McGill Dobson Chronicles

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Inspiring Entrepreneurs in the McGill Community
Updated: 5 hours 29 min ago

Startup Spotlight: PairUp – Simplifying summer sublets

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 11:00

Editor’s Note: This week, the spotlight is on Martin Stuart of PairUp, providing a better alternative to subletting your apartment over the summer. PairUp was the winner of the SME Track in the 2017 McGill Dobson Cup, and went through the McGill Lean Startup program in 2016.

If you want to work on your business full-time but are worried about dropping out, we’ll show you how.. We’ll also be looking at how you can find your first 10 customers, and how you can stay healthy by eating the same breakfast everyday.

I made one post on the McGill jobs page, and I’ve been flooded with so many requests that I had to delete the post”

After inexpensively testing his idea in the summer of 2016, Southern Ontario native Martin Stuart quickly realized that there was untapped potential in the housing market. The idea was to pair up people who are leaving their apartment for the summer, with people who’ll manage renting it out for them: it’s a win-win.

In the 2-sided platform he was building, he was able to find his first batch of customers on both sides through Facebook groups. On the property side, he had no issues finding people. “It’s a common problem that students have”, Martin explains.

On the manager side, he had a problem – the kind you want to have.

“I made one post on the McGill jobs page, and I’ve been flooded with so many requests that I had to delete the post”, he recalls.

PairUp: Landlord-friendly short-term rentals

So what is this startup that has Martin’s inbox flooded with messages?

Simply put, it’s subletting 2.0, and you don’t have to do a thing – it’s all managed. Oh, and one more thing.

You can make up to $4,000 per month by letting them manage your home, all summer long.

PairUp is a better option than subletting your apartment over the summer: sign up at

“You can sublet your place for 4 months and it’s totally possible that someone’s put a keg through the wall and smoked weed everyday”, Martin says. “You have no security deposit and that person’s not liable for your lease. It’s a better option than subletting because you have mandatory security deposits, weekly cleanings and check-ins, and professional management.”

PairUp connects Airbnb managers with people whose apartments are going to be empty for a while.

“So if you’re going away for the summer, you can register with us, and I’d hook you up with a manager who’d put your apartment up on Airbnb, host guests for you,  and look after everything: the filing of hotel taxes, payouts, and payment security”, Martin explains.

The McGill Lean Startup Program, and 1st place in the McGill Dobson Cup

Following the summer when he originally tested the idea, Martin jumped on board the McGill Lean Startup Program. That’s our Fall incubator with a once per week commitment. In it, you’ll learn a systematic way of testing your business hypotheses, based on the Lean Startup methodology.

There, he soaked it all in: the networking, the collaborative environment, and most of all, the weekly pitch practice.

“I always felt I was a fairly confident presenter, but really class presentations are a whole different thing compared to presenting a business pitch where people are actively picking away at your idea while you talk”, Martin says. “That’s the kind of experience that makes you better. When I moved on to the Dobson Cup, I could really lean on the Lean Startup training.”

Excellent puns aside, Martin went on to win 1st place in the Small & Medium Enterprise Track of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017, hosted by National Bank.

Martin presenting at the Lean Startup final presentations in December of 2016. School-Business conflicts, and a failproof alternative to dropping out

As students, you may be wondering whether or not your classroom presentations are preparing you for the real world. On the surface, yes. Dig deeper however, and there’s a fork in the road:

“In class, you can figure out what your professor is looking for by reading the syllabus”, Martin says. “In business pitches, you don’t know the people, their experience, their opinion, what they’re looking for, or what will impress them. You have to figure it out internally: you have to think about what’s most valuable in your business, and figure out how to make that clear.”

Within that time they’ll take me back, all my credits intact, as long as I can show them what I’ve been up to”

Another area that school and business often clash is time. When your business reaches a certain life stage, it demands more from you: more money, more effort, and more time. And when you get there, it becomes hard to keep up with other demands. You’ve got another fork in the road: Do you go full-time and drop out of school, or let the business die?

