Imagination Catalyst Fund announces investments in TranQool and Wishpad

Photo of TranQool, Wishpad and the IC Fund Committee
Thursday, November 10, 2016 - 5:15pm

Imagination Catalyst Fund directors John Albright and Jeannette Wiltse, both of Relay Ventures, celebrate with Michael Nurse, CEO of Wishpad, and Chakameh Shafii CEO, Saaed Zeinali VP Business Development, and Babak Shahabi VP Product, TranQool.

TranQool, a mental health platform, and Wishpad, a real estate media company, received investments of $40,000 each from the Imagination Catalyst Fund this month. Both companies will use these funds to gain traction with early users as they prepare for raising seed capital in 2017. 

“OCAD U is one of Canada’s best-kept secrets,” said Relay Ventures Founder and Managing Partner, John Albright when Relay Ventures $1million investment helped launch the Imagination Catalyst Fund in 2014. “We are excited to be tapping into the university’s design expertise through these investments.”

TranQool is an online platform designed to disrupt the mental health marketplace. The service matches users with the right therapists and facilitates secure video sessions from the comfort of home.

Wishpad is a big-data driven media platform that curates listings and other content for prospective real estate buyers based on their values, lifestyles and priorities.

Imagination Catalyst is OCAD University’s entrepreneurship and commercialization hub. The goal is to apply design thinking to make lives better, create richer cultural experiences and bring leading-edge innovations to market. The Imagination Catalyst Fund offers seed funding for early stage, pre-revenue technology companies and is exclusively for companies participating in the OCAD U business incubator.  

For more information about companies participating in the Imagination Catalyst incubator, please contact Katherine Roos, Executive Director.

Chatelaine features alumna who is revolutionizing STI testing

Photo of Jessica Ching, seated
Friday, July 8, 2016 - 4:00am

Jessica Ching (2009, Industrial Design) is profiled in the July issue of Chatelaine magazine. Ching is the inventor of Eve Kit, a product that allows women to screen themselves for sexually transmitted infections such as HPV, chlamydia and gonorrhea. Women can take a swab at home with a specially-designed device and mail it in to a lab for testing. Results are available within a week via a confidential web site.

Ching says a third of women don’t get screened regularly for STIs. There is a variety of reasons including lack of time, no family physician and discomfort with the process of getting tested.

The kit started out as part of Ching’s Industrial Design thesis project. She then co-founded Eve Medical, one of the first companies to come out of OCAD U’s Imagination Catalyst entrepreneurship and commercialization hub.  

Eve Kit is currently available for pre-order on Indiegogo, and it has already exceeded Ching’s crowdfunding goal.

Bowtie takes top prize at Imagination Catalyst pitch competition

Umbra co-founder Paul Rowan and pitch competition winner Tanner Short
Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - 4:00am

The Umbra store on John St. was packed with some 90 spectators for the Imagination Catalyst’s fourth annual pitch competition on June 14. Tanner Wills Short, founder of Bowtie Interview Tool, took the top prize of $5,000, out-pitching four of his colleagues from OCAD U’s business incubator.

Bowtie is a puzzle-like toy that allows employers to determine the strengths of potential recruits during job interviews, rather than relying on common personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Bowtie can also be used as a team-building activity to improve workplace culture. 

Short, a 2016 graduate of OCAD University’s Industrial Design program, studied play theory to come up with his product.

Other Imagination Catalyst companies that took part:

  • Dice – Jinho Kim and Steve Kim
  • Lumos – Mulugeta Bisrat  and Alexandr Gerassimov
  • MeOrganics – Daneila Bratu and Nicol Rebello
  • Witnis – Anne Gorgy

The judges' panel comprised:

  • John Albright – Co-founder and managing partner, Relay Ventures
  • Dr. Sara Diamond – President and vice-chancellor, OCAD University
  • Allyson Hewitt – Senior fellow, Social Innovation, MaRS Discovery District
  • Paul Rowan – Co-founder and VP, Inspiration, Umbra
  • Daniel Sawaya – Founder and managing partner, AyaWas Investment Group

The Imagination Catalyst is based in a 3,000ft2 co-working space at 230 Richmond St. West. Currently, there are 77 jobs associated with the companies participating in OCAD U’s business incubator program, which has recently received renewed Campus Linked Accelerator funding from the Ontario Centres of Excellence. 

The Imagination Cataylst 4th Annual Pitch Competition

4th Annual Pitch Competition Poster
Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - 9:30pm to Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - 1:00am

TUESDAY, JUNE 14, We invite you to attend the 4th Annual Pitch Competition showcasing OCAD U's Imagination Catalyst entrepreneurs.

The event will feature pitches from OCAD U grads recently accepted into the program, competing for $5000 in start up funding.

