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Welcome to the

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The Island Sandbox is a collaboration between Cape Breton University and the Nova Scotia Community College, and is a collision space for ideas and innovation.  Our primary focus is to help students launch businesses in the three key areas listed below.  However, we are here for the community and will assist in any way we can.

Clean Technology

  • Verschuren Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment spearheads Clean Technology Entrepreneurship

New Canadian Entrepreneurship

  • International Students
  • Tailored Programs & Support for New Canadians
  • Building Diverse Communities

Social Entrepreneurship

  • Sustainable Communities
  • Cape Breton Culture & Heritage
  • Social Innovation & Research

“Startups are about testing theories and quickly pivoting based on feedback and data. Only through hundreds of small–and sometimes large–adjustments does the seemingly overnight success emerge.”

Brad Feld, Co-Founder – The Foundry Group

The Lean Startup Approach

The Lean Startup provides a scientific approach to creating and managing startups and get a desired product to customers’ hands faster. The Lean Startup method teaches you how to drive a startup-how to steer, when to turn, and when to persevere-and grow a business with maximum acceleration. It is a principled approach to new product development.


Eliminate Uncertainty

The lack of a tailored management process has led many a start-up or, as Ries terms them, “a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty”, to abandon all process. They take a “just do it” approach that avoids all forms of management. But this is not the only option. Using the Lean Startup approach, companies can create order not chaos by providing tools to test a vision continuously. Lean isn’t simply about spending less money. Lean isn’t just about failing fast, failing cheap. It is about putting a process, a methodology around the development of a product.


Work Smarter, Not Harder

This methodology views every startup as a grand experiment that attempts to answer a question. The question is not “Can this product be built?” Instead, the questions are “Should this product be built?” and “Can we build a sustainable business around this set of products and services?” This experiment is more than just theoretical inquiry; it is a first product. If successful, it allows a startup to: enlist early adopters, add employees and eventually build a product. By the time that product is ready to be distributed widely, it will already have customers, solved real problems and offer detailed specifications for what needs to be built.

Develop a MVP

A core component of Lean Startup methodology is the build-measure-learn feedback loop. The first step is figuring out the problem that needs to be solved and then developing a minimum viable product (MVP) to begin the process of learning as quickly as possible. Once the MVP is established, a startup can work on tuning the engine. This will involve measurement and learning and must include actionable metrics that can demonstrate cause and effect question. The startup will also utilize an investigative development method called the “Five Whys” – asking simple questions to study and solve problems along the way.


Validated Learning

Progress in manufacturing is measured by the production of high quality goods. The unit of progress for Lean Startups is validated learning-a rigorous method for demonstrating progress when one is embedded in the soil of extreme uncertainty. Once entrepreneurs embrace validated learning, the development process can shrink substantially. When you focus on figuring the right thing to build-the thing customers want and will pay for-you need not spend months waiting for a product beta launch to change the company’s direction. Instead, entrepreneurs can adapt their plans incrementally, inch by inch, minute by minute.

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