Martin found another way: McGill’s flexible leave of absence program.

Whether it’s for personal or professional reasons, you can get up to 5 years to fly or fail. As PairUp reached the fork in the road, Martin took a break from his Marketing & Entrepreneurship major to build something real.

“Within that time they’ll take me back, all my credits intact, as long as I can show them what I’ve been up to”, he clarifies.

Martin at the Finals of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017. How much time he’s putting into his business, and healthy habits amidst chaos

And how much time is he putting into the business now that he doesn’t have competing interests? Hint: He doesn’t have a 4-hour workweek.

“I don’t count hours. You just solve problems one at a time, and move on to the next one. If I had to give a number, it’s probably 60-80 hours a week”, he says. “Especially at the early stages of a startup, everything is inefficient, because you don’t have the money to make things efficient. And doing things that don’t scale takes a lot of time.”

1 cup of oats, 4 tablespoons of yogurt, a banana, a clementine, and an apple. Every single day.”

And when you’re doing things that take a lot of time, other priorities like your health have a way of falling by the wayside. But not Martin’s.

Often referred to as “the fit guy” during the Lean Startup Program, he has built a series of good habits that have allowed him to stay healthy while putting in serious work on his startup. Besides biking for transport, taking the stairs whenever possible, and going for weekend runs, Martin has been eating the same nourishing breakfast everyday for over 5 years.

Here’s the formula:

“1 cup of oats, 4 tablespoons of yogurt, a banana, a clementine, and an apple. Every single day.”

Whether it’s eating the same breakfast everyday or simplifying summer sublets so that you can relax, Martin has figured out how to make life just a little bit easier.

Leaving Montreal for the summer and don’t want to deal with the uncertainty and messiness of subletting? Head over to to sign up, or to their FAQ section to learn more.

Startup Spotlight: CandyCutlery – a conversation with Daniel Van Acker

Thu, 03/01/2018 - 14:40

Editor’s Note: In this Spotlight, you’ll learn about how a business class he took in grade 11 pushed Management student Daniel Van Acker to join the team at CandyCutlery, which made it to the finals of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017. You’ll also learn about how to meet mentors, and some of the sacrifices you may have to make as an entrepreneur.

Before Daniel ever joined CandyCutlery, the original founders pitched at a conference called Y2. Daniel wasn’t even on their team, but he was watching.

“It was one of those one weekend things, and they ended up winning the contest”, Daniel explains. “They mentioned they were looking for more people to join their team. So I approached them afterward and put them in contact with my sister, who’s involved with food and that’s exactly what they were looking for.”

In other words, Daniel approached the winning team and added value to their lives – THAT’s what natural networking looks like.

Here was the team’s pitch, back in 2016:

The company does exactly what it sounds like. They make candy spoons. And candy shot glasses. And they’re completely biodegradable.

“So you can munch on them, or throw them away and they’re gone within a few days. It’s a novelty item – it’s cool to eat with an edible utensil, it’s not something you do everyday.”, Daniel says. “And since it’s reducing the amount of plastic we use, it’s sustainable.”

The team is currently focusing on a few key markets as they build momentum: catering for corporate events, ice cream shops and dessert shops. “It’s a way to enhance your eating experience, whether you’re a kid or an adult”, Daniel points out. “People are surprised by how tough the spoon is. One of the first things people try to do is break the spoon, and it’s not easy.”

CandyCutlery is currently focused on 3 key markets: catering for corporate events, ice cream shops, and dessert shops. How to meet high-quality mentors that are relevant for you

Over the course of our conversation, I was intrigued by Daniel’s knowledge about the food industry. Considering he spends all his daytime hours studying management-related stuff, how does he learn about food?

Basically: by talking to people smarter than him, and by DOING.

“You learn a lot by doing, which is an inherent part of any business. But also, the mentors we have, and the food scientists on my team have been very helpful.”

And how did they meet their mentors?

