Scientist entrepreneurs pitch ideas at venture competition
Nov 04, 2019
Entrepreneurs in the Invention to Innovation program at SFU’s Beedie School of Business pitched their science-based ventures to a team of expert judges, vying for prizes at the i2I Venture Pitch Competition.
The event, which took place on October 23, 2019, brought together six scientist-entrepreneurship students who have recently graduated in the fourth cohort of the invention to Innovation (i2I) program at SFU Beedie’s Segal Graduate School. This graduate certificate program aims to equip scientists and engineers with the business skills required to make their inventions a commercial success.
The finalists pitched their ventures to a panel of industry judges, all of whom have extensive experience in successful entrepreneurship and science-based ventures. They competed in two categories: the more developed Product-Ready Venture prize, sponsored by Innovate B.C. ($5,000); and the earlier stage Emerging Venture prize, sponsored by SFU’s Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship ($3,500).
The winning Product-Ready Venture, earning a prize of $5,000, was Koonkie, which aims to shorten the path to data-driven discovery and innovation using machine learning algorithms and scalable software tools in the cloud. The product was developed by Prof Steven Hallam, a PhD Molecular Biologist and Professor at UBC.
The winner in the Emerging Venture category, receiving $3,500, was IE-9 Technology Corp., which has developed innovative technology to enhance security and anti-counterfeiting capabilities by combining visual and machine-readable security components into a single device. This venture is led by Dr. Sasan V. Grayli, a PhD Chemist who recently graduated from SFU.
“STEM graduate students, postdocs and faculty represent a huge resource for our innovation ecosystem, but are currently under-utilized,” says Elicia Maine, W.J. VanDusen Professor of Innovation & Entrepreneurship as SFU Beedie and Academic Director of Invention to Innovation program.
“These compelling finalists, the graduating i2I cohort, and the i2I alumni here tonight demonstrate the potential of developing an entrepreneurial mindset in highly qualified scientists and engineers. Much value will be created and many societal challenges will be solved through combining their passion and expertise for science with a strategic perspective and language around Commercialization.”
At the event, SFU Beedie and Mitacs also announced they have signed a partnership to deliver innovation skills programming to a wider audience. Mitacs is a non-profit national research organization that, in partnerships with Canadian academia, private industry and government, operates research and training programs in fields related to industrial and social innovation. SFU Beedie will offer hybrid online innovation skills programming for MITACS Elevate and Accelerate Interns across B.C., offered through the school’s Executive Education department with faculty from the Invention to Innovation program.
Product Ready Ventures
- Viridiana Perez, Detexi Diminuta: an early stage venture dedicated to commercializing portable detection kits for nanomaterials to prevent occupational exposure and protect workers’ health.
- Steven Hallam, Koonkie: a venture which aims to shorten the path to data-driven discovery and innovation using machine learning algorithms and scalable software tools in the cloud.
- Thiago Bassi, Ideal: drawing on neuroscience, Ideal is developing machine-brain interface and digital gaming solutions for stroke rehabilitation.
- Sasan V. Grayli, IE-9 Technology Corp.: venture which has developed innovative technology to enhance security and anti-counterfeiting capabilities by combining visual and machine-readable security components into a single device.
- Jaeyong Lee, Protemer Inc: develops and supplies novel protein-based hydrogel that can serve as a biocompatible platform for growing human cells in biomedical and pharmaceutical research.
- Evan MacDonald, Roam Health: venture that makes Stryde, a low-cost, easy to use smart shoe insole that tracks your activities.
The competition was decided by a distinguished panel of judges with a wealth of experience in science and technology-based businesses. They were:
- Norma Biln, an industry veteran of 25 years and Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Augurex Life Sciences Corp. Norma is a leading figure in the Biotechnology sector. She was recognized as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women in 2017, and one of BC’s Most Influential women in 2018.
- David Granville, Professor, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of British Columbia. As well as a renowned researcher in the medical field, he is also an entrepreneur working to translate his research discoveries into developing new therapeutics.
- Mark Longo, Managing Partner at law firm Osler, Hosking & Harcourt LLP. Mark has over 20 years of experience in corporate finance, M&A and technology law, and has held general counsel, corporate secretary and senior executive positions for a number of private and publicly traded technology companies.
- Maria Pacella, Senior VP, Private Equity and Portfolio Manager, Pender Fund Capital Management. Maria has been investing in emerging growth companies, with a focus on technology businesses, since 2001. Maria’s experience includes operational roles at early‐stage companies, serving on boards, facilitating M&A’s and leading financings.
- Joshua Zoshi, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Saltworks Technologies. Joshua has helped grow Saltworks into a leading provider of innovative water treatment solutions for mining, oil & gas, aerospace, and other industries.