On March 29th, the Health Innovation Initiative hosted the 2019 Health Startup Day. This day connected startups, industry, community organizations, and graduate students with a shared passion for health innovation. Industry and community organizations had the opportunity to meet some of McGill’s emerging scientific leaders, while the graduate students were provided with an introduction to industry approaches for health innovation.
The event got kicked off by one of our very own, Renjie Butalid.
Renjie hosted a business model canvas workshop, which presented the graduate students with the idea of a strategic management and lean startup template for developing new or documenting existing business models.
He explained how it is a visual chart with elements describing a firm’s or product’s value proposition, infrastructure, customers, and finances, and how the formation of this canvas plays a vital role in a business’s development.
The workshop was followed by keynote talks presented by some of the best and brightest in their field:
Francois Bilodeau is the Business Development Director of Mitacs; a not-for-profit national research organization that, in partnerships with Canadian academia, private industry and government, operates research and training programs in fields related to industrial and social innovation.
Francois gave the graduate students insight into the different programs they offered, such as Accelerate, Elevate and Globalink.
Justin Lessard-Wajcer is a 21 years young individual who has made big strides in the area of science and entrepreneurship. He was invited by the Canadian government to represent the country at the World Science Conference in Jerusalem.
He is a Research Associate in Psychiatry and Head of Imaging Innovation at the prestigious Dr. Kieffer Lab at the Douglas Institute of Mental Health at McGill.
In addition to his studies and research, he began his own business, Clarity Tech Lab – a company designed to democratize innovative technologies in neuroscience to increase the effectiveness of medical research.
He also founded the first journal dedicated to mental health, Neuropresse, to reduce the terrible stigma of mental health in our universities and society.
His philanthropic contribution is also marked by his involvement in organizations such as The Montreal Children’s Hospital, The Canadian Hereditary Cancer Foundation, and Youth Science Canada.
During the event he spoke about his journey, and key values he obtained along the way.
“I was facing two limits – time and money. I wanted to beat them both.”
Jeremi Lavoie is a Cofounder and the CEO of Arctic Fox AI, a company that uses AI-powered radiology tools for the diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases, beginning with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. They allow clinicians & scientists to use the full potential of brain MRIs by extracting data that would be invisible to the human eye.
Jeremi shared his company’s vision with the graduate students and gave them tips on starting and maintaining a business:
- Complementary partnerships are a key ingredient in running a successful company.
- Market research comes 1st and the tech comes 2nd.
- It is important to get continuous feedback to evolve the company.
- Some days you’ll need to think irrationally and take a leap of faith.
Clarity Gerbrandt is the VP in Strategic Partnerships of Carebook Technologies, a company that uses the science of preventative health and the art of human engagement to empower individuals and engage organizations in a commitment to wellness.
Clarity started off as the Creative Director for Disney’s Club Penguin, the world’s largest online virtual world for kids. Now, in her current position, she uses her skills to build rich experiences that help empower people to take a more active and proactive role in their personal health.
During her presentation, she shared, what she believed to be the “abcd’s” of startup life:
- Adapt – Adapt to culture, adapt to the process at hand and adapt your purpose.
- Bridge – Bridge together your theories, the tests you’ve carried out and eventually the solutions.
- Care – Care about the value you add, and the impact you have on the people around you.
- Distill – Distill your company into a simple idea which demonstrates its purpose.
The keynote talks were followed by a captivating panel discussion consisting of professionals from a variety of scientific backgrounds:
- Francis Arseneau is the Head of Operations at Innodem Neurosciences, a Montreal-based company building AI-driven eye-tracking technology for use in healthcare.
- Sonia Israel is a Co-founder of Aifred Health, a Montreal-based health-tech startup that uses AI to help physicians make better treatment decisions in mental healthcare.
- Laila Benameur is a Co-founder of Impactful Health R&D, a start-up that develops active packaging solutions to prolong the shelf life of fresh fish.
- Justin Lessard-Wajcer – Mentioned above.
- Clarity Gerbrandt – Mentioned above.
- Olivia Novac – See more below.
The event concluded with guest speakers who spoke about their areas of expertise:
- Tatiana Ruiz is the Lab-to-World Entrepreneurship Course TA and Translational PhD stream coordinator at McGill University.
- Olivia Novac is the Associate Director of Technology Transfer at McGill University. She is responsible for the knowledge and technology transfer activities associated to innovation and inventions at McGill. This includes the assessment and management of the IP, including filing and prosecution of patent applications, as well as the identification of inventions, maturation of the technologies, and valourization through licensing or spinoff creation.
- Bobbi Bidochka is a Research Officer at the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics at McGill University. Furthermore she is the Founder of EATScience, an initiative that unites food and cocktails with science, to deliver the message of the amazing research happening right now out McGill University, in the most dynamic and immersive setting Montreal has to offer.
- Jesse Ehrlick is an Academic Associate within Biomedical Engineering at McGill University and is responsible for launching a new Master’s program within the Biomedical Engineering department.
- Andrew Dixon holds a M.D, C.M degree from McGill University. He is the CHASM Operations Executive; CHASM is an incubator that scales up community health and social ventures to help some of the city’s most marginalized residents. Their program takes the most innovative aspects of start-up culture and blends them into a practical, project-based model, where they nurture the ideas of community-based ventures and connect them to business and nonprofit leaders.
- Matthew Dickinson is a member of the Investment Team of Front Row Ventures, a company that is the first student-run venture capital fund entirely managed by students in Canada. Launched in September 2017 in partnership with Real Ventures, Front Row Ventures will invest 600,000$ over the next four years in 24 student startups.
