Mercier Seminar with Benton Leong
On November 26th, Lassonde School of Engineering’s BEST Lab hosted its sixth iteration of the Mercier Seminar. This seminar featured angel investor, Dr. Benton Leong, one of the co-founders of MapleSoft, a company that provides mathematics-based software solutions to educators, engineers and researchers in STEM fields. Widely adopted by universities across the globe, the company was acquired by its Japanese distributor, Cybernet Systems in 2009. Since then, Benton has been an active angel investor, chairing Golden Triangle Angel Network’s (GTAN) Selection Committee and serving on the MaRS IAF Investment Committee. He is a key member of Ontario’s new venture community and enjoys helping novice companies develop compelling pitches.
During the Mercier Seminar, Benton shared his entrepreneurial journey with the audience, emphasizing what works (finding talent, protecting IP, and being much better than the competition) and what doesn’t (assuming that better technology is always the solution, ignoring customer needs). His main advice to researchers was not to assume that the domain expertise they had around a technology, could be translated into business expertise, instead, he identified the importance of finding the right “business” expert to help grow the business. Benton identified self-driving cars, natural language processing and AI agents as examples of technology with which he felt had future growth potential and also provided some valuable advice.
“Strong communication skills are an asset and the foundation of any successful company. Before worrying about the funding, make sure you develop your communication skills.”
Benton’s enthusiasm, insights and encouragement were well received by the students and faculty in attendance, who had the opportunity to network with him one-on-one after the seminar. A special feature of this seminar was a presentation to the 2019 BEST Entrance Award recipients which recognizes evidence of entrepreneurial initiatives (leadership and/or involvement in enterprising activities) at high school and is awarded to incoming Lassonde and Faculty of Science students at York University. Recipients include:
- Dante Laviolett
- Rashiq Shahad
- Mabin Mathew
- Yusra Sani
- Xamida Hudson-De Carvalho
- Shaznush Sami
- Sasha Latchaev
- Bardia Naderi
- Phu Nguyen