“The lotus leaf has given us a wonderful example of a self-cleaning system, designed by nature. ”

– Queen's chemist Dr. Guojun Liu on his amphiphobic materials

Fostering innovation, the alumni way

Roger Bowes

I became an entrepreneur nearly 20 years ago, when I joined a startup company founded out of research at my alma mater, Queen’s University.

It was a textbook bootstrap experience – we had virtually no capital and just a handful of employees – but we had the seeds of an innovative technology. By 2004 I was CEO; by 2010 our company, ESG Solutions, had expanded into new sectors, our staff had tripled, our products were used around the world, and we had offices in Calgary, the U.S. and China.

Today, I am working with a new startup. We have virtually no capital and just one other employee. Many nights I’m still at my desk at 11 pm.

What was I thinking?

I was thinking that I wanted to help get the ball rolling on fresh ideas I believe in. I wanted the excitement of a startup. I wanted to help foster another successful company.

Fortunately I had a good place to start in PARTEQ. They had a brand-new startup company, Laser Depth Dynamics, with a great market opportunity and a young Queen’s inventor who was realistic and who could deliver. They also had their own Angel Network.

I decided to become involved in both. Startups are always tough and involve some pain and risk, but there’s also the reward of building something that just didn’t exist before. And being an angel investor means I get access to opportunities and networks I wouldn’t otherwise know about. 

It’s been a great experience so far. We’re ramping up faster than I could have hoped, customers are banging on our door, and there’s too much work to do! But they’re good problems to have.

I’m excited about the potential for our company. I believe that by bringing my expertise, my connections and my experience, as well as my chequebook to the table, this startup company has a better chance of succeeding.

I’m also excited about the potential for our company to make a difference to our country’s collective IQ – Innovation Quotient. Success isn’t just about cash; it’s about connections, and I believe it’s the combination of the two that will ease the bottleneck in our country’s innovation pipeline.

My experience has shown me that good people and good ideas are always in demand. Queen’s has a lot of entrepreneurial alumni, and it has a one-stop source of good ideas, via PARTEQ. Imagine the impact of pairing our alumni with the innovative discoveries that are coming out of Queen’s!

Roger Bowes (BSc 92) is Entrepreneur in Residence at PARTEQ Innovations.