Drawing inspiration from the fintech unicorn Verafin, the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship is looking for applicants to its Solvers program, which pairs industry professionals with would-be entrepreneurs to co-found companies. 

The industry professionals, who must have at least five years of experience in their sector, will invest $5,000 apiece in the companies they co-found and commit “a few” hours a week to the project. Their businesses will also have access to up to $23,000 worth of student work term and internship bursaries and funding for miscellaneous expenses.

Professionals will be matched with entrepreneurship students via a “solution exploration project” that will require participants to asses the market potential of a business idea and begin developing their product or service.

“The objective of Solvers is to match industry experts with entrepreneurial students at Memorial University to create new high-growth startups in the province,” said the university in a press release.

Applications are competitive, so not everyone who offers their participation will be chosen. Businesspeople can apply and participate remotely from anywhere in the world, but the businesses they create must be incorporated in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The origins of the Solvers program are interwoven with those of St. John’s-based Verafin, which specialized in making software to prevent financial crime and became Atlantic Canada’s first documented unicorn after it exited to Nasdaq for about $3.6 billion in 2020.

After Verafin co-founder David Kelly approached Memorial in 2002, he hired a team of 12 students to help with product-market fit and prototyping, and after five months, he and his business partners formally founded Verafin. The modern version of Solvers is modelled on that process.

More information and an application form can be found here.