Besides spending 2 years as Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Thomas Park also has over a decade of experience on the ground working on nonprofits and international development initiatives. This includes piecing together a data project that Melinda Gates quoted during her TED Talk on contraception.
He now spends most of his time as VP of Corporate Strategy & Initiatives at BDC Capital. What follows is his step-by-step advice when putting together a fundraising strategy for your nonprofit.
Step 0: Understand the people with the money and their goals
Before ever stepping through the door to a fundraising meeting, you have some homework to do: understand what they want, and how they operate. There are different buckets of money: government grants, philanthropy, and corporate sponsorships.
“Understanding the dynamics in each one is important”, says Park. “They each have clear sets of criteria so understanding what they’re looking for and having someone that knows how to navigate that red tape is crucial.”
“The Gates Foundation, for example, is focused on larger investments that can really move the needle. So that if they give you funding, within 18 months you need to be impacting millions of people.”
Understanding each philanthropy’s business model is important because they each have program officers that have a very clear criteria about what’s a yes and what’s a no.”
For corporate sponsors, your project has to line up with what the corporations are looking to achieve – and that’s changing too.
“Before, it used to be just about writing nonprofits a check and all you had to do was put their logo up. But now they’re asking about impact, and a lot of other things. Which means they operate similarly to many US philanthropies.”
The importance of bootstrapping early on to gain traction
Once you understand the other party’s motivations and business model, the next step is to build a track record. No government, philanthropy, or corporation wants to throw money away. They want to know that they’re investing it into a competent team that has reliably shown that they can make an impact. To build that track record and raise money, you might need some money.
This might seem like a catch-22: how can you get the resources needed to make an impact in the first place if people only fund projects that are already making an impact? The answer is to bootstrap at first, says Park: “Make your own money – sell swag or services before you go approach others because people want to fund successful projects. Develop a sustainable business model, and then the money becomes easier to generate.”
A better way to frame “selling out”
But after getting a taste of a bootstrapped social enterprise, many entrepreneurs worry that getting sponsorship means they’re “selling out.” This type of thinking can prevent you from scaling your impact.
First of all, nonprofits aren’t saints. Park points out.
As somebody that has worked in nonprofits for more than 10 years, I can say that nonprofits can be some of the most cut throat environments out there, even more so than corporations.”
One reason for this is the incentive structure at many nonprofits: top performers often don’t or can’t get rewarded properly for their impact. The downstream effect of this is that sometimes nonprofits attracts the wrong kinds of people – people who are focused on a zero-sum game of status. In other words, they’re competing over slices of the pie instead of working together to make the pie bigger.
Second, big businesses sometimes get an unnecessarily bad reputation. And sometimes, rightfully so – some large corporations have proven to do questionable things with your data, for example. But you should channel your anxiety about partnering with the wrong business into doing your homework to figure out which corporations are a good fit for you. Find the handful of companies that are genuinely excited by the prospect of having an impact in the domain that your project operates in, and disregard the rest.
Thomas Park was a judge in the Finals of the McGill Dobson Cup 2019. Money mobility & universities
Even after deciding to raise more money, it’s not easy to have people write a check to you – there’s a lot of financial and legal friction that governments, philanthropies, and corporations face when making donations. One way around this: attach yourself to a university, advises Park. “You either need to have a great network so you can mobilize the money that way, but it’s really universities as research centres that have full fundraising machines and techniques.”
“In Canada, I would figure out a way to link up your nonprofit with a university because we don’t have a robust NGO network with deep fundraising capabilities or sources of funding”, he says. “A lot of it is done at the university level. I’ve seen this in global health initiatives as well. Because at the very least people can tie their nonprofit projects up to a research project. Those tend to be the most successful.”
“So if I was a government, it’s easy to write a check to McGill University, but it’s hard for me to write a check to NGO Jane Doe or John Doe, because that involves a lot more due diligence and procurement. I don’t have to go through that same paperwork for McGill. There’s all this ‘plumbing’ you gotta go through if you’re not linked up to a university – a lot of checks and balances that are tricky.”
By attaching yourself to a university, you’re able to leverage their secret weapon: university advancement offices.”
“If you came up with an app that solved hunger in high-density cities like Lagos for example, then you need to start applying for grants”, he says. “And at a certain stage of growth, you need professional grant writers that are very good at navigating the red tape and showing that you fit the criteria that governments and companies are looking for. You can get around all that through a university because university advancement offices have people like that in place already.”
One example of a university-attached initiative is McGill’s Policy and Data Science Summer program (PODS), which Park co-founded with Professor Derek Ruths and Professor Nicholas King. BDC Capital is the lead sponsor on the program.
“It lined up with BDC’s goals of building strong Canadian businesses as well as having a significant impact on society at large”, Park points out. “We’re in a similar age now with data and AI, as we were in the 90s with internet. It’s in a nascent stage.”
The 2 biggest mistakes nonprofits make when fundraising
So you’ve done your homework on the donor, you’ve bootstrapped your way to some traction, you’ve convinced yourself that outside funding is a useful tool, and you’ve attached yourself to an organization that makes it easy for donors to write you a cheque. You still have to walk through the door into the meeting, and take a long-term view of your relationship with your donors.
The biggest mistake founders make in meetings: “Not listening”, says Park.
Some founders don’t listen – I have been in meetings with some of these people where they’re trying to force their idea on you. They’re not open to feedback and improving, they just shut you out and try to defend themselves.”
Coachability is an important character attribute in founders when donors make funding decisions about a company. If they think that their feedback will go unnoticed, it becomes a riskier decision. It’s also a sign that you won’t be able to learn quickly and adapt.
