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.

Judges:

  • 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.

 

2015 Imagination Catalyst Pitch Competition

Logo with pink, yellow and blue elements
Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 9:30pm to Wednesday, July 15, 2015 - 1:00am

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

Join us for our second annual Pitch Competition on Tuesday, July 14th when we celebrate the achievements of the 2014/15 Imagination Catalyst companies and introduce the founders who will participate in our 2015/16 incubator cohort at the Umbra store!

Come for the pitches and product demos. Stay to vote for the strongest pitch, network with investors, and meet our celebrity judges and startup founders. 

The events of the evening will be as follows:

-        5:30–6:00                              Networking + Showcase

-        6:00-6:15                               Welcome & VIP Introductions

-        6:15-6:45                               Celebrating IC’s 2014/15 grads 

-        6:45-7:15                               Introducing the IC’s 2015/16 cohort 

-        7:15-8:00                               Networking break + Showcase

-        8:00-8:30                               5 Finalist Pitches 

-        8:55-9:00                               Prizes Announced

For more information about the Imagination Catalyst visit here

To get in touch with us, email ic@ocadu.ca

If you have any questions about the event, email schen@ocadu.ca

We hope to see you there!

#ICPitch15

#ImaginationCats

Organizer

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

Venue & Address: 
Umbra Store 165 John Street  Toronto, ON M5T 1X3 Canada 
Website: 
http://www.eventbrite.com/e/2015-imagination-catalyst-pitch-competition-tickets-17433472987

Imagination Catalyst entrepreneur reinvents laundry time

Yi Jiang and DRUMi
Friday, May 8, 2015 - 2:30pm

The world has discovered a bold new way to do laundry: DRUMi – the invention of OCAD University Industrial Design alumnus and Imagination Catalyst participant Yi Jiang – is an easy-to-use, portable, eco-friendly way to clean clothes. While it won’t be launched until mid-2016, orders are rolling in daily and Jiang is fielding interest from distributors around the world.

Getting noticed

DRUMi’s prototype was unveiled at the Green Living Show this spring, which led to a raft of stories by, for example, NOW! Magazine, Breakfast Television, the Journal de Montréal, Digital Trends, The Huffington Post and Gizmodo.

“The online stories really got YiREGO noticed,” Jiang says. By May 8, the company’s YouTube video has had over a million hits, while its Facebook page has garnered over 100,000 likes and 3,500 people have signed on to receive news updates.

The Imagination Catalyst impact

“Involvement in the Imagination Catalyst has driven us forward in refining DRUMi’s design, creating a business plan and sorting out manufacturing,” Jiang says. “The monthly roundtable meetings with fellow I-Cats and mentors are especially valuable.” Jiang also credits the advice of his mentor, Paul Rowan (Vice President of Inspiration and founding partner of Umbra), as well as Rowan’s generosity in opening doors to major players in the household design world.

Before they take DRUMi to market, Jiang and his team will focus on making several structural refinements. They also expect to launch a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo in the fall.

From student to entrepreneur

DRUMi  was Jiang’s fourth-year thesis project, which he exhibited at OCAD U’s 2013 Graduate Exhibition. That same year, Jiang won the Industrial Design Association’s Best Customer Experience Award and joined OCAD U’s Imagination Catalyst.

Imagination Catalyst entrepreneur expands her empathy-education business

Ilana Ben-Ari
Friday, April 17, 2015 - 4:00am

It’s been almost a year since Ilana Ben-Ari of Twenty One Toys took first place in OCAD University’s 2014 Imagination Catalyst Pitch Competition. World Creativity and Innovation Week (April 15 to 21) seems like a great time to check in and see what’s been happening since then.

The Empathy Toy

Twenty One Toys’ signature product is the Empathy Toy. Originating from Ben-Ari’s industrial design thesis project at Carleton University, the toy comprises wooden puzzle pieces with a variety of textures, shapes and colours. One or more players take a pre-made pattern and they must explain it to one or more other players – who have a set of identical, but loose, pieces – so that they can assemble the very same pattern.

But here’s the rub: all the puzzle-players wear blindfolds! The blindfolds come off when the assemblers think they have solved the puzzle. At that point, everyone – including silent observers – discusses what happened during the game. As Ben-Ari (Twenty One Toys’ founder and lead designer) notes, “that’s often the most instructive part of the exercise.”

Expanding reach

Since joining the Imagination Catalyst’s one-year Take It to Market incubator program, the Empathy Toy has gained serious traction. The first 1,000 units sold out in December 2014, and a second batch of 1,000 arrived from the factory in April 2015. This swift spread – the toy is in use in more than 800 schools worldwide – has been boosted by the many positive reports in the press, including in The Guardian, Fast Company and Time.

