SFU students Ardalan Benam, Nell Du and Rachel Chase, who have been selected for the 2018 cohort of entrepreneurial leadership initiative The Next 36

Rachel Chase, an undergraduate student at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business, is among three SFU students to be selected for the 2018 cohort of The Next 36 a national initiative aimed at transforming Canada’s most promising post-secondary student innovators into leading entrepreneurs. Rachel was selected alongside Ardalan Benam,a recent MSc graduate from the School of Computing Science, and Nell Du,  an undergraduate in the School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering. With three students accepted, SFU has more students participating than any other Canadian post-secondary institution.

For eight months, the 36 student entrepreneurs will be mentored by successful Canadian entrepreneurs and business leaders, and will learn from some of the world’s top faculty. They’ll also seek funding from top investors to build their venture.

Nell Du and Rachel Chase  

Nell Du and Rachel Chase are two of the four co-founders behind Zennea Technologies, a start-up that is building wearable devices to help chronic snorers.

Their device, the ZENS, uses transcutaneous muscle stimulation technologies to reduce snoring at its source. While the research tests were initially designed to provide sleep apnea patients with a smaller and portable alternative to the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, the team’s research revealed that chronic snorers could abenefit from its device. Using a smartphone app, the latest designs also include sleep tracking and general health-monitoring functionality.

Du is in her final year of studies in the School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering while Chase is in her final year in the Beedie School of Business. Their company was born out of SFU’s Technology Entrepreneurship program (Tech e@SFU), which brings together mechatronics and business students, as well as students from any other faculty who are registered in the Charles Chang Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“The community that SFU and the Faculty of Applied Sciences (FAS) create really supports entrepreneurial students,” says Du. “This Tech e@SFU collaboration between FAS and Beedie School of Business links the talents from engineering and business together to support them and help them try and make an impact on society.”

Since completing the program, three members of the Zennea team, including Du and Chase, have been participating in two eCo-op terms, which are paid internships that allow them to work on their venture full-time in SFU’s Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection Incubator.

“This has helped us prepare for Next36 allowing us to develop our business as far as possible before Next36 accelerates our growth through formal education and access to resources,” says Chase. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to attend specialized MBA-level classes, and gain access to resources the whole team will benefit from. This will help us further develop our strategy so we can be in the market in 2019.”

Ardalan Benam 

Ardalan Benam, a recent MSc graduate from the School of Computing Science, is the co-founder and CEO of Lyonic Labs, a novel web platform that strives to provide an accurate customer service rating model.

The application will allow customers to rate individual professionals rather than the whole business, while helping professionals develop their personal brand. The beta version of the application is expected to be ready by this summer.

Benam, appreciates the university’s emphasis on entrepreneurship and its support for non-business students interested in launching start-ups.

“There are many programs at SFU that help students with their ideas and innovations,” he says. “Venture Connection has certainly played an important role in sparking the spirit of entrepreneurship in me.”

SFU’s Coast Capital Venture Connection is a university-wide program that offers entrepreneurship training services and opportunities for students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Benam is now pursuing a graduate certificate in science and technology commercialization through the Invention to Innovation program at SFU’s Beedie School of Business while working full-time as a software developer at Arius Technology.

“Next 36 is a full-time program, which is a big decision for someone who already has a stable job and income like me,” says Benam. “One of the things that I get from Next 36 is the courage to take risks in order to get to the place I want.”

He says the program will help entrepreneurial computer science graduates such as himself to stay in Canada and build successful technology companies here, rather than moving outside the country to seek employment.

“NEXT is more than an incubator,” he says. “Not only do they provide you education but they also give you access to a very valuable network that will definitely help you in your journey.”

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