Cricket protein. It’s what’s for dinner.
That’s the dream of several Queen’s and St. Lawrence College students, and now they have $30,000 to help make it a reality.
Gryllies, a company developing an alternative protein source out of cricket flour, captured the top prize at this year’s Queen’s Innovation Connector (QIC) Summer Initiative Pitch Competition.
“Winning the competition really came as a surprise,” says Natasha Baziuk, Sc’15, one of five participants who worked together to launch the winning venture. “There was some really great competition and we thought our product might be too niche [to win].”
Ms. Baziuk and teammates Lyndon Chiang, Com’17, Elizabeth McDonald, Sc’17, Amelia Zheng, Artsci’15, and William Etherington, a St. Lawrence College business administration – marketing student, came up with the idea just over a month ago. In fact, they started the summer working on a venture to produce business suits for university students. However, they scrapped that idea to focus on a venture that addressed food security, a social issue they were all passionate about.
“We wouldn’t have been bold enough to venture into entrepreneurism without the support of the QIC Summer Initiative,” Ms. Baziuk says. “If we didn’t have the funding and mentorship provided by the program, we would have gone into a corporate job. The program allowed us to dedicate ourselves and learn everything we needed to know.”
Gryllies plans to move into Innovation Park at Queen’s University in September and work in Launch Lab, where they will continue strategic planning. The team hopes to refine its recipe and start producing inventory in the near future.
We wouldn’t have been bold enough to venture into entrepreneurism without the support of the Queen's Innovation Connector Summer Initiative. The program allowed us to dedicate ourselves and learn everything we needed to know.
— Natasha Baziuk, Sc’17, member of the winning venture, Gryllies
Nearly 40 students from Queen’s and St. Lawrence College participated in this year’s QIC Summer Initiative, a program that began four years ago. The students formed into eight different teams and developed a wide variety of companies, everything from financial technology instruments to medical devices.
“Because of the tremendous breadth of programming at Queen’s and St. Lawrence College, we were able to recruit students with different talents and interests, which is reflected in the ventures,” says Greg Bavington, Director, QIC. “The Summer Initiative program just keeps getting stronger every year, due in large part to the type of students Queen’s is attracting now that this programming is available.”
The teams presented their ventures to a panel of expert judges that included Raj Melville, Executive Director, Deshpande Foundation, Peng-Sang Cau, President and CEO, Transformix Engineering Inc., Michael Mann, CEO and Entrepreneur in Residence, Launch Lab, and Andrew Waitman, CEO, Assent Compliance Inc.
The QIC Summer Initiative is supported in part by generous donors and the Government of Ontario. QIC and Launch Lab, Kingston’s regional innovation centre, have formed a partnership to nurture student innovation and entrepreneurship. Last year, they received a $900,000 grant from the Campus-Linked Accelerator Program, which is managed by the Ontario Centres of Excellence. Several of this year’s QIC Summer Initiative ventures received financial and mentorship support from Launch Lab.
In addition to the top prize, several other ventures earned seed funding:
- Iris – $15,000 and $5,000 from Launch Lab along with mentorship and guidance
- Lumos – $15,000 and $5,000 from Launch Lab along with mentorship and guidance
- Scarlet – $5,000 from Launch Lab along with mentorship and guidance
- Atria – $5,000 from Launch Lab along with mentorship and guidance