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Who are the next big startups coming out of uOttawa?

Desjardins provides both funds and business advice to up-and-coming innovators

uOttawa Desjardins startups competition entrepreneurs

Business leaders and entrepreneurs gathered at the Telfer School of Management in November for the 2023 Desjardins Elevator Pitch Competition, an annual gathering celebrating the University of Ottawa’s top startups.

The competition, which will mark its 10th anniversary next year, was created to support uOttawa students’ entrepreneurial aspirations and accelerate their startups.

With categories representing each step of the entrepreneurial journey — from having an idea to being up and running with sales — the competition gives students a shot to explain their concept to a panel of expert judges and get the feedback they need to succeed.

Also on the line this year was $35,000 in prizes, including $20,000 from Desjardins, which was awarded to the top five companies.

Desjardins sees events like this as the perfect opportunity to foster innovation by investing in Canada’s next generation of entrepreneurs. 

“Supporting the well-being of our youth and helping them achieve their dreams is very important to us,” said Véronique Breton, senior public relations advisor at Desjardins. “It’s why we’re helping these entrepreneurs take their dream a little further.”

This year’s winners

Amongst the winners this year was ​​Yellowbird Diagnostics, Inc., which captured the $10,000 first-place prize in the “Traction” category.

Yellowbird CEO and co-founder Nick Calvert is currently a uOttawa PhD candidate in chemistry.

Calvert and the Yellowbird team have developed a contrast dye to use in MRIs and other diagnostic tools that’s safe for people with contraindications, like kidney disease. 

Yellowbird, a startup from uOttawa receiving money from Desjardins
Yellowbird CEO Nick Calvert (middle) receiving a cheque for $10,000 at the Desjardins Elevator Pitch Competition at uOttawa.

Calvert explained why opportunities like the elevator pitch contest are so important to budding entrepreneurs like him.

“I come from a science background, so when it comes to the business side, there was a lot to learn and I needed to learn it quickly,” he said. “At pitch events like these you meet so many people who want to help. I had a great talk with Megan from Desjardins and got a lot out of the conversation.”

The funds will help Yellowbird continue its work by helping them conduct the pre-clinical assessment required for their upcoming clinical trial.

The other winners this year include: 

2nd place ($5,000): Spyce Girlz makes better for you, better tasting spice blends that are all-natural, preservative free, super versatile, and available at grocery store across Ontario

3rd place ($1,000): Lutendi Systems is a tool that helps property managers and landlords reduce payment delinquencies by over 70 per cent while enhancing the credit-worthiness of their residents.

Validation category ($3,000): AccMov Health Inc. is a sports technology startup that wants to advance musculoskeletal health applications by integrating and translating knowledge from the field of human movement sciences.

Idea category ($1,000): eMediate specializes in providing an alternative, accessible legal solution that will alleviate pressure on our court systems by focusing on small claims court cases; disputes over bylaws, property disputes, landlord vs tenant and cases with monetary claims of up to $35,000.

For Desjardins – who have made a five-year commitment to supporting uOttawa’s elevator pitch competition – the most important takeaway from the annual event is a sense of optimism.

“Young people want to be involved in creating solutions to solve societal, environmental and economic challenges,” said Breton. “Everyone present during the Elevator Pitch felt optimistic about a future where our youth help us find and build innovative solutions.”

As for the team at uOttawa, excitement is already building for next year when the university can once again showcase its robust network of innovative entrepreneurs.

For more information on this year’s cohort of winners – or to be the first to know about next year’s competition – visit today!