Instead, adopt a collaborative mindset when walking into these meetings. Your stakeholders want to help you, and they have experience that you can learn from. Instead of spending your energy defending your ideas to the death, take notes on their feedback and consider integrating some of them – even if it’s just to show that you value their opinion.
The other mistake that founders make is a longer term one – they frame their exchange with the sponsor as a transaction rather than a relationship. “It’s the ‘gimme gimme gimme mentality’”, points out Park.
It’s obvious they’re just after the money. I’ve had people sign the deal, and then not talk to us for a year, until it was time to renew again. Then all of a sudden they want to get coffee.”
Instead, update your stakeholders regularly with your progress. To make this easier, find or build an email template that you can re-use, and schedule time to write it on the same day every month. And don’t forget to give your stakeholders “homework”, whether that’s an introduction, or advice on a problem that’s come up. You’re on the same team and they want to help you: by sponsoring you, they now have skin in the game – if you succeed, they succeed.
Understand the different buckets of money, the motives of those organizations, and see how you can align yourself with their mission.
Bootstrap your way to early traction – people want to fund successful projects that have proven they can make an impact.
Raising external funding is a powerful way of scaling your impact.
Attaching yourself to a university reduces the friction for organizations that want to give you money.
Adopt a collaborative attitude in meetings with stakeholders, and update them regularly with your progress – you’re on the same team so treat it like a relationship.
Editors note: On the 27th of March, the Dobson Cup Finals were held. We decided to sit down with Guy Gervais, to get insight into the mind of someone who has achieved massive success in the business world and hopefully get some tips on how to pave a similar path.
Guy was CEO at Vulcain Inc, a leader in gas detection. Under his leadership, the company got unsurpassed results with continued new product development, enhanced operational efficiencies and highly effective sales strategies.
After the sale of his enterprise, he became an Impact Angel Investor investing “in people and companies that matter”. He played an active role in the beginnings of Anges Québec. Alongside other investors, this group of business angels invested over $400M in more than 150 companies over the last few years.
He is also involved in the start-up community. To name a few, he leads the Impact Investing Cell at Anges Québec, he is a coach in several accelerators such as Espace Inc and LaPiscine on top of managing the DEL accelerator. Finally, he is a member of the Investing committee at Aligo Innovation that acts as an engine of economic development.
When did you know you wanted to take an entrepreneurial path?
I think it happened by accident. I come from a family of entrepreneurs who really encouraged me to go down a similar path, and therefore it was in my DNA.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur?
There are a lot of benefits; most importantly freedom. Also, the chance to create wealth and opportunity. I enjoy being on a mission and changing the lives of my employees. I feel I am in full control of my destiny. I think as an entrepreneur we can have a big impact on the people and businesses around us, more than as an employee.
What’s the hardest part about it?
Being alone at the top. Somethings you have to make very difficult decisions, and unfortunately you are on your own. You can have the support of your family, but at the end you are on your own. If I have to fire someone, I’ll lose sleep over it. But it is important to me that I show them that this is a chance to improve themselves and be put on a new path; one on which they would be more happy.
What have you taken from your university experience, that has benefited you the most towards your career?
You learn how to learn. You learn how to adapt and how to be resilient. That was the greatest benefit for me while in university.
Where do you think novice entrepreneurs waste the most time?
That is a tough question, because as an entrepreneur just starting up you have to worry about everything, but you also have to prioritize. See what is urgent and what can be put on hold. You have to keep an eye on the big picture but at the same time, be sure you know exactly what is required for the next step. It is normally done through a 3 month forecast.
What advice do you have for students about using their time, relationships, and opportunities at university to prepare for the type of career you’ve built?
One of the most important things, if not THE most important, is the quality of your network. Make sure you continue to enhance that network and pursue those relationships, because those relationships can bring a lot to the table in terms of your career. Networking is everything in today’s world.
Tell us about a habit of yours that is very important to you?
I like to wake up at 5 am. I do this because I know I am going to have a very interesting day. I am getting inspired by this new generation of entrepreneurs, and I don’t have time to waste and neither to they. I want to be with them early so that I can provide them with my knowledge, expertise and network. I always look forward to helping these entrepreneurs, learning from them, helping them, so that I can grow with them.
The McGill Dobson Cup powered by National Bank has grown and changed significantly since 2009. In November 2018, the National Bank took the bold and generous step when they donated $4-million to the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship to support the McGill Dobson Cup. The MasterCard Foundation followed suit and generously contributed 3 prizes totalling $23,000 to support Social Enterprise development amongst Mastercard Foundation Scholars-led teams in this year’s startup competition.
Overall, this has enabled our team at McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship to fund a total of 18 McGill startups with early stage funding, amounting to over $200,000. We have also been able to organize a series of over 15 workshops and events this past academic year designed to help the startups prepare for the 11th edition of the McGill Dobson Cup.
This is only the beginning as seed funding is only the first step. In the lead up to announcing the winners, for this year’s startup competition, we had 108 teams compete in the Semi-Finals with the top 40 teams competing in the Finals on March 27, 2019.
Congratulations to this year’s ambitious teams and a sincere thank you to all teams who participated in this year’s McGill Dobson Cup. Choosing the winners for each Track (Health Sciences, Social Enterprise, Small & Medium Enterprise, and Innovation Driven Enterprise) and all the additional prizes, was not an easy task.
Many thanks to all the Semi-Finals and Finals Judges and Mentors, partners, Student Executive Team members, and everyone involved who contributed towards making this year’s McGill Dobson Cup 2019 a resounding success!
