Student Innovator Spotlight : Colin Tran

Ishan sits down with his friend Colin, the Founder of NXT-GEN and Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Trust Science. “A true genius” is how he describes him!



YouAlberta is written by students for students.

Ishan (he/him) is a fourth-year Finance student at the University of Alberta. He originates from Bhopal, a beautiful city in India known as the city of lakes. He has studied at eight schools and has lived in ten cities. Ishan loves travelling, meeting new people and experiencing different cultures. He is big on sports and enjoys playing soccer, squash, basketball, swimming and running half-marathons. His creative side includes writing poems and playing guitar when missing home. Ishan enjoys public speaking and strives to become a visiting lecturer to teach at all of the world's best universities, including Oxford, U of A, London School of Business and the Kyoto University in Japan.

Colin Tran
Colin Tran

Tell me a little about yourself.

I am Colin Tran, a third-year business student with a major in Accounting. I am also completing a certificate in Entrepreneurship alongside my Bachelor of Commerce degree from the U of A. As of now, I am studying part-time and taking one course. I’m just trying to focus on the work opportunity at Trust Science, where I am working as the Vice President of Corporate Affairs while doing everything from sales, marketing, grants and HR to governmental relations and product management. I am also the Founder and President of NXT-GEN, an exciting student club on campus catered to high school students transitioning to university. The last and most exciting part about me is that I am a big Oilers fan!  

What does innovation mean to you?

My perception of innovation is about coming up with new ends from current means. To put it more succinctly, coming up with something new to solve problems. It can take several forms. It can be high-tech innovation or perhaps something like a new marketing plan that is revolutionary, but it certainly is about rearranging ecosystems to create something that wasn’t there before. An important aspect of creating something new is that it emerges from the need to reconfigure what you have in order to create something novel, something unique. The invention must then solve a problem either entirely or better than the previous alternative. Solving problems in a new manner is what I call innovation. 

What was the inspiration that brought NXT-GEN to life?

As a high school student back in grade 10, I competed in Dragons’ Nest. Essentially, it is a pitch competition where you introduce your business idea to a group of panellists. It is similar to the first competition we ran at NXT-GEN. At the time, Dragons’ Nest was going through some funding issues. The school wasn’t as interested in reviving it. In grade 12, I started taking it seriously. I did some research and reached out to some members of the community. Upon starting university, I was pleased to meet some people with similar goals and ambitions, which eventually brought NXT-GEN to life. Quite remarkably, NXT-GEN was officially recognized as a student club on the U of A campus on February 23, 2021, which was also my 18th Birthday! Since then, through different stakeholders, we have not only broadened the NXT-GEN’s programs, but we also ran our first pitch competition on May 29, 2021. Now it is a more structured program for entrepreneurship with our launchpad program. A lot of credit is due to the team! There are a lot of people that have been involved along the way, and it is wonderful to see how we have come together to form NXT-GEN. 

Tell me more about the Entrepreneurship Program at NXT-GEN.

The entrepreneurship program is definitely taking life as we go here. At its core, it is intended to bridge the gap between students that are interested in entrepreneurship and the broader Edmonton entrepreneur ecosystem. Some students are very serious; some want to explore, and some just have a curiosity to learn about startups and tech in Alberta. There is a robust set of stakeholders in that ecosystem. At NXT-GEN, we try to focus on that early-stage entrepreneurship journey and fostering innovation. While it is anchored around entrepreneurship, it is about developing mindsets, skills, and, ultimately, interests around innovation and entrepreneurship. Our focus is on early-stage journeys. Taking students from ideation, coming up with new business ideas, exploring problems they would like to see solved, to walking through the problems with them, evaluating if it is feasible and then understanding where the assumptions lie. The beauty of entrepreneurship is there are a lot of assumptions you make as you walk through the process. Failure is part of the process. Fail fast, fail quickly and learn from your mistakes.  

We want to teach students in our entrepreneurship program the framework, as well as a few key critical areas of entrepreneurship, in order to execute an idea. From considering the financial aspect of your proposal to its marketing strategy, there are a few things you must contemplate when it comes to executing an entrepreneurial idea. We try to focus on all of these aspects in our entrepreneurship program through our office hours, mentorship and providing necessary resources to students. We cap all that off with a pitch competition that has over $5000 in prize money. The most valuable thing students can get out of it is a really good educational experience.

