As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced entrepreneurs to work out of their homes or perhaps basements where their ideas were born, these circumstances did not curb the enthusiasm, talent and ambition of The Forge Student Startup Competition Finalists.
The Forge held its sixth annual Student Startup Competition virtually on March 30, 2020, bringing together 12 finalists pitching to a panel of esteemed judges, each one showcasing a unique and innovative tech-based business idea or early stage startup. Each year, The Forge pitch competition awards up to $100,000 in cash prizes as well as a guaranteed spot in The Forge Summer Startup Academy.
All 12 finalists will join The Forge Summer Startup Academy in May, giving the students the opportunity to launch their ideas to the market or scale their early stage startup. The Academy will provide them with mentorship from established entrepreneurs, office space and meeting rooms at The Forge Business Incubator, access to a rapid prototyping facility, workshops geared to grow their businesses, investment readiness programming, and networking opportunities in the entrepreneurship ecosystem.
This year’s judges – successful entrepreneurs, investors, and thought leaders in the innovation space – included: Elaine Kunda, founder and managing partner at Disruption Ventures; Wayne Purboo, SVP of strategy at New Relic Inc.; David Zeleny, manager of tour services & sourcing at Universal Music Group; Nav Kaur, innovation strategy and partnerships team lead at Canadian Tire Financial Services; and Michael Thompson, associate dean of graduate studies, Faculty of Engineering.
Four startups received grand prizes and eight finalists received $5,000 cash prize to work on their businesses as part of the Summer Startup Academy.
Grand Prize recipients:
First Place ($15,000): Dawson Lucier, PULSE Lifesaving. Lucier a recent alumnus with an Hons.BSc Kinesiology, is a co-founder of PULSE Lifesaving, developing remote lifesaving training enabled by augmented reality technology.
Second Place ($11,000): Lianna Genovese, ImaginAble Solutions. Genovese, an undergraduate in the Integrated Biomedical Engineering & Health Sciences (iBioMed) program, is the founder, CEO and inventor of ImaginAble Solutions, specializing in creating assistive devices for people living with accessibility issues. Their product Guided Hands™ assists people with limited hand mobility to write, draw and use a computer or tablet.
Third place ($9,000): William Douglas, CheckUp! Douglas, an undergraduate of the Faculty of Health Sciences (Honours) program, is the Co-Founder of CheckUp! providing post-secondary institutions with custom mobile apps aimed at improving health and wellness habits of their student bodies.
Faculty of Engineering SummerTech Entrepreneur Fellowship ($15,000): Andrew “Doren” Singh, Pharmasonica. Singh is the founder and CEO at Pharmasonica, a unique medical device that utilizes ultrasound to trigger drug release.
The eight startups received the $5,000 cash prize were Andrew Leber Co-Founder of Marrow; Yicheng “Arthur” Chen, Founder and CEO of Hummer; Natthakit Junior Thiensirisak Founder of Lytec; Karan Sabharwal Co-Founder of Remember2Love; Michael Jobity Co-Founder of 2unify; Rohan Barooah Co-Founder of AIYogi, Sara Mustafa Co-Founder of TRAD; and Shreyas Gangwani Co-Founder and CEO of National Design League.
“The Student Startup Competition has been running since the inception of The Forge, spotlighting talented budding entrepreneurs within McMaster University,” said Sean Van Koughnett, McMaster’s associate vice-president (students and learning) and dean of students, who says the competition continues to gain momentum. “This year we received the largest number of applications, with the strongest pool of applicants, representing every Faculty.”
“Synthesizing an idea into a coherent and engaging two-minute pitch is not easy feat, especially amid so many changes going on around us globally,” said Gay Yuyitung, acting director of The Forge. “We are proud of what these finalists have accomplished with guidance from our mentors and we look forward to working with each of them over the summer.”
The next Student Startup Competition is in Spring 2021 with applications opening in December 2020. Students are encouraged to reach out to The Forge to get a head start on developing their business ideas through our Startup School program that is run every fall and winter semester.
Since 2015, over 130 companies have graduated from The Forge programs, raising over $30 million and selling products in over 50 countries. The Forge offers programs across all industry sectors to entrepreneurs pursuing scalable, technology-based companies.
“PULSE Lifesaving is thrilled to have received the 1st place prize at The Forge Student Startup Competition! The Forge has been top-notch in their support and incubation of our company. We are so excited to hit the ground running with this new funding announcement as we continue to expand our AR development team.” – Dawson Lucier, PULSE Lifesaving
“ImaginAble Solutions is beyond honoured and humbled to place 2nd in The Forge Student Startup Competition! Words cannot express how it feels to be given the opportunity to turn our passion and dream into a reality! We are determined to use this incredible opportunity to manufacture and commercialize Guided Hands™ to change the lives of our customers!” –Lianna Genovese, ImaginAble Solutions
“It’s a great opportunity and honour to be one of the winners of The Forge’s Student StartUp Competition. We feel a great debt to The Forge, not just for this prize, but for creating an environment at McMaster that encourages students to pursue meaningful projects that can have an impact on their community and beyond. We hope our future successes can inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs at McMaster and show what is possible with the support of The Forge.”—William Douglas, CheckUp!
“The Forge Student Startup Competition has provided Pharmasonica a launchpad into the world of commercialization. We intend to use the winnings to help expedite the commercialization process and further hone our technology. We at Pharmasonica would like to give a special thanks to the Faculty of Engineering, who sponsored the SummerTech Entrepreneur Fellowship. Thank you to Dr. Todd Hoare, and all those in the Hoare lab for immeasurable amounts of guidance and support.” – Doren Singh, Pharmasonica
To read more about the Student Startup Competition please click here.