Imaginative mentors

“One of the most positive aspects of the Imagination Catalyst is the contact it gives me with leading entrepreneurs,” says Ben-Ari. “These inspiring people share their experience with me and give me great advice.” In particular, Ben-Ari points to the influence of Doreen Dotto and Lahav Gil. The president of uKloo Kids, Dotto has given Ben-Ari direction on wholesale pricing, certification and legal issues, working with distributors and pricing models. For his part, Gil, the CEO of the Kangaroo Group and co-founder of Bauhaus Tech Ventures, shared his knowledge of mass production, partnerships and distribution models.

“These generous entrepreneurs have been available to jump on the phone and give me advice on the challenges they faced when they were growing,” Ben-Ari says. “It’s been incredibly valuable as we face the hurdles associated with the expanding demand for our toys.”

The next horizon

When Ben-Ari began, she conceived of the Empathy Toy as something that would be used largely by elementary-school students. She and her team soon discovered, however, that older people enjoyed and learned from it. As a result, the firm is about to launch the Empathy Toy for corporate use as well as training and professional development workshops for employee groups.

 

Photograph of Ilana Ben-Ari by Laynna Meyler

OCAD University announces new Imagination Catalyst leadership

Friday, March 27, 2015 - 4:00am

Katherine Roos has been named executive director of the Imagination Catalyst, OCAD U’s hub for creative entrepreneurship and commercialization.

Roos is well known in Toronto’s start-up ecosystem. Previously she held management roles in the City of Toronto’s Economic Development & Culture Division and at Toronto Business Development Centre. Katherine is a graduate of the University of Toronto and serves on the boards of LOFT Community Services, Connect Legal and The Learning Enrichment Foundation.

Stephen Tapp is taking the position of chair of the Imagination Catalyst advisory board. In this volunteer position he will work closely with OCAD University’s fundraising team to secure the success of growing commercialization activities. Tapp is founder and chairman of Hercules Media Group (HMG) Inc.

“I’m proud of the new Imagination Catalyst leadership. Its energy and expertise will serve us well by supporting those candidates who successfully compete to transform their innovative ideas, projects and prototypes into a real world business,” said Dr. Helmut Reichenbächer, Associate Vice-President, Research, and Dean, Graduate Studies, OCAD U.

The Imagination Catalyst is benefitting from a year of dramatic growth. In September 2014, Ontario’s minister of research and innovation, Reza Moridi, announced a $950,000 grant to OCAD University as part of the Government of Ontario’s Campus-Linked Accelerator (CLA) program.

Further strengthening the University’s CLA, Relay Ventures announced it is investing $1 million in the Imagination Catalyst Fund over four years. This investment fund will provide seed funding for emerging entrepreneurs in the program. Relay Ventures is an early stage venture capital firm that invests in passionate entrepreneurs disrupting and creating new markets through mobile technologies.

The Imagination Catalyst’s mission is to support and develop emerging businesses among OCAD University faculty, student and alumni as well as among creative entrepreneurs across the GTA. Under the guidance of OCAD University’s Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab), OCAD University’s Imagination Catalyst will work with Ontario’s Regional Centres of Excellence to design, develop and implement programming that would nurture creative entrepreneurs across the province.

 

Sparks From A Launch Junkie: How You Can Innovate Your Way to Sucess

Photograph of Stephen Tapp
Friday, February 13, 2015 - 12:00am to 1:00am

The Strategic Innovation Collective will host a fire side chat with Stephen Tapp, the new director for the Imagination Catalyst. This event is open to the public. Questions for Stephen can be emailed to hello@strategicinnovation.co prior to the event.  

As a veteran in challenging the status quo, and as the new director of the Imagination Catalyst at OCAD U, Stephen will share some of his time-tested strategies on how to create game changing innovations at the intersection of business, technology, art and design. 

Having played an instrumental role in the of launch of TSN, Viewer's Choice Canada, PPV and XM Satellite Radio Canada, Stephen Tapp is an internationally recognized leader in media & entertainment with over 25 years of experience in building and operating profitable subscriber and advertiser supported businesses.

The Strategic Innovation Collective is a student-led initiative with the goals of:

• Creating opportunities for SFI alumni to remain engaged with the program.

• Working with faculty to increase recognition of the SFI brand.

• Utilizing sLab to expose students to industry connections, topical issues, and learning opportunities to compliment sLab's existing initiatives and course content in the SFI program.

• Providing opportunities for portfolio building within OCAD on volunteer basis.

Venue & Address: 
OCAD U Graduate Gallery 205 Richmond St. W. 
Website: 
http://launchjunkie.eventbrite.com

Ontario Centres of Excellence highlight Revelo’s success

Photo of Henry Chong with his E-bike
Monday, October 27, 2014 - 7:00pm

Henry Chong and his startup company Revelo Electric are featured in the annual report put out by the Ontario Centres of Excellence.

