CEWIL Resource Hub: Entrepreneurship at the University of Waterloo

The first week of the work term is “Ignition Week”, a five-day start-up boot camp where students establish a framework and goals, objectives, and milestones they will be reporting on throughout the term. During the work term, students complete an online course on how to launch a startup and an additional online professional development course. The program also hosts workshops and guest speakers each term.  

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Key success factors

  • The program features an engaged group of mentors, and support from Concept Coaches at Velocity has recently been added.  
  • The program is highly structured while also allowing students to work independently. Students are required to create a milestone-based work plan and reflect on their progress every 15 days.  
  • The program rewards process over progress. Students improve their business development skills by setting realistic goals, reflecting on why/why not milestones were achieved, and identifying areas for improvement. 

Unique characteristics

  • Students can gain co-op credit for developing an idea and turning it into a business.  
  • The program encourages community building among E Co-op students through a weekly goal on a Slack channel dedicated to accountability. Students often support each other by trading skills and networking connections.  
  • The program encourages students to find a mentor outside of their industry. This removes the potential for conflict of interest and focuses on business development mentorship, rather than technical problem solving. 


  • It can be tough to prepare students for working independently as an entrepreneur within the E Co-op framework. Students may struggle with the balance of support from the mentor and coordinator, dealing with uncertainty, and decision making.  
  • The E Co-op term is unpaid unless students self-fund or receive a grant or external funding.  
  • It's very difficult for students to earn an "outstanding," the highest possible rating on their student performance evaluation; only four to five students out of 60 receive an "outstanding" rating. Students must demonstrate going above and beyond in their business process.  
  • It's sometimes difficult to empower students to take risks and make the right investments (time, financial, or resource investments) in their business.  


Key characteristics

  • Type: Entrepreneurship
  • Year program was established: 2004
  • Number of students per year: 60 (20 per term)
  • Number of employers/partners per year: Students engage a mentor
  • Programs/academic disciplines participating: All faculties, about half are engineering 
  • Duration of experience: 16 week work-term
  • Submitted by: Wayne Chang