ILM Innovation Weekend
Whether it’s as simple as not having many Halal restaurants that deliver food to our doorsteps or as serious as having to seek ways to address rising Islamophobia, the Muslim community experiences a wide range of problems. While many people may not see it this way, these problems actually create opportunities for innovation and change in the Muslim community.
Although many people experience waves of entrepreneurial spirit to address such problems, they don’t always have the drive, resources and support of like-minded individuals to kick-off their ideas.
To fill this gap, ILM (Innovate, Lead, Mobilize), an organization created to drive entrepreneurial spirit in the Muslim community, is hosting the ILM Innovation Weekend 2017 in an effort to bring Muslims and non-Muslims together to hack, design and prototype innovative products and services for Muslims.
ILM Weekend, which will take place on January 21 and January 22 at Ryerson University’s Launch Zone, will bring together approximately 50 university students and recent grads who will form teams and have the opportunity develop an product or idea that addresses a need in the Muslim community. The teams will have access to workspace and mentorship to build ideas that they will pitch to a panel of judges in order to win up to $3,000.
“We will provide them with their own space to just sit down and hash through things,” said Mohammed Shabbar Manek, a co-founder of ILM. “People can be building prototypes, writing business models, or doing market validation.”
ILM was created by Mohammed Shabbar Manek, a third-year engineering student at the University of Toronto and Shums Kassam, a University of Toronto graduate and currently a tech lead at Kik. When Manek saw that organizations such as Canadian-Muslim vote, which were ultimately started by entrepreneurs, make a significant impact in the community, he thought it would be a good idea to start something that would foster entrepreneurship among Muslims, and get them to “solve their own problems.”
Manek says there’s a wealth of opportunities for innovation in the Muslim community. Among some of the ideas that attendees can potentially work on at ILM Innovation Weekend including developing ideas around delivering halal food, creating a modest clothing brand, finding ways to make prayer spaces more accessible, or addressing Islamophobia.
Manek adds that the event is open to both Muslims and non-Muslims in order to bring people from different communities together. He believes that because Muslims are often targeted as “separate from society,” it’s challenging for non-Muslims to connect with Muslims. But having an event where non-Muslims can learn about the needs of Muslims and work with them can create meaningful connections and ideas.
“We don’t think it’s right to just limit to Muslims. The more people we have working on Muslims problems, the better it is,” said Manek.
Having an event that fosters entrepreneurship and innovation in the Muslim community is beneficial as it will encourage diversity in Canada’s technology sector. Manek says as an aspiring entrepreneur himself, he’s noticed that there is a lack of diversity in tech and entrepreneurship, and often times, this is because instead of taking risks by starting something new, people are likely to turn to education and career paths that provide them with a safety net, such as engineering, science, and math, suggesting the need to promote diversity in tech.
“One of the reasons to promote diversity in tech is because a lot of people don’t see tech and entrepreneurship as a viable route,” said Manek. “People don’t see themselves as people who could be entrepreneurs and we want to push for that diversity. We want them to see that yes, we have the skillset.
Nonetheless, Manek says that are a significant number of Muslims who do work in tech and who are entrepreneurs, but they are a very small sub-sect of people doing this. “Being an entrepreneur is scary,” said Manek. “You have to take the path less taken, and for a lot of people they just don’t know how to do that. There’s a lot of resources but sometimes you need a person. We want to bring a lot of like-minded people together to be able to facilitate the connection of people.”
At ILM Innovation Weekend, Manek and Kassam are hoping that people will have the opportunity to explore entrepreneurship, build innovative products, and establish an entrepreneurial spirit that will allow attendees to carry their ideas forward.
“We want people enthusiastic about entrepreneurship in general, more so the idea that we want to show the Muslim community that yes, it’s possible to solve our own problems through just good work,” said Manek.
ILM is hoping to grow as an organization that will become the go to place for aspiring entrepreneurs looking for resources, mentorship and support to disrupt different sectors in Canada with innovative solutions.
Those interested in participating at ILM Innovation Weekend can apply by December 15th.