Chong’s concept for the bike came from his undergraduate Industrial Design thesis project and was further developed at the Imagination Catalyst, OCAD U’s entrepreneurship incubator.

Chong's current model, the LE-1 e-bike, is a chainless, street-legal e-bike that folds easily. The bike can travel 30 kilometres with a single charge of its lithium battery. The Ontario Centres of Excellence invested $143,000 in Chong’s business, which he hopes to grow to 20 employees in the next two years.

Photo: Christina Gapic

Imagination Catalyst and MakeWorks partner on new incubator space for startups

Friday, October 3, 2014 - 6:15pm

Starting this month, entrepreneurs in OCAD University’s Imagination Catalyst Incubator will have full access to MakeWorks, Canada’s leading creative studio for makers, designers and startups.

“This unique partnership will bolster OCAD U’s ability to provide the entrepreneurs in its incubator with more tools, mentors, and space for their entrepreneurial pursuits,” said Helmut Reichenbächer, AVP Research and Dean Graduate Studies. “This partnership will bring an exciting new batch of startups to MakeWorks and further strengthen its culture of innovation and collaboration.”

Entrepreneurs will get access to MakeWorks’ 10,000 sq. ft. (929 sq. m.) facility, which includes a co-working space, a prototyping and electronics lab, a MakerSpace and an event space. Entrepreneurs will be surrounded by over 30 other startups and involved with community initiatives such as “Thursday Demos”, a MakeWorks event held every week where members share their progress and get feedback.

MakeWorks founder, Mike Stern, is excited about the possibilities ahead. “OCAD U is quickly becoming a leading breeding-ground for Canadian startups. Their design-centric approach is producing amazing new concepts, and partnering with MakeWorks is a real opportunity to bring these ideas to life.”

Sprout Guerilla, an Imagination Catalyst incubator graduate from last year, currently calls MakeWorks home. They’ve started to use 3D printers and Laser Cutters to prototype new products and have also benefited from the diverse community of startups here. MakeWorks helped them find a home for their business, and they're now well on their way to commercialization.

Imagination Catalyst:

As OCAD University's entrepreneurship and commercialization hub, our mission is to help maker, digital media, internet of things, and cultural entrepreneurs launch new enterprises or commercialize their designs, products and services, as well as play a strong supporting role in the creation of a deep, collaboratively oriented entrepreneurship culture across campus. Our vision is to play a leadership role in the effort to unite, mobilize and focus the power of the cultural industries, creativity, scholarship and smart entrepreneurship in solving the most pressing social and environmental issues of our time. In so doing, we hope to unleash new basis for economic growth and development.

MakeWorks:

Community + Innovation = Growth Everything at MakeWorks is designed around this core principle. We're building Toronto's leading workspace for technologists and creatives, and providing the tools, mentorship and community for them to thrive.

OCAD University (OCAD U):

OCAD University (www.ocadu.ca) is Canada’s “university of imagination.” The university, founded in 1876, is dedicated to art and design education, practice and research and to knowledge and invention across a wide range of disciplines. OCAD University is building on its traditional, studio-based strengths, adding new approaches to learning that champion cross-disciplinary practice, collaboration and the integration of emerging technologies. In the Age of Imagination, OCAD University community members will be uniquely qualified to act as catalysts for the next advances in culture, technology and quality of life for all Canadians.

 

For more information please contact:

Christine Crosbie, Media Relations Officer, OCAD University ccrosbie@ocadu.ca

 

JOLT AND OCAD U'S IMAGINATION CATALYST BOOST STUDENT STARTUP

Mike Lovas and Rami Alhamad of PUSH Design Solutions. Image by JOLT.

Mike Lovas, an entrepreneurial fourth-year Industrial Design student at OCAD U is now the Chief Design Officer at PUSH Design Solutions, a startup that he co-founded thanks to seed capital and support from both the JOLT technology accelerator and OCAD U’s Imagination Catalyst.

Lovas (whom you may also recognize as a research assistant in the Mobile Experience Lab and a research coordinator in the Sustainability Office), teamed up with two University of Waterloo mechatronics engineer graduates, Rami Alhamad and Suresh Joshi, last year to work on an idea.

They made rapid progress, and now PUSH, in its current iteration, is an app-enabled fitness device for analyzing, managing and tracking weight training and workout performance. It can attach to an athlete’s wrist or common weight training equipment, and it incorporates smart monitoring and intelligent design so anyone, from a pro athlete to a casual fitness lover can use it.

JOLT, a technology accelerator dedicated to high-growth web and mobile companies, invested $30,000 in seed capital for Lovas’s company, in exchange for six per cent equity. The JOLT program also provides product development support, workshops, business mentorship and workspace in Toronto’s bustling MaRS Commons, home to many other digital entrepreneurs and research initiatives.

OCAD U’s Imagination Catalyst, which helps students take ideas out of the classroom and into the market, provided another infusion of seed capital, along with outreach support, and has also offered workspace.

