Cape Breton IT startup program hits pause button

Gavin Uhma partnered with Cape Breton University to coach young entrepreneurs to start their own successful digital businesses, but a lack of students means the program is being re-evaluated.

Uhma Institute of Technology is housed at Cape Breton University and was started by tech success Gavin Uhma

Sydney, N.S., native Gavin Uhma founded the program after he and his business partner sold a software company for $70 million. (Gavin Uhma/Twitter)

A program to foster new information technology startups in Cape Breton has been put on hold for the upcoming school year.

The program is sponsored by tech entrepreneur Gavin Uhma, who was 27 when he and his co-developers sold their creation, Go Instant, in 2012 for $70 million. He used some of that money to start the Uhma Institute of Technology (UIT) in Sydney.

Uhma designed the program and wanted to coach young Cape Breton entrepreneurs to start their own successful digital businesses. UIT was a pilot project with Cape Breton University.

Low enrolment

The program's enrolment numbers were below expectations, said George Karaphillis, the dean of the university's Shannon School of Business. He said UIT had declining numbers of students each year, with 12 in the first year and 10 and eight in successive years.

"We were expecting it to be well over 20, so we decided to take some time out," Karaphillis told CBC's Information Morning Cape Breton.

"One year to do some more market research and check with all the stakeholders and see how we can bring it back bigger and better."

Karaphillis said Uhma funded the program, and there was initially some financial support provided by the province's Education Department and ACOA.

Karaphillis said they will also be talking to high schools with IT programs to see how many students are interested in becoming digital entrepreneurs.

He said the students who were enrolled in the program are still working in IT.

"The majority are still employed in the IT industry here. They are working with other startups," said Karaphillis.

Corrections

  • A previous version of the story had some comments attributed to Gavin Uhma that should have been attributed to George Karaphillis.
    Jul 12, 2017 3:41 PM AT

With files from Information Morning Cape Breton