Lift'Off 2017


The day’s events kick off with the Venture’Challenge startup pitch competition – Manitoba’s premier capital challenge event. This is followed by the Entrepreneur Power Lunch with the Venture’Challenge awards presentations and a world-class keynote speaker. The afternoon Entrepreneur IQ Forum features a second keynote by a leading startup specialist and includes panel discussions with local founders and investors, followed by a wind-up networking reception.

Take in one event, or stay for the day!

Haven’t been to Lift’Off before? Check out what you missed  and be sure to join us on June 20, 2017!  



Congratulations to all of our 2016 Venture’Challenge winners:

1st Place:  huna Natural Apothecary, founded by Heather Urquhart

2nd Place:  Fastoche Canada Inc., co-founded by Chris Gaulin and Mario Gaulin

3rd Place:  The Campfire Union, co-founded by Lesley Klassen, John Luxford and Rachel Hosein



Lift’Off 2016 Links

Venture’Challenge 2016 shows how far the startup community has come.

You weren’t able to attend Lift’Off 2016? Not to worry, we’ve got you covered with highlights of the keynote presentations and panel discussions.

For the full Lift’Off 2016 picture gallery.

Previous Lift’Offs

Lift’Off 2015 sets new benchmark for Manitoba’s startup scene

Venture’Challenge 2014

Venture’Challenge 2013


$2.8 million

Venture’Challenge participants have gone on to raise significant amounts of risk capital.

Venture’Challenge 2016 winners were each awarded $100,000 to accelerate their growth.

Dates & Registration

Jun 20, 2017
8:45 am - 4:30 pm

$25.00 - $80.00 (Corporate tables also available)

The Fort Garry Hotel
222 Broadway
View Map
Ticket Type Price Spaces
1. Full Day Registration (all events)
Get access to VentureChallenge, Entrepreneur Power Lunch, and the Entrepreneur IQ Forum
3. VentureChallenge
Access to the VentureChallenge only.
4. Entrepreneur Power Lunch
Access to the Entrepreneur Power Lunch only
5. Entrepreneur IQ Forum
Access to the Entrepreneur IQ Forum only
6. Corporate Table - Entrepreneur Power Lunch
Reserved table of 8. Includes 20% discount on individual ticket price.

Other visible minority
None of the above



See what participants , speakers and judges have to say about Lift'Off and the Venture'Challenge.

About Venture’Challenge

The thought processes, the business models, the way they’re approaching the market are all well thought through. It shows that there’s been a lot of input from the community mentors and advisors.
Kyle Cox, Managing Director, Austin Technology Incubator at the University of Texas & PostOak Ventures

“It was intriguing to see how the competitors responded really well to the questions from the judges. Nothing seemed to phase them. It’s evident that they’re getting great direction and are well-prepared coming in. Their pitches are well-refined and they’re ready for questions.”
Colin F. Lane, CA, Senior Manager, Tax, PWC

This is an amazing event that needs to continue to grow so it can benefit even more startups and entrepreneurs. Innovate Manitoba’s Venture’Challenge helped us better understand our potential, identify key targets, and prepare for the steps needed to reach those targets.”
Todd Habicht, Founder HD Petroleum

The quality of the pitches was really good. It’s not just idea pitching. It’s business building.
Jason Myers, Director & Co-Founder, Bold Innovation Group

Every year the quality of the presenters, business ideas and teams are evolving exponentially.
Tyler, Gompf, Co-founder Tell Us About Us and the Gomption Group

The quality across the board was very high. The range of ideas was incredible. What a group! It got me thinking that maybe that’s a ‘thing’ for a place like Manitoba – you have a mix of companies that you might not see in a traditional tech centre.”
April Dunford, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Sprintly


About Lift’Off

“I do this in a lot of cities around the world and I really like Innovate Manitoba because the leadership is very solid. [It’s an] extremely well-run event that people are talking about in the startup community.”
Randy Smerik, serial entrepreneur and Founder Osunatech Inc.

