This term, E Co-op student Bonnie Cheung’s start-up, Ourotech, was accepted into the Women’s iLab accelerator program in Boston. Ourotech was one of eleven female-led start-ups to receive mentorship, resources and workspace from Women’s iLab in partnership with Boston’s Mass Challenge accelerator.
We caught up with Bonnie to learn more about her experiences in the program.
Q: First of all, tell us a bit more about Ourotech!
Ourotech creates biomedical 3D printers and bio-inks that can be used to print tissue scaffolds for research and drug testing.
We have created a new method of 3D printing that can reduce the damage of cells during the printing process as well as promote cell viability. Drug testing and research is only the first leg of our journey at Ourotech as we hope to move onto regenerative medicine and surgical modelling in the future.
Our team consists of three Waterloo students in engineering, one business major from York Schulich as well as one Life Sciences student from the University of Toronto.
Q: What led you to Women’s iLab?
Back in February, we applied to the Mass Challenge Accelerator program in Boston. While we were updating our Twitter account, we saw a tweet from Women’s iLab which said that they were looking for start-ups with female founders to fast track into Mass Challenge.
Women’s iLab is partnered with Mass Challenge to offer office space and mentorship for female-founded and gender-equal start-ups. They also choose a few start-ups to fast track into the accelerator. We applied to the Women’s iLab program on a whim, even though there was only one female co-founder on the team. Surprisingly, we were accepted into the program, and it turned out to be an integral part of our company’s growth.
Q: What was it like to be a part of the Women’s iLab program?
The Mass Challenge office itself was beautiful, with its open-concept and minimalist design. Although the drive from our apartment to the office was long and treacherous (driving in downtown Boston during rush hour is a bit of a nightmare), it was always a treat to work in the office. Without a doubt, working there increased our productivity. With high speed internet, machinery for building our prototype, and even private conference rooms we used for meetings and conducting interviews, the Mass Challenge office has everything we need to build our company.
On top of that, Boston is one of the top cities for medical devices and is in close proximity to MIT and Harvard. We leveraged our time in Boston by going to biotech conferences and networking events as well as visiting research facilities at Harvard and MIT. Not to mention, the Mass Challenge office is located right across a pharmaceutical company, making it convenient for us to conduct market research and validation.
Q: What are the major takeaways from the experience that you will apply as you grow your startup?
You hear a lot about people who catch "lucky breaks" because they were in the right place at the right time, but they aren't successful because they are lucky. I've learned that you have to make your own luck. You don't just meet the right people or get amazing opportunities by being lucky; as Steve Blank says, "the world is run by those who show up."
This means going to that conference, or that networking event two towns away. For example, we went to a biotech networking event in Cambridge despite road closures and the lack of parking which caused us to be horrendously late. However, we met incredibly smart doctors and healthcare professionals, one of whom connected us to an important contact from Johnson and Johnson. If we had decided to stay home that night, we would have never had such a great opportunity.
As a result, I no longer believe in sitting at home and hoping for a lucky break. I've already signed up for several events in the coming weeks, and I'm ready to make my own luck!
About Bonnie Cheung
Bonnie is currently in her 1B term of Mechatronics Engineering. She has a passion for robotics and all things tech. She enjoys self learning and keeping up-to-date with cutting edge technology. She is also an avid explorer, and she loves doing anything outdoorsy: camping, hiking, white water rafting--you name it!
Ourotech is a B2B company that focuses on medical applications for 3D printing technology. We explore the professional, educational and research aspects of this technology. Our current product is a proprietary 3D printer specialized for printing small scale tissue on a bio-scaffolding platform. The target users for our technology are researchers within the pharmaceutical industry that would utilize the technology in the drug discovery process. Through successfully developing and commercializing our product, our mission is to reduce animal testing and improve bio-printing efficiency.