“It’s often through connections and events like the McGill Dobson Cup, or even LinkedIn. You just have to approach them and ask – that’s the most important part”, Daniel explains. “Our CEO Lyn has always stressed this to us, and many of our most valued mentors are random people that we’ve messaged on LinkedIn with one or two mutual friends. It’s surprising how willing people are to help you if you just ask.”

The Candy Cutlery squad. His first 20 hours of entrepreneurship

If you’re familiar with Josh Kaufman’s (best-selling author of The Personal MBA) book, The First 20 Hours, you know that you can learn the bare basics of any skill in about 20 hours. Now let’s assume you believe (and correctly so) that any skill or set of skills can be learnt (as Anders Ericsson demonstrates in his book Peak), and that entrepreneurship is one of those sets of skills.

The next question becomes: How, when, and where did Daniel put in his first 20 hours of entrepreneurial skills practice, that allowed him to thrive at CandyCutlery? It was a low stakes environment perfect for deliberate practice: high school, where he learnt a major lesson about the real world.

You start to think you don’t need to do things with other people’s approval, and you don’t need to follow a strict path.”

Daniel went to a public high school in Guelph. And after an alum founded a business department there, he was able to choose from a selection of business courses including marketing and entrepreneurship.

“There was a class I took in grade 11 where you come up with an idea, then as a project you run a business throughout the semester”, Daniel explains.

“Mine wasn’t anything crazy – we made tie-dye socks and sold them at school events, but we made a profit at the end of the semester. It was interesting to see how it all worked and it made you think that if a class of grade 11s can make tie-dye socks and sell them for a profit, what else can you do?”

This is the exact pattern of thinking that we seek to encourage at the McGill Dobson Centre – once you run a few tests to understand what’s possible, your world begins to open up.

“You start to think you don’t need to do things with other people’s approval, and you don’t need to follow a strict path. You can just start doing things on your own and make things happen if you put in the effort.”


How to create time for your startup while in university

But where does a university student get the TIME to put in the effort?

How does student have time to run a business given all their other responsibilities? There’s no getting around it: you’re juggling a lot of balls. You’re expected to meet new people, adjust to a new city, learn to cook, get enough sleep, and do well in your courses.

And on this subject, Daniel says there are no shortcuts.

“You put your head down and you work. I’ve been fortunate enough to not have too many demanding classes at the same time, so I was able to ease in and continue to work on Candy Cutlery. I definitely don’t go out as much as some of my friends. And I try to take advantage of holidays to work.”

Want to learn more about CandyCutlery? Just click here.

Teams competing in the FINALS of the McGill Dobson Cup 2018

Wed, 02/28/2018 - 11:52

After 4 consecutive days of pitches in the Semi-Finals of the McGill Dobson Cup 2018 powered by National Bank, we’re excited to announce the 40 startup teams moving on to the FINALS on March 28, 2018.

Last week from February 20 to 23, 84 McGill teams pitched their startups to 32 judges who had the task of choosing the top ten Finalists for each Track: Health Sciences, Social Enterprise, Small & Medium Enterprise, and Innovation Driven Enterprise.

Over $100,000 in seed funding will be awarded to the winners of the McGill Dobson Cup 2018 from each track on April 5, 2018 at our Awards Ceremony.

We’re celebrating the 10th Edition of the @mcgillu #DobsonCup powered by @nationalbank! Join us on April 5 2018 where we’ll also be announcing the winners and awarding over $100K in #seed #funding to the most promising #McGill #startups

Get your tickets!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) January 19, 2018

Given the nature of the startup competition, we recognize that it is quite likely that some of the teams not moving on to the Finals of the McGill Dobson Cup 2018 will go on to create successful companies.

For some of the teams that are at a later stage, you may want to consider applying to the upcoming McGill X-1 Accelerator program this summer. For those who are still exploring the early stages of their idea, the McGill Lean Startup Program in the Fall is also an option.

We wish all teams the best of luck in the next stage of the McGill Dobson Cup 2018!

