uOttawa engineering students test their entrepreneurial chops

Building a business out of a great idea
Elad Tzemach, from Vitualens, demonstrates their immersion therapy solution to overcome fear of public speaking.
Elad Tzemach, from Vitualens, demonstrates their immersion therapy solution to overcome fear of public speaking. (photo: Mark Holleron)

A great idea alone does not make for a successful company.

It takes a deep analysis of the market to find the windows of opportunity, understand the barriers to entry and how best to differentiate from the competition. And it of course takes a product or service that can deliver on its promise.

Since 2007, The University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Engineering has helped students understand what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur with learning experiences and a variety of competitive events.

One of these is the Prizes in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Entrepreneurship Concepts (EC-PEI) competition. Graduate and undergraduate students compete to develop the strongest business plan, under the guidance of seasoned mentors and coaches. 

Seventy per cent of the evaluation is weighted toward having the most complete and rigorously thought out business plan. The remainder comes from the quality of the presentation. On Feb. 8, six finalist teams squared off before the judging panel.

GRASPING THE KEY TO COMMERCIAL SUCCESS

While the actual commercial viability of the business plan isn’t necessary for this competition, several of the teams are already down the road of commercialization. 

“The quantity and the quality of the student teams and what they bring to the table has steadily improved since we began this competition,” said Joe Irvine, event judge and Director of Innovation Support Services at uOttawa. “Many of these are not just ideas on paper, but viable startups that are already making headway. The interest and support for entrepreneurship across the campus has just exploded in recent years.”

Along with Irvine, the judging panel included Nolan Beanlands, Coordinator of Startup Garage and Technology Partnerships Associate at uOttawa, and Frank Bouchard, Co-Founder of Wipebook and Manager of Outreach for the Faculty of Engineering.

AND THE WINNERS 

ARE …

First Place: Kegshoe - Michael Eagar, Torin Regier, Adrian Pawliszko 

The team at Kegshoe, not only compete for the title of top beer aficionado, they have already established a growing business providing specialized software to the brewing industry. The company’s first product, a keg-tracking platform, has already secured 35 customers on four continents. Customers improve their logistics, reduce losses from errant kegs and better manage product delivery. Kegshoe is about to launch a CRM platform for the industry with inventory integration. The first-place prize was $5,000.

Second Place (tied): Taskrilla - Jonathan Ibrahim, Daniel Laframboise 

Finding a qualified and trustworthy contractor for work around the house can be challenging. Taskrilla is taking its cue from online marketplace Airbnb to help consumers find what they need. Contractors pay a referral fee to be vetted and included on the Taskrilla network. That referral fee is reduced over time based on the positive customer reviews a contractor earns. The second-place prize was $2,500.

Second Place (tied): Virtualens - Elad Tzemach, Alex Comeau, Midia Shikh Hassan, Brandon Lusignan 

Public speaking is often cited as the number one fear in the world. For people who dread speaking in public but must do so, they have little recourse other than expensive coaching. The team at Virtualens is out to change that with immersion therapy using a virtual reality headset. The platform tracks things like eye movement and provides feedback analysis. The second-place prize was $2,500.

THE RUNNERS UP

The other three finalist teams were:

Cyphor - Michael Pawly and Angus Mclean: 

This team believes online privacy is a human right. Cyphor is developing a platform that can encrypt any personal communication online, including email, instant messages and electronics files, even through other native apps.

HealthSensor - Dr. Miodrag Bolic, Dr. Sreeraman Rajan, Dr. Munir Tarar, Isuru Gunasekara, Baber Shah, Samuel Hadwen, Amer Adas

Let’s face it – most seniors either forget to use or don’t like wearing monitoring devices or being video monitored. HealthSensor is developing a contactless wellness monitoring system for seniors that relies on radar sensors that track breathing patterns.

Dextra - Antoine Machaalani, Olivier Miguel, Midia Shikh Hassan, Roxanne Gauthier-Ferland

This team is tackling the endemic issue of amputees in need of low-cost prosthetics, such as among the millions of refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict. The goal is to lever 3D printing to create cheap, functional limbs for as little as a tenth of the typical cost.

GET INVOLVED

To learn how you can get involved in the Faculty of Engineering’s various student competitions as a competitor, judge or mentor, please visit engineering.uOttawa.ca/entrepreneurship/student-competitions or contact Dr. Hanan Anis at hanis@uottawa.ca