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David Kwok: York University’s Innovation Hub Creating Positive Change by Fostering a Community of Innovators, Entrepreneurs, and Changemakers

Space is York University’s innovation hub creating positive change by fostering a community of innovators, entrepreneurs, and changemakers. YSpace is home to YSpace Digital, a suite of virtual programs to support entrepreneurs from ideation to scale mode; YSpace Markham, a physical incubator space located in York Region to support market-ready ventures; and ELLA, Ontario’s first accelerator focused on supporting women-led product and service-based businesses.

Tell us about yourself?

David is a driven leader with an extensive background in strategic planning, innovation program creation, and partnership development. Since joining York University in 2017, David has Co-Founded York University’s first physical incubator space call YSpace in York Region and Ontario’s first Food & Beverage Accelerator focused on growth stage CPG ventures.

In addition, he now oversees the ELLA Women Accelerator program focused on supporting 70 women entrepreneurs to scale and grow annually. Prior to joining York University, David led the transformation of DMZ Sandbox into a renown startup and talent creation hub for Ryerson University. He also co-founded ZerotoStartup, an educational venture focused on creating curriculum for maker spaces upon graduation. He also served as an Advisory Board member for Pledges for Change, a community-based nonprofit focused on youth empowerment through volunteerism.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

The advice I would give myself two years ago is to be more open minded! The pandemic has changed the way we operate and I am thankful for what we’ve done now but it could have been explored earlier if we were more open to the idea of online learning.

What problem does your business solve?

YSpace helps bridge the gap between entrepreneurial success for startups with reliable resources, mentorship, and networks. The entrepreneurial ecosystem is scattered and there are many unreliable resources that exists, that can be daunting for any entrepreneur to navigate. We help our members create a roadmap and connect with reliable sources to get the support, funding and mentorship needed to succeed and scale.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

The inspiration behind the work we do is really the potential of these amazing entrepreneurs and their businesses. We’ve seen the craze around entrepreneurship in both the media as well as in the US but most of this only highlights the successes. Over 90% of entrepreneurs fail within the first 5 years and our mission is to reduce that while creating new opportunities for our students to become employed.

What is your magic sauce?

Our focus on impact and service excellence as well as our dedicated team of professionals. At the core of it all, we are a service based business so it is essential that we bring on members who are dedicated to the success of the entrepreneurs with a community mindset.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

Our plans over the next 5 years is to continue the great work that we do while expanding our reach geographically both virtually and physically. We would love to continue our work in working with international groups such as South Korean and Chili like we did previously as well as opening up new physical incubator sites throughout Ontario.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

The biggest challenge is the physical space as we have all been adapting to the virtual world over the past two years. Although, we did a great job of creating an online community, it has been difficult to bring folks back and have them be back in person. There are many factors here and we are still working through it to make it successful again.

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

By visiting our website and emailing us at [email protected] Whether they want to be a mentor, startup member or just overall learn more about what we do. The first step is to explore the website and then reach out to us for more. We also have idea consultations for entrepreneurs to help them get set up with a roadmap on potential next steps for the business.

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