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BBA (Entrepreneurship & Innovation): Michelle De la O

Entrepreneurship & Innovation

BBA Student

“It’s been so much fun. There are no rules in entrepreneurship. It’s about being creative, taking risks, exploring new things. It’s about going outside your comfort zone—and that’s my zone. I’m expanding my comfort zone all the time. That’s my status quo.”

Michelle De la O’s entrepreneurship journey started with bad news. A travel enthusiast, she had been excited to go on two student exchanges during her undergraduate degree—one in France, and one in Italy. But those plans were quashed when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out across the globe and travel came to a halt.

With student exchanges no longer available to her, De la O looked for other options to enrich her degree experience at SFU’s Beedie School of Business. She decided to concentrate in entrepreneurship and innovation at SFU Beedie and join the TechE@SFU program. Now, she is a co-founder of health tech start-up IUVOX, which develops smart air disinfection devices for dental offices.

My journey

De la O, a senior BBA student from Mexico who came to Vancouver because it was the “most tropical” part of Canada, originally planned on studying science. She loved genetics—still does—and had done a science concentration in high school. But after working in a genomics lab, she realized that she just didn’t see herself working in a lab for life. De la O decided to take a year off to backpack across North America and Europe to figure out what she really wanted to do.

“While I was travelling in Cuba, I just had so many business ideas,” says De la O. “That’s when I realized that I wanted to study business. With business, I can do so many different things—it’s like a big umbrella that allows you to make big impacts in different ways.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to pivot, De la O discovered the TechE@SFU program. Together with her co-founders, they created health tech start-up IUVOX, which builds an innovative device that uses far ultraviolet light to kill off airborne pathogens.

My experience at SFU Beedie

De la O and her co-founders started out as a group of seven—four mechatronics systems engineers, one accounting major, one microbiology major and herself, an entrepreneurship and international business major. After completion of TechE@SFU, only some of the team elected to move forward with IUVOX as a venture. These co-founders, including De la O, benefited from funded entrepreneurship co-op terms (eCoop) through SFU’s Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship to work on the prototype and identify product-market fit. The team continues to receive mentorship and start-up services through the Chang Institute’s incubator program, Coast Capital Venture Connection. On top of NRC-IRAP funding Michelle and her team have secured to hire staff, IUVOX is also raising private investment to launch into market in October of next year.

“The support we’ve received has been amazing,” says De la O. “From financial support to advising to office space—it has just been amazing.”

De la O co-founded IUVOX only about a year and a half ago, and since then she has taken many business courses at SFU Beedie where she frequently uses her own company as the subject of case studies, from business law to project management to human resources.

“I enjoy my courses way more when I can apply it to a purpose, and it’s so much more exciting,” says De la O. “I think that’s why I love entrepreneurship so much. Other concentrations like accounting or finance can be competitive, but entrepreneurship is collaborative. And it’s totally an open question—it’s up to you to figure out solutions and discover your potential. That’s the gift of an entrepreneur—we chase opportunity, and we seize it.”

My BBA major comprised of:

Education

Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Student engagement

eCo-op

TechE@SFU

Where I am today

The start-up is currently building a device specifically for use in dental operatories and in the process of raising investment to launch into market in October of next year.

As for the future of IUVOX, De la O sees dentistry as merely the starting point.

“Transmission of respiratory diseases can happen anywhere,” says De la O. “We hope to expand into other markets like long term care homes, for example, where we can help immunocompromised individuals with chronic illnesses so that they don’t have to ever live in isolation.”

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