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The digital dragon: Nicole Verkindt, HBA '07

  • Communications
  • |
  • Oct 16, 2015
The digital dragon: Nicole Verkindt, HBA '07

The Ivey HBA opens up a world of opportunities for its grads. Some go on to become consultants, while others work in marketing. Nicole Verkindt, HBA ’07, became a dragon.

Verkindt is one of three dragons for season two of Next Gen Den, the online spinoff series of CBC’s hit show Dragons’ Den. The two shows follow the same premise: contestants pitch their start-up ideas to a panel of experts (or “dragons”), and ask for capital investments in return for a percentage of the company’s stock.

Next Gen Den is only available online, with each episode running around the five-minute mark. Compared to its cable counterpart, the show’s target audience is younger and its contestants are looking for smaller investments, since the web series features up-and-coming entrepreneurs at an earlier stage.

The unique concept of the web series is what initially sparked Verkindt’s interest in getting involved.

“Stats show that people under 40 just don’t have cable – everything is online,” Verkindt said. “Further, people have an attention span somewhere around the three and a half minute mark. The concept behind Next Gen Den is brilliant, as it engages a younger, mobile, tech-friendly, entrepreneurial audience.”

How to train a dragon

So how does one become a dragon? For Verkindt, it was her Ivey education that helped prepare her for the gig.

“The Ivey Case-Method of Learning is a lot like being a dragon,” she said. “You’re thrown a concept and you have to react – very quickly. We’re not reading a textbook here. We have a real company in front of us and a real problem.”

Verkindt was in the first cohort of the Entrepreneurship stream at Ivey in 2007. She grew up in a family business, so pursuing an entrepreneurial career always felt natural for her. In 2011, she founded Offset Market Exchange (OMX), a company to help Canadian businesses grow by leveraging government procurements and secure contracts.

She had the smarts and the experience to be a dragon, but what really set Verkindt apart from other hopefuls was her ability to communicate.

“There were a lot of highly qualified people at the screen test,” she said. “Everyone was smart. Everyone had great backgrounds. But at the end of the day, you need to be able to really, properly communicate your thoughts. At Ivey, you’re rewarded based on your ability to express your ideas. Your participation is a big part of your mark. I believe I was chosen as a dragon based on that ability.”

Advice to budding entrepreneurs

Over the course of the season, Verkindt heard a lot of business pitches. She has one piece of advice for hopeful entrepreneurs looking to achieve start-up success: have enthusiasm.

“It sounds cheesy, but it’s true,” she said. “Even if the idea is perfect and everything is in line, if you don’t have an unbelievable amount of enthusiasm and energy, it’s not going to work.”