“It was the best startup event I’ve ever been to in Winnipeg.”
Tamara Pound, The Eureka Project

“I’m really impressed with the quality of the panelists they bring. Different perspectives, different life experiences in different areas.”
Aaron Martyniw, Vice-President, RBC-Commercial Financial Services

“Innovate Manitoba is helping to change perspectives so it’s not so scary to be out there as an entrepreneur. There’s people to help you.”
Joel Miyazawa,  NorthForge

2016 Venture'Challenge


Venture’Challenge is Manitoba’s premier “Dragons’ Den” style capital challenge event. The six companies who competed in the 2016 Venture’Challenge, were selected as finalists through the intense 3.5 day Launch’Pad Startup Skills Bootcamp. These six startup ventures battled it out to see who would Lift’Off and who would be in for a turbulent ride. Stay tuned for 2017’s challenge!

2016 Venture'Challenge Finalists

(listed in alphabetical order)

3-guys-greens-logo3-guys-greens-1 3-guys-green-23 Guys Green, co-founded by Scott Hyndman and Adam Dudek

3 Guys Green has developed a hydroponic vertical farming method for use in vacant buildings that produces local fresh-picked organic produce. The result is a sustainable food source that delivers year-round consistency in product price and quality. The initial market is focused on restaurants and food-markets with plans to expand to large distributors and food store chains.



fastoche_logo_460x220fastoche-1 fastoche-2

Fastoche Canada Inc., co-founded by Chris Gaulin and Mario Gaulin

Fastoche has developed mobile software for use by early childhood educators that brings essential data such as attendance, contact details, allergies/medical information, billing reports and more into one simple accessible suite. Fastoche also facilitates communication between parents and staff through SMS, broadcast emails and voice messages. Their primary market is daycare centres and family/home daycares.





huna Natural Apothecary, founded by Heather Urquhart

huna Natural Apothecary creates natural organic anti-age luxury skincare products. Heather Urquhart is a botanist, herbalist and natural cosmetic formulator ensuring a science-based approach to creating effective skincare that delivers real results. The ingredients for the products are sourced from their family owned 137-acre property in southern Manitoba. The primary market is Canadian women aged 25-44 representing 4.45M people.



max-analytics-logomax-analytics-1 max-analytics-2 max-analytics-3Max Analytics, co-founded by Bob Macgregor, Jay Roberts and Jason Abbott

Max Analytics is a cloud based software as a service web and data analytics platform that streamlines the administration of amateur sport tryouts, player evaluation and data reporting and then delivers skill development content matched to individual players and teams. The initial market includes hockey associations in Canada and the US with a market size of approximately $27M. Longer term plans include expansion into amateur soccer and football.



campfirecampfire-union-1 campfire-union-2 campfire-union-3The Campfire Union, co-founded by Lesley Klassen, John Luxford and Rachel Hosein

Campfire Union has developed a social network that focuses on live streaming and sharing of user generated content in augmented and virtual reality. The potential market for virtual reality is projected to reach $1B in 2016 and $20B by 2020, $150B by 2020 if augmented reality is included.



TrapTap-Finaltrap-tap-1 trap-tap-2 trap-tap-4

trap-tap-3 TrapTap Inc., co-founded by Bryce North, Adam Tsouras, Dustin Refvik and Gord Parke

TrapTap is a legal and simple to use wireless device that sits on your dash and warns drivers as they approach red light cameras, school zones, and mobile/radar speed traps. It solves the problem of the $6B spent on speeding tickets each year and offers this solution to the 250M drivers in North America.

2016 Venture'Challenge Prizes

Cash Prizes for the winners:

  • 1st Place: $10,000 cash, plus $100,000 non-dilutive funding

  • 2nd Place: $7,000 cash, plus $100,000 non-dilutive funding

  • 3rd Place: $3,000 cash, plus $100,000 non-dilutive funding

Major in-kind prizes for the top three winners:

  • New in 2016, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place ventures will win free participation in Innovate Manitoba’s Launch’Pad Startup Skills Mentorship and, in a pilot project funded by the Province of Manitoba, access to $100,000 of non-dilutive funding to support their development.
  • Expense paid trip to attend the Banff Venture Forum or the Canadian Financing Forum, plus a dedicated program at the Forum to help entrepreneurs further develop their skills!
  • The opportunity to win an expense-paid trip to MentorCamp in Sydney, NS
  • An opportunity to attend and possibly present at the National Angel Capital Organization Summit in Vancouver, B.C.
  • The 1st Place winner also has entry fees waived to make an investment pitch to the VA Angels super angel network in Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Kelowna and Scottsdale, AZ.
2016 Entrepreneur Power Lunch

Break bread with innovators and investors and learn from an exciting word-renowned keynote speaker.

