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Blogs · Camille Gilbert and Nicole Tessier, HBA1s

Embracing risk, adaptability, and action for Canada's business landscape

Nov 29, 2023

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In the following blog post, Camille Gilbert and Nicole Tessier, both HBA1 students, reflect on their recent experience at Ivey’s The Future We See Symposium. Leading up to the event, students were invited to participate in The Future We See Symposium Student Paper Competition. Five competitions took place, each tackling a different critical issue and judged by faculty members from various departments and institutes. The winning teams or individuals received $3,000 and the opportunity to attend the Symposium, where they led discussions around their paper topics during the event’s concurrent sessions on Ivey’s critical issues.


As business students, we have always entertained the idea of starting our own businesses or becoming CEOs one day – a notion ingrained since childhood. However, as we've grown older, we have also come to realize that pursuing such ambitions are complex and challenging, and require taking substantial risk. Our research, revealing the high failure rates of startups and confirming those challenges, prompted us to investigate how we can foster more successful startups in Canada. Our exploration led us to the conclusion that boosting the flow of capital into Canada’s startup ecosystem as a key solution.

To address risk aversion and encourage investment among venture capital investors in Canada, we proposed an innovative remedy, which we coined the "Risk Capital Flow-Through Regime." This approach involves expanding and refining the existing flow-through shares policy in Canada, which is currently only limited to the mineral and energy exploration industries. Flow-through shares would allow the startup businesses to strategically pass on eligible expenses to investors for personal tax credits. By broadening the application of this successful investment incentive, Canada can stimulate greater investor participation to foster a more resilient and dynamic startup environment across various sectors.Nicole Tessier and Camille Gilbert presenting at Future We See Symposium

Higher risk, higher return

We knew the odds weren’t exactly in our favour when we entered The Future We See Student Paper Competition, as HBA1 students competing against predominantly more experienced HBA, MBA, and MSc students. Winning first place emphasized the importance of taking risks, showcasing how bold endeavors can yield rewarding outcomes. This lesson was reinforced during our participation in the panel on Launching World-Class Entrepreneurs, guided by Eric Morse, Executive Director of the Morrissette Institute. This session provided direct insights from startup founders and CEOs and highlighted the significance of embracing uncertainty as a driving force for success. The most successful businesses are the result of people who explored the unexplored and embraced the unknown.

Throughout our discussion, the importance of risk-taking from both an entrepreneur’s and investor’s perspective was underscored. A prevalent fear of failure often dissuades many from venturing into business. Additionally, the migration of Canadian entrepreneurs to the U.S. signals a broader issue: a scarcity of investors ready to take risks and support startups for sustainable growth.

The viability of new business ventures hinges on the willingness to take risks. However, for these endeavors to succeed, investors must be prepared to provide essential financial backing. Therefore, to fortify Canada's startup ecosystem, there's a pressing need for a paradigm shift that champions risk-taking and attracts investors. This shift is pivotal for positioning Canada as a startup hub, retaining promising ventures, creating jobs, diversifying and solidifying industries, and fostering economic growth.

Be the learners, not the learnt

The world undergoes constant transformation, and only those with the inclination to adapt along with it possess the ability to drive productivity, efficiency, and innovation. Rahaf Harfoush, HBA '06, shared the transformative mantra: "Be the learners, not the learnt." As a digital anthropologist and New York Times best-selling author, Harfoush highlighted the importance of taking an active approach to knowledge acquisition, emphasizing continuous learning, sustained curiosity, adaptability, and resilience.

In the dynamic world of business, especially with the introduction of artificial intelligence, this mantra takes on significant relevance, and the call to be learners becomes particularly important for emerging leaders. AI has the ability to automate routine tasks, streamline complex processes, and organize decision-making processes, and failing to leverage its benefits risks leaving businesses behind.

Embracing the former positions individuals, like all of us here at Ivey, to push ourselves to continue learning and to thrive in this dynamic era of technological evolution.

Zoom in, zoom out, and just do it

Listening to some of Canada’s most influential leaders define the practice of leadership was an eye-opening way of learning about shared qualities required for occupying such powerful positions.

Sevan Pelvetzian, President & CEO of UNICEF Canada, relayed to us that the future generation of leaders will need the ability to “zoom in and zoom out.” This means being able to both delve into intricate details and challenges within the company, at all levels of the organization, while simultaneously having the ability to step back and comprehend the world around them and the broader context of global issues. We learned that this is an essential constituent of another key trait of leaders, which is their ability to “foresee” the future. Understanding events that have occurred throughout history and studying these patterns can equip leaders to guide their organizations through crises and downturns. While all of these characteristics hold significance, the one that resonated with us the most was the notion that aspiring leaders must be willing to "just do it." How valuable is a brilliant plan or idea if it isn’t ever actually carried through? Those who take action embody a blend of risk-taking, passion, and a drive for continuous improvement. Many organizations engage in discussions, deliberations, and strategic planning without ever taking action. Leaders should be both strategic and bold, willing to take calculated risks to innovate, even if it means altering the comfortable state of their companies.

Ivey’s The Future We See Symposium not only allowed us to gain insights into critical issues from CEOs and change-makers, but also provided a platform to present our idea, network with brilliant individuals, and contribute to Ivey’s vision for the future. We are incredibly grateful for the experience, and are excited that the Risk Capital Flow-Through Regime was earnestly embraced as a potential catalyst for change in the future.

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