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Young entrepreneurs ready to make their pitch

[QICSI Students]
Queen’s Innovation Connector Summer Initiative participant Amy Hamilton constructs her venture’s prototype while teammate Thiago Santarém completes design work. The students are preparing for the pitch competition that will take place on Aug. 20. (University Communications)

The third floor of Beamish-Munro Hall buzzes with activity one morning in early August. Teams of students cram into various meeting rooms, working furiously to prepare for the Queen’s Innovation Connector Summer Initiative (QICSI) pitch competition that will take place on Aug. 20.

[QIC Logo]
Queen's Innovation Connector

“I’m excited,” says Amy Hamilton, one of 39 students participating in this year’s QICSI.

“Excited and freaking out a little bit,” quickly adds her teammate Thiago Santarém. They are two of the four St. Lawrence College students selected to join this year’s cohort that includes Queen’s students across all faculties.

In a small room, Ms. Hamilton puts her seldom-used sewing skills to work on constructing her venture’s prototype while Mr. Santarém busies himself with graphic design work. Elsewhere in the building, the three other members of the venture, known as Scarlet, get marketing advice from a consultant.

Across the hallway in another meeting room, three members of Impulse Biomechanics work independently on their assigned tasks. 

As they take a break from their work, a sense of anticipation mixed with weariness fills the small space dotted with Post-it notes that remind the students what still needs to be done before the pitch competition.

“There’s a bit of stress. If you look down the hallway, we all hope to win money and continue our business after the summer. It’s been really fun to be around so many different people and learn from them, but now it’s more of a competition,” says Kirsten MacMillan, Sc’17. “(The pitch competition has) really worked well for us: we have a deadline on the calendar that we really need to meet and that pushes us to put in the extra hour and make the extra phone call.”

Eight ventures are vying for up to $30,000 as well as bragging rights as the top venture of this year’s QICSI. The program launched in 2012 to teach students about entrepreneurship, innovation and change management. 

Last year’s pitch competition winner, Mosaic Manufacturing, went on to further develop its technology at Innovation Park at Queen’s University as part of QIC Acceleration. 

The venture also won a national pitch competition worth $25,000 in March.

The students can continue to build their ventures even if they don’t win the pitch competition. In fact, more than 25 companies that started as a result of QICSI continue in various stages of technology development and commercialization.

“The pitch competition is just one of many great learning opportunities students receive during the summer initiative program,” says Greg Bavington, Director, QIC. “They get a chance to practice their communication and presentation skills in a high stakes environment while at the same time receiving valuable feedback about their companies from our expert judges.”

Getting exposed to new ideas and knowledge is something several QICSI participants mention when asked what they enjoy about the program.

“We are learning something new every day,” says Hao Chen Sang, Com’17. “What I am learning this summer will really help me start and run my own business. I now know a lot more about the steps I need to take to make a business successful.”

QIC will stream the pitch competition live on its website beginning at 1 pm on Aug. 20. QIC will announce the winner on its Twitter account later that evening.

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The Queen’s Innovation Connector Summer Initiative will conclude on Aug. 20 with a pitch competition where eight teams will vie for up to $30,000 in seed funding. Here are brief descriptions of the eight ventures: 

Iris Technologies
Iris Technologies is addressing the negative health consequences LCD screens cause for individuals who suffer from specific medical conditions or who spend a long period of time working at LCD monitors. The solution that Iris is providing is a substitute screen that causes fewer negative health repercussions by using e-paper technology, which is found in devices such as e-readers.

Impulse Biomechanics
Impulse Biomechanics wants to change the way people with neurological disorders experience the rehabilitation process. The company is creating a pressure sensing insole capable of tracking various gait metrics of individuals in neurorehabilitation programs, allowing physiotherapists to quantitatively follow patient progress and better target rehabilitation to their specific needs. 

Apollo
Apollo helps everyone to turn their ideas into reality and get funded. Creators can obtain feedback, in-kind support, and idea validation while simultaneously raising startup capital. 

Concierge Connect
Concierge Connect provides free and secure Wi-Fi access to users through a network of hotspots. The company’s service helps businesses manage their Wi-Fi and connect with their customers through a reliable login process. Users have a unique login that allows them to conveniently access all Concierge Connect hotspot locations.

Scarlet
Scarlet Smart Fashion is a brand that combines smart technology, functionality and style to provide simple yet powerful solutions for the busy modern professional.  A major focus of Scarlet is to integrate technology into products to simplify and empower the lifestyles of customers. Scarlet’s brand exemplifies the passion, innovation, quality and beauty that it commits to its designs.

Atria
Atria is a mobile application that will pay people to workout. The app uses group accountability and monetary incentives to motivate people to get fit. People can workout on their own, or join group campaigns on the app to raise money for a cause of their choice.

Gryllies
With the global population expected to exceed 9 billion people by 2050, conventional livestock production no longer has the ability to feed the world in an environmentally sustainable way. Gryllies’ solution is to harvest crickets as a future-friendly protein source that can be integrated seamlessly into the traditional North American diet.

LUMOS
LUMOS Energy Strips deliver an innovative solution to an everyday problem: tiredness. Conventional energy solutions are high calorie, high volume, and often high cost. LUMOS has created a thin strip containing naturally-sourced caffeine that dissolves in a person’s mouth for a quick boost equivalent to half a cup of coffee.