12:00 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.

Attendees will hear from keynote speaker and acclaimed serial entrepreneur and investor, Randy Smerik. Randy is a successful San Diego-based serial entrepreneur, angel investor and startup advisor whose most recent startup, Tarari Inc. exited for $100 million. Randy also was part of the team that sold iPivot to Intel for $500 million. He currently is founder and CEO of Osunatech, owner of Solare Ristorante and sits on the board of directors of Fortaleza Tequila.

Special Guest: At 12:05 p.m. The Province of Manitoba’s new Minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade, The Honourable Cliff Cullen, will bring greetings from the Province and make a few remarks on innovation and entrepreneurship in Manitoba.


2016 Entrepreneur IQ Forum

Network with other like-minded innovators and hear from our exciting expert Keynote Speaker

2:00 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. (Reception to follow until 6:00 p.m.)

This is your opportunity to hear how to successfully scale and exit a business; how to use Kickstarter and its affiliates like Funded Today and Kickbooster to take a product from prototype to mass production; how a couple of Winnipeg companies are focused on enhancing the crowdfunding process to make it easier for startups to progress from idea, to sales, to retail stores. Hear a keynote presentation by startup sales and marketing specialist April Dunford, CEO of Sprintly, on How Product Framing Can Grow Your Startup and help prospects understand what you are and why they should care. All this, and an awesome Networking Reception as well.

2016 IQ Forum Program

Scaling & Exiting: Startups’ Big Challenges (2:00 p.m.)

Successful exits can help drive the startup scene and Manitoba has experienced some successful exits in recent years. Join Founders Kerry Green and Tyler Gompf as they discuss how they successfully scaled and exited their businesses and zero in on the greatest challenges they faced along the way. 

Moderator:   Jan Lederman, President, Innovate Manitoba

Kerry Green, Co-Founder, WolfTrax Inc.
Tyler Gompf, Co-Founder, Gomption Group

Keynote: How Product Framing Can Grow Your Startup by April Dunford (2:35 p.m.)

Product framing is the act of providing context to help prospects understand what you are and why they should care. As simple as the concept is, it is rarely done consciously by startups, if at all. Serial entrepreneur and prolific public speaker April Dunford discusses what framing is and how it can help your products be more successful. 

From Idea to Industry: Crowdfunding a Startup Success (3:35 p.m.)    

Kickstarter has become a household name for startups who use crowdfunding to take their products from prototypes to mass production, including Winnipeg’s own TrapTap. Crowdfunding and eCommerce experts from Funded Today, Kickbooster, and Bold Commerce provide their insights on owning the crowdfunding process and making it easier for startups to go from idea to industry success. 

Moderator:  Dustin Refvik, Co–Founder, FarmTrack Technology Inc. and TrapTap Inc.

Scott Adamson, 
Co-Founder, KickBooster 
Yvan Boisjoli,
Co-Founder, Bold Innovation Group and Kickbooster Inc.
Jason Myers,
Co-Founder, Bold Innovation Group and Kickbooster Inc.

Closing Remarks followed by a Reception (4:15 – 6:00 p.m.)


2016 Judges/Speakers/Panelists


keynote-speaker-randy-smerikRandy Smerik

Serial entrepreneur and investor Randy Smerik is returning to Winnipeg to keynote and judge at Lift’Off, Innovate Manitoba’s annual startup conference and investment competition taking place June 22 at the Hotel Fort Garry.

Randy Smerik is a successful San Diego-based serial entrepreneur, angel investor and startup advisor whose most recent startup, Tarari Inc. exited for $100 million. Randy also was part of the team that sold iPivot to Intel for $500 million. He currently is founder and CEO of Osunatech, owner of Solare Ristorante and sits on the board of directors of Fortaleza Tequila.

