Lift'Off 2017


Lift’Off kicks off on June 20, 2017 with the Venture’Challenge startup pitch competition, Manitoba’s premier capital challenge event, followed by the Entrepreneur Power Lunch with a world-class keynote speaker and the Venture’Challenge awards presentations. 

Take in Venture’Challenge and stay for lunch! 

$2.8 million


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


Haven’t been to Lift’Off before? Check out what you missed.

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

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


Join us June 20, 2017 

Venture’Challenge | 9:00 – 11:45 a.m. | $15

Entrepreneur Power Lunch | 12:00 noon – 2:00 p.m. | $35

Register for one, or both, events. Combined price $40.

Dates & Registration

Jun 20, 2017
9:00 am - 2:00 pm

Venture'Challenge - $15 Entrepreneur Power Lunch - $35 (combined $40.00. Corporate tables also available)

The Fort Garry Hotel
222 Broadway
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Sorry, registration isn't open. Please contact us for more information.


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

2017 Venture'Challenge


Venture’Challenge is Manitoba’s premier “Dragons’ Den” style capital challenge event. The competitors in the 2017 Venture’Challenge were selected  as the top six  ventures from the intense 3.5 day Launch’Pad Startup Skills Bootcamp held in May, 2017.  They are now ready to battle it out to see who will Lift’Off and who will be in for a turbulent ride. 

2017 Venture'Challenge Competitors

(listed in alphabetical order)

brickstormingBrickstorming, founded by Kristen Klassen

Success rates of therapies for the over 620 million people worldwide suffering from depressive and anxiety disorders can be increased with the use of play. Brickstorming delivers a standardized and systematized train-the-trainer program utilizing manuals, customized Lego kits and online tools to enable trained laypersons to impact this global problem.

calliaCallia, founded by Catherine Metrycki

Callia is shaking up the floral industry as the best new way to send flowers: online ordering of hand-tied, standardized bouquets in the only luxury box in Canada. Callia leverages a digital simplification, a lean supply chain and a strong brand to be the easier, better experience in an outdated $7.6 billion floral gifting industry.

CanadaplowCanada Plow, founded by Bryce Brousseau

Canada Plow uses patented technology and an innovative delivery model to offer a convenient, low cost, community-based driveway snow clearing service that delivers a consistent solution to traditional snow clearing alternatives.

fastnetFastnet Communications, founded by Mark Loewen

We need fast internet like we need oxygen and Fastnet Communications brings the fastest internet speeds to apartment suites, condominiums and businesses. By providing high-speed service and automated installations, Fastnet is solving the slow speed, long installation wait problem with one simple connection.

liftLift Innovations, co-founded by Greg Moneta, Matthew Olson & Jesse Marr

Lift Innovations had to withdraw from Venture’Challenge 2017.

Lift Innovations designs and manufactures premium naturopathic herb accessories for the discerning consumer who makes educated purchases based on design, quality and experience.

M3M3Aerial Productions, co-founded by Matthew Johnson & Trevor Lehmann

M3 Aerial Productions provides structure in a rapidly evolving drone industry, so that people can easily find certified, trained, and professional pilots anywhere in Canada. M3 has an end-to-end platform that connects clients with trusted service providers, acting as a dispatch center, ensuring that services are provided quickly and efficiently, and with the highest standard of safety
and reliability.

2017 Venture'Challenge Prizes

Cash Prizes for the winners:

  • 1st Place: $20,000 cash

  • 2nd Place: $7,500 cash 

  • 3rd Place: $3,500 cash 

Major in-kind prizes for the top three winners:

  • The 1st, 2nd and 3rd place ventures will win free participation in Innovate Manitoba’s Launch’Pad Entrepreneur Accelerator Program (LEAP).
  • 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!
  • An opportunity to attend and possibly present at the National Angel Capital Organization Summit in October 2 – 4, 2017 in Montreal, QC.
  • 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 and Kelowna.
  • The Fort Group (Chartered Professional Accountants & Business Advisors) is providing In-Kind Services to the winners as follows:
    • 1st Place receives $5,000.00 in-kind services;
    • 2nd Place receives $3,000.00 in-kind services, and
    • 3rd Place receives $2,000.00 in-kind services.
2017 Entrepreneur Power Lunch

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

12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Keynote Speaker:  Hear from keynote speaker and world-renowned technology expert, Michael Sikorsky. Michael is a Canadian expat living in San Diego. He is the CEO and co-founder of Robots & Pencils.  With a growth rate of over 4971% over five years, Robots and Pencils was named the 34th fastest growing technology company in North America in 2014.

