The Innovator Skills Initiative (ISI) grant program is helping startups hire students across BC! How does it work? Startups get funds to grow their teams, while students get some hands-on work experience and entrepreneurial training before they graduate.

What’s it like for participants? We interviewed grant recipient Sandeep Sull, CEO, Sandman Media, and their student, Kevin Vuong.

Tell us a bit about Sandman Media

Sandeep: We are an award winning digital agency located in downtown Vancouver, specializing in fully compliant CMS platforms for publicly traded companies. We have serviced over 400 accounts across North America to date on a SaaS model.

Why did you apply for the ISI grant?

Sandeep: We have been going through exceptional growth and we needed additional assistance to assure a smooth experience for clients. The ISI grant program allowed us to achieve this without locking up additional funds needed during this surge.

How did you find the application process?

Sandeep: We were able to find the student through our network and we were advised by our ITC at the National Research Council of Canada to reach out to New Ventures BC for the ISI grant. 

The program manager at New Ventures BC advised us on the process. The application was simple from start to finish.

How did hiring a student help your startup?

Sandeep: Before Kevin (the student) came on board we were stretched thin and that was hampering our growth. Kevin’s technical proficiencies helped us in making a smooth transition as we utilized him to help with R&D and client retention. 

Sandman Media

Any success stories?

Sandeep: The great work done by Kevin allowed us to acquire new accounts through happy clients referrals.

He helped us massively!

What was the experience like to work with a student?

Sandeep: Kevin came in as someone wanting to learn and do well.  As a result, he soaked up everything in his surrounding and provided exceptional value.  The biggest contribution by Kevin was his desire to learn and to help open up internal bottlenecks by taking work off other staff’s plate.  

He was really great to work with.  Had a great attitude and got along with everyone.

Why would you recommend the program?

Sandeep: We want to recommend this program to other firms and students. 

The ISI grant allows companies to comfortably commit to the student and, in turn, it allows the student to gain valuable experience and attain much-needed skillset he is not exposed to in academia.  

This program makes it far easier for companies to attain the value needed by the students.

Kevin, how did it benefit you to work with the company?

Kevin: Schooling helped me get started but this experience allowed me to hone my skills. 

In addition, I got exposure to many new elements connected to my schooling which allowed me to expand my arsenal of skill set and to make a bigger contribution.  This was made possible by the assistance of the staff at Sandman Media who were very helpful in teaching me new skillsets. 

Did you have work experience before this?

Kevin: Yes, I did and that was helpful in allowing me to transition at Sandman Media.  Although what I did here was a lot more advanced, prior experience gave me the foundation to progress in this environment.

Why would you recommend other students get involved?

Kevin: I would recommend this program to other students as it offers learning capabilities different from the classroom.  The help and support from others within the company was a big plus in learning new skills. 

Any parting thoughts?

Sandeep: We appreciate all New Ventures BC’s hard work and feel this program is invaluable in assisting business to grow.

Applications open

Interested in applying to the ISI grant program? Applications are open. Your BC-based tech company or startup could receive up to $10,000 a year to hire a post-secondary student.

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