(Team NXT-Gen at the UofA Faculty Club during the club’s Entrepreneurship program)
(Team NXT-Gen at the UofA Faculty Club during the club’s Entrepreneurship program) 

Any thoughts on networking? It seems to be an important part of business, especially in a well-connected and approachable business community like the one we have in Edmonton. 

A lot of people network just for the sake of networking. It is a matter of building relationships. How do you build connections you can reach out to and rely on them? It takes a lot of work to network. It takes a deliberate effort to do that. I remember from one of the classes I took where we talked about turning your weak ties, people you are not in constant contact with, into strong ties, people you know very well. Networking is about turning those weak ties into strong ones. Being able to bounce ideas off and bring your connections into your company is a positive result of good networking. It is about genuinely taking interest in people and learning about their stories. Honestly speaking, “Let’s go grab a coffee. I’d really like to learn more about your company and your role,” is a really powerful phrase, especially when you are a student. 

What are your thoughts on mentorship? 

I think it is incredibly important. There is always something you can learn from somebody. There are good mentors and bad mentors. Good mentors are true leaders. They see your vision and are willing to support you. Those are the kind of mentors you want to look out for. Early in your career, it is far more important to find a good mentor rather than pushing aggressively for titles or salary. Be patient; those things will come. Mentors will help you develop those skills and grow in your career. Exponential growth and inflection points thereafter are inevitable. 

What is it like leading an organization as the VP of Corporate Affairs at such a young age?  

It certainly is challenging, as nothing ever comes easy. The real push behind an organization is the thing that allows me to be successful in understanding how the broader business works. It is good to have specific skills to get your foot in the door. It is a combination of curiosity and intuition surrounding the rest of the business that helps you broaden your horizons and skill sets. The willingness to take initiative. The second you stop being curious, you stop going after another new thing. The moment you stop, you start losing that creativity, even if you are working with a big title or with a decorated designation. A desire to learn and grow will always keep you interested and passionate about what you are doing. 

What’s next for you? Do you have any new projects on the horizon? 

The plan is to continue with Trust Science in its current role and help the organization grow. Scaling NXT-GEN and developing a sustainable infrastructure for ongoing impact is something that has been on my mind for a considerable amount of time. We are finding ways to make this happen. I am also seeking to further grow the network and bring on more innovation leaders in the Edmonton area while looking for innovative companies to showcase and support students with mentorship/office hours dedicated to the NXT-GEN entrepreneurship program. In addition, fundraising for an endowment fund to sustain operations in perpetuity, ultimately allowing for different values to be added that will bolster the program and create a critical talent pipeline into the Edmonton innovation and tech entrepreneurship ecosystem, both from the perspective of founders and highly qualified employees who are big-picture thinkers is an ambition for us as at NXT-GEN, as a student-led organization at U of A. 

What is one piece of advice you would give to a budding entrepreneur?  

Get past the self-doubt and fear of failure. Entrepreneurship and innovation are iterative processes in which failure is a necessary part of the journey, but equally important is not to let that paralyze you from taking action. No one really knows what they are doing in this space. The key thing is being able to figure out what needs to be done to see progress because it is very much a “fake it until you make it” type of industry. Entrepreneurship is a hard career with long hours and sometimes not seeing a lot of progress to validate the efforts. Passion is what drives that journey, or burnout is imminent. Celebrate all of your wins, learn quickly from your losses, keep a close eye on your mental health throughout that process and enjoy as you go. It is the journey that matters. Success will follow.  

NXT Gen 

NXT-GEN is a U of A student group focused on bridging the gap between students and the growing technology, innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem, providing educational programming to cover key foundational concepts in the innovation and entrepreneurship journey. Having impacted over 200 students to date and bringing together over 20 industry partners, NXT-GEN seeks to become a leading first-touch launching point for entrepreneurial careers, accelerating the development of the Albertan economy. To learn more, please visit or contact

Trust Science 

Trust Science®  helps lenders find great borrowers from Lead to Loan™. Leveraging a globally-patented explainable AI/ML FinTech platform and alternative data, Trust Science helps lenders find Invisible Primes™ with improved lead acquisition, screening, and loan adjudication for a more financially inclusive and less risky lending business. Trust Science was named one of Canada’s Top 20 Growing Companies by the Globe and Mail. To learn more, please visit or contact