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Creative Destruction Lab

The Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) is a seed-stage program for massively scalable, science- and technology-based companies. Rotman students play a vital role in the lab by providing the strategic insights needed to turn research innovations into high-growth ventures.

Build something massive

The Creative Destruction Lab was established at the Rotman School of Management to foster the next generation of Canada’s technology startups, while giving students practical experience working with world-class investors and entrepreneurs. Students enjoy a first-hand immersion in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, as they help to bring to market the innovations needed to solve the most pressing problems of our time.

Founded in 2012 by Professor Ajay Agrawal at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, the program has expanded to twelve sites across six countries: Oxford (Saïd Business School, University of Oxford), Paris (HEC Paris), Atlanta (Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology), Madison (Wisconsin School of Business, University of Wisconsin-Madison), Seattle (University of Washington, Foster School of Business), Berlin (European School of Management and Technology), Tartu (Delta Management School, University of Tartu), Vancouver (Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia), Montreal (HEC Montréal), Calgary (Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary), and Halifax (Rowe School of Business, Dalhousie University).

Ventures accepted into the CDL-Toronto program have backgrounds in the areas of artificial intelligence, blockchain, health, space, matter, neuroscience and other areas. CDL-Toronto alumni include North, Atomwise, Sheertex, Deep Genomics and Xanadu. Companies that have participated in the CDL programs have created over $18 billion in equity value.

Exterior shot of the CDL space

The role of Rotman students

The program is designed to provide students who want to pursue startup experiences by learning to evaluate and build early stage tech businesses. All Rotman students are eligible to take the CDL Introductory course. Selection into the CDL Advanced course is competitive, and Rotman participants are chosen for their high potential as strategic thinkers and entrepreneurs. Working alongside their CDL partners, they develop financial models, evaluate potential markets, and fine-tune strategies for scaling.

Over the course of the nine-month program, students gain invaluable first-hand experience of the entrepreneurial mindset by taking part in the life of a startup, playing a vital role in the development of a venture with massively scalable potential.

Speaker at the CDL's annual Machine Learning Conference

A powerful network

One of the greatest functions of the CDL is its role as a crucible of business acumen and technical expertise, bringing together a highly effective combination of entrepreneurs, investors, scholars, inventors and risk-takers.

Students are paired with early-stage technology companies looking to scale their idea into a high growth company. Every two months, students and ventures are invited to join an intensive full-day session with the Fellows and Associates, an elite group of successful entrepreneurs, angel investors, and partners from leading venture capital firms, focused on objective setting.

Learning from these experienced entrepreneurs and investors, students work with their ventures and provide hands-on support to achieve those objectives set during sessions. This invaluable interaction allows students to reframe their perspective around a career defined by original thinking and innovation.

CDL demo

Live the startup experience

It is a real-life immersive experience that cannot be found in any textbook. Instead of reading a 30-page case that comes with a fact set, students have to discover the facts themselves and figure out which are the most valuable. They develop a keen awareness of the messiness of the real world and the challenge of having to make vital decisions before a clear picture of the key indicators has emerged.

While working with startups, every decision matters. Students often feel a strong personal investment in their startup experience, because the consequences of their participation are so tangible. Some graduates of the program end up joining the companies they partnered with or start their own, continuing on an entrepreneurial path. Others enjoy the strategic advisory role they play with the ventures, and translate those skills into roles in finance or management consulting.

Whatever their learning trajectory, graduates emerge from the program both professionally and personally transformed.

CDL announcement

Creative Destruction Lab Fellowship program

The CDL Fellowship program has been created to unlock the entrepreneurial ambitions of up to 20 incoming Rotman students who are committed to exploring careers in entrepreneurship and startups. Selected students are supported by financial awards of up to $27,000, guaranteed placement in the Creative Destruction Lab strategy courses and sponsored access to key events.

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