Students win backing for startups at Esch pitch contest
Six teams of engineering graduates hope to turn their fourth-year design projects into viable businesses
Six teams of engineering graduates hope to turn their fourth-year design projects into viable businessesBy Brian Caldwell Faculty of Engineering
A team of Management Engineering students at the University of Waterloo made the most of a second chance this week to become the big winners at an annual pitch contest for startups.
Thevany Narayanamoorthy, Dhruv Gupta, Garvita Rai, Rhea Philip and Sam Villaluz just missed the cut during a preliminary process to pick 15 finalists from over 50 applicants for the Norman Esch Entrepreneurship Awards for Capstone Design.
But when one of the qualifying teams dropped out with less than a week to go, they stepped into the breach, polished up their three-minute pitch and earned one of the six $10,000 prizes up for grabs.
They then topped the afternoon off in front of a few hundred people in Engineering 7 by also claiming $3,000 for the Sedra People’s Choice Award as voted on by audience members.
“That’s crazy,” Gupta said. “It’s been an incredible experience.”
Launched in 2014 and funded by The Esch Foundation, the competition supports creative and entrepreneurial students in the pursuit of research and development, and its commercialization for the benefit of Canada.
Contenders were drawn from more than 150 projects developed and showcased this spring by over 700 senior engineering students to cap their undergraduate careers.
The idea for compr, as the winning management engineering students named their startup, was sparked during a series of co-op work terms Narayanamoorthy had at discount retailer Winners.
It was there she learned field representatives, or buyers, must prepare monthly reports to back up the store’s discount claims in advertising and that it’s a chore they detest because there is no consistent, efficient system to produce them.
Less than a year later, after enthusiastic buy-in from her Capstone teammates, compr offers a single software platform for buyers to collect and aggregate data for reports the system automatically generates, slashing labour costs and heading off potential lawsuits for false or deceptive advertising.
A pilot project is already underway at Winners and there are plans to broaden compr beyond discount retailers, as well as to add data analytics to provide customers with marketing insights and strategies.
Narayanamoorthy said she never would have known the niche need existed if not for her exposure to the retail industry through her co-op placements.
“The recognition we received today is validation for us that there is an opportunity and people see that,” she said.
Atlas Medical (Colin Cooke, Jake Fisher, Michael Jonas and Daniel Zhou — Mechatronics Engineering) for a variable-stiffness mattress to prevent bedsores in bedridden patients.
“At Atlas Medical, we’re preventing pressure injuries from ever occurring,” said Fisher.
Stellar Care (Alexandra Leggett, Corinna Smith, Lynnea Tan and Ryan Tenant — Biomedical Engineering) for a mobile application to improve communication between homecare nurses and the families of children with complex medical needs.
“Join us as we brighten the future of child care,” said Tenant.
Stacktronic (Nicolas Benais-Thomson, Ethan Hamshaw, Robert Rowland, Riley Stone and Keith Teeple — Mechanical Engineering) for a plug-and-play battery system for industrial equipment companies, design teams and research groups.
“The battery is where companies are struggling to find workable solutions,” said Benais-Thomson.
Reka (Laura Bingeman, Abiramy Kuganesan, Hannah Sennik and Nisa Sial — Systems Design Engineering) for technology to improve the speed and quality of speech for people with verbal challenges.
“We are Reka and we are encouraging the flow of communication,” said Sial.
Augeo Medical (Emily Lam, Anna Dong, Summer Kavan and Isabella Morgan — Biomedical Engineering) for a smart sensing system to alert amputees when their lower-limb prosthetics are poorly fitted.
“Together we hope to improve quality of life for lower-limb amputees,” said Lam.