When you’ve helped build a Canadian corporation from a little known start-up into an international industry leader, you qualify as an expert.
When you add to that, an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University, the experience of raising millions of dollars in venture capital, building up and selling your own company, and years of private sector consultation and mentoring, you’ve established yourself as a leader.
That’s exactly what Ray DePaul, the first-ever Director of Mount Royal University’s new Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is bringing to our campus when he lands at
his new home in Calgary this week.
“My goal is that MRU become known as the school that generates the most innovative young minds in the country,” says DePaul of his vision for the Institute.
“I want it to become common knowledge that if you hire a Mount Royal grad, your company will be perpetually creating new, fresh ideas and be better prepared to innovate and stay ahead of the competition.”
The Institute will operate in a collaborative relationship with the entrepreneurship programming currently in place at the Bissett School of Business to give students from a variety of disciplines wider and deeper opportunities for experiential learning.
Bissett School of Business Dean Murray Young says DePaul stood out amongst an already strong group of candidates interviewing for the position.
“Between his substantial industry experience, skills in investor relations and team management, among other attributes, (DePaul) is going to be a significant asset to Mount Royal,” says Young.
“He’s also a very personable guy who can help Mount Royal continue to build bridges throughout the Calgary business community and take us to another level as he gets settled in here.”
RIMming with anticipation
DePaul’s experience and network are something MRU’s students will really benefit from. Aside from working with a “brilliant graduate student” to raise funds and establish a company called RapidMind, which he eventually sold to Intel, he played a key role in establishing Research In Motion, the makers of Blackberry smart phones.
“I was fortunate enough to join RIM before they launched Blackberry in the late 90’s,” says DePaul.
“I led their product management for 5 years, developing business plans, helping define new products and bringing BlackBerry to market. There are few things more rewarding than creating something out of nothing.”
When he joined RIM he was one of about 150 people employed by the company. When he left to start RapidMind, there were roughly 3,000 employees and it was the undisputed leader in the industry.
“As you might expect, it was a remarkable experience.
“One of the biggest things I learned while at RIM, while reporting to two of the most successful Canadian entrepreneurs of our generation, (Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis) was how to think big. Those two guys were thinking global even when our sales were at $1 million.
“That mindset rubbed off on everyone that got to work with them. ”
DePaul says that’s a big part of what he hopes to instill in the Mount Royal community. Innovations can create tremendous value, whether you count value as jobs, financial wealth, or social impact.
From Innovator to mentor
After selling off RapidMind several years ago, De Paul began mentoring young entrepreneurs and consulting for start-ups in Waterloo, Ontario. That’s when he realized he had a passion for helping others achieve their potential.
“Throughout my career, I’ve always looked for an opportunity to make an impact.
“In fact, in most people’s minds I left RIM far too early but I left to become the CEO of a start-up and had a lot of fun turning that into a success. I view this Institute as another great chance to work with a phenomenal team and have an impact on a lot of individuals, the community, the city and the province.”
Impact is a key word that comes up time and again when DePaul talks about the Institute.
He explains that the goal is to develop entrepreneurial mindsets, that will spread out across the campus and community leaving an impact wherever they go.
“The great thing is that Mount Royal is already way ahead of the pack in this field. I’m coming in to build on the entrepreneurship program that is already available and create an environment where innovation is not only taught but experienced. “
Centre of the universe
Murray Young says the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship will be another blue chip in Mount Royal’s already impressive portfolio of Centres and Institutes.
Young adds that entrepreneurship has been getting a lot of press in recent years because it focuses on the concept of change management, which is a critical skill set in succeeding in today’s business world.
“The Institute will be preparing our students with the skills and perspective to join an organization going through change, whether that’s taking on new partners or acquiring new assets and enhancing its transition with the entrepreneurial mindset.”
A big part of what the Institute will do is also give young entrepreneurs a safe place to fail.
“A lot of us, myself included, had to have failures out in the market, to learn valuable lessons.
" I think by pulling a lot of those lessons back into the context of an experiential education, students can learn that failing is part of the innovation process. I wish I had the opportunity to learn these lessons while I was at school rather than during my career. Mount Royal students will be far better prepared.”
— Steven Noble, Feb. 9, 2012