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Preparing to pitch

Student entrepreneurs in the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI) are looking ahead to August’s pitch competition.

  •  [Durabyte team QICSI Queen's]
    The Durabyte team is working to commercialize the research of Queen's professor Shahram Yousefi. They received the opportunity to commercialize the research as part of the 'Foundry' program, which previously produced successful startups RockMass Technologies and Spectra Plasmonics. (University Communications)
  • [Durabyte team QICSI Queen's]
    The full Durabyte team. From L-R: Sophie Labrosse (Comm'19), Sarah Coles (Sc'19), Cameron Rowe (Artsci'19), Alexander Griff (Sc'18), Hanna Tsimafeyeva (Sc'19). (Supplied Photo)
  • [Bryan Patterson QICSI Queen's BizSkills Academy]
    The QICSI teams received a visit from Mayor Bryan Patterson, who met with several of the teams individually and encouraged the students to base their start-ups in Kingston. (University Communications)
  • [SHAD Queen's QICSI Research Stream Isabel Hazan]
    QICSI students also had the opportunity to share their knowledge with high school students enrolled in the SHAD program. Here, Isabel Hazan (Artsci'20) speaks about her business, Research Stream. (University Communications)
  • [SHAD Queen's QICSI BizSkills Academy]
    Two QICSI student panels shared their insights about starting business ventures with the SHAD students, to provide greater insight into the possibilities and challenges that entrepreneurship can entail. (University Communications)

They have been hard at work since May learning about how to launch a business, refining their pitches, and forming teams.

Now, the countdown is on to the annual QICSI Summer Pitch competition – the opportunity for 17 student and community teams to present and try to bring home their share of the up to $100,000 in funding available.

“The pitch competition is the culmination of months of hard work by our students and community entrepreneurs. It marks both the end of the program, and a new beginning by giving teams the chance to win seed funding that will be essential to the growth of their company or non-profit,” says Greg Bavington, Executive Director, Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre.

“The weeks leading up to the pitch competition are critical for teams to build a successful pitch,” he adds. “They have spent much of the program studying a problem and arriving at a feasible solution, but in the coming weeks they will need to test their assumptions about the market and who will be willing to pay for their product, service, or initiative in order to convince the judges.”

There was a new twist to the QICSI program this year. In recent years, two Queen’s student start-ups – Spectra Plasmonics and Rock Mass Technologies – successfully turned Queen’s research into viable commercial businesses through the pilot of what has been called the “Foundry” program. So, QICSI organizers decided this year to formally make commercializing Queen’s research a goal of the summer initiative.

One QICSI team, Durabyte, is attempting to turn a research patent belonging to Shahram Yousefi, of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, into a viable business. Dr. Yousefi’s research uncovered a way to extend the lifetime of flash memory units – the kind you would find in smartphones and other computing devices the world over.

“The proprietary algorithm we’re working with improves the durability of flash-based storage devices by allocating data, which is made of bytes, more efficiently. Putting the words ‘durability’ and ‘byte’ together gave us our name – Durabyte,” explains Hanna Tsimafeyeva (Sc’19). “The algorithm that Dr. Yousefi developed is not only innovative, but it is also solving a very real issue in flash storage. After the presentation we couldn’t stop discussing all the potential we saw in taking this invention to market.”

The 50 student entrepreneurs participating this year have been receiving plenty of support along the way. Speakers, alumni, and even the Mayor of Kingston have been by to encourage the budding businesspeople as they hone their skills and refine their business plans. Another team participating this year is Unicity Studios, the winners of the Mayor’s Innovation Challenge, which aims to create a teaching tool for primary and secondary school computer science teachers through a creativity-enabling software.

To drive home the lessons the students are receiving at QICSI, they are also helping to teach other aspiring entrepreneurs. They recently played host to high school students who are a part of the SHAD program, which aims to educate grade school students about entrepreneurship and opportunities to work on social issues.

“It is an amazing opportunity for our SHAD students to collaborate with Queen’s students who are part of the Queen’s Innovation Centre and who are doing something very similar to what we do in our design engineering challenge,” says Teddy Katz, VP of Communications and Media Relations with SHAD.

If you want a sneak peek at the businesses and businesspeople who could be dominating industry and headlines in the years ahead, you are invited to the 2018 Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition. The event will be held at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts beginning at noon on Thurs, Aug 23. It will also be live streamed on the DDQIC’s Facebook page.