CO2L Tech team members Tu Nguyen Anh Tran-Ly, and Cao-Thang Dinh present during the Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition.

CO2L Tech team members Tu Nguyen Anh Tran-Ly, and Cao-Thang Dinh present during the Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition.

Emerging entrepreneurs make their pitch

Following months of building businesses, 15 teams of emerging entrepreneurs put it all on the line at the Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition on Thursday, Aug. 18, with the aim of securing a piece of the $105,000 in total seed funding available.

The annual contest is the largest of its kind in Kingston. This year’s event included teams from Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI)Build2Scale Health (B2S)Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellows, and regional ventures.

“It was really exciting to once again have an in-person aspect to this year’s competition and to include teams from across Africa thanks to the Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellows program,” says Greg Bavington, Executive Director of the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC). “There were so many great ideas and pitches and this seed capital will provide an opportunity to take their projects to the next stage. I want to congratulate and commend all of the participants, it was an amazing event.”

Each team was given a few minutes to make their business’ case for support, after which the judges panel asked questions about anything from product development to corporate strategy and financing. Sitting on the judging panel this year were: Ben Barrows, co-founder of Abraham Path Initiative and long-time contributor to DDQIC; Alison Turner, co-founder of PnuVax and alumna (Sc’08, MASc’10); Raj Melville, executive director of the Deshpande Foundation; Matt Gubasta, co-founder of Rock Mass Technologies and alumnus (Artsci’17); Brian Dodo, founder of BmDodo Strategic Design.

A number of faculties generously donated funds to help support innovation and entrepreneurship at Queen’s. Contributions from Dean Barbara Crow of the Faculty of Arts and Science, Dean Kevin Deluzio of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Dean Wanda Costen from the Smith School of Business helped bolster this year’s prize pool.

Following the judges’ deliberations, nine teams secured seed funding, with CO2L Tech earning the grand prize of $30,000. Four teams were also selected to receive brand consulting services from BmDodo Strategic Design. The Wisdom of the Market Award ($5,000), as selected by the audience, went to Verus.

To learn more, visit the DDQIC website.


CO2L Tech - $30,000 – Offering a direct solution for carbon dioxide elimination by making devices to convert carbon dioxide into formic acid and derivatives, which are widely used in feedstock antimicrobials and other industries, using readily abundant solar energy and seawater

DMB Translation Services - $15,000 - A social enterprise working to inspire inclusive societies by creating affordable and modern assistive technologies for persons with disabilities. A sign language translation mobile and web application that translates sign language to speech and text — and vice versa.

Strictly Diabetic - $15,000 - Helping Type 2 diabetics manage their blood sugar levels at a minimal cost to prevent diabetic-related complications in the future. The services include an online community platform and a 28-day program.

Armistice Biotherapeutics - $10,000 - Developing DIPLOMAT, a cell therapy which has been designed to drive tolerance to transplanted tissues. DIPLOMAT cells are modified to appear as if they are undergoing “programmed cell death” or apoptosis, a strongly immunosuppressive state.

Kwela Brews - $10,000 - Helping homebrewers of traditional African beer produce their product efficiently and safely by providing a low-cost brewing machine and safe and affordable brewing ingredients for their brewing needs. 

Lotanna - $5,000 - An Afrocentric fashion company aiming to provide timely solutions to the clothing style needs of professional working women and female business executives. Their clothing is made solely from the diversity of handmade African prints produced across Africa.

Canva Soap - $5,000 – Making liquid and bar soap for people who have difficulty accessing health products and are victims of the negative impacts of poor health. 

Campus Buy - $5,000 - An e-commerce venture focused on offering the broadest range of general students’ goods and services on a single platform at the best rates in Nigeria. Students earn, invest, learn, and work while they shop on their platform.

ARKE News - $5,000 - A news aggregator that measures the holistic bias present in the news that users read through their platform, having access to a real-time bias profile personalized to each user's news consumption.

BmDodo Strategic Design Prizes

DMB Translation Services - $10,000 brand consulting in-kind

Strictly Diabetic - five hours pro bono brand consulting

Canva Soap - five hours pro bono brand consulting

CO2L Tech - five hours pro bono brand consulting

Note: This article orginally appeared in the Queen's Gazette.