,000 in seed funding to the most promising McGill startups. The Dobson Centre also runs the McGill Lean Startup Program for earlier stage teams with a startup idea, and the McGill X-1 Accelerator, an intensive summer program designed to help advance startups toward their launch phase.

More than 150 startups trained at the Dobson Centre are now in operation. They’ve created 1,350 jobs and raised $200 million in venture capital for their business ventures.

“We inspire, teach and develop entrepreneurs and help build innovative companies,” said Robert Mackalski, director of the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, who noted that small- and medium-sized businesses help drive Quebec’s economy.

“The collective effort is part of what makes this program so unique and helpful to students,” added Mackalski, an assistant professor of marketing. “And that’s why we are deeply grateful to National Bank for its generous and ongoing support, and also to our volunteer mentors in Montreal’s business community and in the McGill alumni network.”