Novel, inexpensive hearing aid wins SFU’s Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize

Feb 22, 2017


Orello, winners of the 2017 Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize
l-r: Julius Michael, Eunice Kuatsjah and William Brenner of Orello Hearing Technologies, and Don Coulter, President and CEO of Coast Capital Savings. Not pictured: Cynthia Su, Abdul Smazov, Ali Warraich and Chingiz Jakubaliyev.

A Simon Fraser University venture that is poised to disrupt the global hearing aid market has taken the best overall $30,000 prize at the University’s annual Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize competition.

Orello Hearing Technologies Inc. offers an inexpensive hearing aid that users can custom fit to their own ear and tune to their specific frequency loss without having to see a specialist. This gives users an easier, faster and more affordable experience compared to traditional specialty hearing retailers.

“Our team put in a lot of hard work over the past few months and it is great to see the hard work rewarded,” says William Brenner, CEO of Orello and an SFU Beedie School of Business alumnus.

“The prizes—specifically the professional services donated by Borden Ladner Gervais and PwC—will really help ensure we have a strong foundation in both intellectual property protection and accounting practices as we grow our company.”

The Venture Prize, now in its sixth year, is presented by SFU’s Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection program. It is the largest entrepreneurship competition at the University.

This year, the competition received 45 entries and expanded to include applications from University staff in addition to students and faculty. Moreover, in order to respond to the breadth of early ventures and innovation at SFU, more prize categories were added to ensure ventures are judged against their industry peers.

The new categories included scalable patentable, scalable non-patentable and small business. New this year also are awards for top female-founded, top alumni and top social impact ventures.

In total, a record $32,500 in cash and in-kind prizes totalling more than $25,000 were up for grabs at the final competition round on Feb. 15. The finals were hosted by law firm Borden Ladner Gervais LLP at their downtown location.

With cash prizes from Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, the Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship, Futurpreneur Canada, the SFU Industry Partnership Office, SFU Innovates, SFU Alumni Association and the Discovery Foundation Inclusive Pipeline Catalyst Program, the other winners included:

  • HockeyData (Scalable Non-Patentable), a provider of hockey-specific analytics and information to teams, players, agents, and scouts;
  • Frontrvnners (Small Business), a fashion brand that provides streetwear with a story to businesses and individuals who believe in staying loyal to their craft;
  • Ophthalight (Scalable Patentable), provider of advanced mobile health tools that will allow an increase in the accuracy, speed, and profitability of eye exams;
  • MyCosmos (Female-Founded Award), an application designed to help high school students and young adults manage their various emotions in an interactive way;
  • Refood (Social Impact Award), a social enterprise that repurposes unsellable food into healthy meals for those who need it in the community;
  • Bridge for Health (Social Impact Award), a local and global self-organized network of people transforming the planet by changing the way we think about health;
  • Cliff Mander (SFU Alumni Award), Founder & CEO of CKM Sports and HockeyData;
  • NaviMe (Idea Prize), an online and mobile platform that disrupts the tourism industry as a direct connection between local guides and travellers seeking an authentic local experience; and
  • Smart Parks Canada (Idea Prize), utilizing hardware and software tools to introduce intelligent monitoring and management for park facilities.

“The partnership between Coast Capital and the Venture Connection program supports our community promise to help build a richer future for youth in our communities,” explains Don Coulter, president and CEO, Coast Capital Savings. “I would like to congratulate all of this year’s participants, especially the prize winners. It’s clear from the passion, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit showcased here that these young people are building a richer future not only for themselves, but indeed for all of us.”

Says Joy Johnson, SFU’s vice-president of research and international, “Our SFU Innovates strategy seeks to strengthen the University’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship by helping our students and researchers mobilize their ideas for positive social and economic impact. Partnerships such as the Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection program enable us to deliver on this commitment by providing SFU ventures the support they need to take their ideas to the next level. On behalf of SFU, congratulations to this year’s participants.”