Join us as we celebrate the successes of OCAD U incubator companies like Yirego, AXIS Life, Qoints, Foodie Pages, Mobio Interactive and TranQool.

Come for the networking with advisors, mentors and investors.


  • 530 pm - 6 pm : Networking & Showcase

  • 6 pm - 730 pm : Pitch Competition

  • 730 pm - 9 pm: Celebration & Networking

Special thanks to Paul Rowan who is hosting Imagination Catalyst at the flagship Umbra Store.

To register to attend go to:
We look forward to seeing you there!

Venue & Address: 
Umbra Store - 165 John Street, Toronto ON
416-977-6000 ex. 4364
Attendance is free
Sponsorship for the 4th Annual Pitch Competition

Imagination Catalyst is Accepting Applications to the Incubator Program

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - 4:45pm to Sunday, May 15, 2016 - 4:45pm

Do you have a idea or product that you want to turn into a business? Imagination Catalyst incubator program is accepting applications from OCAD U Grads from 2013 and later. Apply before May 15th and be eligible to win $5000! Imagination Catalyst's 1-year business incubation program offers free co-working space, mentorship and coaching, business development training, exclusive funding opportunities and a community of diverse entrepreneurs. For more information or to speak to a business advisor email

Venue & Address: 
OCAD U Imagination Catalyst 230 Richmond Street West, 8th Floor
416-977-6000 ext. 4364
Call all 2016 Grads You can turn your thesis or research project into a business poster with event info

Imagination Catalyst entrepreneur receives financing from Spin Master Innovation Fund

Image of Jenise Lee
Friday, November 27, 2015 - 5:00am

Jenise Lee has been awarded a $50,000 loan from the Spin Master Innovation Fund for her company CertClean, which she developed in OCAD University’s Imagination Catalyst business incubator. CertClean is Canada’s first and only certification for safer beauty and personal care products.

Futurpreneur Canada, in partnership with leading Canadian toy company Spin Master Corp. and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) award up to $50,000 annually to entrepreneurs chosen through a highly competitive process. “With over 400 applicants, it’s an honour to be selected as one of the top businesses to receive support this year,” says Lee.

Currently, there is no governance of the use of the terms “organic” or “natural” in Canada’s beauty sector, leaving some consumers in doubt about the ingredients in products they use. CertClean allows consumers to instantly recognize products that are as free from harmful ingredients as possible.

For Lee, a chemical engineer with an MBA, this award comes at an important stage in the development of her company. “This financing has accelerated the growth of my business, enabling me to automate and scale my operations, as well as giving me the time to build my campaign to launch CertClean early in the new year.” In addition to financing, this Spin Master Innovation Fund award includes a two-day workshop with networking opportunities and one-on-one coaching from Spin Master’s senior executives.


Five things I learned in OCAD University's experiential learning program that I couldn't have in a classroom

Christine Lieu
Thursday, July 30, 2015 - 8:45pm

Christine Lieu graduated from OCAD University in spring 2015, after studying graphic design. She participated in OCAD U’s experiential learning program and worked with MeU (a wearable-tech company) through the Imagination Catalyst. Christine’s experience there helped her land a position as a social media designer for Walmart Live Better through Rogers' M-School program.

Here are Christine’s five things she learned in experiential learning that she couldn’t have in a classroom:

1. How to create connections and evolve my network

Because I was given the opportunity to work within a lot of events and shows, I was constantly exposed to meeting new people. Being able to leave a lasting impression and to be able to follow up with these contacts really grew my network and led to potential freelance clients as well as to what made the best fit for my current position.

2. Getting out of my comfort zone

Being at OCAD U, I felt you were generally in the same classes with the same people from year to year, which is great to create a tight-knit support group, but it didn’t give me the chance to challenge my social comfort zone. Experiential learning really challenged me to put myself out there and to try new things and to meet new people that I wouldn’t have normally had the chance to meet.

3. Learning what I love and what I hate 

The well-rounded role that I had really exposed me to a variety of duties from social media and sales/marketing to production and everything in-between. Through this process, you really figure out what you really enjoy and find new passions, while realizing what you don’t enjoy so much.

4. Gain industry experience 

As much as school and theory can prepare you with the background knowledge to do something, there’s no better way to hit the ground running than to be put right within the industry. 

5. Learn and to be able to find what I enjoy to do 

Being exposed to and given the responsibility to try a wide array of roles really gave me the opportunity to experiment and find a passion for design. I appreciated that Robert from MeU believed in me enough to let me take on these roles, and that's where I found my love for social media design. That’s led me to doing social media for Walmart Live Better through the Rogers' M-School program.

