Partnerships and Innovation

Office of Partnerships and Innovation
Office of Partnerships and Innovation

Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation’s new Growth Accelerator program helps startup ask the right questions

“As you go through different stages of growing a business from ideation to IPO,” says Tyler Whitney of Spectra Plasmonics, “there are different questions you need to be asking yourself and different details that you need to pay attention to.”

He’s explaining the decision that he and business partner Malcolm Eade made to enroll their company in the new Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation’s (QPI) Growth Accelerator program.

Based on technology developed in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Queen’s, their firm had its origins in the Queen's Innovation Centre Summer Initiative, a program for student entrepreneurs they attended as undergraduates, back in 2017.

Their product is designed to detect and analyze trace elements of chemicals. “With the help of a third party,” says Eade, “we make a portable drug analyzer using our technology and their technology to analyze trace amounts of drugs. You add a sample and you’re able to see small amounts of deadly particles like fentanyl or fentanyl analogues at very low concentrations.” The portable system can be used right in the field by law enforcement officers or by supervised consumption sites.

Since their time in the Queen's Innovation Centre Summer Initiative, they’ve been growing the company steadily. “We had a lot of success in the past with things like pitch competitions and winning government R&D grants,” says Eade. But they realized that, “This year is really the year of commercialization for us.” The Growth Accelerator seemed a logical next step. 

The program has already paid benefits. 

“One of the speakers they had talk about fund-raising was Frank Aduino,” says Whitney. “He’s basically a well-connected angel [investor] who loves to help startups. We followed up with him after and since then we’ve been having calls every couple of weeks to outline where we’re at and where we’re heading” as they prepare for their first major round of fundraising. They also connected with Tom Ogaranko, who gave a popular talk on how startups can monetize the data they collect.

 “We have a hardware product that’s pretty straightforward,” says Whitney. “Having that session got us thinking, what is the actual value of the information that we’re collecting? And how could that be used?”

“Tom’s a busy guy, so it’s been hard to schedule a meeting with him, but we are finally getting a discussion with him this week,” says Eade.

Speaking of Stiletto, the company chosen by QPI to develop and run the program, Eade says, “We worked closely with Ariella [Lukach, the company’s Vice President of Strategy and Positioning], and if we had a question anytime throughout the week, she was always happy to answer it or hop on calls. My biggest impression of them is their willingness to help and go above and beyond.”

The three-month program featured weekly meetings and demanding assignments. But, says Whitney, when you balance that against boosting your sales and mapping your future “It’s not a huge commitment in time.”

Says Eade: “It’s definitely something that makes sense if you’re at the right stage.”

 

The Wings/Growth Acceleration program was made possible with support from the Government of Canada to Queen’s University through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario and the Scale-up Platform Project which is led by Invest Ottawa in eastern Ontario and by Queen’s in the Kingston region.

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