Youth Get It investment program assists Ben Britton, CEO of Ionomr

Dec 19 2017, 9:42 pm



Coast Capital Savings and Vancity Buzz are celebrating Youth Week BC by highlighting the stories of outstanding young people in our communities. These leaders have built a richer future for themselves, their peers, and their communities as a whole.

Coast Capital’s Youth Get It investment program empowers young people to get involved in their communities.

This innovative community investment program – which sees 7% of the credit union’s pre-tax profits reinvested in their communities – is focused on programs that help youth with financial empowerment, healthy minds, and educational success.

Vancity Buzz had a chance to sit down with five inspiring young people who have benefited from Coast Capital’s Youth Get It investment program to talk about how it’s changed their lives.

We had the opportunity to chat with Ben Britton, who has benefited directly from Coast Capital’s contribution to programs focusing on educational success. As CEO of Ionomr, winners of the 2016 Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize that recognizes entrepreneurial excellence at SFU. Judges select the winner based upon the quality of their business concept, current progress, future plans, and presentation skills. By the end of this year, Britton will have a graduate certificate in Science and Technology Commercialization from SFU’s Beedie School of Business. Another big one – he’ll also have his Ph.D. in Electrochemistry.

How did you get started with the SFU Venture Connection, and how have you benefited from it?

I came to the SFU Venture Connection through two other entrepreneurship programmes at SFU – the SFU Innovation Office, through which my supervisor had patented his research, and Dr. Elicia Maine’s Graduate Certificate in Science and Technology Commercializaion (GCSTC) program, which helped me develop the business plan for Ionomr and encouraged me to compete in the Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize. Peter Payne with SFU Venture Connection was my mentor through the preparation process for my business pitch, and they offered Ionomr a place out of that competition.

Tell us a bit about your experiences with the SFU Venture Connection.

The SFU Venture Connection is helping Ionomr and many other exciting ventures bridge the ‘valley of death’ from idea to established company with significant support and mentorship. This is helping us make the right decisions and build the relationships we need to succeed in the market. I’ve heard and believe that the success rate of technology-based ventures more than doubles with a well-considered business development process and proper support. SFU Venture Connection targets both of these with a highly experienced team composed of some of the finest people I’ve ever met.

What challenges have you overcome?

I was raised by a single mom, and there was a lot of family and economic stress, and I could have done a lot better in high school, limping through math in particular. Thanks to extraordinary professors at TWU, I managed to get a top-rate education in a challenging undergrad that could best be described as a battle royale with fatigue and 90 to 110 hours a week of work and study for years, and I even wound up tutoring math, chem, and physics at the university level for years. Life is a lot better now, and I’m still on my dream plan A: a chem doctorate and company.

What’s one thing you most want to change in the world that would help youth?

I have very strong opinions on education – young people are held back even though Canada is one of the best educated nations. Youth are under-represented in science and chemistry, a body of knowledge that has limitless possibilities for making large, important changes to the way everyone lives in the next century.

Looking five or 10 years ahead, what’s the dream?

To preface this, I’d like to point out I’m a grad student who was surprised to find a project to truly believe in. The goal is to form Ionomr into a $200 million company, a reasonable estimate given what other companies in the sector have achieved, given the CleanTech markets we’re targeting, and given our advantages. This would include two smaller companies within Ionomr pursuing different interesting downstream applications and the growth of a whole ecosystem of companies in Vancouver and globally on the basis of this technology. What we’re making represents the difference between ‘CleanTech we’re developing to save the future’ and CleanTech anyone can economically employ. The results continually get more exciting.

If you won the lottery, what would you do first?

Well, a company boost and spin-off companies would come about in a hurry. I would also pay off my mom’s mortgage and fix my dear Porsche 944s into their full glory. Some travel and adventure would definitely be on the list – probably scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef.

If you’re interested in learning more about Coast Capital’s Youth Get It investment program, click here. Coast Capital’s Youth Get It investment program supports a variety of youth-focused initiatives. This includes the credit union’s signature programs like its Youth Team, and Young Leaders Community Councils. In addition, initiatives such as SFU Venture Connection Program, Youth Futures Education Fund and Tradeworks for Women in the Trades benefit from the Youth Get It investment program.

Tomorrow, we’ll chat with Emily Gonzales, an ambitious student who’s working hard to finish 60 credits so she can apply to finish her degree in social work. She thanks Coast Capital’s Youth Futures Fund for her ability to pursue her education and dreams.

DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

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