Gaming guru helps students level up

(Edmonton) After creating a new virtual reality, University of Alberta alumnus Ray Muzyka realized business reality was more than just a game. Now the co-founder of BioWare is lending his experience and wisdom to others as the founding chair of the new Venture Mentoring Service (VMS) at the U of A.

The VMS program will partner student and alumni entrepreneurs with successful alumni mentors who can help them develop their ideas and skills.

“Our vision for VMS is to help support and uplift University of Alberta entrepreneurs. When we founded BioWare, there weren’t programs like this readily available for U of A students and alumni,” Muzyka noted. “I certainly would have benefited from this kind of mentorship myself, so I’m very excited about the potential of this new program, and truly honoured to participate as its inaugural chair.”

Based on the VMS program developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the VMS program at the U of A will focus on developing business and social entrepreneurs—helping them to use the challenges of entrepreneurship as learning experiences as their ventures scale and grow.

“We know University of Alberta graduates have an incredible impact on society,” said President Indira Samarasekera. “This new program is one more way in which the university will support and encourage students and alumni to pursue entrepreneurship and innovation, and to continue to drive our province’s economic and social prosperity.”

A recent study on the impact of U of A alumni revealed they have collectively founded 70,258 organizations globally, creating more than 1.5 million jobs and generating annual revenues of $348.5 billion. It also showed that one-third of these organizations are non-profit or have a social, environmental or cultural focus. "Our study shows that while 19.7 per cent of students eventually found new organizations, most do so after they graduate," said study co-author Tony Briggs. "VMS will further contribute to the education and success of U of A entrepreneurs as they engage with the broader community and develop new organizations."

Incoming VMS entrepreneur Emmet Gibney, U of A alumnus and founder of CareNetwork.com, says that “VMS reaffirms what I'm seeing elsewhere in the community—the culture of entrepreneurship and innovation is becoming a movement. The city is coming into its own, and I'm excited about being part of this exciting time in Edmonton and building my company here, with the help of VMS”.

And the mentors will benefit too, says Muzyka. “Participating in the VMS program as a mentor will be incredibly stimulating and rewarding. Mentors will engage and learn from passionate entrepreneurs pursuing a range of diverse, interesting ventures. And, as the recent Alumni Impact Survey illustrated, the impact of U of A graduates is already tremendously positive, and we’ll be striving to help these entrepreneurs to be even more successful in the future.”

Find out more about the Venture Mentoring Service