The Forge Startup Survivor Pitch Competition awards $31,000

The Startup Survivor Tribal Council has spoken. The Forge Startup Survivor Pitch Competition has named four McMaster-based startups that will be taking home $31,000 in cash prizes to continue growing their early-stage ventures.

The Forge’s summer program supports early-stage novel and scalable startups founded by McMaster University students and recent graduates. During the summer, ten student startups were accepted into the program. The founders completed a series of six challenges to assist them in defining their business problem, understand their target market and customer, and develop a solution to form a basis for their scalable venture.

Throughout the summer, the startups were awarded points and cash toward developing their venture by completion of each challenge. The top five challengers pitched to a panel of judges, serving as “Startup Survivor’s Tribal Council.” The Tribal Council included Faizal Javer, co-founder and partner at Greyhill Capital Partners, Julie Ellis co-founder of Mabel’s Labels and chair of the board of directors at Angel One Investor Network, Kimberly Elliott co-founder and COO of VoxNeuro (The Forge alumnus), and Sergio Aguirre, co-founder and CEO of Epineuron (The Forge alumnus).

Five prizes were awarded during the virtual pitch competition:

“The Forge Startup Survivor” Grand Prize ($15,000): Dahlia, co-founded by Christopher Juman and Bindi Mehta, is developing a feminine hygiene product that combines the utility of a menstrual cup with the familiarity of a tampon. The menstrual cup is loaded into a tampon-like applicator that can both launch and remove the cup, providing comfort and convenience to the user. Juman is a recent graduate of the Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization (BDC) program in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Second Place ($9,000): PhosphoSens, founded by Vinay Patel, is developing a handheld device that simplifies phosphorus detection using a chemical-free technology enabling wastewater treatment plant operators to measure phosphorus within 10 minutes, without the hassle of chemical preparation. Patel is a PhD student in the Biomedical Engineering program within the Faculties of Engineering and Health Sciences.

Third Place ($5,000): Kinisi Technologies, co-founded by Michelle Ragany, Nazli Bostandoust and Edelstein Ruben Junior Biack Mbombe, is developing a posture tracking wearable device that provides posture performance analytics for athletes, focused currently on rowers. The founders are all part of the Master of Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MTEI) program in the Faculty of Engineering.

Social Buzz Award ($500): Grounded Collective, founded by Gurkeerat Gill, aims to bridge the gap between everyday consumers and sustainable brands through an online marketplace that addresses the main pain points of consumers: price, time and fear of greenwashing. The Social Buzz is awarded to the startup that developed the best online and social media presence as a result of “Challenge 4: Message in a Bottle” in which challengers took the first steps in building their company brand.

Bonus Challenge Award ($500): Dahlia, Grounded Collective, and Kinisi Technologies. The Bonus Challenge Award is given to the company that earned the most bonus points throughout the Startup Survivor Summer program by doing additional activities to expand their network that would help build not only their venture but also supports the start-up ecosystem in Hamilton.

“We are very excited about the teams that participated this year, as we are seeing more depth and quality in the thoughtfulness and interest from students who want to make a difference by addressing problems in healthcare and the environment to create social and economic impact. Although the pandemic has forced us to change to a virtual format, the level of engagement and enthusiasm from both student entrepreneurs and our mentor network continues to grow and we look forward to building on this in the future,” said Gay Yuyitung, Acting Director of The Forge. “I am equally impressed by the diversity of this year’s cohort, which included 50% women entrepreneurs and startups with inter-disciplinary teams crossing four different Faculties across the university.”

The Startup Survivor program was launched at the start of 2021, replacing The Forge’s Student Startup Competition and Summer program held for the past six years. The successfully redesigned summer program and pitch competition have been embraced by participants of the program, which gamified the startup development process and gave the founders hands-on experience to implement what they learned during the entrepreneurial workshops.

“Our experience with the Forge Startup Survivor program has been incredibly valuable. We entered the competition looking to gain guidance on our first steps in launching our business while also hoping to gain some funds along the way,” said Christopher Juman, co-founder of Dahlia who received the top award for the night. “We never would have imagined how many skills we would develop all the while having the opportunity to build connections with valuable mentors and other co-founders who have helped shape our business. Startup Survivor has helped catapult Dahlia forward and we are very grateful for this experience.”

“As a researcher, I understand technology, but I am new to formulating business strategies and plans,” said Patel. “The Forge Startup survivor program provided me with the opportunity to network with a great peer network and mentors who were always ready to support us when needed.  I would recommend the program to anyone who is looking to start their entrepreneurship journey.”

“The Forge Startup Survivor program allowed us to experience being entrepreneurs facing real-life challenges and experiences while being supported within an academic setting,” said Biack Mbombe. “Working alongside other startups was fascinating and gave us a chance to learn from experienced founders and mentors.”

About The Forge:

The Forge is a business incubator funded by McMaster University, serving novel and scalable startups in the Hamilton, Greater Toronto and Niagara Regions. Launched in 2015, The incubator works hands-on with entrepreneurs to develop their business ideas from ideation and validation to growth. The Forge is sector agnostic and offers cohort-based programming and does not take equity in the companies they support. So far 233 companies have been through The Forge Business Incubator program; together they have raised over $36M and are selling products in 50 countries.

View the Startup Survivor event booklet to learn more about the program, all the startups that completed the summer program, and the judges.

Watch The Startup Survivor Pitch Competition: