To be a successful entrepreneur, it is essential that you find an important problem to solve, and thoroughly understand its scope, scale, and history. The larger the problem, the larger your profit could be. That’s why Velocity and the Problem Lab have teamed up once again to host this semester’s iteration of the Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition, where teams of students were tasked with the challenge of identifying important industry problems and conducting research, before pitching their findings for the chance to win a share of up to $30,000 in funding.
This term’s competition will see the student teams competing in three different categories: Open Problems, Billion Dollar Problems, and Climate-Driven Environmental Emergencies. Each future term will feature a category in partnership with different faculties, this term’s Climate-Driven Environmental Emergencies category is in partnership with the Faculty of Environment and focuses on problems the different ways in which climate change is triggering environmental emergencies.
Six teams were selected as finalists from forty-four applicants, and they will each make a five-minute pitch on their research to a panel of judges on Thursday, March 14, competing for $5,000 of funding and 1st place in their respective categories. Teams will also have the opportunity to double their funding following the event, as they work with the Problem Lab to develop a solution to the problem identified. This term, the finalists have identified problems ranging from pressure injuries to fake news on social media. Below are the finalists and the problems they’ve identified:
CLIMATE-DRIVEN ENVIRONMENTAL EMERGENCIES
Planning for Temporary: Displacement of people due to climate change will be permanent, not temporary, and we need to act now for the future.
Oleotech: Hydrocarbon pollution from untreated stormwater runoff accumulates downstream in waterbodies, resulting in consequential impacts on human health and the environment.
Stride: Neurodegenerative diseases are not being diagnosed early enough to significantly improve treatment effectiveness, because the tools and procedures capable of diagnosing these diseases are not easily accessible to those with only mild cognitive impairment.
Icarus: Wait times for treatment by specialist physicians have been rising for more than 20 years in Canada, significantly impacting our citizens, our economy, and our healthcare system.
BILLION DOLLAR PROBLEMS
Sensable (AI Data): Reliance on insufficient sensor data and technology to make autonomous vehicles safe for road use leaves pedestrians and cyclists at risk.
Shatter Reality (Talent Assessment): The disconnect between accessing talent services and businesses in a fragmented market.
At the Fall 2018 competition, Exponential DT won the Discovery Tools category speaking about how the need for computational simulation in scientific research is growing but cannot overcome the inherent limitations of computational simulation using current methods. The winner of the Billion Dollar Problems category was Gamechangers, whose pitch highlighted the problem of digital ads not being effective or attractive to consumers. Funding in the Open Problems category was won by Atlas Medical. They focused on pressure injuries and how they are highly preventable and damaging ailments, yet current solutions are ineffective at preventing them while placing stress on nurses and caregivers.
The panel of judges this term will be drawing on their developed industry knowledge and their own entrepreneurial experience:
Josh Garofalo completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Waterloo. After graduating, he joined a young startup where he was fortunate enough to get his hands dirty in many aspects of the business; including marketing, sales, product design, and more. Always wanting to start a business of his own, Josh started Sway Ventures Inc. in 2015. Here, he’s consulted and completed projects for publicly traded, venture-backed, and self-funded B2B software companies from all over the world. Today, he is truly excited to reconnect with his alma mater through the Problem Lab.
As a passionate entrepreneur, John has worked in the B2B software industry for more than fifteen years and has extensive experience as a software as a service CEO building Intrafinity, CivicLive, Talentova, and SharpSchool. John has been recognized with numerous entrepreneurial awards including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, National Research Council’s National Innovation Leader Award, and BDC’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
In 2015, John sold Intrafinity to SchoolMessenger and then led a global technology team serving over 100 Million parents and students in the U.S. and Canada. Today, John spends time mentoring, investing and building new businesses with emerging entrepreneurs. John and his wife Faith have been involved with Matthew House (a refugee reception centre), YSM’s Evergreen Youth Drop-in Centre, and their local church.
Dr. Barbara Fennessy oversees Applied Research across Conestoga College and collaborates with Conestoga’s Centres of Excellence to develop and implement the college’s Applied Research Strategy. She works with faculty, students, as well as industry, academic, community and government partners on a wide range of research initiatives, encompassing areas such as advanced manufacturing, information technologies, food processing, early childhood education, and healthcare for seniors. Barbara has also served as Conestoga’s Vice President International Education and as Chair in the School of Business. She has led the development of Centres of Entrepreneurship at Conestoga College, Niagara College, and East Cape Technikon in South Africa, in addition to a Centre for International Trade for Niagara Region. Barbara has held senior management positions in the public, private and not for profit sectors, and has operated her own management consulting firm. Barbara serves of the Board of Directors for the Waterloo Region Economic Development Corporation and for the Waterloo Accelerator Centre.
The Winter 2019 Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition will be held from 7:00pm – 10:00pm on Thursday, March 14 in Room 1408 in (EV3) Environment 3, on the University of Waterloo campus. Attendees from the university and the broader community are all welcome to watch the pitches. Please register to attend.
The Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition is made possible by $300,000 in funding from Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, principals of Quantum Valley Investments® and founders of Blackberry.