On December 15th, ICUBE UTM, Sheridan EDGE, and Mississauga Business Enterprise Centre (MBEC) hosted Sauga Start-up Pitch & Showcase, where Mississauga’s innovative community members shared their big ideas and entrepreneurial spirit.
Ten start-up companies participated in the virtual event, where they competed for cash prizes to develop their innovations.
Zane Westmoreland also joined the event as Sauga Pitch’s keynote speaker. Westmoreland is a UTM and Sheridan College alumni and is one of the co-founders at Acadiate. He has spent the last ten years exploring talent marketing, student employability and online academic events, which he shared with the Sauga Pitch attendees.
While these entrepreneurs brought vastly different ideas to the table, each one was built on sustainability, inclusivity, and the goal of bettering our community.
Visit the Sauga Pitch Acadiate page to watch the full event and read about each of the teams.
The Sauga Pitch 2021 winners
The participants were divided into two categories: Early-Stage Finalists and Later-Stage Finalists. At the end of the night, six winners walked away with a total of $20,000 in cash prizes. Here are start-ups in the community to keep your eye on:
1ST PLACE: CURB THE RAIN
Curb the Rain proposes a solution for the outdated stormwater management systems. Currently, the impermeable surfaces in our community – such as roads, buildings, and sidewalks – prevent rainwater from being absorbed into the ground. Instead, the rainwater picks up pollutants as it runs off, flowing into streams and municipal sewage.
This is where Curb the Rain comes in. They propose a low-impact development project that aims to tackle storm water before it gets into the sewer systems. Curb the Rain plans to specifically redesign the existing curb infrastructure with permeable concrete. By increasing the water volume capacity of curbs through porous material, the long-term damage can be reduced.
The Curb the Rain team said, “Our cities are not built to withstand the impacts of climate change. Our product improves current storm water systems to protect ecosystems and urban infrastructure from flooding. We aim to mitigate these impacts; we want to Curb the Rain!”
2ND PLACE & PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD: DEAF AI
Deaf AI fulfills the need for sign language accessibility within the real and virtual world. Currently, there are limitations which can make media consumption difficult for deaf people. Subtitles are not always functional for some people and sign language services are not always an affordable or attainable option for grassroots organizations and small businesses. Deaf AI proposes a shift from human-based sign language services to AI-based sign language services. Deaf AI has developed an AI-based virtual sign-language interpreter that appears on the corner of the screen. This acts as an affordable option for users, service providers, businesses, and organizations to improve their accessibility and communication.
“Our mission is to create a more inclusive society and a brighter future for communication for people who are deaf or hard of hearing,” the Deaf AI team said.
3RD PLACE: TENATCH
Tenatch is an online C2C marketplace that strives to provide a solution for the affordability crisis that small businesses face. High rent is an issue for existing storefront owners, as well as artisans who cannot afford to enter the market.
Tenatch’s solution is to bring these two players together to create a complementary relationship between existing storefronts and local artisans. Through Tenatch’s platform, artisans can find storefronts to operate out of rather than signing long-term lease agreements. On the flipside, storefronts will be able to generate extra income and keep up with rent by hosting complimentary artisans.
The emphasis on the complimentary relationship between storefronts and artisans is what sets Tenatch apart. By grouping complimentary businesses together under one roof, they will be able to offer the community a new and unique shopping experience.
“Our vision is to create an impactful platform that supports local small business entrepreneurs from all social and cultural backgrounds and help expand their business opportunities to create a more sustainable and inclusive future,” the Tenatch team said.
1ST PLACE: ECOSYSTEM INFORMATICS INC.
Ecosystem Informatics Inc. (ESI) is a next-generation air quality monitoring and management solution.
Many cities and industries’ attempts to improve air quality has been limited by expensive, bulky, and immobile technologies. Ecosystem Informatics provides a more affordable, nimble, and easier way to collect insights on air quality.
Here’s how it works: a smart agile sensor unit is placed on a vehicle, which collects information as the user drives around. After being calibrated in the cloud, simplified data is then displayed to the user on a web-based dashboard.
“ESI provides meaningful insights to inform good decision-making by governments and industries on the topic of air quality,” the Ecosystem Informatics team said. “The ESI team is working to be part of the solution.”
2ND PLACE: INWIT
Inwit is Toronto’s first zero-waste food app that strives to combat single-use plastic consumption in the takeout industry by providing a sustainable alternative. Inwit acts as a marketplace that hosts a reusable container borrowing system, a food ordering platform, and a rewards point system.
Here’s how it works: customers order their food from Inwit’s restaurant partners and instead of receiving their meal in a traditional plastic container, it will be served in one of Inwit’s reusable containers. Customers will have seven days to return their container – each tracked by NFC technology – to one of Inwit’s restaurant partners in exchange for reward points.
“Reaching the second position was awesome and reinforced our conviction to keep empowering Torontonians to take climate action by enjoying their takeout without waste!” the Inwit team said.
3RD PLACE & PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD: HOPE PET FOOD
HOPE provides a sustainable pet food alternative to products that rely on livestock, fish farming, and synthetic ingredients. For those who strive to extend their reduced animal product consumption to their pets, HOPE’s products serve as a nutritious option.
HOPE’s pet food is comprised of ingredients such as algae, insects, and fungi to provide pets with the nutrition they need.
“These novel ingredients offer equivalent, and in many cases, better nutrition than traditional sources and with only a minimal fraction of the environmental impact,” the HOPE team said. “This community has been very supportive as we look beyond meat and beyond plants to create better, sustainable pet food.”
ICUBE’s pitch competitions and words from the participants
ICUBE is an on-campus incubator, a hub for innovation at the University of Toronto Mississauga. ICUBE offers resources, programs, and workshops to the U of T and local community, with an emphasis on sustainability and positive change.
“These events help ideas become a reality and keep start-ups in traction. We are very grateful to the University of Toronto and the ICUBE team for supporting our work and the work of many entrepreneurs like us,” the Inwit team said. “The best prize we take away is meeting and listening to other start-ups working to build a greener tomorrow; it makes us feel that we are not alone in this revolution!”
Alongside partners like Sheridan College’s incubator, EDGE, the Mississauga Business Enterprise Centre (MBEC), and partners in the wider community, ICUBE has hosted multiple pitch competitions aside from Sauga Pitch 2021.
In the summer of 2021, ICUBE hosted the second year of PRIDE Pitch, a pitch competition for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs in the U of T community. The event was created to support and promote entrepreneurs in the LGBTQ+ community and recognize their efforts in the entrepreneurial space.
ICUBE has also hosted Pitch with a Twist, a pitch competition specifically for women entrepreneurs. This competition aims to create an entrepreneurial space where women-led businesses have an opportunity to showcase their innovative ideas.
The third annual Pitch with a Twist 2022 competition is right around the corner. Head over to ICUBE’s website to read about last year’s event and stay updated on new details.
ICUBE is an advocate for underrepresented groups. The mentorship, resources, and events they offer all aim to support and reward those in the community who will foster change through entrepreneurial opportunities.
“By observing ICUBE and EDGE working together for a shared vision, I came to understand the importance of partnership in making the outcomes more promising and the success that comes from teaming up with the right people or organizations,“ said Mehdi Masoumi, the CEO and co-founder of Deaf AI. “Forming a solid team is more than vital for fast-growing start-ups after validating their business idea. Perhaps I do not have a team of greats, but, for certain, I have a great team.”
Originally published on The Varsity