The team and volunteers behind the @mcgillu #DobsonCup, the $100K #startup competition powered by @nationalbank,

It’s been an amazing #SemiFinals these past 4 days. Many thanks to the 84 #startups and 32 judges that participated.

Announcing the 40 #Finals teams next week!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) February 23, 2018

Health Sciences Track 2018 Finalists

And the @mcgillu #DobsonCup $100K #startup competition powered by @nationalbank is off to a great start!

Today is the Semi-Finals of the #HealthSciences Track where #science and #medicine-based startups got to pitch their ideas.

Best of luck to all participants!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) February 20, 2018

1. CURA Therapeutics: Developing innovative immunotherapies to cure pancreatic cancer and other solid tumors. Our patented technology inserted into viral vectors specific for cancer cells, targets and activates the immune system against cancer.

2. Docplus: A revolution in medical booking. Online Booking. Fast and easy, day and night.

3. EBHnow: EBHnow is a website that offers easy, instant and free access to evidence-based healthcare information, through a catalogue of nine fully developed applications addressed clinical decisions. EBHnow makes evidence-based healthcare a reality.

4. Foodoc: A C2C telehealth platform that connects Canadian dietitians with clients throughout the world.

5. IntegOR: We are a multidisciplinary team of young professionals with disruptive ideas, aiming to maximize the capacity of the Canadian healthcare system to deliver care through improving efficiency amongst healthcare teams.

6. InVivo AI: InVivo AI is using artificial intelligence to streamline the development of new drugs. Our algorithms will empower pharmaceutical companies to bring therapies to market in less time and for less money than it takes today.

7. Monitrix: Monitrix is a simple solution helping hospitals to better monitor patient satisfaction and to quickly identify areas of improvement. Patient-satisfaction data collection, management and analysis are automated and personalized.

8. OstoMentor: OstoMentor is an all-in-one, personalized educational software designed to simplify the transition process for patients living with new stomas, to reduce medical complication rates, and to and improve patient satisfaction.

9. PHIRE: At PHIRE we are developing an application that empowers people to manage their medication through automated scheduling, drug alerts and real-time feedback, thereby reducing the risk of adverse drug events.

10. VitalTracer Ltd.: We are in the business of mobile health, personalized medicine and Home-care Health. We aim to create a convenient platform for those who have a need to track their vital signs.


Social Enterprise Track 2018 Finalists

Many thanks to our #socent judges who participated in the #SocialEnterprise Track yesterday!

Your feedback and mentorship for all the #socialenterprise #startups competing in the @mcgillu #DobsonCup Semi-Finals is greatly appreciated!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) February 22, 2018

1. Abil Design Inc.: Abil Design is a technology company that builds inclusive digital experiences. We strive to build platforms that serve the full range of human diversity with respect to ability and age.

2. Brique par brique: Brick by Brick is a social enterprise whose mission is to create affordable and dynamic living spaces for marginalized people. Brick by Brick achieves this ambitious objective by providing more privileged members our communities with secure and competitive investment products that transfer capital from those that have to those that don’t.

3. Canadian Students’ Nightline Association: A non-profit organization focused on helping make Canadian universities a better, happier place through mental health support services. We do this by offering help to students at night through a phone line. This is ensured by training quality volunteers in active listening skills and more.

4. Haven Hub: Haven Hub aims to radically improve health outcomes of physically, emotionally, and socially vulnerable populations by widely distributing integrative medicine and personalized health services.

5. HumaNuts (formerly Cajou): Our vision is to be the largest premium cashew processor and trader in Ivory Coast and to provide sustainable and attractive income opportunities to local farmers and their families.

6. Opportutoring: Opportutoring provides refugees with free one-to-one online English tutoring to open up their opportunities in their country of relocation.

7. Simple Manic Phase Monitoring: Simple Manic Phase Monitoring works to tackle the logistical, financial and systematic barriers preventing low-income patients with Bipolar Disorder from receiving medical intervention by providing low-cost automated symptom monitoring.

