Queen's Innovation Centre

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

Queen's Innovation Centre Summer Initiative 2020

backr pitching at the summer pitch competition photo

Bino Books, founded by Andena Xhiku (Comm’21), Danielle Baxter (ArtSci’19), Sydney Terry (ArtSci’20), Jessica Dassanayake (Comp’20), won the Grand Prize of $20,000.

The 2020 QICSI Recap:

The ninth Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI) brought together teams of aspiring entrepreneurs to develop an idea, hone their skills, and refine their business plans. With the new realities created by COVID-19, the Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition adapted to these challenges and attracted a record number of participants.

This year’s edition moved online and hosted its biggest-ever cohort with more than 170 participants from around the globe and 42 teams taking part in the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI) and the newly-launched SpreadInnovation (COVID-19 innovation) challenge.

The SpreadInnovation Challenge

DDQIC wanted to step up to provide opportunities for students and community members who had lost opportunities due to the pandemic. Thus began the SpreadInnovation Challenge stream, which was 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.

The Final Pitch Competition

After 16 weeks of hard work, eleven teams from the SpreadInnovation Challenge and the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI) competed alongside two regional ventures in the Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition.

The virtual format of the final pitch competition allowed DDQIC to invite a historic judging panel of esteemed Queen’s University alumni hailing from the Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Kingston innovation ecosystems. The judging panel was comprised of Gururaj "Desh" Deshpande (Sc'79), Founder and Chairman of Sparta Group LLC and founder of the Deshpande Foundation; Lauren Long (ArtSci'11), Senior Software Engineer at Google; Anton Toutov (ArtSci'11), Founder and Chief Science Officer at Fuzionaire; and Brian Dodo (Sc'16), Founder and Principal Designer at BmDodo Strategic Design. The decision to determine the winners was a difficult task and no small feat. 

Results of the 2020 Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition

Congratulations to the entire 2020 cohort and the regional candidates! We look forward to continuing to support the founders and their ventures into the future. Thank you to the many individuals and organizations who have contributed to the QICSI program this year.

Bino Books | $20,000 winners
Waive the Wait | $15,000 winners
Afino | $15,000 winners, $2,000 Wisdom of the Market Award winners
PoliTraQ | $10,000 winners
ISOVID | $10,000 winners
Promovere | $10,000 winners
My Care Buddy | $5,000 winners
The Youth Transit Project | $5,000 winners

The Finalists


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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.