Weston Family Entrepreneurial Innovation and Sustainability Program

Duration: 5 weeks | Stage: Conception

Launching Innovative Startups To Address Major Global Challenges

In partnership with

Weston Family Foundation

Dedicated to launching innovative solutions for sustainability, the Weston Family Entrepreneurial Innovation & Sustainability program will accompany startups through the ideation, validation and early launch stages of their venture.

Comprised of a customized Lean Startup program and a startup competition, the program will build on the latest thinking on sustainability, entrepreneurship and innovation, to support teams in launching purpose driven startups.

Upon completion of the Weston Entrepreneurial Innovation & Sustainability Program, participating teams will be welcomed into the Dobson X-1 Accelerator, the Mentorship Circle, and take part in the International Pre-Seed Funding Program.

“Combined with our existing programs, the Weston Family Entrepreneurial Innovation & Sustainability Program expands the realm of possibility for our entrepreneurs, particularly those with a strong focus on creating sustainability-driven business models.”

Marie Josée Lamothe

Director, Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship



Program Overview

Part 1: The Weston Family Innovation in Sustainability Lean Startup Program

Duration: 5 weeks | Stage: Ideation

Dates: March 6 to April 5, 2023

Times: (MW) 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Key Learnings

  • Why some startups fail, and others succeed: stages, pitfalls and best-practices
  • Understanding your market and what matters to customers
  • Developing and validating your proof of concept
  • Articulating your value proposition
  • Managing and protecting your Intellectual Property (IP)
  • Funding an innovative venture & defining KPIs
  • Iterating your business model and drafting a business plan


  • Weekly workshops: Delivered by seasoned entrepreneurs and sustainability business experts, these sessions introduce strategic frameworks and concepts that guide the process of shaping and developing viable startup ideas, while bridging theory with real-world application through stories, examples and insights from guest speakers.
  • Action learning: Throughout the program, participants work on achieving milestones related to their startup idea and iteration of their business plan. This process is a crucial component of the program and will ultimately lead to the development of a viable startup concept.
  • Coaching sessions: At regular intervals throughout the program, participants benefit from one-on-one coaching sessions to review their progress and the development of their business plan.


Part 2: The Weston Family Sustainability Startup Challenge

Duration: 7 weeks | Stage: Validation

Dates: April 26 to June 5, 2023

Key Learnings

  • Creating and delivering an effective pitch
  • Crafting your marketing strategy
  • Establishing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • Understanding challenges in sustainable design
  • Designing your roadmap for the future


  • Startup Pitch Competition: A pitch competition comprising two rounds, followed by an Awards Ceremony.
  • Weekly workshops: Delivered by business experts, these sessions walk participants through creation and delivery of all the elements that go into a winning pitch presentation.
  • Coaching sessions: At regular intervals throughout the program, participants benefit from one-on-one coaching sessions to review their progress and the development of presentation.


 Startup compete for pre-seed funding:

  • 1st Prize: $25,000
  • 2nd Prize: $15,000
  • 3rd Prize: $10,000

Program Outlines


Part 1: The Weston Family Innovation in Sustainability Lean Startup Program

week Learning themes  

Why some startups fail, and others succeed

  • Program introduction and overview
  • Understanding the cycles and stages of a startup
  • Best-practices – using lean methodology to improve the odds

Focus on Innovations in Sustainability

  • Overcoming prevailing challenges and avoiding common pitfalls
  • Identifying differences when innovating in sustainability

Understanding your market and creating a market outreach strategy

  • Tools for competitive analysis (TAM, SAM, SOM)
  • Researching your market and engaging customers/ users/ payers
  • Identifying your beachhead market and Go-to-Market strategy

Developing and validating a proof of concept

  • Building and testing your minimum viable product (MVP)
  • Iterating and refining your solution/ product/ service
  • Using design thinking to understand customer pain points

Defining your value proposition

  • Articulating the value of your solution to various stakeholders
  • Describing your solution using concise and non-technical language
  • Communicating what differentiates you from the competition

Designing for sustainability

  • Emphasis on sustainable value propositions
  • Discuss “greenwashing” and sustainable designs for start-ups

Managing your Intellectual Property (IP) & other legal aspects

  • Understanding the basics of IP/ patents/ legal aspects
  • Protecting your IP while engaging with stakeholders
  • Understanding “venture readiness” from a legal standpoint

Funding your startup & measuring its growth

  • Understanding the funding ecosystem for scientific startups
  • Determining your revenue generation strategy
  • Understanding regulatory environments to plan your sales strategy
  • Creating financial projections and tracking milestones/ KPIs

Building a business plan

  • Defining the key elements of your business model
  • Drafting your business plan and roadmap for the future
  • Identifying key resources needed to execute your vision

Crafting and articulating your vision to stakeholders

  • Telling a compelling story and pitching
  • Communicating scientific data/ information using concise and non-technical language
  • Crafting pitch decks tailored to different types of stakeholders

Post Program

One-on-one coaching sessions with subject matter experts

  • Reviewing your business plan and roadmap for the future


Part 2: The Weston Family Sustainability Startup Challenge

week Key Learnings


  • Keynote Speaker
  • Program introduction and overview

Creating an effective pitch and storytelling for audience engagement

  • What to include in your pitch
  • Pitch structure
  • Tips for creating a cohesive and clear presentation
  • Enhancing your pitch and capturing the audience’s attention with an engaging
  • narrative

Pitch Practice Session


Market research and positioning

  • Performing your competitive analysis
  • Best practices and useful resources for your market research
  • Crafting a marketing strategy that aligns with your value proposition and brand promise

Finance for startups: KPIs and revenue models

  • Identifying your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • Developing a sound revenue model

Challenges in Sustainability Design

  • Concepts in circular economy
  •  Diagnosing sustainable design along the value proposition

Environment Day Startup Challenge

  • Participating startups will deliver a 5-min pitch to an external panel of judges followed by a 10-min Q&A

Program Application

Ideal participant profile

  • Your team has at least one founder who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

  • Your team has at least one McGill affiliated co-founder e.g., student, faculty, staff or alumni (graduated within the last 10 years).

  • You are working on a prototype or/and have a functional business, developing a business plan, and preparing to launch your startup.

  • Your team has at least one technical co-founder, and can build your business upon a technology, science, or idea that is significantly or radically disruptive.

  • Your innovative solution addresses one of several major global environmental challenges in the fields of clean tech, nature conservation, agricultural science, renewable energy, transportation, waste management, food production, consumer goods, retail, packaging, or other multidisciplinary fields that are working to reduce the negative impact or increase positive effects on the environment.

  • Your team will be asked to demonstrate how their proposed startup aligns with the Weston Family Foundation’s mission of improving the well-being of Canadians.

  • Your team is composed of multi-disciplinary professionals (including learners or graduates).

  • You can commit to attending all the workshops and executing the project work (required to maintain your participation in the program)

If you have any questions regarding your interest in only one of the two parts, please contact dobson.mgmt [at] mcgill.ca.

How to apply

Next cohort: TBC


Apply to the Weston Family Innovation in Sustainability Lean


Next Steps

Following completion of the Weston Family Innovation in Sustainability Lean Startup program, participants are encouraged to apply to the X-1 Accelerator and Mentorship Circle.

Have questions about the program? Email us at  dobson.mgmt [at] mcgill.ca for more information

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