Teams that are at a later stage, should consider applying to the upcoming McGill X-1 Accelerator program this summer (Applications are now open). For those who are still exploring the early stages of their idea, the McGill Lean Startup Program in the Fall is a must! We wish all teams the best of luck in the next stage of their development.
Axon: Faculties of Engineering and Science – $5,000
We’re building a $1,000 portable brain imaging scanner for point-of-care diagnosis in ambulances, field hospitals, sports teams, and patient rooms.
The Food and Agribusiness Convergent Innovation Prize
Observe Agriculture: Faculty of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences – $5,000
Observe Agriculture is a Montreal-based AgriTech startup founded by students from McGill University. Our first product is a modular crop quality sensor.
Avmor Prize for Social Responsibility
UsToo Community: Faculties of Arts and Law – $1,900
UsToo.Care anonymously and securely matches survivors of sexual violence based on aggressor or location. Survivors can collaboratively work with legal representation or police investigators, and access mental health professionals.
Mastercard Foundation-Dobson Startup Awards
1st Place – Safe Kasupe Limited: Faculty of Arts – $15,000
Water is not the source of life, it is life. At Safe Kasupe Ltd, we provide affordable clean water to eradicate negative social and health consequences of using unclean water.
2nd Place – 3.D.E.: Faculties of Medicine and Engineering – $5,000
3.D.E is an additive manufacturing company that focuses on applying 3D printing technology to address challenges of affordability, availability, and accessibility of prosthetics and educational model kits in low resource settings in Zimbabwe.
3rd Place – Yonja: Faculty of Arts – $3,000
Poor sanitation is a major setback to development. Yonja is here to provide the missing link between waste management service delivery companies and households for efficient, affordable and quality services.
Health Sciences Track 2019 Winners powered by National Bank
1st Place – nplex biosciences: Faculties of Medicine, Science and Engineering – $20,000
We are developing the next-generation of protein-based blood tests. Our platform promises to unlock unprecedented efficiencies in drug development, biomarker discovery, and ultimately, precision medicine.
2nd Place – Gynoteck: Desautels Faculty of Management and Medicine – $12,000
Gynoteck is a leading innovator in medical diagnostics, preventative, and treatment methods for women’s health. We aim to personalize medicine as every woman is different.
3rd Place – LFANT: Faculties of Medicine, Science and Engineering – $8,000
LFANT is a company dedicated to the development of safe, reliable, and readily available commercial kits for the self-administered detection of STIs in the interest of public health and awareness.
Social Enterprise Track 2019 Winners powered by National Bank
1st Place – Turbodega: Desautels Faculty of Management (MBA) – $20,000
Turbodega is a software management tool that builds a network of small grocers in emerging countries and tracks their daily-sales in real time to provide them: 1) lower cost of goods, 2) access to fair working capital lines of credit, and 3) data-backed business advice.
2nd Place – PDT Food Depot: Desautels Faculty of Management, Agriculture & Environmental Sciences and Engineering: $12,000
PDT Food Depot redistributes surplus food from food producers to communities and organizations in need.
Also winners of the Murdoch Family Initiative Prize – $6,000
3rd Place – B3D Performance Inc.: Faculties of Engineering and Science – $8,000
B3D Performance Inc.: B3D Performance specializes in additive manufacturing (3D printing) using metal powders. We develop instrumentation to monitor the powder quality to reduce production costs and minimize the impact on the environment.
Small Medium Enterprise Track 2019 Winners powered by National Bank
1st Place – CHK PLZ: Faculty of Engineering – $20,000
CHK PLZ is a mobile payment application that streamlines the billing process at bars and restaurants, allowing customers to split items and pay the bill directly from their smartphone.
2nd Place – Shuttle Control: Faculty of Arts – $12,000
ShuttleControl is a Software-as-a-Service designed to revolutionize the way courtesy shuttle services are offered around the world. We offer an all-in-one solution to increase customer satisfaction and make shuttle operations easy.
3rd Place – Yuma – Faculties of Science and Engineering – $8,000
Yuma is a service that offers meal plans at your work. When you need personalized meals delivered to your workplace at the best price, Yuma doesn’t take it as a joke.
Innovation Driven Enterprise Track 2019 Winners powered by National Bank
1st Place – First Mark: Faculty of Science – $20,000
First Mark creates software for film sets to run digitally, safely, and with less effort, so that production teams focus on what matters – making great films, series, commercials, and shows.
2nd Place – Chatler Technologies: Faculty of Engineering – $12,000
Chatler Technologies Inc: Chatler is on a mission to innovate the way we interact and buy from businesses on mobile devices. Using chatbot technology, Chatler brings the conversation into mobile commerce.
3rd Place, Cannafish: Faculty of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences – $8,000
Cannafish aims to work with fish farmers, valorizing their waste using a unique bioreactor technology and worms to produce a biological hydroponic solution to grow a wide variety of crops.
Many thanks to all the Semi-Finals and Finals judges who played an important role in screening all 108 startup teams in the Semi-Finals, picking our top 40 Finalists, and choosing the winners in this year’s McGill Dobson Cup 2019 powered by National Bank.
On March 13th, a workshop was held by the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship in association with the Compass Start-up Legal Clinic; the topics being the different types of business organizations, how to incorporate, as well as how companies can protect their IP.
We had representatives from two companies in Montreal:
Jacqueline Rowniak – Associate at Dentons Canada LLP, a company that provides clients with legal services in common and civil law, in English and French.
Philippe-Olivier Daniel – Co-founder of Podlegal, a Montreal law firm that offers fixed-price and subscription-based legal services to entrepreneurs, SMEs and Start-ups.On the topic of business organizations;
What are the different types?
