My mentorship Experience At CDL: What I learned from Top Tech Entrepreneurs

This past month was filled with a lot of growth and discovery. Most prominently, I was provided with an exclusive opportunity to attend a session of the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) at the University of Toronto!

Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) is an outstanding organization that helps innovators transition from science projects to high-growth companies by providing them with mentorship from some of the top innovators in our world. They utilize an ‘objectives-based mentoring process’ with the aim of boosting ‘equity-value creation’.

Most importantly, they have a strong belief in the importance of providing youth with the exposure and insights so that they can one day also solve important problems in our world through innovation. I am truly grateful for this amazing opportunity, and can’t wait to share some of my key takeaways in this article.

CDL and their efforts are already so inspiring, but being provided with the opportunity to converse with some of the smartest entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators was even more inspiring. I had the opportunity to sit in on meetings, speak with some of the startups, innovators, observe their interactions, not only helping me better understand the growing entrepreneurship world but also how I could implement some of their feedback/mental models into my life. It was most amazing getting to shadow and learn from incredibly successful mentors with years of experience in entrepreneurship.

My amazing mentor for the day was Sally Daub who is an early stage investor, was the CEO of a Public Company, and has founded multiple start-ups. She had a very unique outlook on everything because previously had experience with law, and was able to bring a perfect blend of law and entrepreneurship to the table.

Schedule: Honesty over Fluff

Each meeting was around 10–15 minutes and because of this every point and feedback given was valuable. I noticed how there was no fluff or extra talk, but Sally was very direct and went straight to the point. This was interesting for me to see because I’ve realized how much more productive a conversation can be when someone is authentic, and straight to the point. I’m gonna start implementing this in all of my meetings and conversations from now onwards!

Interview Observations

► They provided meaningful and helpful advice to the startups, that they could literally implement right away to make their pitch or ideas much better. I was truly amazed by Sally’s ability to identify problems, solutions, and other opportunities that the startups didn’t initially think of prior to the meeting.

Asked about what they have been spending most of their time doing.

This was a really good question to ask because Sally got to better understand the team, their motivations, and how they spend their time. How a company spends their time can say a lot about their progress and drive.

Valuable Advice — Anyone can implement into their life

► Don’t be afraid to be honest and straight up. If something sucks, you let them know because it saves them time. Don’t be afraid to be perceived as rude.

► Identify first what people are already focusing and then look at what they aren’t looking at that could be a $billion opportunity to make an impact.

► It's important to reach out to smart people. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people, and ask for help. You usually get the most value when you ask. No one will approach you first.

► If an issue really drives you and is keeping you up at night, that’s how you know it’s something you really care about. If you care about it and are emotionally driven, that just makes you more likely to be successful and actually make an impact.

Key Takeaways

Don’t be afraid, Take risks- Your life is so short and if you never take risks, you just never learn and grow.

Don’t be afraid of failure- Especially in the world of entrepreneurship, you will fail or be said ‘no’ to so many times. What’s important is not that you failed but how you get up, and keep persevering and fighting for what you believe in. As cliche as this sounds, its true and I’ve heard the direct impact of this mindset from so many startups at CDL.

Spend your time like it’s worth a $1000- Time is your most valuable asset. Spend it very intentionally and doing things that actually make you happy.

Build connections- This is really important because you never know how someone you talk to can help you in the future. This can help you expand your network, gain insights and opportunities.

Be direct- Time can be very limited, especially pitch time, so take away the fluff and get right to the point.

Predict the future- We’ve grown up being told to not worry about the future and live in the moment, but worrying about the future is good to a certain extent. It’s important to be smart and make all your decisions based on what you think the future will be like, or else your product or service is probably not needed.

Don’t limit yourself, be hungry to learn- You are probably your own worst enemy, especially when you are a teenager. Learn to break out of this shell, and think big. Always strive to achieve more and solve important issues in our world. Continue to learn because, in our future, we will need people who not only have the skills but also knowledge.

Overall, my CDL experience was incredible! I got to expand my mindset, and make some life long connections. I look forward to going to CDL again sometime, and can’t wait to keep sharing my experience to document my growth.

If you are an investor or entrepreneur, I would love to connect and hear your advice or feedback.



Machine learning and hardware developer working on accelerating problems in robotics and renewable energy!

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Alishba Imran

Machine learning and hardware developer working on accelerating problems in robotics and renewable energy!