How do we deal with food waste? That’s the question that drove the winners of this year’s edition of The Hub’s StartUp Competition.
Winning team Genecis’s solution is one that is already testing a prototype in the Scarborough area. The project features biotechnology that converts food waste into resalable substances.
“It’s very exciting. We’re honoured and I feel a little emotional seeing so much hard work finally pay off,” said team member Bowen Le.
Students and recent grads use the Hub to workshop their innovations and company ideas. The StartUp Competition is an opportunity for new business ventures to win money to help their progress. Genecis co-leader Kaityln Chow appreciates The Hub’s role in creating a space for collaboration and mentorship.
“I’ve been working at The Hub for nine months. It’s a really great environment to meet like-minded people and interact. Everyone here always has great ideas,” she says.
The 16 eligible competing groups had no more than 90 seconds to make their first pitches with hopes to earn a spot in the finalists round where their team could be considered for a maximum of $7,000 in funds. These teams were made up of current University of Toronto students, recent alumni and at least one UTSC student. Individuals outside of these requirements were able to participate, but they were ineligible for funding.
These diverse collaborations put forth solutions for local and international issues.
Solutions ranged from affordable and lasting jewelry, to shock absorbing material, to dance studio formations apps and emergency room language tools.
A team of judges made up of Vice-Principal of Research Bernie Kraatz, Associate Professor Francisco Estrada, entrepreneur and youth entrepreneurship consultant Donovan Dill, David Fenton from Arts & Science Co-op, Anna Lau from the Department of Management, and Hub Director Gray Graffam listened to initial pitches.
Finalists later presented their business plans in 10 minutes. Winners from this group earn funds from a total of $30,000 given by the Ontario Centres of Excellence, Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs and the University of Toronto Scarborough (Office of VP, Research).
Not every entered proposal went forward in the competition, but Graffam is adamant that everyone who presented an idea should come back to work in the Hub.
“Come and work on a project regardless of what happens,” Graffam said. “It’s not all about the money. It’s really about becoming part of this whole eco-system.”
Along with advice for all the competition participants, Dill reminded each of them that they’ll “be pitching for the rest of your lives.”
Genecis, HealthBridge, Volykos, Tribe, StageKeep and Ease - six of the 10 finalists - were awarded with various cash prizes to aid their progress. After a full day of judging presentations, the panel found the experience rewarding.
“What I think is rewarding is that you see students being excited about a non-traditional path forward, where university is not just a means to an end, but they step outside of university education while at the same time making use of this education,” said Kraatz.
“They’re seeing beyond their degree. They embrace uncertainty as a logical step forward.”