1. Sole Proprietorship
- An enterprise that is owned and run by one person and in which there is no legal distinction between the owner and the business entity.
- It is simple, low cost (few legal fees) and involves the individual having full control.
- However, there are limited financing options, unlimited liability upon the owner, and interested parties may have trouble with the credibility of the organization.
- A legal form of business operation between two or more individuals who share management and profits. The federal government recognizes several types of partnerships. The two most common are general and limited partnerships.
- General – There is unlimited liability for each partner.
- Limited – There is unlimited liability for the general partner but limited liability for the limited partner. The limited partner cannot be active in the affairs of the business.
- A legal entity that is separate and distinct from its owners.
- There is limited liability for the shareholders and directors, tax benefits, and better access to financing opportunities.
- However, it is costly due to start-up and ongoing administrative fees, as well as losses cannot be claimed personally.
When incorporating, what are some things you should know?
1. It can be done Federally (Provides global access) or Provincially (local and limited protection).
2. There are different stakeholders for the business:
- Responsible for overall management and direction
- Legal and fiduciary duty of directors to act in best interests of the company
- Appointed by directors
- Responsible for day-to-day management of the business
- Owners of the company
- Elects directors
3. It will require a shareholders agreement:
- Agreement governing the relationship between the Corporation’s shareholders.
- Protect the rights of the various shareholders
- Restrict certain changes to the business, directors and officers
- Regulate the way capital is raised
- Resolutions can be disputed
- Costly to implement
- May be replaced if raising capital
- Disputes over interpretation
4. There are different ways to finance the business:
- Equity Financing
- Equity raised through sale of shares
- Convertible notes (Behaves as an “IOU” but debt can be converted to equity if not paid back.)
- Debt Financing
- Loans from banks/financial institutions, shareholders, friends and family
- Requires some security for the creditor
- Hypothec – immovable and movable – (Behaves similar to a mortgage)
What is it?
(uncountable) Any product of someone’s intellect that has commercial value: a piece of literature, a painting, an invention, a trademark, a trade secret, etc. Works protected under intellectual property law, and accorded intellectual property rights such as copyrights and patents.
(countable) Any individual work that is protected under intellectual property law.
What are the 4 main forms of IP?
- Copyright is a legal right, existing in many countries, that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights to determine whether, and under what conditions, this original work may be used by others.
- Literary, musical, graphic, and sculptural works
- Motion pictures and other audio-visual works
- Derivatives of protected works, such as a sequel (i.e. the Star Wars movies)
- Distinctive design, graphics, logo, symbols, words, or any combination thereof that uniquely identifies a firm and/or its goods or services, guarantees the item’s genuineness, and gives it owner the legal rights to prevent the trademark’s unauthorized use.
- Symbol Trademark – The McDonald’s golden arch
- Character Trademark – Geico’s talking gecko
- Catchphrase Trademark – Donald Trump’s “You’re Fired” on The Apprentice
- A patent is granted by the government. It gives you the right to exclude others from making, using or selling your invention.
- Canadian patent applies within Canada for 20 years from the date you file the application.
- The patent application is available to the public 18 months after you file it.
- Patents cover new inventions (process, machine, product, composition of matter) or any new and useful improvement to an existing invention.
- Three key points:
- Must be new (not publicly available)
- Must be functional and working (show utility)
- Must not be obvious to someone skilled in the discipline
4. Trade secrets
- Trade secrets include any valuable business information that derives its value from the secrecy.
- Trade secrets can be very valuable to you whether you have developed new technology, designed original products, created the perfect recipe, or have a gold mine of customer data.
- One of the most famous trade secrets is the Coca Cola formula—a well-guarded secret for over 100 years. The business value of the formula is why the company goes to extremes to keep it confidential.
Remember: Owning all intellectual property helps credibility with investors.
For more detailed information on Intellectual Property, please check out the World Intellectual Property Organization:
Editor’s Note: Soula Chronopoulos is the president of Ellicom. Before that, she held strategic positions in national and international organizations in addition to founding two companies, one of which PROFIT magazine ranked 54th among the top 200 “Fastest Growing Technology Companies.” She also participated as a McGill Dobson Cup judge in 2019, in the semi-finals of the Health Sciences Track.Michaela Deneva (Dobson SET Ambassador)
In this article, our SET Ambassador Michaela Deneva interviews Soula about her entrepreneurial path and processes.
When did you know you wanted to take an entrepreneurial path?
Both my parents were entrepreneurs – from a young age I saw them building their businesses and going through the rough times. I’d say it’s part of my DNA. Although I didn’t know it at the time – while working in the med education sector, I got tired of listening to directions and embracing red tape. The bureaucracy and the stifling atmosphere pushed me further down into a box until I felt I had something to say. That stirred me to launch my own company. I firmly believed in what I was doing – I had a passion and drive to succeed. Obstacles let you down, but you should look at it as a pathway. Believe in what you’re doing and don’t give up!
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s hardest about it?
The best thing – innovation! Watching customers light up when I show them something they’ve never seen before. The hardest thing – being challenged by everyone in a room full of naysayers. To stay afloat you have got to love that challenge! With that said, overcoming this psychological barrier is not easy. I’d say psychology is one of the biggest hurdles in entrepreneurship, not the finances and not building your product. Opportunities come with hard work – learn how to be your biggest cheerleader! Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart!
What have you taken from your student/ college experience to your startup career?
