Social entrepreneurship pitch contest supports next big idea

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A company that uses smartphone technology to improve vision care in India was among the big winners at a pitch competition designed to elicit big ideas in health and well-being.

EyeCheck, a for-profit vision-care company, won mentorship and a market validation canvas from the Accelerator Centre at the inaugural Big Ideas Challenge for Health and Wellbeing at the University of Waterloo this week. It uses smartphone technology and proprietary hardware to provide much-needed vision assessment in India with just two pictures.Rachel Friesen of EyeCheck standing with Tania Del Matto of St. Paul's Greenhouse and Andrew Jackson of the Accelerator Centre

Tania Del Matto of St. Paul's GreenHouse, Rachel Friesen of EyeCheck and Andrew Jackson of the Accelerator Centre.

The other winning pitches consisted of ways to address mental health issues among students, heart-friendly meal delivery and meaningful leisure for older adults, and support for breast cancer survivors. They each received the grand prize of a term’s stay in St. Paul’s GreenHouse, the first and only live-in campus-linked accelerator in Canada focused on social innovation and entrepreneurship.

“The Big Ideas Challenge for Health and Wellbeing was intended to encourage undergraduate students to develop innovative interventions, for which the primary purpose is to improve the quality of life of individuals or communities,” said Tania Del Matto, director of GreenHouse.

About the winners:

·       Marlena – Committed to meaningful leisure for older adults of all abilities by creating books to meet the needs of older adults with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other conditions.

·       Panic, Anxiety, & Stress, Support (PASS) kit – A first aid kit for mental health and wellbeing to address the increasing incidence of mental health issues among students.

·       Heart Helpers – A non-profit, heart-healthy meal delivery program that offers older adults at risk or living with cardiovascular disease a simple, inexpensive way to reduce their risk factors by modifying their diet.

·       Node– Offering smart, beautifully designed, custom-fit compression sleeves for breast cancer survivors suffering from lymphedema.

RBC was an event sponsor, with support from Communitech’s ASCent program and the Accelerator Centre.  The Faculty of Applied Health Sciences is hosting the program in partnership with St. Paul’s GreenHouse.

About the University of Waterloo

In just half a century, the University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada's technology hub, has become one of Canada's leading comprehensive universities with 35,000 full- and part-time students in undergraduate and graduate programs. A globally focused institution, celebrated as Canada’s most innovative university for 23 consecutive years, Waterloo is home to the world's largest post-secondary co-operative education program and encourages enterprising partnerships in learning, research and discovery. In the next decade, the university is committed to building a better future for Canada and the world by championing innovation and collaboration to create solutions relevant to the needs of today and tomorrow. For more information about Waterloo, please visit


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Pamela Smyth
University of Waterloo

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