First place winner: 21 Toys
If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur with an art or design background, perhaps there’s no better green room for you than a design store. While waiting for their shot at pitching in the second annual OCAD U Imagination Catalyst Pitch Competition, held Thursday, May 15 at Umbra in Toronto, 19 entrepreneurs-in-the-making milled around on the first floor of the store, while audience applause for their competitors rang out from the packed space set up as a presentation hub above.
The Imagination Catalyst is OCAD U’s enterprise and new technology program, and at stake was the chance at a one-year residency in its Take It To Market incubator program for the top applicants, plus cash prizes — important seed funding for fresh, new ideas that fit the five scoring criteria: candidate commitment and overall presentation; differentiation and innovation; quality of business model; customer validation and motivation to invest. But, with only three minutes for a pitch plus just two minutes to answer questions from judges, candidates were under pressure to explain and prove their ideas and projects both confidently and quickly.
This year’s judges were what Petra Kassun-Mutch, Executive Director of the Imagination Catalyst described as “an impressive heavyweight bunch” and included Dr. Sara Diamond, OCAD U’s president, along with eight leading business founders, organization heads and CEOs: John Albright, Relay Ventures; Atul Asthana, TIE Institute; Bruce Croxon, Round13 Capital; Lahav Gil, Kangaroo Group; Dave Kranenburg, Centre for Social Innovation; Peter McFadzean, OCE; Abigail Slater, Barlow Lane Holdings Limited and Mike Stern, Make Works.
Candidates (who included OCAD U students, alumni and some from outside the university community) pitched a wide variety of projects, services and social enterprises — everything from DIY bespoke electronics to a service promoting local food consumption, to a healthcare app for patient-focused emotional and wellness support.
This year’s winners are:
First Place: $10,000 cash plus two tickets to C2-MTL (including Travel)
Ilana Ben-Ari and Gonzalo Riva, 21 Toys
Second Place: $5000 cash plus two tickets to MESH Conference and a free year on Shopify
Ryan Church (MDes, Strategic Foresight and Innovation, 2014), Biomenergy
Third Place: $2500 legal voucher from Fasken Martineau Dumoulin
Jeremy Bell, Wattage
Top Social Enterprise Award: $5000 (in partnership with the Centre for Social Innovation)
Mojan Jianfar (MFA, Interdisciplinary Masters in Art, Media and Design, 2014), The PATCH Project
People’s Choice Award: $1000 from Meredith Cartwright of Donbow Capital
Olibiyi Dipelou (MDes, Strategic Foresight and Innovation, 2014), Eekonomy
Special Jury Award for Entrepreneurial Spirit: $1000
Alex Leitch (MDes, Digital Futures), Mechanism
Diamond in the Rough: Free iPad
Alex Haagaard (MFA, Interdisciplinary Masters in Art, Media and Design), HXTag
“I thought the calibre of the pitches was terrific this year,” said Kassun-Mutch. “The application process was more formal and rigourous and applicants had to think through their business models carefully and do pitch training. We also opened the competition up to the broader community, considering a wide range of candidates that fit with the incubator’s overall strengths, and we did really well on the representation of women to men, compared to a lot of pitch competitions I’ve seen.”
Find out more
The Imagination Catalyst