Lovas and the PUSH team took their app to Launch Festival in San Francisco in March where they met with Silicon Valley-based venture capital firms. They’re now working on a beta version for user testing with weight trainers and varsity teams at the University of Toronto.

“This is an exciting, fast moving thing,” says Lovas. “It’s ambitious because we’re combining product design with hardware, mobile technology, iOS development and a web portal with deep analytics, so there are a lot of moving parts. We’re just going to keep moving ahead.”
 

 

Ministry of Research and Innovation funds OCAD U's Imagination Catalyst Creative Entrepreneurship Incubator

Speakers at the funding announcement for Campus-Linked Accelorators at OCAD U.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014 - 4:00am

Speaking at OCAD University today, The Honourable Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation, announced a $950,000 grant to OCAD University as part of the Government of Ontario’s Campus-Linked Accelerator (CLA) program.

The investment will support the Imagination Catalyst, OCAD University’s hub for entrepreneurship and commercialization with the mission to support and develop emerging businesses among OCAD U faculty, student and alumni as well as among creative entrepreneurs across the GTA.

Campus-Linked Accelerators (CLA) is investing over $6.8 million to build on world-class innovation and entrepreneurial programs at GTA colleges and universities. On-Campus Entrepreneurship Activities (OCEA) is providing more than $600,000 to support GTA academic institutions that are committed to entrepreneurship on their campuses.

“Creative industry and design entrepreneurs play a transformative role for cities and the larger economy, building new products and services and bringing vitality to neighbourhoods.  We appreciate the Ministry of Research and Innovation’s recognition of this significant Ontario growth sector,” said Dr. Sara Diamond, President and Vice-Chancellor of OCAD University. “This is the natural home for the incubation of startups in the maker, design, digital media and creative arts sectors. Creative and design entrepreneurs are distinct from other entrepreneurs in their needs, which include more workspace and specialized networking and professional development.”

CLA investments will help Ontario accelerate the commercialization of ideas and inventions out of its world-class research institutions, develop the business leaders of tomorrow, and harness the power of its support networks to build competitive regional innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems.

“Fostering the entrepreneurial spirit among students is a key component of Ontario’s Youth Jobs Strategy, through programs that help transfer their ideas and skills to the marketplace while creating rewarding careers,” said Minister Moridi. “By partnering with colleges and universities to support entrepreneurship, we are ensuring our province’s business leaders of tomorrow are getting the support they need to succeed today.”

The investment will support the Imagination Catalyst, OCAD University’s hub for entrepreneurship and commercialization with the mission to support and develop emerging businesses among OCAD U faculty, student and alumni as well as among creative entrepreneurs across the GTA.

Under the guidance of OCAD University’s Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab), the Imagination Catalyst will work with Ontario’s Regional Centres of Excellence to design, develop and implement programming that would nurture creative entrepreneurs across the province.

To further strengthen the University’s CLA, it was announced that Relay Ventures is investing $1 million in the Imagination Catalyst Fund over four years. Relay Ventures is an early stage venture capital firm that invests in passionate entrepreneurs disrupting and creating new markets through mobile technologies. This investment fund would provide seed funding for emerging entrepreneurs in the program.

“Three years ago, I became involved with OCAD University and its ‘Imagination Catalyst’, a unique and innovative support system designed to increase student entrepreneurship. OCAD U is one of Canada’s best-kept secrets and produces world-class design professionals necessary to the success of any enterprises, large or small,” said John Albright, co-founder and managing partner of Relay Ventures. Albright is also an OCAD University Board of Governors member. “As OCAD U represents creativity and innovation, it brings a completely new dimension to technology-driven entrepreneurship. We are strong supporters of entrepreneurs emerging from Canadian universities, and our investment in the Imagination Catalyst Fund is a logical extension of our focus in that area.”

The Government of Ontario is investing $295 million over two years in the Youth Jobs Strategy to help 30,000 more young people from across the province connect with the tools, experiences and entrepreneurial support they need to find employment or start their own businesses. More than 20,000 job opportunities have already been created to date under the Youth Jobs Strategy.

About OCAD University (OCAD U)
OCAD University (www.ocadu.ca) is Canada’s university of the imagination. The university, founded in 1876, is dedicated to art and design education, practice and research and to knowledge and invention across a wide range of disciplines. OCAD University is building on its traditional, studio-based strengths, adding new approaches to learning that champion cross-disciplinary practice, collaboration and the integration of emerging technologies. In the Age of Imagination, OCAD University community members will be uniquely qualified to act as catalysts for the next advances in culture, technology and quality of life for all Canadians.

-30-

Media Contact:
Christine Crosbie, Media Relations Officer
OCAD University
416-977-6000 x4890 Cell: 647-473-7778
ccrosbie@ocadu.ca

Pages