Creative Destruction Labs: High School Girls’ Program
Their unique program opens the world of scientific technology and entrepreneurship in hopes of inspiring young girls and increasing gender equality in business and STEM. The high school girls program has each student sign up for a stream (Aerospace, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, Quantum, Energy, etc…) and through the application process, would pair them up with a mentor in their respective field. Throughout the day, the high school student will shadow the mentor as they interview start-ups looking to be admitted into CDL, evaluate in a group business pitch, and watch as various mentors critique and discuss the different businesses. In short, it is a much more comprehensive and high-tech Dragons Den.
On Wednesday, October 23, I attended the Creative Destruction Lab’s High School Girls Program in downtown Toronto. Creative Destruction Lab is a seed-stage program that helps new science-based start-ups with mentorship and scaling. The CDL was founded at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and now has 7 locations all over the world.
I applied to the quantum stream as it was my main field of interest. Here’s how my day went.
Outline of the Day
- 5:35: I took the GO Train downtown, bought a coffee at Union, switched to Line 1 subway to St. George
- 6:45: arrived at the CDL and got introduced to various other girls in the program
- 7:45: Listened to a presentation and got to speak to a mentor on carbon-based electronics
- 8:30: Met my mentor, Ozge, sat through 5 one-on-one business pitches, asked questions, got confused, then learned stuff. Spoke to really cool businesses, all trying to use quantum computing for things like medicine toxicity tests, financial portfolio optimization, etc…
- 10:10: took a break, ate some candy, spoke with peers.
- 10:30: gathered in a conference room with all the other girls, mentors, and entrepreneurs. High school girls introduced themselves, went through group pitches one by one and mentors, along with management students and industry professionals, asked questions and judged the quality of each proposal.
- 12:40: Lunch. I had potatoes and quite a few different varieties of salad. More desert. Then candy.
- 1:30: Smaller group one-on-one business pitches like before, now with 5 more groups. Listened, questioned, learned.
- 3:25: Same large room discussion as in the morning but now with the afternoon businesses.
- 5:20: Businesses leave and mentors and professionals vote on which businesses they want to mentor or let on into the program. Deliberations.
- 5:40: Home!
It was shocking how much I learned about the actual process. My mentor, Ozge, was very wise. And although I only stayed with her for half the day, she instilled in me the importance of having the correct customer. In the afternoon, I was adopted by another mentor/ mentee pair (Fay and Andrew Fursman) who reiterated the importance of having a strong demand for whatever it is you are creating. I especially enjoyed the critique process when mentors would bring up good points like the feasibility of a project, whether or not to publish a white paper (especially a point of contention when cutting edge technology only seems to be protected by trade secrets), and even the packaging of quantum devices. Even more, I learned a lot from the girls who attended the program alongside me. Everyone was very unique, I met an artist, someone interested in artificial intelligence in customer engagement, even someone wanting to study commerce (shocker)! Although we only had a few breaks when we could openly chat, I found a friend in many of the girls and learned quite a bit about video games as well.
Beyond what I learned, the food was also great. Lots of options for allergies and restrictions and a little too much candy to be frank. It was clear that the staff put lots of energy and care into setting the event and it was an amazingly eye-opening experience for everyone there.
I highly urge anyone out there to apply for this amazing opportunity. The next session is in December and the deadline to apply is November 19.
You can learn more about future dates here: https://www.creativedestructionlab.com/program/high-school-girls-program/