Randy’s Lift’Off presentation is entitled “Successful Passionate Entrepreneurs Engage in Safe Sex – Let’s Discuss How” and will focus on how the necessary passion of startup CEOs and founding teams can drive them to some risky behaviors, including jumping into relationships with venture capital investors they may come to regret.

“We all know how easy it is to be swept up by love, lust and passion, and it can cause us to do things we may regret later, “says Smerik. “The same thing happens with CEOs and founding teams, because we are taught that a deep passion is an essential element of a successful startup.” Smerik’s talk will address this critical topic head on, with practical “how-to” advice.

Randy Smerik knows from what he speaks.

Randy hails from Cincinnati, where he graduated with a mathematics degree before software engineering existed as a discipline, although he knew computer science was his thing right from the start. His first company designed middleware for Unix operating systems and resulted in a good exit to a company that later became Oracle.

Randy then was part of iPivot, focused on developing traffic management technology for networked computer systems. iPivot was acquired by Intel, where Randy became head of the company’s Network Equipment Division.

Randy’s biggest breakthrough came in 2002 when Intel decided not to pursue the technology, so Randy launched Tarari, Inc. as co-founder and CEO, with backing from six venture funds, including Crosspoint Venture Partners, Morgan Stanly Venture Partners and Intel Capital. Tarari, Inc. quickly became an award-winning leader in accelerated content-inspection, and was sold in 2007 to LSI Corp.

Smerik says venture capital is neither good nor bad, you just have to understand it.  “Hopefully [my talk] will help ensure you don’t wake up one morning surprised and filled with regret. You need to enter these relationships with eyes wide open.”



keynote-speaker-april-dunfordApril Dunford

April Dunford is an entrepreneur who has enjoyed a number of successful exits and now is an angel investor, advisor and board member at a number of startups.  She recently was lured back into the startup world as the CEO of Sprintly, a SaaS tool created to empower a more productive relationship between development teams and management.

As the founder of Rocket Launch Marketing, April has long been interested in how startups can be more successful in their marketing efforts through the use of planning, testing and metrics. Dunford’s keynote talk at Lift’Off will focus on how product framing can help you grow your startup. “How you position your startup in the market is crucial to early startup success,” says Dunford, “but it is rarely done consciously by startups, if at all.” 

Dunford says product framing is the act of providing context to help prospects understand what you are and why they should care. She says startups often jump to the conclusion that there is only one way to position their solution, but doing that generally plays to the strengths of the incumbents.

“We’ve historically been taught that “positioning” is critical to our businesses, but the way we’ve been instructed to do it is by creating a positioning statement,” says Dunford. “Never has such a useless tool been so widely used,” she says. “The fact that it produces a hilariously awkward franken-statement of meaningless mumbo jumbo isn’t even the worst of it.”

“That’s the kind of direct advice that’s become a hallmark of an April Dunford presentation,” said Jan Lederman, President of Innovate Manitoba, who has heard Dunford speak on several occasions. “She provides one of the most enriching content-filled presentations you will ever hear.”

An engineer by training, April has worked as a marketing and sales executive for most of her career. She has been head of marketing and sales at six startups, five of which had successful exits, including Tulip Retail, DataMirror (acquired by IBM), Janna Systems (acquired by Siebel Systems), Sitraka (acquired by Quest software), Watcom (acquired by Sybase). April also has been a marketing executive at a few larger companies where she has focused on launching and growing new product lines, including IBM, Nortel and Siebel Systems. She has launched a dozen products into market and has driven hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue.

“We are really fortunate to have April Dunford keynote Lift’Off,” says Lederman. “She is a highly sought after startup advisor in central and eastern Canada, and now she has taken on a CEO role again. But she committed to doing this last fall and she’s excited to be coming to Winnipeg. She is giving us an extra day to meet with local founders.” 


scott_adamsonSCOTT ADAMSON

Co-Founder, Kickbooster Inc.

As Co-Founder of Kickbooster Inc. Scott leads the product team and focuses on business development and partnership opportunities. Since launch, Kickbooster has worked with over 1300 crowdfunding campaigns, has been featured by tech writers at Tech Crunch, Gadget Flow, Art of the Kickstart and Crowd Crux, and was promoted on Product Hunt. Kickbooster has quickly become a staple tool in the crowdfunding community.

