Heavy-hitting investors and business elite from across North America heard pitches from Canada’s youngest entrepreneurs yesterday, and are evaluating the first business ventures created through game-changing program, The Next 36 . An initiative supported by more than 50 Canadian business leaders – including Galen Weston, Paul Desmarais Sr. and Jim Pattison as founding patrons – The Next 36 aims to transform the country’s most promising undergraduates into high-impact entrepreneurs and nation builders.
“For years, I have been looking for the best way to help young entrepreneurs,” explains Anthony Lacavera, a director of The Next 36 and Chairman and CEO of Globalive . “The Next 36 is the perfect formula.” 
Yesterday’s ‘Venture Day’ marked the culmination of the program’s inaugural year. The accomplished young co-founders (aged 19 to 23) spent the last eight months working in teams and together with CEO mentors, top business school faculty, and others to seize opportunities in mobile application technology. These ventures include mobile apps relating to local bartering, customer feedback, exercise rewards, flirting and virtual clothing.
Monday’s graduation ceremony featured the presentation of three highly-coveted awards. The 2011 Valedictorian, selected by his peers, was David Berkal, a Peace & Conflict Studies graduate from The University of Toronto. Emily Dimytosh, who is entering her final year in Commerce at Queen’s, was chosen by the program’s co-founders as winner of the Satchu Prize, named in honour of Founding Chair, Reza Satchu. “In terms of raising the bar, The Next 36 has taken me from varsity high jump to Olympic pole vaulting,” states Dimytosh. The recipient of the Outstanding Venture Award was Tradyo, a swapping application that allows users to buy & barter on a local level through their smartphone. Tradyo’s co-founders come from McGill, Western, Guelph and Toronto.
“Canadian prosperity depends on our ability to generate more seasoned entrepreneurs to drive this country forward.” said Claudia Hepburn, co-founder and executive director of The Next 36. “Entrepreneurs who see opportunities where others see challenges have the ability to change our community and our economy. We can’t wait to see how they build on this experience in the real world.”
As the first cohort of The Next 36 makes plans to forge ahead with their businesses – some while juggling their studies – the program is gearing up to welcome its next wave of students. The application process is open until October 7, 2011.