Queen's Innovation Centre

Dunin-Deshpande Queen's Innovation Centre
Dunin-Deshpande Queen's Innovation Centre

Six budding businesses boosted

A pitch competition organized by the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre resulted in cash for some innovative ideas. 

Monday April 2, 2018 | By Phil Gaudreau, Senior Communications Officer

The ClimaCube team

The ClimaCube team, from L-R: James Hantho (Comm'18), Leigh-Ann McKnight (Sc'18), Karina Bland (Sc'18), and Mitch Sadler (Sc'18). (University Communications)

Queen’s students are applying their skills to tackle global challenges both small and large – from better Lyme disease testing to ensuring protection of medical samples while in transit.

These are just a couple of the ideas that were on display at a recent pitch competition organized by the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC). The centre invited student entrepreneurs to present their ideas for a chance to win funding, and potentially to enter the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI) bootcamp beginning in May.

“The pitches were excellent, and there was quite a remarkable diversity of technologies and ideas,” says Anton Toutov (Sc’11), chair of the Los Angeles node of the Queen’s Innovation Centre Global Network and one of the event’s judges. “These businesses were primarily in the idea stage, but the thought process and care was quite good and the quality was high. I want to congratulate all those who pitched.”

Ten teams sought funding in the competition, and in the end six of them will each be receiving between four and five thousand dollars in seed money. ClimaCube, a team which is developing portable cold storage units to maintain the quality of items such as samples or vaccinations and extend the cold lifetime (or 'cold chain') as they are in transit, was one of the successful competitors.

The ClimaCube team recently returned from a social enterprise competition in Dubai known as the Hult Prize. The team gained great experience going through that process, which helped prepare them to pitch at the QICSI competition. Both presentations were great learning experiences, says Karina Bland (Sc’18).

“This presentation was a fantastic experience for us, as the judges were highly engaged and provided helpful feedback,” says Ms. Bland, one of the team members behind ClimaCube. “We appreciated the fact that the QICSI presentations were short and there was a longer question period, which allowed us to clarify some aspects of our product. With this funding, we aim to produce a prototype of our portable active cooling system.”

Ms. Bland says, thanks to this win, she and her three co-founders will all be participating in the competitive QICSI bootcamp this summer – providing them a further leg up as they develop their business.

“As I come from a technical background, I am excited to learn a lot about business and benefit from the experience of the QICSI mentors,” she says.

The QICSI bootcamp runs from May to August and features intensive instruction designed to help student entrepreneurs build stronger businesses. The program ends with a pitch competition where the start-ups bring their best pitches to try and earn seed funding. Forty-seven students will be attending this year’s bootcamp after competing in the spring and fall pitch competitions. One team is also attending QICSI after winning the Kingston Mayor’s Innovation Challenge.

Successful pitches:
• eBridges - A multi-vendor e-commerce platform that provides small businesses and independent merchants in developing countries with direct access to the global marketplace. Received $5,000.
• Lymelight Genetech - Developing a diagnostic to provide reliable, accessible, and affordable Lyme disease testing. Received $5,000.
• BearCloud Games - A digital game studio specializing in mobile and virtual reality games. Received $4,000.
• ClimaCube - Developing portable cold storage units to extend the quality of products as they are in transit, such as samples or vaccinations. Received $4,000.
• Leash Technologies - A small device that will alert you if you have left your phone behind at home or any public place. Received $4,000.
• Sicana - A text message encyclopedia that allows students in countries with limited internet access the ability to text basic search questions and receive an answer. Received $4,000.

Other funded pitches at the spring competition include eBridges, Lymelight Genetech, BearCloud Games, Leash Technologies, and Sicana. For these six, and for the four who did not receive funding this time, Dr. Toutov has the same advice.

“Win or lose, successful or unsuccessful in this competition, the network available to these entrepreneurs is amazing,” he says. “Talk to people within the Queen’s community to get connected to others in your field to avoid landmines and de-risk your business. Don't hesitate to make those connections.”

This article originally appeared in the Gazette on April 2, 2018.