Cannabis startup pitches investors in Silicon Valley

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A startup company with roots at Waterloo Engineering made a pitch to investors in California this week as a participant in the Y Combinator accelerator program.

SannTek Labs, which is based in the Velocity Garage in downtown Kitchener, is one of almost 200 startups in the three-month summer cohort of the high-profile Bay Area program. Participants typically receive $150,000 in seed funding.

SannTek Labs is developing a breath sampling device to detect cannabis use.

SannTek Labs is developing a breath sampling device to detect cannabis use.

It was one of just 11 startups from Canada to pitch at the Demo Day event, where participants get the chance to present their products and services to an audience of investors and the media.

SannTek is developing what it calls the first-ever breathalyzer device to detect cannabis use. It hopes to market its device to law enforcement agencies in the United States.

“The reason why there is no breathalyzer for cannabis today is because the concentration of cannabis in your breath compared to alcohol is 20 million times smaller, so detecting that is technically hard to do,” co-founder Noah Debrincat told the audience. “We’ve invented sensors that actually detect cannabis in breath.”

Debrincat and four nanotechnology engineering classmates began SannTek as a Capstone Design project during the final year of their undergraduate studies.

It went on to win $10,000 in backing in the Esch Entrepreneurship Capstone Design Awards at Waterloo Engineering, and $25,000, plus space at the Velocity Garage, in the Velocity Fund Finals pitch competition at the University of Waterloo in 2018.

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