8. Verde Hub: A communal hub that promotes, educates, and empowers sustainability through food, events, art, and collaboration for students and young professionals.

9. Viveau: Enabling access to higher quality drinking water: Viveau is an initiative aimed to improve the life and health of unprivileged populations lacking access to clean and safe drinking water.

10. Wiyaka Beauty: Wiyaka Beauty is a social enterprise transforming personal care products created by Indigenous workers into natural cosmetics that provide customers with cultural, spiritual and social connections to the Indigenous community.


Small & Medium Enterprise Track 2018 Finalists

Many thanks to our Small & Medium Enterprise Track judges who participated in the @mcgillu #DobsonCup yesterday!

Your feedback and mentorship for all the #startups competing in the #SME #PME track is greatly appreciated!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) February 23, 2018

1. CAPTR: No more tedious Google-searches or “shot-in-the-dark” Facebook requests. CAPTR makes booking a photographer easy.

2. DogR: An all in one mobile application that seeks to help dog owners having enough information and make them save their time while helping dogs enjoying more the dog park.

3. ENTR: Discover unique spaces and book everything you need to host the perfect event.

4. JPondE: JpondE is a food company that produces, processes and delivers African Catfish (Clarias gariepinus) products mainly for African Cuisine in Canada. These catfish products are delivered fresh, smoked and dried, or mashed.

5. NightLoop: NightLoop is a crowdsourced news network of nightlife events in real-time, all through the eyes of students.

6. Nimbus Tutoring Inc.: Nimbus Tutoring Inc. is a mobile peer-to-peer tutoring platform that strives to promote education by connecting students to passionate tutors for in-person tutoring lessons.

7. reMIXed: reMIXed transforms the concept of traditional trail mixes by introducing dehydrated beans and re-purposed fruit, providing an affordable alternative that combats food waste.

8. Stellar Talent Acquisition Group (STAG): Specializing in the recruitment and hiring of highly trained PhD students for the non-academic world.

9. Toro Matcha Inc.: Toro Matcha is Canada’s ready-to-drink Matcha. Made with organic Japanese matcha green tea, it is an innovative option for those who want to fuel their life with healthy energy.

10. UCrea (formerly Racine Creations 3D): At UCrea, our mission is to enable teams to create through additive manufacturing by providing them with the quality tools and services they need.


Innovation Driven Enterprise Track 2018 Finalists

And that’s a wrap for the #SemiFinals of the @mcgillu #DobsonCup powered by @nationalbank!

Today was the #Innovation driven enterprise track, wrapping up Day 4 of 4 of the $100K #startup competition!

Many thanks to our judges in the IDE track today for giving your time!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) February 23, 2018

1. Aventa: For political campaigns, Aventa uses AI to predict political preferences and voting behaviour, and provide messaging and strategy that increases turnout for our client at the ballot box.

2. Avro AR: Avro AR helps maintenance and field service representatives increase their efficiency by providing them with hands-free state-of-the-art industrial augmented reality software, connecting them to company databases and remote support experts like never before.

3. BlueCiTech: BlueCiTech has developed a smart city platform to collect real-time data on the city’s environment, infrastructure, and activity to provide solutions that will improve quality of life.

4. Haply Robotics: Haply Robotics is a simulation company that is integrating the sensation of touch into our electronic devices. Their goal is to bring high-end simulation tools to the classroom.

5. Inti Aerospace: At Inti Aerospace, we deliver a vertical solution for large scale agricultural surveying, that encompasses long-range drones, big data processing and cloud-based analytics.

6. Ori Technology: Ori Technology endeavours to maintain the protective capabilities of football helmets by signalling when a helmet’s air pockets have deflated to a level no longer optimal for head protection.

7. Spinyt Technologies Inc.: Spinyt allows restaurant owners to create flash deals to attract students to their restaurant taking advantage of the economics of supply and demand in real-time.

