How The Forge at McMaster is helping fuel novel startups

Why top talent are utilizing the university’s leading business incubator that is taking brands to new heights

July 13, 2022
The Forge working space and logo

The Forge’s Business Incubator program is guiding startups to grow and succeed.

Innovators are raving about The Forge’s Business Incubator program, available to anyone with a novel and scalable business idea or startup in the Hamilton, Greater Toronto, and Niagara regions. The Forge is sector agnostic and supports entrepreneurs through the ideation, validation, and growth process for their early-stage startup. The incubator also provides expert mentorship, incubation space, investor introductions, a financial reimbursement budget, access to a well-equipped makerspace, entrepreneurial workshops, numerous networking events for startups, and most importantly it does not take equity from startups it supports. Launched in 2015, The Forge’s program has been a terrific success so far and the next application period for participants ends on July 31. Top talent is already taking their brands to new heights with The Forge.

ImaginAble Solutions developed an award-winning assistive device called Guided HandsTM, to enable people experiencing limited hand mobility to write, paint, draw and access technology through touch-screen devices.

Lianna Genovese, CEO and Founder of ImaginAble Solution and recent graduate of McMaster University’s iBioMed (Integrated Biomedical Engineering and Health Sciences) program, created her initial prototype for a class project. Genovese started introducing the prototype to industry professionals and potential users, including a young girl with cerebral palsy. As soon as she painted, the widest smile spread across her face. She turned to her mom and said, ‘Mom, I want one.’ At that moment, Lianna knew that this was her true passion and wanted to help others like her. A week later she incorporated ImaginAble Solutions and reached out to The Forge to help her form a startup and bring the product to the world.

“Through The Forge, we received excellent mentorship, access to business resources, and a community of inspiring and like-minded entrepreneurs working hard to make an impact,” said Genovese.

According to the Startup Genome Project, entrepreneurs with mentors had three and a half times more growth and raised seven times more money than those without. The Forge is a unique opportunity among business incubators with easily accessible mentors, of which The Forge has 45 across industries. Since The Forge is part of McMaster University, startups also have access to student employment programs and research departments.

“For anyone with a scalable innovative business idea, the Business Incubator program is here to help,” said Riley Moynes, Incubator Manager of The Forge.

Auper Motorcycles Inc. (Auper) is an innovative and affordable electric motorcycle company for the Brazilian market.

Founder Silvio Rotilli Filho is determined to tackle major problems of safety, security, and performance in motorcycles. Intelligent hardware helps with safety and performance, while encryption technology ensures parts stolen from one motorcycle cannot be used on another

Filho is an alumnus of McMaster University with a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the Faculty of Engineering. He and his partners understood the invention but benefitted from The Forge on the business side.

“Auper was created by engineers and The Forge has helped us develop our business strategy,” said Filho.

For Moynes, brands like Auper are exactly what The Forge Business Incubator program exists to facilitate.

“Receiving mentorship and becoming part of a community gives entrepreneurs a host of new opportunities,” said Moynes.

Toques from the Heart, co-founded by three McMaster University Commerce students, Matt Carter, Matthew Milne, and Casey Rogan, operates on a one-to-one donation model. For every toque sold, the startup donates a toque to someone experiencing homelessness. The idea grew from Milne’s mother creating a toque from an old hockey sock, which was a clever way to upcycle socks. Now repurposed new toques are distributed through social service agencies and non-profits to people experiencing homelessness, with over 8,500 toques donated to every province and territory in Canada.

“The Forge has provided us with guidance in every aspect of the business. It’s been helpful to ask mentors for advice, pitch ideas, and be able to test ideas before they roll out,” said Milne.

AIMA Laboratories, founded by Drs. Lauren Foster and Jocelyn Wessels, is focused on developing tools designed to shorten the pathway to diagnosis for women with chronic pelvic/period pain. Aware of the major delays in the time to diagnosis for people with reproductive health problems and limited access to laboratory test centers in remote communities, AIMA Laboratories’ test platform brings the convenience of home collection to clinical lab testing. Graduates of McMaster University, Drs. Foster and Wessels worked in the academic world but found starting their business would allow them to make their research accessible to people worldwide.

“The Forge provides a lot of support that is great for startups,” said Wessels. “AIMA Laboratories was discussed over a period of about ten years but was finally ‘born’ after finding The Forge. The Business Incubator program provides direction when it is needed.”

Moynes reiterated that The Forge is available for anyone with a novel and scalable startup.

“It’s really fun to build something but the hard part is getting someone to fund it. The best first step is knowing people that can make introductions between an entrepreneur and someone in their industry,” said Moynes. 

The Forge has become the go-to option for top entrepreneurial talent in the Golden Horseshoe Region. Applications for their Business Incubator program are open through July for entrepreneurs looking to become the next success story.

“Over three years of being supported by The Forge, ImaginAble Solutions sold Guided HandsTM across North America and Singapore, filed for patents, won the National Canadian James Dyson Award, and continues to improve the quality of life for people living with a disability,” said Genovese.