Scott has personally worked with hundreds of crowdfunding campaigns including a handful of multi-million dollar projects that have used both the Kickstarter and Indiegogo platforms to raise seed money for early start ups and innovative ideas.



Co-Founder, Bold Innovation Group and Kickbooster Inc.

As Co-Founder of Bold Innovation Group, Yvan heads up new initiatives and R&D for Bold’s Labs department. Bold continues to invest in new areas of software and technology and has branched off several new startups within the company, each drawing from their expertise and market reach in ecommerce and using that to develop more ambitious projects in new markets and with limitless potential. These projects have accounted for significant growth at Bold in the past year and continue to expand.

Yvan became an expert in Computer Analyst Programming before creating his own consulting company and taking on contracts for IBM, Investors Group, and the Government of Canada. Yvan leads the production and development of new and specialty projects at Bold, which includes new initiatives and expanding Bold’s products & market opportunities.



Co-Founder, Gomption Group

Tyler Gompf was co-founder of Tell Us About Us Inc (TUAU), a company focused on enhancing customer service experiences. Started from humble beginnings, TUAU grew into an industry leader measuring customer service in over 30,000 retail, restaurant and financial institutions throughout North America and Europe. In 2011, Tyler guided the successful sale of the company to Boulder, Colorado based Market Force International.

Tyler now leads the Gomption Group overseeing a set of growth orientated manufacturing businesses.  With a focus on stainless steel fabrication, Gomption’s signature product Slot Drain can be found in breweries, wineries, and food manufacturing facilities across North and SouthAmerica and the Middle East.

Tyler is a past regional finalist for the E&Y “Entrepreneur of the Year” Award and has  won numerous regional, National and International awards for both innovation and entrepreneurship. 



Co-Founder, WolfTrax Inc.

One of the two founding owners of Wolf Trax, now a partner at March Agricultural Ltd. Kerry was behind the development of the unique and patented micronutrient technology that the company manufactures and sells today. Kerry was instrumental in developing several patents for Wolf Trax Inc.. His responsibilities included research and development, new product development, production, logistics and sales.

Before starting Wolf Trax in 1999, Kerry was general manager and owner of March Agricultural Ltd. He was responsible for sales, purchases and logistics of farm fertilizer blends and consumer plant nutrient products, including organic lawn fertilizer.

Prior to this, Kerry worked his way from summer student to Western Canadian account manager with Cyanamid. While at Cyanamid, he was awarded the Canada Cup Canadian Sales Award and the Golden Oval International Sales Award.

In October 2012, Kerry was awarded the prestigious Ernest C. Manning Award – recognizing the best of Canadian innovators – for the Wolf Trax DDP Micronutrient Fertilizer Innovation.

Kerry graduated from the University of Manitoba and lives with his family in Winnipeg.


jay_myersJason Myers

Co-Founder, Bold Innovation Group and Kickbooster Inc.

As Co-Founder of Bold Innovation Group, Jay heads up Product Management for Bold Commerce and its Apps development. Bold is the largest app and development partner for eCommerce giant Shopify, and has revolutionized how merchants sell their products online. Because of the popularity of Bold’s ecommerce apps and services, Bold is Manitoba’s fastest growing tech company and the recipient of “Canada’s Top Small & Medium Employer” award; on top of last year’s “Startup of the Year” award (Spirit of Winnipeg Awards, MCC); and “Young Entrepreneurs in Economic Development” award (RDEE Canada).  Bold offers web and development solutions to international brands Cirque du Soleil, Time Life, LMFAO, TheChive, 50 Cent, Microsoft among others.  

Jay holds a degree in Business Administration from the University of Winnipeg but affirms that his greatest education has been through his experiences as a serial entrepreneur. His history of internet businesses and online marketing experience has proved invaluable to Bold’s many ongoing projects.


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Lift'Off is Manitoba's premier startup event, supporting entrepreneurs of all stripes and startups looking to make it big. We have a range of sponsorship opportunities available to meet any organization's needs. New this year, we are offering exhibit booths too!

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