8. SWTCH: SWTCH is committed to improving electric vehicle (EV) charging accessibility in urban multi-tenant settings. Our AI-powered EV charging management platform optimizes charging accessibility through machine-learning-based enforcement, scheduling, and energy management.

9. Thinkwire: Thinkwire is a thought leadership discussion platform. Thinkwire allows brands to run text-based roundtables and interviews via LinkedIn. Thinkwire hosts these discussions in a white-label micro-site so brands can build content and community, year-round.

10. UltraSense: UltraSense aims to improve water quality monitoring systems with low-cost, high-precision sensors realized with integrated graphene technology.

McGill Dobson Match – 365 days and counting!

Mon, 02/26/2018 - 09:00
TO: Coders, Marketers, Designers, Engineers, Lawyers, Doctors…


What If Bill Gates and Paul Allen never met? (Founders at Microsoft)


Since the launch of McGill Dobson Match on February 28th 2017, we took part in the creation of 

dozens of startups. Born to reduce the communication gap between startups looking for team members and people looking for such opportunities, we designed a tool based on your feedback and focusing on enlarging your network 

inside McGill. We believe with better exposure to different circles of expertise such as engineering, arts, business, medical or computer science and other, you would be able to add valuable members to your team and keep on improving.


All-time top 5 searched keywords:

  1. Coders
  2. Marketing
  3. Business Strategy
  4. Engineering
  5. Web Design


This week’s top 5:

  1. AI Wizard
  2. Co-founder
  3. Finance
  4. Food
  5. Cryptocurrency
Your Stories  

Some of you wanted to share their story, and we were glad to hear back from you:

Faiz from Brick by Brick,

(Social Enterprise)

I was looking for passionate co-founders with business training or experience who would help me turn the project into a proper start-up. I have a background in community organizing and I was able to get a few colleagues with managerial and communication experience on board, however I knew it was important for us to find someone who was keen on start-ups from a business perspective. At the time, I was being mentored by someone at Dobson and he recommended to look into Dobson Match. I can’t remember if I found Theo or if he responded to our post, it was a long time ago. But we decided to meet on a rainy day way uptown near where Brick by Brick is developing its first project. Within a few minutes it was clear to me that Theo would be the missing founding member I was been looking for. He was positive and committed to the idea of creative power sharing and he through it was a marketable concept. The next day he sent me notes about what would become our digital marketing plan and slowly, over the year he took his place in the startup and helped transform it from a hair-brained scheme into a solid start-up with what is now almost a critical mass of early adopters.

Zike from ArtVenture,

(Small/Medium Enterprise)

My name is Zike Wu, founder of ArtVenture, a startup launched by Asia Pacific Art and Culture Association. We strive to develop a market intelligence tool for art collectors to make informed art investment decisions based on our quantitative financial model for artwork valuation.

Currently we have a high-calibre team of art history and finance students solely focused on further developing the product, but we needed software engineers to build an interactive platform.

ArtVenture was listed on Dobson Match, and through this amazing platform, we were able to connect with several talents and quickly find an outstanding matchie willing to join the team within a week!


Anya and Vivian from Dialysave,


Our startup, Dialysave, would not have progressed as much as is has without the Dobson Match. Dialysave was a new startup when we were seeking another team member, so we didn’t know how to find a student that would be just as motivated to work on our startup as we were. The platform was easy to navigate and — after a few days — several relevant students reached out. This is how we found Shawana, our main engineer who is now a co-founder!



Justin from SelfEmotion Inc.,


We are excited about Dobson Match’s potential as a matchmaker for our startup. Although we haven’t found the right match in terms of skill set for our startup, we have received many applications up to date. We have met with some inspiring students and alumni connected to McGill and it has been a really good experience. As we speak, we’re meeting with two people this week! Thanks for bringing passionate entrepreneurs together, Dobson Match!




On a final note,

TO: Startups who have contributed to McGill’s innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, matchies who have helped through long or short-term involvement and lastly reviewers who provided the necessary feedback for these companies to improve; you are Dobson Match’s success story.

