Western News – Student’s journey shows aspiring entrepreneurs what’s possible

A fifth-year civil engineering and Ivey business student who has taken on most of the world is now looking for others to share in one of his biggest opportunities.

After an exciting training and networking summer through the Cansbridge Scholarship Program, Conor Plunkett now has the opportunity to recruit more western students for the international showcase internship next year.

Cansbridge offers young entrepreneurs tours and training in Silicon Valley and internships in companies in Asia, as well as the opportunity to connect with multi-million dollar companies at a conference with venture capitalists and youth.

Even before he began his time at Western, Plunkett showed his adeptness at navigating new opportunities when his mentor, Ivey, and Mark Broadfoot, HBA/BESc’18 engineering graduate, encouraged him to pursue his dual degree at Western, having already done so, accepted an offer from Queen’s.

“He certainly turned out to be one of the most trainable people,” said Broadfoot, co-founder of Rundle Rock Capital. “As a mentor, I look forward to continuing to engage with him because it makes a difference.”

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Plunkett has a strong community spirit, an attitude he says is influenced by the reception his family found in Toronto after immigrating from Ireland.

Plunkett helped build a pedestrian bridge in his Toronto neighborhood after flooding prevented easy access to grocery stores and churches (submitted)

This spirit inspired him to build a pedestrian bridge in his Toronto neighborhood in 2020 after flooding robbed elderly residents of easy access to their churches and grocery stores. After trying to offer his services to the City Council, Plunkett poured his own life savings into concrete anchors for the bridge and sourced lumber and I-beams from local construction sites.

Though liability concerns thwarted the project, he fondly recalls that it gave him a positive way to stay productive when the pandemic left him and his friends out of work.

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Plunkett focused his first three years at Western on getting the best out of Ivey and civil engineering, but a need for innovation and an interest in software has long hung in the back of his mind. He saw web3 and cryptocurrency as an exciting world with the potential to take that itch away, and although he had worked hard to secure an internship at coveted consulting firm McKinsey & Company, he turned down that opportunity to pursue what he saw as a “crazy pipe dream” at Coinbase, the largest company in the cryptocurrency space.

After spending four months learning to code overnight while completing his two degrees, Plunkett received an offer from Coinbase on December 3, 2021. Two weeks later – on his birthday, December 18 – he received word that he’d been accepted by Cansbridge.

But his adaptability was tested again: his attempt to visit Asia on the scholarship was hampered by cryptocurrency bans in several countries there. After some negotiations with Cansbridge founder William Yu, Plunkett was able to remain both there and at Coinbase: part of the summer that he would have spent in Asia instead saw him programming in Vancouver, Tofino, Seattle, and an enviable number of islands in Greece.

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As well as covering his flights, Cansbridge offered him the opportunity to tour the offices of giants like Google and Facebook and to network with a who’s who of academics and venture capitalists at the scholarship’s annual conference.

Plunkett credits Cansbridge with showing him what was possible as a young Canadian and becoming the first in his family to attend university.

And although there are only four spots available for western students in the next summer scholarship, he is looking forward to filling them as recruitment coordinator.

“That’s our goal this year, to find the most entrepreneurial, committed and ambitious people at Western and bring them into our community,” he said.


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