Taking the big pitch online

Taking the big pitch online

By Andrew Carroll, Gazette editor

August 18, 2020


Due to COVID-19, this year's Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition Startup Showcase is being offered virtually on Thursday Aug. 20 from 4-6 pm, with 13 teams reaching the final stage.

To be successful, entrepreneurs must be able to face and overcome any challenge thrown their way.

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that with the new realities created by COVID-19 that the Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition has adapted to these challenges and has attracted a record number of participants.

This year’s edition has moved online and features its biggest-ever cohort with more than 170 participants and 42 teams taking part in the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI), the newly-launched Spread Innovation (COVID-19 innovation) challenge, and the Regional Pitch Competition programs.

“The pandemic hit us right in the middle of our final preparations for QICSI. We knew that a lot of students and community members had lost their employment opportunities and were feeling tremendous anxiety and uncertainty about their futures,” says Greg Bavington, Executive Director of DDQIC and Special Advisor to the Provost, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “We wanted to step up to provide opportunities for them, and we decided to do so by giving them training and support to tackle a Covid-related challenge in their own way – which is also a great way to manage anxiety.”

The Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI), now in its ninth year, brings together teams of aspiring entrepreneurs to develop an idea, hone their skills, and refine their business plans. Since kicking off in May, participants have received guidance and support from the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre as well as special guest mentors, including an additional 57 alumni mentors who joined this year’s program. These alumni are experienced professionals and entrepreneurs from around the globe and many industries, who volunteer their time to coach students.

The SpreadInnovation Challenge stream is specifically geared toward COVID-19, with participants tasked with building a solution for one of the pressing challenges facing our healthcare systems, livelihoods, economies, and communities. Teams were provided more than 100 days of free online training, mentorship and support from the QICSI program.

“One of the particularly positive aspects of the SpreadInnovation program is how much it resonated with people – Queen’s students, people from the region, and beyond. There was a networking effect well beyond Queen’s, where students would connect and form teams with friends who are going to other universities, and community members from other places signed up too,” says Jim McLellan, Academic Director of DDQIC and a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. “There is a tremendous pool of good will and desire to help, and the response rate and participation in SpreadInnovation was an important reminder of how we can all help. While running in virtual mode presented its challenges, it also made it possible to work with a diverse range of participants. How cool is it to be sitting on your back deck, watching pitches on Zoom on a Saturday evening, with participants from coast to coast, the U.S., and Africa. A global community.”

This year’s Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition Startup Showcase is being offered virtually on Thursday Aug. 20 from 4-6 pm, with 13 teams reaching the final stage. Interested guests will be able to interact with the teams as well as peruse virtual booths and watch mini pitches for each of the ventures.

The event will wrap up with an awards announcement where the top ventures will be awarded prizes from a pool of $80,000 (recent change), including a grand prize of approximately $30,000 in seed funding to advance their venture.

Anyone looking to take part in the virtual showcase can register at https://hopin.to/events/ddqic-2020-summer-pitch-competition to access an itinerary and detailed instructions on how to participate in the virtual showcase.


MyCareBuddy SpreadInnovation Challenge
Ebere Okwonko (University of Nigeria Class of 2017)
Mycarebuddy is an online platform that provides mental health care and consultation to Nigerians, with the alternative of more flexible language choices, via a web application.

Afino – Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative
James Quinn (Comm’20), Glen Creaser (Sc’20), Devin Alldrit (Sc’20), Javier Sanchez Morada (Sc’20)
Built for remote and hybrid teams, Afino provides managers with the tools and insights needed to build a strong culture that keeps employees engaged and connected.

PoliTraQRegional Pitch Competition
Chris Moffatt Armes (Research Analyst, Government and Institutional Relations at Queen’s University)
PoliTraQ helps government relations professionals manage their advocacy data – so they can spend less time on reporting and compliance, and more time engaging with stakeholders.

Bino Books Spread Innovation Challenge
Andena Xhiku (Comm’21), Sydney Terry (ArtSci’20), Danielle Baxter (ArtSci’19), Jessica Dassanayake (Comp’20)
BinoBooks is a customizable literacy platform that helps parents teach hard-to-explain topics (like COVID-19) to their children from pre-K to grade 2.

Swivel – Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative
Hatem Dawaghreh (Sc’20), Emma Landry (Comp’20), Kurri Reich (MASc’20), Alexandra Bradley (Comm’20), Emily Johnstone (Comm’20)
Swivel is a platform connecting students and startups across Canada over virtual coffee chats. Our mission is to facilitate conversations between these two groups to unlock career opportunities.

Diveri – Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative
Julia Kerr (Sc’20), Kara Lawrie (ArtSci’ 20), Abdulrazzak Fallaha (MMIE’20)
Diveri is a sustainable enterprise that diverts pre-consumer textiles from landfill by transforming them into fashionable, reusable face masks and accessories.

The Youth Transit Project SpreadInnovation Challenge
Daniel Hendry (Kingston resident), Jadon Hook (SLC alumni, Laurentian Class of 2022), Jega Vanderpandian (SLC Class of 2021)
The Youth Transit Project is a social enterprise that uses learning from the “Kingston Model” to help build long-term transit ridership and avoid the “transit death spiral” post COVID-19 across mid-sized North American cities.

Safai SpreadInnovation Challenge
Rashi Ramchandani (ArtSci’23), Kapil Ramchandani (U of T Class of 2022)
Safai is an online web and app-based platform that aims to educate and connect users to reliable information about improved precautionary measures implemented by businesses.

Promovere – Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative
Christian Soriano (ArtSci’20), Scott Gingrich (Comm’20), Emily Di Monte (Sc’21), Amy Evans (ArtSci’20), Connor Finless (Comm’20)
Promovere is a career success platform that aims to increase employee engagement, retention, and growth through personalized career pathing, microlearning, and mentorship.

Waive the Wait – Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative
Shreyansh Anand (Comp’21), Daniel Oh (Comp’21), Anne Liu (Comp’21), Yifei Yin (Comp’21), Salman Sohani (Comm’21)
Waive the Wait provides software solutions that help better the patient experience at medical institutions all the while increasing efficiencies and reducing work for their receptionists.

Soap for 237 Spread Innovation Challenge
Lesley Sikapa (U of T Class of 2021), Patience Fakembe (U of T Class of 2021), Providence Mapingire (U of T Class of 2022)
#SoapFor237 #SavonPour237 addresses misinformation around COVID-19 in Cameroon through soap distribution to households in collaboration with neighbourhood leaders.

ISOVID SpreadInnovation Challenge
Christopher Rapos (Sci’22), Meera Mahadeo (ArtSci’21), Lindsay Jevons (Hamilton resident)
ISOVID is designing an isolation unit to protect frontline workers such as paramedics from COVID-19.

Hover.directRegional Pitch Competition
Cameron Rowe (MMIE’21), Claire Marshall (University of Ottawa Class of 2021), Kishan Patel (Dalhousie University Class of 2020)
Drones can not only save lives through the data they collect but can also save business’ money. Hover created a UAV eLearning platform, teaching pilots how to pass the difficult licensing tests.