Thank you & keep on hustling,


DM Team.

If you’re on McGill Dobson Match, you can rate your experience here. 


Takeaways from the Startup Financials Workshop

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 12:40

Editor’s Note: On the 7th of February, we held a Startup Financials Workshop to get the McGill Dobson Cup teams versed in the Finances 101 that they’ll have to know to move forward to the Finals. The presentation was lead by Rabih Atallah – Senior Manager, Commercial Banking, SME Market (National Bank), as well as Anthony Ferrara – Senior Manager and Market Lead, Life sciences and Health, Business Banking. (National Bank)

Have a detailed breakdown of your cash flow


  • To evaluate your liquidity
  • To maximize the use of your cash
  • To calculate your burn rate
  • To ensure your ability to meet short-term obligations
  • To secure more financing
  • To evaluate whether your projections are accurate.

Here are some tips on maximizing your cash flow:
  • Delay the payment of your accounts payable.
  • Use a credit card to pay your liabilities; you win a month delay to pay the balance and make points to be cashed in.
  • Make sure to keep only the required inventory to support your clients, as inventory can become a liability.
  • Structure your employees’ compensation with a mix of salary and short-term bonuses.
  • Minimize your investment in R&D (focus on your core business) and find partners to provide add-on services for a variable fee.
  • Consider leasing non-core materials vs. purchasing.
  • Discuss with your financial institution the option to have access to short-term funds (i.e. revolving credit line).
  • Improve the recoverability of your accounts receivable by giving discounts when a customer pays early.

Takeaways from the “How to Pitch” workshop

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 14:50

Editor’s Note: On Wednesday, January 31st we had Omer Dor (BEng’12,) give a workshop on How To Pitch. Omer was the co-founder and CEO of a company called MobiCare which was successfully acquired. 

1. Tell a story

The science is in. Human beings respond to stories: there’s simply no method in the book that’s more engaging and evocative than storytelling when it comes to transmitting information. If you think about human history, reading and writing are fairly recent developments. But oral storytelling has existed for millennia beyond that. The format is not only fun, but helps people remember information better because data can be linked to emotions. In other words, people won’t remember what you tell them if they don’t care. Step 1 is to make them care. With a story.

2. Practice

A polished pitch only comes through refinement. You have to put in the work. Here’s a secret: very few people will do this, surprisingly. Even though everybody’s heard the advice before. Even though you don’t have to put in THAT many hours for effective practice. It’s just too uncomfortable for most people to psychologically deal with feedback and then implement improvements. But that’s a good thing. Because if YOU DO, you’ll be way ahead of everybody else with a little bit of smart, hard work. Practicing in front of the mirror, your friends & family, is good, and that’s common advice. Let’s take it a step further. Go pitch in front of someone who YOU THINK has a great pitch.

3. Hook the audience right away

You can have an incredible presentation with lots of data, high polish, and a confident demeanor. But if nobody’s paying attention, you don’t really have a pitch. A great presentation doesn’t need to have you convincing people that they should pay attention to you. In reality, it should be win-win: they should ENJOY your presentation, and come away from it intrigued. One way to do this is #1: inserting a compelling story right at the beginning of your pitch, and then weave it throughout your pitch in an integrated way. For examples on how you can do this, check out our video library of pitches. 

4. Use visuals.

When you put up a picture, people instantly shift away from listening to you, to looking at what’s on the screen. Beginners ignore this. Intermediates are aware of it. Advanced presenters USE IT TO THEIR ADVANTAGE. If you’re aware of how powerful visuals can be when it comes to attracting your audience’s attention, you know that you should always search long and hard for the MOST compelling visuals. Don’t settle for the first result on Google Images. Use a few different sources to look for it. Consider paying for premium stock photos. Ask around.

Scott boosts his Chemistry mark by a whole letter grade with Basilisk!

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 19:45

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on – one of our McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017 graduates.