McGill gave me a great start on the long and exciting path of entrepreneurial research; how to find that “nugget” and come out of the rabbit hole. Researchers are innovators by nature. They are a big driving force – they listen and connect the dots. My mantra is to always look at everything as an opportunity. As a woman in tech I’ve learnt this the hard way – some wonder how I got to be a VP in a men’s industry. Despite the sexism which I’ve encountered, I was lucky to have managers who believed in my ideas. People propelled me. I always try to argue with myself on my ideas – something I’ve learnt from my mom. Her perseverance is very inspirational to me: she came here without speaking French or English, and managed to build a business and a reputation despite it all.
Do you have any systems or axioms for decision-making, learning, and execution?
Do your homework – you have got to be curious. Take the time to do some reading – investigate and learn. Sometimes situations aren’t the way they appear at first – read, read, read! Participate in what people are saying – cut through the marketing and ask questions. Everyone is just as vulnerable as you are – nobody has all the answers. I have done a lot of research in Alzheimer’s, specifically on one little protein which only manifests itself when you’ve incurred an injury. What I’m trying to say with this is that you shouldn’t look for the obvious but rather things that require “digging”.Soula Chronopoulos (left) was a McGill Dobson Cup judge in 2019, in the semi-finals of the Health Sciences Track.
Where do novice entrepreneurs waste the most time?
Many teams have a great idea with significant potential but what is going to make you unique is your ability to convince someone to invest money in it. One question I usually ask while mentoring at the Dobson Cup is: How big is your audience? Look for ideas that are going to make a difference in a population or an entire market. Speak with passion to convince people to invest – to me a good pitch is 50% the product and 50% the person. Investors choose to invest their money in the person who’s pitching them – it is up to you to convince them to believe in you.
As the President of Ellicom, what problem are you trying to solve? What are you most excited about at work right now?The 70-20-10 hypothesis is based on a survey that asked 200 executives to reflect on how they believed they learned.
What excites me the most is finding a more effective way to deliver a product that helps consumers without them even realizing that I’ve been involved. Of course, there’s the 70:20:10 model for learning and development which corresponds to a proportional breakdown of how people learn effectively, but at Ellicom, we focus on the behavior of the learner. I try to put myself in the learner’s shoes. My goal is to “insert”
myself in the places where they don’t even realize they’re learning and help them learn the same things as they would on a piece of paper. We strive to create an incredible experience – through emerging technologies, we aim to make learners effective and productive while having fun at the same time.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs?
Never follow! It’s a common concern who your competition is. I personally prefer not to know. If you look at history and the market, you need vision and guts to know where you’re going. Question everything and always try to innovate and come up with new ways. Fearlessness is key – don’t be afraid to fail. Try everything, test it all – one of the 10 things that work may include the one that would be the big hit! Never let your entrepreneurial instinct subside; entrepreneurs at heart make the world go around, not the people that follow.
It is not easy to build a startup, you are creating something from nothing. From finessing your business plan, building your MVP, scaling with minimal means, attempting to raise funding: starting a business is not easy. Being a women founder does not make it easier, in many ways, the venture and startup ecosystem is still a boys’ club. However, with a strong support system, access to resources and mentorship, women-run startups have proven to produce more revenue.
According to a recent study conducted by Boston Consulting Group and MassChallenge, a US-based global network of accelerators, startups founded or cofounded by women performed better than male-founded startups over time. Despite being comparatively underfunded—and by a large margin—these businesses generated 10% more in cumulative revenue over a five-year period: $730,000, compared with $662,000 for the average male-led startup.
To mark and celebrate, International Women’s Day (March 8), we asked some of the most successful Dobson women founders to share their best advice for women seeking to launch their own venture.
You are the Expert in the Room
Being a woman entrepreneur is a challenge but if you really believe in your company’s potential to have a major impact or contribution to the society, you can overcome it! The beginning is always hard and unpredictable, so my best advice is to surround yourself with people with more experience than you that can help you to find the best path to the success. Do not get intimidated to pitch in a room full of men! You know your technology more than anyone else, be confident and always listen and learn from successful entrepreneurs! Accept criticisms and recommendations and is the only way to improve your company and yourself as entrepreneur!
Claudia Penafuerte-Diaz, CEO, CURA Therapeutics
If I would have to tell one advice to my colleagues women founders, it would be to trust yourself. Entrepreneurship is a learning journey and it is fine not to know everything. If you believe in your project, go out there, get surrounded by persons who share your vision and be persistant.
Anne-Julie Tessier, CEO, Keenoa
Nothing will work until you do
You get what you give. As an entrepreneur, you hold yourself accountable and are solely responsible for everything you do. It’s normal to not stay motivated 100% of the time. BUT, remind yourself that the more you do, the more you will get. Maya Angelou once said, “Nothing will work until you do”. I can choose to sit for three hours scrolling through social media, wondering why I am progressing so slow, or, I can spend the same three hours making cold calls and hit a potential partner.
Jamie Lee, Co-founder, reMIXed
On the importance of a clearly defined vision
Commit to a single, clearly defined vision. Defining what you are going to do is just as important as what you aren’t going to be doing (yet). A common mistake first-time founders make is that they try to invest in optionality (e.g. we are offering features A, B and C to see what resonates). It’s instinctive to cast a wide net when uncertain, however, this approach will drain your resources. It’s much more efficient to double down on single, clear vision (we are starting with feature A) and edit or pivot that vision as you get more feedback until you reach product-market fit.
Natasha Saviuk, CEO, Will + Zack
Look for that extra 20%
Shoot for the stars, land on the moon. Shoot for the moon, land on the ground. The idea is to always strive for more. I was always told to be hungry, look for that extra 20% and don’t be afraid of taking calculated risks to get there. While you may not always make it to the stars you’ll usually end up ahead of where you planned to be.