Learn more about OCAD U’s experiential learning program

Imagination Catalyst company wins James Dyson Award for Canada

Image of the Drumi washing machine in a bathroom
Tuesday, July 28, 2015 - 4:00am

Drumi, the foot-powered washing machine designed by Yi Jiang (BDes, Industrial Design, 2013), has been awarded $3,500 from the James Dyson Foundation. Drumi came in first out of 65 Canadian applicants. Now, the ingenious device will move on to the international portion of the competition, along with 100 finalists from 20 countries.

Drumi started out as Jiang’s thesis project. It’s designed for small spaces such as RVs, apartments and off-grid living. Yirego, Jiang’s company, is being developed at the Imagination Catalyst incubator at OCAD U.

The James Dyson Award is an international design competition open to university students or recent graduates who studied product design, industrial design or engineering. It was established by James Dyson, a British inventor who developed the Dyson bagless vacuum cleaner. This year's competition attracted 690 entries.

The international winner, to be announced in November, will receive $45,000 for the team and $7,500 for their university.

In addition to the James Dyson Award, the Drumi has won awards including the Rocket 12th 2013 Annual Design Competition: Best in Category, the 2014 Canadian Design Resource: Best Canadian Design of 2014, and the 2013 Sustainable Design Award: Grand Prize.


Drumi in the running for Dyson Award

Image of three Drumi washing machines
Thursday, July 16, 2015 - 4:00am

Imagination Catalyst entrepreneur Yi Jiang (BDes, Industrial Design, 2013) is once again in the spotlight for his foot-powered washing machine, the Drumi. Jiang’s environmentally-friendly invention has been highlighted as one of the best entrants in the prestigious James Dyson Award. The assignment: design something that solves a problem.

The Drumi is a small, lightweight washing machine that uses no electricity and only ten litres of water per load. It’s portable, takes up very little space in cramped quarters and has a much smaller carbon footprint than a conventional electric washing machine. It is designed for countries where water is scarce, but is also convenient for city dwellers, cottagers and campers.

The James Dyson Award is an international design award that celebrates and inspires the next generation of design engineers. The award is open to current and recent product design, industrial design or engineering students. It’s run by the James Dyson Foundation, James Dyson’s charitable trust, as part of its mission to get young people excited about design engineering.

Designers from 20 countries are participating. The international winner will receive $45,000, with $7,500 going to the inventor’s university. The prize for international runners up is $7,500, while national winners will receive $3,500. All the winners will be announced in fall 2015. 

Pitch competition gives budding entrepreneurs a chance at seed money

Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 4:00am

A washing machine that works on pedal power, an app that lets you find an apartment and pay rent from your phone, a website that connects artisanal food makers with hungry customers. These are some of the products to come out of OCAD University’s Imagination Catalyst.

Meet the fresh new group of companies to join this hub for entrepreneurship and commercialization at the Take it to Market pitch competition on Tuesday, July 14 at the Toronto Umbra store. Come for the pitches and product demos; stay to vote for the strongest pitch and meet the celebrity judges and start-up founders.

“The diversity of companies we’re seeing come out of the OCAD U community is remarkable. Design thinking is helping start-up entrepreneurs in every sector,” said Imagination Catalyst’s Executive Director Katherine Roos.

In the July 14th pitch competition, some 20 entrepreneurs selected to participate in the Imagination Catalyst will be given 30 to 60 seconds to present their product to a panel of judges who will score them based on differentiation and innovation, quality of business model and customer validation. Up to three “pitchers” will win cash prizes.


  • Dr. Sara Diamond, President and Vice-Chancellor, OCAD University
  • Stephen Tapp, Chair, Imagination Catalyst Advisory Board
  • Paul Rowan, Co-founder and Vice-President, Inspiration, Umbra
  • John Albright, Co-founder and Managing Partner, Relay Ventures
  • Leila Boujnane, CEO, Ideé Inc.
  • Pat Lorenz, investor and board member, Network of Angel Organizations

The Imagination Catalyst is entering its third year with diverse new companies working in areas such as design, digital media, consumer products and business services, among others.

Imagination Catalyst Pitch Competition

Tuesday, July 14, 5:30 p.m.

Umbra Store

165 John St., Toronto

The Imagination Catalyst:

The Imagination Catalyst is OCAD University’s hub for entrepreneurship and commercialization. Our mission is to support and develop entrepreneurial talent among the OCAD University community as well as across the GTA. Our goal is to help launch new companies and products that contribute to the prosperity of our community.

OCAD University’s Strategic Innovation Lab in conjunction with Imagination Catalyst is working with Ontario’s Regional Centres of Excellence to design, develop and implement programming that will bring design thinking to entrepreneurs across the province.

Imagination Catalyst is currently funded by the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE), the province’s innovation system for scaling and growing campus-linked entrepreneurial capacity and campus-linked entrepreneurial activities. The Imagination Catalyst Fund, a seed investment fund designed to support Imagination Catalyst companies, is supported by Relay Ventures.