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Suncayr and Medella Health win top prizes at Unlock Your Big Idea Pitch Competition

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Suncayr Spot Smart UV Indicator demo

UV detecting body stickers and diabetes-fighting contact lenses are two Waterloo Science inventions that are one step closer to being on the market thanks to their recent pitch competition wins.

Suncayr and Medella Health both took home the top prize in their category at the Unlock Your Big Idea Pitch Competition, held at the University of Toronto's Mississauga Campus.

Velocity Science company Suncayr won $10,000 in the Best Investment Ready Company category. They're developing funky body stickers that warn users when their sunscreen is no longer effective. The money will provide them with the support for the final phase of testing.

Velocity Science company Suncayr co-founders

Co-founders Derek Jouppi, Chad Sweeting and Andrew Martinko (pictured above) came up with the idea during a brainstorming session at the University of Waterloo. The founders are alumni of the Nanotechnology Engineering Program, a joint program offered by the Faculties of Science and Engineering.

“We were brainstorming for so long and one of us just piped up and said, ‘Oh, I had sunburn before’,” Martinko recalled. “But it kept coming back to us. Sun exposure should just be easier to manage.”

The wearer applies suntan lotion over the body - including the sticker - and the clear applique will turn purple when harmful levels of UV light are getting through. 

It's a simple solution to a compelling problem, said Martinko.

The company hopes to get their stickers on the market within 12 months.

Medella Health, founded by Science and Business alumnus Harry Gandhi, won the $10,000 prize in the Best Disruptive Innovation category. His company is developing the next generation of wearable technology to help patients better manage their diabetes.

Waterloo Science alumnus Harry Gandhi holding his smart contact lens

The contact lenses help patients manage their blood glucose levels continuously and non-invasively, while receiving detailed data analytics and timely feedback.

The company's use of next generation biosensors and electronics will revolutionize they way we monitor our health. 

Gandhi is a 2015 Thiel Fellow and his company was named one of 50 Emerging Global Entrepreneurs to Watch by

The Unlock Your Big Idea Pitch Competition was created to give start-ups the opportunity to compete with entrepreneurs across the western GTA, experience pitching their ideas and win cash prizes as well as mentorship through the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs. This competition reflects the community commitment to support innovation and entrepreneurship for economic prosperity.

The judging panel was composed of Dan Sinai from IBM Canada, Heather Arthur from Rogers Communications, Karen Grant from Angel One Investor Network, Matt Schnarr from Awake Chocolates, Michael List from Ormston List Frawley LLP, Sean Stanleigh from The Globe and Mail and Stephen Beney from Bereskin & Parr.

Winners expressed delight with their money awards, but also said that just hearing what the panelists had to say was valuable.

We got good feedback from the judges, said Martinko. Just hearing the questions they asked us was important. It will help us to present ourselves better in the future.