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Innovate Manitoba’s third annual Pitch’Day drew its largest attendance yet with some 200 students, innovators, investors and business leaders gathered together to cheer on and challenge the 20 startups selected to pitch their business ideas.
At stake was $15,000. Each startup had 2 minutes to convince the prestigious panel of judges that their business concept was prize material. The final decision wasn’t easy.
There were a lot of fantastic competitors,” said Mathew Hudson, founder & CEO, Invenia Technical Computing Corporation who was one of the four judges. “It was a very difficult job for the judging team.”
Mike Fata, CEO & co-founder of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods, said it was very exciting to see so much great innovation in the pitches. “We went overtime in the judging because there was a lot of back and forth as we all rallied for our favourites,” he said.
In the end, the winning choices represented a broad spectrum of business ideas:
First place: The $7,500 top prize went to Chris Karasewich and Cattle Track (video). The easy- to-use mobile and web application digitizes cattle farmers’ log books. This can help them to make more profitable decisions based on historical data available in real time. The “super lean startup” has already signed 30 farmers and will be going to market soon.
Second place: Matthew Doak (video) took home $2,500 for his innovative GameChangr service that matches competitive eSports players with suitable one-on-one coaches. His next move is to build up more process validation by January 2015 and execute on a major sponsorship that the company has already acquired.
People’s Choice Award, Best Researcher Pitch, and Best Technology Pitch: Andrea Kraj, Noel Ferrer of CORE Renewable Energy Inc. (video) won the crowds’ and judges’ hearts and minds, for combined winnings of $3,000. The startup solves complex energy problems by linking data about available resources, power system performance, and optimization to provide secure, reliable energy.
Best Student Pitch: $1,000 went to Pablo Steinberg (video), an International Business student with Red River College, for N’leashed – a unique dog training collar that can be operated through a smartphone. Steinberg said he will soon take the next step to finish the N’leashed prototype and bring it to market.
Best New Product: Chris Maycher of Home Snowboards (video) was delighted by his $1,000 win. His company constructs hand-built and environmentally friendly snowboards that are sold factory direct through e-commerce. “This was a complete surprise as it’s the first time I’ve ever pitched anything,” he said.
Cattle Track’s Karasewich said, “I knew our idea was solid. It’s very scalable and is something that consumers want.” He noted that the timing of the win was perfect. “This is definitely going to help us get to market faster.”
Kraj attributed Core Renewable Energy’s win to its sustainability and relevance. “With our software, we have the ability to help people develop and plan their energy strategy wherever people are by using resources that are indigenous to that area – wind, solar, biomass and more.” This is particularly important in remote communities that may experience “energy poverty” due to a lack of infrastructure or services.
Doak summed up the attitude of many of the energetic startups and business people in the room about Innovate Manitoba’s commitment to expanding innovation and entrepreneurship through events like Pitch’Day.
“If we didn’t have these opportunities for both idea and business validation, as well as the cash support, it would be much more difficult starting up and understanding where your idea fits within the market,” he said.
Innovate Manitoba president, Jan Lederman, was also thrilled with the day’s results. “The quality of the pitches was impressive and I have no doubt that many of these innovative companies will go on to great things.” Lederman was also pleased with the number of women entrepreneurs who took the stage. “This is a positive shift from what we’ve seen in previous Pitch’Days,” she said.
Lederman emphasized that the Pitch’Day competition is simply a point in time. “Companies that didn’t win here today may be our next big success stories.”
Barb Gamey, President & CEO, Payworks, and Winnipeg Free Press business reporter Martin Cash rounded out the judging panel.
“There were a lot of very good ideas here in varying stages of monetization,” Gamey said.
CJOB’s Greg Mackling was the evening’s host, bringing his humour and insights as an entrepreneur since his early teens. “Many of you may be too young to remember Milton Burle,” he said. “He had a great quote: ‘If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.’ There are lots of doors being built here today.”
Val Cornejo, MedEquipDB, didn’t make it into the winner’s circle but was still energized by the experience and thankful to Innovate Manitoba. “The entrepreneurial and innovation community in Winnipeg is very supportive and events like this help us feel validated as we move forward.”
Shuja Safavi of Mortgage Bidder Canada Inc. agreed. “Win or lose, we’re going to hustle and work harder. This opportunity is why people are innovating. It’s very motivating.”
The winners also received entry into Innovate Manitoba’s Launch’Pad Startup Skills Workshop.