On April 5, the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship hosted the McGill Dobson Cup 2018 gala, during which this year’s winners were announced. Sponsored by National Bank, the lively event was the culmination of another banner year for the Dobson Cup, McGill’s flagship annual startup competition. This year, 84 teams competed in the Semi-Finals round with the top 40 teams moving forward into the Finals on March 28, 2018.
Countless hours of preparation by the teams and two rounds of pitching later, the cream of the crop were celebrated and rewarded with over $100,000 in seed funding being awarded to the most deserving and promising projects across four tracks: Social Enterprise, Health Sciences, Small & Medium Enterprise, and Innovation Driven Enterprise.
Coming in for the top spot in the Social Enterprise track and representing the Faculty of Arts was Abil Design Inc., a company that helps businesses create accessible digital experiences and reach new audiences. Using a consultancy approach, Abil Design audits a company’s digital presence and identifies gaps that people living with disabilities might encounter while using their digital platform.
In the Health Sciences track, CURA Therapeutics took home the first-place prize. CURA Therapeutics, which represented the Faculties of Medicine and Engineering, is developing a cure for pancreatic cancer with their novel immunotherapy technology.
Speaking on her team’s journey of competing in the Dobson Cup, Claudia Penafuerte, one of CURA’s three co-founders said, “It has been great, as well as challenging especially for me coming from a pure science background with no previous experience in business or as an entrepreneur. Thanks to the Lean Startup Program, which prepared us for the competition, I discovered many new concepts and principles that are necessary to comprehend for a new startup to develop and progress.”
The Small & Medium Enterprise track was topped by ENTR, representing Desautels, a company that facilitates the booking and rental of unique venues for all types of events. Using a very similar approach to Airbnb, ENTR aims to simplify the often arduous task of securing a beautiful and prime location for an event by helping users to discover amazing spaces.
CEO and Co-Founder Marc-Antoine Bonin says that the business initially began as a marketplace for office space rentals. However, after launching a beta version of their platform in September 2017, they realized that their greatest demand was for event spaces, hence their decision to place their focus in this niche.
First place in the Innovation Driven Enterprise track was awarded to UltraSense from the Faculty of Engineering. Ultrasense looks to improve water quality monitoring systems with low-cost, high-precision sensors realized with integrated graphene technology.
The Utlrasense team was also the delighted recipient of the McGill EngInE Prize from the Faculty of Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub. The McGill EngInE focuses on stimulating technologically based innovation and entrepreneurship at McGill in collaboration with the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship and the Office of Innovation and Partnerships.
Over and above the four main prizes of the day, there were various other awardees.
Opportutoring, representing the Faculty of Arts and the Desautels Faculty of Management was among the winners, taking home both the Murdoch Family Initiative Prize and the Avmor Prize for Social Responsibility. Opportutoring provides refugees with free one-to-one online English tutoring to open up their opportunities in their country of relocation.
Scooping the Food and Agribusiness Convergent Innovation Prize was reMIXed, a startup that has transformed the concept of traditional trail mixes by introducing dehydrated beans and re-purposed fruit. The team received this prize, which is awarded under a partnership between the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (FAES) and the McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics (MCCHE). This year, Trussbridge Investments joined FAES and MCCHE in awarding the prize.
On the nature of startup business life, Jamie Lee, one of the two co-founders of the company says, “We learned how fast-paced this community is, and we love it. The other thing is that the McGill Dobson Cup and the entrepreneurial community is a very supportive ecosystem that has the capacity to guide you through this fast-paced environment.”
Finally, the Grit Prize, which recognizes a team that has demonstrated outstanding dedication towards establishing their business venture, was awarded to Haven Hub. With its mission to improve health outcomes radically, Haven Hub works towards expanding and distributing integrative medicine and personalized health services widely.
Reflecting on this year’s event, Renjie Butalid, Associate Director for the McGill Dobson Centre, said, “For 2018, we’re delighted to see an increase in participation from alumni as judges in the Semi-Finals and Finals, coming from as far away as San Francisco, London, Toronto, Boston and New York City. The McGill Dobson Cup contributes greatly to building a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation at McGill – it takes an entire ecosystem of people and organizations connected with the university to contribute and play a role. We’re very grateful for continued alumni support.”
Find out more about the McGill Dobson Cup 2018, including a video of the awards gala, on the Dobson Chronicles blog.