The Rotman School of Management

The Rotman School of Management is part of the University of Toronto, a global centre of research and teaching excellence at the heart of Canada’s commercial capital. Rotman is a catalyst for transformative learning, insights and public engagement, bringing together diverse views and initiatives around a defining purpose: to create value for business and society.

The Rotman Family

The Rotman School of Management is named after its generous benefactors, Joseph and Sandra Rotman. Joe Rotman became personally involved in CDL shortly after its inception when he saw the energy of students, entrepreneurs, and mentors associated with the program as well as the momentum of science-based startups vying for entry into the program. Joe soon became a powerful advocate for CDL. For example, he wrote to a newly appointed government minister:

Dear Minister: Congratulations on your appointment as Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure. I have always enjoyed our interactions, and I look forward to being able to work with you once again. In particular, you should be extremely pleased at this appointment now, considering the priority and importance of economic development and jobs for this Government, and with a majority government providing greater opportunity to complete your tasks. Your selection demonstrates the confidence and respect of the Premier and your colleagues in handing you this portfolio. As you know, I am deeply involved with the School of Management at the University of Toronto. We have a program on entrepreneurship under Professor Ajay Agrawal that is having great success, and is being admired by Schools across the United States. In fact, I asked a question of two professors who visited the program at our School who were from Stanford and MIT: “Where is the top entrepreneurship program located and what could we learn from them?” Their answer was unequivocal – “Why do you think we are here visiting at the U of T, sitting in on the program to watch and learn how it works? This program is the best.”

In contrast to most university programs that remain focused at a single institution, Joe’s vision was to share the successful methodologies pioneered at the Rotman School with other universities.

What is Creative Destruction Lab (CDL)?

CDL is a global startup program for seed-stage, science-based companies. The program employs an objectives-based mentoring process by a selected group of accomplished entrepreneurs, angel investors, economists, and scientists.


The original objective of CDL was to increase the relevance of Canada in the commercialization of academic inventions through entrepreneurship. Since his Ph.D. research at the University of British Columbia and MIT, Professor Agrawal had studied the challenges of commercializing intellectual property produced in universities. The central thesis of the CDL program has been that the primary cause for poor performance in translating regional excellence in science and innovation into entrepreneurial success is a failure in the market for judgment. The concept of a market for judgment describes a setting in which experienced entrepreneurs who have knowledge (judgment) are able to set and prioritize objectives for inexperienced entrepreneurs who do not have this knowledge but who need it if they are to succeed. In other words, people who’ve already built massive companies are able to share their knowledge to assist novice entrepreneurs by setting necessary goals and objectives.

Mission and Results

CDL’s mission is to enhance the commercialization of science for the betterment of humankind.

CDL pursues its mission by helping start-up founders prioritize tasks to most efficiently and effectively derisk their business and maximize their probability of success. In addition, CDL utilizes this environment to deliver a new approach to business education that combines economic theory and learning-by-doing to nurture an entrepreneurial mindset (the relentless pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled).

CDL inspires founders, students, and mentors, increases labour productivity by helping new innovations move from the lab into the economy, and enhances job opportunities for students at the schools that operate CDL sites.

CDL measures success through equity value creation. Upon its founding, CDL set a goal of generating $50 million in equity value created by the graduates of the program within five years. Today, companies participating in CDL have generated over CAD$28B in equity value.


There are multiple sites operating within the CDL network. Each site team have academic leads and staff responsible for site-level operations including recruitment, session operations, and streams.

The CDL-Global team, overseen by Executive Director, Sonia Sennik, coordinates activities across the sites and provides the technical support for all of the programs. This team is based at the Rotman School of Management, the originating location of CDL.

Creative Destruction Lab is also guided by its Strategic Advisory Board. The Strategic Advisory Board meets twice annually and has representatives of all sites and stakeholder groups. The Strategic Advisory Board exists to advise CDL leadership on the strategy for the program across all sites and to evaluate CDL performance. Members of the Strategic Advisory Board can be viewed here.










7,900+ participating founders

2,900+ participating ventures

900+ CDL Alumni

20+ streams in 13 locations

1,000+ CDL Mentors

CAD $28B in Equity Value Creation

Donations and Funding

CDL has been supported by the Rotman Catalyst Fund, a venture fund of the Rotman School to provide seed capital for bold innovations and initiatives that will help elevate the Rotman School’s reputation and help accelerate critical strategic priorities. The $45 million fund was established in 2015 with a $30 million donation from the estate of Joe Rotman, matched with $15 million from Rotman and the University of Toronto.

In total, $9.28 million has been invested in CDL from the Rotman Catalyst Fund with the first investments totaling $4.1 million in 2016 to create streams in machine learning and quantum. In 2018, another $2.8 million was invested in creating AI, space and blockchain streams. In 2020, $1.5 million was invested in CDL Recovery to help with efforts to accelerate recovery during COVID and finally in 2022, $881,000 was awarded to build job opportunities for students interested in venture capital and entrepreneurship.

In October 2018, CDL received a $25 million grant (over 5 years) from the Strategic Innovation Fund. The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced the $25 million investment in Creative Destruction Lab to attract more investments into Canadian businesses, and see more intellectual property developed and retained in Canada

CDL is also supported through philanthropic donations and corporate sponsorships from various individuals and organizations. A list of our generous founders, donors, and sponsors is listed below.


Pedagogy is a main pillar of CDL, acting as both a resource for graduate students and high school students. In its programming, CDL seeks to revolutionize management education in the areas of innovation and entrepreneurship. It prepares students for success after graduation in its support of emerging ventures, gaining hands-on experience with companies enrolled in the program. CDL’s Apprentice Program also seeks to address the disparity of women+ individuals in STEM. This initiative that aims to support young women-identified individuals including two-spirit, transgender and non-binary individuals interested in STEM and entrepreneurship.

Each CDL site operates through a respective post-secondary institution. World-leading academics provide insights on the economic impact of new technologies as well as provide exclusive training and educational opportunities through CDL conferences. In addition, universities help to shape CDL streams of focus (e.g. quantum, climate, fintech) based on the systems of expertise available at their institution.

CDL Founding Partners