Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition Finalists Announced!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Spring 2019 Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition Finalists 

To be a successful entrepreneur, it is essential that you find an important problem to solve, and thoroughly understand its scope, scale, and history. The larger the problem, the larger your profit could be. That’s why the Problem Lab is hosting this semester’s iteration of the Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition, where teams of students were tasked with the challenge of identifying important industry problems and conducting research, before pitching their findings for the chance to win a share of up to $30,000 in funding.

This term’s competition will see the student teams competing in two different categories: Open Problems and Billion Dollar Problems.

Five teams were selected as finalists from thirty-one applicants, and they will each make a five-minute pitch on their research to a panel of judges on Thursday, July 11th, competing for $7,500 of funding and 1st place in their respective categories. Teams will also have the opportunity to double their funding following the event, as they work with the Problem Lab to develop a solution to the problem identified. Below are the finalists and the problems they’ve identified:


Clout AI: As data-driven streaming drives massive growth in all components of the music industry, live music is at risk of being left behind due to the lack of tools to inform artist booking for venues.

FoodSpec: With over 30% of produce being wasted due to spoilage in the United States and Canada, food wastage is becoming an increasing concern due to its significant financial and environmental costs.

Rivet: Passenger air travel is rising at a rapid pace globally, however aircraft ground handling remains a slow operation, bottlenecking aircraft turnaround times and resulting in billions of dollars lost to aircraft delays, damaged equipment, and work-related injuries.


Aagasa Aagas (Discovery Tools): Space propulsion systems are expensive and slow.

Detox (Climate-Driven Environmental Emergencies): Manufacturing of pharmaceutical drugs comes at a price to the environment due to the need for expensive, rare-earth metals for drug synthesis that are then released into the environment, putting further stress on our natural systems.

At the Winter 2019 competition, Sensable won the Billion Dollar Problems category speaking about how the reliance on insufficient sensor data and technology in autonomous vehicles leaves pedestrians and cyclists at risk. The winner of the Climate-Driven Environmental Emergencies category was Planning for Temporary, whose pitch highlighted the displacement of people due to climate change will be permanent, not temporary, and we need to act now for the future. The Open Problems category was won by Icarus, who pitched the problem that wait times for treatment by specialist physicians have been rising for more than 20 years in Canada, significantly impacting our citizens, our economy, and our healthcare system.

The panel of judges this term will be drawing on their developed industry knowledge and their own entrepreneurial experience:

Brian Stewart

Brian Stewart is the CEO of Metricwire. Metricwire’s clinical research platform helps healthcare and life science organizations generate novel evidence to demonstrate the efficacy and value of new treatment solutions under real-world conditions. Metricwire is a venture-backed company based in KW with customers in 30+ countries across the globe. Brian is a University of Waterloo graduate (MA in Economics) and former full-time researcher on the University’s Entrepreneurship Infrastructure Project.

Carol Leaman

Carol Leaman (BA, MAcc, FCPA) is an award-winning thought leader with an impressive track record of successfully leading tech companies. Not only is she a disruptor in the corporate learning space, but she’s also the brains behind the Axonify Microlearning Platform. Prior to Axonify, Carol was the CEO of PostRank Inc., a social engagement analytics platform she sold to Google. She was also the CEO at several other technology firms, including RSS Solutions and Fakespace Systems. Carol is a celebrated entrepreneur and trailblazer (Sarah Kirke Award 2010, Waterloo Region Entrepreneur Hall of Fame Intrepid Award 2011 and the Profit500 Award for Canada's Leading Female Entrepreneur 2017) whose articles appear in leading learning, business and technology publications. She also sits on the boards of many organizations and advises a variety of Canadian high-tech firms.

Sheldon Fernandez

Sheldon Fernandez, CEO of DarwinAI, is a seasoned executive and respected thought leader in the technical and enterprise communities. Throughout his career, he has applied emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence to the enterprise. First, in his capacity as CTO at Infusion, the company he founded out of Waterloo with five partners that grew to 650 people. Then subsequently, at Avanade, the organization that acquired Infusion in March of 2017.  Through his career, Sheldon has coupled his entrepreneurial endeavors with non-technical pursuits, resulting in an interdisciplinary approach that is critical to the intelligent application of AI. He completed a Master’s degree in theology at the University of Toronto in 2008, with thesis work in neuroscience and metaethics and also pursued creative writing at Oxford University.

The Winter 2019 Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition will be held from 7:00pm – 10:00pm on Thursday, July 11th, in the Engineering 7 (E7), 2nd floor Pitch Space on the University of Waterloo campus. Attendees from the university and the broader community are all welcome to watch the pitches. Please register to attend.

The Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition is made possible by $300,000 in funding from Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, principals of Quantum Valley Investments® and founders of Blackberry. 

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