Alumna reaches out to business entrepreneurs

Carleton psychology alumna Coralie Lalonde helps budding entrepreneurs find the road to success.

Carleton psychology alumna Coralie Lalonde is doing everything she can to pay forward what she herself has achieved as a successful business person.

“I have been very lucky and very successful because of the support I got through my community — profs who mentored me and business people who helped me build my business when I started out,” says Lalonde. “I want to give that back. It’s how we build a really strong community.”

Founder and chief executive officer of Katsura Investments, a private equity investment group, Lalonde is passionate about helping the next generation of entrepreneurs find their feet and their own roads to success. To this end, she is active in the business and non-profit community and a volunteer for many organizations including Volunteer Ottawa, the Tech Venture Challenge, the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, the Ottawa Humane Society, SHAD Valley and Junior Achievement.

Since graduating from Carleton with a bachelor’s degree in 1990, and a master’s in psychology in 1993, she has sought ways to thank those who supported her during her journey by turning to the next generation.

A project that is close to this busy volunteer’s heart is the Tech Venture Challenge, a competition for the best technology business idea. Linking students with CEOs and investors, the challenge allows the top three finalists to pitch their ideas to members of the local business community. Now in its tenth year, the competition was founded by Lalonde and Carleton’s Innovation Transfer Office Director Luc Lalande.

“We founded it as a Carleton-based competition,” notes Lalonde. “Now, we’ve expanded outside the university, across eastern Ontario and western Quebec. Six hundred and fifty students have gone through the Tech Venture Challenge over the years and at least 57 have gone on to start companies.”

Lalonde is particularly keen to spark the entrepreneurial spirit of those with technology ideas.

“Students have great tech ideas, but they get caught up in the development. We want to get students excited about taking a technological idea further.”

Lalonde is also fervent about the partnership between Volunteer Ottawa — of which she was once chair of the board — and Carleton’s Tony Bailetti, director of the Telecommunications Innovation Management program, to bring open-source applications to the non-profit community.

“The 350 members — mostly small and medium-sized organizations — of Volunteer Ottawa face the same challenges,” Lalonde notes. “They have no money or resources to get the tools to facilitate the work they are doing. The partnership with Carleton allows them to bring these free applications — video teleconferencing, for example — into their hands and build their capacity.

“Indirectly,” Lalonde says, “through Volunteer Ottawa, I am helping starving children, curing diseases or finding homes for puppies because I am helping these organizations do their work. But it’s not all altruistic for me. It’s recreational. I enjoy the experience.”

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Susan Hickman

By Susan Hickman

For nearly four decades, journalist Susan Hickman has written about every imaginable subject for sundry newspapers and magazines in Canada and abroad, as well as for CBC TV and CBC Radio. She has also managed various publications, including academic newspapers and technology magazines, and was recently commissioned to write a guide for foreign missions serving in Canada. Currently, she is working on a couple of personal memoirs.

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