Like many students, Scott often finds himself with little time to properly prepare for his exams.

Originally from Ontario and now his U2 year of Biochemistry at McGill, he still has no idea what he wants to do with his life – he’s just going with the flow. And that’s okay. But, like most of us, he wants to move forward and keep his doors open.

“I don’t have any specific goals like becoming a pharmacist, but I just want to be able to do a wide range of things if I wanted to. I don’t want my grades to be the limiting factor”, he says.

I don’t want my grades to be the limiting factor

The trouble with keeping your grades high in classes that end with “-ology” (especially ones high in memorization) is that professors often can’t afford the time it takes to create a “helpful amount” of practice questions to prepare you for their exams. And when they do, the questions are often outdated, or in no particular order making it difficult for students to identify which lecture(s) they need to spend more time on.

And that’s exactly what Scott found after his first midterm in the highly popular CHEM183: World of Chemistry – Drugs, a McGill course known for 3 things: the huge (600+) student capacity, the great professors, and the notoriously memorization-heavy multiple choice exams. Scott didn’t do quite as well as he would have liked. Luckily, there were still 2 exams left to improve his grade.


Why re-reading your notes doesn’t work

His study method of “re-reading and re-writing [his] notes” was not well-suited for this class. You see, in CHEM183, a superficial understanding of drugs and their outcomes wasn’t enough. You needed to understand the nuanced differences between different drug cause and effect well enough to be able to circle the right answer when faced with a multiple choice question where all 5 of the choices basically sound like the same thing.

When you re-read your notes, you trick your brain into thinking that it understands the material and that feels good. However, if you were to close your book and do a practice quiz, you’d quickly find the weaknesses in your understanding of the material.

A passive study method like re-reading and re-writing wasn’t enough: Scott needed instant feedback and an ACTIVE learning strategy.


How Basilisk helped Scott boost his grade by 10%

One day as he was scrolling through a carefully curated collection of memes on his facebook, he chanced upon a post about Basilisk in the CHEM183 page. Tired of his old study methods, he tried it out in a last-minute effort to prepare for his 2nd multiple choice exam.

This time, his studying was smooth.

“I used it to gauge how much I knew, or didn’t. If there was something I forgot or something I missed, I could write it down and go back to my notes to refresh it.”

One of the most important aspects of learning is getting feedback on what you know. The quicker it is, the faster you can learn. The problem is that most study methods (like re-reading and re-writing your notes) don’t give you any feedback, and fool you into thinking you know what you’re talking about. It’s easy, but it’s ineffective.

On the other hand, testing your knowledge by taking a practice quiz leaves no room for uncertainty. Either you know the answer and get the question right, or you learn. That’s why Scott used it: to gauge his understanding of the material.

“I studied 3 days before the exam, and the next day I’d just do practice questions to see how much I retained. Then I could see how much I knew and go back to my notes.”

Basilisk in action.

This time, Scott was a lot more confident walking into the exam room. And more importantly, he got a better grade. We asked him how much.

“For World of Chem, like…10% higher.”

That’s the difference between a B+ and an A.

Our secret? We only hire A students to make questions for you based on this year’s content, and all the questions are organized by lecture. When you sit down at your final exam, you’ll smile to yourself because you know the material inside and out. It was all in the Basilisk practice quiz you did the night before.

“[The questions] were pretty close to what the  exam ended up being, and the general difficulty level too,” Scott explained to us, relieved.

How you can improve YOUR grades with Basilisk

Scott’s a convert: he uses Basilisk for multiple classes (especially Pharmacology), because he knows it works.

Every student wants to do well in their classes, and for different reasons. Some want to get into medicine, some want to make their parents proud, and some want to master the material because it’s fun.

But maybe you’re like Scott. Maybe you just want to make sure that your grades are not the limiting factor when you step out into the real world to interview for your dream job.

And you’re not the only one. We’re working to support over 8000+ students at McGill alone, and you can join them by clicking below:

I want better grades in half the time!