The founders of three Simon Fraser University student startups are celebrating as winners of the annual Venture Connection Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize competition, held at SFU’s Segal Graduate School of Business this week.
The awards, valued at $5,000, recognize excellence in business development among early stage clients of SFU Venture Connection.
• First place ($3,000) went to Molescope, developed by Maryam Sadeghi, SFU’s 2013 student Entrepreneur of the Year. Molescope connects an affordable, tiny microscope to smartphones so people can monitor suspicious moles that may be cancerous, provides specialists with a patient archiving and communication system for faster diagnosis.
The award is yet another honour for Sadeghi, founder of MetaOptima, a health technology company which last fall received the Wavefront Wireless prize in the BCIC New Ventures Competition. She also leads SFU’s new Digital Health Hub at SFU’s Surrey campus.
• The runner-up prize ($1,000) goes to Enhanced Scientific, created by Ehsan Daneshi and Majid Shokoufi. The company manufactures high-tech laboratory and medical devices and has started with manufacturing UV-Visible spectrophotometers, used for research and quality control in a wide range of fields, from pharmaceutical and cosmetics to the food industry and oil and gas.
• New this year is the Idea prize ($1,000), awarded to Str8A Tutors, created by Fez Moussavi as an online and in-person tutoring service for high-school students wanting to go to university. Second place went to Transcription Ninjas, a transcription service for academic researchers.
The Idea Prize goes to an idea phase team showing “great promise and plan.” Unlike the later stage Venture Prize, the award focuses less on actual business results and more on how the teams will make their vision a reality.
“Coast Capital is excited to be collaborating with SFU on the Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize Competition,” said Pehlaj Malhotra, chief risk officer, Coast Capital Savings and one of this year’s panel judges. “Coast Capital is committed to helping build a richer future for youth in our communities, and this initiative is a fantastic platform from which these young entrepreneurs can launch those rich futures.
“All of the competitors showed phenomenal ingenuity, creativity and dedication in bringing their ideas to life. They all deserve congratulations for their impressive effort.”
Hugh McNaught, Venture Connection Mentor-in-Residence who mentored the Molescope and Enhanced Scientific teams, adds: “Whether they continue in their own ventures or move on to careers elsewhere, the SFU and VC alumni enter the workforce with a significantly higher awareness of what is required to compete and succeed. It’s extremely rewarding to mentor young people with the energy and passion to pursue their dreams.”
The five student-teams competing for the Venture Prize had earlier participated in a “pitch-off” to make the final round. The competition included a 10-minute presentation before a panel of industry judges and sharing executive summaries of their companies.
Other student start-ups competing included Velemetro, which is developing a three-wheeled, fully enclosed, electric-assisted human-powered Velocar; SynAesthetix, an integrated home system and accompanying mobile application that lets homeowners control the lighting, sound and smell of their living spaces; and IE-9 Technology, which is developing a new technique to store information for security, authentication and advertising using nanotechnology and software.
The competition judges were Joannah Connolly (Editor, Business in Vancouver), Darrell Elliott (CEO, Isuma Strategies), Gord Kukec (Board of Directors, BC Sustainable Energy Association), Pehlaj Malhotra (Chief Risk Officer, Coast Capital Savings), Michelle Osry (Partner, Deloitte).
The winners were announced at a post-competition reception that featured keynote speaker Terry Beech, an SFU and Venture Connection alumnus, adjunct professor and co-founder of HiretheWorld.