Michael’s Lift’Off presentation is entitled “Natural vs. Unnatural Acts: What George Bernard Shaw Taught Me About Startups”.  One of Michael’s favourite lines from George Bernard Shaw: “People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” 

Venture’Challenge Awards Presentation: Hear short 2-minute pitches from all of the competitors and find out who the judges selected as top three.

2017 Judges & Speakers

Michael Sikorsky


Renowned strategist, innovator, and pioneer in the mobile tech space, Michael Sikorsky is coming to Winnipeg to keynote and judge at Lift’Off, Innovate Manitoba’s annual startup conference and investment competition taking place June 20, 2017 at the Hotel Fort Garry.

Michael is a successful  tech entrepreneur who is now based in San Diego but hails from Calgary.

Michael launched Robots and Pencils in 2009 with the then-contrarian view that mobile would be more transformative than the Internet. Since then, the company has become a trusted strategic partner to some of the world’s largest brands, creating more than 250 apps used by 77 million people worldwide. Robots and Pencils has also consistently been among the first to operationalize frontier technologies — such as machine learning, bots and conversational user interfaces — helping to reinforce its clients as innovators.

Today, Robots and Pencils is home to more than 180 talented robots, pencils and ampersands with offices located throughout North America and in the UK. Past accolades have included being named the 34th fastest growing company by Deloitte for a growth rate of 4,971% and being invited to the EY World Entrepreneur of the  Year awards as part of a special citation on global growth.

Michael credits the success of his company to its secret sauce: talent obsession, as well as an internal ‘one culture’ partnership between award-winning artists and developers. Everything that Robots & Pencils does starts by blending science with the humanities – the robots with the pencils. 

No stranger to the spotlight, Michael has been widely celebrated for his entrepreneurial thinking. He was Deloitte’s 2014 Technology Fast 500, “CEO to Watch” by CNN Money,  and “Canada’s Internet Revolutionary” by Profit Magazine. Michael has been a guest lecturer at Stanford, MIT and Harvard Business School. 

Michael’s Lift’Off presentation is entitled “Natural vs. Unnatural Acts: What George Bernard Shaw Taught Me About Startups”.  One of Michael’s favourite lines from George Bernard Shaw: “People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” 



Kerry Green


One of the two founding owners of Wolf Trax, Kerry was behind the development of the unique and patented micronutrient technology that the company manufactures and sells today. Green and his co-founder sold Wolftrax in 2014 to U.S.-based Compass Minerals in an all-cash transaction valued at CA $95 million.

Kerry is now a partner at March Agricultural Ltd., a Winnipeg-based investment and consulting firm specializing in early stage agricultural technologies.

In October 2012, Kerry was awarded the prestigious Ernest C. Manning Award, which recognizing the best of Canadian innovators, for the Wolf Trax DDP micronutrient fertilizer innovation.

Before starting Wolf Trax in 1999, Kerry was founder and general manager of March Agricultural Ltd. Prior to launching March Ag, Kerry worked his way from summer student to Western Canadian account manager with Cyanamid, where he was awarded the Canada Cup Canadian Sales Award and the Golden Oval International Sales Award.

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



Kristina Milke

Kristina Milke

Kristina is a Chartered Accountant with a bachelor’s degree in commerce from the University of Alberta whose career has spanned  various industries. In 2012 she completed her role as General Manager of Investopedia where she pitched and assisted in the sale from Forbes to ValueClick. Prior to joining Investopedia, Kristina was the Corporate Divisional Controller for Intuit, Canada as well as the Divisional Controller and Ethics Officer for Spar Aerospace.

In 2009, Kristina joined VA Angels as an investor and has invested in several early stage companies. VA Angels is a community of top angel investors and one of Canada¹s most active angel investing groups. Today, Kristina spends her time in the start up ecosystem as the President of VA Angels.


Become a Sponsor!

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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