Amanda Riva, CEO, THP Creates
The ball is almost always in your court. If you want something, make it happen. Assert yourself and don’t worry too much about appearing aggressive or audacious – these are generally favorable features in entrepreneurs anyway. I’ve noticed many women will prematurely negotiate against themselves in fear of offending another party. I think historical gender norms have pushed self-moderation and shyness as a positive female trait – but that’s just not good for business.
Sonia Israel, Co-Founder & Chief Business Development Officer, Aifred Health
Entrepreneurship Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All
Do not try to fit the typical founder’s persona. Maybe you aren’t 20, maybe you have kids, maybe you need to pay your bills and can’t take a big financial risk by launching full-force into your venture with no back-up plan. Adapt your start-up to your reality. This will ensure that your journey will be steady and solid, and protect you from burning out.
Myriam Fournier-Tombs, Co-founder, Haven Hub
Secure the bag
“Go after women-founder grants and awards!”
Zoey Li – CEO, Co-Founder YUMi ORGANICS
Strength in diversity
Every person is different; they have a strength. Highlight that and use it to benefit the world.
Dr. Margaret Magdesian, CEO & Founder at ANANDA Devices
Ultimately, entrepreneurship is a leap of faith. In the wise words of Isabel Galiana, CEO of Saccade Analytics: Do not back down, trust your gut, get it done and be true to yourself. We have come a long way ladies, and while there is a lot more to be done in order to achieve gender equality; we are certainly heading in the right direction.
After 4 consecutive days of pitches in the Semi-Finals of the McGill Dobson Cup 2019 powered by National Bank, we’re excited to announce the 40 startup teams moving on to the FINALS on March 27, 2019.
Last week from February 19 to 22, 108 McGill teams pitched their startups to 48 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 $200,000 in seed funding will be awarded to the winners of the McGill Dobson Cup 2019 from each track on April 4, 2019 at our Awards Ceremony.
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 2019 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 (Applications open on April 4, 2019). 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 2019!
Health Sciences Track 2019 Finalists
1. Axon: We’re building a $1000 portable brain imaging scanner for point-of-care diagnosis in ambulances, field hospitals, sports teams, and patient rooms.
2. BetaSense: We are a dynamic team that aims to tackle invasive problems in nuclear medicine and give them a Non-Invasive solution to enable personalized medicine in a greater number of clinics.
3. C-Marker: C-Marker is a composite disclosing agent that was developed at Professor Tamimi’s lab at the Faculty of Dentistry, McGill University. C-Marker is a new material that will help dentists identify the margins of white fillings and facilitate their complete removal without removing sound tooth structure.
4. Denovogen: Denovogen is a biomedical technology company focused on the design and commercialization of innovative medical devices. Our first product aims to improve communication and visualization in the surgical theatre.
5. Gynoteck: Gynoteck is a leading innovator in medical diagnostics, preventative, and treatment methods for women’s health. We aim to personalize medicine as every woman is different.
6. LFANT: LFANT is a company dedicated to the development of safe, reliable, and readily available commercial kits for the self-administered detection of STIs in the interest of public health and awareness.
7. MicroPredictome: MicroPredictome aims to create licensable AI algorithms to predict the risk of different gastrointestinal diseases based on sequencing data from the bacterial population of the human gut.
8. nplex biosciences: We are developing the next-generation of protein-based blood tests. Our platform promises to unlock unprecedented efficiencies in drug development, biomarker discovery, and ultimately, precision medicine.
9. Tracheo-Sure: Tracheo-Sure aims to revolutionize endotracheal intubation for airway management by creating a surgical device to improve speed, efficiency, and patient safety while reducing overall healthcare cost and improving medical education.
10. VitalTracer Ltd.: VitalTracer is a medical smartwatch that measures all vital signs continuously, including cuffless blood pressure. Our mission is to provide quality solutions that accurately capture vital signs to keep users alert and aware of their health at all times. Our solutions will revolutionize the relationship between patients and caregivers by creating an easy and accurate way to track, record and share all measured parameters.
Social Enterprise Track 2019 Finalists
11. Avantage Emploi: Avantage Emploi will address higher than average refugee and asylum seeker unemployment as well as Quebec’s severe labour shortage by matching these newcomers with employers and providing the necessary support.
12. B3D Performance Inc.: B3D Performance specializes in additive manufacturing (3D printing) using metal powders. We develop instrumentation to monitor the powder quality to reduce production costs and minimize the impact on the environment.
13. Liaisons: A multifaceted social enterprise providing consulting services to community organizations and SMEs. Our consultants are skilled professionals – mostly newcomers – with prolonged unemployment/underemployment who simultaneously participate in Liaisons integration programming.
14. Ma MobiClinique: Ma MobiClinique will be the first mobile and smart paediatric care unit in Montreal, Quebec, offering primary and secondary care to children.
15. Mini-Cycle: Mini-Cycle knows the value of durable and ethically made clothing. We sell new and preloved kids clothes and guarantee to buy it all back, thereby creating a closed-loop circular economy.
16. PDT Food Depot: PDT Food Depot redistributes surplus food from food producers to communities and organizations in need.
17. Rebicycle: Rebicycle is a social enterprise that sells custom upcycled bicycles. Through the sale of Rebicycles, we provide refugees with affordable transport and sustainability-oriented start-ups a venue for their promotion.
18. Turbodega: Turbodega is a software management tool that builds a network of small grocers in emerging countries and tracks their daily-sales in real time to provide them: 1) lower cost of goods, 2) access to fair working capital lines of credit, and 3) data-backed business advice.
