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

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

After an exciting summer of training and networking through the Cansbridge Fellowship program, Conor Plunkett now has the opportunity to recruit other Western students for the flagship international internship next year. 

Cansbridge offers young entrepreneurs tours and training in Silicon Valley and internships in companies in Asia as well as the chance to hobnob with venture capitalists and youngsters with multi-million-dollar businesses at a conference. 

Even before his time at Western began, Plunkett showed how adept he is at pivoting to new opportunities when his mentor, Ivey and Engineering graduate Mark Broadfoot, HBA/BESc’18, encouraged him to pursue his dual degree at Western after he’d already accepted an offer from Queen’s. 

“He’s just stood out for sure as one of the most coachable people,” said Broadfoot, co-founder of Rundle Rock Capital. “As a mentor I’m energized to continue to engage with him because it’s having an impact.” 

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

Plunkett helped build a footbridge in his Toronto neighbourhood after flooding prevented easy access to grocery stores and churches (Submitted)

That spirit inspired him to build a footbridge in his Toronto neighbourhood in 2020 after flooding robbed elderly residents of an easy route to their churches and grocery stores. After attempting to offer his services to city council, Plunkett put his own savings into concrete anchors for the bridge and canvassed local construction sites for lumber and I-beams.  

Although liability concerns thwarted the project, he remembers it fondly for giving him a positive way to stay productive when the pandemic left him and his friends unemployed. 

Plunkett focused his first three years at Western on getting the most out of Ivey and civil engineering, but a need for innovation and an interest in software had long niggled in the back of his mind. He saw Web3 and cryptocurrency as an exciting world with the potential to scratch those itches, and although he’d worked hard to secure an internship at coveted consulting firm McKinsey & Company, he cancelled that opportunity to pursue what he considered a “crazy pipe dream” at Coinbase, the biggest company in the cryptocurrency sphere. 

After four months of learning to code at night while staying on top of both of his degrees, Plunkett received an offer from Coinbase on Dec. 3, 2021. Two weeks later – on his birthday, Dec. 18 – he received word that he’d been accepted by Cansbridge. 

But his adaptability would be tested again: his shot at visiting Asia as part of the fellowship was hampered by cryptocurrency bans in several countries there. After some negotiations with Cansbridge founder William Yu, Plunkett was able to stay both there and at Coinbase: the part of the summer he would have spent in Asia instead saw him coding in Vancouver, Tofino, Seattle and an enviable number of islands in Greece.  

Cansbridge not only covered his flights but presented him with the chance to tour the offices of such giants as Google and Facebook and to network with a who’s who of academics and venture capitalists at the fellowship’s annual conference. 

 Plunkett credits Cansbridge with showing him what’s possible as a young Canadian, and as the first person in his family to attend university. 

 And while there are only four available slots for Western students in the next summer fellowship, he’s excited to fill them as recruitment coordinator. 

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