This Coffee time focuses on the challenges of connecting businesses with funding sources, and how business development advisors can help entrepreneurs find financing.
Securing funding and lining up investors is no easy task. It takes trial and error to determine which models yield the best results. Experts like Anissa Boughazi help to navigate the process and demystify the world of business development.
In our interview with Anissa, we learned the importance of connecting with the right resources and of building trust when developing a product or growing a business.
“It’s true that my position is somewhat unique, in that it’s a ‘dual’ role in two organizations, Mitacs and Centech. Centech is what drew me first, though.
I’d known about the company for quite some time. I actually completed my internship for my master’s degree with a business that was incubated at Centech, in the Propulsion: Idenergy program. That company operated in the renewable energy sector, manufacturing river turbines, and I was working in business development.
When I came across the posting for this job, the first thing that caught my eye was the Centech name. This led me to discovering Mitacs.
First of all, I’m a naturally curious person, and I figured that working in the innovation sector would be really, how can I put it… I’d get a peek at what the future holds before anyone else. I would see where things are heading, in a lot of different fields. I’d be privy to the latest advancements in a whole host of sectors. Then there’s the creative side! I was drawn to the idea of having a front row seat and playing a major role in developing businesses. These two factors are really what got me interested in the position.
My job is about securing funding. I help businesses connect with the right sources of financing. I have the most experience with Mitacs’ sources, obviously, given Mitacs’ co-financing arrangement.
Throughout my career, I’ve drafted a lot of funding applications, both for private companies and non-profit organizations. It was definitely a steep learning curve because there aren’t any schools that teach you how to do this kind of work. But I know how bring my expertise to the table, which is something you learn on the job.”
“When you work in innovation or with entrepreneurs, you have to have a strong sense of curiosity. That curiosity takes you to unexpected places, which is where innovation happens. Every day I’m venturing into unknown territory (laughs)!
I’m confident in my own skills and expertise. I don’t have a background in tech—I studied economics and business management, which are totally different things.
Yet every day, I collaborate with companies in fields like artificial intelligence, quantum computing and health care. You really need to stay curious to work with entrepreneurs.”
“I love exchanging ideas and pooling our expertise (mine and the person’s in front of me). I truly believe that when you work with entrepreneurs, you’re really in the trust business. Everything is built on trust. Every meeting, every collaboration depends on it.
To build something together, you have to be confident in your own expertise while also trusting the expertise of the people you’re working with. I think Centech and Mitacs are seen as highly trustworthy, thanks to their proven selection criteria and processes.”
“We don’t all have the same skills and this is especially true for entrepreneurs. That’s where I come in. Like I said, it’s all about trust. You can’t really quantify or measure the trust you have in a person or an institution. It’s just something you feel. Personal bias can come into play very quickly.
You need to get to know a business or entrepreneur to really understand the essence of their project. That’s crucial for finding funding. The investor has to have confidence in the entrepreneur’s integrity. For me, it’s all about expressing ideas effectively.
That’s what Centech does and that’s a big part of my job—giving the maximum number of people the right information to bridge that gap. Funding applications are all about presentation. The way you present a project is very important. So is the content, but presentation is key.
Not everyone has the skills to write a funding application. You have to know who to get in touch with to find the information you need. At an organization like Centech, that’s also a major part of what I do: figuring out how to provide Centech entrepreneurs with the tools they need, when they may not even know they need them. There’s this idea that being an entrepreneur is some kind of gift, like you wake up one day and suddenly you’re an entrepreneur. That’s not how it works.
It’s about reaching beyond your limits, every day. It’s about being able to rely on the trust you’ve built with your colleagues. Centech’s team—the entrepreneurs in residence, the coaches—they’re all extremely generous people who are dedicated to equipping entrepreneurs with the right information, so they can effectively “bridge the gap” and allow their projects to succeed.
You can have an amazing idea at the technical level, but if you lack business development skills or don’t know how to create a pitch or presentation, that can be a big hindrance. It can mean the difference between a project that gets off the ground and one that never goes anywhere.”
Communications – Centech