Start-up founders lit up the lower level of the University of Toronto Mississauga’s Innovation Complex last Thursday as they presented for ICUBE’s 2016 Spring Pitch Finale.
Each team had been working with ICUBE UTM, the university’s early-stage accelerator, for the past three months and after a start-up showcase were given 5 minutes to present their business concepts ranging from mobile investment apps to portable air filtration devices. Most teams highlighted what they had learned by taking the advice of Entrepreneur-In-Residence, Vigen Nazarian’s when he instructed “sell your problem, not the solution,” and shared personal stories of what lead to developing their business.
As an aspiring golf pro, GolfPlz’s co-founder, Josh Monroe, presented a solution to connect amateur golfers with golf pros to help recreational players transition to more active members in the sport he loves. Monroe’s solution is a match-making platform creating customized referrals for new and aspiring golfers wanting to improve their game.
“I really like the company leadership with a founder with experience in the golf industry and a founder with business experience,” said Pam Banks, executive director at the RIC Centre and competition judge. “I think if they use their existing networks and social media now at the beginning of the golf season they will quickly be able to validate interest from users.”
From October – January start-up teams applied to be part of ICUBE’s ICE Program (Innovation to Commercialization for Entrepreneurs) where they underwent entrepreneurial training from in-house and professional mentors, educational guides called SIDES and the MaRS Entrepreneurship 101 program. And it all came together as teams pitched in front of a panel of investors and judges.
Judges for ICUBE’s Final Pitch included:
Pam Banks – Executive Director / RIC Centre
Karen Grant – Executive Director / Angel One Network
Hugh Gunz – Director / Institute for Management & Innovation
Brenda Hogan – Senior Investment Manager / Ontario Capital Growth Corporation
Giles Sutherland* – VP Strategic Alliances & Development / Carta Worldwide
* Giles was unfortunately unable to attend due to a last minute conflict but we are very thankful for Carta’s partnership.
Pitches were evaluated by judges based on its effectiveness of communicating team strengths and weaknesses, research and analysis demonstrating the size market and viability of solution.
“I guide our entrepreneurs to identify hidden ‘points of failures’ in their ventures and help them develop a sustainable business model that can generate revenue quickly,” said Vigen Nazarian, ICUBE’s entrepreneur-in-residence and mentor.
With ICUBE being an early stage accelerator there were two categories for teams to showcase their innovative solutions, ideation and development. These categories contained start-ups from both students from the University of Toronto Mississauga and University of Toronto – St. George Campus, as well as alumni and community founders.
Teams under the Ideation Category were defined by having developed a business concept that had identified a potential scalable product or service idea for a significant target market. These teams had an initial idea on how products can create value, and a defined mission and vision with an initial strategy and key milestones for the next few years.
The Development Category is where value proposition is established and tested. Teams in this category were able to develop a minimum viable product or service version with committed resources, or already had an initial product or service in place.
“I was very impressed and pleased with ICUBE’s decision to identify the companies at the Ideation stage and companies at the Development stage,” said Karen Grant, executive director of Angel One Investor Network. “As a judge, I now know which lens to apply to the company presenting.”
The competition was sponsored by IMI and the Ontario Centres of Excellence and included eight teams, who pitched to a panel of four judges for almost $15,000 in total cash and prizes.
With having just completed their first year of service, ICUBE’s goal is to “promote entrepreneurship and innovation within the UTM and the members of the Mississauga community,” according to event organizer and ICUBE program coordinator, Sam Dumcum.
“It was important for us to distinguish between the truly early stage ventures and our slightly more developed teams who are ready for a different level of support from ICUBE, and our external supporters,” said Donna Heslin, assistant director of external relations at IMI. “This is an exciting step for ICUBE as we are beginning to support more established ventures.”
The winners in both categories are as follows:
Best Ideation Category
Winner: Golf Plz
Runner up: U-Dimensions
Finalists: SoCity & UpTik
Best Development Stage
Runner up: Alto Inc.