An interview with Justin Policarpio – McMaster Spectrum Manager of Student Entrepreneurship

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Give us a brief background on who you are and what you do.

My name is Justin Policarpio. I’m a Hamilton native, born and raised. I graduated from McMaster University in Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences in 2008, worked for an organization called the Golden Horseshoe Biosciences Network for three years, and in between that I did my Masters in the Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at McMaster. I also started my first official company while doing my masters called Campus Helper in 2010. It was a tutoring company allocating McMaster students as tutors for highschool and elementary students in Hamilton.

Presently I’m working on my new startup company called Robtoeurs. We’re developing education based robotics for students at all levels of learning.

My responsibilities at McMaster are as the new Manager of Student Entrepreneurship. I started the position in mid April, and since then I’ve been developing the identity, brand, and programming for our initiative Spectrum.


What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis?

The best part would be the feeling of satisfaction I get seeing the things I’m working on come to fruition. I truly believe in hard work and watching it pay off every day – that’s definitely the best part.


What has been your greatest accomplishment so far?

Accomplishments can be rated on different scales I think. Getting my first customer for my first company was a huge accomplishment for me, even if it was for a small amount of money. That said, getting my largest purchase order for my current company felt pretty amazing as well – I think the idea of creating something, having that validated and eventually sought for by customers; that creates a huge sense of accomplishment. Working on Spectrum, I see so much opportunity for similar feelings as I support the young startup companies developed by McMaster students.


So tell us about Spectrum! What would be its 1-Minute Elevator Pitch? What do you want everyone to know about this new student initiative?

Spectrum is a new program focused on supporting the entrepreneurial student environment at McMaster. We’ll be running a series of events, bringing in successful McMaster alumni who have gone down the entrepreneurial pathway and are thriving in their space. We’ll also be having a number of competitions including a pitch competition where we’ll be giving out $3,000 in cash prizes, and an annual competition where we’ll be awarding $50,000 in cash prizes as well as in-kind services to help you with your startup.


What was your inspiration for starting Spectrum at McMaster?

Spectrum is an initiative launched by Student Affairs at McMaster, and also supported by the Campus Linked Accelerator being developed for our city. The name Spectrum symbolizes the multidisciplinary approach we are taking towards entrepreneurship. We are supporting all faculties at McMaster and all kinds of entrepreneurship (ie. social, tech, healthcare, etc.)


What do you hope to gain from this venture?

Like anything I do in my life, I look to create some level of true value. Whether it’s helping students clarify their entrepreneurship idea or getting the resources to a student start up that has developed some real momentum, in the end, I just want the global community to recognize the amazing entrepreneurial endeavours pursued by our students and alumni.


What do you think the most challenging part will be in the next upcoming months?

With anything new, getting recognition is always an uphill battle at the start. However, I’ve communicated and partnered with select individuals from McMaster and our city that should prove to be amazing ambassadors for Spectrum moving forward.


If you could narrow it down to one piece of advice, what would you tell young professionals or students who are thinking of becoming an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurship has definitely become the new trend and buzz word for the millennial generation. Working your own hours, answering to only yourself, and the potential for owning a really successful venture are all really enticing, but when it comes down to it, if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. There is a level of discipline, ambition, drive, and persistence that entrepreneurs need to truly be successful. You need to network, get used to failure, and be able to know that things may not turn out the way you want them to, but being able to learn and strive through it all – that’s what makes an exceptional entrepreneur.


What makes McMaster and Hamilton a good place to foster Spectrum?

Hamilton is the greatest city in the world (ok…I’m biased). But it’s seriously an amazing city and I love it. We have a great and growing culture of entrepreneurs in our community, and to be able to harness the talents at McMaster to develop and support those entrepreneurs, our city will flourish.