19. UsToo: UsToo.Care anonymously and securely matches survivors of sexual violence based on aggressor or location. Survivors can collaboratively work with legal representation or police investigators, and access mental health professionals.
20. Yonja: Poor sanitation is a major setback to development. Yonja is here to provide the missing link between waste management service delivery companies and households for efficient, affordable and quality services.
Small Medium Enterprise Track 2019 Finalists
21. 2ndHelp: Transport newly purchased second hand items hassle-free.
22. CHK PLZ: CHK PLZ is a mobile payment application that streamlines the billing process at bars and restaurants, allowing customers to split items and pay the bill directly from their smartphone.
23. GEEK-it: We are an online community platform and a geek culture convention dedicated to bring local communities to the web. Our core service is to enable unique retailers and artists to showcase their products to the public online and offline.
24. Mache: Mache is an innovative catering company that provides corporate events with food from local restaurants and producers, offering a unique service to guests and organizers.
25. Out of the Box: For parents, who are eager to bring their children’s development to full potential, the “Out of the Box” is a set of 14 scientifically designed, interchangeable, early development toys.
26. ShuttleControl: ShuttleControl is a Software-as-a-Service designed to revolutionize the way courtesy shuttle services are offered around the world. We offer an all-in-one solution to increase customer satisfaction and make shuttle operations easy.
27. Storage Fellows: Storage Fellows offers affordable and bespoke full-service storage for students, including pick-up and drop-off, by leveraging volume-based pricing and a student workforce.
28. Underwear Worker: Traditional job hunting is pooped. Work is now everywhere, anywhere, especially in one’s underwear. Join this remote movement. Become hired by the best. Find your worldwide calling.
29. Vins Prose: Vins Prose plans to develop, import, package and market a range of canned wines for distribution in Quebec grocery and convenience stores.
30. Yuma: Yuma is a service that offers meal plans at your work. When you need personalized meals delivered to your workplace at the best price, Yuma doesn’t take it as a joke.
Innovation Driven Enterprise Track 2019 Finalists
31. Cannafish: Cannafish aims to work with fish farmers, valorizing their waste using a unique bioreactor technology and worms to produce a biological hydroponic solution to grow a wide variety of crops.
32. Chatler Technologies Inc: Chatler is on a mission to innovate the way we interact and buy from businesses on mobile devices. Using chatbot technology, Chatler brings the conversation into mobile commerce.
33. ChitoDry: ChitoDry makes novel biodegradable environmentally compatible materials from crustacean waste, creating with Nature in mind for a better tomorrow.
34. Dispersa: Dispersa focuses on developing novel technology that harnesses the power of oil-degrading bacteria to present an efficient, 100% biodegradable, and low-cost solution to address oil contamination.
35. First Mark: First Mark creates software for film sets to run digitally, safely, and with less effort, so that production teams focus on what matters – making great films, series, commercials, and shows.
36. Galdun Green: Galdun Greens’ initial target market will consist primarily of dairy farmers within the Quebec region. The health condition of cattle, and the other factors which influence either dairy production or growth, are usually assessed visually by farmers. Major issues with this approach is that they’re relatively subjective process, and the efficiency of keeping tracking of a large herd is difficult.
37. Interius Farms: Offering a solution to stabilize volatile Canadian produce prices and make the Canadian food system more sustainable, Interius Farms uses novel vertical farming techniques to grow on-site with clients year-round.
38. Lightbeans Technologies inc.: Lightbeans Technologies Inc. (“Lightbeans”) is a Quebec City-based tech startup specialized in the field of 3D product visualization. Through its advanced technologies, Lightbeans allows manufacturers, distributors, retailers, designers, and architects to present their products or projects remotely on the web, in augmented and virtual reality, with an enhanced level of realism.
39. Observe Agriculture: Observe Agriculture is a Montreal-based AgriTech startup founded by students from McGill University. Our first product is a modular crop quality sensor. To learn more, visit us at http://www.observeagriculture.com
40. SCBY: At SCBY, we are the catalyst promoting Change Champions for sustainability by manufacturing and supplying a cruelty-free leather alternative.
Health Sciences Semi-Finals Judges 2019(Back Row L-R): Soula Chronopolous, Charles Martin, Mark Maciw, Isabel Galiana, Daniel Cohen
(Front Row L-R): Ines Hasanbasic, Amy Pack, Brittany Sigler
Social Enterprise Semi-Finals Judges 2019(Back Row L-R): Hugo Steben, Emmanuel Verrier-Choquette, Alain Spitzer, Mohamed Shaheen, Joe Sasson
(Front Row L-R): Jake Wildman-Sisk, Niamh Leonard, Chloe Chow, Raphael Bouskila, Thierry Lindor
Small Medium Enterprise Semi-Finals Judges 2019(Back Row L-R): Robert Heckler, Mitchell Weiss, Sharon Stern
(Front Row L-R): Peter Alessi, Mergen Davaapil
***(L-R): Avery Rueb, Edith Cinq-Mars, Mohamed Hammad
***(L-R) Jill Selick, Laurent Marien, Debbie Zakaib, Chris Magnone
***(L-R): Marc St-Arnaud, Andrea Courey, Yves Grou, Marc Felgar
Innovation Driven Enterprise Semi-Finals Judges 2019(L-R): Julia Shuchat, Jean Amiouny, François Lamoureux, Sahar Ansary
***(Back Row L-R): Samantha Rouphael, Pasquale Di Pierro, Daphne Demetry
(Front Row L-R): Phil Keezer, Arach Tchoupani
***(Back Row L-R): Sabine Landolt, Mark Goldenberg, Olivia Li
(Front Row L-R): Phillip Cutler, Mark Weber