The Next 36 opens doors to next generation of SFU entrepreneurs

Oct 07, 2014
John DeHart, co-founder and co-CEO of Nurse Next Door shared entrepreneurship advice with SFU students at Surrey City Hall.

John DeHart, co-founder and co-CEO of Nurse Next Door shared entrepreneurship advice with SFU students at Surrey City Hall.

Dozens of aspiring entrepreneurs from across Simon Fraser University gathered at Surrey City Hall to hear inspiring success stories from established entrepreneurs and esteemed guests, as part of The Next 36 campus tour.

The Next 36 is Canada’s leading national entrepreneurial leadership initiative. Each year it selects 36 promising young entrepreneurs from universities across Canada and equips them with CEO mentorship, up to $65,000 of seed capital, and world-class academic instruction.

As an Academic Partner of the Next 36, SFU welcomed the initiative to the City of Surrey, where the assembled students heard about the application process and the benefits of the program.

With a focus on innovation bringing together SFU faculties in Surrey, the event was co-hosted by the Beedie School of Business, Mechatronics Systems Engineering, the School of Interactive Arts and Technology, the Faculty of Health Sciences, and SFU’s student incubator Venture Connection.

Held on October 1 at Surrey City Hall, it featured guest speakers John DeHart, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of mobile homecare service Nurse Next Door, Surrey City Councillor Bruce Hayne, Jon French, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Next 36, and Beedie School of Business alumna Chantelle Buffie, a member of the 2014 Next 36 cohort.

After an introduction from Sarah Lubik, lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Beedie School of Business, Hayne spoke to the gathered students about the initiatives the City of Surrey has underway to drive growth and increase jobs within the city. One such initiative is Innovation Boulevard, a network of health institutions, universities, companies and talented people, all located within one square mile in Surrey’s City Centre.

Following Councillor Hayne, Andrew Gemino, Associate Dean of undergraduate programs at the Beedie School of Business, spoke about some of the entrepreneurship initiatives available throughout SFU.

“We want to make sure that while at this university students have access to the people and ideas that let them create their own value and generate their own opportunities,” he said. “As educators, we have a moral obligation to teach important skills that students from all disciplines need to be successful, which is why we decided to create an entrepreneurship program for any student in any faculty – the Entrepreneurship and Innovation concentration.”

DeHart then shared the incredible tale of his entrepreneurship experience when founding Nurse Next Door. After starting out working from a Starbucks, DeHart and his co-founder Ken Sim grew the company to a $25 million a year organization within four years. Rather than rest on their laurels, however, the duo decided that the company they had created was one they were dissatisfied with, and opted to rebuild from the ground up.

“One day I realized I didn’t want to be in my company anymore – I hated it,” said DeHart. “We could have sold, but we didn’t become entrepreneurs just to sell up. We decided on a plan of bold change, went into the office and fired ten of the 25 people there. From there, we set a bold goal: to become one of the top ten places to work in BC within four years.”

The pair spent a summer studying four successful companies, Disney, Southwest Airlines, Toyota, and Starbucks, and realized that they all shared certain attributes – vision, core values, core purpose, and an ability to envision the future. Within three years of implementing these attributes into their own corporate culture, Nurse Next Door was voted the sixth best place to work in BC.

“You have two options as an entrepreneur on how to build your company: by design, or default,” said DeHart. “If you build by default, you can be successful, but chances are you probably won’t be. But if you build a great company – not just a great product or service – it will stand the test of time.”

Before introducing the Next 36’s Jon French – who spoke to the crowd about program’s goals, the application process, and the incredible opportunities it makes available to participants –Professor Mark Lechner, Director of Undergraduate Programs at the Faculty of Health Sciences, announced that SFU is set to launch new and unique health focused student experiences in Surrey.

Buffie then shared her own experiences as a member of The Next 36 program, where she founded Fixo, a dedicated communications channel for residential property managers and tenants. In March 2014, Fixo was the winner of the Newcomers category at the National Business & Technology Conference entrepreneurship competition.

Having developed the business over the course of seven months during The Next 36 program, Buffie and her co-founder now have four pilot schemes running in Canada and the US, giving them access to data from over 17,000 homes. At the end of the pilot scheme, Buffie predicts the venture will have started to generate revenue.

“Through The Next 36 I have learned how to define my own success on a personal and career level and discover how I wanted to build my own business,” she said. “Right now I am living in a seven-person house with other members of the program. It is one of the best experiences I have had so far. The program has surrounded me with so many smart people, many of whom are going through the exact same experiences as me.”

For more information on The Next 36, visit

For more information on entrepreneurship and innovation at the Beedie School of Business, visit:

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